THE FINAL GATE 2021
DECEMBER 26, 2021
FUKUOKA KOKUSAI CENTER
Watch: Dragongate Network
Rounding out an eventful 2021, Dragongate’s The Final Gate will take place on December 26. If you’re like me, preparing to spend the very early morning after Christmas hunched over a laptop watching Japanese pro wrestling, then you know this card is overflowing with exciting talent and matchups. Or maybe, you think it’s hampered by some strange, repetitive booking choices? Both are fair, and both could probably be said about the last twelve months of Dragongate. The year began amid an emotional trek toward Masato Yoshino’s retirement and a Shun Skywalker’s impressive first Dream Gate title run. Both of those threads were tied off at SPEED STAR FINAL, and what we’ve gotten since has, at times, struggled to keep up.
Still, Final Gate has the potential to boot us into the new year on an exciting note. So let’s get the coffee going, wrap ourselves in a blanket, and take a look at the top matches we’ll be watching bleary-eyed at 3 AM Eastern time. You know, like normal people.
OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
YAMATO (C) VS KAI
Say what you will about the booking surrounding it, but YAMATO’s Open The Dream Gate title reign has provided nothing but excellent pro-wrestling matches. First, he claimed the belt in a match-of-the-year-contender against Shun Skywalker at SPEED STAR FINAL. His second defense will go down as a critical chapter in the ongoing story of Kota Minoura. He turned back the clock with BxB Hulk and he outlasted Ben K in a slugfest. I haven’t been this excited for YAMATO matches in years.
Having said that, it’s a tall order to get excited for yet another bout with KAI. Their history is well documented, and it’s one hell of a story, but it’s absorbed the last two years of YAMATO’s career. We’d barely gotten to celebrate his freedom from that feud before KAI made that bizarre run-in at Gate of Origin. And so, it begins again. Even the principal players seem aware of how exhausting it’s gotten; in Kyoto, YAMATO wanted KAI to promise that this match they were finished. KAI, a foul character indeed, was hesitant to commit.
The good news is that they have a strong track record. Their brief encounter at the March Korakuen show was heated. Their No Ropes Lumberjack Match in July was tremendous and, for all intents and purposes, should have gone down as the end of the feud. Nothing is going to get me hyped about these two wrestling again but there’s plenty of evidence that, once the bell rings, we’re in store for another strong entry in YAMATO’s title reign. Prediction: YAMATO
OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
NARUKI DOI & TAKASHI YOSHIDA (C) VS R.E.D. (SB KENTO & H・Y・O)
While it might be a bummer to see Takashi Yoshida back in the Twin Gate scene, he does provide a cool dynamic here. In Dragongate, a promotion mostly made up of lighting-quick juniors, the former Cyber Kong acts as a measuring stick. We understand what dudes like Ben-K are made of when we watch them successfully trade shoulder blocks with the likes of Yoshida or Don Fujii.
His opponent, SB KENTo, has waltzed through his career like a man who has no idea he’s 5’7. In his feud with Dragon Kid, he operated like a super heavyweight. He’d lumber his way through slow control periods, easily hoisting a downed DK into Sekimoto-esque deadlight German Suplexes. He boasted a strength advantage in defenses of his Open The Brave Gate title against Jacky “Funky” Kamei and even does that weird thing where he forces Susumu to dance. Sometimes, it’s like the size of his personality and ego manifests into his physical perception of himself. It might be fun to see that play out against Yoshida, a man closer to the size SBK thinks he is.
Beyond that, KENTo and H・Y・O represent Dragongate’s foremost snotty dipshits; it Naruki Doi they face off against one of the men who wrote the playbook. I predict a win for the R.E.D. side — it enhances the tension between them and R.E.D. leader Eita while freeing Naruki Doi to unveil his squadron of hot boyz. Prediction: R.E.D.
SHUN SKYWALKER VS KOTA MINOURA
IF SHUN SKYWALKER LOSES HE MUST LEAVE MASQUERADE
On the 12/2 Korakuen show, Shun Skywalker made his bid for Worst Faction Leader when, in a dramatic Mask vs. Mask tag match against R.E.D., he sacrificed Dragon Dia to protect his own. Since then, tensions have run high within Masquerade. At the 12/15 show, Shun badly misread the room and arrived in Dragon Dia’s old colors. Then, he led the faction into a successful impromptu challenge for the Open The Triangle Gate titles. Then, his teammate Kota Minoura had enough of his shit and asked for this match with the stipulation that, should Kota win, Shun would be kicked out of Masquerade. If I didn’t know better, I’d think these two were Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep in the year 2009 because, brother, It’s Complicated.
