Osaka Pro: Osaka Castle Festival 2024 Preview

On 23rd June, Osaka Pro Wrestling will hold the Osaka Castle Festival, a major show featuring matches for all four of the company’s titles. The show is a relatively new addition to the Osaka Pro calendar, having only run previously in 2023, but takes them to one of their largest regular venues in Cool Japan Park TT Hall. The show is will be screened on Wrestle Universe at a later date to be confirmed.

This preview will cover just the four title matches but the wider card is well worth a look. In addition to core Osaka Pro stars like Zeus and Tigers Mask, the show features Kyushu Pro’s Kodai Nozaki and Naoki Sakurajima, the freelancing Shuji Ishikawa, original founder Super Delphin, as well as Osaka Pro occassionals Yuto Kikuchi, HUB, and The Bodyguard as guests. Dotonbori Pro’s Harutoki is also making his second appearance in a tag match opposite Zeus which could get fiery – Harutoki’s first appearance led to him slapping the company President in the face.

A running theme throughout most of the title matches is the battle against Rogue Nation, Osaka Pro’s rudo unit. Rogue Nation were officially founded in August 2023 and have promised to bring about a new era in Osaka Pro Wrestling. They are defending two of the main championships on this card, and aiming for the third. They have been growing in strength and numbers over the year and are also becoming more vocal about their dissatisfaction with Osaka Pro’s other leading names. How the title picture looks at the end of this show could be crucial for the future direction of the unit and Osaka Pro.

4th Match: Osaka Meibutsu Sekaiichi Championship

Match graphic: Kuishinbo Kamen v Balck Menso-re v Joichiro Osaka v Ebessan

Joichiro Osaka (c) v Kuishinbo Kamen v Ebessan v Black Menso-re

Variously translated as ‘Osaka Specialty World No.1’ and ‘Worlds Best Osaka Attraction’, this title is intended to showcase the humour of Osaka and the skills of its comedy wrestlers. This is a revived Championship, being active throughout the 2000s until suceeded by the Owarai Championship. The refreshed Osaka Pro did originally have the Owarai Championship as it’s comedy title, but had to dig back in history to find a replacement after Billy Ken Kid admitted to having lost the Owarai belt. He only admitted this after actually losing the title…

Three of the competitors are established features in Osaka Pro. The gluttinous Kuishinbo Kamen has been part of the company from the start and multiple time Owarai and Meibutsu Sekaiichi champion. The character Ebessan has also been a longstanding feature but is in his third iteration, played by the former Ice Penguin. Joichiro Osaka is a Tigers Mask trainee and a new comedy character for the new Osaka Pro. The addition of Black Menso-re is not usual but, given he got his start in Osaka Pro’s orginal founder Super Delphin’s Okinawa Pro, there are certainly connections to draw on and plenty of comedic potential.

Exepect chaos and stupidity of various forms. You’ll likely see competitors crotched on ring ropes (blame Joichiro), simultaneously jumping (blame Kuishinbo), receiving blessings (thank Ebessan) and being poked in the eyes (definitely blame Menso-re). Joichiro has been dominating the comedy scene in Osaka Pro of late so may be due for his comeuppance. However, as the self-proclaimed lord of Osaka Castle, losing at the Osaka Castle festival would be a mighty blow to his pride.

5th Match: Osaka Light Heavyweight Championship

Match graphic: Ryuya Matsufusa v Yasutaka Oosera

Ryuya Matsufusa (c) v Yasutaka Oosera

Champion Matsufusa has held the Light Heavyweight belt since December last year, in a reign that has focused on him overcoming the legends of Osaka Pro to earn his place at the top. This match will be his first test against someone closer to his position and the first time he’ll be actively trying to oppose the Rogue Nation team. This match could solidify his position as a leader in Osaka Pro, or prove his inexperience.

Yasutaka Oosera is the winner of Osaka Pro’s third annual light heavyweight tournament and most recent Rogue Member recruit. Amongst Rogue Nation members, Oosera’s alignment with the faction is perhaps most significant. Oosera previously wrestled under a mask as the wrestler Ares, proclaimed son of President Zeus. His betrayal of his adoptive father and rejection of his mask and name struck at the heart of Zeus’ vision for his company. Oosera, now wrestling under his own name, seems to be enjoying his newfound autonomy and the opportunity lean more heavily into the teachings of his master, Dick Togo.

