JUNE 6, 2020

Watch: Wrestle Universe

In a time without a whole lot of wrestling (let alone, GOOD wrestling), DDT quietly came back in May with a weekly empty arena TV show. DDT UNIVERSE was also rebranded as WRESTLE UNIVERSE, bringing Pro Wrestling NOAH into the fold. Formatted relatively similar to their awesome “Maji Manji”, these 2-hour Saturday shows have provided DDT fans something to look forward to each weekend. Like all wrestling currently happening, the shows have suffered in quality due to the lack of crowd, however – with the creativity constantly on display in DDT, there have been plenty of highlights during the first five weeks. The weekly show has built rather quickly to what is traditionally DDT’s biggest show of the year: “Wrestle Peter Pan”. Whereas the last few years of Peter Pan have seen shows hover around a 7-hour runtime, this year DDT has chosen to split the show into 2 nights, each with 8 matches. While the cards seem to be unevenly split as far as in-ring quality is concerned, if you think about combining each night into one show (like past years) – you have something for everyone. It is also worth noting that DDT will be returning to running shows WITH fans the weekend following this show, so whatever happens on these two nights can be thought of as a “kick-start” for a new era with the Dramatic Dream Team.

Meet our previewers

Andy LaBarre: Support Black-owned businesses, Google “(your city) Mutual Aid” and please donate there, to your local NAACP, or another fund of your choice. @trillyrobinson on twitter.

Thomas Fischbeck: In an attempt not to get overtly political I’ll just say volunteering for… uh… “forward-thinking” politicians, especially at the local level, can actually make a big difference in your community if you can’t afford to donate to some of the causes Andy mentioned. @rasslinratings on twitter


Andy: For the uninitiated, Keigo Nakamura & Hideki Okatani are two new DDT rookies. While both certainly look like rookies, they are quite fun in their role and show a lot of heart. Due to appearance and his style early on, I really see Nakamura fitting more into the comedy side of things, unless he is able to bulk up. Recently he got crushed by Kazusada Higuchi and had a headlock battle with Shinya Aoki. Okatani on the other hand is someone you want to buy on. A fiery rookie slightly in the vein of the classic DNA classes, he had a really enjoyable showing against Jun Akiyama and took Seigo Tachibana to a time-limit draw. Takao and Paulie are veterans who are willing to sell for the younger generation, but will ultimately beat their ass. Okatani trying to chop down Paulie will be entertaining. Prediction: Soma Takao & Mad Paulie

Thomas: Nakamura and Okatani have both been solid in the early stages of their careers. DDT has had a really tremendous track record in developing great young wrestlers in recent years, previously with the tremendous “DNA” NXT-style promotion. I’ll definitely concur with Andy that right now, Okatani has more potential of the two, but Nakamura can hold his own in the ring for sure. I do feel bad for Soma Takao here. He was in the semi-main event of the last Peter Pan and now he’s in the young boys match. It sucks because I like the guy, but that’s the way it rolls sometimes. Anyways, obviously the DAMNATION team will get the win here.
Prediction: Soma Takao & Mad Paulie


Andy: The Ganbare team of Keisuke Ishii & HARUKAZE is definitely a little bit out of my wheelhouse. Hiroshi Yamato has go-away heat from me at this point, and Saori Anou has sneakily been one of the true highlights of the first five DDT TV episodes, her match with Saki Akai in particular really blowing my expectations with how good it was. I don’t expect a whole lot here, but I am hoping Anou sticks around. Prediction: Keisuke Ishii & HARUKAZE

Thomas: I haven’t been in love with DDT from an in-ring stand-point this year. To be honest, I think the best worker in the company has been the champion of the Ganbare sub-brand, someone making a guest spot here: Keisuke Ishii. It definitely sucks that Ishii, who, I’ve said for a while is the most underrated guy in puro, is so low on the card here, but mixing it up with the talented Saori Anou will be fun, and I expect him to score the fall here. Prediction: Keisuke Ishii & HARUKAZE


Andy: Yoshihiro Sakai was otherwise known as Muscle Sakai (AND NOBODY ELSE!!!) He retired from pro wrestling in 2010 to focus on Sakai, Seiki Co. – a farm equipment company run by his family. In the 10 years since, he has ascended the corporate ladder and Super Sasadango Machine (who mysteriously showed up a few years later) wants to celebrate his achievement, he even hired the wonderful DDT mascot Pokotan to “fight” him. Expect a 20-minute long story held from a remote location, where you won’t know a whole lot of what is happening, but will probably be quite funny. I love SSD, I love Potokan. Prediction: Hilarity

