JULY 4, 2019

TRANSLATIONS: IHeartDG.com / Watch: Dragon Gate Network


Jimmy the Luchador is back in Korakuen Hall and he’s looking better than I’ve ever seen him. He and his fellow Mexican import Draztick Boy, who’s now on his fourth tour of Dragon Gate since 2015, got most of the shine in this match. I love Draztick Boy, despite the fact that I’ve never been able to get a definitive spelling on his name. He’s a beefy, masked man who has never had something in the ballpark of “greatness”, but has never come close to embarrassing himself either. He continued that tradition with the devilishly handsome Jimmy in this bout and it made for quite the opener. In the end, however, it was Genki Horiguchi picking up the fall, as he connected with the rarely seen Beach Break on Dragon Dia for the win. **3/4 


On the surface, this is such a huge victory for the Mochizuki Dojo youngsters. The fact that they were able to come into this match by themselves, without Masaaki Mochizuki teaming with them or even at ringside, and pick up the victory shows what incredible growth all three of these men have had over the past year. The Western fanbase has been waiting for Hyo Watanabe to live up to his potential for years now. After years of injuries, dark match booking, and general inconsistency, Watanabe has shown in 2019 that he can be a player in the Dragon Gate scene. He’s improved dramatically in every facet of being a performer since the calendar flipped over to a new year. 

It would appear, given this match and their roles in the rookies vs. veterans 10-man epic from December 2016, that Watanabe works well with Gamma. How that’s possible, I’m not sure, as no one works well with Gamma. Gamma has so good in this match that it got me thinking about how bad he normally is. Here, he was aggressive and stiff with the dojo kids. Gamma put forth an effort in this match that far exceeded his normal output. Maybe the leopard prints of Watanabe really annoy him so he’s forced to bring out this other side of him. Whatever it is, I want more of it, and I want more of Fujii and Arai by his side.

If we could get this Gamma for six months, it would far and away be the best run of his career. Other than a brief point when he and CIMA, collectively known as Osaka 06, had an incredible pair of matches with T-Hawk and Eita, I don’t believe Gamma has had any sort of run as a great worker. I thought he was great tonight. He was rolled up for the victory, although he claims a low blow is what began the shameful defeat. ***1/2 


Keisuke Okuda has completely shaken up the Dragon System during his two months in the company. Okuda’s prior wrestling experience before entering the promotion were stints in Antonio Inoki’s IGF promotion, as well as a cup of coffee in DDT. Okuda took his MMA-based skills that he crafted in IGF with the sideshow antics of DDT and with that, has turned into one of the most compelling characters Dragon Gate has to offer right now.

This match with Mochizuki had everything that I wanted. Somehow, the two managed to mix fierce striking with sublime grappling. Mochizuki, throughout his illustrious 25-year career, has rarely felt like an inferior striker while in Dragon Gate. When he’s in the ring with Okuda, I think Okuda has the edge while standing and striking. No one has ever bested Mochizuki with jabs the way Okuda did in this match. 

Mochizuki rolled Okuda up at the seven-minute mark for the victory. He won not because he was better, but because he was smarter. Mochizuki has been at this for 25 years, while Okuda is getting steady work for the first time in his career. 

What I find fascinating about this match is that we could be looking at Mochizuki’s replacement in a few years. The buzz around Okuda coming into the company was high, but I never imagined he’d knock it out of the park like he has. I came in expecting constant base hits, but Okuda has shown that he can step up to the plate and crush dingers. Whereas Masato Yoshino has stepped into the figurehead role of the promotion that was held by CIMA for so many years, Okuda could very easily fill Masaaki Mochizuki’s shoes when the Iron Man of Professional Wrestling decides to tone it down. 

For only seven minutes, these two told a compelling chapter in what should be a long-running and engaging story. Two thumbs up. Go out of your way to see this. ****1/4 


Kzy worked his ass off last month to make Ben-K look like the biggest killer on the planet so this month, he goofed off in a match that briefly hyped up the Flamita vs. Susumu Brave Gate match that will be taking place at Kobe World. Kagetora and KAI followed Kzy’s work ethic, leaving this match to be built around Flamita, Susumu, and Punch Tominaga, who really gave a strong effort in this match. 

It’s been five years since Flamtia’s breakout match against (Jimmy) Susumu. I hope that win or lose, we see a change in direction for Flamita after his Kobe World match. He’s still a top-notch, world-class flyer that has proven he can succeed on the big stage. He rolls into World with some momentum after landing a 450 Splash on Tominaga for the win. ***


Assuming Ben-K wins the Open the Dream Gate title from PAC at Kobe World, his biggest hurdle is going to be the August-September period leading into Dangerous Gate. Part of the reason YAMATO’s 2016 reign as Dream Gate Champion felt like such a slog was because YAMATO was built up as an evil villain killer, similar to the way Ben-K is being built, only with Shingo Takagi in the role of PAC, but as soon as YAMATO won, he had nothing to do. The Summer Adventure Tag League did nothing to add intrigue to YAMATO’s story as a now heroic champion. By the time the Tag League had ended, Akira Tozawa gave his notice and began a farewell tour that took up two pay-per-view main events (and deservedly so). By the time YAMATO had his first true program for the strap, it was December, and he was engaged in a heated battle with Naruki Doi. Four months were wasted, and YAMATO has never recovered as a top level, elite babyface. 

