DDT were back in Korakuen for perhaps the most intriguing main event of the year so far. Imagine telling someone five years ago that Akiyama and Dieno were going to face-off for the KO-D title? I’m not sure anyone predicted that one.
Undercard: Hideki Okatani defeated Toi Kojima
We’ve seen Okatani and Toi face-off a lot recently, but there was something a bit different this one. When he wrestled Soma, I mentioned that I enjoyed seeing Okatani get more aggressive, and he brought that same energy into this encounter. Everything he did had an edge, like he’d tapped into an anger that wasn’t there before.
That made this my favourite match of his so far, as he controlled the action against the (slightly) less experienced Toi. It’s an important step for him as he start to figure himself out, and while Kojima took a backseat because of it, he’s got plenty of time to bounce back.
Verdict: Hideki’s Putting It Together
Yusuke Okada defeated Yuya Koroku
It says a lot about Okada that DDT already trust him to usher their newest rookie into his career. He’s been great in everything I’ve seen of him so far, so it’s an understandable choice.
And he let Koroku shine here. You could see Yuya’s amateur background in the opening stages, as he grappled well, before tapping into some rookie fire towards the end. There weren’t many evident nerves in this performance, which always blows my mind because fuck, you’re making your debut at Korakuen Hall. I think I’d shit myself.
Of course, he would end up losing, but that’s irrelevant. It was a strong introduction to the company, as DDT is on a bit of a roll with their trainees. If Yuya can build on his performance here, I don’t see him being the one to let the side down.
Verdict: A Good Start
Chris Brookes, Saki Akai, Yuki Iino & Yukio Naya defeated Akito, Makoto Oishi, Kazuki Hirata & Keigo Nakamura
Iino has been watching his Lulu Pencil tapes as he made up for being the only member of his team without a title by holding up a normal belt. We all know it’s not as valuable a belt as Lulu’s belt, though. Nothing is as valuable as that.
Now and then, one of these undercard tags comes together perfectly, leading to something as enjoyable as this. It was a match where everyone seemed to be on their game, Hirata and Oishi showing off some lovely tag work, Naya playing the tank and Iino delivering some perfect dance-based comedy. It was all brilliantly put together and left me with a huge smile on my face.
It also made sure Saki got plenty of shine, which turned out to be kind of the point. With her Eruption partners busy elsewhere, she’s been slotted into a comedy role recently, but this was a nice reminder of how good she is, as she shoved Brookes out the way to hit Quetzel Coatl for the win. That would turn out to be particularly fitting, as she went on to challenge him for the Extreme title afterwards, a match I’m already excited for.
Verdict: I Love It When A Good Plan Comes Together
Toru Owashi, Antonio Honda & Gorgeous Matsuno defeated DAMNATION (Tetsuya Endo, Nobuhiro Shimatani & Mad Paulie)
If Saki took centre stage last time, then this was Gorgeous Matsuno’s time to shine, as he took part in the final match of his 50s. You don’t need me to tell you it was going for a slightly different tone. For one thing, Endo accidentally won within the first few seconds, pinning Matsuno during some routine chain wrestling and causing everyone to quite happily turn and head to the back. That caused Imabayashi to freak the fuck out on them, demanding they restart the match and let Matsuno shine (check out ddtpro_eng for your translations of that epic rant).
With Imabayshi’s words ringing in their ears, this became a match where everyone tried to give the ageing Matsuno a chance. That made for the rare occasion where those involved could lean into wrestling’s artificiality. They almost worked together to make him look good, so when Nobu threw himself over for a suplex and flopped around like a fish, it made sense. It also had poor Endo corpsing so hard that he had to hide for a bit to calm down, the sight of Matsuno going for a Powerbomb on Paulie setting him off.
It all made for some pitch-perfect DDT nonsense. As I always say, you’ll know whether this is for you or not, and if it’s not, I doubt you’re reading this. I laughed, and that’s the most important thing.
Verdict: Good Fun
Between matches, Naomi Yoshimura popped up to announce his return! He’ll be back in May and requested that his return match is against his NAUTILUS partner, Ueno. Good choice.
DAMNATION (Daisuke Sasaki, Soma Takao & Yuji Hino) defeated The 37KAMIINA (MAO, Yuki Ueno & Shunma Katsumata)
Starting to bring Hino in regularly was a stroke of genius from DDT. He improves every match he’s part of simply by being a fucking tank. Here, his interactions with the bizarre MAO were brilliant, as he tried to figure out how the fuck to deal with this weird figure. Plus, as much as I love Shunma, watching Hino brutalise him is incredibly entertaining.
