MAY 5, 2022

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


The D’Courage duo fail to make their fourth successful defense of the Open the Triangle Gate Championship. For both Diamante and Skywalker, this marks their first time holding these titles. 

While I normally sit back and relax at the idea of Dragongate’s “method-to-their-madness booking style”, I hope that these two teams follow a more traditional pro wrestling route and continue this feud despite the title change here. In various incarnations, these four men have been attached at the hip since October 2020 when Dia Inferno emerged from the ashes, and this is far and away the best combination. D’Courage have been teaming for only a quarter of the year and they not only wrestle, but also act like a well-refined team that has crossed the country alongside one another for a decade straight. Skywalker and Diamante have spent even less time teaming with one another, but the thing that I have come to expect from both guys is unrivaled consistency and a constant level of greatness no matter the situation. Their tag team continues this trend. 

For over a year now, I have raved about the basing ability of Diamante and how the only true way to describe it is “Cesaro-esque”. Since joining Z-Brats, I have marveled at the raw brutality that Skywalker has brought to the ring. This was the showcase for everything I’ve been talking about. They threw their bodies around for D’Courage when it was time for them to shine, and when the tables flipped, there was no questioning the legitimacy of this Z-Brats duo. 

I thought for sure, given the way that D’Courage had been marketed, that this would be a lengthy reign that would lead us into the back half of 2022. Their act does not fade in my eyes with this loss, it only makes me hope that the belts won’t leave the waists of Diamante and Skywalker until the calendar flips over because they are that good as a team. 

Outside of a sloppy, contrived monkey flip spot that saw Yoshioka get launched in the air only to kick Dia in the chest upon landing, everything here was flawless. Dia’s absurd launchpad hurricanrana to the floor that he did early in this match would receive “break the Internet” buzz if it was executed half as well on a US indie show. The double-teamed, middle rope powerslam that Diamante and Skywalker sent Yoshioka into orbit with, is the perfect move for the new Twin Gate Champions. Even the run-in of SB KENTo, who thwarted Dia’s momentum down the finishing stretch, was perfectly timed and executed. 

This was a match that GM Ryo Saito advised against as Dia had already been booked against SB KENTo in a Brave Gate match for later in the evening, but with no cage match this year, Dia insisted this match be made in the build to this show. His wish was granted, and as a result, his title was lost. He bit off more than he could chew by gameplaning against two different Z-Brats opponents in the same evening. 

SBK whipped Dia with a chair in the back, clearing the lane for Diamante and Skywalker to hit the Cielo Finale. 

These are the guys in Dragongate that you need to pay attention to. This is the kind of match that you need to watch. This is recommended viewing. ****1/4 


Weird to think Maria was involved in one of the best tag team matches of the year only two months ago. 

This was the first time Shachihoko Machine had popped up since the final Masato Yoshino homecoming show last April. I always welcome his presence on these shows. The same can be said for Konomama Ichikawa, who unfortunately had his figure four leglock reversed by Problem Dragon, causing him to tap out. This was fun. NR


The youngsters once again came short in their quest for victory, but this seemed like a big leap in the battle of respect for both Ishin Iihashi & Takuma Fujiwara. They are both far from masters in the ring, but they are no longer getting shown up by veterans. When they leave exchanges with the upperhand, it no longer comes across as an awestruck kid using Like Mike abilities to land an armdrag on Don Fujii. They belong in the ring with Dragongate’s core. 

This was once again a win for Ishin, who has taken the ball and scored time after time with his brother, Riki, out of action with an injury. Ishin has refined his early “bull in a China shop” approach. He still has the meathead edge that will help him stand out in Dragongate, but he’s wrestling with more polish. He comes across very well every time I see him. 

He did something that I love towards the closing stretch. Caught in the clutches of Takashi Yoshida’s powerbomb position, he threw wild strikes at his head and didn’t stop as Yoshida brought him crashing to the mat. He kept swinging until he was flat on his back. The lariat that immediately followed finally put him down for the count. ***1/4 


This was Kikuta’s first match back since his horrific injury that ended his Dream Gate challenge against Shun Skywalker in only four minutes last year at this event. 

