Take in a few familiar faces in an unfamiliar surrounds, with a show title that reads like a rather lewd tabloid headline. Yep, we’re looking at what some may call an unofficial Fight Club Pro warm-up!

Yeah, we’re dipping into a promotion we barely cover, but there’s, erm “means” to get this, and we’re always interested in seeing how some “home guys” are doing when they travel away. This show came ahead of Fight Club Pro’s “Project Tokyo” show, which ended up being more of a “Fight Club Pro folks do a wrestle in Korakuen Hall”. This show’s not at Korakuen though; it’s from Tokyo’s Shin-Kiba 1st Ring – a venue that a lot of indies tend to run.

For the uninitiated, Big Japan have two divisions: the deathmatch division and the Strong Division; and with most shows featuring both of them, you’ll be able to see both in one place. The show starts with the gong ringing, a little bit of Queen and ironically “Don’t Stop Me Now” is stopped by muting! One quick boiler plate thing – I’m unfamiliar with a LOT of these guys and in lieu of name plates, had to try and ID folks from Google. If I get it wrong, let me know and I’ll correct!

Akira Hyodo & Takuho Kato vs. Ryuichi Kawakami & Yasufumi Nakanoue
Hyodo and Kato are rookies, as denoted by their black trunks, boots and kneepads – although Kato was technically just entering his second year in the sport.

Kawakami and Hyodo start us off, right as I spot Brother Mort opposite the hard cam. At least he survived this Japan trip without encountering Danshoku Dino… In the ring, Kawakami takes down Hyodo from an overhead wristlock for just a one-count, before the relative rookie came in with a Fireman’s carry takeover… only to get caught in some headscissors before a waistlock almost led to him getting pinned.

Another wristlock takes Hyodo down before both men tagged out, as we switched around to Kato and Nakanoue, with the rookie having a bit more luck with his headlock, at least until Nakanoue grabbed one of his own, which he clung onto for grim death. Kato thought he’d elbowed free, but instead Nakanoue dragged him to the mat before being shot into the ropes as he scored a shoulder block.

Kawakami’s tagged back in to chop through Kato in the corners, before sending him into the ropes for a back elbow that got a very aggressive near-fall. Nakanoue’s back in for a delayed slam, prompting a brief fightback from Kato that’s quickly snuffed out, as Kawakami returned to claw away at the rookie’s face. A grounded chinlock keeps Kato down, but he has to get to the ropes to break free, allowing Kawakami to throw some more chops and forearms. After hitting the ropes, Kawakami ran into an awkward slam as Kato finally got himself a break, tagging out to Hyodo, who kept up the fire with some charges into the corner, but Nakanoue comes back in to turn it back around, only to run into a Samoan drop. Kato’s back in with some nice chops, then some shoulder tackles, which eventually takes Nakanoue down as both of the black trunked rookies come in for some double-teaming, with shoulder tackles and seemingly-endless elbow drops.

Nakanoue turns it right back around with a spinebuster to Kato, before a double-team shoulder charge gets a near-fall. Kato’s still fighting though, and kicks out of a suplex before a Boston crab forces the submission. This didn’t quite have the fire you’d see out of rookies elsewhere, but it was a nice, technically-sound match that did its job. **¾

Takuya Nomura & Yuki Ishikawa vs. Okami (Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani)
Oh hey there, Okami! We last saw these guys in person over World Tag Team League weekend in October, where they had sneakily-good matches that caught me totally off-guard.

Kamitani and Nomura start us off, with headlock takedowns and escapes, before both men tagged out. Hashimoto gets wrestled to the mat in an armbar by Ishikawa, but down there Hashimoto grabs a leg as he tried to stop Ishikawa going for an armbar. The lack of even polite clapping here is unnerving me somewhat, as we see Hashimoto get back to his feet and take Ishikawa into the corner as Okami looked to find their groove.

An arm wringer from Kamitani’s replied to in kind as the rookies went into their own corner, with Nomura tagging in to throw some forearms at Kamitani… who just walked through them and backed Nomura into the opposite corner. Hashimoto’s back in, but not before Kamitani just rudely kicked Nomura in the chest, as we’re firmly into the striking portion of the match. Back and forth chops ring around the venue, with a forearm from Hashimoto switching that game up and keeping Okami on track.

