SEPTEMBER 11, 2019

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

Pre Show
Yuki Yoshioka, Kota Minoura & Jimmy def. Shachihoko Boy, Mondai Ryu, & Dragon Dia

Although it’s a match zero, this is a relatively important point for a couple of the guys in this trios match. Jimmy, a young luchador from DTU, the promotion that produced Flamita and Draztick Boy, got his stay in Japan extended and Dragon Dia is coming up on his first anniversary. I’m historically tougher on Dia than Case, I think that if you are going to be a Dragon in Dragon Gate, you gotta have the broad shoulders for that historical load, and he’s been basically non-existent in his first year. He had a couple of nice exchanges after an iffy looking tiejras, and he’s got some stuff to build on as he enters year two.

This was probably the most concentrated display of Jimmy during his entire stay in Dragon Gate, and he looked special. It’s pretty obvious why they asked him to stay as he’s got the physical charisma to match his move-set. He could be something. This finish was about what you expected: Yoshioka drilled Boy with a couple of suplexes and his frog splash to win. Fun pre show match. **1/2

Genki Horiguchi, “brother” YASSHI, Punch Tominaga & Hiroshi Yamato def. Don Fujii, Gamma, Kagetora & Martin Kirby

Natural Vibes tricked Hiroshi Yamato into doing the Party Anthem dance instead of his usual singing, because this’d be the only chance for the dance tonight. Was a good chuckle. This was your smorgasbord Korakuen openers of veterans (hey nice to see you Don Fujii & Gamma!), freelancers (YASSHI & Yamato), gaijin (Kirby), and guys they aren’t doing anything with (Horiguchi, Kagetora and PT). Everyone had their moments to shine, but the focus was beating the crap out of Tominaga and doing Yamato’s “X” chop.

Would have liked to see more Martin Kirby in this context. He’s someone that “gets” Dragon System style and has the good double or triple team moves that the crowd already reacts to. Hope Kirby gets a spotlight match on his tour to sink our teeth into, but we’ll see. Don Fujii broke a chair when he brutalized Tominaga. A fun little flash pin finish where Horiguchi and Kagetora exchanged backslides and Kagenui’s until Genki got the sudden Backslide from Heaven for the win. Good opener to rev up the crowd and not overstay its welcome. ***

Jason Lee & Kaito Ishida def. Hyo Watanabe & Keisuke Okuda

When running down the early September shows on Open the Voice Gate, Case and I were kinda perplexed why they’d have the exact same undercard tag match two taped shows in a row. It became pretty clear why they did with the post-match angle with the discord between Mochizuki Dojo teammates Watanabe and Okuda reaching a fever point and Ishida wanting to get involved to set up a match for next month.

The amount of chemistry these four guys have is great. When Okuda and Ishida pair off, it’s like seeing two sides of the same coin. One’s outright the angriest guy alive, Okuda, and the other, Ishida, is the aloof prick who wants to kick your face off. Adding in “The Big Cat” Watanabe, who’s coming into his own, and the most underrated person on the roster, Jason Lee, you’re going to have a blast of a match. There was a lot of stuff that borrowed from their previous face-off in Sendai, but it might have worked better because the Tokyo crowd was more engaged.

Okuda and Watanabe’s chemistry, or playing that they have no chemistry, is a lot of fun to watch. They aren’t as smooth in teaming or tagging as the MaxiMuM members are, and why should they be? They’ve been at each others throats all summer, and a direct misfire from Okuda kicking Watanabe in the face led to a quick snap bridging German suplex from Ishida for the win. The post match breakdown set up the three way between Ishida, Okuda, and Watanabe, for next month and I’m here for it. This was a lot of fun. ***1/2

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Ben-K Def. Yasushi Kanda

This was the second of the three booking decisions on this show that Case and I questioned. Why was your new ace having a random non-title singles match on a Korakuen? And why was it against Yasushi Kanda?

