Dragon Gate 101 continues with our third post! If you’ve missed any of the series beforehand, please find those entries below:
Part 1: History & Generations
(discussing a basic overview of DG’s Toryumon roots and breaking down the current roster into eight separate generations; these generational divides are a huge part of Dragon Gate’s recurring storylines, and thus essential to understanding the promotion)
Part 2: The Units
(DG is well-known for its unit system, as almost the entire roster is a part of a unit, or stable/faction in US speak. this post talks about the formation of each unit, their major themes, and otherwise elaborates on them)
In addition to the DG 101 series, I was recently a part of the debut of VOW’s first-ever Dragon Gate podcast, Open the Voice Gate. OtVG is a new podcast that should be airing 1-2 times per month, talking all things DG past & present. Our first episode had a 2015 year-in-review theme, as we discussed the end of the Millenials & MAD BLANKEY units (and their ultimate legacies in DG lore, as well as their effect on their participants), the formation of VerserK, and finally previewed the upcoming Monster Express vs. Dia.Hearts Unit Must Disband match (which will take place on the 2/4 Korakuen Hall show).
With all those plugs out of the way, let’s get into today’s topics. We’ve got three to get to in total: DG’s championships, its annual tournaments, and its event calendar (and how you can watch!).
DG has four serious titles: the Open the Dream Gate, Open the Brave Gate, Open the Twin Gate, and Open the Triangle Gate. With the exception of the Twin, all have been around since nearly the very beginning of DG (the Dream Gate came first right from Day 1, followed by the Triangle later in 2004, and the Brave in early 2005). These belts have odd names compared to most titles in wrestling, but they are ultimately very similar to what you’re already used to as a wrestling fan. The Dream Gate is the World title of DG, the top singles prize that indicates you are the very best in the company. The Brave Gate is the secondary singles title, with a weight limit of 82 kilograms (about 187 pounds). The Twin Gate is the tag team title, and the Triangle Gate is the trios or six-man tag team title.
Let’s break down each belt in further detail, along with the current champion and some historical facts about each:
Current Champion: Shingo Takagi (def. Masato Yoshino, August 16th, 2015)
Most Reigns: CIMA, YAMATO, Masato Yoshino, Shingo Takagi (tied, 3)
Longest Reign: CIMA (574 days, 12/25/11-7/21/13)
The Dream Gate is the top prize in DG, held only by the absolute best of the best. When the changeover happened from Toryumon Japan to Dragon Gate, CIMA was named the first Open the Dream Gate champion due to the fact that he was the current holder of Toryumon’s top prize, the Ultimo Dragon Gym title. His first reign did not last long, as he was beaten in just his second defense, but CIMA would make up for it later with his massive, 574-day long reign that saw him defend the title an astonishing 15 times. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been two Open the Dream Gate champions who never made a successful defense at all: Ryo Saito won the belt from Magnitude Kishiwada on February 24th, 2006, only to lose it to Susumu Yokosuka (now Jimmy Susumu, Saito’s Jimmyz unitmate) on April 23rd in his very first attempted defense. Almost exactly 7-and-a-half years later, Shingo Takagi came up short in the first defense of his second title reign; he ended CIMA’s aforementioned epic reign at the annual Kobe World show on July 21st, 2013, only to see YAMATO take the title from him in his very first defense at Korakuen Hall on August 23rd. Shingo, too, is now in the same unit as the man who brought his Dream Gate reign to an embarrassing end, as both are members of VerserK. That’s kind of funny.
The Dream Gate title belt has a few interesting physical quirks. You may notice that giant key hole in the picture above, which yes is literally a locked gate. Beneath it lies the name plate of the current champion. Each challenger is given a challenger key once they are named the number one contender. This key will unlock the gate if they win and become the new champion, allowing them to replace the name plate with their own. But if they lose, on the other hand, the current champion takes their key and attaches it to the bottom of the belt as a trophy. This means you can always tell how many successful defenses the champion has in their current reign just by looking at the belt; if there are four keys hanging there, for instance, it means the champion has successfully defended their title four times.
