With CyberFest behind them (which I didn’t review but is well worth the afternoon it will take to watch), it’s time for the King Of DDT. I love the simplicity of a knockout tournament, especially one with lots of good wrestlers in it (although the cowards didn’t put Saki in) and with a whopping eights singles matches on this show, there is plenty to get our teeth into.
Undercard: Toru Owashi, Antonio Honda, Danshoku Dieno, Kazuki Hirata & Gota Ihashi defeated Yusuke Okada, Yuki Iino, Yukio Naya, Hideki Okatani & Yuya Koroku
As you’d expect from an undercard match with ten people involved, this barrelled along at a good pace, no one ever needing to hang around for long enough to slow it down. Sadly, that also meant no one got a chance to stand out, as they were in and out too quickly to make an impact. Still, when you throw in some amusing nonsense, everyone joining into a Gon led nipple chain to revolve around in a circle chanting, this was an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable opener.
HARASHIMA defeated Makoto Oishi in the King of DDT First Round
Shows like this one, when done well, are one of my favourite things. In a perfect world, you get a series of varied, short singles matches, each doing their own thing to try and stand out. If that’s what we’re going for, Oishi and HARASHIMA gave us a good start.
And a lot of that was down to Oishi, who was the one who forced this match to the mat, trying to twist up HARA and get the win that way. There was a couple of moments where it looked like he was coming close, his determination never letting the Ace build up momentum. Unfortunately, in the key moments, HARA was too good, and when he got an inch of space, he flew in with an out of nowhere Somato to get the three.
This wasn’t a match of the year contender or something I’ll ever return to, but it was a nicely worked, tight wee match that told the story it wanted to perfectly. In other words, it was everything it needed to be.
Verdict: Lovely Stuff
Yuji Hino defeated Yukio Sakaguchi in the King of DDT First Round
I love when a wrestler naturally adapts their plan to suit the circumstances of a match. At the start of this, Sakaguchi was dancing around Hino, lashing out with kicks and trying to get behind him to choke him out. Then, when Hino escaped from one of those chokes by grabbing onto the rope and refused to let go, Sakaguchi saw an opening. That arm was out in the open, ready to be stamped on, and he was only too happy to oblige. Sometimes consistency is what a story needs, but ignoring an opportunity is silly.
Unfortunately, even a good plan can be overcome by something as simple as pure power. Hino doesn’t have all of Sakaguchi’s fancy skills (realising he couldn’t match his thigh kicks, he even attempted some thigh slaps), but he can hit you and make sure you stay hit, and that was the difference-maker here. In the key moments, Hino was able to smash, breaking Sakaguchi’s plans apart. In turn, the Eruption man’s actions became more desperate, as every chop and every lariat took a little bit more out of him. By the time he ate the Fucking Bomb, there was no chance in hell he was kicking out.
This was two hard as nails fuckers beat the shit out of each other. Make sure and watch it.
Verdict: It All Looked Sore
MAO defeated Soma Takao in the King of DDT First Round
My odd relationship with Takao continued, as this match was a tale of two halves. The opening, which revolved around Soma trying to curtail MAO’s weirdness, bored me. It wasn’t too long, so I’m not going to crucify them over it, but it was all bland and uninspiring, leaving you feeling like they were holding back.
Which they were because the second half was a lot more fun. Yea, there was a degree of artificiality to it, the two of them dancing through complex sequences, but that aforementioned MAO weirdness kept it interesting, particularly when combined with a willingness to go for big, dangerous moves. If that had been the entire match, I’d be raving about it, but sadly that wasn’t the case.
Verdict: Dull Start, Good End
Konosuke Takeshita defeated Akito in the King of DDT First Round
Some of the transitions in this match were exquisite. These two former stablemates leaned towards the technical, battling between submissions and covers as they tried to come out on top. It was the little things that stood out, though, moments like a turnbuckle pad coming undone as Akito tried desperately to grab it and prevent Takeshita from pulling him back. It’s such a simple spot, but something I can’t remember seeing before, and it instantly grabbed my attention.
And while Take is obviously the golden boy, this was Akito’s match. He played the veteran role to perfection, realising he was up against someone stronger and quicker than him and searching for a way to overcome it. In theory, removing a turnbuckle pad or driving Take into the post is heel-work, but Akito made it feel smart. Like he was grabbing hold of any opportunity presented to him, rather than trying to bend the rules.
