Previously here at Voices of Wrestling I’ve brought you the Dragon Gate 101 series, designed to give an introductory course on all things Dragon Gate for new fans. That series will still continue (and if you have any suggestions for new ideas or concepts you’d like to see covered in future installments, openthevoicegate @ gmail!), but at the same time I’m now launching a new series: Dragon Gate Timeline! The basic idea behind Dragon Gate Timeline will be to pick out a single aspect of something in Dragon Gate’s long, rich history and then discuss it in great detail, hopefully giving you more information on various areas of the promotion’s past.
Today we’re kicking things off by covering all the heel units in Dragon Gate history! Since there’s nine units, they’ll break up nicely into three parts: in part one we’ll talk the beginning with Aagan in mid-2004 until Muscle Outlawz (which takes us into mid-2008), in part two we’ll discuss Real Hazard, Deep Drunkers, and Team Doi (taking us from mid-08 through the end of 2010), and finally in part 3 we’ll discuss Blood Warriors, MAD BLANKEY, and VerserK (2011 through present day!). Once we finally reach the finish line, I’ll give you my own personal subjective rankings on how all the DG heel units stack up when compared with one another.
As I mentioned in my DG 101 Units post, the most important factor in Dragon Gate’s overall quality is likely how good the heel unit is at the time. Since they are (with some weird rare exceptions, like Super Shenlong before he became Mondai Ryu) the only heels in all of Dragon Gate at any point in time, the heel unit needs to be good. If you have a bad babyface unit, you can simply push them to the background until they split up, focusing on the other face units instead; on the other hand, if you do the same with a bad heel unit, you’re basically resigning DG to nothing but face vs. face feuds in the key positions. And anyone who watched Dragon Gate in 2010 can probably tell you how old that eventually gets. You need the heels around to really shake things up, to be the assholes throwing around shade everywhere they go. They don’t have to be the strongest unit in the company, necessarily (though they certainly need at least some credibility!) but they absolutely need to be in the mix. When the heel unit isn’t in the mix, the overall quality of the shows tend to suffer.
Now let’s go back to July of 2004: Dragon Gate has just held their infamous press conference announcing the changeover from Toryumon Japan and the severing of all ties with their trainer and patriarch Ultimo Dragon. CIMA cried, it was a whole big thing. Everyone currently in Toryumon Japan made the transition over to DG, and that included all the current units (though one new one, Final M2K, was also formed). And that brings us to our first unit in the timeline, and the true oddball in the group.
The way this will work is, if I don’t list any time next to a wrestler’s name, it means they were in that unit from beginning to end. If I do list a timeframe next to their name it means they were only in the unit for that period. Makes sense, right?
Before we begin I would also like to give special credit to Jae of IHeartDG; the various Web Archive older versions of his website were an invaluable resource in looking up exact dates, so thanks Jae!
1. Aagan Issou
- Circa: 1/31/2004 through 12/31/2004
- Members: Masaaki Mochizuki (1/31/2004-6/6/2004), Shuji Kondo, brother YASSHI, Takuya Sugawara (3/25/2004-12/31/2004), Touru Owashi, Shogo Takagi
- Leader(s): Mochizuki, Kondo
- Theme(s): Super-heel group, “stray army”, serious heels
History: The incumbent heel unit at the time of Dragon Gate’s beginning, Aagan Issou is the only one that can trace its origins back to Toryumon Japan. This is not the only way they will be unique from all the rest, either, as you will see very shortly.
Back in 2003, Shuji Kondo, brother YASSHI, and Shogo Takagi were all members of the Italian Connection, alongside leader Milano Collection AT, YOSSINO (now Masato Yoshino), and Baker Yagi (now referee & GM Takayuki Yagi). The ItaCon was a holdover from T2P, the top heel unit of the fledgling spin-off promotion. All of the members had “Italian names”, so at the time Kondo was Condotti Shuji, YASSHI was brother YASSINI, and Shogo was the masked Berlinetta Boxer (a masked “boxing car”). Following T2P’s defeat at the hands of Toryumon Japan in their feud at the end of 2002, the T2P roster was absorbed into Toryumon, including ItaCon. ItaCon was coming off a feud with Toryumon’s top unit, Crazy MAX (CIMA’s original group, who we’ll talk a bit about when we get to Blood Gen), and struggled at first to find their footing in the new merged promotion. These struggles brought divisions that had always been within the group rising up to the surface, sometimes in surprising ways.
While Milano & YOSSINO had always technically been heels, the truth of the matter was they didn’t do a whole lot that was all that heelish, other than perhaps be extremely cocky. The other members of ItaCon were more than willing to use the typical heel tactics, cheating and hitting people with that iconic blue box (something all the heel units in DG had used since M2K first introduced it a few years earlier; basically, just a big blue plastic box that made a nice loud sound when someone was hit with it) to their hearts’ content. For the longest time, Milano & YOSSINO basically benefited from their unitmates’ cheating on their behalf, but didn’t actively take part in it. This seemed to be a line that was fine with everyone, until things started to unravel.
Every unit in Toryumon had their own “unit blog”, a blog where all the wrestlers in the unit could post their thoughts and speak to the fans directly (this continues to this day in Dragon Gate, in fact, though the wrestlers now have their own individual blogs too). brother YASSINI was out with an arm injury, and during his rehab he made a lot of….weird posts on the ItaCon blog. These frequent posts were apparently so bizarre they began to annoy Milano & YOSSINO, who started openly scolding him on the blog. So yes, the ItaCon breakup quite literally started on the internet. In 2003. That’s kind of amazing, when you think about it. The online dissension soon spilled into the arenas, as YASSINI returned to action and went back to his normal role of cheating outrageously on the ItaCon’s behalf. Suddenly Milano & YOSSINO, who were becoming more and more popular with the fans by the day, began telling YASSINI to knock it off and stop cheating in their damn matches. YASSINI took great offense to this, and the attacks suddenly began occasionally backfiring. Whether on purpose or not, YASSINI’s interference was now an active detriment to them. Tensions were clearly running high in the unit, with Milano & YOSSINO on one side demanding clean fights and the rest of the unit wanting to stay true to the unit’s heel roots.
