DRAGON GATE
KOBE WORLD PRO-WRESTLING FESTIVAL
NOVEMBER 15, 2020
KOBE WORLD KINEN HALL
KOBE, JAPAN

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
KEISUKE OKUDA DEF. KAITO ISHIDA 

With this win, Okuda has made his first successful defense of the Open the Brave Gate title, defending the belt against the man that he won it from less than two weeks ago

Just as they’ve done in their three prior matches this year, Okuda and Ishida gleefully beat each other up in short, compact fashion. Their first match ended abruptly after six minutes after a countout victory was awarded to Ishida. A rematch the following month, this time for the Brave Gate belt, was a near-fifteen minute assault on the body. Ishida and Okuda unloaded on each other in the empty arena setting. At Dangerous Gate, their clash was slightly over 10 minutes and it ended with Okuda choking out Ishida. The loser protested, claiming that the referee was crooked, and thus the rematch was set. 

Despite the series now being 2-2, this felt like a definitive end to what has been the runaway feud of the year in 2020. This will go down as one of the historically great Brave Gate programs that Dragongate has ever done. Throughout the year, DG elevated Okuda to a level that I never thought was possible when he first debuted with the promotion and in the process, pushed Ishida to the brink of stardom. Ishida is so hot coming off of this run that I think it’s appropriate for him to lose his way up the card. Now that the Brave Gate belt is behind him, the only thing that should be in his sights is the Dream Gate title. 

Okuda survived an early onslaught of attacks targeted towards his ankle with steel chairs. The champion hobbled his way back, smashing his knee directly into the face of Ishida with not only running knee strikes, but his patented Lights Out finish. After hitting his finish, Okuda, troubled by his knee, hesitated for just a moment, allowing Ishida to kick out during the eventual cover. 

That was Ishida’s last moment of hope. He was soon locked in the same choke that beat him at Gate of Destiny after a half-and-half suplex failed to be effective. Okuda put the choke back on and submitted his challenger. These two have proven, together, they can do no wrong. ****

BATTLE ROYAL
HYO DEF. SUPER SHISA, KONOMAMA ICHIKAWA, SHACHIHOKO BOY, GAMMA, PROBLEM DRAGON, DIAMANTE, HO HO LUN, & JIMMY  

HYO survived a relatively entertaining battle royal by defeating Problem Dragon, among others. The true highlight of the match was Jae’s English commentary and Ho Ho Lun taking a direct path from elimination to the announcer’s table. It was truly funnier than any time WWE threw an announcer in the Royal Rumble. Jae and Lun have genuine, bizarre chemistry that actively enhances the product. Jae is the best commentator in wrestling right now outside of Excalibur and Tony Schiavone. While he provided encyclopedic knowledge and in-depth commentary throughout the show, it was here, while he was cracking jokes with Lun, that the English commentary was at their best. **1/2 

With the win, HYO gets any in-ring opportunity that he wants. He held off on announcing his challenge after discussing it with his RED partners.  

MADOKA KIKUTA & TAKETO KAMEI DEF. BOKU R SHIMIZU & RYO SAITO 

If you haven’t invested time into the DG Class of 2020 yet, you’re behind. Since August, I’ve been screaming about how talented these kids are and how DG has shown a tremendous amount of trust in them. They are not being handled with kid gloves. Really, Kikuta, Kamei, and SBK were thrown into the fire upon their debuts. Despite the fact that all of the current rookies (Sora Fujikawa included) are 25 or younger, they’ve been treated by adults. They’ve been treated like pros. They earned respect on the cards instantly and they have yet to disappoint. 

This was originally supposed to be the rookies against Saito and Genki Horiguchi, but Ultimo Dragon recorded a high temperature and forced the card to be shuffled around. Shimizu, who was initially supposed to be in the battle royal, put forth a valiant effort against Kikuta, who is firmly solidifying himself as a Shingo-esque power junior. It was with the plucky Kamei, however, that Shimizu did his best work. Those two have strangely good chemistry built off of the fact that Shimizu is an excellent base and Kamei is dangerously creative. Going forth, I hope they have much more in-ring time with one another. This was the best Shimizu performance in months and it was entirely thanks to the rookies pushing themselves to make a statement on the biggest show of their young careers. 

Saito narrowly avoided Kikuta’s discus lariat once, leading to a thrilling flash pin sequence with Kamei. Saito escaped danger once, but couldn’t do it a second time. After ending things with Kamei, Saito was once again in the line of fire and was clubbed to death by the power of Kikuta. The rookies do not miss. They continue to win. ***1/2 

DON FUJII, GENKI HORIGUCHI, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, & TARU DEF. K-NESS, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, TARO NOHASHI, & YASUSHI KANDA 

Let’s talk about TARU. 

