DRAGONGATE
AGGRESSIVE GATE
JULY 5, 2024
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: Dragongate Network

SHUJI KONDO DEF. KOTA MINOURA 

Kota Minoura is bald. A month removed from his Hair vs. Hair Match against YAMATO, the standout from The Class of 2018 is a shell of his former self. He’s no longer the top dog in his own unit, as Ben-K is heading into Kobe World as Open the Dream Gate Champion. The tear-down of Minoura has been long, aggressive, and intriguing. It was two years ago that with Shuji Kondo in the ring, Minoura crashed the Dream Gate party, torpedoed his own career, and destroyed a Dream Gate program weeks out of the biggest show of the year. Everything Minoura has done since has been viewed through the lens of what we now recognize as The Kota Minoura Debacle. He was cycled out of relevance in the back-half of 2022, but came back strong last year by winning King of Gate and doing so in impressive fashion. I largely have enjoyed the steps the company has taken with Minoura in their everlasting attempt to rehab him, and I continue to be intrigued by his current place on the first match of most DG shows. 

Minoura hit Kondo hard in this match, and he hit him often, but Kondo was never in danger of falling to a man who was once slotted far ahead of him in the pecking order. This, if anything, was a sneaky reminder that Shuji Kondo can still work at a high-level. I enjoyed not only seeing these two trade bombs, but also trade holds. Kondo can still go on the mat despite his poor knees and advanced age. 

There was a lot to like in this opener, and until further notice, every Minoura match is required viewing. You can’t help but feel like a month or two from now, all of these opening matches are going to lead to something big. It could springboard Minoura back up the card, or it could lead to a soul-crushing heel turn that would put the entire company on notice. Either way, what Kota Minoura is doing right now is very interesting. 

A King Kong Lariat ended Minoura’s night just after the 8-minute mark. ***1/4 

To add to Minoura’s troubles, his mini, Minorita, came out after the match to express concern for Minoura. He challenged him to a singles match next month in an attempt to have Minoura get his spark back. 

ISHIN & KAI DEF. KAGETORA & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA 

I fear ISHIN is going to have a similar career trajectory to Don Fujii, meaning that the people that would like him the most are the people that aren’t going to watch Dragongate with a gun to their head. It’s a shame. ISHIN is an excellent, chubby heel, who did awesome chubby heel things in this match. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t spectacular, but it was enjoyable while it lasted. He suckered Kagetora into distracting the referee, then drilled Kagetora with a low blow to get the win. **1/2 

BXB HULK, MINORITA, & RYU FUDA, & ULTIMO DRAGON DEF. DAIKI YANAGIUCHI, PUNCH TOMINAGA, TORU OWASHI, & YASUSHI KANDA 

Let me start off by saying that once again, Net Positive Owashi struck again. His interactions with Minorita were the highlight of this match, which isn’t a shock given their super fun singles match in Fukuoka last month. If anyone complains about Toru Owashi in Dragongate, they either aren’t watching close enough, or they are looking for something to complain about. Nearly every outing he’s had this year has ranged from “very good” to “fun”, and I like fun. 

It was nice seeing the young guys get so much time. I’m dying for DG to do something with both Yanagiuchi and Fuda at this point. Both of them are ready, and Fuda, to his credit, has remained healthy since his comeback in March. It might only be 4 months, but that is an eternity in Fuda Time. Get this man a unit and get him on the road full-time (it would be great to watch him develop on house shows, but the company has axed that program, much to my dismay). Yanagicuhi lit it up with Minorita in the closing stretch of the bout. It was so nice to see Minorita get the chance to close things out, instead of Hulk or Ultimo. That added an extra bit of spice to the bout. They botched a cradle pin in the final seconds of the match, but they recovered nicely and it led to Minorita planting the ex-Korakuen Hall employee with a Minoritanic for the win. **3/4 

