JULY 21, 2019

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


  • Case Lowe (@_InYourCase): Voices of Wrestling’s official young boy for four years now. I review Dragon Gate shows and cover OWE’s Strong Hearts for this website. 
  • Mike Spears: (@fujiiheya): Host of Open the Voice Gate, co-host of Everything Elite. I’ve already written a ton of previews for Kobe World, so I figured why not cap it off with the official preview. 
  • Ricardo Gallegos: (@theunderwally): Honored to join my VOW Dragon Gate senseis to preview a key show of my favorite company in the world. I also talk about DG in spanish at Pólvora and Lucha Jobbers.

Essential reading before Kobe World 2019:

Ben-K: The Ace That Was Promised

15 Years, 2 Weeks, 3 Days: Ultimo Dragon’s Return to Dragon Gate

Dragon Gate’s Quest for the Next Ace


Case: Super Shisa? Check. Draztick Boy? Check. Keisuke Okuda? Check. All of my boys are in this match and I’m ready for a great time. There’s such an odd blend of styles in this match that I can’t even say it will just be another Dragon Gate opener. I honestly have no idea what this match is going to look like. Can Jimmy and Keisuke Okuda coexist? Will Problem Dragon clash with Dragon Dia? Can Super Shisa turn back the clock and win one for pride and dignity? Guys, this match is going to be so much fun, and it’s going to end with Okuda planting Problem Dragon into the mat and I’m so okay with that. Prediction: Keisuke Okuda, Kenichiro Arai, Jason Lee, Dragon Dia, & Jimmy

Mike: A couple of days ago, I was talking with Case, and we both were kind of stunned about all the people without a match this close to the show. The rest of the card was one of the stronger Kobe Worlds in recent memory, but you can’t have a Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival without your huge get-everyone-on-the-card openers. So it’s the rare 10-man tag. The teams are incredibly lopsided this year as Team Shisa’s total combined experience in wrestling is more than the assumed combined ages of Dia, Okuda, and Jimmy.  Although it’s tremendous to have Shisa and K-ness on the biggest show of the year, the more interesting team to me is Team Arai. 

My Main Man Araken recently made his return to the promotion, and he is teaming with Dragon Gate’s current holder of the “most underrated guy on the roster” title in Jason Lee, and the trio of newcomers. Okuda’s been a breath of fresh air on the roster, I’ve learned to stop doubting the freelancers they bring in, and he’s great as the jerk in Mocchy Dojo. Jimmy’s fit into the system admirably as well. I’m known for being a bit more down on Dia versus others, but this will be the biggest stage for the rookie, and he has the most experienced men on the roster helping along the way. I don’t think the result is in doubt (Team Shisa will win unless Okuda KO’s Problem Dragon), but this is a fun way to kick off the Dragon System’s biggest show ever. Prediction: Super Shisa, K-ness, Shachihoko Machine, Problem Dragon & Draztick Boy

Ricardo: It’s a shame that Jason Lee couldn’t make it to a higher match in the card, but here’s hoping he gets some minutes of shine. This will be a fun match, no doubt about it, but my interest resides in young luchador Jimmy, who has looked good in his first DG excursion and in my opinion, should be brought back for future tours. Interest in Dragon Gate from spanish speaking audiences is starting to grow and the more mexican representatives in the company, the better. I fully expect K-Ness to get that Hikari no Wa for the win, but it would be so much better if this ends with Keisuke Okuda knocking someone out to make a big statement as Mochizuki’s Dojo’s newest addition. Prediction: Super Shisa, K-ness, Shachihoko Machine, Problem Dragon & Draztick Boy


