DRAGON GATE
FINAL GATE
DECEMBER 23, 2018
FUKUOKA KOKUSAI CENTER – FUKUOKA, JAPAN

Translations: IHeartDG.com / Watch: Dragon Gate Network

KAITO ISHIDA, JASON LEE, SHACHIHOKO BOY, & DRAGON DIA DEF. “BROTHER” YASSHI, PROBLEM DRAGON, SUPER SHISA, & U-T

This was about as close you can get to a perfect opening match. Kaito Ishida and U-T picked up right where they left off at last week’s Korakuen Hall show. They continuously targeted one another throughout the match. On this night, it was Ishida who got the upperhand. His kicks were too much for U-T and his team of hooligans to handle.

It’s always great to see Super Shisa back in the fold. His interactions with Dragon Dia were a lot of fun. Shisa is entering a post-post-prime stage. He’s put on some pounds and he doesn’t move around as well as he used to, but Shisa continues to shine as an experienced grappler. Unfortunately for him and his team, that couldn’t stop Ishida’s deadly Tiger Suplex, which led to a victory for his team. ***1/4

SHUN SKYWALKER, HYO WATANABE, KOTA MINOURA, & YUKI YOSHIOKA DEF. RYO SAITO, DON FUJII, GAMMA, & K-NESS

Dojo Mochizuki has officially been elevated with this match. The young foursome dominated their veteran counterparts in this match. Once again, Shun Skywalker, who debuted some new silver gear on this show, was the star of this match. He nailed his three big dives, including a finishing moonsault that he landed on Saito right in the middle of the ring. This rocked. These first two matches showed exactly what the future of Dragon Gate can be. ***

MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI DEF. DAGA

Daga and Mochizuki have had a low-key feud ever since Daga came into the company at the beginning of November. The feud has grown steadily since then and it has manifested itself into this rather enjoyable match on the undercard. A similar sentiment can be said about Daga’s progression in Dragon Gate. He’s worked hard since match #1, and we’re now starting to see that hard work turn into good matches.

This 16-minute match with Mochizuki was a battle of one-upmanship. Both men are accomplished strikers and talented submission artists and we saw that come into play in this match. Daga is just pesky enough that I couldn’t help but feel like he could make Mochizuki tap out at any moment. Daga finished his first tour with a great showing. Even in a loss, which came by way of a sneaky roll-up from Mochizuki, Daga proved that he can be a serious mid card threat in this company. I hope to see more of him in 2019. ***3/4

““Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa came out during the aftermath of Mochizuki vs. Daga. Who authorized this? What did Mochizuki do to deserve a singles match on the first half of a major show? When you think of a pre-intermission singles match you think of Stalker Ichikawa. Next year is Dragon Gate’s 20th anniversary year and he has some goals left to accomplish. In those 20 years he has probably had a hundred singles matches with Mochizuki. He has not won one yet. So he has come here to beat him up. He demanded a match on the spot. Mochizuki gave him credit for coming all the way to Fukuoka and he would normally call for the bell himself, but he just had a rough match. His leg hurts. He has to decline. Ichikawa replied that the rough match he had was exactly why he came out. He demanded they ring the bell to start the match.” -iheartdg.com

MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI DEF. STALKER ICHIKAWA

After a respectable challenge, Ichikawa fell short. Brilliant stuff as always. NR

OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
KAZMA SAKAMOTO, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & YASUSHI KANDA DEF. KZY, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, & GENKI HORIGUCHI (c)

After a record-breaking Triangle Gate reign that featured two victories over Antias/R.E.D. teams, the Natural Vibes flagship trio fell short to the brute force of R.E.D’s ugliest possible team.

Susumu Yokosuka and Takashi Yoshida shined brightest in this match. For two guys that don’t match up well on paper, I like their chemistry a lot. Yokosuka seems to be able to bring out the best in Yoshida. When the big man is able to power through lariats like he was in this match, he comes across looking more dangerous than clumsy.

Kzy led his team to great heights in a run that always felt like it had purpose. With the exception of the defense at Kobe World, which featured Masato Tanaka, all of their defenses felt meaningful. This reign felt like an improved version of the one that Akira Tozawa, Masato Yoshino, & T-Hawk had years ago. Tozawa and Yoshino were established stars and they were attempting to slingshot T-Hawk to the main event scene with a successful reign, but the reign felt like filler and T-Hawk failed at the top of the card once again. Yokosuka and Horiguchi did their part to aid Kzy in his main event quest, and this time around it looks like Kzy might be able to find his footing in the main event scene.

