The last couple of weeks have had too many shows and too many tournaments, making it impossible to ramble about all of them. With that in mind, I decided that rather than going through the first three rounds of the King of DDT match by match, I was going to pick out the best ones and focus on them.
El Lindaman defeated Yukio Naya
It turns out that the way to give Yukio Naya some personality is to put El Lindaman across from him.
This was all about Linda attempting to slay the giant. Sadly, his first plan was quickly foiled when Referee Matsui refused to accept that the spray-can sticking out of his trunks was his ‘thing’, so he was forced to try running into the big man repeatedly. Sadly, and to the surprise of maybe one person, that didn’t work either.
Which, now I think about it, kind of debunks my claim that this match gave Naya some personality. It was more an abundance of Lindaman as his efforts were consistently entertaining. The guy is fantastic, and when he managed to lift Naya, the crowd couldn’t resist letting out an ooh of appreciation.
I won’t give away the finish, but Linda’s thing did come back into play, allowing him to sneak away with the victory. If you’re a Lindaman fan (and why wouldn’t you be?), you’re going to want to watch this one.
Verdict: The Linda Show
Kazusada Higuchi defeated Mizuki Watase
Okay, Watase, I can see where you went wrong. What you did was you decided you were going to slug it out with Higuchi. That was a mistake because the big man beat the shit out of you. Understand?
Watase tried, against a normal human some of those forearms and suplexes might have made a dent. Higuchi ain’t a normal human being. He chopped the shit out of Mizuki, leaving his chest resembling mincemeat. Then, when Watase headbutted him, he stood up and headbutted him back, the dull thunk audible on the video. It would have probably been enough by itself, but he added a Lariat afterwards to see him off.
This was short and brutal. Higuchi murdered Watase and looked like an absolute monster doing so. And yet, Mizuki gets something out of this too. Yes, he was an idiot for poking the dragon, but it was idiocy with a splash of bravery, so you’ve got to give him that.
Verdict: Unleash The Violence
Makoto Oishi defeated Chris Brookes
Too often, companies will team people up and talk about how one will learn from the other, but then not bother showing any of that improvement. In reality, they less experienced member is there to eat pins, their story irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
This was the exact opposite of that. All through the match, there was a distinct feeling that this was an Oishi who has been underneath the tutelage of Akiyama. Key to that was Brookes inviting him to take his shot, opening himself up in the traditional ‘hit me with a forearm’ way. Instead, Oishi decided to headbutt the cunt, grabbing any opening that was handed to him.
It paid off too as he came through with a submission victory against the Universal champ and a man who, on his DDT debut, beat Oishi. It’s a sign of progress for someone who, while not a young wrestler (he’s only nine years younger than Jun), still has plenty to give, and plays in perfectly with the story DDT are telling with Akiyama.
Verdict: Good Storytelling
Akito defeated Toru Owashi
Akito came into this match looking to bring out the old Toru Owashi. He was mocking Owashi, pointing out that he’s not scary any more and asking if he’d got so wrapped up in comedy that he’d forgotten how to fight. There was even a moment where he tried to beat Toru with a move from his past, locking on a Senshuuraku-Gatame.
It was a dangerous game as he threatened to wake Owashi up. In fact, for a bit, it looked like he had, Owashi unleashing and hitting a brace of Chokeslams. What I liked, though, was that they avoided going too far down that road. Owashi did fire-up, looking good briefly, but the work that Akito had already done saw his leg crumple as he went for a Powerbomb and Akito struck, tying him up with the Goliath Bird Eater for the submission.
For me, this is the perfect way to use Owashi. He’s a big dude, but he’s locked in that comedy role, and there was little chance he was going to beat Akito. However, by hinting at what he can be, you added something to Akito’s victory. He wasn’t just tapping out the guy who makes everyone laugh, but a man who still has a hint of being a monster in him. It might not have made a huge difference, but it did make one.
Verdict: Nicely Done
Konosuke Takashita defeated El Lindaman
El Lindaman is one of the few male wrestlers who can claim to engage in the ancient art of goblin wrestling. Takeshita is bigger than him, stronger than him and basically in a position to kick his arse, but did that bother our Linda? Not for a second.
Linda is the kind of wrestler who pisses people off. He started this match with a barrage of Shoulder Blocks, none of them taking Takeshita off his feet, but all keeping him off-balance. It set-up a match where he was just a pain in the arse, as when he wasn’t attacking, he was finding other ways to frustrate Take. On top of that, he showed some impressive strength of his own, lifting a man twice his size for a beautiful Vertical Suplex.
Sadly, this was one of those times when goblinhood didn’t pay off, Takeshita eventually proving to have a little bit too much for Linda to deal with. Still, his goblin nature means I will always be a fan, so he can rest easy knowing that’s the case.
Verdict: El Goblinman
Kazusada Higuchi defeated HARASHIMA
For long parts of this match, it looked like HARASHIMA’s experience was going to propel him to victory. He was picking away at Higuchi, dissecting him and making sure that his formidable power wasn’t part of the action. As he set-up for Somato, it looked like he’d nailed it.
However, Higuchi had other plans, catching HARA in mid-air and letting out a roar as he turned the tide. Then, HARASHIMA made a rare mistake. Rather than regrouping and returning to his plan, he moved into Higuchi’s world, inviting him to trade strikes. Suddenly, his chest joined Watase’s in being ripped apart, and he even met one of those shuddering headbutts which, once again, made a rather unpleasant clunking sound when it connected.
It led to about as decisive a victory as you’ll see which, when it’s HARASHIMA across from you, is quite the achievement. Higuchi’s push this year has come in fits and starts, but this felt like a statement victory and HARA sharing a word and a handshake with him afterwards only added to that sense. It might just be the big man’s time.
Kazusada Higuchi defeated Konosuke Takeshita
Okay, it’s definitely starting to look like it’s Higuchi’s time. Having seen off the elder Ace, it was the turn of the younger to fall victim to the big man.
Whether Higuchi’s wining or not, he’s been sent out there to wreak havoc on his opponents. He’s wrestling like a man with the limiters taken off, barrelling into every move and adding spice to every chop. Takeshita is a big boy himself, so this was a chance for them to lay into each other.
It also led to some cool spots. There was a moment where they battled over a Suplex, shuffling around the ring as they tried to gain an advantage. Then, when Take got Higuchi up for a Brainbuster, it lacked the snap of his usual delivery, the battle to get to that position meaning he couldn’t deliver it as smoothly as he might have liked. I’ve talked a bit recently (mainly in relation to Yuki Aino) about how wrestling should look hard, and these two were giving me that.
It meant the final act felt like a struggle, both men exhausted but every blow still shuddering home. Higuchi is so physically imposing that we rarely see him rocked like that, but as he stumbled back from a Takeshita onslaught, he spotted an opening, charging forward with a Tackle to wipe Take out and take the three.
That felt like two men beating the shit out of each other. I liked it a lot.
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