wrestling / News

DDT Pro Founder On Developing Their Relationship With AEW, Running Events During Pandemic, More

October 27, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
DDT Pro Wrestling

DDT Pro founder Sanshiro Takagi discussed the company’s relationship with AEW, deciding to continue running events during the pandemic and more in a new interview with Inside the Ropes. You can check out some of the highlights from the interview below:

On his initial vision for DDT in 1997: “I was put in the position before I could come up with a vision; I was wrestling for the independent promotion PWC at the time alongside NOSAWA and MIKAMI, and there was a time in the summer of 1996 when we were able to draw 1,500 fans to a venue called Luna Park, but then drew only 80 people to Kitazawa Town Hall just 4 days after that. The President of PWC Kenji Takano became furious and declared that he would disband the promotion, which I took as his way of getting us motivated, but it turned out that he actually meant it, and we were all devastated. NOSAWA and Koichiro Kimura talked me into being the head of a new promotion, and that’s when DDT started. I was going to retire with the disbanding of PWC but ended up becoming President of a promotion instead, so it was not like I went in prepared with ideas or a vision.”

On the importance of comedy in wrestling and why he likes it: “The first American wrestling that caught my eye was Vince McMahon vs Stone Cold Steve Austin on WWF at the time. Vince getting put in awful situations, in my eyes, was quality comedy, and at the same time the WWF were successful in putting on great wrestling in the ring. We could not emulate their style in DDT because of our budget, so we cut down the costs and also added some Japanese flavor, much like what you see in Japanese variety shows on TV, as comedy in Japan is a bit different than in the U.S. At the time, most of wrestling in Japan was very serious and very Strong Style, with just a little comedy here and there in the mid-card of All Japan. DDT needed to differentiate so we aggressively took comedy in as a part of our style, but back then a lot of our comedy was parody major promotions, like reenacting the back and forth between Atsushi Onita and Ring Announcer Manabe with talent like Shark Tsuchiya of FMW fame, or using Kenshin who is an impersonator of Kensuke Sasaki. Eventually talent with extraordinarily creative minds like Danshoku Dieno and Super Sasadango Machine joined us, giving birth to our own unique and original style of comedy. Personally, it is not like I am particularly fond of just comedy; I like everything that is fun, like Rojo (street) pro-wrestling. I feel that comedy is a necessity for us in order to differentiate within the industry and to attract new eyes to wrestling from outside of the existing market.”

On DDT being considered an indie promotion compared to NJPW and AJPW: “My belief was that the boundaries between ‘major’ and ‘indy’ promotions have broken down some time ago, but having a better grasp of NOAH’s culture and environment now, I feel that DDT is neither completely major nor independent. I think Takeshita answered in the way that he did to cleverly simplify the concept for the listeners, but in my opinion that distinction is not that clear in today’s environment. If I were to classify DDT into some sort of category I think it would be ‘alternative’ but not necessarily ‘indy’, because we do have media backing us in the form of ABEMA. I truly think that we are unique.I get where Takeshita is coming from; I think we are just using different words to express the same thought.

“Kota Ibushi used to say something similar to what Takeshita said, but he ended up in NJPW. Takeshita has potential to thrive at any promotion, but his current choice is to work in DDT. When I look at the competitive landscape as President of CyberFight I can’t avoid the question of who can beat NJPW, and I think there is more than one way in doing so; DDT is trying to become number one through crossover appeal to the masses, and I think NOAH should strive for the top spot from within the wrestling industry. I am very interested in seeing which route Takeshita chooses going forward.”

On CyberAgent acquiring Pro Wrestling NOAH: “I did initiate the series of events because I felt that the industry cannot afford to lose such a prominent promotion like NOAH. However, I could not predict COVID-19 and its full impact at the time. NOAH itself would not have survived COVID-19 on its own so in that sense it turned out well for the promotion, but for me the managerial and psychological burden ended up doubling.”