Case: There’s a very real chance that a broken down and depleted BxB Hulk could get in the ring at the same time as Punch Tominaga in this match. If that’s the case, we’re in trouble. Hulk has had an incredible career. I went back and watched some of his work from 2011 recently and was reminded that at one point, he was one of my favorite wrestlers to watch. Those days are long gone, however, and although he still puts forth a respectable effort, his days as a great performer left him long ago. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum are Watanabe, Minoura, and Yoshioka, all of whom have yet to enter their prime. They are what matter in this match. I hope that for Mike’s sake, this match is built around Hyo Watanabe. He debuted right along the same time as Ben-K, Shun Skywalker, and his partner Yuki Yoshioka, and if I had to do those power rankings, Watanabe would be firmly in 4th. He’s really turned on the jets in 2019 and it looks like he’s preparing to turn on his dojo mates, which would be totally fine with me. No matter how good the youngsters look, though, I don’t think it will matter as this match will go to Tribe Vanguard. BxB Hulk doesn’t have too many of these shows left and I think they want to give him a win this year. Prediction: BxB Hulk, Kagetora, & Yosuke Santa Maria

Mike: After nearly seven months on the shelf with a broken neck, and a couple of exhibition and Darkside Hulk appearance, BxB Hulk has his return match. He was on a really nice roll before breaking his neck. The YAMAHulk team was exactly what both guys needed at this time in their career. This is a pretty nice way for him to make his return. You can hide folks in a 3-way. The teams for this match are quite weird. Kagetora’s been a lower card stalwart since dropping the Brave Gate last year, Maria’s still fresh from her time on the shelf, none of the Natural Vibes team are full-timers. The only team that’s really consistent are Mochizuki Dojo, featuring THE BIG CAT, who is finally getting some storylines to work with. He’s the oldest one from his class who hasn’t moved on, and he’s showed some edge at the latest Korakuen where he cheated to win and was angry about Okuda joining Mocchy Dojo. I hope the other two teams are at the ready if he tries to cheat again. Prediction: Mochizuki Dojo via Hyo cheating

Ricardo: BxB Hulk showed good moves in the Anniversary Celebration of the last Korakuen Hall show and it will be interesting to see how much he gets in this match. And maybe, if he’s somehow back in top form, I can see Tribe Vanguard getting the victory to give him a little comeback push into the rest of the year… but since this show looks to be pointing at the future of the company, a victory by the Mochizuki Dojo trio should be the way to go and what better way to do it than to keep Watanabe on a winning streak; not only does that help the faction, but it could fit into the storyline of him being disgruntled at Okuda joining MochiDojo and wanting to prove his worth in the group, whatever the cost. Prediction: Watanabe, Minoura & Yoshioka.


Case: Things got weird last year. I suspect they’ll get even weirder this year. Has anyone invited Choi Hong Man to VOW’s #BallOut4AllOut event? I’d like to get him on my side, if possible. Prediction: Choi Hong Man

Mike: lmao

Now that I have that out of the way, it’s time for Naruki Doi’s good friend to get some retribution for Stalker and SaiRyo bumping into him last year. Choi’s a retired MMA/Kickboxer with one of the most late peak Japanese MMA profiles ever. Seriously, go look it up. It’s wild. So it’s only fitting that he’d face the two resident goofballs in a handicap match. I hoping that Ichikawa taps out like Jose Canseco did in the Super Hulk tournament.  Prediction: Choi Hong-man

Ricardo: Choi Hong Man is a big (big!) MMA fighter and kickboxer that somehow has a win over José Canseco (yes, the baseball player). Stalker Ichikawa is my favorite comedy wrestler on the planet and having him facing off against a giant south korean should be lots of fun, although Choi Hong Man could be an absolute trainwreck inside the ring. I trust that Stalker’s charm and Saito’s comedic timing will get us safely through this match with some laughs along the way. There’s no way Stalker is defeating a 2.18-meter tall monster. Prediction: Choi Hong Man.


Case: Here’s a list of people Kzy has wrestled at Kobe World in prior years: Yoshihiro Takayama, Mark Haskins, Atsushi Onita, Peter Kaasa, and Masato Tanaka. He’s wrestled two singles matches at this show, a Brave Gate challenge vs. Genki Horiguchi in 2008 (which is really great and I recommend watching it on DG Net) and a match vs. Naoki Tanizaki in 2009 that was marred by heel nonsense. What I’m trying to say is that Kzy has never been given a huge platform on this show before. 

