Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Into the Indies, the only column on 411mania which is perpetually showing you its o-face.
As I alluded to in the teaser for this week's column, sometimes there is a match so epic that eclipses the rest of the card on which it takes place. It is so exciting, unique, and unequaled in every way that it deserves to be placed on a pedestal and examined separately from the rest of professional wrestling. We're talking about matches like Gotch/Hackenschmit, Flair/Steamboat, and Rock/Hogan. After the October 25, 2009 show produced by Japan's Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) promotion, a new match can be added to that list:
Kota Ibushi versus YOSHIHIKO.
YOSHIHIKO had humble beginnings. Becoming a professional wrestler was not a lifelong desire of his. However, as the old saying goes, while some people seek out greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them. YOSHIHIKO definitely falls into the latter category. YOSHI didn't get his start in wrestling as many others do. He didn't go to a dojo, he wasn't a standout athlete in some other sport, and he didn't have familial ties to the business. Instead, he began in one of the most unique ways possible.
You see, prior to getting involved in professional wrestling, YOSHIHIKO was a blow-up doll. He was a standard, off the rack sex toy who was unwittingly purchased by a wrestler by the name of Danshoku Dino. YOSHIHIKO got his big break when he was allowed to accompany Dino to the ring for one of his matches, and, before long, he became a semi-regular tag team partner for Dino on DDT cards. It quickly became apparent that YOSHIHIKO had all of the athleticism and moves necessary to be a top flight professional wrestling, as evidenced by this video assembled by YouTube user Sailor Velvet:
Of course, as all fans know, being skilled in the ring doesn't always lead to a push in professional wrestling. However, DDT is different than a lot of promotions. In that company, if you have the talent to ascend to the top, you will do so. YOSHIHIKO was no exception to that rule, as he quickly earned several reigns with the company's Iron Man Heavymetalweight Title, which in the past has been held by such luminaries as Cocolo the miniature dachshund, a poster promoting a joshi show, and, perhaps the best-remembered champion in the history of the title, ladder.
YOSHIHIKO's success in the Heavymetalweight division meant that great things were in store for him. He was headed straight for the top, and "the top" in DDT means the KO-D Openweight Title. Champion Kota Ibushi, a regular competitor in the United States thanks to both Ring of Honor and CHIKARA, quickly accepted a challenge from the latex competitor, and the bout was set for October 25. Ibushi was man enough to put his championship up against YOSHIHIKO, and YOSHI was doll enough to respond by also putting his Heavymetalweight Title on the line. Let us now take a look at this epic encounter between two of the hottest commodities in professional wrestling today.
Kota Ibushi (c) vs. YOSHIHIKO (c) w/ Danshoku Dino for the KO-D Openweight and Iron Man Heavymetalweight Titles
YOSIHIKO comes out to the ring in a ridiculous getup, covered in various potential weapons such as frying pans, mallets, and alarm clocks. The piece de resistance, though, is a pair of Roadwarrior-esque shoulder pads which are topped off by a pair of homemade cannons. When the referee checks him before the match, the cannons actually fire off payloads of streamers into the official's face. Once YOSHI is stripped of all of his gimmicks, it's apparent that he's decided to borrow his attire for this evening from Hulk Hogan.
YOSHIHIKO appears to be content to hang out in his corner when the bell first rings, perhaps playing mind games with Ibushi. Eventually Kota forces his way into the corner and gets YOSHI into a collar and elbow tieup, and the doll forces his man back into the ropes. Ibushi gives him a clean break, and the two lock up one more time. Ibushi gets a headlock takedown, but YOSHI catches him in a headscissors. The KO-D champ does a headstand while in the move and sneaks out, going back to his headlock. YOSHIHIKO manages to reverse the hold eventually, and he even holds on to it when Kota tries to back into the ropes and shove him off. Eventually YOSHIHIKO succeeds in grounding the high flyer, but Ibushi gets his foot across the bottom rope. YOSHI refuses to break the hold until the referee absolutely forces him to do so, drawing some heel heat from the crowd.