Kikuta had a meteoric rise en route to last year’s Dead or Alive. Then only 21-years-old, he and Skywalker combined to make the youngest Dream Gate match ever. Disaster struck on a simple drop toe hold early, and Kikuta’s nagging shoulder injury once again reared its ugly head. He took an entire year off, healing and training, before returning to his hometown last month and distancing himself from the heel unit that many expected him to call home.  

The best part of this match was he and HYO reenacting the spot that doomed him last year, only for Kikuta to hulk up and go on a flurry of offense. Outside of that, I thought Kikuta lacked the fire that I would’ve liked to have seen from someone wrestling for the first time in a year. He looked gunshy. Rarely to Dragongate wrestlers fail to emote in a big room, but Kikuta played down his emotions. He came across as small. He was in great shape, his in-ring work was fine, but this return didn’t come across as a big deal. HYO and Hulk seemed to carry the bulk of this match with JFK and Kikuta only going along for the ride. 

Kikuta was either going to get humbled or get the rocket pack, and he got the former. This isn’t DG sending a message to the youngster, nor is it a sign that they’ve lost faith in him. They are merely building him back up slowly rather than having him hit the ground running. He ate two First Flashes by way of Hulk to cap off his return match. **3/4 


This was Jason Lee’s first big show as a member of Natural Vibes. Unfortunately, he was saddled alongside Punch Tominaga, who was filling in for the injured Big Boss Shimizu. For some reason, Tominaga seemed to be the focus of this match. I felt like he never left the ring. Lee had a brief burst of offense and Horiguchi brought out his usual charisma, but this felt like the Tominaga Show, which only brings back bad memories of the first Natural Vibes unit. He ate a big series of offense from High-End in the end, eventually getting choked out by Okuda for the victory.

Watch one of the recent Natural Vibes house show matches with Jason Lee instead. **1/2  


This marks the second successful defense for the Natural Vibes duo of Kzy & U-T with these titles. 

This was a strange match. Not only did it have some of the company’s biggest stars in Dragon Kid, Kzy, & YAMATO, but it also had U-T in his hometown (same with Dragon Kid). I didn’t feel like they found their rhythm until about halfway through this match, however. They missed a gear shift in the early going and it threw me off until their intense pacing finally matched the portion of the match that they were in. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but they started throwing bombs too early. I couldn’t get invested with so many big moves happening so early. 

Luckily, once they found their groove, they proved that they are four of the best wrestlers in the world. The chemistry between U-T and his childhood hero, Dragon Kid, is ridiculous. Kzy and YAMATO have had big matches before and they’ve crushed it, but their work in this match was no comparison to what the junior heavyweights did. They finished the match with a wildly entertaining flash pin sequence that saw U-T eventually score the win with the Hikari no Wa, K-Ness’ legendary pin. ***1/2 


With this defense, Dragon Dia has now made two successful defenses of the Open the Brave Gate Championship. 

SB KENTo exploded on the scene at the very end of 2019 and ever since then I have labeled him as the next big thing in Dragongate. He debuted in a match across the ring from YAMATO and from that moment on, I have pegged him as someone that could one day take YAMATO’s place. Two and a half years in, he’s only reaffirmed my stance in that theory. Dragongate’s ability to weaponize their youth in effective and exciting ways has become their biggest asset and in Japan, especially, over the course of COVID, they’ve done it far better than any other promotion. SBK is 22, Dragon Dia is 23, and this was a rare match in which Dragongate’s youth became a weakness rather than a strength.

To be clear, there was undeniable greatness in this match. The entrances alone, with SBK coming out to his hometown crowd looking like a can’t-miss superstar and Dragon Dia coming to the ring with no smile and no skateboard, were phenomenal. The closing stretch with DIa constantly escaping head drops and SB Shooter attempts and SBK surviving an onslaught of high-impact moves was all great. 

There was, however, the middle portion. 

