JULY 9, 2021

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


A painless, sub-four minute dark match. The primary reason it’s included in the review is to note Jae’s audio issues on the English commentary feed. These issues were fixed by the time the opening match began. Yoshida won with a Jackhammer on Tominaga. **


This was an usually stacked opening multi-man match with a bunch of hot combinations of opponents. I liked what all six guys brought to the table in this contest. There were no holes in anyone’s game. In fact, I think for a pretty meaningless six-man tag match, everyone was able to bring something unique to the match to make it stick out. On the RED side, Sakamoto brought power and aggression, Hulk registered kicks with deadly accuracy, and Ishida swarmed Natural Vibes with every opportunity he got, despite his injured knee. On the flip side, Shimizu combatted Sakamoto’s power with some of his own, notably a Double Samoan Drop that took out both Ishida and Hulk, FJK provided a much cleaner output than he did the prior month and acted as an obvious and exciting target for RED to beat up on, and U-T put forth a terrific back-and-forth sequence with BxB Hulk towards the tail end of the match. 

The closing stretch, kick-started by Hulk vs. U-T, displayed wrestling at a high level. Both men were eventually incapacitated, leading to Ishida pinning FJK with the Tiger Suplex. An above average DG opener worth checking out. ***1/2 


It is important to note that Kenichiro Arai is currently Medusa-ing the Japanese indie scum scene. Personally, I hope when he finally decides to hang up his boots, he pivots into having a career as a monster truck driver, just like Medusa did. 

This was the return of “brother” YASSHI to the Dragongate ring. After debuting with the Toryumon 2000 Project, YASSHI split from the promotion at the end of 2004 for a variety of behavior and creative issues. He did not return until early 2016, first as an ally to his friend Masato Yoshino before quickly turning on him and joining VerserK. YASSHI bounced from VerserK to Natural Vibes to the Toryumon Generation, before exiting the promotion again at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m not surprised that YASSHI is back, given his close allegiance with Masato Yoshino, and I’m delighted that in his return, he got a chance to put the “high” in HIGH-END. 

YASSHI stood tall in this match, getting the win over Yasushi Kanda who was first hit with a Double 619 from Dragon Kid and Kagetora before falling victim to a beautiful bridging German Suplex from YASSHI. **1/4  


Two and a half years ago, Kota Minoura slapped Masaaki Mochizuki in the face. Minoura was four months into his career, desperate to gain any sort of traction, and eager to show his worth against the Iron Man of Dragongate. His plan backfired, as his head was nearly kicked off of his body two minutes later by a Mochizuki kick. Last February, these two battled again in Korakuen Hall. This time, the match lasted four times as long as their first encounter, but the result was the same. Minoura threw every weapon he had at Mochizuki in a fit of desperation, but the veteran had the edge the entire time. 

A lot has changed since that encounter. Minoura has stepped his way to the front of the pack, first going to impressive time limit draws with established roster members, then securing Twin Gate gold with Jason Lee in the fall before pushing himself to the finals of King of Gate 2021 after defeating YAMATO in a singles match. The Minoura that was present in this match was not desperate. He was under control the entire time, working at a much slower, much more methodical pace than we’ve ever seen him work against Mochizuki. The work was enthralling, albeit unspectacular for a good chunk of the match. It felt like a constant struggle with Mochizuki losing ground to the youngster as time went on. 

This was not a match of unchecked, out of control violence. This was a deliberate, intense encounter that continued to build until the finish. The final minute of this match was brutal. Minoura survived a Mochizuki onslaught of strikes, eventually shaking off a middle kick that would cave in a normal man’s chest, then connecting with the Gang for the win. 

In 2021, Minoura has singles wins over Diamante, BxB Hulk, YAMATO, and now Mochizuki, among others. He feels like a can’t-miss comet that is ready to crash the Dream Gate scene. Whereas SBK feels like someone that will be a main eventer for years to come, right now feels like Minoura’s moment. He has no business winning the Dream Gate title at this moment, but he’s someone who can’t be cycled down the card in true Dragongate fashion right now. He needs to continue to build on this momentum, because right now he is piecing together the best run of his young career. ****


Sandwiched in the middle of the card, there is probably no greater showcase for what Dragongate in 2021 is than this match. Matches before this were vehicles for nostalgia (“brother” YASSHI) and matches that followed this demonstrated a nod to the past. This match, however, felt like the most accurate representation of the current house style. I have said all year that when Dragongate is finally able to ship their wrestlers back over to the States, a R.E.D. vs. Masquerade matches are the way to go. If an unknowing American audience was given a chance to react to this, we would largely recognize this as a great match. This was on the lower end of R.E.D./Masquerade matches, though, which is still damn good. 

Jason Lee continues to shine brighter than just about anyone on the roster. I’ve said before that if something terrible happened and he left Dragongate, he could go to any juniors division in Japan and he would immediately be the best worker there (his only competition would be Hiromu Takahashi, and I’m not sure post-injury Hiromu can be as good as Lee is). He would dominate NOAH’s alleged juniors division, thrive in All Japan’s sad excuse for a juniors division, and crush it in any sleazy fed that wanted to give him work. Luckily, he’s Dragongate’s property, and he remains one of wrestling’s best kept secrets. 

SBK was a terrific shit-stirrer in this eight-man. There is a palpable energy that he brings in matches like this. He welcomes chaos in a way that is dastardly, yet vibrant. It’s entertaining. He stood out from the pack here far more than anyone on his team, including Eita. 

