Unconquerable, undeterred, champion.
Those are the words that describe the Bang! Openweight Champion and the leader of the Ironhearts, “Big Iron” Gorou Ichikawa. Since winning the title from Hanazawa at Clash of Aces 9, he has been the undisputed face of Bang! Pro Wrestling. About to reach the end of his second year as Bang! Openweight Champion, Ichikawa is on an unprecedented trajectory as he attempts to surpass a record long thought to be unassailable – Izou Yoshida’s 810 day reign as Openweight champion.
Unbeaten, unblemished, unstoppable.
Those are words that describe the 2022 Terminus Complex (TC-X) winner and Gorou Ichikawa’s opponent, “the Godslayer” Akira Hanazawa. Since losing the Openweight championship to Ichikawa at Clash of Aces 9 in 2021, Hanazawa had been just about unstoppable. He is the only wrestler in Bang!’s short history to go undefeated in their block in two TC-X tournaments. He has only lost twice, ever, in his three years in Bang! Pro Wrestling.
It’s the biggest match in Bang! Pro Wrestling’s history. One of these two unstoppable entities must fall. Two years in the making. Who comes out on top?
JANUARY 4th, 2023: CLASH OF ACES 11 IN TOKYO
- The Kazuyagumi (“Ace of Hearts” Kazuya Fukumaru, Junpei Tsukioka, Saburou Tanaka, and Cowabunga Kenji) def. Powerslam Anubis, Ignacio el Jaguar, Sam Smart, and Wally Wallace @ 13:05 by pinfall with the Kanabo (Discus elbow) from Fukumaru on Wallace
- Special Attraction Match: Anna Daniels def. Lord Kurosame-sama @ 12:41 by pinfall with the Oncoming Storm (Michinoku Driver I)
- Bang! With Your Friends Championships: The Jacks of All Trades (“Jumpin’” Jack Sweetwater, “Picture Perfect” Jack Pizazz & “Jammin’” Jack Graves) © def. The Winds of Change (Coral Avalon, Joe Fontaine & Sid Phillips) @ 21:18 by pinfall with the Sweetest Driver (cradle fire thunder driver) from Sweetwater on Fontaine to retain the titles!
- Jared Sykes & Justine Calvin def. The Aces of Bang! (“Ace of Spades” Izou Yoshida & “Ace of Clubs” Haruki Kazano) @ 18:09 by pinfall with the Calculated Risk (kamigoye) from Calvin on Yoshida
- Bang! With Your Partner Championships: The Beasts of Tokyo (Seiko Serizawa & HAMAYUMI) def. The Ironhearts (“Hawkeye” Taka Sakuragi & “The Iron Idol” Riko Tsukino) @ 19:44 by pinfall with the Tiger’s Bite (northern lights bomb) by Serizawa on Tsukino to retain the titles!
- Bang! Hardweight Championship, “Heavy Metal” Match: Claire Merci © def. Kensuke BLACK, “Don of the Deathmatch” Rory Hayes, and “Diamond” Daisuke Hashiwara @ 23:09 by pinfall with the Royal Butterfly Suplex (dragon suplex) by Merci on Hashiwara to retain the title!
- Bang! Openweight Championship: “Big Iron” Gorou Ichikawa © def. “The Godslayer” Akira Hanazawa @ 34:19 by pinfall with the Peacemaker (running blockbuster) to retain the title!
THE TITLE PICTURE
It’s the biggest show of the year for Bang! Pro Wrestling, and Clash of Aces 11 is in the books!
The biggest news coming out of Clash of Aces is that the historic reign continues for “Big Iron” Gorou Ichikawa!
In what was perhaps the biggest main event in Bang! Pro Wrestling’s twelve year history, Ichikawa overcame the challenge of the winner of TC-X 2022, the seemingly unstoppable “Godslayer”, Akira Hanazawa. At one point, Hanazawa looked to have had the match won with the Ragnarok Driver, but he was too exhausted from the damage he suffered in the match to realize that he was too near to the ropes. Attempting it a second time led to Ichikawa landing on his feet and catching him with the Peacemaker. He followed it up with actually managing to get the massive Hanazawa up for the Joker’s Wild, and then followed up with a second Peacemaker to win the match!
The grueling main event for the Bang! Openweight Championship may have already locked down talks for Bang! Pro Wrestling’s “Match of the Year” just four days into 2023! Ichikawa, who won the title two years ago at Clash of Aces 9 from Hanazawa himself, has so far overcome all challenges for his championship.
Ichikawa, who is only 26 years old and is the youngest Openweight champion in company history, recognized in his post-match speech that he’s only three months away from breaking Yoshida Izou’s seemingly insurmountable 810 day reign as Openweight champion, but didn’t want to rest on his laurels. He wanted to know who his next opponent was. However, the response he received was static from the video screens and a “coming soon” message. Whatever that meant, it didn’t seem like Ichikawa knew who his challenger was just yet.
For Hanazawa, this loss is only his third in singles competition in his two years with Bang! Pro Wrestling, but his inability to avenge his loss to Ichikawa on its two year anniversary has to sting for the Godslayer. His last defeat was at the Terminus Complex in 2021, falling to Coral Avalon in the finals in an epic slugfest that still remains the longest match in the event’s history.