It all boiled over on 8/30 during the first ever “4-way 6-man” (4 teams of 3 which yes, technically meant there were 12 men involved and not 6, but this is still what the match was called; the same goes for the far more common “3-way 6-man”). When YOSSINO, whose gimmick was that of the “Italian Tarzan” (if you were ever wondering why his theme song, to this day, starts with “SPEED STAR! THERE’S LIGHTNING IN THE JUNGLE!” uh, now you know), first came over to Japan from Mexico, he brought with him a little guy named Venezia. Venezia was a Mexican mini-wrestler who wrestled as a masked gorilla. The possession of the mini-gorilla wound up being a long storyline that went on for nearly a year (yes, Toryumon Japan was….wacky), with Don Fujii first kidnapping him and then losing him to K-ness and Do FIXER in a match. So at this point, the mini-gorilla was now a dancing mini-gorilla, aiding the “super dance unit” Do FIXER. None of that is really all that material to this story, I just thought it was funny. Anyway! The point is Venezia interfered multiple times during this match, specifically attacking Condotti Shuji. Shuji’s anger finally exploded and he and brother YASSINI attacked the tiny ape after the match, ripping off his mask. Milano valiantly tried to come to the aide of the tiny monkey only to receive a blue box attack for his troubles, and after months of teasing the Italian Connection finally came apart at the seams.
Milano & YOSSINO continued on as the last surviving ItaCon members, essentially operating as a 2-man unit for a while before forming an alliance with Do FIXER (eventually Anthony W. Mori would join after he was betrayed by his partner, finally giving them at least a trio again; we’ll get to that in due time). The four ex-ItaCon heels stayed together at first, but Shuji & YASSINI repeatedly abandoned the relatively hapless Berlinetta Boxer during their matches together, leaving him to get beaten and pinned. On September 8th, the two of them formally turned on Boxer, ripping off his mask and leaving him laying. Baker Yagi would soon suffer an even more embarrassing fate at their hands. The gigantic son of a sumo wrestler Touru Owashi had basically been an unaligned heel throughout his run in T2P and then for most of 2003 in Toryumon, so when he came out here on the same show and shook hands with Shuji & YASSINI it was quite a shock indeed. Yagi had left the ring after being told by Shuji to go fetch some bread he had baked, and when he returned with it he was told by Owashi that “sumos don’t eat bread” (I have no idea whether that’s true or not, but that’s what Owashi claimed). The three of them then beat down Yagi and stuffed his own bread down his throat in seriously one of the meanest things I’ve ever seen a heel group do in Toryumon/DG. Yagi would retire soon after this, becoming a referee (and masked member of the Florida Brothers). He remains the primary referee in DG, as well as “General Manager” (this means a lot less than it does in, say, WWE- he really just comes in and makes obvious matches official for the most part, he’s not a heel or anything!), to this day.
So now the group was down to three: Shuji (who renamed to Dotti Shuji), YASSINI (who renamed to the name you’re probably more familiar with, brother YASSHI), and Owashi. They were dubbed “Giants” at this point due to the fact that both Shuji & Owashi were quite a bit larger than most of the roster, but that name didn’t stick. On October 21st, Berlinetta Boxer finally returned to Japan after briefly going back to Mexico following his ouster from the group. He ostensibly was back to seek revenge on the heels, but instead it was a swerve as he aided them. He then unmasked and started going by his real name, Shogo Takagi. Shogo would later reach almost inexplicable heights in popularity during this time in Toryumon/DG (especially after he got his “Jet” nickname a bit later on, via Aagan’s eventual leader, and it lead to fans yelling it out during his punch combo; JET! JET! JET! JET! WHOAAAAA….JET!!!), perhaps not all that different from Punch Tominaga today; this was despite being a fairly low-ranked member of the roster, as he mostly rejoined the group just to serve as their “loss post” in multi-man tags. But with Shogo joining, the group got yet another new name: “Hagure Gundam”, which roughly translated to “stray army”. They were essentially warriors without a purpose except destroying everything in their path, and they were the most vicious and (other than Jet, who was honestly just adorable) unlikable heels Toryumon Japan had seen in quite some time.
Finally, as Toryumon entered 2004, the group saw their path surprisingly cross with a man who had already become a legend in the company: Masaaki Mochizuki. Mochizuki originally came over from the Bukoh Dojo (a group founded by, yes, the Japanese ex-sumo involved in this rather infamous incident in the early 90s; he was basically run out of wrestling after yelling that it was fake following that disaster of a match, trained in the martial arts, then came back to wrestling and formed his own stable of karate-followers in the WAR promotion which sort of became its own promotion) as a babyface karate fighter, but his true rise to fame was one of the founding members of the vicious heels M2K. M2K took out everyone in their path in a way not all that dissimilar from what Hagure was doing now, but Mochizuki lost a hair vs. hair match to CIMA at the end of 2001 and took a brief absence. When he returned in early 2002 he was cleansed of his heel ways and tried to turn M2K into a babyface unit; that didn’t go well and he was kicked out instead, ending his about 19-month long run as top heel of Toryumon.
Mochizuki spent 2002 as the new babyface leader of the Toryumon Sekigun, the home army that was basically the de facto babyface unit (there was even a Toryumon Sekigun theme song, in fact, so for all intents and purposes they were a unit). Magnum TOKYO, the previous leader of Sekigun, turned heel and took over his spot as leader of M2K. In late 2002, M2K would basically turn into Do FIXER in a convoluted angle that honestly doesn’t require explanation here. The important thing to know is just that DF included all the ex-M2K members except Mochi and Yasushi Kanda (who unfortunately had to retire due to injuries and become a referee, though this story does have a happy ending as we’ll discuss later).
After receiving Kanda’s approval, Mochizuki elected to bring back M2K in early 2003. The new unit, dubbed Shin M2K, is among the most baffling things Toryumon ever did (and believe me, there were more than a few!): it simply took members from the Toryumon & ex-T2P Sekiguns- Mochizuki, Second (Naruki) Doi, Dragon Kid, Keni’chiro Arai, and (jobber/future Florida Brother) Raimu Mishima- and shoved them under the M2K name for no real reason. M2K’s legacy were as heels, and most of the fans at the time felt like SM2K was an insult to the name. The unit had the trappings of M2K- the signature “Yokosuka Jumper” jackets (since Do FIXER used to be M2K they wore the jackets too, leading to a, yes, Yokosuka Jumper contra Yokosuka Jumper elimination match where the losing team had to stop wearing them, and SM2K won) and kickboards, talk about “head-hunting”, etc. But they were a bunch of faces pretending to be cool and failing at it, and the fans saw through it for the most part.
By the time 2003 was coming to a close, Mochizuki was in a huge slump. Mishima had been kicked out of Shin M2K months earlier for losing all the damn time, which left the unit with just four members. AraKen and Mochi faced off in a singles match on 12/16/2013, with the stipulation that if Mochizuki lost Shin M2K would be forced to disband. Mochizuki indeed lost the match and the unit was no more, to the joy of many. And here is where the two paths, of Mochizuki and Hagure Gundam, finally crossed.