The Dream Gate is currently held by Shingo Takagi, who is in the midst of his record-tying third reign as champion. Shingo defeated Masato Yoshino back on August 16th at DG’s big Ota Ward Gym show, Dangerous Gate. At the time the two were technically still members of Monster Express together, but Shingo would go on to form the new heel unit VerserK not long after. Now the fearsome power fighter and merciless top heel, Shingo spent the fall tearing through the veterans of Dragon Gate. He defeated legends Don Fuji, Masaaki Mochizuki, and CIMA (all former Dream champions themselves), and went to a controversial No Contest with Gamma (due to the nature of that match, Shingo did not receive credit for a successful title defense and thus has only three challenger keys hanging from his belt at this time). Shingo’s next defense is set for 2/14 at Hakata Star Lanes, as he will face former champion Jimmy Susumu. Susumu hasn’t held the belt since he ended Ryo Saito’s reign nearly a decade ago, but he is basically the next generation down after Shingo ran through all the veterans, so this challenge makes logical sense (it should be a fantastic match as well). Obviously, the question of who will be the one to end the hated Shingo’s dominant monster heel run as Dream Gate champion is a big one, perhaps the biggest one in all of DG for 2016.
Open the Brave GateCurrent Champion: Kotoka (def. Akira Tozawa, November 1st, 2015)
Most Reigns: Masato Yoshino (officially 5, unofficially 6, either way he has the record)
Longest Reign: PAC (447 days, 8/29/10-11/19/11)
The Brave Gate is the secondary singles championship in DG, and as mentioned above it has a weight limit of about 187 pounds. You may notice in the image that the belt almost appears “cracked” or has a lot of jagged lines; this is because the center plate is actually 8 smaller pieces, attached together! When the original tournament to crown the first champion began on March 3rd, 2005, each of the eight participants was given one of the pieces. The winner of the match would take their opponent’s piece(s) until finally the ultimate tournament winner had collected all eight parts, putting them together to form the new belt.
The Brave Gate has been vacated an astonishing 7 times over the past 11 years (for comparison’s sake, the Dream Gate has been vacated only once, after CIMA was legitimately injured), due to a number of different circumstances, so often when this happens the belt’s plate is broken up once again. The person who can eventually win the following tournament and put the pieces back together gets to claim the title.
Let’s briefly mention Masato Yoshino’s rather baffling most title reigns record; Yoshino has won the belt, officially, five times. He has just 16 title defenses over those five reigns (and 10 of those 16 defenses came in only 2 of the reigns!), and vacated the title willingly twice. The first time was when he defeated Osaka Pro’s Tigers Mask for the belt on August 14th, 2010; at the time, Yoshino was also Dream Gate champion, and took on Tigers Mask just to help bring the belt back to DG and away from the outsider. He had no interest in defending two belts at once and chose to immediately vacate the Brave Gate after winning it. The second time he vacated it came during his most recent reign: he won the belt from Dragon Kid on May 5th, 2013, but then vacated it on August 30th, after deciding it should be something for “the new generation” to fight over (this was basically right after the Millenials, made up only of young wrestlers, had appeared in DG and caused quite a stir). The man who won the tournament to determine a new champion? Genki Horiguchi, who is….not new generation at all (just look at his head!!). Oh well, it’s the thought that counts I guess!
So why do I say he has been officially credited with five reigns? Because there’s a phantom sixth reign to talk about too. Back in 2008, then-heel Gamma won a tournament after, you guessed it, the Brave Gate had been vacated (in this case due to the new champion Anthony W. Mori, a babyface through and through, rejecting his victory over Yoshino that had come with unwanted assistance from the heel unit of the time, Real Hazard). Upon winning the title, Gamma removed the eight pieces of the Brave Gate’s center plate and replaced it with his own, calling it the “Open the Gamma Gate” title. Thus we got a wacky title reign where Gamma defended his belt six times in the span of just two months, against such luminaries as Ape Kimata and “The Former Ape Kimata as Super Shenlong” (that’s literally what he was called, for some reason). Kimata is better known today as Mondai Ryu, the saltiest wrestler in the world. So those were some real barnburners, let me tell you. But anyway, the gimmick was obviously that Gamma refused to defend his title against anything resembling real competition (and still cheated outrageously and changed the rules mid-match even then, I guess just to be a dick; it should be noted that none of his bogus defenses are actually credited as Brave Gate defenses, so officially Gamma is the 9th Brave Gate champion and has 0 credited defenses). To finally get the belt off him on June 29th, Gamma went up against Dr. Muscle, a recurring masked character. He had actually defended his belt against Dr. Muscle twice before, winning easily both times. However, this time Dr. Muscle beat him in just four minutes to win the title, then revealed himself as- you guessed it- Masato Yoshino. Yoshino restored the title to the Brave Gate but then immediately vacated it, because why the hell not, I guess. Anyway, this title reign is officially credited as a Dr. Muscle Open the Brave Gate reign, not a Yoshino one, despite Yoshino immediately unmasking (“Dr. Muscle” would win the title again, in a tournament final in January 2015, but would unmask as Kzy and continue on as champion; for that reason apparently, Dr. Muscle is not considered a 2-time champion). Yes, a character who is played by lots of different people is credited as the 10th Brave Gate champion, rather than the man who was portraying him. Shrug!
