DRAGON GATE
FANTASTIC GATE
DECEMBER 4, 2019
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

EXHIBITION MATCH
KENICHIRO ARAI VS. KENTO KOBUNE 

This is the first we’ve seen of Kento Kobune. He and Arai wrestled a respectful, albeit uneventful exhibition match that featured a lot of basic grappling. Arai wasn’t even in his normal ring gear. He wore shorts, compression leggings, and tennis shoes instead of his normal tights and boots. Kobune was dressed in regular young boy black tights. If I had to speculate, I’d say Kobune was one of the kids under the R.E.D. masks for a majority of their tenure. 

I wouldn’t read into Arai drawing with the youngster here. Arai never attempted to put him away. He simply wanted some in-ring time. Kobune, for what this was, looked fine. NR 

YUKI YOSHIOKA, KOTA MINOURA, & HO HO LUN DEF. YOSUKE SANTA MARIA, JIMMY, & SHACHIHOKO BOY 

Yuki Yoshioka is a damn good wrestler. I was just looking back at some old notes as I prepare to do some decade retrospective stuff for Dragon Gate, and although I sung his praises from his debut, I never expected Yoshioka to be so good at this stage in his career. For a while, I said he was going to be the Genki Horiguchi of the future because he’s so good at crafting finishing stretches, but the better comparison is Susumu Yokosuka, who has silently had an elite-level in-ring career for nearly 20 years now. We are watching the early days of someone who will have a long, prosperous career as a dynamite in-ring wrestler. He shined brightest in what was an average Dragon Gate opener. **1/2 

DON FUJII & GAMMA DEF. PROBLEM DRAGON & HIROSHI YAMATO 

Hiroshi Yamato is back for his monthly appearance and he’s as unimportant as ever. For some reason, Problem Dragon, who is known more so for being bad than comically bad, decided to wrestle like Stalker Ichikawa Lite this evening. I can’t figure that out. I don’t like that as much as Dragon just sucking. This was a whole bunch of nothing. **


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DRAGON DIA, KEISUKE OKUDA, & MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI DEF. PUNCH TOMINAGA, “BROTHER” YASSHI, & GENKI HORIGUCHI 

I didn’t love Okuda and Mochizuki looking weak at the hands of Punch Tominaga (although if we’re keeping track, Punch Tominaga is 1-0 vs. CIMA in singles matches while Mochizuki is 4-5-2, so Tominaga might actually be the better wrestler), but no one is going to remember that Tominaga’s head was stronger than Okuda’s fist a week from now, so it doesn’t really matter. 

What does matter is that Dragon Dia continues to look incredibly impressive. After having a career-changing November, Dia continues to look way more confident than he did for the first year of his career. He scored the pin over Tominaga after landing a splash. ***

After the match, Dia was asked to join Mochizuki Dojo, but Dia promised to stay loyal to Dragon Kid and respectfully declined. 

DIAMANTE & KAZMA SAKAMOTO DEF. JASON LEE & DRAGON KID, KZY & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA 

Diamante is still not that good, but he was so much better than he was when he walked into the company. He’s weirdly become one of the best cases for touring with Dragon Gate. When a guy like PAC or Ricochet comes in and is already good, then they become great thanks to Dragon Gate, it’s a little obvious. Diamante, however, came in as a very bad wrestler and is now not embarrassing himself. I can’t believe every decent American indie wrestler is not chomping at the bit to get a tour with this company. This is how you take your game to the next level. Dragon Gate makes you better, not Attitude Era rewatches on the WWE Network. 

Jason Lee is another guy that has completely elevated his game thanks to his time spent with this company. He and Diamante had a strong closing stretch, and he and Kzy tore it up in the middle portions. Eventually, Dragon Gate is going to do something with Lee and it’s going to be great. I don’t know when or what they’re going to do, but he’s simply too good to keep him without a program forever. 

