The King of DDT tournament came to an end in Tokyo as the semi finalists battled for the right to see who would go on to the final and, beyond, who would pick up the victory and head to Ryogoku for the Peter Pan show against whoever would be the champion at the time. Harashima has been struggling to find his way back to the top, spending only a short time there after defeating Isami Kodaka at Judgment Day before Daisuke Sasaki ended his reign at Max Bump. Shigehiro Irie has a lot to prove to himself after he and fellow Team Dream Futures members Soma Takao and Keisuke Ishii called an end to their group and decided to go their separate ways. He hasn’t been able to find the success he wants yet, but he’s advanced this far in the King of DDT tournament with the hopes of winning it all. Tetsuya Endo finds himself soldiering on in this tournament while his tag team partner and best friend, Konosuke Takeshita, has already found success as the KO-D Openweight champion. Endo has already lost to Takeshita before and seems more than determined to get to him again so he can prove himself. And last but certainly not least, Shuji Ishikawa, the pet monster of Daisuke Sasaki, looks to prove his master proud as he takes the whole tournament and sets himself up to challenge Takeshita, who ended Sasaki’s reign as champion.

T2Hide (Sanshiro Takagi, Toru Owashi & Kazuki Hirata) def. NωA (Makoto Oishi, Shunma Katsumata & MAO)

New Wrestling Aidoru is an ingenious concept. Some people might not like idol groups to mix in with their wrestling but for a promotion like DDT, this group works perfectly. They open the show with a performance of their new single and despite the fact this seemed like a thrown-together group at the time, they work surprisingly well together, they’re well-coordinated, and they even have lovely singing voices. It’s also something nice and different to open the show rather than just jumping directly into a match, and there can be no doubt from the way the crowd reacts that they absolutely love them. Sanshiro Takagi is an excellent businessman, and this is proof.

Despite being a tag match that on paper looks completely like a comedy debacle, there was some pretty solid wrestling going on in the first half of the match. Of course there was comedy, as Kazuki Hirata’s dramatics and theatrics are perfect for making people laugh, and his furious ranting at the beginning of the match was fantastic. But it was also a reminder that Hirata, Oishi, and Mao are all excellent wrestlers. Comedy came when Oishi, alone in the ring, waved for their music to play so he could dance and pantomime singing. This infuriated Hirata and a dance battle commenced between T2Hide and NωA. Though it appeared the idol group was winning, Owashi managed to sneak the La Magistral cradle for the win. Fun opener with lots of laughs.

King of DDT Semifinal
Shuji Ishikawa def. Shigehiro Irie

These two haven’t had a singles match with each other since Ishikawa defeated Irie in 2012. Their only singles match prior to that saw Ishikawa coming out victorious as well, so Irie did have some odds stacked against him going into this match. He walked into this match hoping to win so he could go to the finals, desperate to prove that he could do this on his own as he’s had noted trouble as a singles competitor in that Harashima has continuously defeated him. Without his team at his back, he doesn’t have anyone else to rely on for encouragement or strength. In contrast, Ishikawa has Sasaki and Polly at his back and despite the odd assortment of their group, they’ve grown incredibly strong and dominant together. He’s also arguably had the best year in Japan as he’s turned in amazing matches and won BJW’s Strong Climb tournament and won the KO-D tag titles with Sasaki. He’s also looking to get to Takeshita so he can avenge Sasaki’s loss, and he’s proven to be a very formidable competitor where Sasaki’s honor is concerned. So while Irie struggles to find success, Ishikawa is finding it continuously; the odds would be very high on him to win this match.

This match was incredible. It’s very easy to look at Irie with his bright green hair and his cheerful smile and his sweet disposition and forget that he’s actually quite capable of battering the hell out of someone. He’s a lot like the new Pokemon Bewear, who is cute and cuddly but can crush you with a single hug. In DDT, he’s one of the biggest on the roster, after all. But Ishikawa is that much bigger and that much stronger. They battered each other with elbows and Ishikawa’s trademark knees, traded backdrops, and clotheslined the hell out of each other. Ishikawa spent most of the match on top, dropping Irie down gut-first onto the metal railing on the outside and then again on the top rope. He busted out suplexes and seemed to find a way to turn the match back in his favor every time Irie managed to get the upper hand. While Irie struggled to find a way past his defenses, Ishikawa seemed to be one step ahead of him and his ability to summon the strength to throw strikes and power moves out of seemingly nowhere allowed him to keep control of the majority of the match. Irie looked formidable, unwilling to back down from someone who presented such a unique challenge to him, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. A running knee secured the victory for Ishikawa, which means he moves on to the finals.

