The Dragon Gate schedule is unique. Unlike New Japan Pro Wrestling, who often have something around the corner, or WWE with their now twice monthly “special events,” Dragon Gate works on a bit of a hot-cold schedule.
Dragon Gate starts their year somewhat quietly through the majority of spring. Things start to pick up a bit in March with their annual Champion Gate doubleheader in Osaka and the special Memorial Gate in Wakayama (which is filmed for the local television station in Wakayama, and is released as a DVD nearly half a year later).
Things properly launch into their hot season in May with their annual Dead or Alive PPV, the first of now six big events in the Dragon Gate year. Well, Dead or Alive has passed with YAMATO retaining the Open the Dream Gate championship, and now Dragon Gate has to decide something. Is YAMATO the best wrestler in Dragon Gate and could he become the first ever repeat King of Gate? Or can another rise up, win Dragon Gate’s singles tournament, and make a claim against him at the biggest event in Dragon Gate’s year, the 18th Pro Wrestling Festival at Kobe World Hall?
King of Gate, like many things in Dragon Gate, has its basis in Toryumon Gym with the El Numero Uno tournament.
Through its four year history, El Numero Uno had such moments as Masaaki Mochizuki, at the height of rudo-dom as the leader of M2K, managing to win the first tournament after getting a double countout in each of his round-robin matches, and then advancing to the knockout phase after a battle royale and winning the whole thing (it takes a long time to explain it, let’s just say that the Toryumon Era was much more different than how things are now) to the birth of the Backslide from Heaven for Genki Horiguchi in 2003.
Since the creation of Dragon Gate, El Numero Uno became King of Gate. Instead of the round-robin, King of Gate was a single-elimination tournament for a decade. It returned to the round-robin last year. Due to the Dead or Alive cage match and the generational war of 2009, there was no King of Gate that year.
- 2005: Ryo Saito
- 2006: Masaaki Mochizuki
- 2007: Gamma
- 2008: Naruki Doi
- 2010: Shingo Takagi
- 2011: BxB Hulk
- 2012: Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!
- 2013: Ricochet
- 2014: Jimmy Susumu
- 2015: Masato Yoshino
- 2016: YAMATO
Shows Being Televised
Unfortunately, Dragon Gate does not have an over-the-top service like many promotions so not all shows get taped. However, GAORA, DG’s network and partial owner, has already released their Infinity television schedule for May and June. The following shows will be televised. The Korakuen shows are also offered as live iPPVs on NicoNico. (Here is a guide for using NicoNico for those whom haven’t used it before!)
GAORA also airs select footage from Dragon Gate shows that are not on their taping schedule. These are usually bumpers between programming and promos for upcoming episodes of Infinity. They are kind of hard to come by, and they never really announce what they are showing before airing the bumper, so keep your eyes peeled if you have access to GAORA/people post them.
- May 9th – Tokyo Korakuen Hall – Live iPPV (will be on TV on May 22nd)
- May 14th – Yamanashi, I Messe Yamanashi – Shingo Takagi’s Homecoming (rare to get a Homecoming show taped, will also have Keiji Mutoh making an appearance) (will be on TV May 29th)
- May 20th – Osaka Edion Arena #2 (will be on TV June 5th)
- May 26th-28th – Sapporo Susukino Mars Gym (Aired as one Infinity episode, so potential for some matches getting cut/clipped, but will be on TV June 12th)
- June 1st – Tokyo Korakuen Hall – Live iPPV (will be on TV June 16th)
- June 10th & 11th – Hakata Star Lanes (will be on TV June 26th, I doubt they’ll clip the knockout Matches)
As this is the big singles tournament of the year for Dragon Gate, I’ll break down each wrestler, talk about what’s going on with them this spring, their chances, and talk about which matches in each block I think are worth a watch. Since this is such a big deal for Dragon Gate, I decided to call in some help. So my esteemed colleagues with Open The Voice Gate, John (@toshanshuinLA), Milo (@mvybien), and Case (@_InYourCase), are here to offer their block predictions and whom they think are going to win the whole dang thing!
