Dragon Gate Pro Wrestling Festival in Kobe / Kobe World 2016
July 24, 2016
Hyogo, Kobe World Kinen Hall

Watch: Nico Nico Live (Guide to purchasing iPPV on Nico Nico)

Meet our predictors:

  • John Carroll (@toshanshuinla): Official VOW dragon system historian. Lately just on a bunch of these roundtable things because my job has been an actual job. Open the Voice Gate was my idea so you’re welcome/sorry.
  • Case Lowe (@_InYourCase): Voices of Wrestling’s official young boy. Not a legal adult. Current duties include cooking meals for the other writers, mopping the floor and reviewing Dragon Gate major events.
  • Jules (@roundhousekiss): Human disaster, notorious for getting into Twitter fights, OTVG team mom (or at least I like to think I am).
  • Dylan (@jimmysusumu): Aficionado for the sleaziest Japanese indy promotions you can think of. Likes deathmatches too much for my own good. That one Jimmyz/”brother” YASSHI fan.

Gamma, Takehiro Yamamura, Kaito Ishida vs. Naoki Tanizaki, Mondai Ryu, Cyber Kong

John Carroll: The heel unit in the opening six-man at World is a tradition that stretches all the way back to the 2nd ever show in 2002, with the invading Italian Connection squashing a trio of Kenichiro Arai, Super Shisa, and Raimu f’n Mishima! Anyway, the VerserK B-Team should pick up the win here in a match that will go about ten minutes, be perfectly fine, and leave you with no memory about an hour after you’ve finished watching it. Prediction: VerserK

Case Lowe: An opener that I’m sure will be classified as “inoffensive” or “perfectly acceptable wrestling”. This is important to me, as it’s Yamamura and Ishida’s first time performing at World. Prediction: VerserK

Jules: Your weird uncle Gamma teams with the young & promising Yamamura and Ishida to take on the Verserk B-team. Naoki Tanizaki deserves better than this. There’s not a lot to say about this match, truthfully, but I am looking forward to seeing how the young boys fare for their first Kobe World outing. Prediction: Over Generation

Dylan: Naoki Tanizaki has fallen frightfully far down the card since defecting from the Jimmyz to join VerserK, but that’s what you get when you leave the coolest team in Dragon Gate. More interested in seeing what Yamamura and Ishida do here than anything else and really hoping that the VerserK B-team just steps back and lets them show off. Gamma is everyone’s favorite strange uncle that you wish wouldn’t show up to your family events but is always a hell of a lot of fun. Should be a fun opener and on the shorter side. Prediction: Over Generation

Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy K-ness J.K.S., Futa Nakamura vs, “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa, Big R Shimizu, Shachihoko BOY, U-T

John Carroll: I love the randomness of both these teams, generation-wise. On one side we have three guys who have been teaming together off-and-on since Do FIXER was a thing, teaming up with Futa Nakamura, a kid making his Kobe World debut. On the other team we have the ancient Shachihoko BOY teaming up with the even-more-ancient Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, but their partners are U-T and Big R Shimizu, two dudes who have only been around a few years. I know people are a little surprised and sad to see Big R end up in this low of a spot on the card following his excellent run to the King of Gate finals, but the simple fact is that you can’t focus on everyone on every show. No one rotates guys in and out of the spotlight better than DG, and Big R will have his next turn to shine very soon. Anyway, this is a tough one to pick because you’ve got a lot of guys who could easily drop a fall, but when in doubt, assume Stalker is getting pinned. Prediction: Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy K-ness J.K.S., Futa Nakamura

Case Lowe: This is the Kobe World debut for the prodigy, Futa Nakamura. The fact that he has a position on the card says a lot about what the company thinks of him and his potential. He’s had less than five televised matches at this point, but he will be appearing here, as well as in the Summer Adventure Tag League as he teams with Mochizuki. Keep an eye on Futa here, as well as Big R Shimizu, who is the most important member of his team. Shimizu had a breakout King of Gate tournament, and while he may not be wrestling in a hugely important match on this card, he will be in a position to shine. Expect him to pin Nakamura. Prediction: Big R Shimizu, Shachihoko BOY, U-T, & “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa

Jules: Futa Nakamura, who’s had maybe 10 minutes total of his work make tape so far, makes his Kobe World debut here as he teams with the Jimmyz to take on a team as random as can be, but that should be fun to watch nonetheless. Nakamura is a bit of a mystery so far, but we know he’s a strong lad, and that DG has enough faith in him to pair him with Masaaki Mochizuki in the upcoming Summer Adventure Tag League, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does here. Big R Shimizu has been in a strange position since his amazing run in King of Gate, eating pinfalls left and right, but I don’t think that’ll happen here. Stalker is on his team after all. Sorry you weird ass butterfly alien thing. Prediction:Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy K-ness J.K.S., Futa Nakamura

Dylan: I would be lying if I said that seeing Futa Nakamura team with the Jimmyz doesn’t get me excited. The first taped match I saw of his included him actually bodying K-ness with his superior size and strength. He’s still obviously green but he shows a lot of promise and already has the look of a future star should everything go all right for him. K-ness is always an incredible performer and Maraha Isappa is one of the funnest teams that the Jimmyz have to offer. On the other team we have a mixed bag of Monster Express and two of our unaffiliated wrestlers. Shachihoko BOY tends to not go that high on the card but he’s a great wrestler and a lot of fun to watch, and while I’m puzzled as to how Big R ended up this far down the card after his KOG run, I’m interested to see how he handles duking it out with another big dude since that’s not something he has to worry about much in a promotion with smaller wrestlers like Dragon Gate. U-T is someone I hope gets some elevation soon, a great wrestler who’s been showing some serious fire and hopefully they’ll let him show some fire here, too. Oh, and Stalker is in this match. He’ll be funny. If you don’t laugh, you probably don’t have a soul. Prediction:Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy K-ness J.K.S., Futa Nakamura

El Lindaman vs. Jimmy Kanda

John Carroll: Thank you dear Kotoka for your sacrifice. It will not be forgotten. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, this was originally scheduled to be Lindaman against Cyber Kong. God bless Cyber Kong, but he has had very few singles matches worth a damn in his career, and I’m betting this wouldn’t have been one of them. But with Kotoka’s shattered face and all, that necessitated a reshuffling of the undercard: Kong was needed in the opener to replace Kotoka on the VerserK team, so instead we get a YASUSHI KANDA SINGLES MATCH AT WORLD!! Look, I’m excited okay? These don’t happen very often. I fully expect Lindaman to win, as he should, but it will be nice to see the old warhorse Kanda get one final bow in a singles match here. Prediction: El Lindaman

Case Lowe: All aboard the Linda hype train~! This is Linda’s first singles match at Kobe World and his second appearance on the show in general. Last year he won in the opener against an admittedly weak team, but this will be a challenge for the youngster. This is his biggest opportunity to date. If you have read my reviews or listened to Open the Voice Gate, you know how highly I think of Linda. I can’t imagine Kanda pinning him here. Hopefully this leads to the first major push of Linda’s career. Prediction: El Lindaman

Jules: This is the young cherry blossom prince’s first singles Kobe World match, and boy oh boy it’s a party aboard the Lindaman Hype Train. Linda is one of these wrestlers that just puts the biggest smile on my face whenever I watch him, and it makes my heart sing to think that he’s getting his first big moment here. He’s already an incredible performer, bringing the power and energy whenever he gets in the ring, and there’s no limit to what he can do if his size doesn’t cause a problem (which it shouldn’t, because Lindaman is extremely talented). It’s a nice bonus that he’s up against Kanda, one of my quiet favorites and someone I always enjoy seeing in the spotlight. This should continue to boost Linda’s momentum, as he’s one of the brightest stars of Dragon Gate and he’ll get to shine on their biggest stage. Prediction: El Lindaman

Dylan: Yasushi Kanda is one of those “what if” stories. He suffered a serious injury at the beginning of his career that set him back quite a bit and despite being one of the best wrestlers in Dragon Gate, he’s never really managed to go very far. It’s even rare that he gets a precious singles match such as this one, and especially at such a huge event like Kobe World. On top of that, he’s standing toe-to-toe with DG’s brightest young star El Lindaman who has been winning people over left and right with his incredible speed and infectious charisma. It’s great to see him working against such an impressive veteran wrestler and hopefully a big victory here will elevate him even further while Kanda does the job of putting him over and showing what an amazing guy he is in the process. Rest in pieces, Kotoka. Your sacrifice has not been in vain. Feel better. Prediction:  El Lindaman

