Welcome to the first entry of what I plan on being a long-running series: Dragon Gate 101.
As a longtime Dragon Gate fan, I’ve been approached by many people over the years and asked for advice on how to get into Dragon Gate. DG is a promotion that likes to reference the past, has more promos than most puroresu companies (and obviously those promos are in Japanese!), and has a very unique style/overall “feel” even when compared to the more mainstream Japanese promotions like New Japan. A few things about it should be obvious almost immediately: it is a lucharesu/junior promotion (with the exception of a few guys, almost all would be considered juniors in NJPW/NOAH/etc.), it has a robust and loyal fanbase (it’s been a very solid #2 for years now; while granting that they used a very slightly smaller set-up than other promotions do, they sold out more of their shows at Korakuen Hall than anyone in 2015), almost all of the wrestlers on the roster are broken up into units (or stables as we call them in America), and it features a lot of comedy (not as much as DDT but certainly more than the norm for Japan). But again, DG can feel daunting for a newcomer, given how much they reference their own past and how much of their angles and storylines are wrapped up in complicated webs of turns from years ago, unit break-ups and formations, etc. etc. That is why I hope to provide you this series as a reference point you can come back to; so when you’re trying to watch your first few shows and something confuses you, you can look back at these articles and hopefully find an answer for your question, whatever it may be.
We’re starting today on a topic that I feel is essential to understanding modern DG: the history of Toryumon and the generational divide. Much of the current and recent landscape is based around the generations and how they relate, so without knowing this information you’re immediately behind the proverbial 8-ball (and it’s virtually impossible to discuss the units without talking about it first).
Dragon Gate, for those who don’t know, can trace its history back to the Toryumon system, which was a series of promotions (Toryumon Japan, T2P, and Toryumon X) for the students of the legendary Ultimo Dragon to ply their trade in. They would go over to Mexico to train with Ultimo, Skayde (of minor CHIKARA fame in the US), and others. The students would work shows in Mexico as they learned their craft (including Ultimo-produced shows, which at one point were called Toryumon Mexico) before they would have their “landings” in Japan. The original promotion, and the one that would run consistently from 1999 through 2004, was Toryumon Japan. That promotion featured the first few generations of Ultimo’s students, as well as some outsiders/non-Ultimo students who quickly became regulars like Masaaaki Mochizuki.
The second promotion was called the Toryumon 2000 Project (T2P for short) and would essentially see the third generation of Ultimo students debut in it. The promotion differentiated itself from Toryumon Japan by featuring a six-sided ring, many years before such a thing would come to the US in TNA (it was already being used in Mexico, however). Its wrestlers also used a significantly different, more submission-heavy wrestling style called llave. The promotion ran from late 2001 until very early 2003 and was highly successful, bringing in a fanbase that was very different from Toryumon Japan’s. The two promotions and their rosters would feud throughout the second-half of 2002, culminating in a match where the losing promotion would have to fold. T2P lost, and their roster was absorbed into Toryumon Japan.
The third and final promotion was called Toryumon X. Unlike the other two, which were huge successes on an almost unprecedented level when it came to drawing crowds as a junior-based promotion at the time, Toryumon X was a complete failure. This time the attempt to differentiate the promotion from the earlier predecessors involved it being “true lucha libre”, but the concept was hurt by a bad roster filled with awful characters (with way too many miniature versions of established Toryumon guys) and wrestlers who clearly weren’t nearly as polished as their Toryumon Japan and T2P counterparts. The company ran only from August 2003 to September 2004, but were actually inactive for much of 2004 before that final show. Unlike with Toryumon Japan & T2P, interaction between Toryumon Japan & X was very limited at the time, as the entire Toryumon system was crumbling while Ultimo Dragon lived out his dream of competing in WWE. As you’ll see in a moment when we break down the current roster in terms of the generations, almost no one from Toryumon X made it into Dragon Gate when the split happened in mid-2004; Naoki Tanizaki was the only one to go straight from X to DG, and KAGETORA would come years later, but that was it. For the most part, Toryumon X wrestlers ended up in Michinoku Pro and elsewhere on the Japanese indies instead. The ace of this promotion, Taiji Ishimori, has at least carved out a nice career for himself in Pro Wrestling NOAH, and is their current GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion.
