OCTOBER 5, 2023

WATCH: Dragongate.live

After a particularly dissatisfying September, Dragongate kicks off their busy October with the third Buyuden show of the year. Buyuden is Masaaki Mochizuki’s independently-minded series of produce shows that originally existed from 2007 until 2012. Partially in Dragon System continuity (this year has featured several Open The Twin Gate matchups and a revitalization of the Owarai Gate comedy continuity) and partially not (the infamous Danshoku Dino vs Akira Tozawa match from the first ever Buyuden show), Mochizuki shapes Buyuden somewhat in his image: hard-hitting, tight grappling and nearly a throwback to his WAR Bukoh Dojo days. During Buyuden’s initial run, Dragon Gate (as it was spelt at the time) was in and out of relationships with other promotions. We’d might get say DGUSA stuff on main Dragon Gate shows and of course invading title challengers, but that was incorporating them in a DG context. Buyuden lets it all hang out and you get what you dream about when you think about “if Minorita and YAMATO have this mixed martial arts background, then why don’t we see them face someone in that context.”

Late last year, Mochizuki along with LEC President Takaki Nagamori announced the revival of Buyuden calling it Buyuden Zero this go around. It’s become unofficially a quarterly enterprise. Dragongate’s entering the last quarter of their year hobbled by injuries and questionable booking, so one hopes that some Mocchy-led hot fighting starts their October the right way.

Kagetora & Hikaru Sato def. Punch Tominaga & Ryo Kawamura 

Kagetora and Sato won via knockout after a Sato headbutt on Punch.

Punch Tominaga is a confounding person. All of his popularity is in contrast to his ability: His career might end with his best match being his debut match. However when put into a context outside of Dragon System Lucharesu, there’s a better showcase of his abilities. We’ve known for almost fifteen years that Punch Tominaga is an objectively bad Lucharesu wrestler, but guess what? In Buyuden Punch was able to keep up with former Pancrase star Hikaru Sato because Punch can scrap. It’s just contexts and lenses of which we put these wrestlers in where we can evaluate one person in completely different fashions.

Kagetora was a late addition for the injured Ryu Fuda. Kagetora, in more of the technical bully mode that we see him, fits the Buyuden model well (and it’s got an Michinoku Pro connection where he’s currently tag champion). The shame is that for someone like Ryu Fuda, Buyuden would have been a great fit and provided him momentum heading into his still scheduled Brave Gate challenge against ISHIN on Monday.

I rarely enjoy a “straight” Punch Tominaga match in 2023, but this one was a bunch of fun **3/4 

Open The Owarai Gate Championship
Lingerie Mutoh def. Kikutaro (c)

Due to the special rule set of the Owarai Gate, Mutoh became the 33rd Open The Owarai Gate champion by crowd approval (second since its revival) even though it was a double knockout finish. 

Although we were promised Ippanjin Munenori Sawa, Lingerie Mutoh took the match in his place. Shinjuku FACE was delighted by this card change, and it probably made a lot more sense to have the comedy character in for the comedy belt. They based the match on riffing on Keiji Mutoh’s knees, which worked and the crowd was into it. I’m interested in more Lingerie Mutoh in this promotion than Kikutaro, so even if the comedy didn’t land the way that Stalker Ichikawa comedy lands with me, I can appreciate the crowd’s decision. NR

Mochizuki Jr., Yoshiki Kato & Ryoya Tanaka Vs. Kai Fujimura, Taishi Ozawa & Yu Owada – Draw

Fifteen minutes wasn’t enough between the rookies representing the FUTURE project and the Ark.

Out of the initial faceoffs, there was immediate and overwhelming chemistry between Kato and Ozawa. Kato sometimes feels like the large heavyweight square peg in Dragongate’s much more refined star-shaped hole. I don’t know if he’s ever going to be a “smooth” lucharesu practitioner and that’s not really the appeal with the former police officer: he has a literal bull on his tights and has never woken up on the right side of his bed his entire life. Yoshiki Kato will be here to run through some stuff and collect skulls. 

The NOAH side dominating the smaller inexperienced Tanaka resulted from the opening few minutes. Ryoya Tanaka is someone who Dragongate has a vested interest in his success (his training was the subject of a documentary special), but he hasn’t progressed much since that debut and appearance at Kobe World. I came away a lot more impressed with him seeing him in this extended format and against inexperienced competition. He’s got the look the company craves (handsome high flyer who looks like he hasn’t eaten carbs in his life) so I’d mark his work here as that big step forward we’ve needed to see.

For the first time in his career, I find myself without much to say about Mochizuki Jr. He played leader for the FUTURE kids, directing traffic, until his extended closing segment with Kai Fujimura. Fujimura seemed to have the lionshare of the NOAH support UNTIL he attempted a twister on Junior which received an indignant kickout at one. That led into the closing stretch featuring a bloodied Junior taking Fujimura to the brink with a hurricane kick followed by a picture perfect German suplex that could only get two as time soon expired. It took senior referee Takiyuki Yagi to physically insert himself between Junior and Fujimura to get the sides headed to the back.

I don’t expect Buyuden continuity to ever play a hand in booking Dragongate or Pro Wrestling NOAH, but there is something here with these six. Would Dragongate or NOAH run this back (or make a cross promotional series) of this match? I don’t expect it, but I think it would do good for all six men and both promotions in their present and in the future. Worth going out of your way for. ****

Takashi Sugiara & Masa Kitamiya def. YAMATO & Don Fujii

Kitamiya submitted Fujii with the Prison Lock.

YAMATO and Don Fujii one day will get on the same page, and when they do so, everyone should get out of their way. Up until the closing moments, the frenemies were finally in lock step. We even saw a Don Fujii hot tag and he was clearing house! Maybe it’s fate that these two cannot coexist, because lo and behold misfires in that final stretch led to their downfall.

In some ways I thought this was a remarkable match seeing how the Dragongate pair would do against essentially much bigger versions of themselves. You could send Fujii and Kitamiya back in time and they’d look not out of place colliding into each other on an IWE card. I did feel a little bit bitter that we didn’t end up with more YAMATO and Sugiara together, but maybe that could be a thing for Buyuden Zero Vol 4. ***1/2 

Masato Tanaka & Dragon Kid Def. Masaaki Mochizuki & Fujita “Jr” Hayato

Tanaka pinned Mocchy after two Sliding Ds.

So far only one person has been able to navigate the GLEAT/Dragongate Cold War and have thrived in doing so: Fujita “Jr.” Hayato. First as GLEAT’s LIDET UWF Champion and later this summer making appearances in Dragongate. Fujita and the Dragon System have always been close: He went for secondary training in Mexico at Ultimo Dragon Gym post-Ultimo split and has made DG appearances for as long as he’s been an active wrestler. It’s made him into a rare entity and I’d argue that he has a claim for Most Outstanding Wrestler in the Dragon System in 2023.

For a relatively short main event with two outsiders and the promoter, it’s probably a bit of a surprise that the focus of this match was Fujita and Mocchy picking apart Dragon Kid. Not to fawn over DK too much, but there’s something to how compelling he’s always been as a babyface-in-peril and locked into holds like Mochizuki and Fujita put him in this. Kid’s coming up on his 26th Anniversary, and sooner or later the greater wrestling world will need to credit him as one of the preeminent babyfaces of their era and his performance here was a credit to that claim.

Tanaka’s quiet first 75% of the match came alive towards the finish. Finally able to get Dragon Kid away from the dismantling, he turned back the clock with a heavy splash into fierce closing stretch. A second stolen Twister of the evening gave way to cleaning Mocchy’s clock with two Sliding Ds. ***3/4


Buyuden is always an easy recommend for me and this edition is no different. With feisty youngsters getting after it and interactions between the Dragon System and the rest of the Japanese wrestling scene, it’s a quick watch. For Dragongate, I hope this show could be the start of some stability and momentum as they move into a busy weekend and packed last quarter of 2023. 

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