MARCH 27, 2021
WAKAYAMA PREFECTURAL GYMNASIUM – WAKAYAMA, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
GENKI HORIGUCHI, KZY, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, & U-T DEF. GURUKUN MASK, HO HO LUN, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & SHACHIHOKO BOY
It’s always nice to see Super J Cup alum Gurukun Mask pop by. He participated in the 2016 J Cup alongside Eita, both of whom lost in the first round with Gurukun Mask falling to Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Kenoh and Eita falling to Jushin Thunder Liger in an instant classic. This delivered to the level you would think it would. Natural Vibes continues to be a terrifically fun foursome (and Taketo Kamei’s return in April should kick the unit into an even higher gear) and the opponents of misfit toys played their roles well. I liked the chemistry that Gurukun Mask showed with Susumu Yokosuka. I would like to see those two go at it in Gurukun’s promotion, Ryukyu Dragon Pro. Kzy uppercutted Shachihoko BOY into oblivion for the win. ***
BXB HULK, DIAMANTE, & KAITO ISHIDA DEF. BOKULTIMO DRAGON, KAGETORA, & ULTIMO DRAGON
Kagetora replaced Ryo Saito, who was pulled from the show after running a high temperature.
Like everything with Team Boku, there were moments of this match that I loved and moments of this match that I hated. Bokultimo and Diamante somehow put over the fact that their upcoming mask vs. mask match could be a heated affair while also turning it into a goofy punchline in the same match. I loved the early brawling and lucha sequences that these guys did. The issue is that the match ended with comedy that bombed. At some point, Bokultimo and Diamante brawled to the floor and when they returned to the ring, they were wearing the other man’s mask. Funny in a vacuum, but not what I’m looking for from two guys building to a mask vs. mask match.
To make matters worse, the finish saw Shimizu rip Diamante’s mask off. Team Boku was disqualified as a result. Based on the awkwardness of this finish, I’m led to believe that Diamante was supposed to rip the mask off of Shimizu’s head as well but he couldn’t get the mask off when he had the chance. I could be wrong. But there was a momentary pause after Diamante’s mask came flying off and I think that is because he failed to unmask Shimizu. Even if this was the intended result, it was still bad. This match really diminished my excitement for their bout at the April Korakuen. **1/4
HIP HOP KIKUTA DEF. BEN-K
This was Kikuta’s 76th match on record. He debuted in an empty arena in June and became a regularly appearing wrestler very soon into the clap crowd era. He has yet to wrestle in front of a normal crowd, but that hasn’t stopped him from ripping through the Dragongate roster with ease. In 15 minutes, Kikuta was able to take down a man who went undefeated in the 2019 King of Gate tournament en route to winning the Open the Dream Gate Championship in Ben-K. Kikuta’s win was without shenanigans. He dropped Ben-K on his head with a piledriver like he was Terry Funk and he pinned him clean.
The finish was emphatic and shocking. It came across great on my screen. The issue is the 14 minutes beforehand; while they were not bad, I found the match to be clumsy and tepid. This is not the first Ben-K singles match to suffer from this. While he’s had numerous highpoints and MOTYC’s in the first five years of his career, he also has the Strong Machine J match.
I do not think either Ben or Kikuta should shoulder the blame for this bout. It was just one of those matches that doesn’t land. This was Kikuta’s first televised singles match and while it didn’t deliver in the way that I’m sure he would’ve hoped, he will have another opportunity very soon to make up for it. ***1/4
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3 WAY UNIT FIGHT – WAKAYAMA TORNADO WINNING MATCH
EITA, KAI, & SB KENTO DEF. JASON LEE, KOTA MINOURA, & LA ESTRELLA AND DRAGON KID, KEISUKE OKUDA, & YAMATO
Starting as a 1:1:1 3 Way match, a new participant will enter every 60 seconds. The match will proceed until tornado rules until all members have entered. Teams are eliminated when any member is defeated. If any team member is defeated during the tornado portion, their team is eliminated and their remaining member(s) will be unable to join the match. The last team remaining wins the match.
As we speed down the road towards Dead or Alive, it makes sense that KAI was as dominant as he was in this match. All three teams survived long enough to have fully stocked armies of three men, but once everyone became eligible in this bout, KAI began wreaking havoc. He eliminated Kota Minoura first, then turned his focus to HIGH END and caught YAMATO with a flash pin for the win.
