MARCH 7, 2019
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
KAITO ISHIDA, JASON LEE, & MASATO YOSHINO DEF. DRAGON DIA, HIROSHI YAMATO, & PROBLEM DRAGON
Another showcase match for Dragon Dia. In-ring, he’s starting to develop into a nice, young talent, but I’m starting to notice a complete disconnect between him and the crowd. Dia is wrestling every match like it’s an empty arena match. I don’t see him encouraging the fans to react in any way. His offense is flashy, but it means nothing when you share the card with people like PAC, Kzy, and his mentor, Dragon Kid. Dia needs to figure out a way to get the crowd involved. It wouldn’t hurt to avoid Kaito Ishida’s Tiger Suplex, either, which is what led to MaxiMuM picking up the fall in this match. ***
MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & K-NESS DEF. STALKER ICHIKAWA & SHACHIHOKO BOY
Just a couple of titans going at it. Strong style was unleashed in this bout, to say the least. This. Is. Wrestling.
Or something like that. Mochizuki submitted Ichikawa after lots and lots of Ichikawa comedy. NR
DON FUJII, GAMMA, & SUPER SHISA DEF. BEN-K, BIG R SHIMIZU, & TAKASHI YOSHIDA
This match had a few things going for it:
- Super Shisa grappling Takashi Yoshida down to the canvas with a key lock. When Hideki Suzuki does it, it’s boring. When Shisa does it to anyone, but especially a man of Yoshida’s size, I am thoroughly entertained
- Gamma tried for the first time since November 2017. While I wouldn’t call this six-man tag great, it’s the closest he’s come to crossing the four-star threshold since that match. I went back and looked through my notes to find the last time I thought Gamma was actually great in a match, and it led me to the infamous 12/1/16 bout.
- This had water bottle-throwing, Tenryu-inspired, grumpy Don Fujii tormenting the irritable Shimizu and the grumpy Yoshida at every turn. Fujii represents something that isn’t found across many Japanese promotions today. Tenryu is retired, Choshu and Fujiwara can hardly move, and Otani is fading away in Zero-One. Fujii is one of the last true grumps remaining. Fujii is able to stir up trouble and produce greatness by doing so little, and that is a lost art in Japan and an unfound art in America.
Fujii rolled up Yoshida with the Hime and now it looks like he and Gamma are on the path to a Twin Gate match. If we get this Fujii and a motivated Gamma for that match, which could take place at Dead or Alive, I’ll be all for it. Very fun stuff. ***1/2
“The weather is getting warmer in Japan, which means the Cherry Blossoms will begin to bloom soon. Along with the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms, Don Fujii wants to bring a big change to the Dragon Gate pecking order. Next month, on April 10th in Tokyo he will be bringing in a new group. Gamma added another hint. They will be new to Dragon Gate but are a unit with history. The other units should consider themselves warned.”
☆DRAGON GATE ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION SPECIAL MATCH VOL. 3☆
RYO SAITO DEF. TAKUYA SUGAWARA
Takuya Sugawara is a member of the T2P class. He stayed in Dragon Gate when they transformed from Toryumon and joined Aagon Iisou, the heel unit at the time. He then left the promotion on New Year’s Eve 2004 with the rest of the unit, only to return at the end of 2009 and stay in the promotion until Final Gate 2010.
I have never enjoyed Sugawara whether it be in the Dragon System, in Zero-One, or in any number of sleazy Japanese indies. This match was no different. It was full of lame heel spots that Saito was forced to sell and somehow, we couldn’t even get a finish. Sugawara now returns next month with Aagon Iisou. SKIP. *1/2
“Sugawara attacked the referee to cause the dq. He complained about being stuck in such a boring match. He wasn’t here to fight Ryo Saito. He came back to Dragon Gate for one man. Anthony W. Mori! After confirming with a ringside fan and with K-ness. that Mori was previously seen in the reception area, Sugawara called him out. After a long wait, Mori came out, but did not get in the ring. Sugawara told him that the reason he was back in Dragon Gate was to have a match with him. Mori very politely declined. He retired in 2010. He is now a simple staff member…But that isn’t all. He has one more announcement. In January it was Kondo, in February it was Owashi. This month it was him. YASSHI is always around. Next month, the entire band gets back together. Aaganiisou will reunite in full at the April Korakuen Hall show. Not just the four of them, they will also be bringing a secret weapon.”