A palm strike from Hashimoto sunk Nomura to his knees, before more forearms rocked the rookie. Kamitani returned with a stalling brainbuster that folded Nomura up for a near-fall, but there’s still fight in Nomura as he blocks a charge from Kamitani with a missile dropkick, before Ishikawa returned with some uppercuts and a butterfly suplex, before Kamitani Judo throws his way out of a sleeperhold attempt. More slams keep Nomura on the mat, as Hashimoto returns with some elbows and knees for a near-fall. Nomura catches a kick and turns Hashimoto in an Exploder before rolling across for another tag, with Ishikawa this time running in with a series of forearms to Hashimoto, eventually taking him off his feet. Kamitani stops the rookies with shoulder charges though, before whipping Hashimoto into Nomura in the corner with a high knee, as a double-team Okami suplex helped them to a near-fall.

Hashimoto goes for a suplex, but Nomura counters into a small package as he was going for all manner of pinning attempts, including somehow getting a two-count from a roll-up as he was rocked with a knee to the gut. From the kick-out though, Hashimoto lands a mid kick, then a diving uppercut for a near-fall, before a Falcon arrow got the win. Pretty much one-way traffic as you’d expect, but Ishikawa and Nomura put up a hell of a fight and came pretty close at times. ***

Kazumi Kikuta & Yoshihisa Uto vs. Strong BJ (Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi)
Sadly, we didn’t get the overexcited guy singing to Sekimoto’s music here, but Daisuke did have his Big Japan and Zero One title belts with him. I hear you need a Strong Arm to carry those belts…

Okabayashi and Uto start us off, as their feeling out process led to them exchanging arm wringers before they reached a staredown. An attempted knuckle lock sees Okabayashi take Uto into the corner, as Sekimoto tagged in to begin a chop battle against Kikuta, and my, those chops rang around Shin-Kiba. Kikuta tries to switch it up with palm strikes and kicks, actually succeeding in taking Sekimoto down for a two-count, which led to Sekimoto getting taken to the opposite corner as Uto tagged back in.

A tight side headlock keeps Sekimoto on his knees, but Daisuke being Big and Strong took his opponent into his own corner as Okabayashi tagged back in. Shoulder tackles from Okabayashi just about move Uto, who comes back with his own before a chop sent Uto to the outside… and Okabayashi following him there was a bad move, as he gets whipped with a belt, then smashed in the back with a chair for… reasons. Uto posts Okabayashi too, as Sekimoto gets beaten down by Kikuta on the outside.

Back inside, Uto grabs an abdominal stretch on Okabayashi, but that’s eventually broken up with a hiptoss as Sekimoto returned to the match, coming in to drop Uto with a suplex for a near-fall. They trade chops until Sekimoto snapmared Uto and hit him with a diving splash for a near-fall, only for Uto to reply with a low dropkick. Uto and Kikuta come in to double-team Hashimoto, combining a full nelson slam and a top rope knee drop for a near-fall. Okabayashi responds with a double-team suplex before he and Sekimoto charge through Kikuta, with a pair of big splashes proving to be enough to score a near-fall. From there, Sekimoto rolls over Kikuta into a Sharpshooter, only for Uto to break it up… so they suplex him onto his partner as the Strong BJ team were having their way, pulling their foes up into duelling Torture Racks for the submission. A pretty dominant showing from Okabayashi and Sekimoto in a solid outing for both teams. ***¼

Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter) vs. Kota Sekifuda & Tatsuhiko Yoshino
The Hunters’ ring music is muted, so I’m hoping they’re masking the tripe Rev Pro’s given them lately. Sadly, their opponents’ music and intro is also muted, so I’ll be scurrying to Google to ID these guys.

The Hunters offer a handshake, and get it, before we start with Lee Hunter and (I think) Yoshino. We’ve an early cravat from Lee, which turns into a wristlock that Yoshino rolled free from as the pair keep it on the mat… with Lee almost getting pinned in those early goings. We’ve a cheapshot as Lee was going for a test of strength, but he’s back in with a wacky hiptoss/lucha roll-up for a near-fall as Yoshino’s forced to back out and tag in Sekifuda as Jim also tags in.

It’s good to see that even in Japan, people struggle to tell the Hunters apart! I always go by the knee pads, but even then I forget how I tell them apart! Jim sits down on a sunset flip attempt as the pair spark a series of indy’riffic pinfall attempts, with Jim going all World of Sport to confound Sekifuda en route to a schoolboy for a near-fall. Hey, Shin-Kiba’s actually making some noise for this! Yoshino tags back in, but Jim quickly tags out to let his brother tackle the double-teaming, which he does so by landing a crossbody, then a cross-chop to the throat.