The current Brave Gate champion is Kotoka, another VerserK member. Kotoka had never held a belt of any kind before winning the Brave Gate from Tozawa on November 1st, in a three-way elimination match that also involved his fellow VerserK member Naoki Tanizaki. Even now, the small and weak Kotoka is a sham champion; just as he needed an unfair match and interference to take the belt from Tozawa, his only successful defense so far (against Eita at Final Gate back at the end of December) involved heavy outside interference as well. Someone will end this sham champion’s reign, probably sooner than later, but in the meantime it’s fairly amusing to watch him be so proud over a championship he obviously doesn’t deserve.
Open the Twin Gate
Current Champions: YAMATO & Naruki Doi (def. Masato Yoshino & Shachihoko BOY, June 13th, 2015)
Most Reigns (individual): YAMATO, 7
Most Reigns (team): YAMATO & Shingo Takagi, 3
Longest Reign: YAMATO & Naruki Doi (223+ days, 6/13/15-Present)
The Twin Gate is Dragon Gate’s normal, two-man tag team title. Interestingly enough, it is the most recent of DG’s titles, as the six-man Triangle Gate actually came first. The Twin Gate wasn’t established until October 12th, 2007; the legendary Speed Muscle team of Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino won the first annual Summer Adventure Tag League, a massive ten-team round robin tournament that highlighted DG’s burgeoning tag team scene of the time. With the prize money for winning the league, the two men decided to create the Open the Twin Gate titles, and were thus recognized as the first champions.
Dragon Gate actually had a different set of tag team titles kicking around already, the old WAR International Junior Tag Team titles. The belts had laid dormant for seven years (the last champions were, believe it or not, Yuji Yasuraoka and Tomohiro Ishii, of all people!), but they were revived in Dragon Gate when Don Fuji and Masaaki Mochizuki (his second reign as champion, as he won the belts with BATTLE RANGER!!! on 2/12/1997) won a tournament on August 6th, 2006 (Genichiro Tenryu was a friend of the promotion at the time). The IJ Tag Titles, for those of you who don’t know, were actually the very first junior heavyweight tag team titles; the first champions were Gedo and Lionheart (yep, as in Chris Jericho) in February of 1996. New Japan would not introduce their own IWGP Junior Tag Team Titles until August of 1998, so Tenryu beat them to the punch by quite a while.
Anyway, the IJ Tag Titles were defended in Dragon Gate for a little over a year. Once Doi & Yoshino had established the Twin Gate titles, they took on the current IJ champions, AraIwa (veterans Keni’chiro Arai and the sadly no longer around Taku Iwasa) of Tozawajuku. The match is recognized both as a unification bout and the official beginning of the Twin Gate titles, taking place on the aforementioned date of October 12th, 2007. Since then, the IJ Tag Titles were returned to Tenryu (yes, despite being supposedly unified with the Twin Gate titles….so that’s kind of a plot hole, I guess) and appeared in Tenryu Project and Diamond Ring.
Back to the Twin Gate titles: basically since the belts were created, they have been a hugely important title to Dragon Gate. If one were to “rank the titles”, so to speak, you would probably put the Twin Gate just below the Dream in terms of the belts’ consistent prominence in the company (and above the Triangle & Brave, which fluctuate in importance but ultimately are probably about even, with maybe a slight advantage to the Brave). The Twin Gate is simply one of the most protected and prestigious tag team championships in the world, almost always held by top-line players and defended in important matches. It’s been that way from the belt’s very inception to present.
