King of Gate, Dragon Gate’s annual singles tournament is back once again. The history of this tournament dates back to the Toryumon days with the El Numero Uno tournament, which kicked off in 2001 with Masaaki Mochizuki winning and lasted through 2004, prior to the split and rebranding, with Dragon Kid proving that he was the best.
Side note: CIMA vs. Genki Horiguchi in the finals of El Numbero Uno 2003 is one of my favorite Toryumon matches and it caps off what I think is the best Toryumon show ever.
King of Gate took the place of El Numero in 2005 and since then, it has occurred annually with the lone exception of 2009. The likes of Shingo Takagi, Ricochet, and Jimmy Susumu, to name a few, have outlasted all their competitors in prior years. In years past, this has been a single-elimination, standard bracket format, but this year, King of Gate has adopted a round-robin system with four blocks.
For a further explanation, I recommend listening to the latest episode of Open the Voice Gate (KOG talk starts at 54:23)
King of Gate
May 11, 2016
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan
U-T, Jimmy Kanda, Genki Horiguchi, & Jimmy Kness J.K.S. def. El Lindaman, Takehiro Yamamura, Kaito Ishida, & Don Fujii
U-T, who has been at the bottom of the Dragon Gate rung for so long, has finally started gaining some momentum. He’s had a fire lit under him since CIMA took Yamamura and Ishida under his wing and not U-T. He’s taken exception to those two, as well as the third Over Generation youngster, El Lindman, and the combinations have been duking it out recently in a handful of opening matches. Here, with the luck of a clever roll-up, U-T was able to grab the pinfall. He celebrated like he had won the Dream Gate title and with his abysmal win-loss record, that’s justified. Short, yet fun opener, and one that anyone with a vested interest in Dragon Gate’s future should watch. **3/4
King of Gate Block D: Big R Shimizu def. Gamma
I would have had to turn in my Dragon Gate fan card had Gamma pinned Big R. Shimizu has been red hot lately, pinning Mochizuki, CIMA, and Eita within the past few tours, so it would make sense that he’d win, but Gamma, in Korakuen, especially, has an odd amount of respect that I simply do not understand. This was as basic as you can get. It wouldn’t have shock me if neither man broke a sweat. Gamma was another victim of the Shot-Put Slam to end the match. **3/4
Block B: Time Limit Draw – Akira Tozawa vs. Eita
Tozawa has a tremendous history in King of Gate. He fell short to Genki Horiguchi in the 2012 finals, and then in Korakuen in both 2014 and 2015, put on MOTYCs with T-Hawk and Shingo Takagi respectively.
This match was a perfect example of two men going out there and wanting to win. Both men felt like they needed this win. This was a battle of pride and skill. Eita was determined to rip off Tozawa’s arm and make him tap with the Numero Uno. Tozawa, destined to kick off King of Gate with a bang, fought through the pain and put on an admirable performance of heart and passion.
Eita was really enjoyable here. His constant attack on Tozawa’s arm made his eventual submission attempts incredibly exciting and it was a great callback to their 2014 feud when Eita, for a majority of the year, had Tozawa’s number and put him through misery with the Numero Uno submission, including a point in which Tozawa refused to tap, and to save his partner for the upcoming Kobe World show, Tozawa’s former ally Shingo Takagi was forced to throw in the towel. Eita is coming into his own as a singles worker, a trend that actually started to form at Kobe World when he wrestled Tozawa for the Brave Gate title. Eita fell short there, and this time, while there was improvement, he could not score the victory. He put up a valiant effort, but Tozawa outlasted his attacks. The two capped off 20 minutes of outstanding action with a time limit draw. ****1/4
BxB Hulk, Kzy, & Yosuke Santa Maria def. Cyber Kong, Kotoka, & Mondai Ryu
This is Hulk’s third match since October, as a shoulder injury took him out for the remainder of 2015 and the start of 2016. This is also Kotoka’s first match (that has aired) of him being bald, as he lost the cage match at Dead or Alive a few weeks ago. He had a pathetic, loose, red wig on, but Kzy quickly ended that gimmick as the wig was ripped off and his bald, beautifully round head was revealed to the masses.
