Welcome to part 2 of our Dragon Gate 101 series, dedicated to bringing new fans up to speed on everything Dragon Gate so you can dive right into the shows without feeling completely lost!
As we went over in our first entry, Dragon Gate has a rich past and a complex web of characters and gimmicks based on the generations, past storylines and turns, and more. Last time we went over as much of the history of the promotion as we could in a highly condensed format and then broke down the entire current DG roster into eight distinct generations. As I mentioned then, it’s incredibly difficult to talk about the current unit landscape in DG without understanding the generational divides, so definitely go back and read that one first if you haven’t already! Today, we’ll get into all the units that currently make up Dragon Gate — their history, formation, and finally their outlook and questions as we begin 2016.
Units (or, if you prefer the American terminology, stables or factions) are a huge part of Dragon Gate, and have been since its very inception. Back in the Toryumon Japan days, we established a system of one primary heel unit (CRAZY MAX/M2K/Do FIXER/Italian Connection/Aagan Issou), one or several tweener units (uh, all of those same units I just listed except Aagan!), and then the “home army” or “Toryumon sekigun” (which itself became a unit as Shin M2K….yes, confusing I know!) as the babyfaces.
This formula was shaken up quite a bit by the time Dragon Gate started in 2004, but the “one heel unit” principle has stayed intact throughout the entire run of the promotion, so all of the heels are usually along one united front. The heel unit in DG has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but a few things remain constant: a willingness to cheat and interfere, a penchant for throwing “protein powder” (dating back to the fact that the original DG heel unit, Blood Generation, had a “pure body”/fitness theme; strangely enough the throwing of protein powder has remained years after this theme has been dropped!), and finally a signature weapon that can date itself all the way back to Toryumon: the box. Literally it’s just a plastic box that makes a nice loud sound when you hit someone with it. Originally it was “the blue box” when the very first incarnation of M2K introduced it; after Aagan Issou started using a red box, the color ended up matching that of the unit. So for example, MAD BLANKEY would hit their opponents with a yellow box (well, actually it was a black box that had yellow & red tape all over it but for some reason the announcers would still refer to it as “the yellow box”) to match their signboard color. Basically, if you can’t stand interference in your wrestling you should be advised that it is a pretty standard feature of Dragon Gate when the heel unit is involved; not that there aren’t clean matches in DG (there are plenty), but interference and shenanigans have been here since the very beginning and they aren’t going anywhere. No distraction finishes though, at least!
Where DG has shifted the unit formula a little is on tweener units and the babyface sekigun. While there are unaligned wrestlers in DG, as you’ll see when we get to them they do not function as a de facto babyface army the way they did in Toryumon Japan (and the way they still do in promotions like New Japan). Instead, the unaligned wrestlers are comedy guys and veterans who prefer to stay off “the front lines”, so to speak (that concept comes up a lot during promos, in fact). Instead, the babyfaces are spread out among several different units. Arguably you could say that one unit best represents the concept of a “home army” or primary babyface unit at any one time; for instance, I think you could make a very compelling case WORLD-1 were the primary babyface unit throughout their run in DG. But what you ultimately have is a bunch of distinct face units that feud with the heel unit but also with each other!
Finally, the tweener unit is a concept that comes-and-goes in modern DG. It had been a staple of Toryumon Japan just because of the CRAZY MAX effect; the CIMA-lead group started out as Toryumon’s original heel unit, but became so immensely popular that they had to be turned to a degree. So they would essentially act as babyfaces when feuding with the even more dastardly M2K, but still play their role as heels when going up against the Toryumon sekigun (of course, there were 3-way matches too!). This concept repeated later (sort of, with very different circumstances) with other ex-heel units like Do FIXER and the Italian Connection; it should also be noted that at some point, all of these units (even CM) dropped the pretense of even being tweener and were just full-on babyface units. Once the changeover to DG happened, we totally lost the concept of entire heel units turning; instead, individual wrestlers in the heel unit would break off and either join existing babyface units or form new ones, but the heel unit itself would either absorb the loss and continue on or fold entirely (to be replaced by another dastardly heel unit, of course).
Instead, I would argue the only true tweener units in DG were the two DG trueborn-only units we talked about in my last piece: 2007’s New Hazard and 2013’s Millenials. With their strict generation-based insistence on membership and their aggressive stance towards/lack of respect for their veteran elders, babyfaces included, calling these two units “babyface units” would not be accurate at all. But they also went up against the heel unit of their time too (Muscle Outlawz and MAD BLANKEY, respectively) and were clearly positioned as the faces when they did so. These are the true tweener units of modern Dragon Gate. Currently one does not exist, but if another tweener unit emerges expect it to be something along those lines.
