THE FINAL GATE 2020
DECEMBER 20, 2020
FUKUOKA KOKUSAI CENTER
HAKATA, FUKUOKA PREFECTURE, JAPAN
Watch: Dragongate Network
MEET OUR PREVIEWERS:
- Mike Spears (@fujiiheya): Co-Host of Open the Voice Gate & Everything Elite, Mike will try to keep the Eyes Wide Shut jokes about Masquerade to a minimum.
- Jon Hernandez (@fatmansalright): Jon’s sad that he plowed through the new season of Big Mouth too fast, but it’s alright because Punch Tominaga is pretty much just Coach Steve anyway.
- Griffin Peltier (@HiImGriffinP): Jumped into Dragongate fandom earlier in the year and has not looked back. Griffin is excited to watch his first Unit Disbands match.
Super Shisa, Gamma & Ho Ho Lun vs. Yosuke Santa Maria, Problem Dragon & Taketo Kamei
Mike: Everyone who’s top priority is DG gets brought in for main shows, so that’s why we get this real assortment of who is left over. This won’t get any time and if it’s longer than six minutes I’ll be stunned. The key match-up viewers should hope for is significant time between Super Shisa and Taketo Kamei. I’m the high person on Kamei out of this rookie class. He’s somewhat undersized but is probably the most physically charismatic out of the five, and already “gets” what he should be doing as a character more so than anyone else. Anytime there’s a potential to see Shisa grapple with someone new, I’m here for it. Kamei was just bequeathed the Torbellino from Masato Yoshino, so I figure that will be the finish. Prediction: Maria, Dragon & Kamei
Jon: Like Mike said, the focus will be on Kamei and hopefully we’ll get our first glimpse at his Torbellino. For me, the highlight will come after the match when Ho Ho breathlessly arrives at the English commentary booth, interrupting Jae mid-thought and overflowing with curious wonder. Prediction: Maria, Dragon & Kamei
Griffin: As the others have said, this will be a nice focus on Kamei. Kikuta and SB KENTo have had their chance to shine recently so hopefully this brings us the start of a push up the card for Kamei. I hope my favorite English commentator gets some shine in the match – after all, he shines light in my heart. Prediction: Maria, Dragon & Kamei
Jason Lee vs Takashi Yoshida
Mike: Boy, they couldn’t have wedged Yoshida and Lee into the multi-team match, couldn’t they? I love Jason Lee, but a Cyber Kong singles match in 2020 is D I R E. Although he’s a Triangle Gate champion with SBK and Kazma, Yoshida seems on the outs of R.E.D. (mark the box of “Kong has drama with his heel unit every three years”) Lee’s in a weird position in the new Masquerade unit: He’s the recent Twin Gate champion, but the most likely fall post for the group unless something changes. Suspect either Yoshida’s drama to cost him the match or him to run through Lee here. Since there’s a Disbands match on this show, going with the first. Prediction: Jason Lee
Jon: There is absolutely no reason for this match to be here other than to progress the tensions brewing between Yoshida and the rest of R.E.D. It’s a shame Lee got pulled away from Minoura and the rest of his Masquerade partners to get stuck on Cyber Kong duty, but if anyone’s going to make this watchable it’s our boy Jason. I wouldn’t be surprised if SBKento himself makes an uninvited appearance, and maybe as a byproduct we can get something going between SBK and Lee? That sounds way more palatable than trying to figure out where Yoshida’s story is headed. Prediction: Jason Lee
Griffin: While I may be new to Dragongate, I’ve long heard stories about the man, the myth, the legend Cyber Kong. This should be a very interesting match and I’ve been super impressed by Jason Lee over the last calendar year. He’s come a long way since when I first saw him in the Cruiserweight Classic. He’s been killing it and the Twin Gate run a few months ago showed that he’s able to have a fun match against nearly anybody. Let’s hope that’s the case here. Prediction: Jason Lee
Team Boku (Ryo Saito, Bokutimo Dragon & Punch Tominaga) vs. Toryumon Generation (K-ness., Konomama Ichikawa & Shachihoko Boy)
