Yuji Okabayashi vs. Fuminori Abe (BJW Death Market 73 5/28/23)

Match Reviews

Featured image by @funyakkichi_pw

Running this match on the same day as the Astronauts finally beating Strong BJ offers some cool narrative possibilities for these two. Okabayashi’s coming in having lost the match for his team earlier in Korakuen Hall, and he’s bearing the signs of that loss on his body. His arm is all bandaged up from getting picked apart in the tag match, and it was Abe himself who scored the winning submission in that bout. With the bad arm and coming in from a loss earlier that afternoon–plus the recent loss of the Strong Heavyweight Title still looming over him–Okabayashi enters this match feeling like he’s the one with something to prove.

Abe smartly returns to the arm work here early. Beyond the holds he’s applying, there’s a lot of small things he does throughout to add texture to the control segment. Things like those petty slaps to Okabayashi when he has a leg scissors on the arm or having Yuji against the ropes and pulling his elbow pad and bandages off the bad arm. Touches like that create these small pockets of animosity that keep things tense and exciting as we wait before hitting the bigger bombs down the stretch.

The match does begin to turn in Yuji’s favor though when he’s able to use his power to halt Abe’s arm work. Specifically, he uses a lariat to the back of the head to set up a comeback that allows him to settle into the type of match he’s historically been more successful at. He drags Abe into a striking contest and even with just one arm, Yuji’s size and power means that he has a decided advantage.

It’s a clever twist that after coming in licking his wounds, Yuji’s able to turn things around to become the aggressor in the match. After spending so much of the first half selling his arm and letting Abe work on top, his sheer size finally grants him some wiggle room to play. It noticeably becomes harder for Abe to seize back control too, often either having to go back to the arm or even break down Yuji in stages such as dropkicking the knee out and then going for the body to get back on the attack.

By the end of things, it’s more of a gut check for Abe. The groundwork he laid down means that he’s able to ward off the inevitable, and he even once again counters the Golem Splash as he did in the many Astros/Strong BJ tags. But Yuji’s just so much more experienced at throwing hands and dropping bombs that by the end, it’s Abe desperately clinging to Yuji’s foot as a last bout of desperation to escape defeat.

After having given up so much in his last two major title matches, it felt good to see Yuji Okabayashi standing tall again before he had to go.

Rating: ****1/4

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