DEAD OR ALIVE
MAY 5, 2017
AICHI PREFECTURAL GYM – AICHI, JAPAN
JIMMY KANDA & SHACHIHOKO BOY DEF. SHUN SKYWALKER & HYOU WATANABE
Both Skywalker and Watanabe have struggled for TV time this year. The last time Hyou was on a legitimate, televised Dragon Gate show was the January Korakuen Hall outing. For whatever reason, he’s been delegated to Prime Zone, NEX, and house shows for a majority of the year. As for Skywalker, the last time we saw him was at the February Korakuen, as he did not wrestle in March and only wrestled one match in April.
As for this encounter, I really enjoyed it. It was nice to see the dark match get the time that it did. Skywalker and Watanabe, when used, continue to work very hard. I always enjoy seeing Shachihoko BOY tangle with the youngsters, also. He seems like he gets a kick out of it. Nothing too spectacular, but this was certainly an opener that I liked a lot. Kanda planted Hyou for the pinfall. ***
FLAMITA, KZY & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA DEF. GAMMA, EITA & DRAZTIK BOY
Kzy benefited from losing twice to CK-1. His two hard fought, fight-to-the-death battles with CIMA and Dragon Kid to start the year pushed him over the hump in the fans eyes, I believe. Although he quickly fell back down the card into his all too familiar undercard place, I think the future looks bright for Kzy. He’s only 30 years old, and after watching him outshine the likes of Flamita and Eita in even in a minor match like this reaffirms my stance that one day, he’ll have an epic run.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding work that Flamita and Draztik Boy did on this tour. Although neither had a marquee opportunity to put on a classic, they continuously turned heads and impressed when they wrestled one another. Flamita will be back, I’m sure, and I hope Draztik continues to come with him. They both looked terrific. Flamita pinned his DTU counterpart with a Flam Fly to cap off their terrific two month tour. Another fun undercard bout. ***
MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & DON FUJII DEF. PUNCH TOMINAGA & “BROTHER” YASSHI
I was much more invested in this than I ever thought I’d be. Mochizuki & Fujii are something – I’m not sure if wizards are the term I’m looking for, but there’s no way that these two near-50 year olds can be human, simply due to the fact that if they’re not putting on Match of the Year contenders, they’re putting out serviceable matches with two bums like YASSHI and Tominaga. Whether it be the countout tease, the traditional “Don Fujii tries to throw someone off a balcony” spot, or the more than passable in-ring action, this match just worked. It wasn’t great by any means, but far better than what I was expecting, which is my own fault. Mochizuki and Fujii would never lay an egg. Fujii chokeslamed Tominaga off the top rope, following YASSHI’s inside turnbuckle bump to the floor that he continues to do. Very fun stuff, like everything else on the show thus far. ***1/4
OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
JIMMY KAGETORA (C) DEF. TAKEHIRO YAMAMURA
Yamamura continues his streak of high-quality performances that in my mind, put him in contention for Most Outstanding Wrestler of 2017. He came out of the gate strong in this one, showing the confidence that he’s gained from a string of successes to start the year. He’s become Mr. Korakuen Hall after his classic with Big R Shimizu and his March victory over VerserK, but this was his first chance outside of Korakuen to prove that he’s a top tier player in the Dragon Gate universe now.
Kagetora eventually gained control after his slow start and meticulously worked over the knee of Yamamura. Watching Kagetora pick apart someone limb from limb is highly entertaining. He’s one of the best in the business at it. Yamamura, much like he has all year, refused to die. He fought back with short bursts of offense, and eventually found himself at a stalemate with Kagetora.
I loved the heart and the fire that these two showed, even if I thought the finish came off awkward with Kagetora shaking off Yamamura’s head-drop rollup that has become a staple in his offense. He hit it twice, and each time, Kagetora stood up immediately, looking unphased. Other than that small blemish, this match was a thing of beauty. Both men, Yamamura in particular, continue to deliver at such a high level. Kagetora won with the Kumuragakari. ****1/4
RYO SAITO, JIMMY SUSUMU, JIMMY KNESS J.K.S, & GENKI HORIGUCHI DEF. MASATO YOSHINO, BEN-K, BIG R SHIMIZU, & KOTOKA
Masato Yoshino is not 100%, but he’s back, and that is a major win for every aspect of Dragon Gate.
In his first real match back, Yoshino looked rusty, which, for his standards, is anything less than perfect. His new unit, MaxiMum, blends well with his in-ring style. Shimizu and Ben-K are there for power, and Kotoka reminds me of a Toryumon-era Genki Horiguchi: smaller than most, scrappier than most, and on-par in-ring abilities with a character that pushes him over the top.
This was what you’d expect. We’ve seen these multi-mans on every Dragon Gate show ever, and we will continue to see them forever and ever. I love the style. I loved seeing Saito scrap with Shimizu, Ben-K battle with Susumu, and Kness tangle with Kotoka. With the added factor of this being Yoshino’s return, this is essential viewing. Saito pinned Kotoka for the victory. ****
OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
CIMA & DRAGON KID (C) DEF. EL LINDAMAN & T-HAWK
While I greatly enjoyed their bouts vs. Kzy & BxB Hulk and Kzy & Naruki Doi, this CK-1 reign has been a major disappointment. Since winning the belts at Gate of Destiny, the two have found themselves in a number of disappointing defenses. While the finishing minutes to this match were phenomenal, that doesn’t make up for the first two-thirds of no-flow, clumsy wrestling. No one is at fault, as it wasn’t a bad match, but it was not any good. I’m excited for CK-1 to drop the titles. ***
OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
DEAD OR ALIVE CAGE MASK VS. HAIR 5 WAY STEEL CAGE MATCH
YAMATO (C) DEF. CYBER KONG, NARUKI DOI, SHINGO TAKAGI, & BXB HULK
This cage match is up there with 2011 and 2016 as one of the most entertaining matches Dragon Gate has ever put on. It’s hard to describe this match, just like it was last year. My thoughts of last year’s cage match actually come very close to my thoughts on the 2017 outing. No other company could get away with such nonsense in a serious setting, the in-depth storytelling, or the complete carnage that took place in this 45 minute classic.
What I will say is that it was painfully clear watching this that Naruki Doi is the next top dog in Dragon Gate. He was electric here. He has the momentum, and I suspect that he will win King of Gate, which will propel him into the Kobe World main event.
This felt like a major blow to VerserK. Shingo being eliminated second stunned me. He’s taken a major blow in the booking, which is entirely fair considering how dominant he was for such a long period of time. VerserK lost in all three of their matches at Dead or Alive.
In the end, YAMATO reigned victorious. I would’ve loved to have seen Doi get the win here, as I think him standing atop the cage with the Dream Gate title would have been a beautiful moment, but Doi’s time will come.
This is the one match I never give a star rating to, but I can say I highly recommend it for Dragon Gate and non-Dragon Gate fans. The story, from the beginning, was very clear, and the chaos has to be seen to be believed.
Dragon Gate hit a homerun with Dead or Alive. This show was a blast to watch, and it really felt like it flew by, which surprised me considering that this is one of their biggest shows of the year. The undercard was a breeze with the MochiFujii match arguably over delivering, and once the business end of the card kicked in, this became a show full of great matches. The Brave Gate match, Yoshino’s return, and the main event are essential viewing for all. Big thumbs up for Dragon Gate’s Dead or Alive.