MEMORIAL GATE 2020 IN WAKAYAMA
AUGUST 2ND, 2020
WAKAYAMA PREFECTURAL GYM, WAKAYAMA, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
MEET OUR PREVIEWERS:
- Case Lowe(@_InYourCase): Voices of Wrestling’s official Young Boy. Was quarantining before it was cool. Co-host of the Open the Voice Gate podcast and author of most Dragongate articles on this site that have been published since 2015. I also host a music podcast that not enough people listen to.
- Jon Hernandez (@FatmansAlright): Drank too many seltzers while writing this and feels bad. His girlfriend says Dragongate is the wrestling she “hates the least”. Does music stuff too, does not host Open the Voice Gate.
- Mike Spears (@fujiiheya): The other host of Open the Voice Gate and a co-host of Everything Elite. Started off the quarantine getting really into track suits, and somehow still doesn’t have a Dragongate one. Everything Elite has a patreon where you can hear even more of me.
Punch Tominaga & Jimmy vs. Ho Ho Lun & Shachihoko Boy
Case: Jimmy has spent all of COVID-19 in the Dragongate dojo beefing up at a rapid rate. He was small and inexperienced when he came into the company last year, and now he’s growing in both size and experience. He’s the one I’ll have my eye on in this match. I hope he pins that rotten, no-good Shachihoko BOY. Prediction: Punch Tominaga & Jimmy
Jon: I’ve been riding the Jimmy train since he and Drastick Boy first turned up in Dragongate in June of last year. Since then, his career highlights are self-inflicted battle royal eliminations where he couldn’t resist his luchador instinct to dive over the top rope. I will not get off of this train. His newly added bulk may have impacted his ability to take flight, but recent outings (including a singles against Masaaki Mochizuki!) have kept me encouraged. I’m excited to see what he can do with a mobile vet like Shachihoko BOY, and if Ho Ho Lun and Punch Tominaga want to come hang out I guess that’s fine too. Prediction: Punch Tominaga & Jimmy
Mike: We don’t get a lot of Shachihoko BOY anymore. That’s a shame, but I’m really interested in seeing face off against Jimmy, who I named as one of Dragongate’s hustlers and heekseekers. Case already mentioned his membership in bulk club, but I’m hoping a strong performance here gets him a better position on future cards. Prediction: Punch Tominaga & Jimmy
Ben-K, Strong Machine J & Dragon Dia vs. Masato Yoshino, Susumu Yokosuka & Ryo Saito
Case: It’s hard to believe this isn’t a title match. Ben-K, Strong Machine J, and wrestling’s most exciting prospect Dragon Dia captured the Triangle Gate belts on 2/29, right before everything shut down. They defended the gold at an empty arena show against Yoshino, Don Fujii, and Yasushi Kanda, and now Yoshino is back with an arguably stronger team, but this time the belts aren’t on the line.
Dragon Dia and Susumu Yokosuka are the key players in this bout. Yokosuka has had a mammoth year outside of the promotion and within DG, he’s still feared and protected. His chemistry with Dragon Dia has been exceptional. I expect those two to tear it up. Ben-K and Masato Yoshino are always an interesting pairing, as well. I think Saito is eating the fall in order to build up another Triangle defense with a stronger Toryumon unit. Prediction: Ben-K, Strong Machine J, & Dragon Dia
Jon: Susumu Yokosuka takes a break from singlehandedly re-establishing tired title belts to join his Toryumon cohorts against the reigning Triangle Gate champs, a group of likely successors to their positions atop the Dragongate food chain. Strong Machine J’s slowly starting to put it all together, and after Ben-K’s Dream Gate run left him feeling like an unstoppable force, a remarkable quarantine bulk-up has him looking the part as well. Then of course, there’s Dia. Dragon Dia’s push this year has consistently turned heads and with good reason; he’s 21 years old and he navigates the ropes and air like someone who’s been in the ring that long.
The ceiling on Dia matches is set by his opponents’ ability to help keep things compelling while kicking his ass, before he begins one of his spellbinding comebacks. In that regard we’re in good hands with the Yoshino, Susumu and Saito lineup; in fact, when it comes to a clash between the past and future it’s tough to find a stronger lineup on either end. Hell of an opener. The string of losses that Yoshino’s suffered this month seem to be leading somewhere, and I assume it continues here with him falling to the surging Dragon Dia. Prediction: Ben-K, Strong Machine J & Dragon Dia
Mike: It’s Wakayama, so it makes sense that not all champions are defending; Wakayama is a tier below the “Big Five” shows, so we get the Triangle Gate champions in the opener. This Triangle Gate team has been a lot of fun as it’s three of the guys that Dragongate will depend upon well after everyone on the Toryumon-gun side has hung it up. This team of vets is really interesting: Susumu just dropped the AJPW World Jr Title, SaiRyo is dangerous when the time comes, and oh yea, the former ace of the promotion, Masato Yoshino is still retiring by year’s end.
If Yoshino didn’t already challenge for the Triangle Gate on the Rainbow Gate shows, I’d think that the vets could win to set up a future title challenge. Dragon Dia is the most “sure thing” prospect in the company: he’s a short list contender for Most Improved, I think he’s only limited by the laws of motion, and he’s not even close to his potential. I think it’s pretty clear that the champion team will win this match, but it’s going to be riveting who will eat the fall. Ryo Saito’s the obvious choice, but with Yoshino talking a lot more falls before he retires, and Susumu finally able to drop falls since dropping the outside belt, I can see any of the vets eating the Reptilian Rana. Prediction: Ben-K, Strong Machine J, & Dragon Dia
KAI & Taketo Kamei vs. Kagetora & Kento Kobune
Case: Here we go. This is why you wake up at 3 in the morning. It’s not to watch big title matches or see feuds progress. No, it’s to watch Kento Kobune and Taketo Kamei go to WAR with one another. Kobune and Kamei debuted around Christmas time last year and have been attached at the hip ever since. Kamei feels like a Dragon System kid. He’s built weird, he moves weird, he is weird. He’ll make a fine Open the Brave Gate champion one day. Kento Kobune, on the other hand, is built like a future ace. He has a bit more size and a bit more beef than Kamei, so I’m pumped to see him and KAI slug it out in Wakayama. This should be a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing Kamei eat a pin by way of Kagetora. Prediction: Kagetora & Kento Kobune
Jon: The spotlight here should be on Kamei and Kobune, who seem to be the top priorities of this most recent crop of dojo products. If we’re looking at this match’s potential to bang however, it’s worth taking a glance at the veterans they’re sharing a ring with. Kagetora’s been out of the spotlight for what seems like ages now, but he’s still shown out when given the opportunity this year. He kicked it off with a grueling match of clashing styles against Hikaru Sato that turned out to be the best bout of AJPW’s Junior Heavyweight Title tourney, and all things considered that momentum’s carried through to his strong showing against Keisuke Okuda in Kobe this month. He’s still got an attention grabbing moveset, and will make for a great base and counter to Kamei’s aerial leanings. Meanwhile, KAI, with that film star smile and slight air of aloofness that make me think of him as a Japanese Tony Micelli, is the sort of high caliber big guy (strictly by Dragongate standards, of course) I’ve been waiting to watch Kobune trade some elbows with. He should have ample opportunity to turn heads before eating a Meteo Impact for the pin. Prediction: KAI & Taketo Kamei
Mike: For a long time, the younger generation was my safe place of refuge in a promotion that wasn’t doing a ton of stuff I loved (the end of YAMATO’s last Dream Gate reign until the return of PAC’s). There could be top line matches that were just not for me, but I would feel fulfilled by watching the progress of your Ben-K’s and your Shun Skywalker’s. Things are a lot more different now in Dragongate, but the best wrestling school in the world has continued in producing incredible young wrestlers. Stalwarts KAI and Kagetora find themselves teaming up with the leaders of the current class of rookies in Taketo Kamei and Kento Kobune. Kobune is the prospect of this class with the highest ceiling as it is very easy to see a world that in five to ten years, he will be main eventing Kobe World. That’s not to say that Kamei is without a solid future, it’s just more unpredictable. Kamei could be a Dream Gate champion, or he could be a career-long fall post. Neither would surprise me. Interestingly enough, I was more drawn to Kamei than Kobune, as his raw ability is more interesting to me than a “sure thing.” Considering the vets in here, I feel more likely that with KAI in the next big show main event, that he’d win to keep up momentum. Prediction: KAI & Taketo Kamei
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Kzy vs. Yasushi Kanda
Case: I don’t know what to make of this match. Kzy already challenged Doi for the title and failed. Where does he go from here? Why is this a singles match? Kzy has a history of killing it in random singles matches, a la him vs. Shun Skywalker at World last year, so I trust that this match will be decent, even if Kanda is no Shun Skywalker. I have a hard time believing Kanda will win this. Prediction: Kzy
Jon: In other promotions I’d be speculating as to what possible angles are being set up here. It’s a welcome relief that with Dragongate, I’m pretty sure this was just thrown together to gift us a Kzy singles match. Kzy seems to be taking small steps toward cleaning up his appearance (NWA parody shirt notwithstanding), which could be something to keep an eye on in terms of future viability as a Dream Gate holder. Yasushi Kanda’s not the ideal opponent, but hey, I bet Kzy’ll sell the fuck out of a John Woo. Prediction: Kzy
Mike: Last year, Kzy was a highlight of the big shows with a standout performance with Shun Skywalker at Kobe World 2019. He’s in a similar role in this show, but instead of facing an up-and-comer, he’s got the Toryumon original Yasushi Kanda. Since turning face, Kanda dropped all his “rudest of the rude” sleaze, and he’s just a pleasant surprise of the undercard. Unless some wacky result is lined up, Kzy’s gonna win and it’ll be interesting to see what’s up next for Mr. February. Prediction: Kzy
Ultimo Dragon & Don Fujii vs. Masaaki Mochizuki & Gamma
Case: Boy do I like this match. Mochizuki and Fujii paired on opposite sides of one another is a wonderful sight to see. I typically worry about Ultimo Dragon on big shows, as he tends to slow down young talent and occasionally parade over them. Mochizuki and Gamma are going to be able to work at his pace and likely grapple with the legend in an entertaining fashion. Given that Fujii and Ultimo are aligned with a unit, I see Gamma taking the fall by way of Ultimo. Prediction: Ultimo Dragon & Don Fujii
Jon: Mochizuki’s largely kept himself on the sidelines of the Dragongate generational war, freeing himself up to get into different hijinx over in Pro Wrestling NOAH. This match on paper feels more like four older dudes who wanted to fuck around together than it does part of canon. From that perspective, it could be a lot of fun. Mochi and Fujii will briefly wail on each other, Gamma will have to find an entirely new identity unable to spit on anybody, and we’ll all sit patiently through the Ultimo greatest hits until he magistrals Mochizuki and sends him back to the meaner old men of NOAH. Prediction: Ultimo Dragon & Don Fuji
Name: These are some really interesting teams that make this more than a throwaway match. The MochiFujii dynamic is one where I know these long time friends will tee off on each other given the opportunity. Ultimo is likely to play the hits: do a spinning back elbow, take down a double team with a joint headscissors/headlock takeover, and tease the Asai Moonsault with no intent towards actually doing it. If either Gamma or Mochizuki manage to draw Ultimo out of his routine, this has the chance to be more interesting than a WAR offer match. Prediction: Ultimo Dragon & Don Fujii
3 Stable War Wakayama Rules Tornado Winning Match
YAMATO, Yosuke Santa Maria & Keisuke Okuda vs. Dragon Kid, Shuji Kondo & Genki Horiguchi vs Big R Shimizu, Kaito Ishida & Diamante
The three teams will participate in a Wakayama themed lottery before the match to determine order of entry (1st, 2nd, 3rd). The match will begin as a 3 way singles match. The next member of each team will enter at 1 minute intervals based in the order determined by the lottery. The match will proceed under tornado tag rules until all participants have entered. The match is single elimination. A team is eliminated when one member is defeated. It is possible for a team to be eliminated before all members have entered the match.
