FEBRUARY 4, 2022

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

The show began with HYO, SB KENTo, BxB Hulk, Diamante, KAI, and Shun Skywalker in the ring. They announced that they are changing the name of their unit at the start of the show so fans can go buy their merchandise, and from henceforth the unit formerly known as RED will now be known as Z-Brats. 


There’s been a lot of conjecture recently about what to watch if you want to start following Dragongate (this primer could certainly help you out), but in a way, this is the perfect match to kickstart your fandom. This promotion was built on young, hot men doing cool moves, and that’s exactly what this match was. 

Over the next few years, I’d expect to see all four of these men in prominent positions. U-T was the oldest here at the ripe age of 28. This promotion, perhaps more so than any other time in their history, has youth and good looks on their side. It’s fun going back in time and watching older Toryumon tapes and looking at an Italian Connection entrance. Everyone on the screen is dripping with charisma, everyone in the crowd is salivating over their good looks, and no matter how big the house is, they come across like stars. Dragongate has found that once more, especially in the case of Dia and Yoshioka, the company’s hottest new tag team. 

It’s amazing that Dia’s initial gimmick of being the heir to the Dragon heritage and following in the footsteps of both Ultimo Dragon and Dragon Kid was somehow a miscast because he was stuck under a mask for three years. His tan, his hair, and his astonishing white teeth have made what was initially a stunning decision to unmask him now seem like a no-brainer. He was tremendous in this match. 

Yoshioka scored the fall on Kamei with his signature frog splash after hitting a Darkness Buster for the first time ever. That was Darkness Dragon’s (K-Ness)  finishing maneuver. Now that he is retiring in April, much like Masato Yoshino, he is giving his moves to the new generation. I love it so much. Go watch this match. ***3/4 


“Don Fujii loves alcohol, trains, and beating up rookies on the floor.” – Dragongate Jae, February 2022 

Fujii and Sato continue to produce a winning formula of hitting each other as hard as humanly possible for the sake of our enjoyment. In the early portions of the match, it looked like Sato was finally going to be able to get the victory he’s been looking for against the surly veteran. He jumped Fujii at the bell and very quickly scored with his patented judo throw and a ground-and-pound combination of elbows and headbutts. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old rookie, Fujii mounted a comeback and pummeled Sato into oblivion. Sato was able to get one last hope spot, a cross armbreaker that nearly got him the victory, but Don Fujii rolled through and connected with the Nice German for the victory. ***

After the match, Fujii offered to team with Sato and extended his hand to him. Sato slapped his hand away, declining the offer, and leaving Fujii frozen in place for an extended period of time. 


The Don of Okinawa two months in a row! Dragongate knows how to get me fired up. 

Gurukun was legitimately great here, beating the tar out of the Iihashi Brothers alongside his tag team partner for next month’s “dream match” against Jun Kasai & Takashi Sasaki. This match brought out the side of YAMATO that I really like seeing. He was impatient and physical. He looked like he owned the ring whenever he was in there against Riki and Iishin. Now that his record-setting fifth reign as Dream Gate Champion has come and gone and YAMATO has talked about the influx of youth in this promotion, I’d really like to see him spend a good chunk of time this year wrestling the < 25 division of the roster. He’s always at the top of the card and I’d like to see that aspect of things shaken up a little bit this year. 

The Iihashi Brothers put up a good fight, but they are still winless as a team. YAMATO was barely phased by the Alcatraz submission attempt that was briefly put on him. They fought hard but they continue to eat L’s. In the case of Ishin, he not only ate an L, but he ate a Gurukun Driver for the finish. ***1/4 


The first match in the history of Z-BRATS will go down as a loss. The heels did their usual brawling to start, Maria got nailed with a box attack from SBK, but then escaped a second box attack from HYO while the referee was distracted. This gave Eita a chance to run-in. He was dressed like a mobster going undercover as he blasted HYO so hard with the Z-BRATS box that it exploded. Maria then pinned HYO. 

Mad Blankey lost their first main event to CIMA, Sanshiro Takagi, and TAKA Michinoku and they turned out just fine. These guys are already established killers. This match was all about the next chapter in the story between Eita & Maria. Don’t get bogged down by the tally in “L” column when the loss serves a purpose. NR 


After being embarrassed by Keisuke Okuda last month, Ryu Fuda had a lot to prove. 

Fuda had arguably the best debut match of anyone from the FUTURE class in the last quarter of 2021, but his progression has been the slowest of the bunch. The Iihashi Brothers continue to get better, Sato has direction with Don Fujii, Hayakawa has slowly started to carve out his niche, and Takuma Fujiwara is showing why he has limitless potential. Outside of getting choked out in Korakuen by the man that inspired him to get into pro wrestling, Fuda has struggled making that emotional connection to the fanbase. This match hopefully helped. 

A lot of this match was built around Okuda and Fuda. Whenever Fuda would gain momentum, in particular against his contemporary in Hayakawa, Okuda would be right there to make sure that his momentum was thwarted. It frustrated Fuda and brought an edge in him that is going to be so desperately needed if he wants to excel here. No one wants a happy-go-lucky kickboxer. Hopefully at some point, Okuda can permanently wipe the smile off of Fuda’s face. 

I would stick Hayakawa in HIGH-END on a full-time basis immediately. This unit launched in March 2021 and felt stale by April. Hayakawa gave the usual trio of Ben, DK, and Okuda some much-needed life. He was such a great foil to the stiff quartet of Fuda, SMJ, Kondo, and Ultimo. 

