DRAGON GATE
GATE OF ADVENTURE
AUGUST 11, 2021
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

DRAGONGATE FUTURE
ISHIN IIHASHI VS. TAKUMI HAYAKAWA

The Dragongate FUTURE project has been quietly featured all year on the Dragongate Network. Starting with the promotion’s final show of 2020, their current crop of dojo students have wrestled five-minute exhibitions during their monthly Kobe appearance. The matches started as shooty grappling affairs and have slowly transitioned into a more traditional young boy style of match. The youngsters made their mark in Kyoto in July and now, finally, have migrated to Tokyo. 

It would be disingenuous to call this match “great”, but it was easily the most fun thing on the show. Hayakawa is an undersized, never-say-die fighter. His charisma was on display here. He’s the type of guy that Dragongate will always have use for. 

His opponent, Ishin Iihashi, is a second-generation wrestler who has been training alongside his brother, Riki Iihashi. Their father is Ishinriki of SWS and WAR fame and their mother is Utako Hozumi, who briefly competed for LLPW, among other promotions. Wrestling runs in their blood. Iihashi is a badass. He’s stocky but athletic. I think he’ll make a tremendous addition to the roster when he debuts in September. 

This match went to a five-minute draw. It’s worth taking five minutes out of your day to watch it. 

BEN-K & KEISUKE OKUDA DEF. BXB HULK & DIA INFERNO 

Dragongate’s official opener got much more time to breathe than the usual opening contest in Korakuen Hall. The longtime amateur wrestling companions of Ben-K and Okuda dished out a ton of punishment, tossing around the frail Hulk and the peculiar Dia Inferno. 

The Bensuke combination will one day rule the Twin Gate division as the closest thing we get to a MochiFujii 2.0. That’s my hope, at least. As they progress as a team, they will be dealt better opponents than what they got here. This match largely existed to prove that Dia Inferno can exist in a match that doesn’t feature Dragon Dia, which he did successfully, and to add fuel to the already heated fire between Okuda and SB KENTo, who seconded his R.E.D. tandem at ringside. Okuda was choked out on the floor at one point in this contest, but that didn’t stop the HIGH-END duo from securing the win. ***

KENICHIRO ARAI, NARUKI DOI, & RYO SAITO DEF. KONOMAMA ICHIKAWA, SHACHIHOKO BOY, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA 

I thought Naruki Doi would be involved in a huge angle on this show given that he was impacted the most by Masato Yoshinon’s retirement. He promised Yoshino he’d wait until after his retirement to find a new unit and I thought he’d make an emphatic statement on this show by joining or creating a unit. 

Instead, he almost got pinned by Konomama Ichikawa. 

Ichikawa countered the Bakatare Sliding Kick and miraculously rolled up Doi with a La Magistral as if he were Ultimo Dragon in his prime. Unfortunately, Doi kicked out, and the match continued on until Ichikawa found himself on the wrong end of a reversed Figure Four leglock from Arai. Highly enjoyable. NR

MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, PROBLEM DRAGON, & ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. PUNCH TOMINAGA, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & YASUSHI KANDA 

As I comb through my database with numerous pages full of match listings, recommendations, and nearly a decade’s worth of Dragongate notes, I can confirm that I have given Masaaki Mochizuki two different 5 star matches. Shockingly low, considering he’s one of the 10 best competitors to ever step in a ring, but his list of near-perfect matches feels endless. He’s the king of the 4.75 star match. There are so many career Mochizuki matches, whether it be the 2015 Shingo match, the 2014 Yoshino match, or the 2002 Susumu match (just to name a few), Somehow, though, it is this match that made me reexamine just how great Mochizuki can be. 

In there with Dragongate’s end-of-the-bench players and Ultimo, Mochizuki raised everyone’s game in this match. He got great sequences out of all three of his opponents. I’ll be damned if the closing stretch between Mochizuki and Tominaga wasn’t what I would call “highly entertaining”. On paper, it is obvious that Mochizuki is better than everyone else in this match, but in execution the difference was staggering. He truly could bring a broomstick to a great match. 

Tominaga ate a Reverse Twister, netting the 51-year-old and his team the victory. ***1/4 

STRONG MACHINE J, STRONG MACHINE F, & STRONG MACHINE G DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI, FUNKY “JACKY” KAMEI, & U-T

After an eight-month absence from the promotion, Strong Machine J made his triumphant return, defeating the same unit that he successfully defeated in his debut match in April 2019. Strong Machine J’s future will entirely depend on his health. It’s clear he has talent. On this roster, he has size and a solid physique, but he’s sneaky athletic. The wheel kick he threw in this match jumped out to me as a nice, flashy addition to his moveset. He’s been plagued by a shoulder injury which he finally repaired at the end of 2020. In just over two years, he’s rarely wrestled more than 5 matches in a single month which is a major problem given Dragongate’s notoriously rigorous touring schedule. 

