It’s been a while since I last wrote about DDT. That wasn’t a decision I made on purpose or because I’d stopped enjoying the company, there is simply too much wrestling and too little time. Occasionally, something has to slip, and for a bit, that something was DDT. However, after enjoying a few of their recent big shows, I’m back and looking forward to catching up with what’s gone down.
Undercard: Hideki Okatani defeated Toi Kojima
My unintentional DDT break means I have seen practically nothing from young Toi, which is a misstep when you consider my love of rookies. A nice wee undercard match against Okatani was a good chance to see what I’ve missed.
I came away from it quietly impressed. This was very much a rookie match, two people working with the basics and not going for anything flashy. In many ways, it was closer to how you’d expect a New Japan show to kick-off than a DDT one, but that’s not a bad thing when it comes to the youngsters. Okatani and Kojima appeared a natural pairing as they’re built similarly and seemed to have good chemistry even in this limited environ. Like Okatani, Toi seems to lean towards the more serious side of the card, and one would assume they will be spending plenty of time training with Akiyama behind the scenes.
It ended up being the match you’d want it to be, a solid opening bout from two talented young wrestlers who have long futures ahead of them. If it all goes to plan, we’ll see this a lot over the years, and it will be fun to watch how it evolves.
After that opening rookie fun, we were introduced to another newbie. Yuya Koroku will debut on the next Korakuen (11th of April) and got a chance to introduce himself to the crowd. He’s spent some time at the Animal Hamaguchi gym, which is a place that has produced some outstanding wrestlers, so that’s a promising start. We also learnt that Sauna Club will now be known as The Sauna Kamiina (stylised as The 37 Kamiina, which doesn’t work in English) before getting a live-action version of the usual opening video. That was a callback to the Great Tohoku Earthquake, the tenth anniversary of which was last week and after which DDT couldn’t show videos due to the need to save power. (As usual, all translations/useful information comes from ddtpro_eng on Twitter.)
Keigo Nakamura, Danshoku Dieno & The Young Bucks’ Autobiography: Killing The Business defeated Saki Akai, Antonio Honda & Saki Akai’s Photobook: LipHipShake meaning Keigo Nakamura won the DDT Ironman Title only to lose it five seconds later to Saki Akai
I’ve watched more matches involving The Young Bucks’ book than the actual Young Bucks this year, and honestly, it’s better that way. The two books kicked us off, engaging in a thrilling Fujita vs Go staredown, where even Keigo jumping off the ropes to stamp down hard didn’t cause them to flinch.
Look, any match which features a run-in from a ‘pervert’ (Ihashi) because he’s so annoyed that his photobook is being beaten that he’s willing to start a fight with the person who the photobook is of will get the thumbs up from me. Honestly, there is a subsection of joshi fans who could learn a lot from this. Maybe we should make it required viewing? Get too attached to the photos, and it will end badly.
Jokes aside (I’m not joking), I am constantly in awe of DDT’s ability to build bits around insentient objects. These wrestlers deserve all the credit in the world for fully committing to the jokes, treating these books as if they are perfectly capable of working a match. Plus, wee Keigo won! My weirdo favourite picking up his first-ever title, which then promptly dropped down to his ankles because it was too big for his waist. Sure, he lost it twenty seconds later when he made the mistake of winding Saki up by looking a bit too closely at her book, but at least he got the moment!
Verdict: Books Can Wrestle
DISASTER BOX (HARASHIMA & Toru Owashi) defeated DAMNATION (Daisuke Sasaki & Mad Paulie), The Sauna Kamiina (Konosuke Takeshita & MAO) and Yuki Iino & Yukio Naya
There was no hanging around here, Owashi and HARASHIMA sticking their heads through the curtain to discover that everyone had already started fighting. With so many people involved, they didn’t have to worry about anyone catching their breath but could keep a constant rotation going, wrestlers rolling in and out of the ring to keep the pace up.
It made for something that was a blast to watch but didn’t have much meat on its bones. What it did have, though, was plenty of cool moments. Whether it was MAO being MAO, Sasaki and Takeshita briefly teaming (Daisuke didn’t take long to push the button marked betrayal) or the ease with which Takeshita lifted Iino into the air for the Last Ride, it was one of those matches that is easy to watch and will leave you with a grin on your face. Sometimes you don’t need anything more than that.
Verdict: Good Fun
Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi & Yukio Sakaguchi) fought Junretsu (Jun Akiyama & Makoto Oishi) to a double countout
Higuchi has joined his partner in wrestling barefoot as he continues to build towards a title match with Akiyama.
Judging by this, that’s a showdown everyone should be looking forward to. Oishi and Sakaguchi are great, but the real joy was watching the two big men go at it. Higuchi and Akiyama could spend twenty minutes chopping each other, and I’d probably applaud because fuck me, those boys hit hard. We also got another run out of Higuchi having his head driven into the ring post, no-selling the sickening thud to continue the fight. Yea, there’s nothing complex about it, and in some ways it’s dumb as hell, but I love it all the same.
In fact, they were all so busy with the fight that they ended up being counted out, Akiyama making a last effort to enter the ring only for Higuchi to pull him back. It was a finish that they set-up perfectly and which worked for this feud, showing how inseparable the two are. Akiyama and Higuchi are gearing up to beat the shit out of each other, and I can’t wait.