The current Twin Gate champions are YAMATO & Naruki Doi, collectively known as YAMADoi (or, if you prefer, DoiYAMA). YAMATO is the most prolific Twin Gate champion ever, having held the belt on seven different occasions: three times with Shingo (which is also the record for most reigns by a team), twice with Cyber Kong (including earlier in 2015 in a short reign that was ended by Amigo Tag, Yoshi & Shachi, but as you can see YAMATO got the last laugh there), and now twice with Doi (funnily enough their first reign together lasted just 14 days). Doi is no stranger to the Twin Gate either, having held the belt six times (twice with YAMATO, twice with Yoshino, and once each with Ricochet and Gamma). Together, the two have been an unstoppable force during their current reign. They have already broken the record for longest reign (previous holders were Tozawa & Takagi with a 210-day reign from 12/22/13 to 7/20/14) and most defenses (they have 9 following their latest win over Saito & Horiguchi, and the previous record belonged to the veteran team of Mochizuki & Fuji, who had 6 defenses back in late 2012/early 2013), and obviously their record is still ongoing. They are in many wars the cornerstones of VerserK, having reigned as Twin Gate champions since before the unit even formed, back when they were in MAD BLANKEY together. MB may be no more, but the epic Twin Gate reign of YAMADoi lives on in its memory.
Open the Triangle Gate
Current Champions: Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk (def. Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi & YAMATO in a tournament final, 12/6/15)
Most Reigns (individual): Gamma, 12
Longest Reign: CIMA & Magnitude Kishiwada & Masato Yoshino (319 days, 7/12/05-5/27/06)
The Triangle Gate is the six-man tag team title of DG, and is the second-oldest title. The first champions were crowned in a tournament that took place in the fall of 2004, as the Italian Connection trio of Milano Collection AT, YOSSINO (yes, as in Yoshino) & Anthony W. Mori (the original sparkle prince of Dragon Gate!!) defeated Aagan Issou’s Shuji Kondo, brother YASSHI, and Takuya Sugawara. In what would sort of be an omen for the titles, the ItaCon had to vacate the belts without ever losing them due to an injury to Milano (which ended up being the precursor for the former T2P ace leaving Dragon Gate in early 2005, never to return). The belts have been vacated 11 times in total, even more than the Brave Gate (which was basically designed to be vacated on a semi-regular basis), due mostly to injuries and unit break-ups. Indeed, the longest reign ever was Blood Generation’s CIMA/Kishi/Yoshino, and they never lost the titles, instead vacating them when the Blood Generation/Muscle Outlawz split happened (Kishiwada & Yoshino both left for the newly formed Muscle Outlawz, while CIMA turned babyface and formed the “Newborn Blood Generation” and later Typhoon). Those kind of vacancies are bound to happen in a promotion like DG, where the units are constantly shifting, evolving, and disbanding.
For the most part, the average Triangle Gate reign is not very long, as the belts have proven exceptionally difficult to hold onto. As a side note (that you’ve probably already read on Jae’s site, let’s give credit where it’s due there), the three emblems on the belt’s face represent Mind, Body, and Technique. The idea is the ideal team should have a powerhouse, a speedy or technical wrestler, and an “all-arounder”. If you look at some of the best and longest-reigning champion teams, they tend to fit this mold, and you could certainly argue the current champions do too. Monster Express’ trio features Yoshino (perhaps the fastest wrestler in the world and great with submissions as well), T-Hawk (a young powerhouse in his own right), and Tozawa (almost the dictionary definition of “all-arounder”, in fact). The three of them could hold onto these belts for quite a while, provided they stick together of course. Monster Express is currently headed to a Unit Must Disband match against Dia.Hearts on the February 4th Korakuen Hall show, so they could easily find themselves without a unit even as they continue to reign as champions. They wouldn’t be the first champion team to continue on even after losing their unit, but of course one or more could end up breaking off and going elsewhere as well, forcing an abrupt end via vacancy. It wouldn’t surprise me if this doesn’t end up as the twelfth Triangle Gate team to vacate their titles, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
That wraps up the four serious titles of DG….but, in case you’re wondering why I keep saying that instead of just “the four titles of DG”, there’s one more title left to talk about. And that title is….
