DECEMBER 20, 2020

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


All I wanted for Christmas was extended interactions from Taketo Kamei and Super Shisa. We got that, and thus, for the first time since March, I felt true joy. Kamei and Shisa are built to wrestle each other and I hope at some point they get an undercard singles match against one another in Kobe Sambo Hall. I know by now I’m beating the Super Shisa drum louder than anyone else, but he’s still terrific. Age hasn’t slowed down his tricked out, lucha-inspired grappling. 

Kamei was given the shine, as expected. He rolled up Gamma in five minutes with a jackknife cradle for the win, the rookie once again scoring a fall against a veteran. **1/2 


There was something strangely comforting about this match. I think I could’ve agented this match and the structure would’ve been roughly the same. Yoshida dominated the early portions, Lee made a fiery comeback, and then he eventually outlasted the clumsy giant. The highlight of this match is Jason Lee’s new purple hair. I respect anyone that is that dedicated to a new unit. Hopefully Jason Lee is awarded more big opportunities in 2021. **1/4 


It’s been one year since Konomama Ichikawa was unmasked and renamed by Naomichi Marufuji. He has since suffered a dozen or so crushing defeats this year with the lone exception being that he was on the winning side in the Doi Darts match last week. Unfortunately, his luck did not travel with him to Fukuoka. He was defeated in a blissful comedy match to end the year. NR


Fukuoka has been treated to some brilliant multi-man clusters over the last few years. This match can now safely join that club. As expected, this match was largely built around Masquerade flying all over the ring. I came into this match wanting Estrella vs. Kondo interactions and that’s exactly what I got. An early sequence pitting Estrella, Kondo, U-T, and Diamante against one another, with Kondo gaining the edge by easily launching Estrella across the ring. 

Estrella had a few minor timing issues in the early portions of this match. He is much better than most wrestlers are in their second official match, but he has had moments in both of his matches thus far where he’s looked like a guy with less than five matches under his belt. These are all minor tweaks that will surely be beaten out of his system as time goes along. The good news is that Estrella continues to deliver when it counts. He once again scored the SUGI-esque dropkick, this time following it up with a no-hands moonsault to the floor. That insane spot led to Minoura landing the Gang on Kzy and winning the match for his team. 

This was a wild collection of spots, all of which were laid out great. All four sides got a moment to shine and in the end, the team that needed the win scored the fall. Beautiful. ****


Flanked by a Dragongate Generation-Gracie Train, Keisuke Okuda made his second successful defense of the Open the Brave Gate Championship. 

The first 10 minutes of this match existed as perfectly acceptable wrestling. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t anything to be thrilled about. It certainly looked like a lower-end Okuda match for 2020. Kagetora came off the ropes in the midst of a stalemate and delivered what can only accurately be described as a running slap to the face, knocking Okuda to the ground and giving the challenger the momentum he had been looking for. That’s when this match turned. 

Okuda, fearing that his title reign could be over not long after it got started, began playing defense. He kicked out of the Gurumakakari. Back on his feet with Kagetora, they ran through an incredible sequence with Kagetora rolling through and trying to pin Okuda after a Lights Out attempt and then a chokehold attempt. Okuda, off balance, was hit with a monstrous dragon screw. Kagetora had targeted the leg the entire match and this looked like his opportunity to secure his second Brave Gate run of his career. 

On one knee, though, the champion fought back. He delivered a running knee to the jaw of Kagetora and then a Lights Out. That wasn’t enough to pin the challenger, but Okuda quickly transitioned into a chokehold for the victory. 

The last five minutes of this match were truly great. Okuda continues to come across as a violent and credible challenger and Kagetora, as predicted, brought maximum effort in his first singles title challenge in nearly two years. This was rugged junior heavyweight wrestling at its highest level, and thus, a great match. ****

In the midst of the Gracie Train hype at both the beginning and end of the match, Okuda stared down a man in the DG Generation who was wearing a mask. It was heavily implied this man was GACKT. I do not know who that is, but I’ve been told if it is him, it’s a big deal. 


BxB Hulk and KAI have made their second successful defense of the Open the Twin Gate titles since winning them at Kobe World

Unfortunately, the hot streak for MochiFujii ended with this match. After scoring numerous pinfalls with the Nice German, Gedo Clutch, and the Sankakugeri to the face, the challengers looked like themselves a decade ago. Somehow, Masaaki Mochizuki had managed to turn back the clock yet again. His performance in this bout was able to echo that of a man a decade younger than him, but at age 50, Mochizuki reminded everyone why he is one of the best to ever do it. This match was merely a blip in his career; no one will talk about this match when he finally retires. Yet, Mochizuki remained the driving force, carrying the entertainment factor in this match on his back. He was individually brilliant. 