Mike: This will be an outright comedy match starring one of the all-time best comedy wrestlers ever in Konomama Ichikawa against a team of absolute jokesters. For those who are parachuting back into Dragongate, the former Big R/Ryotsu Shimizu is now doing a comedic parody of Ultimo Dragon. It’s something that might seem a bit discouraging for big match Shimizu fans, but he is absolutely excellent in his homage of the Principal to the point where Ultimo is going to be teaming with him and Team Boku in the future. I don’t think this will be the long-term/permanent future of Shimizu as he’s so young and says he has a lot of other parodies prepared if he loses. We also get a version of Ultimo’s theme, “Seperados,” being played without muting because Bokutimo sung it, so that’s nice too. Prediction: Team Boku
Jon: Throughout the ongoing Shimizu identity crisis, I’ve been an unabashed cheerleader. He’s leapt into every role, from incompetent R.E.D. henchman to retreading his old anime-goof gimmick, with wholehearted commitment. Even if you’d been disappointed in his trajectory moving further from “upper-card ass thrasher”, he’s never stopped flexing as a performer. All the while, between the bells he remained the same overachieving Shimizu. And that’s why I’m a little less enthusiastic about the Bokutimo Dragon gimmick, even if it is objectively a hit.
His adoption of Ultimo’s mannerisms and moves, and the resulting interplay with his Boku-mates has been super funny, especially in its occasional blunders, but how many matches can we possibly squeeze out of Shimizu doing (a very good) Ultimo role play? I’m hopeful that the two teaming together could add some new possibilities and longevity, and there’s always the small possibility that Shimizu ends somebody’s life by following through with the Asai Moonsault. That said, if you’re not like me, and you haven’t already watched six Dragongate shows this month, Shimizu’s routine is must-see at least once. Punch’s in-ring value has been rejuvenated by Boku’s fun team offense, Shachihoko Boy still looks great in spots like this, and Bokutimo Dragon v. Ichikawa is a superfight where yuks are concerned. Prediction: Team Boku
Griffin: I’ve had plenty of conversations with the fellow Dragongate viewers in the Voices of Wrestling Slack regarding Shimizu since he left R.E.D. I was not a fan of either of his post Big R gimmicks but I’ve become such a big fan of this Bokutimo Dragon parody that I’ve completely turned my opinion around on his comedy side. Team Boku has become a personal highlight and I catch myself laughing along with their promos and pre-match riffs despite not knowing a single word of Japanese. I am very excited for the Bokutimo and Ichikawa matchup in this one and I hope we see Bokutimo crush someone with the Asai Moonsault at some point, but maybe not this night. Prediction: Team Boku
Powered by RedCircle
6-Man 4-Way Tag Team Match
Toryumon Generation (Ultimo Dragon, Yasushi Kanda & Shuji Kondo) vs. Dragongate Generation (YAMATO, Kzy, U-T) vs. Masquerade (Kota Minoura, Dragon Dia & La Estrella) vs. R.E.D. (Diamante, Kazma Sakamoto & Dia Inferno)
Mike: The trademark match of the Dragon System returns, and the focus will be on the newly formed Masquerade unit and the newly debuted La Estrella. As I’ve talked about it on Open The Voice Gate, they already have the ring work and chemistry between the group figured out, the bigger hurdle ahead of them is going to form a connection with the local fans, as none of the five are particularly good talkers at this juncture of their careers. La Estrella debuted on the December 15th Korakuen with a shocking debut upset of the mainstay Susumu Yokosuka. It’s not lazy for people to see the similarities to former Dragon System wrestler SUGI, because it is plain as day how inspired Estrella is by that style of wrestling and he same energy of “I want to look away because this really might go wrong, but I have to see this guy try this” that Hayabusa, Shun Skywalker and SUGI all have had.
The rest of the teams are pretty by the book. R.E.D. has the people left out of the disbands match and Inferno to play off of Dia (that feud seems to be on the backburner at the moment. The ideal conclusion is an apuestas, but it seems more likely for Dead or Alive in May at this point.) Dragongate Generation has the people who aren’t really doing anything of note right now, and U-T to grapple with Ultimo and to take the fall when they are eliminated. Toryumon Generation has a combination that I’m intrigued to see on paper as Ultimo Dragon doesn’t do these kinds of matches often, Yasushi Kanda is good at the moment, but not having some sort of renaissance, and Kondo isn’t in the disbands match. Given time and the right combinations in the ring, and this could live up the history of the Dragon System multi-team match. Prediction: Masquerade
Jon: The strongest case for Dragongate making all the moves you wish your favorite promotion would can be summed up by one look at Masquerade. Their initial four members – Skywalker, Minoura, Lee and Dia – all were on the receiving ends of tremendous pushes this year, all already having proven themselves as in-ring commodities, and now together make up the most exciting grouping in pro wrestling. And if you discount Jason Lee, they’re all 24 or younger! They had their coming out party over DG’s Hokkaido triple header earlier this month, where they worked off one another like they’d been doing it for years, circling opponents in unison like vultures. Since then, they’ve added La Estrella whose debut on the 15th exhibited a positively buckwild moveset. He’s just perfect for a Dragongate twelve-man sprint.
Dia and Inferno are gonna clash, and their exchanges have only grown in intensity. The DG squad is as good of an in-ring lineup as they have available. Lastly, Ultimo Dragon has been busting his ass when he’s in there with his nephew Diamante, so not even he’s gonna bring this one down. I’m willing to make the bold prediction that this match fuckin’ rules. Prediction: R.E.D.
Griffin: This will definitely be a fun one! Since they came to the ring wearing their cool masks, Masquerade shot up to become my favourite stable in the promotion, and maybe even the world. They’ve got a great look and they can back it up in the ring. We’ve got great wrestlers on all teams and the mismatch of talent should provide some fun exchanges. Dragon Dia and Dia Inferno’s feud continues and I can’t wait to see what La Estrella brings next after his impressive debut in Korakuen earlier in the month. Don’t sleep on Diamante, he’s improved so much since I first saw him mucking around in CMLL and has become a great pickup for Dragongate. I expect some wild stuff that’s a lot of fun to watch. I think this is Masquerade’s match to win, firmly establishing them before the Generation War comes to an official end. Prediction: Masquerade
Open The Brave Gate Championship
Keisuke Okuda (c) vs Kagetora
Mike: I’m very glad right now that Kagetora is motivated with this title shot as he’s someone who needs something to sink his teeth into for him to put forth full effort. Keisuke Okuda has shut the door on his Feud of the Year with Kaito Ishida, and now we get to the intriguing part of his Brave Gate reign as he will face newer challengers. The build up to this has been heated as one would expect for an Okuda feud.
Kagetora’s been furious with Okuda in the lead up for this, which is noteworthy given how relatively laconic he is. He’s also had the advantage in the skirmishes in the lead up, winning the majority of the matches with both of their involvement. There’s been nice sequences between the two in these skirmishes that lead me to believe that this will be a match that brings out the best of Okuda and Kagetora. I do not think that Kagetora is in line for a championship reign, let alone being someone of interest going into 2021, so I expect this to be a tight match where they show off that chemistry, but Keisuke Okuda will retain after choking Kagetora out. Prediction: Okuda
Jon: Look, we all know by this point that Okuda rules. But, as I often say, what about Kagetora? He’s prone to fluctuating effort levels, but I don’t think that’s been the case in 2020! He’s been a gem in any number of zero-consequences tag matches throughout the generational war. And his year’s been perfectly bookended – he began it with the AJPW Jr. title tournament where, given some space to shine, just came up short against Hikaru Satu in a fantastic bout. He’ll end it with a title match against a guy who simply can’t miss this year.
