DDT returned to Korakuen with a couple of big old matches on top. First up was the crowing of their inaugural Universal Champion, a belt that’s intended to help spread DDT across the globe. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that it shares a name with a certain title used by a company based out of Connecticut. Then, in the main event, we’ve got MAO vs Tanaka, which is all kinds of exciting. Shall we see what happened?
Mad Paulie defeated Yukio Naya and Keigo Nakamura in a Three Way Battle
Poor Keigo was fed to the wolves as he kicked off the show against two big boys. Bless his dumb little heart, he tried, getting annoyed when Paulie and Naya looked like they were going to ignore him to fight each other, but nothing he could do was going to hurt those behemoths.
It was a set-up which led to an absolutely brilliant finish as Paulie hit a single Thesz Press and Nakamura couldn’t kick out. He was too big and too strong for the young rookie. Still, you can’t fault the kid’s efforts. If he can grow a couple of feet and put on a couple of hundred pounds, he might stand a chance next time.
Verdict: Valiant Keigo
Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi, Yukio Sakaguchi and Saki Akai) defeated Disaster Box (Naomi Yoshimura and Toru Owashi) & Mizuki Watase
Saki Akai’s inclusion in Eruption is fascinating. She looks tiny next to most of the roster and yet she’s teamed up with these two badass motherfuckers who look like they’d beat the shit out of you for looking at them funny. And it works. Because despite looking like a stick compared to a lot of the men she wrestles, Saki has something that makes that a irrelevant. A willingness to take the shots before retaliating with one of her own. She might not have that instant badassery that Higuchi and Sakaguchi do, but it’s there, under the surface.
That played a part in another credibility building win for them. Watase, Yoshimura and a rare example of serious Owashi provided a substantial obstacle for them, and they looked good in overcoming it. It’s Higuchi who continues to be presented as the star, his thunderous Doctor Bomb getting the win, but all three look the business and I’m excited about watching them grow as a team.
Verdict: Don’t Mess With Eruption
Post-match Saki had a run-in with Miranda Gordy who is the next opponent in her trial series. Akai had to promise to teach the American some manners after she attempted to get a cheap shot in.
Danshoku Dieno, Super Sasadango Machine and Yaso Urano fought Kazuki Hirata, Hiroshi Yamato and Shinya Aoki to a No-Contest
Beforehand, we flashed backstage to Dieno threatening to Lip Lock the hell outta people until Dango pointed out that such behaviour won’t fly at the moment. Instead, they all agreed to wear Dango masks for the match, a stipulation that ended up including Referee Matsui.
What followed was genius. On the surface, these six men had a reasonably straightforward wrestling match, and if you weren’t paying attention, you might be confused as to why the crowd were laughing. However, they were slowly swapping teams, people tagging in and out at the wrong corner and even turning the match into a four on two. It was comedy executed to perfection as they just got on with it, never feeling the need to wave a sign around and announce what they were doing.
The final joke might have even topped that, as the six men fought behind the Korakuen stands, vanishing from view only to return to the ring with an extra masked person. Then, despite being six very distinct wrestlers, one referee and a random man wearing jeans and a hoodie, Dieno had to conduct a thorough investigation to figure out who might be the new addition to proceedings. They got there eventually, asking him to unmask and unveiling, well, no-one I or any of them knew. At that point, the lights went off, and when they came back on the show continued as if nothing had happened.
We did get an announcement when the lights came back on, three of them in fact. Marufuji and Satomura are going to be at Saitama Super Arena while on March 11th they will be doing a Saitama Super Arena ALL AREAS Rojo Match, which I’m sure will be a load of fun.
CIMA & Soma Takao defeated Masahiro Takanashi & Makoto Oishi and DISASTER BOX (HARASHIMA & Yuki Ueno) in a Three Way Tag Match
If you’re going to bring CIMA in then putting him in a wild multi-person tag match seems like an excellent idea. He and HARASHIMA got a chance to play together, as they teased us with the potential of a singles match. Their time was limited, not giving you an exact idea of what such an encounter might look like, but it’s CIMA and HARASHIMA, so I’m down for it.
Outside of that, poor Oishi had a rough afternoon, first being excluded from the CIMA and HARASHIMA fun as he pulled off a fantastic impression of me ineffectually attempting to join in with a conversation at a party. Fittingly things didn’t get much better for him either, although his problems didn’t come from getting sad and drunk. Instead, he ended up taking the fall after an Iconoclasm set him up for a Takao Frog Splash.
Oversharing aside, this was a light match, aiming for frothy fun rather than anything that’s going to stick in the head. Still, we all need a bit of froth now and then, and if that’s what you’re in the mood for, it won’t let you down.
Verdict: Easy Watching Fun
DAMNATION (Daisuke Sasaki and Tetsuya Endo) & Strong Hearts (T-Hawk and El Lindaman) defeated ALL OUT (Akito, Yuki Iino and Shunma Katsumata) & Chihiro Hashimoto
If I watched more El Lindaman, I’m almost certain he’d be one of my favourite wrestlers. He has brilliant wiery wee shite energy, something perfectly encapsulated by him picking a fight with Iino only to boot the middle rope into the big man’s balls when he gave chase. At one point, he was throwing ringside rookies at Hashimoto (who was her usual brilliant self) in an attempt to keep her on the ground, a plan that balances perfectly on the line between genius and hilarity.
