Dramatic Dream Team
King Of DDT 2019
April 29, 2019 to May 19, 2019
Itabashi Green Hall, Susukino Mars Gym, & Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan & Sapporo, Japan
Watch: DDT Universe
Today I’ll be doing something a little bit different, going through all three King Of DDT shows in one tidy package. This was a great tournament with a tremendous lineup, and is a great jumping on point if you want to get into DDT as this tournament really kicks off the climb to DDT’s big annual “Peter Pan” show, which will take place July 15th from Ota Ward Gymnasium in Tokyo, headlined by the KO-D Champion vs the winner of this tournament. Let’s jump into it!
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round (April 29)
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round Match – Kazusada Higuchi def. Kota Umeda
Kazusada Higuchi doesn’t really fit the mold of what comes to mind when you think about a top DDT wrestler. With a background in Sumo and his hard chops, Higuchi feels like he would fit in perfectly in a Big Japan or NOAH (where he actually did a tour of last year for their annual block tournament and was great), but he works in DDT because of his different style, not in spite of it. Umeda is the young guy, a plucky underdog who never wins, and he just finished off his trial series earlier this year capped by a great match against current AJPW World Tag Team Champion Shuji Ishikawa.
While Umeda’s strikes always look great, his kicks sounded thunderous in this small building. If you like strike battles this is the match for you, because both guys threw a lot of them. The style clash between Umeda’s speed and Higuchi’s power was awesome to watch, and Umeda got put over strong here, withstanding a lot before Higuchi eventually put him away with the Doctor Bomb. ***1/2
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round Match – Soma Takao def. Mike Bailey
These two had some fun clashes the past few months over the tag titles, Bailey teaming with MAO and Takao teaming with former KO-D Champion Daisuke Sasaki. The interactions here were interesting to watch as Bailey has an upbeat fun-loving personality while Takao is more of the serious type as part of the DAMNATION faction, which draws a lot of parallels to New Japan’s Los Ingobernables de Japon.
Takao has always been just a step below the KO-D picture, only challenging for it twice in his career, but he came into this tournament fired up looking to challenge his stablemate, Tetusya Endo, for the title the same way Endo won the title from Sasaki. Bailey can be a little over the top sometimes but I liked him here, and his strikes looked incredible as always. These two had really great chemistry and over delivered for the time they had. Takao picked up the win with the Vertebreaker. ***3/4
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round Match – Naomi Yoshimura def. Kazuki Hirata
Kazuki Hirata came into this tournament looking to follow the footsteps of fellow comedy wrestler Makoto Oishi, who earned a KO-D Title match and had an awesome match with Tetsuya Endo at the last Korakuen (****1/2). Yoshimura, who is just 24, is one of DDT’s big prospects right now and he picked up the victory in a fun sub-ten minute match. ***
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round Match – Daisuke Sasaki def. Yukio Sakaguchi
I had pretty high expectations for this one and unfortunately, they weren’t quite met. This had the making of a good match, it just had a lot of outside brawling and shenanigans. Sasaki picked up the win with the nut shot and then the feet on the ropes, knocking one of the early underdog specials out of the tournament, as Sakaguchi had been building himself up for this tournament, saying he put all his chips in this basket. I love Daisuke Sasaki, but sometimes he just isn’t motivated, and when he isn’t you get performances like this. I will admit maybe this was a victim of high expectations, but either way it wasn’t great. **
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round Match – Masahiro Takanashi def. MAO
This result was really shocking to me, MAO was my pick to win this tournament and he lost here in the first round in two minutes, albeit with a lot of shenanigans, via backslide. NR
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round Match – Akito def. HARASHIMA
Akito is a super consistent midcard guy who puts in great work every time out, and he got a chance to shine her against the former ace of the company, HARASHIMA in a semi-main event spot in this big tournament.
They started with some grappling early on and Akito worked down HARASHIMA’s knee after HARASHIMA missed the double knees in the corner. The match was pretty slow for the most part but it told a good story with Akito trying to prove himself and eventually picking up a shocking win with a roll up in a really surprising upset. HARSHIMA sold the loss like his career was over, losing in the first round of the King Of DDT just one day after losing his title at the April 28 Korakuen. ***1/2
King Of DDT 2019 1st Round Match – Konosuke Takeshita def. Yuki Ueno
When the names for King Of DDT were announced this felt like an obvious match to do. The current ace of the company against the guy that many see as the heir to the throne (although they are actually both the same age, 23, Takeshita just got crazy good crazy fast). They hadn’t had a match together in almost two years, so this was a big match for any long-time DDT watchers, although they did clash earlier this year in an awesome Six Man Tag Title match on the March 2nd Osaka show that in one of my favorite DDT matches this year.
These two had great chemistry and put on a legit great main event style match. Ueno’s high flying style was great and it was fun to watch Takeshita work as the base here. The crowd was biting on every near fall down the finishing stretch and these two put together magic in what was one of my favorite matches of the tournament. Takeshita picked up the win with a knee in 20 minutes and change, just about 30 seconds shy of the final for the longest match of the tournament. ****
Takeshita threw Ueno out of the ring after the match, showing his cocky prick side, Ueno limped back into the ring and kicked at Takeshita’s hand when the ace offered a token handshake.