Ibushi reapplies his headlock at this point, but YOSHIHIKO shoves him off and the two start running the ropes. YOSHI drops down and Ibushi jumps over, but the doll catches his human opponent on the rebound and lands a hiptoss that sends Ibushi down and out to the floor. Danshoku Dino hits the ring and looks to assist YOSHI in hitting a tope suicida, but Ibushi returns to the ring out of nowhere, taking both Dino and YOSHI down with a springboard dropkick. YOSHI rolls to the floor to get a breather, but Kota will not let him rest and comes off of the second rope with an Asai moonsault onto the Heavymetalweight titleholder. Ibushi stays on his man by putting his boots to them on the floor, eventually tossing the challenger back into the squared circle. Ibushi takes the opposition down with a snap mare and works a chinlock. It gets to the point that the referee his forced to check YOSHIHIKO's arm, which goes down twice before miraculously rising the third time that the official drops it. YOSHI escapes the hold after that by using a jawbreaker, but the move doesn't get him too far, as he's placed in a half Boston crab quickly thereafter. YOSHI manages to crawl to the ropes to force a break of the hold, but he's clearly worn down at this point as Ibushi just playfully kicks at him before applying a toehold of sorts.
Ibushi eventually drops down into an Indian deathlock, letting up on the pressure periodically to slap his opponent across the face. YOSHI slides to the ropes after a bit, forcing Ibushi to relinquish the hold. Another Irish whip sees YOSHIHIKO collapse as he attempts to run the ropes, a sure sign of exhaustion. The next Irish whip yields the same result. Kota's next trick is a return to the Indian deathlock, and now the crowd is really getting behind YOSHIHIKO. Their support (and an assist from Dino) allows him to get to the ropes again, though it can't prevent another leglock from Ibushi. Again, the ropes are made. Again, it's not without Dino's help. With the hold broken, Kota attempts a vertical suplex, but YOSHIHIKO blocks it once . . . twice . . . on the third attempt, Ibushi gets YOSHI over, but he lands on his feet and grabs Kota in a waistlock. YOSHI tries to bring Ibushi over several times and finally succeeds, hitting the K-OD champ with a BACKDROP DRIVER. Ibushi rolls out to the floor to recover and Dino hits the ring, helping YOSHI rip off his shirt a la Hulk Hogan which sets up a SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP down to Ibushi on the floor. When the two wrestlers return to the ring, YOSHI gives Ibushi a tilt-a-whirl headscissors and covers him for a two count. YOSHIHIKO gives his man a series of palm strikes and sets him up . . . PILEDRIVER FOR TWO! Ibushi is selling his neck big time, but he's still showing signs of life.
Not to be deterred, YOSHIHIKO grabs his opponent's head and drives it into the turnbuckles, setting up a tornado DDT for another nearfall. YOSHIHIKO gets back up on the top rope in a seated position, but Ibushi catches him offguard with a handspring into a Pele kick. Kota tries to follow up by charging into the corner, but he runs straight into YOSHIHIKO's foot several times. YOSHI heads up to the top rope and tries to capitalize with a cross body block, but Ibushi catches the lighter-weight competitor and slams him down to the mat before slapping on a figure four leglock. YOSHI struggles and eventually reverses the pressure on the hold but Ibushi reverses one more time, sending both men into the ropes and breaking them up. Kota looks for an Irish whip at this point and has it blocked. Eventually, out of frustration, he gives up on attempting the whip and gives YOSHI a German suplex. Ibushi asks the referee to check his opponent, thinking that he might have been knocked unconscious, but the official will not stop the match. A brutal forearm from Ibushi connects, after which he gives his opponent another slam and looks for a moonsault. YOSHIHIKO was apparently playing possum, though, as he climbs up Ibushi's back as he stands on the top rope and attempts to give him a super reverse rana. Kota avoids the impact, though, rolling with the move and landing on his feet on the canvas. He gives YOSHI another German after that, but the doll is out at two.
