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Open The Reviewing Dragon Gate Gate: Dragon Gate King of Gate 05.09.17

July 18, 2017 | Posted by Jack Stevenson
Dragon Gate Image Credit: Dragon Gate
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Open The Reviewing Dragon Gate Gate: Dragon Gate King of Gate 05.09.17  

Back on this reviewing pro wrestling lark, and picking up where we left off with Dragon Gate; King of Gate! An annual tournament, which used to be singles elimination but the last couple of years has taken a round robin format, it features Dragon Gate’s best singles wrestlers squaring off for the right to challenge for the Open the Dream Gate Championship. This year there’s four groups of six wrestlers, with the winners of each block going onto the semi finals. This is how the groups shake down:

Group A- Big R Shimizu, Dragon Kid, Don Fujii, Eita, Jimmy K-Ness, YAMATO
Group B- Ben-K, Gamma, Jimmy Susumu, Kzy, T-Hawk, Yosuke Santa Maria
Group C- CIMA, Jimmy Kagetora, Naruki Doi, Ryo Jimmy Saito, Takashi Yoshida, Takehiro Yamamura
Group D- BxB Hulk, El Lindaman, Genki Horiguchi, Jimmy Kanda, Masaaki Mochizuki, Shingo Takagi

Not all of those matches are going to make air (not necessarily a bad thing, as anyone who seriously tried to sit through the entirety of Best of the Super Juniors this year will know), but it still throws up plenty of exciting and unique matches for the next few weeks of shows! Starting on this one at Korakuen Hall!

The usual hat tip to iheartdg for being the best Dragon Gate place on the web. Follow me on Twitter @stevensonj95 so I have more than 13 followers and can justify sending out miscellaneous wrestling opinions without feeling like I’m talking to myself.

0- Hyou Watanabe vs. Yosuke Santa Maria
A largely ordinary dark match to begin. The usual DG style, but watered down. Although, I’m very happy for Santa Maria to water down her character, considering how obnoxious it usually is. It was quite fun to see Watanabe get a chance against a main roster regular, but he fell in five minutes to the Neraiuchi after a decent finishing stretch. **.

1- Tribe Vanguard (BxB Hulk, Kzy) & Don Fujii vs. VerserK (Yoshida, Lindaman, Tominaga)
I felt this was a cut above the standard Dragon Gate six man opener, which I usually very much enjoy anyway. The presence of DG’s dickheads in chief VerserK gave it a real intensity and sense of purpose. It began with a big angry brawl on the outside, and throughout the bout Yoshida, in his first match since he was unmasked and forced to shed his Cyber Kong persona, looked particularly pissed off and keen on mauling people. Of course, there was still plenty of the electric lucharesu that makes Dragon Gate my favourite. It was immense fun all round. Yoshida decked Fujii with the Pineapple Bomber lariat to secure VerserK the win at 12:24. *** 1/2.

2- Over Generation (Dragon Kid, Gamma) vs. Jimmyz (Susumu, K-Ness)
More extremely pleasant tag wrestling! The undisputed highlights of this match came in the exchanges between Dragon Kid and Jimmy K-Ness, whose history together is long and storied. They were so slick and exciting together, it’s a shame that their King of Gate match wasn’t selected for television. Kid and Yokosuka also had some fun sequences, and Gamma got the chance to do his little water bottle spots, and otherwise didn’t get in the way too much. A good time. Dragon Kid countered K-Ness’ Hikari No Wa into a pinning combination to secure the win at 12:09! *** 1/4.

3- King of Gate Block B: Ben-K vs. T-Hawk
I was hoping for a mini epic of a slugfest here, but it only got close to that down the finishing stretch. Of course, getting close to an epic slugfest for any portion of your match is pretty good going, especially if you’re as inexperienced as Ben-K, but the early stages of this were slow going. There were occasional outbreaks of impressive power from Ben, but not enough to leave you captivated. It reminded me a little of T-Hawk vs. Takehiro Yamamura from the month before, where you can see what they’re trying to do and partially achieve at it, but not enough to make for an entirely satisfying bout. T-Hawk got Ben-K to stay down with the Night Ride at 11:49 ** 1/2.

4- King of Gate Block C: CIMA vs. Takehiro Yamamura
OH MAN! This was probably the most ace six minute match there will be all year. It’s a rare treat to get to watch two members of the same faction face off in Dragon Gate, and Takehiro Yamamura wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to wrestle his iconic team captain CIMA. He attacked right from the bell, dropkicking CIMA to the floor and wiping him out with a tope! Seemingly rattled, CIMA was unable to get any momentum going; it was a back and forth battle, but it really felt significant that every time CIMA took one step forward, the much younger Yamamura would take one as well. And then, suddenly, after just six minutes, Yamamura hooked CIMA with a knee bar, and CIMA had to tap. There’d been clues from the get go that CIMA’s knee wasn’t right, and it was startling to see his own protege target it with such aggression. It made Yamamura look great. Post match, CIMA looked completely distraught; there was a really moving image where, anger and humiliation boiling to the surface, he stamped on the centurion helmet he’d worn to the ring; how the mighty had fallen. I find it hard to go ****+ on such a short match, but the simplicity of the storytelling, the intensity of the action and the gutsiness of the booking takes it pretty darn close to that lofty threshold. *** 3/4.

