Fighting Gig DNA 33 – Kill the King
May 10 2017
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. This is a big deal for the DNA brand, essentially DDT’s answer to NXT, as they normally run a much smaller building in Tokyo. Usually wrestling in front of a few hundred fans. While this isn’t NXT selling out Brooklyn and wrestling in front of 15,000 fans it is a step up from 300 or so to 800. It’s a decent step up for what is essentially a feeder promotion for young guys to get a start in the business. Some of the ‘challenges’ for the youngsters on this show are amazing, running the gamut from LEONA to Kazu Sakuraba. The set up for the building is to have the entrance at the back, thus eliminating an area of potential seating and making the 800 number look closer to a sell-out than you’d think.
Mizuki Watase vs. LEONA
Watase is DDT/DNA to the core. LEONA is the golf-playing son of Tatsumi Fujinami, who wouldn’t be welcome in any professional wrestling ring unless his Dad was a legend. LEONA is less terrible than he used to be, simply because no one can carry on wrestling and continue to be that abysmal. I’m going to have to come to terms with him being a fixture on Japanese cards for years to come. Even if he’s the Japanese equivalent of David Flair. He has at least learned how to do flash pins without them looking god-awful, so that’s something. I’m usually rivetted to LEONA matches because I’m waiting for the inevitable Botch-a-mania moment. Apart from bumping like Tino Sabbatelli, moments before Albert yells at him, he’s pretty clean here. I’d be quite sad if LEONA went from incompetence to passable competence. That’d be boring. He eeks out the win here in a relatively competitive opener. It didn’t suck or anything. I don’t know how to feel about that.
Final Rating: **
Yuji Okabayashi, Nobuhiro Shimatani & Daiki Shimomura vs. Royce Isaacs, Rekka & Naomi Yoshimura
Okabayashi, one of Big Japan’s stand-out talents, is head and shoulders above everyone else. Not in stature, although Shimatani is a veritable half-pint, but rather in reputation. Speaking of stature Yoshimura is Big Lad, stocky and with a shock of orange hair that wouldn’t look out of place in Dragon Gate. He’s only had a handful of matches but presence accounts for a lot in wrestling and he has that. He looks like one of those massively strong farm hands who’s only 16 years old but all he’s ever done is labour intensive farm work and he’s just discovering how much stronger he is than normal city folk. Only Okabayashi isn’t a normal man. He’s been lifting weights and eating steak in a Yakuza owned gym for a decade. When they barrel into each other the match peaks. Yoshimura is clearly green as grass but he stands out in this match with his raw power and presence. He looks clumsy as fuck trying to sell for the other kids but that’ll all be forgotten in a few years. Yoshimura kills Shimatani with a powerbomb for the win. He’s set for stardom.
Final Rating: **3/4
Go Shiozaki vs. Dai Suzuki
Go has been drafted in as part of Dai’s learning curve. He has a best of seven challenge series where various stars come in and fuck him up. Dai is diminutive, standing a princely 5’4”, and appears very scared of Go chopping him. Dai tries various techniques to win, including trying to get them both counted out until Go climbs back into the ring with Dai attached to his waist. Then the laughter stops and the chops begin. So, you want to be a professional wrestler kid? Hey, that’s great *CHOP*.
Go almost chuckles at Dai’s offence throughout the match before lacing in those chops and nearly taking the poor kids head off with a lariat. It’s less an athletic contest as it is an excuse for a veteran to legally murder a younger opponent. Dai’s chest is a mess when he finally succumbs to a lariat. This was sadistic stuff. Only in Japan. In the Western world they’d probably call this bullying.
Final Rating: ***
MAO vs. TAKA Michinoku
This is another intriguing mixture of talent, although I’m saddened that DDT don’t have the rights to TAKA’s swear-heavy entrance music. MAO is a DDT regular but I’m used to seeing him with a fun-loving pop star gimmick. Here he’s all business. It is quite sad to see old man Michinoku making the funnies about how he can do his patented springboard dive to the floor anymore. His level of work in this one mostly involves eye rakes and more eye rakes. Modern day TAKA is at his best when he’s grinding away at mat holds and putting youngsters through their paces. He is only 43 years old. There are older wrestlers doing more impressive work. This is perhaps due to his intensive high-flying style taking its toll. MAO makes amends by hitting his own crazy dives. The difference being that he’s hitting them in front of 800 people whereas TAKA hit his in the WWF in front of millions. Crafty veteran TAKA gets the submission win after various short cuts. If this TAKA wrestled in New Japan I’d be quite happy with that. He’s fine being heel without all the other dickheads from Suzuki-gun knocking around. Sure, he’s deteriorated as hell but he still has a good act.
