It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, it’s Voices of Wrestling Secret Santa time again, everyone. The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors give their fellow contributors, the greatest gift of all: wrestling matches!

VOW Secret Santa Archives:

CIMA vs Masaaki Mochizuki
December 6, 2004

Reviewed by Jon Hernandez (@OldJonHernandez)

Gifted by Ricardo Gallegos (@wallyrgr)

This match took place at Dragon Gate’s “The Gate of Legend” in December of 2004, their first year as a promotion separate from Ultimo Dragon and the Toryumon name. CIMA was defending as the inaugural Open The Dream Gate champion. 

With all the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame discussion that’s dominated the nerdier corners of this hobby (and baby, I’m hanging around those corners) I’ve listened and read so much about CIMA’s career and legacy. In all the talk about his influence or his lack of hallmark singles matches, you know what we skip over? The dude is such an unreal entertainer. His physical charisma is electric. At any given moment his eyes are flying around in his head, scanning for an audience member to connect with. 

These days, now that he’s a little older, those wild eyes of his can give off a bit of a Don Knotts vibe. But back then? From the neck down he’s a Chippendale’s dancer with an offensive arsenal that is setting the groundwork for the next two decades of athletic junior heavyweights. From the neck up though, he’s the best god damned Bar Mitzvah MC you’ve ever seen. He’s got Grandma on her feet, clappin’ her ass off. He knows all the Tik Tok dances AND the weird later verses of “Rapper’s Delight.” Keep the Shirley Temples flowing, this man was born to entertain. 

Masaaki Mochizuki on the other hand, well, is just the greatest. Just a wrestler’s fuckin’ wrestler. The dynamic early on—Mochizuki cutting off CIMA’s fun with a high kick, or maybe just a PUNCH IN THE FACE from the second rope—is perfect. It’s funny how, unlike CIMA, age has only enhanced Mochizuki’s aura. There’s more burnt gristle on the steak. 17 years ago Mochizuki already had that shitty smirk of his down to a science for years. You know the face, the one that looks like he’s already thinking about sitting down for an Old Fashioned and a cigarette (and a gnarly cigarette too, like a Maverick 100). Today, on the other side of 50, the wrinkles around his eyes make it all that much more convincing. 

The match shifts into a higher gear at around the 12-minute mark with a wild plancha from CIMA. As is typical with good Dragon System matches, that closing stretch intensity ends up stretching over 10 minutes. The first really hot nearfall comes when Mochizuki kicks out of a Schwein late in the match. The crowd is frenzied for the remainder. CIMA keeps the heat on, but Mochizuki, seemingly on his last legs, lures him into a strike exchange. In the midst of the flurry, Mochizuki lands a colossal head kick that flattens CIMA. Mochizuki wins and becomes the second-ever Open The Dream Gate champion. It’s pretty much identical to the finish of Mochizuki’s match against Takashi Sugiura in NOAH this year for the GHC National Title. That match kicked ass too. I love you, Masaaki Mochizuki. 

I’d like to think one of my fellow VOWers saw my name, knew that Dragongate is my favorite promotion, and dug up something special for their pal Jon. But in reality, I’m guessing Mike Spears or Case Lowe had this match teed up no matter what name came in. ****¼