Thomas: Yea…  this might be one you need the @ddtpro_eng translations on twitter for. A DDT match produced from a remote location… that’s a recipe for wackiness. Expect slow motion, maybe a powerpoint or two, Pokotan’s head falling off potentially. This will be everything that some love and some hate about DDT, so you’ll probably know going in whether you’ll like it or not. Pokotan has never won a singles match against a DDT roster member, so I’ll take SSM to win here. Prediction: Super Sasadango Machine


Andy: This one is actually pretty interesting, as these are two of my favorite young wrestlers in all of Japan. Shimatani is sort of the “odd man out” with DAMNATION, mostly just running around with a sign, acting nuts and only occasionally wrestling (but kicking ass when he does). Tachibana was one of the stars of Wrestle-1 before it ended, and while it seems like he will mostly work comedy in DDT – is actually one HELL of a wrestler. Shimatani has gotten in incredible shape, Tachibana is embarrassed he couldn’t beat the rookie Okatani, and both want in! I think Tachibana will show up in DDT from time to time, but expect him to land in AJPW more consistently (even though I would love something screwy where they become besties and just wreak havoc on the tag team division). Prediction: Nobuhiro Shimatani

Thomas: If I were to circle one match on this card as a sleeper MOTN (outside of the obvious picks), it would be this one. These are two fired up young guys hungry to make a name for themselves. I like Tachibana a lot, and I LOVE Shimatani. His match series with El Lindaman about a year and a half ago was tremendous. He’s dealt with some injuries and some fallbacks, but I hope this match is his launching pad to bigger things in DDT this year. As for Tachibana, like Andy said, I think AJPW is a better fit for him, but I’d love to keep him around in DDT at least for guest spots. Prediction: Nobuhiro Shimatani


Andy: The dissolution of “WWE Japan” was awesome news, but seeing Jun Akiyama show up in DDT was a bit of a head scratcher. Apparently working as a “coach” – it is good ANY time you get to see UNCUT JUN. Akiyama DEMOLISHED his partner Watase on episode 4 of DDT TV Show, which just absolutely ruled. Watase was able to gain some respect from Akiyama afterwards for just staying alive for 10 minutes. Akito is probably my single favorite wrestler in DDT, and Iino is a good comedy big-man who will be awesome getting his ass kicked by Akiyama. Should be a really really fun match, but the obvious weak link here is Watase, who I expect to take the fall. Prediction: Akito & Yuki Iino

Thomas: Like Andy said, Akiyama gained some respect for Watase after their singles match, so they team here against the ALL OUT bros of Akito and Yuki Iino. This is the first time that Akiyama has actually faced some actual “dudes” in DDT, and this has some potential to be a very enjoyable match. Akiyama has been really fun as the grumpy old guy beating up the low-card guys, but I am happy to see him finally taking on some names. Watase will be taking the fall though. Prediction: Akito & Yuki Iino


Andy: Over the past year or so, Shunma Katsumata is very likely the most improved wrestler in DDT proper. Getting out of his boy-band stable New Wrestling Aidoru, bulking up to look completely different, embracing hardcore matches and becoming a total weirdo with his Super Hardcore (Joker) personality, the dude has become a true highlight on every big DDT show. For many, his match with the doll Yoshihiko on DDT TV Show #3 is one of the true highlights of “Quarantine Wrestling”. Isami Kodaka was last in DDT regularly as KO-D Openweight Champion before breaking off and starting BASARA. He surprised the champ during the last DDT TV Show, basically saying “Hey, this title didn’t exist when I was around – I want it”. Sasaki has been a little bit boring to me during the past year, and I would actually not mind seeing a DAMNATION shakeup at some point soon, but while he hasn’t held this title long – and I would love to see the young gun Shunma get his hands on it (if even to continue his hilarious feud with inaugural champion Chris Brookes), I expect a returning Kodaka to walk away with the title here, potentially as a bridge to bring BASARA back already (or something entirely new). Expect insane spots during this one, all three of these dudes are fuckin’ crazy. Prediction: Isami Kodaka