King of DDT Semifinal
Tetsuya Endo def. Harashima

Tetsuya Endo is one of the younger men in DDT that most people have already scouted out for stardom. He’s got a flawless set of aerial skills and an immeasurable wealth of talent to draw from. He’s also incredibly strong as he proved when he managed to get Shuji Ishikawa, nearly twice his size, up for a crucifix powerbomb. He has the look to be sure and more than enough talent to get him there. What holds him back is that he can’t seem to break through to the level that his teammate, Konosuke Takeshita, has. In fact, Takeshita has already beaten him three times. Now that they’ve moved on from trying to capture the tag titles back, Endo has a chance to shine if he can only use it to the best of his ability. In contrast, Harashima is the ace of DDT. He is the glass ceiling that everyone looks to break when they start their climb toward the title. In fact, he had the title earlier this year and had two successful defenses before Daisuke Sasaki abruptly cashed in a title chance after Harashima already had a defense and netted himself the title. Since then, Harashima has been struggling to get back to the top of DDT where he rightfully belongs. A victory here would put him one step closer to that goal, but only if he can use his experience to take down the young and determined Endo.

This was not what I expected from this match. When I wrote the preview for this show, I even projected a final where Endo-Ishikawa would battle it out but I definitely did not predict THIS match to happen. Endo charged Harashima before the bell rang, showing shades not only of his determination but of the edge his character has taken following all of the disappointing losses he’s had and how his desire to reach the top is even warping him a little bit. He had control for a bit and then Harashima kicked him in the gut when he was coming off of the top rope to punish him for trying to start this match early in the first place. Harashima always works best when he works from the top because he’s an accomplished wrestler, a great veteran, and he can make everyone look good in a match. Watching him batter Endo with stiff kicks and stretch him for a good minute or two was great, especially because it really made Endo look desperate. Harashima hit a Frankensteiner and then Endo turned his fortunes around, using a hurricanrana to roll Harashima up. He almost had him, and then Harashima almost had him, and then Endo turned out to have just enough strength and just the right angle to keep Harashima down for three.

Keisuke Ishii & Kouki Iwasaki def. Daisuke Sasaki & Mad Polly, Gota Ihashi & Kensoand Mizuki Watase & Soma Takao

This looks to be about the average multi-tag team matches that DDT is pretty great at pulling off. Seeing Sasaki and Polly working together should be a treat since the chemistry in their group has been generally great despite the vast differences in who they are as performers, and Sasaki has made a rather great villain since he brought Ishikawa in to DDT in the first place, bouncing back after losing two different tag team partners to injury. Gota Ihashi and Kenso should be a fun team, as Kenso is just a grumpy weird dad and Gota’s gimmick of being a close of Kota Ibushi has yielded some absolutely hilarious results. The other two teams are interesting, though, as Soma Takao and Keisuke Ishii yet again find themselves on opposite sides after Team Dream Futures disbanded. They’ve had some heat, especially after encountering each other in the first round of King of DDT, so their interactions here are going to be noteworthy. They’re each paired with a promising young man from down in DNA who should complement their styles rather well, but the real story is how the problems they’ve had with each other are going to come through in this match.

