Dragon Gate has been calling to me for a while now. Everything I’ve heard suggests it’s a promotion I’ll love and yet I’ve never got around to giving it my time. Until now. However, this does mean I’m going in blind. Storylines and most of the wrestlers are a mystery. Hopefully as time goes on, I will learn these things, but for now, I can only review the action bell to bell. Let’s dish out some stars.
Shun Skywalker defeated Hyo Wantabe
My first thought was that Shun Skywalker needs some new gear.
Despite that, this was a nicely worked match. Both guys got a bit of a chance to strut their stuff and there was some lovely flippy stuff. Wantabe seemed the more accomplished worker while Skywalker has that sloppy thrillseeker thing down well.
Verdict: Two Stars
K-Ness, Shachihoko Boy, Yosuke Santa Maria and Misterioso defeated Gamma, Mondai Ryu, Katio Ishida and Jason Lee
Despite my lack of knowledge (keeping up with who was who in this match was hard), I am aware that these multi-man tags are standard fare for Dragon Gate.
Not that it bothered me because this was entertaining as hell. It was worked at a ridiculous pace and had tinges of comedy thrown in for good measure. There is no denying that it lost its way at times and no one will remember it in ten minutes but it was fun, and that was kind of enough.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
VerserK (T-Hawk, Yasushi Kanda and Punch Tominaga) defeated U-T, Don Fujii and Ryo Saito
Christ, it’s Suzuki-gun 2.0. The heel team attacked before the bell and suddenly people are brawling on the balconies. We got a brief tease of someone going over the edge, which unsurprisingly didn’t come to fruition.
The action finally returned to the ring, and U-T was being worked over by VerserK. This set up the framing of this match as U-T played the plucky babyface against the dominant heels. He would come close to getting the victory yet never close the deal. In the end, his skull met T-Hawk’s knee and that was goodnight.
This was another decent match that won’t linger long in the memory. Even the crowd brawling didn’t piss me off too much which is a rarity nowadays. I think the hint of something crazy happening was enough to keep me awake during it.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Kagetora defeated Genki Horiguchi to retain the Open The Brave Gate Title
I’ll be honest, I was instantly into this match because it meant we were down to two men and it would be easier for me to keep track of who was who.
This started quite slowly as Kagetora dissected the leg of Genki Horiguchi. By dissected I mean dissected too. This was a pretty brutal attack, and Horiguchi sold it perfectly. Whenever it felt like he was going to build up a head of steam, it was his legs that let him down. He’d be a fraction too slow or they’d give out on him at the last moment. This was never more evident than when he hit Beach Break (thank God for Google providing move names) and was delayed in making the cover by his injuries.
The final action in this match did come unhinged. Horiguchi was trying desperately to survive but Kagetora had too much for him and after a series of big moves he hit the Ikkitousen and picked up the win.
This was the best match on the show at this point. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite have enough time to slip into the great category and with five minutes more it might have been something special.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Ricochet defeated Eita
Now, this guy I know. Ricochet returns to the Japanese promotion he made his home before New Japan and to no one’s surprise he put on a fantastic match.
I’ve raved about Ricochet a million times, and I doubt I need to do it again. My only worry for him is that he’s set to get lost in the swamp that is WWE.
Instead, let’s focus on Eita who is an interesting hybrid wrestler. When the pace picked up, he was able to keep up with Ricochet and fly right alongside him. He didn’t seem like he wanted to do that, though. He wanted to ground Rico and take away that aerial force. Unfortunately, in doing so, he only seemed to wind Ricochet up and bring a more aggressive side out of him. The former Prince Puma had him beat for strength, and it looked like Eita was going to have to rely on his brains to get the job done.
Unfortunately, sometimes brains aren’t enough and despite dropping Ricochet on his head several times, Eita couldn’t get the win. I was surprised they put over the guy on his way out but from a storyline perspective, it made sense. Eita was good, he just wasn’t Ricochet good. He was ready to run one of the best wrestlers in the world close, he wasn’t ready to pick up the win. Importantly, though, there’s every chance he could be someday. Hopefully, he’ll get that chance again, and we get to watch it.
