AUGUST 20, 2023

Watch: Dragon Gate Network


This was the first of many things that did not go right this evening. 

While not a bad match by any means, it was a notably rough outing for Kaito Nagano, who was celebrating his first anniversary within the company. There’s a version of this match that is full of wild dives, fast-paced sequences, and excitement, but they chose to go in another direction. After a seemingly endless heat segment on Daiki Yanaiguchi (who has new, stylish gear), the rookie made the tag to Nagano, who fumbled around the ring and slipped on a dive directed at Big Boss Shimizu. Is it the end of the world? Absolutely not. But I couldn’t help but feel while watching this match that this should’ve been better, and unfortunately, that thought stuck with me throughout most of this show. 

In the end, Shimizu squished Yanagiuchi with the Big Boss Press for the win. **3/4  


Normally matches like this, which Open the Voice Gate has dubbed the “touch football” match of the night, are light-hearted affairs that are fun and inoffensive. They’re skippable, but you don’t feel like you wasted your time watching them. Unfortunately, every once in a while, the touch football match isn’t as fun as you’d like it to be. This wasn’t a fun match. It existed. It felt like a waste of time. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Ultimo Dragon pinned Punch Tominaga. **1/4 


This win marks the first successful defense of ISHIN’s Open the Brave Gate Championship Match. 

Voices of Wrestling recently published a list of the 30 best wrestlers under 30. The list, which featured a panel of 22 voters, largely lined up with my thoughts. Names like Kaito Kiyomiya and Rhea Ripley were ranked too high while names like Jacky “Funky” Kamei and Nick Wayne did not do as well as I think they should’ve. The crime in the final rankings, however, were targeted towards Mochizuki Junior. One year from now, if we look back at this list, I think we will all feel foolish for not having Junior ranked in the top-half of the list (I voted Junior #11). 

He is otherworldly. Junior, having only wrestled for 14 months, possesses charisma, timing, and ability that some wrestlers will simply never have. The second-generation star has been a constant source of entertainment since he walked into the promotion last June. This was his highest-profile singles match to date and he was marvelous in his performance. 

ISHIN, wrestling’s first supernova and another second-generation star, has not been kind to Junior. They briefly teamed last year in a long-term story that led to ISHIN turning heel on M3K and joining Z-Brats. Since he turned heel, the two have largely been kept apart, but they reignited the best feud of last year in a matter of moments in this match. 

Junior jumped ISHIN early, landing a big strike early that sent the champion to the floor. Junior, in an act that shocked everyone, launched over the top rope with a Fosbury Flop-type dive that sent his knees crashing into the skull of ISHIN. This was violent, reckless, and thrilling. 

The only thing that prevented this match from being great – “notebook-worthy”, if you will – is that the middle of the match wasn’t all there. They showed their lack of experience there. The match started off hot and finished with a bang, but the journey to the destination was not always the smoothest. 

After some murkiness and a series of big kickouts from their respective big moves, ISHIN locked Junior in the Death Penalty choke and forced the youngster to submit. 

I loved how physical all of this was. It was ugly, largely in the right way, and the result was satisfying while still leaving room on the table for more in the future. ***3/4 


Tomohiro Ishii was back in the Dragon System for the first time since 2001

Similar to the YAMATO vs. Hiromu Takahashi match from Kobe World 2023, this “dream match” didn’t live up to its potential. While not bad by any means, this match fell victim to what I thought was a dire atmosphere. Having Ishii in Dragongate facing off against their brightest young stars should’ve felt like a giant deal, but it didn’t. The simplistic way of viewing this match would be to place the blame on the youngsters. In an ideal world, whether it be Ben, SMJ, or Yoshioka, at least one of them would possess the charisma to get the crowd invested in this match. I think, however, Dragongate’s Reiwa Six has proven they can do that. This was a crowd that could not be won over. 

Ishii and Ben-K did what you’d want them to do. Their main sequence together, which was full of hard shoulder blocks and aggressive strikes, was easily the highlight of this match. 

I do love what Dragongate did with the finish. Instead of giving Ishii the win, which would’ve ultimately been useless, the finish saw Masaaki Mochizuki eat the pinfall from his former pupil, Yuki Yoshioka. Hopefully, a Mochizuki/Yoshioka program delivers more than this match did. ***1/4 


This is more like it. 

I’ve found this incarnation of YAMATO, in a year where he’s deliberately stepped away from Dragongate’s main event scene and unit battles, to be the most interesting YAMATO has been in years. Even if his look and presentation are roughly the same as they have been over the last seven years, he’s putting himself in environments that are new to him. It was a joy watching YAMATO work with his former tag team partner Naruki Doi in Rey de Parejas this year. It was exciting seeing YAMATO tangle with Hiromu Takahashi in what felt like a huge match. Having the opportunity to wrestle longtime Michinoku Pro standout Fujita “Jr” Hayato is the kind of stuff that I love seeing YAMATO do. 

