Hakata StarLanes has one of my favorite venue names in all of Japan and consequently, DDT put on a fun little show called Super StarLanes there. There are three title matches on this card. LiLiCo defends her DDT Extreme Title against Makoto Oishi, Daisuke Sasaki and Shuji Ishikawa find themselves across from the odd but amazing pairing of Ken Ohka and Kai, and Konosuke Takeshita faces his next title challenger in the form of decorated indie deathmatch veteran Yuko Miyamoto. There are also the RTC contracts still in play floating around, and as you know, if the holder gets pinned, they lose the contract to who pinned them regardless of match constellation or stipulation.

It’s strange to think that Takeshita faced Isami Kodaka for the KO-D title back when Isami was champion and now he defends that very title against Isami’s partner, Yuko. I love the little things like that. Let’s get right down to it, then.

Danshoku Dino, Shigehiro Irie & Yuto Aijima def. T2Hide

Dino and Irie are a fun pairing and I like this right off the bat, they’re both incredibly colorful and fun characters in their own way. Yuto Aijima I had to look up. He’s a big muscular dude who’s actually fifty years old and is a freelancer, and also he doesn’t wrestle that much anymore. He’s only had three matches in 2016 and this is the second one, so I hope he’s in good health and that he doesn’t strain himself too much here because some of the guys who wrestle lesser and lesser dates are doing so because of health reasons. On the other side we have the weird trio of T2Hide, which I love because they’re just three really different characters put together in a group, and somehow it works even though there’s no early way it should.

To my great surprise and pleasure, this became the Kazuki Hirata show. He’s an immensely fun character who connects expertly with the crowd. His entrance was the only one show, he got lights and his music and the crowd clapped and chanted for him. In the ring, he quickly took the spotlight, pausing Sanshiro Takagi while Takagi had Aijima up on his shoulders so he could tie Owashi’s arms and feet around the bottom rope. That rendered Owashi completely trapped, as no one can seem to escape Hirata’s expert human roping skills. He showed them off again later in the match as, after taking control with his deadly neck chops, he tied Irie to the top rope as well. He and Dino had a fun face-off that involved them warring for control of the match with dancing and kissing respectively, but in the end Dino’s lips were just too powerful and Hirata fell to the Danshoku Driver. Amazingly fun little match, and the crowd adored it.

DDT Extreme Title Stockholm Style Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Death Match
LiLiCo (c) def. Makoto Oishi

LiLiCo has one of the best storylines going on in DDT right now and I honestly don’t believe any other promotion could have pulled off this as well as DDT has. She’s been a semi-regular member of DDT for a few years now, but this particular thread of storyline goes back to the beginning of the year. She showed up back on the New Years’ show, choking out then-Heavymetalweight champion Saki Akai with a chain to win the title. The two of them were tangled up in a feud with each other where LiLiCo found herself teaming with DNA boys Mizuki Watase and Kota Umeda. Watase remained at her side and the two fell in love with each other (which is not storyline, apparently, as she’s taken him home to meet her family and there are dozens of pictures of them together in various public places now). With him by her side, she’s been a force to contend with. Makoto Oishi makes perfect sense as a challenger, as LiLiCo wanted to face a pretty man in her first title defense so she could slap the pretty out of him. Oishi is an idol now, so this is a perfect choice.

Dear lord, the stipulation to this match is great. In order to win the match, you have to kiss your partner for five seconds. Finishers and submissions and such just do not matter here, and I love it. LiLiCo brought her adorable boyfriend Mizuki Watase to the match with her and Makoto Oishi brought Batten Burabura, who I happen to think is also adorable. Also, LiLiCo gets to keep her entrance for this match, which is great, because she comes out in black angel wings and an amazing black outfit to “The Final Countdown” by Europe. And despite what many people would find to be a ridiculous stipulation, this match was very clever. Oishi had no desire to kiss his partner while LiLiCo and Watase were sneaking in as many kisses as they could in an attempt to win, including LiLiCo kissing Watase through the ropes while Oishi had a legbar locked on. Oishi had no desire to kiss Burabura, so they ended up actually fighting each other in the ring. Oishi almost had the victory after summoning the strength to kiss his partner, but Watase pulled the referee out of the ring and laid Oishi out with a DDT. In a finish for the ages, LiLiCo applied the Manjigatame to Oishi, the same move she used to tap him out in the six-man tag against the Kawaii Connection earlier this year, and Watase leaned over the ropes to kiss her, earning her the victory and completing her first successful defense as champion.

