The Story of BJW Part 3 – Present and Future

So far we’ve covered the history of both the Deathmatch division and the other divisions that fill out BJW shows. It’s just been Endless Survivor, one of their biggest shows of the year and the company seems to be in a bit of a reset point so it’s worth looking at the present and to the future. We will cover the stars of the present and how they got there as well as looking at who has the potential to lead the company into the future.

Yuji Okabayashi dives
The two biggest stars of BJW’s Strong division, Yuji Okabayashi and Daisuke Sekimoto

Strong Division Present and Future

BJW has two major belts as it’s driving force, the World Strong Division symbolised by the World Strong Heavyweight Title and the Deathmatch division that’s been running for most of the companies lifespan. The strong division went without a solid title until 2012 when the Strong Title was created to celebrate the tournament victory of Yoshito Sasaki. This was revolutionary at the time as the only heavyweight belt since the retirement of the original heavyweight title was the Deathmatch belt.

This belt has been held by some of the biggest stars of the company. Both of the most notable strong style wrestlers in the company, Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi; have held the title and Okabayashi is the current strong champion. However it has also seen competition from AJPW and wXw as WALTER challenged for the belt in 2012 and Manabu Soya who actually won the title in 2013. Other famous names include the likes of Shuji Ishikawa and Hideki Suzuki.

The future of the division is safe as well and both Sekimoto and Okabayashi can still solidly carry the division whilst we’re also seeing the rise of younger talents set for a push. Daichi Hashimoto has carried the belt before but is slow endearing himself to a wider audience and proving his match quality. He is the son of Japanese legend Shinya Hashimoto too so the name may ring a bell to some people. There is also a trainee system within BJW, similar to NJPW’s Young Lions, who showcase their talents at the start of shows. Lastly there are some more underutilised talent on the roster such as Ryota Hama, who mainly resides in the tag division despite being highly recognisable, as well as Takuya Nomura, one often cited as a future star, and Yasufumi Nakanoue who again could easily be seen with the title but stays mainly in the tag divison, teaming with Hama.

Tajiri misting Hashimoto
Tajiri misting former champion Kazuki Hashimoto

The Junior Division

The junior title may have ceased to exist after 2002, but the juniors continued to fight in BJW. In 2017 the title was brought back to BJW. Much like every other new title in the company it was contested for in a tournament. This time though it was a round robin tournament with six combatants from both sides of BJW. There were strong style juniors and deathmatch juniors. The inaugural winner of the rechristened Junior Title was Shinobu who was one of the highest scoring in the tournament and the winner of the deciding match.

Since then there has only been one other Junior champion. Kazuki Hashimoto. He had a slew of defences against some of the best juniors in the division before losing to a legend of the industry in very screwy fashion. Since the title has only been in the company for a relatively short amount of time, it’s not surprising there have only been two champions. However both managed to bolster their division and make their matches count.

The future of the division is often quite uncertain as the title does not see that much action. As of now the current Junior Heavyweight Champion is the first man to hold the belt so long ago, Tajiri. This is an odd choice for sure but it does add a bit of name value to a division that has been dominated by a small pool of wrestlers. Kazuki Hashimoto is a strong former champion and the likes of Shinobu, Yuya Aoki and others in the division will help keep it bolstered for years to come. It may not receive the most attention but it does have some talent hidden away in it.

Deathmatch Division: Present and Future

Without a doubt, the Deathmatch division of BJW is probably the most important and talent filled in the company. It is bolstered by a mix of legends and current generation stars and has been the spectacle of the company unless Sekimoto and Okabayashi are fighting one another. Veterans like Abdullah Kobayashi, Ryuji Ito and Jaki Numazawa have given their blood and bodies to the division whilst still going today. The new blood contains the likes of Toshiyuki Sakuda, Masaya Takahashi and Masashi Takeda. There is a good mix of old and new that continually fights for dominance. Either side can often win the title with an excellent example of this being Abdullah Kobayashi vs Masashi Takeda in the semi-finals of this year’s Deathmatch Survivor Tournament. Both men nearly killed each other despite the age difference.

This division also houses some of the most popular matches to come from the company. The previous two shows have been headlined by deathmatches and one of the company’s biggest tournaments focusing on crowning a number one contender for the Deathmatch Heavyweight Title. This division has been stocked with in house talent like Sakuda and Takayuki Ueki and often has freelancers like Isami Kodaka and wrestlers from FREEDOMS and other promotions coming in to help raise the stakes. Even recently FREEDOMS star Takashi Sasaki won the Yokohama Shopping Street Six Man Tag Titles with Ryuji Ito and Yuko Miyamoto.

The more interesting part of the Deathmatch division is looking to the future. The present is in strong hands as Takeda has become the lynch pin of the division whilst others have the chance to be champion. The company also excels at using it’s other stars for uproarious and often downright bat shit tag team death matches. Isami has just taken the reigns as the Deathmatch champion whilst the company is set to work alongside GCW and British Promotions like Fight Club Pro to share talent and set up international shows. Stars from around the world like Jimmy Havoc, Rickey Shane Page and Drew Parker have all done tours with the company and GCW looks set to take their brand of violence to BJW and Japan. This has been reciprocated as Toshiyuki Sakuda, who looks to be the next big breakout deathmatch star and current Deathmatch Champion Isami Kodaka have been confirmed for GCW’s Tournament of Survival. BJW seems happy to share with other companies to set up deathmatches around the world. It’s the division that made the company and doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of going away any time soon.

Epilogue

So that concludes the story of BJW so far. The company has come a long way from it’s fledgling days as a struggling promotion and stands tall as a must work promotion for deathmatch wrestlers and a solid component of the Japanese wrestling scene. It has a dedicated audience and offers some unique shows whenever it’s around. Its booking may not make the most sense but it has the star power to succeed and will hopefully keep working with other companies to ensure it’s survival and growth. They still have their deathmatches but now don’t set themselves on fire (look up the Shadow MX Incident) quite as often. The strong scene is thriving and the deathmatch division continues to be the main event. As long as these are thriving, the company will to. If it’s something you’ve never seen then perhaps this has persuaded you to give it a try. It has it’s own subscription service (BJW Core) but offers plenty for free on it’s YouTube channel to test your metal with. Who knows maybe you need a bit of deathmatch fever and broken glass in your life?

(All images/Videos courtesy of BJW Twitter and YouTube, GCW Twitter, Takashi Sasaki Twitter)

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