So while Ultimo was busy with that, a rebellion was brewing back home, and in July 2004 the group in Toryumon Japan (so this would be the original roster, T2P, and exactly one guy from X) split off from Ultimo Dragon. The promotion became Dragon Gate, immediately changing the feel and look of the company in ways that would only continue to develop as the years went on. Now the “multiple promotions” concept that I’m sure you’re finding somewhat confusing melts away, and everyone who debuts after this point is considered a “Dragon Gate trueborn”. There is a concept called Dragon Gate NEX that has run for a while, but this should be easier for you to understand: similar to the original scope of NXT, it is simply a way for DG’s young wrestlers to gain experience and be exposed to the hardcore fanbase. Other than NEX, all wrestlers compete on the same Dragon Gate stage.
The concept of “DG trueborns” is an important one for one big reason: because they’ve been known to start revolts against the rest of the roster! In 2007, Shingo Takagi, BxB Hulk, YAMATO, and Cyber Kong formed a unit called New Hazard that was DG trueborn-only (with some supporting gaijin), kicking off a memorable year in which they feuded with the heel & face veteran units alike. More recently in July 2013, DG trueborns T-Hawk and Eita formed the Millenials unit, a unit that was only open to those born in 1990 or later. While both these units are now gone, the point is that you never know when the DG trueborns are going to wage war against their elders!
I’m not really sure where else to put this information, but another important thing before we get into this: basically the way Dragon Gate has worked since the changeover is you have multiple babyface or tweener units and then one heel unit. So all of the heels in the promotion are grouped into one unit. That unit changes over the years, but each time someone from the previous heel unit forms the next one, so there’s always a connection (starting all the way back with Blood Generation in 2005, which became Muscle Outlawz, then Real Hazard, then Deep Drunkers, then Team Doi, then Blood Warriors, then MAD BLANKEY, then finally VerserK). This is important to understanding DG: there are much fewer heels than babyfaces, but the heels are all grouped together while the babyfaces are spread out. In practice this means a number of guys on the roster will have short runs as heels for anywhere from a year to three before returning to the babyface side (though there are guys who remain relatively stable as one alignment or the other), allowing DG to keep things fresh through these turns.
So now that we’ve established some of the history of Dragon Gate and what these generations mean, let’s break down all of the current roster generation-by-generation. And obviously we should start with the:
First Generation: Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid, Jimmy Kness J.K.S., CIMA, Gamma, Don Fuji, Super Shisa, Kenichiro Arai, “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa
The first generation are wrestlers who were active prior to the debut of Toryumon Japan in 1999. This includes wrestlers who were trained by Ultimo and were competing in Mexico, Michinoku Pro, and even WCW in the case of CIMA and Dragon Kid. It also includes wrestlers who were were primarily trained outside of Toryumon and then made their way to the promotion soon after it opened, such as Mochizuki and (originally as MAKOTO and Darkness Dragon) K-ness. Finally, Gamma is a true oddball here because he started in Michinoku Pro, later competed for Osaka Pro (where he was a top heel), and finally came to Dragon Gate in 2006, where he’s remained ever since. Even though he hasn’t been part of the “Dragon System” for nearly as long as the rest, Gamma is still considered a veteran due to his long history elsewhere, which makes sense.
This generation are obviously the elder statesmen of the promotion, with CIMA especially standing out as the top star for virtually his entire career (sometimes as a babyface, sometimes as a heel). His closet counterpart is Mochizuki who has also been a prolific singles wrestler, multiple time champion, and on-again, off-again rival of CIMA. The entire generation has come together often over the years as some variation of “Team Veteran” dating all the way back to late 2009, with the group originally being more informal and then eventually becoming a real unit. The final incarnation of the group, Team Veteran Returns, was forced to disband in late 2014 after coming out on the wrong side of a Losing Unit Must Disband match (something that happens with some regularity in DG) against the Millenials. CIMA, Gamma, Fuji, and K-ness were all then drafted into the heel unit MAD BLANKEY against their will (though as all had been heels in the past, they embraced it almost frighteningly quickly) in a memorable storyline that ran for much of the early part of 2015, but all would eventually leave the heel side later in the year.