Final Rating: ***
Konosuke Takeshita vs. Yuki Ueno
Takeshita is one of the success stories of DDT breeding their own main event talents. He’s currently the DDT champion and is being primed to replace HARASHIMA as company ace. Ueno has been wrestling for nine months and is yet another in a string of prospects to come from DDT’s academy. Ueno wants to place a marker here, going after Takeshita and Konosuke, not long ago a super rookie himself, has to put the kid in his place. Ueno won’t be told! It’s a startling display from the youngster. It’s not so much his offence that impresses me but the sheer abuse he survives. Takeshita doesn’t take it easy on him at all. At one point hurling him at the ring apron, the hardest part of the motherfucking ring, and at another hitting a lariat so hard it results in Ueno backflipping and landing on his neck. On offence Ueno is sensational; doing basic spots but doing them with aplomb. His dropkick is incredible. I have no doubt Ueno will be a tremendous wrestler based on this alone. In fact it’s tough to tell the difference between the super rookie and the established star at times, partially because Takeshita is still very young himself but also because Ueno throws himself into everything. It’s a canny performance from the young man. Takeshita eventually beats him with the German suplex but Ueno looked great throughout.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Tangent: according to cagematch.net, Ueno has wrestled 29 matches so far in his career. 29. I continue to be startled at how clean and crisp these young guys are in Japan at such an early age and with such relative inexperience.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Kouki Iwasaki
Saku is occasionally drafted in to DNA to teach the youngster a life lesson in the grappling arts. His MMA experience makes him a formidable opponent. It’s different to the other veterans, who went out of their way to beat up their opponent. Sakuraba is all about the sport…and showing off his house show dive. Iwasaki is further along than most of the young guys on this card. He’s 26 years old and wrestles on most of the DDT main cards. So he puts up a decent fight until Sakuraba ties him in knots and gets a cheeky pinfall. I found this to be quite underwhelming. Sakuraba’s inability to embrace pro wrestling, house show dive aside, rather reflects in his lack of big-time bookings. The 47 year old hasn’t worked for New Japan since July last year and based on this vanilla performance you can see why.
Final Rating: **1/2
Kotaro Suzuki vs. Shunma Katsumata
Shunma is a DNA boy but he’s also on DDT’s main roster as part of the NWA faction. His opponent is 38 year old journeyman Kotaro Suzuki. Remember Tiger Emperor? And Mushiking Terry? The days when NOAH, despite being the best promotion in Japan, were still capable of doing weird things with existing talent. Kotaro has always been good. He’s currently wrestling for Zero1, which makes me sad that most of Zero1 shows don’t make tape nowadays. Kotaro grew up as a smaller guy in wrestling but as wrestlers have gotten smaller he’s now a bigger guy. It must be a confusing situation for him. The match is intriguing as Kotaro tries to get his shit in and Shunma shuts it all down. Especially the shitty 619 attempt, met by two flying feet. Shunma’s various stomps and dropkicks are borderline dangerous because he throws all his weight behind them but also not dangerous because he only weighs about 75lbs. It still rattles Kotaro as he gets caught with an assortment of flying feet. It’s one hell of a showing from Shunma, who I’m used to seeing in throwaway trios matches. He shows everyone how effective his offence can be, even against a larger opponent. It reminds me a little of Pentagon Jr’s approach to bringing down a larger opponent. Kotaro eventually wins but like Ueno it was Shunma who stood out, which is how it should be on these shows. Unless it’s the Go Shiozaki ‘murder by chops’ approach.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Mike Bailey vs. Kazusada Higuchi
This is, rightfully, the main event and the match I was most anticipating. Speedball has an array of striking offence to keep the big man off his game, which is a power-based offence. Higuchi has been a big hit on the main DDT roster so although DNA was originally a tool to get him over, he doesn’t need it anymore. He’s merely here to draw in extra punters. Bailey, as the ‘veteran’ of the two, controls the pace and throws in a lot of cool stuff while also allowing Higuchi to shine by giving him stuff to power out of. I’m at my happiest when they do, albeit short, strike duels. Bailey’s big kicks meeting Higuchi’s fierce chops. Higuchi has gotten quite fast as demonstrated when he dodges the moonsault knees on the apron. If being huge and powerful wasn’t scary enough, the speed gives him an extra edge. The match is not lacking in big spots with both guys putting their bodies on the line. Higuchi in letting Mike land knees first on him from great heights and Bailey in letting Higuchi drop him from great heights.
It’s a real battle and a nice mesh of styles. Like when Bailey goes for a shooting star and Higuchi just biffs him out of the air. Higuchi ends up scoring the win via giant chokeslam and he’s, notably, the only ‘DNA guy’ to pick up a big win. It’s apropos as he’s Mr DNA. The biggest success story of the DNA brand.
Final Rating: ***3/4
A really easy watch, combined with a glimpse into the future of the business with the likes of Shunma and Ueno shining in their matches. Higuchi-Bailey is the biggest highlight but it’s a watchable show from start to finish. The two hours flew by.