- YAMATO (2016 Winner) – The defending King of Gate, and the reigning Open the Dream Gate champion, YAMATO has not had the most illustrious title reign. He’s stacked up wins against all of his healthy contemporaries, but due to factors out of his control (Summer Adventure Tag League and Akira Tozawa’s departure), his huge face run has never really got out of the paddock. However, defeating four challengers at the same time at Dear or Alive is a massive accomplishment might be the momentum he needs. Becoming the first ever repeat King of Gate champion will give the original Almighty enough of a bump to solidify him as the top wrestler in the promotion.
- Eita – The MVP and breakout star of the 2016 tournament, Eita hopes to exceed his performance from last year. 2016 King of Gate was really the start of the “When Eita got his Groove Back” tour and launched him towards both a 2016 Super J Cup appearance and his first ever singles title win at Kobe World 2016. The title was stripped from him at Champion Gate due to VerserK hijinks, so now his sights are set on not just having a great performance this year, but winning the whole dang thing.
- Dragon Kid (2004 El Numero Winner) – DK has had a solid 2017 after winning the Twin Gate with Over Generation teammate CIMA in November of last year. The team of CK-1 has been near untouchable since claiming the tag team belts, and Over Generation won a huge match in April to claim the injured Mondai Ryu from VerserK. Although he hasn’t had as much singles success in recent years, Dragon Kid is always a player in the tournament he won in 2004, launching the short lived Dragon Kid Empire.
- Don Fujii – Forever a GREAT MAN, Fujii has had his typical year. Typical meaning lots of goofing off in the undercard, beating up the rookies, and romancing middle-aged women in bars all across of Japan. We shouldn’t dismiss the purveyor of Fujii Heya, however. When King of Gate comes, Fujii is apt to take all of his block opponents to the brink. So Don Fujii might be a long-shot to get out of this group, but one shouldn’t count him out.
- Jimmy K-ness J.K.S. – The always great K-ness gets an appearance this year. He emerges from the backlines of the Jimmyz to make a claim for his first singles tournament win, after having a quiet spring outside of a Twin Gate challenge with Jimmy Kanda. The former Darkness Dragon is one of the most technically proficient wrestlers in not just his block, but in the whole tournament. That is of course, with the caveat of him being healthy. Sadly, K-ness draws a goose egg in being televised this year…which is a pretty good indicator of who is going to be a factor in King of Gate. In K-ness’ case, it tells us he’s likely not going to be one. It is a shame, and I hope that somehow some of his matches get taped for GAORA bumpers (Please Eita. Please Dragon Kid: I’d love to see my favorite feud in Dragon Gate system history reborn in 2017).
- Big R Shimizu – Last year’s runner up, Shimizu has been on a tear since allying himself with Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, Ben-K, and Kotoka in MaxiMuM. Picking up the Triangle Gate with Doi and Ben-K in March, the young beefy man has continued to prove that the Shot Put Slam is one of the most devastating maneuvers in all of wrestling. Big R seems to be made for singles matches as his time limit draw with Takehiro Yamamura was one of the best matches in Dragon Gate in 2017. Can Shimizu do better than his performance in 2016, and actually win the tournament in a competitive block?
Must See Matches
The first match of the round-robin at Korakuen on MAY 9th between YAMATO and Eita should be a great battle of two men schooled in grappling, and it’ll also let us know who will get out in the lead of this competitive block.
Don Fujii will have a rough two days on MAY 27th and MAY 28th against Eita and Big R Shimizu, respectively. Fujii’s match with Shingo Takagi from last year ended up being a war, so I’m really excited to see what the tricky old man might have up his sleeve against his former Fujii Heya pupil Shimizu.
- Michael – The breakout star of 2016’s edition, I think this is Eita’s year to get out of the round-robins. His 2017 has somewhat stalled after being stripped of the Brave Gate in March, but this would be the perfect way to restart his push. As he has been pushed as the solo star of Over Generation, it’s time for him to reach the upper mid-card and make his claim as a top front line wrestler in the promotion. What a difference a year makes.
