Dragongate
Fantastic Gate Night One
December 2, 2020
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: dragongate.live

The first of two December Korakuens kicked off the conclusion of Dragongate’s climatic 2020 and the Three War Generation War.

Dragongate Generation (Ben-K, Kzy, Yosuke Santa Maria & Strong Machine J) Def. Ultimo Dragon, Kagetora, Gamma & Taketo Kamei

DGen did the show opening talk before a match which had the youngest in Dragongate (Kamei) team with the eldest (Ultimo). This had Strong Machine J’s first match since Kobe World 2020, as he clearly is still working out the bugs of his latest shoulder upgrade. SMJ has only appeared at big shows since dropping the Triangle Gate/needing repairs.

Outside of the usual shenanigans you’d see in an opening match with these eight wrestlers, and their revving up the crowd for the remainder show, the clear MVP of this match was Taketo Kamei. Coming up on his first anniversary, he was put in situations to display his potential as a tremendous plucky babyface. Kamei’s elders in DGen relished in putting the rookie through the paces, with the exchanges between Kamei and both Ben-K and SMJ as the highlights.

The rest of the opener was by the books: a well-executed good time where everyone had their moments to get the crowd psyched up for the remainder of the show. Kzy submitted Kamei after a few deep Kamei flash pin attempts with his Spider Twist submission. ***1/4

3-Way Tag Team Match
Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fujii Def. YAMATO & Keisuke Okuda, BxB Hulk & Kazma Sakamoto

This match was held under one fall to a finish rules versus the standard multiple falls that Dragongate uses for multi-way championship matches.

One of the great DG tag-teams, MochiFujii, riding again is cause for celebration. With a combined age of 102, both Don Fujii and Masaaki Mochizuki can go at the same level they were at when they were two-time Twin Gate champions in 2011 and 2012. They are the crankiest of old men and will beat up everyone and then go about their business. With Don Fujii’s direct pinfall on Twin Gate champion BxB Hulk, MochiFujii made a challenge for Final Gate to face Hulk and KAI in an attempt to become three-time champs.

This was a multi-team match that showcased the Dragon System’s signature style in multi-way matches. We got some light-hearted banter and failed teamwork between “amigos” Fujii and YAMATO, a sprint pace that only Dragongate excels at, surprisingly great teamwork between impromptu teams like YAMATO and Keisuke Okuda, and a blast of a finishing rush concluding with a misfire where Don Fujii ate the Sankakugeri to the Face from Mocchy, ducking Hulk’s First Flash and rolling him up with at Gedo Clutch. This was not an extremely high-level multi-team match (given the show, there’s no real way it could have hit that mark), but it was a blast and exciting to see the old men ride again. Also 52-year-old Masaaki Mochizuki did a superman tope suicida onto two people and it was awesome, and you got to love it. ***1/2

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Team Boku (Ryo Saito, Bokultimo Dragon & Punch Tominaga) Def. Toryumon Generation (Genki Horiguchi, Yasushi Kanda & Kenichiro Arai)

It’s time for us collectively to come to terms with what Team Boku, and what now Bokultimo Dragon, are. They are light-hearted comedy relief. It’s a clear transition out of the generation war into what Dragongate will be in 2021. Shimizu is clearly cycled into a comedy role. He’s still young so he can come out of this in a couple of years and could be built up into a Dream Gate contender. Could is the operative word there.

Team Boku came out in the prematch with Doi running down from the Orange Seats and Shimizu nowhere to be seen. They did a bit with the lights going out, playing off of Shun and Ultimo’s return, but then no one was in the ring “Seperados” played. Unlike when Ultimo comes out, there was no muting for copyright reasons, and Bokku R Shimizu came out as Bokultimo Dragon as it was him singing “Seperados.” This is what the former Big R Shimizu is up to, parody acts.