5- MaxiMuM (Doi, Yoshino, Shimizu, Kotoka) vs. Jimmyz (Saito, Horiguchi, Kagetora, Kanda)
Another mighty fine tag match on a show with plenty of them. Korakuen was extremely hyped to see MaxiMuM for the first time, and that enthusiasm really infected the whole match. What a lovely infection to have. Both units seem reinvigorated by this rivalry, and I particularly enjoyed Kotoka’s performance in this. In VerserK he was kind of a joke and a whipping boy in a faction that already had a joke and a whipping boy in Mondai Ryu. He’s still very much the least prestigious wrestler in VerserK, but there’s a dignity about him now, even as the Jimmyz beat the heck out of him in this match. Jimmyz, for their part, looked very good in a slightly more heelish role and controlled the match in a largely engaging, enjoyable fashion. You couldn’t call this a Match of the Year candidate or anything, but it was one of the strongest examples of those lovely undercard multiman tags Dragon Gate do. Kagetora picked up the win for the Jimmyz by annihilating Kotoka with his silky smooth striking and them dumping him with Gurumakakari at 11:00! *** 3/4.

Post match, Ryo Saito cut a pretty scathing promo on MaxiMuM. He called this result inevitable, and asked what exactly what ‘maximum’ about MaxiMuM? A farce of a unit, consisting of DoiYoshi and a trio of babies? Horiguchi chipped in to remind people that while the Jimmyz might have a light hearted image, they can still be fearsome when they want to be. Doi and Yoshino were as popular as ever, but Shimizu, Ben-K and Kotoka are nothing but TRASH, and needed to be taught a harsh lesson about the reality of Dragon Gate. Jesus. Wish they’d told us how they really felt.

6- King of Gate Block A: YAMATO vs. Eita
Ehhh. This was not my cup of tea. It started out promisingly enough with Eita borrowing his stablemate Yamamura’s strategy and going right for YAMATO from the bell, but it soon descended into dull leg submissions, and stayed there for far too much of the match. It just took way too long to get going, and as such I struggled to care by the time it did. Even worse was that all of YAMATO’s leg and ankle work went absolutely nowhere and didn’t play into the finishing stretch at all, so it was a waste of time in every aspect! The finishing stretch, as it often does in Dragon Gate, redeemed the bout slightly, with some decent, reasonably dramatic near falls. Eita eating a ton of high impact stuff from YAMATO and kicking out at two after the resulting pinfalls was a particularly dramatic stretch of wrestling. But, yeah, too little, too late. YAMATO dumped Eita with the Galleria at 18:19 for the win. * 1/2.

7- King of Gate Block D: Masaaki Mochizuki vs. Shingo Takagi
The main problem this match had was that its opening few moments were its best. Three out of four King of Gate matches this evening have begun with people attacking right from the bell, but it still felt thrilling and spontaneous when Mochizuki sent Shingo tumbling off the apron with a flying enzuiguri before he could even step foot in the ring. The match that followed that was still rather good, but a start like that one made me want a furious ten minute sprint where your lovely grumpy Uncle Mochizuki stands right the fuck up to that disrespectful punk Shingo, not a sort of standard main event with Mochi fighting tenaciously from underneath and Shingo controls with his power moves. The latter match is good, but it’s not on the level of the former. But still, like I say, this was a good to very good main event, and I loved the ending with Mochizuki catching Shingo off guard with a flash roll up, picking up the win at 13:46. *** 1/2.

Post match, Mochizuki mocked Takagi for losing to a near 50 year old bastard. He took the chance to address Takagi’s stable mate El Lindaman, who had tried to interfere at one point in the match. He reminded Lindaman that he was in the same group as Mochizuki, and would be suffering as a result later in the tournament. Mochi mused about how, in a rapidly changing Dragon Gate with new stables forming and exciting young wrestlers coming through, Mochi and his old pal Don Fujii are still there, both in their late 40s, not getting as many chances as they once did… but King of Gate is the tournament where dreams come true, and he won’t ever stop dreaming of the Dream Gate championship and becoming number one again. Then Mochizuki and Fujii do a little celebratory dance in the undisputed highlight of the show/year, a moment I would definitely GIF if I knew how to GIF things and upload them to 411.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Despite not having any stone cold classics, this was a really fun opening night for the King of Gate tournament, highlighted by a terrific shock victory for the ultra deserving Takehiro Yamamura that we'll hopefully look back on in years to come. Aside from YAMATO vs. Eita there was nothing on the card that really dragged, Korakuen Hall was as excited as always, and this was just a good time. Hopefully the rest of the tournament continues along these lines.