Dramatic Dream Team
Judgement: 22nd Anniversary
February 17, 2019
Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall)

Watch: DDT Universe / Samurai TV

Meet our previewers

Taylor Maimbourg: Taylor has spent the last month catching up on all the Oscar-nominated films, so he’s excited to make his return to Voices of Wrestling writing with a preview of another exciting DDT show.  Catch him on all show media @tamaimbo and catch him next week in his triumphant return to Wrestling Omakase as he reviews this show.

John Carroll: Judgement really snuck up on John for some reason, as it feels like this show came out of nowhere. Follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla and don’t forget to check out their podcast @wrestleomakase– John will have Taylor on next week to discuss this very show after it airs!

Pro Wrestling BASARA Offer Match
Ryuichi Sekine & Daiki Shimomura vs. Takato Nakano & Masato Kamino

Taylor: This was originally scheduled to be a match between Tomomitsu Matsunaga and Nobuhiro Shimitani, but that match was pulled, so BASARA will get a chance to impress in the first pre-show match.  If you aren’t familiar with BASARA, this will be a good chance to see them before they are featured in a more prominent role in DDT’s all brand Sumo Hall show in the fall. Like most of DDT’s pre-show matches, this won’t blow anyone away, but should be a fun match and a good showcase for one of DDT’s lesser known brands.  Prediction: Ryuichi Sekine & Daiki Shimomura

John: I can’t say I watch a ton of BASARA shows- usually just the Korakuens and random other recommended matches- but I’m familiar with Sekine from BJW and Shimomura from his long run as one of the pint-sized DNA fighters (the other of course being current DAMNATION mascot Nobuhiro Shimitani, who as Taylor mentioned was originally scheduled for a dark match spot before being bumped). Their opponents are both interesting names for different reasons. Nakano is billed as “BASARA’s 1st Homegrown Wrestler” and certainly lives up to that name; since his debut nearly two years ago he has wrestled almost exclusively for the DDT sub-brand (his most appearances outside of BASARA are actually with Tokyo Joshi Pro, believe it or not), and if Cagematch is to be believed this will actually be his first appearance on a main DDT show ever. His partner Masato Kamino was briefly considered a major prospect with DNA (DDT New Attitude, the now-defunct NXT-like developmental brand) when he debuted in August 2017, but only ended up making six appearances total before bowing out in October due to various injuries. By the time he reemerged in December 2018 DNA had already closed shop, leaving him without a home, so he made the choice to sign with BASARA and, in his own words, start his career all over again from the ground up. Kamino thus seems likely to take the pin here, but just getting this spot on a Sumo Hall under match suggests that he may end up being a major player on the brand going forward. Prediction: Ryuichi Sekine & Daiki Shimomura

Tokyo Joshi Pro Offer Match
Yuna Manase, Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino vs. Natsumi Maki, Hikari Noa & Miu Watanabe

Taylor: All eyes in this match may be on Nodoka Tenma, who is preparing for her title match against Miyu Yamashita on February 23rd.  I would be shocked if she doesn’t pick up the win here and give herself a boost heading into the title match, but stranger things have happened.  Like with the previous match, this will be a good showcase for Tokyo Joshi Pro before they have a more prominent role at the all brand Sumo Hall show.  Prediction: Yuna Manase, Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino

John: Natsumi Maki gets to make her main DDT brand debut here after coming over from Actwres girl’Z at the very beginning of 2019, debuting for TJP on their 1/4 Korakuen show. Not a ton else to note here otherwise, as Maki will team with 2 of the Up Up Girls (sadly not Pinano Pipipipi though) in what will probably be a losing effort, as the former Nodoka-oneesan prepares for her title shot. Prediction: Yuna Manase, Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino

Shunma Katsumata Return Match
Shunma Katsumata, Yuki Ueno & Space Monkey vs. Antonio Honda, Jason Kincaid & Naomi Yoshimura

