Yuji Okabayashi vs Ryota Hama – BJW (01/24/2016)

Yuji Okabayashi (c) vs Ryota Hama

BJW Strong World Heavyweight Championship

Taped 01/24/2016, aired 02/09/2016

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 01/06/2017) It’s kind of nuts how I’ve avoided this match for so long, seeing as it got rave reviews at the time, but I’m fired up and firing it up now. Yuji, quite a big boy himself, tries to apply his strength to overcome Hama in a few lockups early on, and when that doesn’t work, he switches to his speed and a few cheap shots. Hama is an immovable object, though, and while Yuji throws 110% into it, he can’t steamroll the former rikishi. Taking his time, Hama wears down Yuji and squashes him with a few big moves, but when the champ gets room to run, Hama gets rocked with a series of corner clotheslines. Stubbornly sticking to his strength, Yuji goes for his signature backbreaker rack, but of course it doesn’t work for him. A scoop slam gets much closer, but Hama’s weight is too much, and he comes crashing down on Yuji for an inadvertent crossbody to regain control of the match. Hama hits a surprisingly brutal running hip attack (she calls that the Drive By) and a DDT for a two count, but once Yuji is back on his feet, he tees off with a few chops, teetering all the while. He finds his bearings to come off the ropes for a clothesline, but Hama floors him with a flying crossbody. While Yuji is sort of laying on his side, as if he’s turning over from laying on his back, Hama goes for running splash that everyone LOSES THEIR SHIT FOR because it’s actually fairly dangerous due to Yuji’s positioning. A second, much safer, running splash earns Hama a two count in what works as a big nearfall that kicks the match up a notch. As the crowd claps and Daisuke Sekimoto cheers him on at ringside, Yuji is sent down to the mat from a clothesline by Hama. Perilously, Hama begins to climb the ropes and the crowd ooohs and aaahs. With a big dramatic look on his face (which is quite goofy but works due to how much he’s putting into it, as well as how much the crowd buys it), Yuji staggers up to his feet and CLOTHESLINES HAMA IN THE ASS, YEAH. Firing up, he follows it up with a big ol’ powerbomb off the middle rope. The force of it sends Yuji off his feet, and he takes a while to make the pin for a great nearfall. Now screaming enough to go Super Saiyan, Yuji hits the damnedest suplex I’ve ever seen, a true miracle of modern engineering. Back on his feet, Yuji barrels into his opponent with a series of lariats, unable to knock the big man down. Hama, fed up with his attempts, responds with a big body shot that sends Yuji back into the ropes, and the champ charges right back with a snug lariat that sends them both down. Feeling it now, Yuji ascends to the top rope and hits a pair of Golem Splashes for the win. Wow. Great stuff here. This is the sort of match that, on paper, looks very silly and bad. But with the sort of effort that these two put into it, being sure to keep things believable and high energy, as well as an appreciative Korakuen crowd, they made something really special and something that a lot of people, myself included, bought into. At the end of the day, with how much cynicism surrounds wrestling, wrestling fans, and wrestling critique, honestly buying into and losing yourself in a match is the highest praise you can give. Fantastic stuff here. As long as you can look past the surface level, reactionary bullshit of “oh wow, one of these guys is REALLY FAT”*, then you can appreciate this match.

*Fuck you if you’re a person who thinks this

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