Dragon Gate Kotoka Road To Final 20/2/18 Review

They don’t mix it up much with the tour posters. Credit: Dragon Gate

The final taped leg of the Kotoka tour saw the man himself appear in the main event, which is only fitting. I’m also reviewing it a bit late because I missed the fact that it had happened. Can’t be perfect all the time. Let’s dish out some stars.

Over Generation (Kaito Ishida and Mondai Ryu) defeated Shun Skywalker and Yuki Yoshioka

For some reason, Shun Skywalker responded to Ishida leaving the ring early on by walking from one turnbuckle to the other before falling on the top rope and bouncing to the canvas. I don’t know if that was a mistake, an attempt at comedy or some part of Skywalker’s character that I haven’t seen before. Is he meant to be an idiot?

Skywalker did make up for it to a certain extent, as he and Ishida had a good sequence later on. The kid can fly. Unfortunately for him, the part I’m going to remember is him falling into the ring because the rest of it served as a straightforward enhancement match for Over Generation.

Verdict: Two and A Half Stars

Over Generation (Gamma and Dragon Kid) defeated Zachary Wentz and Bandido

Having faced off against each other for most of the tour Bandido and Wentz are now on the same side of the ring.

Wentz is a fantastic wrestler and watching him in Dragon Gate you get the bonus that he’s having the time of his life. He seems to love bantering with the crowds (even though I’m sure most of them don’t have a clue what he’s saying) and even watching him stand on the apron cheering Bandido on is fun.

There’s a rope walking theme being established tonight. Dragon Kid gave it a go and fell off before being encouraged by the crowd to try again while Wentz had a seat. He nearly made it on the second try. This inspired Wentz to get up and do it as well, and he managed about the same distance. They then tried to outdo each other by doing flips.

If you haven’t guessed, there was a lot of messing around. It was entertaining messing around, though, and aided by the fact that when the likes of Kid and Wentz got down to it, they’re damn good. A two-sided outing, the enjoyable banter laden opening and the equally enjoyable wrestling. I’m not going to complain about either.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Kzy defeated Takashi Yoshida

Poor Kzy can’t have enjoyed the start as Yoshida bullied him. You wonder whether your classic underdog wrestlers ever wish they could be your classic dominant wrestler instead.

Thankfully for him, Big Takashi was as interested in jawing with the crowd as he was beating up Kzy. It gave him a chance to recover, and he came roaring back with a big uppercut. It was only a short reprieve, but it might have been enough to weaken the big man because not long after he was able to steal the win in classic Kzy style with the Skayde Schoolboy.

It was designed to give Kzy a win coming out of his failure to get the belt. While it won’t go down as a classic, it did its job. Afterwards, Kzy cut a promo reinforcing his decision to go it alone. A longer transcription of which you can find here.

Verdict: Three Stars

Ben-K defeated Big R Shimizu

The Big R losing streak continues, and it’s clear that things aren’t going his way. He puts up a bit of a fight, yet when push comes to shove, he isn’t getting the job done, which is why Ben-K was able to pick up a relatively easy win with the spear.

From an in-ring perspective, this was decent enough. Ben-K got another win ahead of his Open The Dream Gate title shot and looked dominant in doing so. However, it was more about continuing Shimizu’s storyline. After the match Ben-K grabbed a microphone and berated Big R, saying that this was too easy and that maybe he needed to start running over people. Surprisingly, Shimizu agreed with him, hugging him and thanking him for his words. (More details here.)

I’m intrigued as to where they go now. Is that the end of Shimizu’s slump in form? Or is he more pissed off than he’s letting on that a junior member of his stable berated him? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Verdict: Three Stars

ANTIAS (El Lindaman and Shingo Takagi defeated Masaaki Mochizuki and Ryo Saito

We’re building up to Shingo’s shot at the Owari Gate Title. He is preparing for his shot at the comedy belt by beating the shit out of Saito. I guess he finds that funny.

Actually, that’s the story they’re looking to tell. Saito wants to force Shingo into providing the laughs, but Shingo ain’t having any of it. He just wants to hurt Saito and Saito is willing to take the beating because that won’t play into the belt changing hands. All of which was said in the post-match promo which you can find a translation for in the usual place.

It all meant that Mochizuki didn’t have much to do. They protected him by having him stay out of the action for a lot of it, although it is interesting that they chose to put him on a losing team after the Ben-K defeat. Lindaman used his section of the promo to accuse him of taking easy challenges and ducking people like him. Setting the seeds for a future confrontation between the two.

It was fine. If you’re not a Saito fan, you’ll probably enjoy watching him get beat up. However, as a match, it failed to get the heart beating. For the majority of it, it was just there.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

ANTIAS (T-Hawk, Eita and Yashushi Kanada) defeated Genki Horiguchi, Punch Tominaga and Susumu Yokosuka

Regular programming was provided as ANTIAS started off by disappearing into the crowd. I genuinely just zone out during these crowd brawling sections. It’s the best way to do it.

Look, I get that they are trying to set up ANTIAS as the big bads of the promotion, I just find a lot of their matches hard to watch. The way they are being booked lends itself to quite slow wrestling as they gang-up on their opponents in an attempt to wear them down. We got flashes of more exciting action from the babyface team, but it wasn’t enough to hold my interest.

On top of that, I don’t think they looked particularly strong. ANTIAS had a three on one situation against Punch, and he came close to fighting them off. It was only when he was smacked in the head with a chair that they were able to put him down. Seeing as Punch is more of a comedy character, that wasn’t exactly a statement of intent.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Tribe Vanguard (YAMATO, Yosuke Santa Maria, Flamita and U-T) defeated MaxiMuM (Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, Jason Lee and Kotoka)

Tribe Vanguard’s entrance music makes me happy. I need to get my hands on that.

A very Santa Maria focused outing. I’ve spoken in the past about not being sure how to react to that character so I’ll focus on the wrestling. And what’s frustrating, is that she’s excellent. She doesn’t need the kissing of the squatting on people’s faces; she could get by just being a good wrestler. She spoke afterwards about Kzy inspiring her to push herself, and that seems to be the direction they’re going in.

It was part of a very entertaining main event, which had a bit of everything sprinkled. Whether you want Flamita flying around the ring or Yamato’s bare arse, it will provide. These big multi-man matches have so many moving parts that it’s hard to get bored. The second one sequence is over they slide out of the ring, and the next one begins. It can be tough to keep up with the nuance (at least as someone who has only been watching for two months), but you’re still enjoying yourself.

And the main story was a pretty simple one as Tribe Vanguard looked strong heading into their Open The Triangle Gate Title shot. If that’s as entertaining as this was, I’m looking forward to it.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Post-match, Santa Maria cut the promo I’ve already alluded to, and there was nearly a brawl after Yoshino complained about her always kissing him. It caused Santa Maria to get very angry and start roaring at people as she tried to pick a fight/kiss them some more. It was weird and, thankfully, it didn’t last long. Eventually, Kotoka was given the mic to close out his final show in Kobe. If you want to read what he said, then you can check it out in the usual place.

Overall Show

A middling show from Dragon Gate. It dragged a bit, but on the whole, it was pretty good. I enjoyed the main event, and everything Wentz and Bandido are in is great. I’m going to be reviewing a lot of Dragon Gate this week as I catch up on the shows from the weekend so make sure to come back and check out those reviews too.

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