NOVEMBER 6, 2022

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


Some housekeeping notes off the bat. First, not counting a house show from the week prior that unexpectedly allowed fans to cheer, this was Dragongate’s first show with a vocal audience since March 1, 2020 when Naruki Doi retained the Open the Dream Gate Championship over Susumu Yokosuka. Second, this was the aforementioned Doi’s first match for Dragongate under freelance status. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter has printed numerous egregious claims about Dragongate this year, and perhaps none further from the truth than what Dave Meltzer wrote about Naruki Doi’s status with Dragongate in the November 7 issue. As Dragongate Jae explained on commentary (and as the Open the Voice Gate podcast explained when Doi first announced this was happening), Doi’s new deal is an exclusive freelance deal, just like what Shuji Kondo has. He will still wrestle dates for Dragongate. He has another six dates booked for the rest of the year. This also means, however, that Doi can accept more dates with other promotions. He’s taken a number of dates with DDT, and given his close personal friendship with DDT kingpin Toru Owashi, this is not a surprise at all. Doi is winding down his career and this not only gives him a chance to stretch his career out by taking fewer dates, but he will be able to explore new creative opportunities. It is not as scandalous as some will have you believe. 

The good news is that Naruki Doi is still Naruki Doi, a charismatic and perfectly-precise wrestler who is a joy to watch whenever he steps in the ring. Against this speedy Natural Vibes foursome, Doi’s power and brutality was on display. He acted as a human barricade, thwarting offense from Vibes at nearly every opportunity. Alongside Don Fujii and fellow freelancer Shuji Kondo, they were great bullies. Ultimo Dragon was also there. 

Unfortunately, the brutality brought on by the veterans was not enough. Kzy went on a rampage, targeting Don Fujii and drilling him with a Running Uppercut to win the match for his side. This was a strong upbeat affair to kick off Dragongate with a vocal audience. ***1/4 


This was both Iishin Iihashi and Kaito Nagano’s first crack at wrestling in front of a vocal audience. As expected, the M3K duo of Iihashi and Kanda made quick work of the past-prime Horiguchi and the extremely young Nagano. Since debuting in August, Nagano has honed his plucky underdog status while also becoming an innovative flyer. He’s become a highlight of Dragongate’s house show uploads and someone who has a knack for working ridiculously hard on every show that he’s on. He came out ahead of Iihashi on an early strike exchange and then caught both he and Kanda with a huge dive to the floor early in this 3 minute encounter. 

Unfortunately for Nagano, that was his last bright spot. Kanda recovered and blasted him across the ring with the John Woo dropkick. This paved the way for Iihashi to hit the Komata Chokeslam on the rookie, ending this match before it ever really got going. **3/4 

After the match, M3K presented Ishin Iihashi with an M3K t-shirt, ending his trial series and making him a full-time member of the unit. 


This lasted two minutes and ended with a failed Ina Bauer German Suplex from Konomama Ichikawa to Takashi Yoshida, which Jae astutely pointed out was “as effective as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter fact-checking team.” 

Anyways. NR


Last year during this show, I wrote this about then-Takumi Hayakawa, now-Minorita, “He stands roughly 5’1”, making him the shortest wrestler on a roster full of small guys. I expressed my concern for him on the most recent Open the Voice Gate. No doubt about it, his debut showed off how technically sound he was, something that will only progress with more experience. I was wary of if he could ever project in a way that he needed to. Could he present himself in a way that made his size a benefit and not a detraction?”

A year later, the idea of Minorita not being able to use his size to his advantage is a laughable thought. Minorita’s only fault a year into his career is that he isn’t Takuma Fujiwara, and thus he won’t be getting my support when it comes to Rookie of the Year voting. Gold Class has been a fascinating unit to watch, as they’ve gone from hot to cold and back again in only eight months, but the one consistent thing about this unit has been how entertaining Minorita has been. He was brought in as a joke, but he’s owned this role, and is now a vital part of this world-class roster. 

It was Minorita who kicked this match into high gear after two lackadaisical matches, stepping right up to Diamante and catching him with a pair of head scissors that sent the big man to the floor. Unfortunately for Minorita, when he tried to keep his momentum going outside the ring, he was met with a disgusting powerbomb from Diamante that sent him crashing to the floor. 

Minorita’s hot start and additional efforts from both Kota Minoura and Ben-K were not enough to overcome the onslaught from Z-Brats. Minorita fell victim to a First Flash, which gives Z-Brats the momentum as they head into a three-way six-man tag with Gold Class and Natural Vibes at Korakuen Hall on November 9. ***


Not mentioning Takuma Fujiwara’s name alongside Kurt Angle, Jun Akiyama, or Matt Riddle’s name when it comes to the greatest rookie years in the history of pro wrestling, at this point, is gravely irresponsible. Fujiwara came into Dragongate as a scrawny 19-year-old at last year’s Gate of Origin show and despite the fact that I thought he was actually outshined by Ryu Fuda, who also debuted that evening, Fujiwara very quickly became the most exciting rookie in wrestling and the highlight on every Dragongate show that he was on. When he split for Mexico in June, a void was created in this promotion that not even Mochizuki Junior could fill. There is no replacing Takuma Fujiwara. 

Everything Fujiwara does looks effortless. I’ve attempted to put into words how I feel when I watch the youngster wrestle many times, but I have failed to do it as eloquently or effective as STRIGGA of the Eastern Lariat podcast did while watching this match, 

Had this match gone 10 minutes longer, I would’ve run into townsquare to tell my fellow civilians about it. Fujiwara is worth that much hype. He’s a possible once-in-a-lifetime entity that has lapped where the likes of Ben-K or SB KENTo were at this point in their careers. When Eita went to Mexico and then returned for a one-off against Dragon Kid at this very event 10 years ago, Eita was nowhere near the wrestler Fujiwara is now, and Eita was very, very good. 

I found the pacing of this match to be fascinating. Fujiwara started off with huge moves, a Michinoku Driver and a Razor’s Edge Facebuster that both garnered him 2 counts. Eita had to bail to the floor to recoup, and that’s when he was able to regain control and bully the Iwate-native around. 

Back in the ring, the lightning-quick speed of Fujiwara once again put Eita at a disadvantage. Fujiwara’s Fosbury Flop dive was a thing of beauty, as was his Springboard Firebird Splash. Right when it seemed like the rookie was mounting momentum that was going to be impossible for Eita to thwart, Eita yanked him off the top rope and sent his back careening into the top turnbuckle. That by itself didn’t phase Fujiwara, who quickly fired back with a strike combination, but that strike combination fired Eita up enough to where he threw his Imperial Uno superkick out of nowhere, ending the match then and there. The finish was abrupt, exciting, and also unfortunate, as it meant the match was over. 

This is where star ratings get finicky. This match deserved another 10 minutes, and with that, would’ve easily been etched into my MOTY tracking spreadsheet. This was 9 minutes of blissful pro wrestling, and something that I would absolutely deem as “essential viewing”, but also a match that wasn’t “great” in the traditional sense. Don’t let this star rating fool you, folks. You need to go watch this match. ***1/2 



This marks the first successful defense for the D’Courage duo of Dragon Dia and Madoka Kikuta since winning them in September. 

It was so nice to hear Dragon Dia get the proper reaction he deserves thanks to this vocal Osaka crowd. Dragongate’s D’Courage experiment, which thrust the then-recently unmasked Dia and recently unmasked Yoshioka into the spotlight at the start of the year, then the rehabilitated Kikuta in August, has been an unwavering success. There is no way to question it, and quite frankly, I don’t think Dragongate has gotten the credit that they deserve for just how successful D’Courage has been this year. They are the faces at the top of the promotion, and this promotion is on fire right now. 

Strong Machine J took a funkier path to rehabilitation, but he is also thriving more so than ever before and while he and Shimizu came up short in their effort to capture Twin Gate gold, they proved to be a very entertaining powerhouse team. J matched up very well alongside Kikuta, and they stole the show down the finishing stretch of this hot Twin Gate encounter. Had J been able to land his patented Machine Suplex, the gold likely would’ve gone to Natural Vibes. However, each time he went for it, Kikuta was able to squirm out, whether it be with a hip attack or a lariat or in the end, a piledriver that drove J straight into the canvas. 

The final few minutes of this match were filled with the excitement that we’ve come to expect from Twin Gate matches. There is no safer bet for a great match in wrestling than an Open the Twin Gate title defense. D’Courage retained, which was absolutely the right call. They are the hottest act in the promotion right now and for as much as I enjoy Vibes, there is no need for them to have those belts right now. ****


With this victory, HYO has made his third successful defense of his Open the Brave Gate Championship. 

In the same way that Open the Dream Gate matches often have their own style unique to them, HYO has developed his own big match style that is becoming unmistakable. His matches start slow. This one, in particular, nearly lost me as HYO toyed with the crowd and slowly picked apart the four-time Brave Gate Champion. It wasn’t until a Dragon Kid Deja Vu and Christo submission tease on HYO that I finally found myself fully engaged in this match. 

That Christo, although early in the match, set the expectation that the match could end at any moment. Dragon Kid still had the talent, hypothetically, to catch HYO in a submission and end it right there. Unfortunately for Dragon Kid, HYO has become a wrestler that believes his own hype. He’s undergone an insane transformation ever since turning heel three years ago, and over the pandemic, has really come into his own. He’s a shit-talking mastermind who has talked his way into tough situations and has cheated his way out of those same situations. This was no different. He egged Dragon Kid on leading up to the match, saying that his best days were behind him, and had he not had the help of Z-Brats in this match, might have lost his coveted Brave Gate belt. 

The champion not only survived an Ultra Frankensteiner, but managed to also kick out of the Ultra Hurricanrana. The importance of that cannot be understated. HYO could’ve quite literally ended this match by having Dragon Kid slip on a banana peel, and he still would be able to say that he kicked out of the Ultra Hurricanrana. The match did not end via any banana peel shenanigans, but after HYO kicked out of one of Dragon Kid’s super finishers, he used Referee Yagi as a weapon, shoving him into the ropes while Dragon Kid was looking for another top rope dive. This was the last edge that HYO needed. 

Dragon Kid survived a brutal Backdrop Driver from the middle rope and then nearly won on a flash Bible (reaffirming the idea that the match could end at any moment), but HYO survived all of those attacks. Before the momentum could swing back in High-End’s favor, Dragon Kid hit the ropes and was attacked by a chair that was sent straight into his back. Another Backdrop Driver failed to garner the victory for the champion, but a second one with Kid’s wrist clutched was all that the champion needed. He emphatically pinned Dragon Kid in the middle of the ring. 

As we’ve seen so many times before, HYO’s slow build led to an incredibly dramatic finish. ***3/4 


M3K fell in their third defense of the Open the Triangle Gate Championships as ISHIN, the former Ishin Iihashi, revealed himself to be Masked Z and turned his back on M3K. 

Is it exhausting being so right about the Open the Triangle Gate Championship situation all year? A little. While pie-in-the-sky theories about NOSAWA controlling the Triangle Gate Championships and altering booking plans dramatically were floating around, I was on the Open the Voice Gate podcast, seeing the forest through the trees, and correctly predicting that the title belts would bounce around with teams having 1 or 0 defenses until Kobe World when a team would snatch them up and provide stability to the division. That’s exactly what happened. When the card dropped for this show two weeks ago and I saw a mysterious Masked Z appearing alongside KAI and Shun Skywalker, I knew immediately that it was going to be ISHIN. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this stuff out, it just takes someone who actually watches the product that they write and talk about. 

Where I was wrong was that I expected this to be a prolonged angle with ISHIN arriving, raising hell, and then leaving. Instead, we simply got a great match after his great unveiling. Boo hoo. 

It’s so nice having the best wrestler in the world not named Will Ospreay back in the fold, as well. Shun Skywalker immediately made his presence felt in his first match in Japan since September when he monkey flipped Mochizuki Junior into his father and best friend. It’s that unchained, unpredictable offense from Skywalker that makes him such a valuable member of Z-Brats. KAI joined in on the wrecking crew mentality, blistering M3K with his heavy-handed strikes. 

Ultimately, this match was about ISHIN and Mochizuki Junior, a feud that could one day rival that of BxB Hulk and Shingo Takagi. These are generational rivals that will be attached at the hip until the day they retire. ISHIN ate the full force of Junior’s twisting karate kick, but managed to fight on through that and a Twister and eventually landed his signature chokeslam on the second generation Mochizuki. 

This opened the door for a submission attempt. First, ISHIN went for the Alcatraz, his father’s move which ISHIN had used successfully before, but mid-submission he changed course and eventually made Junior tap with the Kata ha Jime. 

Backed by KAI and Skywalker, ISHIN secured the first title of his career and upped his importance factor big time in the process. This Z-Brats trio is as strong of a trio as the Triangle Gate belts have seen in quite some time. This was spectacular and worth going out of your way to see. ****1/4 


With this win, Yuki Yoshioka has now made his third successful defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship, and is 2-0 against YAMATO in singles matches this year. 

“YAMATO knows he can rest easy now, Yuki has got it from here.” – Dragongate Jae 

It’s unfair to saddle Yuki Yoshioka with the weight of the torch being passed, but for the first time in a decade, Dragongate now feels like it belongs to someone other than YAMATO. Yuki Yoshioka, and by proxy, his stalwarts in D’Courage, feel like they are the engine that is moving Dragongate forward. In his second win over YAMATO in singles action this year, Yoshioka cemented himself as the alpha among alphas and the undeniable top dog at the head of Japan’s second biggest promotion. Since winning the belt at the end of July, Yoshioka’s time with the belt has been an unmitigated success at the box office and in the ring. While he doesn’t have the resume of AEW’s top stars, he is someone that should at least be mentioned when discussing Flair/Thesz voting at the end of the year. 

When Ben-K and Shun Skywalker, two of his Class of 2016 contemporaries, held the Dream Gate belt, the company didn’t feel like it belonged to them. Top to bottom, Yoshioka’s influence is starting to bleed through. There’s a resilience that the champion brings to the table currently. Yuki Yoshioka is a tough motherfucker. For all of the dancing, pretty boys, and general goofiness that pierces through Dragongate at times, 2022’s roster is undeniably tough. These kids – and that’s what they are – are working with a chip on their shoulder. They prospered in the early stages of the pandemic while the world was taking a beating, and as Dragongate has become headline fodder this year, they have cut through the noise and reminded everyone why they are the most talented wrestling organization on the planet. That is on the back of Yoshioka, who has been the company’s focal point this year between unmasking as Dia Inferno, holding the Twin Gate belts in the first half of the year, winning King of Gate, and then becoming an elite-level world champion in the latter half of 2022. 

YAMATO, a man who I have often criticized when it comes to his main event match structure, was terrific. His trip to America revitalized him. I haven’t seen YAMATO work singles matches with this much fervor since he was representing Mad Blankey. He pulverized the ankle of Yoshioka, working like a man possessed in an attempt to get his Dream Gate title back for a record sixth time. 

Yoshioka proved, however, to be both mentally and physically too powerful for The Almighty One. Nothing that YAMATO threw against the wall stuck. His ankle lock wasn’t tight enough, his enziguri combinations weren’t sharp enough, and his Frankensteiner of the Almighty ultimately failed as a last-gasp effort. 

In the end, Yuki Yoshioka was simply better than YAMATO. 

Two frog splashes, one to a standing YAMATO and then another with his back against the mat, put YAMATO away for good. ****1/4 

Final Thoughts

Dragongate’s Gate of Destiny was a foray into the familiar: cheering fans, brilliant booking, and phenomenal wrestling. Dragongate sputtered worse than they ever had before in June and July, but everything after the disaster that was Kobe World Weekend has been smooth sailing. Dragongate currently has 7 champions, 6 of whom debuted during or after 2016. The seventh is KAI, who debuted in Dragongate in 2018. No company puts the “adapt or die” methodology to the test more than Dragongate, and Gate of Destiny was yet another example of a thriving company. 

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