CHAMPION GATE IN OSAKA
MARCH 5, 2022
EDION ARENA OSAKA #2 – OSAKA, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
DRAGON DIA (c) DEF. TAKUMA FUJIWARA
With this victory, Dragon Dia has made his first successful defense of the Open the Brave Gate Championship.
Unless you’re a hardcore Dragongate fan, there’s a good chance the name Takuma Fujiwara still doesn’t ring a bell with you. The Iwate-born rookie debuted on November 27 of last year, meaning that it only took him 98 days to earn a title shot for one of Dragongate’s premier belts on a premier Dragongate weekend. Fujiwara is a name, whether you’re new to the promotion entirely, or just new to him given how little he’s actually wrestled, that you’re going to need to remember immediately, because from here on out, you won’t be able to shake Takuma Fujiwara.
Out of the six Dragongate rookies that debuted in 2021, Fujiwara has blown past the supernova Iihashi Brothers and initial leader of the pack, 29-year-old judo specialist Shoya Sato. Fujiwara debuted with an unassuming contest against Kagetora. At no point did he look in over his head by following the basic young boy structure you’d expect from a kid in his first match, but on that night, even fellow rookie kickboxer Ryu Fuda seemed to outshine him.
That was the last night that Fujiwara didn’t steal the show.
As the company moved into a hectic December, eyes continued to turn towards Fujiwara. Then only 19-years-old, he began showing the combination of grace and athleticism that you would expect from a main eventer in Dragongate. In the same way that SB KENTo immediately carried himself like a future world champion when he first stepped between those ropes, Fujiwara began wrestling like a future world champion mere matches into his career. At every tour stop along the way, he’s added little moves to up his game in an effort to get him closer to victory.
He celebrated his 20th birth month by being put in a five-way #1 Contendership Match with the rest of rookies that fit the weight requirements to hold the Brave Gate belt, a match that he won rather easily. This gave him the path to challenge Dragon Dia in the true semi-main event of this show, even if it kicked off the weekend.
After this match, we must look at Fujiwara in the same light as Jun Akiyama, Kurt Angle, and Owen Hart when it comes to wrestlers that became genuinely great as soon as they did.
Depending on where you fall into fandom, that’s probably a triggering line as it threatens the notion that a wrestler you liked as a kid is now being compared to a 20-year-old Japanese wrestler that you might not be familiar with. I don’t know what the next step of Fujiwara’s career will be. Remember, the kid doesn’t even have official entrance music yet. He’s been using the same song that the rest of his FUTURE class contemporaries have been using. He could flame out and be working the dark match on this show next year. Do I think that’s likely? No. But I’ll gladly walk you through that comforting path of acceptance in an effort to help you understand that right now, at this moment, we have definitive proof that at only 20-years-old and 98 days as a pro, Takuma Fujiwara is legitimately great.
His Brave Gate challenge against Dragon Dia was everything you’d want it to be. Outside of an awkward, aborted back body drop that was corrected moments later, the interactions between these two were flawless. In all of his matches, Fujiwara creates momentum by landing his slingshot double stomp, which he now follows up with a lionsault. The story was the same in this match. After selling his ass off for the first third of the match, he hit what is quickly becoming his signature combination and began rolling through big moves in an effort to capture his second ever win and his first ever title.
The flashy moves didn’t work, so Fujiwara busted out the armbar that he shares a name with. When Dia began escaping, Fujiwara rolled through and put Dia in a terrific double armbar. Dia still escaped, but that gave Fujiwara the opening to plant him with a reverse Michinoku Driver. Had that been the finish, I would’ve hooted and hollered so loud that it would’ve woke up my neighbors.
Instead, Dia kept fighting. He stunned Fujiwara, which gave him the opening to hit the DDDDT. With both men out of options, they began trading flash pins until Dragon Dia was given the opening to hit his finishing move, the Double Cork, which he debuted at the start of the year. That proved to be too much for the rookie.
In the last few years, I’ve talked a lot about the new generation of Dragongate getting ready to take over. 2022 has shown us that the takeover is here. The era of BxB Hulk, Naruki Doi, and YAMATO, while all three still hold prominent positions in the company, feels very dated. On the backs of guys like Dia, SB KENTo, Kota Minoura, and now, somehow, Takuma Fujiwara, the entire tone of the promotion has changed. The influx of young, attractive, flashy wrestlers has given Dragongate its closest vibe to Toryumon since the split 18 years ago.
