SEPTEMBER 7, 2023
KORAKUEN HALL, TOKYO, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
KZY & STRONG MACHINE J DEF. BXB HULK & KOTA MINOURA
Sometimes you put good wrestlers in a match and they simply have a good match. That’s what we had here.
This match featured guys who are all sneaky-physical. Kzy, for having such a slim frame, knows how to pack a punch, Strong Machine J, as he continues to embrace his role as a heavyweight, knows how to slug it out, and Minoura and Hulk, despite their pretty boy personalities, hit extremely hard. This led to an opening tag match that featured guys hitting each other extremely hard, and I enjoyed every second of it.
It’s interesting watching Kota Minoura in this role. Last month, he won King of Gate and headlined a PPV. The “buzz” that surrounded him last month, but more importantly, the dark cloud that hung over him for a year after his embarrassing main event failure in 2022 is gone. Kota Minoura is now back to being, at worst, a net neutral on the roster. On most days, like this one, he’s an active net positive.
Right when it looked like Gold Class was going to pummel their way to victory, Strong Machine J grabbed Hulk and landed his signature suplex on him for the win. ***1/4
JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI, JASON LEE, & U-T DEF. KAGETORA, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & ULTIMO DRAGON
This was an unofficial 12th-anniversary celebration match for Punch Tominaga.
Once thought of as a forever rookie due to his many years spent training in the dojo. He entered the system in 2006 but did not debut until 2011. Over the years, Tominaga has stumbled into greatness, having shockingly compelling matches seemingly by accident. In August 2020, I decided to compile all of the great Punch Tominaga matches into one list.
- 11/19/11: Chihiro Tominaga, Gamma, & Shachihoko Machine vs. Kzy, Naoki Tanizaki, & Naruki Doi
- 8/1/13: Unit Dissolution & Loser Loses Mask Or Hair Five On Four Handicap 2 Count Rules: Akira Tozawa, BxB Hulk, Kzy, Mondai Ryu, & YAMATO vs. Chihiro Tominaga, Cyber Kong, Shingo Takagi & Super Shenlong
- 8/30/13: Eita, T-Hawk, U-T vs. Masato Yoshino, Ryotsu Shimizu, Chihiro Tominaga
- 7/3/14: Punch Perm contra Punch Perm Match: Kotoka vs. Chihiro Tominaga
- 8/7/14: No DQ Match: Punch Tominaga vs. CIMA
- 12/16/14: CIMA, Kenichiro Arai, Punch Tominaga, Yosuke Santa Maria & Yuga Hayashi vs. Jimmy Kanda, Ryo Jimmy Saito, Don Fujii, Gamma & Syachihoko BOY
- 8/16/15: Akira Tozawa vs. Super Shisa vs. Punch Tominaga
- 3/8/17: CIMA, Dragon Kid, Eita, Takehiro Yamamura, & Naruki Doi vs. Shingo Takagi, T-Hawk, El Lindaman, Mondai Ryu, & Punch Tominaga
- 9/18/17 VerserK vs Jimmyz Disbands Match: El Lindaman, Shingo Takagi, T-Hawk, Takashi Yoshida, & Punch Tominaga vs. Genki Horiguchi, Jimmy Kanda, Jimmy Kness J.K.S., Jimmy Susumu, & Ryo Jimmy Saito
- 6/1/18: Ryo Saito, Don Fujii, & K-Ness vs. Kzy, Susumu Yokosuka, & Punch Tominaga
- 8/7/18: Willie Mack, Don Fujii, & Ryo Saito vs. Kzy, Genki Horiguchi, & Punch Tominaga
- 9/24/18: Ben-K, Big R Shimizu, Kazma Sakamoto, Takashi Yoshida, & Yasushi Kanda vs. Kzy, Genki Horiguchi, Susumu Yokosuka, “Brother” YASSHI, & Punch Tominaga
- 8/9/20: Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi vs. Jason Lee & Punch Tominaga
Unfortunately, this six-man tag cannot be added to the list, but I mention the list of great Punch matches because he may very well have been the most entertaining guy in this match. He nearly pinned Kamei a handful of times with his “innovative” offense and genuinely showed excellent charisma down the finishing stretch of the match, but Kamei was too much for Dragongate’s clumsiest roster member. Kamei put him away with a Torbellino and a Crucifix pin for the win. ***
DON FUJII DEF. KONOMAMA ICHIKAWA, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI
If you didn’t like this, you need to look in the mirror. This was harmless, comedic fun between three of the best to ever do it. NR
HYO, ISHIN, & KAI DEF. DAIKI YANAGIUCHI, RYU FUDA, & SHUJI KONDO
Dragongate missed an opportunity here.
