JUNE 2, 2023

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


Despite what turned into a so-so set of shows for the company, both Don Fujii vs. rookie tags delivered to the degree that you’d hope. This show began with a shock, as Daiki Yanagiuchi, the Korakuen Hall employee-turned Dragongate rookie, flung himself onto Fujii during his entrance. Yanagiuchi is quickly becoming known for his gorgeous, death-defying dives. 

He’s also gaining a reputation for being nearly crippled by Don Fujii’s Indian Deathlock. 

Yet again, after the veterans gained control and took over the match from the young upstarts, Fujii nearly broke Yanagiuchi’s lower half in two with a vicious, unforgiving application of the submission. Fortunately for his growth, he survived the submission. Unfortunately for him, there was more on the horizon. 

Dragongate’s newest rookie, Ryoya Tanaka, who debuted in Osaka at the end of May, once again had a rough-around-the-edges, albeit exciting performance. In both matches, he attempted to do a sort of twisted Lionsault. In his first match, he overshot the target. This time, he under-rotated. 

I assumed Tanaka would be the one eating the pinfall in this encounter, but Yanagiuchi was nearly murdered with a buzzsaw kick from Mochizuki to end the bout. ***


Come for Jason Lee burying everyone under the sun on English commentary, and stay for U-T getting his first win since returning from injury at Dead or Alive. **1/2  


La Estrella’s return to Japan has been a mixed bag. Still far from a perfect wrestler, or even one with the usual polish of a standout Dragongate pro, most of Estrella’s matches have been fine on the surface. They exist, the match is good enough, and then life moves on. Each outing, including his Brave Gate conquest against Jason Lee (in which Lee carried him to the best singles match of his career), I’ve left the match still with a giant question mark hanging over Estrella’s head. What is he? What does the next year look like? Where is he in five years? Nothing about Estrella’s career or potential ever feels like it’s clear. 

This match, however, was perhaps the best singular Estrella performance he’s had in a singles match. With the help of Kagetora’s eclectic offense, Estrella put forth his best combination of both high-flying and grappling, the latter of which he’s been doing more and more of as of late. 

Kagetora got the win after a super engaging series of flash pins. This loss, however, made me excited about Estrella’s future. ***1/4 


Until Eita takes on another role in Dragongate or exits the company for good, I can’t help but mention how disgustingly over he is for a guy who, at this time, is doing absolutely nothing consequential for the company. 

This was a lot of Takashi Yoshida and not a lot of Eita or YAMATO, which tells you everything you need to know about this match. Yoshida ate a First Flash from Hulk for the win. ***


In what could possibly be the only “true” build to Kobe World, current Dream Gate Champion Madoka Kikuta squared off against his opponent and unit-mate Yuki Yoshioka in a very good tag match to close out the show’s first half. I like the way they’re presenting these two as opponents. Normally, you wouldn’t see this many reversals and counters in a “road to” match, but for the last ten months these two have traveled the country with one another, teaming against Dragongate’s best. It makes sense that they know each other’s big moves, and it makes sense that they know counters to said big moves. 

Yoshioka, who has taken a number of falls this year, notably alongside Kikuta in Rey de Parejas, was heated up as he planted Dragon Kid with a powerbomb and then pinned him following a picture-perfect Frog Splash. 

I hope we get more interactions between Kikuta and Yoshioka, but if we don’t, this still set the table for what should be an epic Kobe World main event. ***3/4 


It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed Natural Vibes and Z-Brats were headed down a path that could only end with a Losing Unit Disbands match. Instead, the company changed course and mercifully put High-End to an end. Thanks to the ongoing feud between masked men Shun Skywalker and Strong Machine J, the units have once again reshifted their focus towards one another, and as a result, we get gems like this. 

After some initial crowd brawling, the match focused on Skywalker and SMJ, who followed up on yesterday’s performance with an even better outing. Skywalker was vicious, at times gunning only for the mask of SMJ, and at other times, for instance, launching Jacky “Funky” Kamei with a monkey flip towards Kzy and SMJ. Skywalker’s post-Dream Gate run has been incredible. He’s now been a featured, main event player for two-and-a-half years, and he has never once been stale. He won the Dream Gate belt, put forth an excellent reign, then began descending into madness before eventually turning on Masquerade and forming Z-Brats. He and Diamante created a ton of buzz as a tag team before Skywalker set sail in North America in the latter half of 2022. When he came back, he was ready to be champion again. He hasn’t been “cycled down” like a lot of acts. Skywalker has and continues to be a massive focal point for the promotion, and they’re better off as a result. 

A SMJ lariat took both men to the floor, leaving Diamante and Kamei to fight it out for their respective units. Unfortunately for Kamei, that meant quickly succumbing to a Vuelta Finale, which gave Z-Brats an emphatic victory. 

