Dramatic Dream Team (DDT)
DDT Special 2014
26th October 2014, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

Today DDT says goodbye to Kenny Omega.

Let’s jump straight in.

Makoto Oishi and Saki Akai vs. Yasu Urano and Cherry: A fun mixed-gender opener (where men wrestle with women just as kayfabe hard as with one another) though no great shakes in the wrestling qua wrestling department. I’m going to lean on my ‘I’m not always following this’ caveat early and say that I am sure that ordinarily Urano is as babyface as it gets but here, alongside Cherry, he gets booed (pantomime rather than heat) as he thwarts the much-loved Saki Akai on multiple occasions. Eventually Oishi took the win with a cool-looking Miracle Ecstasy on Cherry. **

Shuten Doji (Masa Takanashi and KUDO) vs. Team Dream Futures (Soma Takao and Keisuke Ishii): In the past I’ve learned to sort of cope with the early tag matches on DDT shows as a bunch of people I haven’t had the chance to get invested in run around and do crazy things that I have no conception of. Indeed I was ready to do exactly the same when it occurred to me that this match was actually looking pretty normal and good, so I started it again and watched it all with fresh eyes.

Similarly Takanashi has ghosted through my viewing but here he stood out like a shining beacon, bursting out inventive moves worthy of the old gasp and cheer. In the recent election to determine the challenger for the K-OD title in Saitama, Takao and Ishii outstripped their Shuten-Doji opponents, but that personal popularity isn’t reflected in the result as Takanashi hits the Takatonic on Takao, though I am at a loss to describe what that is. In the ballpark of a Canadian Destroyer? I am terrible at the ‘describing moves’ bit of reviewing. Cool match. ***1/4

Kazuki Hirata vs. Tetsuya Endo: Returning to the theme of the recent election: Endo, who is well positioned to inherit a position near the top of the card for as long as he wants, finished only 20th in the poll. Kazuki Hirata finished 11th. The difference between his pop and Endo’s is night and day. Endo, one half of the tag team champions, gets a warm reception and a handsome streamer toss. Hirata, one-third of the 6-man tag champs, has everyone singing along to his theme tune, clapping along to his pre-match dance and is showered in streamers, during which he attacks Endo.

Though dominant, Hirata spots that his T2Hide stable buddies Sanshiro Takagi and Toru Owashi have come to ringside to monitor his progress and mock openly. In a short, rapidly-contested match, Hirata attempts the same cradle that gained his team gold at the General Election event, only to find it reversed by Endo into a three count. T2Hide wander off to the back, laughing all the while. Too short to really rate, but I will anyway. Entertaining segment that sets up a defence of the 6-Man titles by Hirata’s stable against Endo’s Happy Motel. **3/4

Super Sasadango Machine vs. Yukio Sakaguchi: SSM is becoming a firm favourite fast and this match is a fine example why. On entering he walks to the commentary position where a computer is rigged up with a PowerPoint presentation hooked up on the screen. I shall now hand over to Dramatic DDT for the basic rundown of what happened.

Before Yukio Sakaguchi Vs Super Sasadango Machine could begin, Sasadango held a PowerPoint presentation titled “Measuring The Tendency Of Martial Artists In Pro Wrestling”. Sasadango worked out that he has no advantages over Sakaguchi other than height and weight. Sakaguchi’s strength is his striking ability and his weakness is his lack of experience as a pro wrestler. Sasadango needed more research so he then called the University of Europe to look up if a father’s weaknesses can be inherited by his children. He somehow worked out that Seiji Sakaguchi was the weakest amongst his siblings, therefore Yukio must be weak too. To mark this discovery, Sasadango developed a new pinning move called the Kids Clutch Lehmann Shock. Applying it once would remove 35% of the victim’s hit points, applying it twice would reduce 75% and applying it three times would take away 105%.

Needless to say the ridiculous SSM did not factor in ‘being able to hit it three times’ on the legit Sakaguchi. It was only a short match but a genuinely hilarious, even in a non-native language, bit comedy work: funny-funny rather than wrestling-funny. On the third attempt to hit his genius move, Sakaguchi simply reversed into an Armbreaker, leading SSM to place further calls to the “University of Europe”. LOL. ***1/2

FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE – Golden☆Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) vs. Konosuke Takeshita and Danshoku Dino: At some point in all of our lives we must move on from the things we love.

The best wrestling teaches us about relationships. Not just feuds; feuds are too narrow and don’t sum up the totality of what it is like in some relationships. You can boil some of these great relationships down to just two names and talk about what it is that makes them so compelling for days; Ric and Dusty, Kobashi and Misawa, Bret and Shawn, Hiroshi and Shinsuke, Brody and Stan, Savage and Elizabeth. Between these aforenamed is the crystallisation of a lot of human emotion and history, and there shouldn’t be any shame that something as lowly-valued as wrestling is a conduit to those kind of places.

