GATE OF EVOLUTION
NOVEMBER 5, 2021
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
GENKI HORIGUCHI, KZY, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, & U-T DEF. BXB HULK, KAI, KAITO ISHIDA, & SB KENTO
The sleeker contingent of Natural Vibes members kicked off this show with a bang. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a DG Korakuen opener, but I’m nevertheless impressed by their continued effort in what could be chalked up as a meaningless match. The highlight of this eight-man was Yokosuka and Ishida throwing bombs at one another between Yokosuka’s Jumbo no Kachi lariat and Ishida’s brutal high kicks. Their brutality knocked them out of action, leading to a heated finishing stretch between SB KENTo and U-T. SBK connected with his beautiful spinebuster, but his dreaded SB Shooter submission was countered with a flash pin by U-T, who scored the pinfall on the current Brave Gate champion and fellow Nagoya native. I get the feeling we’ll be seeing SBK vs. U-T when Dragongate returns to their hometown in December. ***1/4
STRONG MACHINE F, STRONG MACHINE G, STRONG MACHINE J, & ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. ISHIN IIHASHI, KENICHIRO ARAI, PROBLEM DRAGON, & RIKI IIHASHI
This was the best Strong Machine J performance of 2021. He didn’t come across like a superstar, but I don’t think that’s who he’s meant to be. He did, however, come across like a competent foil to his fellow second generation wrestlers in Ishin and Riki Iihashi. Granted, we’ve yet to see the Iihashi Brothers get a win and we have no idea what the second stage of their career is going to look like after they graduate from being plucky youngsters, but the in-ring chemistry is present with both brothers and whether they are teaming or wrestling against one another, I can’t imagine J progressing in his career away with the Iihashi’s. These three are going to be attached at the hip for years to come and given what they did in this match, that’s the right move.
Riki and J kicked off the match on the mat, with J in particular showing way more technical prowess on the ground than he usually does. As the match broke down and sped towards the finish, J targeted Ishin, who slipped out of the Devil’s Windmill Suplex and nearly picked up the first win of his career with a jackknife cradle. J, with his experience edge, was able to recover, kick out, and then plant Ishin with his finisher for the win. I really liked J in this match, which is something that I haven’t been able to say in a very long time. This was a win for all involved. ***1/4
【Trainee Debut Match Announcement】
The following #DragongateFuture trainees will make their main roster debuts at the following live events
Takuma Fujiwara (Left)
Ryu Fuda (Center)
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) November 5, 2021
NARUKI DOI & TAKASHI YOSHIDA DEF. JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI & KING SHIMIZU, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & SHUJI KONDO
As expected, the new generation DoiYoshi tandem won this match with King Shimizu getting crushed by a pair of Pineapple Bombers from Yoshida for the victory. The bulk of this match was built around the trio of beef that got to show off their size. Yoshida, Shimizu, and Kondo were able to show their worth with all three getting a chance to show what they do best, which is crash into bodies. Yoshida has had a remarkably consistent year given his history, first having an entertaining tag team with Mochizuki in the spring and now finding success with Doi as the year comes to a close. I guess teaming with one of the best wrestlers ever and arguably the greatest tag team wrestler of all-time doesn’t hurt, but with Yoshida, he needs all the help he can get.
He and Shimizu will have another chance to bang bodies in Sendai at the end of the month as he and Doi challenged Shimizu and Susumu Yokosuka to a Twin Gate match at Gate of Origin. ***
DIAMANTE & HYO DEF. LA ESTRELLA & SHUN SKYWALKER
Sometimes there are matches that aren’t great, but are intensely satisfying. This was the latter. All four guys have tremendous chemistry with one another. I’ve talked at length this year about how Diamante has brought out the best in Estrella, which could be underselling it as Estrella’s spring was so rough that Diamante arguably saved his career. Everything that Estrella does well has been showcased when he’s in the ring with Diamante. Skywalker is a legitimate Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Year contender this year and when the calendar flips over, we could very easily be looking at Diamante as being his single best opponent of this year.
