BJW kicks off their 2020 edition of Strong Climb in front of a reported 565 fans at Korakuen Hall. With COVID-19 sweeping the globe, the major promotions have been shutting down operation. Smaller promotions like BJW can’t afford the monetary losses and are therefore forced to continue on as originally planned.
Strong Climb is a 4 block, 20 participant tournament. It features wrestlers from across several promotions to determine who is the strongest of the strong. If you’re unfamiliar with BJW and are reading this because you want some wrestling to watch, here are the participants. Use the header, I’ll be naming them left to right.
A Block: Yoshiki Inamura (NOAH), Ryuichi Kawakami, Daichi Hashimoto (Strong Champion), T-Hawk (Stronghearts), Akira Hyodo
B Block: Kazuki Hashimoto, Kohei Sato (ZERO1), Daisuke Sekimoto, Isami Kodaka (BASARA), Taishi Takizawa (2AW)
C Block: Ryota Hama, Yuji Okabayashi, Yuji Hino (ZERO1), Quiet Storm (Freelance), Hideyoshi Kamitani
D Block: Takuya Nomura, Kazumi Kikuta, Yasufumi Nakanoue, Jake Lee (AJPW), Yuya Aoki
El Lindaman & Kazuki Hashimoto def. Kota Sekifuda & Tatsuhiko Yoshino @ 7:14
Dark match. Nothing reached the eyes.
Fluorescent Lighttubes Death Match
Abdullah Kobayashi, Drew Parker, Kankuro Hoshino & Yuko Miyamoto def. Masaya Takahashi, Ryuji Ito, Toshiyuki Sakuda & Yuki Ishikawa @ 8:08
Only three of the eight total minutes made tape. What we saw was everything dropping Abby on tubes, Kankuro Cutters all around and Miyamoto firing up his team by smacking each of them on the butt with a baseball bat. Everything we were blessed to see was a hit.
Akira Hyodo, Yasufumi Nakanoue & Yuya Aoki def. Orca Uto, Takuho Kato & Takuya Nomura @ 7:11
Another one where only a portion of the match was to be seen. Aoki and Nomura exchanged a couple slaps and dragon screws but the main course was between Hyodo and Uto. The big boy battles BJW are known for, featuring big dropkicks and lariats. Hyodo backdropped out of the Tiger Suplex and held onto the legs to score the pin. Uto has it all. A great addition to the death division but can still lay it in heavy with the strong boys.
Strong Climb C Block
Quiet Storm def. Hideyoshi Kamitani @ 9:07 via 50cm Arm Lariat – **1/2
Not only do we get this match in full, we’re also given introductions for both men. This is a theme that will continue for the remainder of the show. Storm’s first appearance with BJW since leaving NOAH earlier in the year. He and Kamitani lay it in heavy, BJW style, to open up this year’s Strong Climb. A healthy dose of shoulder tackles and slams before trying to wear each other down with submissions. Kamitani overcomes a flurry ranging from a spinebuster to a fisherman buster before eventually falling to a lariat. The match was a respectable start for Storm but some of his gimmicky moves like the running flatliner and diving crossbody didn’t land with the crowd like he’d have wanted.
Strong Climb A Block
Ryuichi Kawakami def. T-Hawk @ 12:54 via Hurricane Driver – ***
Grunts and growls – the BJW way. These two were teammates in this year’s BJW/DDT New Year Tag Shuffle. They possess similar aesthetics and both lay in heavy chops. T-Hawk was more explosive early with a dive to the outside, immedately followed by a suplex on the floor. Kawakami gains control after a chop floors T-Hawk and stays on top by going full Tenryu. Not looking to get out-Tenryu’d, T-Hawk cuts Kawakami off with a kick followed by a deadlift vertical suplex. Kawakami tries getting separation in the corner but T-Hawk decides to chop him over the top rope and to the floor, bring him back to the apron and suplex Kawakami from the second rope into the ring. T-Hawk then decides to climb to the top where he’s cut off by Kawakami and the two exchange strikes until Kawakami connects with a Hurricane Driver for the win. A nice back and forth match. They are mirror images of each other and showed a good amount of chemistry.
Strong Climb C Block
Yuji Hino def. Ryota Hama @ 7:06 via Powerbomb – ***1/4
If you’ve seen one high-quality Hama match you’ve seen them all. He’s heavily reliant on his opponents and although you know what the match will look like, it’s never not impressive to see. Hino being able to manage the ex-sumo to stand on his chest speaks volumes to his strength. You won’t find a wrestler who emotes better than Hino. He’s so good that he convinces you that taking Hama’s butt to the face wouldn’t be a good time. He’s so strong, he can deliver both a brainbuster and rope-assisted powerbomb to the massive man. Hama climbed to the second rope for a Banzai Drop but Hino got up under him and finished Hama with a powerbomb. For my money, Hino is the best wrestler on the planet right now and I’m happy he was able to showcase against Hama.
