Every now and then, the internet latches onto a particular clip of some crazy pro wrestling match or another. Maybe it’s a grown man wrestling a 9-year-old girl, or a wrestler taking on an inflatable doll, or muscled up guys in tights and singlets shooting Roman candles at each other on a campground. If you’ve ever seen some of these videos or GIFs of “crazy” Japanese wrestling, there’s a very good chance that what you saw took place in DDT.
Dramatic Dream Team Pro Wrestling was founded in 1997 by pro wrestler Sanshiro Takagi. Initially formed as a parody of American pro wrestling, the promotion has since evolved into something all its own. It’s easy to mistake DDT for just a comedy wrestling promotion, and although that is a focus, there’s also some great (mostly) straightforward wrestling action as well.
DDT’s streaming service, DDT Universe, launched Jan. 23, and it’s full of some of fun stuff just waiting for you, with videos dating back to 2004. Being presented with this much potentially unfamiliar wrestling all at once can be daunting, so here’s a list of 10 people, places and things you should look out for while you’re exploring DDT.
Kenny’s probably the most familiar face you’ll see on DDT Universe, but it’s probably not the Kenny you’ll recognize, especially if you’re mostly familiar with his work in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The DDT Kenny Omega was more easygoing. There’s not a whole lot of Kenny Omega to be seen at the launch of DDT Universe, but there’s enough for you to have a familiar face to guide you into the rest of DDT. His match for the KO-D title (DDT’s top championship) against El Generico (more on him later) from December 2012 is as good a place as any to start. DDT seems to know this, too, as it’s featured on the homepage of the site.
Lots of people were disappointed when they heard Kota Ibushi decided not to accept a contract with WWE after participating in the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic, but DDT is obviously his natural habitat. WWE wasn’t going to let him wrestle in a river, shoot off fireworks or fight his way through a mostly abandoned apartment complex. Watching a few of his videos here shows his range as a wrestler and as a performer. He’s able to seamlessly transition from truly funny in-ring comedy to the hard-hitting style for which most Americans know him, often within the same match.
El Generico was an incredible wrestler who left us too soon. Luckily, before he retired from wrestling to oversee an orphanage in his native Mexico, he left us with some amazing matches in DDT. I’ve already mentioned his KO-D title match against Kenny Omega, but also of note are his matches against Isami Kodaka and HARASHIMA. These matches are also an interesting way to see the purest form of the wrestling style that Generico passed on to his protege Sami Zayn, who slowed it down, lightened it up and took it to WWE.
Every wrestling promotion needs a personality at its center: Crockett Promotions had Ric Flair; DDT has HARASHIMA. A 9-time KO-D champion and 7-time KO-D tag team champion, HARASHIMA has held almost every title in DDT. HARASHIMA’s match against Ken Ohka from March 23, 2016 is a stand-out among those available now on DDT Universe, and more should be added soon. 2016 was a great year for HARASHIMA, and this match is a good place to start catching up.
The greatest championship in the history of professional wrestling, wrestled under 24-7 rules similar to the WWE Hardcore Championship and in sometimes outlandish scenarios. DDT Universe offers a two-part documentary covering the history of this prestigious title. To date, there have been more than 1,200 Ironman Heavymetalweight Champions, including, but definitely not limited to: a bus, Rey Mysterio Jr., a ladder, a monkey, X-Pac, the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight championship belt itself, stand-up comedian Ron Funches and an inflatable doll named Yoshihiko.
Yoshihiko is an inflatable sex doll. Ordinarily, this would be seen as a hindrance in the sport of professional wrestling, but Yoshihiko doesn’t let this hold him back. Yoshihiko has held championships in DDT and defeated some of the promotion’s strongest wrestlers. He’s even died and come back from the dead on multiple occasions. Yoshihiko is also DDT’s most versatile wrestler, adapting his style to perfectly match that of any opponent he faces, whether the fight is in the ring, in the streets or in the woods.
Some of DDT’s best matches don’t take place anywhere near a wrestling ring. Probably the most well-known is the Campsite Wrestling series, which sees several wrestlers fight their way through a wooded campground, using anything they find to help them in the match, whether it’s limbs, rocks or even a truck parked on the premises. In addition to this idyllic wooded setting, DDT Universe features several videos tagged “street wrestling,” in which you can watch your favorite DDT wrestlers take each other on in a bookstore, an amusement park or at the beach.
If you’re familiar with current American indie wrestling, Shigehiro Irie may not be a stranger to you. In 2016, Irie worked several dates in multiple American promotions including IWA: MidSouth in Kentucky and AAW in Illinois. His American appearances are a new development in his career, but he’s been winning over fans in DDT since 2008. Irie has held several championships in DDT and his matches always manage to strike the right balance between hard-hitting action and comedy. His match against HARASHIMA from Feb. 28, 2016 is a great place to start with Irie’s work in his home promotion.
DDT Universe isn’t just a library of what’s happened in the past. They’re also focusing on the future, and a subscription to the service gives you access to all upcoming events. The next show is Sweet Dreams 2017, which features HARASHIMA defending the KO-D title against Daisuke Sasaki. As of now, it looks as though all DDT events from Korakuen Hall, as well as several other events from DDT and the other promotions featured on DDT Universe, will stream live, before going up on demand for subscribers as well. At launch, the upcoming schedule lists 14 shows, so it seems that there will be plenty of wrestling to keep fans occupied.
DDT Universe doesn’t only feature wrestling from DDT. It also has full libraries from DDT-affiliated promotions DNA, Pro Wrestling Basara, Tokyo Joshi Pro, Ganbare Pro Wrestling, BOYZ and the now-defunct Union Pro Wrestling.
DDT Universe is ¥900 (about $8) per month at DDTUniverse.com.
Robert Newsome is the editor and publisher of the wrestling ‘zine The Atomic Elbow and a co-organizer of the FLUKE small press/mini-comics fest. He lives in Athens, Georgia.