Thomas: Ok, to start off here: Chris Brookes was screwed. Brookes beat Shunma Katsumata straight up in a singles match just a few weeks ago, he challenged Sasaki to a title match, Naomi Yoshimura got added to the match for whatever reason, Brookes doesn’t even take the pin in said match, and now Shuma is getting a title shot! #JusticeForChris. Anyways, I’m thrilled for Shunma. He has been one of the fastest rising stars in DDT, and I hope, hope, hope beyond belief that he picks up the win here, I just don’t think DDT is ready to pull the trigger on him quite yet. I’ll concur with Andy that Sasaki hasn’t been living up to his talent the past year or so, but he can still go when he needs to, and I legit believe Isami Kodaka is one of the ten best wrestlers in the world right now. This will be wacky, hardcore fun, and is the far and away favorite to be match of the night for night one. As for a winner, I’ve got to think DDT keeps the title on Sasaki, as he never seems to be without a belt. I’ll be crossing my fingers for the Shunma upset though. Prediction: Daisuke Sasaki


Andy: I love an invasion, especially when it is done with some sort of cross-promotion in mind (and with NOAH now on Wrestle Universe – there will be), but Kenoh and Co. showing up on the last DDT show and absolutely talking shit about Sanshiro Takagi is incredible stuff, and the crew he brought with him to take down DDT is hard as hell. Yuki Sato (Hao) is going to be like 2 feet smaller than everyone else in the ring – but will run circles around them, Kenoh will kick holes through Takagi and the big beef battle of Kitamiya and Higuchi is what any wrestling fan like me wants to see over and over again. I don’t expect a great match, but it should be good and the story of what comes after is very intriguing as well. Prediction: KONGOH

Thomas: The angle to set up this match was really well done, with Kenoh, one of my favorite guys in NOAH, making the challenge to DDT (and now NOAH) President Sanshiro Takagi, telling him to back off from the green ring. They’re saving that singles match for when fans will be able to return, which I think is smart, so for now we’ve got this six man that I think could be a lot of fun. I’m especially excited for the Higuchi-Kitamiya interactions, which should be great. Tomomitsu Matsunaga seems well placed to take the pin here, likely from Kenoh, as the invaders pick up their first win. I’ll be interested to see how the invading Kongoh is received by the crowds on DDT’s upcoming fans shows, as this is a strange mix of an invasion storyline with also some Austin-McMahon vibes, and those two storylines kinda clash. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Sanshiro Takagi’s gimmick is an Austin tribute, but he’s the president in this situation. It’s all a little weird, although knowing DDT fans I’d be shocked if they didn’t side with Takagi. Anyways, Kongoh will win the opening battle. Prediction: KONGOH


Andy: The biggest feud of the first 5 DDT TV Shows has been between Yoshihiko and Konosuke Takeshita, with Yoshihiko claiming that ALL OUT will end. Yoshihiko the doll has RUN through all members of All Out in recent times, including Takeshita – but everything led to Takeshita, FED UP with the bullshit and ripping off the arm of Yoshihiko’s partner (and another doll) Akihiro. All Out was ruthless with the dolls during the last DDT TV Show, with Takeshita showing that he will take the doll out, once and for all.

Yes, the main event of one of the “biggest shows of the year” in Puroresu is between a young ace and a doll. While most of the Yoshihiko matches have gotten praised in the last 5 weeks, I haven’t really cared for them too much – apart from the last one, where Takeshita went berserk. I expect Takeshita to get the win here, and save his stable – but who knows – Yoshihiko, the doll, reigning supreme would be truly hilarious. Expect this to go long, and Takeshita to nearly break his neck like 25 times. Prediction: Konosuke Takeshita

Thomas: Yoshihiko has been calling for ALL OUT to become ALL DEAD over the course of the DDT TV Show series, and has consistently gotten the better of the stable, led by young DDT ace Konosuke Takeshita. On the last show, though, Takeshita finally showed the same killer instinct that Yoshihiko has, ripping out the arm of Yoshihiko’s girlfriend, Akihiro. I love the Yoshihiko stuff generally, although I actually thought the Takeshita match was the weakest of the bunch, mostly just because of the length. This being in a main event of a Peter Pan, I’m not sure I’m confident that this won’t overstay its welcome a little bit.

Takeshita will take a bunch of crazy bumps, expect an ALL OUT run-in and maybe a one-armed Akihiro making the save. Hey, this is DDT, this is what y’all signed up for. This will be a ton of fun as long as they don’t go long, but I just don’t have the confidence that they do that. Nonetheless, this is unique, and a good idea to test out during empty arena. I expect Takeshita to pick up the win here, though, and to wrap up this story before the first DDT TV Show with fans next week. Prediction: Konosuke Takeshita

So that’s that! This is definitely the more “meme” show of the two, so if you’re looking for more of the workrate stuff make sure to check out Andy and I’s day two preview which will be available soon!