JUNE 7, 2020

Watch: Wrestle Universe

As stated in the preview for Day 1 of Peter Pan, it feels odd that the on-paper in-ring quality seems SO skewed towards the second day, but whatever. If you read that preview, you’ll see that the show still looks good for the hardcore DDT fan – but may not quite feel like a big time show for those who are casual DDT watchers. Day 2, though? Other than a couple of exceptions, this is the DDT fans dream. It’s not a perfect show, but during the “Empty Arena” era, this is about as good of a card you are going to get – and with DDT/Wrestle Universe/Cyber Agent gaining fans the week following this show, we expect this one to truly deliver some real highlights. There is a chance for at least 4 matches on this show to be truly great, this should kick a lot of ass and have some really poignant storytelling as well.

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. You can also do more. @trillyrobinson on twitter.

Thomas Fischbeck: Protesting, volunteering, and donating are all great, but also if you’re white or a non-black POC, check in on black friends and make sure they’re doing alright right now. Like seriously, just shoot a text, it’ll be easy, and if they want to rant, don’t get annoyed. Listen. @rasslinratings on twitter.


Andy: Hey this will probably be funny, but Antonio Honda is cancelled for a minute, so hoping that Owashi beats his conspiracy theory ass. Prediction: Toru Owashi

Thomas: I’m not 100% sure what a SSM remote produce match entails, probably some powerpoints. I dunno! I think this should be really fun, and I expect it to be a short, fun DDT comedy match. Honda is definitely placed higher on the card so I think he wins, not that it really matters in a match like this. Also… Antonio Honda… chill out on the conspiracies dude. Prediction: Antonio Honda


Andy: Admittedly, I’ve never been a big Tokyo Joshi Pro watcher, and mostly subside on the handful of big shows, or the matches recommended to me by my trusted pals on this site and others. They ARE fresh off of a PPV that didn’t sound very good, though. I am a pretty big fan of the trio of champions here, Sakazaki, Yamashita and Nakajima, three excellent wrestlers & personalities that are always a highlight on whichever show they are on. Being that they are sort of the 3 big names, I would expect them to win here, however – with Yuka being champion and live shows returning shortly, we might see her take a fall to someone like Rika Tatsumi to set up a program. Prediction: Yuka Sakazaki, Miyu Yamashita & Shoko Nakajima

Thomas: The return of the TJP Offer Match on a big DDT show! These are always fun, short little matches showing off the best of DDT’s women’s sub-brand. I thought about picking the underdogs here thinking one could pin Sakazaki to pick up a title challenge, but I figure TJP would want to set up their title challengers on their own show rather than in a guest spot, so I’ll pick the “ace team” to hold strong and win, probably pinning Aino. Prediction: Yuka Sakazaki, Miyu Yamashita & Shoko Nakajima


Andy: Hell of a matchup here! ERUPTION (Sakaguchi, Akai & Kazusada Higuchi) have been basically untouchable in the past half year, and have really established themselves as one of the coolest units in all of Japan. Brookes and Maki Itoh (of the Itoh Respect Army) have also been very successful when they team up together, and are a true joy to watch. Since her time of joining eruption, Akai has really continued to improve in the ring as well – her kicks landing a lot more crisp and her rope running not quite looking like she is going to stumble outside at any moment. This is honestly one of the matches I’m most excited for, where Sakaguchi works hard, Brookes stirs shit up and Maki acts continues her string of brilliance. This won’t be match of the year or anything, but will definitely be a fun one and is about as good of a mixed-tag match as you could have anywhere in the world right now. Prediction: ERUPTION

Thomas: Eruption are some of the coolest m-fers in wrestling right now and probably my favorite faction in puro. Pretty much every match they have seems to over-deliver by like half a star, heck, they had a match in Ganbare a few months ago with three guys I’ve never heard of that I went ****¼ on! They take on the always fun to watch NEO Itoh Respect Army here. Brookes and Itoh have some amazing chemistry and the size difference is always so cute. This has sleeper match of the night potential, so don’t skip it. Eruption has more upside in the company as potentially a future top stable so I’ll take them here. Prediction: Eruption


