DRAGON GATE
KING OF GATE 2019
JUNE 6, 2019
KORAKUEN HALL, TOKYO, JAPAN

TRANSLATIONS: IHeartDG.comWatch: Dragon Gate Network

K-NESS, DRAGON DIA, DRAZTIK BOY, & PROBLEM DRAGON DEF. “BROTHER” YASSHI, JIMMY, HIROSHI YAMATO, & JIMMY

Draztik Boy continues his streak of appearing in Dragon Gate every other year. He’s buddies with Flamita and is brought along to Dragon Gate every so often. This year, he was also joined by Jimmy, who is certainly handsome enough to be  a fulltime Dragon Gate wrestler. The luchadores flipped around for a good chunk of the match, which was enjoyable. I hope Jimmy gets some more chances to shine on this tour. K-Ness pinned Punch Tominaga for the win. **1/2

KING OF GATE A BLOCK TIEBREAKER MATCH
KZY DEF. KAZMA SAKAMOTO

Kzy was defeated by Kazma Sakamoto in block play, and then U-T was injured before he could get his upset victory over Gamma, so Dragon Gate threw out the rule book and created a tiebreaker match instead of giving Sakamoto the head-to-head advantage. Like I expected, this match wasn’t much of an epic. They attacked each other at the bell and in an effort to preserve energy for what could be a second match in the evening. They traded more flash pins than actual wrestling moves, although there was a moment in which Sakamoto planted Kzy with a quasi-Michinoku Driver, and Kzy’s dead-behind-the-eyes sell was incredible. Kzy was able to rebound and soon after rolled up Sakamoto for the victory. ***

STRONG MACHINE J, STRONG MACHINE F, & STRONG MACHINE G DEF. HYO WATANABE, KAITO ISHIDA, & KOTA MINOURA

Strong Machines continue to trudge along despite losing a lot of momentum. They heeled it up much more in this match than they have in prior encounters. Their twin magic spot, for instance, was done as a comedy, almost loveable spot in the prior two months, but now they’re using chairs and exerting a certain attitude that makes them hard to cheer for, especially with the Mochizuki Dojo kids lined up across the ring from them.

Hyo Watanabe is on the best stretch of his career. Ever since March, Watanabe has looked motivated, coordinated, and simply he has just look good lately. I sold all my stock on Watanabe months ago, but he’s making me want to invest a little bit more in him. All of these Mochizuki Dojo kids have a much higher ceiling than the Strong Machines, but the Dojo kids ate the fall tonight. ***1/4

MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & YUKI YOSHIOKA VS. KEISUKE OKUDA & SHUN SKYWALKER

I know Ben-K has been built up for a Dream Gate match at Kobe World for almost three years now, but after this match, I’m cool with Keisuke Okuda getting a title match, winning the belt, and then holding it until the end of time. He jumped Mochizuki at the bell and then made it his mission to torture their 49 year old with his MMA-influenced offense.

Other than a brief dive train, the focus of this match was shifted away from Skywalker and Yoshioka, both of whom competed in King of Gate but didn’t advance to the semis. This was all about Mochizuki and Okuda, who are more than likely heading to a match at Kobe World in some form or fashion. The two got tangled up in the corner together and once they wrestled each other down to the canvas, the referee tried to separate them. When that happened, everyone involved pushed the referee. The ref called for the DQ.

I loved this. Everything about it was so un-DG that it worked. This company never has DQ’s (to a fault at times) and Okuda is probably the closest thing DG has ever had to a true shooter. This all rocked. I am all about this feud. ****

JASON LEE, DRAGON KID, MASATO YOSHINO, & NARUKI DOI DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI, KENICHIRO ARAI, RYO SAITO, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA

This match reminded me a lot of the Hakata Star Lanes tribute match that took place in February. In fact, trade YAMATO for the returning Kenichiro Arai and Masaaki Mochizuki for Jason Lee, and it’s the same people that were in that match. The point is, we’re looking at eight tremendous professional wrestlers in this match. The older guard of Natural Vibes, Susumu and Horiguchi, aren’t mixed into a ton of different angles right now. Susumu is the Open the Brave Gate Champion and he still feels like a bit of an afterthought.

Here, we saw that even though they were cycled down on the card and less important than they might have been at one time, they can still go. This is the type of match that if it were to take place on Raw or on the first episode of AEW TV, it would be the talk of the wrestling world for weeks, because no other company can pull off this sort of crispness, innovation, or precision, but for Dragon Gate, this is just another good tag match.

The closing stretch was built around Susumu and Jason Lee trying to kill each other, which I fully support. I look forward to watching the Open the Brave Gate match that they had on 6/9 in Fukuoka.

Don’t skip out on this match. ****

After several months of playful goading failed to get a reaction out of Anthony W. Mori, Takuya Sugawara went to the extreme measure of attacking Ryo Saito and attempting to shave his head.

This brought Mori into the ring for the first time since his retirement in December 2010. He agreed to return to competition for one night only. He will team with his best friend Ryo Saito, his longtime Italian Connection stablemate Masato Yoshino, and his generation peer Naruki Doi to take on YAMATO, ex-rivals Sugawara & former Open the Dream Gate champion Magnitude Kishiwada, and a mystery partner.