- John – YAMATO
- Milo – I’m extremely excited to see the two breakout stars of last year’s tournament, Eita and Big R Shimizu, go head to head here. It’ll be a battle of who can dominate the block, who can go the distance, between the heir of the llave style and the young powerhouse. Last year, Shimizu made it to the finals of the tournament while Eita lost a playoff match to Akira Tozawa. He quickly rebounded though, winning the Brave Gate title and positioning himself as one of the leading figures of the company’s future, just as Shimizu had done in making the finals. For me, there’s no doubt the block will be decided between those two. So will it be the small, gifted luchador or the big brute with a heart of gold? I’d send both to Kobe World if I could, but right now, I’m rooting for Eita.
- Case – While Eita is a good shout, I have to go with Big R Shimizu as my Block A winner. Shimizu came so close last year as he lost to YAMATO in the finals, and this year, while I don’t think he’ll win it all, I think he’ll take Block A. Fujii, Kness, and Dragon Kid are all past their prime and YAMATO is the current Dream Gate, which leaves Eita and Shimizu. I think whoever beats Shimizu is going to look much better than anyone who beats Eita.
- T-Hawk – The number two in VeserK due to circumstance, T-Hawk’s year is highlighted by a zero defense Triangle Gate reign that was shortened due to a Cyber Kong injury. Other than that, he’s made an unsuccessful Twin Gate challenge at Dead or Alive, and won the one night six man tournament with Shingo Takagi and El Lindman. So it’s been very much an up-and-down year for the Power Master. Since his two runner-up performances in 2014 and 2015 and Kobe World challenge in 2015, T-Hawk has not yet broken through to the next level and cemented himself on the top tier of Dragon Gate wrestlers. Is this the year he finally completes the double and becomes King of Gate and then wins at Kobe World?
- Jimmy Susumu (2014 Winner) – It’s rather hard to top Susumu’s 2016, with him winning nearly every title Dragon Gate has to offer in a calendar year. He hasn’t been a slouch in 2017 either, entering the year as one third of the Triangle Gate championship team. The titular namesake of the oldest active unit in Dragon Gate, he has remained a frontline player through all of this year. Becoming a two-time King of Gate would put Susumu at the forefront for Kobe World, something he’s never done in his career.
- Kzy – The most underrated and unappreciated man in Dragon Gate, Kzy’s year has featured two unsuccessful challenges for the Twin Gate. Even with his sworn battle-brother BXB Hulk, he hasn’t been able to get over the hump and get glory in 2017. Luckily for him, Kzy drew a favorable block, and last year he finished second in his block to eventual winner YAMATO. Maybe Kzy has a cinderella run in him this year. Maybe he can get over that hump and spread happiness to fans in the main event of Kobe World. Or maybe his frustrating time continues and Kzy remains one of the most underutilized guys in the promotion.
- Gamma (2007 Winner) – Gamma’s early 2017 was derailed by an elbow injury that required several months on the shelf. This was a letdown for him as he was the probably challenge at Memorial Gate in Wakayama. His return since then has been relatively quiet with him removed from the front lines and just teaming with other Tribe Vanguard teammates in tag matches. Don’t let that, and his irreverent personality nowadays, overlook him: Gamma’s a former King of Gate and is only a Dream Gate reign from being a grand slam winner in Dragon Gate. Winning King of Gate would put Gamma back in line for a Dream Gate title shot and where he was before he hurt his elbow.
- Yosuke Santa Maria – Maria’s year has been quieter than her incredibly successful 2016, but that’s no slight against her. The Queen of Tribe Vanguard made a Twin Gate challenge with her friend with benefits Kzy and she assisted YAMATO in his Dream Gate defense at Dead or Alive. Maria didn’t have much success last year in her King of Gate debut, finishing second from last in her block. She did prove spoiler for Eita as her win prevented Eita from winning the block outright and forced him into a playoff with eventual block victor Akira Tozawa. 2017 might be the year where she builds more momentum in the tournament and makes it more lovely.
