JUNE 1, 2023

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


A month removed from his return to Japan after a near year-long absence, La Estrella once again found himself with a chance to showcase his skills in the opening match of a Korakuen Hall show. Estrella is still a man of mystery in the ring, even though they recently dropped his alien characteristics and now let him speak and bill him from Kobe. He’s now doing more grappling than he was doing prior to his North American excursion, but his matches feel like they have two deliberate halves. With La Estrella matches now, there’s a Grappling Portion and a Flying Portion. They are not seamless. Estrella locking Minorita in a llave-inspired submission and Estrella hitting Minorita with a dive feel like two entirely different wrestlers competing in one match. It’s bizarre. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone have this specific issue before. 

Eita remains disgustingly over for being such a non-factor in the grand scheme of things right now. He didn’t really do anything here, but he received a massive ovation. When he and Minoura were in the ring with one another, it made me reflect on scenes from two years ago when Eita, then a kingpin in the promotion, lost to a white-hot babyface in Kota Minoura at Kobe World. How far we’ve strayed from that path. 

Minoura won with a Jumbo Tsuruta-esque knee to La Estrella, which seemed to catch everyone, myself included, by surprise. ***


Jacky “Funky” Kamei put forth a herculean effort to make this match interesting. 

With Mochizuki Junior and Yoshiki Kato on the shelf, Kaito Nagano absent from these shows, and Takuma Nishikawa still overseas, Dragongate finds themself in a position where they need to fill out cards with some less than favorable wrestlers. There’s nothing wrong with Shachihoko BOY, there are times where I actually love him, but I do feel that this well-oiled Natural Vibes trio is above working against an older, unaffiliated trio like this. 

Jason Lee, the current Brave Gate Champion, looked rightfully dominant down the closing stretch and dumped BOY on his head with a Maximum Driver for the win. **3/4 


Ryu Fuda, who debuted in November 2021, returned to the ring for the first time since he suffered yet another injury in March. Despite being 18 months into his career, Fuda has only wrestled 82 career matches. He cannot seem to stay healthy, and as a result, guys like Kaito Nagano and Mochizuki Junior, who debuted after him, have surpassed him in the pecking order. 

This match, shockingly only 3 minutes in length, reaffirmed my belief that if he can win the health battle, that Fuda can still be a viable wrestler in this promotion. There is undeniable, natural talent within Fuda, and his interactions with contemporary ISHIN reminded me of just how good he could be. 

Yanagiuchi continues to be plucky, lovable, and awkward. He landed a spectacular dive onto everyone in this match, including the LEC Corporation boss, who was seated in the front row. 

ISHIN destroyed the aforementioned Yanagiuchi down the stretch, planting him with a Swinging Scrap Buster and ending the match before the four minute mark. Had this gone twice as long, I think this could’ve been borderline great. For what it was, it was a lot of fun. ***1/4 


This match was built around Shuji Kondo obliterating the knee of Yasushi Kanda ahead of their Open the Twin Gate match on June 2. This match was a large waste of time, but at least they accomplished their goal of weakening Kanda’s lower half before tomorrow’s main event. Unfortunately, there was still 10 minutes of so-so wrestling that we had to sit through. While I have no doubt that the Twin Gate match between Kanda, Susumu, Kondo, and Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Kenoh will kick ass, this match never found its groove. 

It’s very clear when Kondo is On and when he’s Off, and he was the only one truly On in this match. His career has been distinctly defined by times in which he could sink into something, and times in which he was being lazy. With a big match on the horizon, it was nice to see Kondo so motivated. 

They flipped M3K’s affinity for countouts around, with Kondo crippling Kanda to a point in which he couldn’t get back in the ring. At the count of 19, with every man on the floor, Kondo whipped his own partner, Problem Dragon, back in the ring to pick up the countout victory. It did not come across as clean as they would’ve liked. **3/4 


I’ve had to ask numerous times if I dreamt Big Boss Shimizu closing out last month’s Korakuen Hall show with a promo against the new Big 6. It turns out that did actually happen, but despite exiting last month with the idea that he’d be challenging for the Dream Gate belt soon, Shimizu has gone 3-10 since May 11, with his three wins being singles matches against Ho Ho Lun and Daiki Yanagiuchi, and a Triangle Gate win that was built around Kzy defeating BxB Hulk in their respective hometowns. 

