Astronauts vs. Strong BJ (BJW New Standard Big “B” ~ Lotta Good Time N2 4/16/23)

Match Reviews

Featured image by @funyakkichi_pw

Great in all the ways one expects of this combination. As far as slam dunk, guaranteed quality matches, few rivalries this decade deliver with quite as much confidence and sureness as Astronauts against Strong BJ. It’s a pretty classic story of the defining tag team in BJW from the last decade working to hold their ground against the defining tag team of the current one. It’s been incremental progress for the Astronauts in this regard, up to this point they’ve yet to get a decisive victory over Strong BJ.

That overarching narrative finds its way into the in-ring action as well. Despite the Astronauts being the defending champions, they find themselves still feeling like the ones with something to prove in this match. The early more chain wrestling focused segments of the match see the Astronauts making progress containing or at least flustering the veterans with their holds, but when the action starts breaking loose, the tables quickly turn. It’s when Fuminori Abe attempts his signature rope rebound that the match shifts as Okabayashi’s figured out a counter to that particular trick this year–simply following Abe to the ropes and kicking his hands off.

That leads to a fun skirmish in the crowd where those meaty strikes these four are known for start flying. Crucially though, it leads to Strong BJ being able to isolate Abe in their half of the ring and settle into a heat segment. I don’t often associate Astronauts tags with lengthy controls so revisiting this match and seeing that play out felt somewhat refreshing.

That kind of structure isn’t for long though and this does end up breaking down in a way most Astronauts matches do. Tags do become a bit more of a suggestion towards the end, things get a little more formless as the action just flows from double teams to big action setpieces. Amidst the chaos of it, the highlight remains the interactions between Abe and Okabayashi. Their interactions through the year all felt incredibly chippy and motivated, easily the most emotionally compelling aspect to these Astronauts/Strong BJ matches in 2023.

Fittingly, the match ends on an Abe/Okabayashi interaction. They beat the hell out of each other so bad–including a face chop from Yuji–that it ends in a double knockout. That makes the third draw these two teams have fought to and sets the table nicely for what’s yet to come.

Rating: ****

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