GATE OF PASSION
APRIL 6, 2017
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, BXB HULK, FLAMITA, & SHACHIHOKO BOY DEF. EITA, DRAGON KID, DON FUJII, & DRAZTIK BOY
One of my favorite Dragon Gate openers in recent memory. Everything here worked and it ended up becoming a pure display of “fun” in professional wrestling. The exchanges between Mochizuki and Fujii were gold. I’m amazed at how those two have been attached at the hip for over a decade, and yet whether they’re teaming up or squaring off, they’re able to find fresh ways to interact with one another.
The brief interactions between Flamita and Draztik Boy ruled. Selfishly, I wish the two would leave Mexico and live in Japan year-round. Flamita, especially, adds such a unique presence to every card he’s on. He ended up putting his DTU counterpart away with the Flam Fly slightly after the 10 minute mark. Great way to open things up. ***1/4
JIMMY KAGETORA, JIMMY KANDA, & JIMMY KNESS J.K.S. DEF. KZY, YUKI YOSHIOKA, & KATSUMI TAKASHIMA
Dragon Gate’s youngest crop of talent continues to take delightful beatings in front of rabid fans in Korakuen Hall. Kagetora and Kness seemed to enjoy their unusual and uncharacteristic violent tendencies. This throwaway undercard match, to me at least, gave The Jimmyz a bigger spark than anything else they’ve done all year. I am ridiculously excited for Kagetora and Kness in King of Gate this year, especially if they’re bringing this sort of intensity to the table.
Kzy did nothing of note here, but I don’t blame him. This was a match designed for Yoshioka and Takashima to shine, get beat down, and then eventually get knocked out as Yoshioka was pinned with a vicious uppercut from Kagetora at the 11 minute mark. Before their inevitable demise, however, they both looked great. Takashima continues to bend his body in ways that I didn’t think were possible, and Yoshioka is showing an impressive amount of fire for someone so young. **3/4
CIMA & GAMMA DEF. PUNCH TOMINAGA & EL LINDAMAN
Rarely does Dragon Gate produce bad matches, but this was one of them. This was a complete mess from the start, and it never seemed to improve. This could’ve been a wacky sprint with lots of interaction between CIMA and Lindaman, but instead it was a slow, prodding brawl with lots of interaction between Gamma and Tominaga. Gamma, for whatever reason, defeated Punch with a Boston Crab. Skip this. *
T-HAWK DEF. TAKEHIRO YAMAMURA
This match will come across much better to those that have context going in than those without. Yamamura has skyrocketed in popularity since February and since then, has become a giant, pesky thorn in the side of every VerserK member.
Here, T-Hawk slowed everything down. He didn’t let the young, energetic Yamamura gain control and get the Korakuen crowd behind him. T-Hawk relied on his raw power and his chopping ability. He overestimated the heart of Yamamura, however, as he quickly fought back and for a majority of the match, kept things 50/50 with T-Hawk.
Yamamura continues to be put in positions to shine. He was able to kick out of T-Hawk’s dreaded BT Bomb in this match, drawing a big reaction from the Korakuen crowd. It looked like he was going to be able to sneak out a victory at one point, but that was all for night. T-Hawk eventually outpowered the Over Generation youngster with the Night Ride. ****
SHINGO TAKAGI & CYBER KONG DEF. YAMATO & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA
Nine months ago when YAMATO won the Open the Dream Gate Championship, I never would’ve imagined myself say that I was sick of him and his reign. It’s a feeling that’s been growing in my stomach for awhile, but now I can officially say I’m sick of YAMATO, his reign, and this incarnation of his act.
He’s wrestled these VerserK lads one million times and it’s gotten beyond stale. It’s a less entertaining version of Taguchi Japan vs. Los Ingobernables. Seemingly every month when Dragon Gate makes its presence felt in Korakuen, YAMATO is having a lame duck semi-main event tag that feels dry and played out. Get the belt on anyone else. VerserK needs new opponents if they aren’t going to disband, and Tribe Vanguard needs to die a quick death. They’ve already caused me enough pain with their slow ascension to the top and their knack of delivering big, boring matches.
On the bright side, Santa Maria was a blast to watch in this match. Seeing her being taken (somewhat) seriously against Takagi and Kong was a blast. I love how there’s a giant difference between Second Match Maria and Second-to-Last Match Maria.
Takagi gained the pinfall with a sneaky cradle on YAMATO. It’s all leading to Dead or Alive, which is fine, but I’ve seen it so many times and I’m through with it. The main event scene is dire. YAMATO, quite frankly, has been a poor champion. ***1/4
OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
NARUKI DOI, BIG R SHIMIZU, & BEN-K DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI, JIMMY SUSUMU, & RYO SAITO
Red-hot Dragon Gate multi-mans to close out Korakuen shows have become somewhat of a tradition. No matter what state the company has been in, they seem to turn the dials just right and close out each monthly showcase with an absolute banger, and this was no different.
The Doi/Shimizu/Ben-K trio still doesn’t feel all the way complete. The fact that Dragon Gate has held off for so long on naming them, which is entirely due to Masato Yoshino’s injury, is quite amazing. Even without a name and matching colors, they still work like a well-oiled machine that has been pumping out great matches since the start of the new year.
In his short career, Ben-K has already racked up two Korakuen Hall main events, and both times he’s delivered just like a major player should. His power resonates with the crowd in a positive light thus far. As his career progresses, it will be interesting to see if his best attribute plays against him, much like it does with Shingo Takagi. In the meantime, he’s exactly what he should be. He’s rough around the edges, but he’s also been wrestling for just a year. Dragon Gate is so good about picking his spots and letting him shine when he needs to shine.
The closing stretch featured Doi and Genki Horiguchi going at it in a beautiful display of pro wrestling. I have raved about Horiguchi in my reviews that I’ve been doing on the site for almost two years, and yet every time he’s positioned in a meaningful position, he continues to blow me away. One of the most exciting and engaging wrestlers I have ever seen. His Backslide From Heaven attempts in this match were electric. Very few people get it the way that he does. His amazing ability to build drama and deliver when it’s needed most did not lead him to a victory, however, as Doi was able to survive the onslaught of flash pins and put the veteran away with the Bakatare Sliding Kick. ****
Doi celebrated the successful title match. It was a difficult fight from start to finish, but they pulled it off. His partners were still in their early 20’s, and he is forever young. He promised to return to Tokyo with the Dream Gate title belt as a double champion. The show was about to wrap up but Speed Star hit, bringing out Masato Yoshino. Doi was legitimately shocked to see him. Why was he here? Yoshino received another LINE message from Shimizu that said “Doi wants to see you really bad”, so he figured he would oblige. Doi wondered why Shimizu was having such conversations with an important title match looming. They bantered a bit before Yoshino got to the real reason he was here. To announce he would be returning to the ring at the 5/9 Korakuen Hall show! Along with Shimizu & Ben-K they also announced the formation of a new unit. Details will come soon.
There’s something off about Dragon Gate. I’m not sure what it is, but this show, despite having two four-star matches and an electric opener, was simply not what I’m looking for from the company. A lot of their issues are at the top of the card. Hindsight is 20/20, but I really believe that Doi should’ve won at Final Gate. The main event scene is dreadful right now. I hate watching Hulk and YAMATO these days, especially wrestling anyone in VerserK.
This show was fine, but one of the weaker Dragon Gate Korakuen shows that they’ve had to offer in recent memory, and that’s with two great matches as I noted earlier. Watch the opener and the four star matches, skip the rest. Thumbs in the middle, leaning up, for Gate of Passion.