Case: It has been a long time since we’ve gotten a truly wacky multi-man match. This is the type of stuff that I would like to see more of from the company. As more and more promotions lean into multi-man matches as a selling point, Dragongate can still stand out from the pack because no one does a gimmick match quite like them. My eyes immediately dart to Okuda and Ishida, 2020’s unequivocal feud of the year, as something to look forward to in this bout. We’ll once again see YAMATO and Big R Shimizu tangle with Shuji Kondo, both of whom have shown to have excellent chemistry with the recent Toryumon import. I think Kondo’s destiny is to lead a Triangle Gate team into the future, so I see Kondo scoring the pin on either Maria or Diamante to win it for his trio. Prediction: Dragon Kid, Shuji Kondo, & Genki Horiguchi
Jon: The Dangerous Gate cage match, with its likelihood to stir things up between the factions, now looms on the horizon, and there’s reason to believe we’ll see plenty of groundwork laid in this show. Specifically, in this match. All eyes should be on Kaito Ishida, and it goes beyond his feud with Keisuke Okuda, the most compelling program in the company right now. Really, your eyes should have always been on Ishida. As the spritely Kick Boy standing behind the likes of DoiYoshi and Dragon Kid, he already possessed the makings of a star. The smooth transition from eager gaze to nonchalant glare that accompanied his induction into RED came with a nuance that 24 year olds have no business possessing. He and Okuda are certain to make sparks fly, and at the end he’ll likely have a microphone in his hand, stringing things along. If and when dissension comes to a head in the RED ranks, he’s bound to figure in prominently, and remember: Eita’s not the only one who beat Doi in King of Gate; Ishida did too.
On a more immediate level, Shuji Kondo’s return to the Dragon System has brought a welcome influx of physicality and tassels. I’ve been foaming at the mouth for a match between him and Big R Shimizu since they first shoulder blocked one another, and I look forward to the two colliding here. Something’s bound to happen between Kondo and Kid, but while we’re waiting, set these two big boys loose on each other, I beg. Shuji will win in his first big show since returning, and I’m guessing Okuda and Ishida factor in somehow. Prediction: Dragon Kid, Shuji Kondo & Genki Horiguchi
Mike: It’s been a long time since one of the Dragon System’s convoluted multi-team matches, so it’s fitting that Wakyama gets one in order to have something with a level of stakes outside of the title matches. Moreso than usual, this has a real menagerie of a R.E.D. team, with the most interesting feud in wrestling having participants in this. Somehow, Dragongate managed to maintain an incredibly compelling storyline between Kaito Ishida and Keisuke Okuda with enough twists and turns, that I figure that they will figure into the finish.
Shuji Kondo teaming with Dragon Kid is still something that will always have me put up my Betrayal Radar. They have too much history to not explode after a while. For now, I imagine them to play nice until Kondo decides to turn on his biggest rival.
With a match in this format, it’s kind of difficult to imagine what the eliminations are who the winners will be. Will Ishida create another dirty win scenario as a way to entice Okuda into R.E.D.? Is this when the Kondo/DK powder keg explode? Is Shimizu going to continue his losing 2020 and create more strife within R.E.D.? I’m leaning towards Toryumon-gun. They should milk this DK/Kondo teaming for all its worth before having the obvious conclusion of a Kondo turn. Prediction: Dragon Kid, Shuji Kondo & Genki Horiguchi
Open the Twin Gate Championship Match
BxB Hulk & Kazma Sakamoto (c) vs Jason Lee & Kota Minoura
Case: Given that the main event of Dangerous Gate is already set in stone and that BxB Hulk is one of the participants in the six-way cage match, I think we get new champions here. Dragongate has made a post-quarantine point to elevate Kota Minoura and Jason Lee is someone that has been sniffing the title scene for years now. Sakamoto is protected incredibly well, but it is well within reason to suspect that Minoura, who is white hot, can score a pinfall on the big man. I see it happening, I hope it happens, and given the output we’ve seen from BxB Hulk since crowds have returned, I think this has the potential to be a truly great match. He’s the X Factor. If Hulk delivers, this match is launching straight into spreadsheet territory. It’ll be interesting to see if the match can be salvaged if he drags down the other three. Prediction: Jason Lee & Kota Minoura
Jon: You know, I really loved the Mochizuki Dojo boys: Shun Skywalker, who could take your breath away at any moment; Yuki Yoshioka, whose ring slickness belied his inexperience; and Hyo Watanabe, exhibiting both fierce athleticism and a cattiness toward his peers befitting of his leopard print trunks. Then there was Kota Minoura. What can you say about Kota Minoura? No seriously, I’m asking. Minoura seemed to have an uncanny in-ring ability to make you completely forget the prior 8 to 10 minutes of your life. If you’d put a gun to my head and asked me to tell you anything at all about Kota Minoura, I’d respond with a peace sign. It’s not that he was bad, but on the other hand maybe he was; I couldn’t really tell you.
That all changed in Kyoto on the 4th, where Minoura stole the entire show in a 15 minute draw with Big R Shimizu, and he’s been shit-hot ever since. He’s got new gear, a creative and suplex-heavy moveset and I’m hard pressed to think of a more able teammate than Jason Lee. I’ve been dying to see more of Lee in the title scene, but I’m less optimistic than Case that they’ll pull off the victory. I do expect fireworks though. Kazma’s been a tragically underrated in-ring performer for some time now, while BxB’s shown a knack for surprising doubters who think he’s got nothing left in the tank. Prediction: BxB Hulk & Kazma Sakamoto
Mike: The sudden elevation of Kota Minoura has been one of the biggest storylines in Dragongate since the promotion returned with crowds. A new set of gear, an insane new finisher (Gear, A Package Tiger Driver), and notable success against established stars are all indicators that we are in the midst of a Minoura full-court press. Minoura’s team with Jason Lee is still in its early days, but the rising star and the cornerstone of Dragongate’s undercard has a lot of long-term potential.
Since winning the Twin Gate in a tournament, the title has drifted into the shadows. There were constant developments within the Dream and Brave title scene, but Hulk and Kazma merely exist and few would know that they were the champions outside of them bringing the belts out during their entrances. Hulk’s been anchoring the Twin division since he returned from a broken neck, and this is likely the ceiling of Kazma’s push within the company.
They can easily have the R.E.D. team retain and people shouldn’t blink. Minoura coming up short in his first serious challenge is a storyline like Dragongate loves to run and it wouldn’t hinder his elevation. Lee might be so good at his role at holding together undercard matches that it becomes near impossible to shake that role. I think there are more opportunities with a Minoura/Lee champion team, and that R.E.D. goes 0-2 in title matches in Wakayama Prediction: Kota Minoura & Jason Lee
Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
Naruki Doi (c) vs. Eita
Case: Eita has been embarrassed in the buildup to this match. Since fans have returned, he’s been on the losing side of all of his house show matches and has been pinned cleanly in Kobe, Osaka, and Korakuen Hall. This either sets Eita up in a position to lose and then splinter away from R.E.D., or he’s going to win in a convoluted main event akin to what New Japan has been doing with EVIL. I pray it’s the former. We’ve seen in these limited capacity environments that uber-heel heat does not work. The crowds only react to straight wrestling matches. I don’t think Eita has any shot at pinning Doi cleanly, so he better be taking a Bakatare to the face. Prediction: Naruki Doi
Jon: The path to this match has been a joy to watch, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Eita marched through a murderer’s row of heavily pushed opponents en route to winning the King of Gate tournament in May. He cleared out all three members of the current Triangle Gate squad cleanly – including being the first man to pin Strong Machine J – and then topped it off by submitting the reigning Dream Gate champion, Naruki Doi himself. Ever since however, Eita’s been trampled repeatedly by the ol’ Bosou Muscle, taking pinfall losses in each of their last three televised encounters. That said, I’m inclined to look at an alternative factor in picking this winner – the Muscular Bomb.
