After several weeks of waiting, this episode we finally pick up of Takuma’s story and find out what exactly the Hell in the Hole is. Strap yourselves in because the real main character of the series is back! Go and watch this and every episode of Tiger Mask W over at Crunchyroll and if you want to find the rest of my recaps, you can do that here.

Takuma’s Escape from Hell

I’m taking a different approach to how I break down the episode this week. I’m separating the two different stories running throughout because they are very, very different in tone. Takuma’s story is definitely the A-plot today and it is DARK. The episode kicks off by showing us that all of the Tiger’s Den wrestlers that Tiger Mask has beaten are being kept in what are essentially jail cells until they’re summoned to compete in Hell in the Hole. These men have had no contact with the outside world, but are given the luxury of receiving mail. We see Kevin get a letter from his mom and Odin gets a letter from a woman named Catherine. For the first time we actually see Odin, or Henry as we learn he’s really named, as a character with real depth. He’s not just an evil wrestler, he’s the pride of his small hometown.

The coach offers to send out any mail for the prisoners, but warns them that any letters containing mention of the Tiger’s Den will be thrown away. It’s hard to imagine in today’s day and age that a group of wrestlers could just go missing and no one would take a serious look at it. If the Ascension, No Way Jose, Kane, and TJ Perkins all suddenly disappeared, I’d like to think that someone other than their families would notice.

Hell in the Hole is explained to us as a match that takes place on the side of a mountain and is a match with no rules… even though there are rules. The wrestlers have to climb the mountain and make their way to the summit where they’ll fight a gatekeeper for their freedom. As they climb the mountain, wrestlers are encouraged to fight each other, with the winners of each fight being given a weapon as a prize. The match isn’t televised, but is held as a betting event for the rich of the rich. So take that group of wrestlers I mentioned earlier and imagine that they’re being forced to fight (to the death potentially) for the enjoyment of Vince McMahon and his rich friends. It’s not so hard imagining President Trump gleefully watching Kane snap No Way Jose’s neck.

The wrestlers in the match are as follows: Red Death Mask, Black Python, Odin, Ricardo (an old enemy of Takuma’s), Billy the Kidman (the man who was playing Yellow Devil until he was beaten by Tiger Mask), Takuma, Kevin, and two wrestlers that are new to us, Cox and Phantom. When the roster is being named off, one of the old rich men gets uppity about this being full of wrestlers that Tiger Mask beat. He’s told to calm down by a new character, known only as the Third, who says that he’ll beat Tiger Mask himself soon enough. Special thanks to @Paul_Sebert on Twitter for pointing out that this character looks like Tiger the Great from the original Tiger Mask series. Seeing as that guy is dead, I have to assume that this is the third person to take the title of Tiger the Great.

The wrestlers all enter from different places on the mountain and the match begins. Takuma emerges from his cell and sees a desolate wasteland in front of him. Like every good Japanese death match, sirens indicate imminent danger. Elsewhere, Kevin notices a drone above him, streaming the action to the excessively rich audience. The first contact between wrestlers is made between Kevin and Black Python. It doesn’t take long before Black Python attacks Kevin in an attempt to win a weapon. Python slams Kevin onto the hard ground as the rich viewers hoot and holler. Black Python gets Kevin in a LeBell Lock, but the hold isn’t applied for long. Kevin breaks out by biting down and taking a chunk out of Python’s arm. With Python’s blood dripping down his chin, Kevin looks like a threat for the first time.

In another area, Red Death Mask has run into Cox. Sadly, it doesn’t look like he is universe’s version of Dr. Cox from the NBC/ABC sitcom, Scrubs. RDM wails on Cox until he take off running, leading to a foot chase. On the other side of the mountain, Kevin has taken the advantage against Python. Kevin gets him up for a piledriver, but Python kicks his legs to stay on the ground. From out of nowhere, Takuma appears to help his friend and they plant Python with a jumping spike piledriver, taking him out of the action. Takuma and Kevin team up because the power of friendship will conquer all. A drone drops a weapon box and Takuma tells Kevin to take the contents for himself. Sadly, the only thing they find inside is a tag rope, a useless joke from the Tiger’s Den.