It was January of 2004, and Hagure Gundam of Dotti Shuji, brother YASSHI, and Touru Owashi were the current UWA 6-Man Tag Team Champions (the Toryumon-era precursor to the Triangle Gate titles). On January 31st, the three of them were suddenly interrupted by Mochizuki and his fellow ex-SM2K mates AraKen & Dragon Kid, who came out to the old Toryumon Sekigun theme and challenged them to a title match. They agreed and the match took place later that night in the main event, but Mochizuki betrayed his partners, using the blue box on AraKen and helping Owashi pin him. Mochiuzki declared he was going back to his heel roots and joining the group, and that brought a final name change to Aagan Issou (loosely meaning “the villains all wear the same colors”). This date thus reflects their official beginning as a unit, with the original five members of Mochizuki, Shuji, YASSHI, Owashi, and Shogo. Shuji also finally reverted back to his real name of Shuji Kondo on the same night.
For the next few months, the group caused total chaos and left wrestlers laying everywhere in their wake. Mochizuki became the primary mouthpiece for the group (which is saying something considering they also had YASSHI, one of the most skilled guys on the microphone in the entire promotion at the time) and basically was recognized as de facto leader, the veteran serving in almost a mentor role for the young heels. They became well-known for pulling down the ring ropes at the end of shows and using them to choke their opponents, which lead to the first No Rope matches in Toryumon history (a match stipulation that has continued to show up from time-to-time in Dragon Gate as well).
There was still one member left to join the unit. Henry III Sugawara had been the tag team partner of Anthony W. Mori as the Royal Brothers in T2P (there was originally a third one too, but he lasted about five minutes as a pro wrestler before retiring- his name was Philip and that is literally all I remember about him!). However, the duo had not been active at all since the end of T2P as Sugawara returned to Mexico to train with the Toryumon X class for basically all of 2003 (due mostly to his height, he was considered something of a big prospect at the time and they wanted to give him more polish). Sugawara had returned to Japan on January 31st (yes, a lot happened on that show!) and reformed the Royal Brothers with an elated Mori. However, there was quickly trouble in this new paradise: Aagan made repeated attempts to recruit Sugawara to the unit, and while he kept declining a masked wrestler began appearing and attacking CIMA with Sugawara’s new finisher, the Buckingham Drop. Mori wanted to trust his partner but was suspicious. But on March 14th CIMA caught his attacker and unmasked him, revealing brother YASSHI rather than Sugawara. A relieved Mori told his partner he now trusted him completely and couldn’t wait for their match against each other in the El Numero Uno league on March 24th, when the two would have a clean and friendly battle between friends. Cue that ominous music!
Mori came out for his match with Sugawara that night only to be attacked by six more men wearing the same mask as CIMA’s attacker. They all gave Mori the Buckingham Drop before unmasking one-by-one to reveal the five members of Aagan and then, finally, Sugawara. The match then started and Sugawara won in 58 seconds. He mocked Mori and renounced his “prince” character, cutting off some of his own hair and changing to his real name of Takuya. Aagan Issou were now six members strong, and continued to run roughshod over Toryumon for the next several months. There were some minor signs of dissension later in the El Numero Uno league when Mochizuki, Kondo, and Sugawara were all tied atop the A block on the last night, but the three seemingly put it behind them for now.
Not long after that, SUWA suffered an injury and had to vacate his Ultimo Dragon Gym title (basically the proto-Dream Gate, the top prize in Toryumon Japan at the time). A four-man tournament was announced with one representative coming from four of Toryumon’s five units (Do FIXER, who had lost a lot of ground throughout the year and were without their leader Magnum TOKYO due to injury at the time, were the only ones excluded). There was a dispute in who the Aagan participant should be, with both Mochizuki (as the elder statesman and de facto leader) and Kondo (as the burgeoning young power fighter and original leader of the group before they officially became Aagan) each feeling they had a legitimate claim. On 6/5 the two met in a decision match, won by Mochizuki. The two men shook hands after the match, seemingly ending any dissension and cementing Mochi as the top heel in Toryumon. That lasted all of a day, as Mochizuki was suddenly attacked by the rest of the unit and kicked out on the following night’s show. Mochizuki lost his spot in Aagan and eventually his spot in the tournament back to Kondo, but he ended up reuniting with Susumu Yokosuka, K-ness, Second Doi, and AraKen to form the new Final M2K unit at the Kobe World show in July (uniting members of M2K & Shin M2K alike). Mochi had returned to the babyface side, but the second attempt at a face version of M2K would prove far more popular than the first, so at least his part of this story had a happy ending.
Meanwhile, Aagan continued on with the five remaining members. Shuji Kondo went all the way to the finals of the UDG title tournament at the same Kobe World 2004 show, but lost to CIMA. Immediately after Kobe World the promotion transitioned from Toryumon to Dragon Gate, and Aagan saw their role quickly diminish. Whereas they had been an enormous focus of the promotion (arguably THE focus, in fact) for all of 2004 up until then, the group faded into the background in the new Dragon Gate. Rather than taking over entire shows with their heel antics they usually were confined to one or two segments on each show- that is, if they were on the show at all!
Dragon Gate began a new and exciting series at the summer Odaiba festival, an outdoor festival in the Tokyo area put on by a major TV network; in a major coup for DG, they literally put up a tent in the middle of the festival and set up a ring in there, presenting two matches literally every day for over two months in what was called “Everyday Pro Wrestling”, with all festival goers able to attend for free. Most days as mentioned it would just be two relatively short matches (or at most three) so they could rotate around the roster, but every so often they would put on four or five (longer) matches in what was called a “Premium Match” card. Aagan Issou participated less than any other unit; in fact, they didn’t even make a single appearance until the 18th day! Aagan’s sparse participation sort of made sense at the time since the super-serious heels didn’t really fit in with the fun, easygoing vibe DG had going with Odaiba, but it was still sort of weird not to expose your only heels to the new audience. Odaiba helped DG bring in a ton of new fans and definitely was a big factor in how easy the Toryumon—>DG transition ended up being from a business standpoint, but Aagan didn’t benefit much from it at all.