Masaaki Mochizuki, Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Don Fujii, Masakatsu Funaki

John Carroll: Yeah, re-read those participants one more time and tell me how this won’t be awesome. It’s going to be awesome. I don’t even know what else you want me to say here. These are four legends of professional wrestling competing on one of its biggest stages. If you aren’t looking forward to this you are, quite frankly, a monster. Prediction: Masaaki Mochizuki & Yoshiaki Fujiwara

Case Lowe: Masaaki Mochizuki has an amazing track record at Kobe World when it comes to his opponents. He’s battled with TAKA Michinoku, Koji Kanemoto, and Genichiro Tenryu on Dragon Gate’s biggest stage, and now not only does he get to team with one of the greatest wrestlers ever in Yoshiaki Fujiwara, but he’s battling a Voices of Wrestling favorite in Masakatsu “motherfucking” Funaki. This has the potential to steal the show. Mochizuki, Fujii, and Funaki can still perform at a high level, and Fujiwara, who granted, could break in half at a moment’s notice, put in a banger at Genichiro Tenryu’s Retirement Show last November. At the ripe age of 67, he laces up the boots on Dragon Gate’s biggest show. Very excited for this one. Prediction: Masaaki Mochizuki & Yoshiaki Fujiwara

Jules: I have no idea how this match came to be, but I’m not disputing it. Fujiwara, though liquid he may look, is a bonafide legend, Funaki falls into the coveted category of “murder babes”, and Mochizuki & Fujii are two pillars of Dragon Gate who always bring the fight. This is going to be cool as hell if only for the sheer awesomeness quotient of these four being in the same ring. Prediction: Mochizuki & Fujiwara

Dylan: This match is going to absolutely murder me. Fujiwara is a legend and no one can dispute that claim but it absolutely eats at me inside seeing what some of these veteran wrestlers still do so late in their careers. Please don’t get injured! I’ve seen some of his most recent work and he can still do his spots but my God, man, you have done your duty for puroresu and then some. He’s teaming here with Mochizuki, one of the stiffest kickers in Japan. Mochi and Fujii being on opposite teams should be a thrill since they work so well together, and I’m not going to find a reason to complain when a hot murder dad like Masakatsu Funaki shows up in DG. He had so much fun in his match against Stalker (and looked very good doing it) and I expect him to have a great match here, too. Prediction: Mochizuki & Fujiwara

Open the Brave Gate Championship Match
Yosuke♡Santa Maria vs. Eita

John Carroll: If I was going to fill out an Observer awards ballot today, these two would be #1 & #2 for Most Improved, no question. Maria has gone from a good little comedy wrestler who performed her gimmick well to a legitimately great wrestler who has carried the Brave Gate with pride. Meanwhile, Eita had once been considered a great prospect for DG’s future before having a very middling 2015 (including a pretty disappointing Brave Gate match with Kotoka). Just when everyone was ready to leave him for dead, the Dragon Kid storyline sparked an unlikely revival. After he finally convinced DK to be his mentor & partner, the two had a fantastic Twin Gate match against the Big T team, and Eita then followed that up with an out-of-this-world King of Gate tournament. Now, he comes into this title match with a ton of momentum. This match is under a lot of pressure to deliver given how good both have been all year long, but I have very little doubt the two of them won’t pull it off. That’s how good they’ve been in 2016. Prediction: Eita

Case Lowe: Yosuke Santa Maria has been my favorite wrestler to watch in 2016. People like Chris Hero, Shingo Takagi, and Will Ospreay have had better years, but I get no more satisfaction than watching Santa Maria kill it when she’s been given the opportunity. She was a bumbling fool for the longest time, and since she’s changed gears and has gone in a more serious route, she has shown that she can deliver. She’s pulled matches out of both Kotoka and Mondai Ryu that I didn’t think anyone could. Now, she’s battling her former unit mate, Eita. Eita’s been on a roll this year, putting together MOTYC’s in King of Gate and then putting up a valiant effort against Jushin Thunder Liger in the first round of the Super J Cup. In-ring, this match will deliver. There’s no way it doesn’t. Maria’s reign should come to a close here. It’s been a great run, one that I’ve enjoyed wholeheartedly, but it’s Eita’s time now. Prediction: Eita