With all that background information out of the way, let’s take a look at the current units of DG! And there’s obviously only one place to start.
(Thank you to SPORA for all of the header images, taken from the unit blogs. Also, note the asterisk next to some wrestlers’ names: this indicates they are a former Open the Dream Gate champion, the highest honor in DG. The number of former Dream champions is a pretty decent representation of a unit’s overall strength.)
Current Members: Shingo Takagi*, YAMATO*, Naruki Doi*, Kotoka, Naoki Tanizaki, Cyber Kong, Mondai Ryu
One of my prevailing theories about Dragon Gate is that there is almost a direct correlation between the overall DG quality and the quality of the heel unit. When the heel unit is really good and taken seriously as a threat, like in 2005 with Blood Generation (among many other examples) the shows tend to be quite good as well. When the heel unit is really bad and impossible to take seriously on the same level as the babyfaces- yes I am looking at you Deep Drunkers! — the shows tend to be worse (2010 is pretty easily my least favorite year in Dragon Gate history, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was mostly the Deep Drunkers Year). So if we accept this premise, we absolutely should start by talking about the heel unit, because they’re arguably the most important unit in Dragon Gate!
Luckily for us, VerserK has been a very high-quality heel unit so far. Some of these units have credibility issues when it comes to taking them seriously as a legitimate threat to the rest of the roster; if anything, VerserK has the exact opposite problem. You could argue that they are slightly overpowered.
Yes, they still have Mondai Ryu on the absolute bottom of the bottom rung, but they also have the most former Dream Gate holders of any unit at 3 (Shingo, YAMATO, & Doi). On top of that, Kotoka has the Brave Gate, Naoki is not the strongest roster member but he’s no slouch either, and Cyber Kong for all his other flaws is certainly not a weakling. When you add their strength to the fact that they still cheat outrageously, you can understand why VerserK has dominated Dragon Gate since their inception. As I write this, they have three of the four real championships.
Like all of the heel units in DG since Blood Gen, VerserK can trace its origins directly back to the last heel unit’s dissolution. When MAD BLANKEY lost a Unit Must Disband elimination match to the Jimmyz back on August 16, most of the members stayed on as heels and ended up part of this unit too. YAMATO, Doi, Kong, and Mondai Ryu are the four who served in MB and continued on to form VerserK. Shingo Takagi had been a part of the babyface unit Monster Express, but “Mr. Selfish” was tired of dealing with the “friendship club BS” (in his own words) that had been ME’s calling card since day one. Shingo won the Dream Gate title from then-unitmate Masato Yoshino on the same show MB came to an end, and then followed up by assaulting Yoshino’s longtime best friend and partner, Shachihoko BOY, for good measure. He was ejected from ME as a result (and we’ll discuss this whole angle in greater detail during their section, as it’s more important to them), but he didn’t seem to care. His vision was to bring “reality to Dragon Gate”, stating quite clearly that “the weak will be eaten”. VerserK is the result of his vision. They are easily the strongest heel unit Dragon Gate has had in years, and the way they are running roughshod over DG has even made many of its longtime fans uncomfortable. Simply put, DG fans are not used to the heels standing tall as often as VerserK has over the past four months.
Other than Shingo and the ex-MB members, they were joined by Kotoka (and originally Eita) from day one, due to the pair’s hatred for T-Hawk after the end of the Millenials (hatred and jealousy over T-Hawk’s main event spot at Dragon Gate’s biggest show of the year back in July was another thing that originally brought this unit together). Eita ended up being a VerserK member for all of two and a half minutes, as he was kicked out of the unit during the very segment of their formal introduction, but Kotoka has stayed — and found the most success of his career by a wide, wide margin. Naoki Tanizaki was the last member to join, on October 8. He had an issue with newest Jimmyz member K-ness dating back to that Jimmyz vs. MAD BLANKEY disband match, and after months of in-fighting finally turned on his teammates to join VerserK (dropping his beloved “Mr. Quu Quu Toyonaka Dolphin” name in the process, which is….a story of its own). Naoki had been a heel before but not since an injury took him out of Blood Warriors about four years ago, so seeing him return to the bad side has been quite fun already.
VerserK’s name and general theming comes from the concept of the ancient Norse “berserker warriors”, warriors who were supposedly legendary for their “savagery and reckless fury”. This makes sense when you think of what the unit has done so far- they have indeed taken DG by storm with, well, savage and reckless fury! It is named “VerserK” instead of “berserk” for simply stylistic reasons, although most of the time the members pronounce it like “berserk” anyway. Personally I usually forget this and end up saying “verserk” out loud most of the time, so if you’ve been doing that too don’t feel too bad!