All in all an awesome show, and while there weren’t any blow away matches, everything was consistently really good with the exception of the Sasaki-Sakaguchi match, which was likely a victim of expectations more than anything truly bad.
King Of DDT 2019 2nd Round (May 6th)
King Of DDT 2019 Loser Revival Battle Royal – HARASHIMA def. Kazuki Hirata, Kota Umeda, MAO, Mike Bailey, & Yuki Ueno
This was a change that DDT made to the tournament this year, cutting down from 32 men to 14, with a reentry battle royal for any that lost in the first round to determine the 8th quarterfinalist. Note that one man who lost in the first round, Yukio Sakaguchi, did not participate in this match as he received a title match on the June 2nd Wrestle Matsuyama show, which is shaping up to look great.
MAO and Mike Bailey, Moonlight Express tag team partners, shook hands at the beginning of the match, and then we jumped right into the action, with the three kick artists, HARASHIMA, Kota Umeda, & Mike Bailey laying into each other with vicious looking strikes that sounded like gunshots in the small building. After the exchange, MAO tried to eliminate Mike Bailey who looked like he was about to cry after the attempted betrayal. This was DDT style: over the top rope, pinfall, or submission, and while it only went like seven minutes, it was about as action-packed of a seven-minute match as you could get. It came down to the former ace, HARASHIMA, and the young upstart, Kota Umeda, in the final two, and they had a great finishing stretch with HARASHIMA ultimately eliminating Umeda with the Somato. ***1/2
HARASHIMA advanced to face Daisuke Sasaki in the main event of this show.
King Of DDT 2019 Second Round Match – Kazusada Higuchi def. Masahiro Takanashi
They kept things nice and tidy here, as they did on this whole show really, this was just seven minutes, mostly of Higuchi kicking the shit out of Takanashi with the occasional hope spot or chicanery.
I saw some giving high marks for this match, but it was pretty basic to me, and the crowd seemed to be just getting into the match as the finish came. Higuchi won with the Doctor Bomb. **3/4
King Of DDT 2019 Second Round Match – Soma Takao def. Akito
Even in the small building here, Takao really came off like a star to me, he does the little things so well, and while I doubt DDT will ever give him a legit run at the top of the card, I’d love it if they did.
This was another sub-ten minute match where the crowd seemed to be politely clapping for everything rather than actually interested. Akito is a really solid mid card guy, but I’m not sure if it was the crowd or what, but this didn’t really click for me until a great finishing stretch. Takao won with the Vertebreaker, one of the best finishes in wrestling. ***
King Of DDT 2019 Second Round Match – Konosuke Takeshita def. Naomi Yoshimura
It’s pretty obvious what DDT was doing here, after giving Ueno some shine in the first round, the ace of the company now went out to make another young prospect, Naomi Yoshimura, look great. This was the longest match on the show but they still kept it within 15 minutes, which I appreciated.
I could’ve done without some of the outside brawling early on, but when they got things back in the ring I really started to get into it. Both guys laid into each other with strikes, and Takeshita gave Yoshimura a lot for as young a guy as he is, especially with the near falls down the stretch.
This was probably the best actual match on the show, but the lack of much crowd reaction kept taking me out of the match at some points. The finishing stretch was great and made up for a pretty slow bulk of the match. Takeshita rocked Yoshimura with a knee and locked in the Caballo 2020 (a meh looking camel clutch) for the submission win. ***1/2
Takeshita again pushed the young guy out of the ring after the match. He’s clearly being set up in a heel role going into the Peter Pan title match against Tetsuya Endo.
King Of DDT 2019 2nd Round Match – Daisuke Sasaki def. HARASHIMA
Sasaki kept his shirt on at the start of this match and immediately locked in a rest hold, which let me know we probably weren’t in for a classic in the main event. I don’t want to call Sasaki inconsistent, because when he tries he is consistently good, but he still struggles with actually putting in effort on shows with less than 500 people in attendance.
Some of the early Sasaki crowd brawling was pretty good but that was about it. The two felt like they were a couple beats off from one another at some points, and again, the crowd was just atrocious throughout this whole show. This was really slow at times, and while technically pretty good, I never really felt invested in the outcome. HARASHIMA picked up the win with the Somato. ***
The crowd really killed this show, mostly skippable to be honest.
King Of DDT 2019 The Final!! (May 19th)
King Of DDT 2019 Semifinal Match – Konosuke Takeshita def. Kazusada Higuchi
They kept both semifinal matches relatively short as the winners would have another match later in the show. One thing I always realize watching DDT, especially in this specific case where I watched the first two shows (which were essentially house shows) and this back-to-back, is how much production value and commentary, even when it isn’t in a language you understand, help add to the quality of the match. Having the straight video with no commentary vs the great DDT Korakuen production and excited commentators made a world of a difference here.
