To be honest, I haven’t seen too much Dragon Gate in my life. Only a few matches here and there, which I largely enjoy but don’t think are my cup of tea. I was lucky enough to have seen the Dragon Gate match at ROH’s Super Card of Honor — the one Meltzer gave ***** and that one blew me away.
I enjoy their best matches but I have trouble trying to handle an entire show of it. I’ve given it a shot and end up getting lost. Not to knock Dragon Gate, it’s simply not my favorite style. That said, when a match gets *****-level praise, I’m going to have to go out of my way to watch it.
Let’s see how 2014’s supposed MOTY leader stacks up.
Open the Dream Gate Title Match – Masato Yoshino (c) vs. Masaaki Mochizuki
A firm handshake starts us off, popping the crowd before a single move. The two trade chops, and I mean trade. Offer, acceptance, and consideration style, puffing their chests out so the other can show what he’s got. Only a minute in and Mochizuki moonsaults outside onto Yoshino. Mochizuki works Yoshino’s arm over on the ring post for a moment, but he’s not heeling it up. He lets Yoshino back into the ring and pounces only when the two are on equal footing.
More arm work by Mochizuki. He cranks away at Yoshino’s elbow again and again. Yoshino even gets stuck in a cross armbreaker and for some unknown reason he doesn’t immediately tap out. Yoshino starts to work over Mochizuki’s arm, repeatedly dropkicking a kneeling Mochizuki. Mochizuki yells at Yoshino, egging him on. Yoshino double stomps Mochizuki’s arm while it clutches the top rope.
Yoshino’s laying the boots to Mochizuki’s arm. Mochizuki fires back. First fists to the gut, then a hard kick to the chest, finally backing Yoshino off of him. Yoshino’s eating these kicks, but he’s going it to show up Mochizuki. These two want to prove how tough they are, but a Mochizuki kick to Yoshino’s arm makes Yoshino look a lot less brave.
Another exchange of slaps to the chest. Mochizuki ends it with a spinning back kick and runs for the ropes, but Yoshino grabs him by the tights and pulls him back. A backdrop flips Mochizuki over and puts Yoshino back in the driver’s seat. It only lasts a moment before Mochizuki no sells another suplex and lays out Yoshino with some more kicks.
All of a sudden we’re in DG overdrive mode. I couldn’t ever hope to keep up with the pace. They’re cycling through moves again and again until both guys are out on the mat. It’s an impressive sight that really gets the crowd going.
Just like that, the pace dies down. Yoshino starts to get the better of Mochizuki. Yoshino is crazy fast. He hits a tilt-a-whirl bulldog type move that he kept working in that burst of work rate before. He takes Mochizuki by the arm, rolls over, and does whatever the hell is:
Mochizuki refuses to tap. Great facials here as his eyes bug out and he tries to back up. Mochizuki gets a foot on the ropes, forcing the break. Yoshino sits Mochizuki up on the top rope, facing out. He gets up there himself, but Mochizuki isn’t about to take something from the top. The old pro decks Yoshino with a closed fist and a superplex brings them both back down.
Mochizuki high kicks Yoshino twice in the middle of the ring, but Yoshino is still on his feet. Yoshino springs off the ropes and again hits that tilt-a-whirl, which really ends with an elbow to the neck, not a bulldog. Either way, Mochizuki’s face kisses the canvas. Yoshino goes for that same arm hold as before. Mochizuki jerks him forward into a cradle, two count! The crowd bought it as the finish.
Mochizuki charges Yoshino in the corner. Yoshino catches Mochizuki mid-splash and drives him back the other direction, ending it with a big powerbomb. Yoshino goes straight for a pin. Mochizuki kicks out at two. Mochizuki nabs Yoshino’s arm and pulls it into an arm triangle. Yoshino’s in the middle of the ring. Mochizuki transitions to a cross armbreaker and Yoshino is trying to flip and twist and push his way out of it. Back into the arm triangle. Yoshino powers Mochizuki up just enough to drop him. It breaks the hold and both guys are down.
Mochizuki’s the first one up. Yoshino springs off the ropes again and eats a Mochizuki right high kick. Left high kick. Ax kick. Another big right high kick puts Yoshino down. Mochizuki pins, Yoshino gets out at two. The crowd is chanting and yelling. They’re 100% into it. Mochizuki tries to clamp on a full-nelson but Yoshino gets out. Mochizuki Germans Yoshino, Yoshino lands on his feet. Mochizuki gets Yoshino down with a springboard kick, but it’s not enough to finish the job.
Both guys are again trying to show up the other one with their toughness. Yoshino absolutely crushes Mochizuki with a lariat. He hits a double stomp to a standing Mochizuki’s chest. Yoshino doubles down on the double stomp, this time to Mochizuki’s back while he stands. Pray for Mochizuki.
Yoshino brings them both up top again. Mochizuki is too beat down to resist. Yoshino lands an avalanche fisherman’s suplex. Mochizuki kicks out of a pin at two. Yoshino grabs Mochizuki’s arms. He rolls through and cranks on that hold. Mochizuki is fighting like hell to get out of it. He’s howling in pain but Yoshino has him in the middle of the ring. Both guys are grimacing and looking exhausted. Mochizuki finally nods his head and the ref breaks the hold. Mochizuki had no choice but to tap. Yoshino retains in a hell of a match.
****1/2. I’ll say it again: that was a hell of a match. Loved that they kept going back to the arm work instead of dropping it entirely. It felt a lot more subdued than a lot of the DG I’ve seen, but maybe I’m watching the wrong stuff. I wish I hadn’t accidentally read the result while looking for this match, because I would have absolutely bought into some of the false finishes if I didn’t know better.