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Jack Loves Dragon Gate: Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival 2017

July 27, 2017 | Posted by Jack Stevenson
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Jack Loves Dragon Gate: Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival 2017  

It’s the biggest Dragon Gate show of the year! Yahoo! The main event will see YAMATO defend his Dream Gate Championship, which he won at the previous year’s show, against T-Hawk, who won the 24 man King of Gate tournament just over a month ago to earn this shot. It’s T-Hawk’s second attempt to win Dragon Gate’s most prestigious title in the main event of the ProWresFest, having come up short to Masato Yoshino in 2015. Elsewhere, CIMA and Dragon Kid defend their Twin Gate Championships against MaxiMuM’s co-captains Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino in a battle of bonafide Dragon Gate icons, Jimmy Kagetora gets the match with Flamita he’d been agitating for with the secondary Brave Gate Championship on the line, and there’s a one night tournament for a shot at the Triangle Gate championships, with representatives of four Dragon Gate factions looking for a shot at VerserK’s champions, Shingo Takagi, Takashi Yoshida and El Lindaman. All the tournament matches, bar the title match itself, will only require a two count for a victory. It should be such a blast.

0- Drastik Boy vs. Syachihoko Boy
The usual fluffy little dark match from Dragon Gate, although since it’s the biggest show of the year the calibre of the wrestlers in it was slightly better than we usually get. Drastik Boy, particularly, is the shit, and it’s a pity (though understandable) that he lives in Flamita’s shadow on these tours. He never looked too troubled by Syachihoko Boy here, showed off plenty of pretty offense, and picked up the win with a Frog Splash at 3:16. ** 3/4.

1- Kaito Ishida, Yuki Yoshioka, Shun Skywalker & Hyo Watanabe vs. Don Fujii, Masaaki Mochizuki & Jimmyz (Jimmy K-Ness JKS, Jimmy Kanda)
There was a nice dynamic to this one, with Ishida’s gang of upstarts trying to topple whose youngest member was the 38 year old whippersnapper Jimmy Kanda. Fujii and Mochizuki were involved in the best moments of the match, with Mochizuki and Ishida conducting some particularly spicy exchanges, and by the final few minutes everyone was zipping in and out the ring and having a lovely time. The only major flaw with it was that it never felt plausible that Ishida and three pre show guys could topple the veterans, which stopped all the cool near falls and frantic finishing stretch action feeling as exciting as it could have done. Still, this was as usual a very likeable opener! Mochizuki floored Ishida with a high kick for the win at 8:21. *** 1/4.

Stalker Ichikawa showed up to ask why all these young punks had a match but there was no spot for a legend like him? Mochizuki told Ichikawa he could have a match with anyone in the ring, and after some umming and ahhing, Ichikawa went for the man himself!

2- Stalker Ichikawa vs. Masaaki Mochizuki
Ichikawa managed to last three minutes with Mochizuki, which wasn’t bad by his standards. And he even gave Mochi a couple of scares, catching him with a flash schoolboy in the very first move of the match, and then towards the end landing a picture perfect bridging German Suplex for two. Sadly, his back gave out when he tried another one, and Mochi just sat down to cover him for the win at 3:30. N/R.

3- Open the Triangle Gate #1 Contender One Night Tournament Semi Final, Two Count Rules: Over Generation (Eita, Gamma, Takehiro Yamamura) vs. MaxiMuM (Kotoka, Big R Shimizu, Ben-K)
In small doses, these two count matches can be great fun, and I don’t know if there’s a promotion in the world that could pull them off as well as Dragon Gate do. The sense of timing and poise you need to do even six minutes where everyone can only get a one count without it looking really forced and strange! Happily, all of these guys have said timing and poise in abundance, and this was a really enjoyable six minute sprint, albeit with the caveat that one team had at least one more match to worry about for later in the evening. Nobody dared try a face in peril segment or anything, it was basically just six minutes of finishing stretch, control of the match swinging back and forth, and it made for a nice, easy watch. After Ben-K CLATTERED Eita with a spear, Kotoka pounced with a cradle for the required two count at 7:07. The right winners, although I’m sad that Takehiro Yamamura’s excellent 2017 thus far wasn’t rewarded with a bigger role on this show. ***.

4- Open the Triangle Gate #1 Contender One Night Tournament Semi Final, Two Count Rules: Tribe Vanguard (BxB Hulk, Kzy, Yosuke Santa Maria) vs. Jimmyz (Genki Horiguchi HAGeeMee, Jimmy Susumu, Ryo Jimmy Saito)
The weaker of the two semi finals. It was four minutes longer, and felt much more like an ordinary six man tag, the only change being people were kicking out of big moves at 1.9999 rather than 2.9999. This didn’t make for a bad match at all, but I preferred the leaner, tighter, and perhaps more logical approach to the stipulation that the Over Generation and MaxiMuM boys took. The other problem was a lot of those extra four minutes were taken up with comedy, which outside of the absurd, pratfalling Stalker Ichikawa, I don’t think Dragon Gate’s especially good at. There was the signature Jimmyz spot where they snap a streamer in someone’s face, which I’ve never really got, and then lots of gross out shit from Santa Maria. Towards the end, there was also some typically enjoyable tag team wrestling and some exciting near falls, but this was the worst thing on the broadcast up to this point. Horiguchi caught Hulk off guard with a backslide for the two count at 11:43. ** 3/4.

5- Open the Brave Gate Championship: Jimmy Kagetora vs. Flamita
Ooft. I was counting on this and the Twin Gate Championship match to steal the show, but worrying it didn’t even come close. If I was compiling a list of my ten favourite wrestlers in the world, both of these men would be in it, and there were glimpses of why I’m such a fan of both of them. But, on the whole, this just felt really… polite? As if neither man wanted to tread on the toes of the ostensibly bigger matches later on. There was some very ordinary mat wrestling at the beginning, then a pretty dull and perfunctory stretch of limb work from both guys, and then a finishing stretch that seemed on the brink of being really, reaaaaaaaallllllly good but then just ended. There was a ton to enjoy in those final few minutes. Flamita’s high flying was as pristine and beautiful as ever, while Kagetora took the chance to run through all his most dynamic and thrilling moves. The fantastic thing about his signature moves is that they trick you into thinking he’s setting up for one thing and then at the apex of them he’ll pivot off somewhere else and do something completely different, and yet it never looks contrived or silly, it’s just gorgeous, fluid wrestling. But there wasn’t enough of it! It ended before they got to the fireworks factory! Still a good match by the end, but way too short, with too much time taken up with unnecessary build up to a spectacular finishing stretch that never arrived. The pressure is really on CIMA, Dragon Kid, Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino now. Kagetora put Flamita away with the Gurumakakari at 14:35. ***.

6- Open the Triangle Gate #1 Contender One Night Tournament Final: MaxiMuM (Kotoka, Big R Shimizu, Ben-K) vs. Jimmyz (Genki Horiguchi HAGeeMee, Jimmy Susumu, Ryo Jimmy Saito)
This sent us onto intermission on a fine note indeed! It took the better of the two templates from the semi finals, keeping it short and sweet (well, actually it was longer than either of those semis, but it certainly felt more compact), and action packed from start to finish. It also had a smidgen more intensity than either of the semi finals, though perhaps not much as you’d expect considering how genuinely hate filled the MaxiMuM/Jimmyz feud has felt to this point. Still, every little helps. It was fun to see the wily old Jimmyz trying to contend with the raw power of Shimizu and Ben-K, and it played into the finish a little, as Horiguchi held Shimizu down with a Backslide for two! at 15:14! It would be the Jimmyz that would challenge VerserK for the Triangle Gate Championships! *** 1/4.


