NOVEMBER 27, 2021

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


In recent weeks, current Open the Brave Gate Champion SB KENTo has been eating falls at the hands of Natural Vibes. U-T has caught him by surprise with a handful of flash pins which seemed to be a way to set up a Brave Gate match between the two in their respective hometown of Nagoya, but after Kamei pinned HYO in a tag match featuring the aforementioned U-T and SBK in Kobe on 11/23, the Natural Vibes pairing agreed that SBK’s next title match should be SBK vs. JFK II, given how unbelievably great their first Brave Gate match was. I assumed this match would give us another short preview for what was to come in the Brave Gate scene, but this quickly turned into the KAI show instead. 

KAI steamrolled the smaller Natural Vibes pairing, showing off why he can be valuable to the Dragongate roster by using his raw strength to toss around the duo. He and U-T are destined to have a banger of a King of Gate match at some point down the line. This was a step down from what I’d normally expect from a match involving three of the hottest wrestlers in the promotion, but every once in a while the ball has to get tossed KAI’s direction and this was one of those matches. He planted U-T with the Meteor Impact for the win. **½

After the match, KAI got on the microphone and expressed concern that no one cared about the upcoming Dream Gate main event (fair), thus he should act as the special referee. GM Ryo Saito told him to scram. 


Dragongate is a machine that never stops.

It’s amazing to me that SBK, JFK, and Hip Hop Kikuta (who remains on the shelf with a shoulder injury) are less than two years into their career, yet somehow there is an entire fleet of roster members beneath them already. Fujiwara is yet another product of the Dragongate Dojo who came across as confident and capable in his official debut. In recent years, the likes of Dragon Dia, Strong Machine J, and the Iihashi Brothers have put on jaw-dropping performances in their debuts. Fujiwara kept things safe. His presence reminds me of a young Kota Minoura. There is a chance, two or three years down the line, that Fujiwara is recognized as an elite worker and the transformation from young boy to ring general will have happened right under our noses, just as it did with Minoura. 

Fujiwara showed off his tremendous dropkick, hung with Kagetora in a blistering chop battle, and then nearly scored an upset on the former Brave Gate champion with a series of flash pins. Luck was not on his side, however. He was cast aside after being hit with a vicious modified Michinoku Driver. 

Fujiwara’s debut lacked the flashiness that comes with most Dragongate debuts, but there is already a noticeable polish to his work. I came away impressed with his work in his first match. **3/4 


This was the Dragongate equivalent of a backyard football game after a big Thanksgiving meal. Sometimes the boys just need to let loose in the backyard and occasionally someone ends up getting trapped in a La Magistral. That’s life. The only highlight here was Dragon Kid convincing Ultimo Dragon to use Genki Horiguchi’s resistance band attack against him, only for Ultimo to misfire and hit himself in the face. Tremendous stuff. He recovered and scored the fall on Horiguchi for revenge. **1/4 


Takumi Hayakawa debuted as a last minute injury replacement for Keisuke Okuda at the October 24 doubleheader in Fukuoka. He stands around 5’1”, essentially Marko Stunt size, making him the smallest wrestler on a roster filled with small wrestlers. He does, however, have a martial arts background and the heart of a champion. He jumped Hulk during his entrance, connecting with a dropkick right out of the gates. He tried to maintain the advantage for as long as he could, but Hulk shrugged off the youngster’s attack and wiped him out with a wheel kick. That sequence belongs on Worldstar. It looked horribly violent. 

Typing that paragraph took a longer amount of time than the actual match, as Hulk showed little patience for the youngster and pinned him in 1:40 with a brainbuster. This was awesome while it lasted. ***


Take notes, folks. Ryu Fuda is going to be somebody. Remember this name and remember this match. 

One minute into this match, he connected with a high kick that sent Masaaki Mochizuki crashing to the canvas and it caused me to leap off of my couch. I couldn’t believe that a rookie had taken down the Iron Man of Dragongate like that. For as spectacular as it was, I must say it was ill-advised. He couldn’t put Mochizuki away with that kick, meaning that Mochizuki was given the opportunity to recover and destroy the rookie. 

Mochiuzki worked over the kid’s knee, kicking away at his lower half as hard as humanly possible before locking in a number of ankle locks throughout the course of the match. Fuda did his best to survive on the canvas, evading one ankle lock and then a second, the latter of which led to Fuda stepping up to the legend and throwing whatever he had left in the tank at him with some weak-looking strikes. Bad idea. Mochizuki easily shook off Fuda’s last-ditch effort and then dropped him on his head with a Twister. 

Fuda was given an inordinate amount of respect in this match. Don’t think otherwise. This was a hugely successful debut. ***1/4 


If you are thinking about who the best wrestler of 2021 was and you’re not thinking about Shun Skywalker, you need to change that immediately. 

After spending the most turbulent months of the pandemic on excursion in Mexico with international touring plans thwarted, Skywalker returned to Dragongate last November, won the Dream Gate in his first match back, and has been on an unrelenting streak ever since. 

He has my top two matches in Dragongate this year, the epic with Kzy at Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival and his superb Dream Gate defense against Kaito Ishida in March at Champion Gate. While others looked at his reign as a cursed run with the belt, I thought Skywalker rose above the turmoil, pumping out those matches, a gem against Kazma Sakamoto, and a pair of undeniably great matches with YAMATO, the second of which saw him lose the title. He was a tremendous champion, a standout in King of Gate, and has been involved in a number of great Masquerade vs. RED multi-mans this year. He has a chance to end the year with a bang in the upcoming Mascara Contra Mascara Tag Match as well. 

