What’s that in the stands? Is it… is it fans? Alright, so the last two shows I reviewed both had a live audience, but allow me my joke, please? DDT has returned to Korakuen Hall and opened up the doors to their adoring public. Is it perhaps too early for them to be doing this? Hm, maybe, but that’s not really for me to say. Instead, I’m going to sit back and enjoy some new wrestling from one of my favourite companies.
Kazusada Higuchi defeated Jordan Heatley in an Exhibition Match
I can just about buy the idea that an exhibition match in the Dojo isn’t an official debut, but when you’re wrestling in Korakuen Hall surely you’ve arrived? Although, Heatley must have heat with someone in the back because sending him out to face-off with Higuchi seems very cruel.
Impressively, the young Aussie wasn’t blown away by the big man. He was shown to be standing his ground, taking his beatings and trying to give some back. It wasn’t very successful, and Higuchi eventually got him up for a Canadian Backbreaker to force the submission, but he earned himself a handshake, so that’s something.
Post-match, Heatley introduced himself in Japanese and announced he’ll debut on the 2nd of April. Imabayashi would then follow-up by letting us know that said debut is against Honda, which will be a slightly different challenge for the rookie.
Verdict: Handshake > Win
Before the show, Imabayashi announced they would be doing a match in a medical clinic with Gorgeous Matsuno on one team and Gabai Ji-Chan on the other to raise awareness of coronavirus’s effects on the elderly. Only in DDT. We also learnt the next opponent in Saki Akai’s trial series is Syuri.
Finally, Yoshiaki Yatsu was on opening call duty. That’s notable because he has recently returned to training after having part of his leg amputated and is going to be wrestling at Saitama Super Arena.
Naomi Yoshimura and Keigo Nakamura defeated Shunma Katsumata and Hideki Okatani
I was kind of hoping that Nakamura would lose to Okatani. It’s not how they do things in Japan, but the idea of wee Keigo not being the smallest cub in the pack any more makes me sad, and it would have been hilarious if the newbie had come along and instantly beat him up. If a company was going to do it, it was DDT.
Still, Okatani was given a solid wee debut and looked alright with the brief opportunities he got. There were a couple of moments of miscommunication, but they were examples of over-enthusiasm rather than incompetence. The kid is 19 and is already having decent closing stretches with Yoshimura, so I reckon he’ll be fine.
Afterwards, the three more experienced heads gather around Okatani to make sure he was alright and encouraged the crowd to applaud him. Seeing Nakamura in that role is weird, but he’s still lovable and useless Keigo to me.
Verdict: Okatani Debuts Strongly
Kazuki Hirata won a Battle Royal to win the Iron Man Heavy Metal Title, but lost it to Owashi shortly afterwards
The gatekeeper of the second match was out first, kicking off the party. Hirata vowed to take the title off Toru Owashi and called him out, but before the big man could get to the ring, Masahiro Takanashi rolled him up and took the belt. That led to a load of other wrestlers storming into Korakuen and what was supposed to be a Delayed Entry Battle Royal became a Battle Royal because, well, they were all there anyway.
The running joke here was that more than one person kept winning the title. First, Yamato and Owashi pinned Takanashi together. Then, Naya, Watase, Dieno and Honda managed to pin those two, leaving us with four champions. It fell to Hirata to reunite the titles, claiming each quarter and bringing them back together as one.
It was a quest he was eventually successful in, but not without a whole load of Dieno’s arse first. Even poor Gon ended up going on a journey he probably never wanted to go on. Hirata would then rub his hand in the crack leading to a battle of the, em, shitty hands, I guess? It’s Dieno! You know the deal by now.
Hirata would win that encounter before reversing the Danshoku Driver to bundle Dieno up for the three. Sadly for him, Owashi then snuck back into the ring and took the belt home, meaning his epic quest will need a sequel.
That was far from my favourite DDT Battle Royal. I liked the Hirata thread, but there was too much of the less funny side of Dieno for my taste (Matsui making sure to use extra disinfectant on the parts of the ring his ass had been in contact with got more laughs out of me). It had its moments, but they have done much better.
