DRAGON GATE
GATE OF DESTINY 2018
NOVEMBER 4, 2018
OSAKA EDION ARENA
OSAKA, JAPAN

Translations: IHeartDG.com / Watch: Dragon Gate Network

GAMMA DON FUJII, & RYO SAITO DEF. HYO WATANABE, “BROTHER” YASSHI, & PUNCH TOMINAGA

A tame opener after the recent months of Willie Mack dominating these bouts. There was no flash to be found here. Only Watanabe nearly landing neck-first on a moonsault, YASSHI giving a weirdly high amount of effort, and Gamma hitting the worst Skytwister Press I’ve ever seen for the victory. Next! **1/4

EITA, DAGA, YASUSHI KANDA, & KAZMA SAKAMOTO DEF. KOTA MINOURA, KAGETORA, U-T, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA

This was Daga’s Dragon Gate debut. He celebrated the occasion by being lightly tossed over the top rope by Kagetora, but instead of rolling down off the apron, he took a flat back bump all the way to the floor. Respect.

Kota Minoura took the brunt of the damage dished out in this match. He’s still young, and the fact that he was in this spot instead of Hyo Watanabe, who was slotted in the opener, says a lot about what Dragon Gate thinks of Minoura, or more importantly, how little they think of Watanabe. It’s a one-match difference, but this match was full of established players, while the opener was the typical young boys/veterans match. Minoura is far from perfect, but he showed that he has the potential to hang with the big boys here. More than anything, I like the way he bumps. He looked dead after Eita nailed him with the match finishing Superkick.

Sakamoto continues to hold his own. I am no longer worried about him fitting in with the house style because I think this will be his role as long as he’s in the company. I look forward to seeing what Daga can do. Kagetora, Maria, and U-T continue to work like a well-oiled machine and it’s nice to see that Dragon Gate recognizes the chemistry that the trio has. This was nothing special, but I enjoyed seeing all of the different pieces come together in this fine undercard bout. ***

OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
KZY, GENKI HORIGUCHI, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA (c) DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, SHUN SKYWALKER, & YUKI YOSHIOKA AND JASON LEE, NARUKI DOI, & KAITO ISHIDA

This was marvelous. Typically any match involving nine-man has to involve a lot of flying, but this match felt so different than many of the prior matches in this style. This match was built off of strikes. Specifically, it was built off of Kaito Ishida kicking anyone in sight.

This was a game-changing performance for Kaito Ishida. I have been waiting for this Ishida since his debut in 2015. I knew he had something like this in him, but his talent never matched his confidence level (either that or he was suffering from a case of the injury bug). In this match, with a new look and new MaxiMuM gear, Kaito Ishida shined brighter than anyone else. He specifically targeted Mochizuki in the early stages of this match. He didn’t take Mochizuki’s head off with any kicks, but by the end of their exchanges, it was clear that Ishida had damaged Dragon Gate’s ironman.

Once the Mochizuki Dojo trio was eliminated, Ishida had the guts to target Kzy, who has had an incredible year as the frontman of his own unit. He and Kzy traded strikes until Ishida just had any more to give. He was no match for Kzy’s Impact, which put him down for the three count.

Everyone played their role in this match. The Mochizuki Dojo youngsters took a deserved beating, while Mochizuki did his best to fend off attacks from both MaxiMuM and Natural Vibes. Kzy, Horiguchi, and Yokosuka are now one of the most dominant trios in company history. Their win was emphatic. I’ve already said enough about Ishida. He came into this show a different man than the one that exited. I pray that he rides this momentum into the future. Well worth your time. Excellent match. ****1/4

Natural Vibes tied the Triangle Gate defense record with their 5th defense. Backstage, they were confronted by Saito, Fujii, & Gamma. If Vibes were paying attention to the opener, they would understand why they were here. Gamma asked if they saw his gorgeous(?) Skytwister Press. They were in fact, not watching. Saito assumed they were terrified of the Mighty Sugamoto. Gamma said it was shameful that a bald guy was a champion. They challenged them to a Triangle Gate title match. After some arguing over the location (Fujii wanted to do it at Nippon Budokan, but that was unrealistic), the just agreed to the match in principle. The company later set the match for 11/18 in Nobeoka.

PAC DEF. FLAMITA

I’m not sure what this match was. It felt like these two had the first five minutes of the match planned out, and then had nothing after that. As soon as PAC and Flamita left the ring momentarily, the match fell to pieces. Lots and lots of rest holds ensued. I’m sure this was not the match either man wanted to have.

I couldn’t help but notice how dead the usually hot Osaka crowd was for this too. They didn’t want to boo PAC, and they certainly didn’t want to cheer for Flamita, who has plateaued in the eyes of the Japanese fanbase. Flamita is one of the three best flyers in the world, but we have seen him work with everyone on this roster. The only time in recent memory that he’s felt fresh is when he was teaming with Bandido at the beginning of the year. He is not over to the level of his push anymore, and he was badly exposed in this disappointing match. **3/4

OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
DRAGON KID (c) DEF. BANDIDO

Bandido, in his first Dragon Gate match since July, made his presence felt against one of the Dragon System’s most respected wrestlers. This was the first match back from intermission and the first match since the disappointing PAC vs. Flamita bout. Bandido came out like a house of fire and immediately had the Osaka crowd reacting in a way that PAC and Flamita could not accomplish. It certainly didn’t help that he had Dragon Kid out there with him, but this felt like a big showcase for Bandido.