Today, the veterans are spread out.
Mochizuki & Dragon Kid have been part of the Dia.Hearts unit from day one in mid-2014. CIMA & Gamma formed the Over Generation unit in November, with the goal of bridging the gap between the oldest and youngest generations after years of feuding. K-ness joined up with the Jimmyz (as his name would imply). The rest of the veterans are currently without a unit, which is not uncommon for any of them. Don Fuji often ends up unaligned as a general rule (it’s pretty much an exception when he’s in a unit), but the former champion always remains a threat. Stalker Ichikawa is a comedy jobber, and Arai & Shisa don’t appear on every show at this point in their careers. Even when this generation falls on hard times, as they have to some degree recently- Shingo Takagi, as the current champion, basically just finished running through all of them in a row when he beat CIMA at Final Gate — it is unwise to count them out. They always seem to find a way back to the top of Dragon Gate.
(Masaaki Mochizuki against Shingo Takagi for the Dream Gate, November 2015. one of the best matches of the year)
Second Generation: Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy Susumu, Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!, Jimmy Kanda
Wrestlers who debuted in Toryumon Japan after the promotion had already started but before Toryumon 2000 Project began are considered second generation. While they certainly are veterans at this point, none of them have ever been in any of the various “Team Veteran” units, as they clearly consider themselves to be a generation below them. As you can see by their names, all of the ones remaining in Dragon Gate are currently part of the Jimmyz unit, and have been for some time. This is also the generation that is stepping up to fight Shingo Takagi next after Shingo ran through CIMA/Mochizuki/Gamma/Fuji in his current reign as Open the Dream Gate champion (the World title of Dragon Gate). Jimmy Susumu, himself a former champion, challenged Shingo to a title match, and will get the next shot in February.
This generation is obviously much smaller than the previous one, and none have had the kind of decorated careers of Mochizuki & CIMA. Susumu & Saito are both former Dream Gate champions, but neither has held the title in many years (the last reign for both men came in 2006). However, they are both still able to be threats in almost any big match even after they step away from the spotlight for a while. Kanda and Genki are both supporting players, though Genki is able to beat anyone on any night thanks to his infamous Backslide From Heaven (literally just a backslide that sometimes becomes inescapable, thanks to his ability to call on the Heavens!). Mostly relying on his godly backslide he won DG’s annual King of Gate tournament in 2012.
Third Generation: Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, Shachihoko BOY, Takayuki Yagi
These are the wrestlers who debuted in the Toryumon 2000 Project before the promotion was eventually absorbed into Toryumon Japan. Even though nearly the entire roster came over at the time and most of them were still around when the changeover to Dragon Gate happened, as it turned out the T2P guys were all much more loyal to Ultimo Dragon than their Toryumon Japan counterparts (it’s pretty much inarguable to say that loyalty ended up being misplaced on their parts, though). A lot of them wound up quitting DG less than a year after it began, including T2P’s ace Milano Collection AT (who went on to have a nice second career as a junior in New Japan prior to his eventual retirement, and can currently be seen as a color commentator and Tetsuya Naito abuse victim there) and the entire Aagan Issou heel unit (the leading two, Shuji Kondo & brother YASSHI, would end up as founding members of the Voodoo Murders unit in All Japan), out of apparent loyalty to Ultimo. They would later try to start two different competing “Dragon System” promotions along with some of the fourth generation guys, dragondoor and El Dorado, both of which were total failures and didn’t last very long.
Anyway, two of the wrestlers who do remain from the T2P era are both pretty important. Masato Yoshino, considered during the T2P days as a strong #2 to Milano, is the closest thing Dragon Gate has had to a traditional babyface ace for much of this decade. His three Dream Gate reigns are tied with CIMA, Shingo, and YAMATO for most in company history, but his first reign wasn’t until July 11, 2010, the latest of the four. His 483 combined days as champion is second only to CIMA for longest of the 2010s (granted, CIMA did it all in one super-long 574-day reign, which was very impressive, but I can’t comfortably call someone who has spent multiple periods as a heel this decade the “babyface ace” of it). And the multiple title reigns make sense for him, because Yoshino is probably the most popular wrestler on the roster (if he isn’t, he’s at least very close). Yoshino is currently the leader of the Monster Express babyface unit, alongside his best friend Shachihoko BOY.
