I’d like to reel off a few notable names for you.
Jaime Escalante, who turned a batch of struggling lower-class students from East L.A. into AP Calculus students. Jonathan Turner, the English teacher who rode a motorcycle, taught X-Men and acted as a father figure to Shawn Hunter. Gabe Kotter, who returned to James Buchanan High to tame the Sweathogs.
What do these men have in common?
Well, for starters, they’re some of our greatest-known educators. Each was tasked with guiding unruly and aimless youths (like Arnold Horshack or Finger Man) toward their true potential.
Also, all of them (or at least the actors who played them) were at least a decade younger than Masaaki Mochizuki and didn’t look half as good without a shirt on.
In the Summer of 2018, Mochizuki dropped the Open The Dream Gate title to Masato Yoshino and decided it was time to transition into education. He declared he wanted to turn his focus on helping the younger generation. While he didn’t intend to start a unit, it wasn’t long before he was playing den dad to four eager cubs.
Masaaki Mochizuki is 51 years old. Somehow, he’s barely lost a step in the past twenty years. Should Father Time ever decide to blow the whistle on this man, his legacy might just be sustained by the wacky kids he shepherded as headmaster of the Mochizuki Dojo. If so, let this be his RateMyProfessor page. With another Kobe World quickly approaching, let’s catch up with the Mochi-Dojo boys.
Titles Held: Open The Dream Gate (current), 2019 Rookie Rankings Tournament Winner
Post-Graduation Notable Matches:
- Vs. Kzy, Kobe Pro-Wrestling Festival 2019, 7/21/19
- Vs. Kaito Ishida, Champion Gate 2021 in Osaka, 3/7/21
- Vs. KAZMA SAKAMOTO, Memorial Gate 2021 in Wakayama, 3/27/21
— Dave🌴 (@RHGIFs) July 22, 2018
On August 7th, 2018, the original trio of Shun, Yuki Yoshioka, and Hyo Watanabe beat Mochizuki in a 3-on-1 handicap match to persuade him to start the group. After Shun was able to score the pin with a Skywalker Moonsault, Mochizuki agreed. He had two conditions: they would not be an official unit (that didn’t stick), and anyone could leave whenever they wanted (…that sort of stuck).
Four days later, Mochizuki put Shun back in his place, walloping him in a singles match at Osaka. From there, the two seemed inseparable. They traveled to AJPW, where they teamed in the Junior Battle of Glory. At Dangerous Gate 2018 the two failed in a bid for the Open The Twin Gate belts against Naruki Doi and Big R Shimizu.
When Mochizuki wasn’t in the ring, Skywalker was the de facto team captain. In 2019, he won the Rookie Ranking tournament, besting Kaito Ishida in the finals. At Champion Gate in March, he boldly challenged PAC for the Open The Dream Gate title. Skywalker’s star was growing at a pace comparable to the frenetic pace he kept in the ring.
At Dead Or Alive that year, each faction sent a representative into the annual cage match. Skywalker was chosen as Mochizuki Dojo’s entrant. As always, the stipulations were a little complicated: Each entrant who successfully escaped the cage was given a free pass to kick a member out of their faction if they chose. The last man left in the cage was forced to evict a member whether they wanted to or not.
Shun succeeded in getting out of the cage and, to the surprise of his stablemates, removed himself from Mochizuki Dojo. He offered a tearful plea that it was time for him to strike out on his own to see what he could accomplish. He’d outgrown the group. Mochizuki responded by bopping him in the face and storming out of the cage. Sure, he had stipulated that anyone could leave whenever they wanted, but he hadn’t counted on his star pupil taking him up on it. Three days later, they faced off on the opening night of King of Gate. Mochizuki was out for blood. Shun won.
— Dan Pierce (@DanIsAYeti) May 9, 2019
Shun’s initial forays out on his own probably didn’t go as he’d hoped. While there were highlights (his tag team with Ben-K, a special singles match at Kobe World), the losses continued to pile up. At the beginning of 2020, as the company’s generational warfare era began, Shun quietly slipped away to Mexico on excursion.