Taylor: Shunma Katsumata returns to DDT after missing a few months with an orbital injury and is placed in a match with a bunch of wrestlers all at very different points.  Yoshimura, like Katsumata, is working his way back from injury, although in his case what first appeared to be a major injury turned into a small bump in the road. Space Monkey returns after a successful debut at DDT’s January Korakuen Hall show.  I think Ueno is one of DDT’s strongest prospects, but ever since his dalliance in the multi-man title scene last year, he has seemed to float a bit aimlessly around DDT, including being in the opening match here. Which brings us to Honda and Kincaid, who at this point seem to be the most stable members of this match, even though Kincaid has only been around for less than a year.  As for this match, seems like it is obvious opportunity to give Shunma the win and send him back up the card with his ALL OUT pals. Prediction: Shunma Katsumata, Yuki Ueno & Space Monkey

John: I would definitely agree with my colleague that the handling of Yuki Ueno post-six man title win has been a disappointment. His partner Kota Umeda got a major trial match series and is in a far bigger match on this card (albeit a comedy one), and though you could at least say he hasn’t vanished like Koju Takeda has that’s not a great comparison since Takeda was never a DDT contracted talent to begin with. Hopefully Ueno gets to do a little more in 2019. Meanwhile Yoshimura is someone who they clearly have plans for, given that he was originally supposed to get a KO-D title shot (on Danshoku Dieno’s behalf!) against Daisuke Sasaki before his neck injury scare that thankfully turned out not to be super serious. But with both Honda and Kincaid very capable of taking a fall here, I would also expect Shunma’s team to win their return match. Prediction: Shunma Katsumata, Yuki Ueno & Space Monkey

Iron Man Heavymetalweight Title- Time Difference Battle Royale
ASUKA © vs. Super Sasadango Machine vs. Makoto Oishi vs. Keisuke Okuda vs. Saki Akai vs. Kazuki Hirata vs. Tomomitsu Matsunaga vs. Gorgeous Matsuno vs. Hoshitango vs. Gota Ihashi vs. Yuni vs. Yasu Urano vs. El Lindaman vs. Scorpio X2 vs. Yuka Sakazaki vs. Mina Shirakawa vs. Chinsuke Nakamura vs. Maku Donaruto

Taylor: For reasons beyond me, ASUKA decided to wander the streets of Tokyo late at night this week (followed conveniently by a DDT camera unit).  It is a mistake that a seasoned Heavymetal champion would never make, as ASUKA was confronted multiple times with challengers for her title and nearly lost the title on multiple occasions.  That kind of poor JUDGEMENT 😉 makes me fearful that ASUKA will not leave this match as champion. Yuka Sakazaki has had a big week after being announced for AEW’s Double or Nothing show, and I think her momentum may carry her to the title.  Prediction: Yuka Sakazaki

John: Believe it or not it has been nearly two and a half years since we had a real Iron Man Heavymetalweight rumble (“Time Difference Battle Royale” is just weird Japanese auto-translation speak for a Royal Rumble) on the main card of either one of DDT’s two biggest shows, Peter Pan and Judgement. Peter Pan in August 2016 was the last one (featuring my favorite battle royale elimination of all time, KENSO getting lightly clipped by the spinning legs of a mid-rana Yoshihiko and somehow flying all the way out of the ring), Judgement 2017 featured a pre-show rumble with the theme of classic DDT wrestlers from the past, Peter Pan 2017 was an all-TJP pre-show rumble, and neither of the major 2018 shows featured any Iron Man rumble at all. So I’m honestly extremely excited for the return of this once-big show staple, and it features a really fun lineup with a mix of DDT comedy regulars, OWE guys (Scorpio X2 is one of their Chinese trainees, apparently a very impressive one, and Lindaman is always welcome on any wrestling show I’m watching), TJP talent, the superior Nakamura, and yes, ASUKA. If you haven’t seen the video Taylor was just talking about with her walking through Roppongi, I highly recommend it. Anyway! Picking a winner of one of these is of course a fool’s errand, so as a known fool I will go with Sasadango, still riding high after that MUSCLE show the previous night (whatever the hell that thing is going to be). Prediction: Super Sasadango Machine

Go Shiozaki, Kazusada Higuchi & Yukio Naya vs. Daisuke Sekimoto, Toru Owashi & Yuki Iino

