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  1. Fun, breezy six-man tag on an outdoor show. They hit all of their moves cleanly and everything moved along at a steady pace. The opening grappling exchange between Kojima and Ishida was buttery smooth. I continue to be impressed by Ishida and how he’s set himself apart from his contemporaries with his sumo-based offense. Katsumata played the face in peril for a bit until he made the tag and The 37KAMIINA rallied. Higuchi ran wild, but Ueno and Katsumata wiped out the two senior members of Harimao with a pair of dives. It would eventually come down to Ishida and Ueno, with the latter hitting the Best Moonsault Ever for the win. I appreciated the fact that when things broke down, it was brief and often served the purpose of setting up a double/triple-team move rather than everyone staying in the ring for extended periods.
  2. This match comes at the tail end of a grueling near-twenty-minute KO-D Tag Team Title defense for Higuchi. Aoki interrupts Harimao’s victory speech to cash in DDT’s anytime, anywhere, Right to Challenge NFT, one of many in a long line of silly gimmicks in the promotion. Aoki immediately goes after Higuchi’s injured arm, which Daisuke Sasaki and KANON attacked in the match prior. Aoki employs ruthless kicks, baiting Higuchi into a lock-up and pulling at his bad wheel. Higuchi’s selling is terrific. His arm is practically limp at this point, and Aoki uses that to his advantage. Higuchi desperately escapes to the ropes, but Aoki continues to pepper him with kicks, showing some of his trademark pettiness when he slaps Higuchi’s arm. Aoki continually grinds Higuchi down with armbars, manipulating the digits. As a result, Higuchi has to rely on roll-ups for the most part. Aoki is relentless, snapping back on the arm as he locks in an armbar. Higuchi musters the courage to power up Aoki and delivers a body slam off the top rope. With the damage done to his arm, Higuchi attempts to batter Aoki with chops, but they’re largely ineffective. Higuchi finally nails a good chop, only for his arm to give out on a Doctor Bomb attempt. I adored Aoki’s transition into the Fujiwara Armbar after that. He even busted out a topé suicida, proving he was desperate to capture the KO-D gold. Higuchi hit a Brain Claw Slam and a headbutt to score the KO win. The suddenness of the finish was the perfect capper, as it felt like Higuchi barely survived this defense. Higuchi’s ability to garner sympathy while still coming across as an unstoppable force is unparalleled. He’s as captivating fighting from underneath as he is controlling the pace of a match. Aoki was unyielding in his attack on the arm, but his opponent proved too strong in the long run. The layout was immaculate, maximizing the impact of Higuchi’s every comeback. All in all, this was a great title match. Post-match, Higuchi’s former Eruption stablemate Yukio Sakaguchi laid down the challenge for God Bless DDT.
  3. In all honesty, this was going to be a quickie post of just a few matches that I stumbled across. But then I became intrigued by the match ups or was impressed by a worker and wanted to see more. And here we are! The entire 2003 Differ Cup watched out of sequence reviewed out of sequence. I'm not going to pretend it didn't happen. Sit back and read on: KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs Great Takeru & Kappa Kozou (02/08): Was going to skip this since I'd never heard of the IWA Japan team. But then I thought - I'm going to end up watching the whole event (mostly) so I should just check it out. So glad I did! Its shown in full as it features the home NOAH team and frankly it is a great opening bout! Both teams were smooth and exciting which surprised me. Perhaps it's a case of low expectations but I thought the teams gelled well enough that the IWA-J team would be invited back for under card jobs at the very least. Not thinking they were though... Jun Kasai & Gran Naniwa vs YOSSINO & Ultimo Dragon (02/08): Saw this called the worst match of the night...no way man! In fact, I thought it was great! It wasn't a move fest but it was clever, funny and had some exciting moves