The final televised Dragon Gate event of January took place on the 17th from the Osaka Edion Arena #2, first making air on Gaora on the 28th. Coming just a few days after the January 13 Korakuen Hall show, tensions were running high between Monster Express and Dia.Hearts after it was announced the two units would be meeting in a Unit Must Disband match at the February 4 Korakuen. In addition, the ongoing issue between the Jimmyz and VerserK has continued to rage; Jimmy Susumu and Shingo Takagi were still building up their upcoming Dream Gate match on February 14 at Hakata Star Lines, while Maraha Isappa of Saito & Horiguchi were the 9th challengers for Doi & YAMATO’s Twin Gate titles on this very night (Genki had pinned YAMATO in an eight-man tag in Kobe about a week earlier, then immediately requested this title match). Could the Jimmyz take away some of VerserK’s gold in Osaka, or did the heels continue their stranglehold on three of DG’s four main titles?

Before we get into today’s review, I’m going to start using a new gimmick that I’ve blatantly ripped off from the Chikara Special blog (which he ripped off from ex-DG reviewer Brad Garoon, so it all kinda comes full circle!): unit ID codes. DG has a ton of units (or factions/stables if you prefer US speak) and they’re always changing, so to help you keep track of them in my reviews I’m going to place a little ID next to every wrestler or team. So if you see a tag team or three man team but only one ID code, that means everyone on that team was in the same unit (and obviously if a wrestler has no ID code they aren’t in a unit at the moment). This will also help you keep track of who was in what unit at the time if you’re going back to read these later. The unit IDs we’re using today are:

-Monster Express (MX)
-Jimmyz (J)
-Dia.Hearts (DH)
-Over Generation (OG)
-VerserK (V)

For more information on all of these units, check out my DG 101 Units post.

Dragon Gate
Open the New Year Gate 2016
January 17th, 2016
Edion Arena #2- Osaka, Japan
Translation help:

U-T vs. Kaito Ishida (OG)

The struggles of young Yuta Tanaka have been well documented of late; after getting a strong push initially right from his debut as a member of the Millenials, U-T has really fallen off to a greater degree than even the rest of the group. Here he is working a match zero (I hesitate to call them “dark matches” when they all seem to make tape…) against Kaito Ishida, a kid who just debuted in September 2015 (albeit a very talented one), further showing where his current rank is in Dragon Gate. It’s understandable to a degree, because charisma and mic skills matter more in DG than they do in many puroresu promotions and U-T is very lacking in both those departments, but he still has some undeniable in-ring talent and got to show it off here. He and Ishida had a very fun five-minute draw, the kind of match you expect nothing out of but are instead pleasantly surprised. Ishida’s rise as a new-generation kicker has filled a sorely-needed hole in the younger generations of DG — someone has to go on delivering kicks to the face after Mochizuki is gone, after all. Anyway, don’t sleep on this one because it was great fun while it lasted. **1/4

Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa (MX) vs. Gamma & Takehiro Yamamura (OG)

There might be no promotion on earth that does the fun opening tag match better than Dragon Gate, which makes sense as this is a promotion that was practically designed to have fun opening tags. Yamamura is great given his experience level and he got plenty of opportunities in this match to show off his stuff, including a beautiful no-hands dive to the floor. Gamma was Gamma, doing the usual Gamma things that revolve around spitting and water; at this point if you don’t like him you probably never will, but I thought he was perfectly acceptable here. Yoshino & Tozawa didn’t quite take the night off or anything but they clearly didn’t have it in high gear either, which is understandable. Tozawa put away Yamamura with his high-speed German after about ten largely enjoyable minutes of action. **3/4

Don Fuji & Yosuke♡Santa Maria vs. Naoki Tanizaki & Mondai Ryu (V)

Fuji/Maria have become something of a regular tag team lately, and their dynamic is really fun. Fuji is never one to shy away from either the goofiness or, uh, the ladies, and he seems to have really taken a liking to Maria-chan after a rough start to their relationship (he seemed to take particular delight in attacking her during his MAD BLANKEY period, but it seems they’ve gotten past that now). The two have a weird but appealing charisma together. Fuji finds himself against an old foe in our pal Mon-chan, and as usual the great Don laid it in extra hard whenever he was in the ring with the saltiest wrestler in the world. Naoki is back to his old punk heel ways and stands out a hell of a lot more this way than he had for quite a while with the Jimmyz. So the bulk of this match was Naoki & Mon-chan working over poor Maria, including sending her head-first into a chair that was set up in the corner. However, Maria continued her recent streak of showing surprising strength: she actually fired up and started no-selling (!) at one point, before making her own mini-comeback and tagging in Fuji.