Taylor: There’s an awful lot of beef in this match and it looks like a hell of a lot of fun.  Toru Owashi returns from his cameo in Dragon Gate to team with another returnee in Daisuke Sekimoto and DDT’s king of the big boys, Yuki Iino.  On the other side you have Go Shiozaki (who seems at this point to be pretty close to being a DDT regular), Kazusada Higuchi and Yukio Naya. Naya is from Real Japan and is the grandson of Taiho Koki, a legendary sumo wrestler.  Although he is not a true rookie (he’s been wrestling for over a year), he is still very green and I am looking forward to seeing how he fares in this match with a lot of top-tier talent. Prediction: Daisuke Sekimoto, Toru Owashi & Yuki Iino

John: If I ever wanted to illustrate to someone why I love DDT so much, the match placement here would be a great example. They simply put on the best “big shows” of any pro wrestling company, with by far the most variety. Here we go from a comedy rumble that will probably be hilarious straight to a big boy six-man tag where dudes will grunt and chop each other to death, which is awesome. I’m assuming the newcomer Naya is your designated pin eater here, but I’ll have a lot of fun getting there. Prediction: Daisuke Sekimoto, Toru Owashi & Yuki Iino

Akito vs. T-Hawk

Taylor: Stronghearts had an excellent 2018, becoming one of the hottest acts in not only Japan, but the world, as they put on numerous classic matches with a variety of opponents in a wide range of promotions.  A lot of credit for their success belongs to CIMA, an all-time great, but T-Hawk has also been instrumental in the success of #STH. As I’ve mentioned in this space previously, T-Hawk’s departure from Dragon Gate was the best possible thing to happen for his career, and he has blossomed outside of the Dragon Gate system.  Here he faces Akito, who for my money is one of the more underrated workers in DDT. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this ends up as the match of the night once it’s all said as done, as both Akito and T-Hawk are more than capable of pulling out all the stops to have a great match. Prediction: T-Hawk

John: Yeah, as Taylor basically said this is your sleeper match of the night. Though I always liked T-Hawk anyway I think he’s taken it to a whole different level since leaving Dragon Gate, perhaps simply because he no longer feels like he’s being slowly crushed under the weight of the “failed ace” label. He is also your new Wrestle-1 Champion, having won the title back on their 1/5 Korakuen, and though that belt isn’t on the line here presumably he isn’t losing as a result. Akito is a super gifted wrestler and always finds ways to have entertaining matches, so this really has a chance to be a great match. Prediction: T-Hawk

Danshoku Dieno Produce Yuru-chara “Pokotan” Debut Match
Danshoku Dieno, Pokotan & KUDO vs. Keisuke Ishii, Kota Umeda & Mizuki Watase

Taylor: Pokotan is a Danshoku Dieno creation, some sort of mascot character that will be making its first appearance at Judgement 2019.  The mascot has gone through a lot of name changes since the initial announcement, and it’s not entirely sure what purpose the mascot will serve.  Without that knowledge, it’s hard to predict exactly where this match goes, although with Dieno involved, anything can happen. Prediction: Danshoku Dieno, Pokotan & KUDO

John: Pokotan will turn out to be Kenny Omega under a mask to announce the AEW/DDT partnership. Okay, maybe not, but I want that prediction out there in case it turns out to be true, so I can look like a genius. Prediction: Danshoku Dieno, Pokotan & KUDO

Special Hardcore 6-Person Tag Match
Sanshiro Takagi, Chigusa Nagayo & Ryuji Ito vs. Soma Takao, Mad Paulie & Takumi Iroha

Taylor: The very random (but very fun) team of Takagi, Nagayo and Ito has teamed once before on a Nagayo-produced show all the way back in 2005.  Now, just under 14 years later, they reunite to face DAMNATION with new member Takumi Iroha. For those unfamiliar with Iroha, she is a Marvelous roster member although she has appeared in multiple promotions and briefly held the Regina di WAVE title last year.  A DDT Hardcore match always has an element of unpredictability (even moreso than with a “normal” hardcore match), so it’s anyone’s guess as to exactly what transpires here. My hope is that Iroha impresses so that she can get some more bookings, as she is a great young talent that deserves a larger stage on which to impress.  Prediction: Soma Takao, Mad Paulie & Takumi Iroha