Jules: Maria’s rise to where she is now has been a joy to watch, as a non-cis person. To think that the character was treated as a joke for so long, and is now a reigning, defending and inspiring champion is honestly something I hoped for so much, but didn’t have much hope for in the grand scheme of things. So the fact that Dragon Gate was ready to book her better, put that belt on her, and have generally been doing such a great job with her for the past 8 months is truly special to me. To have a trans character involved in positive things and compelling storylines is so rare in media in general that having Maria around is just a blast. She’s grown into a great young wrestler, too, delivering great title matches again Kotoka and *gasp* Mondai Ryu (who was also good in that match, yes I admit). Her run with the belt has been great to watch and more than we could have ever hoped, and if it ends here, I’ll still be thankful. Eita, on the other hand, seems to have had an epiphany over the last few months, delivering incredible performances in the King of Gate tournament and finally finding the motivation that many thought he lacked before. He’s crisp, focused, and finally ready to show everyone what he’s made of, especially showcasing his excellent submission work in recent big matches, notably a great outing in the Super J Cup against living legend Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger. And with all of that, he also showed that he’s ready to win the title that has eluded him many times before. There’s no way this will be anything but amazing, with two of the promotion’s most promising young wrestlers going at it with the Brave Gate title on the line. Probably my most anticipated match on the card. Prediction: Eita

Dylan: What can I even say about these two competitors? When Maria challenged Kotoka for the Brave Gate, most of us were hopeful but believed that Kotoka would continue on in his reign as champion. Thus, it was a huge shock when Maria went over and proved she is more than on par with everyone else in DG. She’s always been a competent performer, taking a character that most viewed with uncertainty at the time and showing how amazing and fun that character can be. Maria can go with the best of them, she’s incredibly limber and quick on her feet, and her moveset is sharp and crisp. And then, we have Eita. Eita, who I’ve fondly called my scruffy son for months. Even when a ton of people disparaged his position in DG and decried his involvement in title scenes because he “wasn’t ready,” those of us who believed in him knew it was just a matter of time. And when the DK storyline came out, there came the Eita we all knew had been just beneath the surface, waiting to be given the cue to show the world what he can really do. Not only was he amazingly charismatic and funny in his attempts to get DK to notice him and train him, often getting the crowd to chant with him and make them laugh, but he and DK had a great Twin Gate match too. And then KOG came, and the real Eita burst through to the surface like we all knew he would. Following his impressive showing against Jushin Thunder Liger in the Super J Cup (and his beautiful tribute to Hayabusa), Eita has people believing in him again. This is the perfect match and the perfect moment to elevate him to the level he’s always deserved to be at once and for all. Prediction:  Eita

Open the Twin Gate Championship Match
Jimmy Susumu, Jimmy Kagetora vs. Naruki Doi, “brother” YASSHI

John Carroll: I’m fine with brother YASSHI for the record. I know a lot of people don’t care for him, but as a longtime fan he gives me warm nostalgic feelings. He was a major part of ItaCon at the time and without him Aagan Issou would have been much worse than it already was. Anyway, sure I’d rather have Shuji Kondo back, but YASSHI is cool too. There’s always room for blatant rulebreakers in DG as far as I’m concerned. But whatever you may think of YASSHI, this match will probably still be really good. It’s Naruki Doi in a Twin Gate match at World- how could it not be, really? Prediction: Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora

Case Lowe: YASSHI is gross. I thought his one-night return to Dragon Gate to team with Yoshino against YAMADoi was awesome, but since he’s come back and joined VerserK seemingly full-time, I’ve lost interest in him. If he can hang with the other three, who I’m sure are going to kill it, then more power to him. Doi always delivers at World and Susumu and Kagetora always deliver as a team. I have no idea how this one is going to turn out. It could be atrocious or it could be MOTN. Sadly, I lean towards the former. Prediction: Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora

Jules: YASSHI being on this card, in this spot, makes a lot of people angry. The truth is that he’s really fun in tag team matches, and this should be no exception given that he’s working with three of the best tag team wrestlers in Dragon Gate. Doi has taken to calling himself “Mr Twin Gate” as of late, a nickname that sounds really douchey but still makes sense when you remember he was one half of the inaugural champions. He and YASSHI have been a pretty well-matched pair so far, and it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against the Jimmyz duo of Susumu & Kagetora. These two won the Twin Gate titles from Big R Shimizu and T-Hawk shortly after Kagetora made his long awaited return. This is a team that works really well together, two of the most skilled and inventive technicians in Dragon Gate, and as they’re facing a very fresh duo, anything can happen. Doi and YASSHI are also two shittalkers extraordinaire, so this match should be particularly mouthy. However, YASSHI’s status with Dragon Gate is still pretty foggy, and I don’t think Verserk are walking away with any titles, so the champions will most likely retain. Prediction: Susumu & Kagetora

Dylan: This is one of those matches I could only have ever come up with in my dreams. Jimmy Susumu is my favorite Dragon Gate wrestler. I have spent chunks of time on the podcast and on Twitter talking about how much I love him, his style, his character. Everything about him is a win-win for me. I was absolutely ecstatic when he managed to beat Shingo Takagi for the Dream Gate and I could not believe my luck when he was able to overcome Big T with Kagetora at his side once again. Two championship reigns in one year for my favorite wrestler is a blessing.

And then we have Yasshi, someone I developed an instant adoration of. From the moment he walked into the venue, I was intrigued and excited. I wanted to see more of him, and research led me to realize that he’s incredibly versatile, funny, and a tag team specialist who connects with the crowd on such an easy and casual level that a lot of people simply fail to do. Not even in my craziest dreams could I have predicted his return to Dragon Gate and a tag team match between him and Yoshino and DoiYAMA would lead to him challenging the Twin Gate champions at Kobe World. My two absolute favorite guys in the promotion right now are going to be in the ring together, working together, and that is more than I ever thought I could ask for. He and Doi have excellent chemistry as a team both in their wrestling and in their characters, as do Susumu and Kagetora, so this match will be fun and exciting and something I’m going to spend the rest of my days thanking Dragon Gate for because it was something that seemed too good, and too impossible, to ever come true. That being said, the right choice would be to have Susumu and Kagetora win. Yasshi isn’t signed back to Dragon Gate and now that his regular tag team partner, former Dragon Gate wrestler Shuji Kondo, has returned from injury, he’ll be leaning toward working more with him in Wrestle-1. But hey, two different tag team title challenges in two different promotions in one year? I’ll take it with a smile and cheer on my DG favorite as he proves that he’s one of the best in the world again. Prediction: Susumu & Kagetora

Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match
Masato Yoshino, Akira Tozawa, T-Hawk vs. CIMA, Dragon Kid, Peter Kaasa vs. BxB Hulk, Kzy, Flamita

John Carroll: The trios title match at World has been a big deal going all the way back to the days when it was the UWA 6-Man titles on the line, responsible for some of my favorite Toryumon/DG matches ever: CIMA/Fujii/TARU-Mochizuki/Dragon Kid/SaiRyo-Magnum TOKYO/Genki/K-ness (then Darkness Dragon) from 2002 and Hulk/Kong/Shingo-Kishiwada/Yoshino/Doi from 2007 are the ones that stand above all others in my opinion, so definitely check those out if you’ve never seen them. A few of the guys from those two matches will be involved here: CIMA & DK from ‘02 and Yoshino & Hulk from ‘07, so that’s promising. They’ll mix in with Cruiserweight Classic star Tozawa, T-Hawk (who main evented this show last year, which I would not at all blame you for forgetting after the 2016 he’s had so far), Kotoka-face-breaker Peter Kaasa, maybe the best wrestler in the entire company today in Kzy, and everyone’s favorite Mexican child Flamita. Sounds like quite the lineup to me! Honestly, whether or not this ends up being one for the all-time trios list is an open question, but either way it will still be a fantastic match. How could it not be? Prediction: Over Generation