Doi’s super-nuke of a finisher, one of the best-protected maneuvers in professional wrestling, had spent some time on the shelf (likely for its high risk of injury) before being dusted off in December of 2013 to put a Millenials-era Eita away for the Twin Gate belts. From what I can tell, the move went back on hiatus until Doi needed it again in 2018 to close out a difficult King of Gate bout. The recipient? You guessed it: Eita. Sure, the Muscular Bomb’s appeared more now that Doi’s the Dream Gate champ, but when you’ve got someone as eager and adept at plunging their head and neck into the canvas as Eita, you simply must take them up on it. I expect Naruki Doi to have his hand raised, fresh silver hair dye dripping down his face. Eita, when free of RED chicanery, is still one of the most exciting in-ring talents in the company, so it’s good that a loss here along with rising tensions between him, BxB Hulk and Big R seem to point toward a coming face turn. Prediction: Naruki Doi
Mike: Since leaving Over Generation in 2017, Eita has been the straw that stirs Dragongate’s drink. He’s been the leader of the heel unit since 2018, and most of the bigger storylines within the company have orbited around Eita. However, he has also been allergic to the Dream Gate scene, and this will be his first ever title shot as his career closes in on his ten year milestone. Eita’s the R.E.D. leader because he and the company tell us he’s the leader, but not through his actions and the crowd’s perception of him.
It’s the Eita problem; Dragongate spent 2020 trying to solve it, and I don’t know if this is the solution. Most of this year, Eita’s been the foil in Masato Yoshino’s impending retirement. That focus somewhat changed as Eita won the King of Gate tournament, defeating Naruki Doi in the finals. Since El Numero Uno became El Numero Uno, he’s openly refused his title shot because how much his focus has been pulled towards Yoshino. Naruki Doi had to threaten revoking his Dream Key at the go home show in Kobe for Eita to actually commit to this match. He’s lost three straight matches since King of Gate against Naruki Doi, and all of the falls have been directly Doi pinning Eita. The 2020 King of Gate is coming into this match with ZERO momentum.
Naruki Doi’s title reign has been a tremendous success. First he had DG’s current match of the year with Kzy in February, and he defeated Susumu Yokosuka with little effort in March. He’s the leader of Toryumon-gun, and fans don’t need reminding of that. Doi also finds himself with not many obvious challengers coming out of this, and the company has already announced the next big show main event, and it’s not going to be a Dream Gate defense (that’s not uncommon with shows having a cage match, but it’s something worth noting.)
Eita probably needs to win this match. Having the Dream Gate around his waist would surely cement him as the main eventer the company desperately wants to portray him as. It’s also incredibly risky for the company to have him win both in ring and outside of it. An Eita Dream Gate win would likely be full of R.E.D. interference and completely deflating. There’s not a ton of evidence to lead me to believe that the fans would take to him as champion. Doi is a known quantity. Dream Gate challengers usually lose in their first challenge. DG might want to send the crowd home happy. Maybe having him term face in the few months is the right move in the future, but who knows if the crowd will ever get behind him at the level that the company sees him at.
It’s the Eita problem; and I’m not confident that Dragongate solves that in one night. Prediction: Naruki Doi