Overall, this is a very dangerous and formidable heel unit that is currently dominating Dragon Gate. One of the only questions surrounding it as we begin 2016 is whether “real monster” Cyber Kong and “saltiest wrestler in the world” Mondai Ryu can continue to co-exist as a team. They’ve been tagging for quite a while now, dating back to their days in MAD BLANKEY together, but lately have been experiencing a lot of friendly fire issues during their matches. They’re trying to work through it, but this could easily explode and end up with one of them leaving VerserK and returning to the babyface side of the roster. Who that might be, I’m honestly not sure! I would think Kong would be more likely than Ryu (whose entire gimmick is based around how bad he is), but who knows really?
Current Members: BxB Hulk*, Masaaki Mochizuki*, Dragon Kid, Big R Shimizu, Kzy, Flamita
When this unit was first formed in September 2014, I thought they were going to be the primary babyface unit for DG going forward. They had some callbacks to WORLD-1 in their logo (diamonds!) and color scheme, which makes sense because BxB Hulk was a prominent W-1 member and he founded this unit as well. It just felt like this was supposed to be the big unit, but things really haven’t worked out that way so far, and they begin 2016 searching desperately for momentum.
The unit started well enough: BxB Hulk, one of the first DG trueborns and a signature player in the promotion, finally returned to the babyface side after spending about three years as a heel in Blood Warriors and MAD BLANKEY. He looked to start a new unit and reached out to veterans Masaaki Mochizuki and Dragon Kid, both who left the Team Veteran Returns unit to join him.
About a month after their formal introduction, they were joined by the popular power fighter/rookie Ryota Shimizu, who then changed his name to Big R Shimizu. The foursome went into 2015 with a lot of success: BxB Hulk was the reigning Dream Gate champion dating back to before the unit had even formed (he won the belt from YAMATO at the annual Kobe World show in July 2014), and the trio of Mochizuki/DK/Shimizu added the Open the Triangle Gate trios titles at Final Gate 2014 on December 28, winning them from the Jimmyz. This championship success was only added to when they received a surprise defection.
Kzy had been one of the most prolific heels in the history of Dragon Gate. Originally a hip-hop enthusiast named mc KZ, he turned on (ironically enough) WORLD-1 to join Real Hazard way back in 2008, and ended up staying heel for the longest consecutive time in DG history.
Indeed, he had remained a bad guy through not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE unit changes! As 2015 began, Kzy was still a member of MAD BLANKEY but was injured at the time. When Dr. Muscle, a longtime recurring masked heel character portrayed by a number of different wrestlers over the years, won the tournament to crown a new Open the Brave Gate champion (the secondary singles title in DG) with help from the rest of MB, many people guessed it would turn out to be a returning Kzy. But what no one expected was that, after unmasking as Dr. Muscle, Kzy would finally turn babyface and join Dia.Hearts! That gave Dia.Hearts three of the four main titles in DG at once, as every single one of their five members was a champion!
But this level of success was fleeting for Dia. After a successful first defense against perennial MB whipping boy Mondai Ryu, Kzy lost his title to Akira Tozawa on February 28. He had never held a singles title before the Brave Gate and doesn’t look close to recapturing one without the benefit of heel shenanigans, as his rank remains distressingly low (despite being an undeniably talented performer). The trio of Mochi/DK/Shimizu would then lose their Triangle Gate belts just a month later on March 29, the titles returning to the Jimmyz unit.
While Mochizuki remains a legend and Dragon Kid is still a dynamic high-flyer even at his age, the young Shimizu would hit the proverbial wall. He had a very rough 2015, especially in the second-half when he seemed to be taking falls left and right.
Most concerning of all was the fate of their leader. BxB Hulk dropped his Dream Gate title to Masato Yoshino on June 14, finally finishing off the run of Dia.Hearts losing all their titles. In mid-October, he was quietly pulled from all lineups due to a shoulder injury, and updates have not exactly been forthcoming since. Obviously losing their leader and the man who designed the very look and presentation of the unit has been a huge blow for them; if anyone is Dia, it’s Hulk. The group had added Mexican import Flamita (formerly of the Millenials ) earlier the same month, but he is a part timer at best (his last appearance in DG was on November 1st, as he’s competed exclusively in Mexico since then and has no return announced as I write this).