What exactly they missed can be debated and is ultimately up to the viewer as to what direction they’d like Ryu Fuda to go in, but this match should’ve been a springboard for Fuda. The two-year pro only recently picked up the first win of his career in Kobe on August 26. With his hometown show coming up next month, this seemed like the perfect place for Fuda to go down one of two roads:
- Pin ISHIN, challenge him for the Open the Brave Gate Championship in his hometown
- Get pinned by Z-Brats and get lured into joining Z-Brats
Instead, what they did was nothing. That isn’t inherently bad, but I think everyone was ready for Fuda, who despite all of his setbacks, still shows worlds of potential, to leap into something new.
Yanagiuchi, the Korakuen Hall employee-turned-Dragongate wrestler, continues to look better every time I see him. His gear has improved, his overall look has impressed, and he continues to excel at having underdog charisma. I thought he stole the show.
In the end, Fuda wasn’t even involved in the finish. HYO pinned Yanagiuchi, capping off a fun match between the heels and some rookie underdogs. ***1/4
EITA, NARUKI DOI, & TAKASHI YOSHIDA DEF. MOCHIZUKI JUNIOR, SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI, & YASUSHI KANDA
Most of the match was built around everyone trying to pin Naruki Doi, including his teammates, to win the DDT Ironman Championship.
Maybe one day, Eita will recommit himself to DG and we’ll be able to watch him and Mochizuki Junior rip each other apart. The preview that we got here was fun, albeit fleeting. It was just a painful reminder that Eita is a star and yet he remains on cruise control. Both he and Doi are on part-time deals (the structure of the deals is different, but their schedule is roughly the same) and yet DG gets far more out of Doi than they do Eita. Doi was a Triangle Gate Champion. He was in Rey de Parejas. He feels like someone that still matters to the core of the promotion. Eita, who has all of the support in the world from the fanbase, clocks in and then very quickly clocks out. This can’t be the best use of him.
He tapped out Mochizuki Junior in the low point of the show. **3/4
BIG BOSS SHIMIZU DEF. BEN-K
Big Boss Shimizu is quietly having one of the best years of anyone in Japan.
Registering his 13th match for me this year at 4 stars or higher, Shimizu continues to live up to the potential that I’ve always known he was capable of. For years, he spent time as a degenerate heel or a lovable comedy character, with his peak being the second guy of note on a Twin Gate team, but 2023 Shimizu wrestles like someone with something to prove. He wrestles like a main eventer, someone who could headline any one of Dragongate’s big shows.
To quickly summarize why he’s on such a mission: Dream Gate Champion Madoka Kikuta anointed himself, Ben-K, Kota Minoura, Shun Skywalker, Strong Machine J, and Yuki Yoshioka the Reiwa 6 Generation at Dead or Alive and announced that they would be leading the company going forward. Shimizu, who is their elder, but not a part of say, YAMATO & Kzy’s generation, took exception to this, and since has been out to get the Reiwa 6.
In King of Gate, he blew past Skywalker and Kikuta before losing to Minoura in the finals. Now he’s set his sights on the wrestlers he didn’t get to face in the tournament, starting with his former partner in Ben-K.
Between these two, they’re two-time Twin Gate Champions and a one-time Triangle Gate Champion team with Naruki Doi. With their single series tied at 1-1 and their last encounter coming in 2018, there was a lot of history behind this encounter.
I found it fascinating how dominant Ben-K was in the early going. This match had a very deliberate, very slow pacing to it in the early goings. It wasn’t akin to a big Dream Gate match, which is built on old school, big building IWGP Heavyweight Championship pacing. This was Ben thwarting any attempt at Shimizu offense and overpowering his fellow big man at every step of the way.
It’s easy for two big men like this to look very physical in their approach, possibly due to lack of control or just because of the way our minds play with size, but Shimizu and Ben beat the piss out of each other. I’m particularly fond of the spot in which Shimizu, on the floor, launched himself at Ben-K, who was standing in front of the steel post. Ben ducked, which sent the Osaka native into the post, then as he was stumbling around, was met with a spear just outside of the ring. All of this sounded, looked, and felt very violent.
The Natural Vibes big man found it within him to fire back, even after a pair of Germans that sent Shimizu crashing onto his head. A flurry of offense suddenly put Ben in danger, flipping the match on a moment’s notice. Ben barely kicked out of a Big Boss Press, but that high-impact maneuver signaled the end of the Gold Class standout.
