“Gate of Destiny 2014”
November 2, 2014
Osaka BODYMAKER Colosseum
For hardcore fans of Dragon Gate, the main event of BxB Hulk vs. Akira Tozawa may be one of the most anticipated ever. Not a lot of people believed Tozawa could actually win but his undeniable charisma and attachment to the fans can make anyone a believer. The week was filled with predictions of “I don’t think he will but I HOPE HE DOES!” People love Tozawa and for good reason. Alan Counihan wrote a great preview of the meaningful main event on our forums including some background in Tozawa’s journey to the top of Dragon Gate:
“The big show of this weekend in Japan is Dragon Gate’s “Gate Of Destiny” coming from Osaka. The show will air live on Niconico. The main event is the Open The Dream Gate title match between champion BxB Hulk and challenger Akira Tozawa. It’s the first time that the two men who debuted on the same day in 2005 will contest for the title in a big show main event. Tozawa’s story is an amazing one. Unlike Hulk and the earlier debuting classmate Shingo Takagi, Tozawa was not groomed for greatness. He was immediately slotted into the role of rookie whipping boy, getting destroyed by the likes of Don Fujii and Masaaki Mochizuki.
His career was boosted when his Tozawa-juku stable (designed to be a joke undercard gimmick) became a cult favourite, but rather than move him up the cards Dragon Gate assigned him a new gimmick of stooging fat guy. Problem was he wasn’t exactly fat, so they actually force fed him bowls of rice much to his displeasure. He gained weight very fast, and the role nearly killed his career. The reason for their lack of faith in him was concerns over his maturity and behaviour. The fat gimmick was phased out eventually, and he was allowed get back into serious shape. His career still wasn’t moving in an upward direction, and in 2010 he was sent to the US with really no expectations of him amounting to much of note.
It was in America that everything changed. Tozawa, who had always got on well with the American wrestlers who came to Dragon Gate, fit in extremely well on the US indy scene. He befriended the likes of Kevin Steen and obtained a regular spot in PWG and DGUSA. His undeniable charisma, combined with wrestling ability which he never really got to showcase in Japan, made him a major hit with the American fans. The turning point for his career was a match with Chris Hero in the 2010 Battle Of Los Angeles which was an incredible match of the year contender.
Post match, Tozawa was in tears, clearly conveying how much the reaction of the fans meant to him. Upon seeing this, the Japanese office viewed him in a whole new light. In 2011 Akira Tozawa came back to Japan a serious contender. For the past few years, he’s been consistently one of the best performers in the company and has been in and around the main event scene. However he has yet to with the top prize. “Gate Of Destiny” will be an oddly fitting event for him to capture the gold, as it never seemed like such a victory was Akira Tozawa’s destiny. Against all odds, it could be.”
Top-to-bottom Gate of Destiny looked like a show that could deliver huge with no less than three Match of the Night contenders and a slew of talented guys making up their incredible deep roster. Without any delay, let’s get to Gate of Destiny!
Yosuke♡Santa Maria, “Mr. High Tension” Kotoka, Yuga Hayashi vs. Don Fujii, Super Shisa, “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa: This was your typical Dragon Gate opener, nothing more, nothing less. There were some comedy spots with Stalker and Santa Maria that are always a good bit of fun including Santa Maria kissing Stalker then gagging. Stalker gagged as well but it was fun to see Santa Maria counter with her (his) own disgust. The best spot of the match was the young Yuga Hayahashi chopping Bon Fujii for what seemed like three minutes. Fujii, of course, didn’t feel a thing then beat the living shit out of the kid. **
Jimmy Kagetora, Mr. Quu Quu Tanizaki Naoki Toyonaka Dolphin vs. Mondai Ryu, Punch Tominaga: The opener at least had some hijinks to make it interesting, this one… not so much. Tominaga took a bunch of punishment and eventually Ryu got hit with the Yellow Box after Kagetora dove out of the way. This was the old “one heel holds up his opponent as the other heel hits him with an object” trope that never works and even if it did work, wouldn’t the guy just fall back into you? I feel there’s way more risk than reward but hey, don’t let me tell heels how to do their job. Anyway, Kagetora hit the Ikkitousen (Gutwrench Driver) for the win. After the match, Kagetora and Dolphin motioned that they wanted a title shot. This wasn’t a bad match but it lacked a lot of juice. **