This is all relevant because in a match loaded with talent, I thought Skywalker was far and away the best wrestler in this match. There are times in these multi-mans when Dragon Dia steals the show with his innovation and there are times in which Diamante blows me away with his all-around ability, but this was the Skywalker Showcase. This won’t land on any spreadsheets, but to me, this was Skywalker closing out the year with an emphatic statement that 2021 cannot be accurately reflected upon without his name appearing next to the likes of Omega, Takagi, and company. He’s on their level. 

There’s no such thing as a bad Masquerade vs. RED match at this point. They’ve had better, but this was still wildly enjoyable. Dia pinned HYO with a leaping DDT. ***1/2 

After the match, Dia Inferno and Diamante jumped Dia and Skywalker, with Diamante ripping off Skywalker’s mask, which garnered a noticeable reaction. This was a great way to conclude the hype to the upcoming mask match. 


The Natural Vibes pairing fall in their fourth defense. This is the first time that Naruki Doi and Takashi Yoshida have held these titles together. 

By simply existing, Takashi Yoshida has managed to win the Open the Twin Gate titles twice this year, each time teaming with one of the greatest tag team wrestlers to ever live. In the spring, he relied on Masaaki Mochizuki to get him back on the right path after being ousted from the heel unit. Their time together was unspectacular, but ultimately worth it as Yoshida winning felt like a genuine feel-good moment. In the wake of Masato Yoshino’s retirement, Yoshida has decided that the DoiYoshi lineage must live on, which is how he ended up capturing gold here with Naruki Doi. 

Yoshida has now been in wrestling for 15 years. There are few wrestlers with a more interesting journey over that time period. I don’t know how he continues to stumble ass-backwards into success. 

The final match of Yokosuka & Shimizu’s excellent run was their weakest. Despite the natural big man pairing of Yoshida and Shimizu and the craftiness that both Yokosuka and Doi are capable of, I don’t think this match ever found its rhythm. It maintained a steady pace of “this is fine” for the entire duration of the contest. Just as many have before, Yokosuka fell victim to the Bakatare Sliding Kick and a lariat from Yoshida for the victory. ***1/4 


This marks YAMATO’s third successful defense of the Dream Gate belt during his record-setting fifth reign as champion. 

YAMATO’s fifth run with Dragongate’s top prize feels like something out of the Impact Zone. A decade from now, people are going to go back and watch this run and they’re going to witness a brilliant Kota Minoura match, a death-defying BxB Hulk defense, and a story-driven epic with Ben-K and they’re going to think this is a truly great Dream Gate run. Those people aren’t necessarily wrong, but the dreadful Kobe Sanbo Hall tags and headache-inducing booking that led to those encounters will largely be forgotten. It’s no different than the careers of AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, or Samoa Joe. They overcame bullshit on their path to greatness. 

I have hated this YAMATO run with a passion, but every defense he’s had has been great. I talked recently on Open the Voice Gate about how YAMATO has been a massively disappointing champion, yet he clocks in more great matches for me this year than almost any other wrestler in the world. The journey to each of these defenses has been horrific, with Minoura sliding in at the last moment to save a confusing three-way storyline over who YAMATO’s first challenger would be. Then, BxB Hulk jumped the line, blowing past his stablemate KAI and forcing YAMATO to defend the belt against him. Now, YAMATO’s own HIGH-END partner, Ben-K, insisted on having a title match and I’m still not sure exactly why. The booking has been atrocious all throughout this reign. 

At the end of the day, however, YAMATO is closing these shows with a bang. He and Ben-K tore each other apart in a 28 minute slugfest that can easily be considered to be one of the most physical Dream Gate matches ever. Halfway through the match, Ben-K applied a Torture Rack to the champion, which sent the latter’s boot crashing into the head of Referee Nakagawa. He collapsed, which gave KAI the opportunity to run down in a referee uniform and count a quick three count after Ben-K connected with a spear. GM Ryo Saito quickly shut down the idea that Ben-K had won and ordered the young boys at ringside to escort KAI from the ring. 

Your mileage on KAI’s inclusion in this match may vary, but I found his shit-eating grin to be so entertaining that I’m going to choose to say this was a plus for the match. 

It was at this point that I began to think about KAI’s show opening promo about how he feared no one would care about this match. Dragongate has had a number of matches over the last 18 months that even with crowd restrictions have felt truly hot. This was not one of them. Each time YAMATO and Ben-K have been in the ring with one another, an eerie silence has fallen over the crowd. Not even dueling headbutts or YAMATO taking the big man down with a spear of his own could wake this crowd up. 

The challenger survived nearly all of YAMATO’s big moves, kicking out of a Galleria and surviving YAMATO’s pinpoint strikes before succumbing to the Ragnarok for the finish.  

In a vacuum, this match was great. It’s a shame the surrounding factors leading to this bout were such a mess. ****1/4 

Final Thoughts

Gate of Origin was yet another opportunity for Dragongate to hit a home run with a big show this year and once again they didn’t hit the heights that we know they’re capable of. 2021 has been a year consisting of “good, not great” for the brand, and this show epitomized that. Despite two exciting debuts, a wrestler of the year candidate making one final push, and a main event that overcame the stench of the Impact Zone, Gate of Origin remains a thumbs in the middle show.

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