Champion Gate 2023

March 4, 2023

Edion Arena Osaka #2

Osaka, Japan

Watch Here: Dragongate Network

Natural Vibes opened the first night of the doubleheader with Party Anthem and the opening promo. Shimizu talked about how it was good to be back in his hometown after the month away. Vibes remarked that they could come out of this weekend with three out of the four titles in the company. Strong Machine J finished up with talking up his Dream Gate challenge, his career and his proposed revolution beating Shun Skywalker. Pretty solid stuff and with noise restrictions lifted, Natural Vibes are precisely the group you want to start off shows.

Natural Vibes (Kzy, Big Boss Shimizu & Strong Machine J) vs. Z-Brats (Shun Skywalker, KAI & HYO) – Time Limit Draw

I don’t really see the reason why HYO couldn’t eat the fall here against the Twin Gate champions and the number one contender for the Dream Gate. The final few minutes were frantic and fun, especially with Skywalker and Strong Machine J brawling with chairs at ringside leaving Shun out on the floor, but why did HYO need protection? He’s the loss post for the heel unit for a reason, and I feel like it makes Vibes weak leading into their title matches the next night.

That being said, SMJ has been excellent in the short build towards his maiden Dream Gate challenge. He’s abandoned the green breakdancing mask for the trademark black machine mask that haunted wrestling rings for the last forty years. I think it’s rather remarkable that someone in a completely closed face mask to have this level of charisma and crowd connection and it has been very nice to see. He’s shown the chemistry with Skywalker that I have zero doubt that he will deliver tomorrow.

The rest of the match was fine albeit somewhat samey for someone who watches 95% of Dragongate that makes tape. Some solid Vibes controlled sprint sections and a lot of sleazing from Z-Brats. Just will question the reasoning for this draw if tomorrow’s show has any sort of dip in the main event. HYO’s not THAT important to not eat falls. **3/4

YAMATO Def. Konomama Ichikawa

YAMATO won both falls of the standard Ichikawa comedy singles match. The first one was in 28 second with a cross armbreaker. After the restart (with no submissions), YAMATO knocked him out with a brainbuster and pulling him up after two to stop the count.. For whatever reason Stalker had “Never Give Up” on his back and he still attempted to give up in that second fall. Not one of the funniest Stalker Ichikawa nights, but I enjoyed it and it didn’t overstay its welcome. NR (standard)/***1/4 (for a comedy match.)

Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fujii Def. Kaito Nagano & Yoshiki Kato

Don Fujii resorted to his Gedo Clutch on Kaito Nagano to escape with the win.

There is no match type I enjoy more than rookies versus veterans. Call me a sadist, but give me an middle-aged man beating the crap out of someone half their age, and I am going to have a great time. And fresh off of an incredible performance two days ago against a debuting Daiki Yanagiuchi, Don Fujii popped a flying headscissors two minutes before clocking plucky Kaito Nagano square in the jaw. These matches have levels.

It’d be unfair to ignore the performances of Class of 2022’s Kato and Nagano in this. It’s tremendous to see MocchyFujii have another run, but it takes both sides to make a match like this work and the Rookie Tag were excellent. I don’t think Yoshiki Kato will ever be the most crisp or refined wrestler, but I don’t want him to sand down those spiky edges in the least. Kaito Nagano has the potential to be one of the most innovative and special high flying babyfaces of his generation.

Most importantly, these kids survived and forced the veterans to their brink. Don Fujii, fresh off of doing the typical young boy beating with his Boston Crab, had to resort to his flash pin, the Gedo Clutch, to escape the class of 2022. The fact that the winningest rookie team in recent memory forced a team of former Dream Gate champions to that drastic of measure shows how confident Dragongate is in their future. ***¾

D’Courage (Yuki Yoshioka, Madoka Kikuta & Dragon Dia) & Dragon Kid Def. Naruki Doi, Genki Horiguchi, Eita & Takashi Yoshida

Yoshioka scored the fall with his second frog splash out of nowhere in two shows, this time on Genki Horiguchi.

There was going to be a match that was going to get short shrift with how Champion Gates are laid out. You’ve got two big title matches each night, all these people to get on the cards, and Dragongate doesn’t like going super long on the first night of a doubleheader. So naturally it ended up with this one feeling a bit compressed and perfunctory.

It wasn’t a bad atomico. Just one with basically the four unaffiliated or freelance wrestlers who have teamed with each other non stop in 2023, just subbing out Shuji Kondo for Genki Horiguchi. Although I’ve written elsewhere about my relative exhaustion with Eita’s situation between Dragongate and Pro Wrestling NOAH, he’s still clearly popular enough and talented enough to entertain his desire to be the second generation Perro Aguayo Jr. 