I made note during the January Korakuen Hall double shot that if you were ever going to start following the promotion, that would have been the time to do it. If you did not heed my advice, the good news is that you can start with this match, which is available for free, with English commentary, on the Dragongate YouTube channel. ****1/2
CHURAUMI SAVER, GAMMA, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, & SHUJI KONDO DEF. BEN-K, DRAGON KID, GURUKUN MASK, & LA ESTRELLA
The day before this show, Gurukun Mask’s Ryukyu Dragon Pro promotion ran Shinjuku FACE for the first time ever with the aforementioned Gurukun Mask teaming with YAMATO against deathmatch legends Jun Kasai & Takashi Sasaki in a match that saw YAMATO get skewers embedded in his head.
This time around, there were no skewers, but there was Churaumi Saver, a fellow RDPW standout who has appeared in Dragongate before. For an unaffiliated, meaningless eight-man tag, this is about as fun as it gets. The two pairings that really excited me were Gurukun Mask and Masaaki Mochizuki, who kicked the life out of one another, and Shuji Kondo against La Estrella, which is an obvious dynamic pairing given the size difference between the two. Kondo clubbed La Estrella to death with a King Kong Lariat for the victory, meaning that his side of legends And A Guy (Saver) got the win over a team with High-End representation. With Gold Class eating their lunch at the most recent Korakuen Hall, it has been a very bad week for that unit. ***1/4
SB KENTO VS. YUKI YOSHIOKA
I know this company too well to get excited about a singles match between two top, young stars this low on the card. This had shenanigans written all over it and that’s exactly what happened, as right when Yoshioka began to build momentum towards the closing stretch, a gang of Z-Brats ran in and caused a disqualification. Prior to the DQ, this match could be best described as “methodical”, as SBK’s slow, character-driven pacing was on full display here. He did unleash a corked out, gnarly Saito Suplex that sent Yoshioka crashing to the back of his neck, but that is the only moment of flashiness that SBK provided. The rest of this match involved him fiddling with turnbuckle pads and stomping away at the body of Yoshioka. This will likely headline a PPV one day and be a much better match, but this clearly served a purpose as these guys head into tomorrow’s three-way Twin Gate match. NR
DIAMANTE & HYO DEF. EITA & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA
Ever since being ousted from RED, Eita’s lone companion has been Yosuke Santa Maria, his scorned lover who has lusted after Eita ever since they shared time together in the Millennials. For most of this run, Eita has been uninterested in teaming with Maria, often walking around the arena during the length of their matches until the finishing stretch when Eita would return to the ring, low blow Maria, his partner, and then leave her to be pinned. Korakuen Hall changed that, when Eita finally came to Maria’s aid to save her from a Z-Brats attack.
We saw the Eita/Maria story take another much-needed step in this match with Maria actually making a hot tag to Eita instead of having Eita jump off the apron.
Eita ran wild for a minute but when Z-Brats recovered and went back on the attack, Maria once again stood in front of Eita, hypothetically taking a bullet for him, which gave HYO the perfect opportunity to roll her up and pin her. Tomorrow’s Twin Gate match likely won’t be great, but the story they’ve told to get there has been. To have Eita & Maria peaking going into this Twin Gate match, as well as the ongoing issue between SBK & HYO vs. Dia & Yoshioka, is a beautiful thing. **3/4
KAGETORA, KEISUKE OKUDA, & YAMATO DEF. DON FUJII, JASON LEE, & TAKASHI YOSHIDA
For the next month and a half, Dragongate is going to be fighting for the rights to win Jason Lee. After Shun Skywalker claimed that he owns him at the most recent Korakuen show, High-End and Natural Vibes made bids to claim the Hong Kong standout. On April 25, back in Tokyo, Z-Brats, High-End, and Natural Vibes will collide with the winner securing the rights to team with Lee.
So while Lee was against High-End in this match, they spent the entire contest and post-match trying to court him into their unit. As always, Lee was spectacular at hitting his hot tag and going through a flurry of offense that no one in wrestling can match. While joining High-End would give their unit a desperately needed spark plug, I think the perk of having Lee wrestle High-End outweighs him joining them, because he has truly marvelous chemistry with everyone in that unit.
Don Fujii might not have great chemistry with everyone in that unit, but he certainly has great chemistry with YAMATO, who has now been a thorn in his side for over 15 years. Fujii deliberately targeting the five-time Dream Gate Champion proved to be the easy highlight in this affair. Unfortunately for the wily veteran, he got caught with YAMATO’s Frankensteiner of the Almighty for the victory. ***
After the match, High-End attempted to raise Jason Lee’s hand in victory, but Lee fought off the courtship.
