This weekend, Dragongate will descend on Osaka for two nights at Edion Arena #2 for Champion Gate 2022. This is the tenth anniversary of the first Champion Gate in Osaka, an event that’s featured some notable moments in the past: Ricochet’s Dream Gate title win in 2014, Uhaa Nation’s farewell bout with BxB Hulk the next year, or Masaaki Mochizuki’s 2018 banger with Ben-K. 

Despite their recent practice of withholding cards until belltime, Dragongate has kindly let us know what the title matches will be for this year’s Champion Gate. We’ve got a pretty stacked affair to look forward to if these matches are any indication. Let’s get into it. 

Champion Gate in Osaka Night One
March 5, 2022
Edion Arena Osaka #2
Osaka, Japan

Watch: Dragongate Network

Open The Brave Gate Title
Dragon Dia © vs. Takuma Fujiwara

When Takuma Fujiwara walked out to the ring for a singles bout with Jackie “Funky” Kamei in Kobe on 2/27, no one really knew what to expect. He’d become the number one contender for the Brave Gate title by beating four of his fellow rookies at Memorial Gate in Wakayama. He was facing a more established commodity in JFK, the centerpiece of the current Triangle Gate champs. Who’d win? And the more pressing question: who was Takuma Fujiwara? 

The rest of his rookie class had carved out defined roles for themselves. The Iihashi Brothers being the thoroughbreds, Ryu Fuda the striker of the Mochizuki mold, Takumi Hayakawa the tiny scrapper, and Shoya Sato the judoka big brother. As for Fujiwara, we knew he was…athletic? 

He and Kamei would fight to a fifteen-minute draw in a stunner of a match that filled in most of the blanks. He stood in the pocket with JFK’s chops, showed off a wider array of springboard-based offense, and hinted at what his future closing sequence might look like, threatening late with a Numero Uno-esque arm submission and…a Fujiwara armbar AGH OF COURSE. Fujiwara, freshly twenty years old, was shot to the front of the line, seemingly primed to be a major force in the company. 

It was as good a coming out party as you could ask for — at least until his title match against Dragon Dia. 

Before Dia re-emerged in his current unmasked state, he’d already established himself as a breathtaking performer who makes time stop when his feet leave the ground. Since returning though, he’s been an unstoppable force, currently holding both the Brave Gate title and one of the Twin Gate belts. 

What’s fascinating about this match is how little we know about Dragon Dia as a singles competitor. In his Masquerade days, his singles efforts were mostly limited to brawls with Dia Inferno or short comebacks against slower, larger men. After his makeover, he claimed the belt in an impromptu bout with Kento that played out more like a segment than a wrestling match. Since then, most of his efforts have revolved around his D’Courage tag team with Yuki Yoshioka. This will be his first defense in nearly two months as champ. 

The Brave Gate title became an incredibly interesting title again in the hands of SB KENto, main eventing smaller house show dates in barnburners against the likes of JFK, U-T, and even Mondai Ryu. The title’s renewed allure continues here, in a bout between two young men with tons to prove. Prediction: Dragon Dia 

Open The Triangle Gate Titles
Natural Vibes (Kzy, U-T, Jacky “Funky” Kamei) © vs. Gold Class (Naruki Doi, Kota Minoura, Kaito Ishida) 

The Triangle Gate titles were vacated with the dissolution of Masquerade, and so, our beloved GM Ryo Saito (praise be to he) announced a four-team tournament for DG’s Acros Fukuoka doubleheader to determine the new champs. YAMATO, leader of the HIGH-END side, had a confrontation with Vibes leader Kzy, where he questioned Kzy’s choice in bringing “the kids” along. 