I have no doubt that these two are going to crush it. Other than maybe U-T, these have been the two best wrestlers in Dragon Gate this year. I thought they were going to get shoved into an opening eight-man as this was the last match announced for the show, but instead, we get a random singles match that we never really ever get in Dragon Gate. 

Shun Skywalker will have many more Kobe World’s to shine. This victory belongs to Kzy, who I suspect will use this win to usher his way into another Dream Gate challenge, although this time it will be against Skywalker’s new pal, Ben-K. Can’t wait for this. Hope these two get time to go out and crush it. Prediction: Kzy

Mike: The biggest question amongst Dragon System fans over the past week was “um….what’s up with Kzy and Shun not being on the card?” Then this morning, (I’m writing this on Wednesday, July 17) Dragon Gate dropped this gem on us. Hooboy. I’m here for this. Kzy’s been Dragon Gate’s Most Outstanding Wrestler of the last few years. He’s gone from being a loss post to one of the company’s most credible threats. 

Shun’s been one of the better elevation and improvement stories of the last year: A spectacular, and shaky, flier, going from his rookie period straight to being a part of the main event of DEAD OR ALIVE, and then afterward deciding to go his own way. The big storyline for him now is that he’s allied with Ben-K, but wants to prove himself as even better than Ben-K. Well, you called your shot, Shun Skywalker. Have fun. Prediction: Kzy

Ricardo: Last year, Shun had a great performance in the opener match of Kobe World, but I never suspected he would have such a meteoric ascent through the ranks. After an incredible 2019, Shun has a chance to steal the entire Kobe World show with KZY, one of the hottest acts in the company and a man that already has a 2019 MOTY Contender under his belt. 

There’s not much of a story about the match itself, but knowing than his new friend Ben-K is main eventing, Shun will be looking to impress and steal the spotlight from him in order to keep moving his personal storyline about leaving MochiDojo to forge his own path to greatness. I can’t wait for this.  Prediction: KZY


Case: This is a weird match. Actually, it’s a super weird match. I have no idea how this is going to unfold. The Strong Machines have only had Their Type of Match. It’s a formula that has worked, but they are as formulaic as can be. I don’t see Yoshida or Kanda meshing well with that style, however. I think Strong Machine J is going to be pushed to his limit in a brawl of sorts. I have a hunch that Strong Machines F & G can handle themselves in a brawl, but I would obviously have no way of knowing that as they are masked men that have never worked anywhere before here. 

If Strong Machines don’t win this, I’ll be absolutely stunned. I find only one match on the card to be more predictable than this. Since April, Strong Machine J has been groomed for this match. This is a huge platform for the legitimate rookie to perform on and I hope he delivers.  Prediction: Strong Machine Army

Mike: This is a giant X Factor of a title match. If everything else achieves the level I expect it to, the Triangle Gate will be the thing determining if this is a “very good show” to possible “Show of the Year and Best Show in Dragon Gate’s History.” The Champion team is sleazy, grimy, and something you’d be more likely to see on a HEAT UP show versus the champion trio in the second biggest promotion in Japan. KAZMA SAKAMOTO has a legitimate claim to being the world’s Most Improved Wrestler for 2019, and has been a delight for the promotion. But he’s teaming with a beaten down shell of Yasushi Kanda, and the flakiest wrestler in the promotion, Takashi Yoshida. 

The other team are the new age Strong Machine Army. Strong Machine J has the fundamentals to be the Rookie of the Year, but has already picked up some nagging injuries alongside the big problem for his team: After you see the Strong Machine Army once or twice, they quickly lose their appeal. The Army has been undefeated in the promotion and it’s clear that they’ve seen something in J, so I don’t feel like this Apache Army champion team is going to stop it. I just hope this will be watchable Prediction: Strong Machine Army

Ricardo: When they debuted, the Strong Machines looked badass: their look, team chemistry and music hooked me instantly… but their charm is disappearing, fast. Their matches have mostly been long, glorified squashes that always lack excitement or any form of storytelling and their act is starting to feel strongly disconnected from everything else in the company. I know robots lack emotion, but this is taking the gimmick too far. 

