GATE OF ORIGIN
DECEMBER 18, 2022
SENDAI SUN PLAZA HALL – SENDAI, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI, JASON LEE, & U-T DEF. PROBLEM DRAGON, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & RYU FUDA
One year ago at this event, Ryu Fuda debuted. In his first match ever, which subsequently took place in his hometown, I wrote, “Take notes, folks. Ryu Fuda is going to be somebody. Remember this name and remember this match.” After detailing nearly every move he and Masaaki Mochizuki threw at each other, I noted, “Fuda was given an inordinate amount of respect in this match…This was a hugely successful debut.”
November 27, the day of Fuda’s debut, has been his peak through the first year of his career.
Battling a broken sternum and the most competitive rookie class in the history of Dragongate (and possibly in pro wrestling history), Fuda has fallen out of favor in Dragongate. His class contemporaries Takuma Fujiwara and Takumi Hayakawa (now Minorita) excelled up the card while Fuda was sidelined. Upon his return, he was met with a new crop of talent like Mochizuki Junior, Kaito Nagano, and now Yoshiki Kato, who was notably more protected than Fuda during their tag team matches with one another a few weeks ago.
The thing with Fuda is that he’s not a bad wrestler. In fact, he’s actually quite talented for someone with his experience level. If he were wrestling in a promotion that wasn’t pumping out talent at the same pace that Kate Gosslin pumped out children, he would still be labeled a blue chip prospect. Dragongate evolves so quickly, however, that the Sendai-native has found himself struggling to keep his head above water.
This match served as a reminder that Fuda does have talent and is worth investing in, assuming he can stay healthy. Saddled alongside two nothing wrestlers, Fuda made this opening match entertaining by showing fire and grit against the Natural Vibes trio.
His efforts may be rewarded long term, but in the context of this match, they were not enough to outlast a Vibes onslaught. Fuda ate Jason Lee’s Maximum Driver and took the fall for his team. ***1/4
EITA DEF. KONOMAMA ICHIKAWA
Talk about two enigmas. This unique battle of charismatic powerhouses was a spectacle that needs to be seen by all. Eita pummeled the Dragongate legend early in the match, but Ichikawa fought back, scoring a head-scissor takedown and a 619 before nearly pinning the Grand Slam Champion with a La Magistral. Eita survived, then proceeded to beat Ichikawa by exhaustion. Ichikawa began running the ropes, likely in an effort to gear up for his next move, but then he never stopped running. He went from one side of the ring to the other until he collapsed, forcing the referee to call for the bell. This was delightful. NR
DON FUJII, GAINA, & ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI, & YASUSHI KANDA
This was harmless, old man fun that was only hindered by the fact that Ultimo Dragon scored the fall on Yasushi Kanda. While on the surface that shouldn’t bother me, I do feel like M3K should be slotted above an unaffiliated trio of elder statesmen.
The highlight here was Mochizuki and Fujii beating the tar out of one another. Fujii’s bad knee, which he’s had for 25 years, was targeted, but that didn’t prevent him from connecting with a chokeslam on his former tag team partner later in the match.
As I mentioned, Ultimo Dragon rolled Kanda up and pinned him for the victory in just over 9 minutes. **3/4
ISHIN DEF. MOCHIZUKI JUNIOR, STRONG MACHINE J
The sons of three former wrestlers squared off in a three-way match that was thrilling from start to finish. Most of the match was built on Strong Machine J targeting Mochizuki Junior, who he has taken issue with in recent weeks, and ISHIN targeting Strong Machine J, who looked dominant for most of the match. The match did subscribe to a standard “two guys do one thing while the other guy watches” three-way format, but the odd-man-out was often ISHIN, which plays into his dead-behind-the-eyes gimmick he’s been doing ever since he turned heel. It’s not an ideal structure, but I can’t critique it given the way that ISHIN is slotted currently.
Halfway through the match, ISHIN began ripping at J’s mask, triggering a recurring theme for the rest of the contest. During his second attempt, he ate a boot from Mochizuki Junior that sent him crashing into the referee. This paved the way for ISHIN to unmask Strong Machine J, causing him to bail out of the ring.
