The life and burial of Super Hardcore Katsumata

Note: this article contains spoilers for the content of this match. Lucky for you, it’s free on youtube and just 15 minutes long so you definitely have time to watch it and read this article!

On the 14th March 2021, Chris Brookes faced and defeated Super Hardcore Katsumata in a ‘barbed wire casket match’, winning the DDT Extreme Title in the process. Over the course of 15 minutes the two opponents, both experienced hardcore wrestlers, threw chairs, barbed wire boards and the titular lego-studded coffin at each other. The match was very much DDT’s compelling blend of silliness, style and emotional significance. In defeating Super Hardcore Katsumata, Chris not only won his third title in DDT, further showcasing his range of talents, he also put away (quite emphatically, with nails) a character whose purpose had been served. 

Super Hardcore Katsumata (SHK) was, for the man under the facepaint, Shunma Katsumata, an embodiment of Shunma’s specific talents. Talents that, over the 14 months of SHK’s existence, found recognition and helped establish ‘idol wrestler’ Shunma as a serious competitor whose creativity brings far more than just novelty value to his wrestling. In between the scattered legos and facepaint, there’s a story of friendship, rivalry and personal growth. This is the story of the burial (and life) of Super Hardcore Katsumata. 

Chris Brookes holds up the Extreme belt whilst posing in the ring. His leg is placed on the top of a fake lego-studded coffin
Photo credit: ddtpro

Wearing masks

SHK and Akito after Ultimate Party 2019. Photo credit: @k_shunma_ddt.

SHK’s first ‘appearance’ was partnering with fellow All Out member Akito at DDT Ultimate Party 2019 in a four-way hardcore match for the K-OD Tag Team Titles. Although leading up to the match Akito had hinted that he would be changing up his partner, there was no question that this was Shunma in facepaint, most likely dressed as the Joker. This was not all that unusual, either for DDT in the context of a big show, or for Shunma himself. Face makeup was already part of Shunma’s repertoire, regularly appearing with eyeliner and a triangle design on his right eye, in part to conceal a scar. He was also very much a performer, having started out in DDT’s developmental brand ‘DNA’ and performing as part of idol wrestling unit NωA. 

‘Dressing up’ was certainly part of Shunma’s history but it was also part of being a wrestler searching for the right fit. He was struggling to shed his position as junior member of All Out and match up to the achievements of teammate and chosen Ace Takeshita. He was also lagging behind his peers. Former NωA teammate MAO was then in the UK, developing an impressive reputation alongside tag partner Mike Bailey. Shunma needed to catch up. SHK was a chance to try something new and showcase his emergent talents in hardcore wrestling. 

Origins of a hardcore wrestler

The emergence of Super Hardcore Katsumata was not Shunma’s first foray into hardcore wrestling. In fact, it was starting to become an important part of his story. His first singles title challenge in DDT (not counting his brief stints with the Iron Man Heavy Metal Championship, which in the same year was also held by Gota Ihashi’s underwear) was a hardcore match for the DDT Extreme Championship in 2018. He lost, but acquitted himself well against accomplished death match wrestler Yuko Miyamoto. Just a few months before Ultimate Party 2019 he had faced friend and former faction-mate MAO in a ‘block toy hardcore’ match, again losing but not without demonstrating his enthusiasm for the more creative aspects of hardcore wrestling.

SHK’s first outing at Ultimate Party was yet another level for the budding hardcore wrestler. Although it was the team of Daisuke Sasaki and Soma Takao who won, Shunma was a stand-out part of the match, participating in several dramatic spots and making use of props involving the block toys that became a signature part of his hardcore and death match wrestling style. As Shunma went into 2020, he began to make a transition from occasional hardcore wrestler to established hardcore talent. Although SHK was part of that, with a hardcore match against Sasaki and Isami Kodaka and a hardcore rojo match involving Onita Atsushi, it was Shunma’s work in BJW that established him as more than a hardcore character and as a legitimate death match wrestler. 

In BJW, Shunma had to earn his position. His early matches were light tube death matches in which Shunma was very much inducted into the death match style. He survived and flourished, even bringing his own block toy filled light tubes. He earned the respect of established death match veterans and, teaming with Ryuji Ito, was able to make it to the finals of the Saikyou Tag Tournament. Importantly, Shunma wrestled as himself. He brought the creativity and performance of his DDT experience to the death match style, creating tension, excitement and dramatic violence. 