Open the Brave Gate Championship Match – Flamita vs. Jimmy Kanda: This was different than almost any Flamita Open the Brave Gate title defense and worked at a much slower pace than we’re use to with Flamita. Don’t worry, the Spanish Fly was still there and most of the patented crazy offense but it was done with a far different pace and a different feel. It may sound like I’m putting the match down but I’m not. If anything, this match is an example of the unbelievable talent Flamita is. His ability to adapt to opponents and various styles is shockingly good for someone as young as him. (Seriously, can we get a birth certificate? I won’t accept that he’s only 19). Flamita continues his stellar run with the Open the Brave Gate title and adds match to his tremendous 2014 catalog. ***1/2
Masato Yoshino, Shingo Takagi, Shachihoko BOY vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid, Big R Shimizu: If you haven’t been keeping up with Dragon Gate as of late, Mochizuki, Dragon Kid and the former Ryotsu Shimizu are apart of a new faction Dia.HEARTS alongside BxB Hulk. The big news in this match is the continued push of Big R Shimizu who has ditched his anime character and is now a complete bad ass in the same vein as Shingo. It’s amazing how Dragon Gate can so easily flip the switch on a guy and have him go. This match was better than it had any right to be. It was given time and everybody stood out in one way or another. Yoshino and Dragon Kid went 10,000 miles per hour, these two are unbelievable and I’m convinced Yoshino is one of the fastest wrestlers, if not athletes, in the world. He’s a blur. Shachihoko BOY took an absolute BEATING from Mochizuki but the big highlight here was Big R Shimizu. Big R got a hot tag, immediately should blocked Yoshino and body slammed Shingo like it was nothing. He then ragdolled Shachihoko Boy like it was nothing. Later in the match, Shimizu no-sold a Shingo lariat attempt then floored him with one of his own which made the crowd come unglued. Shingo finally got the better of Big R and leveled him with a huge clothesline but Big R kicked out at two to another huge pop. Shingo eventually caught Big R in the “Made in Japan” but it didn’t matter. This was a star-making match for Shimizu. ***1/4
Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match: Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy Susumu, Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! vs. YAMATO, Naruki Doi, Cyber Kong: While I was a huge fan of MAD BLANKEY, I’m beginning to bore of the unit. It’s a natural progression but these guys don’t feel hot anymore and some of them (most notably Naruki Doi) are in need of a repackaging. The same could probably be said for the Jimmyz but they have less overall potential where two of Dragon Gate’s best talents (Doi and YAMATO) are seemingly wasting away.
This match started off with an Attitude Era brawl with the teams fighting up the entrance ramp and into the crowd. Eventually the action got back into the ring and was mostly worked with a slower, methodical pace as MAD BLANKEY controlled their half of the ring. A glaring difference from the previous trios match, nobody stood out here and this entire match ended up feeling very dry. The most easily-distracted referees once again turned their backs as MAD BLANKEY stacked a bunch of chairs in the middle of the ring. YAMATO went for the superplex but Susumu slinked out and hit a huge powerbomb onto the chairs.
The ending finally felt hot as Susumu got a face full of powder but kicked out at 2, he then hit Doi with a huge lariat followed by the sitting lariat and picked up the victory. This wasn’t bad at all but it really felt uninspired especially following a great trios match. **3/4
Open the Twin Gate Championship Match – CIMA & Gamma vs. T-Hawk & Eita (c): Osaka06 vs. The Millenials — there’s no way this wasn’t going to be great and well, guess what, it was great.
No team had a huge advantage at the beginning as they traded momentum back and forth. CIMA and Gamma eventually cut the ring off and started slowing down the youngsters. T-Hawk finally turned the corner and started slowing down Osaka06 just as they were starting to get momentum, again cutting off the ring, this time in favor of the Millenials. Finally, Gamma got the hot tag into CIMA who hit T-Hawk with a beautiful missile dropkick then popped up and hit the flying Eita with a dropkick. Osaka06 then did a double suicide dive to the outside as all four men were down on the outside.
CIMA looked great throughout this match and obviously relished the opportunity to be back in the spotlight. He was the clear star of this match. Eita caught Gamma in a sit-down powerbomb but Gamma slipped out at two. The crowd started coming alive for this. The last five minutes was incredible as everyone started hitting a flurry of high-impact moves and you never knew what would be the ending. CIMA, again, stood out here really getting the fans to believe that Osaka had a chance here.