This match was really great. I won’t go through a play by play of the whole thing, but it was non-stop action for eight minutes straight with both guys throwing brutal chops and lariats that I’d highly recommend. Takeshita kicked out of a gutwrench powerbomb from Higuchi at one point, and Higuchi kicked out of the German Suplex Hold and escaped from the Caballo 2020 before eventually falling victim to a lariat in an awesome sprint. ****
Takeshita has had a super underrated great year. He gets some hate because of his booking (which annoys me too) but between the ropes he’s probably had a top 15 year in the world.
King Of DDT 2019 Semifinal Match – Soma Takao def. HARASHIMA
This was a little longer than the first semifinal match but still was under 15 minutes. It took a little while to get going, and probably could’ve benefitted from being more of a sprint like the previous match, but when it picked up it got pretty good.
There were a few moments where the guys looked like they were on the wrong page, but the finishing stretch came off really smooth and the crowd was really into it. Takao picked up the win with no DAMNATION shenanigans via the Vertebreaker in a surprising result. ***1/2
HARASHIMA sold the loss really well after the match.
At this point, we got the hilarious DDT parody of the NJPW “Time’s Up” promo, except at the end, they told us who it was, and it turned out to be Chris Brookes, the guy commonly thought of to be the NJPW “Time’s Up” guy. Excited to see Brookes in DDT, he’ll be a decent fit there in the mid card.
— DDT ProWrestling (@ddtpro) May 19, 2019
KO-D Openweight Title – Tetsuya Endo (c) def. Keisuke Ishii
Keisuke Ishii is one of the best wrestlers you may have never heard of because he’s been toiling away in DDT’s Ganbare sub-brand for a while, similar to Ryota Nakatsu in DDT’s BASARA sub-brand. Quick shout-out to Nakatsu, who had an incredible match on a recent BASARA show vs Ryuichi Sekine (****3/4) that is my DDT umbrella match of the year. People that don’t watch BASARA regularly might not appreciate it as much, but it was (SPOILER) the perfect match to cap an incredible title reign from Nakatsu.
For a little bit of context here, DDT has these things called “Right To Challenge Anytime/Anywhere Gauntlets” which can be cashed in at any time for a KO-D Openweight Title shot, although if you are ever pinned or submitted, even in a tag match, you lose the gauntlet, so they get passed around pretty frequently. Ishii here made it clear at the last Korakuen that he wanted to challenge on this show, although you can’t technically use the gauntlet until you actually want to cash it in. He came out before Endo’s scheduled tag match, the Rob Van Dam Money In The Bank face way of cashing in and challenged him to a title match and off we were.
Endo is a guy that DDT has had pegged as Takeshita’s main rival at the top of the company for a while now, and by the end of this show they set up that as the presumed main event for Peter Pan. Endo is normally somewhat of a crowd favorite despite some heelish tendencies because of how exciting he is to watch, but against the smaller Ishii, he got a chance to flex his heel muscles.
Ishii’s move set is one of my favorites in the world, he has an awesome mix of strikes, high flying moves, and sick looking suplexes. I enjoyed the story they told in this match with Endo being just a half step ahead the entire way through, but Ishii making the most of every opportunity he had, hitting a Fire Thunder Driver for a near fall that almost got the crowd, which was super hot throughout this match getting behind the underdog.
The finishing stretch was insanely hot with Dragon Suplexes and Torture Rack Powerbombs galore, but Endo finally put Ishii away with the Shooting Star in an awesome match. V2 for Endo in another awesome match. ****1/4
They jump right into the previously scheduled tag match after the bell, and Endo’s next challenger, Yukio Sakaguchi, knocks him out in about a minute to set up their title match on June 2nd.
King Of DDT 2019 Final – Konosuke Takeshita def. Soma Takao
Soma scared off his DAMNATION stablemates from interfering early on in the match, he wanted to do this one fair and square, and it ultimately cost him.
They went 20 minutes here but kept a good pace throughout and never really dragged, especially for two guys that had just wrestled tough matches a couple of hours earlier.
These guys had great chemistry and had the crowd biting on every near fall at the end of a three and a half hour show, which was a testament to their work. Takeshita got bloodied up at one point and Takao just continued to brutalize him with forearms, which popped me.
Takao hit the Vertebreaker, which he has won every tournament match with, for an awesome nearfall that got me and the crowd. The Ace came back though, hitting a Canadian Destroyer off the top rope and the same lariat he won with earlier in the show for a great near fall before ultimately putting Takao away with The Fable in one of the DDT matches of the year. ****1/2
So, we have Endo-Takeshita for Peter Pan (presumably, we still have the Sakaguchi title challenge and one AT/AW gauntlet out there, currently held by Sanshiro Takagi), and you know, I’m ok with that! Also announced for Peter Pan was Danshoku Dieno vs Shinya Aoki and Yukio Naya vs the debuting Hideki Suzuki!
Final Thoughts: This was a super easy to get through tournament from start to finish with some great Takeshita performances throughout, a killer final match and an awesome non-tournament title match on the final show, I’d highly recommend checking it out.