NOVEMBER 4, 2018

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

Meet Our Previewers:

  • Michael Spears (@fujiiheya): VOW’s “hey any way that this audio can be fixed, it sounds like it was recorded under water with a tin can” person. Also hosts Open the Voice Gate when he has time and is apparently a “Dragon System Robot” in the words of Rich Kraetsch. 
  • Case Lowe (@_InYourCase): Voices of Wrestling’s official young boy, three and a half years running. Surely POST Wrestling could use some help around the office? I was promised an excursion years ago. When I’m not causing trouble in the VOW Slack, I am reviewing troublesome Dragon Gate shows.

Pre Show
K-ness. & Problem Dragon vs. “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa & Shachihoko Boy

Michael: I feel a lot better about the position of the company when I look at Match 0 and it’s these four versus a bunch of random rookies. K-Ness makes his return after getting injured after Kobe World. He was in a light-hearted trio with Don Fujii and Ryo Saito when he got injured, and usually I’d think “well that ship has passed,” but I could see them being a Triangle Gate challenge team IF he stays healthy. This a Match 0. The result doesn’t matter, but I’m opting for the team WITHOUT Stalker. Prediction: K-ness & Problem Dragon

Case: I’m very happy K-Ness is back and healthy. I fear that his next injury could be his last, because even if his past wasn’t riddled with injuries, he is no spring chicken. Here he is, though, alive and kicking in the most Match 0 of all Match 0’s. I won’t throw a fit if we never see this. Prediction: K-Ness

Ryo Saito, Don Fujii & Gamma vs. Punch Tominaga, “brother” YASSHI & Hyo Watanabe

Michael: Another light-hearted match to start off this major show. This is the sort of role we can expect Gamma in now that he’s unaffiliated and CIMA’s gone: lower card vet who might have a minute of action in his matches. Don Fujii’s been underrated in his role this year. He’s usually someone that’s filling out the card, but able to rise up to being an upper mid-carder with SaiRyo now that the company needs him. The quality of this match will be inversely proportional to how much of either Gamma or PT we will see in this. Prediction: Bicycle Brothers & Gamma

Case: Bicycle Brothers 2K18 has been a welcome surprise. It’s a shame that Dragon Gate can’t fly Willie Mack back over for this show, because his name would look much better next to Fujii and Saito’s than Gamma. Gamma might not even get his bump card punched in this match. This should be about Saito and Fujii torturing Watanabe because he’s a youngster and torturing Tominaga because he’s Tominaga. Should be a fun opener. Prediction: Ryo Saito, Don Fujii, & Gamma

Eita, Yasushi Kanda, KAZMA SAKAMOTO (K-DOJO) & Daga vs. Kagetora, Yosuke♡Santa Maria, U-T & Kota Minoura

Michael: Well this is an interesting lower card atomicos!

On one side we have the Tribe Vanguard trios and one of 2018’s debutees. Kage, Maria and U-T have been the glue of the company. They are always solid to great in their matches, and have given TV some undercard strength when they really never had it before. Minoura’s been spotty at best, but they seem to have some confidence in him as he skipped the black shorts stage.

This R.E.D. team is certainly…something. Kanda’s a lot like Gamma in that we know who he is: probably the low person on R.E.D.’s unit list, doesn’t really do a whole lot, and just has his black and red box. KAZMA hasn’t been bad as an outsider member, just underwhelming. He keeps up with everyone and adds some size, but I don’t miss him when he’s not around. Two years ago, I would call Eita a mystery, but now it is clear that the crowd views him as a pretty underwhelming upper-midcarder. 2016 is a lifetime ago for him.

Daga’s long speculated debut is here and it should be exciting. His highlight matchup here is Kagetora. Those two have similar styles and they should compliment each other. DG’s been on a role with gaijin, and I have no reason to think that Daga will be a let down. Prediction: Eita, Kanda, Sakamoto & Daga

Case: Just as we all thought when the year began, Kazma Sakamoto and Daga will be teaming on a Dragon Gate PPV that CIMA, T-Hawk, and El Lindaman are not on…as they are no longer with the company…we are living in bizarre times. Sakamoto was a crappy “X”, but he appears to be holding his own in Dragon Gate. The problem with Sakamoto is that he does the same job that Yoshida does, and no roster needs two Takashi Yoshida’s. I am willing to keep going into his matches with an open mind, though, because he’s yet to embarrass himself. I’m pumped to see Daga in a DG ring, especially against Kagetora, U-T, and a youngster. It should be noted that Kota Minoura being in this match instead of Watanabe probably bodes well for his future.

