Dragon Gate’s annual Cinco de Mayo spectacle is back once again. This is one of my personal favorite shows of the year as the 2014 edition was one of the best shows of that year (and in Dragon Gate history) and seemingly every year, something wild seems to take place. This year, VerserK is aligned against each other in the annual steel cage match, which once again features delegates, with the loser (and perhaps their delegate) either losing their mask forever or staying bald for a year.
Dead or Alive
May 5, 2016
Aichi Prefectural Gym
El Lindaman, Kaito Ishida, & Takehiro Yamamura def. Genki Horiguchi, Jimmy Kness J.K.S., & U-T
Not the most thrilling opener in the world, but it was another opportunity to see Lindaman work and another chance for U-T’s hatred towards Ishida and Yamamura to progress. Horiguchi and Kness were essentially non-factors as they let the youngsters do the heavy lifting here. A skippable match if you aren’t invested in Lindaman at the moment, but a fun opener that let the young guys show what they’re worth. **3/4
Open the Brave Gate Championship
Yosuke Santa Maria (c) def. Mondai Ryu
Before anything, we need to talk about the Open the Love Gate Championship, which is the best thing going in professional wrestling.
Yosuke, at this point, has to be the favorite to win Most Improved in the WON Awards, especially when you factor in her match with Mochizuki from December. She was outstanding in this match. She was dealing with a weaker wrestler here, in Ryu, than in her title victory vs. Kotoka, but this was the best individual performance I’ve ever seen. Ryu stays even with her for a majority of the match, but Yosuke never gives up, she fights harder than you could imagine, and delivers a slew of amazing looking forearms to Ryu before putting him away moments later with her signature Crucifix Pin.
Yosuke’s matches are incredibly simple. She’s the babyface. Sympathetic, bumping like crazy, and trying to catch her opponent off guard. It’s a formula that is working and I can’t wait to see her reign progress. It’s already much better than I ever could’ve imagined. Great match, Ryu’s best singles match ever, and a thrilling victory for Yosuke. ***3/4
Kzy def. Masaaki Mochizuki: Cyber Kong Delegate Match
A wonderful start to the delegate matches on this card. Kzy has been one of the best workers in the world this year and Mochizuki was on fire here. This match worked. It was a short, fiery sprint that showed how bad both guys wanted to win (and keep their hair). Kzy was really, really good here. He jumped Mochizuki before the bell and was on the attack throughout the match. Really good psychology for a match with a 10 minute time limit. He didn’t waste time. Mochizuki is a serious threat and Kzy was not in the mood to waste time. Flash pin for the finish, which popped me. ***1/2
Jimmy Kanda def. Punch Tominaga: Shingo Takagi Delegate Match
I’m embarrassed over just how much I enjoyed this match, but I loved it. So far, these matches are right up my alley. They’re short, fun sprints with each guy showing a sense of urgency to not be in line to possibly have his head shaved later in the show. This was quick, and Tominaga was dominated for the most part, but Tominaga showed just enough hope and it ended it and the perfect time. Do not skip this one. ***1/4
Jimmy Susumu def. Stalker Ichikawa: YAMATO Delegate Match
One Jumbo no Kachi wasn’t enough! A deadly, perfectly perfected Everest German from Ichikawa almost put down the former two-time Open the Dream Gate Champion! Bombs were thrown! These men put their body on the line! This was WA–
This was actually exactly what you’d expect from these two. It lasted all of a minute and a half. Susumu took his head off a few times, Ichikawa did actually land a great Everest German, and then he was quickly destroyed. NR
Don Fujii def. Ryo Saito: Naoki Tanizaki Delegate Match
In the same vein as the prior delegate matches. This clocked in at just under five minutes and it was a total blast. Lots of flash pins and crafty maneuvers. Fujii’s signature Gedo Clutch pinned Saito’s shoulder’s to the mat for the three count. ***
CIMA vs. Gamma: Naruki Doi Delegate Match
This was the complete inverse of the fun sprints that kicked off this show. For one, they went to a 10 minute draw, as I figured they would. However, the sense of urgency that had been demonstrated in the prior matches was nowhere to be found here. CIMA spent a portion of the match grappling with Gamma on the mat, which seemed pointless for a match like this. These guys played around on the outside of the ring for awhile and throughout the duration of the match, neither man felt focused. Towards the finishing stretch Gamma dropped CIMA with a tombstone piledriver on the floor, causing CIMA to sprint back in the ring to avoid a countout. If this would’ve been the last spot of the match, I would’ve liked it, but they rattled through some more moves after this and I simply did not care. This was not a good match. **
Masato Yoshino def. Akira Tozawa: Kotoka Delegate Match
The Monster Express duo picked this show up in a major way after the Over Generation pair dropped the ball with their match. This was the best Delegate Match on the show – a thriller with two of the best wrestlers in the world throwing it all against the wall for a little under 10 minutes. I could see some gripes over Tozawa’s selling, but this match was so short and I feel like criticizing that would be missing the point of the match. Yoshino scored a questionable pinfall here as Tozawa thought he had his shoulder up, but the referee stood by his decision. Thus, Tozawa is paired with Kotoka and that, my friends, is a bummer. ***1/2
Open the Twin Gate Championship
Big R Shimizu & T-Hawk (c) def. Dragon Kid & Eita
Dragon Kid has a very interesting history at Dead or Alive. It’s his hometown show, which makes sense, but he has one hell of a history at this show. In 2015, 2013, 2012, 2010 ,and 2009, he was involved in a Brave Gate Championship match against the likes of Akira Tozawa, Masato Yoshino, Ricochet, CIMA, and of course, Tigers Mask. I can vouch for the Tozawa, Yoshino, and Ricochet matches – they are all outstanding. In 2014 he was involved in a fun Triangle Gate match where he squared off with his partner, Eita, and one half of his challengers, T-Hawk. 2011 saw him in his brief heel run as he teamed with Blood Warriors in a match that disbanded Kamikaze. He participated in the 2008 cage match at Dead or Alive, as well as the inaugural cage match for the Dragon System at Absolutamente 2001.