U-T is a veteran at this point and did his best work in a faction with YAMATO. The comment seemed directed squarely at the inclusion of Jacky “Funky” Kamei. Kamei, already a fan favorite, took a major step up as a two-time challenger for SB KENto’s Brave Gate title last year (their first meeting placed at #79 in the VOW MOTY poll). Since then, the diminutive (even on this roster) Kamei continued standing out by fearlessly squaring up to trade strikes with foes much bigger than him — in both stature and reputation — like, for example, YAMATO. 

In the tournament, Natural Vibes would eliminate HIGH-END in the semi-finals. In the final, Kamei pinned HYO with his Jacky Knife clutch to claim the belts. Make no mistake, Kzy is the captain and powerhouse of this team, but the heart is Jacky Kamei. 

Naruki Doi’s new unit, now known as Gold Class, entered the ring immediately and claimed themselves as the next challengers. Kzy asked why they didn’t just enter the tournament themselves. Their answer? Doing it this way was easier. Oh, and also that the women in Fukuoka were ugly. 

Gold Class is the product of Naruki Doi wanting to reinvigorate with the female fanbase by way of small trunks and abdominal muscles. Doi is joined by Ishida, one of the few mouthpieces who can match Doi in sheer obnoxiousness. It should come as no surprise; Ishida’s been studying under Doi since their MaxiMuM days. 

They’re rounded out by the burgeoning Kota Minoura, whose star has not stopped growing for the past two years. Doi’s first act as a new faction leader was getting Minoura (whose “Seven Colors of Suplex” moniker is the perfect balance to Ishida’s “Kick Boy”) by any means necessary. Maybe Doi was taking advice from a trusted friend; his SpeedMuscle partner Masato Yoshino had bequeathed his finishing move, the Sol Naciente, to Minoura. Or maybe Doi just thought he was super hot. Either way, it’s paid off as Minoura has scored the pinfall in every Gold Class match to this point. 

This is a tough match to pick. Kamei’s big success story has only just gotten off the ground, but Gold Class needs to make their first real statement. It seems likely to me that JFK is about to get stuffed back in the locker by Doi’s new squad of grade-A assholes. Prediction: Gold Class

Champion Gate in Osaka Night Two
March 6, 2022
Edion Arena Osaka #2
Osaka, Japan

Watch: Dragongate Network

Open The Twin Gate Titles
D’Courage (Dragon Dia & Yuki Yoshioka) vs. Z-Brats (HYO & SB KENto) vs. Eita & Yosuke Santa Maria

Dragon Dia followed his Brave Gate title win, one day later, by claiming the Twin Gate titles with Yuki Yoshioka from HYO and SB KENto. We’d seen every moment of Dia’s journey, but Yoshioka had all but vanished, hadn’t he? His Mexican excursion was a COVID-riddled disaster in Shun Skywalker’s shadow, and his long return under the Dia Inferno hood was a mixed bag at best. 

When he finally shed the cloak and Party City mask, none of us knew there was a Greek statue waiting underneath. Yoshioka had become a certified body guy. I tried to get “Yuki Yoshi-yoked-a” to stick. It didn’t take, but the conceit still stands. He was already a highly touted worker in his Mochizuki Dojo days, but now he was a powerhouse to boot. His moveset was recently bolstered with the gift of K-ness’s Darkness Buster, further aiding D’Courage in steamrolling all competition.

After Dia and Yoshioka’s first defense, HYO and SB KENto stormed the ring demanding the next shot, now under the Z-Brats banner. Remember: before D’Courage came around, SB KENto was the hot prospect holding two belts. SBK’s Brave Gate reign was a revelation for his in-ring abilities and in tandem with HYO as a mouthpiece, the pair felt much more central to the Z-Brats heel unit than their leader, Dream Gate champ KAI. 

They’ll be fighting a two-front war. Z-Brats began with the forceful outing of Eita from R.E.D. Since then, Eita’s been on a suicide mission to get his hands around the throats of his former stablemates, running alone into unwinnable fights against four or five men at a time. He hasn’t made many friends over the past few years, but one person has remained loyal: Yosuke Santa Maria. The two share some history — they debuted together in 2011 and, well, Maria’s been in love with him since they were both members of Millenials. 