Dia and SBK got into a clumsy sequence involving a Reptilian Rana and I’m still not sure how it was supposed to be countered, but the counter was clunky. They recovered, only to have a contrived run-in with Referee Yagi not work as Dia’s kicking feet were realistically too far away from Yagi for me to buy that this could be a distraction. I don’t know if they were rattled or if something in the match fell apart, but this match died a death during this sequence. It was the first time in a big match that SBK lost me. I lost interest seeing these guys stumble around the ring, seemingly unsure of where to go next. They never looked lost, but SBK, in particular, has carried himself with the utmost confidence since day one and for a brief moment in time, I saw that confidence vanish. 

With that in mind, I still thought this was a legitimately great match. That might not flow with your view of wrestling, but I’ll take a weak chapter two if the story starts and ends with such undeniable greatness. Once they bounced back, around the time that Dia hit the Vampire Scissors, this match became a Kobe World main event in the making. These guys are leading the charge for the next decade. I would gladly take a bet that this match headlines the biggest show of the year before both men hang up their boots. 

I thought surely SBK would win the belt in his hometown. Instead, he did exactly what he needed to do to establish Dia as a dominant Brave Gate Champion. His status as a singles star was elevated by being in the ring and eventually defeating SBK. 

Even with the mid-match hiccup, I can’t possibly earmark this match as anything less than recommended. These guys are simply too good and the finishing stretch reinforced that. Dia won with his devastating Double Cork for the win. ****


Gold Class failed to make a successful defense of the Open the Triangle Gate Championships with this loss to Perros del Mal de Japón. 

I’m going to say what no one else has had the guts to say: NOSAWA, representing Perros, has had two matches in Dragongate. Both of his matches have been super entertaining. In November, he carried himself like a wiley outlaw who couldn’t hang in the ring with Dragongate’s main eventers, but had the brains to be in there with them. This time around, aided not only by Eita this time but also by Kotaro Suzuki, Perros del Mal de Japón proved that they could be a worthwhile trios act in this promotion, partially because of NOSAWA’s charisma. He’s not a man I’ve ever enjoyed. I still don’t know if he’s had a four star match. But, objectively, he’s been very fun to watch during this run. 

This match was fascinating to watch as it unfolded. Perros seemed like the natural heels, but Gold Class worked diligently as the trio on top, beating down NOSAWA and Suzuki and reopening Eita’s huge wound from last week’s NOAH show. The boyish charm that Minoura had was gone and the rugged, bad boy edge that Ishida had honed as a babyface fell by the wayside as his R.E.D. tendencies emerged once more. I’m very interested in seeing how DG handles Eita vs. Ishida moving forward, as there is not only natural chemistry there, but there is unfinished business between those two since they were kicked out of R.E.D. at the start of the year. 

Eita crushed it in the role that he’s seemingly most comfortable in. Everything about him screams that he wants to be Perros 24/7, 365, and if they continue to have this output, I won’t have an issue with that. He kicked out of Minoura’s R-301, a move that has beaten everyone recently, to a noticeably big ovation. Minoura was then dealt with, leaving Doi to fight off Suzuki, only to get caught by a picture-perfect Imperial Uno from Eita and a La Magistral from NOSAWA that led to the victory. Jae and HoHo in the English commentary booth sold this as a massive upset, which it was. I thought Gold Class had a real chance to become the longest reigning Triangle Gate Champions ever, and instead, they dropped the belts in their first defense. This was very good. ***3/4 


This marked KAI’s third successful defense of the company’s top prize. Per the stipulation, Susumu Yokosuka is no more, as he’ll have to change his name back to Susumu Mochizuki, and he is no longer a member of Natural Vibes. 

It’s simple. I highly doubt I will see 10 matches better than this this year. This is why Dragongate, the company as a whole, the family, if you will, is so special. These stipulations were booked because KAI wanted to kill the K-nesuka name once and for all. With K-Ness already retired, he just needed to remove Yokosuka from the picture for there to be no lasting legacy of one of the greatest tag teams in company history. Yokosuka came to the ring with the K-nesuka entrance music and wore a K-nesuka mask and shirt during his entrance. All of the feels that were involved in K-Ness saying farewell to Dragongate came rushing back to me in this match. This was the payoff. K-Ness saying goodbye could’ve been a one night moment that was nice in a vacuum, but instead, they leveraged it into one of their five biggest main events of the year. 