Open the Owarai GateCurrent Champion: Masato Yoshino (def. Mr. Nakagawa via fan judgment, November 23rd 2015)
Most Reigns: “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa, 5
Longest Reign: Kikutaro (695 days, 5/15/09-4/10/11)
This is the final championship in Dragon Gate, and once you understand what “owarai” means in Japanese (basically it means comedy, though Wikipedia actually describes it as “a broad word used to describe Japanese comedy as seen on television”; so you can almost translate this literally as the Open the Comedy Gate title), you probably get what this belt is all about. Then again, you might have had a decent idea the moment you saw who had the record for the most championship reigns.
The belt was originally conceived of by Stalker Ichikawa all the way back in June of 2007. He created the title and at first defended it in straight matches, but because he is such a weak wrestler this didn’t go well for him. He lost every single title defense during his first reign, but for the first five defenses kept producing “coupons” that gave him a “free title defense”, so he continued on as champion! In V6, after losing to Kikutaro but out of free title defense coupons, his mother came out and basically begged the crowd and the referee to allow Stalker to continue as champion. Somehow this worked. In V7, he was defeated by the masked Jackson Florida, but Jackson allowed Stalker to retain because he felt sorry for him.
In the following match, a new Owarai Gate tradition began: all title defenses were decided by fan judgment (who the crowd cheers for loudest), rather than by who actually won or lost the match. No matter the match result, the crowd would decide who left the building with the Owarai Gate title. Of course, since this is Stalker Ichikawa we’re talking about, even under these new fan judgment rules he lost in the very next defense, as the crowd decided to make CIMA the new champion. CIMA vacated the belt almost immediately, beginning a proud tradition of serious main eventers winning the belt and then either vacating it or losing it in their very first defense. The belt also went through long periods of inactivity, which is how Kikutaro ended up with that record-long reign; his third defense came on June 27th, 2009 when he beat Stalker and retained the title via fan judgment. The belt did not appear in DG again until nearly two years later, on April 10th, 2011! Kikutaro defended it in a three-way match against Stalker & Ryo Saito; despite winning the match, Kikutaro lost the belt via fan judgment….to referee Don Fuji. Yes, wacky things can happen when the Owarai Gate is involved!
The current champion is Masato Yoshino, who won the belt from actual referee Mr. Nakagawa (the “Little YAMATO” we talked about on our first episode of Open the Voice Gate, due to his flowing locks) via fan judgment when he teamed up with Stalker and lost to Kness & Saito. Yoshino has broken the mold of main eventers holding the Owarai Gate in one key way: rather than basically pretending he isn’t champion (as most of them have tended to do), he actually brings the belt out with him at random and seems intent on reminding other wrestlers in promos that, yes, he is the Owarai Gate Champion! Perhaps this is because Yoshino’s Owarai Gate win made him the one and only man to hold all five titles and win both of the annual DG tournaments (we’ll talk about those in a second!); given these circumstances, it’s perhaps understandable he’d be prouder about holding this championship than most!
There are a lot of tournaments in Dragon Gate, most of them occurring fairly randomly. As mentioned above, the Brave & Triangle Gate titles tend to end up vacated quite a lot, often necessitating tournaments to be held to crown new champions (sometimes we just get decision matches though). There are also other tournaments to determine #1 contenders for one of the various belts held with some frequency.
In addition to those tournaments, there are two we know will happen (almost) every year: the annual KING OF GATE and Summer Adventure Tag League. Let’s talk about both:
KING OF GATE
List of Winners: Ryo Saito (2005), Masaaki Mochizuki (2006), Gamma (2007), Naruki Doi (2008), Shingo Takagi (2010), BxB Hulk (2011), Genki Horiguchi (2012), Ricochet (2013), Jimmy Susumu (2014), Masato Yoshino (2015)
KING OF GATE is, as you probably guessed by the name, a single-elimination tournament. It is the spiritual successor to El Numero Uno in Toryumon Japan, though it is worth nothing ENU was a round-robin league (like the G1). Originally KING OF GATE was held at the end of the year, from 2005 through 2008, however there was no tournament in 2009. Instead, it was held in April 2010, and every year since it has been held in May.