Shun’s style to this point was known to invoke both thrill and terror in audiences. Always good for a slight wobble before taking flight, a Skywalker plancha was best viewed peeking from between your fingers. He’d hang in the air for so long you might think your video was buffering. It was kind of like in The Dukes of Hazzard when the General Lee would hit a jump and then freeze-frame before a commercial. I can hear Waylon Jennings’ narration: “I don’t know how ol’ Shoonie’s gonna get out of this one alive.”
When he made his surprise return at the end of last year’s Gate of Destiny, he was fully formed. He flattened the members of R.E.D. in the weeks that followed, with equal parts power and grace. He pretzeled opponents with a small array of llave-inspired holds. In the main event of Kobe World 2020, he defeated Eita to become the Open The Dream Gate champion.
Today, Skywalker leads Masquerade, the most exciting group of young talent in pro wrestling. A Masquerade multi-man tag match is appointment viewing every time. This weekend he’ll headline his second consecutive Kobe World Festival, defending his title against Kzy. In some capacity, his name will always be attached to Mochizuki’s. Good work, teach.
Titles Held: N/A
Post-Graduation Notable Matches:
Yuki Yoshioka blocks a Cobra Twist attempt from U-T and hits a Death Valley Bomb! #dragongate
— Dan (@GolazoDan) January 19, 2019
Yoshioka was part of the same ‘16 Dragongate rookie class that spawned stablemates Skywalker and Hyo Watanabe, along with Ben-K. He never seemed to find his footing the way the others did though. Even just in Mochizuki Dojo, Shun and Hyo had such clearly defined roles, but Yoshioka? He was simply the steady in-ring workhorse, the classic “good hand”. In the aforementioned 3-on-1 handicap match, he was the only member of his side to be eliminated. He absolutely shone fighting alongside Mochizuki and Skywalker for the Triangle Gate belts at Gate of Destiny 2018. He also ate a big, fat Bakatari Sliding Kick and the pin.
Still, his ability as a performer was recognized by fans. He seemed positioned as next in line after Skywalker. In the 2019 Rookie Ranking Tournament he finished third, higher than all the Dojo kids but Shun, even if his final win over U-T felt like an upset. Following Shun’s departure, he was the only Mochizuki Dojo kid to compete in the 2019 King of Gate. Yoshioka only managed one victory against Yosuke♥Santa Maria.
Yuki Yoshioka avoids the Darkness Buster from K-ness and catches the veteran in his cheekiest rollups! #dragongate
— Dan (@GolazoDan) February 10, 2019
After Mochizuki Dojo dissolved into the Dragongate Generation Unit, while his former teammates thrived, Yoshioka slipped away to Mexico for an excursion. Unfortunately, a global health crisis soon followed. Being in Mexico during the height of COVID-19, opportunities were slim. In those few opportunities, he’d still be overshadowed by Shun Skywalker, who’d also made the trip. Shun returned in November, and we still haven’t heard from Yoshioka. For all we know, he could be running drills in Arena Naucalpan right now.
Hypothetically though, what if he’d taken inspiration from the mask-wearing and flair of lucha libre? Hear me out. What if he returned under some kind of extravagant mask? Maybe something dark and rudo-ish? Yeah, and then, what if he entered into a blood feud with some high-flying, masked babyface? That’d be something, wouldn’t it? Eh, guess we’ll never know. I’ll give Mochizuki an incomplete for this one.
Titles Held: Open The Triangle Gate (w/ Takashi Yoshida, Diamante)
Post-Graduation Notable Matches:
- Ehhh, just pick one or two of his King of Gate matches. You’ll get it.
— Roy 🌱 (@narukiroy) September 19, 2017
Much like Skywalker and Yoshioka, Hyo’s path was laid out from the get-go. Except, in his case, it wasn’t during the 3-on-1 handicap match that birthed the unit but immediately after. It was Hyo that grabbed the mic and demanded Mochizuki take them under his wing. Maybe it was always evident that the tiny dude in leopard print’s presence was always much too large to take orders.