- Ben-K – The Class of 2016 supernova, Ben-K won his first ever title at Memorial Gate with his now MaxiMuM teammates Naruki Doi and Big R Shimizu. His progression has been remarkable for someone with not even 13 months of wrestling experience. A muscular powerhouse in a promotion of smaller wrestlers, Ben-K has smashed, thrown and wrecked everything in his path. Winning King of Gate less than a year after his formal debut would be unheard of. But winning your first title in Dragon Gate so soon after your debut was unheard of. Becoming a factor and main player within months was unheard of. Already shouldering the load and being the future of the promotion was unheard of. It might not be so unheard of for Ben-K to win King of Gate after all.
Must See Matches
Even if this isn’t the strongest block, Block B might have the most matches I’m excited about watching. So I’m going to try not to say “JUST WATCH ALL OF THEM” and choose a couple of interesting ones.
We’ll have a match of two of Dragon Gate’s young bruisers on the kickoff show MAY 9th between T-Hawk and Ben-K. DG’s got a reputation of being relatively high flying and speed heavy, but they’ve started to put together some guys who can throw bombs, so it’s worth checking this out.
I’d be remissed if I didn’t include Kzy’s two televised matches, on MAY 20th and MAY 28th, against Jimmy Susumu and, his sometimes lover, Yosuke Santa Maria. Kzy is an incredible babyface and gives one of the best European uppercuts around. He is someone that’s somewhat slept on outside of Dragon Gate circles and he always delights when given the opportunity.
- Michael – In general, I think this is the weakest block of the tournament. There are only two former winners in Block B, and the rest have been highlighted mostly as multi-person tag wrestlers this year. That being said, I think there are legitimate arguments for 3 wrestlers, T-Hawk, Susumu and Ben-K. As much as Kzy deserves a big run this year, I can’t see it happening. Thinking about it, T-Hawk needs some major rehabilitation, and how better to start that, than having him take Block B?
- John – T-Hawk
- Milo – Kzy’s continuous start-stop push for the better part of the past year has been one of the most confusing things to observe in an overall strange time period for DG. Having him finally pull off something big by winning his KoG block would be a legitimately good payoff, but for some reason that escapes us all, DG seems hellbent on never pulling the trigger with him, so as much as I want him to win the block, I’m not getting my hopes up… Or am I? The way I see it DG has had a very slow start to the year and Kzy has been one of the only beacons of light on otherwise underwhelming shows. He’s hugely popular, immensely talented, and if a KoG semi-final is as far as he is ever pushed, I’ll take it. T-Hawk would be an obvious choice, but there’s too much risk of repeating the failure of his 2015 push. Kzy’s fresher, on fire, and by god, he’s my pick to win this block, even if I’m the only one.
- Case – This block is bizarre, isn’t it? No one really sticks out as a possible winner, but there are a lot of people that I know won’t win. Sadly, Santa Maria has no chance. Same goes for Ben-K and Gamma, or at least I hope. If Gamma wins King of Gate, I’m going to have a mental breakdown. I’m going with the darkhorse here, Jimmy Susumu. Everyone forgets about Susumu, but I can’t see Kzy winning and I like Susumu more than T-Hawk, so I’m picking Susumu. Susumu vs. Shimizu would certainly make an exciting semi-final.
- Naruki Doi (2008 Winner) – Currently the most popular man in the promotion, Doi spent the majority of 2017 teaming with Ben-K and Big R Shimizu and waiting for his sometimes forever partner and sometimes fiercest rival Masato Yoshino’s return. I’ve been vocal that the worst decision Dragon Gate has made over the past year was him not becoming Dream Gate champion to conclude 2016. Well that was in the past. Naruki Doi is now one third of the Triangle Gate champions and co-leader of the new unit, MaxiMuM. He has to be one of the favorites of the field, and perhaps he can start his one man rampage again by first becoming a two-time King of Gate.