With J out of the picture, ISHIN and Junior battled back-and-forth. ISHIN hit the ropes, and in an attempt to save his son, Masaaki Mochizuki grabbed at the feet of ISHIN. His plan failed, Junior came crashing into his father, and then ISHIN rolled Junior up for the win. ***1/2
DRAGON KID & NINJA MACK DEF. DIAMANTE & SHUN SKYWALKER
Ninja Mack is not built for Dragongate.
It’s not that he’s bad, he’s just a different breed of flyer than the rest of this roster, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Whereas Dragongate at its best is high-flying done with a purpose, Ninja Mack feels like a .gif come to life. His big spots are thrilling, but there’s such little substance in between. There were moments in this match in which he looked less-than-perfect against Diamante, the best base in the world, and given the work that Diamante has done over the last two weeks, that is a tell-tale sign of someone who isn’t cut out for Dragongate.
As an exhibition tag match, this was fine. Shunmante are a dominant tag team, Dragon Kid is never bad, and Ninja Mack’s back handspring dive from one side of the ring to the other is a truly innovative move.
The issue is that the finish of this match got caught in political crossfire. Shun Skywalker is incredibly protected, Diamante is incredibly protected, Dragon Kid is incredibly protected, and Ninja Mack is an outsider. No one was taking a fall here. Instead, after Mack’s big dive to the floor, a four-man pile up was created on the outside of the ring, leading to Ninja Mack springboarding off of bodies and launching himself into the ring to beat the 20 count. The finish ripped away whatever joy this match brought me. It was such a wet blanket on a match that already wasn’t great. **3/4
CAPTAIN’S FALL THREE-WAY NINE-MAN ELIMINATION MATCH
BEN-K, KOTA MINOURA, & MINORITA DEF. DRAGON DIA, MADOKA KIKUTA, & YUKI YOSHIOKA, AND BXB HULK, HYO, & KAI
I don’t understand why every company doesn’t take advantage of the possibilities that captain’s fall elimination matches offer. This match single-handedly made me more excited for HYO vs. Minorita at Final Gate, more excited for Ben-K vs. Yuki Yoshioka at Final Gate, showcased how great Madoka Kikuta is, and reaffirmed how great KAI is, on top of simply being a great match.
The Ben-K/Yoshioka interactions have all felt red-hot since the match was set up on December 6. Ben is the hottest he’s ever been (yes, even hotter than when he dethroned PAC in 2019) and Yoshioka has been a wildly successful champion. Their forearm battle, which led to both of them being knocked over the top rope and to the floor by KAI for an elimination, was super heated.
Minorita stole a win from Dragon Dia by yanking him out of the ring and hitting HYO with his version of the Code Red, the Minorita Roll, to secure the victory for his team. ****1/4
OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
BIG BOSS SHIMIZU & KZY (c) DEF. TAKASHI YOSHIDA & YAMATO
This is the first successful defense for Kzy and Shimizu as a team.
I was stunned by how good this was.
Takashi Yoshida, who dressed in his vintage Cyber Kong garb in this match, is a very flawed wrestler. At times, he’s represented the lazy heel monster that the Dragon System has leaned too much on in its history. He’s been a stiff, lumbering oaf who has taken away from matches more than he’s added to them. Behind the mask, a decade into his career, he had lost the charisma that once made him an entertaining youngster. He was a paint-by-numbers heel who was an irritant at the top of the card.
Yoshida unmasked, turned face, and was humbled. As a result, he’s developed a unique, big-baby-charisma that has turned one of the biggest men on the roster into a permanent underdog. This match was largely segmented off between Kzy and YAMATO and Yoshida and Shimizu, and while there’s no outcome in which Kzy and YAMATO is less than awesome, the highlight of this match was watching the big men crash into each other.
The High-End assistant did everything he could to bring gold back to both he and his former tag team partner, but the Natural Vibes offensive onslaught was too much. After Kzy took out YAMATO with a Mission Impossible dive, Shimizu leveled Yoshida with a lariat before putting him away with the Shot-Put Slam.
Normally, I like Yoshida matches from an emotional standpoint, even if they are lacking from an in-ring standpoint. This match was just great, however. It massively over delivered. ****
Gate of Origin 2022 wildly over-delivered. Outside of a poorly executed all-star tag match, everything on this show either met my expectations or beat them. This was the perfect lead-in to Final Gate on December 25. Thumbs up for Gate of Origin.
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