His brilliance wasn’t enough to combat the pervasive heel work of R.E.D. He was no match for the sharp strikes dished out by KAI & Hulk. He survived a double First Flash, but the second time when Hulk was the only one dishing out his finisher was too much for the challenger. R.E.D. retained in a match that somehow registers as a disappointment on this show despite it being very good. ***1/2 


The build to this match can be traced back to May 11, 1997. Ultimo Dragon, who was months removed from holding eight title belts as the J-Crown champion and seven days away from becoming the WCW World Television Champion, ran his first show as an independent promoter in Naucalpan. Ultimo headlined the show against Negro Casas while the undercard was filled by four of his first five students enrolled in the Ultimo Dragon Gym. His fifth student debuted six months later with the rest of the class in Arena Mexico. Then known as Little Dragon, he quickly was renamed Dragon Kid and began soaring throughout the air, first as a blue chip prospect in Mexico, then later as a phenom in Japan. 

On February 6, 1999, Dragon Kid became the first Toryumon-crowned champion by winning the NWA Welterweight Title Tournament over Dr. Cerebro in 15 minutes after a double countout forced the restart of the match in front of roughly 1500 fans at the Nagoya City Sports Center. One year later to the day, just down the road, the Nagoya-native SB Kento was born. 

On a freezing night in Fukuoka, Japan, as we rapidly barrel towards one year of the COVID-19 pandemic, SB Kento submitted Ultimo Dragon’s prized trainee, Dragon Kid, to end the Toryumon Generation unit. In the process, SBK also eliminated former two-time Dream Gate Champion Naruki Doi, pro’s-pro Susumu Yokosuka, and the wily veteran Genki Horiguchi, firmly cementing his rookie year as something truly incomprehensible in contemporary Japanese wrestling. He’s scored falls over names like Doi, Yoshino, Horiguchi, and Shimizu all within his first 80 matches. SBK, after all, has only been a member of the active roster since December 22, 2019. 

SBK was aided by another younger, now dubbed Hip Hop Kikuta, after debuting as Madoka Kikuta during the spring. The Kanazawa City-native has yet to wrestle in front of what can be considered a “normal crowd” while being an official roster member. He debuted on June 6 in front of an empty arena and has since ascended up the card as a 21-year-old despite only wrestling in front of COVID-restricted clap-crowds. Kikuta, with his patented discus lariat, dashed Masato Yoshino’s hopes of living to see Toryumon fight another day. 

Once the dust settled and the plunder, including a barbed wire board, dozens of chairs, and a giant pencil, were cleared from the ring, reality set in that not only was the Toryumon Generation no more, but that this was one of the greatest matches in Dragongate history. 

For 21 years now, beginning with Toryumon and flowing into Dragongate, the promotion has excelled at longtime storytelling. We saw the culmination of 21 years of hard work in this contest. There was finality in this bout. The Dragon System as we know it evolved with the swift hand of justice delivered by Kikuta and an unrelenting submission from SBK. Two men, neither of whom were born when Toryumon first landed in Japan, publicly executed the company’s heroes in front of a stunned Fukuoka crowd. 

Pundits across wrestling media have talked about the guts Dragongate has shown in their booking this year and this match was the prime example. Eita and Masato Yoshino, the two unit leaders, were the first eliminated in this match. Eita’s dastardly barbed wire board backfired on him as he was the recipient of a running powerbomb that destroyed the board in the process. That left the heel side with Kaito Ishida, the man who turned 25 a day before the show, as the elder statesman on the team. 

Yoshino and Doi were the first ones eliminated from the Toryumon side, with Yokosuka and Horiguchi following in their path after a rollup in the case of Yokosuka and a piledriver through a table in the case of Horiguchi. In the midst of the wreckage, Kikuta and HYO fell by the wayside, leaving SBK and Ishida against Dragon Kid. 

Dragon Kid found himself exposed, not due to his talent, but due to his mask. Ishida and SBK ripped his mask in half, leaving it literally hanging by a thread around his neck. His face was visibly exposed. His hope was dwindling. If it wasn’t for Yasushi Kanda, who squared up Ishida and connected with a blue box attack, Dragon Kid would’ve never been able to hit an Ultra Hurricanrana on Ishida to even the odds. 

R.E.D. quickly titled the field in their favor yet again as they ran interference leading to a train of lariats in the corner. Dragon Kid, who’s likely experienced this attack 100 times throughout his career, was able to counter the last lariat, giving way to an ensuing resistance attack by the Toryumon Generation. 

