SEPTEMBER 21, 2020

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


A surprise dark match kicked off the show. This is the biggest platform Kobune has wrestled on to date and he proved exactly why he’s Dragongate’s brightest prospect. Early on, Jae, who provided English commentary solo for the first few matches before HoHo Lun joined him in the booth, was sure to note that HYO wanted to finish off the rookie as soon as possible. He never did that. Kobune survived to a time limit finish and by the end of the match was the aggressor as he had HYO locked in a modified Key Lock as time expired. **1/2 


This marks Kaito Ishida’s fourth defense as Open the Brave Gate Champion. 

In the build to this match, the white-hot and dominant Ishida demanded that this match be placed in the opening slot. Maria is a comedy wrestler more often than not, especially after her run as Open the Brave Gate Champion in 2016, and Ishida didn’t want to give her a legitimate big match. 

Maria caught the champion by surprise at the start of the match, nailing the Neraiuchi for a near-three count. Seeing this type of match in the opener on a big Dragongate show instead of the usual hodgepodge in the form of an eight-man tag match was so refreshing. Ishida bounced back quickly, eventually targeting Maria’s ankle on the ring apron before smashing her lower half with a stack of chairs. I continue to find Ishida’s heel work far more engaging than Eita’s. Ishida has the perfect balance of usual, tropey DG heel spots with the fire and intensity to make up for it in the closing stretch. 

The usual fire and intensity that Ishida brings to the aforementioned closing stretches was modified in this bout as he was on the defense. Maria stormed back after some brutal lower-half attacks and ran a fury of nearfalls on Ishida. She hit a second Neraiuchi but Ishida kicked out, then a third that saw HYO pull the referee out of the ring before the finish. These spots were perfectly timed. 

With the referee distracted, Ishida tossed a garbage bin on Maria’s head and swung for the fences with his patented kick. He connected, but Maria survived. A Bridging German Suplex couldn’t put the challenger down either. Finally, Ishida’s signature Tiger Suplex Hold put the challenger away. A brilliant way to start the show. Ishida, as he nears one year as Brave Gate Champion, could shortly solidify himself as one of the greatest champions the belt has ever seen. ****1/4 


Keisuke Okuda continued his warpath by leading his team of lower-rung roster fodder to a victory against an unaffiliated team. Removing U-T from the equation, who’s as talented as anyone on the roster but can never stay healthy, Okuda found himself with Problem Dragon, a perpetual loser, and Punch Tominaga, a perpetual loser who now looks like reunion-era Zach de la Rocha with his beard. I’m not sure if Okuda was more angry kicking in the chest of Gamma or tagging in Problem Dragon in this match. Either way, he secured the victory for his team by hitting the Lights Out on Kanda before throwing off his gloves and storming to the back as the rest of his team celebrated in the ring. **1/4 


As expected, this was the comedy portion of the evening. Ultimo has now assumed the role of commanding the easy-going tag match (which is what he should be doing), Mochizuki is in the midst of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s N1 tournament and was one day removed from a UWFi-inspired match with Kazushi Sakuraba, and on a big show, Genki Horiguchi is often the director of debauchery and shenanigans. Other people will be more into this than I was. I have a hard time sinking my teeth into a Shuji Kondo match that isn’t based around utter destruction. Kondo is white-hot right now. I want to see him working more intense matchups while his body is still allowing him to do so. 

That being said, Kondo did secure the comedy spot of the year as he went to hair-whip Genki Horiguchi but came up empty, as Horiguchi’s HAGE powers struck again. That got a legitimate laugh out of me. Outside of that, I found this to be largely skippable even if by no means was it offensively bad. **3/4 

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These two had the clubhouse leader for Dragongate’s Match of the Year back in February

Their title match in February, Doi’s hallmark defense in a short, albeit noteworthy reign, was a match built around stamina and durability as much as it was brutality. It took 24 minutes of Doi working Kzy’s neck and an eventual Muscular Bomb for Kzy to be defeated. 