too. It just felt like 4 pros at work. Sometimes it doesn't have to be epic, brutal or intense to be great. MIKAMI & KUDO vs Kuroda & Chocoball Mukai (02/08): JIP to the last 10 minutes of an 18 minute match. Took a chance on this and was pleasantly surprised. My sleazy indie radar steered me right. Very fun very indie match with chairs and a ladder. As a fan of ECW & FMW, this felt good. Ikuto Hidaka & Masao Orihara vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/08): In a NOAH ring but this is a Zero-one match. And that is pretty cool. The familiarity is there and they were able to do some really good stuff. Hidaka never ceases to amaze me with some move or sequence. Orihara (who I hadn't seen much at this time other than Fire Pro Returns) can still go. This was all action and a great match. Yoshihito Sasaki looks good even this early. MIKAMI & KUDO vs Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/08): JIP and clipped however the stuff that was shown was really good! The Zero One team brings the steak but MIKAMI brings the needed sizzle. Heck KUDO looked really exciting here as well. The ladder is in play again and I'm not complaining. 12 minutes shown out of a 15 minute match so I feel safe giving this a "very good" rating. KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs YOSSINO & Ultimo Dragon (02/08): Oh yeah this was really good stuff especially towards the end. Masato Yoshino/YOSSINO did his part here but Ultimo was the star of the whole tournament. Good pace, action throughout - this 11 minute bout was a nice way to end night #1. Great Takeru vs Kappa Kozou (02/09): Fun showcase match of the IWA Japan guys. It's about 10 minutes of them throwing their best stuff out there. They made a good impression on me. Ikuto Hidaka vs Masao Orihara: Oh shit! They were not going to be out done by the IWA guys. This was some next level stuff. Hidaka again drops my jaw with his precision, speed and body control. Orihara is right there with him! This wasn't all fireworks either as Hidaka was trying to get a clean win whereas Orihara was going to take it anyway he could. Even Ikuto has a breaking point and introduces a steel chair to the mix. Nothing too crazy like we've seen the night before but it's nice to see the ECW/FMW relaxed rules again. This is a great junior match. Kuroda & Chocoball Mukai vs Gran Naniwa & Jun Kasai : I wasn't sure about this one. I looked it up and it was around 20 minutes. 12-14 minutes seemed right but that time seemed too much. Yet again, I was wrong. This was a really fun match that had a little bit of everything. Both teams looked really good. Kuroda and Kasai were the best though. I don't know if I would have booked this after Hidaka vs Orihara from a draw perspective but they did their job and provided lighter entertainment to prep the fans for the main events. KUDO & MIKAMI vs. KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki: This is fought for Third Place trophy. I've seen this called a very good match but I can't agree. The start was fun but the middle was long and pretty dull. The last third was good but wasn't enough to save this from being just OK in my book. This was very good but the Naniwa/Kasai match was no good? Yeah right! The Kappa/Takeru bout smoked this as well. It was just too long and none of the guys knew how to fill the time in the middle. A disappointing fight. Ultimo Dragon & YOSSINO vs Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/09): Its much more toned down in terms of crazy spots (although it has a few) and has a strong face/heel dynamic. Masato Yoshino (YOSSINO) played the whipping boy and Takaiwa was the bully. Dragon was the big brother and Sasaki was the lackey. It was simple and effective. It was well executed, there were nice surprises, shoot it was a really good tag match! A great way to end the tournament. There you have it! Never had any intention at anytime to watch this but dammit I had a lot of fun! Only one match was a bummer and most were actually pretty darn good to great. This gets a very strong recommendation from me especially if you're craving something from this time in wrestling. Thanks for reading!
