2019 in Wrestling: The Universal Comedy of a DDT Campsite Match

DDT Pro Wrestling is an independent Japanese promotion famous for high concept matches and providing audiences with unique wrestling experiences. Maybe you’re already a fan. Maybe you’ve only ever seen clips from that time Kota Ibushi wrestled a blow-up doll or Minoru Suzuki wrestled in the middle of an empty Tokyo Dome. The company had their first show in the US this past April during WrestleMania weekend, and overseas interest has been picking up steadily ever since. Though most famous for their gag matches, DDT is far from a joke promotion. Call them that would take away from the moments their roster showcases hard hitting matches (sometimes with the help of guests like Chris Brookes or Meiko Satomura). DDT’s primary focus is on entertaining their audiences, whether that means high impact action or gut-busting comedy.

One of the hallmarks of DDT is wrestling events that happen outside of a ring, specifically their annual Campsite Pro Match. This match takes multiple wrestlers, either in teams or as individual competitors, and makes them carry out an entire live show for themselves, a small cluster of fans in attendance, and the scattered camera crew trying to film every last second of chaos. If this sounds familiar to you, you might be thinking of the famous footage of Kota Ibushi fighting El Generico while they both rode kayaks in a river.

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In September, DDT hosted 2019’s Campsite Event, pitting five teams from different clusters of the DDT family against one another. What followed was two hours of the best comedy I saw all year. DDT The Promised Nature Land is a pivotal watch for 2019 for anyone either already interested in wrestling or just in need of a laugh.

The crowded field of DDT Campsite competitors

The match starts with one member from each team sizing each other up. The sound of gravel, though very different from the squeaking of a springs against canvas, is no less hypnotic. The match really gets going when FUMU gets tagged in. Unusual weapons are standard fare in DDT, but when FUMU starts swinging an actual goddamn sickle and chain with a toilet cleaner on the other end? Screaming “HEAVY METAL” and headbanging? You get but a sampling of the dipshit energy that is abound in this match. Yuki Ueno starts swinging a bundle of rope and chanting his name in response. Eventually Trans AM Hiroshi gets into the mix and starts putting his opponents into Yoga Poses before ultimately getting put into a Yoga Pose by Yuki Kamifuku.

A vital component to these campsite matches is their lack of an actual ring, which means chaos gets unleashed every which way that the cameras need to capture as best as possible. Whereas New Japan keeps its focus within the ring and on the primary focus of action, DDT decides to take a page out of Jackass’ book when it comes to capturing the natural ebb and flow of the match. In between large spots you get several minutes of people just walking through a nature trail, kayfabe partially kept intact with a couple of chops or armbars to remind folks they’re definitely competing in wrestling.

All the same, the camera crew swarms around the group of wrestlers, making sure to keep the cameras rolling from the setup of a spot to its peak conclusion. Jackass does the same, despite how easy it can be to forget that the show isn’t entirely just nut shots and falling off of tall things for 24 minutes. As important as the actual action is, Jackass made a key feature of its comedy come from the banality of people just hanging around that made the actual debauchery all the more satisfying. Steve-O laying waste to his own body was already a comedic triumph, but getting to see the immediate reaction of Johnny Knoxville either ralphing in the background or being genuinely concerned for his friend made the moments all the more potent. DDT does its best to remind people that wrestling is happening, but if there’s a chance for sheer idiocy to prevail they’re gonna take it and run with it.

At one point, the crew stumbles upon a tent sitting by itself. They had already found another tent earlier, which turned out to be Cody Hall trying to enjoy a nice forest getaway (he still beat the shit out of every competitor save for CATSPYE). Not wanting to get beat up by any other wrestlers who might happen to be on vacation, everyone is cautious of this new, mysterious tent… save for FUMU who starts chucking his toilet bowl chain at it.

BASARA member SAGAT (who was originally supposed to be in this match but didn’t get the memo about the rescheduling) pops out. SAGAT runs around with a tactical shovel while Kodaka and FUMU (after a couple of tries) light his tent on fire. SAGAT drops to his knees— his vacation and dignity up in flames, a fire extinguisher carefully placed beside him as the gaggle of performers fuck off to somewhere else for more stunts. It’s entirely unprecedented, builds off of prior expectations with a different delivery, and overall just exemplifies that Jackass energy. While the wrestlers are probably getting high off the fumes of burning plastic and nylon, the audience gets high on the chaotic joy of seeing rowdy dudes commit light arson.

A million equally nuts things happen on this nature walk from hell. Cody Hall, who isn’t even in the match, keeps having his vacation interrupted by all the damn wrestling. Trans AM Hiroshi and Antonio Honda lead a whole yoga session. Honda also gets his nose pinched a bunch of times and shoot sneezes after each nose lock. Have you thought about the last time someone sneezed during a wrestling match? At one point there’s an entire murder mystery involving Kamifuku and Shirakawa that ends with them coming back from the dead as zombies. MAO starts spending parts of the match trying to hide from everyone and eventually gets a whole ass ghillie suit to sneak up on folks! Somebody gets a hold of fireworks and they set ’em off on people!

The finish to this match starts right after Honda tells his Gon the Fox story and starts sending people into the lake behind him with the assistance of MAO and Takeshita. Sick water stunts ensue as everyone just gets piledrived, chopped, and tackled into the lake. Eventually, Kodaka runs his little heart out to the top of the cliff over the lake and does a whole diving knee into a cluster of wrestlers, ultimately taking the pin for the BASARA team. But then you just get a solid ten minutes of people hanging out and drying by the fire before taking the commemorative photo that acts as the thumbnail for this match on DDT’s website.

What makes this match so special is what makes DDT so special. Everyone on the roster just feels like they’re having the time of their lives, and that energy is at the forefront and is what makes DDT accessible to folks as they start to provide more for an international audience. Take two hours out of your schedule and watch this with a group of friends, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.