“For Your Consideration is a number of columns from our writers here at Voices of Wrestling talking about their favorite matches of 2020. These matches don’t have to be their number 1 match of the year, and in fact, don’t even have to necessarily be in their top 10 for the MOTY poll that this series will lead in to. These simply have to be matches that each particular writer thought were important enough to write about and highlight. I hope you enjoy this look back at what are likely to be some of the hidden gems and standout matches of 2020. I hope it is able to make 2020 just a little bit better or a least help your MOTY list be a little more complete. At the very least it should get you looking forward to Match of the Year season and hopefully get you looking forward to where some of these may place in the VOW MOTY poll in the next few months.”
VOW MOTY 2020 For Your Consideration Archives: voicesofwrestling.com/category/vow-latest/columns/2020-match-of-the-year/for-your-consideration/
OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH – EITA DEF. NARUKI DOI
DRAGONGATE MEMORIAL GATE
AUGUST 2, 2020
By Case Lowe (@_InYourCase)
The story goes that Eita almost never returned to Japan from his Mexico-based excursion in 2013. The Nagano-born prospect was so in love with the style of wrestling and the overall cultural experience that it took an army to get him to pack his bags and head back home.
Had Eita stayed in Mexico, he likely would’ve become a trusted hand on the Mexican independent scene. He proved in Dragon Gate USA that he could win over American audiences. Eita could’ve become a local stalwart in a pre-boom PWG. He would’ve blazed a similar trail to what the Lucha Brothers did.
Instead, Eita returned to Japan and after years of false starts and missed opportunities, he finally delivered when it counted most. On August 2nd, 2020, Eita delivered the best match of his career.
With this win, Eita becomes the 31st Open the Dream Gate Champion as Doi falls in his third defense.
Why Eita’s win is important has already been discussed, but how Eita won needs to be looked at more in depth. There’s a decent chunk of this match that is not exciting. The opening grappling did nothing for me. It’s a Dream Gate match, I expect it, but I still have to mention it. These weren’t exactly two titans of industry scraping together on the canvas. The early portions were a part of a larger feeling out process for a match that, as I soon realized, was laid out for a bigger and better stage. No disrespect to the fine people in Wakayama, but watching this match, it is clear that from the moment Naruki Doi hit the Doi 555 to Eita from the ring to the floor, that this was their Kobe World match.
Eita might not ever headline Dragongate’s biggest show, but he wrestled like he was on the biggest stage possible in this match. Only his performance against Jushin Thunder Liger can compare to this bout, and with all due respect to Liger and the Super J Cup, that was ultimately a midcard match in Korakuen Hall. This was the main event of a big show for the biggest title in the company that Eita calls home.
This match captured the big match feel in a way that has been absent from wrestling since March. The weight of the stakes in this match were evident. When Referee Yagi went down after a minor bump, I feared an R.E.D. train attack and a convoluted finish that would fail to get over in front of a muted crowd. Eita attempted a low blow but Doi countered. Yagi went down again. Doi once again countered a low blow. Finally, on the third attempt, Eita did what he has done to so many Dragongate top stars by kicking Doi low. The champion survived, however, forcing BxB Hulk to offer up a chair to his stablemate.
Eita looked at the chair, took the chair, and then threw the chair away. That is not how Eita wanted to win this match.
The limb work from the opening portions began to pay off. Eita had focused all of his efforts onto Doi’s arm, and shortly after throwing away the chair, Eita locked in Numero Uno and pushed Doi to the brink. The champion survived, but Eita had all of the momentum.
A second attempt at the Doi 555, this one taking place firmly in the ring, was landed but Doi’s attempt at the Bakatare Sliding Kick was met with Eita’s signature superkick. Doi recovered, and realizing he had exhausted all but one of his efforts, went for the dreaded Muscular Bomb. His first attempt was countered and produced a deep two count that the crowd bit into. His second attempt connected, garnering shrieks from a crowd that had been asked to stay silent due to COVID-19 protocol. The Muscular Bomb is that deadly of a move. It broke CIMA’s neck, it won him countless titles, but it wasn’t enough to put away Eita.
Eita, now a man possessed, battled back and clocked Doi with his superkick before locking in the Numero Uno once more, this time right after the half hour mark, and this time, forcing Naruki Doi to submit.
In the aftermath of this match, Eita’s Dream Gate run sputtered. He defended the title successfully against Kzy three months after winning the belt. His reign felt like an afterthought, which unfortunately seemed to mirror most of his career.
Eita has many different points in his career that will make us ask “what could’ve been?” Had he stayed in Mexico, that would’ve opened up a world of possibilities. Had he left with CIMA, he would’ve been just another chess piece in the OWE conglomerate. Had his Dream Gate run happened at another point in time, perhaps he could’ve come across like a bigger star. In the end, though, Eita’s career remains a portrait of imperfections. The beauty of this match against Doi, on the other hand, is near-perfection. It is the best thing Eita has ever done.
This was the match of Eita’s life. ****3/4
Open the Brave Gate Championship – Keisuke Okuda def. Kaito Ishida
Dragongate Gate of Destiny 2020
November 3, 2020
By Rich Kraetsch (@voiceswrestling)
This year has been one of great change. Our entire lives have been flipped upside down by COVID-19. Where we eat, where we work, who we see, what we do, it’s all been radically changed to such a degree that the lives we took for granted before February/March 2020 seem like decades ago.