Dia.Hearts, whose name is meant to signify their strength (unbreakable diamonds and strong hearts, you get the drill; as I mentioned earlier it’s also a callback to WORLD-1), are nowhere near the strongest unit in DG at the moment. Perhaps once Hulk returns they can get back on their feet, but right now they are sort of drifting aimlessly. We’ll see what 2016 has in store for them.
Current Members: Masato Yoshino*, Akira Tozawa, T-Hawk, Shachihoko BOY
A unit founded on the bonds of friendship and enjoying professional wrestling together, Monster Express has been a very up-and-down unit for most of its history. Ironically enough it was one of their top stars leaving last year that lead to them finally feeling like they had a consistent purpose and mattered in the larger scheme of Dragon Gate.
Back in the summer of 2013, Dragon Gate was going through a unit turmoil period (these periods involve a lot of Unit Must Disband matches and/or general strife that causes turns and units to break up/form). YAMATO had been part of the troubled -akatsuki- unit with Shingo Takagi, but during a defense of their Twin Gate titles against MAD BLANKEY members Tozawa & Hulk on June 15 he turned on Shingo, finally going heel for the first time in four years and joining MB. On August 1, MAD BLANKEY and -akatsuki- faced off in a very memorable Unit Must Disband match that saw MB come out on top, forcing -akatsuki- to disband. However, immediately after the match the entire unit turned on Tozawa, ejecting the group’s founding leader (YAMATO would take over that position immediately). Tozawa and Shingo rekindled their friendship (they had been close when they were in Kamikaze together in 2009, prior to Tozawa’s heel turn in 2011) and decided to present a united front. They were quickly joined by Tozawa’s best friend in MAD BLANKEY, Uhaa Nation, who refused to fight against Tozawa and left the heel group to join them.
Meanwhile, another struggling unit was Yoshino & Doi’s World-1 International. Just like -akatsuki-, the unit had emerged following the end of the Blood Warriors vs. Junction 3 feud in 2012, but had failed to really gain any traction. It came to an abrupt end on September 12, 2013, when Naruki Doi turned on his longtime partner Yoshino for the second time (he had also betrayed him in 2010 when the two were in the original World-1 together), turning heel and joining MAD BLANKEY. Given the fact that the unit had been struggling anyway, Yoshino chose to voluntarily disband it in the aftermath of Doi’s betrayal. Tozawa, Shingo, and Uhaa appealed to Yoshino to join their “friendship club”, and Yoshino happily agreed. His longtime best friend and fellow World-1 International member Shachihoko BOY quickly followed Yoshino into the fledgling unit as well, as did the popular gaijin Ricochet (another W-1 International member). Suddenly a formidable unit looked to be forming, and they received their official name and logo on October 6th. Their color ended up being orange (very, very orange), which you either loved or hated.
Initially the unit found a lot of success: Yoshino won the Dream Gate from YAMATO on October 10, 2013 (just four days after the formal introduction), and a few months later on December 22nd Shingo & Tozawa added the Twin Gate titles. Yoshino lost his Dream Gate to his own unit mate, Ricochet, on March 2nd, 2014 (Ricochet becoming the first-ever gaijin champion), and Ricochet then turned around and successfully defended it against Uhaa in an all-gaijin Korakuen main event. But the inter-Monster Express Dream Gate madness came to an end when Ricochet dropped the belt to YAMATO on May 5th. The Twin Gate soon followed a few months later on July 20th, as Shingo & Tozawa lots the belts to the Millenials team of T-Hawk and Eita. Suddenly Monster Express hit a bit of a slump and lost a lot of its relevancy, due in no small part to Uhaa & Ricochet’s sudden departures. After July of 2014 Ricochet wouldn’t return to DG until June 2015 (and was gone again a month later, having yet to appear since; it seems as though New Japan is his new home overseas now). Uhaa, on the other hand, was on the shows through early September 2014, but then disappeared until February of 2015. He would then wrestle his last match in Dragon Gate on March 1st, leading to his tearful goodbye and subsequent defection to NXT.
Without their two top-level gaijin, Monster Express struggled for the rest of 2014. Things picked up again in early 2015 with some much-needed championship success, their first since Shingo & Tozawa lost the Twin Gate: on February 28th, 2015, Tozawa defeated Kzy for the Open the Brave Gate title (in one of the best matches of the entire year, in any promotion). A few days later on March 1st, Yoshino & Shachihoko BOY won the Twin Gate titles from the team of YAMATO & Cyber Kong. Nothing reflected the original “best friends coming together” theme of Monster Express better than this championship win of the longtime best friend team, and it was an enormous moment for Shachi, who other than a couple brief Triangle Gate reigns had never won a championship before. Yoshino & Shachi dropped the tag titles back to MAD BLANKEY a few months later on June 13th, this time in the form of YAMATO & Naruki Doi (who continue to reign as champions as I write this today). However, the blow was softened by Yoshino quickly winning his third Dream Gate title, as he defeated BxB Hulk for the belt the very next day! And then, suddenly, everything changed.
