NOVEMBER 3, 2021 

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


Naruki Doi has had a remarkably unspectacular year. He entered 2021 injured, returned in the spring and began teaming with Masato Yoshino in borderline-exhibition multi-man tags, bowed out of King of Gate after coming in contact with Ben-K, who tested positive for COVID-19 after the first day of the tournament. and then wished the aforementioned Yoshino off in a much-anticipated and incredibly heated farewell match on the first day of August.

I expected him to be a giant part of the final quarter of the year. In a post-Yoshino universe, I expected Doi to help lead whatever charge the old brigade had left before the inevitable full-on generational swap comes within the next few years. Instead Doi has stayed quiet. Much like at Dangerous Gate in September, he’s tucked away in a meaningless, albeit entertaining multi-man tag. It’s easy to forget just how good Doi is when he’s “on” given how much of the year he’s been out of focus. His work here, primarily with Kzy and U-T, was a healthy reminder of what Doi is capable of when he puts on his boots. 

This had the exact type of energy you’d want from an opening match on a big show. Outside of Doi bringing the heat, Don Fujii and the white-hot Jacky “Funky” Kamei made this match worth paying attention to. Kamei has been brilliant in the second half of this year, continuously raising his profile and showing why he’ll be a valuable asset for years to come. It was U-T who ate the pin here, succumbing to a Bakatare Sliding Kick from Doi and a lariat from Yoshida to give the newest DoiYoshi tandem the victory. ***1/4 



Jason Lee is now the proud owner of a year’s worth of toilet wipes thanks to the folks at LEC. He outlasted eight other competitors, including English correspondent Ho Ho Lun who was eliminated from this match and made it back to the commentary table in time to call the finish. He wished that his fellow Hong Kong native would share the wipes with him, continuing Ho Ho vs. Cleanpa! Battle Royals as the best feud of 2021. No one wants anything more than Ho Ho wants these wipes. This was a fun, painless battle royal. NR


The Iihashi Brothers have now gone a month and a half without picking up their first career win. They were arguably the biggest attraction at Dangerous Gate, falling in defeat as Japan’s first supernova tandem to veteran hands Don Fujii and Yasushi Kanda. On their second PPV, they once again found themselves across the ring from Kanda, this time with Fujii’s longtime tag partner and current GHC National Champion Masaaki Mochizuki and the spunky upstart Takumi Hayakawa, who debuted in Fukuoka on October 24. As Dragongate Jae explained on commentary, Hayakawa found out about his debut an hour before the show began as he replaced the injured Keisuke Okuda. 

He stands roughly 5’1”, making him the shortest wrestler on a roster full of small guys. I expressed my concern for him on the most recent Open the Voice Gate. No doubt about it, his debut showed off how technically sound he was, something that will only progress with more experience. I was wary of if he could ever project in a way that he needed to. Could he present himself in a way that made his size a benefit and not a detraction? I didn’t see that in Fukuoka, but I certainly saw it here. The Yamanashi-native took a massive step forward by taking it to two of his peers in the class of 2021. He used his size to his advantage and filled me with far more hope than I had leaving the Fukuoka doubleheader. 

The Iihashi Brothers continue to blow me away. Both are naturals, but their strengths are showcased in different aspects of the game. Ishin is a bowling ball, a formidable entry into Dragongate’s hoss division. He will be bouncing off of Fujii, King Shimizu, and Shuji Kondo for the rest of his career. Older brother Riki jumps off the screen to me as someone that could one day be headlining this show. The preliminary stages of his career lead me to believe he’ll have a Generico/CIMA/Sekimoto-esque charisma that will transcend cultures and language barriers. When he’s on offense, he looks like a massive star. When he’s eating kicks from Mochizuki, he looks like a valiant underdog. I am so bullish on his future. Possible injuries are the only roadblock I see in his future. 

The veterans pulled their weight, which is a remarkable statement as it means the three rookies, kids fresh out of the dojo, carried the bulk of this match. Riki was demolished by a series of slaps from Mochizuki, but needed a Twister to finally put him down for the count. This is worth your time. ***1/2 


This was on its way to being a 4+ star, “spreadsheet” level of match before the disqualification finish. Right when it looked like Dragon Dia was going to put Dia Inferno away with the Reptilian Rana, his evil foil countered, low blowed Dia, and then attacked the referee to put an end to the match. The story makes sense, given that Dia and Dia Inferno are headed towards a heated blowoff match that will likely have concluded by press time. Unfortunately, it put a damper on what was otherwise an excellent match. 

RED and Masquerade have carried this promotion this year as Natural Vibes has largely dominated undercards and High-End has sucked the life out of whatever they’re involved in. Ultimately, this is a nothing match. One that will be forgotten about as its big stars will have bigger matches against one another in the near future. Still, this ongoing feud has been a blinding bright spot in the promotion throughout the year. These matches feel like Dragongate, even when spare parts like KAI or the heavily gimmicked Dia Inferno are involved. Masquerade is as cohesive of an in-ring unit as Dragongate has had in years and I hope they remain a fixture in the promotion for years to come. 

If you can accept a bad finish, this is worth your time. At the very least, Shun Skywalker’s caperana in this match needs to be seen to be believed. He just about touched the ceiling. NR


This marks the first successful defense for the RED trio since capturing the belts in September. 

Kagetora replaced the injured Keisuke Okuda. Perhaps, with Okuda’s undeniable fire and intensity, he could’ve ramped this match up a level. The stark contrast between Okuda’s always-ready-for-war attitude and Kagetora’s lethargic demeanor drastically alters a match like this. Still, seven months into their existence, I am officially burnt out on High-End. I don’t like this unit at all and this match was the perfect example as to why. Despite the growing tension between Eita and HYO and their noticeable friendly-fire in this contest, the current Triangle Gate champions wrestle like a team. Any combination of Masquerade wrestles like a team. Natural Vibes wrestles not like a team, but more like an actual family. High-End is a collection of guys. I didn’t feel the urgency from Ben-K or Kagetora when Dragon Kid was suffering through a drawn out heat segment. I didn’t get a sense of belonging between the challenging team. The work in this match was very good, but I felt no emotional attachment to any of it. 