An abdominal stretch is broken up, but the Hunters remain with the upper hand as they team up on Yoshino, blasting him with uppercuts. Yoshino fires back with forearms, but Lee asks for more, and gets them before Yoshino suckerpunches Lee in the midsection. Sekifuda tags back in, but quickly has to cartwheel past the Hunters as he dropkicked them to the outside ahead of a corkscrew tope to the floor. Back in the ring, Sekifuda and Lee Hunter trade chops until a nice takedown from Sekifuda led him into an armbar, with Yoshino restraining Jim with a Cobra twist until Lee got his feet to the ropes. A blind tag allows Jim Hunter to come in and hit a neckbreaker on Yoshino, who landed on Lee’s knees for a near-fall. More uppercuts from Jim almost got him caught in a backside, but he kicks out… and eats a knee to the head as Yoshino got free to make a tag out.

In comes Sekifuda, as Lee caught him with a Finlay roll before heading up top for a Dynamite Kid-esque swandive headbutt for a near-fall. That felt like a bucket list item as we crossed the ten minute mark, before the Hunters avoided a game of doe-see-doe, sending their opponents outside, only for them to skin the cat and come back with dropkicks. A Michinoku Driver and moonsault combo gets a near-fall with Jim having to break up the pin, before the Hunters hiptossed Sekifuda into an accidental sit-out powerbomb by Yoshino!

From there, they lift up Sekifuda to the top rope as a top rope ‘rana and a big splash from the Hunters does the damage as the visitors claim the win. A nice win, and we quickly fade out as the Heat Was On! An enjoyable tag match, which quickly overcame any language barriers you may have expected to have caused problems. ***¼

Cue an interval as they set up the ring for the next match…

Barbed Wire Board Death Match for Yokohama Shopping Street Six Man Tag Team Championship: Drew Parker, Jimmy Havoc & Rickey Shane Page vs. 3rd Generation Chimidoro Brothers (Masaya Takahashi, Takayuki Ueki & Toshiyuki Sakuda) (c)
Our “deathmatch” portion of the show came for the Yokohama Shopping Street trios titles, and when you see the challengers were Jimmy Havoc, Drew Parker and Rickey Shane Page… well, this isn’t going to be a sedate affair.

Unlike prior “deathmatches” I’ve seen on mixed Big Japan shows, they’ve not changed the ring apron, so I’m not expecting too much in way of plunder and blood. Famous last words, eh? The challengers jump the champions from a handshake, and we’re left with Parker and Ueki in the ring, with Drew busting out a ‘rana to take Ueki into the corner for a dropkick. Sakuda and Page return to the ring to stop the camera crew from having to trail after them, as Rickey pokes fun at Sakuda’s lack of height… which just ended with Sakuda grabbing a chair and using it as a step ladder. Innovative!

From the chair, Sakuda works a Test of Strength, but Page kicks out the chair and then suplexes him to the mat, as Takahashi comes in to try and help whip Page into the barbed wire board. No dice – both Ueki and Takahashi just get whipped into the other board, as Page then took Sakuda by the head and sliced it open with the barbed wire board in the other corner. A tag’s made to Jimmy Havoc, who puts the boots to Sakuda en route to a two-count being made, as all three challengers came in to hold Sakuda down for a camera-friendly pose (albeit one the hard cam can’t get a good shot of).

From there, Sakuda’s whipped into the barbed wire board, before Page just suplex/throws Parker into him… throwing Sakuda down for a double stomp off the top from Havoc for a near-fall. Sakura tries to fight back from the opposite corner, landing a missile dropkick into Havoc before grabbing some plunder – a disc saw blade screwed to a board?! Fortunately Havoc disarms him and instead dishes out some paper cuts to the webbing of the fingers, then to the mouth before Sakuda grabbed his saw blade and… raked it across Jimmy’s Havocs. In come Ueki and Takahashi to charge down Havoc, who’s then held in place for what I can only describe as a Kokeshi to the balls from Ueki.

Ueki keeps control by charging Havoc head-first into that barbed wire board (sacrificing himself in the process) as the ref makes a two-count. Two chairs get set up back-to-back, but Havoc counters by dropping Ueki across them in an atomic drop of pain, as Page tagged in to make the most of what was left of the barbed wire board, no bump suplexing Ueki into it for a near-fall.