Case Lowe: I am all about this match! Normally I hate these Triangle Gate clusters at World, since they’re always in a weird spot on the card, but this is not only going to get some time, it is going to be complete madness. Yoshino, Peter Kaasa, and Flamita mixing it up sounds delightful. If you hired the correct search party, you’ve seen Flamita destroy the grimy Mexican indie scene this year and now he’s back in Dragon Gate where he can really do some damage. Peter Kaasa has been awesome on this tour and I hope to see him back for many more. He’s a work in progress, like Ricochet, PAC, and Uhaa Nation when they first came over. The Monster Express team is sort of in limbo, but all three of their members in this match are capable of putting on MOTYC’s at any moment. I would typically side with Over Generation here, but Kaasa, last I heard, is returning home after this show, which leads me to believe that Tribe Vanguard is picking up the win. More gold for Kzy and Flamita~! Prediction: Tribe Vanguard

Jules: Monster Express are in a weird spot right now, with Tozawa very likely leaving on a… trip to an unknown land very soon. They’ve been carrying these titles since December (currently the second longest reign), which is pretty honorable when you look at the Triangle Gate history, but I have to admit that half the time, I forget they’re even champions. I blame that on the fact that they never bring the damn belts out except for a title match. Either way, it’s definitely time to shake things up in that division, and what better time to do that than now, as we celebrate the return of Flamita! The high-flying wunderkind made a surprise return earlier this month, reuniting with former dia.HEARTS stablemates BxB Hulk and Kzy to form this team, joining Tribe Vanguard in the process. Flamita is one of the very best young wrestlers on the planet, and it’s a delight to have him back in Dragon Gate. Kzy has been absolutely tearing it up as of late, especially in big tag team matches, and Hulk has finally gotten his groove back since returning from his injury in May, so this trio comes into the match in the best shape possible. The Over Generation team includes American import and CIMA’s new crush, Peter Kaasa, who became instantly popular when he rolled into the promotion in June, but apparently isn’t sticking around for long, so we’ll see if that affects the match result at all. This is elimination style as usual, and if I make one “bold” prediction throughout this preview, it’ll be this one: the reigning and defending champions, Monster Express, are going out first. Prediction: Tribe Vanguard

Dylan: Monster Express is an incredible unit. There is no way around that. In the time and length that they’ve been together, everything they’ve gone through, their constant roster changes and championship reigns, they have proven to be one of the best units in Dragon Gate. But when it was time for the unit disbands match, most of us thought they were done. I love these three. I love Yoshino, Tozawa, and especially T-Hawk. But as great as they’ve been as champions and as many amazing matches as they’ve had in the process, it’s time to move on to new champions. It’s hard sometimes to remember these belts are even in play because it seems they get so much less attention than the Twin, Dream, and Brave Gate belts do. We have Over Generation with an admittedly odd line-up since Cima spends more time teaming with Gamma than DK and new blood Peter Kaasa (who is leaving soon or something anyway) who has filled the role that Uhaa Nation left behind as a beefy dude who spends most of his time in the air. Then, there’s Tribe Vanguard, the team born out of the dust of DIA.Hearts and Yamato’s departure from VerserK. BxB Hulk and Kzy are well-known as fun and exciting tag team North Tribe and now that Flamita is back to fit perfectly with their fast and flying style, this trio is going to be incredible to watch together. I really hope they win, too, because Kzy has been one of the best and most consistent performers in DG all year and he deserves this more than anyone else. Prediction: Tribe Vanguard

Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
Shingo Takagi vs. YAMATO

John Carroll: Shingo and YAMATO are basically the HBK & Diesel of Dragon Gate: good friends, better enemies. They came up together in New Hazard, briefly looked like they were breaking up when YAMATO joined Muscle Outlaw’z (but that turned out to be a ruse, quickly leading to the Real Hazard merger), broke up again when Shingo quit RH, joined together in Kamikaze, and then stayed together for quite a long time, all the way through Junction Three, the war with Blood Warriors, and the formation of the doomed -akatsuki-. Finally, after years together, YAMATO turned on Shingo to join MAD BLANKEY, and then took his former best friend’s Dream Gate title in Shingo’s very first defense. The two feuded again on-and-off until Shingo saw the light, so to speak, going heel for the first time in seven years with VerserK. But you could always tell that something was beneath the surface here- though Shingo and YAMATO were back on the same side, they never reformed their tag team (instead we got the long and awesome YAMADoi run, while Shingo reigned as Dream Gate champion once more), and things always just kind of seemed a little bit weird between them. Things of course finally came to a head in 2016, with Shingo & YAMATO once again coming to blows (at first with an even VerserK split, though YAMATO’s allies of Doi & Naoki soon turned on him as well) and leading to YAMATO leaving VerserK. Now, after YAMATO’s King of Gate win, the two are on a collision course. Good friends, but better enemies, they meet once more in the main event of Dragon Gate’s biggest stage. I really don’t see how YAMATO doesn’t walk out with the belt here, and given the year both men are having this has the potential to be a bonafide MOTYC. Justice is coming for you, Shingo! Prediction: YAMATO

Case Lowe: This has been the best story in wrestling all year. YAMATO, exiled from VerserK at the Dead or Alive pay-per view, has done everything in his power to get his hands on Shingo Takagi and his Open the Dream Gate Championship. I trust these two to go out there and deliver a spectacle. This is as big as it gets for Dragon Gate. This is their biggest show and their two top guys. Everything has been culminating to this. I can’t wait. Shingo has had one hell of a reign, but it is YAMATO’s time. Prediction: YAMATO

Jules: YAMATO’s road to this match has been one the best things in wrestling this year; From being the leader of the dissensions in VerserK, to being betrayed by all of them in the cage back in May, causing a natural face turn and making him the most acclaimed hero in the promotion, the entire process brought out something in him that many thought he lacked in his early days as a babyface. Shingo Takagi on the other hand, is as ruthless and brutal as ever in his role as the tyrannical Dream Gate champion, refusing to admit that he views YAMATO as a threat, although history has proven that he should: he has never beaten YAMATO in a title match, and if everything goes as it should, he’s not about to start. These two have been partners as much as they have been rivals, they know each other inside and out, and that’s what this match is going to rely on, hopefully for the better. Both men’s styles differ greatly from what people think when they think “Dragon Gate”, and they’ve usually put in great work against each other, so don’t fret too much. They’ve also both been incredibly dominant over the last year, with Shingo absolutely steamrolling every opponent that came for his title (though the beloved Jimmy Susumu managed to topple him if just for a moment), and YAMATO was one half of the most dominant Twin Gate champions team in history, alongside Naruki Doi, and those positions have allowed both men to continue to showcase exactly how good they are. This is going to be a clash of two titans of Dragon Gate, both emotionally charged and athletically impressive, and you should be excited. Prediction: YAMATO

Dylan: The history betweenYAMATO and Shingo Takagi is something for the history books, which makes this particular match-up and intriguing one just from that standpoint alone. When Shingo was able to end Cima’s legendary Dream Gate reign, he was quickly defeated by YAMATO and left in the dust. YAMATO has been the thorn in his side for months leading to VerserK turning on YAMATO at the Dead or Alive cage match, the two of them having problems stemming from a missed salt throw in Shingo’s initial match with Jimmy Susumu. The two bickered and argued and even had problems with each other during matches, and finally Shingo convinced the rest of VerserK to leave YAMATO behind. Considering how badly I had wanted a YAMATO face run to rise from this feud with Shingo, I was thrilled to see this actually come true. Even better when YAMATO returned to teaming with BxB Hulk and Kzy, a trio I hadn’t seen together since the Mad Blankey days and one I missed terribly. YAMATO deserves this victory. His character work, his workrate as one of the most dominant Twin Gate champions in Dragon Gate history, and his ability to make any and every match he’s in a must-see spectacle have earned him a decent reign with the Dream Gate belt. Shingo Takagi has steamrolled through Dragon Gate up until this point with very few people able to put him off of his game as much as YAMATO has recently. Their history with each other suggests this is going to be a match that relies on the two of them struggling to find weak points in the other while fully knowing that their enemy knows all of their weaknesses in the process. YAMATO will finally have a chance to get vengeance against the man who turned his team against him and, hopefully, get justice for us all. Prediction: YAMATO