  4. Masada comes into this match having begun his pro wrestling training three months ago. HARASHIMA seamlessly led Masada through the opening mat work portion. Masada busted out an arm-wringer, which had a nice snap to it. HARASHIMA went to work on the back, bringing his trademark brand of meanness to the match. The second half was designed to allow Masada to shine, and shine he did. Masada hit a gorgeous dropkick to kick off his comeback, later matching HARASHIMA strike-for-strike. Masada even busted out HARASHIMA's signature Falcon Arrow, but it was only enough for two. Takeshi's already decent at garnering sympathy from the crowd, with them erupting in chants of "Masada"! HARASHIMA burst out of the corner with a running Somato and put Masada away for the three count. As far as debuts go, it doesn't get much better than this unless you're a prodigy like Jun Akiyama. Another selfless performance from one of the all-time greats and a decent match to boot. While it's too soon to tell how much Masada's capable of DDT may have another prospect on its hands. **1/2
  5. Immediately, this feels like a huge deal, as we'll be crowning a first-time KO-D Openweight champion. The opening lock-up was intense, giving the match a feeling of weight and importance. Yoshimura dominated the early portion with stiff body slams and deafening chops. Yoshimura upped his intensity, clubbing the chest and not allowing Higuchi any time to breathe. I like how Yoshimura controlled the pace, continuing the neck work that Akiyama started in the semi-finals. Yoshimura hit some nasty elbows to the side of the neck, but Higuchi fired back with a lariat. Higuchi fired back with a chop and a pair of power slams. The struggle over the Brain Claw Slam was delightful and made Yoshimura feel like a convincing obstacle for Higuchi to topple. When Higuchi finally hit a Brainbuster, the crowd erupted in applause. Yoshimura's been learning from HARASHIMA's teachings as he countered a top-rope Brain Claw Slam by elbowing Higuchi in the neck. When Higuchi popped up from Yoshimura's stalling superplex, it felt defiant. He wasn't going to give some kid the satisfaction of having one-upped him in one of the biggest matches of his career. The chop exchange that followed felt like an escalation of the action, which is no small feat when you consider how often they feel like checking an item off a checklist. Higuchi got the better of a lariat-off and hit the Doctor Bomb for a nearfall, but Yoshimura's gameplan was near-perfect, and he got caught with a Harai Goshi. Yoshimura gave Higuchi a taste of his own medicine, kicking out at one from a lariat. Higuchi finally hit the Brain Claw Slam, but it wasn't enough. In a last-gasp effort Yoshimura went for another Harai Goshi, but it was blocked, and Higuchi landed one more Brain Claw Slam. Realizing he'd finally reached the top of the mountain, Higuchi made the cover and had the widest grin on his face when the referee's hand hit the mat for the three count. Fantastic heavyweight clash and one of this year's greatest triumphs in wrestling. As great as the match was, the post-match may be even better. Since Higuchi wrapped the belt around Akiyama's waist a little over a year ago, Jun returned the favor. Sanshiro Takagi then brought out a flag adorned with the DDT logo, stating that he was entrusting it to Higuchi as a symbol of DDT's strength. Takagi then gave Higuchi his blessing to lead the company. Higuchi has long been the workhorse of the promotion, delivering in every situation for years on end. 2022 wasn't a stellar year for DDT until the tournament began, so this was a much-needed win for Higuchi fans worldwide. Long live the new King of DDT.
  6. Akiyama played mind games early on, exiting the ring repeatedly until Higuchi went after him and got tripped up on the apron. Akiyama would follow that up with a DDT on the floor. Higuchi fired back out of a suplex attempt on the apron and hit a Brain Claw Slam but ate an exploder on the floor. I didn't mind Akiyama and Higuchi going to the apron/floor moves so quickly, as it showed they were desperate to put their opponent away with the tournament finals still to come. Akiyama immediately stuffed Higuchi with a Piledriver as he entered the ring, continuing to target the neck with a modified sleeper. An exchange of suplexes broke out, but neither competitor would relent. That built up to a Brain Claw Slam from the top rope for a close near-fall. Akiyama stuck with what was working for him, returning to the sleeper. Higuchi's dazed, out-on-his-feet selling was excellent, and you got the sense that the match could end at a moment's notice. Higuchi survived an exploder, caught Akiyama with a few lariats to the back of the head, and hit the Brain Claw Slam for the win. While this wasn't quite as layered as their excellent title bout from last year, it was a great heavyweight meat and potatoes match with enough nuance to put it over the top.
