JANUARY 12, 2023

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


Shun Skywalker is currently wrestling’s greatest villain. 

This match was nearly eight years in the making. Both men entered the Dragongate system on April 1, 2015. Skywalker would debut 16 months later with Yoshioka following in his footsteps two months after that. Since their inception, Dragongate’s best work has come from generational rivals, whether it be Dragon Kid and Darkness Dragon ripping each other apart in Toryumon, BxB Hulk and Shingo Takagi being bred to fight one another, or The Big 6 (the aforementioned Hulk and Takagi, along with Akira Tozawa, BxB Hulk, Masato Yoshino, & Naruki Doi) jockeying for position, the luxury of following Dragongate is that Everything Matters and as time goes on, suddenly singular matches can carry an unexpected amount of weight. 

There was a dismantling of these stories starting in 2016 when Akira Tozawa, unfortunately, left for the WWE. With Tozawa gone, his storyline relationships with peer BxB Hulk, friend-turned-foe Shingo Takagi, YAMATO, and even Kzy went by the wayside. When CIMA split in 2018 and took core young talent with him, decades of storytelling went out the window. This was only made worse when Takagi and Dragongate parted ways later that same year. This match was the first match that I can remember since the OWE split that had the layers of storytelling that used to separate Dragongate apart from the competition. This was not just a singles match; this was another chapter in a never-ending saga between two men that have been attached at the hip since their first day in the dojo. 

Once both men graced the Dragongate ring for the first time, they quickly began making an impact. As the now infamous Class of 2016, alongside Ben-K, HYO, and the now-retired Katsumi Takashima, Skywalker and Yoshioka were apart of the infamous December 1, 2016 tag match that pitted fresh-faced rookies against Dragongate’s grumpiest veterans. While Ben-K was the standout of that match and the one within the class that would progress the fastest, it was clear that both Skywalker and Yoshioka were names to earmark for the future. 

For a promotion built on comradery, both men spent an extraordinary amount of time isolated and without a unit. It wasn’t until August 2018, after a three-on-one handicap match with HYO against Masaaki Mochizuki, that their first “unit” was formed. Unit is in quotations because Masaaki Mochizuki famously requested that Mochizuki Dojo not be treated like a traditional unit. Nevertheless, HYO, Skywalker, Yoshioka, and later Kota Minoura and Keisuke Okuda formed a brotherhood under the learning tree of Masaaki Mochizuki. Outside of Okuda, who was ousted from Dragongate in 2022, this unit has become remarkably successful since going their separate ways. 

Just like Ben-K when the Class of 2016 initially debuted, Skywalker jumped out ahead of the pack under the Mochizuki Dojo banner. He began being featured in singles matches more often than anyone else, and at the start of 2019, he claimed the top spot in Dragongate’s Rookie Ranking Tournament, setting the path for a career-altering year. While he beat current GLEAT standout Kaito Ishida in the finals, it should be noted that he was forced to get through his Mochizuki Dojo partner Yuki Yoshioka in the semis. 

Skywalker rode that momentum into a failed Dream Gate challenge against PAC, which at the time was a monumental feat given where his other Mochizuki Dojo partners were at. Minoura and Yoshioka were putting in strong work on the undercard, but they weren’t ready for an opportunity like that. Skywalker was. Even in defeat, he put forth a marvelous performance. At Dead or Alive that year, the now two-time Open the Dream Gate Champion made a move that is still being felt in Dragongate today. 

Shun Skywalker kicked himself out of Mochizuki Dojo. With that, he left numerous relationships frayed, notably that of Masaaki Mochizuki, he pummeled him into oblivion days later in Korakuen Hall to kick off the King of Gate tournament. 

For a short time, it seemed like Shun Skywalker’s peak as a pro wrestler would be at Kobe World 2019 when he and Kzy stole the show in a mind-blowing singles match on the undercard. By this point, Skywalker had become aligned with Ben-K, who beat PAC for the Dream Gate belt in the main event. For the first time in his career, Skywalker had a target on his back, and he began to crumble under the pressure. He lost big match after big match, culminating in a singles encounter against the aforementioned Ben-K that sent the masked man into a spiral and to Mexico after yet another defeat. 