This is pretty much as you would expect the random multi-tag team matches to be in DDT. The hottest, fast-paced action occurred between the two young boys and the former partners in Takao and Ishii as the four of them absolutely shined. Especially Iwasaki, whose beautiful kicks echoed throughout the room every time his boot connected with some poor guy’s chest. Ishii and Takao cannot be praised enough for their skills in wrestling, and though Shigehiro Irie is the member of their former team that is the most talked about, anyone would be a fool for not giving each of them a chance. Both of them can fly and have a diverse set of strikes that they showed off here. The Damnation team was fun, as is any team where Daisuke Sasaki can be the quick small guy paired with a larger, more powerful partner, and Polly is just that, as he was able to shake off a skull kick from Takao without a problem. Kenso and Gota were a fun team, as Gota was there to be his lovable goofy self and Kenso was there to slap the shit out of everyone in the room and to bask in the fact he can make the crowd clap for him at any moment. The best part was at the end of the match, where Ishii and Takao paused to study each other after a double team maneuver only to remember they are no longer partners, and they immediately went on the attack. The match ended when Iwasaki pinned Watase and earned his Right to Challenge contract in the process.

Shuten-doji def. Danshoku Dino, Kazusada Higuchi & Tomomitsu Matsunaga

It’s been a rough year for poor Shuten-doji. Yukio Sakaguchi lost the KO-D title to Isami Kodaka at the end of last year and failed to capture the title from Daisuke Sasaki when he cashed in his Right to Challenge contract back in May. Masa Takanashi failed to capture the title when he faced Kodaka for it in January. Both of them were knocked out of the King of DDT tournament in the first round and failed in a tag title challenge. Shuten-doji as a trio have failed in challenging for the Six-man titles. And, on top of all of that, they’ve been without Kudo all year long. Kota Umeda had his own personal troubles when the Kumamoto earthquake happened, as he’s from Kumamoto, and had to take time off of wrestling to help his family. On the other side of the fence we have Higuchi, one of the brightest stars from DNA whose power wrestling and sumo-inspired movements have caught lights of eyes; Matsunaga, who’s a fun comedy character and a solid all-around wrestler, and the infamous Danshoku Dino. Dino doesn’t read like a serious opponent to most people, but he’s been able to take Kota Ibushi to the limit before. He can’t be underestimated.

This match was so fun. It’s the perfect way to describe DDT to people because there are not that many other promotions that would pop so hard for a kiss spot. The first half of this match was basically the Passion of Kota Umeda as he was punished by Dino’s team. He was manhandled by Higuchi, found himself with Dino’s ass in his face, had soda spit on him, and was chopped by all three members of the team before they all kissed him, except for Higuchi, who kissed him TWICE to the delight of the audience. The second half of the match was just flawless evidence as to why Shuten-doji is as great as it is, the three members of the team moving smoothly and easily completing their team maneuvers. These three men might not even be three separate men but might just be one soul spread among multiple bodies for how well they gel together in the ring. Masa Takanashi in particular has an amazing way to connect with the crowd, especially when overselling his opponent’s offense, and was able to use his smaller size and superior speed to cause Higuchi and Matsunaga to collide multiple times. It’s in a match like this where the fact Sakaguchi is all limbs really shines through as he was throwing devastating kicks, finally winning the match for his team with a brutal running corner knee to Matsunaga.

There was a little interview here with Reika Saiki, an alumni of Tokyo Joshi Pro, which is an off-short promotion of DDT’s that specializes in, you guessed it, Joshi wrestlers. She’s called the Muscle Idol, because she’s muscular obviously, and she looked like she was having a ball in the ring. Basically, she was here to introduce herself and talk about debuting at Peter Pan. As far as I’m concerned, this is great. DDT’s intergender matches have been pretty fun and new faces around the place are always a sign of good things to come.

Happy Motel def. Yasu Urano & Yuko Miyamoto

Antonio Honda is one of the most fun characters in DDT, a man who wears rose-patterned singlets and, along with partner Trans Am Hiroshi, can sing rather well. He’s fantastic for comedy and his dance moves always get a pop from the crowd. Yasu Urano is forty years old, doesn’t look it, doesn’t move like it, and serves as one of the prime trainers for the DNA boys meaning that some of their talent and success can no doubt be accredited to him. He’s often not talked about as much as his Smile Squash partners Harashima and Akito, but he’s fantastic. Yuko Miyamoto is one half of one of the most decorated and beloved tag teams within the smaller Japanese promotions in Yankee Nichokenju alongside former KO-D champion Isami Kodaka, and he finds himself with an interesting opportunity. As he pinned Dino when he and Kodaka defended their AJPW tag titles against Dino and Makoto Oishi, he now has a Right to Challenge contract and a pre-set date for his title match, but if he takes a pin between now and that match, he loses the title match completely. It’s only fitting, then, that he stands across the ring from Konosuke Takeshita, the bright new young star of DDT and the current KO-D champion. He’s been impressive as champion so far, and here he has an opportunity to take his challenger out of the title picture before he’s even really gotten there.