Bokultimo executed his parody/trademark moves well in this. Much like the opener of The Gate of Origin, this had Tominaga work the lion’s share for Team Boku. He was fine, but it’s ultimately going to be deflating to see a quality team have its least talented member in the match for four minutes out of the eight-minute match and another be an outright comedy worker. Bokultimo has a pleasant singing voice, so it’s not a total loss. Bokultimo won the fall for Team Boku on Genki Horiguchi with the Bokultimo style La Magistral. **1/2

Special Singles Match
Shun Skywalker Def. Susumu Yokosuka

This continued Shun Skywalker’s lone wolf run in Special Singles matches. Instead of having him face someone of a lower station like Yosuke Santa Maria and Jimmy, or a veteran of Dragon Kid or Kagetora’s level, the Open the Dream Gate champion faced off against one of the true workhorses of the company in Susumu Yokosuka.

I feel like the purpose of this series is less having people fed to the new Dream Gate champion, and more getting people used to who Shun Skywalker is now. He has picked up some solid looking holds in his time in Mexico, and it provides another facet to his heavy striking/heavy flying offense. There is a sense of Shun “powering up” though, and in the early going he easily shrugged off Yokosuka’s forearms. He’s a completely new star who reminds the fans of who he once was, and it’s important for fans to get used to “this” Shun.

Susumu got some trademark offense in, including a top rope exploder. However as it seemed he was kicking into the next gear, Shun Skywalker put him down in short order with a spinning STO, Standing Kneesault, and the devastating SSW (Pumphandle Blue Thunder Bomb). I find these series of matches very interesting and hard to apply a strict star rating towards: These aren’t squashes, so it’s not worth evaluating on that rubric. They aren’t sprints either, as it’s usually a flurry or two that the opponent gets in versus a back and forth clash. These matches are further familiarizing and bolstering Shun Skywalker’s claim in being “The Guy.” And this one did a great job of accomplishing that. ***1/2

Dragongate Generation (Kota Minoura, Jason Lee & Dragon Dia) Def. R.E.D. (KAI, Takashi Yoshida & Dia Inferno)

After the Dia versus Inferno feud reached a new level at The Gate of Origin with Dragon Dia snapping and getting disqualified and then brawling with Dia Inferno, we saw the next progression of this generational rivalry with Dragon Dia getting his first clean pin against Dia Inferno with the Reptilian.

This match very much was based around Dia and Inferno, but the other participants weren’t content enough to just be passengers. KAI’s role as an absolute egotistical jackass has been a delight. There are people who only stop by Dragongate occasionally and think KAI doesn’t work in this company, but R.E.D. KAI provides a much-needed flavor to the heel unit and provides him with a lot more of a runway before everyone wonders what’s the deal with him. Kota Minoura and Jason Lee’s excellent tag team work has continued post-Twin Gate, and Takashi Yoshida didn’t Yoshida it up and maybe rolled back the clock a few years. This is an undercard trios match that got some of the best out of all six wrestlers, and in a lot of ways over-delivered. ****

Post-match, Shun Skywalker came back out and revealed his alignment. He’s a member of the Dragongate Generation, but he’s not with them in this war for a reason. He’s forming a new unit and asked Dia, Lee and Minoura to join. A fifth member will join them in two weeks at the second December Korakuen. We are approaching the dying days of this war, and this will be a very interesting unit. I do not believe either of the four to be strong mic workers, but they are already a very cohesive trio and then the Open the Dream Gate Champion. If the new fifth member is stronger on interviews, then this has the makings of a truly special super face unit. Kzy and the Dragongate Generation took exception to this, and unlike Punch Tominaga whom they went “um okay bye,” there seems to be something heating up there between the two peer groups.

I feel like this fills in a very glaring piece in DG’s December. You can’t have a lone wolf champion in Dragongate. Shun Skywalker was going to get HIS unit sooner rather than later. We saw last year with Ben-K he never took off as being a lone wolf. These four form an extremely strong core, and I’m excited to see who the final piece is and how SSW-gun takes off in the future.

Toryumon Generation (Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, Shuji Kondo & Dragon Kid) Def. R.E.D. (Eita, Kaito Ishida, SB KENTo & H*Y*O)

The Toryumon Generation won via DQ after interference. Madoka Kikuta got involved and unmasked Dragon Kid and joined R.E.D. This makes two members of the Class of 2020 with the heels. Naturally, Taketo Kamei took exception to this and we got an impromptu ten-man main event.