Unfortunately, while Takeshita isn’t a better technical wrestler than him, he’s good enough that when combined with the rest of his skills, he was able to see himself through. He would win this by submission, but that wasn’t the turning point. That came via the suplexes, the running knees and the power that Akito couldn’t match. It made for a great match and another one that I would highly recommend checking out.
Verdict: Beautiful Wrestling
Daisuke Sasaki defeated Yuki Ueno in the King of DDT First Round
I love it. Tournaments are the perfect time to book matches like this, where Sasaki (with a helping hand from Paulie) was able to blitz Ueno and sneak out with what probably counts as an upset. There is an art to a match that goes under two minutes, and they nailed it, delivering frantic action as they both tried to end it as quickly as possible. On top of that, I thought both Paulie and Matsui were great. Paulie’s interference was all well-timed while Matsui sold the chaos of what was happening perfectly, playing into the confusion that would lead to Daisuke low blowing Ueno and bundling him up for the three.
People love to dismiss any match that goes under five minutes (Cagematch even refuses to let you review them), but that’s dumb, and this was great.
Verdict: Frantic Fun
Jun Akiyama defeated Shunma Katsumata in the King of DDT First Round
Is it bad to say that out of everyone Akiyama’s wrestled in DDT so far, Shunma has had the matches I’ve liked the best? That wee menace brings something different out of the hard old bastard, starting this match by firing a party popper into his face and shoving a pink beanie onto his head (which, judging by how long he kept it on, I think Old Jun might have quite liked).
And Shunma tries so hard. He throws himself at Akiyama desperately, trying to break through and crack that big old tree but bouncing off ineffectually. He even bumped himself deliberately into some generic toy breaks, resorting to trying to get the champ disqualified. It didn’t work, but you’ve got to admire the passion.
It also brings us nicely to the final reason this feud works so well, watching Shunma get beat up is fun. I love him. He’s amazing, but he’s also got a bit of that Spike Dudley energy, so Akiyama murdering him is a joy. I hope these two get to do this again, sooner rather than later.
Verdict: Give Shunma A Title Shot
Kazusada Higuchi defeated Naomi Yoshimura in the King of DDT First Round
Big lads doing big lads stuff, it ain’t complicated, and it ain’t pretty, but my god, it works. If a company puts two studs who look like Higuchi and Yoshimura in a ring together and has them beat each other up in hard-hitting ways, I will sit back with a smile on my face and have a lovely old-time. Are there any wrestling fans who disagree? I’m certainly not friends with them if they do, and while this doesn’t require much critical analysis, it was great.
Verdict: Big Boy Time
Tetsuya Endo defeated Chris Brookes in the King of DDT First Round
I have a problem. Tetsuya Endo is a beautiful wrestler. There are few, if any, as graceful and athletic as he is. He flows around the ring, taking flight as if it’s effortless and making everything look good. Then, on the flip side, the guy bumps like a madman. Watch the Michinoku Driver he took from Brookes, which looked like it killed him. So, why don’t I get it?
It’s not that I think the matches are bad. I don’t. It’s that it feels like I’m watching them at arm’s length. Appreciating them but never finding myself invested in them. There have been exceptions to that rule, the Daisuke match last year being the most obvious one, but on the whole, Endo leaves me cold. He’s like a beautiful painting of some dry toast. I can appreciate the technique that went into it, but I don’t particularly want it on my wall.
And that issue reared its ugly head in this match. Brookes and Endo worked a big main event style (which I have my problems with generally) and did many things right. There was a nice throughline of Chris working over Endo’s arm, only for that incredible talent to ultimately come through, but I just never got invested. It was one of those moments where I had to move my phone away because I’d find myself absentmindedly picking it up, flicking through Twitter and missing things almost without realising.
That leaves me in a position where I can’t claim that I enjoyed this, but where I suspect plenty of others will. As it is, though, there was nothing really wrong with what they did. It just left me cold.
Verdict: It Was Probably Good, But Didn’t Click With Me
Despite my issues with the main event (which is the second DDT main event I’ve reviewed in a row where I’ve had a problem like that), that show gave me what I wanted. A nice variety of match types generally worked at a quick pace and kept relatively short. It was a load of fun to watch and a great way to start the King of DDT.
Watch DDT: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe