JULY 5, 2020

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

Dragongate has once again welcomed fans back to the arena in a limited capacity setting for this weekend’s shows. Click here for more information on the company’s COVID-19 protocol. 


Jimmy came out firing on all cylinders. He charged at Mochizuki, and although his initial attack failed, a trio of flash pins nearly put the legend away. Mochizuki survived the initial onslaught, however, and began caving in the chest of the former DTU standout. Jimmy spent all of quarantine bulking up and putting on muscle that I never expected him to add, but no amount of muscle could shield him from the ferocious offense of Mochizuki. That being said, Jimmy survived. He kicked out of whatever Mochizuki threw at him. The ring announcer made an announcement at the four-minute mark and Mochizuki, realizing the Match 0 spot only has a five-minute time limit, began to go into overdrive. He pulled out a finish he’s never hit before, as he drilled Jimmy with a Shining Wizard, a tribute to his current NOAH stablemate Keiji Muto. Jimmy couldn’t survive any longer. ***


Youngster Kento Kobune was whipped into Takashi Yoshida thanks to Don Fujii to open the match. There are times that a man will charge and his unit will follow him into battle. This was not one of those times. Fujii gleefully watched from afar as the youngster attacked R.E.D’s muscle. 

I really enjoy when these openers have the star power that this one had, as they allow the match to breathe a little more than the typical DG opener. After the initial Kobune/Yoshida portion, focus shifted to Don Fujii and Kaito Ishida, who gleefully agreed to pound each other into pulp, before Ultimo squared off against his lucha counterpart Diamante, a series that ended with Diamante taking a Hamrick-like bump for literally no reason whatsoever. The match came full circle as Yoshida viciously planted Kobune with a powerbomb to end the bout. ***1/4 


Just like the prior night, Kota Minoura wrestled to a time limit draw. Minoura, who debuted new gear on the first show of this double shot in a seeming attempt to get himself over to a higher degree, garnered praise from his Dragongate Generation counterparts for his performance against Big R Shimizu. This match structure echoed his bout against Shimizu in which the first half was full of grappling and matwork that I wasn’t all that invested in while the second half was full of bombs, effort, and intensity. 

The time limit within the company was shifted from 20 minutes for undercard bouts to 15 minutes because of COVID, so it’s feasible within the storyline for Minoura to have won both his matches this weekend. Shimizu is presented like a fool, but a dangerous fool at that. Yokosuka is a legend and the current All Japan Junior Heavyweight champion. The fact that Minoura, who made his official debut two years ago to the day, was able to hang with him for this long is an accomplishment. I do not know where this angle goes from here, but I anxiously await the next step in Minorua’s journey. ***1/4 


The Keisuke Okuda/Kaito Ishida feud is evolving into the perfect midcard feud. The two are obsessed with each other. Before the bell rang, Ishida wandered down to ringside to make his presence felt. Okuda noticed him, but couldn’t do anything about it. Ishida got to witness the underrated grappling prowess of Genki Horiguchi from ringside, which I’m envious of, but Ishida wasn’t an innocent bystander for very long. Okuda, still relatively inexperienced all things considered, got caught by Horiguchi’s Backslide From Heaven, but before the referee could count to three, Kaito Ishida distracted the referee, giving his hated rival a chance at survival. Horiguchi came to confront Ishida and was greeted with a strike from the Brave Gate champion, giving Okuda a chance to plant Horiguchi with the Lights Out for the win. Another fine storytelling bout. ***


This was on its way to being the first truly great match of the weekend when R.E.D. ran in and caused a DQ. Dragon Dia tore it up on the mat early with Masato Yoshino and then had Doi on the ropes right before the DQ finish. The question coming out of this match is whether or not DRagon Dia really has an injured elbow or not. If he does, it happened early in the match and clearly bothered him throughout the bout. If he doesn’t, he’s the best seller in the world, no questions asked. 

I hope we see an uninterrupted version of this match at some point. The chemistry between these two teams was obvious. The Kzy/Dia pairing worked in its first outing. Doi and Yoshino, obviously, are very good at this whole tag team wrestling thing. With a proper finish, this felt like it was going to be a spreadsheet match. NR


After seeing Shuji Kondo go one-on-one with Jason Lee, I’m now much higher on his future Dragongate output than I was coming into the weekend. Kondo vs. Ben-K is no challenge for Kondo. He’s crossed paths with Ben-K-types in every promotion he’s worked for since splitting from Dragongate in 2004. Their interactions were electric. Kondo began the match squared off against Lee, but Kondo demanded the bigger man start the match. I will not get sick of those two bouncing off of one another anytime soon. 

His interactions with Lee, however, were far more intricate than he and Ben-K smashing into each other at full speed. He bumped and fed for Lee beautifully, though. Kondo was where he needed to be at every turn in this match. He and his once hated rival Dragon Kid even had chemistry together as a team. Dragon Kid connected with his avalanche hurricanrana thanks to Kondo basing on the middle rope. I now believe in miracles. 

Kondo cleaned Lee’s clock with the King Kong Lariat for the win, as expected. Kondo will be a focal point going forward. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of when mixing it up with the new generation. This was really fun. ***1/2 


The Dragongate trio had no patience for R.E.D. and their antics this time around. In what was easily the best match of the weekend, the DG trueborn trio brought stiffness, intensity, and agility in their pursuit to take down the R.E.D. side. It is easy to forget that before storylines were halted by COVID-19, YAMATO and KAI were embroiled in a heated feud with Kazma Sakamoto and BxB Hulk, who turned his back on YAMATO and Dragongate at the start of the year, over the Twin Gate belts. YAMATO got a small dose of revenge here as he was able to pin Hulk after an accidental friendly fire between Eita and Hulk. 

The four-time Dream Gate champion took a beating early on. KAI’s hot tag was met with resistance from the equally beefy and powerful Big R Shimizu. The momentum continued as Strong Machine J tangled with Eita. Their interactions gave YAMATO enough time to recover, hop back into the ring, and land his dreaded Frankensteiner of the Almighty on Shimizu. Before the pin could be counted, BxB Hulk landed a First Flash on YAMATO, flipping the pin and giving Shimizu the upperhand, but Strong Machine J was there to break up the pin. YAMATO was given time to recover once more, and by the time he bounced back, he was in the ring at the right time for Eita and Hulk to collide, giving him all he needed to get the win. This was fast-paced, hard-hitting, and precisely executed. ****

Final Thoughts

The second night of Hopeful Gate was even more enjoyable than the first. The implementation of Shuji Kondo is going to create new, fresh matches that have been out of the realm of possibility for 15 years. Through their first two outings, Dragongate’s limited capacity shows have to be considered a success.