Dia Inferno continues his hot streak, pinning his heroic foil, Dragon Dia, with the Inferno, a top rope codebreaker, while a Triangle Gate belt was wrapped around Dragon Dia’s throat. I expect a similar result at Kobe World. ***1/2 

After the match, “brother” YASSHI ran in and caused a commotion. He was quickly joined by Toru Owashi and the returning Shuji Kondo, who had been out of action since March. Many moons ago, YASSHI, Owashi, and Kondo represented the heel unit known as Aagon Iisou. They claimed that they are back and that they want Triangle Gate gold. The winner of the 7/31 Triangle Gate match between R.E.D. and Masquerade will face Aagon Iisou on 8/1. 


Masato Yoshino wrestled his 246th and final match in Korakuen Hall on this show. Yoshino’s first appearance in these hallowed grounds was in November 2001 for the T2P debut show. Under his sexy Tarzan persona, Yoshino blew the audience away with his speed and precision. Over the next two decades, Yoshino would put forth his best work in this building, winning the UWA World Trios Titles, the Triangle Gate belts on numerous occasions, two Summer Adventure Tag Leagues, and his second Open the Dream Gate Championship in this building. 

Korakuen Hall has been a staple of Japanese wrestling in the same way that Masato Yoshino has been a staple in the Dragon System. It makes sense that this combination would create such a marvelous harmony. 

This was the best Speed Star Final Countdown match to date. I thoroughly enjoyed this because it had a lot of different things working for it. The opening minutes of the match did feel very much like an exhibition with Yoshino taking Horiguchi’s rubber band attack for one last time and some lighthearted grappling exchanges between all six guys. Things heated up after a long heat section on Shachihoko BOY, which was primarily led by Kzy. 

Once BOY made the hot tag to Yoshino, this match shifted gears and never let up until the finish. Yoshino is moving around so much better than he was two months ago. He’s now able to hit the Doomsday Lightning Spiral with Doi, a nice, flashy highspot that would’ve seemed impossible in May. 

The spot of the match, without a doubt, was Doi taking a page out of the Masato Yoshino playbook and sacrificing himself to protect Yoshino from Susumu Yokosuka’s Jumbo no Kachi. There is no greater embodiment of the spirit of Dragongate, the familial aspect that has kept this promotion churning without pause for over 20 years, than taking a lariat at full force to protect your fellow man. Yoshino did this in an effort to save Akira Tozawa from a Shingo Takagi lariat in 2016. Doi repaid the favor here. 

This bled straight into Kzy, who’s challenging for the Open the Dream Gate Title at Kobe World, nearly losing on a series of flash pins to Shachihoko BOY. I have a hard time fathoming this coming across well in any other promotion. It would be like Marko Stunt scoring a series of close falls on Eddie Kingston. There is magic in Korakuen Hall, however, and time after time, Shachihoko BOY has sucked up that magic. This is where he thrives. The sequence between him and Kzy to close this match was incredible. His effort was all for not, however, as Kzy put him away with a Running Uppercut. This was superb. ***3/4 


The last time there was a No Ropes match in Dragongate, the show was headlined by Ricochet vs. Uhaa Nation in an Open the Dream Gate Championship match. Needless to say, it’s been awhile. 

YAMATO was victorious in his 2014 encounter against T-Hawk, just as he was here against KAI. This feud has been Dragongate’s prime focus since KAI turned on YAMATO last September in a thrilling cage match. Since then, we’ve seen KAI transition from a “happy to be here” outsider to a sleazy stalwart that perfectly fits with the RED aesthetic. This feud has been incredibly well booked. Everything has made sense. The progressions have been logical, the motivations have been clear, and there has been a clear aura of importance around whatever these two have done. The issue is that prior to this point, they had yet to have a proper great match. They’ve been plagued by interference or run-ins or hampered by curfews. 

That changed with this match. 

KAI is not going anywhere – nor do I really want him to, but there’s a very poetic part of me that wishes this was his Dragongate farewell. He’s been with the promotion for three years now and this wasn’t “good for KAI standards” or “surprisingly fun”, this was just great. This was on par with the No Ropes matches of yesteryear. It was exactly what this feud needed. 

At one point, KAI connected with a Fire Thunder Driver off the apron and through a table. He then used the scraps of the table to beat YAMATO senselessly. There have been No Ropes bouts in the past that feel gimmicky. This felt like a fight. 

The added chaos of the lumberjacks, notably during a big run-in sequence between RED and HIGH-END and then later when Kagetora dove onto a pile of RED members, added a lot to this match. Even Referee Nakagawa took a beating in this match. He took a big bump to the floor after YAMATO was shoved into him, then later was destroyed by a chair at the hands of SB KENTo in an effort to prevent YAMATO from securing the victory. 

Interference be damned, YAMATO and his HIGH-END crew secured the victory after the aforementioned Kagetora dive and then a Ragnarok to KAI. 

I don’t want to see these men in the same ring with one another for a few months after this. This was the perfect blow off to a heated feud between two of the promotion’s most protected assets. Highly recommended. ****1/4 

After the match, Kzy, Shun Skywalker, and YAMATO deliberated in the ring for a bit. It was decided that the winner of the 7/31 Kzy vs. Skywalker match will then go on to wrestle YAMATO on 8/1 for the Dream Gate Championship. 

Final Thoughts

Hopeful Gate provided Dragongate with a burst of energy as they head into the two biggest shows in the history of the promotion. Despite another limited capacity, clap crowd, this show was full of life and excitement by way of two great matches, Yoshino’s Tokyo farewell, and a handful of exciting, young wrestlers tearing up the undercard. Hopeful Gate is well worth your time.

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