GLORIOUS GATE EMPTY ARENA EVENT
MARCH 22, 2020
KOBE SAMBO HALL – KOBE, JAPAN
YAMATO, HO HO LUN, & PROBLEM DRAGON DEF. KAI, JIMMY, & PUNCH TOMINAGA
God, it’s nice to have Dragongate back. This show is being held in an empty Kobe Sambo Hall, the only audience being the units sitting outside the ring. On one side, the Toryumon Generation sits. Dragongate, R.E.D, and the suits representing the DG office all join them in sitting ringside.
Crowd or no crowd, these six men worked harder than I imagined they would. I said the same thing during the Dragongate shows at the end of February, when doom was simply looming and not imminent. These guys have been off for three weeks and they picked up right where they left off. Even Punch Tominaga, who was dedicating this match to his biggest fan, a man that looked awfully similar to Gamma sitting in the front row, had a great night.
In the end, YAMATO planted Tominaga with the Galleria for the win. It should be noted that this is not YAMATO’s first empty arena match. He wrestled Don Fujii in an empty arena match in 2008. This was a breath of fresh air given the lack of new wrestling we’ve been given lately. Props to these six men for kicking off the show with a match of this quality. ***1/2
KAZMA SAKAMOTO DEF. KOTA MINOURA, KAGETORA
Genuinely enjoyed the fact that Kazma Sakamoto dragged Kota Minoura out of the ring and tossed Kota Minoura into exactly one chair in the opening portions of this match. Normally, this would clear the crowd and Minoura would go crashing into multiple rows of chairs. Instead, it’s just the one chair and Minoura sliding around on the floor after the fact.
Dragongate triple threats are always a little strange. This was not bad by any means, but these three, given their status on the roster, as well as the fact that despite representing the different units, they have no true animosity against one another, created a slightly awkward environment. The opener could live in this empty arena world and succeed. This match needed an outside force (a crowd) to propel it to another emotional level. Watching these three go at it to silence was bordering on uncomfortable, even if the match itself was technically sound. Sakamoto planted Minoura with a Package Piledriver for the win. ***
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BEN-K & KEISUKE OKUDA DEF. OJI SHIIBA & JASON LEE
Keisuke Okuda has been hitting the tanning beds HARD. The bleached hair with the Wrestlemania tan makes me think that Okuda was born in the wrong generation. Can we get this man a Gold’s Gym tank top and some Zubaz? Judging from his Instagram, he’s comfortable with his surplus of Supreme merchandise, which I respect, but I’d like to see him fully embrace the hypebeast look of a bygone era.
His wrestling, on the other hand, feels incredibly modern. He’s found a perfect blend of the house style with his MMA influence and in the process, he’s created a truly dynamic duo with his amateur wrestling buddy and former Open the Dream Gate Champion, Ben-K. The result of this match was never in question as long as Ben-K was an active participant. Oji Shiiba is the lowest ranked member of the roster and while Jason Lee is very skilled, he still has trouble picking up wins. The result here was no different.
Lee put up a terrific fight. He’s someone who has the talent to be a Brave Gate Champion one day, and I hope that happens. Today was not his day, however. His partner, Shiiba, ate a Backdrop Hold from Ben-K to end the match at the 10-minute portion. I still don’t love the fact that Ben-K was phased down the roster so quickly after being Dream Gate Champion. I’m afraid they’ve cooled him down too much. However, his team with Keisuke Okuda is exciting and he still is a Triangle Gate Champion. He just feels far less important than he did at this time last year. ***1/4
DRAGON KID & ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. HYO & DIAMANTE
HYO left a boy and came back a MAN. His beard is full and his hair is long. He looks like a stone-cold killer. Unfortunately, his new look did not lead to a new start for the youngster. He’s still the fall post for R.E.D, and as a result, he was defeated by way of Dragon Kid’s Crucifix Bomb.