In this match, his 10th loss over the last month, he was clearly outmatched by Ben-K. I’m baffled by this. 

Much like every other match on the show up to this point, despite having good combinations of wrestlers, this match failed to reach the level that you would expect it to. Ben-K pinned Shimizu with a spear in 13 minutes. ***


Finally, something worthwhile on this show! 

Perhaps it was aided by the dreck that preceded it, but the intensity that Skywalker and Strong Machine J brought forth in this match was enthralling. This felt so abstract within the confines of the pretty and polished Dragongate. The mask-ripping was reminiscent of something you’d see in Mexico, while the overall intensity of this match harkened back to a bygone era of pro wrestling. With every step that’s taken when these two share the ring with one another, they portray a real sense of hatred for one another. 

The second-generation star jumped Skywalker during his entrance and immediately began peppering the former Dream Gate Champion with hard strikes. As you’d expect, Skwyalker was able to fight back and before long, he was in control. I particularly enjoyed him stretching out SMJ with a Camel Clutch and unlacing the back of SMJ’s mask while the hold was applied. Great, logical spot from these two as they continue to unmask one another. 

SMJ once again looked terrific in his comeback, drilling Skywalker with a power slam and then firing up like a young, lovable babyface does. He went for the Machine Suplex, but Skywalker spun out and rolled him up, just like he did in March during their Dream Gate match. This time, however, SMJ kicked out. 

Unfortunately for SMJ, the Skywalker offensive onslaught continued. Skywalker drilled him with a Double Knee Moonsaultt, but that didn’t put away his fellow Big 6 contemporary. Normally, Skywalker would then go for an SSW, but he pivoted, merely tossing SMJ around with a modified back suplex and then connecting with another Double Knee Moonsault for the win. 

This accomplished everything it set out to do. Skywalker looked dominated, SMJ looked sympathetic, and their mask-based rivalry only heated up as a result of this match. ***3/4 

After the match, Skywalker ripped off SMJ’s mask and launched it into the crowd. This caused SMJ to challenge Skywalker to a mascara contra mascara match, which was accepted. However, Dragon Kid showed up with GM Ryo Saito and demanded Saito to play a video message from Ultimo Dragon. That message included an apology from Ultimo to Saito for not taking Diamante’s mask match challenge seriously, and he agreed to wrestle DIamante with his mask on the line. Skywalker proposed a tag with him and Diamante against Ultimo and SMJ, which Saito pondered. He said he’d need a day to think about it. This all sounds very messy, but it came across great. 


I’m immensely conflicted about this match. 

Let me get it out of the way that this match was great, and particularly the speed in which YAMATO and Kikuta moved around the ring towards the closing stretch blew me away. Kikuta starting his comeback, missing a hip attack in the corner, and then IMMEDIATELY getting drilled by YAMATO’s Go to Hospital II in the corner made me jump off of my couch. There’s simply no other company in the world with wrestlers moving this quick with this level of precision. 

That being said, did we not just announce that Kikuta is leading a new generation to the forefront of Dragongate? Why are they losing to YAMATO? Why did YAMATO need to win here? If your answer is, “well, they needed him to win because they were going to announce that he’s wrestling Hiromu Takahashi after this match” then you would be WRONG. They could’ve done that at intermission. They could’ve done that tomorrow. They could’ve done that after pinning Dragon Kid. This was an emphatic “one step forward, two steps back” moment for Dragongate. If you’re going to puff your chest about having a new era of wrestlers that are supposed to be your top dogs, they need to be your top dogs. YAMATO winning this main event felt like the last month was a waste of time, because YAMATO doesn’t need to win any more main events for the rest of his life. 

D’Courage outclassed the veterans trio from an in-ring perspective. Kikuta, arguably the best wrestler of 2023, looked brilliant. In an ideal world, he ends up defending the Dream Gate belt against all three of his opponents at some point. He had excellent chemistry with all of them.  

YAMATO received an unnecessary win, but he looked good doing it. He dropped Dragon Dia on his head with one Galleria, then after a kick out, won the match with a second one. It looked vicious, at least, even if the result made me want to choose violence. ****

Final Thoughts

Two monstrous announcements in King of Gate 2023 and YAMATO vs. Hiromu Takahashi at Kobe World shielded what was otherwise a show that emphasized the worst of Dragongate in 2023. Rainbow Gate 2023 was a frustrating exercise that could be skipped almost entirely.

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