Judgement 2019 – DDT 22nd Anniversary Show
February 17, 2019
Ryōgoku Sumo Hall

It is time to check out DDT’s first of three Sumo Hall shows this year: Judgement. Last year’s show was really great with three awesome title matches towards the top of the card. DDT’s attendance for this show was 4,177, way down from 5,769 last year with Takeshita facing Shuji Ishikawa. I’d probably point to a number of factors for that change: first, they ran the show a month and half earlier than normal this year, second, they ran a show the night before with MUSCLE Mania (quick side note: Pedro Takaishi’s retirement match vs Shinya Aoki on that show was really good, and they also had one of the always fun DDT delayed entry battle royals). That show somehow drew much better than expected, almost the same number: 4,115 fans, despite having zero matches announced ahead of time.

Anyways, DDT almost never puts on a bad show in a big spot like this, so even with the crowd a little less full I’m hoping they don’t let me down.

Sento Minzoku (Daiki Shimomura & Ryuichi Sekine) def. Masato Kamino & Takato Nakano

This is the pre-show BASARA offer match, BASARA is one of DDT’s sub-brands actually features a lot of fun tag team main events on a some of their shows, but this was essentially just a match. To be fair, they were given just six minutes, but I would expect a better performance in what will probably be one of the company’s most watched matches of the year. They are building to an Isami Kodaka title challenge right now, his first since returning from a broken jaw, and I really think him and Ryoto Nakatsu, the champion, should have been in the match here to get some shine on that, but oh well. This wasn’t bad but nothing special. **¾

BAKURETSU Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) & Yuna Manase def. Natsumi Maki & Up Up Girls (Hikari Noa & Miu Watanabe)

This is TJP’s pre show offer match and again the champion isn’t in it, but whatever. The match is actually pretty good for a pre show affair and I’m glad the Up Up Girls got a chance to shine here. Nodoka Tenma, who is challenging for the title in about a week, picks up the win with the killswitch. ***¼

ALL OUT (Shunma Katsumata & Space Monkey) & Yuki Ueno def. Antonio Honda, Jason Kincaid & Naomi Yoshimura

This is Shunma Katsumata’s return match from injury, and he teams with the returning Space Monkey and one of the most underrated wrestlers on the planet in Yuki Ueno. Early on Antonio Honda slips on one of Space Monkey’s bananas he also of course does his story about a wolf or whatever it is and then pokes his opponent in the eyes. Honda is one of my favorite comedy acts in the company and he goes from main eventing the comedy Muscle Mania show last night to being in the opener here. Jason ”The Gift”  Kincaid has also really shone as an fun opening act. These six put on a fun little opener with Ueno eventually scoring the pin, a little bit surprising to me given this was Katsumata’s return. Really fun mix of comedy and wrestling here, and while not a ***¼ match technically speaking, I enjoyed it at that level so that is how I’ll rate it. ***¼

DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal Title Gauntlet Battle Royal
Saki Akai def. ASUKA (c) and Chinsuke Nakamura and El Lindaman and Gorgeous Matsuno and Gota Ihashi and Hoshitango and Kazuki Hirata and Keisuke Okuda and Makoto Oishi and Maku Donaruto and Mina Shirakawa and Scorpio X 2 and Super Sasadango Machine and Tomomitsu Matsunaga and Yasu Urano and Yuka Sakazaki and Yuni

Yuni is in this match, a like 12 year old kid who had a really fun match with Konosuke Takeshita on one of the house shows about a month back. Other names to note are the champion, ASUKA, OWE wrestler Scorpio X 2, TJP (and future AEW) star Yuka Sakazaki, and El Lindaman, who is one of my favs. Scorpio X 2 doesn’t know the rules and eliminates himself… lol. Yuka Sakazaki finally gets in and hits an awesome top rope hurricanrana on Lindaman. Next out is the previous DDT Iron man Heavy Metal Champion, Chinsuke Nakamura, who, given Nakamura’s recent run in WWE, might be the better of the two. He eliminates Lindman in a surprise and then the champ comes out. The title can now change hands if she is eliminated. Kazuki Hitata (the dancing guy in sunglasses) and three women: ASUKA, Sakazaki, and Saki Akai, are the final four. Sakazaki gets tossed over the top and then Hirata sneaks a pin on ASUKA to win the title (the match is still not over). There is a nice near fall where he almost does the same to Akai but she kicks out and hits her new finisher for the win.

