It’s always an interesting event to see more experienced roster members from DDT on the DNA cards, or experienced roster members in general. Four of the six matches on DDT DNA 18 feature experienced wrestlers and veterans wrestlers in contrast to the younger DNA wrestlers so that’s bound to create some interesting match-ups down the card. It’s the balance of wrestling each other and wrestling the people older and more experienced than them that makes the DNA shows so beneficial to the DNA roster. They become familiar with each other after a while and can build strong matches with each other, as we definitely see from them all the time, but the experienced wrestlers give them a chance to show how far they’ve come in their learning and let them see how they measure up to the people already in the position they want to be in.

But we start off with rookie vs. rookie in the first match, so let’s get down to business.

Rekka def. Nobuhiro Shimatani

Shimatani is fantastic at being the plucky little underdog who won’t give up and keeps trying no matter how hard he gets beaten down. He’s also been wrestling guys with a distinct size advantage over him and he might actually be one of the smallest if not the smallest wrestler in DNA right now. That’s been an issue for him before, as size has intimidated him a little bit, so let’s see how he stacks up against Rekka who might be bigger but is also a member of DNA with him. Rekka just fits in beautifully with DNA. Match after match, he’s proven he has the personality to mesh well with the wrestlers in DDT as well as the fans, something that is vital to his success in DDT. Seeing him work with someone so much smaller than him should be interesting as well, as he’s had a size advantage before but I don’t think one so pronounced and obvious.

This match had a surprising beginning attached to it. Rekka is known for being one of the guys who talks to his opponents, who wants to shake hands and hug and make sure both of them are on good terms. But after a quick handshake, the two of them absolutely tore into each other. They both looked amazing. Rekka didn’t play up a size advantage as much as he played up being the stronger of the two, able to lift Shimatani up and slam him a bit. But most of the match was spent showcasing his incredible strikes, his vicious kicks and elbows and his deadly running corner clotheslines. He shines the most when he gets nasty because he knows how to make every strike count. And Shimatani finally found his confidence at the very beginning of the match. He didn’t hesitate to go after Rekka, there was no fear based on his larger size and the experience gap that has put him off before was nonexistent as they did battle. Shimatani is just phenomenal. He hit a beautiful splash from the top turnbuckle, a picture perfect standing moonsault, and a series of standing dropkicks that allowed him to briefly take over the match. This was so unlike either of them and somehow it was just perfect for both of them. Rekka picked up the win when he sunk in a double leg Boston crab.

Kikutaro def. Rainbow Kawamura

Remember what I said before about Rainbow benefiting by being in matches with fun, dramatic characters? Here we have another example of that kind of character here in DNA. Kikutaro needs no real introduction as anyone who follows any facet of Japanese wrestling probably knows who he is at this point. He’s wrestled all over Japan and all over the world, and he’s a veteran with a lot of wisdom and experience in professional wrestling. He’s also a really nice guy on top of that. So of course he’s going to mesh well with someone whose character seems ready made for the fun, over-the-top comedy matches that DDT tends to do so well. These two should be a great fit for each other, maybe even a surprisingly good fit because Rainbow’s match with Kenso was also surprisingly fun, and I was going into it with the expectation that it would be in the first place. Hopefully, Kikutaro provides another unique and fun challenge for Rainbow, too.

This match was just about as insane and full of comedic moments as you’d expect out of a match between these two competitors. Kikutaro and Rainbow did, in fact, make a great little pairing on this DNA card. They had some good wrestling spots including Kikutaro hitting a nice senton and Rainbow slipping out of a running facebuster with his adept speed. This match also returned one of my favorite aspects of the Rainbow character: the adorable posing during pin attempts and submissions, which fits the character just so well. Kikutaro was up to his usual antics, calling a time-out so he could see how audience members looked in Rainbow’s bright pink wig, crotching Rainbow on one of the ropes and then INSISTING he was just trying to hold the ropes open, and accidentally kicking the referee in the groin. He even held Rainbow in a headlock in preparation for a brainbuster as he gave what seems to be a goodbye promo, but his stalling resulted in Rainbow suplexing him instead. Kikutaro snuck in a roll-up for the victory. What a fun match!