After Fuji ran wild for a little while Maria returned and scored the pin over Naoki with the Neraiuchi♡. She’d been beating Mondai Ryu left and right in singles matches of late, but her push continued here with a pin over a different member of VerserK. On the February 4th Korakuen she & Don Fuji will be facing Cyber Kong & Kotoka, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Maria pin Kotoka and put in a challenge for the next Brave Gate shot. This match was fun while it lasted, only going about twelve minutes. Oh, and Fuji rubbed his hand all over Maria’s butt after the match (…) ***

T-Hawk (MX) vs. Big R Shimizu (DH)

T-Hawk was mad at hell at Shimizu entering this one, as the big oaf actually listening to Naruki Doi’s suggestion for Monster & Dia to have a Unit Must Disband match at the next Korakuen has suddenly put both of their units in jeopardy. He tried to take it out on Shimizu in this match, which gave it a little more juice than a normal random undercard DG singles match might have….until things kind of got really dull in the middle. Still, it picked up again in time for a hot finishing stretch, with both men reversing out of attempts at their finishers before Shimizu finally nailed T-Hawk with the Shot Put Slam on about the 3rd try, which got him the clean pin! Given all the jobs Shimizu has been doing in the past few months this was actually quite the upset, and shows how far T-Hawk has fallen of late (imagine that, scaling back your rocket ship push for a top babyface when he fails to get over, hmm). T-Hawk raged at Shimizu after the match, blaming the big idiot for their current predicament. Good match, better than I expected even with the dull middle portion. ***1/4

Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid, & Kzy (DH) vs. CIMA, Eita, & Punch Tominaga (OG)

Your standard all-babyface DG six-man tag brought us into intermission, with the three non-Shimizu members of Dia.Hearts taking on Over Generation’s CIMA, Eita, & Punch Tominaga. It was a lot of spots without being too spotty, and a good finishing stretch saw Kzy pin Eita with his Skayde Schoolboy (as usual, the look of pure elation and partial shock on Kzy’s face at having actually pinned somebody was simply a joy to behold). Afterwards, Mochizuki got on the mic and basically offered a rebuttal to T-Hawk, pointing out that Monster Express’ own Shachihoko BOY was equally at fault for the MX-DH disband match. That interpretation is a bit kind to young Mister Shimizu, but I suppose Mochiziuki is right that Shachi deserves some of the blame. Anyway, this was a good match that at least reminded people Kzy can pick up a flash pin every once in a while, an important thing to remember heading into an elimination unit disbands match! CIMA-Mochizuki interactions are always fun too, and we got a long stretch of that at one point (before both got pulled to the outside, ruining our fun). ***1/4

Shingo Takagi, Kotoka, & Cyber Kong (V) vs. Jimmy Susumu, Jimmy Kanda, & Jimmy Kness J.K.S. (J)

For the semi-main event it was time for more trios action, this time with the heel unit involved as we continued to build up Susumu vs. Shingo on 2/14 for the Dream Gate. On Shingo’s team was Cyber Kong and Kotoka (who apparently gets red streamers now, so yes, go back even like a couple years ago and tell yourself streamers for Kotoka was a real thing that was going to happen) while Susumu was joined by his longtime partner Kness and his ex-M2K mate Kanda. The match started with the heels jumping the babyfaces before the bell, of course, Shingo attacking Susumu with his title belt. Eventually the babyfaces got back into control and set up a funny (if contrived and goofy) spot where Susumu & Kness put Kotoka on top of Kong’s shoulders in a powerbomb position. With Kotoka still sitting there, Knesuka then simultaneously kicked at his legs until Kong “fell” into a seated position, “forcing him” to sit-out powerbomb Kotoka!