Verdict: Four Stars
Dragon Kid and Cima defeated Big Ben (Big R Shimizu and Ben-K) to retain the Open The Twin Gate titles
My extensive research tells me that this was the one year anniversary of Dragon Kid and CIMA’s title win. It also suggested that it’s not a particularly popular pairing among a lot of Dragon Gate watchers.
On this showing, I’m not sure why. This was an exciting tag-team match where two bruisers tried desperately to take the titles from their high-flying opponent. Dragon Kid and CIMA have some innovative offence while Big Ben came off as desperate. They were throwing every big move they could think of at their opponents, but it didn’t matter. Dragon Kid took one hell of a beating and looked incredible for his ability to survive it.
Maybe if I’d been watching all year, I would have issues with this match. However, in my new fan bubble, I enjoyed it. It was fast-paced tag team action and you can rarely say better than that.
Verdict: Four Stars
Tribe Vanguard (Yamato, BXB Hulk and KZY) defeated VerserK (Shingo Takagi, Takashi Yoshida and El Lindaman) and MaxiMuM (Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino and Kotoka) in an Open The Triangle Gate Three Way Title match
Nine men in three different teams! How the hell am I supposed to keep track of who is who here?
VerserK continued their heelish antics by attacking before the bell and then headed straight to the outside for some crowd brawling. I can’t help but compare this to Suzuki-gun, it’s eerily similar. Thankfully, it didn’t go on for too long.
Once we were back in the ring, this just took off as MaxiMuM begun to work their stuff at a ridiculous pace. There was even some dancing thrown in.
Early on there was a slightly uneasy truce between (what I assume were) the two babyface teams, MaxiMuM and Tribe Vanguard. However, even combined they couldn’t do enough to keep VerserK from coming into this match as their strength plus their willingness to bend the rules gave them an advantage. Plus, as all uneasy truces in wrestling tend to do this one didn’t last long and things eventually dissolved into every team for themselves.
It was that which led to the first elimination, as BXB Hulk dished out a vicious series of kicks to Kotoka and left us with Tribe Vanguard and VerserK for the finish. It was also the moment where this match ran out of steam. Up until this point, it had been a chaotic delight and that was replaced with ref bumps and shenanigans. It sucked my interest out of the contest and went on for far too long. Even when Tribe Vanguard survived this onslaught to steal the victory, I found it hard to care.
The first half of this match was great, the second half not so much. The second MaxiMuM are eliminated you can probably turn it off.
Verdict: Three Stars
Masaaki Mochizuki defeated Susumu Yokosuka to retain the Open The Dream Gate title
Again, I did a bit of research and apparently, this is a pretty historical rivalry. Masaaki Mochizuki even forced Susumu Yokosuka to change his name by beating him once upon a time.
Like the other one-on-one matches on this show, this was a more methodical encounter. It wasn’t about who could do the craziest stunt but about who could fight the hardest and, on this day, Mochizuki was the better man.
Which isn’t to say that Susumu didn’t give him a fight. He went out there and attacked the legs of Masaaki trying to chop him down. It was a well structured and vicious beating as every move seemed to see him focus his attack exactly where it needed to go. It wasn’t that he got his tactics wrong, it was just that Mochizuki was better.
Because when things broke down and this turned into a fight it was Mochizuki who got the better of the exchanges. He was the one able to deliver the kind of blows that win matches and, at the same time, he was better at absorbing the damage he received. He came into this as champion and he wasn’t leaving without that belt.
This was great pro-wrestling. I went in knowing nothing about these two and came out the other side feeling like I’d been in the battle alongside them. You can’t say better than that.
Verdict: Four Stars
This was a terrific wrestling show. I don’t know if this was indicative of Dragon Gate – or if my opinions will mesh with those who watch every match they release – but from start to finish I enjoyed it. You can guarantee I’ll be coming back for more.