GATE OF VICTORY
OCTOBER 6, 2022
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
BEN-K, KOTA MINOURA, & MINORITA DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI, & YASUSHI KANDA
Ben-K is on another planet right now. Ever since losing to Naruki Doi in shocking fashion to lose his Open the Dream Gate Championship at Final Gate 2019, Ben has been in a constant state of limbo. He’s been pushed hard, at times wearing a Triangle Gate belt around his waist and at other times challenging for the Dream Gate belt, but the moment he lost that belt, he stopped feeling like a main event player. His real life friend and tag team partner Keisuke Okuda split from the company in June because he hadn’t already had his ass kicked enough in shoot fights, leaving Ben in a stagnant unit with a stagnant persona and a stagnant push.
Now Ben-K is a new man.
He joined Gold Class, gained a catchphrase, and was injected with a charisma transplant on the same level of when Shinsuke Nakamura went to Mexico and returned as a new man (this isn’t to say Ben is as charismatic as Nakamura was, but the drastic shift is similar). Ben walked to the ring with giant, Run-DMC-like gold chains, a gold rose in his mouth, and gold around his waist by way of his newly won Ryuo Championship, the top prize in Ryukyu Dragon Pro Wrestling. Gold Class, while only existing for seven months, has already undergone various changes in direction and shifts in focus. The Ben-led, Chiki Chiki-driven unit is the best version of Gold Class.
While both Minoura and his smaller counterpart Minorita took a beating from the grouchy M3K veterans, Ben looked dominant throughout the match. He closed the match by spearing both Mochizuki’s at the same time, shaking off a John Woo kick from Kanda, then planting him with a Jackhammer. This year, Dragongate has gravitated towards wrestlers like Jacky “Funky” Kamei and U-T to kick off these Korakuen shows. This match, given who was involved, felt drastically different than the usual opening match, but by no means did the quality dip. This was a good time. ***1/4
ISHIN IIHASHI & MOCHIZUKI JUNIOR DEF. KAITO NAGANO & RYU FUDA
This is extremely my shit. This is Casecore Dragongate content that I am always going to be excited about. No one develops talent quite like Dragongate and I love the rare opportunities that these kids can swing on each other instead of teaming up and trying to take down Dragongate’s veteran wrestlers. Going into this match, I expected it to be a showcase for Ryu Fuda. He debuted two months after Ishin Iihashi and months before Mochizuki Junior, yet those two have clearly moved into a different state of their careers and have left Fuda in the dust. Fuda was not bad in this match, but both he and Nagano were merely here as vehicles to help the second-generation standouts hone their double-team moves.
The relationship between Iihashi and Junior isn’t perfectly harmonious, but this match gave them a chance to continue to extend the olive branch to one another. As the match progressed, they slowly started working more as a team rather than two overeager singles wrestlers. They were able to put Fuda away after a spin kick from Junior and then a Komata-Style Chokeslam from Iihashi. Note: Junior is still struggling to pick up wins when his father does not do the hard work for him. Ishin Iihashi, on the other hand, is developing his finisher nicely. ***1/2
PROBLEM DRAGON, PUNCH TOMINAGA, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & YOSUKE SANTA MARIA DEF. DON FUJII, GENKI HORIGUCHI, KONOMAMA ICHIKAWA, & ULTIMO DRAGON
Konomama Ichikawa submitted while Takashi Yoshida had him in the powerbomb position. That did not stop Yoshida from powerbombing him. This was an above-average touch-football tag match, largely driven by a number of hilarious comedy spots from Ichikawa. Not essential, but not painful. **1/2
JASON LEE & STRONG MACHINE J DEF. EITA & HO HO LUN
This was a fun affair given the history that these opponents shared with one another. Jason Lee and Ho Ho obviously share history dating back to their days wrestling one another in Hong Kong. They also had a compelling, story-driven match earlier this year when Shun Skywalker was attempting to recruit Jason Lee to Z-Brats. As for Eita and Strong Machine J, their interactions were a reminder of what could’ve been. Earlier this year, after Eita was booted from the heel unit, it looked like he and SMJ were planning on forming a unit with one another. Instead, SMJ revealed world-class break dancing skills and Eita tightened his bond with NOSAWA. Funny how life works.
SMJ was able to showcase his Diamond Frame submission, which took an unfortunate amount of time to get into even if the end result looked devastating. Ho Ho tapped at 8:29, giving the Vibes team a victory. ***1/4
NATURAL VIBES VS. Z-BRATS 4 SINGLES MATCH SERIES
DIAMANTE DEF. JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI
BIG BOSS SHIMIZU VS. BXB HULK (TIME LIMIT DRAW)
KZY DEF. HYO
U-T DEF. KAI
The four singles matches were decided via a lottery right before the bell rang. The first match between Diamante and JFK had a five minute time limit, with each following match having 5 minutes longer than the prior bout.
Just like when Masquerade and RED did this last October, I choose to look at this sort of gimmick as one giant match, not a bunch of short, individual singles matches. While the overall match quality wasn’t as high as it was for last year’s affair, the payoff of U-T scoring a flash pin win on KAI was a terrific piece of business that made the prolonged Z-Brats dominance worth it.
There was no possible combination of Natural Vibes and Z-Brats wrestlers that I wouldn’t enjoy, but I specifically wanted Diamante to wrestle Kamei, which I got. I just wish they would’ve been slotted differently. Diamante was able to do whatever he wanted with Kamei’s tiny frame. He got caught with a Torbellino, but was able to roll through into a Spinning Tombstone. When that wasn’t enough, he planted Kamei with two Vuelta Finale’s, one from a deadlift position, then a second from an upright position that scored him the win.
Shimizu and Hulk wrestled to a 10 minute time limit draw after Hulk suplexed both himself and Shimizu over the top rope as time expired. I think these two have oddly great chemistry, so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Shimizu steamroll Hulk from behind with shoulder blocks that Hulk was not prepared for. The one issue I had with this segment was that the suplex itself that Hulk used that led to the time limit draw was nonsensical. He had Shimizu rocked with a series of First Flashes. Why, at that moment, he decided to dip out of the ring didn’t really land with me. Jae did a great job on commentary trying to explain that he was going for the countout, but that didn’t land with me.
Kzy and HYO had a solid back-and-forth. I think it was a more effective affair if you look at it as a lead-in to KAI/U-T. Even though Kzy got the win, we had to sit through a large amount of HYO stalling and heel work. It was engaging in that it heightened my anxiety. I kept on waiting for a Vibes comeback that Kzy struggled to make. He eventually planted HYO with the Impact, paving the way for the deciding point between KAI and U-T.
Check the tapes, folks, I have talked at length about how these two guys have great chemistry. It is A Thing. I am not going to hyperlink any of my old reviews talking about it – not because I can’t remember a specific instance in which I mentioned it (that would be insane), but because I know I’ve talked about it and you should take my word for it. If you didn’t know about their chemistry going into this match, you should certainly be aware of it after this. KAI is a big bully. U-T is the perfect kind of guy to get bullied. When their paths cross, it is always entertaining.
This match started to cross into “epic” territory by the end of things after a ref bump, a train of lariats from both units, and stereo tope con hilos from Kamei, Kzy, and Lee. That all cleared the path for U-T to catch KAI with the Passion, his signature flash pin, and secure the win for his unit. By the end, this was an incredibly satisfying segment. ***3/4
Outcame Ben-K in as much gold as he was wearing before. Alongside Kota Minoura and Minorita, he proceeded to get roasted from a few different directions. He attempted to rap battle Kzy, but Kzy called his unit Cold Class and destroyed him on the mic. Then, BxB Hulk grabbed a rose and reminded him that Gold Class was built on being the most handsome unit (remember that?) and that he was the most handsome wrestler in the world. This was all surreal and highly entertaining, thanks to the work done by the English commentary team. Thumbs up to this segment.
DRAGON KID, SHUJI KONDO, & YAMATO DEF. DRAGON DIA, MADOKA KIKUTA, & YUKI YOSHIOKA
I’m reviewing this show a few days after it aired and I’ve heard no buzz about it, which leads me to believe that I’m way higher on it than those that have already seen it.
I thought every second of this ruled. The early grappling with YAMATO and Yoshioka was highly compelling, the viciousness that Kondo and Kikuta brought to the table was terrific, and both Dragon’s provided the spark needed to make this feel like a true Dragongate main event.
Someone asked me recently about YAMATO, and with all of the generational shifts happening within the company, when YAMATO would be bumped to being looked at as an “old” member of the roster. I thought it was really interesting that in this match, he came across so much more like a contemporary of DK and Kondo than D’Courage. Obviously, you could point to the teams in this match and make that observation, but this match didn’t feel like DK and Kondo were teaming with their son. They all embodied a certain level of Dad Energy in an effort to thwart D’Courage. In the short term, this means nothing and was merely a matter of happenstance in this specific match, but as we go forward and this promotion continues to shift towards wrestlers born in the 21st century, this is something to monitor.
This was the last time that YAMATO and Yoshioka will have a chance to build to their Gate of Destiny main event as YAMATO is stateside as of the time I’m writing this and will be until the start of November. They left me ecstatic for what they could accomplish in front of a vocal fanbase in Osaka. Their King of Gate match this year was terrific, and since then, Yoshioka has only grown as a performer. Every time they were in the ring with one another, it felt “big”. Their match in November should be a spectacle.
Yoshioka was wiped out by a 619 and subsequent Bermuda from Dragon Kid, leaving Dragon Dia alone in the ring with the five-time Dream Gate Champion. Dia’s chops did not phase YAMATO. They only fired him up and led to him landing a vicious lariat, the likes of which I’ve never seen YAMATO throw before. With Dia rocked, he picked him up easily and planted him with the Galleria, all while making eye contact with Yoshioka on the floor. This was fantastic. ****1/4
The main event of Dragongate’s Gate of Victory 2022 was the perfect way to hype the main event of November’s Gate of Destiny PPV, which will feature vocal fans for the first time since February 2020. Elsewhere, the youth attack continues to run through this company. The highlight performers on this show were Ishin Iihashi, U-T, and Yuki Yoshioka, all of whom are under 30. Thumbs up for Gate of Victory.
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