- Ryo “Jimmy” Saito (2005 Winner) – The master of the SaiRyo Rocket, the spiritual core of the Jimmyz held the Triangle Gate with Susumu and Kanda to start 2017. Since losing it at Champion Gate Night 1, Saito’s been having his usual upper-mid card year. It’s been over a decade since his rocket propelled ride to both a King of Gate victory and his sole Dream Gate reign. Although a featured player, he hasn’t been the same Ryo Saito since his not even two month championship run. Winning King of Gate can be something special. It can blast you towards the main event of the biggest show of the year. It can give a wrestler the boost for the remainder of their career. An unlikely second tournament win could be exactly the propulsion needed to reclaim that role for Ryo Saito.
- Jimmy Kagetora – In Wakayama, Kagetora finally accomplished his dream. After so many failures in Brave Gate challenges and attempts, he finally won the belt in Wakayama. It was his career goal since rejoining his home promotion in 2008. Kagetora is riding a huge wave of momentum since then, defeating round-robin counterpart Takehiro Yamamura in Aichi at Dead or Alive. I wonder if Kagetora has a new dream on his mind: defeating three former Dream Gate champions and tournament winners and making it a champion-versus-champion match at Kobe World.
- CIMA (2003 El Numero Uno Winner) – The face of the Dragon System, CIMA has devoted his year to his successful defenses of the Twin Gate champion with Dragon Kid. Even though he’s the most decorated wrestler in Dragon Gate history, CIMA has a checkered history with the King of Gate tournament. Since the switchover, CIMA’s best finish was a finals appearance against his then greatest rival Gamma. Can he make his redemption, finally win King of Gate, and make another challenge at the Dream Gate in Kobe? Or will his tournament drought continue another year?
- Takehiro Yamamura – The most improved wrestler of 2017, Yamamura has finally broken out of his stagnant role as a tag wrestler with, the now injured, Kaito Ishida. After a twenty minute time limit draw against Big R Shimizu brought Korakuen to their feet in February, Yamamura followed it up with a direct win in the Over Generation versus VerserK hostage match in March, and took T-Hawk to the brink in April. Hiro-chan valiantly faced Kagetora in his first singles championship challenge at Dead or Alive, but again came up short. He’s making his King of Gate debut this year, so it’s unlikely he’ll win his block. What is likely is that the only 21-year-old wrestler will give it all he has. And this tournament has a twenty minute time limit. Maybe 0-0-5 Yamamura is the dream this year?
- Takashi Yoshida (The Former Cyber Kong) – Yoshida’s year has been remarkable and notable, but not necessarily for his accomplishments. Instead, the Former Cyber Kong’s year is marked by ups and downs, losses, and perhaps the most devastating thing to happen to someone in Dragon Gate: losing their mask and their identity. It started with winning the Triangle Gate with his VerserK top teammates Shingo Takagi and T-Hawk in Osaka at Champion Gate Night 1. The very next night, Yoshida would lose his first Dream Gate challenge in nearly two years against YAMATO. Soon after, he was injured and was forced to vacate the Triangle Gate. The most tragic moment of Cyber Kong’s year would be at Dead or Alive, where he was the last elimination, which meant he had to unmask as Takashi Yoshida, Age 34 from Osaka Prefecture. Now Yoshida must not only face a difficult block, he has to redefine himself in time to not get left behind in the tournament.
Must See Matches
This MAY 9th Korakuen is really setting itself up to be a can’t miss show with CIMA vs Yamamura kicking this block off. Yamamura and CIMA have a father-son relationship, so it’ll be great to see Over Generation explode on this show.
Ryo “Jimmy” Saito has potential to play spoiler for Naruki Doi and CIMA on MAY 26th and MAY 27th, and potentially knock off the two more decorated members of the block in Hokkaido, which could set himself up to win Block C.
The very next day on MAY 28th has a Dead or Alive rematch between Jimmy Kagetora and Yamamura. Neither are favorites to win the block, but if Yamamura defeats Kagetora in Hokkaido, it may set up the next Brave Gate challenge and a rubber match.