Of course, this match having major storyline implications is just a bonus. Whenever either of these men is in a singles match, you circle it. Shun spent the first half of the year having a nothing-but-bangers Dream Gate title reign (let’s just forget the Kikuta thing, alright?). Kota had a breakout King of Gate that wrapped at the June Korakuen, where he took on YAMATO and Kzy in a single night. This is simply one of the most exciting matchups the company has to offer — and it’s listed fourth from the top! Hell yeah, Final Gate. Prediction: Shun Skywalker
La Estrella vs. Diamante
If the ceiling on La Estrella is “masked dude who does cool, wacky spots but sometimes scares you,” well, that’s not a bad ceiling, is it? I’m certainly paying attention whenever he gets in the ring, especially on December 15th for his 50-second win in, what I like to call, The Public Assassination of Punch Tominaga.
La Estrella obliterates Punch Tominaga's ribs. pic.twitter.com/0BcBy9ZaUu
— Andrew Rich (@AndrewTRich) December 18, 2021
No, but seriously, has anyone checked on Punch?
Diamante has leveled up tremendously since arriving in Dragongate. He’s every high-flyer’s favorite dance partner, he’s the best base in the company. He’s reaping the rewards for it too — he’s already gotten the pinfall in two different Mask vs. Mask matches. If anyone can keep a freewheeling La Estrella match on the rails, it’s Diamante. I’m not entirely sure who wins this and I’m even less sure what the storyline fallout will be, but I’m confident this match will be very pretty to look at. Prediction: Diamante
RIKI IIHASHI & ISHIN IIHASHI VS NATURAL VIBES (SUSUMU YOKOSUKA & U-T)
If you haven’t seen the Iihashi boys yourself, there’s a good chance you’ve caught wind of the hype around them. The difference between the Iihashis and the rest of this extraordinary rookie class, is the thoroughbred brothers seem fully formed. Their act is memorable, gear and entrances acting as a hybrid tribute to their pro wrestler parents. At first, it was just cute, but now they’ve worked it out in the ring. They’re fluid and confident, and at times it sorta feels like their matches have the most traditional tag team mechanics in the company. Honestly, it’s just a matter of when the company decides it’s time to let them start winning matches.
The Natural Vibes team of Susumu Yokosuka and U-T is practically designed to make them look good. The thick and deceptively athletic Ishin can soak up Susumu’s Jumbo no Kachi lariats, while the impressively versatile Riki can partake in U-T’s mat theatrics. Early in the card, this will probably be an especially breezy 8-10 minutes. Prediction: Natural Vibes
DON FUJII, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, YASUSHI KANDA & KAGETORA VS SHOYA SATO, RYU FUDA, TAKUMI HAYAKAWA & TAKUMA FUJIWARA
This is listed as the opener, which means this match will be free on YouTube with English commentary. If you don’t have the DG Network and peruse articles like this to keep up, I implore you to get on YouTube and watch this match. Putting these four rookies in that sort of position is no mistake.
I’d like to break them all down for you, but really, you should go watch their match at the 12/15 Korakuen show. There, Jae put on a solo commentary masterclass, giving thorough background on each as they tagged in. Three of the four already fill very different pro-wrestling archetypes from one another: Sato the judo player, Fuda the kickboxer, and Hayakawa the tiny punishment magnet. I’ve got an eye on the 19-year-old Fujiwara, who still seems like entirely moldable clay. He’s had fun chemistry with multiple roster members already, and in little flourishes of offense has shown hints of being a real suplex-and-chop freak. Fingers crossed.
Unfortunately for them, they’ll be up against a murder squad of perpetually grumpy veterans. Fujii and Mochizuki are renowned for their ability to pummel fresh-faced rookies into mincemeat. Kagetora will provide light relief, because, well, Kagetora can make anyone look like one of the best wrestlers in the world in two-to-three minute intervals. Prediction: Mochizuki/Fujii/Kanda/Kagetora
ELSEWHERE ON THE CARD:
- An all-star three-way six-man tag match. Natural Vibes sends Kzy, Big Boss Shimizu, and Jacky “Funky” Kamei against R.E.D.’s Eita, BxB Hulk, and Kaito Ishida, as well as HIGH-END’s Ben-K, Keisuke Okuda, and Dragon Kid. This match is absolutely stacked, and it’s a testament to DG’s insane roster that this is taking place and I have no idea who possibly wins or what it possibly leads to.
- Punch Tominaga teams with Ryukyu Dragon Pro Wrestling’s Ultra Soki against Strong Machine J and Ryukyu’s Churami Saver. RDPW is Guruken Mask’s promotion, and some configuration of their wrestlers has turned up on DG shows in Okinawa for the past few years. To my knowledge, this is the first time they’re appearing on a bigger show.
- Ultimo Dragon, Jason Lee, and Yosuke♡Santa Maria will compete with Genki Horiguchi, Konomama Ichikawa, and Shachihoko Boy in what’s sure to be a match with Ultimo Dragon in it.
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