KING OF GATE
MAY 9, 2017
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
TAKASHI YOSHIDA, EL LINDAMAN, & PUNCH TOMINAGA DEF. BXB HULK, KZY, & DON FUJII
This turned out to be one of the more exciting openers I’ve seen from Dragon Gate recently.
Yoshida, the former Cyber Kong, was the focus of this match, as he used his power to dominate the Tribe Vanguard + Fujii side early on in the match. As the finishing stretch drew near, he and Fujii battled one-on-one in a hoss battle, the likes of which Dragon Gate rarely sees. He’s the same wrestler as he was when he was Cyber Kong, same gear without the mask even. It was apparent even in this match, however, that his facial expressions are very strong. I look forward to seeing more of him. He picked up the victory, pinning Fujii with the Pineapple Bomber. ***1/4
DRAGON KID & GAMMA DEF. JIMMY SUSUMU & JIMMY KNESS J.K.S.
This never clicked.
There’s a very real possibility that this is the worst Kne-Suka match I’ve ever seen. Gamma brought nothing to the table, and while the interactions between Dragon Kid and Susumu and Dragon Kid and Kness are always entertaining, there weren’t enough salvageable parts to make this worth watching. At least the finish, which featured Dragon Kid and Kness grappling with each other like it was 2002 all over again, was fun stuff. Shame on Dragon Gate for throwing their King of Gate match on a random show in KUMAMOTO~! Skip this. **1/2
KING OF GATE 2017: B BLOCK
T-HAWK DEF. BEN-K
Ben-K swagger walking after delivering a head butt to T-Hawk is one of the better visuals you’ll see in wrestling this year.
I didn’t love this as much as I would’ve hoped. Yes, Ben-K’s new silver pants are terrific, but something about his in-ring work didn’t gel well with T-Hawk. This felt like Yamamura vs. T-Hawk from last month, just without the heart and the fire from either man. There were a few enjoyable spots here and there, but I expected more from these two. ***1/4
KING OF GATE 2017: C BLOCK
TAKEHIRO YAMAMURA DEF. CIMA
In truly bizarre fashion, Takehiro Yamamura submitted CIMA to a kneebar in just over six minutes.
From the start, it was clear that CIMA was experiencing discomfort in his knee, but never in a million years did I imagine that Yamamura would hone in on it that quickly and destroy CIMA’s chances of becoming victorious on the opening night of King of Gate.
I don’t know how much this raised Yamamura’s stock, simply because the match was so odd. When I imagined Yamamura beating CIMA in Korakuen Hall, it was after 15 minutes of back-and-forth action with Yamamura eventually rolling him up for the victory. This match felt so non-traditional, and I think it caught everyone by surprise when he wrenched back the kneebar and forced CIMA to tap. Well worth your time, just to see the shocking visual of CIMA losing so quickly in this building.
The way they played this off, it appears as if CIMA is getting ready to turn heel. Which, fine, I guess. If it happens, it happens. I’ve always preferred babyface CIMA, but if the end game is a big CIMA vs. Yamamura match, I’ll shut up and be happy. Recommended. ***
JIMMY KAGETORA, GENKI HORIGUCHI, RYO SAITO, & JIMMY KANDA DEF. MASATO YOSHINO, NARUKI DOI, BIG R SHIMIZU, & KOTOKA
This was the televised debut for the finally official MaxiMuM unit as well as the official return of both Yoshino and Kotoka to Korakuen since their injury. This built off of the unresolved tensions from Dead or Alive, where MaxiMuM fell in their debut match against the Jimmyz and tensions continued to boil over post-match.
It’s still too early to make judgments on MaxiMum, but there are a few things we know for certain: One, Dragon Gate is being incredibly careful of Yoshino’s back and he’s avoided a lot of needless bumps since his return.
Two, Kotoka looks like to be slotted as the loss post. This is a shame because of both his career as one and the growth he showed in VerserK when he was elevated past that. Maybe another rookie gets added to the mix so he won’t take all the falls. Third, and most importantly, Korakuen loves this unit. Now it could just be a DoiYoshi return pop, or their happiness at something new, but MaxiMuM seems to work off the bat in a way that Tribe Vanguard didn’t.
Getting into the match itself, I thought this was tremendous. DoiYoshi pulled out some of their trademark spots and it was like it was 2008 or 2012 all over again. Kotoka played a great babyface in peril. The Jimmyz had some great combinations of doing Nice Germans into the Gekokujoh Elbow amongst others. Kagetora kept up his hot streak and won the match for the oldest unit in Dragon Gate after slapping Kotoka nearly to death and hitting the Gekonitteki. The dislike shared between the two units continued after the match with another pull-apart brawl, so the feud between the oldest unit and the newest unit will go on. ****1/4
KING OF GATE 2017: A BLOCK
YAMATO DEF. EITA
Somehow, these two haven’t squared off in a singles match since late 2013 (with the exception of a PRIME ZONE taping).
Going in I had absurdly large expectations, and while this certainly wasn’t a bad match, it fell short of meeting what I had expected. This took awhile to get going. YAMATO seemed hellbent on cosplaying as Kurt Angle in this match, as with seemingly every opportunity he had, he locked in an ankle lock. It certainly didn’t hinder the match, but it never played into the finish which was a bummer.
Eita is grossly smooth. I don’t know how he transformed seemingly overnight into a llave-style expert continues to blow my mind. Seeing him squirm out of YAMATO’s clutches multiple times to remain alive and even with the current Open the Dream Gate champion was marvelous. Although this didn’t hit MOTYC-level like I had hoped, this was still a terrific exhibition. YAMATO spiked Eita with a disgusting Galleria for the win. ***1/2
SHINGO TAKAGI VS. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI
The last time these two met, they had one of the 10 greatest matches of all-time.
While this certainly didn’t reach the levels of their previous encounter, they managed to produce one of the best matches that Dragon Gate has put on all year. Mochizuki, now at age 47, is one of the best wrestlers in the world when he chooses to be. No one can match his combination of speed, intensity, and precision that Masaaki Mochizuki has.
Takagi is no slouch either. Just as it seemed like his unstoppable, nearly two year run full of high quality performances at the top of the card was coming to an end, he delivered a banger like this. He learned from his mistakes in their 2015 match. He shut Mochizuki’s early offensive attacks down, doing his best to control the veteran and keep him grounded.
Takagi’s high-impact, rope-aided offense came back to bite him as Mochizuki caught him by surprise, countering a Dangan Elbow attempt, and rolling him up for the three. Mochizuki’s performance was remarkable. I do not understand how he continues to go at the level he does, or why the wrestling world does not collectively heap his praises each time he steps foot in the ring. This is one of the 10 greatest wrestlers of all-time, and he was able to score a huge victory over Shingo Takagi in Korakuen on this evening. Highly recommended. ****1/2
This show didn’t live up to the massive expectations that it had, but this was still a very strong outing for Dragon Gate and another step in the right direction after their slow start this year. Each King of Gate match was entertaining in its own way, and MaxiMum delivered here, just like they did at Dead or Alive. Thumbs up for Dragon Gate’s first King of Gate show of 2017.