Naruki Doi is another important character in Dragon Gate’s history: he had a prolific on-again, off-again team with Yoshino called SPEED MUSCLE (Yoshino’s nickname is “Speed Star” while Doi’s is “Rampaging Muscle”), and overall is one of the best tag team wrestlers in all of professional wrestling history, not just Dragon Gate. Doi has been in excellent tag teams with Yoshino, Ricochet, and currently YAMATO, putting on some of the greatest tag team matches you’ll ever see with all of them. He and YAMATO are the current Open the Twin Gate champions, and they have been dominant, racking up an impressive eight defenses (the most in the history of the title) in 2015. After flirting with being DG’s singles ace during a long, 449-day title reign as Open the Dream Gate champion in 2008-2010, Doi has settled back into more of a secondary role throughout the past five years. While he’s sometimes a babyface (and was during his Dream Gate reign), he’s far more effective as a heel, which is the role he’s been in for the past few years. He’s currently one of the major players in the VerserK heel unit.
(back when Speed Muscle was actually a thing, Doi & Yoshino team up to take on Hulk & Takagi with NOAH’s GHC Jr Tag belts at stake!)
Shachi as mentioned is most well-known as Yoshino’s best friend, and is basically the “loss post” (wrestler who frequently loses the fall for their unit in tag matches) of the Monster Express unit. He did finally find championship success as Twin Gate champion alongside Yoshino in 2015, a seminal moment for the veteran who had never won a title in his life before. Yagi is a former wrestler who retired basically right before the changeover to DG, and remains with the promotion as its lead referee. As an ex-wrestler he isn’t afraid to get physically involved.
Fourth Generation: Naoki Tanizaki, Jimmy Kagetora
The wrestlers who made their debuts in the short-lived Toryumon X promotion are the fourth generation, and as mentioned earlier Toryumon X wrestlers ended up having very little impact on the Dragon Gate roster. Naoki Tanizaki debuted doing a surfer gimmick, and thus got to graduate to Toryumon Japan relatively quickly (and just in time to be on the right side of the split from Ultimo!) as the “2nd generation surfer” to Genki Horiguchi, who also debuted with that gimmick. Like Genki, Naoki basically shed the surfer gimmick as he went along. He wound up leaving Dragon Gate in 2006, and thus DG had no one from Toryumon X for several years. After competing in the El Dorado promotion (among others, as he even did deathmatches during his two-year exodus!), Tanizaki left that sinking ship and returned to DG in early 2008, and he’s remained ever since. After a long stint with the Jimmyz, Naoki has reverted to his punk heel character, betraying them in mid-2015 to join VerserK. He’s not the highest-ranked wrestler on the roster for sure, but he’s one of the most entertaining.
Meanwhile, KAGETORA was originally one of the many mini wrestlers in Toryumon X (in his case he was SUWAcito, a miniature version of the popular SUWA) who eventually struck out and made a bit of a name for himself in Michinoku Pro. He also competed in dragondoor and El Dorado. After El Dorado folded in late 2008, KAGETORA made a shocking debut in Dragon Gate, finally giving the promotion a second Toryumon X competitor. He would later be forced to change his name to Jimmy Kagetora as a result of losing a stipulation match alongside Susumu Yokosuka, which helped kick off the longest-running unit in Dragon Gate history. He remains a member of the Jimmyz, though he is currently out of action due to a long-term injury. Like Naoki, he’s not the highest-ranked member of the roster but is consistently entertaining.
Fifth Generation: Shingo Takagi, BxB Hulk, Akira Tozawa, YAMATO, Cyber Kong
Finally we have reached the first generation of “Dragon Gate trueborns”, or wrestlers who debuted after the split from Ultimo. These are all wrestlers who never competed in any variation of Toryumon. Now is where I’m starting to use a little more editorial discretion in stating where the generations start and begin, since the DG trueborn guys aren’t split into easily-defined separate promotions like their Toryumon counterparts. In this case, I’m considering the fifth generation to be the “first wave” of DG trueborns, from Shingo’s debut on October 3, 2004 through Cyber Kong’s on September 8, 2006. With the notable exception of Tozawa, all of these guys were part of the New Hazard unit I talked about briefly earlier (it was those four with some random gaijin/outsiders like El Generico & Shinobu), so you could basically consider this to be the “New Hazard Generation”.