John: Takumi Iroha (a 10/10 “Ikemen Girl” according to DDT’s on-screen graphics department) is the key to this match for me. She’s one of the best young wrestlers in joshi today, but because of the relative obscurity of the places she works (WAVE, Marvelous, etc.) few know it. Hopefully she gets the chance to show some of what she can do here. The biggest factor in the build has been Soma vs. Takagi, as the DDT boss tried to convince him to return to his old babyface ways and Soma countered by going on a bit of an anti-old person crusade. Do we get a happy ending with THE OLDS going out on top, or does DAMNATION pick up the win? I’m gonna go with the latter. Prediction: Soma Takao, Mad Paulie & Takumi Iroha

KO-D Tag Team Titles
Moonlight Express © vs. Yukio Sakaguchi & Masahiro Takanashi vs. CIMA & Seiki Yoshioka

Taylor: Moonlight Express had a great finish to 2018, and has started out 2019 with a bang, with great matches not only in DDT, but also in Kaientai Dojo, where they are STRONGEST-K Tag Team Champions.  I have no doubt that this match will add to their already impressive list of great matches, as they go up against two stellar teams. Sakaguchi and Takanashi don’t often receive many accolades in comparison to some of their more heralded co-workers, but I’m not sure there are two members of the DDT roster I would be more confident in if I needed a good match.  The third team is Stronghearts, a team I touched briefly upon in the Akito/T-Hawk match. CIMA needs no introduction, but I do want to talk about Seiki Yoshioka. Yoshioka was someone who caught my eye a few years ago in Wrestle-1, but like many people in that company, I was a little bummed he didn’t have a bigger showcase for his talent. Now that he has joined up with Stronghearts, he has gotten that showcase and has impressed as I knew he would.  He has been an incredibly strong pickup for #STH, and proof that Stronghearts has a strong eye for talent. In a big position like this, I expect nothing less than a big time performance from Yoshioka. Prediction: Moonlight Express

John: I actually never really liked Yoshioka much in the past in his previous Wrestle-1 role as kind of a quasi-cruiserweight division ace, but since turning (I guess?) heel and joining Stronghearts he’s really impressed me a lot. Sometimes people just need a turn! It worked for Soma in the last match too, a guy I was also not very into at all before he joined DAMNATION and really saw his stock rise in my book. Moonlight Express were my favorite tag team in the world in 2018, putting on some really underrated matches all over DDT, and have started out 2019 just as strongly. CIMA is CIMA, a wrestler everyone already knew was good anyway but still has gone out there and killed it every night since this STH thing started. And yeah, Masa and Yukio are two of the more underrated guys around, more than capable of holding up their end of the bargain here. Prediction: Moonlight Express

DDT Extreme Title – Our Pride Rules
Shinya Aoki © vs. HARASHIMA

Taylor: Shinya Aoki has been the perfect embodiment of why I love DDT so much.  They are always willing to take risks, do something different and think outside of the box.  Aoki comes from the world of MMA, and an initial look at him might lead you to believe he might not be a good fit for a semi-serious wrestling company.  However, since he arrived, Aoki has not only had great matches, but has provided a totally unique style, with matches that aren’t like anyone else’s on the DDT roster.  He won the title from HARASHIMA with a submission that came out of nowhere, and his ability to finish fights at any moment really means you cannot take your eyes of the screen when he is in the ring.  This match was originally announced as a “Normal Rules” match, but has since gained the subtitle of “Our Pride Rules”. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I think no matter the rule set, Aoki and HARASHIMA are going to put on a great match that will be like nothing else you see on this card.  Prediction: HARASHIMA

