Join the discussion on our forums: voicesofwrestling.com/forums!


Dragon Gate Kotoka Road to Final: The Ending (March 6) Review

Dragon Gate Kotoka Road to Final: The Ending (March 6) Review

DRAGON GATE
KOTOKA ROAD TO FINAL: THE ENDING
MARCH 6, 2018
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN

Translations: IHeartDG.com

Watch: NicoNico (Guide on Ordering via NicoNico)

SHUN SKYWALKER, U-T, HYO WATANABE, & YUKI YOSHIOKA DEF. GAMMA, KAITO ISHIDA, MONDAI RYU, & SHACHIHOKO BOY,

This served its purpose to perfection. Hyo Watanabe had a spring in his step, U-T continued to impress me in-ring, and Shun Skywalker busted out not one, but two big moonsaults. One to the outside and onto the pile, and the other in the ring for the finish. Hopefully soon we will see Skywalker and Watanabe ascend up the card. They both looked very good here. **1/2

PUNCH TOMINAGA DEF. K-NESS

A sloppy match ended by DQ thanks to interference from Yasushi Kanda. I’m sure WWE will have something to counter by year’s end, but right now Tominaga vs. Kanda has to be a frontrunner for Worst Feud of the Year. I hate that Dragon Gate teased me with a K-Ness singles match by not only giving the match to Punch, but having it end with a lame box attack from Kanda. Hard pass. DUD

BIG R SHIMIZU & BEN-K DEF. YASUSHI KANDA & TAKASHI YOSHIDA

I feel like Dragon Gate has run the beef-on-beef pairing of Shimizu and/or Ben-K vs. Takashi Yoshida over 100 times in the past year. I’ve seen Ben-K gutwrench Yoshida out of a pinning combination so many times now (although it still remains incredibly impressive). Shimizu and Ben-K have developed into such talents. I think Shimizu has been a sleeper Top 10 guy for years now, and he’s finally exuding the confidence of a top guy. He planted Kanda with a Shot Put Slam for the win, building momentum for his title match vs. Mochizuki at the end of March.

I don’t understand why Kanda ate the pin, since he’s technically still feuding for the Brave Gate with Tominaga. Yoshida is heavily protected, and rightfully so, but Shimizu planting him to prepare for his bout with Mochizuki seemed more practical. Alas, this match was good in the sense that Ben-K redeemed himself after a tough Dream Gate loss vs. Mochizuki, and Ben-K prepared himself for his upcoming battle with the champion. ***1/4

OPEN THE OWARI GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
SHINGO TAKAGI DEF. RYO SAITO

I can’t believe this feud is still going on. Another tired storyline that has gone nowhere, and much like Punch vs. Kanda, another pairing that is an immediate turn off whenever I see it. Takagi is one of the best wrestlers on the planet, and when he wants to be, Saito can hang with the best of them on the DG roster, but this faux-comedy feud has lasted long enough. They don’t mesh well. I appreciated the aggression on display from Takagi, but the fact that this was an Owari Gate match loomed over the bout. I couldn’t fully invest in the brutality because I knew technically, this match was a joke. Takagi put him away with the Pumping Bomber. This was fine, but nothing worth going out of your way to see. ***

T-HAWK, EITA, & EL LINDAMAN DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, & KZY

Beefy Lindaman could be a major player one day in Dragon Gate. Despite the solid in-ring performance by all six of these guys, this lacked a dominant force on the Antias side to truly make me care. T-Hawk is not a leader. Dragon Gate has tried for four years now, and he’s still not able to perform at the level that I think Dragon Gate wants him to be at. I was glued to Lindaman, but I know that Lindaman, in the grand scheme of things, is just a bit player and will always be a 2 compared to the 1A of T-Hawk and 1B of Eita.

Eita ruled, especially during the finish when he rolled Horiguchi up with the Biblia. I long for Eita to find the momentum that he had only a year or two ago. The late days of VerserK and now his time in Antias has halted his momentum. He looked good here. If you remove T-Hawk from this match, it was strong. Kzy continued to shine, which paired great with Eita and Lindaman. ***1/2

“Antias kept up the attack in the post-match on Horiguchi & co. Punch came out to make the save. In the midst of the all the arguing, he stopped to congratulate Takagi on his newly won championship. Eita proposed a 4 on 4 match. Kanda demanded the 4th spot on the Antias side. Takagi said it was no spot for a FORMER Brave Gate champion. Kanda replied that it was no spot for the CURRENT Owarai Gate champion. He was going to deal with Punch himself. Kzy interrupted. Who agreed to a 4 on 4 match? Kanda & Takagi can both be in the match. Did they already forget his warning from last month? There are others out there with a bone to pick with Antias. One of them will be their partner, making it 5 on 5. He called out “brother” YASSHI. Last time we saw him, he was a member of Verserk. Seems they don’t exist anymore. No one bothered to even tell him. What the fuck? In Dragon Gate it doesn’t matter if you are good guys or bad guys. Your stablemates are your family. Those mother fuckers gave him the finger and betrayed him. Now those mother fuckers will have to answer to him.” 

KOTOKA RETIREMENT MATCH
YAMATO, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, DON FUJII, KAGETORA, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA DEF. KOTOKA, CIMA, MASATO YOSHINO, NARUKI DOI, & DRAGON KID

Far from the most exciting match I’ve ever seen, but a fitting and emotional tribute to one of the most interesting men to ever step foot in a Dragon Gate ring. This match, in a way, embodied the spirit of Kotoka. It was goofy at times, but when Kotoka got in there to square off with current Dream Gate champion Masaaki Mochizuki and he fought back against the kicks that have let Mochizuki carve his path in the wrestling world, there was something magical on display. Kotoka fought and fought, and in the end, he was a good guy that came up short. The power of Mochizuki, the brutality of YAMATO, and the resilience of YAMATO was all too much for Kotoka and his team to endure.

Kotoka has always been an interesting wrestler. When I started following Dragon Gate, he was still doing the CIBA gimmick. CIMA was his mentor, he was trying to find his footing on the card, and it ultimately failed. He became a cult hero doing the “Bleh!” gimmick, which was initially a turn off for me. It wasn’t until he dethroned Akira Tozawa that I started to turn the corner on him. By the time he found his place in MaxiMuM, I was a bonafide Kotoka fan. He was a scrappy underdog that was never perfect, but always put in the maximum amount of effort. I, however, cannot do all of Kotoka’s career justice. If you’d like to read more, please read the amazing piece Milo Martinez wrote about Kotoka and his career. ****

“Oji Shiiba interrupted the first attempt at the retirement ceremony. He couldn’t let his big brother retire before they had a 1 on 1 match with each other. It was one of his dreams and if it didn’t happen here it never would. He pleaded for the match to happen now. Kotoka was deeply moved. He was pretty beat up, but how could he say no? He told his baby brother to bring all he had.”

KOTOKA DEF. OJI SHIIBA

Dragon Gate tugged at my heartstrings once again by officially having Kotoka’s career end with a brother vs. brother match. It was only two minutes, but it was a great example of why Dragon Gate rules. These were two brothers going out there and technically main eventing Korakuen Hall. Oji tried to show his big brother up, and that ultimately failed, as he ate the last Caldera of Kotoka’s career. NR

“Kotoka admitted he was always bad at speeches, so he prepared this one ahead of time.

Thank you for everything over the last 10 years. When he first decided to retire he had no idea he would get to do it in the main event in Korakuen Hall like this. He owes it all to the fans and to Dragon Gate. Even though he wasn’t the biggest, by believing in himself he managed to achieve a 10 year career in wrestling. If there is anyone out there that is close to giving up or thinks they can’t realize their dreams, he asks them to not give up. Believe in yourself and try your best. You can do it. Even someone of his size was able to live their dreams by not giving up. If he can do it, so can they. It’s time to start on a new challenge. Together, they can walk with excitement and optimism towards the future.”

Final Thoughts:

Another Dragon Gate show where I’m scratching my head at the end of it. This show was not bad, but the working standard in Dragon Gate has decreased a great degree in the past year or so. These undercards lack the energy that once made them blow by. They aren’t bad, but why should I care about them? Part of it is probably burnout on my end, as I have watched and written about nearly every Korakuen Hall show for nearly three years now, but the lack of progression and unit shifting after The Jimmyz broke up, to me, really marked a troubling period in Dragon Gate’s creative process that is still being felt now.

The latter half of this card was enjoyable. You’d be a fool not to watch Kotoka’s retirement match and the ensuing ceremony, but I can’t recommend another match on this show in good conscious, which is frustrating. Dragon Gate is just “there” right now, and it should never just be “there”.

This show, however, accomplished its end goal which was to pay tribute to Kotoka in a fitting way, and that they did. Thumbs in the middle for Kotoka’s Road to Final – The Ending.


About The Author

Case Lowe

I mainly do Dragon Gate things for Voices of Wrestling. Dubbed as Joe Lanza's young boy. @_InYourCase on Twitter

Download our 2017 NJPW Year in Review eBook


Promotional Considerations Paid For By The Following

VOW Podcast Network

Listen on Google Play Music

Support VOW on Patreon

VoicesofWrestling.com/Amazon

Support VOW and shop Amazon using our affiliate link:

VoicesofWrestling.com/Amazon

Archives

Promotional Considerations Paid For By The Following