Look, at the end of the day this is where Kagetora peaks. At his best, he’s still just Kagetora. And this match is obviously here to feed Okuda an easy Brave Gate defense to end the year. It’ll go ten minutes, it won’t steal the show, but it’ll draw praise from anyone who’s paying attention. You know, like a Kagetora match. Prediction: Okuda
Griffin: Keisuke Okuda is firmly in my list as a Top 10 Worker of the Year after his wonderful feud with Kaito Ishida. Their matches at The Gate of Destiny and Kobe Pro-Wrestling Festival (which I rated at 5 stars and 4.75 stars, respectively) are among my favorites of the year. I’m really high on him and this match should be another good one. I’m not too familiar with Kagetora but I’ve heard good things and I know this should be a fun little match. As Mike said, the little glimpses we’ve gotten between the two competitors has been good and I can’t wait to see what a full-blown match brings us. I think there’s too much stock in Okuda after that wonderful feud that there’s no way he’s not ending the year on top. I expect big things from Okuda in the new year. Prediction: Keisuke Okuda
Open The Twin Gate Championship
R.E.D. (BxB Hulk & KAI) (c) vs MochiFujii (Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fujii)
Mike: This is a match that puts a lot of the qualms I’ve had about the Twin Gate division at the forefront. Since Kobe World 2018, there have been 22 Twin Gate matches. Either Hulk, KAI or YAMATO have been in 15 of them. We had a reprieve this year with the excellent Jason Lee & Kota Minoura title reign, but Hulk, KAI and YAMATO have overwhelmed the division to the point where it completely colors my view of every Twin Gate match.
R.E.D. will likely win, but for just shaking things up I hope they go with one of the best Twin Gate teams in the company’s history in MochiFujii. Masaaki Mochizuki has been doing things in other companies this year due to sitting out of the Generational War, but still is the best wrestler who is active above the age of 50. Don Fujii’s last month has been some of the most solid stuff in his career and he qualifies for an AARP card as well. I just want a break from those three dominating this division at this point. As well, I don’t know what really a Hulk and KAI reign accomplishes right now other than giving two would be main eventers something to do. Let’s hear it for our rowdy uncles and hope they have the only title change in Fukuoka. Prediction: MochiFujii
Jon: Lots of meat on the bone here. I’m probably alone in this one, but in the neverending KAI-YAMATO-Hulk triangle, YAMATO’s the one who’s stopped interesting me. He’s this untouchable ham, and it’s more interesting to watch those who’ve been forced to operate in his orbit. Hulk returned from injury like a geyser of spite, and KAI’s been great in his transformation from YAMATO’s doting Launchpad McQuack into “fuck you, dad” personified. But what now? Free of YAMATO, I wonder if these two are just sitting at the back of the bus like the end of The Graduate, you know?
I don’t know if it’s “smart” to stick the belts on MochiFujii, but it would certainly rule. It could offer the palette cleansing we almost got with that outstanding, all-too-brief Minoura-Lee reign. It would also be a great way to put Mochizuki back in the mix. Sure, Fujii’s felt inspired lately, but let’s not make light of Masaaki Mochizuki’s 2020. Over in NOAH, Mochizuki claimed the tag belts in a war against AXIZ, and then had a very strong N1 campaign that concluded with a total banger (and clean win!) against Go Shiozaki. A pair of serendipitously placed Doi Darts gave us a preview of this match in a Korakuen-closing showdown between Mochy and Hulk. We could have some real angry old dude violence on our hands here. Prediction: R.E.D.
Griffin: Unlike Mike, I’ve actively enjoyed the overarching Hulk, KAI and YAMATO story regarding the Twin Gate. It has helped me situate myself in the storyline, so I look at it with fresh eyes as I’ve only jumped into the company since the start of the year. I do like the pairing of Hulk and KAI, even if I know it does not make too much sense story wise and that the matches are not the most exciting things on the card. I’ve long heard good things about both Fujii and Mochizuki and it was a lot of fun watching them team this month. With the disbands match still to come, I think Hulk and KAI win this one and continue their pairing no matter what. Prediction: R.E.D.
Losing Unit Must Disband
No Disqualification Elimination Match
Toryumon Generation (Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, Dragon Kid, Susumu Yokosuka & Genki Horiguchi) vs R.E.D. (Eita, Kaito Ishida, H * Y * O, SB KENTo & Hip Hop Kikuta)
Mike: This is the first Losers Disband match since Over Generation disbanded in the summer of 2018. Realistically, this will be one of the endpoints of the Generational War as Eita’s crusades against Masato Yoshino and Ultimo Dragon comes to a head in one of Dragongate’s biggest stipulation matches. Here is a statistic that everyone should keep in mind when we talk about Disbands matches: in the history of the Dragon System when the heel unit has been in the match, they’ve only been forced to disband twice (Deep Drunkers and Mad Blankey). The odds are not on the Toryumon Generation’s side, and if there was ever an oddsmaker who offered Dragongate odds, one should always take the safe bet in the heel unit winning.
That all being said, here’s the argument for Toryumon Generation winning and disbanding R.E.D: R.E.D. is now in their third year, which is incredibly long for true heel units. Only Mad Blankey existed for longer. Eita’s had a long run as a heel so it could be about time to turn him face, so losing this match would propel him to do that. More so than anything else, What do you do with Masato Yoshino for the last eight months of his career if he’s not teaming with Toryumon guys?
This match will have some of the eldest in the company going against a team with the two youngest guys in the promotion. The No DQ stipulation greatly plays into a freewheeling style that brings out the best of these ten guys. No one does elimination matches like Dragongate and we will be in for a treat. Maybe Larry Dallas has sent more barbed wire to Eita? Could Genki have a special rubber band attack? How about Kikuta and SBK, what does getting down and dirty mean to them? This is the match I’m most looking forward to on this card, not just because of the possibilities within this match, but how Disbands matches change the complexion of Dragongate for good. Prediction: R.E.D.
Jon: Some of my favorite aspects of the buildup to this match kind of get swept away in the enormity of its implications. First, for all of Eita’s crusading to end Toryumon, it was fucking H * Y * O of all people who was able to make this happen. You also have got to love Genki, faced with the weight of HYO’s challenge, calling upon his mentor Ultimo Dragon for guidance who could only offer, “Do whatever the hell you want bro, I’m tryna hang with these Boku dudes.”
And really, that’s the story of this match. Most of the Toryumon Generation’s cornerstone pieces have moved on one way or another – Ultimo, Doi and Saito in Team Boku; Fujii pairing off with Mochi; Yoshino’s mentorship of Kamei. But as has been the case all year in Dragongate, it’s all in service of the next generation. R.E.D. will put DG’s past to pasture, in an effort led by the rookies HipHop Kikuta and SBKento, not to mention a Kaito Ishida who’s bound for the main event. Prediction: R.E.D.
Griffin: This is my first Losing Unit Must Disband match and I am very excited for it! Mike covered the dynamics pretty well and I just want to repeat that it’s amazing to see the contrast between the old Toryumon guys and the R.E.D. team. Eita is the oldest guy on the rudos side at just 29 years old. The rest of the R.E.D. team members are under 25 years old. Despite the Dragon Gate Generation representing the future of the company, this is the real battle between the old guard and the new guard. The No DQ stip will allow for some real fun and I’m very excited for some of these interactions in the match. I think we will get a strong showing from the youngsters and I think this will be the ultimate come out part for Kikuta and SBKENTo to close the fantastic year they’ve had.
I think the Toryumon Generation loses and this is the end of the Generation War, but I don’t think R.E.D. continues for too long past this match. I think there’s a lot of potential in a Kaito Ishida led stable of young guys to counteract Masquerade. Maybe the four young guys being in this match is leading to that? I don’t know. Prediction: R.E.D.
Open The Dream Gate Championship
Shun Skywalker (c) vs Ben-K
Mike: Shun Skywalker and Ben-K have been linked to each other since their debuts in 2016. Their careers will likely be a reflection of each other and the matches they have. Since becoming main roster members (tossing out pre-show draws, basically), the record stands at 3-1 Ben-K, with Shun’s only win coming after winning the Rookie Ranking Tournament in 2019 and challenging the absent Ben-K. I don’t know if this becomes this generation’s CIMA and Mochizuki or Shingo Takagi and BxB Hulk, but Shun and Ben are connected to each other for the remainder of their career in Dragongate.
