Dragon Gate is back at Korakuen Hall to kick off their 2016. It’s a new year, but that doesn’t mean much has changed since Final Gate, which closed out 2015. VerserK is still running wild with Shingo Takagi as Open the Dream Gate Champion, YAMATO and Naruki Doi as Open the Twin Gate Champions, and Kotoka as Open the Brave Gate Champion. Korakuen is in for a treat as Takagi is aligned with familiar foes. He is forced to team with CIMA, Gamma, Masaaki Mochizuki, and Jimmy Kanda as Miracle Doi Darts returns! Dragon Gate was my Promotion of the Year for 2015, and I expect even bigger and better things for them in the new year.
Open the New Year Gate
January 13, 2016
Masato Yoshino & Shachihoko BOY vs. Kaito Ishida & Takehiro Yamamura
This is a lengthy opener for a Korakuen Hall show. Ishida and Yamamura got lots of time to show the Korakuen faithful what they’re made of. Ishida and Yamamura are sickeningly good for their age and experience level. They both look very comfortable in the ring. They hung with Yoshino and played off of BOY quite well. I still prefer Ishida just a little more, but both men are very good and well eventually be very great. Yoshino goes over with his Lightning Spiral over Yamamura. Really fun opener. ***1/2
Yosuke Santa Maria vs. Mondai Ryu
This is something. Maria has actually looked really smooth in the ring lately, but Ryu is Ryu and Ryu is not good. The match goes under two minutes, and therefore, is inoffensive. That being said, there’s no reason to watch this match. *3/4
Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Kness J.K.S. vs. Kenichiro Arai & U-T
U-T has an adorable face. He could be spending his time modeling tween/young adult clothing and killing it, but instead, he’s wasting away on Dragon Gate undercards. These four completely went through the motions. No energy, no heat, no excitement. Passable, given its importance in the great scheme of things, but another skippable match. **
T-Hawk vs. Punch Tominaga
Recently, Tominaga has started trying to submit his opponents. He locked T-Hawk in a few submissions in this match, including an embarrassing triangle choke and a lackluster armbar. Volk Han, he is not. T-Hawk doesn’t fit in with Monster Express. It’s glaringly obvious, even in a rather meaningless singles match in Korakuen. The Millenials never reached their peak. They were cut off when they still had room to grow, and since then, T-Hawk has floundered. He doesn’t fit the Monster Express vibe and he seems completely directionless right now. The match, from a technical standpoint, was fine, even with Tominaga’s embarrassing ground game, but there was nothing engaging about this match. ***
Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito vs. Eita & El Lindaman
This is probably the closest Dragon Gate will ever get to executing the “traditional” tag team match structure. The Over Generation duo started off hot before Lindaman was cut off by Saito. Saito and Susumu worked over Lindaman before he escaped and made a thrilling hot tag to Eita. From there, Eita shined before things finally broke down and chaos erupted. If Lindaman’s promoted age is accurate, he’s 20 years old. For 20 years old, El Lindaman is stupidly good. He looked amazing in this match. He sold great, his offense, per usual, was exciting, and he looked so comfortable in there with two of Dragon Gate’s mainstays. This kid is going places. Really fun match to close out the first half of the show. ***3/4
Naruki Doi, Kotoka, & Naoki Tanizaki of VerserK vs. Big R Shimizu, Dragon Kid, & Kzy of Dia.HEARTS
Doi, Kotoka, and Tanizaki, together, are the most emo trio in Dragon Gate history. I love it. This starts off as a rather toned down trios match for Dragon Gate standards, with VerserK showing off their heel side more than normal. Lots of cheating, tripping, and plain ugliness. Doi blocked Big R from landing his Shotput Slam, then later caught Dragon Kid in the midst of his Ultra Hurricanrana, leaving Dia. Hearts rather hopeless. Doi’s face when he caught Dragon Kid was nothing short of glorious. He knew he had just escaped death and he was thrilled about it. Things get really exciting towards the end as Doi and Kzy trade a series of nearfalls and flash pins. In the end, the evil ways over VerserK were too much to handle and Kzy was pinned. ***1/2
Doi Darts Special 10 Man Tag Match
Don Fujii, Akira Tozawa, YAMATO, Cyber Kong & Stalker Ichikawa vs. Shingo Takagi, CIMA, Gamma, Masaaki Mochizuki & Jimmy Kanda
There’s a lot going on here. YAMATO & Cyber Kong represent VerserK on Team #1. Alongside them is Don Fujii, who is without a unit and Akira Tozawa, proudly representing Monster Express. Then, of course, there’s Stalker Ichikawa, who is without a unit and without talent (from a kayfabe perspective).