- Michael – Since his face turn and ejection from VerserK, Dragon Gate has very much been a promotion with man at it’s forefront. It’s not YAMATO. It’s Naruki Doi. He’s on the hottest face run of his career (sorry fans of his first Dream Gate reign). Dragon Gate rarely has a big booking misstep, but they had one at FINAL GATE 2016 when they didn’t put the belt on him. As much as I wish for an old-timer run for CIMA or Kagetora to reach new heights, I think you’ve gotta put Doi through.
- John – Naruki Doi
- Milo – As much as it would make sense to have Naruki Doi, currently the most beloved man in the world, win this block, there’s no shaking the feeling that DG completely missed the boat by not having him beat YAMATO at Final Gate; and that they’ll never be able to recreate the perfect moment they missed that day. This being said, when you look at this block, there’s not a lot of other candidates for a big set up at World. DG had their annual ‘make Kagetora fans happy’ moment when they finally put the Brave Gate on him, but they’re not going to go as far as having him win his block. Takashi Yoshida, the artist formerly known as Cyber Kong, would be an interesting choice, but with him having to rebuild himself first, it’s too soon. I would rather eat worms than see CIMA go on another megalomaniac run while we still have to suffer through his and Dragon Kid’s Twin Gate reign. So really, who else is there? Godspeed, Newlywed Naruki Doi.
- Case – Naruki Doi is the guy. After watching Dead or Alive, it was painfully obvious that Doi is the guy. This is such an exciting block with Yamamura, CIMA, Saito, and Kagetora being in there as well, but let’s be real – it’s Doi.
- Shingo Takagi (2010 Winner) – Takagi’s 2017 has been highlighted by winning the New Years Unit War with T-Hawk and Lindaman along with a short Triangle Gate title reign with T-Hawk and the former Cyber Kong. Mr. Selfish was also a part of the Dead or Alive cage match, and although he didn’t walk out of Aichi with his fifth Dream Gate title, he did escape with his trademark mullet attached. It’s been nearly seven years since he last won King of Gate, and with how things are going between him and YAMATO, Takagi would love to have the opportunity to ruin his former unit mate’s title reign at the biggest show of the year. To do so, he’d have to run a gauntlet of his biggest rival in Hulk, one of his fiercest opponents in Mochizuki, a former King of Gate in Horiguchi, a young protege in Lindaman, and forever a tough out in Kanda. In other years, it’d be easy to send Takagi through to the knock outs. This year, however, it’s going to be an all out war in Block D.
- BxB Hulk (2011 Winner) – BxB Hulk hasn’t been the same man since he made his return from a devastating shoulder injury last year. I wouldn’t say his drive is gone, but Hulk isn’t getting the same sort of reactions he got when he led DIA.Hearts and held the Dream Gate belt. So his Tribe Vanguard leader YAMATO decided to light a fire under him by challenging him to a Korakuen Dream Gate match. In this match we saw the shades of the Darkside Hero of 2014. He almost dang near killed his teammate with a top rope EVO to the apron, which might be one the most gruesome spots I’ve seen in Dragon Gate in years. Since then, Hulk made a Twin Gate challenge with his North Tribe sworn brother Kzy and got a second Dream Gate shot at Dead or Alive. He seems to be building up momentum, so taking this block and winning his second King of Gate would firmly put Hulk back on the rails as a top player in the promotion.
- Masaaki Mochizuki (2000 El Numero Uno Winner & 2006 Winner) – Can the only person to have won the tournament in both its Toryumon and Dragon Gate forms make it a third this year? That’s going to be the question hanging over the Iron Man of the Dragon Gate roster as the 47-year-old, but eternally young, Masaaki Mochizuki faces an incredibly fierce block. His 2017 has been quieter than usual, but that means we shouldn’t count out Mocchy. A Kobe World in 2017 with Masaaki Mochizuki on top is a gift from the wrestling gods to all of us, so we all should want that. Again, he’s the only man to have won this tournament twice, so why not a third?
- Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee!!Mee!! (2012 Winner) – The fourth King of Gate in this block, Horiguchi started this year with a rib injury that forced him to vacate the Triangle Gate titles in December. Although things are usually all fun and games and leading people in chants about baldness and snapping people with elastic bands, when Genki has to fight he can summon the greatest power in Dragon Gate, the Backslide from Heaven. Only in this promotion would a basic wrestling maneuver still be the most over finisher 13 years after the magical night where he pinned EVERYONE with it. Additionally, if Horiguchi wins, we might get him wearing a “2017 King of Gate” tank top until 2020. That’s a highlight if I’ve ever heard of one.
- Jimmy Kanda – The friendliest man in all of Dragon Gate (seriously look at his blog. He seems like the nicest guy who probably knows how to bury a body. I want to take my mom out to get beers with the dude), Jimmy Kanda started the year as Triangle Gate champion. He held it until Champion Gate Night 1, but soon after made a Twin Gate challenge with fellow Jimmy and original M2K teammate Jimmy K-ness J.K.S in April. This is a lot more high activity out of him than usual years, so it’s great to see some momentum behind one of the Toryumon originals that usually doesn’t receive that. I fear that momentum might end for him in King of Gate as it’ll be hard for Jimmy Kanda to get the round-robin win. I’d still go out for beers with him though.
- El Lindaman – In a year without Yamamura, Lindaman would be the breakout star of the roster. Winner of the New Years Unit War 6 Man Tournament with VerserK seniors Shingo Takagi and T-Hawk, he’s followed that up with a controversial Brave Gate challenge, a finals for to decide the next Brave Gate champion after that and his first Twin Gate challenge with T-Hawk at Dead or Alive. So I’d say Linda is doing quite well less than a year after being humiliated and washing out of the Summer Adventure Tag League. He’s taken to the VerserK brand of heeldom with aplomb, even if we still don’t know where he found that comically huge rope and why he used it. He’s in what I think is the toughest block of the tournament, so if he finishes 2nd or 3rd and plays spoiler it’ll say a lot about Dragon Gate’s confidence in the Evil Young Prince.
Must See Matches
Concluding the monster line up on MAY 9th is the match between Shingo Takagi and Masaaki Mochizuki. Takagi’s Dream Gate title defense against Mocchy at Gate of Destiny 2015 was one of the best singles matches in any promotion of that year, so there is a lot of high hopes and expectations going into Korakuen Hall.
Although neither look to get out of this block, I’m interested in the match between Jimmy Kanda and El Lindaman on MAY 14th. This will be on Takagi’s homecoming show in Yamanashi. Dragon Gate doesn’t often tape homecoming shows, but this year is different with Keiji Mutoh making an appearance in the main event. Both guys are solid brawlers, so if this doesn’t get weighed down by VerserK shenanigans, this could be a sleeper match of the tournament.
I would be remissed if I didn’t mention the next chapter of Takagi and BxB Hulk’s eternal rivalry on JUNE 1st. Shingo and Hulk’s war has gone on unabated since Takagi turned on him to end New Hazard in 2008, and this is the rivalry that has dominated the era of the Big Six/Five. As it is happening at the tournament’s midpoint, this match could very well be the difference maker in a very rough Block D.
- Michael – What a tough block, eh? The only two-time champ, and three others who’ve won the tournament. Poor Kanda and Lindaman. In another block, I’d be tempted to choose Lindaman as a dark horse. I’ve got a bit of a theme going with my predictions, and because of that, I’m thinking it’ll be Mr. Selfish, Shingo Takagi.
- John – Masaaki Mochizuki
- Milo – Now that’s an interesting block. Mochizuki emerged victorious out of his block last year, and he’s always an amazing gatekeeper in this kind of position – his semi final match with Big R last year is one of the reasons why the young man had a breakout tournament -, and a repeat performance wouldn’t be unexpected at all for him. After all, there’s another young man hungry for victory this year that Mochi could teach a thing or two to. Of course, everyone’s favorite asshole and one of my least favorite wrestlers in the world, Shingo Takagi, is in this block, and picking him to win is an easy way to be right. Does it make sense for him to dominate? Yes. Does it make sense to have him and Doi settle their differences in the finals? Yes. But you know I would never pick Shingo even if we were the last two people on Earth, so I’m going with Mochizuki.
