Rainbow Gate
June 5, 2024
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: Dragongate Network

Gold Class came out at the show’s opening for some opening mic time. New Open The Dream Gate champion Ben-K thanked everyone backing him, congratulated Minorita on his return and then handed the mic off to Kota Minoura to build his apuestas.

Big Hug (Luis Mante & Jacky Kamei) Def. El Cucuy & La Estrella

(NOTE: As of the time of the review, the opening match is only available on the Japanese Video-On-Demand feed due to Korakuen internet issues)

Big Hug won the opening match with a Jacky Knife on La Estrella.

The first week with fully Big Hug gear makes me want them to go back to the drawing board for Jacky Kamei. The company has been insistent on making Kamei wear faux overalls since he originally joined Natural Vibes in 2021. The concept itself has never looked good and Kamei comes off like a backyarder with that much loose fitting pleather. Either figure out a way where he wears an actual pair of overalls (bad idea) or just have him have fake straps that he never pulls down like Yoshino had (much better idea). 

Luis Mante looked fine in his first post-Dream Gate match. I don’t think he lost a whole lot of station with the way his title reign played out, but there will always be the “what if” question about if the company decided to slow down the Mante/Shun storyline. His team with Jack was as strong as one would expect.

La Estrella remains an awkward, albeit harmless, presence whenever he stops by for visa renewals. His wrestling level is perhaps a bit better than it was last time he was in, but it’s hard to take his presence seriously with his look and perennial absences due to being based in the West. El Cucuy didn’t break the ring today but remains somewhat of a charmer. Wouldn’t mind this large man breaking more rings around these parts. Match was fine. **3/4 

Ultimo Dragon, Shuji Kondo & Toru Owashi Def. Don Fujii, Punch Tominaga & Daiki Yanagiuchi

Owashi pinned Yanagiuchi after a chokeslam

As the next Dragongate FUTURE class appears more and more ready for their main roster debuts, it’s about time for the company to do something with newly 2nd year roster member Yanagiuchi. His teaming with and against Don Fujii for the most of his rookie year was a nice trend for him at his former place of employment, but I feel like we are well past the point of him getting moved along. He shows a lot of heart and has a heckuva tope suicida, and that’s better used elsewhere than the touch football match with the vets.

The rest of this was completely inoffensive. Owashi’s been a pleasant diversion on the undercards and his team with Kondo will be a delight later this year when they get to crush some rookies. Didn’t have enough time for anything else to really happen. **1/4

Masaaki Mochizuki & Mochizuki Jr Def. Gold Class (Ben-K & Minorita)

Junior submitted Minorita for the Mochizuki side with a disgusting Camel Clutch where he lifted Rita up with it.

Where yesterday was excitement and the Dragongate fanbase feeling every molecule of an exhale for Minorita and Mochizuki Junior’s return, today reality set in. For Minorita, he exists in a reality where Takumi Hayakawa right now as Minorita won’t be in this character this time next year. He’s had an incredible rookie phase get curtailed due to the horrific knee injury he suffered. I think it’s entirely understandable that Rita is wrestling his way into shape, and I don’t feel like his injury has hampered his ability. A lot of things are happening with Gold Class so a very rusty Minorita getting outclassed by a healthy Junior feels somewhat appropriate.

When Rita and Junior faced off, the perception gulf rushes to the forefront: one guy feels like a vanquishing hero ready to take on the world, the other is finding himself after a major injury and a massive fall down the pecking order of Dragongate. Mochizuki Junior has returned from his excursion and has a swagger like Bennie Blades in 1987. He’s finally going to face his father in the long speculated Mochizuki vs Mochizuki match and for once, I feel like Junior’s gonna kick his dad’s ass.

It takes me this long to get to Ben-K not because of being overshadowed, but Ben-K felt like the Dream Gate Champion and after years of waiting, it felt right. In 2019 we were clamoring for any sort of moment that Ben-K felt as the self-assured champion that he felt the night after he won the belt. This version of the Dream Gate looks good on him. This was a blast. ***1/2

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Z-Brats (Shun Skywalker, KAI, Jason Lee & ISHIN) Def. ParadoX (Dragon Kid, Susumu Yokosuka, Naruki Doi & Kagetora)

Z-Brats won with Skywalker hitting a Moonsault Double Knees after a ref-distraction metal sheet shot on Dragon Kid.

ParadoX’s second night as an official unit ended with a psychopath on the microphone trash talking their very existence with a Twin Gate title shot likely in hands. Veteran teams in the Dragon System end up being reliant on their front-line fire power, and without YAMATO in the match ParadoX felt like they were on defense.

The match itself was fine albeit typical lower card Z-Brats fare. A very long (up until the five minute time call) crowd brawl led to ParadoX finally getting offense for it to lead to Z-Brats ripping the rug out from underneath them. Even with the overwhelming HIGH-END vibes coming from a unit with Dragon Kid and Kagetora in it, there should be enough in ParadoX and Naruki Doi and Susumu Yokosuka to be a strong Team Veteran. We just need more front-liners. Adequate **½

Natural Vibes (Strong Machine J, Kzy & Big Boss Shimizu) Def. D’Courage (Madoka Kikuta, Dragon Dia & Ryoya Tanaka)

Natural Vibes continue their winning ways in Chapter Four with the Machine Suplex on Ryoya Tanaka.

