DRAGONGATE
CHAMPION GATE IN OSAKA NIGHT ONE
FEBRUARY 29, 2020
EDION ARENA OSAKA #2 – OSAKA, JAPAN

Watch: Dragongate Network

MARTIN KIRBY & TAKETO KAMAI DEF. HO HO LUN & MICHAEL SU 

We were lucky enough to get the dark match in full for this broadcast, meaning we got to see more of Martin Kirby mixing it up with youngsters. He teamed with Dragongate trueborn Taketo Kamai in this match, someone who is very talented for his experience level, but will only go so far because of how small he is. Across from Kirby and Kamai were Ho Ho Lun and Michael Su, two Hong Kong wrestlers. Lun, thanks to his time in DG, has developed the fundamentals nicely. Su is rougher around the edges, but more exciting to watch. 

In this very basic, opening tag match, the Hong Kong duo was no match for Kirby and Kamai. Kamai flew around the ring, Kirby tied the two up, and in the end, Kirby was able to catch Su sleeping and roll him up for a quick pinfall. Enjoyable opening contest. **1/2  

DON FUJII, MASATO YOSHINO, & YASUSHI KANDA DEF. PUNCH TOMINAGA, JASON LEE, & KOTA MINOURA 

Lost in the discussion thanks to the Coronavirus, the Toryumon reunion show, a logo and name change, and copious amounts of other wrestling hot topics is the fact that Masato Yoshino is slated to retire at some point later on this year.

Watching him here, beating the life out of Punch Tominaga (a steady theme that played out with all three members of the Toryumon generation during this match), it hit me that unless something drastic changes, this is Yoshino’s last Champion Gate. Seeing him work heel, it reminded me that we were robbed of the heavily-rumored Yoshino heel turn in 2017, an injury that has greatly influenced his decision to hang up the boots. This was not a great match. It was fun to watch. Anytime Don Fujii hits a chokeslam from the top rope, it’s a good time, but above all of that, this was a gentle reminder about how great Masato Yoshino is. He did so little in this match, but looked so great doing it. His presence will be sorely missed when he’s gone, but his legacy and impact should not be litigated in an undercard match review. The time will come when myself, and others, will layout the grandiose career arc of Masato Yoshino. For now, you have this match. ***

YUKI YOSHIOKA DEF. GAMMA 

It started as a joke, but Gamma might actually be having the best year of his career this year. The 46-year-old has been wrestling on a consistent basis since 1996. He’s been in a handful of great matches (often when he’s teaming with CIMA), a chunk of dreadful matches, and thousands and thousands of matches that teeter on the line between boring and passable. In 2020, however, Gamma has worked his ass off and for some reason on this virus-plagued show, he decided to do what he could to elevate Yoshioka onto a new level. 

The story of this match was simple. Gamma wanted to thwart Yoshioka’s momentum with any chance he got. The generation gap and age dynamic, whether they intended to or not, added greatly to this match. Every time Yoshioka landed a big move, it felt like a drastic momentum shifter. When he scored the fall after his signature series of rollups, it felt like a definitive chapter in Yoshioka’s career – and the wild thing is, we’re talking about him pinning Gamma. Not Mochizuki, not Yoshino, not even Don Fujii. Gamma. The Osaka Pro trainee has been so skilled this year and played this match so well that the loss felt like it actually meant something. ***3/4  

TAKASHI YOSHIDA & DIAMANTE DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & KENTO KOBUNE, NARUKI DOI & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA

I’m amazed that in a match that featured the current Dream Gate champion and his next challenger that the spotlight of this match was shifted away from them and put on Kento Kobune, the youngster who debuted in December. It’s very clear from his positioning on this card and the way that he’s been treated ever since he wrestled his first match that they see something in Kobune. He’s too good to ignore. Before long, he’ll be too good to lose. 

Doi and Yokosuka teamed in this match but will go onto wrestle each other a night later for the Dream Gate title. I found this to be an awkward pairing and I found it to be even more awkward that they didn’t do anything with it. I’m typically against any sort of trope that features partners not getting along, but at the very least, I thought Yokosuka could’ve hit Doi with an accidental lariat. They gave them post-match promo time, but I would’ve liked to have seen something during the match. 

Back to Kobune, he was, unfortunately, no match for the raw strength of Takashi Yoshida, who Cyber Bombed him into the canvas for a three count. ***1/2 

YAMATO, KAI, KEISUKE OKUDA, & KZY DEF. BXB HULK, BIG R SHIMIZU, EITA, & KAZMA SAKAMOTO 

Simply put, I’m stunned at how hard everyone is working on this show. I know it’s a big show on the Dragongate calendar, and the first big show of the year for them, but given the rampant illness that has stricken the universe, I expected everyone to take it easy on this show. I was truthfully not looking forward to watching this show because I expected it to be low effort. Instead, we got Gamma working his ass off on the undercard, Kento Kobune taking a beating, and now a dynamite eight-man between R.E.D. and Dragongate true borns.

YAMATO was the star of this match. Kzy took the brunt of the damage dished out by R.E.D. in the opening portions of this match which gave YAMATO the opportunity to make a fiery comeback that completely held my attention. He caught Shimizu with a Frankensteiner of the Almighty to secure the victory for his team. A great, traditional-feeling Dragongate eight-man match. ***3/4 

OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
KAITO ISHIDA (C) DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI 

In this building, last January, Kaito Ishida elevated his game. In 16 minutes, he and U-T, as a part of Dragongate’s Rookie Rankings Tournament, tore down the house. From there, Ishida was a changed man. That match gave us a template for what to expect from Kaito Ishida during his future singles matches, and ever since then, he has carried that momentum into numerous great matches, and more importantly, an Open the Brave Gate Championship run. 

Ishida has been dubbed “The Kick Boy”, but what we saw in this match, his second successful defense of the Brave Gate belt, was a more mature, fully realized Ishida. He ravished the leg and ankle of Horiguchi. Whatever spunk Horiguchi brought to the table with his personality was quickly evaporated at the hands of Ishida. Ishida is developing a universal charisma that speaks volumes. I will never expect Kaito Ishida to cut an outstanding promo. His character work bleeds through as he’s torturing his opponent in the ring, and this time his victim was Horiguchi. 

The aforementioned Horiguchi is a three-time Brave Gate Champion who hasn’t held the title since 2014, which feels like just yesterday. He attempted to use his veteran expertise to outsmart and outlast Ishida, but the youngster proved that he’s on another level and is simply better than Horiguchi right now. The young generation, whether they’re representing R.E.D. or Dragongate, is shining very brightly on this show. 

The last-minute of this match felt like an action movie. Horiguchi took powder to the face, Ishida kicked his knees out from under him which sent Horiguchi flying, Ishida looked to put him away but Horiguchi countered and nearly won with a Backslide From Heaven, and then Ishida regained control and submitted him with an ankle lock. This was a masterclass in storytelling and in-ring character work. Highly recommended. ****1/4 



OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
DRAGON DIA, BEN-K, & STRONG MACHINE J DEF. DRAGON KID, KENICHIRO ARAI, & RYO SAITO (c)

The Toryumon trio falls in their first defense of the Triangle Gate belts. This is both Strong Machine J and Ben-K’s second reign with the titles, and Dragon Dia’s first championship of his career. 

Dia concluded his five-month string of scoring pinfall victories over marquee names by landing the Reptilian Rana and pinning Ryo Saito to secure the first title of his career. This is notable for a few reasons. First, the younger generations dominated this show. Toryumon won the opener against three of the weaker members of the roster, and then proceeded to drop every other match they had an opportunity to win. The younger generations came away looking outstanding on this show. In the case of Dia, specifically, it should be noted that Ben-K landed a spear on Ryo Saito but Saito kicked out. Dia immediately followed up by hitting his finishing, which put the former Dream Gate champion away for good. That seemed incredibly intentional. 

The focus of the Toryumon team was Kenichiro Arai in this bout. He came in with a taped-up shoulder after separating it in the match that they won their titles in. He was working at half-strength, which the Dragongate team smartly capitalized on. There’s a part of this match that was likely hurt, if we’re talking about things from a match quality perspective, from Arai wrestling such a large portion of the match, but it makes complete sense if we’re looking at it from the perspective of this being a legitimate contest. Arai was a wounded animal and the kids looked to take advantage of that. 

Dia winning gives the Dragongate true borns control of one title, while Toryumon still holds the Dream Gate and R.E.D. have control of both the Twin and Brave Gate belts. That being said, given the strength of their faction, I expect Dragongate to turn the tide in the near future. ****

Final Thoughts

Given the grave concern that Japan is in regarding the Coronavirus, I expected this show to be worked at half-speed. I mean, the audience was half of what it typically is for an Osaka show, so the roster had every reason to go through the motions. Instead, against all odds, Dragongate delivered an easy, breezy show during trying times. Thumbs up for Champion Gate Night One.