Dragon Gate Pro Wrestling Festival in Kobe 2017
July 23, 2017
Hyogo, Kobe World Kinen Hall
Pro Wrestling Festival in Kobe

Watch: Nico Nico Live (Guide to purchasing iPPV on Nico Nico)

Meet our previewers:

  • John Carroll (@toshanshuinla): Founding co-host of Open the Voice Gate (@openvoicegate) who recently added a second podcast to their plate with the new Wrestling Omakase show (@wrestleomakase). You can generally find them either podcasting or roundtabling. One of the two.
  • Case Lowe (@_InYourCase): Voices of Wrestling’s official young boy. Now a legal adult. Current duties include cooking meals for the other writers, mopping the floor and reviewing Dragon Gate major events and AAW’s Chicagoland shows.
  • Milo: Has never had a meal cooked by Case. The guardian of all young boys. Can most often be found rooting for underdogs and fuming over various subjects.
  • Michael Spears (@fujiiheya): VOW’s “Iron Man.” Open the Voice Gate co-host. The only person that’s rivaling Joe Lanza in nom-de-plumes. Recently wrote a column covering T-Hawk and the Dragon System’s history of fallen aces.

Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fujii, Jimmy Kanda, Jimmy K-ness J.K.S. vs. Kaito Ishida, Yuki Yoshioka, Shun Skywalker, Hyo Watanabe

John Carroll: This is a damn good choice to open the show with, because these generational battle multi-man tags are almost always really hot (see: the one at Korakuen late last year). The veterans are going to abuse the young boys and the young boys are gonna have to take what they dish out and fight back. It’s as close to a real fight as you’ll see in a Dragon Gate match. Who’s going to win is no real mystery, of course, but that’s not what this match is about. Just sit back and enjoy the brutality Prediction: Mochizuki & Fujii & Kanda & K-ness

Case Lowe: At the very least, this will be fun. It sucks to see Mochizuki and Fujii delegated to the opener, but they’ve been trying to light a fire under Yoshioka just like they did with Takehiro Yamamura and Kaito Ishida at the tail end of 2016. I expect Yoshioka to eat the pin here.  Prediction: Mochizuki, Fujii, Kanda, & K-Ness

Milo: I wish MochiFujii had a special tag match here, especially after the old man extravaganza of last year’s show which included Yoshiaki Fujiwara running wild with some audience member’s shoe, but I’ll make do with watching them and their veteran friends beat the snot out of the young boys. This new generation (Ishida being the senior among his team) has been clicking incredibly well with the old guard (with last year’s 5 on 5 match being an absolute stand-out), and their encounters are always fun in a brutal, lesson-teaching sort of way. Prediction: MochiFujiiJimmyz

Michael: LOVE THESE BOYS. LOVE THESE OLD MEN. The December match between the Class of ‘16 rookies versus the Toryumon Japan 1st Class was one of my favorite matches of the year, so I have relatively high hopes for this one. It’s nice to see Ishida back in the ring; he’s had a real rough 2017 with a near career ending neck injury. He’s going to be wrestling with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. His partner Yamamura has clearly surpassed him, so he’s gotta be the highlight of the match or get passed by the incredibly hungry remainders of the Class of ‘16. This is going to be brutal. I’m stoked. Prediction: Mochizuki, Fujii, K-ness & Kanda

Open the Triangle Gate Tournament
Jimmyz, Tribe Vanguard, MaxiMuM, and Over Generation

John Carroll: So we’re not going to know what the actual pairings are going to be until probably bell time, as they’ll likely do some kind of (fixed, of course) live drawing at the show. That makes predicting this very difficult, as all we can do without seeing the pairings is make a blind guess between the four teams. The 2 count rules in all of the tournament matches makes it even more unpredictable, if anything, but we’ll give it our best shot. Let’s rule out Over Generation right away- god bless Gamma, but I don’t see him leading Eita & Yamamura to victory here. I’d give Tribe Vanguard (Hulk, Kzy & Maria) a little more of a shot than Over Generation, but honestly not much, because that’s not a very strong team for them either. On the other hand, they’ve been pushing that Young MaxiMuM thing pretty hard, which I think gives the Kotoka/Big R/Ben-K team a pretty decent shot at winning. The only thing that gives me pause is that MaxiMuM just won the Naniwa elimination match back at Korakuen, so I think the Jimmyz might be due to get even here. Ultimately, given how strong of a team they’re fielding (Susumu/Ryo/Genki, basically the strongest trio possible for them and former Triangle Gate champions), I think the Jimmyz are ultimately going to pull this out, setting up what should be a really good Triangle Gate match. Prediction: Jimmyz