Danshoku Dino showed up afterward to grab the second challenge and the stipulation states that whoever wins the title also wins Watase, because he thinks the relationship between Watase and LiLiCo is just for publicity. So apparently, this is for Watase’s own good. I don’t even know what to think at this point, but this match? Should be great, and it’s set for Peter Pan.

Miyu Yamashita Triumph Match!
Miyu Yamashita & Shoko Nakajima def. Saki Akai & Yuka Sakazaki

I have to confess that I don’t know much about three of these ladies because Tokyo Joshi Pro, which is another off-shoot promotion of DDT, doesn’t often make air and therefore it’s difficult to get any grasp on the knowledge of that promotion. However, I do know plenty about Saki Akai, who is probably one of my favorite characters in DDT. She wrestles as a member of the Kawaii Connection (alongside Ladybeard and Makoto Oishi) and also occasionally as a member of Shuten-doji. She also won Joshi of the Year this year! She’s very talented, she’s pretty great on the mic when she has to speak, so I’m looking forward to getting to see her work with some other women here, as DDT’s roster is comprised mostly of men.

Some of this match was clipped, because of course it was. But holy shit, it didn’t really hurt the match at all, and what I saw was fantastic. Joshi wrestlers are well-known for incredibly stiff offense and that was definitely no different here. Miya Yamashita, also known as the Pink Striker, was absolutely phenomenal with her strikes especially, stiff kicks and knees that looked like they hurt a lot. Nakajima had some fun offense especially when she flew, and I’m not wholly convinced Sakazaki doesn’t live on the ropes because she walked along the top rope like it was nothing and was able to navigate high-flying offense with ease. God, this match. Even Saki seemed an entirely different person, as her strike exchange with Yamashita was eye-opening. She hit a vicious kick to Nakajima on the outside that made my mouth drop open from the sound it made. These ladies worked hard to make this a great match, and they did. Yamashita picked up the victory over Sakazaki with a vicious kick in her hometown. Amazing effort from these ladies.

Azul Dragon, Harashima & Soma Takao def. Shuten-doji

I have to be honest, I know pretty much nothing about Azul Dragon other than that he’s a freelancer and he hasn’t worked many dates this year. He might be a full-time wrestler who just sticks to indy promotions so small we don’t hear that much about them, but who knows? Either way, he’s part of this patchwork team with Harashima and Soma Takao, the former the ace of DDT and the latter working to make a name for himself now that he’s a solo act. They stand across from Shuten-doji, a stable with a deeper and stronger foundation than most in DDT as they have stayed together, and stayed strong, while other stables have had to weather in-fighting and drama. This should be an interesting little affair, then.

This match was also clipped down to nothing but listen, we got to see the most important part, which is Kota Umeda exchanging kicks with Harashima. If you actually are going to be upset about only seeing this key part, I’d have to quote Naruki Doi at you: “Unbelievable! Where are your priorities?” Umeda is phenomenal. His kicks rivaled Harashima’s in execution, in the sound they made, and Harashima even sold them well. The way Harashima smiled during the exchange was such a dad thing of him to do, clearly asking the fans, “Do you see this kid? Do you see how good he is?” And he is. Umeda is definitely one of the top future workers in DDT and he shined here against Harashima. He even got the better of him in the end, winning their exchange with a spin kick that knocked Harashima over before tagging in Masa Takanashi. That turned out to be a mistake, as Harashima was able to slip out of the Taka Tonic and win with the Somato.

Dick Togo Active Duty Comeback! Special Tag Match
Antonio Honda & Dick Togo def. Guanchulo & Yasu Urano

When Dick Togo announced he was making his return to wrestling, my heart leapt. He’s been one of my favorite wrestlers to watch and him coming back to DDT is fantastic because his final match also took place in DDT. He’s a wild card on this roster, an experienced veteran who takes shit from nobody, and he gives a different feel to everything just by being present. He also has a long-standing relationship with Daisuke Sasaki, as Togo mentored him in the past. Teaming with Honda makes sense, as the two of them have teamed many times before, and Guanchulo and Yasu are perfect opponents for them. Yasu is one of the main trainers down in DNA, so he knows how to work with people, and Guanchulo has a ton of experience behind him despite still being in DNA. They’re good, solid opponents who Togo can shine against in his first match back in DDT.