So after Odaiba Aagan entered the fall of 2004 without a lot of momentum. The feud between Takuya Sugawara and his former Royal Brothers partner Anthony W. Mori still received some attention, eventually culminating in a bizarre hair vs. hair match between the two…..where neither man lost their hair (President Okamura had his head shaved instead, for some reason, which was pretty much par for the course when it came to the promotion living up to its post-match stipulations dating back to the Toryumon era; thankfully they got progressively better at this as Dragon Gate went on!). Their only other real highlight of note for the rest of 2004 was the trio of Kondo, Owashi, and Sugawara performing well in the Rey de Parejas trios league, going all the way to the finals against the Italian Connection of Milano/YOSSINO/Mori, but they lost (in a match that also determined the inaugural Triangle Gate champions). The same Aagan trio received a rematch but lost again, the title bout taking place amidst swirling rumors that Kondo was planning to imminently leave Dragon Gate (several other big names like SUWA and TARU had departed during this transitional period so the guard was up with the fanbase on this already), but it didn’t happen and everyone sort of forgot about it.
Weeks later, on December 31st 2014, Dragon Gate released a statement to the Japanese media announcing all five members of Aagan Issou had been dismissed. A confused fanbase at first believed this to be some sort of angle; for one, the timing was suspect, as this was taking place during DG’s end of year break (indeed, the first show after the announcement wasn’t until January 9th). Aagan had just appeared at the fan appreciation shows and parties around Christmas, but now they were all fired?! It didn’t make any sense, so people figured it simply had to be an angle, done in order to try and create buzz heading into DG’s return from their weeks-long break. It was a theory that made about as much sense as anything else in the chaos, and a fanbase that desperately didn’t want this to be real latched onto it with gusto.
On January 9th, President Okamura opened the show by welcoming fans to the new year. He announced that the Aagan firing “wasn’t an in-ring action”, essentially saying it was not an angle. He gave only the vaguest of explanations for why DG had come to this shocking decision, stating that “all players (wrestlers) are expected to act properly both in and out of the ring” and no matter who they are (he even cited Magnum TOKYO & CIMA, at the time clearly the two biggest stars in the company, and said both could be fired as well; in hindsight, he was certainly half right!) they would be fired if they couldn’t. By the time a Weekly Gong interview was published with all five men soon after, the last remaining holdouts in the fanbase finally accepted this wasn’t an angle. Aagan, the only five heels in Dragon Gate and five important ex-T2P players, were all really and truly gone.
As for what actually caused their dismissal, even to this day I don’t know for sure. I can tell you some of the rumors that swirled at the time: a big one was YASSHI supposedly doing something at one of the aforementioned Fan Appreciation parties around Christmas that was extremely embarrassing to the company in front of GAORA TV executives, which is a plausible story considering most wrestling companies probably aren’t happy when you do something that could potentially cost them their airtime. Another big rumor was Kondo & maybe others were taking liberties in the ring with Naoki Tanizaki, at the time one of the youngest and also lowest ranked members of the roster, as they were frustrated with their newly de-pushed status since the changeover from Toryumon and supposedly took it out on him. Complicating all of these theories however was when Jae of I Heart DG, on one of his Toryumon/DG timeline history podcasts, actually said he believed Aagan had essentially quit and DG had come up with the firing story to make themselves look better. So perhaps the actual answer here is somewhere in between: someone in Aagan did something pretty bad (maybe even like one of the above stories, but maybe not) and was reprimanded for it, either with a suspension or even a firing, and the rest of the unit all quit in protest. Ultimately at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, because whatever the real story may be, the bottom line was that Aagan was gone.
After the end of their Dragon Gate careers, the Aagan members spread out around pro wrestling. Kondo & YASSHI ended up as founding members of the Voodoo Murders unit in All Japan (alongside another wrestler who had just left DG, TARU). Owashi went to Osaka Pro at first and then DDT, where he remains to this day. Shogo “Jet” Takagi went to DDT as well but has long since retired to become a salaryman. And Sugawara at first didn’t go anywhere, disappearing from pro wrestling for almost a year, but ultimately he ended up in Zero-One Max and is still there today. All five were also a major part of the two “competing Dragon system” promotions, dragondoor and El Dorado, but both promotions were utter failures.
Sugawara eventually returned to DG on his own in late 2009. He had a run that lasted about one year with the promotion; thought it was fun seeing him back in DG after so much time away, Sugawara had unfortunately let himself get very out of shape in his time on the indies, and upon his return to DG he could no longer keep up with the frantic pace that the company has always been well known for. Until very recently he was the only ex-Aagan member to ever return to DG, that is until brother YASSHI made his shocking comeback at the end of the 2/4/2016 Korakuen Hall show! Somehow I doubt we’ll see Kondo (who is with Wrestle-1 now), Owashi, or Jet following suit anytime soon, but I guess YASSHI proves you can never really know for sure!
Overall Impact/Legacy: I can’t say I look back on Aagan with much in the way of reverence or nostalgia. Their run in the first half of 2004 actually got me to stop watching Toryumon for a short time- it wasn’t just them, but they were a huge part of it. Between Mochizuki as leader and the super-heel antics, it honestly felt like a less interesting rerun of the original M2K. Mochi never really clicked for me with the rest of this unit, as he always felt like he was just tacked on top of what was already a cohesive unit when they were Giants/Hagure Gundam. All the other guys had the obvious T2P connection and three of them had even been together since the Italian Connection, but Mochizuki just felt out of place. Going back and watching the Toryumon parts of 2004 later, the group was just never fun to watch and they never seemed to do much except make the shows feel dour and un-fun.
And that’s just talking about their Toryumon run; after Mochizuki left and the group went over into Dragon Gate for the second-half of 2004, they were almost totally irrelevant. In fact, there probably wasn’t a more irrelevant heel unit in DG than Aagan until Deep Drunkers. It was just always clear that they weren’t in the plans of the people now running Dragon Gate (Magnum TOKYO & CIMA, if you were wondering) and it just felt like an overcorrection of their Toryumon issues. Whereas they were arguably too focused on during Toryumon, they had almost no spotlight on them at all in DG. By the time they were all fired you could almost argue it amounted to a mercy killing, as they were clearly going nowhere fast in Dragon Gate.
Overall, I would say Aagan was not a very good unit, especially if we’re only talking about their official 2004 run. My favorite time period for them was easily their days as the unofficial Giants/Hagure Gundam unit from September-December 2003, right after they had left the Italian Connection. They actually felt fresh and exciting to some degree then; by the time Mochizuki joined up and they got their formal name, it felt like they had managed to extinguish whatever the proto-Aagan had going for them.
