It’s D-王 time! DDT’s annual tournament may not have blown me away with the line-up (where’s Saki?), but I guess I’m willing to forgive that slight and enjoy it. They certainly packed the opening night, treating Korakuen to a load of big matches.
Under Match: Junretsu (Mizuki Watase and Hideki Okatani) defeated Yukio Naya and Keigo Nakamura
I feel bad for how little I have to say about this match, especially as I feel like I’m often quite harsh on Watase and Naya. However, it was what you’d expect it to be. They had a solid wee tag, something designed to warm up the crowd, but not steal the show. That’s not a criticism. It’s what they were supposed to do.
Unsurprisingly, my highlight was Keigo. I always go on about his weirdness being his greatest strength, but he’s got to the point where he’s good when he’s playing it straight too. The wee bugger can go, and while he might not be a physical threat, he’s a quick one.
In among all the other plugs and announcements pre-show, we were introduced to Toi Kojima, DDT’s newest rookie. He’ll be making his debut on December 27th and gave his first promo in a deliberately monotone style. Imabayashi then got his name wrong which drew some fire from the kid, so I’m guessing that will be something DDT play with going forward.
Eruption (Yukio Sakaguchi & Saki Akai) defeated Disaster Box (Toru Owashi & Kazuki Hirata), DAMNATION (Soma Takao & Mad Paulie) and Antonio Honda & Danshoku Dieno to win the Variety Squad V1 Title
Owashi tried to give the O-40 title to Sakaguchi which had the Eruption man corpsing before we’d even started. Hirata, meanwhile, had a handmade belt with him that he has dubbed the Variety Title. While I support the idea, the execution looked a tad too professional for my taste. He’s no Gacha King.
Unsurprisingly, this was heavy on the nonsense. From Gon stories to Dieno’s arse being used to supercharge first Gon and then Hirata’s chop, it was business as usual. You can’t look at the names in this match and go into it expecting anything else.
Said humour would have a cruel twist, Sakaguchi, with the help of Dieno’s arse, choking Honda out for the win. That meant Hirata’s new belt left in the hands of the man who terrifies him, something Sakaguchi was only too happy to exploit as he offered to defend it at any time.
B Block: Akito (1-0) defeated MAO (0-1)
I came out of Ueno vs MAO a tad disappointed because I felt it was a rather straightforward (if good) match between two people who have a bit of weirdness to them. Watching this, it only reinforced that feeling.
For this was the weirdness I was looking for, Akito and MAO leaning heavily on strange submissions. They never really moved away from each other, choosing instead to grapple and transition between holds, looking for intricate pins or unique ways of tying each other up. There were no chin locks or armbars here, but a sequence of intriguing submissions, including MAO pulling out an awesome counter to the Gory Special.
It made for a really fun opener to the tournament. The temptation in a spot like this is to go at a hundred miles an hour, something these two are undeniably capable of, but they went a different way, and it benefited from that. I’d now love to see them do it on a bigger stage with a few more minutes to play with.
Verdict: Cool As Fuck
B Block: HARASHIMA (1-0) defeated Chris Brookes (0-1)
After the unusual formatting of the opener, this was a more straightforward affair. Brookes kicked things off with a cheap dropkick before going after HARASHIMA’s arm.
It made for a match that took a while to get going, but found its way there eventually. The kick into the higher gears came via a strike exchange, Brookes slapping down HARASHIMA only for him to spin round into a kick. From there, this was great, including an awesome finish where HARASHIMA slipped out of the Praying Mantis Bomb and instantly hit a standing Somato. It stunned Brookes for long enough that he could hit the running version straight after and get his tournament off to a winning start.
I suspect these two could top this, but for their place on the card, it was pretty perfect. Brookes is my dark horse to reach the final, or perhaps even win this thing, but he’s off to a rough start.
Verdict: Good Stuff
B Block: Daisuke Sasaki (1-0) defeated Konosuke Takeshita (0-1)
Takeshita and Daisuke couldn’t be more different. If a lab were to design the perfect wrestler, Take wouldn’t be far off what they created. Powerful, fast and beautiful, the guy has it all. Daisuke, meanwhile, is what happens if that same lab needs someone to go on the piss with.
