The booking leading up to the main even of Dangerous Gate really exemplified how well Dragon Gate is booked, and how poorly WWE treats their heels.
After a long, slow burning angle that ultimately saw BxB Hulk turn babyface & leave Mad Blankey to go out on his own, Hulk has since lost two stacked odds bouts against his former unit, losing both in somewhat decisive fashion. This included a 4 vs 1 elimination match at Scandal Gate where he lost the Open the Dream Gate title to Naruki Doi. If this were WWE, there is absolutely zero chance Hulk loses both of those matches, and probably doesn’t lose either of them. As noted in my Scandal Gate review and on the latest edition of our podcast, perpetual babyface John Cena is 46-2 all time in 1 vs 2 matches, and 13-1 when facing 3 vs 1 odds. I’m sure you’d find similar ridiculous won-loss records if you researched the babyface only statistics of Triple H, Randy Orton, or any other top WWE face. That is patently absurd, and serves zero purpose other than to completely emasculate your heels, making it harder to draw with those heels when they’re put in a position to headline cards versus these indestructible superhero faces.
I saw Jim Ross tweet the other day that (paraphrasing) “remember, if he doesn’t have to cheat or use underhanded methods to win, he isn’t a heel”.
Remember this… If a heel doesn’t have to cheat to win ala gaining an unfair advantage, he’s not a heel.
— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) August 15, 2014
Personally, I think that’s antiquated 1972-era thinking.
Yes, heels should be apt to cheat. Yes, the face should (generally) overcome the scheming heel to win (but not always). But sometimes, the heel should simply just be better than the face, and there is nothing wrong with that. Heels can be heels based on their attitude, and not always just for their actions. We’ve seen this in puro and MMA for years. Minoru Suzuki and Nick Diaz are hated because they’re assholes, not because they cheat to win. Wrestling is constantly evolving, changing, and advancing. Standards are constantly shifting and changing. Old school thinking like “heels must always cheat” and “the babyfaces must always overcome” should also change, evolve, and advance into something fresh and unpredictable. At minimum we should be at a point where three heels should be strong enough to beat even the strongest face. At the end of the day, the WWE always manages to reminds us that they are booking a show meant to be easily understood by children, when as the largest wrestling (err, entertainment) promotion on Earth, they could be doing so much more to advance the medium and offer a more sophisticated product that both entertains young fans, but also doesn’t completely insult the intelligence of adults.
Back to Dragon Gate. What Ross is saying does apply to this Hulk story. Mad Blankey hasn’t beaten Hulk fair and square. It has been made clear that Hulk can not beat the entire Mad Blankey unit on his own. It has also been made clear that because he can’t, that does not make him look “bad” or “weak” at all. He has fought hard, he has fought valiantly, but due to his stubbornness and refusal to accept entry into a unit, and due to being conned & blackmailed into keeping his word with fans by defending his title against four men, he has lost the unit name & colors that he invented, and has also lost his title. Hulk has been noble & brave during the entire story, but you know what? Sometimes that just isn’t good enough when facing an entire gang of heels. Sometimes, you just need some help. So Masaaki Mochizuki and Dragon Kid will fight by Hulk’s side, whether he likes it or not.
At Scandal Gate, Dragon Gate authority figure/ref Yagi was not comfortable with the 4 vs 1 title win by Naruki Doi, but was also forced to concede that Hulk did accept the stip. So he compromised. He named Doi the interim champion, and made a one on one bout for Dangerous Gate that would determine who would win the title for real. If Doi wins, he would officially be the 21st champ, and if Hulk wins, he would continue his current reign (the 20th) as if it were uninterrupted, and would be credited with his v1 defense.
Here at Dangerous Gate, Hulk finally got Doi one on one, Hulk finally had some help in the form of Mocchy and Dragon Kid, and with the odds even, Hulk defeated his rival. Smart, logical, non insulting booking that neither makes your heels look like impotent fools (In addition to beating Hulk with stacked odds twice, Mad Blankey also won their other two matches on this night clean as a sheet, thus staying strong as a unit even though Doi lost one on one), nor insults your audience by portraying the faces as unstoppable superheros.