BIG BOSS SHIMIZU, STRONG MACHINE J, & U-T DEF. LA ESTRELLA, MADOKA KIKUTA, & RYOYA TANAKA 

La Estrella is a replacement level junior, but he’s a mighty fine replacement. He’s like ex-NBA player Jamal Crawford. You don’t want Crawford to be your second option, let alone your first, but if Crawford is the representation of “depth” on your team, then you’re probably in good shape. If Estrella was Dragongate’s only dojo output of the 2020’s, they’d be in deep trouble. With the likes of ISHIN, Minorita, and Mochizuki Junior slotted ahead of him, however, Estrella is a perfectly serviceable midcard wrestler who is capable of putting forth strong outings with the right opponent. Luckily for him, Big Boss Shimizu and U-T fall under the “right opponent” banner. Estrella was quite enjoyable here. 

Given the fall out of this show and their subsequent Osaka show two days later (in which Gold Class challenged them for the belts at Kobe World), this Natural Vibes Triangle Gate team will likely drop the belts after only one successful defense. That’s the right call, given what Gold Class has cooking for them, but I couldn’t help but watch this match and feel like Shimizu, SMJ, and U-T are the perfect Triangle Gate. Shimizu brings power, U-T brings speed, and SMJ brings star power. If circumstances were different, I would’ve rallied around them to become the first dominant Triangle Gate team in years. As it stands, they’ll likely drop the belts and move on, which is a shame because they’re a great team. 

U-T was awesome down the finishing stretch, locking Estrella in the Bienllave Perfecto and forcing the masked man to tap. ***1/4 

After the match, Dragon Dia joined his fellow D’Courage members in the ring and brought out Yuki Yoshioka for his first public appearance since December. Yoshioka got a huge reaction. He was forced to vacate the Twin Gate belts with Dia at the end of 2023 after being diagnosed with mild retinal detachment. The former Dream Gate Champion was sporting glasses, noting that he was not yet 100%, but that he would be back soon. This brought out Shun Skywalker to taunt D’Courage, which led to a 4 vs. 4 Elimination Match being set up for the August Korakuen. Everyone exited the ring shortly after, but Dia returned alone and grabbed the microphone to announce that Ryusuke Taguchi of New Japan Pro Wrestling would be taking Yoshioka’s place in the 4 vs. 4 match to repay the favor of Dia filling in for Taguchi during this year’s Super Juniors tournament. 

I’m not sure I’ve been excited for a Taguchi match in five years, but I think his inclusion in this match will be a nice piece of business. 




FLAMITA, JACKY KAMEI, KZY, & LUIS MANTE DEF. DRAGON KID, JASON LEE, NARUKI DOI, & SHUN SKYWALKER 

A lottery drawing at the start of the show determined the teams for this match. All eight men will be competing in a four-way tag for the Twin Gate belts at Kobe World. 

In 2022, I wrote the following: 

Since I began reviewing Kobe World shows for Voices of Wrestling in 2015, my star ratings look like this: 

2015: YAMATO & Naruki Doi vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet: ****

2016: Jimmy Kagetora & Jimmy Susumu vs. “brother” YASSHI & Naruki Doi: ***1/2 

2017: CIMA & Dragon Kid vs. Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi: ****1/2 

2018: BxB Hulk & YAMATO vs. Ben-K & Big R Shimizu: ****1/2 

2019: Big R Shimizu & Eita vs. Kaito Ishida & Naruki Doi vs. KAI & YAMATO: ****3/4 

2020: BxB Hulk & KAI vs. Kota Minoura & YAMATO: ***3/4 (YAMATO was a last minute substitution for Jason Lee, who was pulled from the show for COVID-19 precautionary reasons) 

2021: King Shimizu & Susumu Yokosuka vs. Kaito Ishida & Kazma Sakamoto: ****1/2 

*Speed Star Final 2021: King Shimizu & Susumu Yokosuka vs. Ben-K & Dragon Kid: ****1/2 

The list of Twin Gate matches at Kobe World that predate my reviews include: 

2008: Ryo Saito & Susumu Yokosuka vs. MAZADA & NOSAWA Rongai: ***1/2 

2009: Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito vs. Shingo Takagi & YAMATO: **1/2 

