DRAGON GATE
OPEN THE NEW YEAR GATE
JANUARY 16, 2018
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN

Translations: IHeartDG.comWatch: Dragon Gate Network

SUPER SHISA, HIROSHI YAMATO, RYO SAITO, SHACHIHOKO BOY, & STALKER ICHIKAWA DEF. “BROTHER” YASSHI, GAMMA, K-NESS, MISTERIOSO, & PROBLEM DRAGON

This probably overstayed its welcome. There was hardly any Ichikawa comedy. Instead, it was just exhibition-style opening match grappling. The good thing to come out of this is that Super Shisa scored the fall. That will always make me smile. Skippable, other than that. **

ROOKIE RANKING TOURNAMENT 3RD PLACE MATCH
YUKI YOSHIOKA DEF. U-T

I am officially elevating Yuki Yoshioka from “good, young guy” status to “good, period”. Yoshioka has been killing it lately. He has benefited from the Mochizuki Dojo grouping more than anyone else. Skywalker had momentum before he joined, Hyo Watanabe has only gotten worse since then, and Kota Minoura hasn’t had enough time to prove himself. Yoshioka has taken this opportunity and made the most of it. He’s wrestling with such intensity and it has started to take him to the next level.

Even with this loss, U-T has done such a marvelous job elevating himself on the roster over the past six months. His feud with Kaito Ishida and his work in the Rookie Ranking tournament have made me rethink his trajectory. He had a chance to win this match down the stretch with a pinfall, but he got greedy and went for the submission instead. Yoshioka escaped and soon after, was able to roll him up for the win. ***3/4

EITA, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & YASUSHI KANDA DEF. DON FUJII, HYO WATANABE, & KOTA MINOURA

This was supposed to be the R.E.D. team against Watanabe, Minoura, & Dragon Dia, but Dia is out with the flu.

Bald Eita appears to be more motivated than what we were getting for almost all of last year. He actually looks much better with a buzzcut than he did with his watered down long hair. He dished out a majority of the damage. I found it interesting that he pinned Don Fujii and not one of the youngsters. That could mean that they’re rushing Eita back up the card, which is the last thing I want to see. He needs to hang out on the undercard until Dead or Alive.

This match was fine. I think Dia being in this match would’ve created a more interesting dynamic, though. ***1/4

BIG R SHIMIZU, BEN-K, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, & PAC DEF. DRAGON KID, MASATO YOSHINO, NARUKI DOI, & JASON LEE

Despite taking the pinfall, Jason Lee got the most shine in this match. He’s proven in his 18 months in the company that he can hang with anyone and after this match, PAC can be added to that list. I can’t see a scenario in which PAC and Lee square off in a singles match, but I’d love to see it. Lee’s offense looks so different than anyone else’s in wrestling and that came through in this bout.

I’m slightly worried about PAC coming out of this match. He seemed like an afterthought, and due to the booking that followed this match, I’m afraid we might already be seeing him depart from the company. He wasn’t even the one that landed the fall for the heel unit. That was Shimizu, who planted Lee with a beautiful Shot-Put Slam for the win. ***1/2

2019 ROOKIE RANKING TOURNAMENT FINAL
SHUN SKYWALKER DEF. KAITO ISHIDA

Shun Skywalker continues to build up his impressive singles match resume. After delivering against Willie Mack and U-T at the tail end of 2018, Skywalker has hit the ground running in 2019 with two enjoyable sprints against Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka, before delivering a certified banger here against Ishida.

Skywalker came into this match knowing that Ishida is dangerous. The former has big, shiny offense that is highlighted by a superb moonsault. Ishida, on the other hand, has an offense based on kicks. He’s just as fast as Skywalker and he has the ability to knock someone out. With that in mind, Skywalker threw out some of his big moves early. Momentum was on his side early after hitting a huge Skywalk Moonsault to the floor.

Ishida came back with a fury of offense, though. He had counters to Skywalker’s ground-based offense and punished him repeatedly with kicks. It looked like Ishida was going to put Skywalker away with a Tiger Suplex, he all he could muster was a 2 count.

Skywalker is someone that is excellent at kicking out of moves. It’s a special talent that very few wrestlers have. I’ve said for years now that no wrestler is better at kicking out of a deep 2 count than Masato Yoshino. New Japan’s Kazuchika Okada is also brilliant at it. Skywalker milks the drama until the very last possible millisecond before getting his shoulder up.

It took another huge Skywalker Moonsault to put down Ishida at the 19 minute mark. This match put both of these men on another level (although one could argue that Ishida vs. U-T from the 13th was the better match). Skywalker is poised for a huge 2019. Ishida will need to prove that he’s on the same level. This match reaffirmed my stance that the future is bright for Dragon Gate. Highly recommended. ****1/4

“Shun offered Ishida a handshake, but he kicked his hand away. Shun went into the tournament convinced that he absolutely had to win. For his own sake and for the future of Dragon Gate. He’s happy to know that this tournament comprised of his him and his peers has drawn so much attention. He isn’t satisfied, though. They have another peer out there. Someone who has blown so far past them that they aren’t even considered to be in his league. He has to beat that peer. He called out Ben-K. They’ve been playing catch up to him this whole time. No more. He wanted him 1 on 1 next month in Korakuen Hall. Ben gave no response, since he doesn’t talk. Shun gave him two options. If he accepted his challenge, he could simply stay quiet and walk away. If he was refusing, he wanted him to take the microphone and say “No”. Ben took the microphone, but quickly dropped it without saying a word. The match was set for the February Korakuen.”





