DRAGON GATE
THE GATE OF VICTORY
OCTOBER 8, 2019
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

JIMMY VS. OJI SHIIBA

The dark match, otherwise known as a “match 0” in this universe, featured a five-minute draw between the road-worn Jimmy and the returning Oji Shiiba. The latter is the real-life brother of former Dragon Gate underdog Kotoka, and last wrestled exactly 365 days beforehand on October 8, 2018. Jimmy, for as fun as he’s been, is no superworker, and Shiiba wrestled like someone that hasn’t wrestled in a year. Jimmy applied a Camel Clutch late in the match, but before Shiiba could tap out, the bell rang, signaling for the five-minute time limit. A fine bonus match. 

GENKI HORIGUCHI, DRAGON DIA, PUNCH TOMINAGA, PROBLEM DRAGON, & KENICHIRO ARAI DEF. BXB HULK, KAGETORA, KAI, HIROSHI YAMATO, & MARTIN KIRBY 

BxB Hulk moved around shockingly well in what was your standard Dragon Gate opener. Martin Kirby has been a ton of fun in Dragon Gate. He’s quite different than the usual gaijin that are brought over, but he’s adapted well and as I’ve said since his first match, Kirby connects with the audience in a way that very few foreigners do. 

Horiguchi secured the victory with a Backslide for Heaven because he’s still on a roll despite his recent Twin Gate loss. I’m a huge fan of whenever he gets the chance to be featured and I hope DG continues to use him in prominent positions. **1/2 

YOSUKE SANTA MARIA & YAMATO DEF. GAMMA & DON FUJII 

YAMATO truly brings out the worst in Don Fujii. More often than not when Fujii is slotted before intermission, he’s a happy grandpa who is prone to angry outbursts, but I certainly wouldn’t call him malicious. When he gets in the ring with the four-time Open the Dream Gate Champion, however, Fujii gets horribly violent. No man, woman, or Yosuke Santa Maria is safe from the unchecked anger of Don Fujii when YAMATO is nearby, and that was on display on this bout. 

The tone shifted from chippy brawl early on to a literal game of grab-ass as the match progressed. Perhaps no wrestler has ever been better at blending comedy and violence than Don Fujii? I mean, Colt Cabana nearly murdered Homicide in a Ring of Honor feud a decade ago, but Fujii has been blending comedy and violence (sometimes in the form of petty theft, as he repeatedly stole Ryo Saito’s bicycle in the Toryumon days) for two decades. It’s a beautiful thing to see. 

Maria rolled up Gamma with a cradle for the victory. Gamma then fell out of the ring and went ass-first directly into a female fan. Oh, if only I were so lucky. **3/4  

TAKASHI YOSHIDA & KAZMA SAKAMOTO DEF. KOTA MINOURA & YUKI YOSHIOKA 

We don’t see a lot of 2 vs. 2 tags on the undercards, so getting two back-to-back is pretty fun. This is where Takashi Yoshida is at his best. Low pressure, simple matches give Yoshida the chance to thrive in a way that he ultimately cannot do the higher he gets on the card. I don’t buy him as a credible threat against top of the line guys like Ben-K or Masato Yoshino, but against upstarts like Minoura and Yoshioka, he really works. 

Yuki Yoshioka continues to make the most of his limited opportunities. He is someone who always feels like he’s one big win away from taking the next step, whereas Minoura, while still very good, doesn’t command the same attention that his partner does. Yoshioka just gets it. His quiet charisma makes him stand out compared to his boisterous unit mates. 

Yoshioka took Sakamoto out with a huge dive over the top rope, leaving Minoura alone with the bigger, badder Yoshida. Minoura tried to steal the victory with a series of pinning combinations, but it was all for not. He soon ate a Cyber Bomb and the fall. ***1/4  

KEISUKE OKUDA, KAITO ISHIDA DEF. HYO WATANABE VIA DQ

Yes, a DQ in a triple threat match sounds strange, but I actually liked the way this played out. After nine minutes of go-go-go action between three of the hottest youngsters in the company, Hyo Watanabe finally snapped and attacked his stablemate, Keisuke Okuda, with a chair. When Referee Yagi decided to step in, Watanabe attacked Yagi, leading to the bell. 