Masahiro Takanashi def. Guanchulo

This is probably, arguably one of the most exciting matches on the card to me. Masahiro Takanashi is one of my favorite DDT wrestlers, probably in the top three, as his ability to look like a scrappy underdog in big match situations makes him so compelling, and then in DNA he looks like the tough veteran wrestler. He really is versatile and he’s a member of one of the most fun stables in DDT, Shuten-doji. Takanashi can be fun and playful, he can be tough and serious, and he can heel it up with the best of them, and his Taka Tonic always looks perfectly on point. Guanchulo is a great wrestler for him to challenge because as I’ve said before, Guanchulo is actually one of the more experienced wrestlers in DNA as he’s been wrestling for a solid decade. These two have enough experience between the both of them that this match should be pretty great.

This match shows shades of the Masa I like the most, the cocky and arrogant submission specialist who twists his opponent into knots with a confident smile on his face the entire time. The mat wrestling and submission exchanging at the beginning of the match had me hopeful that would be the Masa we get here as he’s very great at the role and that was one of the aspects that made his KO-D title challenge against Isami Kodaka so great. Guanchulo is great at selling submissions especially and he sold all of Masa’s like death. Especially the more innovative ones, and Masa executed pretty much everything he could think of. A particularly amusing spot saw him trapping Guanchulo’s feet between his arms and sides, grabbing his wrists, and just kind of swinging him back and forth at his leisure. Guanchulo did his best to come back with a series of roll-ups and a few hope spots, but Masa countered a roll-up attempt by walking up the turnbuckle to flip over Guanchulo’s back, kick him in the face, and set him up for the Taka Tonic for the victory. Great match, amazing chemistry. These two definitely delivered.

Daiki Shimomura & Kazusada Higuchi def. Kouki Iwasaki & Shunma Katsumata

This is an interesting match-up. Higuchi, Iwasaki, and Katsumata were the three DNA boys who won the six-man titles together and thus have each other well-scouted as far as being opponents goes. They’re also some of the DNA “veterans” for lack of a better term, three of the young men who have been with DNA since the beginning, all three of them starring on DNA 1 together. Shimomura returned from injury on the last show and had a fun match with Katsumata in which I said I would love to see them work together more often as their styles are mirrors of each other and that presents them both with a unique opportunity to get the best out of each other. In contrast, Higuchi is all about strength and Iwasaki is a strong striker. This makes for a good mesh of teams, I feel, since each team has a contrast that they can work with to produce innovate and stellar offense.

As predicted, Shimomura and Katsumata are on fire when they’re in the ring with each other. Katsumata still plays the bully with Shimomura and it somehow works so well despite the fact Katsumata is viewed as a babyface in any other match-up. Maybe it’s the fact Shimomura was gone for three months or maybe it’s just because Katsumata is that flexible as a wrestler, but it just works and hopefully this is a match-up where DNA has them meet up multiple times and builds a little feud out of it. Spots like Shunma distracting the referee so he could stand on a prone Shimomura in the corner and wave to the fans is too good to only have a little of. Iwasaki was at his striking best here, punishing Shimomura with stiff kicks and knocking Higuchi off of the apron when he tried to assist his partner. His kicks are coming along beautifully and he should make the single leg Boston crab a permanent part of his arsenal if he combines kicking and standing on his opponent’s head, as it meshes well with his kick-heavy style. Higuchi was fantastic, at one point holding Iwasaki’s entire body suspended in the air as he tried to escape an armbar. Knowing how powerful Higuchi is, Iwasaki and Katsumata tried to keep Shimomura isolated from him as much as possible, either by purposefully keeping Shimomura away from his corner or knocking Higuchi off of the apron. They also worked hard to double team him so that he could not gain the upper hand. As soon as Iwasaki was in the ring alone with him, Higuchi proved why he needs to be treated dangerously after reversing an armbar into a powerslam and pinning Iwasaki with the Doctor Bomb.

A special note: Higuchi won Iwasaki’s Right to Challenge contract by pinning him.

Kota Umeda def. Kenso

This match almost happened on the last show as a hot-headed and pissed off Kota Umeda called out Kenso after he and Higuchi won their match. After having been gone helping his family in Kumamoto, Umeda returned to Kenso trashing DNA and all it stood for, and then doing it again on the show after that. Finally, Umeda had enough and challenged Kenso to a match. Kenso was more than ready to tear apart the young rookie on the last show in one of his most ridiculous outfits thus far, but a level-headed Higuchi pleaded with them to wait until this show to have the match. For Umeda, this match means everything. He wants so desperately to defend DNA’s honor because DNA is his home, it’s where he started and it’s the proven progression of his success as a professional wrestler as he’s come so far in such a short time. Kenso has plowed through Kouki Iwasaki and Rainbow Kawamura so far, as well as Rekka at a Saitama Slam event, but Umeda is determined to beat him.