The Machines need a strong, buzzworthy match to revitalize their act, but that will be hard to achieve with these opponents. KAZMA is having an excellent year and would be my pick as 2019’s most improved wrestler, but he will have a difficult task ahead of him; he’s carried Kanda and Yoshida to a couple of solid title defenses and I trust he’ll have a good showing here, but he would need a big, breakout performance from Strong Machine J in order to create an above average trios match. Having said that, I can’t see the R.E.D. team walking out with the belts: this has a Machines title win written all over it. Prediction: Strong Machine Army


Case: Flamita is beefed up and ready to challenge for the Brave Gate yet again at Kobe World! He defeated Dragon Kid at this event in 2014 in a match that was carefully designed to establish Flamita as a more-than-transitional champion. He fell to Kagetora three years after that. He’s 1-1 at World, and now he gets his rubber match with the man that made Flamita’s career. 

In 2014, Flamita was 19 and about 100 pounds lighter (not really, but he hadn’t adopted a bodybuilder lifestyle at that point). He was a boy simply trying to make his presence felt in Japan. He secured a spot the prior fall, winning out a position over Rocky Lobo, and since then has been etched into the fibers of the Brave Gate scene. Even when I know Flamita is diving onto concrete floors in Tijuana for DTU, I can’t help but feel like he’s waiting behind a curtain in Osaka, waiting to challenge whoever holds the gold at that time. 

Flamtia’s last singles match in Dragon Gate was a dud against PAC. I fully expect him to recover in this one. Susumu has been on a roll and these two have proven they have excellent chemistry against one another. Flamita won back in 2014, so I have to give this one to Susumu. I think there’s a small amount of money to be made for Flamita vs. Susumu III  Prediction: Susumu Yokosuka 

Mike: This is normally a match that I wouldn’t be too excited for: this is the third time, by my count, that Flamita has challenged for the Brave Gate at Kobe World. So much so that it became a bit of a joke. But Susumu and him have wonderful chemistry as seen through Flamita’s Brave Gate defense against Susumu at 2014’s DEAD OR ALIVE show. 

Susumu Yokosuka is one of those guys who is snake-bitten by the Dragon Gate curse. If nearly as many people watched Dragon Gate as death rattling Ring of Honor, or even irrelevant Impact, then he would be declared one of the best wrestlers in the world. He spent a week in May basically elevating younger talent, having the best match at DEAD OR ALIVE with U-T and following that up with tremendous King of Gate matches with Yuki Yoshioka and Eita. He’s in his forties, and still is a masterful big match wrestler. Flamita’s gotten a bit hench over the last few months, so this might be his last time at being able to qualify for the 83-kilogram weight limit, and it’s kind of hard, in my mind, to strap him up when he’s only doing several tours a year with the promotion. Prediction: Susumu Yokosuka

Ricardo: Flamita had a rough 2018 in terms of singles matches, something that I attribute to his sudden interest in bodybuilding which resulted in him getting too big too fast. Fortunately, it looks like Flamita has finally adjusted to his body change and has successfully added power moves to his already impressive repertoire, and thanks to that he’s had solid showings in recent DG tours as well as fantastic matches in AAA, so I’m confident he will bring it to Kobe. Susumu has had an excellent Brave Gate reign, helping showcase the talents of young guys like Jason Lee and U-T, and we know he can deliver a MOTY caliber performance any day of the week.

I’m trying to keep my expectations leveled for this one, mainly because Flamita has disappointed me many times in singles matches, but there’s no doubt that the ingredients are there for a fantastic bout. With Flamita coming and going, I highly doubt DG would give him the Brave Gate title, which is a good thing in my book because Susumu has been fantastic and I would love for him to keep defending against the young, promising guys of the company. Prediction: Susumu Yokosuka.


Case: If you haven’t read Mike’s piece about Ultimo Dragon, pause this, and go read what he had to say. This is possibly the biggest peace brokering deal in the history of professional wrestling. It’s something that even eight months ago, I would’ve said this had no shot of ever occurring. I didn’t think we’d EVER see Ultimo Dragon in Dragon Gate…and I certainly didn’t ever expect him and Takuya Sugawara to be the ones squaring off. I guess this is bittersweet. 

