Dragon Gate returned to iPPV with perhaps their most loaded lineup of the year for “Dead or Alive”.
Four title matches highlighted the card, including Open the Dream Gate champion Ricochet, fresh off winning the Open the Freedom Gate title from Johnny Gargano in DGUSA in New Orleans, defending against red hot former champion YAMATO.
The main event, a cage match Mascara contra Cabellera bout, fought under survivor rules, featured scapegoats. Each competitor was not putting up the hair or mask of themselves, but rather their “scapegoat” who they were representing. The scapegoat pairings were as follows:
Naruki Doi = Kzy, BxB Hulk = Cyber Kong, Jimmy Kanda = Jimmy Susumu, Mr. Que Que Naoki Tanizaki Toyonaka Dolphin = Genki Horiguchi, Masato Yoshino = Shachihoko BOY, CIMA = Dragon Kid
The prevailing thought coming into the show was that Hulk, who has been having problems getting along with his Mad Blankey teammates, would lose. Cyber Kong has been long overdue to lose his mask, and the timing feels right for an angle where Mad Blankey turns on Hulk for losing, as Hulk himself could use a fresh coat of paint.
Despite the great card, Twitter buzz was non existent. There was no official hashtag that gained any sort of steam, and our usual pre show roll call of followers produced exactly one person watching along with us. That can’t be encouraging in terms of buys, although interest picked up as the show moved along.
The preshow match, a three way bout with Mondai Ryu, Ryotsu Shimizu, & Kotoka, was not shown. Shimizu, a promising young wrestler who nearly won the WON Awards Rookie of the Year for 2013, picked up the win with a crab hold on Ryu.
1. Uhaa Nation & Shachihoko BOY vs Cyber Kong & Kzy – This was short. Uhaa, coming off a star making performance in a loss vs YAMATO, was only in briefly and did his trademark stuff. Kong hit his big lariat on BOY followed by a Cyber Bomb to pick up the win for Monster Express. Too short to be anything special, but a decent enough opener. **
2. Gamma & Yosuke♡Santa Maria vs Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! & Jimmy Kagetora – Gamma does an androgynous act now to go along with Santa Maria. Another short match. The cage matches usually go really long, plus four title matches, so nothing underneath was getting time. Kagetora cradled Santa Maria for the win. Nothing match, mostly comedy. *
3. Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa vs Tatsumi Fujinami – This was an added bonus match, with Stalker vs “X”. Huge pop for Fujinami when his music hit. This went about 60 seconds, with Fujinami wasting no time, putting him away with the Dragon Sleeper. Crowd enjoyed seeing the legend. NR
4. Open the Brave Gate Championship: Flamita (c) vs Jimmy Susumu – Susumu was looking to become the fourth Grand Slam champion with a win, joining CIMA, Naruki Doi, & Masato Yoshino. Flamita wasted no time here, with a flying head scissors and incredible tope con hilo within the first 20 seconds. Later, he bluffed another tope con hilo, and instead hit a beautiful Asai moonsault, followed by a springboard crossbody that Susumu ducked, which he changed to a sunset flip while in mid air. He followed that with a springboard 450 that popped everybody in the building including the wrestlers. An amazing sequence. This guy is one of the top flyers in the world, and improves every time I see him. From here, Susumu used power moves & throws to try to slow the smaller opponent down, including an exploder into the corner and a top rope DVD. Flamita was pulling out some of the most creative reversals I’ve ever seen, and they worked in some creative near falls. Just an amazing exhibition of athleticism, and the reason I love watching this promotion. Flamita won it with his Flame Fly. The story here was Susumu being just a step too slow at every turn. Incredible match. ****1/4
5. Open the Twin Gate Championship: Akira Tozawa & Shingo Takagi (c) vs Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fuji – Fuji & Mochi are old, grumpy, and were not in the mood to fuck around. They gave Tozawa a nice long beating, the type that shatters the stereotype that nobody ever sells in Dragon Gate. The grumpy veterans were just not taking any of Tozawa’s shit, while being extra curmudgeony, and it was glorious. Highlights were Fuji using a top rope choke slam to murder Tozawa, and Tozawa ducking a head kick to hit a flash German on Mochi. Great finish, as Shingo held Fuji in an STF while Mochi fought like hell to get out of the straight jacket German, but Tozawa managed to get him up and over for the pin. Another great match. ****