On the house show circuit, when the two have been booked as a team, Eita has repeatedly rewarded Maria’s loyalty with a swift kick to the crotch and an even swifter exit to the back. At the 3/3 Korakuen, Eita finally threw her a bone (take it easy), rescuing her from a ruthless Z-Brats beat down — but only after they’d defeated HYO and SB KENto in a tag match. 

In the ensuing fracas, our kind general manager Ryo Saito turned the Twin Gate title match at Champion Gate into a three-way. All the while, Maria remained on bended knee at Eita’s side. He grabbed her by the hair and asked her what she wanted; she cried out for the Twin Gate titles. When they were granted the match, he wrapped a whip around her throat and grinned. Sheesh. 

Man, I have no idea who’s winning this match, but I can sure as hell tell you who I’m rooting for. Prediction: Eita, Yosuke Santa Maria & that panting “too hot” emoji. 

Open The Dream Gate Title
KAI © vs. BIG BOSS Shimizu

KAI’s Open The Dream Gate title reign couldn’t have been timed better when you think about it. When KAI ended YAMATO’s fifth title reign, opinions ranged from outright disdain to ambivalence. But the King of Freedom holds the belt in such a hectic, transitional point for the company, the pressure seems to be off of him entirely. 

The first two months of this year gave us the dissolution of two marquee factions, the creation of two in their place, the dramatic return and rise of D’Courage, and one historic rookie class. To top it all off, KAI, the supposed leader of Z-Brats, still feels like a background player to the likes of HYO and SB KENto. Still, he’s a background player holding the company’s top prize. 

Albeit we’re only approaching his second defense, what makes KAI’s title reign interesting is what a departure he is from the ordinary Dream Gate scene. He doesn’t look like the rest of the roster, and he doesn’t really wrestle like them, either. KAI fights like a power-heavy, and he’s been presented as an imposing one — he ousted company ace YAMATO with no outside interference. His first defense came against Takashi Yoshida, a living, breathing cartoon character who nearly matched him in size. He put the former Cyber Kong away in as close to a hoss-fight as we get around here. 

The long road from Big R Shimizu’s expulsion from R.E.D. at Dangerous Gate 2020 to BIG BOSS Shimizu’s Open The Dream Gate title challenge this weekend (his first in four years) has, at times, resembled a therapy session more than a wrestling arc. Lacking an identity or a sense of home, he reverted to a childlike state: the unibrowed Ryotsu Shimizu. He followed that with half a year as the Ultimo Dragon tribute act, Bokutimo Dragon. 

It wasn’t until he was brought into Natural Vibes that Shimizu began to again resemble the threatening figure he was in his heel days. His new teammates cocooned him in a web of support and tight choreography, and soon, he emerged as the BIG BOSS we know today. It wasn’t long before he was back to dominating opponents, enjoying a stint as Twin Gate champs with Susumu Yokosuka. 

In the lead-up, KAI has tried to belittle Shimizu by referring to him as a “comedy wrestler.” It’s a sentiment the fanbase has lamented for the past two years as well. But Shimizu’s current environment’s freed him up to explore all facets of his personality. I mean, the guy is still regularly paying cheeky tribute to western heroes of his like Bam Bam Bigelow, Scott Hall, and Rikishi. But he’s been successful in humbling KAI across the spectrum of his personality:  in Fukuoka on 2/20, he pinned KAI with the Bokutimo Dragon-style Magistral, while in Kobe on 2/27, he planted KAI with a Shot-Put Slam. 

If nothing else, what we’re looking at here is two big-ass dudes hitting wailing on each other in the main event of a semi-major Dragongate show. It’s the top villain (symbolically, at least) clashing with a colorful fan favorite. It’s the big bad against the BIG BOSS. Get stoked, man. Prediction: KAI

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