Much like the rest of this show, this was right in line with what the normal house style is. This was the best match on the show up to this point, but this feels very much like the Dragon Gate Christmas Party so far. ***1/2

YAMATO, BXB HULK, KAI, & KAGETORA DEF. RYO SAITO, K-NESS, SUPER SHISA, & YASUSHI KANDA 

It’s nice to see the Toryumon OG’s doing something that isn’t with R.E.D. Unfortunately for them, however, they squared off against a Tribe Vanguard team that was hungry for victory. The DG homegrowns (and KAI) targeted Ryo Saito and laid in a considerable amount of damage to him throughout the match. The Toryumon comeback was short-lived and fell a little flat. YAMATO caught Saito with a rollup for the victory, ending the match before it could ever kick into a higher gear. 

This show is not bad by any means, it’s simply just there. ***1/4 

BEN-K DEF. SHUN SKYWALKER 

Shun Skywalker is now 0-6-1 in singles matches since losing to Kzy at Kobe World this year. Add to his W-L record two losses in tags with Ben-K to SpeedMuscle, and you see why Shun Skywalker is so frustrated and tried to prove something against his friend and partner on this evening. The crazy thing is that Skywalker defeated Ben-K one-on-one in this very building back in February. That is the only singles match Ben-K has lost this year in Dragon Gate this year. Since that loss, Ben-K was able to regroup, go undefeated in King of Gate, and then become Dream Gate champion. After that win back in February for Skywalker, he fell to PAC in a Dream Gate challenge and has been stuck in place ever since. 

Skywalker charged at Ben-K the moment after the bell rang, but the champion showed from the opening moments that he’s too strong to sneak attack. Skywalker laid in great shots throughout the entire match, but Ben-K was always able to rebound. When he and Skywalker traded forearms and Skywalker got the better of the two, Ben-K quickly recovered and didn’t let subsequent series of moonsaults stop him either. Skywalker threw everything he had at the current Dream Gate champion, but none of it was enough. 

Skywalker has been able to create a really special feel to his matches this year. Something about the way he wrestles feels very violent. At any moment, anything could happen or anyone could get hurt. The aforementioned forearm exchange was as snug as something you’d see in New Japan or Big Japan. For so long, all of Skywalker’s matches were built around him doing a moonsault to the floor that it’s weird to think of him as a striker, but between his elbows and his running bicycle kick, I don’t think there are too many guys in Japan that throw meaner blows than him. 

Even when he was getting nailed with shots, however, Ben-K refused to give in. At one point, Ben-K powerbombed Skywalker while Skywalker was punching him in the head. That spot felt like a BattleArts spot more than something you’d see out of Dragon Gate. 

I can’t get over how great these two have been with and without one another this year. They are both fringe worker of the year candidates, likely a tier behind the Ospreay’s and Mochizuki’s of the world, but far ahead of most big name North American wrestlers. Skywalker, on a bell-to-bell basis, has been one of the five most exciting wrestlers to watch this year and that fact, mixed with Dragon Gate’s stellar booking, has helped the masked man become a superstar within the promotion. Even in defeat, which this time came by way of Ben-K’s spear, Skywalker looks like a million bucks. ****

BIG R SHIMIZU, HYO, & TAKASHI YOSHIDA VS. MASATO YOSHINO, NARUKI DOI, & KAITO ISHIDA 

This was another dull double count out. Toryumon did this angle 20 years ago when heel unit M2K formed the “double ring out committee” and attempted to have every one of their matches end in a double count out. That’s one of my favorite angles of all-time because M2K and the opposing Crazy MAX are two of the greatest stables in the history of wrestling. Those matches were insanely heated and although viewers knew what the outcome was going to be, the journey to get to the destination was thrilling. 

These are just boring. R.E.D. is no M2K and the crawl to get in the ring before the 20 count is hardly anything to behold. This finish, especially, killed a match that already wasn’t great. Had Yoshino and HYO gone at it for another ten minutes, this could’ve really been something. **3/4 





ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. EITA 

With this victory, Ultimo Dragon is allowed to stay in Dragon Gate. I’m yet to decide whether or not this is a good thing. 

