DRAGONGATE
CHAMPION GATE IN OSAKA
MARCH 3, 2024
EDION ARENA OSAKA #2 – OSAKA, JAPAN

Watch: Dragon Gate Network

BEN-K, BXB HULK, & KOTA MINOURA DEF. DON FUJII, MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI, & RYU FUDA 

The last time we saw Ryu Fuda was at the end of September where for the first time in his young career, he had some real momentum. Fuda had picked up his first win, gained #1 contendership of the Open the Brave Gate Championship, and seemed to finally be assimilating to the roster at large. Then, he destroyed his hand in a six-man tag match in Kobe, forcing him to pull out of the title match in his hometown and miss five months of action. Fuda is now back yet again, this time with platinum blonde hair, and looking to scrape his way back to the top of the card. 

In the two-and-a-half years he’s been on the roster, Fuda has suffered a broken collarbone, knee problems, and the aforementioned busted hand. Everything that could’ve gone wrong for him has gone wrong. I have never questioned his talent (and still won’t, after what we saw from him here), but in a promotion full of bad luck, Fuda seems to be the unluckiest. I think he has the talent required to rapidly ascend up the card, but I would be very wary of doing so if I was Dragongate. I’m not sure Fuda can be trusted. 

Fuda was by far the standout in this match, being one of only two guys that seemed to bring anything worthwhile to the table. The match reached its peak down the stretch when it was Fuda and Ben-K in the ring with one another, throwing bombs at each other. Despite showing a ton of fire throughout the contest, especially after getting beat down by his own teammates in Mochizuki and Fujii who were unsatisfied with his performance, the youngster from Miyagi was unable to get the win. Of course, in typical Fuda-fashion, the spear that he took from Ben to end the match looked like the single most devastating spear ever. I wouldn’t be shocked if Fuda banged his head too hard on the mat from the whiplash of the spear. Rinse, repeat, sadly. 

With all of that being said, it was great to see Fuda back. ***1/4 

GIANNI VALLETTA DEF. TAKASHI YOSHIDA 

2019 Real World Tag League partners explode! 

This was originally supposed to be Valletta & Shun Skywalker against Jacky “Funky” Kamei & Strong Machine J. When Yoshiki Kato got injured, Skywalker got moved to the Triangle Gate match and this got turned into Valletta vs. Kamei with Strong Machine J getting moved to a multi-man match. When J was forced to pull out of this weekend with a shoulder injury, they moved Kamei to the multi-man match and moved Yoshida into this match. That’s a lot of lore for a five minute singles match. 

The thing I can say about this bout is that I unironically love that Valletta and Yoshida began this match with an intense lockup. It wasn’t a going-through-the-motions collar-and-elbow tie-up. It was meaty and intense and it was great to see. The match died down a little after that, with the two brawling around the ring and before circling their way back in, with Valletta in full control. He lifted Yoshida up for an Iron Claw Bomb and then put him away with his big Leaping Knee. **1/2 

Afterwards, Valletta choked Yoshida out with his steel chain, and Yoshida sold it by…pretending to be asleep? Playing dead? I’m not sure what that was. 

DRAGON KID, HO HO LUN, NARUKI DOI, SHACHIHOKO BOY, & YAMATO DEF. BIG BOSS SHIMIZU, JACKY “FUNKY” KAMEI, JASON LEE, KZY, & U-T

Shout-out to the Fire Pro “random button” team that got the victory in this bout. 

Most of the 10:59 of this match was non-essential, but harmless. The clear highlight early on was Shimizu stacking up Dragon Kid, Ho Ho Lun, and Shachihoko BOY on his shoulders and delivering a Samoan Drop to the three of them. Outside of that, nothing was bad, but also nothing really mattered. 

The last 90 seconds of the match were such a beautiful primer for the upcoming Rey de Parejas tag tournament, however. Kzy and Doi kicked things up a level with a beautiful back-and-forth sequence that ended with Doi unable to get the Doi 555 on Kzy, but it did lead to him setting Kzy on the apron. With Kzy on the apron, Dragon Kid attempted a 619, but Kzy moved out of the way and Kid drilled his reluctant tag partner in Doi. Doi got right back up and booted Kid in the face. This paved the way for Jason Lee & Jacky “Funky” Kamei to make a move, but their plans were quickly thwarted when Lee accidentally laid out Kamei with a forearm. Kamei then fell backwards into Kid, who rolled him up and got the win. 