Verdict: Not Their Best
The Business Alliance (CIMA, El Lindaman, Soma Takao and Mad Paulie) defeated Moonlight Express (MAO and Mike Bailey), Shinya Aoki and Makoto Oishi
Bailey was back in DDT for the first time since August after paperwork issues saw his January tour cancelled.
He made that return in a match which was a shitload of fun with the Moonlight Expresses’ interactions with Lindaman being a particular highlight. At one point, Linda attempted to mimic Speedball’s rapid-fire kicks and discovered that they might be a bit harder than he thought.
In the end, though, this was all about putting the Business Alliance over as a force. They eventually clicked together, combining to get the win over Oishi and pushing them forward as a new power in DDT.
Verdict: Linda Shines Again
DISASTER BOX (HARASHIMA, Naomichi Marufuji and Yuki Ueno) defeated ALL OUT (Yuki Iino, Akito and Royce Chambers)
Royce Chambers continues to be incredibly impressive. The kid can fly, and his first match in front of a Japanese crowd was a great chance to show that off. He also got into a chop exchange with Maru, which was silly, but you’ve got to commend his guts. Plus, if he’s even a bit of a wrestling nerd, that must have been a cool moment for him.
If the previous match was about establishing The Business Alliance, this was about doing the same with Marufuji and DISASTER BOX, particularly his relationship with HARASHIMA. They had a few missteps, caused by both themselves and their opponents, but by the end, they’d come together, combining to get the win.
In among all that action, there was a fun multi-man. Nothing about it leapt off the page, but it sped by quickly, and you’ll have fun.
Verdict: Solid Stuff
HARASHIMA cut what appeared to be a slightly awkward promo post-match. Still, it proved to be worth it as they eventually set-up HARASHIMARUFUJI vs CIMASOMA at Saitama Super Arena. If you want to hear exactly how they got there, check out ddtpro_eng’s translations on Twitter. Whatever was said, putting CIMA and Marafuji together in the same ring for only the third time is a cool move by DDT.
Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi, Saki Akai and Yukio Sakaguchi) defeated The Business Alliance (Tetsuya Endo, T-Hawk and Nobuhiro Shimatani)
I’ve touched on this before but putting Saki with Sakaguchi and Higuchi was genius-level booking. By themselves, those two are hard to relate to badasses. I’m sure I’d enjoy their matches, but the emotional connection wouldn’t be there. Throw Saki in, and suddenly you’ve got someone who can sell a beating like few others, and who turns that Higuchi hot tag into one of the best things in wrestling.
Of course, having some great opponents across from them helps too, and the Business Alliance played their part. Poor Endo got destroyed with an awesome Package Powerbomb thing that Higuchi did. Fuck knows what you’d call it, but it worked. There was also a nice little story between T-Hawk and Akai as she crumpled after his first chop, only to stand-up to a later one and reverse his follow-up Suplex into one of her own.
In the end, the Powerbomb mentioned above took Endo out of the game and allowed Sakaguchi to drive his knee into Nobuhiro’s head for the win. Meanwhile, I continue to fancy everyone in Eruption, and quite a lot of the other team too. That was a lot of beautiful people.
Verdict: Beauty And Talent
As The Business Alliance were having fun, Royce made his way to ringside to use his Anytime Anywhere Gauntlet to try and take Endo’s sword before he heads back to Australia, so that match is on.
Tetsuya Endo defeated Royce Chambers to retain the Saitama Super Arena Sword
What followed was a fun wee sprint that saw Royce almost get the shock win only for the DAMNATION man to come back with a Shooting Star Press to keep himself armed.
The source of that shock might have partly come down to Endo not understanding that Royce was challenging him, as he was still chatting with someone at ringside when the match started. He quickly showed himself to be the smarter wrestler, though, rolling to the floor before introducing Chambers to some chairs.
Back in the ring, they traded Destroyers, slipping into show-off mode, before Chambers’ first DDT tour came crashing to a close with a Shooting Star Press. I can’t imagine only having one show in front of a live crowd is how he imagined doing it, but he did enough that I suspect he’ll be back when the world calms down.