This being their third high-profile match in the Tokyo area in the last two years, they threw all structure and passiveness aside. This was the Dragongate equivalent of a G1 sprint. Kzy struck first, but his early offensive flury was intercepted by Doi who blocked Kzy’s Mission Impossible dive, and in return, dropped Kzy with a Doi 555 from the apron to the floor. Disgusting. Kzy attempted to crawl back in the ring but was met with a Bakatare Sliding Kick for his troubles, sending Kzy to the floor yet again and forcing him to scrape his way back into the ring only a half-second before he was counted out. You will not see a better countout tease this year. 

Doi followed up with yet another Bakatare Sliding Kick that Kzy barely kicked out of. It was then that I knew Kzy had to win this match, or else he would’ve suffered a serious career setback. I loved the story of Doi simply destroying this guy who’s struggled to become the top tier player that he wants to be, but after the second Bakatare, anything other than a definitive win would’ve cut Kzy’s legs out from under him. 

Luckily, he did win. He bounced back and caught Doi in the Kumogarami, his new submission that he’s been trying to get over. Doi would eventually escape the submission, but not Kzy’s onslaught as Kzy hit his signature Kzy Time frog splash, then a Swanton Bomb, and then attempted yet another Kzy Time but Doi got his knees up on that attempt. Kzy ate a third Bakatare, but managed to survive long enough to put on a modified version of the Kumogarami, forcing Doi to tap in 11 minutes. 

This match was truly bizarre. It was worked at a frantic, exhausting pace in a tempo that few wrestlers could execute. The bumps were big, the drama was there, and the result was correct. This match delivered, even if it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. ****


The Dragongate Generation trio failed to secure their second defense of the titles. The R.E.D. trio are now the 70th Open the Triangle Gate Champions. 

This match was ugly. Ben-K got busted open, Strong Machine J appeared to aggravate his already-injured shoulder, and we had to watch Takashi Yoshida wrestle. Yet, in the midst of all of that chaos, these six men drastically overperformed and delivered a truly great Triangle Gate match. 

There have now been four different Open the Triangle Gate Champions this year. This calendar hellscape started with Diamante, Yoshida, & HYO holding the gold. They dropped the belts in February to the Toryumon team of Dragon Kid, Kenichiro Arai, & Ryo Saito, who fell in their first defense to the Ben-K-led trio who managed only one successful defense before losing them back to an R.E.D. group. I have no clue what they’re doing with these belts and the result of this match only confused me more, but I hope, if R.E.D. is going to hold these belts for a prolonged period of time, that this reign is used to give Diamante a larger platform. 

I cannot believe how good Diamante has become. He was a miserable worker his first few months in DG. I hated watching him work. The fact that he has been able to become not only competent, but really good in his current role is a huge testament to the Dragongate system. Diamante and Dragon Dia have chemistry that warrants an undercard singles match down the line. He’s not as exciting of a flyer as Dia is, but Diamante proved in this match that he can go to the air when he needs to. With the assist of Sakamoto and Yoshida, Diamante performed a back body drop/450 Splash combo that needs to be busted out in every big title match from here on out. 

Sakamoto, who debuted with DG two Dangerous Gates ago, scored the fall on Ben-K to secure the win. This was stiff and ugly in a way that most Dragongate matches aren’t. On paper, it’s going to be hard for me to be excited about any of the Triangle Gate defenses the new champions have, but this match blew away the low expectations that I had. ****


This marks the first successful defense for Lee & Minoura. 

It would be inaccurate to say that Jason Lee and Kota Minoura won this match. The correct phrasing is that they survived against two of Dragongate’s most legendary wrestlers. A lot of this match was Kota Minoura, who has been on a truly incredible winning streak as of late, taking big move after big move from Kid and Yokosuka. 

Minoura, whose debut was sandwiched in between the class of Ben-K, Shun Skywalker, and Hyo Watanabe and the 2020 class of Kento Kobune, Taketo Kamei, Madoka Kikuta, and Sora Fujikawa, has been unfairly slanted by the people that cover Dragongate (so, me). Minoura is barely 200 matches into his career. He debuted at 19 and won his first title at 21. It took Minoura 25 months to capture his first title, only two months off the pace of when YAMATO won his first title. Minoura was so quickly ushered into the normalcy of the Dragongate roster, finding a unit and gear that suited his personality so early in his career that we never got the chance to marvel at him as a dojo kid. He never had a chance to stand out because he blended in so effortlessly. This reign is his chance to do that. 