Their interactions feel so different compared to what the rest of the roster brings to the table. When Skywalker and Diamante clash, it’s two elite heavyweights going at it. For lack of a better term, it feels bigger than the usual Dragongate pairings.
HYO continues to do the best work of his career with the help of his brain, which is the biggest brain in pro wrestling. He bullied the smaller Estrella and showed off a rare feat of power, pinning him with a backdrop driver. Adjectives fail me when it comes to describing this match, I just simply really liked it. ***1/2
BEN-K & DRAGON KID DEF. KAGETORA & YAMATO
I’d like to think I watch this promotion as closely as anyone does. I’ve watched Ben-K’s entire career, including his debut match which was as impressive of a debut as I’ve ever seen. I pegged him as a future Dream Gate champion, I watched him fulfil that prediction, and then I watched him defend the title against YAMATO in August 2019. I know all there is to know between Ben-K and YAMATO. I have no idea why Ben-K wants to be the leader of his own unit so badly. I never would’ve guessed that when YAMATO captured his record setting fifth Dream Gate run in August of this year that he would be so closely intertwined with someone who he also teams with from time-to-time. I literally don’t understand it. Before Kota Minoura rightfully inserted himself into the Dream Gate scene, Ben-K, along with KAI and Masaaki Mochizuki were in line to challenge YAMATO for the belt. Minoura jumped ahead of them, but after progressing past his first challenger, YAMATO has once again been forced to battle Ben-K.
Ben is such a weak promo that it doesn’t appear we’re going to be able to get a promo detailing why he needs this title so badly. These guys aren’t generational rivals. They’ve wrestled before, and those matches have been great, but not great enough to warrant immediate goodwill when they’re paired off with one another. Had Ben-K squashed YAMATO like a bug in this match, I would’ve had faith that they could make this brief build to Gate of Origin worthwhile. Instead, Ben decided to flex his amateur wrestling background against the Dream Gate champion who has a Pancrase background. In a vacuum, that is awesome as we rarely get to see Ben show off his matwork, but it doesn’t need to happen now. Why is any of this happening? Korakuen was dead during this match to a point that Dragongate Jae and Ho Ho Lun attempted to save face on commentary by noting how it was hard for the fans to pick a side in a unit vs. unit match.
I’ve hated this YAMATO reign. The only two matches of his that I can possibly be excited about are him against Kzy, which is a tough sell given Kzy’s recent Dream Gate struggles, and YAMATO vs. Eita, which seems unlikely anytime soon given that Eita is a Triangle Gate champion and seems more interested in invading NOAH than reclaiming the top spot in Dragongate. For as good as he was in the first half of the year, YAMATO’s title run has been soulless and uninspired, and a Ben-K defense is not going to steer the ship in the right direction. This was as lackluster of a match as you can have in Dragongate with four “stars”. Ben-K pinned Kagetora with a spear. **3/4
DRAGON DIA VS. DIA INFERNO
Believe it or not, what was billed as the final confrontation between Dragon Dia and Dia Inferno turned out to not be the final confrontation between the two. The match ended in a no contest after RED attacked Referee Nakagawa, Dragon Dia ripped Dia Inferno’s mask off, and then Shun Skywalker attacked Dragon Dia, which then led to Diamante attacking Shun Skywalker. A million things happened in this match, all of which I chalk up as positives.
The Dia feud has been a mixed bag. Because the identity of Inferno has never been in doubt, there’s been a ruthless countdown clock in my mind wanting to speed up this feud and get to the end. I think that has hurt my enjoyment of some of the steps taken along the way. Over the past month, Skywalker has gotten increasingly frustrated with Dia for trying to reveal the identity of his evil counterpart, saying it goes against the code that masked wrestlers have. To me, that has been easily the most interesting part of this saga. The inclusion of Skywalker has added a much-needed layer to this story. Given the fact that his face was shown in this match, I can now publicly say that Dia Inferno is Yuki Yoshioka, and despite the fact that he busted out his signature frog splash in this match, Skywalker is still in denial that the man he went to Mexico with could be under the hood. I love all of that.
