Big Japan’s Ikkitousen Strong Climb tournament is one of the greatest concepts in pro wrestling today. It is a tournament designed to take a lot of the biggest lads in Japanese wrestling and give them an excuse to run into each other at high speeds (as if they’d need one). This match is from the 2016 edition of that tournament, a main event at Korakuen Hall no less. Daisuke Sekimoto came into this as a favourite for the whole tournament, as he so often is, whereas the comparatively inexperienced Hashimoto would have to have been considered the underdog. Both men had made relatively good starts to the tournament, with Sekimoto racking up a total of 4 points (including a win over pre-skeletal Seiya Sanada) and Hashimoto sitting on 2 after defeating future BJW Strong Heavyweight Champion Hideyoshi Kamitani. This was his chance to level it up with Sekimoto and also earn the biggest win of his career up to this point.
Sekimoto was positioned as the gatekeeper for the Strong BJ division in this match, an obstacle set up with Daichi to overcome. If he managed to win, maybe he’d have a future at this whole “big lads” thing. If he lost in an embarrassing fashion, it’s back to the Inoki Genome Federation with you, m’man. Sekimoto battered Daichi with big chops and challenged Hashimoto to compete with him. That didn’t end particularly well for the young man. Sekimoto then attempted to wear him down with a sleeper hold, a Boston crab and even more chops. Sekimoto was never quite the villain in this scenario but he’d do the odd thing that would make you think “hey man, that’s a bit out of line”. He’d beat Hashimoto in the corner with chops, grinning and taking his sweet time before strikes, relishing the chance to tear into some fresh meat and prove a point. He’d try and submit Daichi to the Boston crab and, when forced to break, he’d clamp the hold on for the full five count. Little things like this aren’t necessarily the mark of a heel but they definitely made Daichi more sympathetic on this occasion.
Daichi finally mounted a comeback with a series of kicks, shaking Sekimoto. That previously confident visage suddenly showed fragility for the first time after that kick connected; the selling here was wonderful. Subsequent kicks didn’t have the same effect (even the ones that were targeted right at the throat). Once Daisuke realised what this young prick was doing he was fired up. This young punk, coming into his house, trying to outstrike him? Not happening. Attempt to kick the shit out of Daisuke Sekimoto and he’ll come back even stronger, impervious to the pain, like a pro wrestling Doomsday. Daichi wasn’t particularly keen to stick around and see how accurate that comparison was, but none of his moves seemed to be keeping Sekimoto down and, if anything, seemed to be making him stronger. Strikes seemed to be getting ignored. Submissions were shrugged off. Wrestling a Goliath like Sekimoto is often like swimming against the tide; you can have a really good go of it but he’s just too strong and eventually you are going to die, no matter who you are.
Daichi’s strategy in the closing moments here was the most logical: try and finish it before that death occurs. His opponent was a gigantic terrifying man, however he’s still a man and therefore he can be knocked out if you hit him hard enough in the right place. And that’s exactly what happened. Sekimoto, now evolved into his final beast mode, went to end it with a gigantic lariat, only to be met with a spinning heel kick, a second Shining Wizard and finally a rising DDT to give Hashimoto the huge upset win. This was a great finishing sequence; Hashimoto deduced that any one of his big moves might not be enough. A few had already only garnered nearfalls. The solution to this? Throw everything you have at the big bastard, that should do it. Immediately after the pinfall Hashimoto was tackled to the mat and hugged by his buddy Kazuki Hashimoto (no relation, just a great mate), which is one of my favourite visuals in all of wrestling from 2016, while the beaten veteran had to be helped backstage.
I loved this. This was a low key example of Sekimoto at his best. Sekimoto is awesome for a few reasons. Some of those are obvious. He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest in ring performers of his generation. Tag onto that the fact that he eschewed any notions of moving to a “bigger promotion”, opting to make Big Japan the success it is today by representing them across the world, along with his heavy involvement in training of the next generation of BJW wrestlers, and you have a hall of fame-calibre wrestler. There’s also no ego on display in his matches. He’s in many ways very similar to Chris Hero. Both men, when tasked with losing to an opponent seen as lower ranked than them, take this as a challenge. You’re losing the match but you want to remain credible, how do you do this? The answer is easy. You make your conqueror look like a million dollars. Daichi, on the other hand, really rose to the high standards expected of him in a main event and looked strong in a match designed to make him look like a star. I’m not sure where his career will go in the future considering he’s still a very young wrestler but wrestling this type of match against this type of opponent will only make him better. This is the best I’ve seen him look, certainly in a singles match. On this occasion, Daichi Hashimoto came at the king of the Strong BJ division and he did not miss. ****