On if CyberFight will continue to expand: “We are not necessarily seeking expansion through mergers and acquisitions, but options that would further complement our portfolio, in my personal opinion, are a deathmatch/hardcore promotion and a more traditional Joshi promotion. TJPW is innovative and stems more from the idol culture, which is very different from traditional Joshi pro-wrestling which has a long-standing history of focusing more purely on being the strongest inside the ring. Other than that, what we do not have right now as a part of our portfolio are local promotions in major cities outside of Tokyo such as Osaka, Nagoya, Sendai, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Niigata, etc., but whether we truly need that inside our Group is an entirely different discussion. From a separate point of view, there is the concept of expanding the content portfolio of WRESTLE UNIVERSE as opposed to owning and running more promotions. In that context, the aforementioned Bakuha Koshien covers the deathmatch/hardcore space, and we also have non-Japan specific content like the Chris Brookes Produce Show where everything is in English from the ring-announcing to the commentary.”

On continuing running events during the pandemic: “The entire industry had come to a halt, including NJPW, so we had to keep going. The risk was that much larger because we had to spearhead the effort, but we still just had to. We said, ‘the show must go on’, and decided to carry that on our shoulders though no one asked us to. There was a big risk in continuing and what we had to go through, for example to create protocols to ensure safety from scratch, was a challenge that was tough beyond words, but we still made the move because we felt that the risk of the industry shutting down and the market shrinking was even bigger. I believe that NOAH was the first promotion to have a large-scale, full-on empty arena show complete with championship matches etc. in an arena the size of Korakuen Hall, on March 29. A National Emergency was declared in April so that stopped everything including DDT and NOAH, but we went right back to having empty arena shows in May and brought fans back into the arenas in June. COVD-19 influenced not only promotions but also individual wrestlers. The changes provoked wrestlers to rethink their careers, and some chose to make moves based on those new outlooks. Not everything was doom and gloom though; for example Jun Akiyama was scheduled to go guest-coach in WWE, but that got cancelled due to COVID-19 and he ended up being on rental transfer to DDT, which was a big ‘get’ for us.”

On their relationship with AEW and how he wants to see it develop: “We were going to bring Kenny Omega back, so we want to make that happen when it becomes possible again. His harsh words against Endo and Takeshita got them motivated, so we want to see that through all the way until the end. I also want Yuka Sakazaki and Shoko Nakajima to return to AEW, and I would also like to see other Tokyo Joshi talent in AEW too, such as Miyu Yamashita, Maki Itoh, Yuki Kamifuku, Hikari Noa, Miu Watanabe, Mirai Maiumi, Suzume, etc. I feel that Mirai is very underrated despite the fact that she is still in her second year, and some might not have expected much from Kamifuku when she debuted because she was also a model, but you rarely come across someone that tall in Joshi. Itoh was dubbed as the fired idol and that was her distinguishing trait, but she has completely evolved into a fullfledged pro-wrestler. Hikari is exceptionally charismatic and says things like ‘I would like to run Takagi over with a van on a Rojo (street) pro-wrestling show too’ (I welcome her and take on the challenge, by the way). Miu is also very unique in her own way.

“From DDT, I would like to see Konosuke Takeshita, Tetsuya Endo, Yuki Ueno, and Kazusada Higuchi wrestle in AEW. Jun Akiyama might also be an interesting choice, considering the fact that he was originally supposed to guest-coach at WWE. As for Yuki Ueno, we were planning to have him make his U.S. debut in April on WrestleMania weekend, and though that got cancelled with COVID-19, he has been proving that we made the right decision by showing tremendous growth in the last few months. In general, we are very open to sending over any good talent, if there is the capacity and demand for them on AEW’s side.”

On possible international expansion after the pandemic: “Live English commentary for our regular shows require a significant technological undertaking, so that will be a more long-term initiative. In the meantime, we would like to do another Chris Brookes Produce Show, entirely in English but with fans in the arena this time. Of course we eventually would like to run shows overseas again, but I feel that it will be some time before we return to a state where COVID-19 is contained enough internationally to allow us to do so. In any case, that will be something for us to consider after the Japanese market returns to where it was, and our domestic situation improves.”

article topics :

AEW, DDT Pro, Jeremy Thomas