We shouldn’t have wasted our time discussing it. We probably talked longer than this match was. Kanda got the jump. He tried to crowd brawl Ben-K, but got slung clear into the risers. Ben-K then dismantled him and won in two minutes and ten seconds with the Ben-K bomb. Kanda got a grand total of three attacks in here. I’m not bothering rating this, as it was just an out and out squash, but it achieved its purpose of making Ben-K look strong. Still don’t know why it happened, though.

Eita, Big R Shimizu & Diamante def. Ryo Saito, Super Shisa & Kenichiro Arai

The third of the current gaijin on tour, Diamante just kind of exists. I’m starting to believe he’s around because he’s a friend of Ultimo’s, but he’s just a replacement level larger luchador, who only somewhat looks impressive because he’s bigger than the roster. Crowd doesn’t really care either way about him, too.

Usually when it’s an RED vs anyone else trios or larger match, I prepare myself for a lot of crowd brawling. Moreso than any other recent DG heel unit, RED relies on crowd brawling to get heat (and it’s probably because for some members of the unit, that’s all you really want them to do). This match had a nice little quirk where the wily Toryumon Japan-term opponents managed to take advantage of the brawl, and had a lot more offense than you’d expect for a team of SaiRyo, Araken and Shisa.

Eventually, RED got in control and won via a rare count out during the third crowd brawl. This style of match is usually my least favorite, but it had its quirks: vets being in control and getting a lot of offense on what would be the RED top team of Eita and Shimizu. Eita actually got a good but of crowd calls! Eita beat SaiRyo into the ring for the count out win in probably one of the more peculiar, but interesting, RED matches this year. ***1/4

Open the Dream Gate Championship #1 Contender Battle Royal
Masaaki Mochizuki def. Shun Skywalker, Kzy, KAI, BXB Hulk, Takashi Yoshida, KAZMA SAKAMOTO

Elimination Order: KAI, Yoshida, Hulk, Kzy, SAKAMOTO, Skywalker

This was the last weird booking when they announced the cards. Dragon Gate is not a battle royal company. There was a time when CIMA was the Dream Gate Champion, when he decided who got Dream Keys through the CIMA Royale, but that’s nearly a decade ago. Dragon Gate has done different and weird ways to decide contenders, such as a “Dream Key Scavenger Hunt” match where they’d hide the key in a turnbuckle pad and you could only undo three before you’re eliminated, but battle royals and Dragon Gate just don’t really mix.

This one was much better than the “lets get everyone on the big Sendai show” battle royal they had earlier this month. Probably because they got all of the DG multi-man tropes out of the way in the first two minutes (heels hitting the road, everyone gets in a submissions, giant suplex), and then got into a sprint and working off of teams, former teams, and former feuds. It was neat to see Hulk vs Kzy in some fashion! Kzy did a bunch of flash pins! There was heel chicanery!

The heart, and the best part of it, was when it was down to Shun Skywalker and his former Mochizuki Dojo Sensei Masaaki Mochizuki. They did a really neat sequence towards the end that was a direct callback to their excellent King of Gate match, where Shun went for the avalanche Ashla, but this time Mochizuki turned it into a sleeper and an turnbuckle assisted Twister. Mochizuki got the win after a Sankakugeri to the Face.

Ben-K was sitting ringside, and immediately grabbed a microphone and started to challenge the new Dream Key holder in one of his better promos of his career. The two bantered before deciding to have this Open the Dream Gate title match at the October 8th Korakuen as confirmed by GM Yagi post match. This was a better battle royal than the one ten days prior, but I can’t shake the feeling that this sort of match shouldn’t be happening in Dragon Gate and wondering why or who is why it’s happening? ***

Open the Brave Gate Championship
Susumu Yokosuka (C) def. Yosuke Santa Maria

Susumu Yokosuka makes his fourth defense of the Open the Brave Gate Championship. Susumu’s had one of the best Brave Gate reigns in recent years. Each match, Susumu has taken a younger roster member to their next level and brought out their bests. I don’t think this was one of either Susumu’s best defenses or Yosuke Santa Maria’s best matches, but I thought that this was still a very good to great match.

