DDT DNA 21
Kitazawa Town Hall – Tokyo, Japan
To be clear I have been watching DNA since the beginning but, I have been slightly more casual over the course of the past year and have even missed the past two to three shows.
DNA is a great show that from the start had all the same positives that NXT had when I use to enjoy watching that show as well. Rawboned young wrestlers just learning to do basic storytelling in matches similar to non-student wrestling show as everyone is at a different level–but the passion is here through and through when you are in a dojo your entire life tends to be wrestling so they are focused on wrestling beyond the point of the seasoned road dogs who also have families and lives to think about. Most of the people on this show have one thing to worry about and that’s wrestling.
Keisuke Ishii vs. Rekka**1/4
I’m actually slightly more familiar with Rekka going into this. It’s fitting that he charges in giving me something to care about early in the match up. Ishii eventually starts a comeback and Rekka selling does leave a lot to be desired. On these shows a lot of workers just pull out basic dead man selling laying on the floor with nothing on their face. It’s really a common theme on DNA shows as they are young and really do little to really draw the crowd in emotionally. Oddly after that they have a chop battle where Rekka sells better than most of the big time stars do for this trope. Picture perfect tilt a whirl into an arm bar by Rekka that I bought it could have easily been a finish for a match of this level. Ishii works for the ropes and it’s the biggest bit of drama to the match. Ishii with a really slick looking knee lift face buster to set up a tiger suplex hold for the pin and that was just quick and fun solid student wrestling with a surprising bit of extra selling and a nice finish. Thank you DNA.
Makoto Oishi vs. MAO**3/4
This starts out fast paced in a totally different way which is well appreciated by me. Something you see as you watch super indie or even WWE shows that match beginning start to feel all exactly the same pretty quickly. These are all young workers who are training in the same place but are still working to be unique. MAO attempts to use quickness and agility to take over on Oishi but it backfires early on as Oishi throws his knee into the turnbuckle and does not let up from there on out. Oishi does a great job mixing up his offense and keeping on the leg so it doesn’t at any point get stale. There’s a great hope spot where MAO finally gets a bodyslam on Oishi only to have Oishi grab a knee bar from the mat. Oishi keeps looking for big throws with him giving up height to MAO who has a bum wheel to boot it looks pretty dumb on him. This foolish game plan ends up playing perfectly into the finish. Oishi looks for a sit-out chokebomb over and over until he finally gets it tenacity in wrestling can be undervalued. When that doesn’t work Oishi is back to the leg where he should be all along. The finish sees Oishi looking again for some throw out of a full nelson only to have MAO counter into a sloppy tilt a whirl tombstone, think Matt Fitchet but not as smooth, as I’m not sure Oishi even knew what he was taking. MAO selling the leg throughout was at times downright gripping as someone could easily argue he S-canned it at point but I think it was never so egregious that it took me out of the match.
Konosuke Takeshita vs. Nobuhiro Shimatani**3/4
Shimatani looks like a pint size muscle man the way he carries himself and I have always enjoyed that style of wrestling. I am drawn not only to legit hosses but also the small men with chips on their shoulder who refuse to be seen as anything less than a hoss. They play with the height difference and Shimatani shows he’s not going to be pushed around by the larger Takeshita. Takeshita starts to have his way with Shimatani and decides to really amp up the violence exposing the floor around the ring to DDT Shimatani onto it and you know that’s a big time count out tease. I wish it was sold more and made into a bigger spot as Shimatani is back in and fighting much too quickly for my liking. I do love Shimatani’s fire as Takeshita is working over the back pretty strong. Takeshita’s back work here does make me wonder why he didn’t slam Shimatani on the floor instead of the DDT to fit the narrative of the match better. Shimatani’s fire fighting from underneath is great but I just don’t really buy into him as a babyface he doesn’t make me want to cheer him. Shimatani starts a comeback finally getting a bodyslam and then hitting some fast-flying attacks. Again Takeshita counters a tornado DDT into a gut buster followed by a Boston crab and I love his back work now–yet the DDT on the floor keeps creeping into the back of my mind. The refs pin counts are too slow for Shimatani’s quick pin attempt near falls. Shimatani has worn Takeshita down so much that he is crouching on on his knees so much they are basically looking eye to eye as Shimatani looking for high impact strikes. It’s just not enough as the much larger Takeshita gets the pin after a brainbuster. I did enjoy the story overall and Takeshita’s focus on the back was nice in the middle of the match but it didn’t play into the biggest spot of the match or the finish so I really question it. Showing that Shimatani is all heart while Takeshita has almost none was the overarching theme of the match which I did enjoy but overall this was very clearly a student match.