I have always said that I enjoy mat wrestling, I just don’t like boring wrestlers. YAMATO and Hayato put forth a grappling clinic for 19:05. These were two world-class wrestlers excelling at their craft. I was enthralled with the way that YAMATO worked this match. He chipped away at the knees of Hayato, trying to cut off the barrage of kicks that the current Lidet UWF Champion specializes in. Every Hayato kick looked so powerful, even after the leg attacks began, that it seemed to hurt both competitors. This was so gritty and such an unusual detachment from the Dragongate house-style. It made me wish YAMATO was put in more environments like this. He would’ve been a much more exciting choice for Pro Wrestling NOAH’s N-1 than Yuki Yoshioka. 

My favorite spot of the match came when YAMATO was locked in the KID Choke. The five-time Dream Gate Champion looked like he was about to pass out, but then while in the hold, he picked Hayato’s ankles and applied pressure with a modified leg-lock, swinging the match’s momentum in his favor. He did something very similar when he wrestled Fred Yehi in AAW last year and it was equally as brilliant. 

Hayato never recovered from the choke counter. YAMATO plastered him with three hard kicks to the head shortly after. He landed the Galleria, but Hayato kicked out, to the surprise of everyone. He was no match, however, for the Sleeper Hold that put the match away. 

Everything about this was great, from the in-ring action, to the story that was told, to Jae and Ho Ho Lun on English commentary, who did a marvelous job of describing Hayato’s backstory. On a show that didn’t feel a lot like the lovable Dragongate, this was a piece of art from beginning to end that I could easily love. ****1/4 


This was the third successful defense for the M3K pairing of Susumu Mochizuki & Yasushi Kanda. 

I don’t know how to write about this match. Rarely, in all my years of writing about Dragongate, does that happen, but this one stumped me. There was a great match in here, but at 22:48, this was far too bloated to have any real impact on me. 

The bloat came from Z-Brats, down to only three members with Shun Skywalker in America, and two of whom were in this match. ISHIN ran interference on the outside for nearly the entire match. There was a table, protein powder attacks, duct tape, chairs, and box attacks. It was all too much because none of it really landed. I didn’t think Z-Brats were evil as much as they were annoying, and neither the Natural Vibes duo, nor the M3K team, showed enough fire to make me care about them overcoming the odds. 

Kamei and Lee were bounced from the match after HYO rolled up Kamei while Lee was duct taped to the ropes. That spot worked once in the build to this match; I’m now very tired of it. That left M3K and Z-Brats to duke it out in a plunder-filled environment. The peak of the match, to me, was when Junior and Masaaki Mochizuki ran in to thwart Z-Brats. The original heels, M3K, gave Z-Brats a taste of their own medicine and won after a blue box attack and powder throw on HYO. 

There was a great match in here somewhere, but this was not great. ***1/4 


This win marks the second successful defense of Madoka Kikuta’s Open the Dream Gate Championship. 

For Madoka Kikuta, it was all about the chase. 

Kikuta could do no wrong for ten months. From August 2022-May 2023, Kikuta was the perfect wrestler. He rehabbed a career that was going nowhere and turned himself into the top dog. No one – and I mean no one – could’ve predicted that this was where Kikuta was going to be at this time last year. He made every right move along the way and it earned him a Dream Gate run. The problem for Kikuta is that his story, his moment, and his momentum, all peaked when he won the Dream Gate Championship. 

This has not been a bad run for Kikuta, but it’s a far cry from the work he was doing leading up to his eventual title win. This match with Minoura, much like his Kobe World defense against Yuki Yoshioka, was good, but it needed to be great. When Kikuta was building himself up, he was often the most talked about entity after the show. He was stealing the spotlight and stealing headlines. Now, he’s having that done to him. He’s not delivering in these main events in the way that he needs to, and I’m now fully of the belief that he either needs to undergo a dramatic character change, or the belt needs to be taken off of him. 

I do not think Kikuta is doing active harm as champion, but he’s now in a spot where he’s not making the company better. I do not think of him as a failure, and I think he will eventually get another shot with the belt and I’m all for that, but he’s now past his peak in this incarnation of his career. 

These guys tried so hard, but it just didn’t work. Minoura, who had been jumping off the screen in the build to this match, fell flat. Kikuta didn’t look like a captain who could lead soldiers into war. This came across like two B+ guys drowning in an A+ spot. 

Minoura put up a good fight, but eventually fell to Kikuta’s Discuss Lariat. ***1/2 

Final Thoughts

Dangerous Gate 2023 did not feel like a Dragongate show. It came across as a flat, uninspired show with a crowd that wouldn’t react to the return of Jesus Christ. After a strong outing at Dead or Alive and a terrific Kobe World earlier this year, Dragongate has now chalked up a massively disappointing big show as they head into their hottest season of the year.

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