Dragongate, the second largest wrestling promotion in Japan, is offering fans old and new alike a chance to sample the product with a pair of free shows in December. For both the December 4 Korakuen Hall show and the 12/11 Nagoya show, Dragongate Network will be broadcasting live with no sign-up required. For anyone who is not intimately familiar with Dragongate’s current roster, this is everything you need to know about Fantastic Gate 2022.
The main event of this show will be Yuki Yoshioka vs. Masaaki Mochizuki for the Open the Dream Gate Championship, Dragongate’s top prize. Yoshioka is Dragongate’s 28-year-old world champion and a viable Flair/Thesz contender for the work he’s done in Dragongate this year. Most of 2022 has been built around making Yoshioka a star. Yoshioka began the year with a fresh start and a makeover after spending the first two years of the pandemic in Mexico, then as the masked character Dia Inferno. He took the mask off and won the Open the Twin Gate Championship with his former nemesis Dragon Dia in his first match away from the Dia Inferno gimmick.
After a brief Twin Gate run, Yoshioka continued finding success, this time as a singles wrestler. He won Dragongate’s King of Gate tournament (DG’s G1 Climax-equivalent) by pinning YAMATO, Shun Skywalker, and Kota Minoura, among others. This led to a dominant weekend at Ultimo Dragon’s 35th-anniversary show and Kobe World Pro Wrestling festival, the two biggest shows of the year for Dragongate. He defeated KAI to capture the Dream Gate belt, then once again defeated Minoura to make his first successful defense of the title.
Since then, business has thrived under Yoshioka’s reign. Alongside the aforementioned Dragon Dia and Madoka Kikuta, the three of them make up the D’Courage unit, which has become Dragongate’s primary babyface unit.
Yoshioka, representing a new wave of Dragongate talent, has taken it upon himself to defeat any former Dream Gate Champion that steps up to him. He defeated Eita in September and then YAMATO in November at two of Dragongate’s “big five” shows. Enter Masaaki Mochizuki.
Not only is Mochizuki a four-time Dream Gate Champion, one of the most decorated Dragongate wrestlers ever, and one of the single greatest wrestlers to ever live, but when Yoshioka was in the early stages of his career, he wrestled alongside Mochizuki in the Mochizuki Dojo unit.
In more recent years, Mochizuki, who is a month away from turning 53, has taken a backseat to the absurd amount of 25-and-under talent that Dragongate offers. This year, he revived his team with Susumu Mochizuki and Yasushi Kanda (collectively known as the infamous M2K unit), but this year, he brought on his son, Mochizuki Junior, who made a surprise debut at the Toryumon Reunion show and picked up a win in his debut match in the main event of the show.
The elder Mochizuki has since picked up an overprotective soccer dad mentality, choosing his enemies based on whoever is beefing with his son. Junior is still largely over his head when battling Dragongate’s top wrestlers, but with the help of his father, has picked up several huge wins.
Masaaki Mochizuki has had a number of historic Dream Gate matches in Korakuen Hall, including 2014 against Masato Yoshino (which finished #21 in 2014 VOW MOTY voting), 2018 against Kzy (which finished #24 in 2018 VOW MOTY voting), and 2019 against Ben-K (which finished #47 in 2019 VOW MOTY voting). While historically, all of those prior names listed may have more accomplished in-ring careers than Yoshioka, none of them felt as hot as Yoshioka currently does.
Having Match of the Year Contender expectations for this match is not unrealistic.
In the semi-main event, YAMATO & Dragon Kid of HIGH-END enlist the help of Problem Dragon & Takashi Yoshida, two of Dragongate’s weakest wrestlers, as they battle top heels in Z-Brats, BxB Hulk, HYO, KAI, & Shun Skywalker. Six months ago, YAMATO & Dragon Kid could wage war alongside Ben-K, Kagetora, and Keisuke Okuda. Ben-K left for Gold Class, Kagetora is out injured, and Okuda left the company because he has a fetish for getting his ass kicked in MMA fights. This has forced the two remaining HIGH-END representatives to dig into the reserves, and they are now teaming alongside two jobbers.
Expect some sort of shenanigans in this match. It will likely end with either Problem Dragon scoring a shocking pinfall on someone in Z-Brats, which will lead to a bigger match down the road, or Z-Brats just obliterating Problem Dragon and ending this experiment after one match. I like the way they’ve positioned this story. By no means are Problem Dragon & Yoshida meant to be taken seriously, but you also can’t rule out the idea of them sneaking one by Z-Brats. This should be a chaotic mess and a lot of fun.
