Watch: Dragon Gate Network


In just over five minutes, Yoshida brought forth power and fury in an effort to pin Yosuke Santa Maria. No one looked bad here, but on the same token, no one looked great. An inoffensive, forgettable, and skippable dark match. 


The beauty of Kaito Ishida and Keisuke Okuda having the runaway feud of 2020 is that now every time they’re positioned in the ring across from one another, they’re able to play the hits – and by play the hits – I mean hit each other as hard as humanly possible. There’s an argument to be made that for Okuda, the lack of progression is concerning. Once they moved past each other, Okuda went on to have a so-so Brave Gate run while Ishida was immediately placed into the Dream Gate picture. I side with the idea that there’s nothing wrong with playing the hits, and that Okuda will eventually progress in some way, shape, or form. As a result, I found their interactions to be wildly entertaining. 

The finish came down to Dragon Kid and HYO, who is a threat to pin anyone on the roster no matter their stature. He nearly scored a flash pin on Dragon Kid, but the veteran was able to kick out and quickly transitioned into the Bible for the pinfall. ***


It is rare that I am this excited for an undercard Dragongate tag match. On the Masquerade side, there’s no better junior in Japan than Jason Lee and there’s no one hotter in Dragongate than Kota Minoura. For HIGH-END, Kagetora has been a regular, undercard highlight in recent months and YAMATO is the current Dream Gate champion. This had all of the elements to make a great match and the end result lived up to my expectations. 

Jason Lee got shine early, notably nailing YAMATO with a dropkick and then stealing YAMATO’s signature pose in a great moment. As the match hit the closing stretch, though, the focus shifted to Kota Minoura. Just as they had done in June, Minoura and YAMATO showed off their phenomenal chemistry with one another. YAMATO went for a Galliera to cap off the match, but Minoura escaped the finishing hold and clocked the champion with a forearm that put him out on his feet. The crafty Gifu-native went to steal the win with a series of flash pins, but YAMATO escaped. Right when it looked like YAMATO had finally found the upper hand with the Frankensteiner of the Almighty, Minoura rolled through and pinned YAMATO by surprise. 

Everyone played their part here tremendously. After a match of what felt like ice cold “road to” matches between Ben-K, KAI, and Masaaki Mochizuki, the top contenders for YAMATO’s Dream Gate belt, it was so painfully obvious in this match that Minoura should be challenging for the gold. This match was a ton of fun. ***3/4 

After the match, our prayers were answered. Kota Minoura demanded that GM Ryo Saito come to the ring and add him to the main event three-way match to make it a four-way #1 Contendership match. After pinning BxB Hulk, Masaaki Mochizuki, and Eita in singles matches and then YAMATO once in a singles match and once in a tag, Saito could not argue with Minoura’s point. He was now in the main event. 


There are few things in this promotion I enjoy more than Dragongate Jae beating up on Punch Tominaga on commentary. The abuse is only going to get worse as Tominaga’s hairline degrades and I am so excited about that. 

After a thrilling rookie year, it has taken Funky “Jacky” Kamei some time to adjust to his role in Natural Vibes. He battled an injury at the start of the year and when he returned to Dragongate’s resident dance unit, he seemed out of place. He stuck out as the one flaw in the well-oiled machine that was the second incarnation of Natural Vibes. The flip has switched, though, and FJK is not only back to wrestling like he’s at 100%, but he now feels like the heart and soul of Natural Vibes with Kzy out of action for an extended period of time. 

The easy highlight of this match was FJK tangling with Don Fujii. It’s an easy dynamic, with Fujii looking to break the youngster in half while FJK is simply looking to survive. I hope down the line, these two either find themselves in a singles match, or a multi-man match with some actual stakes to it, because they’re capable of producing magic. 

Punch Tominaga went to win the match for his team with Shingo Takagi’s Pumping Bomber, but Punch Tominaga is no Shingo Takagi. Fujii recovered and hit the rarely seen Nice German Suplex for the win. ***  


Strong Machine K is here and he’s a force to be reckoned with. 

I am not in the business of unmasking men, but Strong Machine K has some “King Kong” tendencies that make him easily identifiable to any fan of Dragongate. He’s a welcome addition to the Strong Machines, who largely feel out of place in the current scope of Dragongate. It’s weird to say that it’s “so 2019”, given that that was only two years ago, but the Strong Machines really feel so 2019. This is at least a fresh coat of paint with the new addition. 