Photo credit: ddtpro

Alongside his developing status in BJW in 2020, Shunma began more fully establishing his position in DDT, often through hardcore matches but also in competitive singles matches. Although he rarely won, he was able to hold his own as a teammate to Takeshita and Akito. SHK also made some notable appearances, particularly against other hardcore wrestlers and also against Tetsuya Endo. But, over time, Shunma started distancing himself from the character, referring to SHK first as an alter-ego and then as a completely different person who he had ‘never met’. Whatever superhero lore Shunma managed to work into the character, by the time he faced Brookes in 2021, he was able to deny all knowledge of SHK’s activities, setting the stage for their permanent separation. 

Shunma’s successes in DDT lagged some way behind his developing reputation in BJW but his hardcore reputation finally earned him a shot at the DDT Extreme Title in November 2020. He lost to champion Sanshiro Takagi but the match was pure Shunma. A hardcore match, held in a sauna/spa and streamed on YouTube, it combined Shunma’s hardcore reputation, his passion for sauna and his YouTuber past in a chaotic and delightful 32 minutes. Three months later, he got another shot, winning the title in Kumamoto Castle Hot Springs. Neither of these achievements called for the intervention of SHK. It was Shunma Katsumata, hardcore sauna wrestler, who won the day and his first serious (ish) singles title. 

The importance of a good rival

Photo credit: ddtpro

Just three weeks after his big victory, Shunma defended the DDT Extreme Title against former and current teammate, sometime tag partner, fellow DNA graduate and friend, MAO. When SHK first appeared on the scene, MAO was in England, establishing himself as an international star, moving far beyond being an idol wrestler. Shunma was lagging behind, as he had for some time. Shunma and MAO’s singles matches were always entertaining but the outcomes thus far had seemed inevitable. In November 2020, a year on from SHK’s debut, MAO had beaten Shunma for the 5th time, a 100% win rate. But Shunma’s fortunes were changing and on 28th February 2021 he got his first singles win over MAO in a ‘Kid’s Room Sauna Count Edition death match’, the main event of the show. It was yet another demonstration of how Shunma had found his place, not through the performance of one part of his character, like SHK, but by combining his strengths and drawing on the whole of his history in DDT. 

Shunma’s victory over one rival very quickly led to facing another. In many ways, Shunma and Chris Brookes are ideal rivals. Both have experience of wrestling in a mix of styles and a penchant for the ridiculous. Chris’ acerbic humour provides the perfect balance to Shunma’s chaotic and boundless energy. In 2020 and 2021, Chris provided many of the opportunities for the still developing hardcore wrestler to find his feet and, ultimately, his wings. 

Press conference ahead of Chris Brookes vs Shunma Katsumata, March 2021. Photo credit: @k_shunma_ddt

Chris and Shunma’s rivalry emerged in early 2020, with a back and forth twitter exchange that led to Shunma getting Chris banned from twitter for death threats. In theory, Chris got his revenge beating Shunma in a hardcore match in March 2020, but he didn’t seem to tire of reminding Shunma of his grudge. On his May 2020 produce show, Chris brought in friend and BJW death match wrestler Drew Parker to test Shunma again in a hardcore match. Shunma, needing a little something extra to match up to Drew’s established talents, chose to wrestle as SHK. It wasn’t enough, but it was yet another step in Shunma’s development of a hardcore style. Later matches with and against Drew in BJW gave Shunma plenty of opportunities to shine as himself. 

Chris and Shunma’s rivalry is one befitting of a hardcore match, both ready to cause trouble for the other and unleash violence. Chris made his challenge immediately following Shunma’s first defence against MAO, interrupting a heartfelt speech from Shunma to do so. Initially offering Shunma a fair fight, his goodwill didn’t last beyond Shunma’s acceptance. A handshake turned into a low blow and the offer of a match into a promise to end Shunma. Shunma was happy to respond, his drawings of his predictions for the match an interesting insight into his plans. Chris was disparaging when it was Super Hardcore Katsumata and not Shunma who showed up for the press conference. Nonetheless, as someone who had been part of Shunma’s development, particularly as a hardcore wrestler, Brookes was the ideal person to close the (coffin) door on a chapter of Shunma’s story.