Shingo was the very first DG trueborn, and the protege of CIMA. Early on his career was very linked to his teacher, as he got to make his debut as the last member of the famous Crazy MAX unit (though the unit would be dissolved soon after) and then followed CIMA to form the Blood Generation heel unit in early 2005. After an excursion to America (in which he competed in ROH at the time), Shingo returned as the leader of the New Hazard unit, the group positioned as tweeners between CIMA’s Typhoon and Doi & Gamma’s Muscle Outlawz. He was briefly the leader of the following heel unit, Real Hazard (basically a merger between MO’z and New Hazard, leaving out BxB Hulk), but quickly left that unit and returned to the babyface side just a few months later after he won his first Dream Gate title in July 2008. After being pushed as a top babyface star for the following seven years, Shingo finally returned to his heel roots in 2015, winning the Dream Gate from his fellow Monster Express member Masato Yoshino, leaving the unit, and forming VerserK. Shingo thus heads into 2016 as the undisputed top heel and champion, a role he is far more suited for than that of top babyface.
BxB Hulk, the second DG trueborn, was pushed as Shingo’s generational rival right from the start. He was the protege of Magnum TOKYO, CIMA’s own longtime rival, so that positioning made sense. Magu would be forced out of DG in April 2007, and Hulk slowly but surely lost a lot of his connections to his former mentor (including the signature dance he did for years as part of his entrance). He and Shingo put aside their differences to form the New Hazard unit, but Shingo betrayed Hulk and attacked him as part of the Real Hazard formation, something which has always been referenced by both of them since and would in fact be the catalyst for Hulk going heel for the first time in 2011 (basically returning the favor and betraying Shingo back when it looked like they were going to be on the same side again; the two have never been in the same unit since the end of NH in 2008). After several years as a heel in Blood Warriors and MAD BLANKEY, Hulk finally returned to his babyface roots in mid-2014, leaving MB to form the Dia.Hearts unit alongside Mochizuki and Dragon Kid. 2014 wound up being a big year for him, as he won the Dream Gate for the first time and then successfully defended it against his rival Shingo (who had beaten Hulk time and again in their big singles matches for years before this) at Final Gate 2014. 2015 wasn’t so kind to him however, as he lost the Dream Gate to Masato Yoshino and has been sidelined by an injury for most of the year. He remains out as we head into 2016, but once he recovers he should resume his position as one of the key players.
YAMATO, another DG trueborn, has been linked heavily to Shingo for most of his career, starting with the New Hazard formation. YAMATO was clearly positioned as the most heelish member of NH right from the very start, and had a memorable feud with veteran Don Fuji at the time that the promotion referenced for years afterward. He actually left NH for Muscle Outlawz about a month before the Real Hazard angle happened, but that turned out to be a ruse of course. After Shingo left Real Hazard a few months after its formation, YAMATO was briefly considered something of a leader of the heel unit (perhaps co-leader with Gamma), before he had his own exodus to the babyface side the following year in mid-2009. YAMATO ended up back with Shingo again as part of the Kamikaze unit, and the two would basically remain together for the next four years through a few more units. Finally YAMATO gave in to his heel heritage when he turned on Shingo and joined MAD BLANKEY in 2013, quickly displacing Tozawa as its leader. His role as top heel remained for the past two years, picking up two short Dream Gate reigns in the process, before YAMATO settled into more of a secondary role in the new VerserK heel unit following MB’s disbanding. He and Doi are currently dominant Twin Gate champions, as YAMATO ironically finds himself following Shingo yet again.