Dragongate is fully committing to enhancing the empty arena experience. The wrestlers that had been sitting on the outside and making noise all night decided to interfere in this match by running the traditional train-interference spot. Of course, instead of hearing a crowd making noise, anyone who had been hooting and hollering throughout the night was now in the ring. We’re living in strange times.
Ultimo probably doesn’t need to work any empty arena shows, if they continue to be a thing. His work, more than anyone else’s, was exposed in this match. Everything was just a little too light for camera. Dragon Kid, on the other hand, looked terrific against both HYO and Diamante. Great appearance from Ultimo’s protege. ***1/2
MASATO YOSHINO & NARUKI DOI DEF. BXB HULK & TAKASHI YOSHIDA
In 2008, during Dragon Gate’s infamous no ring show, SpeedMuscle wrestled the then-Cyber Kong (now Takashi Yoshida) and YAMATO in the main event. 12 years later, YAMATO has been subbed out for BxB Hulk, and the crowd has been replaced with a ring, but I find it incredible that Yoshino, Doi, and Yoshida are once again wrestling under bizarre circumstances.
The match, prior to the DQ finish due to R.E.D. interference, was excellent. I was prepared to throw four stars at this bad boy, but with the murky finish I’m unable to. SpeedMuscle jumped off the page. Every one of their combinations was perfectly timed. It is a stale combination on-paper, but more often than not when Yoshida is in the ring with Yoshino, they deliver to the fullest extent.
Yoshida was wildly entertaining in this match. He swung his chain all around the empty arena and at one point, attacked a young boy on the outside (who later landed a Judo Throw on the bigger man to escape the attack). Yoshida’s all-out, berserker-style assault played so well in the empty arena. Yoshida actually comes across more crazy when he’s doing his schtick and young women aren’t giggling at him at ringside.
R.E.D. ended things on a sour note, like I mentioned. But with Eita, Shimizu, and Ishida in the ring, that led us to our main event. NR
YOSUKE SANTA MARIA, DRAGON DIA, & KZY DEF. BIG R SHIMIZU, EITA, & KAITO ISHIDA
This is what I’m talking about. This is how an empty arena match should be worked. All show, it seemed like Dragongate was hinting at some sort of big, arena brawl with all of the wrestlers sitting in the crowd, and it finally came to be in this bout. This was all action, all intensity, and all a part of a greater story to be told and it was so great to watch. Even without a crowd, Dragongate manages to produce greatness. I don’t know how they do it.
Keisuke Okuda got his hands on Kaito Ishida thanks to the free-for-all nature of this bout. Ishida, the current Brave Gate Champion, has not only Okuda breathing down his neck, but Dragon Dia as well. Dia is one-third of the current Triangle Gate team, but with the way he’s performing, having only dropped one fall since November, he’s more than earned a shot at Ishida. These three, all revolving around the six degrees of the Mochizuki Dojo, should be allowed to tear each other apart whenever they want. Dragon Dia’s game has been taken to another level. He’s no longer shockingly good, he’s on the road to becoming legitimately great.
Santa Maria battled Big R Shimizu and his disrespect for the entire match, and ultimately, a few slaps to the face followed by the Neraiuchi were enough to put him away for good. Great finish to a great match. Go watch this, immediately. ****1/4
U-T will make his return after a ten month absence in his hometown of Nagoya on April 5th! https://t.co/ia8zUs9sax
— Open the Voice Gate (@openvoicegate) March 22, 2020
Even with no crowd, Dragongate was able to produce a show full of energy, exuberance, and life. The English commentary pairing of Dragongate Jae and Larry Dallas has proven to be a fruitful investment for the company. It’s amazing that a promotion that has always been so forward-thinking and innovative has found a pair of commentators that closely resemble Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan. Their back-and-forth is truly hilarious.
Devour this card. It was so nice to be able to sit down and watch fresh wrestling again, and the fact that this card was great makes it even sweeter. I highly recommend the Glorious Gate Empty Arena event.