Konosuke Takeshita and Tetsuya Endo started wrestling for DDT in the same year. While Takeshita made his debut as a 17 year old prodigy to great acclaim, Endo had a slower start.
On April 1, 2012, Endo arrived as a 20-year-old with a smaller stature than his 6’0 contemporary. As per rookie tradition, Endo lost most of his early matches. That summer, he would pick up his first big win at Korakuen Hall in a chaotic 12-man tag. However, Takeshita always seemed to defeat him whenever their paths crossed.
At the end of 2013, Endo and Takeshita formed a tag team as a dynamic duo of exciting young talents. While Takeshita was a pillar of strength and a student of the German suplex, Endo favored high-flying and top-rope maneuvers.
Konosuke Takeshita and Tetsuya Endo:
From Happiness to Damnation
By 2014, they were giving Golden Lovers, Kenny Omega, and Kota Ibushi a challenge for their KO-D Tag Team titles. They united with comedic veteran Antonio Honda to form the faction Happy Motel. But while Tetsuya Endo was still trying to find himself, his partner was skyrocketing.
Takeshita was making good runs in the annual King of DDT tournament while wrestling the likes of Katsuhiko Nakajima and Hiroshi Tanahashi on the biggest shows of the year, DDT Peter Pan. Endo could barely get on the card. On his fourth try in singles competition, Tetsuya Endo finally defeated Konosuke Takeshita in a #1 contender’s tournament for the top KO-D title, where he would ultimately lose in the finals.
But the improvement was positive. Shortly afterwards, Happy Motel conquered Golden Lovers for the tag belts in September and ended the year strong with 4 defenses. For now, they were happy.
2015: Konosuke Takeshita and The Golden Storm Riders Saga
All was well until outsiders from Big Japan Pro Wrestling attacked. On February 15, Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi defeated Happy Motel for the KO-D tag titles. Takeshita’s immediate aftermath was mixed, and when he lost, it was usually someone like Antonio Honda taking the fall in a tag match.
Endo’s rebound was more difficult, dropping a few high-profile singles matches before breaking a bone in his foot in April.
With his partner out of action for months, Konosuke Takeshita continued to work on perfecting his craft. He fought against and alongside Genichiro Tenryu on the legend’s retirement tour, adding to the list of all-time greats he’d wrestled in his young career.
The college student soon became a target of Daisuke Sasaki, an unhinged maniac even for DDT. Following the departure of Kenny Omega late last year, Golden Lovers had evolved into the Golden Storm Riders, a formidable tag team of Ibushi and Sasaki.
Daisuke Sasaki defeated Takeshita in May for a rare singles loss, but Takeshita would return the favor in June during his improbable run to the finals of the King of DDT tournament. In July, Sasaki would pin Takeshita again during a #1 contenders match between Golden Storm Riders vs Takeshita and Honda.
At the Peter Pan show in August, Takeshita welcomed Tetsuya Endo back to work by serving him another loss, while Sasaki and Ibushi won the tag belts that same night.
In September, Golden Storm Riders successfully defended their titles against Happy Motel. Takeshita did all he could to save his partner, but Endo was still pinned. As the young duo worked on their partnership, the landscape of DDT began to shift.
Two of the three men who defined the KO-D Openweight title over the past few years, Kudo and Kota Ibushi, were sidelined with injuries. With the tag belts vacated and spots at the top opened up, someone needed to step up.
Due to winning a rock-paper-scissors tournament, Tetsuya Endo was granted a KO-D title shot, an opportunity Takeshita had not yet had. Instead, Takeshita would go toe to toe with the third KO-D legend, Harashima, in a losing effort.
Though the champion, Isami Kodoka, was one of the more popular wrestlers in the promotion, the young and exciting Endo had his vocal female supporters in the crowd. It was a great match, and though he came close, Endo was unable to secure the victory.
Ten days later, Takeshita and Endo won a tournament to become tag champions for a 2nd time. They renamed themselves New Generation Combo, embracing the expectations placed upon their shoulders. They ended the year once again with belts around their waist, but they were not the same wrestlers they were even a year ago.
2016: Tetsuya Endo and The Damnation Saga
In January, Konosuke Takeshita challenged Kodaka for the KO-D Openweight title, coming close before being caught by a flash reversal pin. The New Generation Combo continued to be on a dominant streak as tag team champions, even on one occasion when Endo fell ill and left his partner in a handicap match.
Meanwhile, Daisuke Sasaki seemed to lose his mind after his marriage proposal to Candice Lerae, who had been doing shows in Japan that month, was denied. With Ibushi still injured and on his way to resigning from DDT, his tag partner Sasaki instead got a pet in the form of 6 foot 5 Shuji Ishikawa. The new team attacked our heroes and laid out their challenge.
Sasaki scored a flash pinfall over Takeshita when he distracted him by attacking the fourth member of Happy Motel, “Trans-Am” Hiroshi Fukuda. Takeshita would get his win back over Sasaki while teaming with Fukuda, but when it came time to put the belts up, Sasaki made Takeshita pass out in a hold to win the KO-D tag titles.