Akira Tozawa has had a very turbulent career; though he clearly had charisma right from the start, he was considered something of a problem child in Dragon Gate (with frequent rumors of backstage misconduct) and his push was thus far below what the rest of his peers received for many years after they all debuted. He did have his own unit named after him, the comedy-focused and manga-inspired “cram school” unit Tozawajuku (a place where a man can gain polish!!!), but amazingly he was never considered the strongest member of his own unit! The key for Tozawa ended up being a year-long excursion to America in May 2010. By the time he returned to Dragon Gate after touring all over the US and receiving rave reviews everywhere he went, Tozawa had clearly leveled up to a comparable position with his generational peers. Initially a heel with Blood Warriors and then the leader of MAD BLANKEY, Tozawa was too popular to keep on the heel side, and would go on to become one of the founding members of Monster Express in 2013. The Western fanbase in particular has seemingly been waiting for him to win the Dream Gate title for the past four years; perhaps 2016 will finally be the year for him.
Last and absolutely least, Cyber Kong has been Dragon Gate’s power fighter and heel monster since his discovery in the US in 2006 (he is a Japanese native, despite being unearthed overseas). The self-proclaimed “real monster” of Dragon Gate has seen his rank fluctuate a lot over the years, probably because he has become somewhat infamous for laying a proverbial egg in big Dream Gate challenges (with his challenge of CIMA in 2012 being almost legendarily bad). As a big, powerful dude, he thus has spent a lot more time on the heel side than most, though he did have a couple of short runs outside of the heel units in Kamikaze & New Hazard. Kong remains a member of VerserK at the moment, but could be in for some unit movement in 2016, as he’s been having issues with his frequent partner Mondai Ryu. It’s tough to imagine Mondai turning babyface, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Kong land somewhere like Monster Express soon enough.
Sixth Generation: Kzy, Mondai Ryu
The sixth generation are, in my mind, the “NEX Generation”: wrestlers who primarily came up through the Dragon Gate NEX system. Though Tozawa and Kong both competed in NEX as well, they had competed either in DG proper or overseas first; Kzy and Mondai both debuted in NEX and later graduated to DG. They had more generational contemporaries at the time but all of them are gone from DG (and several of them, such as the man who many think was being groomed as ace of the group, Lupin Matsutani, have retired from wrestling completely).
Both Kzy and Ryu debuted on December 9, 2006. Kzy was originally “mc KZ”, a babyface hip-hop enthusiast. After an excursion to Mexico, he returned to the roster in 2008 to some fanfare, as one of the founding members of the World-1 unit (memorably he was invited to join by Naruki Doi when Doi called him on a cell phone at Korakuen Hall while Kzy was still in Mexico). Kzy settled into a role as World-1’s loss post though, and in 2009 he snapped and turned heel, changing his name in the process. He became Dragon Gate’s longest-tenured heel in history (as in, the longest consecutive period spent as a heel without turning back babyface in between). He was the only wrestler to follow the heel unit lineage of Real Hazard->Deep Drunkers->Team Doi->Blood Warriors->MAD BLANKEY perfectly. But in early 2015, after returning from an injury, he finally got to return to the babyface side of the roster and joined Dia.Hearts. His rank remains lower than it should, as he is very talented.
Mondai Ryu, on the other hand, is not very talented. At all. In fact, his entire gimmick is based around how bad (“salty”) he is, and his theme song is literally the veterans of the roster booing him out of the building. He’s the lowest-ranked member of VerserK, quite easily.
