The red hot Dragon Gate promotion, coming off of two very good iPPV’s (including a show of the year contender, “Dead or Alive”), is being called the best in ring promotion of 2014 in many circles. This Korakuen Hall show wasn’t expected to deliver at that level in the ring, but contained some key storyline bouts, with a Brave Gate #1 contender match, and a main even where BxB Hulk took on the entire Mad Blankey unit in a match where he would have to defeat every member one by one to win the rights to the Mad Blankey name & colors. If that sounds like a wacky stip, welcome to Dragon Gate.

0. K-ness, Kenichiro Arai vs. Super Shisa, Chihiro Tominaga – K-Ness seems to bounce back and forth from pushed to prelims more than anybody else in this promotion. He was back in the preshow slot here, but with two other solid veterans in Arai & Shisa, this was not your typical preshow bout. Tominaga is great in his role as the big bumping young guy who can’t catch a break. Dragon Gate tends to have hot preshow matches & openers, and this was no exception. Tominaga took the fall as expected, with K-Ness scoring the win with the Hikari no Wa. Everybody looked good. **3/4

1. U-T, Yosuke Santa Maria vs. Gamma, Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa – Any match with Santa Maria, Gamma, & Stalker is going to be comedy heavy. Gamma sometimes does a transvestite gimmick of his own and teams with Santa Maria, but when they are on opposing sides Santa Maria gets jealous. I can’t believe I just typed that. Santa Maria went right for Gamma’s balls before the bell. Later, Santa Maria planted the kiss of death on him, and Gamma sold it like he was…well, dead. U-T was having a hard time keeping Santa Maria focused on the match. Santa Maria used a Falcon Arrow on Stalker for the win. Nothing special. **

2. Open the Brave Gate #1 Contender Match: Jimmy Kagetora vs. Shachihoko BOY – The story here was simple. Kagetora was the veteran, one step ahead of BOY at every turn. BOY worked from the bottom and scored a bunch of near falls on roll ups and cradles that popped the crowd each time. I was pulling for BOY here, because Kagetora is one of those roster filler guys who is just “there, but Kagetora won it with the Gurumakakari. So it’ll be Kagetora challenging Flamita 6/14 in Fukuoka at Hakata Star Lanes. He’ll have his work cut out for him to match the last Flamita defense vs Jimmy Susumu. ***

3. Don Fujii, Ryotsu Shimizu vs. Jimmy Susumu, Mr. High Tension Kotoka – Great spot early, with Fujii completely no selling Kotoka’s chops and then leveling him with a lariat. They repeated it later, this time with Kotoka using kicks.

Fujii & Shimizu have good chemistry, with Shimizu being a lot like a young Fujii. They used the old Hart Attack finisher on Kotoka, with Fujii transitioning that into a crab hold, which looked really cool. Shimizu used his giant swing on Kotoka, but unlike Cesaro, he does it from a wheelbarrow position. He then locked in a crab hold for the win. Fun. **1/2

4. T-Hawk, Eita vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid – Grumpy M2K gear wearing Mochizuki is one of my favorite things in wrestling right now. He’s the grizzled veteran ass kicker who just doesn’t understand these youngsters and has no time for their sass. First, T-Hawk sarcastically slapped him in the head on a corner break, which prompted Mochi to fucking destroy everybody in sight with chops & kicks. It was glorious. Later, Dragon Kid had T-Hawk caught on the top rope by the leg, and Mochi made that same face your father used to make when you were a kid when you were acting up and you knew you were about to pay the price. Mochi then slapped T-Hawk so hard that I felt it. This was an absolutely fierce performance from Mochi, perhaps his most inspired since the 2011 Dream Gate run. Korakuen got behind Eita at one point, and Dragon Kid egged them on like a heel. Mochi’s edge was even rubbing off on Kid here. T-Hawk hit the Knight Ride on Kid for the win, but The Millenials will be feeling this one in the morning. I loved this. ***3/4


5. Masato Yoshino, Akira Tozawa, Shingo Takagi vs. Mr. Quu Quu Tanizaki Naoki Toyonaka Dolphin, Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!, Jimmy Kanda – This was the Jimmy Kanda show. He went mental here, killing Tozawa & Shingo and eventually scoring the win by pinning Shingo. This sets up Kanda & Mr. Quu Quu challenging for the Twin Gate against Tozawa & Shingo in Fukuoka on 6/15 on the second of back to back Champion Gate shows at Hakata Star Lanes. With this win and the Kagetora win, this was a good night for the Jimmyz, so they celebrated with a Jimmy Train. ***

6. Nombre contra Nombre 5 vs. 1 Scramble Elimination Match: YAMATO, Kzy, Naruki Doi, Cyber Kong, Mondai Ryu vs. BxB Hulk – Ryu was predictably up first. Hulk beat him in seconds. Next up was Kzy, who looks as weird as you think he would without hair. After Kong gave Hulk a solid beating on the outside, Kzy tried to ground Hulk with leg locks. Just as Hulk took control, Doi nailed him with the yellow box, and Ryu tossed the salt in his face. Kzy rolled him up for the shocking pin. So Mad Blankey keeps the name & colors. The MB members took turns talking shit, and just as they were on the verge of murder, CIMA came out. CIMA called out T-Hawk, Susumu, & Tozawa to set up MB vs CIMA, Hulk, and one man from each of the top three units. *1/2

7. YAMATO, Kzy, Naruki Doi, Cyber Kong, Mondai Ryu vs BxB Hulk, CIMA, T-Hawk, Jimmy Susumu, Akira Tozawa –  Susumu & YAMATO brawled all the way up to the balcony, and Susumu teased tossing him off. There were bodies all over the building. When the match settled in, Hulk was the babyface in peril, selling the beating from the previous match. This ended up being one of those super long Dragon Gate matches with a million wacky spots, and the crowd ate up every second of it. Too many crazy sequences & spots to recap here. For the finish, Kzy, who with his bald head & jumpsuit looks just like Deep Drunkers era Arai, took everybody’s finish, and then the First Flash from Hulk as Hulk scored the revenge pin from the previous match. Awesome Dragon Gate fun here. ****

Post match, Mochizuki came out and agreed to team with Hulk vs YAMATO & Doi on 7/3 in Korakuen. CIMA tried to talk Hulk into bringing back the BxB Hulk dance routine for that show, and Hulk agreed…but only if Mochi agreed to dance, too. So it’ll be BxB Hulk vs BxB Masaaki in Korakuen next month. That’ll be…something.

This show couldn’t match the previous few shows in match quality, but it was fun from start to finish, and accomplished its goal of setting up the two Champion Gate shows in Fukuoka on 6/14 & 6/15, plus a big tag match for the next Korakuen. Dragon Gate’s momentum keeps on rolling, with satisfying, entertaining shows every time out.

Special thanks as always to @SenorLARIATO for the gifs.