Case Lowe: I love that Dragon Gate is doing a mini-tournament instead of the usual 12-man cluster that gets everyone on the show. This will hopefully be far more entertaining. I think we can count out Tribe Vanguard easily. The Hulk/Maria/Kzy trio don’t have gold calling their names. As much as I like Over Generation as a unit, I hate the Gamma/Eita/Yamamura incarnation that they’re bringing to the table for whatever reason. I really hope World doesn’t end with Gamma holding a title. That leaves MaxiMuM and The Jimmyz, who have easily been the best part of Dragon Gate this year. Their feud has been nothing short of outstanding. With DoiYoshi challenging for the Twin Gate later in the night, I have to give the edge to The Jimmyz. For as much as I love the trio that MaxiMuM is bringing to the table, I don’t think they’ll be strong enough to defeat the veteran unit. Prediction: The Jimmyz

Milo: Well that’s one way to shake up the card. With the Unit League taking place this summer, this is actually a great way to gauge how everyone is doing and clicking together, and to pick out teams and individuals likely to make it interesting. As for who is winning, well… Over Generation as a unit had one of my favorite concepts when it started, but I think they’ve firmly run their course now, especially with Eita’s and then Yamamura’s steady elevations. I’d probably have a little more faith if the team was Yamamura/Ishida/Eita, but with Gamma here, I don’t think the colorful family is making it very far. As much as I’ve been pleading and begging for Dragon Gate to finally do something with Kzy after the performances he’s been putting in for the better part of two years now (and even a little before that, see him vs Tozawa from early 2015), I sadly don’t think this is his time. The hot feud of the moment is Jimmyz vs MaxiMuM, and for good reason: every match has been rousing to say the least, and the two units are riding the momentum of their great Naniwa match at the July Korakuen, so it’s only natural that it comes down to them. As for who’s winning the tournament, I have to go with my heart. As much as I love the Jimmyz, who can and have formed any number of great trios, I want to believe that Young MaxiMuM, and especially my dearest Kotoka, can pull this off. Prediction: MaxiMuM

Michael: I kind of like that instead of the rote 3 or 4-way Triangle Gate matches, we are getting a quicky tournament. We are also approaching the Unit Survival League, so this tournament can act as a preseason for that. So let’s talk about unit and team strength with these teams. Like John, I think you can immediate discount the Over Generation team. Eita and Yamamura have spotlighted since King of Gate 2016, but Gamma’s Gamma and I personally think OG has outlived its purpose. I don’t see them advancing, or surviving the league. Tribe Vanguard has been YAMATO and then everyone else since their inception. Hulk, Kzy and Maria are a fun team, so I could see them winning the first match and then losing the second. TV should definitely be on notice during the Unit Survival League, especially if somehow YAMATO loses later on this night. Young MaxiMuM is such a fun team and it’s a new super-face unit. They’re contenders for both this tournament and to win the Unit Survival League outright. That leaves us with the Jimmyz. The second oldest unit in Dragon System history is sending undoubtedly their top team. I think they are somewhat at risk during the Unit Survival League, but a win here and beating the Triangle Gate champions should let Jimmyz fans sleep easier. It’s going to be a long and difficult August and September for all the units, this is just the beginning. Prediction:  Jimmyz