Shingo Takagi had grown unhappy with the state of things- not just in Monster Express, but also in Dragon Gate as a whole too. The issues began when Yoshino proposed an intergenerational team with T-Hawk at the end of their Kobe World main event for the Dream Gate. Shingo was so displeased by this proposal that he actually walked out on Yoshino’s show-closing speech in protest, which began a period of deep unrest. Shingo was unhappy that he took a back seat to Yoshino, Shachi, & Tozawa’s championship success only to watch Yoshino choose to team with a non-unit member and general rabble-rouser like T-Hawk (he was also very displeased with Yoshino when the actual championship belt went missing, which really did happen and DG then worked it into their storylines). This lead to Shingo eventually challenging Yoshino for the Dream Gate, while repeatedly insulting poor Shachi as too weak and thus unworthy of being in the unit. On August 16th, Shingo shockingly defeated Yoshino for the title, and then immediately followed up by assaulting Shachi, cementing his heel turn. Though Shingo had expected his longtime friend Tozawa to side with him, Tozawa instead sided with Yoshino & Shachi, and they collectively announced Shingo was gone from the unit just a few days later.
At the same time this turmoil was happening, a couple units had come to an end. The Millenials and MAD BLANKEY both lost Unit Must Disband matches during August (more on that when we get to the Jimmyz), as the unit shuffle was back in full effect. Shingo appealed to the newly unit-less T-Hawk to fight with him against YAMATO & Doi in a shocking bit of hypocrisy (remember, it was Yoshino offering to team with T-Hawk that started all this!), as he wanted to take the Twin Gate to go with his new Dream Gate title and appealed to T-Hawk’s desire for revenge on them for ending the Millenials . However, this turned out to be a ruse, and Shingo instead turned on T-Hawk during the match, joining up with YAMADoi (they would of course go on to form VerserK together). The still unit-less T-Hawk was then approached by the remaining Monster Express members, and on September 23rd he officially joined the unit. Monster Express at least had four members again.
As 2015 drew to a close, Monster Express once again found championship gold. Yoshino, T-Hawk, and Tozawa teamed up as a very formidable trio, and together they won a tournament to crown new Open the Triangle Gate champions on December 6th. Finally armed with titles again, Monster Express begins 2016 looking refreshed and refocused. T-Hawk already seems like a better fit for the unit than “Mr. Selfish” Shingo Takagi, and this band of friends will likely end up leading the way in the fight to take back Dragon Gate from the iron grip of VerserK.c
Current Members: Jimmy Susumu*, Jimmy Kagetora, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito*, Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!, Jimmy Kness J.K.S, Jimmy Kanda
What started out as a play on words (“jimi” or 地味 in Japanese basically means plain or simple) and a forced stipulation has become the longest-running unit in Dragon Gate history.
The popularity of the Jimmyz has been amazing since day one, and with their incredible merchandise sales combined with how good the unit is together, I’m not sure they’ll be breaking up anytime soon either.
One of the important things when it comes to understand the Jimmyz and their appeal is that nearly all of these wrestlers have a long history of unit activity together. It would take far too long for me to explain the entire complicated backstory of how these wrestlers have been together in the past (and believe me, this post is long enough already!), but I’ll try to give you the short version. Kagetora did not enter Dragon Gate until 2008, but as we went over in our last entry the rest of these wrestlers are all second generation (except Kness, who is considered first gen) and were all around way back in Toryumon Japan. Susumu and Kanda were both founding members of the legendary M2K unit, along with Masaaki Mochizuki. Horiguchi, Saito, and Kness all joined during later stages of M2K/Do FIXER (M2K became DF after Magnum TOKYO usurped Mochi as leader and Kanda had to retire due to injury, though obviously he came back as an active competitor years later), so they were essentially all part of the same lineage. The group has been together at other various times in DG as well, and features a number of impressive and famous tag team combinations: Susumu and K-ness as K-nesuka, Ryo Saito & Genki as Maraha Isappa, and Ryo & Susumu as RyoSuka.
