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Jack’s Dragon Gate Adventures: Scandal Gate 2017 Review

September 9, 2017 | Posted by Jack Stevenson
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Jack’s Dragon Gate Adventures: Scandal Gate 2017 Review  

Coming off the back of a very good Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival, Dragon Gate has launched immediately into the Survival Race tournament. The company’s top five units all feature in a round robin block format, with singles, tags, six, eight and ten mans all featuring, and one point the reward for a victory. The twist here is that who ends up winning the group is less important than who finishes bottom; the faction that props up the block at the end of the tournament is forced to disband. This show, from lovely old Korakuen Hall, was the first televised event of the Survival Race, but several non televised matches had already occurred. The standings going into this show were as follows:

1. MaxiMuM (3) (3-2)
2. Tribe Vanguard (2) (2-1)
2. Jimmyz (2) (2-1)
4. Over Generation (2) (2-3)
5. VerserK (1) (1-3)

1- Katsumi Takashima, Shun Skywalker & Yuki Yoshioka vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Gamma & Syachihoko Boy
This was just an opener, you know? It was a chance for Takashima, Yoshioka and Skywalker to get some more seasoning as they become more of a consistent presence on Dragon Gate shows, and it was nice to see them get a little control segment on the veterans. On the whole though, was a pretty quiet and restrained effort. Totally watchable, above average, but nothing particularly remarkable or memorable. Mochizuki clattered Yoshioka with a High Kick at 6:03 for an enjoyably sudden victory. ** 3/4.

2- Don Fujii & Hyo Watanabe vs. Jimmyz (Jimmy K-Ness JKS, Jimmy Kanda)
Again, this was noticeably toned down compared to Dragon Gate’s usual style, but the second or third matches on the card often follow that formula anyway, and with all of Dragon Gate’s best, top guys involved in the Survival Race, it’s unsurprising the non tournament matches would be more muted fare. Hyo Watanabe looked good alongside the three veterans, at one point tying up Kanda with a beautiful Mysteriorana into a Victory Roll. But in the end he was the one eating the pinfall, Kanda dropping him with Ryu’s (spinning sit out Tiger Driver) for the win at 7:41. ** 3/4.

Don Fujii berated Watanabe, Yoshioka, Skywalker and Takashima post match, pointing out that they just kept losing and would never establish themselves on the main roster like this. Yoshioka insisted they wanted to make an impact, and asked Fujii to lead them as a faction. Don wasn’t thrilled with this idea at first, but was talked into accepting, and decided his first act would be to come up with new ring names for Yuki Yoshioka and Katsumi Takashima, since Shun Skywalker and Hyo Watanabe already had their own distinct characters. Both Yuki and Katsumi were hesitant, with Fujii known for some of his eccentric schemes in the past, but Fujii wouldn’t go through with the faction without that level of control, and so it was decided that next month, Yoshioka and Takashima will get their new names unveiled.

3- Survival Race: Over Generation (CIMA, Dragon Kid) vs. Jimmyz (Genki Horiguchi HAGeeMee, Jimmy Kagetora)
This was very good fun. It got off to a slow start and I was worried it would be one of those periodic Dragon Gate matches that look great on paper but are inexplicably wrestled at a stiflingly slow pace. On this occasion though, it was just a really satisfying, slow burning match. CIMA, Dragon Kid and Kagetora are all among Dragon Gate’s absolute best, and Horiguchi’s no slouch either, so there were some terrific and really graceful sequences in this one, alongside the usual array of exciting near falls. CIMA dropped Horiguchi with the Meteora, and then followed up with a Frog Splash to pick up the win for Over Generation at 13:09. The victory moved Over Generation up to joint first in the table alongside MaxiMuM, which is good because they’re the two factions I’d be most disheartened to see split up! *** 1/2.

Post match, Yosuke Santa Maria of all people launched a surprise attack on Kagetora, eventually easing him into unconsciousness with a forceful kiss. She also planted a kiss on the Brave Gate championship belt!

4- Survival Race: Over Generation (Eita, Takehiro Yamamura, Kaito Ishida) vs. MaxiMuM (Kotoka, Ben-K, Big R Shimizu)
Oh! This was wonderful! It was the Over Generation and MaxiMuM youth teams facing off, and it felt like it too, in the best possible way. A bunch of young, hungry, super talented guys absolutely desperate to prove a point. The intensity was palpable right from the opening bell; no obligatory feeling out process, everyone just went for each other’s throats. MaxiMuM had a brief control segment but even that felt brisk and purposeful. The finishing stretch was frenetic as anything. Perhaps most importantly, it felt like everyone put their best foot forward; Shimizu and Ben-K were all raw, furious power, Over Generation’s teamwork and fluidity was pretty much faultless, and Kotoka, man, after being a walking punchline for years, I can’t say enough about how nice it is to see him not just as a serious wrestler, but as a very good one, an actual threat. He lost the match this time though, as Eita forced a submission out of him with the Numero Uno at 11:53! **** 1/4. The only reason I won’t go higher is because it was very much still an undercard match, but undeniably a brilliant example of one. All out wrestling with everyone giving it their all. Yahooooooo!