During this time, Yoshioka remained a loyal companion to Mochizuki Dojo. Whether he was teaming with the veteran leader, or HYO, Minoura, or Okuda, Yoshioka became known as one of Dragongate’s most consistent young talents. When the battle lines shifted in 2020 and generational warfare took over, Yoshioka began to represent Team Dragongate, but he developed an unhealthy obsession with Dragon Dia and the fact that Dia had progressed faster than him. Yoshioka was proving to be a wrestler that was good, but wasn’t good enough to progress. 

The two had a singles match scheduled for the March 2020 Korakuen Hall show, but that was the first of many shows wiped out by COVID-19. 

Yoshioka disappeared immediately after that. 

Dragongate announced he had gone to Mexico to do a learning excursion, with the behind-the-scenes chatter being that the company urged Yoshioka to go away and be forgotten about so that he could come back stronger than ever. 

Together, Skywalker and Yoshioka navigated a COVID-stricken Mexican indie scene. Every time they made tape, the settings were more bizarre than the time before. It seemed as if both men were enjoying themselves, but there’s a chance that in the summer of 2020, I was projecting happiness onto anyone that didn’t look outwardly angry. 

Skywalker returned triumphantly from Mexico in November, surprising Eita after a successful Dream Gate defense against Kzy and challenging him to a match at the once-in-a-lifetime November Kobe World show. He would go onto win that match and carry the belt through the summer of 2021, racking up great match after great match. 

Yuki Yoshioka’s return to Japan was not as glamorous. In October 2020, Dia Inferno was foisted upon the world. In the same way that Dragon Kid once had to fight off Darkness Dragon, the heir to the Dragon Throne, Dragon Dia, would now have to get through Dia Inferno. 

“Memorable” is a fair way of explaining Dia Inferno. A stalking, albeit bumbling and clumsy wrestler, Yoshioka dove into the deep end of heel work and caused utter chaos for over a year while wrestling Dragon Dia. Their matches were not always great, but Inferno carried himself with an entertaining presence. 

As that feud began to wind down, Skywalker’s descent into madness was just beginning. Having lost the Dream Gate belt to YAMATO, Skywalker started morphing into a gaslighting, insecure behemoth who was fighting his Masquerade partners as much as he was other opponents. This came to a head in December 2021 when Skywalker turned his back on his Masquerade partner, Dragon Dia, and caused him to lose a mask vs. mask match against Dia Inferno and Diamante. As a result of Dia unmasking, Dia Inferno voluntarily shed his cover and revealed himself to be Yuki Yoshioka, the man that Shun Skywalker swore was not under that mask. 

This paved the way for Skywalker to form Z-Brats and for Yoshioka and his former rival Dragon Dia to form D’Courage. Yoshioka would go on to defeat Skywalker in the semi-finals of King of Gate last year en route to winning the Dream Gate belt at Kobe World and running through a barrage of former champions in an effort to cement himself as Dragongate’s top dog. 

There is no other way to look at Yuki Yoshioka’s first run as Open the Dream Gate Champion as anything other than an enormous success. While some pegged him to be the man that would defeat CIMA’s record for both amount of defenses and length of the reign, this is the best-case scenario for him. This run reminded me of Tetsuya Naito’s first IWGP World Heavyweight Championship reign in 2016. Even though Yoshioka’s was longer and he had more defenses than the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon, they both accomplished the same thing: these title reigns established them as Guys. Capital G, main event Guys. Yoshioka is no longer on the cusp. If you want to become a Guy, you have to be on his level. 

Outside of his first defense against a deflated-ego Kota Minoura, every one of Yoshioka’s Dream Gate matches were outstanding, and this one was no different. 

The pace of Yoshioka’s title matches largely remained the same. The work in the beginning was slow, albeit engaging, with the closing stretches being some of the best “big match” wrestling there is right now. This followed the same pattern. The champion was brutalized early. Skywalker, as he’s done time and time again, picked apart his opponent both mentally and physically. I particularly loved when he teased doing his knees-first moonsault, only to stay grounded and put Yoshioka in a half crab-turned-ankle lock. That’s the kind of cockiness that I now crave from Skywalker. 

This match started to feel big when Yoshioka made his comeback with a no-touch-tope. I found myself forgetting to blink as the action got faster and more heated from here on out, with the champion hitting numerous clubbing Battle Hooks, all of which the challenger was able to shake off. Yoshioka delivered a head butt to Skywalker while on the middle rope, but he wasn’t able to capitalize with a standing frog splash, as he ate a leaping kick from the challenger instead. 

A forearm exchange signaled the 25-minute mark of the match. Yoshioka delivered a strike so hard that it took his eternal rival off of his feet, but Skywalker slowly climbed back to a standing position with an evil grin peeking out of his mask. Now in a panic, Yoshioka rattled off a series of big moves, but none of them were able to win him the match. 

After a standing frog splash failed to put Skywalker away, Yoshioka scored with a Battle Hook and a Darkness Buster, but before he could follow up with another big move, Skywalker stood up. He shook off everything the champion had thrown at him. In an instant, Yoshioka knew he was fucked. This was an all-time great Dream Gate “moment”. 

A panicked forearm did nothing to phase Skywalker. He knocked Yoshioka’s head off with a lariat, climbed up top and delivered a gorgeous moonsault, and then planted his Class of 2016 contemporary with the SSW for the win. 

Shun Skywalker, at 26 years of age, is a two-time Open the Dream Gate Champion. 

Despite a stark difference in size and backgrounds, Skywalker comes across like Dragongate’s Brock Lesnar in big matches. He’s a movie monster that gets stronger with each blow that he takes. Not only did Yoshioka throw everything he had at him, but every strike that Yoshioka threw his way looked devastating. It simply wasn’t enough in the end, however. 

The entire tone of Dragongate shifts with this result. ****1/2 


Speaking of long-term storytelling in Dragongate, Dragon Kid and Eita teamed together in this match! Dragon Kid used to mentor Eita before he turned his back on the legend and attempted to take his mask. This was a delightfully odd pairing as Dragon Kid enters, thankfully, a universe without High-End. 

Business picked up when Madoka Kikuta began throwing his ass around with no regard. He ran wild on the former Over Generation tandem, but his luck dried up when he missed his Hand of God lariat on Dragon Kid, which gave Eita a chance to pull him out of the ring by the ankles. He went to throw him into a row of chairs, but Kikuta countered and destroyed Eita with a huge hip attack. That left the Dragons in the ring. Dia looked like he had the advantage on the veteran by countering the Bible with a flash pin, but after rolling around the ring and trading pins, Dragon Kid came out on top and stole a win from D’Courage. ***1/4 


Natural Vibes easily took care of this unaffiliated trio. The only thing of note is that Kagetora is back after months on the shelf. His next move could alter this opinion, but he feels wildly out of place in the current landscape of Dragongate. He’s walking around with “2014 energy” and this is a promotion that has zoomed well beyond that. I’m not sure we’ll ever see Kagetora do anything of relevance again. 

A Jacky Knife on Genki Horiguchi secured the win for his team. **1/2 


How the mighty have fallen. Takashi Yoshida went from main eventing the night prior to having a truly useless match here. The only thing of note is that early in the match, the M3K duo attempted to enact a double countout by dragging Yoshida far away from the ring. Deep into the 20 count, Tominaga slid back in the ring and nearly won the match for his team. That was a lot of fun. Outside of that, there was nothing here. Kanda won with his signature elbow drop on Punch. **1/4  


The most notable thing about this match was that YAMATO had no problem blending into the grumpy veteran army. Now 41, with five Dream Gate reigns under his belt and no unit for him to call home, YAMATO is entering unknown territory. Since 2010, he’s occupied so much oxygen at the top of the Dragongate card. This feels like a chance for him to get “cycled down” in a way that he’s never truly experienced before. I hope he does more stuff like this. Seeing him work with young wrestlers is a delight, as he can dish out punishment just like Fujii and Kondo. 