Hardcore Match: Jun Kasai vs. Mizuki Watase**3/4
This is the kind of random weirdness that makes DNA shows so freaking fun. All in all they are quick and normally you’ll get something just random and dumb like this. It’s no secret that I am not a huge fan of, what others might refer to as, garbage wrestling alongside that I’ve very been a huge fan of Jun Kasai. I can get why others might like him but he’s never been that level of great for me. With that being said he did pretty fantastic here picking this kid apart. Watase goes to the weapons early first Jun waves and throws them away trying to have a straight up fight. Once Jun starts to use the plunder he really wears Watase out slams on both beer cans and chairs. Watase is able to save himself from a top rope dive to the floor through a table cutting Jun off and deciding to do the move himself to Jun only to have the table not break and the whole mess just looks painful as all get out. Jun kicks out quick and growls at the crowd as only an aging deathmatcher can really. After a very well done (in this style of match) heat by Jun the shine from Watase really just feels bland. Jun with some strikes and the flip, flop, and fly spot a la the late great Dusty Rhodes into a headbutt is the prefect twist that fits his character. Jun continues to throw big offense at Watase until he finally hits the Pearl Harbor Splash for the pin. Jun did a fantastic job of putting over Watase even while he was pretty dominate most of the match and when Jun did sell he made sure to put it over huge. Still this match was missing the last little something that would make it feel special but that is what happens in small shows like this no matter what the guys just don’t bring the same level of fan engagement or emotion to the work so it can’t get past a certain level.
Guanchulo & Kouki Iwasaki vs. Kazusada Higuchi & Shunma Katsumata****
Iwasaki starts out with Higuchi. Automatically “this is awesome” as these are two of my personal favorite guys in DNA/DDT right now. After everything else on the show these two starting out with some pretty basic position/strength tests it’s a breath of fresh air. Add to that the fact that they work even their headlocks with struggle and passion now we’ve got a real honest to goodness big time wrestling match. Guanchulo and Katsumata are both tagged in and I expect things to speed up but instead Ganchulo dictates a slow paced exchange keeping the smaller Katsumata on the mat except when he feels like smashing Katsumata’s head hard into his perfectly positioned knee. All of this is much better than my high expectations. Katsumata selling and getting worked over is a thing of beauty. Since the first time I saw Katsumata he was just fabulous as an underdog since, then he has only gotten better. Katsumata attempts a step up dive to the floor as Higuchi holds their opponents only for Guanchulo & Iwasaki to move leaving only the out of position Higuchi to fail in catching him as Katsumata recklessly face plants on the floor. Katsumata is bleeding from the mouth and it’s down right gruesome adding to the effect of Katsumata’s amazing selling. If you are a wrestler trying to learn to sell and get sympathy go watch this or really any Katsumata match this kid rag dolls and bumps enough for all four men in the match. Katsumata’s facials and body language scream out in pain for him in the rare occasions where he is not doing so for himself. The heat on Katsumata reaches levels that I could easily see being described as torture porn-esque but, I wouldn’t wish it to be toned down in even the slightest. This is the kind of stuff that could start riots in front of larger drunken US crowds in New York, Memphis, or Philly. Katsumata gets his slight comeback but he does not forget to sell and it’s not just given to him. He has to work so hard to even get in a position to make a tag to Higuchi who comes in to clean house. Higuchi is a wrecking machine of pure strength and grit suplexing both of his opponents at once. Higuchi was on the apron for too long and he plans to make up for that lost time with some big time violence. Higuchi locked in something between a Texas cloverleaf and a Boston crab on Iwasaki who claws towards the ropes to no avail. As Iwasaki mounts some offense on Higuchi it’s almost as if he feels Katsumata has reached the selling limit for his team on this night but, once Iwasaki can put a series of strikes together Higuchi finally registers. Higuchi gets working a big man style much better than people would believe if you told them he was trained in DDT. Katsumata comes back to the match to show off some of his spectacular offense and fighting spirit which he has in spades. The whole thing kind of breaks down into a Young Bucks match with high spots and strikes. There’s a four way strike off that ends in what feels like Higuchi and Iwasaki taking out the trash to then focus on each other. Higuchi chokeslams Iwasaki for the closest near fall of the match. Great trade of signature holds by Higuchi and Iwasaki leading to tense near falls only to have the whole then end in a time limit draw. These guys really killed it and the crowd was hot for the whole thing. Katsumata was the shining star of the match to me with his selling but, all four men have something really they did really well to hang their hat on as a strong contribution to the match.
DDT DNA 21
Good - 7.5/10
Insanely solid DNA show. From start to finish everyone looked fine, good, or even great. This was just what I needed and a show like this hits the right spot I would think, for any wrestling fan. Everything was quick and basic until the end saving so much for the main event to really make it feel epic. The workers on the undercard are here learning how to strongly support a big time main event; a skill you most certainly have to have if you hope to ever make it to the "main" roster, something that everyone on this show should be striving for.