Seventh Generation: Kotoka, T-Hawk, Eita, Yosuke♥Santa Maria, Punch Tominaga
Finally we’re hitting the homestretch here, with wrestlers who debuted between 2009 and 2011. Notably all of these wrestlers but one were members of the Millenials unit: T-Hawk and Eita were founding members, Maria joined soon after, and Kotoka joined in 2014. T-Hawk is the highest ranked of all of these wrestlers, as he main evented this year’s Kobe World Hall show (DG’s annual biggest show of the year) challenging Yoshino for the Dream Gate (though he came up short). Following the end of the Millenials, he ended up as part of Monster Express, and he is currently 1/3rd of the Open the Triangle Gate six-man tag champions with Yoshino & Tozawa. Eita initially looked to be turning heel after the Millenials disbanded, but VerserK turned on him on their very first night as a formal unit. He ended up landing in CIMA’s new Over Generation unit. Kotoka had a lot of issues finding rank early in his career, being a glorified jobber for most of it before taking on the CIBA gimmick as, well, a CIMA-endorsed mini-CIMA. That didn’t bring him much success either, so he reverted to Kotoka, joined the Millenials, and finally has found some success after a heel turn, becoming a founding member of VerserK. He is the current Open the Brave Gate (secondary singles) champion, and says “Bleh” a lot. Yosuke originally was the third incarnation of the Super Shenlong character (Mondai Ryu was the second, by the way) and then briefly just competed as himself. Soon after the Millenials formed he declared his “true feelings” for Eita and brought out his actual self. Now as Yosuke♥Santa Maria, she is mostly a comedy wrestler, although she sometimes shows flashes of surprising strength! She has yet to find a new unit following the dissolution of the Millenials. And Punch Tominaga had a lengthy history as “the most famous trainee in Japan”, as he joined the Dragon system in 2006 but didn’t debut in Dragon Gate until 2011! After losing a match to Kotoka where the loser had to take on a punch perm haircut, notorious for its popularity with Yakuza types and other unsavory characters, Punch became a violent, out-of-control heel in MAD BLANKEY. He was blocked from joining VerserK due to his perceived weakness and initially served as Shingo Takagi’s personal servant, before he finally turned on Shingo and became a babyface in Over Generation. He is almost inexplicably popular.
Eighth Generation: U-T, Big R Shimizu, El Lindaman, Takehiro Yamamura, Kaito Ishida
Our final generation to discuss is the most recent, beginning with the debuts of U-T and Big R Shimizu in 2013. U-T started out in dark matches before suddenly getting whisked away to Mexico by the Millenials on the night that was supposed to be his main roster debut. He then re-emerged with the rest of the Millenials unit upon their formal introduction to Dragon Gate, but he hasn’t found a new unit since the Millenials ended and has been something of a jobber of late. Big R Shimizu initially competed as Ryotsu Shimizu, a manga-inspired powerhouse. Shimizu would undergo a minor transformation and name change upon joining Dia.Hearts in October 2014. Initially he found much success thanks to his new Shot Put Slam (a callback to his prior history as a shot putter), putting away a lot of big names in DG and reigning as 1/3rd of the Triangle Gate champions. His push seemed to be scaled back a lot in the second half of 2015, following an odd incident where he appeared to lose his ring gear prior to a show and got publicly dressed down by CIMA for it. He enters 2016 as a big dude in Dia.Hearts who has been losing a lot lately.
El Lindaman was the sole DG wrestler to debut in 2014, initially competing under his real name. At first he didn’t want anything to do with the Millenials, making him stand out from his peers, and was something of a protege of CIMA for much of the year. But after CIMA and his fellow Veterans were taken into MAD BLANKEY and embraced their new heel roles, a disgusted Lindaman decided to join the Millenials in order to fight against them. He then took on his current name (apparently naming himself after a song called “Linda, Linda”) which certainly stands out. Following the end of the Millenials, he dyed his hair pink to match his cherry blossom-themed gear and his use of a cape ended up being aped by the rest of the new Over Generation unit, of which Lindaman was a founding member (putting him back alongside CIMA once again, as apparently all was forgiven). DG pretty clearly has big things in mind for him in the future, and he’s picked up a number of falls of late with his Locomotion Tiger Suplex finisher (two Germans then a Tiger Suplex).
Finally, the two newest Dragon Gate roster members are Yamamura & Ishida, both of whom debuted in 2015 and then were endorsed by CIMA almost immediately. In fact, it can be said that how quickly the two have grown in popularity was the main inspiration for the Over Generation unit, with the theme of the oldest & youngest members of the roster coming together. Yamamura & Ishida were both also founding members of that unit, of course.
And that’s it, we’re finally done! Over 5,700 words later, hopefully you understand the history of Dragon Gate and the various generations of the roster better. Next time, we’ll discuss where all these wrestlers fit into DG’s various units. If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see covered in this series in the future, please let me know either in the comments, by e-mail (masudoreiidx @ gmail) or on Twitter (@toshanshuinla). Thanks and see you next time!