2. Blood Generation
- Circa: 1/14/2005-4/26/2006
- Members: CIMA, Don Fujii, Naruki Doi (1/14/2005-4/23/2006), Shingo Takagi, Masato Yoshino (3/27/2005-4/23/2006), Magnitude Kishiwada (6/22/2005-2/2006), Gamma (3/19/2006-4/23/2006), Naoki Tanizaki (4/12/2006-4/23/2006)
- Leader(s): CIMA
- Theme(s): “Pure blood”, super-fitness, mask/paint-less faces
Remember how I said Aagan was the major outlier for Dragon Gate heel units? Blood Generation is the true beginning of the DG heel unit lineage. Starting at this point, every single heel unit bleeds directly into the next one; in another words, the end of one heel unit leads to the beginning of the next, and at least some members from the previous heel unit are involved in the formation of the following unit. So in essence, you can trace VerserK all the way back to Blood Generation, storyline-wise. Pretty cool, right? You’ll now begin to see how everything evolved over time.
So we’re still in January 2005. Aagan Issou has been dismissed, as we just went over, leaving Dragon Gate with approximately zero heels in the entire company. Obviously that was an untenable situation, so someone had to be turning right? Luckily for DG, there were a couple old ex-heels on the roster apparently just waiting for the chance to go bad again.
CIMA and Don Fujii rose to prominence in Toryumon in a unit called Crazy MAX (the unit also contained the recently departed SUWA & TARU, and there was a “cursed fifth member” spot that saw various wrestlers come and go, but those were the main four for most of its run). Crazy had been active prior to Toryumon Japan even starting as a promotion, as the trio of CIMA/Fujii/SUWA reeked havoc in Michinoku Pro, originally as sort of a sub-unit in Great Sasuke’s Sasuke-gumi heel unit (they were the Brood to Sasuke-gumi’s Ministry of Darkness, you know what I mean?). By the time Toryumon Japan started up they were firmly established as heel bad-asses, and were soon joined by TARU as well. CM ran roughshod over the promotion, but soon grew too popular to keep as true heels. For the rest of Toryumon Japan’s run, they were tweeners at best if not outright faces, and they feuded with other heel units like the original M2K, Do FIXER, the Italian Connection, and Aagan Issou. At the same time they still battled faces like Toryumon Sekigun and Shin M2K as well, which lead to a lot of really fun 3-way matches during this period (the face Sekigun/SM2K, whichever heel unit, and Crazy MAX).
Following the end of Toryumon Japan in mid-2004, Crazy MAX had been around for a staggering six years. To say they were perhaps getting a little long in the tooth was an understatement, as they had come so far from their original rudo roots they were almost unrecognizable. To make matters worse, SUWA left Dragon Gate almost immediately after the transition (he ended up in NOAH and had many not-very-nice things to say about his former place of employment). Don Fujii was in total comedy mode at this point, and instead of teaming with his fellow CM members in the Rey de Parejas trios league he instead chose to team with Second Doi and Naoki Tanizaki as- I shit you not- Team Iron Perms. That left CIMA & TARU short a member for the league that would determine the first-ever Triangle Gate champions, but CIMA came up with a solution, debuting his new protege and the first-ever “Dragon Gate trueborn”, Shingo Takagi. Shingo thus was made a member of the legendary Crazy MAX right out of the gate, a huge boon for a young wrestler that showed the confidence they had in him even back then. The trio was unsuccessful during that league, however.
After Rey de Parejas on November 2nd, 2004, CIMA made an announcement many fans were both expecting and dreading for some time- after over six years of activity, Crazy MAX was coming to an end. They would have one final month as a unit to let the fans say goodbye before their official dismissal on November 28th. To give you a sense of what a big deal this was, CIMA broke down and cried during the announcement. At the end of the month, TARU left Dragon Gate entirely, reemerging in All Japan the following year. The remaining three of CIMA, Fujii, and Shingo competed in a new temporary unit called “WakuWaku Fujii Land”, alongside comedy wrestler Stalker Ichikawa and masked veteran Super Shisa, for the next month-plus.
On January 14th, WakuWaku came down to the ring to make a shocking announcement. WakuWaku was no more, and instead would be replaced by Blood Generation. CIMA described the new unit as being a super-fitness unit based around “pure blood” (basically healthy or muscular depending on how you want to interpret it, I guess) and clean faces, or in other words mask and paint-less. Stalker Ichikawa was immediately dismissed for being too weak while Shisa was dismissed due to the fact that he wore a mask. Later that night, longtime ex-T2P babyface Naruki Doi (who had changed his name from “Second Doi” and dropped most of his baseball-inspired character a few weeks earlier) turned on his partners in Final M2K to join the group, giving them a fourth member. Doi would go on to have an amazing breakout year, rising in rank extremely quickly as he became the inaugural Open the Brave Gate champion on March 13th, 2005. He would hold the belt until November as he became one of Dragon Gate’s top young stars.
The group got their fifth member shortly after that Brave Gate tournament ended. YOSSINO had been a huge part of the Italian Connection for basically his entire career, a loyal right-hand man to Milano Collection AT who you could argue was ranked even higher than him (he lost about 1-2 falls a year, at most, in T2P/Toryumon). Milano, YOSSINO, & Anthony W. Mori reigned as the first-ever Open the Triangle Gate champions after winning Rey de Parejas in late 2004, and even got a tour named after them (the “Italian Revolution” tour), so things looked to be all roses for the ItaCon. However, the good times in DG wouldn’t last. In February 2005, Milano suddenly announced that he was taking time off to heal from a leg injury, which forced the Triangle Gate titles to be vacated. Milano would ultimately depart DG on March 27th, yet another ex-T2P wrestler choosing to ply his trade elsewhere (in his case, it ended up being a long run on the US indies followed by going to New Japan for the rest of his career, before it was unfortunately cut short due to a horrific eye injury). But even before he made his official announcement, both Mori & YOSSINO had begun distancing themselves from the ItaCon. Mori had started teaming with Magnum TOKYO, which eventually would lead to a new Do FIXER spin-off unit called Pos.HEARTS (with the newly debuted BxB Hulk and Super Shisa). YOSSINO’s movement was even more interesting, however.
During the lead-up to the first-ever Brave Gate tournament, YOSSINO and K-ness had formed a tag team, calling back to their famous Toryumon Japan rivalry over the NWA Welterweight Title (which made sense since the Brave Gate was basically DG’s spirtual successor to the Welterweight title in Toryumon; that belt remained with Ultimo following the switch to DG and YOSSINO was the last-ever champion in Toryumon Japan, before it eventually went to CMLL and then NWA Mexico). However, YOSSINO was unable to get along with K-ness’ fellow Final M2K members, which ended up causing dissension between them. Finally, after Milano had announced his departure earlier that night on 3/27, YOSSINO was in the main event of the show, teaming with K-ness against Blood Generation members Shingo & Doi. YOSSINO turned on K-ness and joined up with Blood Gen. He appeared the next night with a totally new look, cutting his hair and donning a new ring outfit as he dropped his famous “Italian Tarzan” character and competed under his real name of Masato Yoshino for the first time since the beginning of the Italian Connection three years earlier. Yoshino was an enormous addition to Blood Gen, and totally reinvented himself in the new unit, becoming the super-cocky SPEED STAR we’ve come to know and love in Dragon Gate.