TARU is a Koji Kitao trainee, just like Masaaki Mochizuki. He spent the first three years of his career in WAR before hopping to Toryumon for their debut show. He became a staple in Crazy MAX, the most popular unit in the history of the Dragon System. In fact, TARU remained in Crazy MAX his entire career in the Dragon System as his final show in Dragon Gate was the show in which Crazy MAX announced they were disbanding. Despite being a part of two of the best matches in Toryumon history (the main event of World 2002 and the biggest Crazy MAX vs. Italian Connection six-man in September 2002), he was largely inconsequential in those matches and largely bad outside of those battles. After leaving Dragon Gate on bad terms in 2004, he became a sleaze king and a prominent act in All Japan, ZERO-ONE, and Tenryu Project. 

I didn’t have a place in my heart for a TARU return, but this needed to happen. DG is leaving no stone unturned as they mend old wounds. This was a symbolic gesture that meant more to the native fans than it did to the Western viewer. Did it overstay its welcome? Probably. But I understand why they did what they did. 

Luckily, TARU did nothing in this match. He threw a few kicks, didn’t bump at all, and then pinned the notoriously fragile K-Ness with a TARU Driller. It was the combination of Mochizuki, Yokosuka, and the Toryumon X trainee and current Michinoku Pro kingpin Toru Nohashi that carried the workload. Nohashi is genuinely fun to watch and took a disgusting amount of punishment in this match. I wouldn’t hate seeing his face more during these Toryumon vanity matches. 

My major concern coming out of this match is that Ultimo Dragon was unable to wrestle, which unfortunately keeps the door ajar for another TARU sighting. **3/4 

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DRAGON DIA DEF. DIA INFERNO 

The result was not as definitive as it may look on paper. After five minutes of electric action, Dia Inferno began ripping at the mask of Dragon Dia and eventually pulled the mask off, causing the DQ. 

It’s annoying to have a non-finish on the biggest show of the year but I’m going to let it play out. Their chemistry was outstanding. This felt like a special match prior to the finish. Dia is an established enough star now that when Inferno comes up with specific counters for his signature moves, it registers as a big deal. Dia is also a big enough star to get a live rendition of his theme song. That ruled. 

The future of this feud is up in the air. It’s clear they’re leading to a mask vs. mask match. When it happens is up for debate. DG did a mask vs. hair match in Fukuoka two years ago for Final Gate 2018. It would seem strange to do that same stipulation in the same building two years later, but if I were a betting man that’s where I’d put my money. 

I can’t call this a waste of time as the story was logical and the work was thrilling, I just wish it didn’t happen on this show. NR

MASATO YOSHINO, NARUKI DOI, & TORU OWASHI DEF. KZY, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & STRONG MACHINE J 

YAMATO was initially slotted in this match but was forced to move into the Twin Gate match after Jason Lee was removed from the show for cautionary reasons. Tominaga, who is not technically a member of the Dragongate Generation anymore, but rather a full-time member of Team Boku, filled in. 

The work in this match was entirely overshadowed by the announcement made earlier in the night that next year, Dragongate would run two nights in Kobe World Kinen Hall on July 31 and August 1 with the second night marking the end of Masato Yoshino’s career. This is the right call. Yoshino’s retirement will be a spectacle and hopefully, we will be past facemasks, clap crowds, and COVID by the time August rolls around. Whether that is realistic or not, I honestly do not know. 

Luckily, Yoshino will have another go-around at World Hall to show why he’s one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live. This was a fine exhibition affair. I enjoyed some of the counter wrestling between Doi and Tominaga, but with the bulk of the match being carried by the latter, this never had a chance of being any good. Yoshino won after submitting Tominaga with the Sol Naciente. ***

OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
BXB HULK & KAI DEF. KOTA MINOURA & YAMATO (c)

BxB Hulk and KAI become the 50th Open the Twin Gate Champions after winning the vacant belts in this decision match. The belts were vacated once Jason Lee was pulled from this show. 

The structure of this match was bizarre. Things lacked structure early on. KAI and YAMATO brawled like they were waiting to be pulled apart by young boys but the brawling was done at the start of the match, not at the end. I feared that the match would be plagued by mindless brawling, but the match eventually settled and the two teams found their groove. 

Kota Minoura has shown just how incompetent most wrestling bookers are. Minoura was a hyped prospect, albeit a non-factor on the roster heading into COVID. As soon as shows with fans returned in July, Minoura went on a wild winning streak, highlighted by winning the Twin Gate belts in August. His Twin Gate run proved that he can hang with the guys on the top of the cards. This match proved that Minoura can be the focal point of a high profile match and a leader in the ring. Hulk and KAI were not going to make this a great match. They were going to play their part and it was up to the babyface team to work with them. That’s exactly what they did. Minoura bumped his ass off en route to a heated encounter. 

