KOBE PRO WRESTLING FESTIVAL 2021
JULY 31, 2021
SPEED STAR FINAL
AUGUST 1, 2021
KOBE WORLD KINEN HALL
KOBE, HYOGO PREFECTURE, JAPAN
Watch: Dragongate Network
NOTE: Due to the incomplete nature of the Speed Star Final card, along with the title matches on that show being contingent on the results of Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival 2021, we are combining both shows in this preview. For the title matches, each previewer will talk about the weekend for each belt, including their anticipated Speed Star Final scenarios. Each match will be listed with its corresponding show.
Kenichiro Arai, Yasushi Kanda & K-ness. vs. Super Shisa, Konomama Ichikawa & Shachihoko Boy (Kobe World)
Shachihoko Boy is one of Masato Yoshino’s closest friends and has a total heater for an entrance theme. That won’t be enough to get him out of the dark match. This’ll go less than ten, and be a nice enough cameo from some fellas who share a rich history with the Speed Star. Ichikawa slaughters the other team, stacks all of them for the pin, and demands a Dream Gate key. Yagi hands it over, eyes wide with terror. PREDICTION: I’m still in bed when this hits the ring.
Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fujii & Ryo Saito vs. R.E.D (BxB Hulk, KAI & H・Y・O) (Kobe World)
This seems like rando-soup, but it might over-deliver. Mochizuki’s in there with his old partner Don Fujii, but I’m interested in Saito here. Back in April, a battle royal at Kobe Sambo Hall ended in a killer mini-match between SaiRyo and Mocchy. Mochizuki made note of the rare Serious Saito appearance. I love it when Saito gets to kicking ass. I really, truly, deeply love it.
It likely won’t matter much, though. BxB Hulk is part of Yoshino’s farewell match the next night and he should probably be on the winning side here. Just be cool, guys, and give me that hot closing stretch with Saito. PREDICTION: R.E.D.
Takashi Yoshida, Yosuke♡Santa Maria, U-T & Funky “Jacky” Kamei vs. Gamma, Ben-K, Problem Dragon & Punch Tominaga (Kobe World)
Even for a “get everyone on the card” tag match, there’s not a lot of meat on the bone here. U-T, Kamei and Maria don’t know how to take a night off, but they might be stifled here by comedy bits from their opponents. Ben-K’s the only one who needs to look strong, as he’ll challenge for the Twin Gates belts the next night. I expect him to pin Maria, but I’m a sucker for Ben roughing up a bigger opponent. Takashi Yoshida’s babyface revival has wound down to a meek fart. Let Ben-K finish it off. PREDICTION: Gamma, Ben-K, Problem Dragon, Punch Tominaga.
Special Singles Match (Kobe World)
Kota Minoura vs. Eita
Kota Minoura went from the most boring guy in Mochizuki Dojo to the most exciting rising star in the company. He developed an electric arsenal of forearms and suplexes; with Jason Lee, formed the best new tag team in the company since Big Ben; became a long-hair hot guy; and stole the spotlight in King of Gate 2021 with two instant-classics on the final night.
Anyway, Eita wins. Before getting derailed by further injury and COVID spikes, the path to Yoshino’s retirement revolved around Eita. And he’s still booked like a final boss! Just on the 22nd at Sambo Hall, Eita nearly broke Funky Jacky Kamei in half with a Camel Clutch. He’ll walk into Speed Star Final looking as fearsome as possible.
Don’t worry though — he’ll do it clean. Just like Shun Skywalker’s match with Kzy at Kobe World two years ago, this match is setting the foundation for a future star. Also, just like that match, everyone will be talking about this one when the show’s over. PREDICTION: Eita
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Open the Triangle Gate Championship
Kobe World – Masquerade (Dragon Dia, Jason Lee & La Estrella) (c) vs. R.E.D. (SB KENTo, Diamante & Dia Inferno)
Speed Star Final – Winners at Kobe World (c) vs Aagan Issou (Shuji Kondo, Toru Owashii & “brother” YASSHI)
If we assume Aagan Issou is losing at Speed Star Final, and I’m willing to make that assumption, the factors in picking the Kobe World matchup come into greater focus. Does Masquerade’s reputation as a can’t-miss-act in multi-man tags outweigh the rapid rise of SB KENTo? Do we want to see the bigger Aagan Issou guys base for three world class Masquerade flyers? Or do we want AI and R.E.D. to try and out-heel each other?