He put his best foot forward in his return, at the very least. Natural Vibes bounced around wonderfully for the Machine Army and in the end, Strong Machine J put away Kamei with the Machine Suplex in just over six minutes for the victory. ***1/4 

KOTA MINOURA & SHUN SKYWALKER DEF. DIAMANTE & KAI  

I was really on board with this until the disqualification finish. 

Skywalker has transitioned from fighting to keep his head above water as the top champion in the company to being a big fish in a small pond as a deadly credible wrestler in the upper midcard. Shockingly, he met his match with Diamante in this contest. Their chemistry from start-to-finish was terrific. 

Diamante debuted two years ago and after lamenting him for nearly a year as one of the weakest imports Dragongate has brought over, he has found his calling as the roster’s most reliable base behind Susumu Yokosuka. Seemingly overnight, things “clicked” for him. He began using his massive size to his advantage on both offense and defense. He began connecting with the audience more. He somehow became one of the most enjoyable wrestlers on the roster. 

Instead of trying to out-fly the Masquerade duo, Diamante and KAI put the boots to them in vicious fashion. They even used the ringside attendees, Takuma Fujiwara and Takumi Hayakawa as weapons, suplexing them onto Minoura and Skywalker respectively. 

Right when this match was turning a corner and becoming truly great, Diamante connected with a low blow and then attacked Referee Yagi, who quickly signaled for the DQ. A disappointing finish to what was turning into a great match. NR

HYO, KAITO ISHIDA, & SB KENTO DEF. DRAGON KID, KAGETORA, & YAMATO, KING SHIMIZU, KZY, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, AND DRAGON DIA, JASON LEE, & LA ESTRELLA 

Dragongate returned to their signature match for the first time since before the three-unit war of 2020 took over the promotion. As they always do, this match delivered at a high level in a way that only the Dragongate roster could pull off. The fascinating part of this bout is that while it has roots going back to the Toryumon days, the new age stars controlled this match, mainly SB KENTo, Jason Lee, and King Shimizu. 

Everyone pulled their weight in this match, but no unit did so as much as Masquerade did. This was a particularly “on” night for La Estrella, who flew around the ring and tore it up with everyone involved, specifically his debut opponent, Susumu Yokosuka. Jason Lee was once again a breath of fresh air in this bout. For a match that was prone to being high energy given the participants and the structure, it was jarring to see just how much Lee added to the match. Every time he stepped in the ring, he jumped off the screen. His interactions with YAMATO, Kzy, and SBK all took this match to another level, not to mention the fact that Lee was the first wrestler to break the seal and use one of the moves that Masato Yoshino had gifted to the future generation. Lee busted out a picture-perfect Slingblade, giving Estrella and Dia the opportunity to follow up with the Coumori and the From Jungle, respectively. 

Dia submitted to SBK and his SB Shooter after Dia Inferno ran in and connected with a top rope lungblower. 

With Masquerade out of the way, this gave King Shimizu a chance to shine. He is such a perfect fit for Natural Vibes. His run as a heel never felt natural. It felt like he was trying too hard to be something that he wasn’t. At the end of the day, Shimizu is a low-IQ killer who has more heart than brains. Everything he does well is represented under the King Shimizu moniker. He scooped up HYO, Ishida, and SBK and then dumped them all down with a three-man Samoan Drop, which was arguably the most impressive spot in a match full of impressive spots. 

Unfortunately, Shimizu could not carry his team to victory. Susumu Yokosuka ate an Ultra Hurricanrana from his career-rival Dragon Kid, leaving HIGH-END and RED to battle it out. 

This match was on its way to being one of the best DG matches of the year when KAI ran in. YAMATO had just connected with a Galleria on HYO when Ishida distracted the referee, leaving the door open to KAI who promptly planted YAMATO with the Neo Drive and draped HYO over the Dream Gate champion for the successful pinfall. 

I want to be done with KAI vs. YAMATO but I don’t think that’s going to happen. The finish generated the wrong kind of heat for me. I was let down that a match of this caliber, on a show this pedestrian, ended the way that it did. ****1/4 

Final Thoughts

Gate of Adventure was Dragongate’s first big foray into a new era, a post-Masato Yoshino universe. While the show didn’t live up to its usual standards, the next generation of Dragongate stars were fully on display. They never stop churning out quality wrestlers. The main event of this show etched out why the Dragongate roster is wrestling’s most superior roster. Thumbs in the middle of Gate of Adventure 2021.

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