Minoura survived a First Flash from Hulk and a powerbomb from KAI, but the former Muto-trainee reached into his bag of tricks and dropped Minoura with the Meteo Impact KAI for the win. ***3/4 

OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
KAZMA SAKAMOTO, SB KENTO, & TAKASHI YOSHIDA (c) DEF. BEN-K, U-T, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA AND DRAGON KID, KAGETORA, & MASATO YOSHINO 

The RED trio made their first successful defense of the Open the Triangle Gate Championships with their win here. 

After spending an entire week hyping up Shuji Kondo’s interactions with U-T, Kondo was pulled for precautionary health reasons. In his place was “X”, who turned out to be 11-time Triangle Gate Champion Masato Yoshino. As soon as Yoshino walked out behind the curtain, I knew SBK was submitting him. 

This was not the Triangle Gate epic that I had hoped for, but the character building done by SBK was nearly worthy of five stars on its own. This was his show. He completely took control of a match featuring last year’s headliner in Ben-K, an established star in Dragon Kid, and a bonafide legend in Masato Yoshino. They all fell in line behind the dominance of SBK, who not only tapped out U-T after a hard-hitting affair, but doused Masato Yoshino in powder before locking on the SB Shooter to submit Masato Yoshino. 

Yoshino has spent this year taking more falls than he normally would (most of them by way of RED), but for SBK, who was born in 2000 and who is less than a year into his pro career to submit one of the single most important figures in the history of the company is a huge deal. ***1/2 




OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
SHUN SKYWALKER DEF. EITA (c)

Shun Skywalker, in his first match back from a ten-month excursion in Mexico, defeated Eita to become the thirty-second Open the Dream Gate Champion in history. Despite only one successful defense, Eita’s reign as champion lasted 105 days. 

Skywalker’s victory is not lightning in the bottle. It is a chapter in a larger story being told in a narrative that will conclude if he beats Ben-K to retain the title inext month at Final Gate. This match has been building since Skywalker put on the costume for the first time in November 2016. He spent two years in opening matches designed to showcase his flying abilities. After linking up with Masaaki Mochizuki in the 2018 All Japan Junior Tag League, Skywalker came back to his home promotion and began building momentum that would carry him through the start of 2019 and the Rookie Ranking Tournament. Skywalker ran through Dragon Dia, Yuki Yoshioka, and Kaito Ishida en route to winning the tournament. He then beat Ben-K the next month in the middle of the ring in Korakuen Hall. 

Skywalker fell short when he challenged PAC for the title in March 2019 and then began being consumed by failure. He lost singles matches to Kzy, Susumu Yokosuka, and Masato Yoshino before losing to Ben-K last December and then hightailing it off to Mexico. 

Had it not been for COVID, Skywalker would’ve been a hot topic in the wrestling industry this year. He was set to find his groove in Mexico and then head to the States briefly before returning back home. Because of COVID and Skywalker being stationed in Mexico, we lost out on the excursion journey that, say, Akira Tozawa had when he was stateside in 2010. Instead, Skywalker became out of sight, out of mind, but that doesn’t mean that this win was a flash in the pan. 

What made this match standout were the new moves that Skywalker brought to the table. He used a llave-inspired lucha submission that looked like it was ripped from a Black Terry Jr match. He took a leap of faith suicide dive that ended up acting as more of a shoot headbutt to Eita’s stomach. Then, despite all of the brutal maneuvers these two dished out on one another, and this match was brutal, Shun busted out a Blue Thunder Driver for the win. 

It was a mature performance from a man who stepped away from the spotlight in order to grow. 

Eita and Skywalker beat each other up in a match that reaffirms the notion that a new era of Dragongate is upon us. These two pummeled each other. The counters were not done with speed and agility, but rather with power and force. The abrupt finish felt like a bantamweight knockout. It was the right move and the right time and for Skywalker, it led to the right result. 

Eita led the company in a time when it needed stability and he did it well. His reign was unspectacular, but that’s arguably what it needed to be. Skywalker’s win symbolizes the bright future that is ahead for Dragongate. With his win, Skywalker became the second member of the class of 2016 to win the company’s top prize. 

The fact that four years ago, Skywalker was a faceless rookie in black tights and now he’s the credible leader of Japan’s hottest promotion is a testament to the talent development, booking, and overall execution of the promotion. Skywalker was not a prodigy. His journey was meticulous and precise. That journey has led us to now, Shun Skywalker holding Dragongate’s most important title over his head on the biggest show of the year. 

This story represents everything Dragongate does better than anyone else. ****

Final Thoughts:

Kobe World was not a show of the year contender, but it maintained its reputation as one of the most important shows on the wrestling calendar. This show featured everything I want from a Kobe World show: great matches, pageantry, and big moments. While I was hoping that we’d exit this show with a match of the year contender to solidify Dragongate’s place as the promotion of the year, we got a steady show that featured everything Dragongate is doing well in the moment. A huge thumbs up for Dragongate’s 2020 Kobe World Pro-Wrestling Festival.