It’s a coin-toss to me, but I think SBK will have bigger fish to fry soon and (not to spoil one of my next predictions, but) Masquerade will need representation at Speed Star Final. PREDICTION: Masquerade
Open the Brave Gate Championship
Kobe World – Keisuke Okuda (c) vs. Genki Horiguchi
Speed Star Final – Winner at Kobe World (c) vs Kagetora
Keisuke Okuda’s once-promising Brave Gate has screeched to a grinding halt, and really, it’s no fault of his own. This man spent the back half of 2020 in the year’s hottest feud with Kaito Ishida, then closed it out at Final Gate with a monster of a match against Kagetora. On top of all that, he looked like a very tan Art Alexakis.
Since then? He’s had disappointing defenses against U-T and H.Y.O, and an endless feud with Punch Tominaga that made me think I was in Groundhog Day. It’s time to take this reign out to the shed.
If you’re bummed about Genki Horiguchi taking the belt, just give it a day. It’s a belabored point that a motivated Kagetora is one of the best juniors out there. Well, we’ve gotten that motivated Kagetora, haven’t we? He consistently delivered in his tour through the factions before landing in HIGH-END and has been a strong role player in the group since. He’s turning on the jets in KBS and Sambo Hall like a man who knows gold is coming. Besides, in this slew of back-to-back title matches over the two nights, the company has to prove early in Night 2 that they’re willing to do consecutive switches. The Brave Gate’s lineage has seen worse. PREDICTION: Horiguchi beats Okuda, Kagetora beats Horiguchi.
SPEED STAR FINAL COUNTDOWN in KOBE (Kobe World)
Masato Yoshino, Shuji Kondo, Toru Owashi, “brother” YASSHI & Takuya Sugawara vs. Ultimo Dragon, Naruki Doi, YAMATO, Dragon Kid & Kagetora
Every good series finale needs that penultimate scene that stuffs in every possible cameo. This match is everyone sitting around Cheers after hours to shit talk Diane again. This is the trial of Jerry, George, Diane, and Kramer. This is sweet, merciful fluff before we say goodbye.
Yoshino will team with his fellow T2P classmates, including his old pal Toru Owashi and his former Italian Connection partner Shuji Kondo. Opposite him will be his eternal partner/rival Naruki Doi, his former teacher Ultimo Dragon, and three other talents he’s shared the trenches with for much of the last twenty. He’ll have to tolerate Dragon Kid for one more night. Yoshino seems to have a Liger-esque disinterest in winning on his way out, and I’m sure YAMATO would be happy to give Sugawara a feel-good Galleria. PREDICTION: Ultimo, Doi, YAMATO, Dragon Kid, Kagetora
Open the Twin Gate Championship
Kobe World – R.E.D. (Kaito Ishida & Kazma Sakamoto) (c) Vs. Natural Vibes (Susumu Yokosuka & King Shimizu)
Speed Star Final – Winners at Kobe World (c) vs HIGH-END (Ben-K & Dragon Kid)
In June at Sambo Hall, King Shimizu got a huge pinfall over reigning Twin Gate champ Kaito Ishida. A minute later, his partner, Susumu Yokosuka, got speared into mincemeat by Ben-K. These matches are the result.
At Kobe World, expect fireworks. The Susumu/Kaito matchup is pure fireworks — the focus is a fish-in-a-barrel struggle between Susumu’s arm and Kaito’s kicks. It never gets old, it never falls flat. I’ve been calling Shimizu a king ever since he got the boot from R.E.D., so I’m glad to see he’s embraced the title. Watching him collide with an exciting big dude like KAZMA will be a blast.
I’ve got R.E.D. winning here. To me, Ishida seems too integral to DG’s future to not be in a big spot the following night. SAKAMOTO, a revelation as a promo and personality, has earned his recent booking as a serious threat.
They’ll roll through the Ben-K/Dragon Kid pairing the following night, too. And that’s okay — removed from the Brave Gate picture, Keisuke Okuda is free to hang with his pal Ben-K. Set a course for a future Bensuke vs. Ishida/KAZMA Twin Gate match; it’s the company’s best potential saloon brawl. A twenty minute Roadhouse tribute. I’m breaking glass bottles over my head just thinking about it. PREDICTION: R.E.D. beats Natural Vibes, then beats HIGH-END.
Open the Dream Gate
Kobe World – Shun Skywalker (c) vs. Kzy
Speed Star Final – Winner at Kobe World (c) vs YAMATO
Several threads intertwine these three, and it makes picking the Dream Gate champion at the end of the weekend a real coin toss. Thankfully, Mike Spears has you covered with all of the history surrounding these three men and these two matches.