This was all-action and all-hatred. It hit on the fast-paced, high-impact pacing that you’d want from Dragongate, but had the added boost of having a blood feud intertwined throughout the match. This is well worth your time. ****1/4 

After the match, GM Ryo Saito came to the ring to give his decision on a possible mask vs. mask match between Shun Skywalker and Strong Machine J, as well as the impending mask match between Diamante and Ultimo Dragon. Saito, not one to do things the traditional way, decided that there wouldn’t be two singles matches or one tag match at Kobe World, but rather a four-way cage match with all masks on the line.  


Kongo’s Kenoh & Shuji Kondo failed to make their second successful defense of the Open the Twin Gate Championship with this loss. This is his eighth Twin Gate reign for Mochizuki, firmly establishing him with the third most of all-time behind YAMATO and BxB Hulk, respectively. This is Kanda’s first reign with the title. It marks the first time this pairing has held tag team title belts together since they were IWRG Intercontinental Tag Team Champions from January-March 2000. 

Earlier this year, I spoke with Alan4L on his ProWres Paradise podcast about the lengthy and consistent career of Susumu Mochizuki. We gushed about his singles success and his matches with the likes of Shingo Takagi and Masaaki Mochizuki, and we raved about his infamous tag teams with names like Ryo Saito and Kagetora. No matter what stage of his career he’s been in, Susumu Mochizuki has always seemed to deliver awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping tag work. For nearly every partnership he’s had, from Knesuka to his work with Big Boss Shimizu, there’s been an iconic match to go along with it. 

That is, except for his tag team with Yasushi Kanda. 

Despite being Mochizuki’s earlier tag team partner and then later linking up with Mochizuki (and friends) as a part of The Jimmyz, it never felt like the pairing had an iconic moment. They merely existed, something that has long been a theme of Kanda’s career. 

A member of the second Toryumon class, Kanda began his career in 1998, straight out of high school in Mexico alongside Genki Horiguchi, Kenichiro Arai, and Stalker Ichikawa. Soon after, Susumu Mochizuki joined the fray. 

Kanda began 1999 by wrestling in the first ever Toryumon (Japan) match against Genki Horiguchi and closed the year by winning Toryumon Mexico’s Young Dragons Cup, a tournament which has been won by the likes of Magnum TOKYO, Milano Collection AT, and even Kazuchika Okada. To start the new millennium, he and Susumu Mochizuki became an unstoppable wrecking crew, capturing gold in IWRG and winning Toryumon Mexico’s premier tag team tournament, the Yamaha Cup. By the summer, with Masaaki Mochizuki at the helm and Susumu Mochizuki by Kanda’s side, the original M2K was formed, and Toryumon would never be the same. 

Although the original trio never held gold together, Kanda and (Susumu) Mochizuki won the UWA World Trios Championships with Darkness Dragon in July 2001. 

Three months later, he suffered an injury that forced him into an early retirement. 

An errant Beach Break from Genki Horiguchi displaced his neck vertebrae. At only 23 years old, Kanda’s career was effectively over. 

He would officially retire in a comedy match against classmate Stalker Ichikawa a year later before beginning a career as both a referee and within the office of Dragongate. Despite no longer having an active presence in the ring, Kanda remained a fixture in the promotion. 

In August 2005, with permission from his doctor, the Chiba-native began training for a return. He was given a golden opportunity on March 17, 2006, when he made his return to the ring alongside his original M2K comrades against CIMA, Don Fujii, and Shingo Takagi in Blood Generation in a thrilling match based around Kanda’s sore neck. By July 2006, he was back in the ring on a full-time basis. 

Kanda’s career has had its shares of ups and downs during its second phase. He’s played a prominent role in “infamous” units like ANTIAS and Deep Drunkers, but has also been a worthwhile addition to groups like Blood Warriors and The Jimmyz. 

The last year of his career has been dedicated to M3K (they formed June 3, 2022), and at no point has Kanda stuck out as a sour additive next to his longtime contemporaries in Masaaki and Susumu Mochizuki, even if the group as a whole is far more enjoyable when Mochizuki Junior is the one in focus. 

It was shocking when Kanda & Susumu, now 44 and 45, respectively, made their way to Dragongate’s Rey de Parajes finals earlier this year, and it was even more shocking when they put forth a Match of the Year Contender against now-Dream Gate Champion Madoka Kikuta and his Kobe World opponent, Yuki Yoshioka. Most shocking of all, reviewer Mike Spears said it was, “the best Yasushi Kanda match in years.”

One MOTYC for Kanda was more than he’d had in a very long time. That seemed like a win for everyone involved. 