There’s a 100% chance Ultimo gets the win for his squad here. I don’t see any other option, although I would cackle with joy if Masato Yoshino scored the fall instead. It would be fitting payback for Ultimo taking all of the shine when they teamed together in 2003. Prediction: Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Kid, & Masato Yoshino

Mike: I’ve already written a couple thousand words on Ultimo’s return, so I’ll be brief here. One of the smartest things Dragon Gate did this year, outside of the elevation of the young generation, was bring back the old guard for Korakuen Hall matches. Sure not all of them have been classics, but it’s an incredibly smart thing to bolster these shows and gives a nice sense of nostalgia for the System’s 20th year. I don’t think this can be an in-ring classic with Ultimo and Sugawara’s condition in recent years, but this is as incredible of a moment that Dragon Gate can have. Prediction: Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Kid & Masato Yoshino

Ricardo: After the Ultimo Dragon return bombed in Korakuen Hall, I’m very curious to see how Kobe will react to him. His importance in the history of Dragon Gate is well documented, but do modern fans care? Was the Korakuen reaction due to him constantly wrestling in that arena with AJPW? Do fans know and care about the bad blood between Ultimo and DG? Whatever the answer to those questions are, I hope Kobe gives Ultimo a legend reception to make this historic moment even more special.

This match should be a big celebration about the master returning to the world he helped create, about him reuniting with his students in order to give the fans an unforgettable moment. We could worry about Ultimo Dragon’s and Takuya Sugawara’s in-ring form, but Yoshino, Mochuzki and Kondo are still in top form, so there’s more than enough quality to get us through the match. Prediction: Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Kid & Masato Yoshino.


Case: I’ve been very uninterested in this YAMATO & KAI vs. Shimizu & Eita storyline so I’m glad that instead of doing a gimmicky brawl, they’ve added juice by way of Kaito Ishida and Naruki Doi. 

Had you told me a year ago that KAI was going to be in the semi-main of Kobe World, I would’ve laughed at you. Somehow, someway, this is the reality that we’re living in. KAI hasn’t been actively bad in Dragon Gate, but I don’t think he’s assimilated himself as well as other freelance talents like Hiroshi Yamato. He’ll be fine in this match. He has Shimizu to bounce off of and Ishida to throw around. I just hope we get to see Kaito Ishida’s coronation in this match. Let him chop down Shimizu, KAI, and plant Eita for a victory. He’s really had one hell of a year and I’d love to see it pay off here. Prediction: Kaito Ishida & Naruki Doi

Mike: The second 3-way of the night is pretty interesting. YAMATO and KAI won the Twin Gate right before Shimizu and Eita executed their “Let’s screw over Ben-K and kick him out of R.E.D.” plan. Ishida and Doi had a title challenge in June that was declared a no contest because of Shimizu and Eita’s interference. YAMATO and KAI feel like innocent bystanders in this budding feud between R.E.D. and MaxiMuM, which could something that goes on through the summer. 

The other facet to this match is how much of a big deal has been made over Kaito Ishida’s lack of titles. He was the runner up in the young generation league earlier this year and has lost every title challenge he has made since. Shimizu and Eita feel a little…thrown together? as a potential champion team, so it’s hard for me to pick them in this case. KAI and YAMATO have been a good deal of fun so far, so I see them retaining and for Ishida’s chase to continue Prediction: YAMATO & KAI

Ricardo: To me, this is all about Ishida. He’s been lowkey raging war against R.E.D. since march when he surprisingly defeated Takashi Yoshida earning a Triangle Gate title match (which he lost). Then, at King of Gate he defeated the only R.E.D. member of his block (Yoshida, again) and has been in the winning side of the majority of the multi-man matches between MaxiMuM and R.E.D. of the recent Open the Rainbow Gate tour. Despite being hugely impressive in the last months, Ishida has been unable to win titles or tournaments in Dragon Gate, but after constantly being a torn in R.E.D.’s side, I feel that he’ll outshine everyone and walk out of Kobe with gold around his waist. YAMATO & KAI seem to be the awkward third team that don’t have anything to do with the Ishida/R.E.D. conflict… but they’re the champions, so they’re here and we can’t rule them out of the match. However, most of my predictions have been centered around DG’s future and an Ishida victory is certainly in line with that. Prediction: Ishida & Doi.