With all that said, let’s now explain how the Jimmyz were formed: back in late 2011, Susumu Yokosuka & KAGETORA were a budding tag team in Junction Three, during the height of the JIII vs. Blood Warriors feud (this was the only period in DG history where there were only two units, as nearly the entire roster was split into them). They wanted to challenge BW’s Twin Gate champions, Tozawa & Hulk. Tozawa & Hulk agreed but on a strange condition: if Susumu & KAGETORA lost, they would have to change their names to Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora in order to better reflect how plain and dull they were. Of course, Susumu & KAGETORA lost that match. As a side note, this was not Susumu’s first forced name change- originally he fought under his real name of Susumu Mochizuki (hence the name of the M2K unit- two Mochis and one Kanda) but after Masaaki Mochizuki (no relation) left M2K the two had a Mochizuki contra Mochizuki match, with the loser forced to change their last name to their hometown. Susumu embraced that name change due to how proud he was to come from Yokosuka, and ultimately he & the newly named Jimmy Kagetora embraced this one too! The glasses both wore when not competing became a symbol of pride, basically embracing their own dorkiness, and the two found some surprising success with their new names.
Meanwhile, things were changing in Blood Warriors in early 2012. They officially won the feud against Junction Three, defeating them in a Unit Must Disband match, but afterwards BW turned on their leader CIMA and ejected him! Tozawa took over as leader and began remaking the unit in his own image, which generally involved a lot of abuse hurled at the older members of the unit. Three of those men, Yasushi Kanda, Genki Horiguchi, and Ryo Saito, all came together as basically ex-BW refugees. They were approached by Susumu & Kagetora about joining them in a new Jimmyz unit, but the three rejected it, with Genki memorably responding “None of us need to wear glasses.” However, on March 3rd the three would suddenly change their tune: after winning the Triangle Gate titles in a tournament final, they all decided to join them after all, voluntarily taking on new Jimmyz names. Kanda became Jimmy Kanda, Ryo Saito became Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, and the funniest change of all was Genki Horiguchi’s. For many years Horiguchi heard the chants of “H-A-G-E”, as “hage” is the Japanese word for “bald”. Initially meant to mock the then-heel’s early male-pattern baldness, the chant and Genki became so popular that it almost turned the entire Do FIXER unit babyface. Now that he was returning to the face side again following his latest heel run in Blood Warriors, Genki wanted to embrace the chant once more, but this time with a twist: instead of “H-A-G-E” it became “H-A-Gee-Mee!”, to match the other Jimmyz! Needless to say, the crowd was very delighted with this turn of events.
Susumu & Kagetora, now with newfound tag success and some old friends backing them up, were granted a rematch with Hulk & Tozawa for the Twin Gate, but with yet another name change stipulation: this time, if Susumu & Kagetora lost, they would have to change their names to simply Jimmy A and Jimmy B! Luckily for us all, they won the match and the titles, and the Jimmyz had two championships right out of the gate.
Fast forward three years now, as the uber-popular Jimmyz remained solid hands on the undercards and racked up mostly Triangle Gate wins. Naoki Tanizaki joined after returning from an injury (and again he had his own name change saga that you can look up yourself- this post is long enough already!), further strengthening their ranks (he also fit in with the ex-Do FIXER theme too). But in August 2015 the unit was facing an existential threat. A long three-way feud with the heel MAD BLANKEY & tweener Millenials units culminated in a three-way, nine-man Unit Must Disband match at Korakuen Hall on August 6. The stipulations were that the match was an elimination tag, and whichever unit had all three of its members eliminated first would have to disband (while the other two would both survive). Eventually it came down to one member left for both the Jimmyz and Millenials , Ryo for the Jimmyz and T-Hawk for the Millenials, while MAD BLANKEY still had both YAMATO & Doi remaining. K-ness, at this time still a MAD BLANKEY member and supporting his group from ringside, suddenly grabbed Ryo and fought with him to the back. That left T-Hawk to be double-teamed and pinned, and the Millenials were no more.