Hyo Watanabe shockingly quit Mochizuki Dojo last night after viciously attacking Keisuke Okuda with a chair. The Dojo was his idea, but after a year they still haven’t come together as a unit or won any titles. They were just a group of losers. He announced he was joining R・E・D. Although Yuki Yoshioka & Kota Minoura both expressed their desire to get revenge on him, it was Dojo Master Mochizuki himself who will face Watanabe at Korakuen Hall next month. – Dragon Gate English Facebook Page

Watanabe’s long-awaited heel turn came across incredibly well. He’s raised his stock so much this year that it’s hard to believe that at this time last year, we were really worried about his future. This match was simply a vehicle to what turned out to be a successful angle. I don’t feel like my time was wasted even with the non-finish, but I ultimately can’t give it a rating. NR

MASATO YOSHINO DEF. SHUN SKYWALKER 

One of the most unique matches of the entire year. Shun Skywalker has been in numerous high-profile and MOTYC quality bouts over the past two years, but none of them have had the immediate impact on me that this match had. Skywalker rushed Yoshino during his entrance by booting him off the apron and to the floor, then delivered an absurdly high springboard crossbody to the floor. As if that wasn’t enough, Skywalker quickly followed with an absolutely ridiculous springboard moonsault to the floor. 

Skywalker has largely made his name off of bravely skirting disaster with his offensive arsenal. He’s clumsy, but calculated. His rope walk moonsaults are a thing of beauty once he takes flight, but the moments before when Skywalker walks the ropes is truly terrifying. Every single time, Skywalker looks like he’s going to slip off the ropes and crash head-first onto the floor. Every time, however, balances, launches, and then soars through the air. 

In this match, Skywalker tightened his offense. Every one of his high-flying moves looked devastating. He was on point with every decision he made. I truly don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone’s aerial moves look so devastating than what Skywalker accomplished in this match. His double-knee moonsault, in particular, was absolutely brutal. 

Then, in one fell swoop, Yoshino fired back, connected with a series of moves, and then finished him off with the rarely used Lightning Spiral. Five minutes and out. Yoshino wins. 

Dating back to Kobe World when Skywalker lost an epic against Kzy, Skywalker has lost 11 of his last 12 televised matches. His last four singles matches have been lost. He’s in a rut, and he’s doing it while teaming with the current Open the Dream Gate Champion. I have no idea where this story goes, but I love it. Skywalker is incredible. This match was ridiculous. Go watch it. ****

NARUKI DOI, JASON LEE, & DRAGON KID DEF. “BROTHER” YASSHI, KZY, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA 

There is a moment in this match when Dragon Kid goes for a Super Hurricanrana on Susumu Yokosuka, but Yokosuka counters it. You’ve seen it before. It’s a very traditional spot and these two do it in literally every match they have with one another. However, this time around, I thought it was timed literally perfectly. Yokosuka started to turn around at just the right time, right as DK was leaping off the ropes, and then caught DK right as he was fully about-face. This is why Dragon Gate is so good. This is the kind of timing that the company demands from its wrestlers. This is the perfection that the company proudly presents. It is such a little thing, but it stuck out to me in a big way. 

Jason Lee is also absurdly good at pro wrestling and this match gave me the feeling that they’re ready to do something with him. Ultimately, Lee’s role will be an occasional fall post on a Triangle Gate team, but at some point, a big singles run feels like it’s a possibility and a role that Lee would thrive in. Other than that two-second spot with Yokosuka and DK, Jason Lee was the star of the match. 

“Brother” YASSHI ate a Bakatare Sliding Kick from Naruki Doi for the victory, as he should’ve. ***1/2 

ULTIMO DRAGON, K-NESS, RYO SAITO, & SUPER SHISA DEF. EITA, BIG R SHIMIZU, DIAMANTE, & YASUSHI KANDA  

I feel strange about this bout. I liked a lot of things in this match, but the things that I liked were things that Korakuen Hall did not react to. The things I didn’t like, mainly one glaring spot with Ultimo Dragon, got a big reaction. 

I fear Ultimo Dragon in Dragon Gate. I really have a bad feeling about the future landscape of the company, but this review is not the place to go into that. Open the Voice Gate is where I will dive into the topic. 

The newly anointed heel Hyo Watanabe was given a chance to interfere and attack early on in the match. I thought this would draw big boos from the Korakuen faithful, but they sat there quietly. It almost felt like they were amused at the younger, smaller Watanabe acting out in such a brash way. He’s not exactly evil or dastardly. He’s a brat. There’s a chance he becomes the best version of what Eita could’ve been, but for now, it doesn’t seem like the Japanese crowd is all that into it. 

In the end, it was Yasushi Kanda turning on his R.E.D. partners to end the match. Kanda smashed the red box over the head of Eita, leading to an Ultimo Dragon pin. Kanda is now a face, which is great because he’s no longer going to be dragging down R.E.D. tags. He can exist as a harmless void in the babyface army. ***1/4 

The R・E・D vs. Toryumon feud was taken to the next level. During the recent R・E・D assaults on Ultimo Dragon, Yasushi Kanda conspicuously never laid a hand on his former teacher. Last night, when given the chance to hit him with a box, he instead hit Eita square across the head. He would never hit Ultimo Dragon with a box and he was done with R・E・D. Kenichiro Arai also joined the fight with his former Toryumon classmates as the feud escalates to an all out war.