The next member to join Blood Gen was an even bigger surprise. In May 2006, CIMA started receiving notes warning him that an earthquake was coming to DG. This ended up being Big Boss MA-G-MA, the former monster heel of Osaka Pro who left the promotion during one of their first waves of financial problems/cutbacks (of many more to come, unfortunately). MA-G-MA debuted hidden under a motorcycle helmet, repeatedly attacking and destroying poor Naoki Tanizaki. CIMA finally confronted him and the two had a brief, memorable little fight with MA-G-MA reversing out of the Schwein and CIMA escaping MA-G-MA’s signature Last Ride powerbomb with a rana. The two exchanged challenges for the upcoming June 22nd Korakuen, and the match was booked. However, when the bell rang this ended up being revealed as an elaborate ruse, as they immediately embraced and the match was stopped.
MA-G-MA was allowed to join Blood Gen even though he wore a mask (CIMA dismissing the “clean face/mask-less” rules of Blood Gen as “just an excuse to keep Super Shisa out” in a pretty funny moment) and he changed his name to Magnitude Kishiwada. Kishiwada made a big impact on DG right from the start (no pun intended), and would go on to defeat Masaaki Mochizuki for the Open the Dream Gate title on November 4th. For a very brief period, Blood Generation controlled all three titles in DG, being the first unit to pull that feat off (there were no Twin Gate titles at the time, and the Owari Gate was just a distant sparkle in Stalker Ichikawa’s eye). Kishiwada was also 1/3rd of the most dominant Triangle Gate team in history, as he, CIMA, & Yoshino won the belts on July 12th and would never lose them, holding them for nearly a year before they were finally vacated. However, just 9 days after Kishiwada’s Dream Gate reign began, Doi lost the Brave Gate to Dragon Kid, so their reign with all three titles was indeed short-lived.
Blood Generation’s momentum was halted a bit in February of 2006, when Kishiwada lost the Dream Gate to Ryo Saito and then announced he was taking time off to heal up a badly injured shoulder (for some reason this did not cause the Triangle Gate to be vacated, though…). Kishiwada promised CIMA that an old friend of his would come to take his place, and that ended up being the Dragon Gate debut of Gamma. The former top heel of Osaka Pro was introduced as Kishiwada’s injury replacement in Blood Generation on March 19th, but CIMA took an instant disliking of his fellow Osaka native almost immediately (to be fair to CIMA, this is probably the first reaction to Gamma of many people). The two argued constantly and accidentally cost each other matches for basically a month straight until it all boiled over in mid-April.
On April 11th, there were a couple of big happenings involving Blood Generation: first of all, CIMA announced he was going to personally kick Gamma out of Blood Generation “very soon”. The other was Naoki Tanizaki, who Blood Gen had been recruiting for months, finally turning heel and agreeing to join the group. Don Fujii decided he didn’t like Naoki however and blocked his entry, requiring him to pass a test first. Naoki pinned Fujii in an opening six-man tag on 4/12, and Fujii relented and let him join as a result. That very same night, CIMA followed through on his warning and kicked Gamma out of Blood Generation. But to the shock of everyone, Gamma was aided by Naoki, Doi, and Yoshino! This effectively split Blood Generation in half, with Gamma/Doi/Yoshino/Naoki on one side and CIMA & Fujii on the other. The only other active member of Blood Gen, Shingo Takagi, basically refused to pick a side.
All this lead up to a match on April 23rd with Naruki Doi and Gamma taking on CIMA and Don Fujii, with the winning team receiving the rights to the Blood Generation name. Doi pinned Fujii using a chair-assisted Bakatare Sliding Kick, but after the match shockingly rejected the Blood Gen name, instead declaring his new unit would be known as Muscle Outlaw’z. Earlier on the same night, Shingo Takagi announced he was leaving the US for a long-term excursion (he ended up competing under the name SHINGO mostly in Ring of Honor for the rest of 2006, into early 2007, before he would return to form New Hazard). But CIMA & Fujii were suddenly assisted by gaijin Matt Sydal & Jack Evans, giving them at least enough numbers to fight back against the new heel unit.
On April 26th, CIMA formally announced the end of the original Blood Generation, to be replaced by a new group called “Newborn Blood Generation” (yes, he was allowed to continue using the name, sort of, even though they lost that name match; like I said, DG and stipulations were a weird mix back then!). He rejected all previous concepts of the group, with it going from a “super-fitness” heel group to a “super international” babyface unit; basically, foreign stars like the aforementioned Evans and Sydal, who started invading the DG ring after CIMA became sort of obsessed with the US indies following he & Shingo’s trip there in the summer of 2005, would compete as part of NBG whenever they came over. The only Japanese native members were CIMA, Fujii, and BxB Hulk (who was not even really a formal member to boot, instead forming the strange “Blood Hearts” team with CIMA for the rest of the year). In other words, the unit barely existed, and along with the slightly different name I don’t think it’s really included in the legacy or history of Blood Generation. Blood Generation, the heel unit, ended that day on April 26th. But just for the record, Newborn Blood Generation would also come to a close on January 14th, 2007, when Newborn Blood Gen (CIMA & Fujii & Sydal) faced Final M2K (Mochizuki & Susumu & K-ness) in a 6-man tag as a final goodbye to both units (it had already been announced both would disband following that match). CIMA would go on to form the Typhoon babyface unit with ex-FM2K & Do FIXER members soon after, while Fujii would become unaffiliated, not formally joining another unit until Team Veteran Returns more than five years later.
As for the Muscle Outlaw’z guys, well, we’ll get to them in a second…
Overall Impact/Legacy: It is almost impossible to overstate what Blood Generation mean to the overall history of Dragon Gate. Simply put, had Blood Generation been a failure, it is quite possible that Dragon Gate as we know it would not currently exist. At the time they began, following the exit of Aagan Issou (which in turn was after the exits of SUWA and TARU and then the departure of the even more beloved Milano Collection AT came not long after), the DG fanbase was demoralized and downtrodden. Blood Generation were, at first, a strange unit created essentially out of nothing; their concept was weird, and fans had no idea what to make of the beloved CIMA & Fujii, along with others, coming down to the ring carrying various pieces of fitness equipment. The fitness theme of Blood Generation is why throwing “protein powder” in people’s faces became a thing, by the way; this has continued all the way through the present day by all the heel units since, even though really no unit since early MO’z has had that fitness theme, in the same way the “colored plastic box” has remained a weapon of every heel unit since the original M2K.
