With New Japan in the midst of a renaissance and having possibly the greatest in ring year of any promotion ever, and the WWE having an absolutely tremendous year in the ring as well, it’s pretty easy to overlook another promotion having a fantastic 2013: Dragon Gate.
There are two basic complaints that people have when it comes to Dragon Gate. The first complain is the style. Dragon Gate is one thousand miles per hour “lucharesu”, the result of tossing the Japanese junior heavyweight style & high flying lucha (with a mix of North American wackiness), into a blender. The result is something that isn’t for everyone. We all have our cup of tea, and it’s completely understandable if the high spot heavy, selling not-so-heavy Dragon Gate stuff does not appeal to some. You either dig it, or you don’t.
The second complaint is that Dragon Gate has featured the same basic core of performers for the last decade, with very few (if any) fresh matchups left. And it’s a valid one. Many of the top stars are first or second or third gen dojo graduates, from CIMA to Naruki Doi to Masato Yoshino to Genki Horiguchi to Susumu Yokozuka to Ryo Saito — most of which have faced each other literally hundreds of times over the years. New faces have broken through, like Shingo in 2005, YAMATO a few years later, and Akira Tozawa after that. And these men are pushed. But they sort of blend in as opposed to making a huge splash, and before long, they end up feeling like they’ve been there all along.
Enter The Millenials.
Eita, T-Hawk (the former Tomhawk TT), and U-T returned from North American excursion this fall (where they mainly competed in Mexico for DTU, and in the case of Eita & T-Hawk Dragon Gate USA as well), and have taken Dragon Gate by storm, winning the Summer Adventure Tag League, and beating top level stars like Genki Horiguchi & YAMATO along the way (YAMATO was Open the Dream Gate Champion at the time as well). These are three fresh faces, and they have immediately been positioned as future stars in the midst of a monster push.
We’ve also seen massive unit reshuffling and an unsettled Open the Dream Gate title situation. CIMA’s long reign was ended by Shingo at Kobe World. CIMA then publicly announced that it was time to take step back, to allow the youth of the company an opportunity to step up. Yoshino vacated the Brave Gate, citing the same reasons, saying it was a title for young wrestlers. On the Kobe World show, they ran a taped promo from The Millenials, who declared war on anybody born before 1990.
Shingo shockingly lost the title to arch rival YAMATO on his first defense. YAMATO then shockingly lost the title to Masato Yoshino on his second defense. This coming off one of the longest runs in history by CIMA. During the Summer Tag League, Yoshino suffered yet another betrayal at the hands long time tag partner Naruki Doi (we’re losing count), setting the stage for the title match on this show. The winner gets no rest, and will defend at Korakuen in a matter of days against the winner of a multi-man match.
The result of all this, has been several months of fantastic action and unpredictability, combined the long awaited feel of a real new direction. It’s an exciting time in Dragon Gate, because for the first time in a long time, this is more than a mere unit shake up “reset button”, which are really only good for a short term cleanse. This appears to be a legit changing of the guard slowly taking hold, as a decent portion of the core roster, which has been so good for so long, climbs into their late 30’s.
iheartdg.com reported that this show sold “all tickets” in Osaka at the Bodymaker Colosseum, for around 7000 fans.
1. Jimmy Susumu, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy Kanda vs. Super Shisa, Shachihoko BOY, Ryotsu Shimizu – Shimizu, who made his “big show” debut, is a WON Awards Rookie of the Year contender, and he was given plenty of focus here. He has an American football background, and he’s a powerhouse by Dragon Gate standards. He does the now suddenly trendy again giant swing, but in his version he always sells that he’s discombobulated & dizzy when he’s done. Speaking of selling, his selling is very good for a rookie, a notch below New Japan young lion standards. He also connects with the crowd very well, especially at this stage of his career and that shined through here. I think he has a good future. This match had great action, with a bunch of hot near falls. Shimizu got isolated with Saito & Susumu at different points, as it was obvious they wanted to give him some shine with the veterans. The popped for his giant swing, but it took him out of the match as he stumbled out of the ring. It came down to Shisa & Susumu, and they did a bunch of cool near falls. Susumu got the pin following a double team move they call Genkai. I was surprised Shisa took the fall, as he is usually protected in spots like this. It’s telling Shimizu was spared the loss. They like him. Hot opener. ***1/2
2. 3 Way Tag Match: Mr. Quu Quu Tanizaki Naoki Toyonaka Dolphin, Jimmy Kagetora vs. Mondai Ryu, Kzy vs. Don Fujii, Gamma – The Jimmyz were doing their “Team X” zombie gimmick, which was explained to me as their way of showing how serious they are in their feud with The Millenials. This had lots of crowd brawling early, which loses me. Ryu did do a cool spot, where he tumbled down the stairs, but in a comical hi-jinx sort of way, and not a dangerous way. Fujii was killing dudes with big lariats and chops. Gamma eliminated Mad Blankey with a Skytwister Press on Ryu. He quickly set up another for the Jimmyz, but it was broken up. Great closing stretch of action, until Tanizaki blew several attempts to hit the libido on Gamma. This was legit the first blown spot I can recall in a Dragon Gate match. No exaggeration. And when you consider some of the shit these guys do, and the timing required, that’s nothing sort of amazing. Tanizaki used an implant for the finish, in what I assume was an audible. Still ended up being a really good match. ***1/4
3. U-T, The Former Super Shenlong III: Yosuke Watanabe, Flamita, Rocky Lobo vs. CIMA, Masaaki Mochizuki, CIBA, TSUBASA – The Millenials were joined by their pals from DTU, hot lucha rookies Flamita & Rocky Lobo. Yosuke Watanabe is now an exotico using the name Yosuke Santa Maria. He wears make-up, fishnets, and a sports bra with fake tits. I’m not making this up. Crowd seemed to be into it, and he’s very good in the role, but I’m not sure about this long term. CIBA is the former Kotoka doing a mini-CIMA gimmick. He wears his gear and copies all of his moves. Flamita has made a name for himself lately for having awesome matches in DTU versus the likes of AR Fox, Ricochet, and Rich Swann. He looked good here, as did Rocky Lobo. CIBA pinned U-T following two Caldera’s (one from CIMA, one from CIBA). Odd finish, considering the Millenials push. Even more baffling, was Shimizu (who was doing young boy duty at ringside) rag dolling the Millenials in a post match brawl. He was going after U-T hard. I know it was the Millenials B-team, but if they were going to show ass in the post match, they could have at least won the match. You had outsider TSUBASA in the match to take the fall. The match was good, but the booking here was head scratching to say the least. ***1/2
4. Open the Brave Gate Championship Match: Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! (c) vs. Anthony Nese – This was easily the biggest match of Nese’s career to this point. I had complete faith that Genki would get him through it. This was worked at a much slower pace than the rest of the undercard. Some mat work early, and Genki worked over the arm. This had a great pace and a perfect build. I had some stream issues during the closing stretch (as did others), so I don’t feel comfortable rating it, but it was in the ***1/2 range. Genki retained with a backslide after Nese missed a 450. Nese looked good. N/A
Intermission. They showed the 6/11/2009 Doi Dream Gate defense vs Yoshino. This was the last time Doi has defeated Yoshino in a singles match coming into tonight’s main event.
5. 29th Open the Twin Gate Champion Team Decision Match: T-Hawk, Eita vs. K-ness, Dragon Kid – Kid & K-Ness vacated the titles due to a Kid injury, and the Millenials side won the interim titles by winning the Summer Adventure Tag League. So this match would officially decide the 29th Open the Twin Gate Champions. After the Millenials lost earlier, the finish here was obvious. T-Hawk looked great and was killing guys with chops. Eita has a real special charisma, but is really small. But he’s good, and he has a swagger. Slow build. The closing stretch was Eita surviving a Hikari no Wa, a Dragon Rana, and a second Hikari no Wa. Wow. They are really behind this guy for him to survive that stretch of finishers from two veterans. Eita finished Kid with a standing clover leaf hold, which Kid tapped immediately to (playing off his knee issues). This was a really good match, and Eita claimed his third high profile submission victim. This is a big push. The “Team X” Jimmyz attacked post match. It appears they will get first crack at the new champs. ***3/4
6. Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match: YAMATO, BxB Hulk, Cyber Kong vs. Akira Tozawa, Shingo Takagi, Uhaa Nation – This was great, and is exactly the kind of match that made me fall in love with the Dragon Gate style to begin with. Long heat spot on Tozawa after the opening shine spots. The powerhouses came in and cleaned up on the hot tag, and Tozawa recovered to hit his triple dive spot. Tozawa is a charisma machine. He’s just fantastic in every way. Uhaa did a standing moonsault off the apron to the outside. Shingo paired off with YAMATO, and they ran through some awesome sequences. They have fantastic chemistry. Uhaa & Kong exchanged power stuff. Finishing stretch was absolutely nuts, with too much going on to describe. Shingo hit the Made in Japan on YAMATO for two. Tozawa used a brainbuster off the top on Hulk, followed by a splash off the opposite corner by Uhaa for another two. Then for about 5 minutes bodies were flying everywhere and I couldn’t keep up with my notes. Just rapid fire precision spots that you either love or hate, and I love it. Tozawa & YAMATO got isolated, and just went nuts with reversals and lightning exchanges. Kzy hit Tozawa with the yellow box, and Ryu used the salt. This only got a two count, which popped the crowd. But YAMATO hit a Gallaria for the win. An incredible match. Go out of your way to see it. ****1/2
7. Open the Dream Gate Championship Match: Masato Yoshino vs. Naruki Doi – They were having a real good match, when Mad Blankey did the interference gimmick. I groaned. Monster Express ran them off fast, though. It picked up from there, as the fans sensed the end was near and started buying the falls. Much of this was built around Doi trying to hit the muscle bomb, which he never ended up doing. In a big spot, Yoshino hit his Angle Slam type move (I do not know what he calls it, but it’s very similar), and then another off the top. Doi survived on Sol Naciente, but was unable to survive a second. Yoshino is successful in his first defense, but has another defense in four days at Korakuen. Very good match. ****
As is always the case with these Dragon Gate PPV’s, this was a great show. Well worth the $25 if you are on the fence. The Triangle Gate match is a must see, and nothing is less than very good. If not for New Japan being unreal, this would be a serious show of the year contender. Top ten for sure, probably top five. Better than anything in North America all year.