Outside of that, the focus was on building to Ueno vs Takao, with Soma upping the aggression. Takao is one of these people that I want to like more than I do, and with Ueno having a brilliant year, that match could be the thing to convince me. I enjoyed the edge he brought here, as it contrasted nicely with Ueno’s relatively clean-cut image. Plus, if you want to weaken an opponent before you face them, having Hino rough them up before booting them in the balls is an effective tactic.
It made for an outing that was focused on the future but also delivered some decent entertainment. You could argue that me wanting to see Mao vs Hino more than Soma vs Ueno is a slight problem, but I do want to see the latter too, so let’s not give them too much shit for it.
Verdict: Tank vs Weirdo, Please
Smile Pissari (HARASHIMA & Yuji Okabayashi) defeated Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi & Yukio Sakaguchi) to win the KO-D Tag Titles
The first time I watched this match, I drifted off for what I thought was a minute, woke up for the finish and was disappointed at how uneventful the whole thing had seemed. Thankfully, I decided to rewind and watch it again to see if I was missing something, upon which I discovered that yes, I was. About ten to fifteen minutes of something, to be exact.
These two teams were perfectly balanced, both featuring a slab of meat backed up by their quicker, technical pal. It’s the big man, wee man combination, and much like in football, there is a reason it works. The very nature of it sets up natural combinations, as you get two big boys slamming into each other, a wee man trying to take down a big boy or fast, technical wrestling from the smaller ones. All of those things are good!
Unsurprisingly, the highlight was Okabayashi vs Higuchi, who are two mountains of flesh, that I want to watch hit each other. They gave me that and more as we got all the enjoyable big boy shit. It would be Yuji’s muscles that made the difference, though, ripping a limpet-like Sakaguchi off of HARASHIMA, preventing him from choking HARA out and Powerbombing him into place for a Somato. It was a cool as fuck finish that made everyone look badass.
I will admit to being slightly disappointed that Eruption lost. They’ve been on an incredible run recently, both in tags and singles, but it’s ended with them being left empty-handed. Fingers crossed that’s not a long-term thing and they (and Saki) find their way back to the top of the card sooner rather than later.
Verdict: Big Men And Wee Men All Over The Place
Jun Akiyama defeated Danshoku Dieno to retain the KO-D title
I wouldn’t say I was excited about Dieno vs Akiyama, but I was certainly intrigued. For all that I don’t particularly enjoy a lot of Dieno’s antics, he is the heart and soul of that side of DDT, and the idea of Akiyama being pulled into his world fascinates me. Uncle Jun isn’t going full nonsense, so how would these two bounce off each other in a main event title match?
And while I’m right that Akiyama didn’t embrace his comedic side, what he did do was accept Dieno as Dieno. He sold the Dick Screws, the Nightmares, and the video package piped into the arena to distract him. It would have been so easy for someone with his pedigree to scoff at it all, but he went in there and took it at face value, treating it like a threat and countering it the same way he’d go out and counter Endo’s high-flying. It was the final proof that he has accepted DDT for what it is, exposed arses or not.
That meant that while I’m not sure I can call this a great match, I do think it’s worth watching. It essentially became a battle between two competing philosophies, ending with a defiant Dieno, the trunks clutched between his legs (they were no longer on) the only thing preventing him from being exposed to the world, forcing Akiyama to put him away with an Exploder where he must have felt everything. In any other context, that’s a hell of a story, and while I’m not necessarily a fan of the groping and the nudity, it wasn’t enough to kill its impact. Dieno stood up for the old DDT, and while he lost, it was made clear that legacy is going nowhere.
Verdict: It Was Quite Something
Akiyama will be on more familiar ground with his next challenger, as HARASHIMA came out to make his claim. That will be the match for Saitama Super Arena, and it’s hard to argue with that choice of main event. In return for accepting the challenge, Akiyama and Oishi will also get a shot at HARA and Oka’s new tag titles.
How you feel about Dieno and that main event will greatly influence your feelings on this show, but I’m going to put it down in the good category. The tag title was great, the undercard strong, and the main event, at the very least, interesting. If you want your wrestling to include the potential to see Dieno’s dick, then you’ll have a lovely time.
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