MARCH 7, 2021

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


Don Fujii did the Natural Vibes dance. Or at least he tried to. He exhausted himself, injured his knee, and collapsed in pain as Kzy and U-T danced all around him. It was glorious. 

Just as a Masquerade trio had done the night before, they ripped it up in the opening match. Minoura and Lee did the heavy-lifting, working hard with all three members of the opposing team while La Estrella stuck to his role of looking spectacular in brief bursts of athleticism. The losing side brought an equal amount of effort to the table. Kzy, in particular, worked his ass off to bring this match to a level above the usual Dragongate opener. 

He’s in an interesting position. He feels like a bigger star than he’s ever been, but 2021 marked the first time in three years that he hasn’t had a Dream Gate challenge in the month of February. While I would certainly enjoy a future Dream Gate challenge against Shun Skywalker given their prior history, I’m not sure that we’ll be seeing that match anytime soon. YAMATO feels like he’s going to be the focus as DG shifts into the summer. Kzy will have to stay relevant through his work. If he continues to put forth effort like this, it won’t be an issue. 

Kota Minoura scored the fall over U-T with the Gang. ***3/4 


Things are quickly starting to unravel for Bokultimo Dragon. Not only is he facing a mascara contra mascara proposition by Diamante, but his in-ring performance has started to, for lack of a better word, suck. I don’t know what happened to him but the charm of the Bokultimo character has rapidly evaporated now that he’s struggling to nail the basics. The character feels like it has run its course, which is why DG is pivoting towards a possible mask match with Diamante. I love that angle. I hope they run towards it and get it done sooner rather than later. 

This was just as long as the opening contest, clocking in at over 11 minutes. It works for the Masquerade and Natural Vibes workrate pairings, it does not work for this comedy gimmick. Diamante pinned Bokultimo in a bout that overstayed its welcome. **3/4 


I’m trying to think of a worse-sounding match with the names on the current Dragongate roster. I got nothing. All four of these people are fine on their own, but they would all be better suited if they were kept away from one another. Maria chased Kondo around the ringside area for a long time meaning that Kagetora had to become the workhorse of this match. That’s always a dangerous idea. Maria eventually put her focus on Gamma and ate a very basic, pedestrian lariat from the Osaka Pro import for the win. **1/2 

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High End is the exact shot in the arm that Dragongate needed to wake themselves up from their early 2021 slumber. Masquerade has been acting as the lead babyface unit since the conclusion of the generational warfare and while I’ve been a huge fan of everything they’re doing, they don’t feel like a big deal. High End is that big deal. They look great, they feel like stars, and they deliver in the ring. 

While I would not label this match as “great”, the finishing stretch certainly was. I think the opening beatdown and subsequent heat by RED dragged. I watched High End sell for a very, very long time and we didn’t get the crowd calls that would’ve carried the heat segment because of the clap crowd restrictions. Alas, Ben-K eventually made a hot tag and ran wild. He still feels slightly off since getting knocked out cold in December. His work is fine. It’s actually impressive just how quickly he can accelerate and take a plodding match to an engaging match. There’s something about the in-between moments, though. The way he carries himself is very off. He is coming across like a robot and it doesn’t seem intentional. He’s dead behind the eyes. Luckily, that didn’t stop him from the aforementioned hot tag that turned this match up to another level. 

SBK once again found himself in the closing section of a big match, this time duking it out with not only Dragon Kid, but also YAMATO. He and YAMATO crushed it together. 

Since SBK debuted at the end of 2019 (in a tag match against YAMATO), he and the four-time Dream Gate Champion have largely been kept apart from one another. Including SBK’s debut match, he’s been in the ring with YAMATO on eight occasions. They wrestled in a non-televised tag team match in February 2020, a non-televised singles match six months later, and ever since then, whenever they’ve touched, it’s been either in Korakuen Hall or Osaka Edion #2. This doesn’t seem like an accident. Their interactions are not wasted. I’ve said since his debut match that SBK is the next coming of YAMATO and the booking between the two certainly reflects that, for now. 

YAMATO caught the youngster in the Frankensteiner of the Almighty for the win out of nowhere. The last few minutes of this match were electric and worth going out of your way to see. ***1/2 


BxB Hulk & KAI fall in their fourth defense of the Open the Twin Gate Championships. This reign marks the third time that Masaaki Mochizuki has been a Twin Gate Champion and the fourth time for Takashi Yoshida. 

Credit where credit is due, Takashi Yoshida killed it in this match. For so long, Dragongate has dipped their toes in the water of making him a sympathetic, big baby-type of character. Whenever it’s been teased, they’ve quickly pulled the plug to go back to Yoshida as the reliable, albeit stale giant that he can be. Assuming he doesn’t clock Mochizuki in the head next week (which is always a possibility), this run will go down as the defining babyface run of Yoshida’s career. It isn’t a no-doubt home run, but with Yoshida, he just needs to worry about getting on base. That’s much easier when Masaaki Mochizuki is by your side. 