For Matsufusa, this match is an opportunity to defend the company he loves and grew up in. From attending Osaka Pro’s wrestling classes as a child, to being a huge fan of its stars, to transferring from Dotonbori Pro for a chance to wrestle with and against them, Matsufusa has worn his love for Osaka Pro openly. Yet with only four years experience in the ring, half that of his opponent, he has to prove that he understands what it means to carry the legacy of the company forward. For Oosera, he too has something to prove – that the strength and vision of Rogue Nation is able to surpass the champion so favoured by Osaka Pro’s historic legends. Oosera has made it clear that he chaffed under the mask of Ares and Zeus’ false presentation of Oosera as his son. As himself, Oosera believes he can show Matsufusa something new.

Oosera has even promised a clean match, without interference. The second part seems feasible, the first unlikely. Oosera has inherited the talents Togo used to great effect in Osaka Pro throughout 2000 and again in 2009/10. It would be a shame to see those go to waste. Matsufusa’s previous title matches have seen him struggle against the targeted attacks of his opponents, so we shall see if Oosera is similarly able to make the young champion suffer. Matsufusa has made some hints at expanding his heavily leg-based arsenal, so Oosera may need to consider where he focuses his efforts.

6th Match: Osaka Pro Wrestling Tag Team Championship

Match graphic: TORU & Goliath vs Tsubasa & Billy Ken Kid

Goliath & TORU (c) v Billy Ken Kid & Tsubasa

The team of Tsubasa and Billy, Tsuba-Billy, did not earn this title challenge in the usual way. Neither has pinned either of the tag champions and Tsubasa in particular is far from on a winning streak. Nonetheless, when interference and dirty tactics from Rogue Nation led to Tsubasa being pinned in the first Fulali Kyobashi show on June 1st, Billy called out TORU and Goliath. TORU accepted, since they had no other plans or challengers.

The Tsuba-Billy team is a long standing and hugely popular one in Osaka Pro and elsewhere. Both Tsubasa and Billy trained in Mexico at the same time, not directly crossing paths but seeing each others matches on tv. They finally crossed paths for Billy’s debut in Osaka Pro and, over many years, they have built deep connections that make them a core part of the legacy of Osaka Pro. Despite both now being over 50, they can’t be counted out, not least due to the match ending mix of llave and hard hitting strikes that their partnership brings.

TORU is among the founding members of Rogue Nation and de facto spokesperson. His masked partner Goliath is less conversational, more rampaging. They make for an entertaining duo, provided you find chair shots entertaining. As with nearly all Osaka Pro’s wrestlers, both are Kansai natives and have found success in a variety of Kansai-based promotions. You can expect this match to be far from clean. Goliath has a history of attempting (successfully) to unmask his opponents and has the size to overpower most of Osaka Pro’s roster. In theory, Rogue Nation members should be tied up with the previous and following title matches, but there could also be founding member Shu Asakawa to consider. Asakawa has been out since December following a traffic accident. Failing that, Dotonbori’s Yuto Kikuchi, playing in the opening match against ARASHI, has also offered Rogue Nation an alliance.

7th Match: Osaka Pro Wrestling Championship

Match graphic: Quiet Storm vs Shigehiro Irie

Quiet Storm (c) v Shigehiro Irie

Quiet Storm has been champion for nearly a full year but this will only be his second defence. Winning the title from Zeus in July 2023 signalled the beginning of his journey as Rogue Nation leader, and his drive to oppose and disrupt Zeus’ vision for Osaka Pro. He’ll want to stay in the top spot to be able to achieve that. He’s confident that size of his arms and biceps (apparently built for a perfect lariat) will help him to keep hold of the Championship.

Shigehiro Irie is the perfect foil for such a champion. Equally hard hitting but with a strong side serving of adorable, Irie has quickly formed a bond with the babyface champion Matsufusa, and is ready to stand at the top of Osaka Pro. Irie is a relatively recent addition as a regular to the new Osaka Pro but has a longer history with the company. Like Matsufusa, Irie attended Osaka Pro’s kid’s wrestling classes as a child and can count HUB and Billy Ken Kid amongst his trainers. He appeared on a number of Osaka Pro shows on the early 2010s, unsuccesfully challenging for the tag titles with Kazuaki Mihara. He’s in a far stronger position now. Aside from Zeus and The Bodyguard, Osaka Pro’s roster lacks heavier power wrestlers to go up against the likes of Storm and Goliath. Zeus could do with some support to combat the dominating Rogue Nation and this match will test whether he can provide it. Irie and Storm have clashed a few times in other companies, mostly with the more experienced Storm coming out on top, so this could be a turning point.

You can watch the Osaka Pro Wrestling Osaka Castle Festival on Wrestle Universe from 29th June. If you can’t wait that long to enjoy Osaka Pro, you can view the most recent shows in full at their YouTube channel.