Open the Brave Gate Championship
Jimmy Kagetora vs. Flamita

John Carroll: As Michael was saying on Open the Voice Gate this week, Flamita is kind of in a weird spot in DG. He shows up once in awhile and says “Hey! Remember my Brave Gate run where I never even lost the belt? How about a title shot!”, gets said title shot, loses, and then disappears again. This is now his third time doing it, as he showed up to lose to Akira Tozawa (before he sadly died, RIP) and Eita during each of their Brave Gate reigns. So I guess it was only a matter of time before he did the same thing with Kagetora too, and here we are. I’m expecting a good, maybe even great match, but with Flamita about to bolt for BOLA (among other international commitments) the result isn’t exactly in doubt here. I hope this is the end of the Flamita Shows Up And Randomly Challenges For The Brave Gate period, because it’s been going on since March of 2015 (!) and I’m a little sick of it by now, to be quite honest. Prediction: Jimmy Kagetora

Case Lowe: Flamita is 3-0 all-time vs. Kagetora in singles matches, with all three victories coming in 2014. Kagetora has been performing at such a high level this year. It seems like his in-ring skills finally match his confidence. I’m so excited that he’s finally getting a chance to shine. I think he’s going to solidify himself as a great Brave Gate champion with this match. He’s tore it up with Yamamura already this year, and I have no doubt that he’ll do the same with Flamita. My fear is that this is the last we’ll see of Flamita for awhile. He’s going to blow up post-BOLA. I just hope he remembers his roots and continues to tour Dragon Gate as often as he can. Prediction: Jimmy Kagetora

Milo: Woo boy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Flamita and I think he and Kagetora are going to have a tremendous match, but there’s just something that rubs me the wrong way about him getting the title shot here. “Milo, just say you wanted it to go to Kzy”, yes, yes I did. Flamita, like John has mentioned above, tends to rely on that (admittedly great) title run from 2014 to just show up and get a shot to spice things up, and sometimes, that shot feels like it would be better utilized by giving it to an actual roster member. But what’s done is done, so I’ll just have to accept it and hope to whatever god there is that Kzy does eventually get a shot during this reign (or another, really). As for the match itself, it’s poised to be a great contest between two wrestlers who are very, very good at what they do. Kagetora has been on fire with this title reign, displaying the great depth of his arsenal, and hopefully showing why so many of us have long clamored for him to hold this belt. Given Flamita’s hazy status, I can’t see him winning here (nor do I want him to), but I’m sure we’re in for a treat. Prediction: Jimmy Kagetora

Michael: I’ve been really happy with the Kagetora title reign so far. I haven’t always been the highest on Kagetora (to be honest, some of it is bias due to him injuring Taku Iwasa into retirement), but of all Dragon Gate champions, he has the most juice and the most intriguing matchups ahead of him. As I mentioned on the podcast (and John helpfully reminded ya’ll), Flamita’s situation with DG is kind of weird. He’s not full-time like he was in the past, and his purpose since returning from AAA has been to remind people he never actually lost the Brave Gate championship. He’s super talented (and soon to be super busy), but he’s stuck out like a sore thumb. Hopefully he’s sticking around for some of the Unit Survival League, but I don’t see a world that he beats Kagetora Prediction: Jimmy Kagetora

Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match
Shingo Takagi, El Lindaman, & Takashi Yoshida vs. ???

John Carroll: I have the Jimmyz moving on to challenge VerserK here, which would be a damn good match. No one knows how to find that second and even third gear in a Triangle Gate match quite like the Jimmyz. On the other hand, at the risk of drawing Milo’s wrath this feels like kind of a waste of Shingo Takagi giving the roll he’s been on of late; I would put his recent run in the King of Gate league (specifically the big three matches of Mochizuki, Hulk, and semifinal match with Doi, all of which I thought were excellent, ****+ affairs) up against his far more hyped Dream Gate reign from last year. I know you couldn’t main event Shingo-YAMATO again but Shingo has had far better matches than our Dream Gate challenger of late. But anyway, whatever the Triangle Gate match ends up being here I would assume VerserK is going to retain, because it would be pretty silly for them to lose to a team that just went through two prior matches (even given the 2-count rules for those matches). Prediction: VerserK

Case Lowe: Ugh, this match really turns me off for whatever reason. I hate that Takagi is stuck in this Triangle Gate position, although I do enjoy the pairing of he and Lindaman as champions of anything. With what seems like the impending doom of The Jimmyz, I don’t see them winning this match, although if they do advance to this round, I will lose my everloving mind at every Backslide From Heaven that Horiguchi busts out. I expect one of The Jimmyz to eat this pin, which might finally start the beginning of the end for them. Prediction: VerserK

Milo: Shingo Takagi as a champion of anything fills me with the kind of rage that can only be expressed through a variety of guttural growls and repeatedly banging my head against a hard wall. Just the sight of him with a title belt is enough to make me want to throw my computer across the room, and it’s a great source of pain and suffering in my life that my favorite emo pissbaby El Lindaman has to share his first title reign with Takagi. But I guess it is what it is, and all I can do is direct all my negative energy and obscure Yiddish curses to Takagi during this match. I don’t mind Yoshida being a part of this team, as he’s often proven himself to be great in this sort of situation. With all this out of the way, I have this match as Young MaxiMuM vs Verserk, and you best believe I’m rooting for the former. I hope this is finally the beginning of Verserk’s long-awaited downfall, with the Unit Survival League looming on the horizon. Yes, I know this will play a lot on the challenger team having already wrestled two matches, but stranger things have happened. Also, I will never pick Shingo Takagi for anything ever unless it was “first human to be launched into the Sun by a powerful cannon”. Prediction: MaxiMuM

Michael: Like John, I also have this as Jimmyz versus VeserK, in what should be a slapper of a match. The more I think about it, the more I like the concept of this Triangle Gate champion team: your established bully leader in Takagi, the young prick upstart Lindaman in his first ever title reign, and a bruiser that excels in multi-man matches Yoshida. I want to focus a second on Yoshida here. The almost three months since his unmasking has been a bit of a growing pains as he’s trying to figure out his character outside of Cyber Kong. Though, being just big Takashi Yoshida might work for him. This will be the tenth anniversary of the best match of his career. The story of the match, regardless of whatever team wins the tournament, will be if the challengers still have enough in their tank to beat the fresh champion team. Just don’t count out Yoshida in this match. Prediction:  VerserK

Open the Twin Gate Championship Match
CIMA & Dragon Kid vs. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi

John Carroll: JUST LET THIS MOTHERFUCKING TITLE REIGN END. Please god. If CK-1 walk out of here with these belts, I’m gonna fly to Japan almost two weeks early and burn down CIMA’s house. Granted, I think they have almost no shot to retain, but I thought the same thing when they were up against North Tribe (Hulk & Kzy) and they somehow retained anyway! The crowd is going to be super hot for the Speed Muscle reunion and if Doi needs any extra motivation, a win here by CIMA & DK would mean they would break YAMADoi’s Twin Gate length record. That would be an utter travesty, with the greatest Twin Gate reign in history getting usurped by one of the absolute worst, and it had better not happen. Prediction: Speed Muscle, for the love of god

Case Lowe: I second what John says. Let this title reign end, for the love of all things Holy. I love CIMA & Dragon Kid, but I can’t stand this reign. It had potential to be something really fun, but it has not been that. I love that DoiYoshi are back together and I pray that this is the start of a long run for them. I don’t know how Yoshino has been able to pick up practically where he left off. He’s been outstanding. Doi has had an awesome year, much better than CIMA or DK. Let this reign end, please, DG Gods. Prediction: SpeedMuscle

Milo: I said when this CK1 reign started that dark times were ahead, and look where we’re at now. For two of the most iconic performers in the history of Dragon Gate, CIMA and DK have managed to deliver one of the dullest and quite frankly most unsightly title reigns I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing, consistently failing to deliver against a wide variety of opponents after the initially great match where they won the titles. And instead of dropping them to any of the younger, fresher, or more in need teams that they faced, they held onto the Twin Gate belts like Gollum with the fucking ring. Enough is enough. If this reign were to continue past World, it would break the length record for YAMATO and Doi’s latest reign, which was perhaps the greatest in the titles history. That’s insulting enough in itself, but let me also remind you that we’re coming up on on the tenth anniversary of Doi and Yoshino CREATING the goddamn titles in the first place. So I can only hope that the gold returns to its rightful place around SpeedMuscle’s waists, after CK1 sucked all the excitement out of these titles. Let history right the wrongs of big egos who don’t know when to stop, and please for the love of GOD, let DoiYoshi win here. Please. This is their reunion, their stage, their time to bring glory back to the Twin Gate scene. Prediction: DoiYoshi