I wish the entire match was worked with the pace of the final few minutes, but the end result was still satisfying. ***1/4 

OPEN THE BRAVE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
HYO (c) DEF. YASUSHI KANDA 

In 2018, Yasushi Kanda wrestled Punch Tominaga for the Open the Brave Gate Championship on Champion Gate weekend and I gave the match a DUD. Six years removed from that debacle, Kanda and Hyo had one of the best matches of the entire weekend. 

Yasushi Kanda’s late-career resurgence doesn’t make any sense. No one saw it coming. We knew for so long what Kanda, post-neck injury, looked like. He was pudgy and slow and even in the best case scenarios, he was still the worst guy involved in greatness. Something changed at this time last year when Kanda linked up with his long-time friend Susumu Yokosuka for Rey de Parejas. Kanda began wrestling with energy that he hasn’t shown in 20 years. He put forth some of the best efforts in all of Dragongate last year. He and Susumu combined to be in one of the best tag teams in all of wrestling last year. It defied all logic. It would be like if Jim Breuer started winning Academy Awards. No one could fathom that happening right now. 

The reality is, though, that Kanda is doing some excellent work. In this particular instance, he gave Hyo the best singles match of his entire career. 

I’ve been watching Hyo’s career since day one. I’ve seen 95% of the matches he’s had that have made tape. This is the second time in his career that he’s had a singles match that is hitting my notebook, and the only other one came in January. Hyo is the most over person in the company and the company is clearly paving the way for this Brave Gate run to be an all-timer. 

Kanda began the match with a calculated attack that included John Woo’ing Hyo off the apron and landing a tope suicida. This let Kanda start off the match in control, something he wouldn’t relinquish for quite some time. Hyo struggled to land big moves, and even after he did, he was met with a relentless Kanda who would shift the match back towards his favor with big moves like the pair of T-Bone Suplexes he drilled the champion with. 

Seeing that his glory run could be over at any moment, Kanda, at 45-years-old with a surgically repaired neck, threw everything he had at Hyo. He landed the John Woo, the Ryu’s, and the Gekokujoh Elbow, but none of those were enough to end Hyo’s run as Brave Gate Champion. After the elbow drop, Kanda climbed to the top yet again, this time looking for the grand slam. He attempted a Torneo Acapulco, but he missed. That gave Hyo the window that he needed. He brought Kanda down to the mat with Hunting, but Kanda, in one last ditch effort, countered with his Candy Magic flash pin. Hyo kicked out, then quickly put himself in position to land the Samson Driver on the challenger. After all of that, Hyo finally retained his title. 

Kanda acted as the perfect proving ground for Hyo. This defense did so much for the champion. He had been crushing it in tag matches and could not be presented better than he currently is, but he was missing the notable great matches that a champion in this promotion must have. While this was far from the greatest Brave Gate match ever, it was a great Brave Gate match, and that is what Hyo needed to have this weekend. ****

OPEN THE TRIANGLE GATE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
ISHIN, KAI, & SHUN SKYWALKER (c) DEF. DRAGON DIA, MADOKA KIKUTA, & RYOYA TANAKA 

The team of ISHIN, KAI, and Yoshiki Kato were forced to vacate the titles before this show due to a Kato injury. With this win, it marks the fifth successful victory for a Z-Brats trio in Open the Triangle Gate matches dating back to Final Gate 2023. 

This was the clear match of the weekend, but Dragongate made a mistake with this match. 

Ryoya Tanaka picked up the first win of his career on February 11 in Fukuoka, nine months after his debut. A highly-touted prospect even before his debut, Tanaka put forth a strong few months before beginning to truly turn heads when he joined D’Courage in November. Time and time again, Tanaka has churned out the best match on whatever show he’s on. He’s developed at a rapid rate and is someone who should be earmarked as a dark horse candidate for this year’s FSM 50. A week after his first victory, this D’Courage trio went to a 15 minute time limit draw with ISHIN, Skywalker, and Kato. That match was also great, and it helped reignite the ongoing feud between Tanaka and ISHIN. Heading into this match, Tanaka made it clear that not only did he want the first title reign of his career, but he wanted to do it by pinning ISHIN. 

Instead, ISHIN planted Tanaka with a Jinchū and made sure that the Triangle Gate belts remained with Z-Brats. 