During the rematch in April, Takeshita would tap out after being accidentally hit by Endo. That same night, Sasaki cashed in an Anytime, Anywhere contract and won the KO-D Openweight championship.
After pinning Sasaki in a tag match and beating Shuji Ishikawa in under 5 minutes, Takeshita earned a singles title shot at the end of May. On his 21st birthday, in fact.
With two belts to his name, Sasaki hired a second bodyguard to do his dirty work, the 300-pound Mad Paulie. On May 29th, Tetsuya Endo would lose to the Damnation henchmen in a tag team match while teaming with Kazusada Higuchi.
In the main event, it was a battle between good and evil. Takeshita outwrestled Sasaki early until cheap shots and outside brawling tilted the table toward the champion. Takeshita came back with a big dropkick and a huge dive, but Sasaki took out two referees.
The birthday boy fought long and hard until, at the end of a fast-paced sequence, he pinned the champion with a Cross Arm German suplex to win the KO-D title. Endo was the first by his side to congratulate him. Amidst streamers and a packed Korakuen Hall, a new star was born.
New Generation Combo started the summer on a high. Konosuke Takeshita had called Tetsuya Endo his good luck charm. They took a trip to All Japan and defeated the legendary Jun Akiyama and future star Yuma Aoyagi.
Endo made a hell of a run in the King of DDT tournament, beating the likes of Mad Paulie and HARASHIMA, before losing in the finals to Sasaki’s other pet Ishikawa. Meanwhile, Takeshita made his first defense against Yuko Miyamoto, who all but had the champ beat until the German suplex came through for him.
After the match, it was Tetsuya Endo who arrived in the ring to cash in an Anytime, Anywhere contract for a match next month. He was happy for his partner’s reign, but now was his chance to surpass him. The challenge caused some tension in the four-man faction, as Endo (tagging with Fukuda) beat Honda (tagging with Takeshita.)
In their July title fight, Endo brought an aggressive style to try and win the top prize. At the first bell, neither man could move out of their corner. A few minutes later, Endo was on top of Takeshita, trying to bash in his head with elbows for a knockout. Takeshita was more than willing to try and rip Endo’s shoulder out.
It even devolved into a slapfight. As close as Endo could get, Takeshita and his German suplex won the day. After the match, Sasaki’s crew arrived to offer Endo a chance to get out of his friend’s shadow. Takeshita wanted a handshake, but Endo shoved him away and accepted the black t-shirt of Damnation.
The former friends appeared to go on diverging paths after their summer breakup. Tetsuya Endo and Damnation went on to win a tournament for the vacant 6-Man titles. Happy Motel had lost in the first round.
Reversing his fortune from last year’s Peter Pan event, Endo scored the victory teaming with Sasaki over Speedball Mike Bailey and Dick Togo. Takeshita, although he had scored another defense in the meantime, lost the KO-D title at Peter Pan to Damnation’s own Shuji Ishikawa.
Sasaki continued to pull the strings, pitting Endo against Takeshita to prove that their roles had truly reversed. The young men couldn’t be separated as they fought in a number of tag matches leading up to their September rematch.
Takeshita was dominant as always early on, but a distraction from Sasaki led to his protégé gaining the advantage. After a hard-fought battle, Endo defeated Takeshita for only the second time in their seven singles matches.
Soon after, Damnation would add the tag team titles to their collection of belts. As Tetsuya Endo became double champion, Takeshita couldn’t find a way to beat his rival, losing a challenge for the 6-man titles teaming with Honda and Mike Bailey.
By December, their dominant run came to an end as Ishikawa lost the KO-D title, the stable lost the 6-man titles, and Takeshita pinned Sasaki to win the tag titles with Speedball.
2017: Konosuke Takeshita, Tetsuya Endo, and the All-Out Saga
While Sasaki made the challenge for Harashima’s KO-D title in order to win the affection of Candice LeRae, a four-man tournament was set up to get the next shot at the Judgment show in March. While Takeshita won his match to advance to the finals, Endo lost his semifinal match with Kudo.
Though Takeshita would lose the tag team titles soon after, he would also win the tournament and earn the chance to main event at Saitama Super Arena. For the next few weeks, Takeshita would have his ups and down while Endo was getting in his tag team reps in preparation for Damnation challenging for the tag belts.
DDT Judgment celebrated their 20th-anniversary show in front of over 10,000 fans. A video package before the main event juxtaposed the combatant’s histories: that while Takeshita was in the audience at DDT shows in Osaka and excelling at track and field in high school, Harashima had been the Ace of the promotion.
The battle was billed as past versus future. And after a hard-hitting 30-minute war, the 21-year-old surpassed the 42-year-old to win the KO-D title for a second time.