Chris Brookes defeated Shunma Katsumata in a Barbed Wire Coffin Deathmatch to win the DDT Extreme Title
Chris Brookes joins Pencil Army and the next day picks up a title. The power of Lulu Pencil is strong.
Shunma and Brookes have had issues since Katsumata responded to Brookes threatening to kill him by getting him suspended from Twitter. I’m not sure anyone at that time would have guessed it would lead to an actual casket match, but here we are, Shunma slipping into his Super Hardcore Shunma persona (complete with new music) to try and get Chris off his back once and for all.
What I love about Shunma’s slide into deathmatch is that he’s done it while retaining his personality. The guy is a goof, and it would have been easy for him to lose that while switching to a more hardcore style. He hasn’t done that, though, and has managed to incorporate that goofiness within his new attitude. Christ, he started this match with a group of joker druids carrying a LEGO decorated coffin to the ring.
And these two didn’t skimp on the bloody elements. We got everything from bumps in barbed wire to Shunma smashing a chair over Brookes’ head. Both of them ended up bleeding, with Chris’s back taking significant damage from those barbs, Matsui at one point having to pull a strand of it out of his flesh. These two had a hardcore match last year that I wasn’t a huge fan of, as I felt it slipped into that rather dull WWE hardcore walk and brawl, but this wasn’t that. They were going all out to inflict pain, inventively playing with the weapons that littered the ring.
It built to an awesome finish, Shunma coming off the top with a Stuka Splash only to crash straight into the coffin, sealing his fate as Brookes locked him away, making sure to nail the lid down. The Pencil Army’s tallest member has himself a new belt, and while I don’t think this match quite matched the creative joy of Shunma vs MAO from a few weeks back, it was still a hell of a lot of fun.
While they cleared up the ring, Takagi came out to announce the team he’s put together to challenge for the 8-man tag titles. He’s decided to lean heavily on the idea of legacy, roping in Yukio Naya (his grandfather was a Yokozuna), Chikara (the grandson of Rikidozan) and Nabe Yakan (his dad is a famous comedian). They’ll be going under the name Team Thoroughbred rather than Team Fail Son, though.
DAMNATION (Tetsuya Endo, Soma Takao and Yuji Hino) defeated Wakate Tsushin (Akito, Kazuki Hirata and Shota) to win the Six-Man Titles
There are many ways to win a wrestling match, but having a big fuck-off bastard on your side is one of the most effective. While Soma and Endo are great wrestlers, the champs could deal with that. What they couldn’t deal with was Hino. In this match’s opening act, all three of them gave it a go, and all three of them bounced off. The man is a tank, and it took all of Wakate Tsushin working together to take him down.
The problem was that after doing that, you still had those great wrestlers to worry about. Every time they managed to rocked Hino a little bit, Soma or Endo would step in and regain control. It left Wakate Tsushin fighting a constant uphill battle, constantly trying to swing the momentum in their favour but never managing to keep it there. By the end, Shota resorted to flying into flash pins, desperately trying to get Takao’s shoulders on the mat for a three and take the belts home.
It wasn’t to be, Soma eventually putting him away and picking up some lovely new silverware for DAMNATION in an enjoyable, well-worked slice of wrestling. There was nothing here that pushed it beyond that level, and DAMNATION’s victory felt assured, so those flash pins struggled to get a bite out of me. Despite that, the wrestling was strong, and I can’t imagine not having a good time with it.
Verdict: A Strong Outing
Yuki Ueno defeated Yusuke Okada to retain the Universal Title
In his last title defence, Ueno was handed the challenge of trying to overcome Sakaguchi. Faced with an experienced badass, he was put on the defensive, choked out at every turn and forced to move outside his wheelhouse in order to get the win. This time around, he wanted something different. He wanted someone closer to him, a young, exciting wrestler pushing to be noticed. Step forward Yusuke Okada.
Okada is someone I have seen very little of, which I actually think worked to this match’s benefit. He wrestled like he was trying to prove themselves, which is what was happening. As the new boy in the company, he brought the fight to Ueno, throwing him into barriers early on and consistently keeping the aggression levels high. They’ve got similar levels of experience, but in DDT, Ueno is higher up the pecking order, and Okada was aiming to prove he belonged at the same height.
In turn, that brought more physicality out of Ueno. He also introduced Okada to the barriers and started meeting him in those hard-hitting exchanges. It became a match between two people with very little separating them, the momentum shifting quickly and neither man quite able to put something together. That mood meant that I bought into the close falls, accepting the idea that the switch was possible. There was a couple of moments where I was sure Okada had it, only for Ueno to cling on by the skin of his teeth.
It added up to one of those perfect matches where both wrestlers walk out the other side better than they came in. It was another great defence for Ueno, as he continues to prove to be as good as people have long said he is. Okada, meanwhile, has shown he can hang with some of the very best in DDT, and I doubt this is the last time we’ll see him challenge for a title.
Verdict: Lovely Work All-Round
It was nice to be back. DDT have had a few great shows recently, and while this wasn’t up to the level of Kawasaki Strong, it was still a noteworthy outing. The final three matches were all very good to great, while The Young Bucks and Saki Akai’s books are competing for rookie of the year (personally, I think LipHipShake has been carrying the feud, but we’ll see). Now, I just have to make sure and not get distracted by any new shiny wrestling and forget about DDT again. That’s easy enough, right?
Watch DDT: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe