The Dramatic Dream Team promotion was first founded in 1997 as a new Japanese independent by Sanshiro Takagi (and others), a wrestler from the little-known IWA Kakuto Shijuku. In the twenty-two years that have followed the company has reached some amazing highs and milestones: they debuted in Korakuen Hall in December 1999, in Ryogoku Sumo Hall in August 2009, and even in the famous Nippon Budokan in August 2012. They’ve grown into what’s pretty inarguably the most consistent #2 draw in Tokyo behind New Japan, which is quite the accomplishment for a promotion with such humble beginnings. Along the way some of the wrestlers featured went on to even greater prominence elsewhere, none more so than the iconic Golden☆Lovers tag team of Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega, which added to DDT’s reputation.
But though they did garner some notoriety in the West for some of their wackier, more comedic elements—mainly the “street pro wrestling” series but also for things like the empty Tokyo Dome match between Takagi and Minoru Suzuki and some of the more esoteric Ironman Heavymetalweight title changes- it never seemed likely that a DDT debut in the US was on the way. So perhaps that’s what made the announcement last fall all the more stunning, as DDT was unveiled as one of two guest promotions in the 2019 edition of WWN’s More Than Mania weekend. DDT was, indeed, coming to America.
When you’re dealing with a foreign promotion coming over to the States there’s always the question of how “authentic” an experience it will be, but as a longtime DDT fan I’m happy to report that the announced card gets more than a passing grade in that department. It would be basically impossible to bring DDT’s entire gigantic, multi-brand roster to the US; Sanshiro Takagi joked that it would bankrupt the company, and in fact DDT has so many wrestlers on the payroll that the company is able to run another full show back in Japan on the same date as this one featuring people left behind! But what DDT has produced is still a very authentic card, featuring most of their top stars. Adding to the feeling of authenticity is that all of the foreigners appearing on the show in New York are wrestlers who already appeared for DDT back in Japan. There’s no thrown in outsiders booked just to pad out the numbers, which is a definite plus. Overall, the card sort of feels like a scaled-down version of a major Peter Pan or Judgement event, or at least a really good monthly Korakuen.
If you’re new to DDT, something to keep in mind is that though the promotion as a whole will generally have a light-hearted tone, there is definitely a line between “serious” and “comedy” here. Don’t go in expecting every match to be like that GIF you saw of “the blow-up doll” or “guy riding a bicycle throws a clothesline”. There will be some of that (and I’ll note what matches seem more ripe for antics than others), for sure, but there will also be high-level serious wrestling as well. Ultimately it’s the variety that makes DDT such a fun promotion to watch, and I hope you’ll give it a fair shot. Let’s check out the card! Note that beyond the main event, I don’t think the match order we have listed is the final one; generally for DDT shows the final match order won’t be announced until closer to the event.
DDT IS COMING TO AMERICA
April 4, 2019
8 pm EST
La Boom, Queens, New York
Watch: Fite Fest Package
Miyu Yamashita Vs Maki Itoh
If you’re a newcomer to DDT you may not be aware that the promotion features a number of different sub-brands that each run their own shows, and it’s typical on a big DDT card to see an offer match from BASARA and Tokyo Joshi Pro especially. Sadly we do not have any representation from Isami Kodaka’s unique indie, but Miyu and Maki are here to represent the girls of Tokyo Joshi. This is actually a rematch from the main event of TJP’s big January 4th Korakuen, where Miyu successfully retained her Princess of Princess championship against Maki in an excellent match. Though that title is not on the line here, Miyu is TJP’s nearly unbeatable ace, the only 2-time champion in the promotion’s short history (as I write this, she’s held the title for 704 days total and the belt has only existed for 1,173 days, which means she’s held the title for literally over 60% of its existence), and would thus be heavily favored here. There’s also still a chance she could lose the title to Yuka Sakazaki on the 3/31 TJP show at Hakata Star Lanes a week before this, but I would expect her to retain. Either way Maki Itoh will definitely be the underdog, as she was in their 1/4 title match, but that more than suits her. The “Fired Idol You Can Fight Right Now” never backs down from a fight, even when she really probably should (see: pretty much all her interactions with Meiko Satomura), but that kind of fighting spirit has captured the hearts and minds of TJP fans everywhere. She’s the kind of person who would stand at the edge of Hell and flip Satan himself the double bird, so expect her to do no different to Miyu- even if the Pink Striker ultimately responds by kicking her head off. Prediction: Miyu Yamashita
Danshoku Dieno & Antonio Honda Vs Joey Ryan & Royce Isaacs
We’re firmly on the comedy side of things here, as Danshoku Dieno teams up with Antonio Honda to take on the foreigners Joey Ryan and Royce Isaacs. Ryan’s DDT antics involving his lollipop and his tights went viral here in the West, so frankly even if you’re not a DDT fan you probably already saw that at some point. Isaacs was brought in by Dieno as his foreign partner, a “gay wrestler” who had an extremely strong ass. No, really, that was his gimmick: he broke things with his ass by clenching it. On the other side of things, I’m very interested in seeing how the Dieno and Honda gimmicks translate to the US. Honda’s trademark is tripping and falling down and promising to give up…..RIGHT after he tells this charming little Gon the Fox story! Of course, Gon the Fox is based on Japanese folklore and as you might expect Honda always tells the story in Japanese, so perhaps we’ll get to see how strong his English is if he tries to make the story translate over here! Don’t be surprised if it ends up having something to do with penises. Meanwhile, if you’ve heard of anyone in this match other than Ryan you’ve probably also heard of Dieno, who’s been doing his unique brand of “gay offense” for over 15 years. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I totally understand why, but DDT themselves seem aware of this- the company actually questioned whether or not Dieno’s antics would fly in America when they announced he was booked for the show, so my read here is that “how far will Dieno go in the US” will be played as the joke. Either way, it doesn’t really matter who wins, so I’ll just pick the foreigners to walk away victorious. Prediction: Joey Ryan & Royce Isaacs
Iron Man Heavymetalweight Title – Delayed Entry Battle Royal
Saki Akai (c) Vs Makoto Oishi Vs Kazuki Hirata Vs Yoshihiko Vs Kikutaro Vs Colt Cabana Vs Mizuki Watase Vs X
This match when it was announced got me to do a little fist pump, as along with the Weapon Rumble later on the card it really helps this feel like an authentic big show DDT card. The Ironman Heavymetalweight Title is of course the championship that started out as a parody of the WWF’s 24/7 Hardcore Title rule; 19 years later, well after the Hardcore belt was long since abandoned, the Ironman lives on, which means we’ve amassed an amazing 1,350 title reigns. Model-turned-wrestler Saki Akai is the current champion as I write this, but of course it’s very possible she could still lose the title between now and New York. Either way, she will be a participant in this Royal Rumble-style match, with two competitors starting and more entering at timed intervals and where eliminations can come via being thrown over the top rope or by pinfall or submission. The last person standing will be the champion, but there’s nothing stopping them from losing the title as soon as the match is over (indeed, this has happened several times in the past). Other participants include: ex-New Wrestling Aidoru member/husband of a much stronger (and sadly now retired) wrestler Makoto Oishi; dance-obsessed grappler Kazuki Hirata, who will look to clear out the ring at some point with his knockout chop so he can get down to a cover of TOKYO GO! that he sings himself; blow-up doll Yoshihiko; longtime comedy wrestler and ex-Osaka Pro clown Kikutaro; recent New Japan Cup quarterfinalist Colt Cabana; the decidedly un-comedic young wrestler Mizuki Watase, who is actually flying himself to New York on his own dime just for a chance to see his old RENEGADES leader Shigehiro Irie; and of course, the mysterious X. Predicting a winner here seems particularly pointless, so let’s just go ahead and say that whoever X is (perhaps frequent DDT contributor Jiro Kuroshio, who just started taking bookings for the weekend last week?) ends up taking it. By the way, DDT has stated that they’re very worried about possibly losing the title in New York and never getting it back, so that could be the tease of a possible storyline. Does some other American indie wrestler hop out of the crowd to take the belt after the actual match is over? Prediction: X