At the top, we’ve got Shun Skywalker, who returned from a Mexican excursion to take the Dream Gate title at last year’s Kobe World. Nobody’s been able to touch him since. His title reign has seemed snakebitten at times by unfortunate injury (Ben-K, Hip Hop Kikuta) but when given the opportunity, he’s delivered in spades (Kaito Ishida, KAZMA SAKAMOTO).
YAMATO, the company ace, is coming off a nearly two-year feud with BxB Hulk and KAI. After putting that to bed in a brutal No-Ropes Match at Korakuen Hall, he immediately inserted himself into the title picture. YAMATO declared himself the challenger at Speed Star Final for whoever survives a grueling Kobe World main event. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he’s the bad guy (hmm…).
What I’m most interested in, though, is the other guy. The perpetual other guy.
I know it’s always Kzy Time, but folks, this weekend might be, like, the real one. We’ve been building to this. With the suspension of Natural Vibes leading into the Generational War, Kzy got new gear and a champion-chic haircut. He walked out to new big-match music for his title challenge against Eita. He languished in the shadow of Dragongate Generation’s captain, YAMATO.
When the war ended, a new version of Natural Vibes formed around him. Initially, this seemed like a step backward, but swapping in U-T, Kamei, and King Shimizu has put him in the captain’s chair of one colossal faction. He flaunted that confidence when he reminded Masquerade, led by Shun Skywalker, that they can’t touch his star prowess on a microphone. Finally, he knocked it out of the park night after night en route to winning this year’s King of Gate.
Above all, Kzy has already failed in the big spot too many times in recent memory. He just dropped two Dream Gate bids last year. If that little trash-ass McKZ is ever going to finish his ascent to championship glory, it has to happen now and on this stage.
On the other hand, Shun Skywalker is owed retribution for big singles losses to both Kzy (Kobe World 2019) and YAMATO (King of Gate 2021 Night 1), so feel free to throw this prediction right into the trash. PREDICTION: Kzy beats Shun Skywalker, then beats YAMATO
Masato Yoshino Retirement Match (Speed Star Final)
Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi vs Eita & BxB Hulk
Listen, I love Masato Yoshino. The deep dive that led me to being a fan of this company was a deep dive into Yoshino’s career. Once I found his match with Doi at Gate of Destiny 2013, I got hooked. Now, I’ve spent half the week hunched over a computer typing about them. Thanks a lot, Yoshino. But this isn’t the time to wax poetic about his career, Case Lowe’s incredible piece from earlier this week covered all bases in that regard. Let’s talk about this match.
We said goodbye to the Yoshino who put on singles epics with his Dream Gate challenge against Ben-K at Gate of Destiny 2019. Since then, the pairing of SpeedMuscle has continued to maintain such a prestigious aura that you could have missed all the clues. You might not have noticed all of Yoshino’s singles matches topping out at five minutes. You could have even overlooked how much time Yoshino was spending on the apron in tags. And how appropriate for Doi, and the legacy the two share, to prop Speed Star up through his last active year. No matter what the two ever accomplished apart, and it’s a lot, they’ll always be tethered.
They’ve hinted at the potential for drama here with Doi diving in front of a Susumu lariat to protect his partner at Korakuen Hall. Their relationship has so many intriguing dynamics to pull from — for example, Doi’s two betrayals of Yoshino. You’ll think of those when and if Yoshino holds an opponent up for the Bakatare Sliding Kick.
On the opposite end, BxB Hulk is here as a fellow remaining member of the Big Six who just happens to be in R.E.D. Eita, on the other hand, represents endless possibilities. It’s easy to forget with the derailments from COVID and Yoshino’s health, but at one point, all roads were leading to this matchup. Eita clamored to be the one who put Yoshino away and spent months assaulting his injured neck. On Sunday, we learn the endgame. Does the long-speculated Eita face turn begin here? Is the void that would leave in R.E.D. filled by a veteran like Doi or YAMATO? Is Eita simply a final hurdle for Yoshino to clear triumphantly, or is Yoshino a stepping stone into heel godhood for Eita?
When Eita took the Dream Gate title from Naruki Doi at Memorial Gate 2020, he knew the gravity of the moment. He called off the hyenas of R.E.D. and proved he could do it on his own. Masato Yoshino had a whole roster of promising talent to pick from, and he’s chosen Eita to receive his final rub. A whole new chapter for Dragongate begins when this match ends, and one way or another, Eita likely figures in heavily. I look forward to seeing how. PREDICTION: Eita & BxB Hulk