He had impressive athleticism, a flashy move set, and a proclivity for somersaulting post-to-post. But by 2019, what stood out from Hyo was the way his personality would fly off the screen. When Keisuke Okuda was inducted into the group that July, Hyo resisted shaking his hand. In the group photo that followed he radiated indifference: arms crossed, gaze averted, nose upturned. Earlier that evening he’d won a six-man tag for Mochizuki Dojo with a low blow. The bell had barely finished ringing before he was further belittling his opponents on the mic.
H.Y.O USE HIS 100% BRAIN
100 POINTS! pic.twitter.com/SFAkj1hNtt
— Tapla タプラ :: ROAD TO KOBE WORLD (@D_TaPla) June 1, 2021
Tensions would grow between Hyo and the group until October. At Korakuen Hall he’d wallop Okuda with a chair, call Mochizuki Dojo a bunch of losers, and join R.E.D. The next month he’d face Mochizuki one-on-one in a match that devolved into the two men beating each other with chair pieces. He began stylizing his name as H・Y・O and we were off to the races.
After criticizing the Dojo’s inability to win gold, H・Y・O got his first taste in a Triangle Gate win alongside Takashi Yoshida and Diamante at Final Gate 2019. Despite being flanked by R.E.D.’s biggest goons, H・Y・O was pinned by Kenichiro Arai in their first defense. That’s a little more representative of his career ever since — he’s R.E.D.’s top pin-eater. The thing is, it never really mattered if H・Y・O was winning or losing matches; he’s going to weasel his way into the spotlight either way. In December of last year, he took part in the R.E.D. vs. Dragongate Generation Unit Disbands match, outlasting names like SpeedMuscle and Eita. At this year’s King of Gate, he took a starring role without scoring a single point. He spent the competition playing spoiler to top names, forcing double count-outs and touting himself as the tournament’s “biggest brain.”
I’m not sure Masaaki Mochizuki would want to claim credit for H・Y・O’s “success.” He might owe him thanks, though — Mochizuki Dojo was H・Y・O’s idea, after all.
Titles Held: Open The Twin Gate (w/ Jason Lee)
Post-Graduation Notable Matches:
- w/ Jason Lee vs. KAZMA SAKAMOTO & BxB Hulk, Memorial Gate 2020, 8/2/20
- w/ Jason Lee vs. Susumu Yokosuka & Dragon Kid, Dangerous Gate 2020, 9/21/20
- Vs. YAMATO, then vs. Kzy, King of Gate 2021, 6/3/21
— Roy 🌱 (@narukiroy) November 8, 2018
At Korakuen Hall in November of 2018, a 19-year-old Kota Minoura was given a tremendous opportunity: a singles match with Masaaki Mochizuki. When the bell rang, the veteran approached and offered a handshake. Minoura responded by slapping him in the face.
Of course, Mochizuki gave him a thorough beating in response, winning in just over. But Minoura knew this: the only road to Mochizuki’s heart is paved in piss and vinegar. When he rose to his feet, Mochizuki invited him into the group.
As for the rest of his tenure? Well, here’s what I wrote about him in our preview for Memorial Gate 2020:
What can you say about Kota Minoura? No seriously, I’m asking. Minoura seemed to have an uncanny in-ring ability to make you completely forget the prior 8 to 10 minutes of your life. If you’d put a gun to my head and asked me to tell you anything at all about Kota Minoura, I’d respond with a peace sign. It’s not that he was bad, but on the other hand, maybe he was; I couldn’t really tell you.
He lacked the flashiness of Skywalker and the fire of Hyo. Yoshioka had already filled the “indistinguishable, but very talented” slot. Minoura was just there.
