DECEMBER 16, 2022

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


This was a showcase for the rookies as the 2022 FUTURE Class, sans Takuma Nishikawa, who is still finding his way in Mexico and has yet to wrestle in Japan, making their presence felt in this opener. 

Junior, Kato, and Nagano, the three representing that class, all looked terrific in this match. Junior continues to wrestle at someone well above the level of the average 20-year-old with six months experience. This isn’t just to say that he’s having matches with veterans at a high-level, but the way he moves around the ring as an individual, the precision in all of his offense, and the way that he carries himself are all things that people at his age and experience level normally do not have. The fact that he’s successfully pulled off being an insecure bully, someone who can kick ass, but can’t win matches without the help of his overprotective dad, is an impressive character feat. 

Kato, who officially debuted on December 6, dreams of being Dragongate’s top power fighter one day, akin to the in-ring style that Shingo Takagi once brought to the table. Kato’s biggest asset at this point in the game (two weeks into his career) is his otherworldly charisma. Kato projects like someone that is going to be a big deal. His in-ring approach is drastically different from his contemporaries, but he’s proven he can bring it already. His Torture Rack that he’s successfully put Junior in a handful of times already looks absolutely devastating. 

Kaito Nagano, the smallest member of the class and one of the smallest Dragongate wrestlers ever, is something to behold. He’s made the rounds via gifs and short videos (although he deserves tons more eyeballs on him), but what is so impressive to me about Nagano is that he’s so crisp. I have never seen him out of place in the few months he’s been on the roster. He’s never mistimed a big dive. His complicated, aerial offense is always hit with perfection. He is a special wrestler who is destined for big things despite his small frame. 

In all of this praise,the name noticeably absent is Ryu Fuda, who debuted a year ago and has battled injury and stagnation ever since. The thing with Fuda is that he’s not bad. In fact, if he were in DDT or NOAH or All Japan, he would be crowned as a thing to look forward to in the future. It just so happens that Fuda entered Dragongate during the single biggest youth movement in the history of the company, thus he has already fallen by the wayside. Fuda was chippy in this match, in particular with Junior, which was great to see. He has a lot of catching up to do, however. 

Fuda ate a beautiful top rope elbow drop from Kanda for the finish. ***1/4 


Kota Minoura started the year as Masquerade’s second in command, became a box office flop of epic proportions, and then ended his year in a comedy match against the legend himself, Konomama Ichikawa. While that series of events may sound like it paints a bleak future for Minoura, this match with Ichikawa, who donned a shiny gold costume to mirror Minoura’s look, was the seal of approval that the youngster needed heading into the new year. As Jae so accurately put on commentary, “if you can’t wrestle Ichikawa, you can’t wrestle in Dragongate.” This was a highly entertaining affair ending with a Minoura victory. NR 


Normally when Ultimo Dragon wrestles a match, it’s labeled as the “touch football” match of the evening. It’s a lighthearted, painless affair that is fun while it lasts but ultimately serves no purpose. While this wasn’t great by any means, this match felt like a step up from a standard undercard affair thanks to the brilliant work from Kamei, Lee, and Lun. The Kung-Fu Warriors (although being outside of Kobe, Kamei and Lee were representing Natural Vibes) worked so well as a team, getting the most out of Ultimo, getting Eita engaged, and being really entertaining with indie sleaze lord Kenichiro Arai. 

Araken attempted to steal a win over Kamei by rolling him up and putting his feet on the ropes, but Referee Yagi stopped the count once he noticed this. In the middle of arguing with the referee, Araken himself was rolled up with the Jacky Knife and pinned. These were six pros having a damn entertaining match. ***


For those out of the loop, this match was made because Punch Tominaga felt YAMATO took his spot in Shingo Takagi’s return match at Final Gate. 

Tominaga wore one of Takagi’s singlets to the ring, then proceeded to get his ass beat by YAMATO despite Don Fujii loudly cheering him on from the Japanese commentary table. Words cannot describe how fun this was. Once a year, Tominaga does something I really enjoy. It took him 12 months to do it in 2022, but he finally got there. I adored this. NR


The miracle run that Takashi Yoshida is having continued in this match. He scored clean pinfalls over Big Boss Shimizu on shows in Kyoto and Nagoya the weekend prior, and here, he turned his focus to the much smaller U-T, who fell victim to Yoshida’s power. 

The tricky thing with Yoshida is that he’s wrestling like a wrestler from another era. His matches during this run as an assistant for High-End haven’t been “great” from a technical aspect, but I find myself actively invested in Yoshida’s matches from an emotional standpoint. The character work he did at this time last year and at the start of this year sucked me in so much that I now unfortunately care about Takashi Yoshida. He’s a gentle giant, a wounded babyface who is desperate for love from his peers like Naruki Doi and YAMATO. By no means has his efforts with High-End changed the narrative of the unit. They’re still massively underwhelming and the weakest unit on the roster, but Yoshida is objectively making them better. 