Soma Takao & Tetsuya Endo Vs Yukio Sakaguchi & Masahiro Takanashi
Two longtime DDT units will clash here, as Soma & Endo are representing the heel unit of DDT, DAMNATION, while Yukio & Masa are fighting from Shuten-doji, which is sort of a drinking-based unit with a decidedly Japanese flair. Shuten-doji has been around for over five years but this will actually be one of their final appearances as a team, as the unit will come to an end just a few weeks later on their produce show in Tokyo on April 17th (subtitled, most appropriately, DRINKING TURNS YOUR LIFE AROUND). This is because their leader KUDO will be stepping away from pro wrestling for a while to heal his many injuries, so the other unit members have decided to call it quits rather than go on without him. Yukio and Masa compliment each other well as partners- Yukio is a tall and lanky grappler with a focus on submissions while Masa is shorter but has great proficiency on the ground with flash pins- so it will be a treat to watch them team together one last time before they’re scheduled to go one-on-one on the Shuten-doji farewell show. Meanwhile, Soma was once considered a major prospect as a future babyface ace but never quite got there before a sudden heel turn last year revitalized his stalled career. He’s just coming off a tag title win alongside Daisuke Sasaki on the 3/21 Korakuen, though obviously those belts aren’t on the line here. Endo meanwhile is another young star who hasn’t quite ascended to the KO-D Openweight level. He was once partners with Konosuke Takeshita before joining DAMNATION back in 2016 after losing a KO-D title match to him, and the two have been generational rivals ever since. He possesses jaw-dropping athletic ability and I expect he’ll bust out a dive or two that will really wow the New York crowd. Anyway, with Shuten-doji on the way out and Masa especially sticking out as the lowest ranked guy in this match I fully expect the DAMNATION duo to take the win. Prediction: DAMNATION
3 Way Tag Match
HARASHIMA & Kazusada Higuchi Vs Akito & Ethan Page Vs Shigehiro Irie & Jason Kincaid
Of the entire lineup this is the one that just kind of seems thrown together in a “let’s get some folks on the card” way, so I’ll just go through the participants. HARASHIMA is very comparable to Hiroshi Tanahashi for New Japan fans, as he’s the longtime veteran DDT ace who’s taken more of a back seat in recent years while Takeshita (comparable to Kazuchika Okada in this analogy) takes center stage. He just won back the secondary DDT Extreme title from shoot fighter Shinya Aoki last month at Judgement, and figures to be part of that division for a while. His partner Kazusada ‘Yes, I have a first name’ Higuchi is a former Sumo wrestler who towers over a lot of the DDT regulars and brings hard-hitting action in a more traditional puroresu heavyweight style. Akito is one of the more underrated guys in wrestling as a whole, the kind of all-arounder who can do almost anything in the ring but who really excels at technical wrestling especially. His partner Ethan Page came over several times last year as a foreign guest, and like Higuchi used his greater size than a lot of the smaller DDT roster to bully his opponents. Shigehiro Irie was a longtime DDT roster member until he departed the promotion last fall, not long after a KO-D Openweight Title reign that was widely criticized. Irie has focused most of his attention on Europe since leaving DDT but also has deep ties to the US indie scene (especially in the midwest) from his many trips over here in the past few years. Finally, Irie’s partner Jason ‘the Gift’ Kincaid comes to us from the Southern indies. He initially started out as one of Irie’s many foreign guest partners in his short-lived RENEGADES stable, but he was the one foreigner to outlast both that stable and Irie himself in DDT, as his somewhat wacky but very enjoyable “Southern hippie”-esque persona has fit in very well. He’s still been getting tours, forming a new comedy team with Antonio Honda, but we roll back the clock to RENEGADES here. Anyway, like many of the other matches it really doesn’t matter who wins, so let’s just give it to the HARA & Higuchi team. Prediction: HARASHIMA & Kazusada Higuchi
Weapon Rumble In U.S.A.
