FEBRUARY 5, 2021
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
BOKULTIMO DRAGON, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & RYO SAITO DEF. DON FUJII, GAMMA, & ULTIMO DRAGON
I hope one day 93,000 people can cram into the Pontiac Silverdome to watch Bokultimo Dragon stare down Ultimo Dragon. Their interactions in this match were hilarious and the only thing worth investing energy in for this pedestrian opening match affair. The Bokultimo character is still making me laugh, although I am worried at this point it will be diminishing returns. I’m not sure what else that act has left in the tank, but I also don’t believe that we are anywhere close to being done with it. Bokultimo scored the fall with his La Magistral cradle on Gamma. **1/2
KEISUKE OKUDA & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI & KENICHIRO ARAI
After spending the first month of the new year battling the flimsy Punch Tominaga, Keisuke Okuda was presented with a new task: wrestling the old, brittle man that is Kenichiro Arai. Every bit of offense that Okuda scored on the former Deep Drunkers standout looked like it was going to break Arai in half. This was a dominant performance for the Open the Brave Gate Champion, who tapped out Arai with a Cross Armbreaker. **1/4
DIAMANTE, HIP HOP KIKUTA, KAITO ISHIDA, & KAZMA SAKAMOTO DEF. JASON LEE, KOTA MINOURA, LA ESTRELLA, & SHUN SKYWALKER
The build to Champion Gate is on as Kaito Ishida vs. Shun Skywalker for the Open the Dream Gate title has been signed for March 7.
This match was too short to be truly great as it clocked in at just over 8 minutes. Disappointing, considering that the Masquerade vs. R.E.D. multi-man matches are the best thing Dragongate has to offer in the ring right now. The chemistry between Kaito Ishida and Shun Skywalker is superb. They produced a world-class bout in January 2019 in the finals of the Rookie Ranking Tournament and since then, both men have only improved. Their interactions here felt heated and intense. Ishida, by all means, could win in March. It would not surprise me at all.
The other reason that these unit battles have become must-watch is for the development of La Estrella.
As I talked about on the most recent Open the Voice Gate, Estrella is a system quarterback right now. He is a tremendous prospect who is being aided by the fact that he’s working with all of Dragongate’s premier workrate guys right now, mainly Minoura and Lee. Whereas SB Kento came into the company and immediately looked like the next franchise player (a Patrick Mahomes-type), Estrella has a foundation that reminds me of Justin Herbert. His inexperience is both a gift and a curse. He’s experimenting with new things and often delivering, but there are moments where he stumbles.
He and Diamante, who is the perfect base for him, got their signals crossed and had an awkward moment in the middle of this match. Once they got their bearings, though, Estrella executed an insane twisting headscissors takedown. I will continue to look the other way on Estrell’s momentary blunders because he’s otherworldly when he delivers.
Ishida tapped out Jason Lee with a brutal ankle lock, just as he had done the weekend before in Fukuoka. ***1/2
Just give La Estrella rookie of the year now. pic.twitter.com/CU2rKSTjnl
— BlastoSTG (@BlastoStg) February 5, 2021
BXB HULK & EITA DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & TAKASHI YOSHIDA
Speaking of Champion Gate, the Twin Gate match has also been signed for March 7 as Mochizuki and Yoshida, the teacher-student pairing, will be challenging BxB Hulk & KAI for the Twin Gate belts. I might not love it, but I understand that Yoshida was in desperate need of a new direction and the fans, for what it’s worth, seem very into this story.