Dear God, this match. It was so good, such a perfect return for Togo. He started the match grappling with Guanchulo and he absolutely adored it, he had an amazing smile on his face after their little stretched ended. It honestly doesn’t look like he’s been out of the ring at all, because he’s basically picked up where he left off before. He’s in amazing shape, it cannot be understated how great he’s taken care of himself because that’s probably enabled him to get right back to where he was when he retired. Yasu is so perfect at playing a slimeball, knowing the only way to get the upper hand on Togo was with hand-biting and eye-raking, and Togo even had a strike exchange with Guanchulo that was fantastic! Antonio Honda was great too, he always is. There’s just something about his character, this sensitive romantic crossed with an old-fashioned circus strongman that works perfectly. He and Togo were fantastic together. And to be quite honestly, Guanchulo’s strikes and every single move was executed to perfection, he even hit a stunning Tornado DDT on Togo. Togo picked up the win for his side, hitting Guanchulo with a picture perfect Pedigree (take notes, Seth Rollins) and finishing him off with his top rope senton. Absolutely amazing return for Dick Togo, so glad to have him back. What a man. So blessed.

Hakata Speciality Special! Wonderful! Survival! 4-Way Match
Tetsuya Endo def. Kazusada Higuchi, Keisuke Ishii & Mad Polly

This match feels like the “what could have been” match because all four of these men were in the King of DDT tournament and all four of them failed to win. Mad Polly and Ishii didn’t even get past the first round, while Higuchi was defeated in the quarterfinals and Endo had a disappointing loss to Shuji Ishikawa in the finals. Higuchi also has a RTC contract right now, so anyone who pins him automatically wins that contract. I love seeing Higuchi in these matches, by the way, so I’m excited to see how he handles himself here. He’s far and away one of the best DNA talents and despite still being a trainee, he carries himself very well in a ring of more experienced roster members. One of these men could turn their fortunes around by pinning Higuchi, so I’m sure that’s weighing heavy on their minds. Especially Endo’s, because he came so close and now here, the chance for a title shot is present again.

They clipped two people out of this four-way match, so just so you’re aware, Polly pinned Ishii and Endo pinned Polly. We pick up at Endo vs. Higuchi, which is honestly fine with me, because I love Endo and Higuchi. God, Tetsuya Endo is a special talent. Is there anything this man can’t do? He’s known for being a flyer but his strikes are on point and he used them to take down Higuchi in their face-off because a strike exchange with a man Higuchi’s size? Isn’t easy, so Endo employed his legs to his advantage. Higuchi is also special, and if you want to see how to book a monster, look no further. He caught Endo mid sliding lartiat with a choke, then chokeslammed him hard. They make great opponents for each other, and in a phenomenal spot, Endo goes for a hurricanrana, Higuchi stops him, goes to powerbomb him, and Endo reverses it into a ‘rana at the last minute anyway, because fuck, he’s just that good. And Higuchi isn’t the only strong boy, because Endo was able to get him up for a Torture Rack Bomb. Unlike the one he used on Ishikawa earlier in the year, where he stumbled just a tiny bit, this went off without a hitch on the first try, and then he finished Higuchi off with his gorgeous Sky Twister Press. He wins Higuchi’s RTC contract as a result, so even if he doesn’t get Peter Pan, he can still have Takeshita.

KO-D Tag Team Title Match
KAI & Ken Ohka def. Daisuke Sasaki & Shuji Ishikawa (c)

Oh boy, these teams. Daisuke Sasaki and Shuji Ishikawa are an amazing team. There is no debate left to be had about it, it’s practically just considered a fact. They’ve had great title defenses and they’ve proven that they work incredibly well together. The dynamic of Ishikawa being a submissive character to Sasaki has been interesting to watch DDT play out because that seems backwards from how most people would look at things, but it works. Sasaki has so much charisma that he has transitioned well to a condescending heel. On the other hand, we have Ken Ohka and Kai, a pair of guys who favor tank tops, jeans, and over-the-top fun characters that mesh perfectly together. It’s crazy to think Kai isn’t even a DDT guy, because he absolutely should be. He fits in perfectly in DDT and he and Ohka are such a fun pairing together, both of them having so much personality there’s no way they aren’t going to function well as a team together. If they do, they just might be able to defeat the incredibly dominant team that Sasaki and Ishikawa have become.

