THE GATE OF PASSION
APRIL 25, 2022
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
DIAMANTE, KAI, & SB KENTO VS. DRAGON DIA, SUSUMU YOKOSUKA, & YUKI YOSHIOKA
Dragongate’s second Korakuen Hall appearance in April began with a star-studded 15-minute time limit draw. Z-Brats, represented by Open the Dream Gate Champion KAI, Diamante, and SB KENTo, the former of whom is one-half of the #1 contenders for the Open the Twin Gate Championship with Shun Skywalker and the latter of whom is the #1 contender for the Open the Brave Gate Championship, took on Susumu Yokosuka, the #1 contender for the Open the Dream Gate Championship, and Dragon Dia and Yuki Yoshioka, D’Courage, who are not only Twin Gate Champions, but Dragon Dia doubles as the Brave Gate Champion.
I have complained this month that KAI vs. Susumu feels like an afterthought and that they are getting badly overshadowed by lesser members of the roster in their build to their confrontation at Dead or Alive, but they brought the fire here in the way that a Dream Gate match deserves. KAI’s Dream Gate run has been a rollercoaster ride. His defenses have largely been entertaining, but the build to those high-profile matches have often lacked any intensity or passion. His reign has felt hollow, even with the strong character work that he’s done. Big Boss Shimizu was able to bring something out of KAI in late February and early March, and Susumu, with this match, built on that foundation of making KAI entertaining outside of his title defenses.
Of course, the young guns carried the weight, with D’Courage and Diamante and SBK delivering picture-perfect offense throughout the match. Dia took a long beating from the Z-Brats trio, a role that he’s become incredibly comfortable doing. He’s great at working from underneath while maintaining a sense of star power. Yoshioka continues to look like a world beater on offense as he’s running through his hot tag sequences. D’Courage, despite being so new, is developing phenomenal chemistry.
KAI and Susumu were in the midst of an exciting, bomb-heavy closing stretch when the time limit expired. ***1/2
After the match, Alejandro, Daisuke Harada, and Junta Miyawaki of Pro Wrestling NOAH ran out and attacked Z-Brats to set up their match at NOAH’s junior heavyweight show in Sumo Hall on April 29. After their initial scrap, HYO grabbed the microphone and warned the NOAH trio not to invade Dragongate with their “trash pro wrestling”. This brought on another physical confrontation and once more, the NOAH trio came out slightly ahead.
The NOAH JR Army stood tall tonight in the @dragongate_pro ring at Korakuen!
🔜 This Friday at Ryoguku the #Z_Brats enter the Ark!
— Pro Wrestling NOAH (@noahglobal) April 25, 2022
DON FUJII & KENICHIRO ARAI DEF. PROBLEM DRAGON & PUNCH TOMINAGA
“Punch Tominaga’s in-ring style is a lot like Shingo Takagi, and his hair style is a lot like Tetsuya Naito.” – Jae Church, April 2022
Jae’s continued beef with Punch Tominaga was the highlight of this brief undercard encounter. Fujii and Araken, who combine to make two of the meanest men in all of Japan, brutalized the lowlife duo of Dragon & Tominaga with stiff flurries of offense. Araken connected with a piledriver on Tominaga for the victory. **1/4
JASON LEE DEF. HO HO LUN
The Hong Kong Mega Powers explode!
This was short, mean, and thoroughly entertaining. Despite knowing each other for over a decade and teaming together recently on house shows, Jason showed his longtime confidant no respect. High-End, Natural Vibes, and Z-Brats all cornered Jason, but he very clearly leaned into tactics that only Z-Brats could respect. He rejected a handshake at the start of the match, played up heel tendencies throughout the match, and then low blowed Ho Ho for the win in just over three minutes.
This was a prolonged angle that added yet another intriguing layer into the story of Jason Lee. NR
DRAGON KID & KEISUKE OKUDA DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI & U-T
With so much at stake elsewhere on this card, it was hard to get invested in a match that is ultimately meaningless, but that doesn’t mean that these four didn’t go out there and produce an entertaining tag match. U-T and Okuda, who killed it at last year’s Dead or Alive and then again in the opening round of King of Gate, have largely been kept apart since then. This match was a good reminder of what they bring to the table with Okuda throwing wild, violent strikes and U-T attempting to evade, but occasionally eating said strikes.
The finish saw U-T attempt to bust out the Hikari no Wa, made famous by K-Ness, but Dragon Kid, K-Ness’ eternal rival, countered the pin and defeated U-T in a flash. That finish made the match worthwhile in my opinion. It was such a subtle tribute to K-Ness, but I popped huge for it when it happened. ***
EITA, ISHIN IIHASHI, & STRONG MACHINE J DEF. LA ESTRELLA, TAKUMA FUJIWARA, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA
There was good and bad with this match.
I remain unsatisfied with the direction of Eita and Yosuke Santa Maria. She was Eita’s lone companion after the dissolution of R.E.D. and they parlayed that into a thrilling Twin Gate challenge at Champion Gate in Osaka. They teamed up once more in Kobe and then again in Fukuoka after Champion Gate, but there has been no clear direction with them since their loss. Maria’s ceiling as a plucky, lovable underdog who is ultimately a loss post is well established at this point. Her relationship with Eita makes sense and it is something that I grew to be invested in. Why are they on opposing sides in this match? We would learn later on that Eita has business to take care of with Perros del Mal de Japón, and perhaps that is stalling his efforts to find a unit in Dragongate, but that doesn’t mean his relationship with Maria should be abandoned. If they aren’t meant to be in the same unit together, fine, but it seems like their relationship is in limbo right now and it comes across like a rare oversight in Dragongate storytelling.
The good thing is that Ishin Iihashi is really good. I attached myself to his brother, Riki, early on. I still think that once Riki returns from injury, his natural charisma will propel him into an important position within the company. Ishin is stockier and a little more reserved, two traits that could work against you in Dragongate, but his work is top notch. He has excelled as a competitor while Riki has been out injured. His chemistry here with Takuma Fujiwara, who we would later learn is his King of Gate opponent in the opening round of the tournament, was excellent. He grounded Fujiwara in a way that no one has been able to do yet, clearly showcasing his excellent mat skills. There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Ishin Iihashi.
Strong Machine J continues to be sneaky good. He’s hot, as well, as he scored the fall over Yosuke Santa Maria. This continues his trend of winning on TV as he also scored pinfalls in Kobe, Fukuoka, and the early April Korakuen show. ***1/4
KAITO ISHIDA, KOTA MINOURA WITH MINORITA, & NARUKI DOI DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, SHUJI KONDO, & YASUSHI KANDA
There is a level of goofiness with Dragongate that will always be a part of the product. For as much as I tend to love DG, I am probably lower on most of the goofiness than most. That is with the exception of Minorita. This is one of the greatest comedy things they’ve ever done. Watching legends of the industry, whether it be Genki Horiguchi, Masaaki Mochizuki, or YAMATO, chase this small man around the ringside area will never not be entertaining to me. 20 years ago when Toryumon X launched and that class was filled with mini’s of Toryumon’s stars, it led to a generation of failed students. Given his size and what we’ve seen him bring to the table, this seems like a perfect role for Minorita. I love what he brings to the table and what he adds to Gold Class.
Minorita vs. Mochizuki was far and away the highlight of this match. This was on the lower-end of Gold Class six-mans. There was no fire nor urgency outside of Kaito Ishida and Shuji Kondo slugging it out with one another. Minoura had no foil to play off of and Doi was nowhere to be found. In the end, Minoura continued his winning ways with the R-301 on Kanda. ***
METAL WARRIOR DEF. MINORITA
The prior match bled directly into this one. Minorita attempted to get Metal Warrior to chase him around the ring, but Metal Warrior stayed in place. Minorita ran backstage but was quickly brought back in by a second Metal Warrior. He attempted the same thing with the opposing entrance area and that brought out the third Metal Warrior. With all three Metal Warriors at ringside, the one participating in the match quickly defeated Minorita with Blue Destiny. NR
The masked men revealed themselves to be NOSAWA, Kotaro Suzuki, and Eita. They will challenge Gold Class for the Triangle Gate belts at Dead or Alive.
【#DeadOrAlive2022 Card Update】
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) April 25, 2022
JASON LEE NEGOTIATION RIGHTS 3 WAY 6 MAN TAG TEAM MATCH
BXB HULK, HYO, & SHUN SKYWALKER AND BIG BOSS SHIMIZU, JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI, & KZY DEF. BEN-K, KAGETORA, & YAMATO
This match was to determine which unit was allowed to ask Jason Lee to join their unit. It ended in a double pin that saw Shun Skywalker pin Big Boss Shimizu while Jacky “Funky” Kamei was pinning HYO.
The double pin, while it sounds confusing on paper, was a stroke of genius that led to a thrilling post-match swerve from Jason Lee. This match was vintage Dragongate, the type of match that you’d expect from the likes of Akira Tozawa, Masaaki Mochizuki, and Shingo Takagi, but with a batch of fresh names involved. From the opening bell, the intensity was off the charts. Hulk and HYO played their parts well, but there’s no question that the driving force in this match was Shun Skywalker, who, for people that have been paying attention, is doing the best character work in all of wrestling. The former Dream Gate Champion has done a masterful job of mixing in absurd theatrics with a cold-blooded streak that is helping him rip through the Dragongate roster. His work against Kamei, in particular, was brutal and engaging.