Weirdly enough, I’m also yet to figure out if I liked this match or not. I don’t think there’s ever been a match in the history of the Dragon System that has been worked like this. Nothing about this match resembled the last 20 years of this company’s lineage, save for maybe the interference spots that were slightly on brand. This was part-mask ripping brawl, part-story driven match with 80’s pacing. I really feel like this would’ve gotten over more in Crockett than it did here. 

That’s where I ultimately struggle with this match. For a match with such high stakes (although the result was hardly ever in question), this was not a boisterous Korakuen crowd. Other than a handful of short-lived “Ultimo!” chants and some high-pitched screams caused by mask ripping, the crowd didn’t seem to care all that match. They seemed far more invested in the Ben-K vs. Shun Skywalker match that kicked off the second half of the card. 

The closest thing I can compare this to is the Minoru Suzuki GHC defense vs. Yoshihiro Takayama from a few years back. Now, when I refer to Eita vs. Ultimo as a brawl, it is no match for the sheer brutality of the NOAH match linked above, but the work is oddly similar to me. Suzuki and Takayama worked at a foreign pace for modern wrestling standards, built to huge spots, and then had an awkward finish. Eita vs. Ultimo matches that synopsis, although I found their finish to be far more charming and creative. 

The good outweighs the bad, somehow. I have come to grips that I really liked this match, even if not every moment was exciting. I can’t go as far to say it was “great”, it won’t be making my spreadsheet, but I like seeing two wrestlers execute a common goal, and this match accomplished that. ***3/4 

EITA, RED DEMON MASK, & GREEN DEMON MASK DEF. ULTIMO DRAGON, MASATO YOSHINO, & NARUKI DOI 

In 2014, fresh off the heels of a babyface turn, BxB Hulk decided to challenge all of Mad Blankey, the heel unit at the time, to a 5 on 1 handicap match. That match headlined Korakuen Hall, and naturally, Hulk lost in only a few minutes. Instead of ending the show on a downer, CIMA came out and insisted that one member of every unit come out and help Hulk fight Mad Blankey with even odds. I still think that booking decision to do an “impromptu” main event is one of the smartest things Dragon Gate has done. Stuff like that has logic and depth to it, which so many angles lack in the modern wrestling landscape. 

This match was set up in a somewhat similar fashion, and although it did not reach the same heights that the 2014 10-man did, it was still refreshing to see Dragon Gate do something seemingly so off the cuff. The match lasted only four minutes as the Green Demon Mask nailed Yoshinon with a mysterious bagged object and covered him for the pin. As it turned out, Green Demon Mask was Kaito Ishida, (former) stablemate with Doi and Yoshino in MaxiMuM and current Brave Gate champion (the aforementioned mysterious object). NR

“After being forced into an impromptu match last night, the Green Demon Mask of R・E・D revealed themselves to be not Masato Yoshino of MaxiMuM as teased by Eita, but Kaito Ishida of MaxiMuM. He saw no purpose for an “old man” like Ultimo Dragon in Dragon Gate and blames Yoshino for him being here. Ishida found Yoshino & Doi beyond irritating in their reverence for Dragon. He was done with MaxiMuM and was now a member of R・E・D.

Jason Lee was furious and quickly attacked his former partner. He will get a chance at revenge at The Final Gate 2019 when he challenges Ishida for the Open the Brave Gate championship.

As for the Red Demon Mask, Eita is making the fans wait until 12/18, again in Korakuen Hall.”

-Via Dragon Gate English Facebook page 

Final Thoughts

Even on a show where mediocrity plagued most matches, Dragon Gate’s best and brightest talent still found a way to shine through. Ben-K vs. Shun Skywalker and the main event, the subsequent angle, and the impromptu six-man are worth your time. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same. They have certainly had better go-home Korakuens before a pay-per view in the past. The good news is that the Final Gate card looks excellent, and with that and another Korakuen coming up after the PPV, Dragon Gate should end what has been an already very strong year on a high note.