Four days after Dragon Gate put on a Best Show of the Year contender in Aichi with “Dead or Alive”, the promotion returned to iPPV with a discounted $15 offering from Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall.
The show featured four first round match ups in the yearly “King of Gate” tournament, along with three tag bouts. While this show did not feature a string of Match of the Year caliber bouts like Dead or Alive did, it was a deeper show with not a single underwhelming match. Dragon Gate is clicking on all cylinders these days, with the perfect blend of gritty veterans, stars smack dab in their prime, and perhaps the best collection of young up & coming talent of any promotion in the world, which sets them up very nicely for the future.
While watching this show, I was thinking about how consistent Dragon Gate has been for well over a decade. Dragon Gate is like that ex-girlfriend who you’ve always stayed friends with, and probably never should have broken up with in the first place. You may have had more torrid affairs or passionate relationships with other girls, but eventually the crush fades or they let you down. And then there’s Dragon Gate, waiting for you as always, same as they ever were, putting a smile on your face. The girl you should’ve married.
0. Kenichiro Arai vs Mr. High Tension Kotoka – Kotoka has been given yet another fresh coat of paint, this time doing a Mojo Rawley high energy routine. Arai is one of my favorite Dragon Gate performers, the resident grimy, crafty veteran sleazeball (think: Gedo). This was as good as it gets for storytelling in a 5-minute match. Arai missed a top rope knee drop, so Kotoka went right for a figure four, which was reversed, and then reversed back. Arai made the ropes, but both men came out of the spot with damaged legs, which they both sold tremedously, even on rope runs. Arai hit a big sit out piledriver out of nowhere, but Kotoka cradled him up into a small package and nearly stole the win. Kotoka used up his fighting spirit, Arai used a dragon screw, slapped on another figure four, and Kotoka tapped. Loved this. Would love to rate it higher but it only went five or six minutes. **3/4
1. YAMATO, Kzy, Mondai Ryu vs Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fujii, Gamma – Kzy is newly bald, thanks to Doi losing the Dead of Alive cage match, and Kzy being the assigned scapegoat. Without hair he looks like a younger Arai. Mochi does not age. Fujii & Mochi as the grumpy babyface tag team surrounded by wacky youngsters is one of my favorite things in wrestling right now. YAMATO, the new Open the Dream gate champ, figured to get a string win here, and he did, using a Frankesteiner to beat Fujii after Fujii avoided the powder attack. Strong opener. Post match, YAMATO called out BxB Hulk, who turned on Mad Blankey at Dead or Alive. Hulk got a great pop. After some trash talk, Kzy attacked Hulk, blaming him for losing his hair. Looks like Hulk will need to go through Kzy before potentially facing YAMATO for the title. ***
2. Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Kagetora vs Dragon Kid & K-Ness – Genki still wrestles in his “King of Gate 2012” wife beater. I hope i’m still typing that in like 2019. This was another fine match, exactly what you would expect out of these four men, with Kagetora pinning K-Ness and then challenging Flamita for the Brave Gate post match. Later, Shachihoko Boy also challenged Flamita, so Kagetora & BOY agreed to a #1 contenders bout. ***
3. KING OF GATE ROUND 1 C BLOCK: Jimmy Susumu vs Cyber Kong – Kong hit his big lariat right at the opening bell, and then another, and nearly won the match in under a minute. From there, they basically did a hot closing stretch of a longer match. Susumu is on fire, these days coming off his Match of the Year contender with Flamita at Dead or Alive, and now this impressive sprint vs Cyber Kong. Lots of great stuff crammed into four minutes, with Susumu picking up the win with his Jumbo no Kachigatame. Much like the dark match, it doesn’t get much better than this for a match of this length. ***
4. KING OF GATE ROUND 1 D BLOCK: Mr. Que Que Tanizaki Naoki Toyonoaka Dolphin vs Jimmy Kanda – These two have been at each others throats despite being unit mates. This was like Memphis meets Dragon Gate, with crowd brawling early, and then stiff, intense work back in the ring. It didn’t go long, but it shouldn’t have to tell this story. Que Que picked up the win, but the real story was Jimmy Saito pleading with them to bury the hatchet, and they finally shook hands and agreed (for now). I usually don’t like Kanda all that much, but I liked the story here. ***
5. KING OF GATE ROUND 1 A BLOCK: BxB Hulk vs Naruki Doi – More clever booking here, as Hulk took on his former stable mate. This was given the most time to this point, and was the best overall match as a result. Hulk won it out of nowhere with a quick cradle reversal, but was jumped after the match. Mad Blankey demanded he drop the MB colors, but he refused. They challenged him to match where the winner gets the rights to the Mad Blankey name & colors. He agreed. So it’ll be five vs one for the MB name. ***1/2
6. Masato Yoshino, Ricochet, Shingo Takagi vs Eita, Yosuke Santa Maria, Flamita – Ricochet & Flamita had some fantastic exchanges, nearly matching the sick exchange they had in a previous six-man on 4/27. At one point, they were both on opposite turnbuckles, and this happened:
These two need to have a singles match, and it needs to happen yesterday. Santa Maria was freaking out Shingo, and Ricochet & Yoshino wouldn’t tag in. Eita in particular looked really good here. Santa Maria got isolated late, survived a brutal onslaught, but succumb to a Ricochet 630 splash to take the pin. So this was a nice bounce back win for Ricochet after dropping the Dream Gate to YAMATO. Really good match. ***1/2
7. KING OF GATE ROUND 1 BLOCK B: T-Hawk vs Akira Tozawa – Lots of the usual Tozawa spots early. Some vicious chop exchanges, with Tozawa doing his rapid fire version, and T-Hawk, the man with perhaps the hardest chops in wrestling, coming back with his ultra stiff ones. Tozawa was trying to set up his straight jacket German. He hit a standard version,went for the straight jacket, but T-Hawk reversed into a Night Ride. Tozawa kicked out to a big pop. T-Hawk wasted no time, hit a second Night Ride, and put Tozawa away. Great match. ****