Everyone is awaiting Dragon Kid getting a D’Courage invitation. It just makes a lot of sense for his Double Dragon team to extend to membership and he fits in so well with Yoshioka and Kikuta. Well it didn’t happen here. Instead we got a perfectly fine sub ten minute match to get all the names on the show. Yuki Yoshioka has started to win matches with one frog splash out of nowhere, so I expect that to be played up tomorrow in the Twin Gate match. ***

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Open The Brave Gate Championship

Jason Lee Def. Minorita ©

Lee becomes the 47th Champion and Minorita fails in his first defense via Maximum Driver.

After four attempts, Jason Lee finally won his first singles championship. Since Dragongate returned from shutdown almost three years ago, Lee has been the unsung hero of the roster. First shepherding an inexperienced Kota Minoura up the card with a Twin Gate run. Being the backbone of Masquerade, an unit that held a lot of huge strengths but equal deficiencies. The character work with Shun Skywalker leading to the Kung Fu Masters, and one of the best matches in Dragon System History. After all of it, he gets all the roses and adds his name to the Brave Gate lineage with other tremendous foreigners such as Matt Sydal, PAC, Ricochet & Flamita. Jae Church and Ho Ho Lun, excellent on this call as always, raised a very pertinent point: many times it feels like Jason Lee is a Dragon System Trueborn. We might as well consider him as one in the same way as Diamante. He found a home and never left.

That all is to not diminish the former champion Minorita in this match at all. As soon as he won the Brave Gate, the writing was on the wall with what kind of title run this would be: Short and he’d likely get dominated and not make a successful defense. The Osaka crowd however bought into every one of his nearfalls and tried to will him into the Minoritanic, the Yoshi Tonic variant he beat HYO for this belt three months ago.

This match was exactly what a regular Dragongate viewer expected. Lee’s become one of the heaviest hitters in the company and rocked Rita constantly. Rita counter punched and would get great nearfalls off headlock takeovers, swinging DDTs, and even a tilt a whirl flatliner that felt less of a face smash and more of neck squish. And at the right moment, a new champion was born. Over-exceeded my expectations ****

Open The Triangle Gate Championship

Gold Class (Kota Minoura, Ben-K & BXB Hulk) © Def. M3K (Susumu Mochizuki, Yasushi Kanda & Mochizuki Jr.)

Gold Class makes their first defense after Ben-K pinned Mochizuki Jr with a Masakari Jackhammer.

What a difference a year makes. This time in 2022, the newly named Gold Class walked out of Edion Arena Osaka #2 as Triangle Gate champions. It was a completely differently line up and concept, with Naruki Doi wanting to reach previous heights of female viewership using Kota Minoura and Kaito Ishida. We probably don’t need to revisit how quickly those plans changed. Only one member of that Triangle Gate team, Kota Minoura is on this one, but Gold Class 2023 feels much more of a complete and special group than Doi’s International House of Hot Boys.

As it has been a lot lately, the star performance in the main event was Mochizuki Jr. Simply put, I’ve never seen a rookie be THIS composed and sure of themselves at this part of their career as Junior right now. And why would he not be this great? He’s the son of one of the greatest wrestlers of this or any era. The closing stretch with Mochizuki Junior taking everything Gold Class had and delivering a scintillating Bridging German Suplex on Ben-K was incredible.

Then things completely fell apart for Susumu, Junior, and Kanda because the elder Mochizuki cares too much. Backstage at Korakuen, he questioned his son going for the Triangle Gate without him by his side. All match long, Junior had it handled. He didn’t need his father’s help the way he did in their Triangle Gate run last year. However, Masaaki Mochizuki is a legend and will not let his son dissuade him, as he hopped up on the apron to argue the count on that German Suplex. Ben shoved father into son, got him on the rebound with a spear and after a kickout, Masakari’d him through the mat. Mocchy argued that Junior still needed his help in the post match, Susumu and Kanda weren’t so certain about that. We might be entering some Biblical Father vs Son stuff soon, and it sure seems like Junior is ready for.

Anyways, this was an absolute blast and well worth going out of your way for. ****¼

Final Thoughts

Save a perplexing decision in the opener, this was almost a perfect first night of Champion Gate. Two title matches in the notebook and a Rookies vs Vets match worth going out of your way for highlight the start of Dragongate’s first big weekend of 2023. Thumbs Way Up.