GATE OF VICTORY
OCTOBER 7, 2021
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
FUNKY “JACKY” KAMEI & U-T DEF. DRAGON KID & KAGETORA
Funky “Jacky” Kamei is a threat! The undersized Tottori-native has spent most of the first two years of his career losing. As he navigated 2020 without a unit in the midst of the generational war, Kamei’s lack of experience often led to him losing matches. As a part of Natural Vibes in 2021, Kamei has surrounded himself with winners, oftentimes leading to Kamei taking the fall when Natural Vibes loses. For the first time in his career, he’s building momentum and taking down big names, pinning Kagetora here with his signature Jackyknife flash pin en route to a battle royal later this month that could grant him a Brave Gate opportunity.
His technique is superb and he looked competitive not only against Kagetora, but against Dragon Kid, which shows just how much Kamei has grown as of late. This was the kind of high energy opener that I love to see from Dragongate. ***1/4
DON FUJII, HO HO LUN, SHACHIHOKO BOY, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA DEF. GAMMA, PROBLEM DRAGON, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & STRONG MACHINE J
A bunch of winners in this match, let me tell you.
Don Fujii came to the ring with the same bottle opener that Kendo Kashin has been terrorizing people with lately. You love to see it. This match served the same purpose as the opener with Yosuke playing the role of FJK in this instance. Maria pinned Tominaga with the Neraiuchi to build her up for the upcoming Brave Gate battle royal in Kobe. **
GENKI HORIGUCHI, KING SHIMIZU, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA DEF. KENICHIRO ARAI, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, & SHUJI KONDO
First things first, I need to mention that Ho Ho Lun successfully made it up to the balcony in Korakuen Hall halfway through this match to join Dragongate Jae at the English commentary table. Outstanding work by Ho Ho to get out of the ring and into position so quickly.
I really liked a lot of what this match was about. The heat segment on Horiguchi dragged a little bit for my liking, but in general, I’m a little sour on Horiguchi right now, which breaks my heart considering how brilliant he is, but his age is finally showing. Outside of him taking the heat from the opposing veterans, I thought everyone pulled their weight in this match. I loved Kondo showing off some of his grappling prowess against Horiguchi and Yokosuka and then crashing into Shimizu like a rogue bowling bowl. For so long, I felt like Kondo abandoned his T2P background. In recent months, he’s slowly brought some of those techniques back into the fold.
Even Araken was on his A Game for 2021 standards. He nearly caught Yokosuka with a flash jackknife cradle for the finish towards the closing stretch of the match. Alas, Yokosuka kicked out and with the help of his Twin Gate partner, quickly put Araken away for good. King Shimizu hit his dreaded King Press with assistance from Yokosuka for the win. ***1/2
“Why is Kenzo Suzuki here in Korakuen Hall…with his shirt off?” – Jae, 2021
After the Natural Vibes victory, Dragongate’s Amazon Prime theme song hit and out came KENSO – otherwise known as Kenzo Suzuki – who alerted Shimizu and Yokosuka that he was bringing the next Twin Gate challengers to Kyoto on 10/9 (those challengers would turn out to be Kenoh and Haoh of Pro Wrestling NOAH). Before leaving, KENSO paintbrushed Genki Horiguchi across the face with an open-hand slap. I know the idea of KENSO appearing in Dragongate sounds like a terrible proposition on-paper, but I thought this angle kicked all sorts of ass.
NARUKI DOI & TAKASHI YOSHIDA DEF. ISHIN IIHASHI & RIKI IIHASHI
The legacy of DoiYoshi continues thanks to Takashi Yoshida. As expected, he and Doi served up a devastating beating to Dragongate’s two newest stars. Japan’s first supernovas, Riki and Ishin, continue to jump through my screen with their overwhelming and welcoming charisma. My favorite thing in all of wrestling is when Dragongate rolls out new prospects, so I try to make a concerted effort to temper my takes and make sure that they are fully rational before spitting them out, but Riki Iihashi pops off the screen like an El Generico or a prime-Daisuke Sekimoto does. His charisma is infectious on a level that most wrestlers cannot claim to have.
Their in-ring work, for this point in their careers, is nothing to sneeze at. Ishin, the bulkier of the two, had a chance to show his worth by being positioned across the ring from Yoshida. Their big man interactions were class. He showed a level of craftiness that he hadn’t showcased in any of his previous bouts, playing possum in order to avoid a Pineapple Bomber and then nearly cradling Yoshida for a victory. The former Cyber Kong kicked out and quickly focused his efforts on ending the match, locking Ishin in a brutal Boston Crab and causing the rookie to tap. ***
BXB HULK, HYO, & KAI DEF. BEN-K, KEISUKE OKUDA, & YAMATO
HYO was sure to mention the fact that Keisuke Okuda was knocked out by Hiroaki Suzuki in the first round of their October 2 RIZIN fight. HYO said that he would do the same to the former Brave Gate champion in this match, which he failed to do as Okuda quickly plowed his kneecap straight into HYO’s face.