  7. One of the biggest stories in DDT recently has been the elevation of Naomi Yoshimura and his new tag team partner in Harimao, Kazusada Higuchi. Yoshimura has started to put it together after last year's King of DDT run, where I was slightly underwhelmed by his singles efforts. Here he is taking on the perennial ace of DDT as well as his former DISASTER BOX teammate, HARASHIMA. HARASHIMA tried to ground Yoshimura early on, but Naomi's superior strength meant he couldn't string together much offense. HARASHIMA is one of the pettiest psycopaths I've ever seen in wrestling, smirking as he stomps on and dissects Yoshimura's ribs. His offense was mean and laser-focused. To offset that, Yoshimura targeted the back with body slams and suplexes. Yoshimura countered a springboard attempt from HARASHIMA and sent him flying into the guardrails. Yoshimura took control with a stalling superplex. Yoshimura matched HARASHIMA's meanness, stomping on his back and delivering crunchy forearms when a hockey fight broke out. One thing I love about HARASHIMA is his selling. He fundamentally understands when to show pain and executes those moments expertly. The match gradually built to bigger and bigger bombs being thrown, with HARASHIMA busting out a running Somato and Yoshimura nailing him with a lariat. HARASHIMA's kicks reverberated throughout Korakuen Hall, but Yoshimura absorbed them and delivered thunderous chops. Matches can live or die by wrestlers fighting through the pain, but HARASHIMA and Yoshimura made it believable by not lingering on those sequences for too long. HARASHIMA went for a springboard, but Yoshimura caught him with a Harai Goshi in mid-air that looked awesome. Yoshimura landed the Osaka Pride shortly thereafter to pick up the win. A very good, slow-building match that displayed the growth of Yoshimura.
  8. This match made me realize how much we missed out on by not getting an Akiyama run in the various shoot-style promotions. Imagine him mixing it up with Yoshiaki Fujiwara in PWFG, or Kiyoshi Tamura in U-STYLE. Sakaguchi made good use of his MMA background, laying it on thick with his strikes. That led to a moment early on where he downed Akiyama with a kick and subsequently followed up with an apron Penalty Kick. Akiyama was no slouch on the mat as he went hold-for-hold with Sakaguchi. They began lighting each other up with knee strikes, frantically trying to put one another away. I especially liked how Akiyama transitioned directly from a modified sleeper into a pinfall attempt to capitalize on Sakaguchi’s exhaustion. That Akiyama and Sakaguchi were able to create a series of convincing nearfalls off of limited offense made the match all the more impressive. Sakaguchi survived an exploder suplex, but Akiyama rocked him with a few flush knee strikes and hit the wrist-clutch exploder for the win. This was exquisite and made the most of its time. Despite the match clocking in at 11 minutes, I didn’t feel cheated. Sometimes, less is more. We could all do more to better appreciate morsels like this where we can get them.
  9. Pretty standard DDT workrate tag. These kinds of matches typically have a high floor, but where they lose me is when the tags don't matter. It's not even that it comes down to referee's discretion. Rather, the illegal men in the match would frequently be allowed to make pin attempts after a flurry of offense where everyone entered the ring. Without rules in place, the match is functionally no different than a scramble. Personally, I find it much more impressive when wrestlers can work within the confines of limitations instead of cramming everything they can into 14 minutes. Anyway, this was fine. **3/4
  10. I've got a pretty big gap in coverage for end of the year unfortunately. So I'm quoting the prowrestling.fandom Kento Miyahara entry to fill in some gaps for me & you: "In August 2013, it was announced that Miyahara would be taking part in AJPW's 2013 Ōdō Tournament the following month. On September 9, Miyahara announced he was officially breaking off his affiliation with Diamond Ring and becoming a freelancer. On September 14, Miyahara was eliminated from the Ōdō Tournament in his first round match by Suwama. In AJPW, Miyahara formed a new partnership with Go Shiozaki due to the similarities between the two in both size and age." Ok so this is where I pick up with the 10/27/13 show. Hikaru Sato & Masao Inoue vs. Kazushi Miyamoto & Nobutaka Araya - skip Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura vs. Dory Funk Jr & Terry Funk - fast forward to see how bad it was. This picture shows what I'm talking about...no disrespect. Those tee shirts are sweet though! ----- James