I promised last year that I was going to start reviewing Dragon Gate and I intend to keep that promise. I go into this show at least knowing who a handful of the wrestlers are so it shouldn’t be quite as muddled as my NOAH review. However, I’m still going in blind when it comes to storylines, so please forgive me if I miss any of the subtle touches (because I’m usually so good at those). Let’s dish out some stars.
Jason Lee and Oji Shiba defeated Over Generation (Kaito Ishida and Mondai Ryu)
There was a moment in this match where Jason Lee sat cross-legged on the mat to have a little prey. It appeared to grant him momentary invulnerability as he didn’t even flinch at a couple of Mondai Ryu kicks before arm-dragging out of Ryu’s attempt to pick him up. It was a bit weird.
Thankfully, Lee made up for it later. He and Ishida’s sequences were the best thing about this. Ishida was throwing some nice kicks and Lee works a fun style. It succeeded in pushing everything into a higher gear. Throw in a fiery display from Oji Shiba (who as far as I can tell is a Young Boy), and this was an enjoyable opener.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Tribe Vanguard (KZY, YAMATO and Yosuke Santa Maria) defeated Don Fujii, Gamma and Susumu Yokosuka
A lot of this was played for comedy with Santa Maria being the butt of most of the jokes. While there wasn’t anything that I considered aggressively offensive here, it always feels like it’s right on the verge of it and there were enough touches of homophobia to make me feel uncomfortable. I never know how to react to characters like Santa Maria, especially without knowledge of the person behind the gimmick.
That focus on comedy also hurt the action and it took a long time for it to get going. When it did, it was entertaining enough as people flew around the ring. Yet, that entertainment never crossed over into something to get excited about.
We’d then get some unfortunate kissing/gay panic spots before KZY stole the win with a roll-up. This wasn’t great. The over-reliance on mediocre (and slightly offensive) comedy hurt what was occasionally an alright wrestling match. Feel free to skip it.
Verdict: Two Stars
BXB Hulk defeated Big R Shimizu
Big man vs, well, to be honest, BXB Hulk isn’t that much smaller than Big R Shimizu so slightly smaller man is the accurate description.
However, this was worked as power vs speed. In the early days, BXB was able to catch Shimizu off-guard. His athleticism combined with those kicks giving him the upper hand.
The problem for BXB was that when Shimizu was able to use that power, it was a clear advantage. He could eat up the damage that Hulk was dealing and still lift him into the air. It was a simple story, but an effective one.
For it meant that when BXB Hulk got the win, he looked like a star for doing so. He was able to battle through the big slams and the lariats to slay the dragon. This was a nice victory that was set-up to boost him while making Shimizu look good too; very well done.
Verdict: Three Stars
Ben-K defeated Genki Horiguchi
Genki Horiguchi is a strange character, isn’t he? He looks like he’s in his sixties but dresses like he’s thirty years younger. Then he starts dishing out hurricanranas. Baffling.
He was also totally outclassed in this match. A couple of hope spots aside, this was a squash with Ben-K tapping him out in short order. There’s not much more to say to be honest. It was over and done with before it had even started. Made Ben-K look good, though.
Verdict: Two Stars
CIMA, Desmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz defeated Ryo Saito, Flamita and Bandido
CIMA cut a promo before this match. From what I gathered (by which I mean I’m guessing) he was introducing Desmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz to the crowd. He seemed to be having fun and even got a kid into the ring. I’m sure it was a nice segment for all involved.
This was a chance for Dragon Gate to get a look at the imports on this tour. CIMA and Saito were there, but they weren’t exactly busting a gut, while Flamita is already a regular on the roster. For Wentz, Xavier and Bandido this was their first tour, and I imagine they were looking to impress.
For the most part, I think they succeeded. Xavier and Wentz have been teaming for a while and have good chemistry. They were also able to give as good as they got when it came to engaging in the Japanese tradition of slapping each other really hard.
Bandido was a bit less impressive. He had some flashes of brilliance but on the whole looked alright at best. To be honest, I’d never even heard of the bloke and he went missing in the middle of the match.
This was entertaining, yet you’d struggle to call it great. Xavier and Wentz got a bit of shine (including picking up the victory) while CIMA was having fun. If you’ve got the time, give it a watch, but don’t worry if you miss it.
Verdict: Three Stars
Kagetora and Masaaki Mochizuki defeated ANTIAS (Eita and El Lindaman) by DQ
El Lindaman is a creepy looking motherfucker. That face paint gives me the willies. Eita was running his mouth before the match, but like usual I don’t have a clue what he was saying. Dragon Gate enjoys a bit of chit-chat.
Sadly, the promo can’t have been particularly inspiring because they went on to have a mediocre as hell match. No-one was trying particularly hard, and quite frankly a lot of it was dull. It even descended into shenanigans as chairs and baseball bats got involved. The finish would come after Lindaman introduced an unnecessarily thick rope and then shoved the ref for a DQ.
It wasn’t atrocious; it was just there.
Verdict: Two Stars
Post-match Lindaman got on the mic and mouthed off at Mochizuki. Mochizuki then responded. I’m going to put two and two together and assume this had something to do with the Open The Dream Gate Title (Mochizuki is champ). At some point, Lindaman apparently crossed a line because Mochizuki snapped and started trying to beat the shit out of him.
I’m assuming this is leading to a match. Would be kind of weird if it wasn’t.
MaxiMuM (Kotoka, Masato Yoshino and Naruki Doi) defeated ANTIAS (T-Hawk, Takashi Yoshida and Yasushi Kanda)
MaxiMuM have some banging music, even if I do disapprove of how awkward their use of capitals is.
What is it with Japanese promotions and factions which attack before the bell and then disappear into the crowd? They all have at least one. In this case, it was ANTIAS.
Unfortunately, it led to another boring match. This one went about twenty minutes, and quite frankly it could have been half that time. I don’t want to say that no-one was trying, but there was a house show feel to it. They were on auto-pilot.
There were decent moments, with the final sequence being fast-paced and exciting. But during the long middle section, it was hard not to end up fiddling with your phone or drifting off into a daze while your eyes glazed over. Seeing what was happening but not taking any of it in. If you need something to fall asleep to it might be perfect. The Japanese voices are quite soothing.
Again, this wasn’t awful. It just wasn’t good either.
Verdict: Two Stars
Post-match MaxiMuM and ANTIAS exchanged some words. I’m assuming these two factions are going to be clashing again. Unless they were all making-up. I might have misread the situation entirely.
Sadly, Dragon Gate kicked off the year with an average show. I haven’t watched enough of the company to know whether this is the norm or not, but it wasn’t bad enough to put me off. It just felt like a house show or the middle date on a long tour. I have every faith that they can do better, and there were even glimpses of that here. As for whether you should watch it or not, you’re safe giving it a miss.