5- Survival Race: MaxiMuM (Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino) vs. Jimmyz (Jimmy Susumu, Ryo Jimmy Saito)
Back to back fantastic wrestling! Yeah! This started out great, with MaxiMuM going right on the attack and Yoshino launching himself out the ring with a soaring dive. They then settled down into a fairly humdrum control segment, and the Jimmyz did the same when the tide turned in their favour, but both of these parts were reasonably watchable and, in either case, short. The real meat of the match came in a lengthy and fantastic finishing stretch, which was just absolutely the sort of thing you watch Dragon Gate for. Electric pacing, tons of beautiful high flying, and outstanding, fluid counters and counter counters and high impact moves. It was a total joy! I think this one has got some moderate MOTYC hype from Dragon Gate fans; I think it’s pretty comprehensively eclipsed by Doi and Yoshino’s tag title bout with CIMA and Dragon Kid, which had just as good wrestling but built in a much more satisfying and consistent fashion. This one was kind of just five minutes of OK wrestling and then boom all of a sudden we hit the good stuff. But, there was a lot of good stuff, a loooooooot of good stuff, and it was proof if proof were needed that A) Doi and Yoshino are among the best in the world, and B) when motivated, Susumu and Saito can absolutely still hang with the best. Doi tagged Saito with the Sliding Bakatare for the win at 18:35. **** 1/4.

6- Survival Race; Eight Man Elimination Tag Team Match: Tribe Vanguard (YAMATO, BxB Hulk, Kzy, Yosuke Santa Maria) vs. VerserK (Shingo Takagi, T-Hawk, El Lindaman, Takashi Yoshida)
Dragon Gate has this weird blindspot with elimination tags, I think; despite some good ideas and the best of intentions, they never seem to be able to get them quite right. This one got off to a good start, with VerserK as usual instigating and dominating a wild brawl around ringside to get the early heat on Tribe Vanguard. There was a heat segment in which VerserK utilised quick tags to keep the pace up, and there’s enough variety in that group to ensure a nice, interesting array of offense when they’re in control. And, of course, it was all building to a frenzied conclusion with bodies zooming in and out the ring at a quick pace, with plenty of cool moves being snapped off. And yet… this all felt a bit less than the sum of its parts. I mean, that heat segment, for example, was better than the one in the previous, excellent tag match, but it was also longer, and those things can easily outwear the welcome. The finishing stretch, which would have been superb in an ordinary match, was hindered by the knowledge than when someone did finally get a pinfall or submission, the match wouldn’t be over, we’d only actually be a seventh of the way through it, and the longer it went on the more unappetising a prospect it felt. Finally, I also think it didn’t help that the story of the match was built around you feeling sympathy for Tribe Vanguard, who to be honest might be the weakest faction in the tournament and don’t have the same inspirational, natural chemistry that MaxiMuM or Over Generation or even the Jimmyz do. Yosuke Santa Maria is a fantastic underdog and ordinarily it’s a blessed relief to see her getting bullied and bludgeoned and then channelling all the fighting spirit she can muster into a thrilling comeback, rather than just doing her usual gross-out sexual comedy spots, but here even that felt a bit off. Essentially, it was too long, and didn’t quite have the right heroes for the story it was trying to tell. This was most obvious in the very final moments of the match, when Tribe Vanguard starting picking off VerserK members until all of a sudden it was just Shingo left, four on one. Shingo launched into this magnificent, defiant comeback; he was cheating shamelessly and relying on copious interference from his supposedly vanquished teammates, but it was still super cool to watch him fending off all his opponents single handedly. And this guy is Dragon Gate’s biggest heel! So, yes, this had its moments and its ambition is worthy of respect, but ultimately I found it to be another underwhelming elimination tag from Dragon Gate this year. A missed opportunity, a real shame. Kzy got Shingo with a Skayde roll-up at 30:24 after Shingo had his own VerserK crate used against him! ** 1/2.

Over Generation and MaxiMuM both appeared after the match to mock VerserK for their comprehensive defeat, and their poor performance in the tournament to date. This, of course, descended into all everyone just sniping at each other, until eventually it was decided that there would be a three team, two out of three falls nine man tag at September’s Korakuen show, Over Generation vs. MaxiMuM vs. VerserK. The winners of the first fall will be considered the winners and leave the match, the losers of the final fall will have two losses marked against them in the overall standings. High stakes!

Masaaki Mochizuki then hit the ring to begin the other post match angle. He reminded YAMATO that, while the Survival Race is Dragon Gate’s main focus at the moment, he couldn’t afford to relax about his Open the Dream Gate championship. Mochizuki pinned YAMATO in tag team action back on a house show in Kyoto, and wanted a title shot on that basis. YAMATO insisted one win wasn’t enough to leapfrog into title contention, and Big R Shimizu also was sceptical of Mochizuki’s right to a shot. After all, Big R beat YAMATO in three minutes in an astonishing upset at King of Gate- surely that made him more worthy of a title shot than a man who secured a fluke pin on him in a house show tag match? Eventually, it was decided that Shimizu and Mochizuki would have a #1 contender match at September Korakuen (although, honestly, Shimizu’s been screwed there, hasn’t he? He beat YAMATO clean in THREE MINUTES. THREE BLOODY MINUTES).

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Despite the bloated and disappointing main event, this was still a pretty rocking show from Dragon Gate, with two magnificent matches in Over Generation vs. MaxiMuM and DoiYoshi vs. Susumu & Saito, a big angle with Don Fujii forming a new faction, and then two intriguing, potentially fantastic matches being set up for next month. The Survival Race tournament is a great concept and has given Dragon Gate huge momentum coming out of Kobe ProWresFest, and hopefully there's more twists, turns, and bitchin' lucharesu before its conclusion!

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Dragon Gate, Jack Stevenson