For DDT’s 23rd Anniversary, they dished up a rematch that everyone has been waiting for. Akiyama vs Higuchi makes sense, no matter what way you look at it. So let’s sit back and watch the two big boys hit each other.
The opening video ran through the history of the KO-D Openweight Title, and fuck me, that belt has had a varied past, hasn’t it? It’s quite the cast of characters to get through, especially when it’s soundtracked by ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’. I’m sure DDT paid for the rights to that one…
Yusuke Okada & Yuki Iino defeated Chris Brookes & Toi Kojima
Iino was wearing a ‘Keep Calm and Sexy Pro-Wrestling t-shirt, which, if GAMI can change the word calm to comical, could be a gold mine for WAVE. He definitely bought it from a Facebook ad, didn’t he? Sadly, Brookes did not complete the enjoyable outfits double by rocking up in his new pink dungarees.
Clothes aside, it was Toi Kojima who stole the opener. The more experienced wrestlers let him off his leash, giving him plenty of time in the ring and letting him show how good he is. It led to some great sequences with Okada and the impressive sight of him managing to get Iino for a slam. Judging by this showing, that kid is going places.
Throw in some fun exchanges from Iino and Brookes, and this was a strong opener. There wasn’t much in the way of meaningful action, but it was a random tag, so I wouldn’t have expected there to be. The kid looked good, Okada celebrated signing a contract by getting the win, and everyone went home happy, job done.
Verdict: Good Stuff
Soma Takao defeated Hideki Okatani
Pre-match, Soma kicked Okatani’s proffered hand away, and the rookie was pissed. He went right after Takao, dragging him to the outside and throwing him into the barriers. Sure, he eventually get it back, plus a little extra, but we do love to see it. I’ve previously complained that while Okatani is a solid wrestler, he’s not got much else to him, but that bit of fire instantly got me rooting for him.
He would keep that fire burning throughout the match as there was a sense of desperation to his performance. As he threw forearms at Takao, barely causing him to flinch, you got the impression that Okatani already knew his chance was gone. That when his opening barrage was cut off, he’d lost his opportunity to burst through. However, that didn’t mean he was going to stop. He was out there to give his all, even if the finish was inevitable.
It’s a little thing, but when a rookie makes me believe that, they’ve got me onside. I don’t care about them losing every match or being at the bottom of the barrel; I just want to see them give everything they have to climb higher. Okatani gave me that and ended any doubts I had about his talent.
Verdict: Good Job, Rookie
Between matches, we learnt about the teams that will be competing in the Ultimate Tag League. You can click through to the tweet to see the whole list, but it’s pretty self-explanatory apart from Honda and Brookes as the ‘European representatives’.
Danshoku Dieno, Saki Akai and Makoto Oishi defeated Akito, Toru Owashi and Keigo Nakamura
The cuteness didn’t extend into the match as Oishi’s time learning from Akiyama has led him to dismiss the way of nonsense. He insulted Owashi’s ‘fake lucha’, annoyed Dieno so much he didn’t want to break him out of a submission and generally gave off the impression that he was too good for this stuff. It got to the point where even Owashi and Akito were pissed at him, demanding that he shove Wee Keigo’s head into Dieno’s arse. Of course, that ended with Owashi’s head making the unfortunate connection, turning into an arse zombie because, well, why not?
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I am a fan of the nonsense, and this was, undeniably, nonsense. I’m honestly not sure what more needs to be said? It’s DDT being DDT. If you’ve got this far, you’re well aware whether that’s for you or not.
Verdict: Unleash The Nonsense
Team Thoroughbred (Sanshiro Takagi, Yukio Naya, Chikara and Yakan Nabe) defeated Kazuki Hirata, Antonio Honda, Shinya Aoki and Super Sasadango Machine to win the KO-D Eight Man Titles
Team Fail Son, I mean, em, Team Thoroughbred, do it!
Considering who was involved, this was surprisingly straightforward. Okay, yes, Honda’s Gon the fox story did lead to him being outdone by Chikara’s power nipples, but in DDT, that’s par for the course. On the whole, this was a pretty basic, not that interesting match. Although, Naya would get the win and manage to show a smidge of emotion in the aftermath, so that was something. I presume as the youngster of the team, he’s the one they are looking to get over, but I honestly came away more interested in Chikara’s nips.
Look, this wasn’t shite or an insult to the senses, but it took me three or four attempts to get through it because I kept falling asleep and needing to restart. That probably tells you everything you need to know.
HARASHIMA defeated Yukio Sakaguchi
HARASHIMA and Sakaguchi are 47 and 46. They should not be looking as good as they do. I’m pretty sure Sakaguchi smokes! Bastards. Anyway, this was the special match put together for DDT’s 23rd Anniversary, as we got two of the longer-serving roster members facing off.