To the immense credit of everyone involved, Blood Gen was a smashing success. CIMA & Fujii managed to actually get booed by crowds just by sheer force of willpower, CIMA proving once again that he was still one of the best heels in wrestling while Fujii reminded us he was a great heel bully in his own right before he ever was a comedy figure (he spent most of 2005 torturing the dojo boys, and then started a feud with referee and ex-wrestler Yasushi Kanda by abusing him during his matches, leading to one of the most beloved moments in DG history: Kanda leaving a match in his referee gear but then coming back in his old in-ring gear to fight Fujii, which honestly nearly moved me to tears at the time. he would return to the ring after a more than four-year absence soon after). In addition to them, the group managed to take Naruki Doi from a semi-comedy secondary babyface into a strong heel, as Doi used the group as a launching pad to take his career to new heights. Yoshino reinvented himself after the end of ItaCon, Kishiwada came in as a strong monster heel, and Gamma’s entry into the group started a long rivalry and- eventually- friendship/partnership with CIMA that endures to this day. So much of Dragon Gate’s history and success is owed to this one unit. So again, their legacy is immense. And above all else, they had some fantastic matches, especially in their feud with Do FIXER, that helped really solidify what Dragon Gate was all about in 2005. Thanks in huge part to Blood Gen, DG proved that year they were going to not just survive all those many departures mentioned earlier, but they were going to thrive.
3. Muscle Outlaw’z
- Circa: 4/23/2006-5/14/2008
- Members: Naruki Doi (4/23/2006-5/5/2008), Masato Yoshino (4/23/2006-5/5/2008), Gamma (4/23/2006-9/22/2007; 10/21/2007-5/14/2008), Magnitude Kishiwada (4/23/2006-late 2007), YAMATO (4/17/2008-5/14/2008), Naoki Tanizaki (4/23/2006-12/2006), Yasushi Kanda (10/21/2007-5/14/2008), Genki Horiguchi (2/4/2007-5/14/2008), Cyber Kong (1/25/2007-4/17/2007), Jack Evans (4/2007-5/10/2007), Dr. Muscle (7/2006-5/14/2008), Kinta Tamaoka (5/2006-10/21/2007)
- Guest Members: Kevin Steen, Jimmy Rave, Pentagon Black, Muscle Gang, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Dick Togo, Arik Cannon, Black Thunder, Kenzo Suzuki, Naoki Sano
- Leader(s): Naruki Doi & Gamma (basically co-leaders for the entire run, except the time when Gamma was briefly exiled)
- Theme(s): “Pure-blood”/fitness, generic heels, landing spot for outside heels
Continuing on with the MO’z, the group initially began as successors to Blood Generation. They kept most of the same themes at first, merely changing the name and color scheme. The initial members were all the ex-Blood Gen wrestlers who had turned on CIMA & Fujii and remained heel- Doi, Yoshino, Gamma, and Naoki- with Magnitude Kishiwada quickly joining them upon his return from injury as well, basically recognized as a member from the beginning. Kishiwada, Yoshino, & CIMA thus had to vacate the Triangle Gate titles (and are probably remembered to this day as the strongest champions ever) with CIMA now on the other side of the fence (they actually defended them one last time together, and surprisingly the three worked together well enough for a while despite being up against a team of Doi/Gamma/Naoki, so the other 3 MO’z guys; the match eventually ended in a DQ when a bunch of wacky stuff happened and the belts were then vacated).
The unit started small with just these five, but as you can see above their membership ultimately became the most chaotic in the history of Dragon Gate units. While the unit started with the same principles as Blood Gen, most of that was quickly abandoned in favor of the group just becoming a generic heel unit that also served as a landing spot for any of the various guest heels who came through DG (hence the enormous listing of guest wrestlers you see above; most appeared for only one or two tours). Because of how long they were around and the incredible number of members they had, we’ll try to just hit the main highlights. As you may have noticed, this unit has the unique distinction of having not a single member who was around for the entire unit’s run! Doi & Yoshino, who only officially left 9 days before the unit’s end, and Gamma, who was there the entire time except one month when he was ousted, come close, but many others had much shorter stays.
The first of the departures from the original five members was Naoki Tanizaki. As you may recall from DG 101 he had been the only wrestler to come over from Toryumon X, and in December 2006 he departed Dragon Gate to compete in the new El Dorado promotion with many of his fellow Toryumon X alumni (along with many T2P alumni too, like the entire Aagan Issou unit among others). In early 2007 the group then received a number of new wrestlers: Cyber Kong joined them as his first unit on January 25th, but he would last less than three months in the group before betraying them to form the Dragon Gate trueborn-only New Hazard unit (with Shingo, BxB Hulk, and YAMATO) on April 17th. Jack Evans also joined the group in April 2007, betraying Typhoon, but he lasted just one month before also departing for New Hazard.
But another new addition in early 2007 ended up being permanent, as Genki Horiguchi turned on his longtime best friend and Maraha Isappa tag team partner Ryo Saito, going heel for the first time since the start of the H-A-G-E!!! empire (“hage” is Japanese for bald so the chant was originally to mock the heel Genki for his early male pattern baldness, but Genki embraced the chants and they ultimately ended up giving him immense popularity) years earlier in Do FIXER. Genki underwent an enormous character transformation; his theme song changed from GO TO HEAVEN to GO TO HELL, his finisher went from the Backslide From Heaven (his normal, sometimes-godly-assisted backslide) to the Backslide From Hell (a backslide with a low blow set-up!), and he became an all-around nasty character. Genki’s heel run is one of the major bright spots of MO’z, as he totally reinvented and rejuvenated his career here.
Let’s quickly tell the story of some of the other members: Doi & Yoshino were the top stars of the unit, and their team of SPEED MUSCLE won the GHC Jr. Tag Team Titles of NOAH and then the first-ever Summer Adventure Tag League in 2007. DoiYoshi used that prize money to establish the Open the Twin Gate titles, naming themselves as first champions of course, and they then unified those titles with the WAR International Junior Tag Titles that had been kicking around in DG for about a year at the time. They were the signboard players of MO’z and the one team that didn’t neccesairly need to cheat to win (though they still did plenty of it, believe me!).