Linda’s antics aside, the biggest moments in this match revolved around Akito who had a fantastic showing in the second half of the action. He made the mistake of bundling up Sasaki seconds after the DAMNATION man had pinned Hashimoto, stealing his beloved sword in the process. That put a massive target on his back, and he suddenly found himself fighting off T-Hawk and Endo. It was a perfectly executed sequence with poor Akito originally faring well before the numbers game became too much and Endo brought the weaponry back to the group.
It added up to another fun match with the sword producing some narrative stakes to the second half of the action. Although Sasaki probably wasn’t comforted by that, as he looked a bit put out by Endo wielding it post-match. Fingers crossed CIMA putting his stamp of approval on the Business Alliance and announcing that Strong Hearts will be at Saitama Super Arena cheered him up, but I doubt it somehow. The world is a darker place now that Sasaki no longer has a sword.
Verdict: Endo’s Got A Sword
Chris Brookes defeated Konosuke Takeshita to win the DDT Universal Title
Chris Brookes is not a better wrestler than Konosuke Takeshita. While that’s undoubtedly true, I mean it as no slight on Brookes. Takeshita is special. What Brookes is, though, is smart and he won this match not by out-wrestling Takeshita, but by being smarter than him.
It didn’t look like it was heading that way at the start. Brookes tried to repeat the sneaky Dropkick that he pulled on Tanaka, but Take was ready, catching him out of the air and bringing the fight into the stands. There, Brookes would put those brains to use again, sliding a jacket under a charging Takeshita’s feet to send him crashing to the floor, but that only earned him a boot down the Korakuen steps in return.
And for a while, that looked like it was going to be the story of the match. Brookes would outsmart Takeshita, wrapping his arm around a metal gate or draping him between two stands to Double Stomp him into a crumpled heap, but Takeshita was too good. He’d climb the ropes to escape a Manji Gatame and even kick out of a Praying Mantis Bomb. Then, when he took control, he’d spike Brookes with a German or drive a knee into his face. It looked like that shiny new Universal Title was destined to be his.
Except, Chris Brookes is smarter than Konosuke Takeshita. It took just one moment for that to prove itself true, and that one moment won the match. Brookes slipped out of a Powerbomb, tied Takeshita up and rolled him into a pin. One, two, three. On his first match in DDT since moving to Japan Brookes had won himself a shiny new accessory. I can’t wait to see what he does with it.
Verdict: Brains Triumph
Brookes was about to cut what I assume was going to be a brilliant promo, but Sasaki had other plans, smacking him with a steel chair and pulling out, of all things, a Marie Antoinette reference. Who knew he had it in him? I suspect we’ve found Brookes’ first challenger.
Masato Tanaka defeated MAO to retain the KO-D Openweight Title
MAO’s part of the pre-match video revolved around the fact that he’s a weirdo and included the caption: ‘DDT is a promotion where running over your President becomes the right thing to do.’ In any other company, I’d assume that ddtpro_eng (get him on Twitter for all your translations) just made this stuff up.
That weirdness would become central to how this match was constructed. In Tanaka, MAO had an opponent that couldn’t be more different from him. Where MAO moves around the ring erratically, every moment a flourish, Tanaka is as old-school as they come, interested in nothing expect attempts to remove your head. Where MAO wanted to dance, he wanted to punch. It created an intriguing dynamic where we got a chance to see which would prove the more successful.
And there were moments in the match where it looked to be MAO. That erraticism was giving him an advantage, and as he leapt from the ring to the top rope and down to the floor, smashing a plastic box over Tanaka’s head, you began to wonder whether he could do it. Could that weirdness put the grizzled vet on the back foot? Then, sadly, seconds later, poor MAO was splashed through a table, his back left with a long cut down it as Tanaka added to his misery by launching one of MAO’s own squeaky ducks at his head.
That felt like the moment where the match changed, even if it wasn’t the end. MAO had attempted to rip the floor out from underneath Tanaka, dragging him into his world, and it hadn’t worked. Now, it was his turn to be pulled into the champ’s realm, and while he put up one hell of a fight, pulling out Mike Bailey’s Ultima Weapon and bouncing up from a Superplex, the Sliding D eventually came crashing in.
Still, this was perfect proof that the old cliche that styles make matches is true even in wrestling. These two treat this ridiculous pseudo-sport in very different ways, and yet when they were put together, they created something great. It was ridiculous, hard-hitting and gave both men the chance to do the things they do best. What more can you ask for?
Verdict: Lovely Stuff
We weren’t done, as Tanaka was given the opportunity to choose his next opponent and leapt at the chance to call out Takeshita. Normally, someone losing in the semi-main only to get a title shot would annoy me, but Tanaka made it very clear that this was what he wanted, so I’m cool with it. We also got the announcement that Kenny Omega will be at Peter Pan, which won’t surprise anyone, but it’s still nice to get confirmation.
That was another successful trip to Korkauen for DDT packed with great matches and plenty of laughs. We’re also beginning to see the build for Saitama Super Arena click into gear, as they announced a host of rather impressive guests. It’s still four months off, but they’ve got a lot of seats to fill, and shows like this will surely do them no harm in trying to do so.
Watch DDT: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe