Kobe World 2022 is the first Kobe World in which I am established as a Dragongate fan. Whilst I saw both shows from 2021, it was during a time when my engagement with the product was spotty.

A year later, Dragongate is the only modern promotion that I follow. So with that in mind, excitement should be the feeling about the prospect of not one, but two big shows. Not only is it the Kobe Pro-Wrestling Festival show on July 31, but they are running a 35th Anniversary show for Ultimo Dragon the day before. However, the difficulties of booking two consecutive shows has reared its ugly head. Coupled with injuries, defections, and retirements, things aren’t looking as rosy for the promotion as it was last year.

All is not lost, though. If the main events in particular end in a logical manner, Dragongate can book their way into some momentum come August 1.

Due to this being only the third Kobe World I’ve actually watched (2005 and 2021 sitting as very distant book-ends), coupled with my recent fandom, there may be some predictions I make that don’t sit with the ‘Dragongate way’ of booking their biggest show of the year. I don’t have the patterns and previous to get into that. What I will offer you is a mixture of my hopes, expectations, and thoughts about the two events.

Kobe World 2022: Ultimo Dragon 35th Anniversary Celebration
July 30, 2022
Kobe World Kinen Hall

Watch: Dragongate Network

Open the Brave Gate #1 Contender Battle Royal
Genki Horiguchi, Shachihoko Boy, Problem Dragon, Punch Tominaga, U-T, Super Shenglong III, Ishin Iihashi, Ryu Fuda, SB KENTo, Ho Ho Lun

The Dragongate battle royals are often a perfunctory addition to cards, which is a means to an end for tomorrow. Whoever wins the match will likely lose to either Dragon Dia or HYO on the next show. Part of me likes the idea of Ishin Iihashi winning here. With his first-year anniversary coming up soon, this could be the push he needs and reward for some decent singles work in recent weeks. The winner of this will be a big signpost for what happens with Dia and HYO, so I’m going to take a punt on U-T winning to set up a half-decent bout on the next show.

Kzy, Big Boss Shimizu, Strong Machine J vs. Kota Minoura, Naruki Doi, Minorita

Whilst a strong match on paper, this feels like weird booking. Natural Vibes will challenge for the Triangle Gate on the next show; Minoura battles for the Dream Gate at the same event. Therefore, you want both to look strong no matter the result. I could see Doi or Minorita acting as sacrificial lambs here, keeping Minoura as fresh as is possible for his shot at the gold. For me, the importance of having your Triangle Gate challengers win a trios match means Natural Vibes are the likely winners here. Considering how high I was on Gold Class at the start, it is a shame that they have fallen off when you consider how dominant they had been since their debut. Losing Kaito Ishida can’t have helped – a huge loss to the unit and the promotion as a whole.

Kenichiro Arai, Gurukun Mask, Bodyguard vs. Takashi Yoshida, Ben-K, Madoka Kikuta

Not much I can say about this match outside of me believing that I’ve yet to see Gurukun Mask in a losing team. To be fair to him, he deserves it – the guy can still go at his somewhat advanced age. Kikuta looks vulnerable here and could take a pinfall loss. Arai, Gurukun Mask and the Bodygahhh for the win.

Open the Brave Gate Championship Match
Dragon Dia (C) vs. H

The time is right for a new Brave Gate champion. Dia has been excellent since his return and has been – as has been mentioned on Open The Voice Gate – one of the main characters of the promotion this past half year. The two already fought to a double countout in HYO’s homecoming show, so this is a chance to settle the score. Has Dia got it in him to beat the Big Brain, or has HYO got his number? Dia’s run has been really good and he’ll go on to bigger and better things, yet I also look forward for the potential of a HYO Brave Gate run. How many different ways can he escape with the title around his waist? Should be a good match either way, but I’m picking HYO for the win.