Raideen & Joe Doering vs. Bambikiller & D-Lo Brown - This was fun. D-lo vs Doering could have been a singles match. Atsushi Aoki & Kotaro Suzuki vs. Keisuke Ishii & Shigehiro Irie - Nice lead in video showing both teams training and developing new tag moves. The DDT team does a 2 man Go To Sleep but uses one guy's head instead of a knee. Then Burning uses a combination move that culminates in a back heel & running elbow strike that compresses the opponents head - very MCMG style. Anyhow this was a great match that is scratching at the door of a near classic. Like ****+ rating. Just fast action packed wrestling. Aoki & Suzuki are the tag team of the first half of 2022. Like MCMG or The Briscoes they are just putting on excellent matches regardless of familiarity. ----- Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. SUSHI - jip A good junior title match with SUSHI getting elevated by earning a shot at a previous show. He takes Kanemaru to the limit but I thought it could have been better. Not sure why...maybe I was groggy or something. I don't feel that Kanemaru did a lot extra here. It felt performed by rote. Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori vs. Go Shiozaki & Kento Miyahara - jip I really wish this wasn't joined in progress to the point where the guys have wrestled enough to be visibly sweaty. Nothing I can do about it. That being said what it shown is fantastic, fantastic stuff. This is the precursor to Shiozaki breaking away from Akiyama's Burning stable. Miyahara is a very welcome addition. He's like KAI was - a junior who's transitioned into a heavyweight...like Eddie Guerrero. As a jip match, I'll say near classic but perhaps if shown in full, it'd be a classic tag. What sucks is some post match angle stuff happens including D-lo Brown & Kenso which is pretty fun BUT I think that's why they clipped off the first few minutes of the bout. * Edit: see comments below* ----- Suwama vs. Akebono - This is for the Triple Crown and before I watch it I bet Akebono wins. Let's see if this is any good. Well I was right...sorry for the spoiler! But it was a pretty good match. Suwama knew he needed to level the playing field and talked before the match about using the sleeper hold. And boy did he use it to good effect. Akebono truly looked like the monster he his. This is probably the best and most physical 'bono match I've seen. He looks in great (?) shape and scary when attacking. The smirks on his face when he knew that Suwama couldn't stop him were pretty great. So yeah a pretty good match and I'm kinda glad Suwama lost the belts so he can go on to do more interesting stuff in the promotion. ----- Okay let's see what happens for the close of 2013: "On November 14, Voodoo Murders held a press conference to announce that Miyahara was also leaving the stable to fully concentrate on working for AJPW. On November 21, Miyahara and Shiozaki came together with Atsushi Aoki and Kotaro Suzuki to form the new Xceed stable. The following month, Miyahara and Shiozaki made it to the finals of the 2013 World's Strongest Tag Determination League, but were defeated there by Evolution (Suwama & Doering)." Sucks that I wasn't able to find this Tag League match. I think that along with a few other tag league matches would have been a good end to this project. But 2014 should be pretty cool. I have to look at my notes but it should be a shorter project than 2013. I lost steam a couple times but all in all it was a rewarding experience. Just look at my Best Match Watched contenders list for the proof. You can can add the two tag matches from this show to that list. Thanks for reading!
  11. There’s a certain broad appeal to this match that I think just about anyone can enjoy. Everyone lays in their offense and brings a controlled energy to the bout. Sato takes a shellacking from the most proficient striker in the match, Sakaguchi. Sato and Sakaguchi trades kicks, but Sakaguchi always gets the better of his adversary. It builds to a crescendo where HARASHIMA and Higuchi come in, and when they do, boy does the pace ever pick up. Both competitors batter each other, going back-and-forth with chops and kicks. Higuchi’s selling as the unwavering yet beatable giant is phenomenal. He registers the damage of the strikes but stays one step ahead of HARASHIMA. There was one counter where HARASHIMA went for a Somato, and Higuchi chucked him into the mat that nearly had me jumping out of my seat. Higuchi eventually clamped on the Brain Claw and kept HARASHIMA down for three as he frantically struggled to escape. I love that even the finish played into Higuchi outsmarting HARASHIMA at every turn. I loved all of this, really.