2010: Don Fujii & Masaaki Mochizuki vs. K-Ness & Susumu Yokosuka: ****

2011: CIMA & Ricochet vs. Dragon Kid & PAC: *****

2012: Jimmy Kagetora & Jimmy Susumu vs. Shingo Takagi & YAMATO: ****

2013: Akira Tozawa & BxB Hulk vs. Naruki Doi & Ricochet: ****3/4 

2014: Akira Tozawa & Shingo Takagi vs. T-Hawk & Eita: ****3/4 

Basically, as long as your match isn’t dragged down by Real Hazard bullshit (2009) or the mere presence of “brother” YASSHI (2016), you are guaranteed to have a great match in this spot.”

That was to preview Diamante & Shun Skywalker vs. Jacky “Funky” Kamei & Jason Lee, a match that I was worried I had unreasonable expectations for. That match ended up being one of the greatest matches in Dragongate history

Last year’s Ben-K & BxB Hulk vs. Susumu Mochizuki & Yasushi Kanda tag match was a step down from the five-star affair in 2022, but reader be warned, my expectations for the 2024 incarnation of the Twin Gate match are at an all-time high. As far as I’m concerned, this is the match that decides how great Kobe World will be. This match would get my ass in the building if I lived in Japan. This match ensures that my excitement level for this show can’t dip below an 8. This match can’t be lower than “MOTYC-level”; anything else would be a disappointment, which is such an unfair position to put the performers in. That’s how good, historically, Twin Gate matches have been at Kobe World. Anything other than the best is simply not good enough. 

If this preview was any indication of what we’re getting in late July, we’re going to be in for a very special match. You could point in the direction of Flamita being a world-beater, Naruki Doi and Dragon Kid being one of the most fun pairings in all of wrestling, or the teases and brief interactions of Big Hug vs. Jason Lee & Shun Skywalker, a partner-swap of the aforementioned World 2022 tag. There’s no shortage of things to get excited for, and this eight-man only got me more jacked for a match that I was already through-the-roof about. 

The rules of the Kobe World match are still unclear and will continue to be until the card is announced in full, but the ultimate hope is that it’s an elimination match and it comes down to Big Hug and Skywalker and Lee. I can’t imagine a more-fitting match for this stage, which is nuts considering how hot Flamita is and how good Not Hug has been as a team all year. 

In the last three years, Dragongate hasn’t always stuck the landing when it comes to big-time Dream Gate matches. They often over-complicate the booking and people look worse as a result. This match, however, represents the stellar work of the tag division over the last two years. This is a domino-effect of Kamei & Lee tearing the house down with Skywalker & Mante. This is everything, as a Dragongate fan, that you could ask for. 

Down the stretch, Skywalker caught Kzy with a side slam, but before he could drill the Natural Vibes member with his Double Knee Moonsault, Jacky Kamei intercepted him with a Torbellino. Before Kamei could gain momentum, he got caught in a Crucifix hold from Dragon Kid and nearly fell victim to the Doi-ble, but Skywalker swept out the legs of his own partner in Naruki Doi, then Jason Lee superkicked Dragon Kid (again, his own partner), leading to Kamei rolling up Kid for the win. A picture-perfect finish and a way to cap off a thrilling match. Top notch stuff all-around. Go watch it. ****1/4 

MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI VS. MOCHIZUKI JUNIOR 

This match ended in a double knockout at 16:04 after Masaaki Mochizuki landed a Saikyou High Kick and Mochizuki Junior landed a thrusting knee to the head in return, causing both men to collapse and be counted out. 

In a recent episode of Open the Voice Gate while discussing the Voices of Wrestling 30 Under 30 project, I said this in relation to Mochizuki Junior, “The single biggest whiff right now among tastemakers in wrestling is that they aren’t widely identifying him [Mochizuki Junior] as a prodigy. I just don’t get it. He’s great at everything, and his last name is Mochizuki. He’s going to be a humongous star.”

I’m scared to think where I would’ve rated Junior had the voting taken place after this match. 