This match is special, from the contrast in Ohka’s and Kai’s entrance where they sing with the fans to Sasaki stalking into the room, leading his dangerous pet Shuji Ishikawa behind him. It’s a well-known fact in wrestling that underdog stories capable of garnering strong sympathy from the crowds are nearly always well-received. Well, Ken Ohka’s life is that storyline. He’s always been an underdog character, something that made him red hot going into his KO-D title match with Harashima earlier this year. It’s why the fans love him, why they were so behind him in this match. Ohka and Kai walked into this match under severe doubt they would be able to defeat the team of Sasaki and Ishikawa just because of how unlikely it was that these two guys thrown together into a team would be able to pull it off. Even Kai won his W-1 championship with a roll-up. But they did it through sheer determination and force of will. You feel for Ohka, watching Ishikawa throw him through chairs and batter him with knees. When Ishikawa climbs the turnbuckle and pushes him away twice, he still finds the strength to get back up, stagger to the corner, and suplex Ishikawa. He saves Kai from a roll-up from Sasaki and from Sasaki’s deadly crossface, a move that won Sasaki the tag titles in the first place and help him finish off Harashima. Kai was no slouch in this match either, as he screamed his friend’s name and helped him up again and again, not to mention nailing beautiful dropkicks and superkicks along the way. In the end, Kai and Ohka hit an assisted powerbomb on Sasaki and Kai finished him off with a splash that would make anyone proud. And we have new, incredible champions.

KO-D Openweight Title Match
Konosuke Takeshita (c) def. Yuko Miyamoto

Yuko Miyamoto is one of the best wrestlers period. Signed to small indy 666, he’s made his name as a deathmatch wrestler often alongside his best friend and frequent tag team partner, Isami Kodaka. Both of them have been strong forces not only within DDT but within non-defunct Union Pro. The fact he’s here challenging Takeshita is not a surprise, as Yuko is a man who could stand toe-to-toe with just about any champion in the world. He’s just that good, with that innovative of an offense, and he’s beloved by fans all across Japan and throughout his various promotions, whether that be in DDT, BJW, or AJPW. Takeshita is much younger, far more inexperienced, and doesn’t even begin to have the background of accomplishments that Yuko has. However, he has heart, and he has determination, and he’s shown both to get as far as he has after losing the tag titles with his partner Tetsuya Endo at Judgment Day. It was a crushing defeat, but he’s picked himself back up, dusted himself off, and achieved new heights as a result. While Miyamoto is his greatest challenge to date, Takeshita has shown himself to be incredibly resilient.

And resilient he was. The last big show they faced each other on, Yuko spent a good amount of time working on Takeshita’s arm, but that wasn’t enough to stop his delayed German suplex from putting away Yasu Urano. So this time, Yuko took to his leg, hoping to disable the bridge part of his suplex as it’s a key part to him winning the pin. But Takeshita absolutely refused to back down no matter how much torture Yuko put his leg through. Some people don’t like limb work very much, but the stretch Yuko spent on his leg was actually very enjoyable as Yuko’s innovative talent came through loud and clear as he found different ways to damage as much of Takeshita’s leg as he could, particularly his knee. Takeshita absolutely refused to give in, though, and fought back with his athleticism and strength, using suplexes, forearms, and kicks to try to keep Yuko at bay. A great spot was when Yuko managed to slip out of a German attempt and secure Takeshita’s ankle in an ankle lock. Nothing could put Takeshita away, and he was willing to sacrifice his own body to win, lifting his knees up to counter a moonsault, which of course irritated his injured knee. He was able to counter La Magistral Cradle and when Yuko went for a lariat, Takeshita caught him around the waist, bounced him back off the ropes, and pinned him with his delayed bridging German suplex for the victory. Great, great match by both men.

Post-match, Endo came out to schedule his title match against Takeshita and things turned ugly after tense words and each man slapping the other. The two of them have been partners for years, but Endo has struggled while Takeshita has found success. This doesn’t bode well for the future, or for their lasting partnership. Lesser things than world titles have split two men apart, and there’s always someone waiting in the wings to take advantage of an opportunity.