Every Dragon Gate unit must come to an end. Sometimes, it takes longer than others — for example, Crazy MAX, Toryumon’s signature unit, lasted seven years. Units like Shin M2K and World-1 International fell by the wayside in a year, if that. Mad Blankey formed March 1, 2012 and lasted for over three years, coming to a climactic conclusion on August 16, 2015. In those three years, Mad Blankey left an impression that I surely won’t forget.
On paper, the idea of Mad Blankey forming is wild. BxB Hulk and Akira Tozawa ousted the legendary CIMA from his own unit, Blood Warriors, and in the process, transformed the stale Blood Warriors to a fresh, dangerous unit by the name of Mad Blankey. Their first outing is a forgettable one, Hulk, Tozawa, and Cyber Kong fell to CIMA and his two outsider friends, TAKA Michinoku and Sanshiro Takagi. It would take only three days for the newly formed unit to put on a stellar performance, yet again in a losing effort. Champion Gate 2012 in Osaka saw Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora walk away with the Open the Twin Gate straps, but not before a jaw dropping effort by the Mad Blankey duo of Hulk & Tozawa.
While I find most of my enjoyment from Dragon Gate to come from the in-ring aspect, I feel like I should touch on the outstanding character work by both Hulk and Tozawa.
Hulk, for a long time, was a dancing fool. His debut was produced by Magnum TOKYO and from there on, danced his way to minor success. He took a more serious approach to things in 2010 during his feud with Shingo Takagi as he lost the dancing, the girls, and his smile. He took a drastic turn for the dark side in 2011, aligning himself with the evil Blood Warriors. Hulk changed around his offense, moving away from his lightning quick counters and using a more aggressive, strike-based offense. Hulk, now almost a year into the role by the time Mad Blankey formed, was locked in with his gimmick. He was excellent.
Akira Tozawa’s career could not be more different than Hulk’s.
Tozawa also debuted in 2005, a month after Hulk, but unlike his friend, Tozawa debuted with no gimmick, the first person to do so in the Dragon System. He bounced around units, even forming his own at one point (who doesn’t love Tozawa-juku?), before gaining the confidence he needed to succeed after going on excursion to America in 2010. Tozawa came back as a man on a mission in the summer of 2011, joining up with Hulk, CIMA, and the rest of Blood Warriors, and making his presence felt as a strong heel.
While Tozawa may be the happiest lad in all of the land today, he was nothing short of an annoying prick during his Mad Blankey run. In a way, he’s very similar to current WWE Superstar, Kevin Owens. Both have reached great heights as a uniquely charismatic babyface, but both seem to do their best work as a heel. I do not speak any Japanese, but when Tozawa spoke in Mad Blankey, I hated him. He was rude, loud, and obnoxious.
Despite being the lead heels in the company, Mad Blankey spent a majority of their first year losing. Tozawa lost to Genki Horiguchi in an excellent King of Gate Finals, Cyber Kong fell to CIMA in a dreadful Open the Dream Gate match at Dead or Alive, and then Tozawa once again fell in a big spot, this time to CIMA at Dragon Gate’s biggest show of the year, Kobe World. Despite these losses, Mad Blankey was doing their job perfectly — they were the bad guys, and in the end, bad guys are supposed to lose.
Things really took off for Mad Blankey in 2013. The addition of Uhaa Nation, now NXT superstar Apollo Crews, added new life to the unit. Nation by no means is an outstanding heel, but his tag team with BxB Hulk gave the Twin Gate division an extra spark in the early months of 2013. Their run of excellence was capped off at Dead or Alive 2013 in losing fashion to YAMATO and Shingo Takagi. Tozawa was back in the main event on that show, once again against CIMA, and once again coming up short to the legend. This was an excellent sequel to their Kobe World match. Tozawa would continue his string of great performances as he and Hulk battled Naruki Doi and Ricochet at Kobe World in one of the best spotfests I’ve ever seen.
Things became much more personal with Shingo Takagi in June of that year as his longtime partner, YAMATO, turned on him to join Mad Blankey. It was a fresh addition to the already strong unit, but more importantly, it was a new YAMATO.
