FEBRUARY 7, 2024
KORAKUEN HALL – TOKYO, JAPAN
Watch: Dragon Gate Network
DRAGON KID & SHUJI KONDO VS. NARUKI DOI & YAMATO
This match ended in a 15-minute time limit draw.
This was a tale of two different openers. For the first half of this match, it looked like four veterans were trying to all take the night off. Kondo had no snap, Doi, who now works Korakuen Hall more than anyone else, seemed to be taking it easy, and YAMATO and Dragon Kid were offering nothing worth noting. Then, halfway through the 15 minute draw, the match went up a few notches. Kondo became the wrestling machine that he can be and it helped elevate everyone around him.
The highlight of the match came when Kondo used his longtime rival-turned-partner Dragon Kid as a projectile with repeated Kubinages. It seems as though lately, Kondo has been able to reinvent moves he’s been doing for over 20 years, and his continued innovation of the Kubinage, whether it be coercing YAMATO into giving it a shot or successfully using Dragon Kid as a weapon, has been a delightful wrinkle.
The four seasoned veterans ramped things up in the final few minutes with both sides desperately looking for a win. It looked like YAMATO was going to score a buzzer beater at the last second with a Frankensteiner of the Almighty, but Kondo rolled through and evaded defeat as time expired. ***1/4
DON FUJII DEF. DAIKI YANAGIUCHI
Eleven months ago, Daiki Yanagiuchi began his professional career against Don Fujii.
Still winless, but with momentum on his side, the ex-Korakuen Hall employee once again stepped into the ring with Dragongate’s resident gatekeeper. As he’s prone to do, Yanagiuchi began this match with a tope suicida that connected at full force. As odd as it may sound, Yanagiuchi might have the best tope in wrestling for someone not named Mistico. It really looks like the youngster is hurling his body at full force every time he goes for a dive. He followed up a successful first tope with a second, and for a brief moment in time, it looked like he was going to be able to score his first career win.
Unfortunately, Yanagiuchi’s hot start wasn’t enough to garner him the victory that he is so desperately after. He survived Fujii’s HIME submission and a brutal kick to the face, but couldn’t outlast a powerbomb and a chokeslam from the Dragongate Original. This was short and effective and a ton of fun. I think Yanagiuchi has been doing rock-solid work for the last few months. I’m ready for him to get a win and find a unit. Hopefully things begin to change as he celebrates one year in wrestling next month. **3/4
BEN-K, BXB HULK, & KOTA MINOURA DEF. KAGETORA, PUNCH TOMINAGA, & TAKASHI YOSHIDA
It’s amazing how Kagetora went from a viable threat to win the Open the Brave Gate Championship at Gate of Bayside at the end of January to a background player that looks like he merely tolerates his job a week later. He just did nothing here.
This was all about finding different ways to beat on Punch Tominaga, which was entertaining, but ultimately unnecessary. This was skippable. Ben pinned him with a spear. **1/4
EITA DEF. JASON LEE
I would give a kidney to get this sort of effort from Eita every month.
To be clear, this wasn’t a must-watch match or anything close to a Match of the Year Contender. It was, however, two wrestlers capable of engaging grappling going out there and doing just that. The last time these two wrestled a singles match in Korakuen Hall, they were paired off in a Masquerade vs. RED gauntlet match and Lee scored a pinfall on Eita in one of the biggest wins of his career. This lacked the emotional complexity and stakes of said gauntlet match, but it also was so much better than going-through-the-motions Eita that we so often get now.
Eita, who famously has a very bad neck and isn’t moving around great, showed that he can still do worthwhile wrestling by wrestling how he did here. His various holds and transitions were so smooth. I wish he’d run through the entire roster with matches like this. Him vs. U-T or Kagetora or any one of Dragongate’s rookies would be so entertaining if it was worked like this. I particularly enjoyed when Eita looked like he was going to hit a Tornado DDT on Lee, but rolled through and put Lee in a convoluted arm submission. It looked beautiful.
Lee, bad arm and all, fought back with a bad arm and even landed the Maximum Driver on Eita, but it wasn’t enough to put the former Dream Gate Champion away. Before he could land a Hong Kong Tornado, Eita thwarted Lee’s attempt and put him in the Numero Uno for the submission victory.