This was a lot of fun, but I think just a step below the delayed entry battle royal from the Muscle Mania show, although that match featured Andreza Giant Panda, so it almost isn’t fair to compare. ***

Go Shiozaki, Kazusada Higuchi & Yukio Naya def. Daisuke Sekimoto, Toru Owashi & Yuki Ino

Nice of WOTY Daisuke Sekimoto to drop into DDT for the big show. Yuki Ino and Higuchi have same nasty chop exchanges early. Higuchi and Shiozaki teaming here is somewhat notable, the two had a pair of really good, hard hitting matches against eachother towards the end of last year. They are teaming with Real Japan wrestler Yukio Naya here. Naya is some famous sumo wrestler’s grandson (or relative of some kind) so this is billed as his first Sumo Hall match. This is kind of mindless hard hitting fun. Clearly from a technical perspective the best match of the show to this point. ***½

T-Hawk def. Akito

Both of these guys rule so I have kind of high expectations for this one. T-Hawk’s WRESTLE-1 title match from January is one of my favorites of the year so far (****¼), and these two were also on opposite sides in the KO-D Six-Man Title Match on ⅓ that I also went ****¼ on. That match was won by Akito’s team. They wrestle a really fun counter-based match and Akito works down T-Hawk’s leg. They try to get sympathy on T-Hawk and his comeback was really well done, but it seemed like the crowd was having trouble getting behind one of the invaders. Pretty good stuff throughout but the match probably could’ve been laid out better. Really great finishing stretch as well and I’ll land at ***¾.

Keisuke Ishii, Kota Umeda & Mizuki Watase defeat Danshoku Dino, KUDO & Pokotan (Makoto Oishi)

I know I’m a fake DDT fan for saying this, but Danshoku Dino just isn’t my thing. He actually can be a decent wrestler when he wants to be, but that rarely happens, and I was getting used to not having to watch him after he was left off of the last two Korakuens. Pokotan kind of is my thing though. He is some sort of giant cute mascot looking thing. Oh no, now even he is tea-bagging. Oh well. Ishii, Umeda, and Watase are all good, so I’m glad they get a chance to shine here later in the card than they normally would be and they show some violence and brutalize the mascot early on in this one, which gets some heat. KUDO provides some actual wrestling for his team and he and Umeda have a beautiful strike exchange. Dino and Watase get in a strike exchange but Dino’s “strikes” are kisses. Alright then. Oishi’s mascot mask comes off and Ishii gets the pin. Actually much better and a lot more fun than I was expecting, plus the crowd was really hot for this one. Maybe Dino is growing one me.  ***

Hardcore Match
DAMNATION (Mad Paulie & Soma Takao & Takumi Iroha) defeat Chigusa Nagayo, Ryuji Ito & Sanshiro Takagi

I had never seen Iroha before the last DDT Korakuen and she really impressed me there. She didn’t get as much shine here as she did in her debut for obvious reasons, but she was still good. Takagi’s plastic boxes are as brutal as ever here, and then Ito (a BJW deathmatch wrestler) comes in with a chair. Chigusa Nagayo and Iroha get to square off here and have a cool little exchange. Nagayo worked in AJW, JWP, and GAEA back in the 90s, the golden era of joshi and now works sparingly on the indies (she had three matches in 2018 and this was her first in 2019).

The Humanoid Decisive Battle Weapon D.R.E.A.M. comes out (a robot made of plastic boxes) and Takagi goes for a splash with it from the top but misses. We get leaf blowers, a barbed wire baseball bat, a light saber, a ladder, and more throughout the closing stretch, and Takoa pins Takagi, continuing their story of Takagi trying to win Takao back over to the good side after he left to join DAMNATION. This was crazy like a DDT hardcore match should be, but nothing too special. ***¼

Riki Choshu, Yuki Ueno, and Kazusada Higuchi vs Yukio Sakaguchi, KUDO, and Goto Ihashi is announced for the 3/21 Korakuen. Dang. Time for the business end of the card with the three title matches and Marufuji-Endo.

KO-D Tag Team Title
Moonlight Express (MAO & Mike Bailey) (c) def. Shuten Doji (Masahiro Takanashi & Yukio Sakaguchi) and Strong Hearts (CIMA & Seiki Yoshioka)

MAO and Mike Bailey have legitimately been low-tier WOTY contenders early in 2019, both have been involved in some great matches both in DDT and outside of it. Their champion vs champion match against Makoto Oishi and Shiori Asahi from K-DOJO was awesome (****¼). I’d also recommend their match against eachother from DDT’s 1/13 house show and their K-DOJO return match vs Ayato Yoshida & Tank Nagai. CIMA needs no introduction and Seiki Yoshioka has been great recently, especially since his heel turn. I have been catching up on AJPW’s junior tournament, which Yoshioka is a W-1 guest entrant in, and he has been a highlight so far. Yukio Sakaguchi is a former MMA fighter who is one of the most underrated wrestlers in DDT, and Masahiro Takanashi comes in fresh off of a win over CIMA and MAO in what was a build up match to this one at DDT’s last Korakuen. This should be excellent. They do three legal wrestlers instead of the stupid WWE thing where you have two legal men and third team needs to tag themselves in to have a chance at winning.