As it stood, I ranked Junior at #10 and he finished #23 in the overall poll, a fine position and quite frankly a much better spot than I would’ve predicted for the second-generation standout. I still have to scratch my head and wonder why pundits are missing the boat on this kid, however. While I resign that the likes of Kaito Kiyomiya and Shun Skywalker are better than Junior, it is becoming painfully clear that there is not a better talent under 25 right now and he’s on par with everything that Yuma Anzai can do at 25. This was the match of Junior’s career, although I have no doubt that sooner rather than later, this will be replaced by something even better. The confounding thing about the lack of noise surrounding Junior is that as long as he’s been healthy, he’s been interesting. There is no cycle up/cycle down situation with him (an overblown talking point, anyways). Since his debut in June 2022 in the main event of Korakuen Hall, Mochizuki Junior has not only been thoroughly interesting, but he’s been great. 

Upon his debut and the sheer shock that there was a second Mochizuki, he and his gang of old man friends rallied their way into a Triangle Gate match at World that year, leading to Junior becoming the quickest champion in Dragongate history. He quickly transitioned into a will they/won’t they feud with ISHIN, then known as Ishin Iihashi. Right when it looked like that he and ISHIN were going to form a team and ISHIN was going to join M3K, he turned on him, joined Z-Brats, and dawned the all-caps name, throwing his family’s legacy away. He spent the rest of the year going at it with not only ISHIN, but Dragongate’s other second-generation star, Strong Machine J, in a feud that will likely spring up again here shortly. In early 2023, Junior joined forces with his father for Rey de Parejas. While they weren’t successful in the tournament, they put forth a number of tremendous matches. In March 2023, he would lose a Triangle Gate challenge alongside Susumu and Kanda, then a Twin Gate match with his father, both of which were excellent. He lost his momentum in April after an injury, but hit the ground running when he returned in July, mainly picking up right where he left off with ISHIN. It seemed he had a new friend in Yoshiki Kato, but the day after the two teamed together in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Kato, much like ISHIN, turned on Junior and joined Z-Brats. Junior suffered a serious knee injury and was out of action from that show in November until January, when he returned and made it clear that he no longer wanted to be in his dad’s shadow. He spent February-May in the UK before returning last month and rocking Yasushi Kanda’s world. This all led to father vs. son for the first time in Dragongate history, in what will surely go down as one of the best matches of the year. 

After waiting for two years, this match was everything we could’ve asked for. Junior beat the life out of his dad, and his dad did the same to him. It was fascinating to watch Mochizuki dominate the early portions of this match, to a point in which I started to wonder if Junior would ever make a comeback. When he did, it was electric. His running knee strike has all of the force of peak Kenny Omega and his V-Trigger. It was incredible to see Junior fight back in the way that he did after taking the beating that he took early on in the bout. Halfway through the bout, Junior started egging on his old man. He blistered his chest with chops so hard that they made the three-time Dream Gate Champion wince in pain. When Mocchy fought back from the chops, Junior settled the score with a straight jab to the face. It was at that moment that this match went up a level. 

It didn’t matter what Mocchy tried to do to his offspring; his signature Twister failed, his corner kick was countered, and his patented kicks were met with kicks from Junior. The monster that Mocchy created was finally too powerful to be thwarted. Junior wrestled like a machine in the final half of the match, which all came to a head when he survived a Saikyou High Kick, only to deliver one last-ditch knee to the head, which sent both men to the canvas for good. The referee had no choice but to declare this match a double knockout. 

There aren’t enough words to praise this match, not only for the match itself, but for the doors that it opened. Junior’s booking has been handled perfectly since his debut, and this match (with this finish) just opened up a new door for the prodigy. Now, somehow, we have to see him wrestle his dad again. This wasn’t a one-and-done. To add fuel to the fire, the next time they wrestle, Junior now has to win. Junior was already sneaking into the upper midcard, based more so on reputation and hype rather than output, but there’s no question that he’s there now after this match. Junior elevated himself up a rung in the Dragongate pecking order. He’s proven he can beat the likes of Minorita and Yasushi Kanda, and now he’s on the same level as the other Mochizuki in the company. 