Gamma was recognized throughout his run in MO’z as the co-leader with Doi, as he was their main talker for sure. He had a brief period where he was actually kicked out of the MO’z, as he was having issues with Kinta Tamaoka. Kinta had been a normal referee in Dragon Gate until he suddenly turned heel in May 2006, becoming the “fast count referee” for Muscle Outlaw’z, assisting them in winning matches any way he could (whether it was through fast counts for them, slow or refusing to count for the opposition, or even physically assaulting them). Other than a brief period when the MO’z lost a stipulation match that said Kinta had to return to being a normal referee (he inexplicably rejoined MO’z very quickly), he was their personal referee for over a year. His interference started backfiring on the MO’z a bit in the late summer/early fall of 2007, however, and Gamma took exception to it and challenged him to a match. The two had their match on September 22nd, but the MO’z team shockingly turned on Gamma and kicked him out of the group! Gamma disappeared from DG for a month before returning on October 21st, seemingly aiding Typhoon against the MO’z. This turned out to be a swerve, however, and Gamma quickly turned on Typhoon and rejoined MO’z. The group then ejected Kinta, finally ending the heel referee saga.
But that wasn’t the only noteworthy thing to happen on October 21st. Back in the Blood Generation portion you may remember my note about Yasushi Kanda returning to the ring to feud with Don Fujii in early 2006, after nearly four years away due to injury. Kanda began as a part-timer after his return, slowly ramped up his participation more and more in 2006 and (especially) 2007, until finally he was just a regular member of the roster once again. However, now well into his second year back, Kanda had never joined a real unit (he had been associated with the Renaissance concept of Magnum TOKYO & Mochizuki, prior to Magu suffering an injury in mid-2006 that he would ultimately never return to DG from; this was essentially a precursor to the later Team Veteran units but was never considered to be a real, bonafide unit at the time). With Kinta having been ejected from MO’z, he appealed to Kanda, who had been a referee before returning to the ring, to be the ref for a unique six-man tag match: Kinta would team with two of his fellow referees to take on Doi, Yoshino, & Gamma! The match lasted just four minutes, as Kanda shocked the world by turning heel and helping MO’z defeat the refs. Kanda had finally chosen a unit, and his choice was to go back to his original M2K heel roots. He would remain a heel for nearly four-and-a-half straight years.
And a brief word on Dr. Muscle, who appeared sporadically throughout the MO’z run and would in fact continue to appear through the present day: originally this new character was created for Raimu/Daniel Mishima after the (merciful) end of the Florida Brothers in 2006. Mishima however was forced to retire not long after he debuted with the gimmick (I believe he made an attempted comeback in Kensuke Sasaki’s promotion, which sort of makes sense because Kensuke loved the Florida Brothers and his time teaming with them in DG, but I don’t think much really became of it and he’s once again retired). The gimmick however continued on, with many, many wrestlers having played it over the years; often it is a harbinger of a turn of some sort, such as when Gamma appeared under the Dr. Muscle mask to assist Junction Three after he was kicked out of Blood Warriors in 2011.
By the time we reached 2008, the MO’z started having issues. They lost their monster Magnitude Kishiwada, as the freelancer started wrestling on DG shows less and less, eventually intruding on the El Dorado ring and disappearing from DG completely towards the end of 2007 (he would return to DG later but, surprisingly, left the heel side of the roster to team with Mochizuki & Fujii as the Zetsurins veteran trio instead). Their guest stars that had helped the unit throughout their run so far didn’t seem to be appearing very often, if at all. They were down to a core unit of Doi, Yoshino, Gamma, Kanda, and Genki. Around this time, a familiar refrain to the end of the Italian Connection began playing out (even involving one of the same guys!): namely, Doi and Yoshino started to feel as if they were above heel tactics. The two had already become enormously popular with the fanbase due to the success of their DoiYoshi team, and after a brief hint of internal strife between them was put aside (Doi started teaming up with Genki Horiguchi while Yoshino pursued the Dream Gate from CIMA, but DoiYoshi reconciled after the Yoshino-CIMA Dream Gate match) the two seemed to drift further and further apart from the rest of the Muscle Outlaw’z. Things got uglier and uglier between the heel and babyface fight sides as they continued to cost each other matches for months.
Meanwhile, the Muscle Outlaw’z did receive a surprising new member on April 17th. YAMATO had long been the most heelish member of the tweener, DG trueborn-only New Hazard faction, but after some internal dissension with BxB Hulk he officially turned heel and joined the MO’z. This was rather shocking at the time just because it seemed like he and Hulk had just managed to put their dissension behind them at Shingo Takagi’s direction, but things turned out to make sense (such as it is for Dragon Gate anyway) a month later (you’ll have to wait for Part 2 to learn why, though!).
After about a month of barely associating with the group following all the issues that had raged throughout 2008, founding members Doi & Yoshino finally officially left on May 5th. They announced they were going to be starting their own unit with fellow ex-MO’z member Naoki Tanizaki (who had just returned to the company in March from El Dorado but hadn’t joined up with a unit yet), which would end up being the babyface unit WORLD-1. 9 days later Muscle Outlaw’z would come to an official end, with all of the remaining members (Gamma, Genki, Kanda, and YAMATO) going on to form Real Hazard that night. But we’ll talk all about them next time, in Part 2!
Overall Impact/Legacy: This is I think the single toughest unit in all of Dragon Gate history for me to parse out my various thoughts and feelings on. There was just so much going on here, and I think that is ultimately the biggest criticism you can make about it: it was kind of all over the place throughout its run. Sometimes the focus was on having lots of foreign guest stars. Sometimes the focus was on Doi & Yoshino’s awesome tag team. Sometimes the focus was on the heel referee (ugh). Sometimes the focus was on all of these things at the same time! You get the idea, I think. One thing you can definitely never call the Muscle Outlaw’z was boring!
Here’s how I think I’m going to choose to remember them: the MO’z were a fun unit that lasted a long time, maybe too long, but had a lot of really cool moments. They had one of the longest unit dissension periods ever- it lasted basically from the very start of 2008 until May of that year when Doi & Yoshino finally officially left!- and I find that entire period to be really fun and unpredictable. If you don’t like a lot of turns and swerves, however, you may have just found it tiresome, but I enjoyed it a lot. On the other hand, what I didn’t enjoy was all the heel referee antics with Kinta, and that did kind of drag on forever before it was finally put out of its misery, so that’s a major point against them. Still, my memories of this unit are more positive than negative. They’re clearly a tier above Aagan Issou, but at the same time they’re well below Blood Generation. Oh, and they had I think my favorite theme song of all time. IDIOT OUTLAW!!!
So that’s it folks. Ten thousand words later (!), we’re finally done. We’ll see you next time for Part 2, when we’ll talk about the next three heel units in Dragon Gate: Real Hazard, Deep Drunkers, and Team Doi.