Dramatic Dream Team
King Of DDT 2020 1st Round
AUGUST 8, 2020
Kanda Myojin Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: Wrestle Universe

DDT’s annual King of DDT tournament–a single-elimination affair with the winner receiving a shot at the KO-D Openweight Title–kicked off from Kanda Myojin Hall on Saturday with a stacked show featuring all 14 first-round matches. Let’s get into it.

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
El Lindaman def. Yukio Naya (10:17)

As I mentioned in my preview of this tournament, Naya has been a rare miss for me in the DDT development system; I haven’t loved his stuff. El Lindaman, on the other hand, absolutely rules. He came out wearing OWE trunks for this one, a promotion taken from us too soon. Naya slowly and ploddingly controlled Lindaman for the bulk of this match, but it started to pick up once Lindaman started to get his offense in with a comeback. I’m serious guys, Naya is just not it. He’s got a good look, but he still seems like he has two left feet in the ring and I feel like he can’t even run naturally. Naya fired up with some nice looking knees and a chokeslam, but Lindaman sprayed him in the eyes with cold spray, tied up his legs with tape, and rolled up Naya to pick up the win. The finishing stretch here was actually really good, but the bulk of the match was a boring Naya control period, so I can’t really recommend it above a “pretty good” level. ***1/4

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Toru Owashi def. Seigo Tachibana (4:31)

Poor Seigo Tachibana has eaten a ton of falls across multiple different promotions since WRESTLE-1 folded, but I think he’s gained some eyeballs and made some new fans, so that is at least good. He attacked Owashi before the bell here with his jacket and used some heelish tactics to try and get the upper hand until Owashi fired up with some massive looking chops. A chokeslam finished Tachibana in a pretty standard unoffensive squash for Owashi. **3/4

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Danshoku Dieno def. Antonio Honda (2:57)

Honda tripped entering the ring here. On a 14-match show, we had to get in the Gon the Fox gimmick early in the match to keep things tidy. Honda snuck attack Dieno before the bell with the Gon the Fox, and the two wrestled a straight match here shockingly. Like, I’m actually shocked. A Honda vs Dieno match 100% without shenanigans after the bell?? What??? This only went three minutes, nothing much else to say. Dieno won. *3/4

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Kazusada Higuchi def. Mizuki Watase (3:37)

Kazusada Higuchi–my pick to win the tournament–opened up here against Junretsu’s Mizuki Watase, someone undergoing a bit of a career resurgence right now. This was just two guys hitting the shit out of each other from the start of the bell, with Higuchi eventually getting the upper hand. Watase has proven to be a legit good wrestler after being a longtime JAG on the DDT roster. He lost very quickly here but earned some respect in going toe to toe with Higuchi. ***

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Yuki Ueno def. Nobuhiro Shimatani (10:11)

Outside of the top two matches, this was certainly the one I was most looking forward to in the first round. Ueno has gotten the rocket pack recently, and Shimatani is someone I’ve long had pegged as a future player despite his role as DAMNATION’s fall guy. After a string of three straight sub-five minute matches, these two actually got a little bit of time. At just over ten minutes, it was the fourth-longest match on the show. Shimatani displayed a lot of heel work here, raking the eyes of Ueno and generally just kinda being a dick. He got an extended heat segment on one-half of the KO-D Tag Team Champions and a frequent KO-D Openweight Title challenger in Ueno here, which was a big step for him, but of course he eventually ate the pin to the BME, a moonsault. Shimatani’s former rival, El Lindaman, checked on him after the match, and Ueno shook Shimatani’s hand as a sign of respect. Unfortunately, this severely underdelivered on my expectations as a potential match of the night and felt very much like a “paint by numbers” match. **3/4

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Daisuke Sasaki def. Tomomitsu Matsunaga (6:51)

Tomomitsu Matsunaga, a career fall guy in DDT, was really only in this tournament to provide an extra body and fill out the 28-man bracket. He took on Daisuke Sasaki here, a guy in desperate need of a win after a rough few months saw him lose his title and surrender control of DAMNATION to Tetsuya Endo. This was a pretty solid match, and they got enough time that it wasn’t just in and out. Sasaki picked up the win with a Cross Facelock. ***

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Shunma Katsumata def. Yukio Sakaguchi (3:41)

Damn, both of these guys have awesome entrance music. I’m hyped for this. Shunma Katsumata has been foraying into deathmatches, recently debuting for Big Japan. This match began with Shunma essentially acting as a kicking bag for Sakaguchi, with the taller opponent just dominating him. Katsumata tried to pick up the win with a flash roll-up to no avail. A massive kick flattened Katsumata and they teased a knockout. Shunma ducked a second kick and tried to roll Sakaguchi up again but the Eruption member kicked out. A rear-naked choke was reversed into a rollup, though, and Shunma did it! He pulled off the upset! An awesome sprint here, one of the better sub-four-minute matches you’ll ever see. Sakaguchi raised Shunma’s hand after the match. ***1/2

We are halfway through the scheduled matches and only an hour into the show. This show has been a breeze.