Andy: Generally, I like to support the young up-and-comers in Japanese promotions, but Yukio Naya doesn’t really connect with me. He’s decent in the ring, though never spectacular, only wins when facing the true rookies (Naya has wrestled like 90 matches in 4 years), and his look honestly kind of bums me out. Shinya Aoki hasn’t been 100% amazing in DDT, but I do love his presence around the company and have loved seeing him work gimmick matches paired with super serious grapple-heavy matches. Shinya only won the title in March, and while I don’t even know what this gimmick will be – something about the Japanese stay-at-home request being lifted? Anyway, I don’t expect Aoki to lose to a virtual nobody. I think Naya will probably do good eventually, but this ain’t gonna be the time. Prediction: Shinya Aoki

Thomas: WOW Andy… saying you HATE Yukio Naya… geez! /s. Anyways, yeah, Naya has been best when he’s in there with someone able to carry him through a match like a Kazusada Higuchi or Hideki Suzuki. Shinya Aoki, as much as I’ve enjoyed him, ain’t at that level. The gimmick with the DDT Extreme Title is that the holder gets to pick the stipulation, although this one was a little vague. When I reached out to the tremendous @ddtpro_eng on twitter, it was suggested this could have “some tie-in with sumo and/or IGF (Inoki Genome Federation) rules” Aoki also mentioned “five in total” so potentially a best of five with different fighting style rules? Anyways, make sure to follow DDT Pro English so they can translate when the rules are announced during the show. As for a winner here, I like Aoki with the Extreme Title, he can work comedy or shoot style matches depending on the opponent, so the gimmicked matches hook is a good fit for him, and I’m not sure Naya is ready for a singles title yet. Prediction: Shinya Aoki


Andy: I’m happy to see this title not bounce around 25 times a night and that Dieno is finally back to facing someone besides Honda here, but I have no idea what to expect going forward. I haven’t loved the Dieno remote location matches in the past month, other than the Toru Owashi Street Fighter gimmick, which was truly funny – but that is likely because of the language barrier. Coming into this match, Dieno and Oishi (each of whom have held this title like 400 times) have been playing tricks on each other and making videos, trying to book this match before the show all week but something keeps getting in the way (follow @ddtpro_eng for help). I’m sure this will be a lot of shenanigans, but MAYBE we will get BIG MATCH DIENO (we won’t). I’m hoping for an Oishi win, but do not expect it. I DO expect lots of dick grabs and comedy, though. Prediction: Danshoku Dieno

Thomas: Few weird things: first, the IMHMW Title being defended in a singles match and not a battle royal? Wow! Also… on the top half of the card! They’ve been doing a gimmick where they keep trying to have this match but it gets cancelled for whatever reason which has been a little funny. In theory this could be good. Makoto Oishi is a legit awesome wrestler (see his KO-D title match match vs Tetsuya Endo last year if you don’t believe me) and Dieno can hold his own when the comedy is kept to a minimum, but I’d expect the opposite here. As for a winner, who’s to say when it comes to this title, I’ll pick Makoto just to be different from Andy. Prediction: Makoto Oishi


Andy: This one has me drooling. On one side, we have HaraFuji, two ACES who love to lay up loafers in tag matches (but are both still great), and on the other side we have two of the most charismatic, hardest working and original wrestlers in all of Japan. I hope something crazy happens here and the 4 don’t work a standard match, because the creativity that could come from this match is really everything I would want out of DDT. I love Moonlight Express (MAO & Speedball Mike Bailey), but a MAO/ASUKA team is tremendous and am hoping a big upset win here could really propel them forward into the fray as a major tag team as DDT comes back to fans. It’s the perfect time for the vets to lose – without a live crowd cheering them on. I don’t necessarily expect it to happen and think this could go either way, but I’m really hopeful that we get a bit of an upset here after a really hard fought battle. I also expect MAO to be just beat to hell with chops. Anyway, I love this pairing and will likely rate it higher than I need to once it happens. Prediction: MAO & ASUKA

Thomas: Hey so… this could be great. ASUKA is awesome, MAO is awesome, and of course, the aces team of HaraFuji rocks, so this should be great. Also thrown in here is the fact that MAO has the remaining AT/AW Gauntlet (Money In The Bank equivalent), however the gauntlet can change hands whenever the holder is pinned or submitted, even in tags. MAO already had a KO-D Challenge just a few months ago, so I think there’s a good chance he drops the gauntlet here to HARASHIMA who would be a great first challenger for Tetsuya Endo. Otherwise, ASUKA, who I’ve missed a lot in her recent absence, will take the pin, because a MAO-Endo title match sounds amazing too. Prediction: HARAFUJI