Every winner has received a shot at the Open the Dream Gate title sometime after their victory: Ryo Saito successfully took the belt from Magnitue Kishiwada, Masaaki Mochizuki failed against Jushin Thunder Liger, Gamma lost to CIMA, Naruki Doi won the belt from Shingo Takagi, Shingo failed against YAMATO, BxB Hulk lost to Mochizuki, Genki & Ricochet both lost to CIMA during his record-setting reign, Susumu lost to Ricohet, and finally Yoshino won the belt from BxB Hulk. It should be noted that, given the timing in May, you might think the winner of KING OF GATE gets their title shot at DG’s biggest show of the year, Kobe World in July, but this is usually not the case. The KoG winners prefer to get their title shot as quickly as possible; in fact, the one time the KoG winner did end up challenging at Kobe World was BxB Hulk in 2011, and it was only because Dream Gate champion Mochizuki basically snubbed him in favor of defending against Yasushi Kanda (who had eliminated Mochi in the semifinals). This ended up being one of the major catalysts for Hulk’s heel turn a few weeks after his KoG win.
In a few short months we’ll find out who wins KING OF GATE in 2016. Will Shingo Takagi still be Dream Gate champion then? Will it be up to the KING OF GATE winner to finally end Shingo’s reign of terror over Dragon Gate? Perhaps!
Summer Adventure Tag League
List of Winners: Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino (2007, 2008, & 2010), Shingo Takagi & YAMATO (2009), Akira Tozawa & BxB Hulk (2011), Tozawa & Hulk & “Naoki Tanisaki” aka T-Hawk (2012), T-Hawk & Eita (2013), Jimmy Kagetora & Jimmy Susumu (2014), Jimmy Kness & Jimmy Susumu (2015)
DG’s annual tag team….contest….of some kind, it’s the Summer Adventure Tag League! Okay, here’s where things get a tad bit confusing: unlike KING OF GATE, the SATL format has changed more than a few times. From 2007-2009, it was a round robin league with all teams fighting each other and the top four advancing to a knockout stage (so two semis and a final). In 2010, it was changed slightly: while still a round robin, the teams were now split up into two blocks, with the top two from each advancing to the knockout. In 2011, it was changed to a single elimination tag team tournament (but still called a League for….some reason). In 2012, it was changed again: back into a league, but now it was a trios league, with each team having three members. There were two blocks of four teams each and the winners of each block advanced to the finals (it was won by the MAD BLANKEY team of Tozawa, Hulk, and the wrestler now known as T-Hawk doing his Naoki Tanizaki cosplay. yes, he was pretending to be another wrestler, for…..reasons). In 2013 it remained a two-block league but was changed back to standard two-man tag teams, meaning for the first time in a while the “Summer Adventure Tag League” actually lived up to its name. It has remained that way through 2014 & 2015, so hopefully the actual tag league is here to stay, because it’s one of the most fun times of the DG calendar!
As you can see above, the prolific Speed Muscle team of Doi & Yoshino have won three times, while no other team has even won twice. It seems unlikely they’ll reunite again to win a fourth time, given that Doi has turned on poor Yoshino twice now, but I guess you never know!
III. Event Calendar
Finally, let’s wrap up today’s piece by quickly discussing Dragon Gate’s event calendar.
You can basically break down DG shows into five pretty simple categories, beginning at the top and moving downwards:
- Major PPV Events: These are the biggest Dragon Gate shows of the year, of which there are generally about five annually. There’s Dead or Alive in May (this year 5/5 from Aichi Prefectural Gym), Pro Wrestling Festival in Kobe (7/24/16 from Kobe World Hall, where it’s been held every year dating all the way back to the Toryumon Japan days), Dangerous Gate (9/22/16 from Tokyo Ota Ward Gym), Gate of Destiny, and The Final Gate (12/25/16 from Fukuoka). All these events are broadcast live on PPV in Japan and on Internet PPV worldwide, through NicoNico (more on that later). The Kobe World show is basically DG’s Wrestlemania, with the rest being slightly below that. As one final aside, you may have noticed there is no date or location yet for Gate of Destiny; typically it occurs sometime in either October or November in Osaka, but it is often not announced until the intermission of Kobe World (for whatever reason). It is probably still going to happen, as it’s taken place every year since 2007.