At Dangerous Gate, Strong Machine J and Strong Machine K will be gunning for the Twin Gate belts as they challenge King Shimizu and Susumu Yokosuka. The dynamic, on paper, is the most interesting position that Strong Machine J will be in since he dropped the Triangle Gate belts at the end of 2019. J will be aided by the strength of Shimizu and the technique of Yokosuka. If he can’t succeed in that environment, trouble will follow. This is the ideal scenario for Strong Machine J to kickstart the second act of his career and if this match was any indication, I think he can handle it. 

Strong Machine K looked fired up to be here, not only using his llave background to lock in a tricked out STF during the early portions of this match, but then using his power to pin King Shimizu with a King Kong Lariat to put a bow on this encounter. ***1/4 


Just like the Shun Skywalker vs. Diamante tag from last month, this was on its way to easily being the match of the night before the disqualification finish. 

Despite the award being won by Britt Baker last year, I thought Diamante was far and away the most improved wrestler of 2020. When he entered the promotion shortly after Ultimo Dragon’s debut in the summer of 2019, I found him to be an eyesore. He was a step slow and in Dragongate, that difference is everything. He felt like a WrestleJAM import from when the foreign roster was bloated and often bringing in talent that wasn’t up to par. 

Last year, Diamante found his footing. He became a reliable combatant in big multi-man matches and found comfort and charisma that he seemed to lack in his first year in the promotion. When the calendar turned to 2021, Diamante was essentially put on special assignment: his new job was to get La Estrella over. 

There’s now a realistic argument to be made that Diamante should now also be the most improved wrestler of 2021. The progression we’ve seen from him, going from actively bad to inoffensively fun to at times, legitimately great, is remarkable. In a match with a bonafide Flair/Thesz candidate in Skywalker, two high-flying sensations in Estrella and Dia, and the face of the promotion in Eita, Diamante was the star of this match. He ran the show. He bowled Estrella for a strike, swatted down Dia’s aerial attacks, and went nose-to-nose with the former Dream Gate champion. There have been numerous RED vs. Masquerade multi-mans this year that have been great, but none have been led by Diamante. Had this not ended with a Dia Inferno DQ, this would’ve been added to my spreadsheet. 

Dia Inferno countered Dragon Dia’s signature Reptilian Rana with a low blow while Referee Nakagawa was distracted. When Nakagawa confronted Inferno, he too received a low blow, which sounded the bell. 

Had this had five more minutes and a clean finish, this would’ve been in the upper echelon of Masquerade vs. RED matches this year. Alas, this is the reality that we live in. NR


Thank God Kota Minoura won. 

Five years ago, YAMATO beat Shingo Takagi at Kobe World 2016 in what ended up being the definitive end to one of Dragongate’s golden eras. YAMATO’s fourth reign with the Dream Gate belt lasted for over a year and was doomed from the start. I hated his time with the title. His first defense was at that year’s Dangerous Gate against Akira Tozawa, who had just returned from his shift at the Cruiserweight Classic. Everyone knew Tozawa was going to lose. Instead of defending the title in November in Osaka, he had to wait until December to defend his title again, this time against Naruki Doi in a cold main event in front of a cold Fukuoka crowd. The next year was marred by Cyber Kong challenges and T-Hawk failing to deliver in the main event of World 17. Finally, Masaaki Mochizuki ended our misery at Dangerous Gate 2017, ending YAMATO’s reign on the 421st day. 

Too much of what was happening in 2021 reminded me of what we went through the last time YAMATO held the belt. He had no clear challenger coming out of World, just like the last time. The proposed three-way between Ben-K, KAI, and Mochizuki was not inspiring confidence. Ben-K would’ve made YAMATO fight someone within his own unit, and HIGH-END is too new for such a thing to occur. YAMATO and KAI had their blowoff in July in the No Ropes match. Mochizuki would make for a great match, but what’s the point if there’s no good story? 

Minoura winning, especially the way he did, double-crossing his former mentor in Masaaki Mochizuki and then tapping out Ben-K, is the ideal story for YAMATO. I don’t see any way that Minoura wins at Dangerous Gate, but this match has so much more juice than any of the other three matches could’ve possibly had. 

The finishing stretch between Minoura and Ben was superb, with Minoura having to resort to the Engranaje, his signature crossface, after both the Gang and his patented flash pin failed. He had to work to beat Ben-K, just like he did Mochizuki, Eita, and YAMATO in months past. 

Kota Minoura won this match and with it, set Dragongate back on the right path. ***1/2 

Final Thoughts

While there was nothing spectacular on Storm Gate, every match was entertaining. This is one of the best Korakuen Hall outings that the promotion has had this year, largely driven by the surging Kota Minoura and the continued greatness of RED and Masquerade. Thumbs in the middle for Storm Gate 2021.

Powered by RedCircle