The two matches sandwiched before and after this one are matches that anyone could parachute into and enjoy. This was cloaked with layers and layers of Dragongate lore. The fact is, whether I like it or not, this Yoshida stuff is over. The crowd audibly popped when he scored the fall. It really resonates with the native fans and because of that, they seemed incredibly invested in the idea that Yoshida, who has made a name off of cheating at every possible turn, outlasting all of the nefarious R.E.D. attempts. It was not a great match, but it was a really smart match. 

Hulk and KAI gave it their all. 10 years ago, they would’ve been a fun, young, junior heavyweight tag team. They’re now burley men that have an affinity for hitting people really hard. It made for a good pairing against Mochizuki and Yoshida. KAI can now turn his attention back to YAMATO and Dragon Kid and Hulk can fall in line with RED’s B and C combinations. A huge lariat from Yoshida put Hulk away, giving the Osaka fans a legitimate reason to stand up and cheer. ***1/2 


This marks Skywalker’s second successful defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship. Ishida is now 0-1 in career Dream Gate challenges. 

Kaito Ishida has largely built a reputation off of short bursts of intensity and explosion that are certainly unmatched on the Dragongate roster and can only be rivaled by a few in all of wrestling. The best work of his career came in 2020 while defending the Open the Brave Gate Championship in compact sprints. After winning the belt from Susumu Yokosuka in just under 18 minutes, Ishida racked up defenses in 12:08, 13:42, 14:53, and then 13:45 before finally dropping the title in 10:48 and then failing in the subsequent rematch in 10:26. Ishida has a knack for fitting the maximum amount of drama into the minimal amount of time. 

His opponent this, the reigning and defending Dream Gate Champion, follows a pattern. Skywalker broke through by narrowly avoiding death during his signature sequences in multi-man openers. As he’s progressed up the card, he’s become a more well-rounded wrestler that still occasionally skirts death. It was looked at as a sign of great things to come when he was able to hang with PAC for 18 minutes in his first Dream Gate challenge, two years ago in this very building. He won the title in a 20 minute contest, then went 25 minutes with Ben-K before their disastrous finish. 

In 29:33, Skywalker and Ishida put forth a classic Dream Gate match, the best outing from anyone in Dragongate in 2021, and firmly established them as credible players in the big picture going forward. No matter what the result was, both men needed a performance that symbolized a victory with this bout. That’s exactly what they did. 

This was worked with the most traditional Dream Gate structure imaginable. Ishida, who had targeted Skywalker’s ankle ever since the match was announced, immediately went after said ankle in an effort to ground the high-flyer. Skywalker, naturally, sold and sold until he finally bounced back, evening the odds with the first huge blow of the match, a double underhook suplex that sent Ishida crashing to the apron, quickly followed by a huge springboard moonsault to the floor, a la Skywalkler in 2017. 

Despite his tremendous Brave Gate run, Ishida came into this match with some credibility issues. He was indeed a qualified candidate for a Dream Gate challenge, but wasn’t necessarily someone that could be a credible Dream Gate champion at this point in his career. 

As this match hit the finishing stretch, I was fully invested in the idea that Kaito Ishida might be leaving Osaka as the Dream Gate Champion. His work was that compelling. Whenever Skywalker would come with a flurry of offense, Ishida would stabilize him by ripping away at his injured ankle. He was relentless. He ripped off Skywalker’s ankle tape in an attempt to torque the ankle more, which nearly won him the gold as shortly after he was able to sit down in an Ankle Lock which caused Skywalker to scream in agony. He grabbed onto Referee Nakagawa first, then eventually crawled his way to the ropes and grabbed the bottom rope for safety and security. 

Just as he had done during his Brave Gate run, Ishida came at Skywalker with waves of offense. If the Ankle Lock wasn’t going to get him the belt, maybe the Tiger Suplex would. The only issue is that Ishida went to hit the champion with the Tiger Suplex, but Skywalker rolled out and hit Ishida with a headbutt that echoed throughout all of Osaka. That was exactly what the champion needed. 

He was briefly thrown into a panic as Ishida countered the SSW into a flash pin, something I’ve never seen anyone do before, but Skywalker kicked out and quickly repositioned Ishida for the SSW and the subsequent three count. 

Both competitors are going to be feeling the grueling effects of this match in the coming days. As I have been ranting and raving about for two years, the house style of the promotion is changing, and while this had a familiar structure, the brutality of this contest was unique to the latest eras of Dragongate Dojo trainees. Ishida and Skywalker hit each other hard. The new generation doesn’t hold anything back. 

Skywalker ended up with his hand raised, but this was a winning performance from both men. ****3/4 

I noted in my last Korakuen Hall review to keep your eyes on Kazma Sakamoto, who has been running through the roster with his knee of death as of late. Well:

Final Thoughts

Shun Skywalker and Kaito Ishida lived up to my lofty expectations. The rest of the show is irrelevant as a result of that. The main event is essential viewing and arguably the best match of an absurdly loaded weekend. Dragongate is back on track after a dull two-month stretch.