KAI was the perfect foil. This match would’ve been great with YAMATO or Ben-K or Eita across the ring from Yokosuka, but KAI – fucking KAI – was the perfect guy for this. It is easy to dismiss him as champion, but he’s delivered two banger defenses in a row and he truly feels like the final boss in Dragongate right now. Alan4L astutely pointed out that KAI’s eventual loss will feel like a huge deal. I don’t love the way his title matches have been built, but he’s batting above .500 with his defenses and this was his best work yet. 

Yokosuka mistimed a Jumbo no Kachi on the floor that sent his arm crashing into the steel post. That gave KAI the window that he needed to take control and work the arm. I found all of KAI’s limb work to be engaging. The formula of this match followed the same structure that so many big Yokosuka matches in previous years have followed. His arm was targeted early, but Yokosuka continued throwing wild, out of control lariats until he had nothing left to throw. 

KAI ripped off the necklace that K-Ness gifted Yokosuka during his retirement, which sent this match into an all-out frenzy for its final stage. The heart that Yokosuka showed, knowing that a loss would drastically alter the trajectory of his career, was superb. He scraped and clawed to gain an edge on the champion, but KAI was too big and strong for the aging Yokosuka to overcome. 

In the end, Yokosuka kicked out at 1 after a Meteor Impact, but KAI’s super finisher, the Meteor Impact KAI, put him away for good. The finish was a gut-punch in the best way possible.

After the match, Yokosuka gave his final speech as a member of Natural Vibes. For as goofy as this unit can be, the second incarnation of Vibes has always felt like a family. Yokosuka and Genki Horiguchi stand alongside Kzy like proud fathers. Per the stipulation of the match, Yokosuka, now Susumu Mochizuki once again, had to leave the unit, but as he finished his promo, Genki Horiguchi also stepped up to the plate and announced that he was leaving the unit. 

It’s fitting that both Horiguchi and Susumu are stepping away from the spotlight at the same time given that Horiguchi has always represented the unmistakable energy of Dragongate, whereas Susumu has been a prime example of the unmatched work ethic that stretches from opening bell to main event in this promotion. 

Their exit is another dramatic shift in the way that this company looks on paper. Horiguchi and Susumu laid the groundwork for Toryumon’s continuous evolution that led straight into the success of Dragongate. Their match on the third Korakuen Hall show in Toryumon history was the first great match that didn’t have names attached to the first generation of stars like CIMA and Magnum TOKYO. For them to still be going at a high level in 2022 is nothing short of remarkable. 

I have no idea what the future holds for Susumu Mochizuki. Perhaps he will fall into a slot similar to Masaaki Mochizuki, where the talent is undeniable but his biggest matches now come outside of Dragongate. Susumu could walk into any juniors division in the country and immediately become one of the best wrestlers in the company. 

If this is Susumu’s final Dream Gate challenge, then I can’t imagine a better swan song. He has been in 17 Dream Gate matches as both champion and challenger and this was arguably his best work to date. It is every bit as good as any title match he’s had with CIMA, Masaaki Mochizuki, or Shingo Takagi, and that is partially due to the work that KAI brought to the table. 

Susumu for so long has been a stoic, unshakeable mark of consistency within Dragongate. KAI rattled him. KAI got under his skin. KAI stripped away both literally and metaphorically whatever was left of the K-nesuka legacy. Susumu wasn’t just beat, he had something beat out of him. He has no tag team partner, no unit, and now nowhere to go. 

This will go down as one of the 10 best matches of the year.  ****3/4 

Final Thoughts

Dragongate’s Dead or Alive 2022 pushed the new generation into the spotlight and humbled the legends most associated with the brand. This company is continuously changing and Dead or Alive was a perfect representation of the new tone that Dragongate has struck. Thumbs up for Dead or Alive 2022.

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