Kagetora 20th Anniversary Match
Kagetora, Taro Nohashi, Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Don Fujii, Shuji Kondo, Toru Owashi

This is one of the matches that I have very little to say about and will mean more to those with some history with Kagetora as a worker. In my experience of him, he is a fun hot tag in multi-man matches but does little else to inspire excitement in me. Regarding the match itself, I want to see what a 2022 Shinzaki looks like. I also have an odd enjoyment of Toru Owashi that I can only assume comes from having watched very little of his body of work. . Kagetora, Nohashi and Shinzaki are my picks.

Dragon Kid 25th Anniversary Match
Dragon Kid, Masato Tanaka (Zero1) vs. YAMATO, BxB Hulk

Dragon Kid is a wrestler that does feel ageless. Sure, he has toned down his style a lot in recent years, but he can still go to a high level. This is by far the best looking on paper of the three anniversary matches in terms of match quality. The names feel relatively big, which is what you want in an anniversary match, whilst the inclusion of Hulk affords someone of note who can lose to Dragon Kid without much issue. Kid and Tanaka for the win.

Bosou 10 Match Series Revival
Konomama Ichikawa vs. X

A little bit of levity between some of the more important matches. Having listened to recent Open The Voice Gate episodes, I’m reliably informed that this is the series that has Ichikawa take on notable figures in puro. A bold prediction here – Ichikawa will lose

Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match (Special guest referee: Yasushi Kanda)
Eita, NOSAWA Rongai, Kotaro Suzuki (c) vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Susumu Mochizuki, Mochizuki Junior ⭐︎Special guest referee: Yasushi Kanda

The Triangle Gate NOAH merry-go-round looks set to come to a stop in this championship match as I can’t see any other option than M3K taking the gold. Though they haven’t been as hot since Mochy Jr. missed a few shows with a back injury, they always seemed the most obvious end to this narrative. The inclusion of Kanda as guest referee feels odd to me. I can’t see him turning on M3K, whilst his involvement could cheapen what would otherwise be a popular victory for the Mochizuki boys. The only slight wrinkle to that will be long-term feasibility of M3K as a unit. Might that lead to Kanda turning? Whether Kanda gets involved or not, I’m picking M3K to take the Triangle Gate belts back to Dragongate.

Ultimo Dragon 35th Anniversary Match
Ultimo Dragon vs. El Hijo del Santo

This was very much not the direction I expected them to go in with regards to both Dragon’s anniversary match and El Hijo del Santo’s booking on the card. I mean, it’ll be a spectacle, I’ll give it that much at least. My genuine belief is that the match will not stay like this, especially given how Dragon’s last booked singles match ended up as a six-man. I expect two heels to attack in an attempt to disrupt Dragon’s anniversary special, only for him to then team up with Santo to vanquish the bad guys with a La Magistral or two. Neither man is going to lose otherwise…surely?

Open the Twin Gate Championship Match
Shun Skywalker & Diamante (c) vs. Jacky
Funky Kamei, Jason Lee

This has the potential to be match of the weekend and is the match I am most looking forward to. In Skywalker and Diamante you have a dynamic heel tandem who have been on an absolute roll since the formation of Z-Bratz. In Kamei and Lee you have two very likeable workers who can more than hold their own in the ring and tug on the heartstrings in the middle of a beatdown. The booking leading up to this contest has been weird to say the least: Skywalker and Diamante have dominated Kamei and Lee at every turn. Perhaps they should, given the disparity in size in particular.

However, I’ve predicted myself into somewhat of a corner. I don’t think Dragongate will shift every single title this weekend, and the one that is most obvious to stay with its holder is the Twin Gate. I’m down for more Skywalker and Diamante as champions, yet that could hurt Kamei and Lee as the booking seems to be pointing to a big upset for the little guys. Perhaps they’d want to give the Kobe fans something to celebrate, what with Lee and Kamei wrestling as the Kung Fu Masters, the Kobe-only Unit. However, I’m going to have to go with my gut – Skywalker and Diamante to win.

Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
KAI (c) vs. Yuki Yoshioka

Dragongate seemed to have booked the ascension of Yuki Yoshioka perfectly. However, they have somehow fumbled the baton on the home leg. All anyone wanted was for Yoshioka to leave Kobe World as Dream Gate champion, but things are not as simple as that. Maybe the pressure of feeling the need for two Dream Gate matches over this weekend made things a little convoluted? Maybe it was a desire to push Minoura once more even though he seems to have lost a fair amount of steam? Maybe it was the plan all along, booking designed to push Yoshioka over the top as the next big star of the promotion? Fingers crossed on the latter.

Whatever happens on July 31, KAI is not leaving with the gold. He has been a good champion, so it is a shame that in many ways, his eventual usurping won’t feel as special as it could have been. The toppling of KAI by Yoshioka seemed to be the obvious way to go in terms of booking. That huge moment now will be nullified by the immediate need for a title defense the following night, which is a shame.

The only booking that makes sense to me here is for Yoshioka to defeat KAI, setting up the challenge against Minoura to cap off the weekend. It is worth noting that this has the potential to be sneaky great, especially if Big Match KAI shows up as he has done this year in title defenses.

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Kobe World Pro-Wrestling Festival 2022
July 31, 2022
Kobe World Kinen Hall

Watch: Dragongate Network

By the nature of a two-card weekend, many of the booking decisions for the second night become entirely dependent on the first night’s booking. With that in mind, there are only really three matches to talk about – the matches for the Brave, Triangle and Dream Gate.

Open the Brave Gate Championship Match
Winner of Dia vs. H
YO (C) vs. Battle Royal winner

If things turn out the way I predicted, this will be HYO versus U-T and a chance to set the tone for a HYO title reign. Not only would the match be very good considering the two men who are in it, but it will also see HYO need to be at his wily best to defeat someone who has been one of the better wrestlers in the promotion this year. HYO sneaking a victory over U-T in a good to great match is my hope, though whoever wins the battle royal will be fodder no matter who the champion is.

Open the Triangle Gate 3 Way Championship Match
Winners of Perros vs. M3K (c) vs. YAMATO, Dragon Kid, Ben-K vs. Kzy, Big Boss Shimizu, Strong Machine J

It feels a bit lazy to predict the same for the Triangle Gate as for the Brave Gate, but I don’t think it makes sense to shift the title twice in two nights, especially for a belt that has been like a hot potato for quite a while now. The challengers are interesting enough to at least create a good match on paper, whilst I am vaguely intrigued as to whether there is any further YAMATO/Ben-K dissension. If Perros do win the first night, there will be the tension as to whether Perros can make it out of Kobe still the champs, but I can’t see them going that way. Two victories in two nights for M3K establish them as the trio to beat.

Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
Winner of KAI vs. Yoshioka (C) vs. Kota Minoura

As should be the case, this is the big one when it comes to how successful Kobe World 2022 is as a springboard into the last third of the year for the promotion. To me, it feels like only one route makes sense – Yoshioka running the gauntlet to be crowned the Dream Gate champion. Sometimes obvious decisions are obvious. However, and it is a big, however…the incorporation of Minoura in the storyline seems to point toward him winning the title and Yoshioka chasing in the months to follow. Minoura was booked as the second chance competitor during King of Gate, and I’m wondering whether that sparked the beginning of an attritional approach to Minoura’s character – he would keep chipping away until he got what he wanted, the Dream Gate Title.

I’m completely torn. On one hand, I think Yoshioka win would paper over some of the cracks of the recent months. On the other, I don’t think the company includes Minoura without him winning. That being said, I’m going to go with my heart over my head – Yoshioka is walking out with the gold. Dragongate has more often than not excited, engaged and entertained me with their booking decisions in the past couple of years, so I can only hope that they deliver come Kobe World 2022 and it is seen as a chance to really let Yoshioka ascend to his position as the main guy leading the promotion.

To all the Dragongate fans around the world, enjoy a weekend of (hopefully) great matches and don’t hold my predictions against me if they got horribly wrong…

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