This match felt incredibly similar to another Dragon Kid Brave Gate match, this one taking place in July 2014 against the aforementioned Flamita. Their Kobe World 2014 match was at the height of Flamita’s popularity in Dragon Gate, and Flamita was in the midst of one of the best Brave Gate runs of all-time. Leading up to the match, I expected an aerial assault from both men. I thought the two would work at a breakneck speed in an effort to get as many of Flamita’s moves over as possible. Instead, they worked a deliberately slow match built around Flamita kicking out of the Dragonrana, which the crowd realized was a big deal.

In this match, Bandido was given a chance early to get over some of his biggest spots. His moonsault slam and modified bridging German suplex were received with a thunderous ovation. However, they weren’t enough to get past the veteran. Dragon Kid busted out the infamous Dragonrana and planted Bandido for the win. This match went just under 12 minutes. Had it gone longer, I’m sure it would’ve been a truly great match and possibly MOTN. As it stands, it feels like a table-setter for Bandido’s future in Dragon Gate. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I talk about him wrestling in a title match. ***3/4

Eita attacked Kid after his match. Why is Eita being relegated to second on the card while DK is out here putting on these terrible performances? It’s a conspiracy and it’s all DK’s fault. Dk told him that it is no one’s fault but his own. Besides; regardless of whether it is the opener or the second match or the main event, Dragon Gate wrestlers give their all. Eita got annoyed and attacked again, going for his mask.

OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
YAMATO & BXB HULK (c) DEF. BIG R SHIMIZU & TAKASHI YOSHIDA

My prediction that YAMAHulk’s tremendous Twin Gate reign would come to an end proved to be incorrect, and I am perfectly okay with that after watching this match. Their reign began with a bang when they dethroned Big Ben at Kobe World, their first defense had the makings of a good match before the disqualification finish with Shimizu and Naruki Doi, they had a MOTYC against Mochizuki and Skywalker in September, and now they delivered the goods once more against Shimizu and Yoshida.

It is clear that Hulk is hurting. It feels like every one of his defenses during this reign could be his last, simply because it looks like his body could break at any moment. It’s startling to look at pictures or videos of Hulk from a decade ago. He’s put on so much weight due to injury and he is no longer the fast-footed, bright-eyed babyface that used to dance around the ring. He’s becoming a grumpy old-timer, which is very cool to see.

Once Hulk was hit with a modified Shot-Put Slam, the same one that Shimizu nailed at Kobe World, I was convinced that R.E.D. was taking him some gold on this night. However, YAMATO reached into his back of tricks and pulled out one of the deadliest flash pins in the game. Yoshida was caught with a Frankensteiner of the Almighty and was unable to escape. This was a shocking finish. It came at the perfect time and I’m all for it if it means YAMAHulk will live for another day. ****1/4

OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
MASATO YOSHINO (c) DEF. BEN-K

While we do not get the miracle Ben-K Dream Gate run that I was hoping for, Dragon Gate continues to show that Masato Yoshino’s current reign is a journey worth following.

This match had moments that did nothing for me. I thought the R.E.D. interference early on in the match was goofy and I didn’t love a lot of the transitional spots between the two. There were times in this match that I was bored, and in most matches, it’s hard to get past that to praise it even slightly. But once again, Masato Yoshino lulled us to sleep, until to shake us back away with a flurry of outstanding offensive moves and a closing stretch worth checking out.

This was a prime example of Dragon Gate wanting to create an epic and failing to get the desired results in return. Even if it was minor, there was no need for the early interference. I was really hoping they’d flip the script and work a sub-20 minute match, because as we saw, these two can put together an electric 10 minutes. It looked like Ben-K, multiple times, was going to dethrone Yoshino. Once he had momentum on his side, he tossed Yoshino around with ease. Ben-K looked more dominant here than in any other match that I can think of.

Even in the loss, Ben-K established himself as a main event monster. It was so obvious watching his entrance, the match, and the way he’s now hung with Yoshino and Mochizuki in Dream Gate matches, that Ben-K is a future ace. He is a natural. I understand why he crumbled underneath the pressure of the Sol Naciente, but I can’t help but think about the future of the company revolving around Ben-K from here on out.

I can’t take issue with anyone that calls this a great match. Yoshino’s comeback, which started with a laser beam lariat, began a series of top notch, back-and-forth wrestling. I really questioned the result as the match went down the stretch, because Yoshino, while being in control, felt like he could’ve been rocked at any moment. I ultimately have talked myself into calling this a great match, because even with a slow start, I loved the closing stretch so much that I must recommend it.  ****

Yoshino & PAC had a long, but silent face off after the main event. He left with the rest of R・E・D.

Final Thoughts:

Three matches at four stars or better makes Dragon Gate’s Gate of Destiny 2018 an immediate thumbs up. The worst match on the show was the very disappointing PAC vs. Flamita match, but everything else on this show worked. The last few minutes of the main event were top notch pro wrestling, the Twin Gate match was paced perfectly, Bandido had an incredible showing in the Brave Gate match, and the Triangle Gate match delivered to the fullest extent.

Dragon Gate’s booking continues to be a little murky, but I can’t help but feel like they are building to a really big Final Gate. PAC vs. Yoshino is all but confirmed, YAMAHulk continue to hang on by a thread, and Natural Vibes have dominated the Triangle Gate scene almost all year. It’s not the most exciting product on earth, but Dragon Gate is slowly finding their way back to what it was before.