DRAGON GATE
CHAMPION GATE
MARCH 4-MARCH 5, 2017
EDION OSAKA ARENA #2 – OSAKA, JAPAN

Translations: IHeartDG.com

YAMATO & FLAMITA DEF. NARUKI DOI & DRASTIK BOY

Very happy this match aired. On paper, this was one of the best looking matches of the weekend. Flamita has been in Dragon Gate for almost four years now, and each time I watch him, I am blown away by his speed, creativity, and body control. No one flips around the ring like him. Not Ospreay, Ricochet, or any 205 Live’er. No one is as entertaining as Flamita.

I am still incredibly bored with YAMATO. His Dream Gate run has reached a point of no return. I want him to drop the title and go back to square one. He looked bored with himself in this match.

Despite that minor flaw, this match ruled. Flamita put his DTU counterpart away with the Flam Fly at the 13 minute mark. ***1/2  

OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
EITA VS. EL LINDAMAN

This was a major upgrade to their October encounter. Up until the finish, this was Eita’s best defense in what has been somewhat of an underwhelming run with the Brave Gate title. He looked focused here. He’s someone that even a few years ago when he was teaming with T-Hawk and winning titles, always felt disconnected with the audience, or rather, there was no connection between the two. Eita was amazing in the ring, but it never translated into crowd response. Tonight was different. Osaka responded to his offense with a passionate response. They were clearly behind him in this match.

Not only did Eita finally deliver the performance I’ve been looking for, but Lindaman stepped up to the plate and delivered what felt like a major league performance. Towards the closing stretch, Lindaman delivered a series of high-impact suplexes that felt like big time moves. Long gone are the days of Yuga Hayashi, and the the days of brokenhearted, My Chemical Romance-listening Lindaman. His charisma was what made me take note of him as soon as he debuted in August 2014, and I feel like this match was the complete evolution of his charisma. This felt like a complete performance.

The finish was murky, and killed what was on its way to being a 4+ star match. Lindaman crashed into Referee Yagi, and from there chaos ensued as Mondai Ryu, Punch Tominaga, Kzy, Yosuke Santa Maria, and Jimmy Kagetora ran in, creating a melee of sorts. Well worth your time, even with the finish. Highly recommended. NR

More chaos ensued until Yagi laid down the law. He decided to strip Eita of the title and hold a tournament with the 7 competitors in the ring. Eita and Lindaman will meet in the first round. Yamamura, Kzy, Maria, Kagetora, Tominaga, & one other to be named later will round out the field. IHeartDG.com

OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP

SHINGO TAKAGI, T-HAWK, & CYBER KONG DEF. JIMMY SUSUMU, JIMMY KANDA, & RYO SAITO

I have mixed emotions about this. The effort put forth by these six was surreal. It looked like they were doing their best to put on a barnburner, and in a way, they did just that. This is one of the few times, though, that I have an issue with Dragon Gate’s storytelling. As odd as it is, Champion Gate was built up as the weekend of Cyber Kong, and Kong, for the most part, was nowhere to be seen. I expected for him to pick up the fall, in an effort to aid the double-champion angle that they were running. Instead, it was T-Hawk flattening Saito to pick up the three.

In a vacuum, this match was amazing. The speed and precision was off the charts. The closing stretch was red-hot and the offensive display put on by both sides was a sight to behold. The chemistry between Takagi and Susumu and T-Hawk and Saito was surreal. The in-ring performance was so strong that I have to recommend this strongly, even if the storytelling felt off to me. ***3/4

NARUKI DOI, BEN-K, & BIG R SHIMIZU DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, DON FUJII, & TAKEHIRO YAMAMURA

Sadly we only saw the closing stretch of this, which featured Ben-K putting the red-hot Yamamura away with the Ben-K bomb.

Doi thanked Ben-K for doing most of the heavy hitting today, and asked him to do it again at Memorial Gate when they go for the Triangle Gate. He saw Yoshino lurking around backstage, so he called him out. He confronted him about his comment yesterday regarding Doi waiting for him. He was doing nothing of the sort! Yoshino told him to not be embarrassed. No need to lie. Shimizu has sent him the LINE chats where Doi said he was waiting for Yoshino. Doi became flustered after Shimizu confirmed the conversation. Yeah, he said it, but only because Yoshino asked him to wait for him! They bantered a bit more before Doi finally admitted he wanted Yoshino to recover and he was waiting for him. Yoshino thanked him and the show began to proceed to intermission when Kotokas’ music hit. He told Doi & Yoshino that he was working hard to rehab from his knee surgery so he could take his spot by their side. Doi bluntly told him no one called him out here. Kotoka said that DoiYoshiKoto sounded like a good team. Doi again wanted nothing to him. He wished him luck with his recovery, but when Doi & Big & Ben take the Triangle Gate there will be no place for Kotoka. IHeartDG.com

OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
CIMA & DRAGON KID DEF. KZY & BXB HULK

This was the time to put the belts on North Tribe. The CK-1 reign was a novel idea that has disappointed, and few wrestlers are putting on consistently great performances like Kzy right now. This was another example of Kzy killing it. I can’t slam anyone else in this match; they all worked their asses off. No one, however, topped Kzy’s drive. Since his makeover at the beginning of the year, he’s developed a knack to make every move look like life or death. When he’s in the ring, everything matters. Every move gets him closer to a win, or worse, crushing defeat.

Hulk was the weakest link in this match, and I’ve decided that is the new normal. He was fine. He didn’t blow any spots, he’s just a noticeable step behind the rest of the roster. His strikes don’t match the intensity of Kzy’s or the ferocity of CIMA’s, and his speed is a far cry from what it used to be. Sadly, I think these are permanent features.
The hard work of Kzy and Hulk was all for not, as CIMA and Dragon Kid unloaded their biggest and best moves to finally put them down for the three count. Incredible match. CIMA’s violence and intensity clashing against Kzy’s desire to win was a thing of beauty. Another highly recommended match. ****1/4

CIMA put over Kzy for his marked improvement over the last few months. To be honest, he didn’t think much of him at this time last year, but he has become a totally different wrestler. He is now one of the most important members of the roster. Hulk, of course, has been important from the start. CK-1 were the winners today, but North Tribe had lots of time left. They were welcome to come after the Twin Gate any time. IHeartDG.com

OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
YAMATO def. Cyber Kong

This was an example of my enjoyment suffering because I knew the result. Rarely does that happen for me, but the good work on the screen was not translating into my enjoyment. Kong’s bumbling, clumsy charisma was not charming as much as it was nerve wracking.

The two worked hard, and Kong certainly delivered the goods. Under no circumstances was this a bad match. YAMATO put in a strong performance to aid Kong’s hard work. I have such a disdain for YAMATO’s current reign, however, that this had a nearly impossible hurdle to clear.

The portion of the match that featured an unmasked Cyber Kong was exciting. The black mist added an interesting emotional layer, and although I felt that the sleeper hold that put Kong to sleep felt rushed, the closing portions of this match were red hot. Various circumstances hurt my enjoyment of this match, but it’s another one that I have to recommend. The two worked hard and put forth an engaging match. ***1/2

Final Thoughts:

These two nights of Champion Gate gave us a perfect example of Dragon Gate’s current strengths and weaknesses.

Takehiro Yamamura, Ben-K, and Kzy have been the most exciting performers on the roster this year, and while all three were featured, Ben-K and Yamamura hardly received any in-ring time. The roster is stable, but the absence of Yoshino is noticeable. If anything, his time away from in-ring competition is raising his historical stock. He really is an all-time great.

I am bored with Dragon Gate’s current champions. YAMATO’s road to the title was an emotionally gripping story with a satisfying conclusion, but numerous things have hurt my enjoyment of his reign. His lack of defenses, the opponents he’s defended against, and simply the fact that he’s a bad babyface and has been a lackluster and uninteresting champion have me begging for a new champion. The CK-1 reign has overstayed its welcome. I really think this was the time to pull the trigger on North Tribe, but Dragon Gate didn’t do that.

Even Eita, who I love, has struggled coming up with compelling defenses. He was stripped of the title after putting forth arguably his best effort yet. I was dreading a VerserK reign as Triangle Gate champions, but they were dethroned by the trio of Naruki Doi, Ben-K, and Big R Shimizu at Memorial Gate in Wakayama.

The in-ring talent is still there for Dragon Gate. The effort on these shows, especially, was through the roof. Everyone worked their asses off. This current time period, however, is featuring some of the weakest booking in Dragon Gate’s history. Sans Takehiro Yamamura and a handful of other youngsters, the product feels stale, and Dragon Gate typically has a knack for always reinventing itself and feeling fresh. The runtime for Champion Gate is just under three hours. I highly recommend sitting down and watching everything if you’re a follower of the product. Every match, at the very least, was very entertaining. Thumbs up to Champion Gate in Osaka.