Strong Climb D Block
Kazumi Kikuta def. Jake Lee @ 9:41 via Roundhouse Kick – ***1/4
Continuing their 2019 All Asia Tag Team feud, Lee and Kikuta have their first singles match in four years. Both are polarizing figures in the community. If you want my take, Lee has been a disappointing challenge for the Triple Crown title and Kikuta is underrated. Lee does manage to set the tone right for this match. He lightly pats Kikuta on the cheeks which fires Kikuta up. They brawl to the floor where they trade kicks for palm strikes. Back insde the ring, Lee lands a scoop slam and puts a boot over Kikuta’s chest for a one count. He’s doing all the right things to make you not like him – in a working way this time.
Lee lays in the boots, hits the ropes but eats a jumping high kick. Kikuta looks to stay on the attack but is cut off by a knee lift. He fires off a sickening amount of palm thrusts and connects with a boot before Lee regroups with a brainbuster followed by a series of kicks. Lee removes his knee pad, Kikuta dodges the attack and land roundhouse after roundhouse until Lee stays down. For two guys who are very polorizing, they brought enough heat to satisfy their respective detractors and had a match worthy of its position.
Strong Climb A Block
Daichi Hashimoto def. Yoshiki Inamura @ 14:51 via STF – ***1/2
Pro Wrestling NOAH’s newest heavyweight prospect takes on the BJW Strong Heavyweight Champion. Even though Daichi has seven more years of experience, these two are the same age. Daichi vets up on his inexperienced opponent by grounding him with strikes before starting with the submissions. His bigger frame and fresher body allows Inamura to hit higher gears than Daichi featuring big corner splashes and shoulder tackles but Daichi was more crafty with kick placement to ground him again. Inamura managed to use his strength advantage once again and plants Daichi with a brainbuster before inviting him in for a strike exchange. Daichi came out on top of the exchange but is pounced into the counter shortly thereafter.
Inamura lands a big top rope diving shoulder tackle, Daichi escapes a powerbomb and connects with a spinning heel kick. Daichi continues channeling the Three Musketeers with a jumping DDT, Shining Wizard and finishes Inamura with the STF. He gives his respect to Inamura after the match like a true veteran would, if only people thought of Daichi in that way. The finish was hammy. Daichi needs something but hammering us over the head that he’s Shinya’s son is too much. Inamura showed great fire like he always does and Daichi did a great job at pacing the match.
BJW Tag Team Championship
Daisuke Sekimoto & Kohei Sato (c) def. Shigehiro Irie & Yuji Okabayashi @ 18:55 via Sekimoto Bridging German Suplex on Okabayashi – ***3/4
Strong BJ facing off is always a treatThey had a chop exchange early before the match went to the floor and squared off with the other members of their opponent’s respective teams. Sekimoto brought Sato in to take care of Okabayashi. Sato, ever the opportunist looked to split Okabayashi open with a headbutt. This plan didn’t work so both he and Sekimoto stomped on Okabayashi’s thick skull to try and open him up. Sato gives the headbutt a second try but only manages to split himself. Irie has seen enough and comes in for the save before he’s swiftly sent to the floor by Sekimoto. The champions, having Okabayashi isolated, want to take him down but get dropped themselves by the lariats of Okabayashi.
He tags Irie in and the two begin their double team. Irie lands a headbutt to Sato’s chest before taking a knee lift which brings in Sekimoto for the Boston Crab. Pushing up, Irie crawls to the ropes and uses his teeth to force the break. He trades forearms with Sekimoto and catches him in a Black Hole Slam. Okabayashi gets the tag and tees off on his better half but Sekimoto hammers to the beaten head to free himself from the torture rack. Sekimoto pulls Okabayashi into one of his own, Irie breaks it up and his taken down by the double German suplex courtesy of Sekimoto. Strong BJ collide once more, Okabayashi gets grounded and takes a top rope splash but kicks out.
Sekimoto looks for a German suplex, Irie rushes in and tells Okabayashi to duck so he can level Sekimoto with a lariat. They double Sekimoto by putting him on Irie’s shoulders and Okabayashi backdrops Irie. Okabayashi climbs to the top rope but misses the Golem Splash and is leveled by a lariat. Strong BJ trade more forearms, Okabayashi lariats an enzuigiri, hits the ropes and is leveled with a lariat. Sato comes in to deliver a piledriver and Sekimoto finishes Okabayashi with a bridging German suplex. Really good main event. The champions looked dominant the entire way through. Every time Sekimoto was in trouble, Sato was there to bail him out. Sekimoto gets a pin over his Strong BJ partner to both defend his title and send a message to end the show that he’s the man to beat in Strong Climb.
You may be looking at the star ratings and thinking this isn’t a show worth your time but look closer. Every match received a higher rating than the one before. As a full show, this grew better and better as it went on which shouldn’t be understated. Also take a look at the match times. The first three are clipped or don’t exist but all the tournament matches and main event are played in full, including introductions. That’s only possible thanks to none of the matches containing any filler. The longest match went on last and finished in eighteen minutes which is a breath of fresh air in today’s bloated scene.
If you’re someone like me this is a show you can turn on and enjoy from start to finish. In fact, I watched it once yesterday and again today in order to do this review. In a time where NJPW is down and out thanks to COVID-19, use this opportunity to find something to watch that’s outside of your comfort zone.
Since we have so little wrestling going on right now that you probably have time to watch the entire show. Still, if you want to keep to the best stuff, watch the top two matches.