I am higher on Hulk’s in-ring output than most, but pairing him with Yoshida is a recipe for disaster. Those are two men that do not bring out the best in each other. Mochizuki can only do so much, unfortunately. He worked his ass off, at one point hitting a picture-perfect swan dive dropkick that looked like it took BxB Hulk’s head off. It was enough to consider this match to be inoffensive, but it wasn’t enough to get his team the win, as KAI interfered and attacked Yoshida, giving Hulk the opening he needed to hit the First Flash and score the fall. I understand why this match needed to happen. It prolonged a heated story. It wasn’t bad – but it also wasn’t that good. ***
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KZY, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, & U-T DEF. BEN-K, KAGETORA, & SHUJI KONDO
After a month of teaming together with their old gear and old theme song, Natural Vibes 2.0 officially launched with this match. Kzy and Yokosuka have updated their gear from the last incarnation of this unit, and U-T, who is new to the fold, got new gear and changed his hair. The group looks awesome and I’m sure when Kamei comes back, they will look even better. I am still weirded out by the fact that Dragongate has resurrected a unit. They’ve never done anything quite like this. Veteran units have come and gone but they’ve always returned with a slightly different name and colorway. WORLD-1 was a unit that existed from 2008-2011 with the primary colors being gold and silver. After a year away from the spotlight, the WORLD-1 theme returned, this time under the WORLD-1 International banner, with their colors now being grey and pink. There are new members in play here, but the fact that this unit is called Natural Vibes is very strange to me.
The good news is that they still kick ass. Anyone who is somehow annoyed by the opening match dance routine needs to get over it as it has no actual effect on their in-ring performance. They still go in the ring and kick ass. U-T, in particular, was fighting for his life early on as Shuji Kondo has made it his mission to flatten the youngster. U-T survived, luckily, using speed and precision to counter the raw power that Kondo brings to the table.
Ben-K, who anchored the unaffiliated trio in this match, was back to his old ways. The injury in December hasn’t slowed him down at all – and it shouldn’t. An hour after Final Gate concluded, Open the Voice Gate reported that he was going to miss some shows, but he was going to be fine. That’s exactly what happened. He was a man possessed in this match, taking big bumps at every opportunity possible. He remained out of commission after colliding with the ring post on an errant spear down the finishing stretch.
Kzy won with the Spider Twist on Kagetora, who screamed in horror as soon as the move was locked in.
I have no idea what to make of Natural Vibes 2.0, but I will have a hard time knocking the act if it keeps Kzy in the forefront of my mind. During the first run, Kzy looked like he was finding his footing as the unit leader. This time around, he feels like he was born to be in this position. ***3/4
Perhaps the best looking move in wrestling pic.twitter.com/oXUvfPeDSm
— Case (@_InYourCase) February 5, 2021
DRAGON KID & YAMATO DEF. KAI & SB KENTO
This is the weirdest Korakuen Hall main event I’ve ever seen Dragongate produced.
There were technically two matches here, with DK & YAMATO winning both of them. The first portion of the match ended after 90 seconds when SBK pulled Dragon Kid’s mask off, signaling for the DQ.
Obviously, Dragon Kid wasn’t satisfied with that, so after putting his mask back on, he asked for the bout to be restarted. After ridding himself of KAI, YAMATO aided Dragon Kid by booting SBK, giving DK the boost he needed to score the fall with the Bible in just over two minutes.
Those two matches ran for a combined total of 3:58. I think the only way to treat this is as some sort of prolonged angle because I ultimately think we’ll see these four men (and two other unfortunate souls) in the Dead or Alive cage match come May. Dragongate has obviously earned enough of my trust to where I can put a pin in this and say “let it play out”.
In a vacuum, though, this was a truly bizarre way to close out a show. NR
After the match, Dragon Kid, YAMATO, Ben-K, and Keisuke Okuda agreed to team up going forward. They will unveil their unit name next month when YAMATO and DK wrestle KAI and SBK in singles matches.
Truth Gate is an accurate reflection of where Dragongate is at as it enters the new year. After a 2020 that featured nearly flawless booking, the promotion is in limbo as half of the roster is without a unit. This is very much a transitional period for the promotion and while I have no doubt that they’ll find greatness once things settle, this was a flawed show that can be looked at as a brief bump in the road. Thumbs in the middle for Truth Gate.