BIG BOSS SHIMIZU, GENKI HORIGUCHI, & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA DEF. BXB HULK, KAI, & SHUN SKYWALKER
Heading into their headlining Dream Gate contest tomorrow, Big Boss Shimizu rolled up current Dream Gate Champion KAI with the La Magistral to get his third victory over the champion in only ten days. This continues the pattern Shimizu has demonstrated since the dog days of July 2021 when Shimizu, then under the KING Shimizu alias, and Susumu Yokosuka captured the Open the Twin Gate belts at Kobe World. Outside of losing the belts to Naruki Doi and Takashi Yoshida in a match that saw Yoshida pin Yokosuka and a failed Triangle Gate attempt that saw Kzy succumb to the manipulative ways of HYO, Shimizu has been on the winning side of nearly every match since the summer. Ever since he put his name under Dream Gate contention at the start of this year, I’ve believed that he’s winning the belt in Osaka (his hometown, mind you). If Shimizu wins tomorrow, Dragongate will deserve a ton of credit for successfully rehabbing a monster-turned-sleazeball-turned-goofball into a credible world champion.
KAI has held up his end of the bargain. He is who we thought he was. He’s a character-driven, brute of a champion who has now caught the wrong end of Shimizu’s attacks a number of times. Getting the belt off of YAMATO was the correct decision, but KAI’s time as champion has come to an end. Shimizu has been so brilliant in the ring since joining Natural Vibes that I fully believe he can carry the promotion in the ring in a way that KAI, for as good as he is at doing what he does, simply cannot do. I trust that Shimizu can go out there with anyone and put on a match worthy of being a Dragongate main event. I can’t say the same for KAI.
This match gave me a ton of confidence that the weekend-closer in Osaka will be great. If KAI is going to have a great match against anyone on this roster, it’s going to be someone like Shimizu. I’ve enjoyed their chemistry more and more as we’ve gotten closer to their title match. Both of their respective army’s played their roles as well as you’d want them to in this final road to Dream Gate contest. Could Shimizu standing tall foreshadow what’s to come tomorrow? I believe so. ***1/2
OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
KAITO ISHIDA, KOTA MINOURA, & NARUKI DOI DEF. JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI, KZY, & U-T (c)
With this loss, the Natural Vibes trio failed to make a successful defense of the Open the Triangle Gate belts that they won on February 20. This marks Minoura’s second time with these belts, Ishida’s third, and Doi’s 15th, giving him a two-reign lead over Gamma, Genki Horiguchi, and Ryo Saito, all of whom have 13 reigns as Triangle Gate Champion.
I predicted on this week’s Open the Voice Gate that this would be the match of the weekend in Dragongate, and unless the second night of Champion Gate uncorks something transcendent, my prediction will turn out to be true as this was the best match I’ve seen in Japan this year.
It has been years since a Triangle Gate match has felt so relevant. They were given a ton of focus during the most recent Kobe World weekend, but a returning Aagon Iisou team is not the same as six guys who are currently dominating the focus of this promotion. I assumed, given the way that most Triangle Gate teams nowadays are simply thrown together, that the Gold Class trio of Ishida, Minoura, and Doi were actually too big to hold these titles. They are the biggest thing in this promotion right now, the clear focus of every big show, and are poised to be the #1 unit going forward. In my mind, that meant Ishida was getting rolled up by U-T and Natural Vibes were keeping the gold.
Incorrect, as Gold Class now has gold around their waists to go along with their, well, gold everything else. It was so refreshing to see these teams truly work as trios, not just three guys who happen to be teaming with one another. This embodied everything that a Triangle Gate match should embody. As a singles wrestler, Jacky “Funky” Kamei is not the strongest. Teaming alongside Kzy and U-T, he’s able to fly around the ring with bursts of energy in an effort that best utilizes his strengths. Gold Class has spent the last month teaming on every show and their growth is remarkable. These guys are now a well-oiled machine that look as dominant as any trio has looked in Dragongate in many, many years.
It’s simply too daunting to recap all of the offense that took place during the closing stretch of this match. Notably, once again Ishida and Kzy demonstrated their excellent chemistry, Doi looked brilliant mixing it up with U-T, and Minoura looked like a world-beater bullying JFK. If you’ve yearned for the return of the Dragongate six-man as it once was, this is the match for you.
Minoura planted U-T with the Gang to win the match for his unit. This is now officially a MOTYC. ****3/4
Dragongate has found this generation’s Jun Akiyama, Kurt Angle, or Owen Hart, and he somehow wasn’t even involved in the best match on the show. Between the rookie phenom and the match of the year contender trios match, the first night of Champion Gate in Osaka is undoubtedly a must-watch show full of essential viewing.
Powered by RedCircle