One of my favourite happy/sad feelings is being stood in a music venue, watching a band I’ve seen play to ten people in a pub, ingratiate themselves to an audience a hundred times that size. Even as someone who has played little to no part in their success, it’s a moment that fills you with pride, as you watch something you’ve been a part of break out of its bubble. However, there is also a small, selfish part of yourself, that feels sad. Sad that the thing you love is about to become bigger and more successful than ever before and you’ll never again see them in those tiny venues, feet from the stage as they play directly to you. It’s a feeling similar to the one I got watching Baliyan Akki take on Konosuke Takeshita.
Because if you’ve been in the know, then it’s been obvious for a while that Akki is special. One could argue that ChocoPro was built around that idea, Emi Sakura using those initial shows to book Akki against her violent mates. There have been times when storylines have branched out, the likes of Yunamon and Mitsuru taking centre stage, but alongside Mei Suruga, Akki has always been the jewel in Emi’s crown. He’s improved over that time too, the intense schedule allowing him to try new things and shape the wrestler he’s becoming. Since day one, I’ve felt that if Akki was given a chance, there was an opportunity he’d blow up, but recently I’ve been sure of it.
And Takeshita was a hell of a person for him to get that chance against. Not only is Take an incredible wrestler but he’s also nearly the same age as Akki, a single day separating them. In career experience, though, they couldn’t be more different. Takeshita is someone who was earmarked for greatness from day one. You only have to look at the guy to know he has something to him. He came through at one of Japan’s biggest wrestling companies and was protected and nourished to prepare him for his role as the new Ace. In contrast, Akki came through in India, a country with little to no opportunity for wrestling, forcing him to create his own paths. He has scraped and fought, pushing his way into positions and making himself so good that no-one could ignore him. That’s not to diminish Takeshita’s achievements. There is a reason he got the opportunities he did, but the roads he walked down were a lot better paved than Akki’s.
In the match itself, you could see that Akki would not let this opportunity pass him by. Like that band pushed out onto a bigger stage, thrashing about it in order to keep the energy of those smaller venues, Akki threw everything into the match, flying across the ring and into every strike. It was a performance designed to impress and show that when handed the Ace, he could not only match him but push him, forcing him to raise his game too. This was a one-off bout, something with no storyline backing, but Akki made himself the story. His dream was the core of this encounter as he tried to make sure everyone watching would remember his name.
I’m sure they will too. Akki looked brilliant here and with another All Japan booking on the horizon, it seems a matter of when, not if, those opportunities will come knocking. When they do, I’ve no doubt that he’ll grab them with both hands, much like he did this one. Meanwhile, I’ll be stood near the bar, with a beer (a lower back like a pretzel means my moshing days are limited), taking pride in something I played no part in, but feeling a bit sad that I’m no longer the guy in the know.
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