This is all I want from Eita. If he’s not going to be a mainline Dragongate player and isn’t going to join a unit, he should be doing this every month. I might be higher on this than most, but this unlocked an entirely new world of what Eita could do going forward. I hope we get more of this, but I fear this will be stored away as a hidden gem and a “remember when” instead. ***1/2
HYO, LUIS MANTE, & ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. DRAGON DIA, MADOKA KIKUTA, & RYOYA TANAKA
Luis Mante now has new gear and he looks like 1993 “Macho Man” Randy Savage. It’s a glorious thing. He still doesn’t look as swagged out as his Big Hug partner in Hyo, but they now look like an incredible pair together.
The magic of this match was in Ultimo Dragon. You know it’s a special evening when not only does Eita put forth effort, but Ultimo does, too. His hot tag, which was sandwiched in between a hot start from Dia and Hyo and a great closing stretch with Mante and Kikuta brought this match up a level. Ultimo threw dropkicks with reckless abandon and it was a sight to behold. Not that Ultimo ever needs to be in a unit, but him being a special guest in Big Hug is a great thing to see.
This was your paint-by-numbers, middle-of-the-card DG trios match, but each individual part upped the ante with their respective roles. I really liked how “big”, both literally and figuratively, the closing parts with Mante and Kikuta felt. Kikuta is one big match away from being rehabbed after a so-so Dream Gate run. He still projects like someone who matters. Mante still is battling for the spotlight with his own partner, Hyo, who continues to come across like the biggest star on the roster not named Shun Skywalker. Matches like this are going to help his case, though. He looked excellent.
Mante pinned Tanaka with the Vuelta Finale for the win. ***3/4
【#ReyDeParejas2024 Teams & Rules】
Kota Minoura ＆Ben-K
BIGBOSS Shimizu＆Strong Machine J
Dragon Kid & Naruki Doi
Shuji Kondo & Toru Owashi
KAI & Gianni Valletta
Mozoku Tominaga & Shuri Joe (Ryukyu Dragon Pro-Wrestling Souryuou Champions)#dragongate#rd_pw pic.twitter.com/Ur8hojCMHL
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) February 8, 2024
M3K FINAL & MOCHIZUKI JUNIOR EXCURSION SENDOFF MATCH
SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI & YASUSHI KANDA DEF. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI & MOCHIZUKI JUNIOR
It’s a damn shame that M3K is no more.
The best unit of 2023 and one of the most engaging units since their formation in June 2022, M3K evolved from simply a vehicle to introduce Mochizuki Junior (originally dubbed Ryoto Mochizuki until Ultimo Dragon renamed him in front of a live audience, to the surprise of literally everyone) to the audience, the unit transformed into a powerhouse throughout 2023 with two phenomenal tag teams. Junior, during his first 18 months within the company, went through two emotional feuds with both ISHIN and Yoshki Kato. On a show-in-show-out basis, M3K simply was the best unit in the company.
They went out with a bang, as they often did. While I would’ve liked for this match to happen when Susumu and Kanda were Twin Gate Champions, I’m glad we got it nonetheless.
This match turned up a level when in the midst of a chop battle, Junior shoved his father out of the way and demanded to take on Dragongate’s original tag team 2 vs. 1. He landed chops to his opponents, then knocked his dad back with a middle kick. Now essentially posed with a 3-on-1 disadvantage, Junior quickly lost control and proceeded to take a beating.
Thanks to an interview with Junior and Five Star Network, we learned that when the second generation star was hit with the John Woo, Kanda didn’t say “Blast Off!” like he normally does, but instead he said, “Spread your wings!”, which brought Junior to tears.
Junior survived two Jumbo no Kachi’s from Susumu shortly thereafter, but a third lariat finally put him away for good. M3K is done.
Junior will now spend the next few months in the UK. When he comes back to Dragongate, expect him to become a frontline player immediately. ***3/4
【LEC presents #ChampionGate2024 Card Update】
🏟️Edion Arena Osaka #2
Open the Brave Gate Championship Match
— Dragongate Japan Pro-Wrestling (Official English) (@DragonGateEN) February 8, 2024
NATURAL VIBES VS. Z-BRATS ELIMINATION MATCH
GIANNI VALLETTA, ISHIN, KAI, SHUN SKYWALKER, & YOSHIKI KATO DEF. BIG BOSS SHIMIZU, JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI, KZY, STRONG MACHINE J, & U-T
Z-Brats won a heated elimination match over Natural Vibes, 5-4.