This match was… Unbelievable. DNA pulls this off from time to time, turning an angle into an amazing match between two competitors that you don’t expect to work as well as they do together. Umeda favors strikes so I kind of had an idea of what this match might look like going forward because Iwasaki does, too, and Kenso already had a match with him. I was not expecting this. Kenso was an entirely different person here, meaner and nastier than he’s been in his previous matches with the DNA boys. He took off his belt and choked Umeda with it after causing a ref bump until the poor boy was near collapse. He unfastened a turnbuckle pad and threw Umeda into it. He slapped him, he kicked him, and he punished him for daring to stand up to him and stand up for DNA. In answer, Umeda absolutely refused to back down. He went right in for Kenso, taking him down with stiff knees several times and pushing the referee away so he could continue to assault. He refused to back down when Kenso relentlessly attacked him, fought him in an attempt to overpower him, and even used the exposed turnbuckles to his own advantage after kicking Kenso’s prone body into them. Umeda doesn’t often find himself in the face role given his position in Shuten-doji, which tend to play heels in pairs or as a group, but here he found his way into the role and played it perfectly. Everyone rallied behind his suffering and encouraged him to work his hardest, and possibly the best spot of the match was his DNA friends cheering him through Kenso choking him, telling him to pull through. In the end, he was able to score the victory after ducking beneath a lariat and managing a backslide pin.

Kenso was furious after the match and had to be pulled off of Umeda by the other DNA boys, who valiantly stood up for their victorious friend. He blamed Sanshiro Takagi, of course. Meanwhile, Umeda challenged Higuchi in a one-on-one match to see who the strongest wrestler in DNA is. I wonder if this is prefacing one of them graduating the promotion, as we haven’t had a graduate since Ryota Nakatsu.

Happy Motel def. MAO & Mizuki Watase

Tetsuya Endo and Konosuke Takeshita are considered veterans compared to Mao and Watase, but as I said in the last review, Takeshita only has two years experience over most of the guys in DNA and at twenty-one years old, he’s younger than most of them, too. And because of this, he symbolizes what pretty much all of them hope to obtain one day. Only a lucky handful of DNA wrestlers have been able to capture titles in DDT so far, but Takeshita has been a long-time tag team champion beside his partner Endo and is now the KO-D champion looking to headline at Ryogoku. Endo himself is hardly a slouch. With an incredible aerial skillset, charisma to match, and a great look, he’s always been poised to break through to the next level as a singles wrestler. This, then, makes them an interesting challenge for Mao and Watase. While Mao and Watase both spend their own considerable amount of time on the main DDT shows, they haven’t reached the level that Endo and Takeshita have together, and it’ll be a challenge for them to overcome a tag team so seasoned and so in tune with one another.

This is exactly what I wanted from this match. Endo and Takeshita played the experienced veterans (such a strange word to use for Takeshita but I guess it counts?) who worked from the top for most of the match. They dominated. Takeshita is strong and technically sound and he showed that off here, and the little touches of mocking his opponents and bullying them around using his larger size worked to his advantage. Endo, as always, is fabulous and shows off his high-flying skills and the edge of the heel persona that’s been growing strong in him. They have good chemistry with Watase, who battles back with strikes, and Mao, who works pretty well with Endo considering he can flip and fly, too. The fluidity with which he matched Endo during their sequences was incredible considering he’s nineteen years old and has only been wrestling for a year. Yasu Urano and the other trainers working with these kids must have a magic way of getting through to them that they show this much rapid improvement in such a short amount of time. And Watase, who doesn’t normally work a face style as his alignment with LiLiCo leads him to being more of a mischievous heel, looked good in the role as he battled back against the stronger Takeshita, who punished him with a scoop slam onto an unpadded section of floor and gave him a vicious DDT to the apron. In the end, Mao took Endo to the outside so Watase could keep his advantage over Takeshita, something that quickly backfired and led to him eating Takeshita’s deadlift bridging German suplex to score the victory for Happy Motel.

Post-match, Takeshita admitted he was jealous of Mao for being an idol and Watase for dating LiLiCo, which is precious because they’re all right around the same age. Watase talked a bit about how he hasn’t won a singles match yet and how he wants to challenge Takeshita for the KO-D title one day, and how Mao has been wrestling for a year, too. It’s a cute little moment between guys who are likely very close and it’s a nice way to close out the show.

Go out of your way to watch Umeda vs. Kenso in particular. If you like submission work, check out Takanashi vs. Guanchulo and if you’re familiar with Rekka and Shimatani, give them a special watch too.