Now he’s here, teaming with his newfound protegee, and this match was a banger and that was mostly due to DK. Before I continue to praise him, I should note that I am not madly in love with the Big T team. The Big half of it, Big R Shimizu, is outstanding, but T-Hawk does not fit the mold that I want from Monster Express and his lack of charisma can end up hurting Big R in the midst of a match. They are just on two different levels. T-Hawk held his own here, more so than their title win against YAMADoi, but he hasn’t won me over yet.
As for the match, DK and Big R have outstanding chemistry. This started a little slow, but once things heated up, this became an off-the-walls sort of match. There was an interesting dynamic with T-Hawk and Eita squaring off against each other, since the two were such a successful tag team for so long. That was fine, but the Big R/DK dynamic, as I mentioned earlier, was insane. DK had T-Hawk wobbled at one point, which led to him going for the Super Hurricanrana off the top (I can’t remember the last time he went for that), T-Hawk ducked and DK rolled through to his feet and into the clutches of Big R, who was looking for the Shot-Put Slam, which finally led to DK countering with a huge Crucifix Bomb.
In the end, Eita fell victim to the Shot-Put Slam, my current move of the year and arguably the most protected move in Dragon Gate. It’s been put over like death. He’s pinned with CIMA and Mochizuki with it. Super fun match. Things get insanely hot towards the end. ****1/4
Mask vs. Hair 1 Year Bald Head Steel Cage Survival Double Risk 6 Way Match
YAMATO, Naruki Doi, Shingo Takagi, Cyber Kong, & Naoki Tanizaki def. Kotoka
I don’t think there’s ever been a company that could construct a match so complex, and yet make it come across so compelling. This match clocked in at just over 46 minutes and from bell to bell, my eyes were glued on the screen. This match worked on a level that prior cage matches have not, and I’m a huge supporter of this gimmick. The stakes were higher than ever before. Each men had a vendetta against the other five opponents in this one and it sure as hell delivered.
This is such an absurd match. Kotoka was hit in the face with a pie at one point and CIMA and Gamma brought out a JUGS Gun and delivered soccer balls at a rapid speed towards the cage. Weapons in this match seem to get crazier and crazier every year. I really enjoy that element of this match.
I will not give this match a star rating. There are too many things going on and so many different angles playing out that it really transcends what a wrestling match is. If you were to look at this as a pure match, it would be good, but not great. If you took the perspective of wrestling as an artform, I could see a reasonable argument for this match being 5 stars. There was so much that went into this that it needs to be watched, not explained, but there are a few points that should be made.
YAMATO was clearly positioned as the best wrestler in this match. He was on fire throughout and his execution was flawless. The only person that gave him trouble was Shingo Takagi, which is fitting as not only is Takagi the sharpest thorn in his side, but they two will square off in a few days in the King of Gate tournament. YAMATO was the ultimate babyface in this match. He sacrificed himself for Naruki Doi’s safety at one point, which was a huge turning point in the match. Of course, Doi would end up turning him later and siding with the rest of VerserK.
BxB Hulk made his long awaited return in this match and is now joining up with Kzy, Yosuke Santa Maria, and YAMATO, in a unit that I predicted. Hulk’s return was exquisite. Hulk has his flaws, but in bursts like this, I think he is outstanding.
This was a spectacle that needs to be seen. In terms of “getting” this match, I think this one is something that anyone with a basic understanding of Dragon Gate should try to watch. The story is simple – VerserK are at their witsend with each other and YAMATO is the one that they target. It’s a great story, and in terms of storytelling, you probably won’t see a better match this year.
“YAMATO promised to take out Takagi and get revenge on Doi. This error in judgement will cost Verserk everything. He addressed the fans as the final survivor of the cage match. He thanked Hulk, Kzy, & Maria for helping him. Hulk was happy to see YAMATO keep his hair. He’s been out for awhile, but he has been watching YAMATO closely the whole time. He hasn’t been the same recently. More to the point, he feels like they have something in common. You see, Hulk hates that Shingo Takagi guy. Like, really really hates him. He has been on the shelf for six months. His rehab is done. He has gotten into shape. He is ready to come back. If YAMATO was out of Verserk then they should all fight together. To take out Takagi, to end Verserk.
YAMATO was in tears. He apologized for how he has acted over the last three years. That whole Almighty thing? All seeing and all knowing? He didn’t see or know anything. He wasn’t almighty. Kzy corrected him. They have been together since the trainee days. He knows YAMATO better than anyone. He is indeed The Almighty. YAMATO promised to devote the rest of his career to DRAGON GATE. To raise the profile of the company, help the trainees, and make it fun for everyone. He had one last thing to say. Once again, wasn’t he…and Hulk….and Kzy….and even Maria….just the coolest?”
While this was not a Show of the Year Contender, this was one of the most entertaining shows of the year. The Delegate matches on the undercard were a blast. Mochizuki vs. Kzy and Yoshino vs. Tozawa were both wildly entertaining. Santa Maria continues to impress with her reign as champion and Big T tore the house down with their tag title defense. The cage match is the best cage match in Dragon Gate history. I can’t say enough good things about it. Thumbs up, go watch this show.