After losing his hair in October 2011, YAMATO lost the charisma that made him so charming. He became what some would consider to be a bland wrestler. His in-ring talent wasn’t being doubted, but he was certainly missing an element to him that made him truly special. Turning away from Takagi and into the arms of Mad Blankey was the best thing that could’ve happened to him. He ended the unit that he helped form, along with Takagi, on August 1, 2013 in Korakuen Hall in one of my favorite Dragon Gate matches ever.
That match, a Losing Unit Disbands ~ Loser Losers Mask or Hair 5 vs 4 Handicap 2 Count Rules Match, to me, is the essential Mad Blankey match. Takagi’s unit, -akatsuki-, only had to score a two count to end Mad Blankey. It sounds confusing (because it is), but the execution here is nothing short of incredible. This match finished tied for #41 in the 2013 Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year Poll. Lee Goodfellow of PWPonderings puts this match into words better than I ever could.
That match also marked the end for Akira Tozawa in Mad Blankey, as after the match, YAMATO choked him out with his deadly sleeper hold. Uhaa Nation would soon leave the unit as well, as he refused to fight his best friend, Tozawa. Not to fear, however, as Mad Blankey would soon add Naruki Doi to the fold.
YAMATO’s reign of terror wouldn’t stop there as he gave Mad Blankey their first huge win on August 23, 2013, as he defeated Takagi in his first defense as Open the Dream Gate Champion — the first and only time that has happened in its history.
With the additions of Doi and YAMATO, Mad Blankey looked stronger than ever. BxB Hulk continued to put in strong work, Cyber Kong managed to not make a fool of himself, and Mondai Ryu and Kzy managed to not hurt themselves, despite being brutalized by literally every person on the roster. Hulk rode his momentum into an Open the Dream Gate match with Masato Yoshino, who defeated YAMATO, at the company’s final show of 2013, Final Gate. While this match is nothing special from an in-ring standpoint, it helped kick off one of my favorite angles I’ve ever seen.
The early portion of 2014 saw BxB Hulk slowly move away from Mad Blankey. He was no longer the top dog and his match with Yoshino proved that. Doi and YAMATO were the hot commodities now. Hulk was simply just a guy and his cohorts were getting sick of Hulk dragging them down. The fighting between unit members would come to an exciting end at the end of Dead or Alive 2014.
YAMATO decided to settle things in MB. The match was over, Kzy took his haircut like man, and he had recaptured the Dream Gate. He demanded a handshake between Doi & Hulk. Hulk hesitated, but eventually complied. The peace didn’t last long, as he quickly delivered a First Flash to both YAMATO & Doi! After dealing with all the attacks from the outside and all the problems lately, he didn’t need MAD BLANKEY. He would fight on his own. He thanked the fans for getting behind him in the final stages of the match. He admitted he was scared of what would happen next. But, he hoped the fans would support the reborn BxB Hulk. He stripped away all of his red & yellow accessories as the show came to a close. –IHeartDG.com
Thus began BxB Hulk’s feud with Mad Blankey, my 2014 Feud of the Year. As silly as it sounds, the feud was essentially based around Hulk refusing to take Mad Blankey’s colors off. He designed the logo and he decided on the colors, so therefore, he wasn’t going to take them off unless someone made him. Sadly for Hulk, his confidence got the best of him as he was quickly defeated in a Nombre contra Nombre 5 vs. 1 Scramble Elimination Match on June 5, 2014.
While the idea of the story may have been silly, the execution was flawless. Mad Blankey were perfect modern heels. They didn’t have evil laughs or relied on cheating, they just countered Hulk’s heroic deeds and they did it wonderfully. This feud helped establish Hulk in my eyes. He was hard to buy as a credible main eventer, but he came out of this feud looking so strong after knocking off YAMATO and Kobe World and then Naruki Doi at Dangerous Gate, that it’s hard not to give some credit to Mad Blankey after his recent success.