Maybe the Kota and Kenny story isn’t quite as famous or worth as much in international DVD sales but I would submit that their interactions, however shoot or kayfabe, as one of those relationships that feels real, taking in rivalry, jealousy, homoeroticism, wholesome friendliness, protection, love, humour, darkness and hundreds more besides.

Foreign stars in Japan in many a ways are ten a penny, but Omega has ensured himself part of the firmament; learning to speak Japanese, improving his skills and embracing fully the weird and wacked-out style that sees, as a pre-match video shows, wrestling taking place in woods, in water and in shopping centres, or against children, ladders, sex dolls and pop stars.

But as Omega has aged, Omega has hurt. And as he has hurt, Omega has contemplated the limited time there is. Omega has changed. Watch this video for a perfect distillation of his mindset.

(In case you can’t see that, Omega talks about thinking about making more money and wanting to be taken more seriously)

Moving on to New Japan will not break up the Kota and Kenny relationship, though it will remove it from its innocent and playful context into a more openly business-like position. As big a fan of New Japan as I am and as innocent as it seems in the international context, here it is the capitalist taking advantage of the smaller company and its workers, though we continue in the belief that Omega’s move is the best for worker and audience.

In a sad sense on a personal level, in talking in terms of money and business and personal security, Kenny’s words represent the death of a certain kind of idealism and a two-footed dive into the realisation that pragmatism gets you into a warmer grave than maintaining great relationships does. Omega and I are the same age. Playtime ends. I can relate.

And so can everyone in the house. Omega leaves the house better than when he arrived. There is no bitterness or remorse, only joy. Kenny Omega’s send off is glorious and humane and warm. The streamers that greet his arrival, the frantic overbooking of the match to include several run-ins from people who beg him to stay, the cathartic Golden Shower to win the match, the post-match wishes of good luck from company owner Sanshiro Takagi; these are all great things.

The match is a wild spotty brawl; a lot of fun with a lot of ridiculousness from all corners. It’s not the greatest match Omega and Ibushi have had in DDT this year, but it is wildly appropriate. Watch the entire segment if you’re going to dip in. ****

DDT EXTREME TITLE MATCH – SUBMISSION MATCH – Akito (c) vs. Antonio Honda: The title with the ever-changing stipulation has had some weird ones down the line (Kiss Pin, Nobody Knows Rules, Lumberjack Death, Tonkachi Ladders and Chairs) so how does it work with a very straightforward and quintessentially Japanese ruleset? Quite well, actually, given that Akito is an accomplished submissions wrestler and that Honda is no slouch given a proper match.

Antonio Honda
After the emotional overload of the previous match its understandable that a potentially dry concept begins with a little quietness but the two have a genuinely entertaining tear-up, with Akito chasing Honda’s knee and Honda attempting to counter on the champion’s arms. It’s not quite Suzuki and Tanahashi, but it is gritty and compelling and the fans stoke the flames well.

Both look capable of the win but ultimately Akito defends, trapping Honda in a vicious-looking Sharpshooter, torquing his knees and back, attempting to bend his opponent into a circle. Akito has recently spoken of his desire to open up the championship to lower weight wrestlers as well, which is just as well considering the average size of the DDT roster. ***1/2

KO-D OPENWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP – HARASHIMA (c) vs. Isami Kodaka: In my previous write-up on Big Japan, which I have alluded to perhaps being unfair owing to my gigantic distaste of deathmatch style, I earmarked Isami Kodaka (as part of his tag team Yankee Two Kenju), stating that “aggravatingly, the members of YTK are clearly talented wrestlers in the traditional sense.”

Clearly the DDT audience, not exactly weaned on superviolence, agree. Kodaka was ranked #2 in the General Election, ahead of the company champion. Whilst #1 gets a championship tilt at a supershow down the line, Kodaka’s reward is this opportunity.

His skin is grizzled and pockmarked from lighttube shots and god knows what else. Kodaka is better known for his exploits in DDT sister promotion Union, which employs a slightly more sleazy and hard-hitting style, Kodaka and his samurai entrance is the perfect dark yang to HARASHIMA’s good-guy company ace babyface yin.

The match between the two is really good, stepping into the serious zone where strong-style and stiff strikes meets good mat wrestling and main event style. In a point that I don’t feel detracts from the match at all, Kodaka never seemed like he could win, rather it was a showcase of just how tough he is; hitting a double diving knee to the chest that looks legitimately painful before inviting stomps to the chest – finally eating HARASHIMA’s sprinting double knee (Somato) finisher once before capitulating to a second one a little later. Top main event. ****

A rock-paper-scissors tournament is held to decide the next title shot. I presume it was kayfabe. Soma Takao won, and will face HARASHIMA at the end of November.