Daisuke Sasaki defeated Chris Brookes to win the Universal Title
Coming into this match, Brookes had dismissed Sasaki as an old dog that he was going to put down. As he wakes up without the reassuring weight of the Universal Title by his side (yes, in my head all wrestlers sleep with their titles), those are words he might start to regret.
For it was Daisuke’s grizzled streak that won him this match. Brookes is a younger, more athletic wrestler who has killed fewer brain cells through the imbibing of beer. However, what Daisuke has is an unwilling drive to survive, and time after time that part of him kicked into life. Whether it was catching Brookes out of his Shoop Cutter into a Crossface or throwing them both off some chairs into some more chairs with a Side Russian Leg Sweep, Sasaki proved this dog could still bite.
And Brookes would have his moments. Trapping Daisuke’s hand in one of the gates leading to the orange seats before leaping off the same spot with a Senton was fantastic. Having won his match against Takeshita by being the smarter wrestler, he showed elements of that again here, turning DAMNATION’s interference against them and catching a low blow between his legs. If it were a battle of brains alone, he’d have got the win.
But Daisuke is proof you don’t always need brains to succeed. What he lacks upstairs, he makes up for with stubborn brilliance. He was the one throwing himself from the top rope to the floor and sure, he might have also got a little help from DAMNATION, but it was Masa who actually hit Brookes with the sign. When push came to shove Daisuke was the one kicking out of Piledrivers and Running Knees, no assistance provided.
In the end, that old dog had one trick too many for the Baka Gaijin, reversing a Praying Mantis Bomb into a Crossface and leaving Brookes with no choice. The Universal Title is now in the hands of a crazy man with a drinking problem, and as much as I love Brookes, I’m alright with that.
Verdict: Don’t Mess With The Old Dog
As Sasaki gloated, Honda charged to ringside, tripped over the bottom rope and ended up in the ring only wearing one shoe. He then attempted to hypnotise Sasaki into giving him a title match, to which Daisuke responded never. I’ve no idea if that was just to set up that punchline, but I would 100% support Honda vs Sasaki. In fact, give me that now, please.
Masato Tanaka defeated Konosuke Takeshita to retain the KO-D Openweight Title
Takeshita seemed to come into this determined to match the aggression of Tanaka. In the opening seconds, he hit a ridiculous Backdrop Driver before following up with a leap over the top rope. He was trying to out-intensity one of the most intense men in wrestling.
Which, when you write it down, is kind of an insane thing to do. If anything, Takeshita was just pissing Tanaka off, and he even used a shard of the table that he’s splashed the younger wrestler through to attack a leg that he’d already worked over with chair shots. It was a violent dismantling of that limb, delivered with a dead-eyed glare that made it slightly terrifying.
Incredibly, though, Takeshita managed to find a way to up his own intensity and match Tanaka. Suddenly, he was shrugging off chair shots, hitting Coast to Coasts and then the crazy bastards started trading Brainbusters. Silly? Of course, but I was having a great time, and I’m willing to forgive some silly when I have a big smile on my face.
That’s a sentence which sums it all up. This could be nitpicked to hell and back (particularly if you’re paying attention to Takeshita’s selling of his leg), but once they hit their stride, that was the furthest thing from my mind. It was two idiots beating the shit out of each other and they were hitting my buttons. Will it stand up to repeat viewings? Nah. Do I care? Nah.
Verdict: Big Dumb Fun
Tanaka and Takeshita put each other over and agreed to go to Take’s Dad’s restaurant, so that was nice. Then, just as Tanaka was complaining there was no excitement in the ring, Sakaguchi turned up and made his challenge. Damn, that could be a whole load of fun.
As DDT undercards go, that one was nothing special. It wasn’t bad either, in fact, I enjoyed most of it, but there was nothing there that I’ll remember in a week. However, the final two matches delivered, so that more than made up for it. I’ve no idea if DDT will continue to be able to run shows because, well, you know what the world’s like right now, but even if this was a one-off, it was nice to have them back.
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