As a professional wrestling company, DDT has long since transcended the a reputation built on quietly traded .avi files and hastily summarized show results. Though the company has always maintained a steady amount of buzz online and in Japan, it’s within the last three years that it has taken off in a spectacular way, resulting in a barrage of new talent signings and company partnerships (more on that later). In a very natural way, DDT answers the question of “how can a company compete with New Japan using campgrounds, bare asses, and fireworks?” The DDT you’ll be hearing about today is thriving, arguably a top 3 promotion in Japan in terms of draw – even in the travel and space restricted times we’ve come to deal with. Using everything from public pools to Shibuya streets – or in this case, almost every square inch of an empty Tokyo Dome – DDT has challenged the limits of what professional wrestling can be by taking it outside of its comfort zone in every imaginable sense, dinner table appropriate or otherwise.
The DDT Tokyo Dome Cup used modified gauntlet rules, setting up one team against another at a time, with each team starting the show with a certain amount of prize money to its name, allowing for the kind of steals and hijinks that put the “Drama” in Dramatic Dream Team. This was not explained in English on-screen or through commentary, rather, through the tireless Twitter work of fan-turned-employee-turned-freelancer @MrHakuSan on @ddtpro_eng. If you weren’t already following the account prior to the match, or simply don’t want to deep-dive, don’t worry: all you need to think about is what a “stages of hell” match would look like with a little bit of nudity and ballpark furniture. Throughout the length of the show, several vastly different parts of the roster were showcased as equally worthy opponents – from Joshi firecracker Hyper Misao to living occupational hazard Danshoku Dino.
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Round one of the gauntlet was fought by a group comprised of multifaceted British grappler (and, increasingly, company man) Chris Brookes, Gorgeous Matsuno, and the Brahman Brothers, which faced off against actual team The 37Kamiina. It became clear very shortly into the program what the roles were: The37Kamiina as protagonists, dealing mostly in strikes and blows, while everyone else was there to set up some of the best slapstick physical comedy you’ve ever seen, nut-shot after nut-shot. Despite the Brahman Bros being technically awful and bringing little more than chants of “pe-ni-s” and hardware to the match, they combined with the elderly Gorgeous Matsuno to bring laughs while Chris Brookes brought flurries of strikes and diamond cutters. Despite being faced with what can best be described as a wooden penis attached to a drill, The37Kamiina made it through to the next round, and moved on to a different location within the Tokyo Dome before long.
When things headed for the stands, hilariously, model-turned-wrestler Saki Akai roamed the empty seats offering expensive beer. She would come back into play several times, while never fully gelling with one team, neutral as her facial expressions. This is all she needed to do; lariats couldn’t accomplish what serving face could do with a lot less strain.
Tokyo Joshi Pro
The second segment of this match, and perhaps the most delightful, was The37Kamiina vs the Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling roster’s best and brightest. With TJPW being a part of the CyberFight umbrella of companies, the slot easily could have withered under the weight of being treated like traditional “sponsored content,” but thankfully the inclusion of powerhouses Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita made this virtually impossible. This intergender portion of the match was treated with a level of bluntness and frank presentation that made it refreshing; Legos and arena hardware acted as neutralizers rather than unfair advantages. Everyone got to shine, but the clear leader of this pack was (anti) “Hero” Hyper Misao. Words won’t do her justice, so behold:
Tokyo Joshi Pro’s roster did a phenomenal job with their time here, showing off brawling skills the likes of which have not been seen since FMW had Shark Tsuchiya terrorizing audiences. Despite everything – a barbed wire bat, Legos, a Lego covered bat, party poppers, and in Hyper Misao’s case voodoo dolls all were used at one point – the girls did not pass go and collect their share of money, but it didn’t matter. An once in a lifetime impression had been made, writing them into the history of the Tokyo Dome alongside Wrestle Kingdom’s best moments, while never sacrificing raw, unpredictable spectacle. One of the most quietly memorable moments the entire night happened in the form of a tense, pin drop-silent exchange between Miyu Yamashita and Mao. This defied the tone of the entire event with its seriousness, but it didn’t last before erupting into chaos as something of a refrain. Unphased by later offensive attempts including Hikari Noa’s spinning ladder attack and Maki Itoh’s Boston crab, the 37Kamiina chugged along.
Those who are familiar with DDT as a promotion where you truly might see someone’s entire body were not left disappointed by the rest of the match. The following two statements, while conflicting, are both true: the night never quite reached the high of Maki Itoh popping her head through a plastic container unbothered again, and Yuki Ueno and Danshoku Dino (among others) both spent upwards of five minutes with their entire backsides out and visible from every horrid angle. In the end, The 37Kamiina couldn’t even keep their cash winnings – there was debt that needed paying, and they were the ones with the power. Power isn’t always fun, though, and this match acted as a monument to the notion that raw power is merely one among many lenses through which to present a professional wrestling spectacle.
DDT’s Tokyo Dome Cup was presented as a long-form stand-alone show, and although it contained multitudes of moving parts and teams, as a whole it forms the only entity worthy of my “match of the year” title. DDT has an interesting relationship with expectations, in that it needs you to have a few (perhaps on the restrictive side) for it to defy in order to succeed at its job as a company. This match did this job several times over, attacking the tasks of following up a legendary Minoru Suzuki match with a similar format, presenting a Tokyo Dome main event, and showcasing more than 20 talents all with equal levels of ease.
This is effectively DDT’s masterpiece. It hits every concentrated high provided by similar Rojo (Street) Pro Wrestling shows, while the Tokyo Dome itself offers the event a little more structure that wouldn’t be provided by a campground or body of water. It offers visually and physically impactful and memorable moments, often featuring a sort of in-universe sense of tradition (see Yoshihiko’s appearance). It exceled to the point that anyone could be forgiven for missing someone else’s favorite segment. It was a long list of things, all at once, and that kind of multifaceted entertainment is what the attention-splintered minds of 2021’s wrestling viewers demand.
There was one particular moment within the DDT Tokyo Dome Cup that undoubtedly underlined what the CyberFight vision of professional wrestling looked like. In a detour from the match itself, Kenta Kobashi came out to throw a ceremonial “opening pitch” on the Tokyo Dome green, standing across from a tense Jun Akiyama and eventually coming face to face with him for a few heated (non physical) moments. This moment had a mixture of pro wrestling legends and gravitas, while existing within the confines of something seemingly far less serious; Dino’s ass was practically still freezing cold at this point, and yet for a moment as a viewer I believed Kenta Kobashi might actually swing on an ornery Akiyama. It diffused, and eventually the standard chaotic ambience DDT is best at returned. Even a segment pretty much defined by the fact that action could not take place was impactful. The quiet part was said loudly, and through this match, it became easier than ever to see DDT as a viable first-choice company for fans.