- Case – My heart says Mochizuki, my brain says Shingo Takagi, but my gut says BxB Hulk. The winner of this block has to lose to Naruki Doi in the semi-finals, and I can’t see Doi taking a pounding from Shingo Takagi, only to beat either Susumu or Shimizu in the same night. Hulk is a legitimate name, someone who doesn’t take a lot of falls, but someone that can take the fall when he needs to. Plus, I think Dragon Gate will try to play up a possible Hulk victory to tease Hulk vs. YAMATO at World. Hulk is perhaps the least interesting name in the block, but he’s the name that’s going to win the block.
As Dragon Gate moved to a four block round-robin, they do not have a set format where the winner of Block A faces Block B. There is a lottery happening on June 10th, their first night in Hakata. So we’re going to take our block winners, and put together our own knockout phase and choose the 2017 King of Gate.
- Michael – So if my predictions come to fruition, we’ll have Eita, T-Hawk, Naruki Doi and Shingo Takagi. To quote Carl Weathers, we’ve got a lot of meat left on this bone, so let’s get a stew goin’. In my ideal knockout phase, I’d have Eita face off against T-Hawk and Naruki Doi versus Shingo Takagi. My theme I have going into the knockouts are former teammates colliding: Eita faces his former T+E partner and Millennial leader T-Hawk, and Naruki Doi finally gets his vengeance against VerserK’s Big Boss Shingo Takagi. Let’s have T-Hawk beat Eita and Doi get his comeuppance against Shingo, so we have a T-Hawk versus Naruki Doi King of Gate 2017 Final. I think there really is only wrestler who can win this tournament: Naruki Doi. It’s time for him to challenge, and hopefully take, the Dream Gate title at the 18th Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival. Anything other than that would be a waste of the potential of the most popular man in the promotion.
- John – Naruki Doi over T-Hawk in the final
- Milo – This is where it all goes down. And by that I mean where the boys’ and John’s predictions are right and mine go completely out the window. But I’m sticking to my guns, and hoping for the semi-finals to be Eita vs Mochizuki (a personal dream match, given that their only singles encounter happened in 2012 when Eita was far from the wrestler we know now) and Doi vs Kzy, in a battle of former longtime heel teammates now on the hottest face runs of their lives. Eita vs Doi would be your 2017 King of Gate final, and that’s where it gets complicated for me. I truly believe DG missed the boat on Doi at Final Gate, and even though him winning the tournament makes perfect sense, three Dream Gate challenges almost in a row feels like it cheapens the story and the emotional impact. I have nothing against Doi winning the tournament and the belt, as he’s definitely putting in some of his best work as a face currently, but I have to question DG’s decisions that have led them to this point. As for Eita, he’d be a fresh face for a Dream Gate field that desperately needs it and, who knows, could even succeed where his former stablemate T-Hawk failed two years ago. I’m leaving this one open, but my heart is leaning towards Eita.
- Case – Let’s get this Block C vs. Block D nonsense out of the way first – Hulk is eating a Bakatare Sliding Kick and Naruki Doi is advancing to the finals. After thinking long and hard about the Block A vs. Block B outcome, I have to side with Jimmy Susumu beating Big R Shimizu. There’s no way that Shimizu is going to fall in the finals two years in a row, and on top of that, Susumu is not only a protected veteran and a former King of Gate victor, but Susumu vs. Doi is a fresh match that has only been done three times since the formation of Dragon Gate, and it hasn’t happened since 2011. That gives us a King of Gate finals consisting of Naruki Doi vs. Susumu Yokosuka, with the eventual victor being Naruki Doi.
The complete schedule/tournament brackets are below, and will be updated throughout the tournament!