John: It sounds like HARASHIMA and Aoki are being purposefully vague about what “Our Pride Rules” could mean. Via Dramatic DDT: Aoki already said the stipulation. They will be fighting for “our pride”. Hisaya Imabayashi stepped in and asked for clarification but HARASHIMA understood Aoki’s point. Aoki and HARASHIMA will fight with their pride on the line. So whether this will be some kind of special rules match or just a regular pro wrestling match where they’re fighting for pride is something I assume we’ll have to wait until bell time to discover. In the meantime, like Taylor I have to praise DDT’s constant willingness to think outside the box and try new things. Their original match where Aoki won the title was an awesome display of pure mat wrestling, and I have little reason to think this won’t be more of the same. Prediction: HARASHIMA

Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tetsuya Endo

Taylor: On paper, this looks like one of most exciting matchups on the entire card, but Marufuji’s DDT track record has been spotty.  Past outings have shown that he’s equally capable of having a forgettable match than he is of having a classic. Hoping being in the ring with Endo will help the result end up closer to the latter than the former.  Endo’s in a bit of a strange spot. For a while, it seemed like he was the heir apparent to the KO-D title. He took Takeshita to the limit at Peter Pan 2017 and it seemed like he was the logical next champion. But since that point, he’s floated somewhere around the upper midcard while watching his DAMNATION stablemate Daisuke Sasaki skip past him and become champion.  It’s very possible that if Takeshita wins in the main event, this match is a springboard for Endo to head back up the card for another confrontation with his pesky rival. Either way, it seems only one man truly needs the win in this matchup. Prediction: Tetsuya Endo

John: Endo winning here is a result I desperately WANT to see, but I’m not sure that’s one they would have been able to talk Marufuji into. He doesn’t do many singles match jobs at all (we’re talking like a few a year usually), and I’m not sure he’s going to want to do one to a guy from another company. I would love to be wrong but I just don’t think he’s losing here. Either way, I do think Endo getting the semi final spot against a legendary wrestler is supposed to be his springboard back to the main events, so better days should be ahead for him. Another King of DDT win and maybe (finally) the KO-D title victory at Peter Pan? I think so! But I’ve been wrong predicting that kind of thing for him before, so who knows. I feel far more confident predicting that this match will end up being at least very good (providing Maru doesn’t completely dog it as Taylor noted), and has the possibility of being outstanding. Prediction: Naomichi Marufuji

KO-D Openweight Title
Daisuke Sasaki © vs. Konosuke Takeshita

Taylor: The main event sees Sasaki and Takeshita face off in a singles match for the first time in nearly three years.  That match last less than two minutes. I think it’s a safe assumption that this match goes a bit longer. Sasaki has brought a nice stability to the title after a summer of chaos, but I still don’t have a read on what the long term plans are.  It’s very possible that the title returns to Takeshita. He seems to be a bit of a safety blanket for DDT, and as I mentioned in the last match, Takeshita having the title again would allow them to continue and/or conclude his long-term story with Endo at some point.  Another wrinkle with this match is that a rematch has been announced for DDT’s Wrestlemania show. That rematch is not currently for the title, but that certainly could change and I would put it past DDT to have Takeshita win the title here and drop it on Wrestlemania weekend back to Sasaki.  It would certainly create a bit of buzz to have DDT’s main title change hands in the main event of their big US show. On the other hand, I may be totally twisting myself into knots over this, and maybe Sasaki retains. Prediction: Konosuke Takeshita

John: This has been a quintessential DDT big match build, with a mix of semi-serious (Sasaki has threatened to retire if he loses!) and total comedy (DAMNATION invaded the yakitori joint Takeshita’s parents own and left without paying!). At the end of the day I have very little doubt these two great wrestlers will put out a great match, but the winner is very open-ended here due to the rematch in NYC. Honestly I could see the exact opposite scenario to the one Taylor laid out, where Sasaki retains here (maybe under-handedly) but then loses the title to Takeshita in the rematch, letting DDT showcase their hot young star in the US. Of course Taylor’s scenario could easily be the right one too, or maybe like he said we’re both overthinking this and the NYC match doesn’t even matter (it could even just stay non-title for all we know!). I’m glad Sasaki got this run with the title and I hope it doesn’t end just yet, so let’s go ahead and pick him to end a second straight Sumo Hall show on top, probably setting up losing the belt in New York. Prediction: Daisuke Sasaki