Impromptu Main Event
R.E.D. (Eita, Kaito Ishida, SB KENTo, Madoka Kikuta & H*Y*O) Def. Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, Shuji Kondo, Dragon Kid & Taketo Kamei

It’s my prerogative, so I’m lumping these two matches together for my review and rating.

This was a display of why Dragongate is the best promotion in the world in 2020. The match itself was not truly exceptional, but the complete package of ring work, angles, and drama is miles away better than what any other promotion is doing right now. This company has the gumption to have three 20-year-olds in the main event and makes it work. They had four guys who have been doing this incredibly involved and athletic style longer than those three 20-year-olds have been alive, and the vets bring it every time. I don’t feel the need to hammer home the point of how difficult it is to do what Dragongate is doing in 2020, but as a long time fine, I feel like this year has mostly stacked up with pre-pandemic years. Don’t ever worry about Dragongate ya’ll, because Dragongate is doing GREAT.

We had one of the best tag teams of this generation, Masato Yoshino and Naruki Doi, Speed Muscle, turn back the clock and do some of their highlights. SB KENTo, who should be by acclamation the worldwide Rookie of the Year, going toe to toe with people twice his age. Kaito Ishida, who already has such a tremendous command of both his character and his wrestling, put a tremendous display of what a leading heel should be in 2020.

And then the turn. Madoka Kikuta, the “X-Factor” of his class making his claim as “a GUY” by ripping Dragon Kid’s mask off and then just destroying his tag team partner, Taketo Kamei’s. sternum with his Hand of God, the discus lariat. In the aftermath, Naruki Doi picked up the microphone and made the impromptu main event with Kamei joining the Toryumon side.

Kamei made his main event work, and Korakuen the loudest I’ve heard it in months, was behind him. The plucky underdog felt like he became a star until his other traitor classmate, SB KENTo wrecked him with a chair.

Kikuta, in his first match as a heel, planted Kamei with an aided Last Ride. After last gasp from Toryumon with Masato Yoshino going for the Lightning Spiral, H*Y*O hit him with a low blow and Kikuta gave Yoshino the Hand of God and got the pin on the retiring icon. After years of being the most protected man in the Dragon System, Masato Yoshino has taken a fall from two of its youngest members within four weeks. It’s impossible for me to judge one match here and then judge other one, but together with the angle and intrigue, Dragongate accomplished only what it can accomplish. ****1/4

The post-match had R.E.D. celebrate and H*Y*O announced that he’s invoking his wish given by winning the battle royal at Kobe World. At The Final Gate, it will be R.E.D. vs Toryumon Generation in a ten-man tag. No Disqualification and Elimination Rules. Losers must Disband. After about two years of Eita wanting to eliminate the Dragon System’s past, he will get the chance to do that, and the Toryumon Generation could make R.E.D. be only the third heel unit in 21 years to disband because of a match result.

Afterward, we had the highlight of Dragongate’s year, Doi Darts. Due to obvious reasons (and probably the wrestler’s safety), roster members threw the darts. It does the segment a disservice to attempt to review it. For DG fans, it’s one of our favorite things. The main event of the last Korakuen of the year is booked by throwing darts at a spinning board with everyone’s name on it. There’s been great moments over the years where El Lindaman almost attacked a child for constantly hitting his name, wrestlers diving out of the way of errant darts, and having to call Punch Tominaga to let him know he was booked. Just a tremendous time all around and from that we get our 12/15 Korakuen main event.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve said this on Open the Voice Gate a lot lately, but I have the utmost respect for how Dragongate’s booked their COVID era of wrestling. This company has zero fear and will not deviate given circumstances, and their fans respond to it more so than any other company’s fans who have to obey protocols. It’s truly remarkable. The first Korakuen of December was another instance of them sticking to their guns and giving viewers a true Dragongate experience that holds up to pre-COVID Dragongate. It’s yet another great entry point for new fans as within two and a half hours one gets the whole gamut of the Dragon System experience. The show itself hit all the notes it needed to, had some exceptional matches, and fully set the course to their last big show of the year, The Final Gate.