I am dreading the upcoming BxB Hulk vs. YAMATO Dream Gate defense. I loved the match they had four years ago for this title, but that was four years ago and BxB Hulk has gone through numerous serious injuries since then. Hulk, to his credit, looked really good in this match. He actually came across far more threatening than any of the other five combatants. The issue is that this was a 13 minute six-man tag and not a 20+ minute Dream Gate main event. I have zero faith that Hulk’s body can hold up in such a grueling affair.
He destroyed YAMATO down the stretch, connecting with two First Flashes to pick up the win. I don’t like the direction this is heading, I’m finding it very hard to get excited about that match, but the work between Hulk and YAMATO here was enough for me to avoid hitting the panic button right now. ***1/4
ALL OUT WAR
MASQUERADE DEF. RED: 3-2
- Shun Skywalker def. Dia Inferno
- SB KENTo def. La Estrella
- Diamante def. Dragon Dia
- Kota Minoura def. Kaito Ishida
- Jason Lee def. Eita
I think this main event is best represented as one long match, in the same vein as a New Japan vs. UWF gauntlet, rather than a collection of short singles matches. Masquerade got out to an early lead with Skywalker surviving a clumsy and stiff encounter with Dia Inferno, but the heels quickly fought back, scoring two falls over Masquerade’s high-flying artillery.
The SBK/Estrella portion lasted just under 4 minutes, but the action showcased the unbound potential that both men have. Estrella, in a rare moment of isolation, looked superb. His big spots delivered and his body control was excellent. SBK, despite being billed at only 5’5”, acted as a trustee base while Estrella flew through the air. He countered a handspring attack from Estrella with a bridging German suplex that looked absolutely perfect. Estrella kicked out, but soon gave in to the SB Shooter for the first direct loss of his career.
Diamante continues to be one of my true loves in the world of wrestling. His progression of bad-to-good, then this year going from good-to-legitimately great is surreal. He was marvelous in this match. He could waltz onto any US indie show today and he’d easily be one of the three best workers on the card. Dragon Dia held up his end of the bargain, busting out a bunch of things that I’ve never seen him do before. Dia used what I can only describe as a springboard pran hold at one point. He’s out of his mind and the fact that a man as big as Diamante can take all of these moves is incredible. Dia’s outstanding offense could only take him so far, however, as he got caught with the Vuelta Finale. This, as a standalone match, would be near the four star range.
Masquerade needed a win and just as they’ve done all year, they turned to Kota Minoura. He escaped an ass kicking from former Brave Gate champion Kaito Ishida. The two traded a series of big moves and big counters down the finishing stretch, with Minoura eventually catching Ishida in the Babel Gear flash pn and evened up the series for Masquerade.
Jason Lee and Eita closed things out in an affair that on-paper sounds like an overbooked mess, but in execution was perfect. Lee was tripped up by RED on the outside and then nearly pinned seconds into the match. He escaped, giving him a chance to throw everything he had at the former Open the Dream Gate champion. Right when Lee looked like he had the momentum to score the win, Eita countered the Maximum Driver with a low blow. Miraculously, Lee was able to drape his foot over the rope just before the count of 3.
Eita went back to the well minutes later, but this time Lee countered the foul attempt and gave Eita a running Canadian Destroyer for his troubles. He finally connected with the Maximum Driver, but RED pulled Referee Nakagawa out of the ring. Eita was given another chance to survive. RED leaned into what they do best, cheating, and grabbed powder to blind Lee. HYO launched the powder, but Lee ducked, sending it straight into the eyes of Eita.
Lee, without hesitation, nailed Eita with the Game of Death. Nakagawa rolled back in and counted to three.
This match was an exhaustive display of storytelling from all 10 men involved. Everyone played their part. The finish, with Lee going over Eita, says just as much about the cohesive talent of Masquerade as it does the impending doom of RED. It was brilliant. ****1/4
— STRONG MACHINE GNB (@BarrettGoodNews) October 8, 2021
— STRONG MACHINE GNB (@BarrettGoodNews) October 8, 2021
After the match, Dragon Dia and Dia Inferno set up their final encounter for next month in Tokyo.
【#TheGateOfEvolution2021 Series Match Announcement】
🏟Tokyo, Korakuen Hall
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) October 7, 2021
Gate of Victory, by my calculations, was Dragongate’s second-best outing in Korakuen Hall this year. This show set up Dragongate to have a hot finish to the year, between the impending doom of RED, the rise of the Iihashi Brothers, and the overwhelming flow of contenders in the Brave Gate scene. Thumbs up for Gate of Victory.
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