From the jump, this had all of the makings of a great match. This feud has gone hot-and-cold over the course of two years, but now it feels like it’s at a fever pitch. There’s no way that this can’t lead to a massive shakeup for one, if not both of these units.
KAI was first out, quickly being pinned by a Machine Clutch. Z-Brats quickly evened the odds, however, as Gianni Valletta knocked out U-T with a giant Knee Drop. Valletta, while not in the match for very long, was an easy standout. He unleashed a side of him that I had been waiting for. No longer was he working like someone who was afraid to hurt his opponents. Instead, he worked like a vicious giant who could’ve easily torn apart all of Natural Vibes had it not been for Big Boss Shimizu later on in the match. After eliminating U-T, Valletta hung him from the top rope with a chain, then nearly split Jacky “Funky” Kamei in half by bending his spine around the ring post. When he attacked Kamei, genuine shrieks of horror came from the audience. It sounded like a pre-COVID crowd. People seemed truly concerned for Kamei’s well-being.
Back in the ring, Kato was eliminated with a Big Boss Splash, Strong Machine J was bounced by ISHIN’s chokeslam, and then Kzy was accidentally eliminated by Valletta when he was thrown over the top rope and to the floor. All signs pointed to Kzy forgetting that over the top rope eliminations were in-play. Luckily for Vibes, Shimizu would take care of business by knocking both he and Valletta over the top rope.
That left Kamei all alone with both Skywalker and ISHIN. Kamei put on a show, as he’s done so many times throughout his three-year career. Alongside Skywalker, they’ve become the two most consistent wrestlers on the roster. When you need an electric performance, you need to turn to one of these two. Luckily for us, so often they’ve been able to share the ring, as of late.
Kamei caught Skywalker with a Torbellino and eliminated him, which once again sent Korakuen Hall into a frenzy. At that moment, it seemed as if Kamei was going to be able to roll through ISHIN and become King of Korakuen Hall in the process. The whole building would’ve stormed the ring and carried Kamei out on their shoulders had he won.
Instead, Masked Z happened.
Just like how he eliminated Skywalker, Kamei planted the former Brave Gate Champion with a Torbellino, but before he could fall up on the pin, he was distracted by the mysterious Masked Z figure who appeared in the entryway. This opened the door for ISHIN to get back on the attack. Even with that distraction, Kamei nearly found a way to squeak out a victory, but ISHIN’s Jinchū was too much for the Vibes competitor. ****1/4
After the match, Z-Brats continued the beatdown on Kamei until Big Hug came out and made the save. Big Hug was then quickly kicked out of the ring by Kzy, who made it clear that he is still not okay with their continued attempts to poach Kamei.
With Vibes now having recovered from defeat, they turned their attention to Masked Z. He tried to get away, but U-T and Jason Lee trapped him and managed to get him back into the ring. When they took his mask off, it was revealed to by young boy Tsujiguchi. This was not a devilish young boy looking to join the Z-Brats ranks, but rather someone who had been forced into this position by Skywalker.
Tsujiguchi bailed, but the drama didn’t stop there as suddenly Strong Machine J voiced his displeasure with his own unit for being duped by a trainee and then stormed off.
In one angle, DG continued the Vibes vs. Z-Brats feud, stoked the flames of Big Hug recruiting Kamei, and gave us a new direction with SMJ. This wasn’t a *great* post-match angle, but it could lead to great things in the future. The main event and the post-match angle are essential viewing.
Truth Gate helped paint a picture of what the next six months of Dragongate could look like. While there was solid wrestling up and down the card, notably with shocking effort from both Eita and Ultimo Dragon, the real story here is the main event. Any Dragongate fan would be doing themselves a disservice by not watching the main event and the angle that followed, as it could lead to huge things in the future. Thumbs up for Truth Gate.
Listen to Voices of Wrestling’s Dragongate podcast: Open the Voice Gate!
Powered by RedCircle