While Takeshita was near tears in the post-match promo, taking up the mantle for the promotion once more, Damnation sauntered down to the ring to make the challenge. But it wouldn’t be Sasaki, who never got his rematch the first time, or Ishikawa, who beat Takeshita for the title. It would be Tetsuya Endo’s 2nd chance next month at Korakuen Hall.
The landscape of DDT continued to change as Happy Motel agreed to disband now that Takeshita had reached another level. The new top guy met his first test when midlevel journeyman Akito cashed in a sudden title shot after a Takeshita main event match against Mad Paulie.
Damnation offered Akito a spot after his loss but beat him down when he rejected them before Takeshita made the save. Akito was willing, however, to join the KO-D Openweight champion in a partnership based on the fun they had wrestling.
At the end of April, in a packed Korakuen Hall, Tetsuya Endo had his chance at the top title. They started out slow, going move for move until the pace ramped up to a crisp back-and-forth exchange, though Takeshita was still a bit better.
Endo evened the odds at around 15 minutes by targeting the champion’s knee on the outside with some help from the ring post and Paulie. He took control working the leg. Endo took off his Damnation shirt (which read, “We don’t conform, kiss ass, or get married”) before the 30-minute mark, and the old high-flying Endo was back for a brief moment in time.
As Takeshita began to turn the tide, Endo reverted to his current self and brawled on the outside. Takeshita was happy to follow his former friend into the depths of the crowd, even if it meant knocking down a staff member with a stray knee strike. When the action returned to the ring, Endo was determined and driven to win his first singles title.
When Takeshita began to fight back, Endo would fall back on his heel tactics of low blows, faking an injury, or hiding behind the referee. As time ticked down, their desperation grew, and the haymakers increased.
Endo fought out of the Cross Arm German, which would have certainly been the end, and tried to get a submission, but the 60-minute time limit expired, and Takeshita retained via draw.
Neither was satisfied with the result, with Endo slapping Takeshita in the post-match, but they parted ways for the time being. Takeshita and Akito, now called All Out, focused on the tag titles.
They had been challenged by the champions, but the titles were vacated due to an injury to Yoshihiro Takayama, which tragically has left him paralyzed from the neck down to this very day. All Out would lose the match for the vacant belts. Endo wound up feuding with Mike Bailey as Damnation continued to terrorize babyfaces on the roster.
In June, Takeshita had it easy. All Out welcomed a new member in Chilean wrestler Diego. Aside from a few tag matches, Takeshita was also being harassed by newcomer Naomi Yoshimura who would randomly appear and tell long, absurd stories blaming Takeshita for everything that had gone wrong in his life dating back to childhood.
Losing his friends, his girlfriend, his grandmother? All Takeshita’s fault. Meanwhile, Endo would be going through his own past traumas as he entered the King of DDT tournament for a shot at the title.
The first round pitted Endo against Speedball, who had won the tag titles as Takeshita’s partner. There were plenty of flips to be had as Endo won with his new finisher, a Spanish Fly he called Tetsuya In The Sky with Diamonds. The acronym was not lost on this sassy little rebel. In the second round, he defeated former 4-time KOD champion Kudo.
In the semi-final, his opponent was Akito, who had defeated Sasaki in the first round. Even though Endo attacked him before the bell, Akito worked over his lower limbs before Endo advanced on a flash pin. In the finals later in the show, Harashima was the final obstacle. Endo had his knees targeted further, but he persisted still and defeated the historical Ace of DDT, this time with the Shooting Star Press.
Ryogoku Peter Pan marked the 5-year anniversary of Takeshita’s debut. He had climbed the ranks quickly and was maineventing the biggest show of the year for the 2nd year in a row, facing Endo for a second time at this event.
The challenger was all business walking to the ring, not bothering to wrestle in his Damnation shirt. On the other hand, the champion made a grandiose entrance heralded by chanting men before he took the stage.
Takeshita was all aggression early: getting in Endo’s face, diving to the outside, and brawling into the crowd. Endo was put on the defensive, fighting to beat a count out and crawling toward the ropes to escape a submission.
He caught Takeshita slipping a few times and gained control, but Takeshita was really the one in charge. The bout was 29 minutes of brutal bumps and fast-paced action. Endo hit a number of finishers and kicked out of some big moves, but it all wasn’t enough when he was pinned by the Cross Arm German Suplex.
As Tetsuya Endo rejected post-match sportsmanship once again and spit in the face of the champion, it was clear that their generational rivalry wasn’t over. But what was made clear after this long saga is that Konosuke Takeshita had become the Ace of DDT.
He became a main eventer whom rising stars could chase. His second reign as KO-D Openweight champion lasted over a year and set the record for defenses that still stands today.
To be true rivals is a special bond. The best of them are like partners and enemies. It is to both love and hate someone that fuels the engine of change. When one side is elevated, the other side has to catch up for the rematch.
As Konosuke Takeshita was well on his way to being an international phenomenon, Tetsuya Endo would be right on his heels in the years to come.