Michael: I said in my prediction for the Final Gate 2016, that I saw CK-1 as transitional champions. Oh boy, how wrong I was. As probably the biggest CIMA fan on this site, even I have to admit that this title reign has been a massive disappointment. CIMA and Dragon Kid haven’t even meshed well together, which is kind of insane considering they’ve been wrestling each other for two decades! Many teams that could have used the belts (hi North Tribe and T-Hawk & Linda!) lost to them, so I guess the only team that beat them is the iconic DoiYoshi team. Luckily, CIMA and Dragon Kid work well independently with both Doi and Yoshino, so I have higher hopes. I hope this time they click. As I have been with CK-1, I’m probably wrong though Prediction: DoiYoshi

Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
YAMATO vs. T-Hawk

John Carroll: Yawn. Sigh. Whatever. This is the World main event, and I guess we all have to live with it. T-Hawk has done nothing- absolutely NOTHING- to deserve a main event slot at DG’s Wrestlemania, for the SECOND time. He isn’t particularly over, his matches aren’t particularly good, and he has no special charisma or presence that suggests he’ll be able to draw in new fans from this lofty spot. He’s very large for a DG guy, and reasonably good-looking. That’s really about all he has going for him, and yet here we are with another T-Hawk Kobe World main event. The last one against Masato Yoshino in 2015 was okay; it wasn’t good, it was just okay. Yoshino though was a hotter Dream Gate champion than YAMATO, who has been champion since last year’s Kobe World and never really found any kind of consistent stride. He’s been okay in 2017, certainly better than he was for most of 2016, but he really needed a hot challenger here, and T-Hawk sure as hell ain’t it. So here we are folks: a relatively cold champion vs. the worst Dream Gate challenger since, uh, the last time he was the Dream Gate challenger. Yee-haw. Prediction: YAMATO

Case Lowe: Ah, fuck T-Hawk. I was really high on him going into his first World main event in 2015, and even afterwards said that I thought his performance in that match was going to be a springboard for him. I was wrong. T-Hawk has sucked my love out of Dragon Gate. YAMATO’s reign has bored me, but the idea of a T-Hawk reign angers me. Who cares who wins this. I can get entertainment from other places on the card. Two thumbs down for this booking. Prediction: T-Hawk, I guess

Milo: As perhaps the last remaining T-Hawk fan on Earth (or at least among this panel), I sadly can’t say I’m particularly excited for this one either. T-Hawk is a decent enough wrestler but I feel he’ll always be better as the second guy in a team, and YAMATO’s reign is running out of what little steam it had to begin with, so this could either be a way to fire up the engines once more, or a total let down. I know a lot of people are down on this match for various and valid reasons, and it seems like a risk taken on Dragon Gate’s part to have T-Hawk in the World main event again after their efforts to breathe new life into him were met with mixed reactions at best. It could really go either way, though if they’re smart and listening, I think it would be a major miscalculation on DG’s part to have the night end on what would arguably be a low if T-Hawk wins. I don’t know. This is a confusing match that’s hard to predict and will probably be even harder to talk about once it’s done, but for now, I think this is the only time in the year where it would do DG good to play it safe. Prediction:  YAMATO

Michael: Just to get this out of the way, I wrote an article this week about T-Hawk, his push and other failed DG pushes in the past. He’s coming into Kobe World with a lot of perceived momentum, but in reality it’s just booking him strong. YAMATO’s no peach either, momentum-wise. This championship reign just never got off the ground, and honestly, his slower style of Dream Gate matches doesn’t do a lot for me versus Mochizuki, Yoshino or Shingo’s style. So this is the main event of the biggest show in Dragon Gate’s year and I’m incredibly apathetic about it! But getting to the historical context of Kobe World, Dragon Gate is big on happy notes to send the crowd home on. Very very rarely do they decide to let the heel win, and if so, it’s usually a hot heel like Shingo was in late 2015. With Unit Survival League coming up, and a big new show in the Fall that needs a dependable champion, I think you keep this on your steady hand. Prediction: YAMATO