DRAGON GATE
KING OF GATE 2019
MAY 9, 2019
KORAKUEN HALL, TOKYO, JAPAN

TRANSLATIONS: IHeartDG.com / Watch: Dragon Gate Network

YUKI YOSHIOKA, DRAGON DIA, HYO WATANABE, KOTA MINOURA, & KEISUKE OKUDA DEF. K-NESS, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, PUNCH TOMINAGA, “BROTHER” YASSHI, & PROBLEM DRAGON

There’s not much to say about this other than the fact that Keisuke Okuda, unsurprisingly, has explosive chemistry with Susumu Yokosuka. When Okuda was brought in, these were the types of interactions that I expected him to have. It was really fun seeing him throw bombs with the Brave Gate Champion.

Yuki Yoshioka scored the fall here. I figured it would either be him or Punch Tominaga, since not only did Punch get featured a ton in this match, but they’re both lower card guys competing in King of Gate and this was the time to give one of them some shine. They correctly chose Yoshioka, who landed a moonsault and scored the victory for his team. **1/2

☆DRAGON GATE 20TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION MATCH VOL. 5 ☆
JACKSON FLORIDA & JOHNSON FLORIDA DEF. RYO SAITO & GENKI HORIGUCHI

On a recent episode of Open the Voice Gate, I remarked that the Florida Brothers were never really “for me”, and I didn’t have an emotional attachment to their gimmick other than the fact that I loved that it gave us Kensuke Sasaki in Dragon Gate. I still feel that way, but I must admit that this match was a blast to watch. Don’t skip it. Very fun stuff. NR

STRONG MACHINE J, STRONG MACHINE F, & STRONG MACHINE G DEF. DRAGON KID, JASON LEE, & KAITO ISHIDA

Look, if the Strong Machines are how I get the Voices of Wrestling office to start talking about Dragon Gate again, so be it. Any buzz is good buzz at this point. I still ultimately think it’s an act with a very short shelf-life that will help transition Strong Machine J into being a future star. He’s yet to look anything other than impressive in his first half-dozen outings. He continued his trend of scoring falls with his beautiful bridging suplex, as well.

Dragon Kid has been on one of the strongest pushes of his career over the past 18 months. He spent much of last year at the top of the card due to his feud with Eita, which never reached the heights that I had hoped it would. As soon as he finished bickering with Eita, he was given a Dream Gate challenge against PAC at Dead or Alive. We’ve seen a lot of Dragon Kid lately, and it’s time he gets cycled down the card. I think one of the best ways to do that is to have him team up with Jason Lee and Kaito Ishida more often. These three have a fun chemistry together, due to the fact that they all wrestle in completely different ways.

It’s been four years since DK held the Triangle Gate belts. I don’t think the 43-year-old needs another title push anytime soon, but if he is put in that scenario, I hope it’s with those two chasing after trios gold. ***1/4



KING OF GATE 2019 B BLOCK
EITA DEF. MASATO YOSHINO

This is classic Dragon Gate tournament booking. This match actually felt more akin to a Toryumon match in an El Numero Uno tournament. Bottom line is, it reeked of Dragon System sliminess.

In under five minutes, Eita was able to grapple with Yoshino, low blow him, and then roll him up after countering one of Yoshino’s moves. In no way did this damage Yoshino’s image or reputation as one of the company’s top guys, it just strengthened the idea that Eita is a garbage human who doesn’t get paid by the hour. He had no interest in duplicating the King of Gate classics that he’s had in prior years with Akira Tozawa or Susumu Yokosuka; Eita wanted to win, and that’s what he did.

It’s really amazing what can happen when Eita isn’t bogged down by sluggish heel tropes and isn’t threatening to hit every wrestler with a chair. He’s a really good wrestler when he wants to be, and this was one of those times when he wanted to be. If some of his Dragon Kid matches lasted this long, I’d be a much bigger fan of that feud. In no way was this an epic, but it accomplished what it set out to do. I love stuff like this. ***1/2

KING OF GATE 2019 D BLOCK
SHUN SKYWALKER DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI

Never piss off Masaaki Mochizuki. Throughout my 20 years on Earth, I have learned very little and retained even less. I, however, have noted multiple times that I do not want the iron man of Dragon Gate on my bad side. After announcing that he was leaving the Mochizuki Dojo for new ventures on the Dead or Alive show earlier this week, Shun Skywalker joined Mochizuki’s bad side, and he paid for it dearly in this match.

After receiving a jacket to face to start the match, Skywalker spent the next 12 minutes eating a barrage of kicks, slaps, and suplexes. The person that had helped Skywalker reached the heights he’s reached, like winning the Rookie Ranking Tournament or challenging PAC for the Dream Gate title, were all made possible thanks to the teachings of Mochizuki. Early on, it looked like Skywalker had no counters for the veterans offense. Quite honestly, he looked helpless out there.