But Doi couldn’t keep his mouth shut afterwards (which is not all that unusual for him) and basically said the Jimmyz should have to disband since Ryo “couldn’t be bothered to finish the match”. Ryo angrily pointed out it was K-ness’ attack that caused him to miss the end, and the resulting argument ended up with another Unit Must Disband match a few weeks later at the big Ota Ward Gymnasium show. This time it would be Jimmyz vs. MAD BLANKEY straight up in an elimination ten-man tag. Two units that had both been around since the very end of the BW-JIII feud three years earlier would clash, with one of them coming to an end. It’s almost impossible for me to overstate how big of a deal this was to Dragon Gate’s loyal Japanese fanbase — not only were the Jimmyz hugely popular but MB had probably the largest fanbase of any heel unit in DG history — and the resulting match did not disappoint, with the crowd absolutely molten hot throughout. In the end, K-ness betrayed MAD BLANKEY, assisting his former partner Susumu when Susumu had been the last man left for his team against both YAMATO & Doi. With his help, Susumu came back and won the match for the Jimmyz, as this strange little collection of secondary wrestlers based on a weird name pun improbably survived two separate unit must disband matches in the span of just a few weeks! K-ness then revealed that he had taken Saito away from the ring in the last Unit Must Disband match on purpose (under the guise of fighting him), as he just didn’t feel ready for the Jimmyz to end.
As a result of all this, K-ness ended up part of the Jimmyz (with the requisite name change, of course; he also had a hard time choosing a signature color, since each member of the Jimmyz has their own color but all the colors he had used in the past were taken, but he ended up settling on pink). This greatly upset Naoki Tanizaki, who had been eliminated from the second contest after K-ness had hit him repeatedly with MAD BLANKEY’s signature yellow box (this sounds like a plot hole but actually isn’t; K-ness revealed in the post-match that he had not initially planned on aiding the Jimmyz this time, but when he saw his longtime partner Susumu in trouble at the very end he finally felt compelled to act). After a few months of in-fighting, the two had a match at Korakuen on October 8th to try and settle their issues. Kness won the match with his signature Hikari no Wa cradle, and Naoki briefly teased that he was ready to make up with Kness and end it. Of course, that was a ruse, and instead he joined VerserK in an attack on the Jimmyz, turning heel and leaving the unit.
Even with that defection, the Jimmyz begin 2016 in a key position. Jimmy Susumu, one of the two former Dream Gate champions in the unit, has stepped up to be Shingo’s next challenger, and will receive his shot in February. With Shingo having disposed of all the major 1st Generation veterans in a row in late 2015 (he defeated Don Fuji, Mochizuki, & CIMA, and also retained against Gamma with some shenanigans), it looks as though it will be up to the 2nd generation to fight him next. Are the Jimmyz ready to rise up to the forefront of Dragon Gate? Can Susumu win the Dream Gate for the first time in a decade? Will Ryo Saito, another man who last held that title in 2006, be next in line if he doesn’t?
Current Members: CIMA*, Gamma, Eita, El Lindaman, Punch Tominaga, Takehiro Yamamura, Kaito Ishida
Finally we have reached the last unit, and the one that will hopefully take the least amount of time to talk about: Over Generation, the most recently formed unit in Dragon Gate.
As we’ve gone over before in the generations article, there was a lot of intergenerational strife in DG for the past few years, due mostly to the rise of the Millenials unit. That unit, if you’ll recall, was only open to those born in 1990 or later, as leaders T-Hawk & Eita openly declared war on all of their elders. The Millenials ultimately caused a lot to be shaken up, including bringing a (hopefully final) end to the on-again, off-again unit of Team Veteran Returns. Already on shaky ground in late 2014 after Mochizuki & Dragon Kid left the group to help form Dia.Hearts, Team Veteran found themselves locked in a bitter feud with theMillenials that culminated in a Unit Must Disband match on November 6th, 2014. T-Hawk, Eita, Maria, and U-T came out on top against CIMA, Gamma, Fuji, & Super Shisa, forcing the end of Team Veteran. A month later on December 3rd, Naruki Doi emerged with one of his Doi Darts boards (literally, a board with wrestlers in Dragon Gate on it that small children throw darts at, resulting in various things happening). Doi was injured at the time and felt MAD BLANKEY needed assistance, so this board had all the wrestlers who were not currently in a unit on it. Whoever the darts landed on would be forced to join MB tempoarily in order to boost the unit in his absence. Thanks to the Millenials all of the ex-Team Veteran members were without a unit, and the darts landed on CIMA & Gamma (longtime partners as “Osaka 06”), Don Fuji, and K-ness. Suddenly they were all MAD BLANKEY members, and with a new way to continue their bitter fight against the Millenials presented to them, all of them embraced it almost shockingly quickly (the fact that they had all been heels in the past certainly helped too).