  12. DDT does these big, all-star tags better than pretty much anyone. Our, ahem, HERO! goes for a handshake at the beginning, but gets blown off. Takeshita and Sakaguchi begin in a battle of power vs. technique. That's not a match we've seen much of, to my knowledge, so it's nice to get a glimpse of it here, however brief it may be. HARASHIMA & Akiyama continue where they left off at CyberFight Festival, having a gripping mat exchange. Every time HARASHIMA goes for a tag, Honda hops off the apron until Antonio's former Happy Motel stablemate, Endo, comes in. They trade punches, and Honda collapses in one fell swoop, but he baits Endo in for a strike. Endo kicks out his leg of Honda, causing the enemy team to mock him as he tries to enter the ring. This section is so joyous that even the usually straight-laced Sakaguchi can't help but crack up on the apron. Honda is oddly endearing as the face in peril, constantly hurting his bad wheel in increasingly hilarious ways, including one where he goes for a dropdown and gets tripped by Endo. Wholesale tags to HARASHIMA and Akiyama follow. HARASHIMA gets the better of an exchange, and we go into a showdown between one of the most reliable pairings in DDT, HARASHIMA, and Sakaguchi. The two batter each other with kicks, each glancing blow having more impact than the last. Things eventually boil down to Endo & another of his former Happy Motel teammates and storied rivals, Takeshita. Despite being the least interesting section of the match, having neither the charm of Honda's isolation nor the intensity that HARASHIMA, Sakaguchi, and Akiyama bring to the table, it's still more explosive than Takeshita and Endo's recent singles efforts. Honda comes in swinging, jumping over Endo to try and knock Sakaguchi and Akiyama off the apron, but Endo trips him up. Honda then grabs the microphone and does his usual comedy routine. The Burning and Sakaguchi trio's energy is infectious, as they can't stop laughing at Honda's antics. Except for Akiyama, who takes an errant swing at Honda. Honda goes for a dive off the top rope, but Endo gets his feet up, only for Honda to reverse his pinfall attempt in a great nearfall. Takeshita and Sakaguchi wipe each other out with dueling Jumping Knees, and once again, it comes down to Honda and Endo. Endo fells his old mentor with a Torture Rack Bomb and a Burning Star Press for the win. A fitting celebration of DDT's 25th anniversary, displaying its past in Happy Motel and its present in Burning. While it's unlikely to be remembered as one of the best matches of the year, it's perhaps one of the most enjoyable.
  13. DDT Universal Title Match: Yuki Ueno (c) vs. Yukio Sakaguchi The student defeats the master with his own specialty - submissions. Sakaguchi put Ueno through the ringer with his offence. Relentless strikes and submission attempts with Ueno hanging on by a thread at several points in the match. Ueno said in a press conference that his win wasn't necessarily because he was more skilled than Sakaguchi and the match showed that. He was out skilled but Ueno showed great heart and conviction in everything he did. And that's how he scored the victory. This was a pretty great title defence for Ueno. Yukio Sakaguchi was so good at the ripe age of 47. ***3/4.
  14. KO-D Tag Team Title Match: Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi & Yukio Sakaguchi) (c) vs DDT Sauna Club (Konosuke Takeshita & MAO) - DDT Effort, Friendship And Victory In Nagoya 2021 - 23/02/2021 I thought this was excellent. The rating on cagematch raised a few eyebrows, but I'm in no way disappointed with the outcome. Whether it was Higuchi pairing off with MAO or Eruption’s incredible teamwork, this was purely quality. MAO sold for Higuchi’s back based attacks really well, bumping around while using his charisma to shine as an underdog. Sakaguchi was the right partner to compliment Higuchi’s work too. Even outside of the wrestling itself, Sakaguchi made Higuchi step on the gas even more with a few words and a slap. And that he did - just when the match seemed to be peaking, Takeshita and Higuchi match up and ramp up the intensity ever so more with an outstanding, bombastic closing stretch that saw Higuchi pick up the win after plenty of hard suplexes and throws. ****1/4
  15. Another neat HARASHIMA title match. I really like the way he uses matwork to establish the pace of his matches and the matwork itself is always interesting, I can't really think of a proper comparison for it. He demolishes Higuchi's leg here, kicking away at it and twisting it in all sorts of ways. Higuchi looked good as well, he did a solid job of selling the damage and had some great power spots which was enough for HARASHIMA to get them to a very strong match. HARASHIMA is probably the best ace in Japan right now. ***1/2
  16. Great great match, a true hidden hidden gem. Even knowing that Toba can be really great, MIKAMI being pretty good around this time and GENTARO very talented, this far exceeded expectations. Mostly because the psychology in the match was super, and everyone played their role to perfection. MIKAMI comes into this with a cast on his wrist, and he does a really great almost Misawa-ish wounded ace performance here. He really sold that shit to absolute perfection, being wary of it the entire match, being unable to follow up his own moves etc. Toba is great here throwing wild strikes, and then GENTARO & YOSHIYA swoop in with a fantastic Anderson Brothersesque performance isolating Toba. These guys were really zoning in on Tobas leg, and while the legwork wasn’t sold in a major way (the main story was Mikamis wrist) it was really good and Toba got ragdolled hard, he is so tiny that even something like a Shinbreaker can be made to look brutal. Thought Gentaro looked just amazing here, and Yoshiya was fun as a Taue-ish big dude booting peoples heads off and acting like a dick. Toba punching Yoshiyas lights out was really fun, and then we get to the awesome finish. Really tremendous stuff, it’s insane how things like this fell under the rug when this kind of smart+brutal pro wrestling is a direction Japanese wrestling should’ve kept going in.