I can’t fathom someone not liking this. It had the hatred and stiffness that makes Japanese wrestling so special, with the emotion and pageantry that only Dragongate can offer. While I would love a crystal ball into an alternative universe in which Junior would’ve won this match clean, I can comfortably say that I’m happy with this finish because it left me wanting more. I have no notes nor qualms, this match was everything I wanted it to be. ****3/4 

DREAM & BRAVE GATE DOUBLE SKIRMISH TAG TEAM MATCH
DRAGON DIA & YAMATO DEF. BEN-K & HYO 

The opponents for both the Open the Dream and Open the Brave Gate Championship matches at World were pitted against one another in this match. This match accomplished its job because it made me way more excited for both of these matches at World than I was going into the match. 

The last time Dragongate had a really great Dream Gate built at Kobe World was 2019. That was the year that Ben-K turned face, ran through King of Gate, and beat PAC for the belt at World. It was a perfect scenario in which Ben was in dire need of a turn, and he happened to turn at a time when PAC, the dominant heel champion, had the belt. PAC’s goal when he returned to Dragongate in 2018 was to leave the company in a better place than where it was when he returned, and he did just that. A year later, COVID-19 pushed World back to November, only two weeks after Gate of Destiny. Shun Skywalker returned from a COVID-stricken excursion at Gate of Destiny, challenged Eita to a match after he retained the belt against Kzy, and then Skywalker dominated Eita and went on his way from there. In 2021 and 2022, Kobe World expanded to two nights and thus, Dream Gate matches were booked on both nights. The booking was complicated and messy, but at least in 2021, the matches were excellent. 2023 saw Madoka Kikuta wrestle his D’Courage partner Yuki Yoshioka for the belt in a match that drastically cooled Kikuta off because of the odd face vs. face dynamic. 

Now, in 2024, Dragongate has made the build to Ben vs. YAMATO painfully simple, but they may see the results that they want from it. Ben won the belt last month, YAMATO still feels that he’s better than anyone from Ben’s generation, and now they’re going to wrestle over it. It’s not the most exciting thing that they’ve ever done, but it works. 

It also helps that Ben and YAMATO have excellent chemistry, which was fully on display here. It’s great seeing YAMATO wrestle with a little bit of bite to him. This isn’t 2017, happy-go-lucky YAMATO. The most decorated wrestler in Dragongate history still feels like he has something left in the tank, and he’s tired of hearing about Dragongate’s “youth movement”. The deeper he reaches into his bag of tricks, the more entertaining he is. He brought the best out of Ben here, and Ben brought the best out of YAMATO. 

The standouts in this match were not the Dream Gate combatants, however. Hyo and Dragon Dia, who wrestled each other twice for the Brave Gate belt in 2022 (Dia retained in the first encounter, Hyo won the belt in the second encounter) reprised their roles and stole the show in this Korakuen Hall main event. The difference between what they were doing in 2022 and what they’re doing now is that Hyo is so much better than he was then. In 2022 as a representative of Z-Brats, Hyo was still doing a character-heavy act that relied on him “outsmarting” his opponents, rather than out-wrestling them. 2024 Hyo wants to out-wrestle Dragon Dia and it’s an awesome thing to see. 

Despite Hyo now coming into this contest with the edge, Dia proved that he still has his fastball. He ate a Samson Driver from the champion, but quickly reversed the pin and scored the win on Hyo out of nowhere. 

This took a second to get going, but the last half of this 20-minute encounter were stellar. This was the perfect Korakuen go-home match as we approach the biggest Dragongate show of the year. ****

Final Thoughts

Three great matches, one star-making performance, and a number of breadcrumbs dropped for the rest of the year; you literally couldn’t ask for more out of a Dragongate Korakuen show. Run, don’t walk, to this show.

Listen to Voices of Wrestling’s Dragongate podcast Open the Voice Gate! 

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