There are times in wrestling in which you need to make the fans salivate and wait for the big payoff, and there are times in wrestling in which you need to rip the band-aid off and give the people what they want. This was a time in which Dragongate needed to give the people what they wanted. This entire weekend was built around making Dragongate fans feel good, which hasn’t been an easy task over the last few years. Nostalgia Gate the night before was a massive success, but Dragongate needed something on this night that aggressively pointed towards the future. Tanaka losing in this title match has no long-term ramifications; he’ll still be a focal point of the company at some point. This stings in the short-term, though. The best way to present someone as a star is to have them look like a star while winning. Tanaka looked like a million bucks. He looked better than anyone else on this show. He wrestled like a man possessed. It’s all for not, though, because he lost. 

In the same way that Kato was finding his groove in a real way before his injury, ISHIN is now going up a level in the ring. I never want to see this man cut weight. He should only get more barrel-chested as time goes on. It’s also scary to think with his brother retiring, Shoya Sato retiring, Ryu Fuda being consistently hurt, Minorita being undersized, and Takuma Fujiwara being let go, somehow, Ryoya Tanaka has become the closest thing ISHIN has to a generational rival. 

The finishing stretch of this match was so intricate with D’Courage rolling through the combo of moves they used to help Tanaka get his first win, although this time the flash pin didn’t put ISHIN away. Both sides threw huge moves at one another, but ultimately, the aforementioned Jinchū was too much for the young Tanaka. 

Match of the weekend. Go watch it immediately. ****1/2 

OPEN THE DREAM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP
LUIS MANTE (C) DEF. SUSUMU YOKOSUKA 

This marks the second successful defense of the Open the Dream Gate Championship for Luis Mante. 

In 2016, Susumu Yokosuka was in the midst of a surprise Dream Gate run, having upset Shingo Takagi in February in the midst of Takagi’s now-legendary Dream Gate run. They would have a rematch on the second night of Champion Gate in Osaka that year and Takagi would get his gold back. The match would go down as one of the very best that year. Just as they had done all across the globe, Susumu and Takagi showed why they are the two of the very best to ever do it. Four years later in 2020, with the world on the brink of a pandemic, Susumu once again walked into a Dream Gate match at Championship Gate in Osaka, this time as the challenger against Naruki Doi. They had another brilliant match with Susumu dissecting Doi, only for the champion to end up retaining. Here we are, another four years after that, and Susumu once again put forth a brilliant performance in an Open the Dream Gate Championship match at Champion Gate in Osaka. 

Much like with the Triangle Gate match that preceded this, I have to say upfront that this was a great match, but there is a caveat. This match was built around Mante’s bum leg and Susumu relentlessly going after it. A majority of this work was phenomenal, with both men playing their respective roles beautifully. The problem lies in the way that they began engaging with the leg work. Mante collapsed, rolled out of the ring, and essentially paused the match, insinuating that his leg injury was “real” and that the match might need to be stopped. I don’t have an issue with the idea of any of this, but I thought the pacing of the match was thrown off for quite awhile as a result of this. Things simply stopped, and when they resumed, they resumed at a slow and uncomfortable pace. I wish they would’ve found a more natural way to get into all of that leg work. 

Even with that being said, this was still a war of attrition and the exact sort of match that Mante needed to help further establish himself as the top dog in the company. Had he laid an egg here, he would’ve had to have waited until May to defend the title again, and by that point, his reign probably would’ve been dead in the water (i.e. Madoka Kikuta). Instead, Mante looked like a killer, surviving multiple Jumbo no Kachi’s, a Yokosuka Cutter, and even a Yokosuka Destroyer that was countered from a Vuelta Finale. 

There are no words that can accurately explain Susumu’s talent. He is wrestling’s Tim Duncan and this was his 2013-2014 NBA Finals victory. Susumu is older, a step slower, but still better than almost everyone else to ever do it. He was so generous in what he gave Mante, and that simply must be noted. He not only let the champion kick out of all of his big moves, but he made Mante’s big moves look explosive and devastating. They couldn’t have given Mante a bigger boost than what they did in this match. 

Luckily, the match wasn’t wrapped up with a Super Tigre or with a Springboard 450, but with the Vuelta Finale, which should be Mante’s finisher in any big match. 

Your mileage may vary on the opening leg work. I could see it not bothering other people, but it felt like a red flag in an auto race that completely took me out of the match for a few minutes. Even if that isn’t your bag, this is still a match worth going out of your way to see. ****1/4 

Final Thoughts

Champion Gate needed to deliver big, and it did just that. All three title matches on a show based around Dragongate’s titles were executed beautifully and delivered to the level that they needed to reach. When you consider the abbreviated undercard, this is a show worth watching from start to finish and the perfect thing to get you back up to speed with Dragongate if you’ve been out of the loop. 

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