0. K-ness, Kenichiro Arai vs. Shachihoko BOY, Ryotsu Shimizu – Arai pinned Shimizu with a top rope diving headbutt. They went about 6 minutes, and not all of it was shown, so I wont rate it. Looked to be in the 2-star range, fun for what it was and for the time it got. NR
1. Jimmy Kanda, Jimmy Kagetora, Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! vs. Yosuke Santa Maria, Gamma, Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa – Kanda pinned Stalker following a top rope elbow, after Stalker kicked out of a Kagetora brainbuster. This featured a lot of people from the roster I can take or leave, but it was fine for what it was, which was mostly comedy with Stalker & Santa Maria. **
2. Don Fujii, Yuga Hayashi vs. Jimmy Susumu, “Mr. High Tension” Kotoka – Hayashi is a rookie who has had one televised match (to my knowledge) before tonight, yet he’s already a crowd favorite. This is a stark contrast to how U.S. audiences treat newcomers, who generally will get shit on unless they’ve been introduced via vignettes or immediately prove themselves. It probably also helps that Dragon Gate has done such a great job elevating young wrestlers over the last couple of years, while in the U.S. fans are so used to getting burned when getting behind guys only to see them go nowhere anyway. The two biggest pops of the match were a Hayashi cross arm breaker on Kotoka, and a Hayashi German suplex on Susumu that got a 2.999 count. Susumu is a pro’s pro, and one of the most underrated pro wrestlers on the planet. I really like the dynamic of the crusty veteran Fujii teaming with the overzealous rookie Hayashi. Susumu beat Hayashi with a lariat. **3/4
3. No DQ Match: CIMA vs. Punch Tominaga – Punch continues to own this insane “King of Cheating” gimmick, and he’s doing an incredible job. The story here is that Punch has gotten himself DQ’d in every match since he went crazy, so we were finally going to get a finish. This was relatively tame for a no DQ bout, and worked at a very (very) slow pace for a Dragon Gate match. Punch tried to ambush CIMA from behind during CIMA’s introduction, sneaking into the ring from the crowd, but CIMA was one step ahead, delivering a superkick and nearly scoring a flash pin. From there it was a methodical match, with lots of chairs, and Punch using his brass knux. Punch won clean by kicking a chair into CIMA’s head. CIMA has moved himself down the card by design and is doing a full on working legend gimmick, but I was still surprised at the result. **1/2
4. Open the Brave Gate Championship Match: Flamita vs. Mr. Quu Quu Tanizaki Naoki Toyonaka Dolphin – Another great Flamita Brave Gate bout. This was the best performance of Tanizaki’s career, and easily his best singles match. I loved his fire, and even though I gave him exactly 0% chance of winning this before the match started, I bought one or two of the near falls. It is astounding how good Flamita is at 19 years old. NINE. TEEN. Flamita took a scary looking bump on a senton off of the stage, and got up slow, but he looked fine a few minutes later. Flamita won it with two Spanish Fly’s. Great match, worth seeking out. ****
5. Open the Twin Gate Championship Match: T-Hawk, Eita vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid – This lived up to high expectations, with a closing stretch that had me hopping off of my couch. Eita did the backwards moonsault to the outside to take out Dragon Kid. This left T-Hawk with Mochizuki, and the next few minutes were incredible, with a chop sequence & staredown, and Mochi no selling a Night Ride for a huge pop in both Tokyo & the Lanza living room. PERFECT no sell spot. T-Hawk hit another, and Mochi kicked out. T-Hawk had to use the rarely used Veracruz (electric chair bomb) to finally put him away. I absolutely LOVE sequences like this. T-Hawk gets the rub from putting away the respected veteran, and Mochi had to be killed dead to be beaten. T-Hawk & Eita should get serious consideration for Tag Team of the Year. ****1/4
6. MONSTER EXPRESS vs. MAD BLANKEY Loser Revives Survival Instant Comeback Captain’s Fall Elimination Match: Masato Yoshino, Shingo Takagi(c), Akira Tozawa, Uhaa Nation vs. YAMATO(c), Kzy, Cyber Kong, Mondai Ryu – That stip sounds like a mouthful, but is actually pretty simple. You have to beat the captain to win. Otherwise, if you are beaten, you are eliminated, and when you eliminate someone from the opposite team, you can “revive” someone from your own team. Basically, an elimination match with re-entry, under captain’s rules. Or something like that. These types of matches tend to be long & tedious, or really awesome, with no in between. Shingo eliminated Ryu in under a minute with a lariat. Cyber Kong tossed Yoshino over the top to eliminate him (yes, in an added wrinkle, over the top eliminations were in play). Ryu came back in, and was immediately eliminated again. This brought back Yoshino. So now you get the idea. This pattern continued until Mad Blankey managed to eliminate the entire Monster Express team, leaving Shingo alone. This was obvious, but good booking, because it played off of the theme of the main event that Mad Blankey uses stacked odds and the numbers game to their advantage. Shingo managed to eliminate Ryu, which brought back Uhaa. Uhaa pinned Kzy with the Uhaa Combination. But the comeback fell short when YAMATO beat Shingo with the Gallaria. The match went under 30 minutes and was all action, with the theme here being Mad Blankey won this clean, even with Monster Express facing them with their top guns. What would Jim Ross think? ***1/2
7. Open the Dream Gate Championship Decision Match: Naruki Doi (Interim Champion) vs. BxB Hulk (20th Champion) – The story here was Mochizuki & Dragon Kid cutting off the Mad Blankey interference at every turn. Hulk won with the Phoenix Splash, which he was able to do when his new pals fought off Mad Blankey as they attempted to pull him off of the top rope. So as a result, Hulk continues the 20th reign, and is credited with his V1 title defense. Post match, stubborn Hulk finally admitted he could use a little help, and thanked Mocchy & Kid. Mocchy & Kid then tossed away their Team Veteran shirts, and agreed to form a new unit with Hulk. The match it self was very good, with one minor botch, and was one of those long Dragon Gate singles bouts that is worked at a more traditional pace. I thought Hulk looked better here than he did in his title win vs YAMATO, where his selling was a little spotty. Doi was Doi, which means he was solid. But this was more about the story than the work. ****
Order the Dragon Gate “Dangerous Gate” replay below: