MAY 6, 2018

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

Meet Our Previewers:

  • Michael Spears: Still somehow recovering from New Orleans a month later. Weird things happen to him. You can catch him either on Open the Voice Gate, read his stuff here, or follow him on twitter at @fujiiheya.
  • Milo Martinez: The local degenerate. Either crying, writing, yelling, or doing all three at the same time.
  • Taylor Maimbourg: That’s right, he doesn’t only do New Japan previews!  Taylor is excited to join the Dragon Gate usuals on this preview as prepares to watch the event that originally got him interested in DG: Dead or Alive!  You can follow him on Twitter @tamaimbo.

Gamma, Mondai Ryu, Kaito Ishida & Shun Skywalker vs. BxB Hulk, U-T, Hyo Watanabe & Yuki Yoshioka

Michael: Standard young guys opener with most of Over Generation on one side, and the two Tribe Vanguard members who aren’t doing anything on the other. The only story going into this is Shun Skywalker trying to build up momentum heading into King of Gate the next week. The younger members of the roster have been great lately; Shun’s in-ring ability has made up for his costume disasters, The Big Cat’s started to piece together matches, and Yoshioka’s has been healthy for long enough that he’s getting a decent amount of ring time. I’m going with the team whose young guy is actually in King of Gate here. Prediction: Gamma, Ryu, Ishida & Skywalker

Milo: My goodness, BxB Hulk. I suppose this is the sad and natural progression of things for him, but still, seeing our sparkly prince in the opener with the usual scrappy crowd is always weird. Don’t fret though, because there’s very little chance this match will actually be about BxB Hulk. I’m guessing the youngins will be front and center here, as U-T reunites with one half of his old rivals in Ishida, and the Watana- sorry; Hyo and Shun face off. These two are always fun together, and since Shun is headed for King of Gate next month, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pin the Big Cat. Prediction: Gamma & the boyz

Taylor:  Shun Skywalker’s entry into King of Gate seems to signal the beginning of an elevation for this class of youngsters that has mostly been confined to opening matches like this for the past year.  Ring attire aside, this young group has shown that they are more than ready to move up and I hope that Dragon Gate really gives them an opportunity to stand out. I will probably sound like a broken record by the end of this preview, but I think 2018 is the year where Dragon Gate has to find out exactly what they have and don’t have on their roster.  The top of the card seems rife with instability, and pushing this young class sooner rather than later will help shore up a roster with some growing question marks. As for this match, it seems fairly obvious that Shun should get another win heading into his big opportunity in King of Gate. Prediction: Gamma, Ryu, Ishida & Skywalker

K-ness & Don Fujii vs. “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa & Shachihoko BOY

Michael: Time for some goofs! Whereas the opener is more about getting Dragon Gate’s slew of younger wrestlers ring time, this one match involves Fujii and Stalker, who are destined to do this forever. Nothing to this match with four guys that the company doesn’t do much with anymore. Shachi will shout, Fujii will try to throw someone off a balcony, Stalker will do Stalker things, and K-ness will probably be the one sane man in an mental institution. Prediction: K-ness & Fujii

Milo: Recently, K-ness has been modelling his gear after the current iteration of Kamen Rider, and while the show hasn’t been all that great, K-ness on the other hand, is fucking awesome. As Mike said, he’ll probably try to play judge and jury at the same time while the other three go up to their usual shenanigans and in the end, he’ll have to resign himself to being the executioner. Prediction: Fujii & K-ness

Taylor: I will never not be excited by the opportunity to see more Stalker.  He is an all-timer when it comes to comedy wrestling, and although this match will most likely follow the format we’ve seen many, many times, I’m sure I’ll get a kick out of it.  I’m not sure anyone in the match really NEEDS a victory, but I think K-ness will pick up the victory for his team. Prediction: K-ness & Fujii

Kagetora vs. Takashi Yoshida

Michael: Kagetora’s been doing this bit lately where he has been lobbying for an unit invite by showing up unprompted to everyone’s matches wearing their merchandise. Hey, making him a walking billboard works, but don’t expect me to act like it’s a Kraneo Brain piece of inspiration until he starts hawking YAMATO’s pasta sauce. Yoshida’s been in a quiet spot, since the rest of Antias is either breaking down (see the main event), or busy with their titles (T+E). On top of that, his usual partner, Takagi, has been doing the Champion Carnival so he doesn’t even have that as a fall back. This won’t get a lot of time, but should be pretty fun. Yoshida’s good at monster trainwrecks, and it’ll be interesting to see if Kagetora can sneak one out. I don’t think he will. Units are for closers, and unless Kagetora hawks every single roster member pin, he can’t beat the former Cyber Kong. Prediction: Takashi Yoshida

Milo: I swear sometimes DG does these things just to fuck with me. This is a waste of Kagetora’s, mine, and everyone’s time. Who cares. Next. Prediction: Taka-sigh Yoshida

Taylor: Regardless of the outcome of this match, Yoshida’s path forward seems linked to Shingo Takagi and the outcome of the main event.  In a way, Yoshida and Takagi have been on the outside looking in with Antias, as the younger generation has grabbed a hold of the leadership position within the group and steered the ship in a new direction.  These Yoshida singles matches always seem built to remind the fans that the former Cyber Kong is always a threat, so I think he picks up the win here and forces Kagetora to consider the fact that maybe no unit will want him if he doesn’t win his matches. Prediction: Takashi Yoshida

Open the Brave Gate Championship Match
Dragon Kid © vs. Yosuke♡Santa Maria

Michael: Maria’s storyline right now is one of the more interesting things in the company. Spurn on by Kzy leaving Tribe, she got serious and got angry about slipping through the cracks, not getting the opportunity that she feels like she deserves. So Maria’s been on somewhat of a tear. Dragon Kid won a vacated Brave Gate championship in April, in what feels like a move to make sure there was some sort of singles title match on this show. It is somewhat strange that he went from vacating the longest Twin Gate title reign ever due to injury to another title reign. What’s not strange is DK’s record in big show events in his home prefecture: He’s only won three matches at Dead or Alive since the event started in 2008. I don’t think today is number four. Prediction: Yosuke♡Santa Maria

Milo: Listen. I love Dragon Kid. I really do. He’s one of the most iconic performers in the history of the Dragon System. He basically invented what many people now refer to as ‘the Dragon Gate style’. He was involved in one of the most brilliant and compelling feuds in the company. Those are all facts that anyone would be hard pressed to dispute. However, the truth of the matter right now is, Dragon Kid is a 42 year old man with a body more fragile than your grandmother’s fine China. History has taught us that, repeatedly. He’s an amazing wrestler, but he’s also the glassiest of glass canons, more than K-ness, more than U-T. His last title reign ended because he got injured, and it would honestly be frustrating to see this one go the same route. Maria as a wrestler has known pretty start-stop career, but she’s also one of the most popular characters and performers on the roster, and she’s consistent to a fault. Her 2016 Brave Gate run was, if short-lived, extremely entertaining, and I’m definitely on the camp of people who want to see her repeat the feat. She’s been on absolute fire lately, a grandiose performance in the Triangle Gate match at Champion Gate launching her into something of a rampage, and I want to see it lead up to a great moment the same way her first title win was. Let’s hope that for once, the powers that be are on the same wavelength. Prediction: Yosuke Santa Maria

Taylor: Jae had some interesting thoughts recently on Twitter about Yosuke♡ Santa Maria.  The character works, but does it work in a way that limits her from being able to rise to the top of the card?  I think this match is going to go a long way in revealing exactly what the future holds. If Maria wins, I think that we may see the ceiling – Maria will hold the Brave Gate from time to time, maybe get a few other title opportunities, but remain firmly entrenched in the mid-card of the company.  If she loses, the door opens up for a lot of interesting possibilities. Does a loss motivate her even further into making a big change? Does she depart Tribe Vanguard as well? And if she does change, will the fans still get behind her? To me, the latter option is the more interesting one, and even though DK has a poor win-loss record at Dead or Alive, I think he wins here and brings a bit of stability to the Brave Gate. Prediction: Dragon Kid

Open the Twin Gate Championship Match
T-Hawk & Eita © vs. Big Ben (Big R Shimizu & Ben-K)

Michael: T+E have been alright since taking the belts at Final Gate. Their only televised defense at Champion Gate was either just fine, if you are being positive about it, or underwhelming, if you had higher expectations. MaxiMuM’s 2018 has been strong considering one of their members retired. Ben-K had an incredibly encouraging Dream Gate title shot at Champion Gate and proved that he could go longer than the four or five minutes in multi-man matches. Shimizu got a Dream Gate shot at well on a show that will only emerge in eight months if someone bought the DVD from Amazon Japan. I don’t know what side of T+E we will see this time, but the concept of two heavyweights overpowering T-Hawk and Eita is particularly compelling in my mind. The title matches this show feel like coin-flip propositions, but I just get the sense that this could be a shake up. Prediction: Big Ben

Milo: As the west’s last remaining T-Hawk fan, even I have to admit that this reign has been pretty underwhelming. T+E have gotten me used to better, and I hope this match with their natural foils helps jumpstart something in them – and this reign, were it to continue. They’re going up against two recent Dream Gate challengers and two of the biggest boys in DG, and if I’m really honest, I’m looking forward to Eita in this match the most, between them and his own almost equally large partner. There’s a lot of ways this could go, and the result could be crucial given the other possible events of the night. For that it’s hard to predict a result, but there would be a certain undeniable delight in seeing the Antias team knocked down a peg or two. Prediction: Big Ben

Taylor: I like T-Hawk and Eita as a team, but the way they won these titles did them absolutely no favors.  Now here we are 4 months later and their title defenses have either not aired or also done them no favors. With the reign going nowhere and Eita favored to win King of Gate, it might just be time to move on and put the belts on Big Ben.  Ben-K had an impressive showing in his Dream Gate match and I think Big R has been ready for a good while for bigger opportunities, so I think that Big Ben is the perfect team to take these titles and hopefully get them back on track after a long stretch of underwhelming title defenses.  Like a lot of people on this card, Big R and Ben-K seem to be teetering on the border being the mid-card and the main event, and I think after a number of losses in big spots, you have to give them something here to avoid fully stunting their momentum. Prediction: Big Ben

Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match
MaxiMuM (Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino & Jason Lee) © vs. Natural Vibes (Kzy, Genki Horiguchi, Susumu Yokosuka)

Michael: It’s time to stop the presses: no gaijin has come in and immediately fit in with Dragon Gate’s style as quickly as Jason Lee has. Even with Ricochet or Neville/PAC, it took them some dojo time in order to “get” what DG fans expect in their matches. When you add DoiYoshi on his side, you get perhaps the most fun Triangle Gate team we’ve seen in recent memory. However, the story of 2018 isn’t about that. Dating back to November of last year, Kzy has been on a historic tear. He didn’t even drop a fall until his Dream Gate challenge in February! The much needed replacement for Tozawa on DG’s top line is here, and it’s a guy that spent almost a full decade as a loss post. I don’t want to hear a single word about how DG’s 2018 is lackluster and poorly booked when you can point up and look at a marquee that says “Kzy’s A Star Now.” Anyways, let us get into this match. With new units, Dragon Gate has two stories they really like telling: utter dominance (see how VerserK was after its formation), or struggling to put things together (MaxiMuM last year). And I can’t tell what they are going to do for Natural Vibes yet. This match, more so than any other, will give early indication in what direction King of Gate and maybe Kobe World will take. I just can’t rationalize three title changes on one show. Prediction: MaxiMuM

Milo: This is going to be FIRE EMOJIS, as Twitter would say. Jason Lee fits in Dragon Gate like no “outsider” has in a very, very long time, to the point that I regularly forget he wasn’t trained in the dojo. He has amazing chemistry with essentially everyone on the roster, and he gets the “Dragon Gate style” on a bare, quintessential level that many have tried to emulate with varying but often poor results. The fact that his teammates are one of the most well-oiled machine in pro wrestling right now sure helps, but you cannot discredit the effortless way in which Lee has found a place on the roster. Kzy, on the other hand, is a born-and-bred DG guy who, for a very long time, never seemed to find his place. He’s turned the tides in a tremendous way in recent years, though, to the point that he’s now the leader of this team rather than the scrappy odd man out. His teammates need no introduction, as they’re as essential to the very fabric of Dragon Gate as anyone can get, and they’ve connected with Kzy in a way that’s been extremely fun and heartwarming to watch. Now, I know a lot of people think Kzy thrives in defeat – and sure, they’re right. There is no one who can get a crowd behind him, lose, and ultimately come out looking like the winner like this guy does. But it’s been a long, long road of doing just that, and nothing would make me happier than seeing him finally turn the tides. Prediction: Kzy’s Excellent Association

Taylor: Although it is not the main event, this feels like a really big deal, as six of the hottest guys in the company face off.  Kzy has had a killer 2018, and like a good leader, a lot of his momentum has trickled down to the other group members. There are sure to be more changes to the group as everything solidifies, but I like the core that Kzy has built.  On the other side, you have the hottest Dragon Gate act of 2017 in DoiYoshi. They’ve cooled off a bit, but they’ve also been the most consistent team in having high quality matches, and with the addition of Jason Lee as a trios, have really put a rocket to the Triangle Gate scene.  I’m not certain of the outcome of this match – even though Kzy has the crowd behind him, he’s done it without being dominant in terms of wins and losses, so it doesn’t seem a given that his team comes out victorious here. On the other hand, I do wonder if there is a limit to the number of times he can come up short before the audience begins to think “Here we go again” and starts hopping back off the Kzy bandwagon.  The MaxiMuM team has been so great, I think it would be hard to change the titles here, so I would have them retain and hope that Kzy’s momentum will continue even through another loss. Prediction: MaxiMuM