Yokosuka had his hoss battle with Yoshida and Kzy came through with an epic babyface comeback, leaving Horiguchi to be the one that was pinned. Unsurprisingly, it came by way of Kazma Sakamoto and his Half Package Piledriver. I like Sakamoto in Dragon Gate. He’s certainly on the lowest tier of the roster from an in-ring perspective, but he chooses his spots and he does them well. His finisher here looked violent.

Not the best match of the Natural Vibes reign, but this will certainly go down as an important match. ***1/2





OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
BEN-K & BIG R SHIMIZU DEF. KAGETORA & YAMATO, FLAMITA & BANDIDO, MASATO YOSHINO & NARUKI DOI

I have never bought a ton of stock in Kagetora. He’s a very good wrestler, who I think gets more recognition than the rest of the roster because of his innovative offense. Those signature spots like his cartwheel DDT are incredible. He’s someone that finds his way onto my spreadsheets every year, but those are all tag team or multi-man matches, and I’m never left going “Kagetora is the guy!” after those matches. More often than not, I find Kagetora to be a prime candidate for someone that is really overrated. He’s good, but he’s not as good as people seem to think. He’s not a main event player. He’s not really someone that I think deserves better placement on the card.

That is, with the exception of this match, because Kagetora came across like a world beater.

He was incredible in this match. He gelled with everyone. He took offense from everyone and he gave it right back. He rolled up Yoshino 18 minutes into this epic spotfest to eliminate SpeedMuscle from the bout. Three minutes later, he took out Bandido with the same pinning combination. He attempted to do the same thing to Big R Shimizu, which garnered a big (for the notoriously dead Fukuoka crowd) reaction. Shimizu was too big for Kagetora to finish off, however, even after a First Flash in honor of the injured BxB Hulk. Kagetora did all that he could, but he was soon the victim of a Shot-Put Slam and three seconds later, Big Ben were once again Twin Gate champions.

Go watch this match. Every team ruled. This was an unadulterated spotfest with flips, innovation, and at the end, a beautiful piece of storytelling. ****1/2

MÁSCARA CONTRA CABELLERA
DRAGON KID DEF. EITA

I direct you to my Kobe World review from this past year where I complained that for supposed generational rivals, Dragon Kid and Eita don’t seem to work with that much urgency. I just don’t get what they were going for here. This would’ve been a good, middle-of-the-road Dream Gate defense. The wrestling wasn’t bad, but the atmosphere was all wrong.

These two just weren’t meant to have great matches with one another and this match confirmed that. These two have never killed it, but if they were ever going to, now would’ve been the time. Instead, they had an average match and somehow, Naruki Doi came out looking like the best guy out of this match because Doi landed a Bakatare Sliding Kick on Eita during an interference run that got a giant pop and then Doi smashed the heel box into Eita’s head (twice), which led to the Dragon Kid win. This felt like it was building to a bigger Doi vs. Eita match, and that this was purely a setup. I know that’s not the case, so I’m at a loss.

This feud felt like the final holdover from an era of Dragon Gate that has already passed. An era steered into the ground by Antias, Shingo Takagi vs. Ryo Saito, and floundering rookies. We’ve seen six months of rock solid, classic Dragon Gate action, with the only pause being this Dragon Kid and Eita feud that for the time being, has wrapped up.

The wrestling wasn’t bad, but there was no heat, no urgency, and no hate. It was just a match. Dragon Kid won with an Ultra Hurricanrana, for whatever that’s worth. ***1/4

Final Thoughts:

A disappointing main event should not stop anyone from watching the rest of this show. This show should be looked at as a winner. The rookies continue to kill it, Kzy has a chance to break out as a singles star, and the DK vs. Eita feud is finally over.

January should be an interesting month for the promotion as they lose Bandido for good, Flamita will be back in Mexico, and Daga’s future is unaccounted for. Those three added a lot to the promotion in the past two months.

Final Gate gets a thumbs up from me. The Twin Gate match, if anything, is must-watch material. Mochizuki vs. Daga, the Triangle Gate, and for story purposes, the main event, should be viewed if you have the time. I can’t complain too much because even with the lackluster main event, Dragon Gate continues to take great strides forward.