DRAGONGATE
GATE OF DESTINY 2023
NOVEMBER 5, 2023
EDION OSAKA ARENA #1 – OSAKA, JAPAN

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

BEN-K, BXB HULK, & KOTA MINOURA DEF. GENKI HORIGUCHI, KAGETORA, & PROBLEM DRAGON 

Gold Class were the odd men out on this pay-per-view. In August, Kota Minoura failed to capture the Open the Dream Gate Championship from Madoka Kikuta while Ben-K slugged it out with his peers against Don Fujii, Masaaki Mochizuki, & Tomohiro Ishii. This time around, however, they had nothing pressing to take care of in Osaka. Instead, the unit stormed the ring, took care of business, and left. Ben-K pinned Problem Dragon in four minutes. 

OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
ISHIN (c) DEF. RYOYA TANAKA 

This marks ISHIN’s first successful defense of his second reign as Brave Gate Champion. 

A year ago at this event, ISHIN abandoned his family’s last name, trading in his boyish appearance as Ishin Ihashi and turning into all-caps ISHIN, a brooding, brute force representing Z-Brats. The last year has been full of trial & error for the supernova, but he saved arguably his best performance of the year for this match against the upstart in Ryoya Tanaka. This felt like a fully-realized version of ISHIN; someone who is tough, hard-hitting, and ultimately cowardly—a year of work paid off here. 

ISHIN was a tremendous foil for Tanaka, who spent most of the match perfectly executing swanky, high-flying moves. Every time Tanaka would get on a roll, ISHIN would be there to cheap shot his way back into control. He did a great job of seeming dominant while also seeming beatable. Had Tanaka actually won, it would’ve come across as a huge shock, even if ISHIN was beaten down for most of the match. 

Of course, there’s Tanaka’s performance, which should be championed. He debuted at the end of May and slowly has become a thrilling mainstay on Dragongate shows. Whereas most Dragongate rookies have a flashy match earlier in their career that says “look at me”, Tanaka has just slowly gotten better on every show. That led us to this match, which provided Tanaka the platform to showcase why those in Dragongate think so highly of him. His natural charisma, stunning good looks, and effortless ability to fly throughout the air is going to lead him to great success, if this match is any indication. I was blown away by his ability to string moves together. His Springboard Swanton Bomb into a Lionsault will one day be the start of an incredible closing stretch in a big, DG multi-man match. It’s a combination that directly impacts the tone of the match. It’s impossible not to have a “big match feel” once Tanaka hits that. 

He went even bigger down the stretch, connecting with a Stardust Press on the champion. Before he could pin him, however, ISHIN shifted his weight, sending Tanaka’s shoulders to the mat and rolling him up with a School Boy for the win.

ISHIN barely escaped with his life, let alone the title. ***3/4 

HYO, KAI, & SHUN SKYWALKER VS. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, MOCHIZUKI JUNIOR, & YOSHIKI KATO 

Remember in that last match when I said last year at this event, ISHIN turned on Mochizuki Junior? Well, it happened again. 

Although it is currently unclear if Yoshiki Kato is officially joining Z-Brats (he left through a neutral exit), Yoshiki Kato stunned the father & son duo of the Mochizuki’s by turning on his classmate, Mochizuki Junior, only a day removed from their effort together on NJPW’s Power Struggle. The turn for Kato marks his first distinct character change since his debut last December. This match, while brief, is worth watching due to the shocking finish. NR 

EITA, LUIS MANTE, NARUKI DOI, SHUJI KONDO, & ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI, JASON LEE, KZY, STRONG MACHINE J, & U-T

Luis Mante is no joke. The presumed betting odds favorite to take the Dream Gate belt off of Madoka Kikuta has won all 15 of his matches since returning from his summer hiatus. Half of those victories have been against a combination of Natural Vibes wrestlers, notably Jacky “Funky” Kamei, whom Mante shares the best chemistry in Dragongate with. This was a textbook example of the value that an unmasked Mante brings to the table. In a match with stars of yesteryear like Doi and Eita and proven entities in Kzy and Strong Machine J, it was yet again Mante who was the most compelling force in the bout. 

This wasn’t the most special Mante match since his return. It was, in reality, on the lower end of what he’s done against Natural Vibes. Still, his effort, combined with another strong outing from Doi and a rare “effort” performance from Eita makes this worthwhile. U-T ate a Vuelta Finale to give the unaffiliated side a win. ***1/4 

OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
DRAGON KID, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & YAMATO (c) DEF. DON FUJII, TAKASHI YOSHIDA, & THE BODYGUARD 

This marks the second successful defense of the trio of Dragon Kid, Punch Tominaga, and YAMATO. 

This match was kind of good? 

Here’s the thing, anyone bashing this Triangle Gate team with Dragon Kid, Punch, and YAMATO is exposing themselves as having their finger off the pulse. Their win was a massive, cathartic moment that was celebrated by everyone who watched. Will this reign have an expiration date? Absolutely. But now is not that time. This match, which started off as a nothing affair highlighted by Don Fujii quite literally almost launching Tominaga to his death via the balcony, ended up becoming a feisty affair between two teams who do not fit into the usual Dragongate mold. 

As is usually the case when these two share the ring with one another, YAMATO and Don Fujii stole the show, brutalizing each other just like they’ve done for the last 20 years. They turned the match away from being a sideshow attraction to being a heated title match, and thank God they did, as it made the finish all that more satisfying. 