Hoping to see R.E.D. show some fight here. I want them to rip the young boy apart. Hopefully they toughen up Kagetora while they’re at it. If we’re lucky, we’ll see Eita and U-T have a llave-off, but that would require Eita to show effort. Alas, I’m sure this match will be just fine without it Prediction: Eita, Kanda, Sakamoto, & Daga

Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match
Kzy, Susumu Yokosuka & Genki Horiguchi © vs. Naruki Doi, Jason Lee & Kaito Ishida vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Shun Skywalker & Yuki Yoshioka

Michael: I don’t have the exact dates on me, but it feels like it has been years since Dragon Gate has done a multi-team match. And that’s great. It felt like 2014-16 really went overkill with DG’s trademark match, so this time was really needed. A positive of that is that basically a third of this match, Lee, Skywalker and Yoshioka, haven’t been in one, so yay fresh blood. Yoshioka being in this match is interesting: before MochiDojo, he was clearly behind Skywalker and Watanabe, but now he’s clearly being slotted as above Watanabe. I’m not as high on Yoshioka as I am for Watanabe, but he’s certainly more consistent than the Small Leopard Son. This should rule. This Natural Vibes reign has been exciting and I’m looking forward to see how they match up with these newer MaxiMuM and MochiDojo teams. I don’t think they’re going to put the belts on the kids, and MaxiMuM already has the two singles titles, so I think it’s a pretty clear retain for the champions. Prediction: Natural Vibes

Case: Very much into this match. This Natural Vibes trio has been excellent this year, the MaxiMuM threesome is intriguing, and MochiDojo rules. This match should especially give Skywalker a chance to shine. He’s been incredibly sloppy as of late, but I can guarantee they’ll be giving him a big dive spot in this match, and I pray that he’s able to deliver. I can’t see Doi, Lee, and Ishida leaving with the gold, because that team is such a hodgepodge of talent. I would love to see Mochizuki and his youngsters leave with the victory, but I’m not sure if they’re ready for that yet. I see Natural Vibes retaining here in what should be an excellent match. Prediction: Kzy, Yokosuka, & Horiguchi

International Special Singles Match
PAC vs. Flamita

Michael: If this was on a 2014 Dragon Gate USA show, this match would have the obnoxious Sapolsky tagline of “FORMER FOREIGN ACE VERSUS CURRENT FOREIGN ACE.” PAC’s return as his heel character provides Dragon Gate with something it never truly had before: a rudo gaijin that they can possibly run with as champion. I think this is the first step to that. Flamita always has disappointed me in singles matches as I believe the concept of him in a singles match is much better than the reality. But those were mostly in matches where he’d walk back into the promotion and ask for a Brave Gate match because he never lost the Brave Gate™. Maybe they’ll do more of a power juniors match? Maybe PAC’s heel work brings more out of Flamita? Or they can just fly around? I don’t know. It is intriguing, but I’m not as excited about this match as others on this show. Prediction: PAC

Case: PAC left Dragon Gate a full year before Flamita debuted. This is such a fascinating matchup as it involves two wrestlers, who at one point, were shockingly innovated in their pursuit of aerial greatness. At different points of their careers, both decided to put on more muscle (or in PAC’s case, put muscle on top of muscle), and now both are established as quasi-power juniors. What I’m trying to get at is PAC and Flamita can not only fly around, they have the strength to toss each other around. I am living with the idea that this match might be a little awkward, but I am secretly hoping that it is a MOTYC. We’ll see how it turns out. I do think one thing is for certain, and that is that is that PAC is coming out victorious. More to come on that later. Prediction: PAC

Open the Brave Gate Championship Match
Dragon Kid © vs. Bandido

Michael: If there was a global breakout star of 2018, it’d have to be Bandido. In 2017, he was on The Crash and appearing on random Mexican indies in tents with dogs nearby. In 2018, he debuted in Dragon Gate, became PROGRESS Tag Team Champion, became THE guy in PWG and seems to have the world in the palm of his hand. Dragon Kid’s been their go to hand with the Brave Gate. Which isn’t bad given, but that endless feud with Eita is boring whatever juice he has at this point. But we are removed from that. I think Bandido is underrated as a base for flyers, so I’m excited to see how these two face off. It’s a big question of how much longer Bandido will stay in Dragon Gate, so that influences my prediction. Prediction: Dragon Kid

Case: Another match that has a chance to grab some Western buzz. Bandido has had one hell of a 2018, and I actually think the result of this match is more up in the air than the prior bout. Bandido and Flamita are over until the end of the year, and although it is unlikely, I would not be shocked if Bandido scores the upset win over Dragon Kid here and takes the Brave Gate to Final Gate. I want to float that out there as a possibility, but my gut is telling me Dragon Kid takes the win here. I’m so curious to see what Bandido can do in a singles setting in Dragon Gate. I am really, really excited for this match. Prediction: Bandido

Open the Twin Gate Championship Match
YAMATO & BxB Hulk © vs. Big R Shimizu & Takashi Yoshida

Michael: This YAMAHulk team has done wonders for both of these guys. YAMATO was rather aimless after his big Dream Gate reign, and everyone knows the condition of Hulk in 2018. But these to mesh together so well. You don’t have to worry about the notoriously slow early matches from YAMATO when Hulk can break that up. Hulk’s condition limits his ability to have full-bore matches, so he can get in for spurts and people are none the wiser. The star of Shimizu has really diminished with this heel turn. He’s just a naturally bumbling person and no one has been able to take him seriously as a monster heel. The native fans hate him (just look at social media whenever he posts), and he’s really lucky that PAC came around so he doesn’t have to be R.E.D’s secondary mic worker. Yoshida’s Yoshida. Keep him in these kinds of matches. I don’t mean to sound like I’m down on this match, I’m really not. This really is the best situation for all involved, and I expect this to be a sleeper match of the night. If this is the end of BxB Hulk’s “serious’ part of the career, I don’t see it happening at Gate of Destiny. Final Gate seems more appropriate for it. Prediction: YAMAHulk

Case: We are going to see the downfall of what has been an excellent Twin Gate run in this match. I see no way that Hulk and YAMATO leave as champions. Hulk is eating a Shot-Put Slam, and perhaps, that will be the final major title run of his career. YAMATO and Hulk put on a show at Kobe World, then put on a MOTYC against Mochizuki and Skywalker last month, and now they have a chance to end their reign with a bang. I like that R.E.D. is teaming up Shimizu and Yoshida together, because Shimizu is a beast, Yoshida is passable, and Eita, Kanda, and Sakamoto would not be as interesting as Yoshida. Shimizu is a superb tag team wrestler. This isn’t a match that jumps out on paper, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’m very excited to see how this goes down. This could be a sleeper MOTN. Prediction: Big R Shimizu & Takashi Yoshida

Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
Masato Yoshino © vs. Ben-K

Michael: The story of Dragon Gate over the last six years is “Who is going to be the guy after this generation goes.” And it’s even more pressing now as their keystone, his first heir, and last heir have left the company. The Big Six is now a Big Three, with an average age of 37.66. What should be the next generation has either gone to the WWE (Akira Tozawa), with CIMA (T-Hawk) or are languishing in the upper mid card (Eita and Kzy). So we look towards the next generation.

There are times where one can be (and should be) critical of Dragon Gate’s booking since 2015, but their treatment of Ben-K absolutely has been correct. Ever since he debuted, the fans have known he was a big deal. He got a unit induction AND a Triangle Gate reign in his first year of active wrestling. He never was the one taking falls in unit-wide matches: it was more likely that Kotoka or Jason Lee took them. Even though he was in a tag team with a senior, it did not feel like he was the junior member of the team. This is his second Dream Key in under a year. Ben-K does have some valid baggage: He isn’t much of a talker, they’ve limited his ring time in multi-man matches, he doesn’t really have the popularity that they’d want, and he’s really only had that Dream Gate match as a long singles match.

Yoshino’s been the safe option for the company since the OWE split. Still massively popular and dependable, he’s a proper captain of a ship that’s taken on some water. His Dream Gate matches have been adequate, but it’s hard to shake that he’s their holding pattern. I think the real question we have to ask ourselves is “if not now, then when?” It’s very hard for me to see him holding the belt into 2019. So do you give it to a massively untested young wrestler? Or do you hold off for your year-end and try with someone else (PAC? It seems like he’s sticking around at least for the spring of 2019). If you asked me before PAC’s return, I’d say strap up Ben-K and attach the rockets to him. But now I think you have a better option coming up, and that’s why I think Yoshino retains. Prediction: Masato Yoshino

Case: This match is another huge match for Dragon Gate. I think the smart move is to have Yoshino win after a valiant fight from Ben-K, then have PAC come out after the match to set-up PAC vs. Yoshino for Final Gate. That option is fine, but I have no interest in discussing it right now. I am far more interested in the idea of Ben-K stomping on Yoshino like a bug, powerbombing him into oblivion, and taking the Dream Gate and Dragon Gate itself in a new direction. Ben-K flattening Yoshino here would be a ballsy move, but it is the move that I so desperately want Dragon Gate to go with. He can hang with anyone on the roster. He comes across like a star. Dragon Gate has a chance to cement Ben-K as a main event, headlining player with a win. I want this so badly that I’m going against my gut. The Yoshino over Ben-K, then Yoshino over PAC plan makes more sense, but it’s not what I want right now. I want Ben-K reigning over Dragon Gate. Give it to me. Prediction: Ben-K