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
HARASHIMA def. Mad Paulie (11:19)

Mad Paulie shook hands with HARASHIMA before the bell, but his nice-guy persona did not last long. He quickly took HARASHIMA to the outside, choking him out. HARASHIMA has still got it. I was shocked at how excellent the 46-year-old and former Ace of DDT still is between the ropes; he made this match with Paulie, a JAG, extremely interesting with his speed, quickness, and agility. The Somato finished Paulie in a surprisingly very good match. If you told me before the show that DDT was going to give Mad Paulie the second-longest match on the show, I would’ve said it was a mistake, but this was good. ***1/2

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Shinya Aoki def. Yuki Iino (0:36)

I said in my preview I was worried that this match between two very talented young wrestlers wouldn’t get time on a 14-match show, and unfortunately it didn’t. Iino speared Aoki before the bell and hit an elbow drop for two, but Aoki quickly caught Iino in an armbar for an instant tap. NR

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Makoto Oishi def. Chris Brookes (8:41)

I’ve long thought Makoto Oishi was one of the most underutilized workers in the world. A world-class grappler, Oishi is often stuck with comedy in DDT, but we’ve seen when he’s given the chance to go–such as his KO-D Title challenge last year–he can go. I went ****1/2 on that, and Oishi looked to earn another title shot here by pinning the DDT Universal Champion Chris Brookes in what I called my upset special of the tournament. The two grappled early, with Brookes in control for the majority of the bout, using his size to his advantage. Oishi worked on Brookes’ knee when he had the opportunity though, and after surviving an onslaught of moves from the champ, Oishi trapped the “Calamari Catch King” in a kneelock and earned a tapout win. My upset special pays off! This was a pretty perfunctory grappling match, but still enjoyable. The two shook hands afterward. ***

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
T-Hawk def. Kazuki Hirata (7:45)

Kazuki Hirata is another guy on the DDT roster that is almost always a comedy wrestler, but who can tear it up when he gets the chance. He got it here against T-Hawk, one of the most undervalued guys in the world. I hope the rumors of T-Hawk considering retirement are false because the guy is a class wrestler. The STH member dominated Hirata from start to finish, and Mr. Tokyo Go put in an excellent performance in his own right, selling very well and putting on a fiery comeback segment. T-Hawk eventually took back control and won with the Night Ride. Probably my match of the night to this point. ***1/2

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Minoru Tanaka def. Soma Takao (8:30)

Tanaka looked so cool here. The 47-year old freelance wrestler, who is most commonly associated today with Pro Wrestling NOAH, was the only outsider DDT brought in for this tournament. He came into the first round with an incredible swagger in his step. Tanaka took on Soma Takao here, someone who saw a big elevation in 2019 just to do essentially nothing this year. This was a well-worked match from the veteran Tanaka, who essentially just outclassed the fiery Takao with his superior technique. The two engaged in a sick-looking kick battle before Tanaka tapped Soma out with the Minoru Special. Tanaka looked awesome for someone that has barely wrestled the last few months. He’s still got it. A tough early exit for Takao, however; after making it to the semifinals last year, he finds himself eliminated in round one. ***1/4

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Konosuke Takeshita def. Naomi Yoshimura (8:07)

Takeshita helped bring Yoshimura’s tag partner, Yuki Ueno, to a tremendous match in the first round of last year’s King of DDT in what was seen as a big elevation for Ueno; we’ll see if this match does the same for Yoshimura. Yoshimura shaved his head for this one which was… weird. They started hot, with both unloading the tank early and Yoshimura gaining a quick advantage. Takeshita looked great here, like he really wanted to bring the best out of Yoshimura in the little time they had. The match ended too quickly to be considered great, but if they had a little more time this could have been awesome. The new match of the night to this point. ***1/2

King of DDT 2020 First Round Match
Akito def. Tetsuya Endo (17:21)

Akito, a long under-appreciated guy because he’s in the same faction as Konosuke Takeshita, got a well-deserved spot in the main event here against KO-D Openweight Champion Tetsuya Endo. Endo has said if he wins the tournament, he will name AEW’s Kenny Omega as his challenger at DDT’s Ultimate Party event. This was the only match on the show to get a significant amount of time, and you could tell that from the start, as they began the match at a much slower pace compared to many of the sprints we saw throughout the night.

Akito worked on Endo’s leg in the early stages of the match with stomps and kneebars to try and ground the high flyer. Endo got his movez in, but Akito dominated the champ for the most part, and eventually tied Endo up in a pretzel, earning a submission in a big upset over the KO-D Champ! This was really good stuff, and good on Akito for getting a huge win. I can’t wait for his eventual title challenge. They put him over big here, not only getting the submission win, but really dominating start to finish. ***1/2

Round 2 Matches:

  • Makoto Oishi vs. T-Hawk
  • Danshoku Dieno vs. Yuki Ueno
  • Toru Owashi vs. Akito
  • Daisuke Sasaki vs. Shinya Aoki
  • Minoru Tanaka vs. Shunma Katsumata
  • Konosuke Takeshita vs. El Lindaman
  • HARASHIMA vs. Kazusada Higuchi

Plus, of course, the Dramatic Challenge, a second chance battle royal with all those eliminated in round one!

Final Thoughts 

This was a really fun show. Nothing is going to make your match of the year lists (nothing even cracked my notebook), but nothing was bad either; it was fun, interesting, and a tremendous introduction to the characters of DDT for those who are unfamiliar. A strong recommendation from me.