The D-OH Grand Prix kicks off for the third time in under two years on Friday. The tournament features fourteen participants split between two blocks, the winner receiving a shot at the top prize in DDT, the KO-D Openweight Championship. The participants range from foreign freelancers (Chris Brookes & Bull James), local outsiders (Masato Tanaka & Chihiro Hashimoto) and a member of DDT sub-brand Ganbare Pro (Keisuke Ishii) along with a mix of DDT regulars. Yesterday was the A Block preview and now let’s go to the B Block.
HARASHIMA (DDT – Disaster Box)
10x & Current KO-D Openweight Champion
4x & Current DDT Extreme Champion
8x KO-D Tag Team Champion
Just when you thought he was done, HARASHIMA is back on the top of DDT. HARASHIMA is now on his tenth reign as KO-D Openweight Champion after spending the last couple of years with the Extreme title where he was able to freely show off his more creative and wacky side. When other promotions zig, DDT zags. Everyone across Japan is going with the new blood so in typical DDT fashion, they went the opposite route.
More so than the A Block, B Block is a real oddball group of participants. HARASHIMA is the clear guy to beat with nearly everyone else looking like a spoiler at best. This is HARASHIMA’s block to lose. The new blood, Yoshimura, has a real opportunity to shake things up by beating his Disaster Box leader.
Masato Tanaka (ZERO1)
4x ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion
1x IWGP Intercontinental Champion
1x NEVER Openweight Champion
1x ECW World Heavyweight Champion
Masato Tanaka is participating in the D-OH Grand Prix. Unbelievable. The man has wrestled across the world and practically every promotion in Japan except for DDT. While the tournament doesn’t need it, Tanaka brings a level of legitimacy along with him, much like we saw with Go Shiozaki last year.
Getting the opportunity to see Tanaka have singles matches with HARASHIMA and Sakaguchi, as well as young Yoshimura, is a real treat. Shiozaki won this block last year and went on to the final to face Konosuke Takeshita. That might seem too similar for back-to-back tournaments but Tanaka versus Takeshita would be an absolutely wild final. I refuse to count out the prospect of Tanaka winning the block.
Yukio Sakaguchi (DDT)
1x KO-D Openweight Champion
7x KO-D Six Man Tag Team Champion
2x KO-D Tag Team Champion
6x DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal Champion
Sakaguchi is one of those “hidden” treasures of DDT. The former shoot fighter brings with him a different approach than everyone else in the tournament. He’s not one of those guys who has an ego but he’s at the talent level where he could ask for more than he gets from DDT.
As it sits, we have a really solid and exciting wrestler when he wants to be in Sakaguchi. His strikes bring a aura of realness where you never know when or how the match is going to end. I don’t expect a push to the final for Sakaguchi but he’ll have great matches with the people he wants to wrestle.
Daisuke Sasaki (DDT – DAMNATION)
3x KO-D Openweight Champion
1x DDT Extreme Champion
5x & Current KO-D Tag Team Champion
3x KO-D Six Man Tag Team Champion
Coming into this year as the KO-D Openweight Champion, Daisuke Sasaki is now back in the tag division where you would normally find him. Sasaki is a perfect example of a DDT wrestler. The guy can do it all from the epics to hardcore, he’ll grapple or make you laugh, he’ll succeed in anything you want from him.
Because of his recent KO-D Openweight run, it wouldn’t be shocking if Sasaki found his way to the final. Everyone is waiting for Tetsuya Endo’s break out so if Endo were to make the final, I could see Sasaki following suit by putting his stablemate over.
Soma Takao (DDT – DAMNATION)
1x AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Champion
2x & Current KO-D Tag Team Champion
7x KO-D Six Man Tag Team Champion
3x DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal Champion
What is there to say about Soma Takao? You see the glimpses, he looks to be there but then falls short in one way or another. He’s a solid wrestler but doesn’t quite check any boxes above average. Perfectly fine with flashes of brilliance, like this year’s King of DDT Final against Takeshita, but ultimately fails to leave you believing he’s anything more than a bit player.
If DDT were to decide to go all the way with Takao he’d need to show more personality. They’ve stuck him in DAMNATION where you’d think he can get away with being a bland character but with personalities like Sasaki and Mad Paulie, Takao only comes off even more off-putting. I’m really burying the guy here but I do it out of love because I know he’s right on the cusp but I doubt he’ll ever get there.
Naomi Yoshimura (DDT – Disaster Box)
1x DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal Champion
One of DDT’s growing number of powerhouses, Yoshimura is someone I can see succeeding in any promotion he enters. He has a real charm to him which he could carry over anywhere but he’s made DDT his home. So far we’ve seen him have very little success in terms of wins or titles but that all can change in this tournament. The guy has great size and a young man’s charisma.
I’ll be pulling for Yoshimura throughout the tournament but he’ll likely be taking his lumps. There’s an undeniable it factor to him that I can’t shake off. Maybe a couple big upset wins to set him off onto the fast track leading into next year. This spot probably would’ve gone to Kazusada Higuchi were he healthy enough to compete so hopefully Yoshimura can use this opportunity to leave a lasting impression.
Bull James (Freelancer)
2x NYWC Heavyweight Champion
1x NYWC Fusion Champion
1x NYWC Tag Team Champion
1x SWF Cruiserweight Champion
The former Bull Dempsey from NXT fame has found his way into the D-OH Grand Prix. I’ve not see the guy since those days but I remember him having size which will be a fun dynamic for some of these guys to play off. I don’t expect any major push for the guy but hopefully he’s here to get Yoshimura over in some capacity.
DDT’s recent history with foreigners has seen more misses than hits. I’m going in with low expectations on Bull but I’ll be more than happy to give him his due if he manages to succeed in this environment.
Safe Bet: HARASHIMA
Dark Horse: Masato Tanaka