Punch Tominaga, yet again, defied the laws of physics and logic by catching Don Fujii with the Punch Clutch and pinning him. Words cannot describe how enjoyable the last 30 seconds of this match were. Tominaga pulled another thrilling finishing stretch out of his ass. The match, again, was not great, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t way more fun than I was expecting it to be. ***1/2 

OPEN THE TWIN GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
DRAGON DIA & YUKI YOSHIOKA DEF. SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI & YASUSHI KANDA (C)

The M3K duo of Susumu Mochizuki & Yasushi Kanda failed to make their fourth successful defense of the Open the Twin Gate Championship. This marks the second time that Dragon Dia & Yuki Yoshioka have held these titles. 

With this loss, we can likely close the book on the career year of 45-year-old Yasushi Kanda. A career pin-eater and card-filler, Kanda emerged as one of the brightest stories in wrestling this year, turning back the clock to a time that we never thought we’d see again alongside his longtime partner, the ageless Susumu Mochiuzki. The combination ran through Rey de Parejas, losing out in a MOTYC finale. They stayed relevant in the grand scheme of things, eventually earning a title shot in June and defeating Kenoh and Shuji Kondo for the belts in what I thought was the single-best Yasushi Kanda performance ever. They were excellent against Masato Tanaka and Takuya Sugawara and good enough in a three-way tag at Dangerous Gate to keep the belts. The fact that I can dedicate a paragraph to how great Kanda has been this year is truly something. The fact that outside of maybe Big Japan’s Astronauts and All Japan’s Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi, M3K have been the best tag team in the world this year, is beyond stunning. 

Their reign ended with one of their best matches to date, a thrilling back-and-forth contest with two of Dragongate’s three main characters. The speed in which Dia and Mochizuki worked the early part of the match, in contrast to the raw power that Yoshioka put forth later on in the encounter, was a perfect look at the raw skill that D’Courage continues to bring to the table. This team, if they wanted to be, could be this generation’s SpeedMuscle. 

The highlight of the match came when Mochizuki dropped Dia knees-first onto the mat from the middle rope, then immediately tried to get him to tap with a Figure Four. That submission was broken up not by a stomp from Yoshioka, but by a frog splash. 

To M3K’s credit, they continued to fight back, but it wasn’t enough to thwart the persistence of Yoshioka, who was animalistic down the stretch. He cleared the way for Dia to connect with a DDDT, then a Reptilian Rana on Kanda, to secure the belts for D’Courage. 

With this match, Kanda & Susumu have to be seriously considered in any Tag Team of the Year conversation. This was a superb way to end their reign. ****1/4 

OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
MADOKA KIKUTA (c) DEF. BIG BOSS SHIMIZU 

Madoka Kikuta made his third successful defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship with this victory. Big Boss Shimizu falls to 0-3 all-time in Dream Gate challenges. 

I haven’t seen a match this mean in quite awhile. 

This whole encounter was heartbreaking. Big Boss Shimizu has spent six months waiting for this moment. After Madoka Kikuta put his cards on the table in May and declared this era of Dragongate to be “The Reiwa Generation”, Shimizu stepped up to the plate and made his presence felt as a now elder statesman on the roster. Shimizu ran through Shun Skywalker and Kikuta in King of Gate, then took care of Ben-K, Strong Machine J, and Yuki Yoshioka before putting a bow on his Reiwa 6 domination with a win over Kota Minoura. This led him back to Kikuta, who had lost in the King of Gate semi-finals (a non-title match). In front of a hometown crowd, this was the biggest match of Big Boss Shimizu’s 10-year-career, and even after dyeing all the funk out of his hair, he still came up short. 

It took Madoka Kikuta a few tries, but this was the Dream Gate match that we all knew he was capable of. He was vicious. He was mean. This wasn’t the plucky underdog that acted thankful just to be back on the card that we saw for all of last year. Kikuta, feeling the pressure after a pair of subpar defenses, was seemingly not only wrestling Shimizu in this match, but his critics, as well. He showed fire and hatred in a way that I’ve never seen from him. His strikes – the hip attacks, the kicks straight to the face of Shimizu, and the open-handed slaps were all thrown with an unchecked fury. Kikuta knew he needed to impress, and that he did. 

I said going into this match that “Shimizu should win, but Kikuta will,” yet there was a very large chunk of this match in which it looked like my prediction was going to be wrong. Some of the challenger’s offense was electric, notably his back-to-back Big Boss Press’ from opposing corners of the ring. That would’ve been an appropriate finish, had they chosen to end things there. The same could be said for the La Magistral attempt that forced Kikuta to kick out at 2.9. All of these near-falls seemed like they were going to go in Shimizu’s favor at some point, yet they never did. 

After all of that failed, a Hail Mary was thrown. Kikuta had recovered and regained momentum, but his attempt at his death-blow, the Discus Lariat, failed when Shimizu caught him in a chokehold and launched him across the ring for a Shot-Put Slam. 

Not even that was enough to put the champion away. 

Kikuta stormed back, and when he went for the Discus Lariat again, he didn’t miss. He clobbered the Osaka-native and put him on his back for the three count. Shimizu’s dreams were crushed, yet again. 

This was the best Madoka Kikuta since he won the title, edging out his prior two title defenses and anything he did in King of Gate. It was a desperately needed performance from Dragongate’s top dog. For Shimizu, this match may have etched his name into my “Top Best Wrestlers of 2023” list. He now has 16 matches at 4* or higher, 7 of which are singles matches. As the year comes to an end, it was nice seeing two of the very best wrestlers in the world have a match of this caliber. ****1/2 

Afterwards, Kikuta grabbed the microphone and noted that the building was not full, and as the champion, he wants to change that. I had two people in attendance immediately reach out to me to tell me how great of a promo it was, and how it felt like an epic rallying cry for Dragongate.  

Final Thoughts

Gate of Destiny was a no-nonsense, brisk pay-per-view with a pair of strong undercard title matches and two excellent title matches to close out the show. You cannot go wrong investing your time and energy into this show.

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