NARUKI DOI DEF. DRAGON KID
More of an extended angle than a match. Doi, who ditched the MaxiMuM black and silver for VerserK-themed red and yellow, jumped Dragon Kid from behind at the bell. The two unitmates went back and forth with Dragon Kid getting in a lot of offense, but at the same time, never really coming close to defeating Doi. These two have really good chemistry together, but they didn’t go out there to have an amazing match, which under the circumstances of these two having budding tension within the same unit, I understand. Doi low-blowed DK behind referee Yagi’s back and then blasted DK’s head off with the Bakatare Sliding Kick. ***1/4
☆4 WAY 8 MAN TAG TEAM MATCH☆
YAMATO, KAGETORA, KAI, & U-T DEF. PAC, EITA, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, & YASUSHI KANDA, HYO WATANABE, KOTA MINOURA, SHUN SKYWALKER, & YUKI YOSHIOKA, “BROTHER” YASSHI, GENKI HORIGUCHI, KZY & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA
Not the best version of this kind of match to ever occur, but a supremely entertaining bout nonetheless. This win will more than likely launch YAMATO into Dream Gate contention, as most of us have expected. Whereas Kzy and Shun Skywalker were never the favorites to win against PAC, I would have to bet YAMATO going over on PAC if they do decide to head in that direction.
This was yet another Korakuen Hall match that I came away from in awe of Shun Skywalker. He’s going to wrap up the first quarter of the year as my runaway Wrestler of the Year candidate. After landing a huge moonsault to the floor, Skywalker rushed back in the ring and landed a springboard dive on PAC, which perfectly capped off a series between PAC and Kzy. Not the best night for the champion, as he had all of his enemies coming after him in this match.
Skywalker went from gaining a slight bit of revenge on PAC to killing any chance Natural Vibes had at winning this match. Skywalker survived on onslaught from the quartet, eventually kicking out of Genki Horiguchi’s Backslide From Heaven, which garnered a huge reaction. With Horiguchi out of offense, Skywalker took control and planted him with the Ashla for the fall.
With Natural Vibes out of the picture, the primary battle shifted to R.E.D. vs. the Mochizuki Dojo kids. Unable to do even more damage to Skywalker, PAC shifted his focus to the weaker Hyo Watanabe, who botched a swinging DDT with Kazma Sakamoto moments earlier. PAC made quick work of the leopard son, powerbombing him into oblivion and picking up the win.
Where these big Dragon Gate multi-man matches shine is in the elimination sequences. This match never had that going for it. Despite there being only two minutes between the Natural Vibes and Mochizuki Dojo eliminations, something about them never clicked with me the way that most of these elimination spots do. Then, in the final stretch between Tribe Vanguard and R.E.D., a cavalcade of KAI, Kagetora, and a somewhat-interested-at-best YAMATO put forth a so-so charge that eventually led to the victory. U-T had killed it earlier in this match, most notably with Susumu, but wasn’t there to do a false finish with PAC or Eita for whatever reason here.
YAMATO got the win with the Galleria on Kanda. The ending was fine. That’s all it was. That’s kind of all YAMATO is unless he is in a title match now. This match was great – it’s spreadsheet material, something that I’ll look back fondly on for Shun Skywalker purposes, but for it to be essential viewing, it needed a bigger finishing run. As it is, it was still great, but I left wanting a little bit more given the match structure. ****1/4
“GM Yagi seized on the opportunity at this point. If MaxiMuM & R・E・D couldn’t stop their infighting, he would make it easy for them by providing a platform to settle things. A place where unit trust, betrayal, anger, sadness, & joy are all laid bare for all to see. May 6th, 2019 in Aichi Prefectural Gym. Dead or Alive 2019 Steel Cage Survival. The theme this year is unit bonds. Not just MaxiMuM & R・E・D, but Tribe Vanguard, MaxiMuM, & not quite unit Mochizuki Dojo will also be locked inside.
This year, hair & masks will not be on the line. This year, it will be unit allegiance.”
Dragon Gate’s Glorious Gate outing in Korakuen Hall was another step in the right direction for an already hot company. The wheels are now being set in motion for their Dead or Alive PPV in May, and the initial stages of this build have me as excited as I’ve been for the show since 2016.
The main event is the only truly great match on this card, but the Fujii/Gamma/Shisa six-man on the undercard and for storytelling purposes, Dragon Kid vs. Naruki Doi are worth your time if you care about the storylines within the company. Glorious Gate caps off one of the hottest quarters in company history with a star-studded and worthwhile main event.