6. Open the Triangle Gate Championship: T-Hawk, Eita & U-T (c) vs Dragon Kid, K-ness & Super Shisa – T-Hawk pinned Shisa with the Night Ride. It was good, but like a lot of longer Millennials matches, it was missing something and was not as good as the previous two matches despite getting more time. T-Hawk has clearly surpassed Eita at this stage as the star of the group. ***
7. Open the Dream Gate Championship: Ricochet (c) vs YAMATO – Ricochet came to the ring with both the Dream Gate & Freedom Gate belts. An interesting twist coming into this which cast some extra doubt on the outcome was Ricochet being announced for the New Japan Best of the Super Juniors, which would make for some interesting booking decisions if he were to enter the tournament as Dream Gate champion. Welp, turns out that won’t be a problem, because YAMATO pinned him here to win the title. YAMATO used a wrench on Ricochet’s knee while cinching in a half crab early on, and the knee damage became the story of the match, with Ricochet displaying some fantastic selling. There were multiple instances of Ricochet doing serious damage to YAMATO with kicks or knee strikes, but he was unable to capitalize or go for pin attempts due to re-aggravating the knee. He even sold the injury at one point while standing on the top rope, and the extra few seconds gave YAMATO time to avoid a 450 splash, which was a great spot. The units got involved towards the end, but by Dragon Gate standards it was hardly egregious or out of control. Ricochet is on a roll, and YAMATO continues to be perhaps the most underrated performer in wrestling. ****1/2
8. Steel Cage Survival Scapegoat Mascara contra Cabellera: Naruki Doi vs BxB Hulk vs Jimmy Kanda vs Mr. Quu Quu Naoki Tanizaki Toyonaka Dolphin vs Masato Yoshino vs CIMA – Everyone involved in the match, participants & scapegoats, came on the stage to cut promos while they constructed the cage. They basically all aired their grievances with each other, as unit strife among the various units was a big theme coming in. That’s totally based on body language and tone, because I don’t know a single word of Japanese. This was wild & wacky as usual, with all of the various subplots turning up. CIMA escaped first (despite taking a PIE TO THE FACE attack), which was good, because of all the scapegoats Dragon Kid was the least realistic option to lose. Kanda & Tanizaki were next out, and they eventually helped each other. So all is good (for now) among the Jimmyz. Yoshino escaped next, so it came down to Doi & Hulk, which was smart, because Mad Blankey has been having the most internal troubles. Doi ended up losing, so Kzy, who has been a mediator of sorts when it comes to the Mad Blankey infighting, ended up with his head shaved. He wasn’t happy, but took it with no issue. Yoshino has some sort of beef with the Jimmyz. Hulk shook hands with Doi, but then kicked everybody in sight and quit Mad Blankey. So instead of the expected gang attacked, Hulk attacked them and left the group. Hulk says he’ll fight on his own. The match itself was an absolute spectacle, but this is one of those Dragon Gate matches that comes off way better for Dragon Gate fans rather than than non fans, because a lot of the subtly would be lost if you don’t follow the promotion closely. ****
This was by far the best show of a loaded weekend that also featured major New Japan & WWE shows. All of the title matches, plus the cage, delivered. Match quality aside, it was also plenty newsworthy, with a new Open the Dream Gate champion, a bald Kzy, and tons of new drama emerging after the cage match. This show is a must buy for Dragon Gate fans, and while the cage would likely only appeal to hardcores due to the heavy storyline nature of the booking & post match events, the title matches are recommended even if you normally don’t follow the promotion. This was a fun show that delivered from first bell to last, a refreshing cap to an uneven weekend of shows from New Japan & WWE.