It was obvious that High-End was the odd-unit-out. They were eliminated first after YAMATO hit an incredible Double Frankensteiner of the Almighty onto Shimizu and Skywalker, who were then able to roll through and pin the leader of High-End.
With the fate of Jason Lee’s future in their hands, both Natural Vibes and Z-Brats threw everything they had at one another. Kzy wrestled like a superstar, Skywalker continued to blaze a path of domination, and the plucky underdogs in HYO and Kamei remained thorns in the sides of their opposing units. Natural Vibes was able to hone in on HYO, who ate a pop-up uppercut from Shimizu and Kzy, then got launched into orbit with the Shot-Put Slam. Kamei came running in to put HYO in the Jacky Knife pin, which gave Skywalker the opportunity to school boy Shimizu. The referee counted both pins at the same time.
The timing was perfect. The idea was brilliant. This was peak Dragongate.
The idea of having Jason Lee’s future on the line was such an absurd idea, but Dragongate treated it so seriously. This is one of the better matches Dragongate has had this year. Essential viewing. ****1/2
With both units being afforded the opportunity to fight for Jason Lee’s talents, they were given a chance to plead their cases in the middle of the ring. Natural Vibes pleaded with Jason to not succumb to the evil ways of Z-Brats, but Skywalker reminded Jason that he owned him and that he was nothing without him. Kamei made one final gesture in Cantonese to the Hong Kong native, but Jason shook hands with Skywalker and Z-Brats rejoiced. Words can’t describe how well Jason sold the lifelessness behind his eyes. He seemed hellbent on joining Z-Brats under the guidance of Skywalker. That is until he shocked everyone and sent a high kick towards the dome of Skywalker. He embraced Natural Vibes. Jason Lee has chosen the side of good once and for all.
I have been a vocal Jason Lee supporter since he came into Dragongate in 2017. From his debut, I could tell that he had the talent to hang with the best wrestlers in the world. Through his time with MaxiMuM, the Dragongate Generation, and then Masquerade, I have seen Jason continuously get better until last year when I finally dubbed him the best junior heavyweight wrestler in the world. I think he’s better than Taiji Ishimori, better than any junior NOAH has to offer, and better than Hiromu Takahashi at this stage in his career.
The thing that makes this story so interesting is just how good Jason Lee has become as a character. I never would’ve imagined that Hong Kong’s premier Kung Fu warrior would be leading the charge in Dragongate’s storytelling department, but his saga with Skywalker throughout the first trimester of 2022 has been the best feud in wrestling outside of CM Punk vs. MJF. For years, Jason Lee has been one of the best wrestlers in the world. It felt like he had a ceiling, however. Now, with this exceptional character work that he’s proven he’s capable of, Jason Lee has no limit. He is coming across like a superstar and being aligned with the beloved Natural Vibes is only going to help his star power.
The fact is, alongside names like CM Punk, the Blackpool Combat Club, and Will Ospreay, the story of wrestling in 2022 can’t be mentioned without Jason Lee’s name. His effort in this post-match angle, with the help of Jae and HoHo Lun (whom Jason owes an apology to for hitting him low earlier in the evening), was top notch storytelling.
With the Jason Lee story settled, that brought KAI and Susumu Yokosuka into focus, as they set stipulations for their upcoming Dream Gate match.
KAI revealed his stipulations for Susumu Yokosuka for their upcoming Open the Dream Gate Championship match on May 5th at #DeadOrAlive2022
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) April 25, 2022
Then GM Ryo Saito announced the lineups for the 32-man King of Gate tournament.
【LEC Barusan Presents #KingOfGate2022 Details】
This year, KOG will be held as a 32 entrant single-elimination tournament and will kick off on May 11th in Tokyo. The tournament finals will take place back in Tokyo on June 3rd.#dragongate#dragongatenetwork pic.twitter.com/v2xdbj5vvK
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) April 26, 2022
Gate of Passion was a fitting name for a show that reached such emotional depths. The saga of Jason Lee, from his match with HoHo through his turn on Z-Brats after the main event, was one of the most satisfying stories I’ve seen in all of wrestling this year. Dragongate has set themselves up to have a monstrous month of May with the groundwork that was laid on this show. This was not their best Korakuen Hall show of the year, but the main event segment was one of the best things Dragongate has done all year.
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