The Millenials-MAD BLANKEY feud raged on into 2015 (eventually resulting in the end of both units after the Jimmyz got involved too, as we just went over), but the role of the ex-Veteran members came to an end at the big DEAD OR ALIVE show in May. After losing his hair due to a match stipulation, CIMA & the other ex-Veterans were ejected from MAD BLANKEY by Doi. For weeks they had stopped being on the same page, so this ended up being fine with them. K-ness turned on his fellow ex-Veterans and rejoined MB almost immediately (setting up his role in the end of MB soon after), but the other three stuck together and won the Triangle Gate titles. CIMA’s stance then softened on the younger generations. He stopped seeing them as enemies and started realizing how neccesary they were to ensure the future of Dragon Gate, especially in the face of the rising VerserK threat. This all lead to the October 8th Korakuen. Punch Tominaga, who had been a MAD BLANKEY member but was blocked entry into VerserK due to his perceived weakness and instead made into Shingo’s personal slave, had launched a one-man rebellion against them a few shows earlier. No matter how many times they collectively beat him down, PT kept coming at them, further endearing him to a DG fanbase that had already kind of liked him anyway. The ex-Millenial Eita, meanwhile, had originally looked to be turning heel after the end of that group, as he & Kotoka turned on T-Hawk and blamed him for the end of the unit. But instead Eita was betrayed by the rest of VerserK on their very first night as a unit, and he was now looking for revenge. He assisted PT in fighting back against them on this show. El Lindaman, Ishida, & Yamamura soon joined the fight too, and together the five of them were actually able to run off VerserK!
Eita then turned to CIMA & Gamma, two men who had been his enemies for quite a long time, and asked them to join forces. CIMA was initially shocked, but then suddenly decided he loved the idea. Two of the oldest wrestlers on the roster joining forces with the youngest was something he was surprisingly into, so after years of generational fighting it was time to put things aside and work on ensuring Dragon Gate’s future. Fuji was also invited but declined, choosing to remain unaligned (and focusing on his SumoZ project, a sumo-themed grouping of himself & the Jimmyz which happens from time-to-time but isn’t considered a real unit); the three would vacate their Triangle Gate belts soon after. CIMA wished him luck and the two longtime friends went in seperate directions.
The new unit formally revealed their name and logo the next month at the start of the Gate of Destiny PPV. Their gaudy neon colors don’t make for the best ring gear, but all wrestlers do get capes (taking after El Lindaman, who already had one) which is kind of neat. Over Generation begins 2016 in a bit of a strange position. CIMA & Gamma both failed to take back the Dream Gate from Shingo and will now step away from that front line, CIMA failing to help restore “the Dragon Gate he helped build” that he felt Shingo had perverted. This kind of rare, total failure on CIMA’s part perhaps signals that his main role will be as mentor to the kids from now on. With the guidance of CIMA & Gamma, can the kids of Over Generation help the unit make a real impact in 2016?
Unaligned: Don Fujii*, Yosuke♡Santa Maria, Super Shisa, Kenichiro Arai, U-T, “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa
Finally, these are all the Dragon Gate roster members who do not currently belong to a unit. Don Fuji, as mentioned, is a former Open the Dream Gate champion who frequently finds himself without a formal unit affiliation. He is semi-affiliated with the Jimmyz through the SumoZ project, where together Fuji & the Jimmyz occasionally, uh, pretend to be sumos (Fuji himself actually is an ex-sumo!). Maria is an immensely popular character who has yet to join a new unit since the end of the Millenials. She functions as a fun babyface attraction, a comedy wrestler who can occasionally find some surprising strength (and of late she’s been winning the fall in every tag match she’s in, so they’re clearly building her up for something right now). Shisa & Kenichiro Arai (or AraKen as he’s affectionately known) were both in Team Veteran Returns but haven’t found a new unit since. They aren’t on many shows, usually just Tokyo-area ones, so it’s not surprising they don’t have a new unit yet.
U-T is a very small wrestler who was one of the first members of the Millenials, but like Maria he hasn’t found a new unit yet. He’s been teaming up with the Dia.Hearts members a lot lately but has also been getting pinned in almost every match he’s in, and berated by Mochizuki for his lack of progress compared to his generational peers. Finally, Stalker Ichikawa is the weakest wrestler in the world. That’s not my opinion, that’s objective fact. He is almost never in a unit, other than occasional stints in Team Veteran and a very brief (and super-embarrassing!) stay in Crazy MAX way back in Toryumon Japan.
So that’s the current unit landscape in DG!
Amazingly this article ended up being even longer than the first one, so I thank you for reading. Next time, we’ll talk about Dragon Gate’s championships, tournaments, and their event calendar. And remember, if you have any suggestions on topics you’d like to see covered in this series, please contact me either via e-mail (masudoreiidx @ gmail) or Twitter (@toshanshuinla); I’ve already received some really good ones that I plan on including in this series, so thanks and keep them coming!