— Kayden/ケイデン🌸🌺 (@KVR216) July 9, 2021
That all changed shortly after their dissolution into the Dragongate Generation. On July 4th, 2020, at KBS Hall, a whole new Kota Minoura hit the ring. In a 15 minute draw with Big R Shimizu, sporting new white and gold trunks, he was a tireless suplex and forearm machine. He stood up to the heavily favorited Shimizu, hoisting him up with relative ease. Where’d this guy come from? It was Rachel Leigh Cook walking down the stairs to Sixpence None The Richer all over again. He’d quickly strike up a partnership with Jason Lee. The two claimed the Twin Gate titles at Memorial Gate and spent the rest of the summer as the company’s most exciting act.
When the Generation War ended, Minoura and Lee ended up in Masquerade with Shun Skywalker. The two separated over time, but any disappointment from fans like me passed quickly. This year, with the help of a few convenient forfeits, Minoura made it to the semi-finals of King of Gate. In one career-making night, Minoura defeated company ace YAMATO to advance to the finals where he’d fall just short to Kzy. Both matches were tremendous. If you wanted to build a case for Minoura being the most sure-fire bet of all the Mochizuki Dojo grads, King of Gate 2021 is your foundation. At Kobe World, he’ll have a special singles match against R.E.D. leader Eita. He’s only 22 years old.
Earlier this month, Kota Minoura topped Masaaki Mochizuki in a hard-hitting singles match. After sustaining his former mentor’s famously brutal kicks for twelve minutes, Minoura secured his Gang powerbomb. When it was all over, Mochizuki got his handshake.
Titles Held: Open The Brave Gate (current)
Post-Graduation Notable Matches:
- Vs. Kaito Ishida, Gate of Destiny 2020, 11/3/20
- Vs. Kaito Ishida, Kobe Pro-Wrestling Festival 2020, 11/15/20
- Vs. Kagetora, Final Gate 2020, 12/20/20
— Dan (@GolazoDan) June 7, 2019
Okuda arrived in Dragongate following a stint in DDT. Previous to that, however, was a run in Inoki Genome Federation and a couple professional MMA bouts. Needless to say, stylistically, he stood out immediately. His big jaw-dropper was a frankensteiner from the top rope that he’d roll into a triangle choke. It perfectly represented the clash between DG’s junior flare and Okuda’s shoot-fighting roots.
Mochizuki, reeling after a tough break-up with Shun Skywalker, might have been looking for a new protege to fill the void. Maybe he saw a little of himself in Okuda’s snarl? In July of 2019, during the Rainbow Gate tour, Mochizuki outsmarted an overeager Okuda in a singles match, forcing his hand into joining the unit.
You could argue that Okuda’s addition was the beginning of the end. Hyo was the next to exit, resenting Okuda’s position in the group. Yoshioka and Minoura floated aimlessly as Mochizuki took Okuda on as his regular tag team partner.
Speed Star Final this weekend represents a changing of the guard for Dragongate. In Okuda, maybe Mochizuki saw an heir to his position as the company’s rugged, no-frills ass-kicker. Or maybe he just saw a like-minded pal to go hurt people with.
— Kayden/ケイデン🌸🌺 (@KVR216) May 14, 2021
When the group dissolved, Okuda settled into a fairly prominent role in the Dragongate Generation unit. After a spell of speculation that he might defect to R.E.D., Okuda began a series of matches with Kaito Ishida that would span the rest of 2020. Ishida, something of a kick boy himself, provided a perfect counterpoint, brandishing a shit-eating grin that begged to be roundhoused. The two punished each other over the course of four fan-lauded matches. At Gate of Destiny 2020, Okuda took Ishida’s Open The Brave Gate title.
Okuda’s Brave Gate reign has seen tremendous highs (vs. Kagetora, Final Gate 2020) and disappointing lows (a meh revival with H・Y・O, a brutal slew of Punch Tominaga matches). He feels like a background player as he approaches his sixth title defense against Genki Horiguchi at Kobe World.
The good news is that he’s landed in one of the company’s most exciting factions, HIGH-END. He regularly fights alongside stablemate and longtime friend Ben-K. Together, the pair perpetually looks like they just cleared out a saloon brawl. It’s that same “don’t make eye contact with those dudes” energy you might have felt looking at Masaaki Mochizuki and Don Fujii a few years back.
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