  17. Wonderful matchup, the kind that exemplifies the charm of 90s indy sleaze. Everyone here is a unique character with their own style, and they mesh really well. Rider was in his goofy Seikendo suit and working a mix between highflyer and submission wrestler while almost knocking himself out on dives, Funakoshi a mysterious MUGAesque technician, Exciting Yoshida a goofy IWE tribute heel, and of course our boxing gloved hero Toba. Toba really is the MVP in this match potatoeing everybody and always getting the best out of everyone, when you are facing Toba you are guaranteed to get punched in the face, so everyone fires back with unusual piss and vinegar. I especially loved Nishino crushing him with sick running headbutts. Phantom Funakoshi always looks like a real worker in these matches, working fun MUGA vs. Seikendo exchanges against Super Rider and channeling Fujiwara when he was facing Toba, I’d love to see more of him. Exciting Yoshida was a bit weird, he kept trying to no-sell Toba and getting punched and spin kicked in the face, and also did a bunch of banana peel heel spots, then again he also worked a sick headbutt exchange at one point so I can’t hate the guy. There’s also more shootstyle floor brawling involving Toba and a crafty finish between Super Rider and Funakoshi. Neo Winger blew, but wasn’t in the match much. Really everything you can ask for from a match up full of random indy dudes from forgotten sleaze feds (how often do you get Nihei Gumi, Seikendo, DDT and SPWF representatives in one match?).
  18. Fun mini epic which was pretty much built around showcasing Phantom Funakoshi. Phantom is an SGP guy who wrestles kind of like a junior version of Osamu Nishimura. He throws a great dropkick and always forces guys to do some matwork and I really dug him here, grounding MIKAMI with judo sweeps and attacking his arm and shoulder. MIKAMI was kind of the ace of DDT at this point - squashing other low ranked guys within minutes - so I thought the match had an intelligent layout initially allowing Funakoshi to dominate with his technical skill and then forcing Mikami to take an unexpectedly big bump before he could get the advantage using his athleticism. Mikamis brief bursts of offense are impressive but you will want Funakoshi to score the upset here.