Shimizu’s initial attempt at a Shot-Put Slam was countered into a spear, but that didn’t stop Shimizu. A second attempt at a spear was then countered into a Shot-Put, and after the arching chokeslam sent Ben to the mat, it was over. Shimizu defeated his former tag team partner and more importantly, a member of the Reiwa 6.
You couldn’t ask for a more on-brand match between the two. What you’d hope for is exactly what you got. Shimizu looks like a world-beater and someone that should genuinely contend for and possibly beat Madoka Kikuta for his Dream Gate Championship.
If you liked what Powerhouse Hobbs and Miro did at All Out, this was an even better version of that match. Give it a look. ****1/4
Next in the Shimizu vs Reiwa Generation Leaders match series is Strong Machine J his unit mate!
— Sondre Bjørn #Utami5Star (@SondreBjorn) September 7, 2023
TAKUMA NISHIKAWA’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN MATCH
DRAGON KID, TAKUMA NISHIKAWA, & YAMATO DEF. DRAGON DIA, MADOKA KIKUTA, & YUKI YOSHIOKA
This debut will be etched into the history of Dragongate forever.
Takuma Nishikawa, a college baseball prospect-turned Dragongate wrestler, spent the last year of his life living and training in Mexico and slumming it up on the lucha libre indie scene. Citing Ricochet as his biggest influence, the six-foot (183cm) tall, 26-year-old, has a rare combination of height and aerial ability that could make him a force in Dragongate. In his first match in his home country, it became apparent that Nishikawa already carries himself like an alpha when surrounded by Dragongate’s biggest alphas.
I was aware of the excitement people within Dragongate had about Nishikawa. He’s received a great deal of hype behind the scenes. I was not prepared for the overwhelming support from the Korakuen Hall faithful, however. Nishikawa’s entrance, in which he came out to YAMATO’s music but followed by YAMATO and Dragon Kid out of the curtain, was a moment. It will be a forever memory. I’ve never seen an audience gravitate towards a debuting wrestler like this in any promotion.
What happened here was incredible.
After brief forays from Dragon Dia and Dragon Kid and YAMATO and Yuki Yoshioka, Nishikawa began his in-ring career against the current Open the Dream Gate Champion. The rookie quickly landed a dropkick, then flung himself to the floor with a tope suicida that wiped out Kikuta, Mochizuki Junior, and the boss of the LEC Corporation who was seated in the front row.
They couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Immediately, everything that Nishikawa was promised to be was apparent. Whereas fellow rookie big man Yoshiki Kato plans on using his power and strength to elevate himself to the top of the card, Nishikawa is a high-flyer, a junior heavyweight in a heavyweight body.
Throughout the match, Nishikawa reverted back and forth between swanky lucha submissions and high-impact offense more akin to the company house style. It was an all-inclusive look at the different things that Nishikawa can do.
The match peaked with Kikuta and Nishikawa once again in the ring, squaring off, and throwing bombs at one another. The Dream Gate Champion was hit with an overhand chop that echoed throughout the building and forced me to audibly gasp. The champion quickly responded with a hip attack, but that didn’t halt the pursuit of the rookie.
Alone with Dragon Dia, Nishikawa continued his impressive display of offense, capping off a sequence with a superkick before Korakuen Hall erupted in “TA-KU-MA” chants. His finish, dubbed the Limit Bomb, was able to put Dia away upon impact.
All eyes were on Takuma Nishikawa, and he couldn’t have been more impressive. ****
— Sondre Bjørn #Utami5Star (@SondreBjorn) September 7, 2023
— Sondre Bjørn #Utami5Star (@SondreBjorn) September 7, 2023
After the match, Nishikawa took the microphone and questioned if that was all that Dragongate had to offer, which prompted gasps from the audience. YAMATO and Kikuta immediately confronted the rookie over his statement. Nishikawa continued, saying that in a match with the current Dream Gate Champion and a five-time Dream Gate Champion, that he was disappointed that he was the one that won. This brought out Z-Brats, who quickly attempted to court the phenom. Nishikawa shooed them away, as well, and then continued his claim that the competition in Dragongate was weak and that going forward, he would revolutionize the company.
He closed by rebranding himself and announcing that going forward, he would go by T.N. Revolución.
The debut of T.N. Revolución could end up going down as one of the most important moments in the history of the company. That’s how high the stakes are for him going forward. Dragongate took a monumental risk and they stuck the landing. The problem is, now they have to follow up. Thumbs up for Storm Gate 2023 based off the strength of the final two matches.
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