As I mentioned, U-T ate the fall in this match. He tried to pin Yoshida with a flash pin, but the power of Yoshida was too much for the smaller wrestler. A Pineapple Bomber in 10 minutes ended this affair. ***


Dragon Dia is a perfect babyface. There’s nothing he does that is anything less than extraordinary when it comes to getting the crowd on his side. This match was built on beating the tar out of Dia. Z-Brats reveled in the opportunity to beat down on the smallest member of this part-D-Courage, part-freelance quartet. Whether it was Diamante’s power, Hulk’s brutal strikes, ISHIN’s calculate attack, or KAI’s well-rounded attack, everyone focused their attention towards Dia. Throughout all of this, I was engaged the entire time. Dia is great at taking a beating. 

Later on in the match when it was time for Dia to make a comeback, he showed why he’s one of the most thrilling wrestlers on the planet, executing high-risk moves with flawless execution against the likes of Diamante and ISHIN. 

The trio fighting alongside Dia were tremendous, as well. After he lost his Dream Gate belt in 2020, Doi started to wrestle like a man that was tired. He had been going hard, nearly nonstop, for 20 years. Between the generational shift happening within the company and time and its sickening crimes, Doi had started to lose the luster that he brought to the scene for so long. Now, as a freelancer who is still working for Dragongate, he’s been given fresh legs. He’s wrestling like a new man, like a man who wants to wrestle. His energy has been noticed and greatly appreciated on these last few shows. 

KAI fell victim to Shuji Kondo’s King Kong Lariat in the end. ***1/2 


This match served as a preview for both the upcoming Open the Dream Gate Championship Match at Final Gate between Ben-K and Yuki Yoshioka and the upcoming Brave Gate match between HYO and Minorita. 

Minorita is a marvelous professional wrestler. He’s a year into his career and has unfortunately had to share the spotlight with a prodigy in Takuma Fujiwara, as well as the likes of Shoya Sato, Mochizuki Junior, and now Kaito Nagano. It has taken away from focusing on the fact that Minorita has had one of the most successful rookie years I can recall in pro wrestling. While I normally compare Susumu Mochizuki to Tim Duncan for their all-time success while maintaining a quiet, cool demeanor, I must compare Minorita’s rookie year to that of Tim Duncan’s. Minorita stepped into a winning culture and has proven to be a valuable asset from the jump. Gold Class was prepared to crash and burn in a horrific way this summer that could’ve greatly impacted Dragongate as a whole, but Minorita steered the ship into safety. He is proving that he can do everything. He can do comedy, he can wrestle in big matches, he can be a pesky, troll-like heel or a sympathetic babyface. 

He did a little bit of everything in this match. He took a beating from HYO, he fought back like a champion, and the Dr. Evil-Mini Me chemistry he has with Ben-K was spotlighted towards the finish as both men were able to pick up their respective future opponents in Torture Racks. 

HYO and Yoshioka bickered the entire match, ending with Yoshioka getting sick of HYO’s ways and crushing him with a Battle Hook lariat that paved the way for Ben to spear HYO, then toss Minorita over him to get the pin. This was all brilliantly constructed. It made me more excited for both matches, both of which I was already looking forward to. ***3/4 


The last three times these two have wrestled in singles matches, my ratings have been ****1/2, ****3/4, and ****3/4.

Needless to say, these are two of the best wrestlers in the world. 

While this match didn’t quite reach the highs that their previous encounters did, this was still so far and away the best thing on this show and a good showcase for two of the best in the game currently. What struck me in this match was how, for lack of a better term, “epic” it felt. Their match in 2019 was an undercard match designed to steal the show (which they did). Their 2021 match was designed to be the biggest and best match of the year (and it was). Their King of Gate encounter earlier this year was designed to set the table for Shun’s descent into madness (and it did). This was a match between two guys who have been going at it all year and who don’t have a lot left in the tank. This felt like one of the final chapters in a story that has been raging for months now. This was, all in all, really great stuff. 

The match devolved into chaos when Kzy went to give Skywalker a running Shotgun headbutt in the corner, but Skywalker pulled the referee in front of him, leaving Referee Nakagawa down and out. This paved the way for Skywalker to embrace the darkness. He blasted Kzy over the head with a chair, then with the help of Z-Brats, flooded the ring with chairs. Skywalker moved focus to the top rope, but before he could superplex Kzy onto the pile of chairs, BxB Hulk accidentally connected with a chair strike to Skywalker that was aimed at Kzy. Kzy saw the opportunity and took it, hitting a top rope CDJ (Canadian Destroy) onto the pile of chairs. 

Natural Vibes cleared house and prevented anymore nefarious Z-Brats interference, capped off with Big Boss Shimizu hitting a plancha to the floor. 

That was all Kzy needed. He pinned Skywalker just before the 17 minute mark. ****1/4 

The aforementioned BxB Hulk chair shot caused Hulk and Skywalker to bicker after the match, teasing dissent among Z-Brats.

Final Thoughts

The final two matches on this show were loaded up with members of Dragongate’s Class of 2016. Not only was Fantastic Gate a box office success, as Dragongate continues to comfortably do 1,000+ in Korakuen Hall, but the youth showcased why they are now leading the company. Dragongate continues to embrace the spirit they were built on. It’s always next man up, and right now, the ones stepping up to the plate are knocking it out of the park. Thumbs up for Fantastic Gate. 

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