The final man in the train of Toryumon lariats was Konomama Ichikawa, perennial embarrassment to his peers and fans alike. SBK countered Ichikawa’s initial attack, but as God is my witness, Ichikawa recovered, baited SBK into swinging wildly with a strike that missed, and then landed a beautiful bridging German suplex on the undisputed rookie of the year in 2020. This match, which featured unit callbacks to M2K, Blood Generation, and Real Hazard, among others, gave Konomama Ichikawa his heat back after 21 years of abuse. 

Ichikawa’s German led straight into Dragon Kid’s Bible, and for a brief moment in time it looked like Toryumon would live to fight on. Eita, however, the man first eliminated from this match, who turned on Dragon Kid after years of apprenticeship in the summer of 2018, broke up the pin. 

This was it for Dragon Kid. He ate an Imperial Uno from Eita, leaving SBK with the perfect opportunity to apply the SB Shooter. Dragon Kid clawed towards the ropes, he fought with everything he had in him to reverse the hold, but he ultimately couldn’t. SBK tapped out Ultimo Dragon’s prized pupil. 

Toryumon died at the hands of SB Kento. 

There are bodies buried six feet underground with more energy than the Fukuoka crowd displayed in the moments after the match. It was silent in the arena. Silent. R.E.D. proudly walked up the ramp and posed for the cameras, leaving the broken Toryumon team alone in the ring. Susumu Yokosuka cut a brief promo, apologizing for being unable to win the match, and then the veterans walked to the back, defeated. In another beautiful moment of storytelling, K-Ness, Dragon Kid’s fiercest rival dating back to 2000, helped him to the back. 

I don’t know if this match will translate to people “parachuting in” to check out the big match. I honestly don’t care. I think the narrative that Dragongate is an incredibly complex promotion to follow is slightly overblown as anyone with a basic knowledge of good guys and bad guys would be able to follow this match. The layers in this bout, however, might be lost on many, but they were not lost on me. This is one of the greatest feats of storytelling I have ever seen. The only word that can summarize what this was is perfection. 

This was a perfect match. 

Dragongate, who has far and away been the best booked and most intriguing promotion of the year, ends their year with what I can now call my Match of the Year. Nothing can top this. It has been five years since Dragongate last reached these highs. Then, it was with Shingo Takagi and Masaaki Mochizuki, two of the ten greatest wrestlers to ever live. This time it was with an army of talent, driven by a commanding talent who has barely seen two decades of life. *****


With this victory, Shun Skywalker has made his first successful defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship. 

The lead story coming out of this match is the devastating injury that Ben-K suffered towards the finish. Skywalker countered a spear with an elbow strike that appeared to knock Ben-K out cold. Skywalker quickly delivered two knee-led moonsaults to the chest of Ben-K, then landed a top rope moonsault. Referee Yagi pulled up before counting three, despite Ben-K laying motionless on the mat. These sorts of imperfections do not happen in Dragongate. Skywalker attempted to pick the challenger up, likely to attempt his finisher, but Ben-K would not budge. In a panic, Skywalker climbed back up to the top and delivered another moonsault, this one winning the match for good. 

After the match, Ben-K did not budge. Quickly, his Dragongate Generation companions rushed the ring and attempted to help. It first looked like they were going to use a ringside table to carry Ben-K to the back, but proper medical equipment was rushed to ringside. Dragon Dia and a pair of young boys quickly undid the bottom rope, giving the ringside attendees a chance to stretch Ben-K out of the ring. President Kido made his way down to the ringside area and then left with Ben-K as he was stretched to the back. 

This was a freak accident. This did not happen on a head drop or an unprotected chairshot. It happened on an elbow. Anyone pushing any sort of narrative that Dragongate’s house style is “dangerous” in comparison to other promotions is absolutely lost. There’s no evidence to back that up. 

Had Yagi counted the pin like a shoot, perhaps some of the damage would’ve been mitigated. Dragongate is a company that preaches perfection, however, and until something goes wrong, there is no need to believe that something is wrong. This was out of anyone’s control. 

According to a source at press time, Ben-K was taken to a local hospital. Dragongate English announcer Jae tweeted this out shortly after the show ended. 

Unfortunately, this put a damper on what had been a great Dream Gate challenge. Ben-K and Shun Skywalker somehow pumped life back into a crowd that had been arrested by the developments of the prior match. They were in the midst of building on a hot closing stretch that likely would’ve put this match in the “great” category. A murky finish, however, knocks that down a peg. 

Given that we know that Ben-K is, at the very least, “okay”, I do not feel cruel giving this match a star rating. These two worked their asses off. ***3/4 

Final Thoughts

The promotion of 2020 closes out the year with a bonafide show of the year contender. With the possible exception of New Japan’s Dome shows, I have not seen a better top-to-bottom wrestling show in 2020. Outside of the MOTYC, this show pumped out two other legitimately great matches and a flawed, albeit spectacular main event. This should end any questions about which promotion owned 2020. This was as good as it gets.