Andy: Another match with 4 young, hot talents. This has a chance to be the best worked match out of the entirety of the two shows. DDT Tag Title matches tend to be really great on the whole, and with the people involved here – I really have high hopes. T-Hawk and El Lindaman (as part of “DamnHearts” with Tetsuya Endo) have been fucking killer. As much as I love StrongHearts, with global travel still not happening, this is the perfect time to really have these invaders be a dominant force in DDT. Nautilus is great (especially Ueno), and deserve a long reign – but I am so incredibly high on the trio of T-Hawk, Lindaman and Endo, and with Endo’s show ending promo during the last DDT TV Show claiming that the three of them will have all the belts in DDT (they have the Trios title already), I truly expect them to go ahead with it. Linda and Yoshimura are gonna have a KILLER exchange of who has the thickest thighs, T-Hawk and Ueno are going to run around each other like Masato Yoshino in the early 2000s, and when all is said and done, we’re going to have new champions. Anything less than GREAT here will be a disappointment. Prediction: STRONGHEARTS

Thomas: These might literally be my two favorite tag teams in the world this year, so my expectations are sky high for this one. I’m really hoping for this to draw some eyeballs, because Nautilus (especially Yuki Ueno) really deserves recognition as one of the fastest rising acts in puro. They run up against the STRONGHEARTS team of T-Hawk and El Lindman here, perhaps the most enjoyable team to watch in the game right now. I’m torn on who wins this, but Hawk/Lindaman recently defended their six-man titles against a team that included Nautilus, so natural 50/50 booking says Ueno and Yoshimura keep the other set of straps here, although as Andy mentioned, the visual of the DAMNHEARTS trio holding all the belts at the end of the show would be great. MOTW Potential. Prediction: Nautilus


Andy: Tanaka in DDT has been pretty fun. I came to grips back in 2016 that Tanaka is truly one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, and while he doesn’t truly belong in a “Greatest of All Time” conversation, there are VERY few wrestlers in the history of wrestling that have been GREAT as long as he has been. The typical thing you hear after every Masato Tanaka match is that “he hasn’t aged a year” – and I would have agreed with you until the last 12 months, where I think he actually has slowed down tremendously in the ring. He is beginning to really look like he is in pain while moving, his knees especially look quite rough – but he is still putting out absolute BANGERS month in and month out, he’s just had to change his style ever so slightly. His match with Yukio Sakaguchi from DDT TV Show #2 is truly one of my favorite matches of the year and probably my 2nd favorite match of the “Empty Arena Era” – a 13-minute sprint of two guys just beating each other up. His run as champion has been good on the whole, but Endo probably should have never lost the title and I expect him to gain it back here. Endo was a tremendous champion last year, is one of the top wrestling talents in the world – and with T-Hawk and El Lindaman behind him, I think he’s regaining DDT’s top title here. I’ll go a step further and actually say that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him split off from DAMNATION here (or soon) and seeing him truly beat and surpass Sasaki. We will see, but I probably more sure about an Endo win here than any other match on the show (and the match should be tremendous). Prediction: Tetsuya Endo

Thomas: I’ve been here before with Tetsuya Endo in the big spot, at Peter Pan last year it seemed obvious that he would beat Konosuke Takeshita in the main event, a virtual lock. It didn’t happen. This feels similar. Masato Tanaka’s invasion champion angle has been great (especially the Sakaguchi match Andy mentioned, which rocked), but he’s ran through pretty much all of the big names already. It seems only natural this is where Endo finally gives the outsider the boot, ironically defending a promotion that his faction has often trashed. But I’m a little worried: DDT seems to often waver on whether Endo is the real deal, and we’ve seen in WWE how changing your biggest title during empty arena can bomb… I just do really think Endo needs to win this to avoid being seen as a loser from here on out. Once he wins the title, I’d really be interested to see his interactions with his fellow DAMNATION members, and a future defense against Daisuke Sasaki for leader of the unit could really be fun to watch. This will be hard-hitting, Endo will bump like crazy, but at the end of the day, Tetsuya In The Sky will hand Endo the KO-D Title for the second time. Prediction: Tetsuya Endo

So that’s that! I think this has a great shot to beat out Double or Nothing as the best show of the empty arena era, so make sure to check it out on Wrestle Universe!