The big story of this match though was Shingo’s relentless assault on Susumu’s arm, continually lariating it and shoulder blocking it at every opportunity, as well as putting it in a cross armbreaker. Obviously the idea is that Shingo is trying to take Susumu’s main offensive weapon, the Jumbo no Kachi! lariat, away from him in advance of their title match, and that was really his only goal throughout. He continues to play the role of the biggest, meanest bully on the planet extremely well, and he was just relentless here. Speaking of big mean men, Cyber Kong later no-sold the John Woo from Kanda and then ran him over with a Pineapple Bomber, because he’s a jerk. Anyway, the final finishing stretch was hot and saw Susumu manage to kick out of the MADE IN JAPAN from Shingo and then nail him with Jumbo no Kachi!, right into a cradle for the pin over the champion! This only went about fifteen minutes but it was fun while it lasted. Afterwards, Shingo, ever the sportsman, attacked Susumu’s arm once again by slamming it into a chair. ***1/2

Open the Twin Gate Championship
Naruki Doi & YAMATO (c.) (V) vs. Ryo “Jimmy” Saito & Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! (J)

Finally it was main event time, as the YAMADoi team of YAMATO & Doi looked to make their 9th defense of their Twin Gate titles. Standing in the way of padding their record was the veteran tag team of Maraha Isappa, Saito & Genki. Of note before the match began: the weird trend of VerserK members getting strange, wearable gifts from VerserK fans in attendance continued here. After Mondai Ryu got a sash (?) at the Korakuen show a few days earlier, Naruki Doi got a big necklace (??) made of Japanese Yen (???). Well, sure. Anyway, the match started with an amusing hair-pulling exchange between YAMATO & Genki; YAMATO pulled on Genki’s fake “hair”, but clearly did not think this strategy through because he has plenty of real hair for Genki to return the favor with, and our bald hero did just that. After that went on for a while we had YAMADoi settle into their role of dominant champions we’ve seen them take on in most of their title matches of late; they worked over Genki for a while and then even when it looked like Saito was gonna get a hot tag, they quickly broke up their trademark “Maraha Isappa!!” double-team sequence and dropkicked them from the ring instead to go right back on offense. Once Saito & Genki finally fought back for real, VerserK started mixing in some subtle cheating, which basically sums up why they’re such a dominant unit right now: they’re strong wrestlers to begin with, and then the moment things start to go against them they’re willing to bend and break the rules to their favor.

But in this case their cheating ultimately backfired a bit. After setting up a chair pile in the middle of the ring, instead it was YAMATO who got powerbombed off the top rope by Genki onto them. Saito tried to quickly follow up with the SaiRyo Rocket (my favorite move in wrestling right now, just because of how absurd it is: he’s at one ring post, the opponent is set up all the way by the ring post furthest away, diagonally, and he jumps off the top rope, lands on his feet, then hops and splashes the opponent!), but unfortunately for him YAMATO rolled out of the way and the Rocket crash-landed in the chair pile.

We then hit the finisher kickout sequence with gusto, starting with Genki surviving the sleeper from YAMATO—>Bakatare Sliding Kick from Doi combo. Doi then managed to kick out of Genki’s Backslide Times (literally just a series of Backslides; this was a great nearfall particularly if you remember Genki got the pin with this on YAMATO in the eight-man tag in Kobe which set up this match!), and Saito kicked out of Gallaria from YAMATO. Then Ryo Saito basically started Dragon suplexing the whole world: YAMATO took one, Doi took one, and then YAMATO took another for a strong nearfall, followed by the Backslide From Heaven from Genki for another nearfall that the live crowd totally bought as the finish. Finally we got into a long series of cradle reversals with YAMATO and Saito, and then an awesome finish with Doi flying in with another Bakatare Sliding Kick on Saito out of nowhere as he had YAMATO in a sunset flip cradle, and the momentum allowed YAMATO to flip back over on top and pin Saito. An awesome tag title match between two of the best teams in the world, and at only 18:17 the match flew by. Honestly I would have preferred to see it go another 3-5 mintues at least, but I guess that’s better than dragging! ****1/2

Following the main event, Doi & YAMATO basically reminded everyone how great they were. They then pointed out their next defense will likely be here in Osaka, for CHAMPION GATE in March, which will be their historic 10th title defense. Their unitmate Shingo took the mic and taunted Susumu, sarcastically congratulating him on the win earlier but asking how his arm felt after his assault on it throughout the match. Shingo pointed out the two will be against each other numerous more times on the current tour before their 2/14 Dream Gate match, and promised that Susumu’s arm will be completely useless by the time that match rolls around.

Susumu retorted by simply pointing out he was victorious over Shingo today and will be again in Hakata. He promised to return to Osaka for CHAMPION GATE as the new Dream Gate champion.

Final Thoughts: Absolutely nothing to complain about here: a fun show that built up the 2/4 & 2/14 big matches well and then delivered an awesome main event for the Twin Gate titles. The main event is absolutely worth going out of your way to see. The rest is your standard solid DG house show fare; good, but probably not much you’ll remember weeks from now. Still, a very enjoyable use of a couple hours.