With Hulk out of the picture, Mad Blankey was officially in the YAMADoi era. The rest of 2014 saw Mad Blankey take a backseat to a majority of the action as The Millennials were in an all-out war with the Veteran Army and BxB Hulk’s newly formed Dia. Hearts found themselves constantly doing battle with Akira Tozawa’s Monster Express. Mad Blankey got a needed shot of excitement to close out 2014 as CIMA, Gamma, Don Fujii, and K-Ness were forced into being Mad Blankey zombies, thanks to the wonderful Doi Darts gimmick.
I didn’t love the zombie run. Well, besides Don Fujii looking like your evil grandpa. That’s really as good as it gets right there. Gamma, especially, didn’t gel with the rest of Mad Blankey, who had developed some amazing chemistry. It was wacky and while nothing was really bad about it, I never felt excited to watch those matches. The veterans came back to normal after the 2015 installment of Dead or Alive, with the exception of K-Ness, who insisted on staying with Mad Blankey.
YAMADoi found some much needed success in June 2015 by scoring the Open the Twin Gate Championships from Masato Yoshino & Shachihoko BOY. They rode that momentum into Kobe World where they defeated the duo of Ricochet & Matt Sydal in an excellent match.
For the first time in a long time, Mad Blankey was faced with a “Losing Unit Disbands” gimmick at the August 2015 Korakuen Hall show. They survived, and in the process, ended Dragon Gate’s unit of Millennials. With destruction on their minds, they challenged the longest lasting unit in Dragon Gate history, The Jimmyz, to another Unit Disbands match, this one set for Dangerous Gate 2015.
Mad Blankey’s final performance was arguably their best. If their August 2013 match with -akatsuki- isn’t their essential match, this is. Before the opening bell, Mad Blankey had me gripped to my TV. YAMATO, Doi, Cyber Kong, Mondai Ryu, and K-Ness all looked so focused. Their run of terror had lasted for over three years at this point and they were not about to lose to some goons that celebrate by doing something called “The Jimmyz Train”. Mad Blankey, at times, had fallen into Dragon Gate heel tropes with tactics such as box attacks and throwing powder into their opponent’s eyes, but not here. This was a fight with intensity levels rarely seen in Dragon Gate.
The five members of Mad Blankey jelled like no other unit before. YAMATO led his troops into battle, clawing, scraping, and searching for any way to leave this match with a victory. It was K-Ness, however, who turned on Mad Blankey, tossing that God forsaken powder into the eyes of YAMATO, which helped Jimmy Susumu get the pin. Mad Blankey, after 1,263 days, was over.
The future remains bright for most of the members of what used to be Mad Blankey.
YAMATO, time after time, shows that he’s one of the best wrestlers in the world. Whenever the discussion of Japanese wrestlers wrestling in America for brand like NXT, people seem to quickly name New Japan’s heavyweights like Kazuchika Okada or Shinsuke Nakamura. If I was starting a promotion today, YAMATO would be my #1 draft pick. He’s everything a wrestler should be. If you are just getting into Dragon Gate, follow YAMATO. One day, you’ll look back and think about how truly great he was.
Naruki Doi might be the best character in Japan. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t speak Japanese, but I can’t take turn my head away from my TV when he speaks. He will always have a home in Dragon Gate, preferably as a midcard heel.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Cyber Kong. He’s been responsible for some of the worst matches in Dragon Gate history, like his aforementioned debacle with CIMA at Dead or Alive 2012, but every once in awhile, Kong does something really cool. He doesn’t need to ever change. He’s Dragon Gate’s resident monster and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
As for Punch Tominaga and Mondai Ryu, let’s just hope they don’t get hurt.
Mad Blankey is my favorite unit in Dragon System history. Whether they were being led by Akira Tozawa, BxB Hulk, or YAMATO, they always seemed to click with one another. Since 2012, they’ve produced some of Dragon Gate’s best moments and matches. It’s truly sad to see them go. Not every wrestling promotion can provoke genuine emotion out of its fans in 2015, but I’d be lying if I didn’t hold back a tear or two when Jimmy Susumu finally pinned YAMATO, ending Mad Blankey.