A childish looking drawing of a coffin and a decapitated figure within it. The name 'Chris' and date '3.14' are written next to it.
Shunma’s illustration of his predictions for the casket match. Photo credit: @k_shunma_ddt

Funeral for a Friend 

The casket match was the closing of one chapter but also the start of another. At the opening of the show, Shunma appeared alongside Sauna Club faction mates MAO, Takeshita and Ueno to announce their new name, the 37Kamiina. Just two days before this announcement, Shunma had, alongside Takeshita, Iino and Akito, said an emotional goodbye to their hugely popular faction, All Out. The farewell show saw Akito and Takeshita comment on how much junior faction members Shunma and Iino had flourished. It was clear that Shunma was moving on to new things. His passion for sauna, leading him to become a qualified sauna expert, had given rise to a faction which brought together the young stars of DDT, including some of his former faction mates. Sauna Club and then 37Kamiina put Shunma and his antics front and centre, a marked difference from his previous junior status. He was given the opportunity to lead and he took it, able to hold his own with teammates who previously had significantly surpassed him. 

The importance of friendship to Shunma’s development is something highlighted within the casket match with Brookes. At the start, the barbed-wire wrapped coffin is carried to the ring on the shoulders of four hooded and cloaked pallbearers. At a crucial moment, when Brookes has SHK pushed into the casket, two of these figures reappear at ringside, catching Brookes’ attention. They push back their hoods simultaneously, revealing none other than Super Hardcore Mao and Super Hardcore Takeshita, Shunma’s 37Kamiina teammates (Ueno was scheduled for the main event). The shock gives SHK a chance, clambering out of the coffin and scooping a handful of thumb tacks to force into Chris’ open mouth. A kick to the face has Chris down. SHK beckons his companions into the ring. They stand, either side of him by the ropes, SHK resting a hand on the shoulder of each as he propels himself towards Brookes. The figures leave, not saying a word. The gesture is symbolic only, neither doing more than supporting Shunma in his endeavours, but they are there at his side when he needs them, giving him the strength to continue. 

Photo credit: ddtpro

Goodbye, loser!

Throughout the match Shunma’s development as a hardcore wrestler is evident. Super Hardcore Katsumata confidently sets up his spots, manoeuvring chairs and barbed wire boards for the best effects. There’s a moment of shock as Chris opens Shunma’s usual box of block toys to reveal thumb tacks – the very weapon Shunma brought to his first ever hardcore match. But this match doesn’t hit the heights of hardcore wrestling that Shunma has been showcasing in previous outings as himself. SHK is not the hardcore wrestler that Shunma is. Shunma has the reputation and the victories. ‘Super Hardcore’ is, by this point, less hardcore than Shunma himself. 

Nonetheless, SHK makes a valiant effort to win this match. His commitment proves to be his downfall, as he climbs to the top rope, ready to dive onto Brookes, splayed out on the closed casket. He leaps and, at the last second, Brookes pulls back the lid, SHK falling straight into an open coffin. Brookes slams the lid on quickly, holding it down to win himself the title. It’s a dramatic loss but one in a long line for Super Hardcore Katsumata. In contrast with Shunma’s rise over 2020 and into 2021, SHK was never really successful. SHK’s first and only win came with the support of Takeshita over Super Hardcore Shimatani in July 2020. In his three-way match with Sasaki and Isami in June 2020, both considered SHK irrelevant to the outcome. SHK was a loser. Shunma is not. After the match Shunma denied all memory of losing his Extreme Title. Shunma Katsumata, now established 37Kamiina spokesperson and reliable teammate, had greater heights to aim for. In June 2021, alongside his friend Konosuke Takeshita, Shunma became KO-D tag champion, finally matching the achievements of his peers and rivals. 

As a match, the burial of Super Hardcore Katsumata is ridiculous and cheesy. It features a man dressed as the Joker, coffin druids and a lot of thumb tacks, all as part of a rivalry over time in twitter jail. And I love it. I love it because it is all of those things and more. It’s part of one wrestler embracing all aspects of his character and history, willing to leave behind the things that no longer serve him. It’s a triumph of friendship and support, even in loss. It’s Chris Brookes posing cross-legged on a lego studded coffin. And really, what more could you want?