This was on its way to being a great match, but given how intense the post-match fallout was, it’s easier to look at this as an extended angle that will finally wrap up next month in a mask vs. mask tag match between Dia & Skywalker vs. Diamante & Inferno. The loser of the fall will lose their mask. NR
GHC JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
EITA & NOSAWA RONGAI DEF. JASON LEE & KOTA MINOURA
The Los Perros del Mal de Japón duo of Eita & NOSAWA successfully made their first defense of the GHC Jr tag belts with this victory.
NOSAWA is a fascinating specimen. He was simulatenly great and awful in one match, oftentimes flipping between the two extreme degrees of pleasure within seconds. He’s a better sleazeball than Eita has ever been. In a way, he’s a perfect fit for RED, despite the fact that Eita and the rest of compadres made it clear on this night that they were representing their NOAH faction and not Eita’s Dragongate group. I adored the fact that NOSAWA turned his back on the ringside photographers as they took their traditional pre-match photos. There’s an undeniable presence that he has and the best version of his aura was on display in this title match.
Unfortunately, there’s also the fact that NOSAWA has to wrestle. He’s never been great, but he was badly exposed in this bout as not being up to the usual Draogngate standard. It seemed like he was very giving to Jason Lee, taking his offense well and making him look like someone that could realistically hold the NOAH tag belts. With Minoura, however, it didn’t seem like NOSAWA was in the move to give. The champion went 50/50, at best, with a guy who has pinned YAMATO, Masaaki Mochizuki, Kzy, and Eita in singles matches this year. It was simply astounding watching those two trade forearms and seeing NOSAWA come out on top.
The English commentary crew did a great job of emphasising throughout the match that this was to be contested under NOAH tag rules, meaning that tag ropes must be used. Of course, this led to Eita sneaking in the ring and cleaning Jason Lee’s clock with the Imperial Uno with the referee’s back turned, giving NOSAWA the easiest pin of his career.
I liked what this match was. NOSAWA is not a good wrestler and he wrestled a lot of this match, but his presence made this a worthwhile journey. The finish was creative and well-executed and Minoura and Lee, as always, pulled their weight. ***1/2
The most noteworthy part of this match was not the title match itself, but rather one of the seconds for the Perros del Mal team. Eita and NOSAWA were flanked by Ikuto Hidaka, Kotaro Suzuki, & YO-HEY, the latter of whom is an ex-Dragon Gate wrestler and the primary catalyst of the monkey scandal that rocked the promotion a decade ago. Despite what morons on Reddit will tell you, he was the one most at fault in this situation. There’s a reason he was quickly exiled from the promotion. His return is as notable of a return as Dragongate could have in their current landscape outside of Magnum TOKYO or the OWE crew. Eita offered him the microphone to close the show and he sarcastically noted how happy he was to be back in Dragongate.
I have no moral objection to YO-HEY returning to the promotion. What he did was reprehensible, but Dragongate is a corporation and it’s very hard for me to get upset about corporations doing things to make money. From a perverse, wrestling fan perspective, YO-HEY’s show-closing promo was a brilliant bit of heat. There’s an edge to his return that is rarely felt in Dragongate. It makes me a little uneasy and I’m okay with that. I’m far more offended by YO-HEY’s wrestling than the idea of Dragongate booking him more than 10 years after he gave the promotion their most negative press of all-time.
All in all, I hope we see more of Perros del Mal in Dragongate.
Gate of Evolution was consistently entertaining to a nearly painful degree. Nothing flirted with greatness, but rarely did I feel like I was watching anything worse than Dragongate’s average output. There are major flaws with HIGH-END as a unit that need to be addressed and the current Dream Gate scene with YAMATO and Ben-K isn’t going to fix those issues. Outside of that, however, the promotion is running with three units that have clear identities, phenomenal wrestlers, and intriguing stories. Thumbs in the middle for Gate of Evolution.
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