KZY, GENKI HORIGUCHI, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA DEF. KAI, KAGETORA, & YAMATO

This was all about Kzy. Horiguchi and Yokosuka were non-factors for his side and KAI and Kagetora didn’t exactly light the world on fire for the opposing faction. Kzy showed up YAMATO, his former stablemate, in Korakuen Hall. The match is worth watching considering what happened in the post-match.

Kzy’s best match was his Dream Gate challenge vs. Masaaki Mochizuki last February. Just a little over a year later, he’ll look to claim the gold that has eluded him for so long. PAC vs. Kzy is set for February 10th at Hakata Star Lanes. ***1/4

“With the win over YAMATO, Kzy now has wins over all of the active current generation leaders. Last year, he got as far as challenging for the Dream Gate but it wasn’t enough. In the year that has past since then he has made his presence felt and he is now confident enough to challenge again. Mr. PAC. Please come to the ring right now. PAC came out. Kzy told him that wants to fight him and challenge him. He will be the next Dream Gate challenger. PAC was surprised by the guy he just knew as m.c.KZ. Does he have any idea who he is? His name is PAC and he is a very dangerous man. Challenge accepted. Kzy was looking forward to proving that he was very different from the m.c.KZ that PAC remembers. He asked GM Yagi to set the date.

Yagi set the match for February 10th in Hakata Star Lanes for two reasons. First, Fukuoka was deprived of a Dream Gate title match at Final Gate. Second, Hakata Star Lanes will be closing for renovation at the end of March, making this the final Dragon Gate show to be held in the famous building. He wants to make sure the last match is one that fits the occassion. He hopes the two can deliver.”

MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI 25TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH
SHUJI KONDO DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI

This match marked a few things:

  1. The beginning of Dragon Gate’s 20th Anniversary commemorative matches
  2. Masaaki Mochizuki’s 25th anniversary in wrestling, which means his five star classic vs. Masato Yoshino is now five years old
  3. The first time Shuji Kondo has been in a Dragon Gate ring in 15 years

They played the hits in this match and it delivered accordingly. Mochizuki, who on a normal day is one of the toughest opposing forces there is in Dragon Gate, was merely trying to survive against the brute force that Shuji Kondo displayed. Mochizuki, at age 48, is still quicker than most men. He’s not quick enough to escape the clutches of Kondo or the sheer impact of his clubbing lariats. Had Mochizuki avoided a shot or two to the throat, he might have been able to come out on top. Instead, Kondo scored the fall after a jaw-dropping King Kong Lariat.

There was something surreal about seeing Kondo in a Dragon Gate ring. He mutually parted ways with the company over backstage disputes on New Year’s Eve 2004. Last year, he and CIMA squared off in a multi-man match in Wrestle-1. I thought that would be the closest we’d ever come to seeing Kondo back in the Dragon System. I’m glad to be wrong, as he and Mochizuki went out and put on a tremendous display for the fans. ****

Mochizuki reminded him that while he was fired from Dragon Gate 14 years ago, 6 months before that it was Kondo that fired Mochizuki from Aaganiisou! But that was a long time ago. Kondo was young. The company itself was new. There were a lot of incompatible parts. It took 14 years for it to happen, but it finally has. He thanked Kondo for finally coming home.

They exchanged pleasantries for a while. Kondo brought up that next month, the secret weapon of Aaganiisou, Toru Owashi, would also be making his first appearance back in DG. Anyone that remembers Owashi from back then should prepare themselves because he is a totally different person now. Seriously. Entirely different. Kondo congratulated Mochizuki on his 25th and Dragon Gate on their 20th anniversaries. He would be satisfied if it was just a one-time homecoming for him, but if the stars align again then maybe this isn’t the last we see of Shuji Kondo in Dragon Gate.

25 years ago, Mochizuki came to Korakuen Hall to do a karate fighter vs. pro wrestler match. He was totally untrained in anything but karate. These 25 years have gone by very fast. He owes a lot to the fans. Pro wrestling isn’t just about the fight. The fans have to want to come see you fight. It’s been their voices and their support that has helped him go from untrained karate fighter to the wrestler that stands before them now. He noted that he has had special matches for his 10th, 15th, 20th, and now 25th anniversary. He lost all of them. Nevertheless, he is still a 3 time Dream Gate champion. At his current age, it seems impossible. But he also thought he was too old at his 10th, 15th, and 20th anniversaries. He’s not sure how far he can push on, but as long as he feels there is even the smallest of chances and he believes in himself, he will keep aiming for it. He hopes he will keep hearing the voices and support from the fans. He pointed out that he has actually been wrestling for 5 years longer than Dragon Gate has existed. The company was still young. The rookies put on a great show earlier. He hopes the fans will provide them with the same support they gave him as his career advanced. He promised them an entertaining year and hoped they would come along for the ride.

“Kondo had a lot to say. Maybe too much to simply convey with words. He had one thing to say to Dragon Gate. For someone they fired, they sure have made him a lot of offers to come back! Jokes. Over time, many things happen, people come and go. One thing in all of this is a fact. Shuji Kondo got his start here and is a product of this organization. The wayward son has come home. He hoped that the fans would welcome him back. Even though they are old men now, he thanked Mochizuki for making this happen.”

Final Thoughts:

Two things mattered on this show: the Rookie Ranking tournament finals and the 20th-anniversary commemoration match. Both of those delivered, and on top of that, Dragon Gate set the wheels in motion for a handful of exciting matches next month. The in-ring on this show was great, but the booking, even with PAC vs. Kzy arguably feeling rushed, was a slam dunk.

I have to call both Yoshioka vs. U-T and Skywalker vs. Ishida essential viewing. For the spectacle that it was, the main event between Mochizuki and Kondo is also well worth your time. This was a dynamic show that highlighted a lot of Dragon Gate’s strengths. Thumbs up for Open the New Year Gate.