Hulk has his ups and downs. At his best, he’s outstanding. Lightning quick, incredibly agile, and capable of producing great matches. At his worst, he’s a very bad wrestler, one that sticks out in Dragon Gate. Here, Hulk, who has put on a noticeable amount of muscle mass since we last saw him, was actively bad here. Dragon Gate six-mans work because every is in sync. The match flows. No one makes mistakes and everything is timed just right. Hulk looked slow. He looked blown up at times. His complex offense came across as weak. He brought down this match. Hulk aside, this never hit the level that most matches of this type, in this company, hit. This was a poor outing for all six competitors. **1/2
No Contest: Masato Yoshino & Shachihoko BOY vs. Naruki Doi & Naoki Tanizaki
Naruki Doi has officially added another chapter in his massive plot of ruining Masato Yoshino’s life. These two used to be the best of buds and now, well, not exactly. And Doi did him dirty this time around as Doi recruited Yoshino’s original best friend, a one night honorary Monster Express member, and former Dragon Gate talent, brother YASSHI to VerserK. This was a perfectly acceptable match and then YASSHI ran in, and although I am far from the biggest YASSHI fan, he fits like a glove in VerserK. I am very interested to see his role in the company from here on out. NR
“Doi called to the entry way in the late stages of match 5. brother YASSHI hit the ring in a MONSTER EXPRESS shirt. He attacked Shachi, and tore his mask completely off. Doi introduced him not as a member of the Italian Connection, not as a member of MONSTER EXPRESS, but as brother YASSHI of Verserk. He tore the ME shirt off to reveal a Verserk shirt. He was here to replace YAMATO. Doi & Yoshino argued, briefly stopping so Shimizu could Shot-put Slam Kotoka. Yoshino said this was just like Doi. To bring back a guy who was fired for poor conduct. A guy who came back 2 months ago and was promptly banned again. Doi reminded Yoshino that it was him that reintroduced YASSHI to the company. YASSHI was nauseated by all the friendship club bullshit in MONSTER EXPRESS. If he was going to come back to DG he was going to be a part of the heel unit.Jimmy Kagetora, Ryo Saito, & Jimmy Susumu def. CIMA, Dragon Kid, & Punch Tominaga” IHeartDG.com
This was Kagetora’s fourth match back in just under a year as a knee injury derailed him in May 2015 and kept him out of action until now. He’s back, a little bigger, and with a face full of beautiful, thick facial hair. I fully support his decision to grow that bad boy out.
This was a really fun match. CIMA, who I typically expect to take a night off on night’s like this, worked his ass off. Loved his chemistry with both Kagetora and especially with Susumu. Dragon Kid has new gear, which is a rarity for him, and he is fitting in with Over Generation nicely. It’d be hard not to, I guess, but I like the way he works with the likes of Eita, Punch, and CIMA. Punch, to his credit, while being incredibly awkward, was fun to watch in this match.
Kagetora, unlike Hulk, looked ready to be back in the ring. I don’t think he’ll ever have the same speed or quickness that he had before his knee blew up, but he was very enjoyable here and I look forward to him tearing it up as the year progresses. Hopefully he and Susumu team up to hunt for Twin Gate gold once more. Kagetora pinned Punch to get his first big win since coming back. ***3/4
King of Gate Block C: Masaaki Mochizuki def. T-Hawk
In most parts of the world, this is attempted murder. In Korakuen Hall, however, this is just quality professional wrestling. Mochizuki kicked off this match with a sweet dive over the top rope and from there, these two decided to beat this living piss out of each other. Few matches can rival the stiffness that these men displayed here. It was a thing of beauty, to be honest, as T-Hawk tried to taunt the old man with his thunderous chops, while Mochizuki, the far more experienced competitor, took pleasure in caving in T-Hawk’s chest with a variety of kicks. This match was short, and more importantly, brutal. Highly recommended. ****1/2
King of Gate Block A: Shingo Takagi def. YAMATO
YAMATO is a full-on babyface and the Korakuen faithful loves it. He was ousted from VerserK the prior week at the Dead or Alive pay-per view and now he’s back in the main event against the champion, the leader of VerserK, and his number one target, Shingo Takagi.
This wasn’t as all-out as one would expect. They paced themselves. YAMATO worked over Takagi’s arm, but in a different way than Eita did to Tozawa earlier on in the night. Eita worked over Tozawa to help out his own offense, while YAMATO was on the defense here as he looked to eliminate Takagi’s brutal lariats. The attack was smart in plan, but after a powder attack and a Bakatare Sliding Kick via outside interference, Takagi took YAMATO’s head off with a brutal lariat.
They really did seem like they were holding back here. YAMATO will need to avenge this loss at some point and with the King of Gate schedule this year, it would appear that the winner will challenge the Dream Gate champion at Kobe World, Dragon Gate’s biggest show of the year, and it would make perfect sense for YAMATO to win Block A, then the tournament, and then Takagi on Dragon Gate’s biggest stage. If that all plays out, I will be a very happy camper. This match was very good, but it clearly felt like a placeholder for a match down the line. ****
“YAMATO ended things with a speech. He wanted to give his usual “I was just the coolest again today” line but losing is incredibly uncool so he would save it for next month. The fans were upset, so Kzy forced him to say it to close the show.” IHeartDG.com
Very interesting show. If you skip the six-man borefest with Hulk, this was an easy to watch, exciting show. Three matches at four stars or above and a hot six-man featuring the return of Kagetora should be enough to attract even the most casual Dragon Gate viewer. Skip the Hulk return, don’t bother with Big R vs. Gamma, and everything else is worth watching. Fun show with some quality content in terms of both matches and angles.