The Gold Class trio of Ben-K, Kota Minoura, and Minoura’s mini Minorita will be taking on the part-time crew of Eita, Naruki Doi, & Shuji Kondo. Despite baseless reporting from Dave Meltzer and conjecture from those not plugged into current Dragongate, all three of these wrestlers are still wrestling for Dragongate and wrestling consistently. Why we all lost sight of what freelance wrestlers look like this year, I do not know. For months now, I have predicted a Ben-K Dream Gate challenge. Every big show he’s been on since September, I’ve predicted a pinfall victory for him and then a post-main event promo from him to set up a future match with Yoshioka. I’ve yet to be right, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop predicting it.
It should be noted that if you remember Ben-K from his career-defining victory against PAC in 2019, he has undergone a dramatic, hip-hop-inspired charisma transplant akin to when Shinsuke Nakamura returned from Mexico. No longer is he a stoic warrior. Ben-K and his “chiki chiki” catchphrase gave him a second life after a few uninspired years in the upper midcard. Alongside the bizarre pairing of Minoura and Minorita, Gold Class has finally garnered some momentum after a dreadful summer.
The eight-man tag with Don Fujii, Genki Horiguchi, Shachihoko BOY, & Ultimo Dragon against Big Boss Shimizu, Ho Ho Lun, Jason Lee, & Punch Tominaga will have the energy of a two-hand-touch football game after Thanksgiving dinner. It is a shame that Jason Lee will be in this match, given the fact that for the last 18 months, he has been the best junior heavyweight in the world. He could walk into any company in the world and immediately be the best in their junior division. If you don’t believe me, check out what he and Jacky “Funky” Kamei did against Diamante & Shun Skywalker at Ultimo Dragon’s 35th Anniversary Show.
Jacky “Funky” Kamei, Kzy, & Strong Machine J of Natural Vibes will take on Mochizuki Junior, Susumu Mochizuki, & Yasushi Kanda of the aforementioned M3K unit in match #3. This is relevant as Junior will be forced into battle with Strong Machine J, the son of New Japan’s legendary Super Strong Machine. Since making his shocking debut in June, Junior has taken beatings from everyone on the roster, but no one seems to have issues with him quite like Dragongate’s second-generation wrestlers. ISHIN, the former Ishin Iihashi (more on him later), just capped off a three-month-long saga by turning heel on Junior and taking his Open the Triangle Gate Championships, and in their brief encounters, SMJ has been extra feisty against the younger Mochizuki. Expect this to be short, albeit super heated and super contentious. The roster is going to come at Junior’s throat knowing that his father won’t be in this match.
Since the start of the pandemic, Dragongate has had 12 wrestlers debut. Starting with Madoka Kikuta and Sora Fujikawa, the promotion has ushered in La Estrella, Riki Iihashi, Ishin Iihashi, Shoya Sato, Takuma Fujiwara, Takumi Hayakawa (Minorita), Ryu Fuda, Mochizuki Junior, Kaito Nagano, and Takuma Nishikawa to the roster. Sora Fujikawa, Riki Iihashi, and Shoya Sato have since retired and Takuma Nishikawa debuted and is currently stationed in Mexico, but that still leaves Dragongate with an absurd talent pool of rookies and barely-not-rookies. On December 6, the 13th rookie of the pandemic era will join the fold, as Yoshiki Kato will debut against Madoka Kikuta.
Kato is a 25-year-old ex-cop who dreams of being Dragongate’s top “power fighter.” He shocked the system last month when, in a five-minute exhibition against Punch Tominaga, he scored a submission on the veteran Tominaga. This is the only time that I can recall a fall ever being counted in an exhibition match, as they normally go to a 0-0 time-limit draw. This immediately caused GM Ryo Saito to hit the ring and announce Kato’s debut match. Given what happened last month, I expect anything and everything to happen in his debut match. Do not sleep on this rookie. Dragongate clearly thinks they have something in him.
Before we can get there, Dragongate will kick off the festivities with Dragon Dia & Kaito Nagano vs. Diamante & ISHIN, which is such a terrific bout on paper. Dia, for my money, has been a top 10 wrestler in the world, and the rookie Kaito Nagano is on track to become one of the most exciting high-flyers in the world, if the four months of his career have been any indication. He is an athletic freak who can contort his body in mid-air in a way so few can. Luckily for him, he will be in the ring against Diamante, the Mexican Claudio Castagnoli, and currently the best base in all of wrestling. A Mexican powerhouse, Diamante routinely steals the show with his freak agility and strength.
Alongside Diamante will be ISHIN, who turned heel at Gate of Destiny in November and has sneakily been one of the best wrestlers on the Dragongate roster this year, which just happens to be his first full year with the promotion. ISHIN came in as a pudgy, rough-around-the-edges grappler who has since gotten into sickening shape and now sports a dead-behind-the-eyes look as he strays farther and farther away from the light.
Part of the appeal of Dragongate has always been that they pace their shows differently than any other company in Japan and that the opening match always has the potential to steal the show. They are living up to that ideology with this match.
Dragongate’s Gate of Adventure will broadcast live, for free on the Dragongate Network on December 6. Bell time is 4:30 AM EST.
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