MAO Vs Sanshiro Takagi
Yet another match on this show that makes it feel like we’re getting an authentic major DDT event, the Weapon Rumble between MAO and Takagi is perhaps my most anticipated match on the entire card. MAO can sort of be looked at as a next generation replacement for the departed Kota Ibushi, in that he’s a very athletic (and good looking) young wrestler who also seems to quite love doing insane and stupid shit! His tagline, “Fucked Up Wrestling For a Fucked Up World”, basically sums him up quite nicely. Takagi is of course the founder of DDT, a man who started out as little more than a Steve Austin tribute act and managed to have a decades-spanning career. He’s also always been willing to do crazy shit to get over, and he and MAO had a wonderful feud last year that culminated in a memorable Weapon Rumble at Ryogoku Peter Pan in October. Now the feud reignites in the US with our very own Weapon Rumble, and I couldn’t be more excited! If you’re unfamiliar with the match format, the “Weapon Rumble” is pretty simple to explain. There’s only two competitors in this match and they face each other in a standard hardcore match, but with a twist: at regularly timed intervals, a buzzer will go off and a new weapon will be introduced into the match. Each weapon is “for” one of the two wrestlers (though of course if the other one gets their hands on it they can use it too; it will alternate between each wrestler, as you might expect) and will often be tied into their persona in some bizarre way. Sometimes the weapons will get incredibly strange and positively un-weapon-like: for example, past weapons have included Takagi’s wife and daughter (to be used by his opponent!), MAO’s actual, honest-to-god cell phone number, two wrestlers having another match simultaneously, and more. I was lucky enough to see this type of match in person once before, between Takagi and Danshoku Dieno at Peter Pan 2017, and if you’re attending this show live I promise it’s not an experience you’ll ever forget! Even as someone who’s already seen it live, it will be nice not to have to try and figure out the jokes with my 3rd grade-level Japanese this time, as presumably all the weapons will be announced in English! Prediction: MAO
Konosuke Takeshita Vs Daisuke Sasaki
Finally, our main event of the evening is another big match, as we get the same main event from last month’s Judgement 2019 Sumo Hall show! At that event, young ace Konosuke Takeshita defeated DAMNATION leader Daisuke Sasaki to win the KO-D Openweight Title for the third time (and keep in mind he’s only 23!) in an excellent match that’s currently on my MOTY list. If these two can even approach that level here, DDT’s first trip to America will be capped off in a truly excellent way. But beyond the actual match here, which is a fairly straightforward battle between two of DDT’s top stars, there’s an interesting wrinkle that I think has to be noted: the Right to Challenge Anytime/Anywhere Gauntlets! These Gauntlets behave very similarly to the Money in the Bank in WWE, with a few key differences: 1) there’s multiples of them, usually three or four & 2) the Gauntlets must be defended in all matches until the holder cashes them in. Basically, no matter what type of match it is, if a Gauntlet holder is pinned (in DDT or anywhere else!) they lose their Gauntlet to the person who pinned them. As I type this (on March 24th) the three current Gauntlet holders are Tetsuya Endo, Kota Umeda, and Yoshihiko (yes, really, the blow-up doll has a Gauntlet). Umeda is not booked on this show, but Endo and Yoshihiko both are. By the time we get here the Gauntlet holders could be completely different anyway, as there’s still a few more DDT shows to go before this event. Takeshita could even lose the KO-D Openweight Title, as he’s scheduled to defend against soon-to-be-ex-Wrestle-1 star Jiro ‘Ikemen’ Kuroshio on DDT’s final Hakata Star Lanes show on March 31st, but I fully expect him to retain. Regardless, let me tell you my prediction: Takeshita beats Sasaki here in this non-title match, because that’s kind of what he does, and then we get a gauntlet cash-in on him…..from Yoshihiko! It seems too perfect to not have the inflatable sex doll, already well known to a lot of Western fans from his many viral videos, get his title shot here, so I think that’s how DDT gets themselves a last-minute title match in the US. Maybe I’m overthinking it and there won’t even be a cash-in at all, but all I’m saying is, if you’re going to the show, don’t run out the door the moment Takeshita pins Sasaki! Prediction: Konosuke Takeshita