Minutes later, Ueki hits a springboard crossbody but misses a Kokeshi as Parker and Takahashi come in. Drew’s tornado DDT and a standing moonsault scores a near-fall, as Havoc and Page clear the apron en route to an Acid Rainmaker for Takahashi, and a 450 splash from Drew… but the champions break up the pin as the ring filled up. Havoc and Page accidentally boot each other off the apron, leaving Drew alone as the champions charged into him with a trio of splashes in the corner, before a senton from Sakuda drew a near-fall.

After a save is made, Drew’s taken up top as Sakuda sets up two chairs on their side, then props a barbed wire board across them. The board slips off and nobody notices, so Sakuda’s avalanche Sliced Bread on Drew ends with him landing hard on the edge of the chair as Drew barely kicked out in time. Sakuda’s fine, as seen with his springboard senton to Havoc and Page on the outside, as Takahashi finished off Drew with a Jackhammer into the barbed wire for the win. This was better than I expected; a death match without overuse of plunder – but that was seemingly saved for Fight Club Pro’s Tokyo Death House a few days later. ***

CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) vs. Kazuki Hashimoto & Yuya Aoki
After the injury hell that was 2018 for CCK, it was nice for them to start 2019 back together and making their Japan debut, in a main event to boot. Heck, they even get CCK chants as Shin-Kiba spoke!

Brookes and Aoki start us off with some mat work, as Aoki tried to work the wrist and arm of Brookes in the early going… but Chris flips free as we reached the stalemate. Brookes goes all Yano, begging for a break in the ropes, then bowed to Aoki when he got it… only to grab a headlock when Aoki returned the bow. No respect here then! When a shoulder tackle took Brookes down, he rolled to the outside, allowing Lykos to come into play against Hashimoto. Some early leg kicks proved ineffective, especially against Kazuki’s replies, as it turns out… he’s quite good at kicks. Lykos gets taken into the corner as Aoki returned with almost a throwback Frankensteiner before taking Lykos outside for a flip plancha.

Back inside, Chris Brookes sneaks in to lift Lykos up for an elevated lungblower as his follow-up back senton puts Aoki down, with Brookes going to work on the arm and wrist of his opponent. Some leg works followed, with Brookes stomping on Aoki’s ankle next, allowing Lykos to return with a modified STF. Brookes returns with chops in the corner, trapping Aoki as he was hung up in the ropes, before he went back to stomping on the legs.

Lykos keeps up the work, with a leg grapevine forcing Aoki into the ropes, before some kicks from the dirty wolf allowed him to go for a Figure Four… which Aoki pushes out of. So Brookes tries the same, and we continue the Three Stooges revolving figure fours until Aoki found a way out and caught Lykos with a suplex. Brookes and Hashimoto tag back in, with the latter landing some chops before scoring with a bulldog out of the corner. A crossface turned into a Rings of Saturn by Hashimoto, who quickly found out just how gangly Brookes’ legs were as we got a rope break, before a snapmare and a PK helped Hashimoto into a near-fall.

Brookes hit back with a back senton off the middle rope, before Lykos came in to try a brainbuster… and yeah, Hashimoto escaped. Lykos has more luck with a tornado DDT for a near-fall as we crossed the ten minute mark, before he kicked away Hashimoto’s arm as he landed that brainbuster for a two-count. A blind tag brought Aoki back in with a missile dropkick off the top, before a superkick took Brookes down for a near-fall. Hashimoto learns from Lykos, and hits an avalanche brainbuster to Brookes – complete with the shoutout – before Aoki’s missile dropkick again finds its mark for a near-fall.

Out of nowhere, Lykos catches Aoki up top with a Lo Mein Pain, before an Air Raid Crash from Brookes drew a near-fall, as Aoki’s left cornered to take a series of chops. He escaped, but ends up holding the ropes as Lykos dove onto Hashimoto outside, as Brookes’ slingshot cutter led to another Lykos dive, this time with a step-up flip plancha to the outside. Back in the ring, Brookes gos for a Praying Mantis Bomb, aided by a Lykos kick… but Aoki kicks out at two before he’s caught with the Ink Bomb (which made a welcome return), as the springboard Blockbuster/Gory Bomb combo put Aoki down for the count. A pretty solid main event, and one that got the crowd going… relatively speaking. A good debut for CCK, whose 2019 hopefully will be smooth sailing! ***½

The Big Ben Japan show may well have been a run of the mill “house show” for Big Japan, especially since the promotion rarely runs at Shin-Kiba, but this was a nice easy watch with a bunch of familiar names on there. The Death Match wasn’t too bloody nor too hokey, which is the line that plunder matches often have trouble straddling, with the gore being saved for their later appearances in Big Japan… so we ended up getting a solid show that flew by.