On the other side, current Open the Dream Gate champion, Shingo Takagi is teaming with Over Generation members CIMA and Gamma, Dia. Hearts member Masaaki Mochizuki, and Jimmy Kanda of The Jimmyz. Takagi has defended his championship against CIMA, Gamma, and Mochizuki (my 2015 match of the year), and if he continues to go through opponents by generation, he will soon defend against Kanda.
If you’re new to Dragon Gate or looking for a match to start with, this is NOT the match you want to watch. There’s so much backstory, so much storytelling, and so much to this match that will go over any non-Dragon Gate fan, and there’s some stuff that will probably go over most fans’ heads, including mine. Takagi was outstanding in this match. I already have a Flair/Thesz watch on this guy. I expect huge things from him this year. From the start, he couldn’t get on the same page as his teammates. The four veterans were in no mood to deal with Takagi and his arrogance. In a way, it was beautiful.
On the other side, Fujii, Tozawa, & YAMAKong fought to even the odds, as Ichikawa continuously weighed them down. Fujii was the star on this side. He took it right to Takagi, just like he did in Fukuoka months prior. Even Takagi’s fellow VerserK members weren’t afraid to lay in some offense. Takagi wanted pieces of both of them. Both Kong and YAMATO played the role of the babyface when in the ring with Takagi.
This match was so much fun. It’s Dragon Gate in a nutshell. Storytelling, comedy, and the best in-ring action on the planet, all rolled into one match. Stalker Ichikawa is absurdly entertaining and he added a lot to this match. No other company can pull off a match like this. No roster is this deep, no promotion is this good at telling stories. Doi Darts delivers once again. ****1/2
Takagi & VerserK took over the ring after the main event. Playtime was over. Takagi mocked Tozawa for his recent lack of importance. MONSTER EXPRESS? Team Best Friends? Fun pro wrestling? What a joke. Their time was up. Doi agreed. ME was built with foreigners at the center. With Uhaa & Ricochet not around anymore there just wasn’t anything monstrous about these clowns. And while on the topic of worthless units, there was Dia HEARTS. Both groups should just hurry up and disappear. By now, it was patently obvious what he was proposing. With the SMAP news this morning, the world was abuzz with talk of groups splitting up. ME & DH should have a unit disbands match. Mochizuki declined. There was no particular grudge with ME. Besides, DH had to remain alive so Hulk has a place to come back to. Doi called BS on that excuse. Hulk should know better than anyone that time waits for no man in the DG ring. T-Hawk said that since joining ME, he was finally enjoying pro wrestling again. He wasn’t ready to give that up. Why would they agree to have a unit disbands match so easily?
Shimizu, the 2016 Dia.HEARTS spokesman, was quick to jump at the challenge. He would gladly do the match. T-Hawk said that was the voice of inexperience. He has never been in a unit disbands match so he can’t possibly understand how serious it is. He should take back what he said and decline the match.
Doi continued to press the issue, and preyed on Shachihoko BOYs’ insecurities. He called him baggage and said any unit with a guy like him is doomed to disband. Shachi snatched the microphone from him. He was holding the other members back. He really was baggage. But he wanted to prove himself. He asked the other members to fight with him. Tozawa got emotional. Shachi wasn’t baggage. He wasn’t holding anyone back. Without Shachi there is no MONSTER EXPRESS. It is either 4 members or no members. Everyone agreed to fight.
GM Yagi set the match. It will take place at the February Korakuen Hall show. It will be a 4 on 4 elimination match. Due to the serious nature of the stipulations, the match will take place under full conclusion rules. There will be no over the top rope eliminations. Pinfall or submissions only. Doi couldn’t contain his glee as VerserK left ME to close the show.
Final Thoughts: I feel very comfortable giving this show a thumbs up. The middle of this show is a little rough, as there is nothing redeeming about the Santa Maria match or the following tag, but things really pick up with Over Generation and The Jimmyz in match #5. From there, VerserK puts in another strong performance and then there’s the main event, which was an absolute spectacle. Don’t sleep on the second half of this show. It’s excellent.