FLAMITA, KAGETORA, YAMATO, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA DEF. PAC, BIG R SHIMIZU, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & YASUSHI KANDA

2019 Flamita looks like he ate 2014 Flamita. Seriously, it’s hard to believe the body transformation that Flamita has gone through over the past year, and it’s even harder to believe that it hasn’t hindered his flying ability, but here we are. In a match with a lot of Dragon Gate’s larger talent, Flamita’s moveset was able to be showcased with a little bit more impact. At one point, he countered PAC’s hurricanrana by backhand springing against the ropes and then flipping back onto his feet. That spot is incredible on its own, but considering Flamtia’s newfound muscle mass, it’s truly shocking.

Unfortunately, the gap between Flamita’s crazy opening stretch and Takashi Yoshida’s frantic closing stretch was far from impressive. It was a lot of Yosuke Santa Maria antics and basic, R.E.D. heel work. It wasn’t bad, but it was far from good.

This does give me a rare chance to compliment Yasushi Kanda, though, as he did his only good spot in this match. He does the reverse atomic drop and acts like he’s going for the John Woo! kick, but instead, he cradles his opponent. It’s a really good heel spot. That’s all he brings to the table. He ate the pin off of Flamita’s Flam Fly. ***1/4

KING OF GATE 2019 SEMIFINALS
EITA DEF. KAI

This is the best version of what they’re going for with Eita. I’ve really struggled with heel Eita, as anyone who’s read a Dragon Gate review over the last year knows, because I ultimately want Eita to be an out-of-control loose cannon. Instead, Dragon Gate has taken a “cerebral assassin” route with the two-time Open the Brave Gate Champion.

In this semifinals match with KAI, he was able to truly dominate the outside of the ring brawling and was not only given the chance to look actually dangerous, but he succeeded in that effort. Part of that is due to KAI getting busted open. It’s something little, but it helps. Eita looks like a much bigger killer when he’s standing over a bloodied Twin Gate Champion (which, yes, KAI is).

KAI, for reasons I still don’t totally understand, needs to be protected, so instead of planting him on his head and standing over him victorious, Eita rolled him up for the win. I don’t love that finish, simply because we saw a similar finish in Kzy vs. Sakamoto earlier in the night and I think Dragon Gate is better than that. Two flash pins in the same kind of match is a little disappointing.

Even with that, this match surpassed my expectations. Eita has a real sense of violence hanging over him as he heads into the finals, and that’s the best possible scenario for him. ***1/2



KING OF GATE 2019 SEMIFINALS
BEN-K def. KZY

Kzy is not the guy. I really thought Kzy might be the guy, for awhile I was convinced Dragon Gate thought he was the guy, but this match made it clear that Kzy is not the guy. Kzy is the ultimate role player. He can do it all like Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, although Kzy’s success has been far easier for most to stomach. This match, which somehow only went seventeen minutes, was all about Kzy giving up his body for the greater good. In lesser promotions, Kzy could be the ace, he could be dominant, and the card could revolve around him, but this is Dragon Gate, and Kzy’s in-ring performance embodied the values this promotion has tried to put forth for fifteen years.

Kzy gave Ben-K everything. This was practically a charitable donation transformed into a wrestling match. In February, we saw Kzy take PAC to his limit. Almost everything PAC did, Kzy had an answer for. On this night, it was Ben-K owning the guy that has come closer than anyone to knocking off PAC. This was yet another vote of confidence that Ben-K, come July 21 at the end of Kobe World, needs to exit as a champion.

The offense on display in this match, whether it be Ben-K violently whipping Kzy into the turnbuckles with a German Suplex or Kzy countering Ben-K’s spear with a vicious forearm, was so violent. Okuda and Mochizuki earlier in the night felt like a shoot fight, whereas this match felt like a match with traditional pro wrestling values simply updated for modern times. I was blown away at how complete Ben-K felt as a packaged wrestler.

My only complaint about this match is that it felt like it could’ve gone on for another 10 minutes. Dragon Gate has one more Korakuen Hall outing before Kobe World, and I would assume that Ben-K will be in a warmup tag match against R.E.D. next month, so to me this felt like a chance to give Ben-K one ultimate test to show that he’s worthy of headlining Kobe World. I still feel he’s ready, I just wanted this match to be even better than it already was.

That aside, this match was great. It showed two pros at the top of their game in a match that is easily digestable, yet epic at the same time. Ben-K is the future of this company, and with every passing show, he’s getting closer and closer to knocking on the door of Kobe World. ****1/2

After the match, Masato Yoshino came to the ring. Last month, he was promised Ultimo Dragon would answer the company’s request to appear at Kobe World. Sure enough, for the first time ever, Ultimo Dragon appeared in a Dragon Gate ring. The most apt comparison I can think of is that this is far more shocking than Eric Bischoff showing up on Raw in 2002. Dragon Gate formed in an effort to separate themselves away from Ultimo. A year ago, this would’ve seemed impossible. As we head closer to Kobe World, we will be producing more content on why Ultimo Dragon returning to Dragon Gate is a huge deal.

Final Thoughts

Dragon Gate has had a few shows this year that feel entirely authentic to what they’re striving for as a promotion. Add June’s King of Gate show to the list. A mix of talent, young and old, worked together on this card to create fun comedy, epic main events, and now, thanks to Okuda and Mochizuki, a FIGHT atmosphere. There’s so much to be excited about when it comes to Dragon Gate.

Ben-K vs. Kzy is essential viewing for everyone, even those that want to parachute into the promotion before Kobe World. Longtime fans can appreciate the booking of Kzy and the story told of Ben-K rising through the ranks, and new fans can appreciate what was a damn good wrestling match. I would also give the Mochizuki tag and the all-star eight-man tag a watch as well. Thumbs up for June’s King of Gate show.