HYO’s big brain will eventually get RED into a lot of trouble, and realistically, it could very well lead to the end of the unit. He mistimed a powder attack that led to a huge Ben-K spear and near fall on Kaito Ishida, but luckily survived an onslaught of offense from Kagetora and stayed alive long enough for Ishida to connect with a box attack, leading to a Black Panther Clutch and the victory. ***1/4 


The Natural Vibes duo picked up their third successful title defense with a win over the invading tandem from Pro Wrestling NOAH. 

This match existed because of the ongoing partnership between Amazon Prime and Dragongate. The shows produced for Amazon are Dragongate in name only, and do not typically have any canonical impact on the promotion. This match was sponsored by LEC, however, and given that the CEO of LEC books the Amazon shows, he offered up this match for DG proper. 

Thank God he did, as this match was utterly tremendous. I had no doubt, given both NOAH wrestlers’ history with Michinoku Pro, that they would fit in with the Dragongate style. What I did not expect was for them to fit in as well as they did, especially in the case of Haoh. He’s never lit my world on fire in NOAH, but he wrestled like someone who could work in Dragongate full time in this encounter. Haoh played right into both Shimizu and Yokosuka’s signature spots, notably executing a flawless counter of the Yokosuka Cutter into a nearfall at one point. Whereas the prior Triangle Gate match lacked the excitement that usually hangs over a title match, this match felt urgent and important the entire time. The result, until Shimizu scored a King Press on Haoh, was in question the entire time. 

Shimizu was the star of this match, flying around the ring with such force and intensity. I knew Yokosuka and Kenoh would hit it off (and they did), but the addition of Shimizu bringing his A Game was such a delightful surprise. Five years ago when he donned an orange singlet and teamed alongside T-Hawk in Monster Express, I thought Shimizu was legitimately one of the 10 best wrestlers in the world. A September 2017 singles match with Mochizuki showed Shimizu at his apex. A credible, top of the line star that could beat anyone on the roster with the dreaded Shotput Slam. 

Unfortunately, Shimizu quickly transitioned roles and embraced a sleazy lifestyle under the RED umbrella. His work for the heel unit was very good, but a far cry from what he once was. He was booted from the unit last September and after trying a number of comedy gimmicks, was refreshed and repackaged as KING Shimizu of Natural Vibes in June and ever since then, he’s resumed being a force to be reckoned with. I have zero complaints with his current character and anyone complaining about a dance spot or two is completely missing the point. He is back to being a killer, just as he was before he turned heel. 

This was the best he’s looked in years, perhaps since that Mochizuki match four years ago. In a match with elite talents like Yokosuka and Kenoh and someone with a fresh coat of paint in Haoh, it was Shimizu who stood out from the crowd. This was one of the best Dragongate matches all year. Highly recommended. ****1/2 


YAMATO has now successfully defended the Dream Gate belt twice during his record-setting fifth reign as champion. 

Look, the match was better than it had any right to be. I talked for a month about how the build to this match had been satisfying given how dangerous BxB Hulk looked, but I had reasonable reservations about Hulk, who has piled on injuries over the last five years, working a huge Dream Gate match like this. I’m stunned at the amount of punishment Hulk put his body through in this match, simply because I didn’t think his body would withstand such devastating impact over the course of 20 minutes. 

At no point did I ever think Hulk was going to win this match, but I was stunned at just how much of Hulk’s offense I bought into. He came across as credible in a singles environment, which I no longer thought he was capable of doing. He beat up YAMATO in ways I wasn’t expecting, pulled out moves he hadn’t done in a very long time, and put together a compelling match in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. The work was shockingly coherent up until the finish. 

The biggest move of the match was Hulk driving the champion through a table on the floor with an EVO from the middle rope. This was as gnarly of a spot as Dragongate can produce. When that wasn’t enough, he turned the tables on YAMATO, connecting with his finishing move, the Galleria, for a deep 2 count. For nearly the entire match, the champion was on his heels, fighting back with his ground game and flash pins in an effort to stay alive in what I thought was going to be a very run-of-the-mill title defense. He eventually caught Hulk with a Frankensteiner and then quickly transitioned into a triangle choke. Hulk attempted to counter, then fell deeper into the hold. Referee Nakagawa signaled for the bell before Hulk made any obvious request for YAMATO to relinquish the hold, however. It was an awkward moment for the wrestlers, the referee, and for Jae on commentary, as the Dream Gate yet again was cursed in 2021. 

Live, many speculated that Hulk had injured himself yet again, but given the fact that he won’t be missing any time, I chalk this up as poor communication on the finish. Even with the poor finish, this was clearly a great match and one that massively over delivered. YAMATO’s reign as champion is still very much a sensitive subject with me as I think he’s making the same errors that he did as champion five years ago, but through two defenses, he has shown that he is still capable of having great matches with anyone on the roster. ****1/4 

Final Thoughts

Gate of Destiny won’t make huge amounts of buzz, but that’s Dragongate in 2021. This was quietly a great show that showcased the amount of depth and consistency on the most talented roster in the world. Every match on this card had a different feel to it with someone in each match shining bright and showing what this promotion looks like at its peak. Through 11 months of this year, Dragongate has failed to have that one show that generates a ton of buzz to the English speaking audience, but Gate of Destiny was as strong of a show top-to-bottom as you’ll see in Japan all year. Thumbs up for Gate of Destiny 2021.