DRAGON GATE
CHAMPION GATE
MARCH 2-3, 2019
EDION ARENA OSAKA #2 – OSAKA, JAPAN

Translations: IHeartDG.com / Watch: Dragon Gate Network

Note: Due to this being a double-shot, I cherry-picked two undercard matches from each night to review. These were matches that looked interesting on paper or had some sort of importance in the overall booking. 

KZY, “BROTHER” YASSHI, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA DEF. DRAGON DIA, KOTA MINOURA, & MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI

Dragon Dia has returned from a case of the flu and delivered his best outing yet. This was a standard Dragon Gate opener with more time given than the average opener. Dia and Kota Minoura were given time to sell and give offense, Mochizuki was able to dominate for a short while, and Kzy eventually ended up on top with another strong showing. Nothing about this match was great. There was no signature spot, jaw-dropping moment, or gif-worthy sequence, but everything about this match was good. Kzy landed a swift uppercut on Dia for the victory. ***1/2

SHUN SKYWALKER DEF. JASON LEE

A warm-up match for Skywalker before he heads into the biggest match of his life. He and Lee went back and forth for a while before Skywalker landed a bicycle kick and the Ashla on Lee for the victory. This was good back-and-forth action from two guys who have found their place in Dragon Gate. I still think Lee, if given the opportunity, could thrive in a higher spot on the card. He was the fall post here, however, as we saw Skywalker get one of his most dominant wins ever. ***

OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
DRAGON KID (c) DEF. K-NESS

This was Dragon Kid’s second defense of the Brave Gate title and his first since November when he defeated Bandido.

Despite being rivals dating back to the early 2000s when K-Ness was under the Darkness Dragon moniker, this was the first time that these two have fought over Brave Gate gold. Like a lot of their prior encounters, the finish of this match was built to by K-Ness trying to rip a limb off of Dragon Kid’s body, which in this case was one of his legs. It was a methodical attack, but not a boring one, as K-Ness honed in on grounding his aerial combatant.

I couldn’t get a feel on who was going to win this for the longest time. It wasn’t until DK connected with an Ultra Hurricanrana that I felt a sense of urgency kick in for both men, and unfortunately for K-Ness, this match ended the way their last three singles matches have ended, with DK coming out the victory.

Once K-Ness realized he was in trouble, he shifted gears and began to put on a ferocious attack, busting out most of his signature moves including an excellent Hikari no Wa. It wasn’t enough, though, as DK was able to kick out, gather himself, and plant his foe with a Crucifix Bomb for the win.

This match was not bad, but with the exception of the last few minutes, it never hit the level that a Brave Gate match should. Unfortunately, this is the reality of K-Ness continuing his career. He was an amazing wrestler in his time, but he’s been broken down. He doesn’t have any epic singles matches left in the tank. ***1/4

“Kid praised K-ness. and thanked him for the match. They shook hands. Kid was planning on making many more Brave Gate defenses. His celebration was interrupted by Susumu. Kid told him if he was out here to invite him to join Natural Vibes the answer was no. Susumu apologized for the timing, but he was here to challenge him to a title match. He’s been wrestling for 20 years. He’s been Dream Gate, Twin Gate, & Triangle Gate champion. He’s never held the Brave Gate. He has a sweet tooth. He gets careless and suddenly he has gained a lot of weight. Valentine’s Day is over. His birthday has passed. There were no reasons for cake now. He was going to stay off the sweets to keep his weight down and finally take the Brave Gate. He asked Kid to accept the challenge. Kid saw no reason to decline him. The match was set for March 21st at Memorial Gate in Wakayama.”

OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
KAZMA SAKAMOTO, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & YASUSHI KANDA (c) DEF. KAITO ISHIDA, MASATO YOSHINO, & NARUKI DOI

Takashi Yoshida had an off night. It seemed like every time he got in the ring, something was going wrong, most notably an awkward and nerve-wracking exchange with Masato Yoshino as we hit the closing stretch. Yoshida couldn’t get him up for a Powerbomb correctly, then after resetting, Yoshino struggled tossing him over his head on the counter. Not fun to watch.

He looked a step behind in this one, same with Yasushi Kanda, although that is nothing new. The real star of the R.E.D. team was once again Kazma Sakamoto, who continues to toe the line between inoffensive and good in his Dragon Gate run. Tonight was one of his good nights.

I thought this match was going to be the culmination of Kaito Ishida’s climb back up the card. When talking about this show with others, I described Ishida and MaxiMuM’s chances of winning as “near 100%”. Thankfully I’m not a betting man, because I was wrong. Ishida had a great in-ring night, but the trio of he, Doi, and Yoshino couldn’t overcome the brute force of R.E.D.

I liked this match, but I can’t say I loved it. I kept waiting for one electric series. I wanted Ishida to grab the reins and make it his match. That never happened, and the crowd battled themselves because of it. It seemed like half of the crowd wanted MaxiMuM to win, and the other half just wanted R.E.D. to lose. There was no moment or driving force for the MaxiMuM fanbase to get behind, and so the Osaka crowd, which I typically love, left me wishing their reactions had been bigger.

Yoshida scored the fall on Yoshino after misting him in the face. A lame ending to a good match that could’ve been better. ***1/2

“MaxiMuM wanted a rematch. Yoshida told him that title matches don’t come so easily. He lost. Go home and cry about it. His punk ass should be happy the Great Takashi was giving him a singles match tomorrow. That gave Ishida an idea. He proposed adding a stipulation where if wins, MaxiMuM get a rematch. Yoshida agreed. If Ishida can pull a miracle out of his scrawny ass, they could get a rematch. However! When Yoshida wins, MaxiMuM will be banned from challenging for the symbol of unit superiority for a period of one full year.”