Before the action resumed, we got the annual ProWresFest address from Dragon Gate President Takashi Okamura. He mentioned something very intriguing indeed- that it was time for Dragon Gate to advance from Asia to the rest of the world. And it won’t be like the past where there would be a one off event and then they’d come home- this was going to be a proper launching pad for them. Okamura reassured the Kobe fans that the centre of operations would of course remain in Japan, and then bid them farewell, having expressed his hope they’d enjoy the rest of the show. What a tease! I have no idea what this could have referred to. A streaming service? The return of DGUSA? Both seem impractical for different reasons. Hmmmm…

7- Open the Triangle Gate Championships- VerserK (Shingo Takagi, Takashi Yoshida, El Lindaman) vs. Jimmyz (Genki Horiguchi HAGeeMee, Jimmy Susumu, Ryo Jimmy Saito)
I was a little surprised how much I enjoyed this one. It was the fourth six man tag of the night (albeit the first to be wrestled to a three count), the Triangle Gate belts change hands too often between too small a pool of wrestlers, and the Jimmyz are the least interesting trio of the four in the tournament. But in the end, they and VerserK pulled a terrific match out of the hat. It went on too long, unfortunately, pushing on and on with near falls that would have been compelling had the Triangle Gate belts not last changed hands literally three weeks ago, but other than that there was plenty to like. It actually felt to me a little more Western and sports entertainment-y than the usual Dragon Gate six man, which I don’t mind as a change, and there was an enjoyable structure to it as well, with VerserK dominating (with a pretty watchable heat segment), Shingo putting Genki Horiguchi through a table with a piledriver, and then the Jimmyz roaring back in a really cathartic stretch of the match. Each member of VerserK got clocked with shards of the table, there was a ref bump, VerserK tried to use chairs, Jimmyz turned the tables again. It was just satisfying wrestling. While there were too many near falls, that’s not to say that individual ones weren’t enjoyable in their own right, particularly when Cyber Kong sprayed Jimmy Susumu with black mist behind the beleaguered referee’s back, and Shingo started to unload his signature moves on him- those 2.999999 counts were pretty bloody sick. Alas, The Last Falconry eventually kept Susumu down for three at 20:16. VerserK retained the titles. A really good bout! *** 3/4.

8- Open the Twin Gate Championships: Over Generation (CIMA, Dragon Kid) vs. DoiYoshi (Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino)
This was one of those matches that makes me wish I was 1000 times better as a writer so I could go some way to express how beautiful and thrilling and life affirming I found it. I mean, you devote so much of your spare time to one of the most ludicrous hobbies on the planet, pro wrestling, and then sometimes it rewards you with THIS SORT OF THING. The old saying is that wrestling isn’t ballet, but sometimes it is ballet, and sometimes that’s a great thing. The grace and ease with which everyone in this match rampages around the ring and glides through the air is a sight to behold. There were sequences in this that were fucking art. Just jaw dropping high flying, blistering bursts of speed, and for once I loved the slow burn pace of the match, the way the marvellous insanity just built and built and built as the bout wore on. But it wasn’t all just prettiness. There was proper fucking melodrama here. Masato Yoshino locked the Sol Naciente in tight on CIMA. CIMA stomped on Yoshino- couldn’t break the hold. Dragon Kid comes in and lands a glancing blow on Yoshino, it doesn’t break the hold, and Naruki Doi ushers him from the ring and keeps him from attempting another save. It’s all on CIMA now, Yoshino squeezes the hold in tighter, CIMA slumps to the mat, the crowd scream his name, Over Generation are banging on the mat, Gamma’s leading the cheer on the apron, the drama is off the charts, and when somehow CIMA survives, we get this rush of astonishing two counts that have you on the edge of your seat. Dragon Kid is able to land the Dragonrana on Yoshino, and it gets him at 21:37, ending what was a total joy from start to finish. Seriously sexy pro wrestling. It is not five stars because maybe there were occasional moves that looked too light to be believable, and I could have taken another five minutes of near falls. But it is the second or third best match I have seen this year and come year’s end, when I reflect on all the best stuff from 2017, I could see bumping it up a couple spots. What a fucking match. **** 3/4.