I find that I find Yosuke Santa Maria, both the character and the wrestler, at their best, and at their most interesting, when they focus on being the plucky underdog vs the exotico. There was a lot of that in this match, where Maria kicked out of constant Jumbo No Kachis and a Yokosuka Cutter before falling to the Mugen. It’s kind of wild to think that Maria is almost a nine year veteran at this point of their career. Days of Super Shenlong III are far behind us, and Yosuke is one of the more surprisingly agile and at times, powerful, wrestlers on the Dragon Gate roster. Doing a clear imitation of Susumu, Yosuke Santa Maria delivered a set of lariats that probably somewhere in Beppu, Shingo Takagi sensed something through the force.

There was one really weird moment in this match. Since Kobe World, Eita’s been promising something big. He was going to do it at Dangerous Gate, but then said he was holding off until this Korakuen. The entirety of RED walked out from the back, stood around for a moment and then left. This awkward break kind of broke up the flow of this match in key moment.

All and all, the match was able to recover and we got some pretty inventive stuff out of this match up. Susumu turned Yosuke’s top rope kiss into his top rope exploder, for one. I don’t think this was Susumu Yokosuka or Yosuke Santa Maria their best, but this still was another strong Brave Gate defense for Yokosuka ****

Dragon Gate 20th Anniversary Celebration Series vol.10
Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Kid & Darkness Dragon NC Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi & YAMATO

This match was a particular touchstone moment for me. The Dragon Kid vs Darkness Dragon feud and apuestas match is still something that I hold in highest regard. It’s still what I consider the most important feud in Dragon System history behind Crazy Max and M2K. These feuds laid down the ground work of what future singles and unit feuds would be for the next twenty years. So seeing the three Dragons of Dragon System on one side of the ring, and the top three of the current generation on the other? That’s what this anniversary series is all about.

The match itself was probably the second best Ultimo match since his return. He matched up well against the big three, Naruki Doi in particular. Dragon Kid was most of the focus of this match, which makes sense given the relative health and age of both Ultimo and Darkness/K-ness. We got a bunch of tremendous DoiYoshi and YAMADoi tag team combinations. Darkness managed to turn back the clock with his second most hated rival Yossino. It’s all that I wanted with this match and the series. Ultimo could go back to Mexico, and I’d feel pretty complete.

Then Eita and RED hit the ring for the No Contest. Eita’s big target was Ultimo Dragon as he didn’t recognize or knew of either Ultimo or Toryumon Dragon until Yoshino started talking about it. This both set up the confirmation that Ultimo is back in Dragon Gate in a somewhat full-time basis and the match for next Korakuen to be the RED team of Eita, Big R Shimizu, Diamante & Yasushi Kanda versus Ultimo Dragon, Super Shisa, K-ness & Ryo Saito.

This is a match, and a segment, that I have a particular conflict of emotions. Everything about the match itself, I’m incredibly happy with and felt was appropriate. We got the three Dragons vs the big three and it was about peak Ultimo or K-ness! But then RED and Ultimo’s permanent return soured it for me. There’s particular baggage of Ultimo’s time in Toryumon Japan that I felt like the company was well aware of, but it appears that it could be back in full force today. ***3/4

Final Thoughts:

This was not one of Dragon Gate’s best Korakuens of the year. When I compare it to the Korakuen from August, it is a pretty night and day difference of shows. This was a strange card on paper, and it played out just as strangely as it was laid out. There were some strong matches, and very few things I’d call bad, from an in-ring perspective. Just looking at this and Gate of Origin, I have to compare it back to some of the shows where Ultimo Dragon was doing more of the booking of in Toryumon Japan. I don’t know exactly what his role will be in Dragon Gate going forward, but this show makes me hesitant. Things are relatively well set up for October’s Korakuen, however, and I will be eagerly anticipating the young generation three-way match and the Dream Gate match. Let us hope for more of that and less of the two minute squash matches or useless battle royals going forward.