And it caught me off-guard. When they started by grappling for control on the mat, I settled in for a lengthy back and forth. That feeling was solidified when they began trading strikes, HARASHIMA making sure to flex every muscle as he waited for Sakaguchi’s kicks, as they give off the impression of two old friends happy to engage in a game of one-upmanship and in no hurry to get the job done. That spirit of friendship wouldn’t linger, though. When it’s Sakaguchi kicking you, it’s hard to keep smiling, and things suddenly exploded into a flurry of action that saw HARASHIMA smash home with a Somato and steal away with the win much sooner than I saw coming.
Which made for a fucking lovely surprise. I adore when wrestling sets up one expectation but then swerves, pulling the carpet out from under you and reminding you that formulas can be broken. Sakaguchi and HARASHIMA are incredible wrestlers, who could have easily put on a twenty-minute plus banger, but they didn’t need to. This short, sharp burst of action had the same effect and proved, once again, that a match doesn’t need to be lengthy to be quality.
2021’s Wrestle Peter Pan will be taking place at Fujitsu Stadium in Kawasaki, meaning it’s an outdoor show. I’ve no idea if that will allow them to have more fans, but I’m always up for companies using new spaces.
The 37KAMIINA (Konosuke Takeshita, MAO, Yuki Ueno & Shunma Katsumata) defeated DAMNATION (Tetsuya Endo, Daisuke Sasaki, Yuji Hino and Mad Paulie)
Yuji Hino as DAMNATION’s unkillable tank is a shitload of fun. The only person who could come close to making him flinch was Takeshita, as the rest of The 37KAMIINA found that any solo attempts to take him on inevitably ended in them bouncing off.
Those failed attempts were one of the many enjoyable moments among the chaos of this tag. The snippets we got of Daisuke vs Ueno, Takeshita vs Endo or even MAO and Endo trying to out-flip each other were all a blast as these men went out to show-off how good they are. There wasn’t an overarching story here or even an attempt to build to a particular match, but that wasn’t what they were going for. It was purely designed to put over The 37KAMIINA and, perhaps more importantly, to entertain.
A fact that also made it somewhat throwaway. As much as I enjoyed this, I doubt it’s something that will linger in my mind, tempting me into watching it again. That doesn’t have to be an issue, though. Sometimes a decent match is just a decent match, and we don’t need to ask for anything more.
Verdict: Good Fun
Jun Akiyama defeated Kazusada Higuchi to retain the KO-D Openweight Title
During the D-Oh, Higuchi blitzed Akiyama, catching him off-guard and putting him away frighteningly quickly with the help of that claw. It was the perfect statement victory, and it made all the sense in the world that Old Jun would want to level the score now that he has his hands on the title.
And this time around, Akiyama wasn’t going to be caught off-guard. He went out there and attacked that hand, looking to negate those grasping fingers. The grizzled old veteran stamped and twisted on them, doing everything he could to remove Higuchi’s power. The problem is that a hand is a tough thing to sell, especially when it has to be your dominant one. So much of what Higuchi does needs that hand to be working, so it was no surprise that it was slightly forgotten at times. On the whole, though, I thought he did a solid job of putting the injury over, at one point biting into his other fingers to put on a submission when his grip failed him.
That was one of several badass moments from Higuchi. Akiyama may be getting on a bit, but he’s a hard old tree, and the big man went toe to toe with him. When this match was at its best, it was two big boys beating the shit out of each other, every blow hammering home as they escalated the action. That’s a situation I have no complaints about. Two people swinging with all they have will never fail to get a reaction, and the story of Higuchi being able to bring that power but eventually being caught out by Akiyama’s experience made all the sense in the world.
You can probably sense the but coming, and there is one, but truthfully, it’s not a fair criticism. My issues come from the fact that I watched this not long after enjoying Baliyan Akki vs Minoru Fujita at ChocoPro 100. Like this match, that was a young stud, engaging in a physical war with a grizzled vet and falling short. I also thought it was significantly better. Part of that is that I’m more emotionally engaged with Akki’s story, but it also felt like a real fight. By the end, Akki and Fujita were punch drunk, staggering around as they desperately tried to win. Higuchi and Akiyama never gave me that.
That’s not what I’m here to review, though, and you can get my expanded thoughts on that match in my monthly round-up, which will be out on the 1st of April. And even if I do take it into account, Akiyama vs Higuchi was still great. They did exactly what you’d want them to do, and while I have a few complaints, I ultimately came out the other side satisfied.
In the aftermath, Akiyama brought up Oishi being turned into an arse zombie earlier on the show. That wasn’t just a random admonishment of his Junretsu underling, but a chance to call out Dieno, who responded to ‘Jun-chan’s’ challenge. It’s being positioned as a battle between the two sides of DDT, and I’ve got to admit, I’m intrigued about what Akiyama vs Dieno looks like in 2021.
That was an alright DDT Korakuen. The main event was the undeniable highlight, and the rest of the card was solid but did perhaps feel a bit inconsequential. You’ll have a good time with it, but no-one is going to be putting it down as a show of the year, or even month, contender.
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