KAITO ISHIDA DEF. TAKASHI YOSHIDA

One day after being defeated for the Triangle Gate belts and one year after being squashed at this very event, Kaito Ishida was able to gain some revenge on the bigger Takashi Yoshida.

Yoshida was able to muscle around Ishida when he had the opportunity, but ultimately this loss came because Ishida didn’t give him too many opportunities. This was a cold-blooded killer match that Ishida needed. I firmly believe that now when he challenges for the gold at Memorial Gate that he’s credible enough to gain the victory. Much like the other non-title matches at these Champion Gate shows, this was a lot of fun, if not anything more. Ishida’s inside cradle sealed the deal on his victory. ***1/4

NARUKI DOI & DRAGON KID DEF. HYO WATANABE & YUKI YOSHIOKA

I can’t praise this match enough. By far the best non-title match of the weekend and honestly, it was easily better than the two title matches on night one. As soon as Doi and Yoshioka tagged in after some brief chain wrestling from Watanabe and DK, this match hit another level. This is the best Yoshioka match I’ve seen yet because he exuded so much confidence in the ring. He looked like he could’ve held his own with Doi for another 60 minutes.

Yoshioka will find success in this company. I had my eyes on this match specifically because I wanted to see how he’d hang with two veterans and my God did he knock it out of the park. His partner, Watanabe was very good, but Yoshioka mixing it up with Doi is something I want to see more frequently from here on out. Doi brought out his mean streak and Yoshioka dished it right back.

Maybe I’m the high man on this match, but after Watanabe ate the Bakatare Sliding Kick and the pin, I slapped four stars on this bad boy. This was just a great wrestling match. That’s all there is to it. I felt like I was watching something truly great on display here. ****





OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
BEN-K & BIG R SHIMIZU (c) DEF. KAI & U-T

The structure of this match was very simple. KAI and U-T got a jump on the champions. The champions, who are bigger and stronger, found momentum and began domination U-T. U-T made a hot tag to KAI (a sentence that six months ago, I never thought I’d write). The teams, finally on even-footing, proceeded to duke it out in a bomb-throwing slugfest.

That last part is what’s important. When these two teams started throwing it all at the wind, the match became something special, partially because I guarantee this will be peak Dragon Gate KAI. He could wrestle in the company for another decade and I don’t know if he’ll ever top this, simply because the circumstances he needed to succeed were laid out here. When taking that hot tag from U-T, there was something right about an ugly KAI coming in to trounce Shimizu and Ben-K. Dragon Gate is full of fresh-faced pretty boys; KAI is not that. He’s ugly. He fights in an ugly style. It worked against the monstrous Ben-K and the hideous Big R Shimizu.

Then there’s U-T. In my years watching and covering wrestling as a hardcore fan, there have been a few things I have been outright wrong about, most notably that I valiantly stood by the opinion that KENTA, Akira Tozawa, and WALTER would never leave their home promotions for WWE. For years, I had convinced myself that U-T would never move my needle. I thought that he’d eventually fade off into the sunset after one too many injuries without ever making a real mark in Dragon Gate.

I was wrong. I’m glad I was wrong. U-T is one of my favorite wrestlers in the world. He’s transformed himself into a must-watch act and this was his one of his very best performances yet. So much grit came out of the babyfaced grappling expert. He clawed his way onto Shimizu and Ben-K, and for a few brief moments, I really thought his will and determination was going to be enough.

It wasn’t. He ate one of the most extreme pop-up spears to date and then was planted into the canvas with a Shot-Put Slam. It was a heroic fight, but ultimately a fight lost. Regardless of the result, this is worth your time. Essential viewing. ****1/2

OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
PAC (c) DEF. SHUN SKYWALKER

Whereas PAC vs. Kzy was near-perfect when looking at it through a workrate lens, PAC vs. Skywalker was near-perfect when looking at it through an execution lens.

For 20 minutes, Skywalker hung with PAC. There were times he looked dominant and as he might actually have a slim shot at dethroning PAC, then there were times where he was simply hanging on by a thread and looked outclassed by the Dream Gate champion, and in the end, that was the case. He ate a knees-first moonsault and then the dreaded Black Arrow and that was it for Skywalker. He loses his first Dream Gate challenge.

Skywalker pested PAC enough early in the match that he was able to land a good chunk of offense as the match progressed. He grappled evenly with PAC and even when PAC started going to the air, he wasn’t doing enough damage on the masked man to keep him grounded. In fact, it was Skywalker who scored the first few near falls in this match.

Skywalker registered two uninspired flash pin nearfalls before really going for it with a picture-perfect moonsault off the top. PAC threw his shoulder up off the canvas at 2.999, and Skywalker’s hopes of becoming champion once again faded away. After the moonsault and a brief hope-fueled Spanish Fly minutes later, it was all PAC. He shifted up to a gear that Skywalker doesn’t have. He worked a world champion’s pace with world champion intensity, drive, and desire. He planted Skywalker with a lariat, drove his knees into his chest with a moonsault, and then, as previously mentioned, connected with one of the most feared moves in wrestling. That’s how it’s done.

This match never sniffed the greatness of PAC vs. Kzy, but my ratings for the matches aren’t far apart. They both were monumental home runs at what they were going for. This was Skywalker’s first crack at the Dream Gate, and he showed that he has the talent to succeed, it’s just a matter of time. ****1/2

Final Thoughts:

Between the two shows, Dragon Gate secured another W in the win column with Champion Gate. While the title matches on Night One weren’t outstanding, they held their own. Night Two had gems from both undercard and title matches, however, which really puts this weekend over the top. Champion Gate is yet another example of Dragon Gate clicking in a way with its audience that most companies would kill for. Thumbs up for Champion Gate in Osaka.