Cabellera Contra Cabellera Steel Cage Survival 7 Way Match
Masaaki Mochizuki vs. YAMATO vs. Ryo Saito vs. Punch Tominaga vs. El Lindaman vs. Shingo Takagi vs. Yasushi Kanda

Match Rules:

  • Seven Wrestlers, Five Flags
  • Escapes can occur only after the first ten minutes of the match
  • After five escapes (no flags remaining), there will be a five minute timer for the remaining two wrestlers in the match. If no wrestler gets a fall within five minutes, then both lose and lose their hair.
  • Unlike previous years, there is are set rules for outside interference. After the ten minute mark, units will cycle in for five minutes in order to help or hinder people in the match. The order is as follows:
    • Ten minutes – 15 minutes: Antias
    • 15 minutes – 20 minutes: Unaffiliated Wrestlers
    • 20 minutes – 25 minutes: MaxiMum
    • 25 minutes – 30 minutes: Natural Vibes
    • 30 minutes – 35 minutes: Over Generation
    • 35 minutes – 40 minutes: Tribe Vanguard
  • If Shingo Takagi doesn’t lose the match, he can willingly vacate the Owarai Gate title

Michael: Finally, my least favorite feud in the past few years of Dragon Gate, SaiRyo/Tominaga versus Takagi/Kanda, will end. Thank god, I was tiring of it messing up perfectly fine shows. DG installed more order into the cage match this year with the timed interference, which means this year there will likely be even more shenanigans than years past. I’m just bummed we don’t get remote controlled karate robot Masaaki Mochizuki with barbed wire boxing gloves this year. Mochizuki and YAMATO got kind of slung into this match for whatever reasons GM Yagi thought of in the moment, which makes me wonder if either of them are losing their hair. I could see them doing it to Mochizuki as the story of his Dream Gate reign is him fighting time and old age. His body could give out and he’d lose his hair. YAMATO’s somewhat likely as well: he talked about wanting to get a haircut for so long and has become addicted to using clippers on people. Lindaman’s in here as he’s been the shit-stirrer within Antias and it feels like everyone is sick of him. In order to decide who is losing their hair, let’s separate the participants in two groups: people who losing their hair would be a big deal, and those that it would be a less big deal. It’d be a big deal if either Mochizuki, YAMATO, or Shingo lost their hair, and it wouldn’t as much if it were Kanda, SaiRyo, Tominaga or Linda. When you look at that first group and consider all the questions swirling around him, I think Shingo is the best bet at losing his hair. Prediction (loses their hair): Shingo Takagi

Milo: I have exactly zero idea what the entire diddly-darn fuck is even happening in this match, and that’s exactly what makes it fun every year. My co-writers have laid out grandiose ideas and I have to say at this point, I agree with all of them and think any of them is liable to happen. However, much to my immense delight, there’s one person who seems more in position of losing than ever. His unit is falling apart, he’s feuding with – and getting thoroughly owned by – two guys he never took seriously, he’s saddled with a joke title…. Yeah, and I’m trying to stay as rational as possible on this: I really think it’s time for Takagi to say goodbye to that godawful hairstyle of his. At least this time, it’ll be for the right reasons. Prediction (loses their hair): Shingo Takagi

Taylor: Before last year’s Dead or Alive, I was certain I knew exactly what was going to happen (YAMATO losing the title) and then that thing didn’t happen (YAMATO retained the title).  A year later, here we are, and I feel CERTAIN that Shingo Takagi is losing his hair. Everything has pointed to a big change for Takagi, and I think that a loss in the cage will finally be the thing that propels him (and possibly Yoshida) out of Antias and triggers a bigger scale change in Dragon Gate that has seemed to be on the horizon for many many months.  However, I don’t think Shingo will be alone in losing his hair. YAMATO has been running wild in Dragon Gate with his hair clippers, and in typical wrestling fashion, if you bring out the weapon, you usually end up taking the brunt of that weapon. Also, if you are going to tease the idea of having two people lose their hair, don’t you have two people lose their hair?  Tribe Vanguard is the last unit in the cage, and with the loss of Kzy and the possibility of a change to Maria, it feels like TV is also on the verge of a massive change. What does losing his hair do to YAMATO? TV has flip flopped between being on the brink of disaster and just floating through, but I think that a major event like the loss of YAMATO’s hair propels them into something new.  Maybe not a unit dissolution, but another big shakeup. Prediction (loses their hair): Shingo Takagi and YAMATO.