9- Open the Dream Gate Championship: YAMATO vs. T-Hawk
There were things I liked about this. While I’d say the overwhelming majority of YAMATO’s Dream Gate defences have been overwhelmed by the pressure on his shoulders to deliver a classic, leading to bouts that try too hard and become bloated and pretentious, this one felt a little less overwrought. Indeed, I was surprised to discover it almost lasted half an hour, and if anything I’d have criticised it for being a little underdeveloped for the main event of the biggest Dragon Gate show of the year. They did well to keep the pace moving pretty nicely, with a brawl up the ramp and some strikes with real mustard behind them. It wasn’t anything special, but it watchable. The near falls at the end got really good in places as well, although they also gave me this creeping sense that this match would look waaaaay better in the morning with a T-Hawk victory. It reached the point where you knew you weren’t getting a classic, but you just might get to see a momentous occasion in a young man’s career, and part of the deal for getting so invested in them for me was that eventually T-Hawk would put YAMATO away. Of course, he didn’t, although it took three Gallerias for YAMATO to polish him off at 29:16. On the whole, you’d have to call this good but not great, and perhaps a case of the right man at the wrong time in regards to T-Hawk’s title challenge. He seems to divide opinion among Dragon Gate fans but I think he’s a pretty great little bastard, not my absolute favourite on the roster, not even in my top five, but certainly more enjoyable than YAMATO at this point and with youth on his side. This year, though, Naruki Doi was the hottest guy in King of Gate. I get that people had been waiting for DoiYoshi to reform for months but with them officially co-captaining MaxiMuM together I think people would have been very happy for Naruki to go for, and probably win, the Dream Gate belt alone. I also haven’t forgotten what a letdown their match at Final Gate in December was, but you’ve got to assume two wrestlers with such experience would have learned from their mistakes. I mean, I’m not complaining, because we got a fine YAMATO/T-Hawk match and a world class DoiYoshi/CIMA-Dragon Kid tag, it’s just a matter of what your priorities are. Anyway, this was a good match, just about good enough to not end the show on a bit of a low note, certainly won’t be remembered come year’s end though. *** 1/4.

Adding to the sense that we’d just witnessed ‘another match,’ YAMATO didn’t even get to celebrate his win before Shingo Takagi jumped him from behind. Shingo said it was pathetic that YAMATO could be considered the best in the company, and pointed out that VerserK have three belts in comparison to Tribe Vanguard’s one. YAMATO, having recovered from the sneak attack, pointed out that the Dream Gate championship was the most prestigious in Dragon Gate, and as long as it was in Tribe Vanguard’s possession, they would be the most important unit. This brought out CIMA to reminisce about his last Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival main event in 2013, and express a desire to return to that level. For that to happen, Over Generation would have to be the best faction. MaxiMuM and the Jimmyz both came out to stake their claim to be Dragon Gate’s best group as well. This was all to do with the league series that will run throughout August, in which all five factions will participate, and the stable at the bottom of the league at the end will be forced to disband. The main event of Dragon Gate’s biggest show turned out to just be extended hype for the next month’s tournament, albeit a rather exciting tournament. Tribe Vanguard did get the chance to close the show alone, and celebrate YAMATO reaching one year as champion!

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
While it stopped short of absolute greatness, this was still a very good show from Dragon Gate, with no bad matches in sight and a Twin Gate Championship defence that should rock your socks clean off. It's a pity Kagetora and Flamita didn't have the match they could have done, a pity that iffy booking patterns held the Triangle Gate defence back from greatness, a pity that T-Hawk didn't have his moment in the sun. If literally one of those three things had happened, we're talking a show of the year contender, but as it was this was still a great event, well worth your time, as always from the most fun pro wrestling company in the world. If your interest has been piqued by this show, why not visit I Heart DG, the most comprehensive Dragon Gate resource in the English language and the source of the promo transcriptions in this review?