For me personally, the change of 2020 came in many forms. I, like many, worked from home during the first peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in America. Once the curve had been (slightly) flattened and many public officials deemed it safe for Americans to return to work, I was back in the office, working at the same desk I worked at in January of 2020, same people, same job. It was at least one shred of normalcy and regularity.
How I approached my workday was very different though. I work at a fitness-related company and as such, I work with a number of fitness-minded people. We produce and sell fitness equipment so obviously there is a built-in passion. Lunch hours are typically spent at the gym our company has outfitted in the second floor of our offices. Everyone has their semi-set times, their workout buddies, their routines. When I returned to the office in May 2020, I was surprised to see so many of my fellow co-workers immediately jump back into their routine. “I’m going up!” the common phrase uttered when someone was about to take their lunch break in the upstairs workout facility.
I never uttered those words though. Living with an ICU nurse consistently taking care of COVID patients has made me apprehensive and careful. Going upstairs to an included gym with poor ventilation and a bunch of my co-workers? No thank you.
Normally, I would have filled the workout gap with another favorite past-time of employees are my work: basketball. But… our gym was closed. While we did play outside from time-to-time, it was not enough to replace the 3-4 times per week we intensely played an hour’s worth of basketball on our lunch breaks.
No gym at the office, no basketball gym. I was going stir-crazy. I needed to get out, I needed to exercise, I needed fresh air.
That’s when I began a new routine. A change in my life. My office borders a cemetery with a pretty extensive 2-3 mile walking path. I needed the exercise, the path was right there. Why not. Soon, I harkened back to the early 1900s when city-dwellers would escape the polluted, disgusting air of the city and picnic in suburban cemeteries. That was me. Every day I’d walk 2-3 miles, rain or shine. Soon I began watching wrestling while on those walks. There was never anyone there, it’s a freaking cemetery, why not? So each day around 1-2pm, I’d charge up my phone, charge up my wireless headphones and go for a cemetery walk.
On one of those walks, another change in my life became obvious. Long I’ve been a wrestling fan that loved the epics. The big matches. The long matches. The huge matches. I wanted my wrestling to look, feel and be important. To me, important came in the form of a long-form wrestling match. 20-30 minutes. Kickouts. Bombs. I lived for the epic. In 2020, things changed. With fans reduced to clapping, lower capacities or no capacities, those epics didn’t hit the same way. Instead, they began to feel like chores. My tastes dramatically changed and now I was way more into compact, tight match structures. My regular life was a boring, mundane trudge through the post-COVID isolated world. Give me some action, give me some excitement!
One November afternoon, I got that. Oh boy did I get that.
Dragongate Gate of Destiny. Keisuke Okuda. Kaito Ishida. Open the Brave Gate Championship.
I won’t go into the build for this match because our very own Mike Spears already did. The cliff notes are: these guys hate one another and wanted to prove they were better than their opponent.
The bell rings and immediately, this is a Rich Kraetsch match. The two are brawling at the bell. Caged animals ripping at the flesh of their prey. Two minutes in, three minutes in, five minutes in. The intensity never stopped. The hatred never stopped. Strike exchanges. Kick exchanges. Taunts. Yelling. Screaming. Pain. Sweat. Fuck… seven minutes, eight minutes, nine minutes. It never slowed down, it never stopped. Two men who want nothing more than to maim, kill and defeat their opponent.
My heart sank when members of Ishida’s hated R.E.D. stable climbed onto the apron to hit Okuda with their famed box. Instead, Okuda’s unit partner and legit best-friend Ben-K, the former Open the Dream Gate champion sprung into action, he attacked the R.E.D. guys and sent them away.
The match was one-on-one again. Okuda vs. Ishida. Okuda then caught Ishida in a chokehold and took him down to the mat. Okuda, who has an extensive history in martial arts, executed the simple move perfectly and with his added experience is able to add an element of danger to the move few can.
Ishida tried like hell to get to the ropes, to escape, to call his friends in R.E.D. to come help. It was worthless. There was no escape. But Ishida was not going to go down like that. He wouldn’t give his hated rival the pleasure. As the referee pleaded with Ishida to tap out and end the match, he slowly faded until finally, he passed out.
The ref called the match. It was over. Ishida’s 364-day reign as Open the Brave Gate champion was done and one of the best matches of 2020 was over.
Sometimes wrestling has to hit you at the right time, the right place, the right moment. That was this match for me. There may have been better overall matches in 2020. Maybe. No match hit me on such a visceral level though. No other match had me pumping my fist and jumping up and down while I walked through a maze of concrete shadowed by gravestones. No other match made me feel, if only for 10 minutes, like my world hadn’t completely changed. I was able to lose all the stress of my family members getting sick, my wife wearing head-to-toe PPE to avoid exposure, the upcoming election, my isolation depression… it all went away for those 10 minutes. I was able to feel normal again.
When pro wrestling is great. There are few things greater. Okuda vs. Ishida. Gate of Destiny 2020 was that greatness. It was the type of match I’ve come to love in 2020. It was an escape from reality. It was everything other wrestling companies I once loved were no longer giving me. It was, to me, the definitive match of 2020. I haven’t made my MOTY 2020 list final but this match will be on it. The only question now is will it top my list?