Mike Bailey and MAO hit their moonsault version of the Golden Showers early and then Bailey, Yoshioka, and Sakaguchi have a really great three way kick exchange. The match is really good but the crowd is kinda silent and MAO/Bailey win out of nowhere, I can’t believe I’m saying this on a six hour show, but it could’ve used a little more time. I don’t remember seeing CIMA for more than like 30 seconds the whole match, but notably the STRONGHEARTS team doesn’t take the pin (Takanashi did), signaling a chance that they could be staying around a little longer. ***¾

DDT Extreme Title Pride On The Line Match
HARASHIMA def. Shinya Aoki (c)

I think a lot of DDT fans are split on Shinya Aoki, but he has been flat out awesome since joining the company from the world of MMA, and I hope he proves the haters wrong here. Once the match starts, however, I realize they are doing a mat match like their last match, which certainly won’t help an already dead crowd. The mat work is really excellent, and I think if you had this one in front of a red hot Korakuen it would be a little different. I should also mention that I watched this show in chunks and at normal hours, so people who were watching live might have had a lower opinion on this than me, but I thought it was pretty good, although again another match where the finish came out of nowhere and arguably could have used more time. ***½

HARASHIMA vs Muscle Sakai is announced for the next Korakuen. I can get behind that.

Naomichi Marufuji def. Tetsuya Endo

Marufuji is an all-timer, Endo, the 27 year old that always is right on the edge of the Openweight title but has never reached the pinnacle. Endo is a 4x tag champ and a 3x six-man champ who seemed primed to take the title in 2018, but instead, his stablemate, Daisuke Sasaki, comes into this show as champion. I was really hoping for Endo win here, so I was a little surprised at the Marufuji victory, but I went back in Cagematch.net and looked through his history and found that outside of tournaments and title challenges, Marufuji hasn’t lost a singles match outside of NOAH since June 16th, 2008, over a decade. As for this match, Marufuji didn’t really seem on his game. He did just return from an injury, but I’d believe you if you said it was just him not getting up for a DDT show, because he hasn’t been awesome in DDT in the past. This was super disappointing. **¾

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

This match should be really good, both these guys rule. I’m not exactly sure whether or not to expect a title change, especially because DDT is doing a rematch on their WM weekend show. Takeshita is an awesome wrestler, but he is getting a little stale at the top of DDT, he hasn’t gone more than like five months without holding a title in three and a half years, and he already holds the six-man titles with his stablemates in ALL OUT. Takeshita won this opportunity by winning DDT’s 2019 block tournament, the D-Oh Grand Prix, which took place entirely in 2018, meaning it along with a lot of the other late December 2018 stuff got lost in the mix, even to a big DDT fan like me. I did see Takeshita’s finals win against Go Shiozaki, and that was a great match if you missed it (****), but I’m hoping for something even above that level here. This does have that big fight feel, and you know I’m into a match when I actually don’t skip the entrances, especially five hours into a six hour show. Takeshita comes out to a new theme and HOT TAKE: The old one was better.

Sasaki jumps Takeshita before the match to no reaction to the crowd, which is really worrying. I really hope the crowd doesn’t take away from this match the way they did on the past few. Sasaki starts to work over the leg and I’m really starting to get worried. Not sure the leg work match was the move here in front of a tired crowd, but I’ll wait to pass judgement until after the match is over. Takeshita catches Sasaki off a dive and hits a brainbuster in an awesome looking spot. Not sure if it was intentional or just Sasaki’s momentum but Takeshita definitely staggered before being able to connect with it, adding to his leg story. We get a ref bump and Sasaki hits a low blow. Takeshita thinks about using a chair but tosses it aside and gets hit with a low blow again. Lol. The pacing feels a little bit off so far, but as a whole I’m enjoying it. There are some really cool spots here like a crossbody into the audience and a spear from the apron through a table. It really starts to pick up here as the near falls start coming, they even get the crowd, which has been absolutely dead the second half of the show, back. Sasaki locks on the crossface that he got Takeshita to to tap to at the last Korakuen but Take gets to the ropes. Oh god, another ref bump. We get a replacement ref but then another ref bump. Takeshita hits a coast to coast with a chair for a nearfall and a top rope brainbuster, a springboard senton, and his new cross armed German for the win. Jeez, this is a tough one to rate. There was a lot of crazy shit and really beautiful stretches, but the match layout was a little weird, like the did a ref bump and then a near fall sequence, and then another ref bump, and then into the closing stretch. I dunno. Takeshita’s selling of the leg was good to me, so that doesn’t take away from it like Kenny Omega’s did on ¼ or Kento Miyahara’s did on ⅓, but my main problem with this match was the crowd. Shave like eight minutes off this and put it in front of a red hot crowd and you have a legit MOTYC. There were some flashes of greatness here, but on the finished product I’d give it like a low ****¼.

After the match Take cuts a promo and delivers this vague message at the end (credit: @ddtpro_eng for the translation):

Final Thoughts:

Even as big a DDT fan as I am will admit that this show definitely under delivered in the second half and was one of the company’s weaker Sumo Hall shows in recent years, but it was still a really good show. I averaged 3.31 stars for the show, which is pretty good considering there were 12 matches and a lot of them were comedy. I’d say go out of your way to see the two STRONGHEARTS matches and the main event, and the big lads six man and the Extreme Title match are both worth a watch as well. I’ll say an 8/10 (which is still awesome) but not quite the show of the year level show we’ve come to expect from DDT at Sumo Hall