Jason Lee also delivered the goods in the biggest match of his career. He also survived an onslaught of huge moves from the veterans before eventually slowing Dragon Kid and hitting the Maximum Driver and the Hong Kong Tornado for the win. 

The slow build worked for this match. Dragon Kid has had a handful of matches like this over the last few years, namely his Brave Gate challenge vs. Flamita at Kobe World 2014, in which the slow build of the match played against DK’s usual formula, and as a result, his younger opponents came out stronger than they were going in. ***3/4 


The rules of this match can be found here, or you can watch the English version of the show in which Jae perfectly describes the rules of the match. Dragongate has continued to forge ahead with English commentary while Larry Dallas and Lenny Leonard are stuck in the States, moving Jae from chair three into the play-by-play role and bringing in HoHo Lun to provide sparse color commentary. Ultimately, the English voices designed to call this product are Leonard, the best-unsigned announcer (and one of the best announcers, period) in wrestling, Dallas, who’s Bobby Heenan-inspired character work plays well to the core product of Dragongate, and Jae, in a WCW-era Mike Tenay role to provide his second-to-none encyclopedic knowledge of the product, but the current incarnation of English commentary is also a success. Jae’s growth as a commentator has been a delightful thing to see. He’s speaking with confidence and a purpose. He led the listeners through the rules of this match in a clear and articulate way that most commentators simply could not do. Jae shined throughout this entire show, but it was the moment in between the Twin Gate match and the cage match that Jae did his best work. 

English commentary aside, there is no match in wrestling that duplicates the Dragongate cage match. It is a strange mix of highly intricate and detailed storytelling that is also widely accessible. Everyone should watch their cage matches. Everyone in wrestling, especially, should see what is possible when you think outside of the box. This year was no different. KAI turning on YAMATO to escape the cage was beautifully done, and KAI’s continued assistance to aid R.E.D. as the match progressed was really strong. Eita’s escape was perfectly timed. He climbed out fourth, leaving Yoshino and Shimizu to duke it out with Yoshino’s career on the line. 

The latter moments of the match with Yoshino fighting with everything he had left was beautiful. The full-scale R.E.D. interference was interrupted by Ultimo Dragon, Yoshino’s mentor, who ran down to the ring and nailed an Asai DDT on Shimizu in a moment that makes Ultimo’s return to DG entirely worth it. Yoshino escaped, keeping his hair and his career intact. Shimizu is out of R.E.D., out of the “Big R” nickname, and out of hair as he’ll have to revert back to a crew cut. 

Dragongate successfully changed course on a number of stories in one match. KAI turned on YAMATO and joined R.E.D., but in the process created a scenario in which Eita will now have to defend the Open the Dream Gate Championship against a member of the Dragongate Army. Yoshino, who announced at the end of last year that he would be retiring in 2020, had a discussion with Ryo Saito and Naruki Doi about possibly extending his retirement after the match. Then there’s Ryotsu Shimizu, a man who turned heel during the dying days of ANTIAS and since then went full-sleaze. He’s without a unit, forced to transform his entire career thanks to this loss. 

As always, the cage match was nothing other than a giant home run. ****1/2 

Final Thoughts

Dangerous Gate 2020 is nothing if not a show of the year contender. Dragongate’s first big show of the year will hopefully be a sign of what’s to come as they proceed with three PPVs in November and a big finale in Fukuoka at the end of the year. There’s no excuse not to watch this show. Dragongate provided tremendous English commentary on their own Network. The wrestling, as always, was flawless from the most consistent in-ring promotion in the world and the storytelling continues to be second-to-none. Dragongate’s Dangerous Gate 2020 solidifies the promotion’s case for being the best promotion of the year. In fact, no one is really close.