  19. Minoru Tanaka vs. Shunma Katsumata A brilliant match built around Minoru Tanaka attacking the leg of Shunma and working it over the whole match. Tanaka was superb I thought. His initial assault on the leg and the following kicks to the knee joint were great. There were tons of extra snap in his dropkicks and his submissions were pretty snug. Shunma proved his versatility once again by working really well on defence. His Brock Lock submissions were great hope spots and allowed Shunma time to make a comeback. I loved the selling of the leg as well. Shunma is very audible in his screams and the intimate atmosphere increases it tenfold. The finish to the match was an excellent way to end the match. Not only was the drama in the figure four milked for all its worth but Tanaka following it up with heavy kicks to the left knee and then transitioning into the rolling knee bar was so ruthless. Tanaka is a Fujiwara student at heart, and it showed. Credit to Shunma for an excellent performance from beneath. ***3/4
  20. Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi, Saki Akai & Yukio Sakaguchi) vs. THE HALFEE (Katsuzaki Shunosuke, Moehiko Harumisawa & Washi Sakurai) - DDT Ganbare Pro Hermit Purple 2020 21/03/2020 This looked really good on paper. Eruption have been super solid since their formation in January of 2020. And their opponents mirror them in terms of styles, individually anyway. Sakaguchi and Shunosuke/Shuichiro Katsumura have the MMA influence, Harumisawa/Moeka Haruhi are the slender women of their team and Sakurai/Shuhei Washida are the burly big men of the respective groups. Something they were eager to explore in the opening exchanges. The GanPro team THE HALFEE were on the defensive for most of the match with Eruption asserting their dominance with some systematic tag work. The crowd rallied behind the regulars who responded with quick stretches of offence and some of that underdog flair. They utilized the styles match ups really nicely, as well as blending the pairings together. Sakurai, who was the young guy of the team, impressed me a ton. He and Higuchi were probably the best together out of the lot. His selling was really good, and while his offence was naturally basic, being only two years in, he used it really well. The match went at a super fast pace, making the whole match feel exciting and thrilling to watch. Great use of time and wrestlers involved. ***3/4
  21. Hardcore Tag Team Match: Ryuji Ito & Shuji Ishikawa vs. HARASHIMA & Togi Makabe Holy shit. HARASHIMA blonde. I don’t like it. He looks like a scummy dude from Freedoms. I guess that makes sense in the match though. The match is a pretty action packed brawl. They waste no time using the chairs and assorted weapons around the ring. HARASHIMA gets bloody fast and the deathmatch duo takes advantage - I know I said I don’t like the hair but a bloody face plus the hair is always a great look. Ito smashing a chair into the forehead was a total dick move, and he doesn’t redeem himself with those chair shots to the back either. Makabe puts in a shift as well. He is known for not always being up to his best but he knows he is in Budokan and he wrestles like it. He lays in the forearms when against Ishikawa, who replies with headbutts. HARASHIMA was a superb underdog, taking the brunt of the offence then working for the comeback. His selling of the weapon shots was great. He levels Ito and Ishikawa with weapon shots of his own. His offence was full of aggression and poise. Damn, he was good in this match. This was such a good match. ***3/4
  22. Another wonderful slice of DDT pro wrestling with touches of BattlARTSian greatness. This wasn't quasi-shootstyle like the tag from the night before, altough it's still quite the stiff-fest. No idea what went into Takagi here, because he has an unusually mean edge and decides to work a rough no nonsense style, even approximating a poor mans Otsuka in his sections against Toba. Speaking of Toba, I think he is a guy mostly everyone with a little japan wrestling knowledge knows as the fun boxing guy from DDT, but is it crazy to say he might actually be an underappreciated indy great? All the involving him where once again manly as fuck and he mixed in some cool unique spots aswell as taking punishment and setting himself up as a foil to make Sasaki & Takagi look badass. Loved his crazy flying apron kick. Mikami was the weak link but still pretty good. He threw some poor punches which especially stick out in a match with Toba in it, but he also had some insane bumps and dives and hit some 2000 sleaze indy level brutal looking high spots, such as a rib crunching twisting senton. All the reckless looking headdrops – which basically saw Takagi muscling Mikami up and driving him headfirst into the mat were pretty nasty too. Sasaki once again handles himself in this kind of stiff main event. Brilliant finish. Crazy to see the DDT crew at one point did a stiff heavyweight potatoefest as good as anyone else.
  23. Kings Road/WWE main event parody match better than a lot of serious attempts at such things. Neat opening exchange, and you realize these guys are good at filling time and getting their match over, Dino actually is better at things like working a sleeper hold or emoting during a strike exchange than most wrestlers, even aside from all the effective butt comedy. HARASHIMA really laces him up with kicks in a way not many comedy workers would be content taking them, and there is really amusing "distraction" spot that works better than most outside distraction spots because it's self aware. Funny to think that this main event drew more people to Korakuen Hall than NOAH does these days and was probably better than any NOAH main event in like half a dozen years too.
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