In the end, right when Fuda got on a roll again, Okuda cut him off and set him up perfectly for Ben-K to hit a spear and score the fall. Ben-K has looked dominant for a while now, and I can’t help but think that he’ll be challenging whoever leaves Champion Gate as Dream Gate Champion. ***1/2 


As a part of the ongoing K-Ness retirement tour, GM Ryo Saito has announced a series of matches to honor K-Ness and his former units. This month, the former heel unit that took over Toryumon in 2000 and 2001, M2K, is being honored. Next month, Korakuen Hall will get a special Jimmyz reunion. 

M2K was a heel unit whose initial incarnation was led by Masaaki Mochizuki, who was flanked by Susumu Mochizuki and Yasushi Kanda (and then later Darkness Dragon and Chocoball KOBE). They were known for their Yokosuka Jumpers and riding scooters down to the ring. They also wreaked havoc on Toryumon booking by instilling the Double Ringout Committee, an ideology that M2K had to ruin great matches. Their goal was to have every match end in a Double Countout. 

For a nostalgia-driven match, this was perfect. M2K got to do their entrance, they teased one countout spot, and then perfectly executed the eventual Double Countout between Shimizu and Mochizuki by way of K-Ness drilling Shimizu with a box attack on the apron at the count of 19. K-Ness even got in the ring at one point and cycled through a series of Knesuka double team maneuvers with Susumu. This was exactly what it should’ve been. It wasn’t great by any means, but it was a spectacular rush of nostalgia for longtime fans of the product. ***


Dear Lord, Takuma Fujiwara. This kid just wrestled in the semi-main event on his 20th birthday and he looked like he had every right to be in the ring alongside some of the world’s best pro wrestlers. Fujiwara has a gift of not only being able to sell like a million bucks, but he has the right kind of offense when he makes his comeback as well. He’s 20 years old and he already seems dialed in. He looked comfortable trading offense with Jason Lee and Shun Skywalker. He is someone who should be looked at as a legitimate Dream Gate prospect until he shows us otherwise. His growth from his debut at the end of November to now is astonishing. Once he found his footing, he sprinted past the rest of his class. Shoya Sato might be the first one to find real success, but long term, Fujiwara is the player. He was able to not only showcase his offense and why he can be such a threat, but he played an integral part of the storytelling portion of the match by getting entangled with Skywalker and his former Masquerade partners at numerous points in the contest. I’ve raved about him a lot recently, but this was his best performance yet. 

In other news, Shun Skywalker is still as good as it gets. He’s finally ditched the purple of Masquerade for the black and yellow of Z-BRATS and he looks like an absolute killer in his new gear. For five years, I never saw him as someone who could successfully pull off being a heel, but now that he’s in this role, he wrestles like he was born to do this. I fully expect him to have an amazing in-ring year as the workhorse of this new unit. 

Naruki Doi connected with the Doi 555 on Hulk and a subsequent Bakatare Sliding Kick, but before he could make the cover, Jason Lee corralled him and gave Kota Minoura the chance to hit the Gang on Hulk for the victory. ****

After months of trying to recruit Minoura to what is being dubbed as Naruki Doi’s International House of Hot Boys until further notice, Doi was irate that Minoura would steal a victory from him like that. He left the ring, but Minoura pleaded with him to get back in the ring and talk to him. Doi eventually changed his tune, and after Minoura and Lee amicably agreed to end Masquerade, Miinoura shook Doi’s hand and offered to join his unit going forward. Like every other angle on this show up to this point, this was really well done. 


With this win, KAI has successfully made his first defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship. 

This was not bad, but by no means was this very good. It was unfair to expect these two bruising heavyweights to have anything worth offering after the prior match was so quick, fun, and exciting. Just as their road-to matches did, this match came across like two guys working really hard to have a good match despite their very obvious lack of chemistry. Both guys work best as the biggest man in the room. Their strengths were canceled out here and it made for a rather awkward encounter. Jae did a tremendous job in the booth selling the importance of this match, explaining why KAI was a worthy champion, and just how much Yoshida had changed in the last few years, but it was all for not. This was a middling affair that ended when KAI caught Yoshida with the Authorized Gannosuke Clutch, putting a bow on this feud as for so long, KAI claimed that flash pins were not legitimate. This served its purpose. The finish told a nice story. It just wasn’t a great match. **3/4 

Things only got worse for Takashi Yoshida. Naruki Doi and Kota Minoura entered the ring and announced that their unit would be starting with three people, but that third person was Kaito Ishida. Yoshida noted that he was very mahco and deserved a place in this group, but Doi declined, noting that DoiYoshi was a lot of fun but it was time to move on. Yoshida’s performance here as a blubbering, heartbroken man was OUTSTANDING. This might be the best character work that Yoshida has ever done, and he once faked being a member of BxB Hulk’s dance team to turn heel on Hulk. I am fully behind Doi’s new unit, but now I have to see where Yoshida goes next. They got me. They fucking got me to cheer for Takashi Yoshida. What the fuck. I can’t believe it. This was such a strong way to close the show. 

Final Thoughts

Truth Gate paved the way for Dragongate’s new generation. Men primarily under 30 in big positions, knocking it out of the park. That’s what I’ve come to expect from Dragongate and they once again delivered on those expectations here. Thumbs up.

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