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The Week In Japanese Wrestling: Daichi Hashimoto wins gold

Editor's note: The following originally appeared in this week's edition of Figure Four Weekly.

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At Big Japan's "Death Vegas" show in Yokohama this past weekend, Daichi Hashimoto had the crowning moment of his career -- becoming Big Japan's new Strong Heavyweight Champion.

In 2011, when he had his much-hyped debut against Masahiro Chono in Sumo Hall, this achievement six years later would have been seen as a shocking disappointment for the son of the great Shinya Hashimoto. However, just a few years ago, it would have seemed to be an achievement that would be way out of reach.

The reality is that Sunday's win was indeed a great triumph for the young 25 year old. It marked the fact that he has well and truly stepped out of his father's shadow and is carving his own path where he's comfortable and has been accepted.

Daichi is not Shinya. He does not have his father's size and does not have his father's presence. The expectations that were placed on him in his formative years were too much. He had great veterans like Chono, Keiji Mutoh, and Shinjiro Ohtani (all friends of Shinya) looking out for him, but they were trying to hold him up as something he wasn't. And media and fan expectations didn't help. It was a severe amount of pressure for someone just entering his 20s.

Daichi ended up trying to strike out on his own when things just weren't working for him. He got into the fold with Antonio Inoki's IGF, which is not exactly the healthiest and most nurturing environment for a young wrestler. That didn't last, and it really looked like Hashimoto's career might be a wash-out.

He was given a lifeline, though. Over the years, Daichi had sporadically popped up in Big Japan, regularly opposing or teaming with his namesake Kazuki Hashimoto. It always seemed like the smaller-scale (and somewhat grimier) environment allowed him to perform with more relaxation and confidence. He also appeared to strike up an obvious bond with Kazuki.

At the beginning of 2016, BJW announced it would be taking Daichi in as a full-time member of their roster. Under the tutelage of Daisuke Sekimoto and with a real brotherhood surrounding him (as opposed to his father's legendary friends), Daichi started to really flourish. His personality was coming out more in the way he carried himself and in his appearance, with more of a punk look mixed into the pure martial artist ensemble he had previously.

A sign that BJW were committed to him and saw him as a potential big-time player for them came on March 31st, 2016 at Korakuen Hall when Hashimoto pinned Sekimoto clean in the main event with the Rising DDT. It was easily his best career performance to that point and a huge victory.

Daichi has for the most part pushed on from that point and had more very strong performances. He's flourished whenever he's had the opportunity to face any of the younger BJW dojo prospects as he's been able to act as the aggressor and more of his cocky charisma has been able to come through.

In Yokohama, he went one-on-one with Hideki Suzuki -- champion since March and one of the most commanding in-ring presences in the sport. It's hard for even the biggest and most dynamic guys to look credible against Suzuki as his legit shooting skills just make him seem at such a higher level of ability. It was going to be hard for Daichi to come across like a worthy conquerer of the Billy Robinson protege.

But when it was all said and done, he absolutely did. He took a beating but kept pushing forward and didn't ever look overawed (this sounds like I'm talking about a UFC fight, but Suzuki's matches are oftentimes more akin to that than pro wrestling). Hashimoto needed big offense to make it look realistic that he could beat Suzuki -- and big offense he delivered. Thunderous kicks and a brutal sheer drop brainbuster, which drilled the champion through the mat, gave Daichi the win.

It was the culmination of a really unique seven-year story, and the beginning of the next chapter of the Hashimoto legacy.