Some ways away from Takuma and Kevin, Phantom has Odin in a tight headlock. Kevin looks to be fading, but manages to lift up Phantom for a back drop driver, slamming Phantom headfirst into a rock. Judging from the empty eyes and the blood pouring out of his head, I think Phantom might be dead. Billy the Kidman comes upon Odin and suggests that they reform their tag team in order to survive. Odin gladly accepts as he opens up his weapon chest. Inside Odin finds a handheld device that shoots out fireballs. They scoff at it, but being able to shoot fire at your opponents is way better than nothing. It worked pretty well for Jerry Lawler back in Memphis.

Cox continues to run away from Red Death Mask until Ricardo stops him with a tackle. RDM lifts up Cox by the back of his neck and then smashes his face into the ground. A drone drops a chair for Red Death Mask as his prize while Ricardo attempts to strike up a partnership with him. Red Death Mask looks like he’s going to accept, but then smashes the chair over Ricardo’s head. The bloodied Ricardo begs for mercy as RDM grabs him by the face, lifts him up, and dives off a cliff. Red Death Mask is given a table by a drone for killing Ricardo. It’s not confirmed that he’s dead, but he’s totally dead.

The team of Takuma and Kevin crosses paths with Odin and Billy the Kidman. Very quickly a brawl breaks out between the teams. As the show closes, the more experienced team of Odin and Kidman have the advantage in the fight.

Naoto’s Day Off

Before we get to Naoto, let’s make a quick note on Haruna. Following her pro wrestling debut as Spring Tiger, Haruna takes part of her day to sleep in. When she enters the kitchen after noon, she sees her uncle reading Pro Wrestling Monthly. Kentaro notes that this new Spring Tiger has a lot of potential, completely oblivious to the fact that this is actually his niece. He’s probably just putting on an act, but I wouldn’t be shocked to find that he’s just as dense as Naoto.

Speaking of Naoto, it’s his day off so he’s taking some time to relax with his not quite girlfriend, but more than a friend, Ruriko. The two spend time shopping and eating at the stores and restaurants in the shopping mall contained inside the GWM Max Dome. There’s a brief moment when Naoto is deciding what he wants for dinner where he flashes back to his training. We see Naoto SUPLEX A BEAR AND THEN EAT IT. Apparently this happened back in episode one of the series (thanks again to @Paul_Sebert on Twitter for pointing this out) and I have no recollection of it. This feels like something young Goku would do in the early days of Dragonball.

While they’re out to lunch, Naoto stuff his face and dances around questions about his job. His steady stream of money coming from his successful wrestling career has made paying for a fancy meal no problem for Naoto. Ruriko assumes that Naoto is just making all his money from Takaoka Motors and he’s more than happy to keep her thinking this. Just before the scene cuts away, Ruriko is about to wipe away some food from the side of Naoto’s mouth. I’m pretty sure that this was just supposed to show that the two are getting closer as opposed to being sexy.

After they finish lunch, Ruriko gets a call from her dad and she need tells Naoto that she’s needed at home. As she leave, Ruriko reminds Naoto that the next time Tiger Mask is wrestling for GWM, she’s going to get him a front row ticket. Overall, it was a lovely day.

Naoto’s day becomes even lovelier when you compare it to what Takuma is going through at the same time. At one point, Kevin talks about how hungry he is because they haven’t been allowed to eat in two days. Smash cut to Naoto and Ruriko leaving the restaurant with Naoto rubbing his very full stomach. It’s no mistake that they gave Naoto his day off while Takuma spent his day trying to escape from hell. As of late, Naoto has gotten kind of lazy. He working the smaller shows on New Japan’s tours and is generally enjoying being a working wrestler and is also enjoying the money that comes along with it. Success has softened Naoto. When was the last time he was wrestling with vengeance on his mind? Ever since he lost the trail of Yellow Devil, he really hasn’t done anything to start the hunt again.

While Tiger Mask has been fighting cactus gimmick mama’s boys and going candy shopping with Makabe, Takuma has been locked up. He hasn’t even been allowed to be Tiger the Dark during his hellish training. Everything has been stripped away from him. Takuma is literally fighting for his life while Naoto enjoys his success. These two former best friends will cross paths at some point in the future and there is sure to be a moment when the battle tested and stronger Takuma gets one over on Tiger Mask. It’s an episode like this that makes me like Takuma more than Naoto. He is very much the Vegeta to Naoto’s Goku in this series.

Next week we see if Takuma can really escape from Hell in the Hole.