And this match worked around that difference. Takeshita dominated large parts of it, hitting numerous jaw-breaking knees and looking like the incredible wrestler he is. However, Sasaki was never out of it. There is a reason he has been as successful as he has and it’s because the bastard is a pest. Whether it was catching Take as he rolled into the ring, putting him straight into a Crossface, or booting him in the balls, he always had an answer.
And the final answer he had choked the big man out, kicking Sasaki’s tournament off strong and leaving Takeshita in a bit of a bind. Coming off a defeat to Akiyama, this wasn’t what he wanted, and in the backstage interviews, Sasaki would suggest he needed a change, even offering up a spot in DAMNATION. I can’t see him taking it, but the Ace is having a rough time.
Verdict: You Can’t Kill Daisuke
Sadly, it was announced a few days after this show that Daisuke broke a rib and has had to pull out of the rest of the tournament. Still, at least he’s dropping out with a perfect record.
A Block: Makoto Oishi (1-0) defeated Shunma Katsumata (0-1)
People always get excited about the big names when it comes to tournament time, which is fair enough, but the chance to see the likes of Shunma and Oishi get a series of single matches is even more intriguing. These two will get as many straight matches in the next month as they usually do in half a year, and they seemed fired up to grab the opportunity.
And it made for a really good match. The story was built around Oishi’s veteran smarts eventually seeing him through. Shunma was all blood and thunder from the start, introducing his opponent to the barricades and throwing himself into the action. As it went on, though, Oishi came more and more into it. He knew to sit back and let Shunma burn himself out before grabbing his opportunity.
The end product won’t be the match of the tournament or even something I remember in a month, but it was an enjoyable slice of wrestling. Sometimes that’s you all need.
Verdict: Solid Wrestling
A Block: Yuki Ueno (1-0) defeated Kazusada Higuchi (0-1)
If Brookes is my dark horse, then Higuchi is the guy I want to win. The big man flirted with the main event scene during the summer but never broke through, and while he has just won the tag titles, he is so ready to be a singles star. There was a moment in this match where he no-sold a dropkick to the face and, honestly, I’d have handed him the belt right then.
He brought the best out of Ueno too. The new Intercontinental champ was out-gunned, so he had to try and find ways to take Higuchi down. Early on, he tried to be smart about it, flying from a plancha into a rana to send Higuchi into the barricade. As the match went on, though, it became clear he was just going to have to fight it out, the two of them slapping and chopping the shit out of each other.
And, incredibly, it worked out for Ueno. Well, the colour his chest had turned wasn’t great, but he did win. Towards the end, he unleashed everything in his arsenal, hitting Higuchi again and again in an attempt to keep him down. As plans go, it was an effective one, and while I might want Higuchi to win it all, it’s hard to begrudge Ueno that win. He gave it his all and this was a brilliant fight.
Verdict: Ueno Earned That One
A Block: Tetsuya Endo (1-0) defeated Jun Akiyama (0-1)
Jun Akiyama is like a big old tree, except one that keeps hitting you really hard and is somewhat mobile. I guess those are, historically, things trees are incapable of, but my point is that he’s fucking hard to hurt. He started this match by grinding away at Endo, shrugging off his attempts to come at him and looking like the unflinching legend that he is.
All of which was a big part of what I liked about this match. The story of Akiyama coming out strong, taking the fight to Endo only for the champ to slowly turn things around was well done. The longer this went on, the more Endo got into it, and he was able to find openings by throwing himself into the air. By the end, much like Ueno before him, he had to unleash both barrels, using everything in his arsenal to put Akiyama down.
My problem was that it didn’t feel earned. Endo and Akiyama were wrestling like two people who had been feuding back and forth for ages, which isn’t the case. They’d had a thirty-second interaction in a tag and a few verbal back and forths, but that’s it. This could have been a massive match, and yet DDT seem to have gone straight to the final chapter, and I’m not entirely sure why.
Still, they gave us too much is hardly the worst criticism and this might be a Stuart thing. However, I can only give my opinion, and while this was a good match, I felt like with different circumstances and a bit more thought, it could have been a lot better.
Verdict: Good Match, Not Sure About The Wider Picture
Even with those slight caveats about the main event, that was a hell of a start to the D-王. DDT packed this first card with big matches, so it was always going to be a good show, but everyone hit the ground running. They’ve set the bar high going forward, fingers crossed they can leap it.
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