This is also an incredibly bold main event with two men who have combined wrestled for less than a decade main eventing one of the bigger shows of DG’s year. They aren’t protecting Shun by giving his first defense against someone who they know is a safe draw like YAMATO, Doi or Yoshino, it’s Ben-K. That level of confidence is the purest distillation of Dragongate in 2020 where instead of other promotions being tempered in what they will attempt in this terrible year, Dragongate will be Dragongate. That reminds me of a Weekly Pro Wrestling cover that came out last year with PAC on the cover, with a caption that’s roughly translated as “Why be Number Two when you can be The Only One?” That’s DG’s 2020 in a nutshell. They’re the only promotion in the world outside of New Japan doing more than 2,000 attendance shows and they are doing it in their way, COVID or Not.
Back to Shun and Ben. The chemistry between the two has been excellent, and all of the pre-show skirmishes have had hot stretches with the two of them facing off and throwing bombs. My favorite new move of Shun Skywalker’s is his flying big boot. When Ben-K has taken it, it looks like a killshot each time. Masquerade vs Dragongate Generation seems like a major feud in the promotion as the Generation War wraps up, so this will be only the beginning of their clashes. My only worry is that this match is happening in Fukuoka, traditionally a very cold venue that will be more frigid with COVID restrictions. Even with that caveat, this match should be another key chapter in the singles feud of this generation. Prediction: Shun Skywalker
Jon: So many things have changed since Ben-K roughed up Shun Skywalker and sent him packing in December of last year, haven’t they? Then, Ben was in the home stretch of a Dream Gate runn (and preceding chase) that painted him as a completely unstoppable force. He’d run through King of Gate undefeated, he ended PAC’s reign of terror and was one-by-one toppling company legends. Of course he made easy work of his pal Shun. Shun was slumping, losing a string of special singles matches that began with Kzy at the very same Kobe World show that featured Ben’s big Dream Gate coronation. And those matches featured a very different Shun, one that was prone to yeeting himself over the top rope just minutes from the opening bell. A predilection for death-defying acrobatics and often not-much-else did little for his win-loss record.
So while Shun’s return from Mexico, Kobe World triumph over R.E.D., and ensuing dominant victories over Dragon Kid and Susumu have been fine enough, it’s really only in these past two weeks that this title reign’s taken hold with me. Starting with the second day of the Hokkaido triple shot, Shun’s been locking horns with Ben in tag matches where the growth comes into sharp focus. This Shun Skywalker doesn’t get ragdolled, or count on a desperation swan dive to turn the tide. This Shun stands in the pocket with Ben-K, DG’s fiercest, and serves it right back. On 12/5, Shun stopped Ben mid-Spear to hoist him into a powerbomb. It’s perhaps the Dragongate equivalent of catching a bullet with your bare hand. Shun’s going to win, harnessing all the newly acquired power and prowess we have to assume he picked up from Camuflaje and Demonio Infernal. Prediction: Shun Skywalker
Griffin: My first exposure to Shun Skywalker was watching him kick ass on the Mexico indies earlier in the year. Despite never watching him in Dragongate prior to watching the company, Shun’s return to the company against R.E.D. felt like such a big deal that I immediately knew that this guy was a star. Since then, he’s won the top prize and now leads Masquerade. I hope for continued success for him and his stable. Ben-K, on the other hand, has been a constant favorite to watch. He’s a really good power guy who shines against the faster and smaller guys (or guys who were smaller, Ben-K changes weight so much it’s hard to keep track). I think Shun’s new power game will help him overcome Ben-K and successfully defend the Dream Gate title. Masquerade stands tall tonight and finally put an end to the Dragon Gate Generation in Kobe later this month. Prediction: Shun Skywalker