He slowly started to climb his way into the match, however. He countered Mochizuki’s step-up corner kick to give himself some momentum, but that only lasted for so long as after hitting Mochizuki with his signature Ashla, Mochizuki popped right back up and slapped Skywalker. The masked man was able to pick Mochizuki up once more and deliver the same move, only to garner a two count on that attempt.

There is such a feeling of danger when Mochizuki gets in a mood like this. PAC’s Dream Gate matches feel epic and definitive, at times Shingo Takagi (whether it be in Dragon Gate or New Japan) has been able to cast a shadow of dread and defeat over his opponents, and Akira Tozawa (whether it be in Dragon Gate or to a lesser extent, WWE) has been able to display such emotional yearning in his bouts over the years. No one in the Dragon System exudes danger in the way Mochizuki does, however. No one ever will. Skywalker had some momentum going for him at one point in this match, and to put an end to that, Mochizuki punched him right in the gut. It was so simple, yet so jaring. Skywalker stumbled back and although he was quickly able to regain his composure, he repeatedly went back and sold the blow that Mochizuki had landed to his midsection.

When it’s not the body punches, it’s the head kicks, the brainbusters, or the constant flurry of offense that remains unstoppable despite the fact that Mochizuki has been walking the planet for nearly half a century.

Very few wrestlers have a bigger arsenal to attack you with than Mochizuki, but his prized pupil was able to outlast the sea of strikes in this pivotal King of Gate matchup. Skywalker knew he had done damage with his second Ashla of the match, but knew he also needed something more to put him away. Masaaki Mochizuki: meet the Super Ashla, an avalanche finishing move off of the middle rope is what Skywalker needed to put his mentor away. A shocking result given that I thought they were going to a draw, and a huge win in Skywalker’s career.

I wrestled with my match rating for quite a bit on this match. I thought I was content with giving it a stellar 4.5, but this match mixed Shun Skywalker’s never-say-die 2019 spirit with Mochizuki’s greatest hits playbook. This match was designed for me and what I love about wrestling. On the surface, it’s an easily accessible, brilliant type of mean-spirited wrestling match. When you dive deeper, however, it’s easy to see that this was an all-time Mochizuki performance and another chapter in Shun Skywalker’s epic and improbable journey. This was greatness personified. ****3/4

Skywalker apologized for leaving Dojo Mochizuki the way he did, without any explanation or previous warning. He did it because it was a necessary step for him on his way to becoming one of the top stars in Dragon Gate. He hopes Mochizuki will understand that.

Mochizuki reminded him that the dojo rules were always that you could come and go as you please. He appreciated the pro wrestling theatrics aspect of making such a bold move on a grand stage. But, the other members of the dojo were also out there fighting very hard to help him escape the cage while worried about their own futures in the dojo. Maybe he could have just quit the dojo and then did this match today and that would have been enough. No need to go through the cage match. He’s not upset that Shun won today. They will fight many more times. Because of that he isn’t going to give him any words of encouragement on his way out. What he is going to do is use Dojo Mochizuki to train and cultivate fighters that are strong enough to beat him. Shun has also become a foe worthy of revenge, so he should be prepared for that to come at any time.

PAC, BIG R SHIMIZU, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & YASUSHI KANDA DEF. HIROSHI YAMATO, KAI, KAGETORA, U-T, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA

I came into this match really hoping for some heated sequences between the plucky U-T and the dominant PAC, and although we got none of that, I came away from this match satisfied at the output. This match was very clearly broken up into three stages: R.E.D. domination, Tribe Vanguard’s comeback, and the eventual R.E.D. revenge leading to a PAC pinfall on Kagetora via his Jumping Tombstone.

The heel unit dished out most of their damage onto Yosuke Santa Maria. I don’t know if this was an effort to toughen up Maria before her King of Gate matches, but she certainly took a beating here. With the help of her gang of misfit friends (and when you look at this team, it is truly people that have struggled fitting in with Dragon Gate), they made a comeback that peaked with Santa Maria landing a dive to the floor onto PAC.

In the end, though, the five heels were too much for Tribe Vanguard. There was too much power to combat between Sakamoto, Yoshida, and Shimizu. They did the dirty work which lead to the PAC piledriver. ***1/2  

KING OF GATE 2019 A BLOCK
KZY DEF. NARUKI DOI

I fully suspect Kzy to win the A Block with ease. There are certainly blocks that are up in the air, but with Kzy beating Doi here, he’s going to waltz the quarter finals and he’ll probably end up going past that.

Naruki Doi is an excellent wrestler. SpeedMuscle, his tandem with Masato Yoshino, is one of the best tag teams of the 21st century, and by proxy, one of the best tag teams ever. His trios work has been top notch for 15 years now. Occasionally, though, Doi has singles matches like this one where everything is mechanically fine, but the matches feel like they’re falling into a void. It’s not accurate to say that there is no heat, but there’s no drive. It’s Doi going through the motions of a wrestling match. He’s going through the heat, comeback, and reversals in such a calculated way that I’m left feeling nothing. It’s similar to the complaint that All Elite Wrestling’s Christopher Daniels has gotten at times; he’s such a smooth wrestler, that at times his moves look like they inflict no pain. Doi has this pattern of match down so well, that even when he’s exuding effort, it looks like he’s going through the motions, thus there’s no emotional hook.