I loved the way this match was laid out with the rookies gelling as a team and the veterans, despite their experience and skill level, not being the smoothest operation outside of the reunited YAMADoi team. The rookies pepper both YAMATO and Fujii with a train of elbows, which paved the way for Dragongate’s next great power fighter, Yoshiki Kato, to come in and clean house. He went right at Fujii and Kondo, the two biggest men in the match, in an attempt to prove his worth. He steamrolled Fujii with a giant shoulder block, but Kondo had an answer for the rookie with a massive King Kong Lariat. 

I found the finishing stretch of this match to be brilliant. Ryu Fuda broke up a pinfall attempt out of the aforementioned King Kong by putting Kondo in a sleeper. Kondo threw Fuda off of him, but the veterans soon found themselves in a pickle. Fujii accidentally clotheslined Kondo, then YAMATO connected with a Go to Hospital on Fujii by accident, then Fujii clotheslined YAMATO by accident, which gave Fuda the biggest nearfall of his young career. 

Finally, the experienced team of Doi and YAMATO took care of business. Fuda found himself victim to a Go to Hospital II, a Bakatare Sliding Kick, and a Galleria for the finish. This was my favorite young vs. old match with the new generation. Well worth your time. ***3/4 

After the match, Ryo Saito came out and announced Rey de Parejas 2023, the first Dragongate Tag League since Summer Adventure Tag League 2016. Teams will be as followed,

A Block 

  • Yuki Yoshioka & Madoka Kikuta
  • B×B Hulk & Kota Minoura
  • Jason Lee & Jacky “Funky” Kamei
  • Yoshiki Kato & Kaito Nagano
  • Masaaki Mochizuki & Mochizuki Junior

B Block

  • YAMATO & Naruki Doi
  • Dragon Kid & Dragon Dia
  • Ben- K & Minorita
  • Susumu Mochizuki & Yasushi Kanda
  • Strong Machine J & Strong Machine F
  • Shun Skywalker & KAI


This was the start of Mochizuki Junior’s evolution. 

Since his debut in June, the son of the Ironman of Dragongate has been aided by his overprotective father. Every win that Junior has secured has been with the help of his dad. Every time he’s been in danger, his dad has come to his rescue. Not anymore. Masaaki Mochizuki broke up an inconspicuous pinfall attempt by Kzy early in the match, which caused Junior to snap at his old man. He made it clear that he could handle this without such a watchful eye over him. 

This only added fuel to Strong Machine J’s fire. As a fellow second generation wrestler, both he and ISHIN have taken great issue with the treatment that Junior has received. This match was built around Junior and J making the most of a big spot, which they continue to do whenever they’re paired off with one another. 

 Junior nearly stole the win with a flash pin counter to J’s powerslam, but the masked man survived and continued to fight on. They traded beautiful Bridging German Suplexes with J hitting the first for a huge near fall, then Junior following up with one after J kicked out of a Fisherman Suplex at 1. His German attempt kept J down for a second longer, but it still did not secure him the victory. Junior went for it all by attempting his dreaded Twisting Kick to the Face, but J ducked and caught him in a second Bridging German for the win. ***3/4 


BxB Hulk’s first match as a member of Gold Class was a success. While not being spectacular, this somehow felt appropriately brutal with Z-Brats targeting their former partner who continues to age rapidly. I think Hulk will fit in fine with Gold Class as time goes on. He won’t have to be a workhorse, as that can be left to the other three. He won’t have to carry the unit in terms of star power, either, as Ben-K has that covered. Hulk just needs to find a way to develop chemistry with Minorita and he will successfully glide off into the final stages of his career. 

HYO, who has been on the receiving end of loss after loss lately (remember this as SB KENTo could be coming back home at any moment), took a First Flash after a series of big moves from Gold Class. ***1/4 

Final Thoughts:

I urge you to watch Shun Skywalker vs. Yuki Yoshioka as quickly as you can. Dragongate’s top level talent continues to prove why they are as good as any other roster in the world, if not better. The main event was world class professional wrestling from two people who might not be in their prime yet. Throw in a great rookie vs. veteran tag and the evolution of Mochizuki Junior and you have a great show at your disposal. Thumbs up for the second leg of Dragongate’s Open the New Year Gate from Korakuen Hall. 

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