Not to be outdone, Eita revealed R・E・D also had 2 new members. He brought a pair of suspicious characters in demon masks. Their identity was going to remain a secret and they would not be wrestling, until Eita says otherwise…….

OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
BEN-K DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI 

This is Ben-K’s second defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship since winning the title in July against PAC. 

Masaaki Mochizuki, the Open the Dream Gate Championship, and Korakuen Hall. Eight times in his career, he’s been involved in a Dream Gate title match in this building. He’s come in as the champion only twice, challenging for the belt six times with this Ben-K bout. Only once has he come in without gold and left with it, that being in 2011 when he knocked off Masato Yoshino and began what is widely considered to be the greatest Dream Gate run in history. 

I bring this up because, despite a 4-4 record in this scenario, Mochizuki is batting .1000% in terms of match quality with these given circumstances. This has become the match that I want to see. Throw every Dream Gate champion against the Iron Man of Professional Wrestling, the near-50 year old that has shown no signs of slowing down, and if the champion can outlast Mochizuki, they’ve earned my respect. 

Ben-K, from the moment he was crowned champion, has been dealing with close to unrealistic expectations. He’s supposed to be the man of the #2 promotion in Japan, but his reign has been overshadowed by Ultimo Dragon and his return home. His first defense was an uneventful affair against YAMATO, who has plagued the Dream Gate picture for the past few years. It was actually the end of YAMATO’s reign, back in September 2017, that helped fire up the Ben-K train. 

Mochizuki mercifully ended YAMATO’s fourth reign as Dream Gate Champion and carried the belt through June of 2018, with a notable defense in March against the man who now carries the title. Ben-K lost his first Dream Gate challenge to Mochizuki in a match that I voted for as my 5th best match of 2018 (it ultimately landed at #89 on the VOW MOTY Poll). That match silenced any doubters that were concerned about whether or not Ben-K could work at the top of the card. That match closed the chapter on Ben-K’s status as a prospect. Going forward, he was a man destined for the limelight. 

Seventeen months later, Ben-K is finding comfort in the limelight. He looks and acts like a top guy. He’s the rightful ace of a promotion that is slowly being hijacked by a wrestler that is past his prime. Ben-K, with the help of someone who I think is legitimately, at worst, one of the 10 greatest wrestlers of all-time, created a masterpiece. 

This is the type of match that both western and native fans will ultimately miss out on because Dragon Gate has a perceived house style, that despite not being entirely accurate, has stuck with them since the early days of the promotion. This match felt like a fight. It would’ve fit on the Bloodsport showcase last month. Masaaki Mochizuki is as well versed on the mat as any pimped grappler on the US indie scene. Ben-K is as intense, as charismatic, and as complete in the ring as any ace of lesser Japanese promotions. 

Mochizuki adds another tally to his laundry list of MOTYC’s and Ben-K is able to scribble down another classic in his young career. It was the latter’s youth that made me want to root for him, but made me fear the result. If anyone can squeak by with a rollup or a quick submission, it’s going to be the 25 year veteran, Mochizuki. The elder statesman took a Ben-K Bomb in this match, the same move that put PAC and countless others away as Ben-K continues to torment the roster with his dominance. Right as Mochizuki hit the mat, which would normally lead to a pin from Ben-K, the 49-year-old popped Ben-K in the jaw with a closed fist punch. Ben-K was rocked. He couldn’t follow up. Mochizuki lives to fight on. Brilliant. 

Not willing to risk another loss of momentum, when Ben-K finally had Mochizuki weakened enough to where he felt like he could finish him off, he cracked him in the head with a headbutt. Mochizuki falls down. Ben-K covers. Ben-K wins. Korakuen gasps. It’s that simple. ****3/4 

After his successful defense of the Open the Dream Gate championship last night against Masaaki Mochizuki, Ben-K wasted no time in calling out his next challenger. He said he had the exact opponent in mind, which brought Masato Yoshino to the ring. Yoshino was, in fact, the exact person Ben had in mind. Yoshino wanted the match at The Gate of Destiny 2019 on November 4th. Why? Because 1 year ago at the same place they also wrestled for the Dream Gate when Yoshino was champion. Even though the roles are reversed, Yoshino promised the results would be the same. Ben told Yoshino that the Ben-K he beat last year doesn’t exist anymore and he will be no match for the Dream Gate champion.

Final Thoughts:

Dragon Gate’s Gate of Victory is a compelling look at the current state of the promotion: what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next on the horizon. You’d be a fool not to watch the main event. You might as well take a gander at Shun Skywalker vs. Masato Yoshino, given it’s only five minutes. The entire show is a lot of fun. Two strong angles, two great matches, and a handful of fun midcard matches is an automatic thumbs up.