It wasn’t exactly all sunshine and roses for the Ironhearts, though. In a match billed as revenge for the Ironhearts, the Iron Idol and the Hawkeye couldn’t dislodge the ferocious Beasts of Tokyo from their seat of power as the Bang! With Your Partner champions. In fact, the Beasts of Tokyo rather handedly took care of business against the Tsukino and Sakaragi. With Tsukino’s normal tag team partner, Bando Ichikawa, out of action with a torn ACL since August 8th, she and Sakaragi have not quite gelled the same way as a tag team since then.
The Beasts of Tokyo remain an absolute menace in the Partners scene, having dominated the division since winning last year’s Celestial Dragon Tag League. Once the Beasts ejected Sakaragi from the match, Tsukino fell prey to the same combination that won the Beasts the titles in the first place – the one-two combo of HAMAYUMI’s Dragon’s Breath spin kick and Serizawa’s Tiger’s Bite.
The Beasts would soon discover, however, that their dominance over the division was about to be tested, as three teams came out to confront them in the wake of their win. The first of them was the New World Trash, the winners of the Flynn Cup back in September. Bex Savage and Angel Quinley were quick to confront the dominant joshi tag team, but before anyone could come to blows, Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips of the Winds of Change were out second to make their case. And then this was topped by the appearance of PRIME’s record-holding tag team champions, Justine Calvin and Jared Sykes, who had defeated Yoshida and Kazano earlier in the night.
In the Hardweight scene, Claire Merci turned away three of the toughest challengers in the division in a heated and brutal “Heavy Metal” match – a barbed wire extravaganza involving musical instruments that you wouldn’t want to play unless you’re in Hell! Merci had made a nuisance of herself to all three men in this match, and thus they initially teamed up against her. However, once things broke down between the Ironheart heavyhitter Kensuke BLACK, the Ace of Diamonds Daisuke Hashiwara, and the Bostonian “Don of the Deathmatch” Rory Hayes, Merci was able to take advantage in getting control of the match back. Once Hayes and BLACK took each other out of the competition by falling into a procession of barbed wire instrumentation, it left Hashiwara to take the Royal Butterfly Suplex from Merci into more heavy metal. In doing so, Merci not only retained her Hardweight championship, but also avenged her defeat in the TC-X by Hashiwara’s hand that prevented her from reaching the finals.
Finally, the team that answered the Jacks of All Trade’s open challenge turned out to be PRIME’s Winds of Change. The former leader of the Crownless Kingdom made his return to Bang! Pro Wrestling for the first time in over half a year, and he brought Joe Fontaine and Sid Phillips with him! Unfortunately, the crafty Jacks seemed one step ahead of two out of the Winds of Change’s three members, only losing ground whenever Avalon was in the match. However, once Fontaine and Phillips were able to get used to the antics, they fought back until Sweetwater could sneak in a low blow and the Sweetest Driver on Fontaine to keep the belts.
The Jacks have long been the centerpiece of the Friends division of Bang! Pro Wrestling. The trio, who formed their alliance around the time of Sweetwater’s shocking Openweight title victory over Yoshida Izou, are five-time Friends champions and hold the record for the longest combined title reign at more than a thousand days.
Possibly the biggest development in or out of the title picture is that for the first time in almost ten years – we’re not counting the Bang! All Day Championship currently lost in Belgium somewhere, settle down – Bang! Pro Wrestling has seen fit to introduce a new championship!
The Bang! Conception Championship will be positioned just below the Openweight title in prestige, and the first champion will be decided in a one night, eight-person invitational tournament at King’s Winter next month! The first name invited is none other than Riko Tsukino, the beloved “Iron Idol” who still seeks her first singles title in Bang! Pro Wrestling. Other names will be named during the rest of the tour, with special guests along for the ride!
Could this year be the end for Izou Yoshida? The Ace of Spades had been a mainstay of Bang! Pro Wrestling since its founding in 2011, but injuries have played a large role in his reduced schedule and his regression in recent years. His latest tough loss, taking the pin to PRIME’s Justine Calvin in a tag match, may have made the 41-year-old “Living Highlight Reel” start mulling over his options for his future. Yoshida has not had a noteworthy win in Bang! Pro Wrestling ever since the Aces of Bang! lost the Bang! With Your Friends trios championships to the Jacks back in April, and was even blanked in this year’s TC-X. In a post-match interview, Yoshida-san mused that maybe his time was drawing to an end, but that he’ll weigh his options for the year.
Jared Sykes looked good in the match despite still coming off numerous injuries from last month’s Colossus event, where he went toe-to-toe with Paxton Ray and defeated 2Become1 together with Calvin on back-to-back nights. He was fairly limited in the contest, though, with much of the heavy lifting done by Calvin.
In a special limited appearance, PRIME’s Anna Daniels took on fan favorite and Bang! mainstay Lord Kurosame-sama, defeating the shark in a sprint. Daniels, who occasionally wrestles in Japan when not competing for PRIME, made her first-ever appearance in Bang! Pro Wrestling.
The former Openweight champion got in some of his usual big moves, including his famous shark bites, and even threatened to tap Daniels out with his Deep Sea Thrombosis submission. There were times when Daniels, seemingly in spite of her ages of wisdom, seemed outright perplexed by Lord Kurosame-sama’s bizarre antics and many, many shortcuts to try to steal the win. In the end, though, Daniels punted the shark in the head and finished him off with her Oncoming Storm.