Kudo is now on commentary. Truly, we are blessed.

It’s matches like this one where Happy Motel feels more and more like a pair of goofy dads and their strong, athletic children. Honda and Takeshita are such a mixture of aesthetic and styles but it works for this team so well. When Honda is in the ring, there’s a comedic art to everything he does, whether it’s casually poking his opponents in the eyes or tripping as he tries to jump over Yasu Urano. But when Takeshita is in the ring, it’s all wrestling. Living up to that Yankee banner, Yuko hit Takeshita in the arm twice with a steel chair behind the back of a distracted referee, leading to a tortuous segment for Takeshita as Urano and Yuko spent time stretching and beating his arm in different and creative ways. A great spot showed Yuko modifying a running bulldog so that instead of slamming Takeshita face-first into the mat, he slammed him down arm-first. All of the interactions between Yuko and Takeshita promise a great title match from them. Yuko also lost his rib tape at one point, which is slightly worrying. Let’s hope that didn’t effect him negatively in any ways. Takeshita picked up the victory for his team after dispatching Yuko with a German suplex and then hitting his trademark bridging German on Urano. Fun match, Takeshita looked great, and his match with Yuko should be an interesting bout.

King of DDT Final
Shuji Ishikawa def. Tetsuya Endo

The beef between these two men goes back all the way to when Daisuke Sasaki first brought Shuji Ishikawa to DDT. Sasaki had to forfeit the tag team titles when Kota Ibushi was injured, and the Happy Motel team of Endo and Takeshita won them in a tournament. Right when Sasaki was poised to go after the titles again, his current partner Suguru Miyatake was also injured. So he brought in Ishikawa, who rapidly cleaned house and at Judgment Day helped him regain the titles that he never really lost in what was an emotional moment for Sasaki. Since then, Sasaki and Ishikawa have been a thorn in Happy Motel’s sides and while Takeshita has managed to get the upper hand on Sasaki by defeating him for the KO-D title, Endo hasn’t really gotten any revenge yet. And for Ishikawa, well, this just continues the great year in wrestling he’s been having. It’s nothing personal, this fight with Endo, because he’s just been following Sasaki’s orders like the loyal dog he has become, but he’s also a dangerous one, and he’s not afraid to bite.

This match was not going to be anything but amazing and both men came through. The distinct contrast in their styles is what makes them such excellent opponents. Ishikawa is a monster and always has been, his larger size making it harder for smaller opponents to batter him enough to take him down. Endo walked into this match an underdog who won his semifinal on the hope spot of a roll-up while Ishikawa won his match decisively, so the playing field for them was already uneven. And Ishikawa, as predicted, spent a lot of this match in the dominant role, able to ragdoll Endo, battering him from left to right and cutting his offense off as much as possible. He’s strong, so doing things like catching Endo coming off of the ropes is easy for him, or halting a hurricanrana attempt because he’s strong enough to resist Endo pulling him forward with his legs. But Endo absolutely did not back down, using his high-flying aerial skills and his kicks to take Ishikawa down. He was even able to reverse a suplex into a spike DDT just by using his body momentum, and though Ishikawa stopped a hurricanrana from the top turnbuckle, Endo powered through and performed it anyway. He countered a Splash Mountain attempt into a hurricanrana roll-up, the same way he won his match with Harashima. He kicked out of a running knee before the referee had time to hit the mat once. He even kicked out of Splash Mountain. But nothing was enough, and in the end, he found himself falling to Ishikawa’s Giant Slam.

What a show from DDT. The finals of the King of DDT tournament were nothing short of thrilling, as we were treated to three fantastic matches from four men who really are willing to give it their all when they step into the ring. Definitely watch all three matches and especially the final, and if you have time, treat yourself to a stellar performance of NωA’s new single.