- Champion Gate/Memorial Gate: These are not quite PPVs, but rather they are TV specials that air in the local Japanese market or on Gaora. They are sometimes, but not always, available as live iPPVs through NicoNico as well. Champion Gate (usually named “Champion Gate in Osaka”, “Champion Gate in Hakata”, etc. depending on where the shows are located) is usually 2 events that see all the titles in DG defended on them. Some years you get 2 sets of Champion Gate shows, others you only get 1. We’ll see what 2016 has in store. Memorial Gate in Wakayama is another fairly big show (though not as big as the PPVs) that airs on local TV in the Wakayama area. It has been held every year going back to 2012, so it’s a good bet that we’ll see it again this year as well.
- Korakuen Hall shows: Dragon Gate puts on a show every month at Korakuen Hall; you can see the full monthly schedule on Jae’s site, which was already released for 2016. These shows are basically the serial storytelling of Dragon Gate, with shows building month-to-month and long-term storylines playing out as well. Korakuen shows are the lifeblood of DG, and are close to essential viewing if you want to keep up with the angles and storylines. Nearly every show is a sellout and the crowd is extremely passionate and loud, which always helps make the shows enjoyable. Usually you will not see more than one title on the line at a particular show, but you will get even a few Dream Gate defenses at Korakuen each year (the last one was the Shingo-Gamma debacle that our own Case Lowe wrote about here). When the Dream Gate isn’t on the line here, the main event can vary wildly, and you can look at just the previous show and the next for an example; on the last Korakuen back on January 13th, the main event was a wacky 10-man tag featuring two teams selected legitimately randomly through Doi Darts. So in that case, you just had a really fun match without a lot of long-term consequences, but the post-match ended up leading to the main event of the upcoming February 4th Korakuen: the Monster Express and Dia.Hearts units will face off in a four-on-four elimination match, with the losing unit having to disband! That’s pretty indicative of what Korakuen shows have been like for the past few years: sometimes the main event has huge repercussions for DG’s future, and sometimes it’s just a wacky, fun match. Either way, most of these shows air live worldwide on iPPV through NicoNico. They re-air on Gaora (as a numbered episode of Infinity, which used to be a weekly highlight show but was converted instead into just airing full events, usually about 2-4 per month) a week or two later.
- Televised House Shows: Those remaining Infinity shows are filled by airing other house shows, most often from places like Kobe Sambo Hall, Hakata Star Lanes, and Osaka Edion Arena #2 (formerly Bodymaker). These events typically have a few big matches, often a title match or two, but I’d still consider them to be overall not quite as important as the Korakuen shows. If you want to break it down so simplistically you could say that Korakuen is DG’s Raw and the other televised Infinity house shows are DG’s Smackdown, but we’re talking back in the early days when the Raw/Smackdown gap was a small one (rather than a chasm). These shows do typically build from one to another in the same location too, so for example one Kobe Sambo show will usually set up the main event of the next one, just like Korakuen.
- Non-televised House Shows: As you would probably guess, these are the least important of all of Dragon Gate’s events. Since they do not make air anywhere, rarely does anything of great consequence take place on them.
As far as how you can watch these shows: as mentioned above, many of the shows air live on NicoNico. Since that site is almost entirely in Japanese, I recommend Alan4L’s excellent guide to walk you through how to sign up with an account and get started. If you aren’t able to watch the shows live, they can be accessed for one week after airing on-demand.
For non-iPPV shows you’re basically at the mercy of the usual illicit channels (RealHero, others who randomly drop matches sometimes) unless you get the Japanese TV channels in question. They almost always show up eventually, so keep your eyes on VOW’s New Show Link Sticky post on the forums!
With that, we’ll wrap up another exceptionally long entry of DG 101 (I kept it under 6000 words this time! yay!). If you’d like to see this series continue, please let me know what else you’d want to see covered about Dragon Gate from a beginner’s perspective. I’ve gotten a few suggestions I’m still mulling over, but if you have anymore you can reach me either via e-mail (use openthevoicegate @ gmail) or Twitter (@toshanshuinla) and let me know. Thanks as always for reading!