If Ben-K beats PAC at World, it will go down as one of the biggest and most important wins in Dragon System history. He should beat PAC. He’s the chosen one, and this is his time to shine. My fear is that he’s going to spend all of August and September fooling around with Takashi Yoshida and Yasushi Kanda, beating them like a drum and not doing anything truly interesting as a champion. 

Yoshida vs. Ben-K is an easy story to tell. Ben-K is big, but Yoshida is bigger. Ben-K was once a heel, but Yoshida has been a heel for much longer. What, in theory, makes a great babyface champion? Somehow who can slay monsters like Takashi Yoshida. I find this route to be boring, however. Yoshida is never interesting as the top of the line heel. He’s a goon, and although he has moments that create pure chaos, he’s still the guy that has been neutered in the ring and on the mic countless times. Mask or not, Takashi Yoshida is a dope, and the last thing Ben-K needs is to spend his first months as champion fending him off. 

As if those reasons weren’t enough, this match was painfully average. I’m in love with the idea of a Skywalker/Ben-K tag team, but they need to mix it up with some new teams. Ultimately, when PAC is not around, R.E.D. feels dry and stale. Not even Ben-K, on the hottest run of his career, can fix that. ***1/4 


While R.E.D. continues to lack direction or momentum, Kaito Ishida continues to lead the charge in MaxiMuM. His efforts over the past year have been remarkable, and the combination of he and Jason Lee have allowed Masato Yoshino and Naruki Doi to rest up due to the fact that they are no longer responsible for having the best workrate in their unit. Ishida was terrific in this bout. He played the underdog role in a way that we don’t see often enough in wrestling. He is far smaller than Shimizu and Sakamoto, so when he attacked them, he did it with 110% effort. He never looked weak in the face of those monsters. 

While I love Flamita and I love the fact that he’s wrestling Susumu Yokosuka at Kobe World, I’m horribly disappointed that Jason Lee’s Brave Gate challenge was relegated to a show in Fukuoka at the end of the King of Gate tour. Jason Lee is in desperate need of a big time, break out singles match, because I firmly believe he has the talent to become a reliable midcard hand in this promotion. His work here was top notch, as it always is. He even got to ground Eita down to the mat and grapple with him, which is still the best version of Eita there is. 

In the end, Ishida’s attacks did not damage the R.E.D. side, but rather provoke them. He ate a Superkick from Eita and then the dreaded Shot-Put Slam from Big R Shimizu in a terrific, high-energy six-man contest. ***3/4 


The sixth edition of Dragon Gate’s 20th Anniversary Celebration was a banger. Magnitude Kishiwada, a former Open the Dream Gate Champion, wrestled his first televised match for Dragon Gate since 2012, while Anthony W. Mori wrestled his first match since the end of December 2010.

This was a case of Dragon Gate maximizing opportunities. Mori hadn’t wrestled in a decade and quite honestly, it showed. His spots, while entertaining, were rough around the edges. The heavy-lifting was done by Yoshino and Doi, who were more than capable of putting on an entertaining bout with Kishiwada, YAMATO, and Darkside BxB Hulk. Unfortunately, no one can make Sugawara that interesting. 

I have truly enjoyed the Dragon Gate 20th Anniversary Celebration series, but I remain puzzled by Sugawara’s push. He is not a good wrestler, and even in a great match like this, it’s obvious that the rest of the crew could not boost Sugawara up to be something decent. It’s one thing if he were in Mori’s boots and hadn’t wrestled since 2010, but Sugawara works all the time. He’s just bad. It’s a shame that DG has put so much faith in him this year. I fear that he could drag down the Ultimo Dragon match at Kobe World. 

Luckily, the rest of the crew was there to work hard. I would absolutely love to see more of Magnitude Kishiwada in Dragon Gate. I’ve always been a huge fan and he proved in this match that he could still work at a high level. Heel YAMATO and darkside Hulk make a great pairing and they contrast well against the strong babyface duo of Yoshino and Doi. 

Everything about this match embodied the spirit of Dragon Gate, I just hated who won. They blended comedy, fast-paced action, and high-level storytelling to create the best match of the Celebration Series to this point. Had Sugawara not gained the pinfall over Mori, I would be singing its praises even louder. Unfortunately, Sugawara has been kept strong, and although it only dampened my enjoyment for a brief moment, I felt like the life was sucked out of the finish. **** 

Final Thoughts

When the Rainbow Gate card was announced, I suspected Mochizuki vs. Okuda and the main event would turn out to be great matches. I was right. This card delivered exactly how I expected it to while looking at it on paper. The undercard was fun, the middle of the show with some meaningless tag matches dragged, and the main event delivered on a few different levels. Bottom line, the show was good. 

This show did not feel like the go-home show to Kobe World, their biggest show of the year, however. Not having PAC to interact with Ben-K hurt this show. We saw a brief preview of the Brave Gate match and we saw an angle take its next step forward with Keisuke Okuda joining Mochizuki Dojo, but not a lot happened on this show and that’s a shame. I really wanted something to make it feel like Kobe World season. Alas, this show was still a lot of fun, and I recommend checking out Mochizuki vs. Okuda and the main event immediately. Thumbs up for Rainbow Gate.