As the calendar flips over to December, along with the cavalcade of festivities comes time to decide our respective Wrestler of the Year. I’ve shortlisted five names who are in the running for my Wrestler of the Year selection, with each being featured in their own piece. My fifth and final pick is the Ace of DDT and current KO-D Openweight Champion, Konosuke Takeshita.
This is where it becomes important to outline that my list of five isn’t done in a strict order, as Takeshita is certainly higher than being the fifth-best wrestler of 2021 category. As if he’s the sailor of the ship called DDT, Takeshita has impeccably led the much-loved promotion over recent years.
Konosuke Takeshita: The Case to Be 2021 Wrestler of The Year
The case for Takeshita being Wrestler of the Year didn’t begin to take shape until late February, but it’s been a spectacular year since then. Takeshita teamed with MAO, as a part of the 37KAMIINA faction, to challenge for the KO-D Tag Team Championships. In a quite spectacular main event at the equally spectacularly named DDT Effort, Friendship and Victory show (Feb 23), Takeshita and MAO faced the Eruption pairing of Kazusada Higuchi and Yukio Sakaguchi.
Great tag team matches populated much of Takeshita’s year, with him pairing well with Shunma Katsumata. However, his best tag team outing was alongside unlikely partner, Yuki Ueno. They teamed at the fantastic CyberFight Festival (June 6), to proudly represent DDT against NOAH’s Kaito Kiyomiya and Yoshiki Inamura. On paper this match was mouth-watering, and it delivered perfectly!
The four young stars meshed exquisitely, and in less than 20 minutes they managed to showcase that the future of Puroresu is as bright as the sun.
Now, I would say that a wrestler without high-level singles completion to their name can’t reasonably be marked as of Wrestler of the Year calibre. Following that logic, it’s the second half of Takeshita’s 2021 where he proved his Wrestler of the Year capabilities.
I think it’s clear that Takeshita’s year has been split almost evenly in two, with the first half seeing a moment outside of the blazing spotlight of DDT’s singles main event picture. Jun Akiyama was the champion, so it made sense to shift Takeshita to the side for a moment. However, when the time came he was catapulted back into centre stage with a delightful display of class following swiftly.
This began in June and July’s King of DDT tournament, as he defeated Akito, tag-partner MAO and Daisuke Sasaki to reach the final. Excluding the semi-final with Sasaki, which wasn’t to my tastes, Takeshita’s run to the final was very strong. Fittingly, the final against Yuji Hino (July 4) was the standout of his journey, with him overcoming the beast in a match akin to David vs. Goliath.
For me, the King of DDT Final against Yuji Hino was Takeshita’s big shift towards Wrestler of the Year contention. Following the victory, Takeshita challenged Jun Akiyama (someone who he had yet to beat, despite multiple trying attempts) for the KO-D Openweight Championship. This is where Takeshita’s year was kicked up a gear, as he returned to the very pinnacle of the promotion. Unseating Akiyama at the outdoor, summer, stadium Wrestle Peter Pan event (August 21) Takeshita became the Ace and the Champion all in one.
The match carried great meaning and narrative, as the pair pieced the other with wrenching knees, lariats and strikes. Ousting the weary legend cemented Takeshita as the Ace of DDT – the unimpeachable force at the peak of the promotion.
With the KO-D Openweight belt strapped beautifully around his waist (it truly looks like it belongs there!), Takeshita has produced a flurry of wonderful singles matches. Beginning in September, a month removed from his triumphant coronation underneath the Kawasaki night sky, he saw off the spirited challenge of Chris Brookes.
The Who’s Gonna Top (Sept 26) main event posed that very question. As I’ve covered this match in Chris Brookes’ entry onto my top 5 list, I shall merely gloss over it here. However, it begs to mention that Takeshita’s selling was fantastic in this match. It has always been a remarked quality of his game, and something that fiercely sets him apart from the bulk of his contemporaries.
From a Match of the Year level title defence against Chris Brookes, Takeshita sauntered into the D-Oh Grand Prix as the man with the biggest target on his back.
D-Oh Grand Prix
His tournament began against overpowering bruiser Yuji Okabayashi (Nov 3), and in characteristical fashion it was spectacular. It was a match that built patiently from its opening bell to the climactic final moments before the 30-minute time limit was breached. The pair traded strikes, which are perhaps more accurately described as bombs. Their match was attritional and a worthy Match of the Year candidate. Okabayashi missed out narrowly on inclusion on my list. He’s quite simply, superb. If my list was extended to six, he would be there – what a year he’s had!
From Okabayashi, Takeshita then faced familiar foe Chris Brookes (Nov 7). In an environment that served to knock the match back slightly (an uninspiringly lit, poorly shot sports hall looking venue), Takeshita and Brookes still managed to deliver. Their superb chemistry was vibrantly clear here, as was Takeshita’s immense ability to face any opponent put up against him.
This continued only three days later, as Takeshita saw off his tag team partner MAO (Nov 10) in another interesting, yet noticeably different match. This one was slick and fact-paced, producing MAO’s best outing of their tournament up to that mark.
Following on from MAO, he did battle with technical wizard HARASHIMA (Nov 14). This was a match of clever structure, presuming a technical, testing start before expanding into a great match. Takeshita’s final block match came against Kazusada Higuchi in Korakuen Hall (Nov 21), as they wrestled in a very short, yet entertaining match. Not all matches need to be paced marathons like Okabayashi vs Takeshita, some just need to be energetic sprints like this.
This is the variety that gives Takeshita the edge as he can have very engaging short matches and equally engaging long matches.
With a victory over Higuchi, the KO-D Openweight Champion secured his place in December 5’s D-Oh Grand Prix Final. Opposing Yuki Ueno, Takeshita claimed tournament victory and delivered yet another fantastic Wrestler of the Year worthy performance. The match kept a great level of suspense throughout, as it never ceased to engage me.
The final wore an almost “spot-fest” cloak, but this again is evidence that Takeshita can wrestle such a wide variety of matches.
Leading a promotion is no easy feat. Yet, Konosuke Takeshita has made it look like child’s play. As DDT’s Ace he has a distinct ability to wrestle an array of wrestlers and styles – something that is important to a Wrestler of the Year pick. Takeshita has had a smattering of worthy Match of the Year contenders, with them all piecing together a year of significant magnitude for one of wrestling’s boldest rising stars.
Konosuke Takeshita is the future of pro wrestling. Konosuke Takeshita is the present of pro wrestling.