Case: This is it. This is for all the marbles. We first saw Ben-K as a young boy with an untamed mullet on an April 24th Hakata Star Lanes show in 2016. That match, which was followed by a five-minute draw with Kaito Ishida a few months later, was all the footage that I needed to see. I knew Ben-K would eventually be in this spot. I take a lot of joy in being “right” about certain guys, but I can’t take a victory lap on Ben-K’s success. I might have been one of the first people to take notice of him, but anyone with a brain could understand that he was destined for greatness. 

PAC is on another level as a big match wrestler right now. He’s delivered in all three of his Dream Gate defenses – the MOTYC against Kzy, the emotionally draining bout against Shun Skywalker, and the brutal war against Dragon Kid. I expect this match to be no different. 

When PAC returned to the scene after escaping WWE and the vast majority of people were expecting him to make a splash in New Japan, I held onto the idea that PAC wasn’t just making a pitstop in Dragon Gate. He was here to drive the promotion forward. Seven years ago, he bowed to all four corners and said goodbye to Dragon Gate in this exact building. His first time back and he’s now in the main event, a changed man, and a singles champion. PAC has been an incredible champion that has serviced the company’s every need, but it’s time he hands over the gold.

This is what we’ve all been waiting for. This is Ben-K’s night. God, I’m so excited. Prediction: Ben-K

Mike: Three years of careful planning leads to this. Ben-K had “future ace” written all over him since he made his debut. PAC has had a masterful title reign where he both elevated the Dream Gate with the way he carried himself (sorry y’all, I refuse to be up in arms about him not dropping falls or protecting himself and the champion) and the way he helped the company. 

The defenses against Kzy, Shun Skywalker, and Dragon Kid were all smartly worked and got their point across. It took a knockdown, drag-out war on Dragon Gate’s last night in Hakata Star Lanes for him to put away Kzy. PAC proved that Shun had “it,” but not it was not his time in Osaka during Champion Gate. Dragon Kid might have been his called shot at DEAD OR ALIVE, but PAC put down the Nagoya native in his hometown definitively and to look ahead to the 20th Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival.

All these years of careful preparation from all parties led to this match. PAC is ready. The promotion is ready. The fans are ready. Ben-K is ready. Time to crown the ace of the new generation. Prediction: Ben-K

Ricardo: Words cannot make justice to how important this match feels. Last year, PAC returned to reinvigorate Dragon Gate, quickly establishing himself as an overwhelming threat, capturing the Open the Dream Gate Championship and acquiring the aura of an unbeatable champion. In my book, PAC looks like the most dangerous and legitimate world champion in professional wrestling today. He hasn’t been pinned or submitted since his return to in-ring activity… therefore, DG couldn’t have a better final boss in their ranks to give one final, key push to Ben-K on his way to the top of the company. 

Ever since I started watching Dragon Gate regularly a couple of years ago, the man that jumped off my screen was Ben-K. I didn’t know exactly who he was, what big moves he used or even how long he had been wrestling, but I just knew this guy was the real deal. And it has been an absolute pleasure to follow the build of this man all the way to this career-defining match at Kobe World. The fantastic tag team run alongside Big R, the unsuccessful Dream Gate challenges against Mochizuki and Yoshino, the R.E.D. betrayal, the electric promo announcing his revenge, the unbeaten King of Gate crowning with an emphatic win over Eita on the final… all of this pointed to one thing: it’s Ben-K’s time. After the Dead or Alive humiliation, he told us to listen to his heart and listen to his spirit. We’ve listened to everything there is to listen and there is no doubt in our hearts that this is the moment: the opponent, the event, the story… everything is set for Ben-K to become Dragon Gate’s new ace. Prediction: Ben-K