The action was largely non-consequential prior to all nine men entering the match, which makes sense given the structure. It’s as if Dragongate combined a Royal Rumble with a trios match. Masquerade’s more inexperienced trio looked really solid. La Estrella continues to shine in this environment, hitting his big spots tremendously and then ducking into the shadows when he’s not needed. HIGH END, particularly YAMATO, clocked in with great performances.
That was all an afterthought in the wake of RED’s dominance, however. The losing trios got in just enough offense to make KAI’s dominance impactful but not overbearing. Much like the first incarnation of this match, it didn’t touch a level of being “truly great”, but it served its purpose well. ***3/4
OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & TAKASHI YOSHIDA (c) DEF. KENICHIRO ARAI & YASUSHI KANDA
With this victory, Masaaki Mochizuki & Takashi Yoshida have made their first successful defense of the Open the Twin Gate titles.
The median age of this match was 44 years old. Mochizuki was the elder statesman at 51, with Arai (48), Kanda (42), and Yoshida (38) falling in line behind him. As Dragongate’s youth movement continues to make frontpage headlines, the older generation proved with this match that they could still go out there and deliver in a big match. I was truly worried about what Kanda and Arai could bring to the table in a title match. Arai, for all of his strengths, is far past his peak. He’s a frail-looking man at this stage in his career. Last year when he won the Triangle Gate belts, he separated his shoulder in the process. It was a painful reminder that he is not the man that he once was.
Mochizuki and Yoshida continue to be a shocking amount of fun as a combination. Yoshida, who has been a heel for well over 10 years, has been given a new life with this babyface turn. This match was largely built around Mochizuki taking heat and Yoshida making a hot tag to thwart the wiley heels. Everyone played their role tremendously. This was veteran professional wrestling. All four men knew their roles and they put in a solid day’s work in said roles. ***1/2
OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
SHUN SKYWALKER (c) DEF. KAZMA SAKAMOTO
This marks Skywalker’s third successful defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship. Sakamoto is now 0-1 in career Dream Gate challenges.
I have to apologize to Kazma Sakamoto. After his second match in Dragongate back in 2018, I wrote, “Kazma Sakamoto is not bad. He was surely a bad surprise and a name like his should never be given the privilege of being an “X”, but as a wrestler, Sakamoto is fine and through two matches, he’s shown that he can work decently within the Dragon Gate house style. I don’t expect him to ever challenge for the Dream Gate, and if he’s ever in any sort of title hunt it will probably be the Triangle Gate, which is okay by me.”
When Sakamoto debuted, he was met with scorn by the western audience who were expecting either PAC or Shuji Kondo (both of whom would return to DG within a few months of that angle) in the secretive “X” role. Sakamoto was a head scratcher. He had no ties to the Dragon System. He was a big guy who didn’t seem like a fit in the pretty boy promotion that is Dragongate. I saw potential in him during his first match in the promotion, however. I told people that he would be good. I was right. I just didn’t expect him to be this good.
The idea of Sakamoto headlining one of DG’s biggest shows of the year is jarring even after nearly two and a half years of Sakamoto delivering on the undercards. It shows just how much the promotion has evolved over the past few years. The bantamweight-style that Skywalker, Ishida, and Minoura, among others, have brought to the table over the past few years has been adopted by bigger men like Sakamoto and thus, we were given one of the hardest hitting Dream Gate matches in recent memory.
Skywalker still lacks the promo ability to truly charm the native audience, but he’s delivering from an in-ring perspective. The Ben-K match was great before a murky finish, the Ishida match was the best match DG has put on this year, and the Sakamoto match showed that Skywalker can get his ass kicked and still fight like hell.
The two fought for just shy of 20 minutes with Skywalker eating Sakamoto’s knee of death, Sakamoto taking an array of moonsaults from the champion, and the two trading headbutts before Skywalker was able to put this challenger behind him with his patented SSW.
At this point, anyone doubting Sakamoto’s ability or presence in Dragongate is simply not worth paying attention to. ****1/2
— FoDG (@futureofdg) March 27, 2021
— FoDG (@futureofdg) March 27, 2021
After the match, Shun Skywalker was attacked by Hip Hop Kikuta, who threw the meanest hip attack I’ve ever seen. His ass connected directly with Skywalker’s face. Incredible.
【#DeadOrAlive2021 Card Update】
May 5th (4PM)
Aichi Prefectural Gym
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) March 28, 2021
Memorial Gate 2021 will go down as one of the most palatable big shows of the entire year. With a great main event, a handful of strong featured matches, and a breezy undercard, there is no excuse not to give this show your time.