Even with that match under his belt, the M3K headlines still turned their attention to the father-son duo of Masaaki Mochizuki and Mochizuki Junior, who had started putting forth a true Tag Team of the Year case that was worth mentioning in the same breath as an Aussie Open or Bishimon. 

Three months after his best match in possibly a decade, Kanda doubled down. With the Twin Gate belts on the line in front of 1,000 fans in Korakuen Hall, Yasushi Kanda had the best match of his life. 

In my review for the June 1 Korakuen Hall show, I remarked during a six-man tag between the old man crew of M3K and Kondo’s low-life job squad that the match accomplished its goal because it set up the Twin Gate match by way of Kondo obliterating Kanda’s knee. I continued by saying, “I have no doubt that the Twin Gate match between Kanda, Susumu, Kondo, and Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Kenoh will kick ass…” but I never would’ve imagined the match soared to the heights that it did. 

After a brief grappling exchange between Mochizuki and Kondo, their respective partners were tagged in. One kick to the knee from Kenoh to Kanda set the tone for the rest of the match. It became very clear that this affair wasn’t just M3K vs. Kongo, but Kanda’s health vs. Kanda’s brain. How much would he be willing to sacrifice to secure a title that has eluded him for so long? 

That kick sent Kanda to the floor, leaving Mochizuki to fight in a two-on-one situation for an extended period of time. Never one to forget, Kenoh halted a possible Kanda comeback when he executed his signature double foot stomp from the apron to the Korakuen Hall floor with Kanda’s knee absorbing all of the impact. Moments later, when Mochizuki finally had a chance to escape the attack of Kondo with a tag, Kanda was nowhere to be found. 

A second attempt at a Kanda comeback was thwarted after he reached the apron and was met with a diving kick at his knee from Kondo. Finally, on his third try to get back in the match, he received a hot tag from Mochizuki and had a moment to run wild. With an assist from his partner, he took the big man down with his signature John Woo kick. 

Both Kanda and Kondo hit the sidelines as Kenoh and Mochizuki began trading their best strikes, specifically at the same time as Kenoh’s kicks were met with Mochizuki’s lariats. It’s an exchange that was eventually won by Kenoh, who rolled Mochizuki into a deadly ankle lock. With it synched in the middle of the ring, all hope appeared to be gone for M3K. That is until Kanda once again entered the fray, this time coming off of the top rope with his Gekokujoh Elbow. 

That spot right there took this match to a new level. 

The Elbow wasn’t enough to get the match done, but it gave M3K a sign of life. Even with a bad knee, Kanda ascended to the top yet again and came down on Kenoh with his rarely used Tornado de Acapulco. Although he barely hit it, merely seeing it in action was a sight to behold. Before he could make the pin, however, Kondo was back in the ring, clubbing away at the injured knee with a King Kong Lariat down low. 

Kondo’s targeted attack put him, and the NOAH import back in control. Much like he had down to Mochizuki earlier, Kenoh slid his way into a deadly ankle lock on Kanda, targeting, of course, the bad knee. As Kanda began wiggling out of danger, he found himself upside, eating a spear from Kondo. Neither myself, nor Dragongate Jae on commentary had ever seen anything like this. Not only was this match a perfect use of Kanda, but really, it was an all-time great Shuji Kondo performance. He was a wrecking ball for 17 minutes straight. 

With the help of his partner, Kanda was able to survive that onslaught and soon found himself back at it against the giant. 

He nearly won with his Candy Magic small package, but that wasn’t enough to keep the big man down. In vintage M2K/M3K fashion, Mochizuki then slid in a blue box to attempt to give his team the edge. Bad idea. Kanda held the box up and ate a King Kong Lariat as a result. This paved the way for Kondo to lock his longtime Toryumon contemporary in the Gorilla Clutch. Kanda crawled and crawled towards the ropes, and right when it looked like he was about to grab the bottom rope, Kenoh kicked his hand away and Kondo dragged him back towards the middle of the ring. 

Seemingly out of nowhere, that gave Kanda the chance to flip the hold and roll Kondo up for the win. A long, epic match ended in a flash, and it couldn’t have come across any better. 

Yasushi Kanda survived a war. His knee was violently targeted by Kondo and Kenoh, and at every turn, he found a way to survive. At times, it was due to the help of his on-again-off-again partner for nearly 25 years in Susumu Mochizuki. Other times, Kanda’s brain overtook his body. He survived a cruel amount of punishment, and in the end, came out the victor. 

This is the single best Yasushi Kanda match of all time and one of the best matches of 2023. Seek it out immediately. ****3/4 

Final Thoughts

Words only do so much justice in regards to the main event. The final two matches of Dragongate’s second Rainbow Gate outing are well worth your time, but it is the main event that is a “drop everything and watch this” sort of match. Yasushi Kanda will never be this good again.

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