365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
From cruiserweight excellence on January 1, we pivot to blood-soaked mayhem in the second installment of the series. While New Japan Pro Wrestling has made a tradition holding its major event of the year every January 4, another Japanese companies have their own noteworthy dates each calendar year. Big Japan Pro Wrestling, which features both a strong style division and a death match division, has kicked off its yearly campaign with an event on January 2 dating all the way back to 1997 (and skipping 1999, for some reason).
Specifically, we’re firing up the main event from Big Japan’s January 2 event in 2013, with Abdullah Kobayashi defending the promotion’s Death Match Title against Shuji Ishikawa in a New Year Death Match. I have never seen either man in action, so we’re just going to dive right in. You can watch this match, and several Big Japan events, on IWTV.
Kobayashi has been BJW’s Deathmatch Champion for more than a year, since winning the title on December 18, 2011. Kobayashi and Ishikawa wrestled each other multiple times in 2012, including a successful defense by Kobayashi in May in a Fluorescent Light Tubes and Free Weapons Death Match. There’s a video package detailing the build to the match, where Ishikawa challenges Kobayashi after a successful defense, and then a subsequent contract signing. Both meetings end the same way, with Ishikawa attacking Kobayashi, stuffing his head in a toilet and, at the contract signing, spraying Windex on and up his ass (I wish I was kidding).
The stage is set with various means of mauling prior to the match, with light tubes propped vertically against opposite sets of ring ropes. A barbed wire board is propped in one corner, while, across the way, a pane of glass leans ominously against the corner pad. A third corner includes what looks to be a plant of some type, which we’ll get to later and made more sense to me after some research.
Kobayashi and Ishikawa get right to working plunder into the match; several light tubes are shattered in the opening minute, and the barbed wire board soon follows. I won’t even try to detail all the specific moves and tactics these two use but suffice to say that the blood quickly starts flowing. Ishikawa makes liberal use of several items from a Grocery Bag of Doom he brings with him to the ring. While several of the weapons quickly get destroyed, they build nicely to use of the pane of glass, which Ishikawa lays flat against three propped chairs and scales the ropes, only to get superplexed through it in the most spectacular spot of the match.
With no weapons left to use on one another, champion and challenger resort to trading strikes — including several shoot-style headbutts — in an exchange that makes Kobayashi look more formidable than anything else in the match to this point. Ishikawa gets the better of the champ, though, and finishes it with a splash off of the top rope. The blood is profound (and spatters one of the ringside cameras late in the match in an excellent visual) but when assessing all the violence, Kobayashi definitely takes the worst of it over the course of the match and has lacerations all over his body by the time the final bell rings.
So, after watching this match, I did some research online about New Year’s traditions in Japan, and several are incorporated into the match as weapons. Specifically:
–Kobayashi comes to the ring with an orange tied to the top of his head, which apparently represents the continuation of family.
–Ishikawa busts out a Kagami Mochi, which is a New Year’s decoration made of two round rice cakes. There’s a special ingredient in this one that I’m pretty sure was a razor blade. Whatever it is, it’s sharp and cuts open Ishikawa quickly and profusely once Kobayashi shoves it into his head.
–For most of the match, there’s a plant staying in one corner that I’m pretty sure is a deathmatch take on Kadomatsu, a plant decoration that incorporates bamboo shoots, plum trees, and pine trees and that Japanese tradition believes to be the temporary dwelling place of gods, who visit to bless the people living in the homes it decorates. Families keep it outside their home until January 7, then burn it on the 15th. It’s one of the final pieces of plunder destroyed in the match, and what Ishikawa doesn’t know is that Kobayashi has replaced those bamboo shoots with Folger’s crystals–I mean, er, green-painted light tubes.
Final Rating: 5.8
People tend to either love or hate death matches. I’ve certainly seen some fantastic ones, and watched others that were just awful. This battle fell in the “good” range for me. I tend to prefer matches of this genre where they build to the weapon use, and the biggest spot is the culmination. That really isn’t the formula they follow here, but it worked because of the wicked exchange of strikes near the end. Having a red-hot crowd certainly helped. Ultimately, if you like death match wrestling, you’ll like this. If you don’t like death matches, just skip it.
We make our first (but definitely not our last) foray into the grab bag of bizarre matchups that embodied WCW C-shows in the late 1990s. See you then!
Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.