CIMA hit the Crossfire and followed with a second Meteora and got the HUGE upset victory. The crowd went insane as I don’t think anyone really believed they could win this. I enjoyed the hell out of this match including the ending which if watched unspoiled would’ve probably had me jumping up and down. That’s the real benefit of watching unspoiled versus spoiled, I knew the result so the nearfalls didn’t do much for me. Had I watched this live, I believe my rating would be much higher. Either way, great match and I can’t wait to see where this story goes and how the Millenials get back on track. Post-match, Osaka06 said (per iheartdg.com): “while they may be nearing their expiration date, they were not done living out their old timer dreams.” ***3/4
Open the Dream Gate Championship Match – BxB Hulk (c) vs. Akira Tozawa: A great promo video played before the match with BxB Hulk and Tozawa reliving their days training together. It’s times like these that I really with I knew Japanese so I could really appreciate these more. Tozawa was in tears looking at the photos, which was really powerful. The narrative was all about Hulk going onto great things when he first entered Dragon Gate while Tozawa was stuck in dead-end gimmicks, including the Fat Tozawa which is shocking to see in 2014 (especially given the great shape he’s in now).
The juxtaposition of this video compared with Orton/Cena from Hell in a Cell was quite interesting. This felt like a feud/match that actually has emotion in it. It’s also been protected and these two guy have gone on so many different paths despite starting in the same spot. God, this video is great, go watch it now.
From the beginning this was a more serious Tozawa, while I love his normal charisma, a more serious/focused Tozawa is a real badass too. During the National Anthem, Hulk and Tozawa were both nearly in tears. God damn is this match giving me goosebumps.
The crowd is solidly behind Tozawa here, with a few pockets of fans cheering for Hulk. I suspect it’s nothing actually against Hulk, everyone just loves Akira. Tozawa grabs the early advantage in this match, controlling Hulk with some submissions including a solid Figure-Four sequence that saw the men roll in and out of the leverage. At one point, Tozawa has Hulk locked in and just smiles, looks at Hulk and seems to say “Pretty good, huh?” Tozawa’s the best.
Hulk turned the tables and started working over Tozawa’s midsection. For people that like to use the outdated “Dragon Gate = flipz” meme, you should probably watch this match to get a true idea of what Dragon Gate offers these days. The bulk of this match was nothing more than Hulk and Tozawa trying to one-up each other with submissions, strikes and chops.
About 25 minutes in, both men are spent. Tozawa goes for a clothesline but Hulk barely moves and Tozawa’s entire body starts sagging. Tozawa gets a burst of energy and hops to the top rope to meet Hulk with a beautiful superplex. Tozawa counters a passionated striking sequence with a great-looking German that gets a 2.9.At this point, the crowd senses we’re in the home stretch as the “TOZAWA” chants begin. First Flash from Hulk, followed up with a Phoenix Splash and it’s all over. Great match with a lot of emotion throughout. Didn’t quite hit MOTY levels but still a fantastic performance from both men. ****
Tozawa is almost inconsolable after the match. Shingo is seen at the commentary booth shaking his head at the emotion being shown by Tozawa. Thanks again for iheartdg.com for their post-match translations — Hulk says he’s happy him and Tozawa could fulfill their promise from 10 years ago. He’s also glad he faced this Tozawa and not the MAD BLANKEY version. In a great visual, a crying Tozawa put the belt around Hulk’s waist and asked Hulk if he’d consider a one-night revival of their Hulk+Akira team.
The rest of their factions were okay with it, except for Shingo who stayed silent throughout the entire post-match celebration. Hulk took a shot at Shingo saying when he and Tozawa battle for the title 10 years from now, Shingo will be in Tozawa’s corner as a second. That should go over well.
An emotionally charged Dragon Gate event that you should definitely go out of your way to see. The main event, even if it wasn’t a Match of the Year contender is one of the most rewarded experiences long time Dragon Gate fans can have. The emotion poured into the match by both men felt so genuine that you can’t help but get sucked in yourself. The Twin Gate match was great and Big R Shimizu’s breakout moment against Shingo all make Gate of Destiny a must-watch.