Luckily, Kzy was there to combat Doi’s void-prone wrestling. He is about to hit a level of charisma that few wrestlers have. He could be sweeping dust out of the ring and it would be entertaining. He took a lot of damage from Doi in this match, but never felt like he was down and out of it. I chalk this victory up to Kzy learning a thing or two about flash pins from his unitmate Genki Horiguchi, who has made a career off of backsliding people out of nowhere. Kzy started the match with a Skyade Schoolboy that earned him a deep two count, and he ended the match with the same move for a victorious three count. Brilliant stuff. ***3/4





KING OF GATE 2019 C BLOCK
BEN-K DEF. YAMATO

YAMATO has had a poor in-ring year. According to my spreadsheet of greatness, YAMATO has only hit the four star mark three this year; once at the Dead or Alive cage match, which he did not play an integral part in, once at the February Korakuen show in a three-way bout with Kzy and Naruki Doi, and once at the February Hakata Star Lanes farewell show in an all-star eight-man tag. Before this match, he had yet to wrestle a high profile singles match this year, and his key matches featured him tagging with KAI, and the duo recently became Open the Twin Gate Champions (much to my dismay).

The four-time Open the Dream Gate champion brought it in this match, however. His mindless and wandering grappling was nowhere to be found. Ben-K brought out a furiosity in his opponent that was desperately needed. I would’ve liked to have seen YAMATO “heel it up” in this match in an attempt to jumpstart Ben-K’s babyface ascension, but they played this off as babyface vs. babyface, and judging from the crowd calls and chants, the crowd is ready for Ben-K.

Ben-K is the ultimate when, not if bet in wrestling. The idea of him one day becoming a bonafide main eventer became a safe bet the moment we saw him debut as Futa Nakamura in a pair of biker shorts that could hardly contain sheer amount of muscle mass that he had packed on. A few months later, he adopted a new name and tossed on a pair of baggy pants that he’s kept ever since, but that didn’t change his obvious trajectory. He’s a brawler in a company built off of the backs of high-flyers, he’s clocking in around 220 pounds while the rest of the company could pass 205 Live weigh-ins, and he’s built a following off of being a silent killer while the rest of the company’s stars are on top because of what they can do with the microphone. Ben-K is an anomaly, and he’s perfect for Dragon Gate.

This match was a near-perfect start to a run that should lead to his crowning achievement, winning the Open the Dream Gate belt at Kobe World. Had he not awkwardly dropped YAMATO on a powerbomb at one point, I would have no qualms with the match that was laid out. He recovered thanks to the help of YAMATO, a moment that gave me so much more faith in Ben-K’s future. It doesn’t matter that he needed the help of the veteran to power through the botch, it matters that he got through it. Really great to see.

I ate up the intensity. I ate up the fact that the crowd cheered him over YAMATO. I ate up the finish; Ben-K choking out YAMATO with a sleeper hold, one of YAMATO’s big moves. Even the post-mach, with R.E.D. jumping Ben-K only for Shun Skywalker to come out and defend his peer. This all worked and it all ruled. This is the start of a big time build for a big time show. This is how wrestling works. ****1/4

Masato Yoshino hit the ring at lightning speed. He wasn’t particularly here to make the save but he felt like this was a good time for R・E・D to take a hike. He was here to talk about the message he sent last month to Ultimo Dragon. He had no idea what Dragon’s schedule was like when he invited him to come today, but based on information he gathered yesterday he knows that Dragon wrestled a match in Tokyo and he is still in Japan. He called him to the ring.

Separados played and a person in an Ultimo Dragon mask came to the ring and mimicked his mannerisms, but one look at his waist size and tights gave away that it was not the genuine article, but Touru Owashi. Why was he here? Owashi said he had no intentions of playing any tricks on anyone. He does have a real reason for being here. Yesterday, he had held his own show, the Luchanko Mania festival. Ultimo Dragon wrestled on that show and he had a chance to talk with him in the locker room. Dragon told him to dress up like him and come to Korakuen Hall today, but for a purpose. He had a message to deliver. 15 years is a very long time. Getting Ultimo Dragon to come and fight in this ring is not something that can happen overnight. What he wants to know is, is Masato Yoshino the only one who wants him to come, or is it everyone? That is the question Owashi came to ask…Everyone wants to see him come to Dragon Gate. They will be waiting.

Final Thoughts:

Dragon Gate kicked off their King of Gate tournament on the right foot. Any show that produces a MOTYC, a great match, and two rock-solid singles matches is always going to get a thumbs up from me. The build to Kobe World, the company’s biggest show of the year, has begun, not only with the possible Ultimo Dragon inclusion, but with Ben-K’s face turn and rise to the top of the card. The show is two full months away, but I’m already chomping at the bit to get to it.