Ibushi gets back up to his feet and sets up for something that I cannot identify, but, whatever he was trying, YOSHI manages to reverse it into a CRUCIFX DRIVER for a nearfall. The two wrestlers struggle to get back up to their knees, and they trade slaps in a crouching position. Both regain a vertical base, where the slap-fest continues until Ibushi digs down deep and looks for an exploder. YOSHI won't go over, so Ibushi runs him back-first into the turnbuckles and hits a standing, one-man version of the Spanish Fly.
YOSHIHIKO looks like he's done for, but the referee is distracted, which allows for a run-in by Dino. He effortlessly plants Ibushi with the Danshoku Driver and puts YOSHI on top for a cover. It only gets two. YOSHI grabs the weakened Ibushi . . . CANADIAN DESTROYER! He rolls through . . . CANADIAN DESTROYER! He rolls through again . . . CANADIAN DESTROYER! And again . . . CANADIAN DESTROYER! One more time . . . CANADIAN DESTROYER! No, he's not done yet . . . CANADIAN DESTROYER! Rolls through once more . . . CANADIAN DESTROYER~! And . . . CANADIAN DESTROYYYYYAAAA~! That's EIGHT Canadian Destroyers in a row for those of you too lazy to count, and, after taking that level of abuse, you'd think that Ibushi would have to be done for. He's not, though, as he manages to kick out at the absolute last second when YOSHIHIKO goes for the cover!
When the wrestlers get back up, YOSHI goes for another tilt-a-whirl rana, but Ibushi blocks it and turns it into a series of three repeating powerbombs. He ascends the ropes after that, but YOSHIHIKO cuts him off and tires to bring him down with a superplex. Ibushi reverses in midair, though, slamming YOSHIHIKO down face-first into the mat from the top rope. Kota is quick to climb the opposite turnbuckle, which he leaps off of with a Phoenix Splash to retain his KO-D Openweight Title and to win YOSHIHIKO's Iron Man Heavymetalweight Title.
After the bell rings, YOSHIHIKO's entourage apparently turns on him and administers a stiff beating. However, it's revealed to all be a ruse, as, when Ibushi attempts to make the save, YOSHI cradles him out of nowhere and gets a quick three count to win back the Iron Man Title by virtue of its 24/7 rules.
There are some wrestling purists out there who cringe at the very thought of anything different than the norm. Those guys will absolutely hate this match. However, even though it may meet with disdain from some, this was in many ways an embodiment of everything that professional wrestling is about. The whole point of the "sport" is for two guys to go out there and convince an audience that they are engaging in an athletic contest when it is abundantly clear to anybody who stops to think for twenty seconds that they are not. When one of those two guys is not as skilled as the other for whatever reason, it is the job of the more skilled wrestler to pick up a little bit of the slack. Here, Kota Ibushi was stuck with one of the most limited opponents possible: A literal inanimate object. Obviously, given those kinds of limitations, this match was never going to look as good as a battle between two legitimate grapplers. However, Ibushi still did an excellent job of demonstrating how much one man can carry a match if he has the ability and the motivation to do so. Did everything look ultra-realistic? No. Did he make certain aspects of the match look ten times more realistic than I expected them to be and ten times more realstic than they had any right to look? Absolutely. Even more impressive than individual spots is the fact that Ibushi was able to string so many of them together to turn this into a surprisingly cohesive thirty minute match against an opponent who could do absolutely nothing.
Of course, serving as a "wrestling clinic" was not the intent of the match. The intent of the match was to provide some comic relief. It worked very well in that regard as well. Even if the match was worked completely straight with no intent to add additional gags, this would have been hilarious just because of the absurdity of the concept. However, Ibushi showed here that he is more than just a workrate machine and understands several aspects of the business, as he was able to work well on his own and with Dino to get big laughs at the points in the match that made the most sense.
On the whole, I would call this a must see for any wrestling fan if for no other reason than the fact that it's so ridiculously different from just about anything else that you ever have seen or ever will see in wrestling. Given the length of the period during which the sport has been around, it's impressive that a sentence of that sort can still be written.
Looking forward to the next instalment of Into the Indies? Keep an eye on 411's Twitter accounts, and you just might see it pop up!