I think we can call the Strong Machine J era of Natural Vibes a success even if it’s only a month old. Vibes underneath J feel a bit more rough around the edges and has a babyface energy not seen since MaxiMuM. It’s a bunch of dudes that will run through you then dance on your limp body. The friendship club led by Kzy grew up, let their hair grow out and now wants to bully their way through the babyface roster.

Dia’s “return” from Best of the Super Juniors had him get more fan support than he had outside of the immediate D’Courage formation. Going 1-8 wasn’t ever going to hurt him in his home promotion, and maybe the extra exposure brought eyeballs to Dragongate. Until we see the complete Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival card, I don’t think we can really “tell” if BOSJ was worth it.

I find myself liking this new form of Natural Vibes more initially than I expected. Maybe J directing traffic enables a better “flow” in a match, or maybe it plays more true to Big Boss Shimizu if he’s not just a Dancing Fool. For some reason, I still bite on the Machine Killer although I cannot name a single match Natural VIbes won with this move. ***1/2

Open The Brave Gate Championship
Hyo (c) Def. Flamita

Hyo pinned Flamita with the Samson Driver to make his seventh defense.

It was not the pacing in this Brave Gate match that surprised me in this match, although Hyo and Flamita somehow had an epic that felt every second of its fifteen minutes and shifts from sprints to llave to closing stretch. Flamita’s return to the form we witnessed in Brave Gate matches a decade ago was not the most remarkable aspect of this match, even if somehow Flamita’s been able to regain his smooth flying and remarkable body control after a decade of wear and tear and added weight onto his frame. What I came out of this Brave Gate match feeling is that we need to have a serious talk about Hyo, the position of the Brave Gate, and how the runt of the Class of 2016 has sneakily put together the best Open The Brave Gate Championship reign in almost a decade. 

Where Hyo’s previous Brave Gate run was a character-driven force of will, his second has shown him bring his wrestling ability up to the level of his charisma. He’s not just the most popular babyface on the roster anymore, he was able to wrestle at the quarter hour pace Flamita dictated. Although much was made about Flamita being able to match Hyo’s tumbling to start, it was the fact that he was able to keep that momentum up the entire match into a blistering finish was something this guy was not able to do a year ago, let alone five years. I was once not a believer in the Samson Driver as a finish, but the way that Hyo evolved it to become more of a spiking maneuver versus a flash pin is exactly what he needs it to be. No more messing around with a posing cutter, as soon as Flamita started to go for Flam Flys Hyo spiked him and escaped with the Brave Gate/

Ability and familiarity won out in Korakuen. Hyo’s ability has finally reached the level of his push. As someone who was a fan and dojo trainee in Flamita’s era of the Brave Gate, The Great Brain knew what it would take to put down one of Dragongate’s Mount Rushmore of Foreigners. 

In the post-match, Hyo cut a promo declaring his next goal. He would target PAC’s 11 successful title defenses, because if he’s going to be slightly bitter about Dia’s BOSJ trip he will accomplish something far greater with the Brave Gate. ****¼

Hair vs Hair
YAMATO Def. Kota Minoura

After 2021 and 2022 featured “Minoura Debacles,” as my co-host Case Lowe likes to call the Kota Minoura Dream Gate injections, tonight was the night that the young impetuous Golden Rose Prince learned actions had consequences. He had mucked about Kobe World main events, ruined Dream Gate matches, and became a genuine nuisance around the main event scene for two separate years. In 2023, Minoura tried to get the Dream Gate “the right way,” and won King of Gate and had no Dream Gate win to show for it. 

Then last fall YAMATO started growing annoyed with Minoura. He took the step back from the front line and Minoura was doing THIS? Although Minoura stepped up and begged for a hair match, actions have consequences. The Almighty handled the kid the only way he knew how.

2023-24 YAMATO has been my favorite YAMATO since his Mad Blankey run and we saw the best of it. The best of Kota Minoura’s offense did little more than irritate the old man YAMATO has become. A waterwheel suplex to the apron only provided more fuel for the greatest Dream Gate Champion. YAMATO, harkening back to wearing eyeblack and having flags on his tights, then dismantled the young man’s knee. Minoura kept on getting up, trying to fight the closest thing Dragongate has for a deity, until The Almighty had enough and spiked Kota Minoura with a Galleria and then the uberfinisher, Ragnarok. ****¼

The post-match angle became one of “those” Dragongate moments. YAMATO asked Kota Minoura if this really was all the Reiwa Generation had to offer and refused to cut the loser’s hair. In tears of frustration and anguish Minoura did it himself and stormed to the back. Then YAMATO declared that after the time he spent away from the front line, he figured out what was missing in Dragongate. It just so happened to be more YAMATO and YAMATO as Dream Gate champion and he was planning on facing whomever won that match the night before. 

Ben-K returned and demanded the match at Kobe World and the main event for the 25th Anniversary Show is set.

Final Thoughts

With a legacy defining Brave Gate and a brutal Apuestas, Dragongate put their best foot forward on the back half of their double header. When one adds the official kick off for Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival happening after the main event, these two nights in Tokyo feel near essential. Easy Thumbs Up.