Dragon Gate held its first show Korakuen show of the year today, that featured 7 matches, 3 of which were singles contest. The main event being special for the return of Shuji Kondo to the company for the first time in over 14 years, it also finished the 3rd place decision match and the final of the Rookie Singles tournament. The show aired live on Dragon Gate Network and Gaora and featured a trip into the vault of early Dragon Gate and Toryumon as Dragon Gate celebrates its 20th year of existence since the formation of Toryumon Japan.
While Kondo and Mochizuki was a special main event, it was another match that was the best of the evening. The show opened with a ten man tag as Ryo Saito, Super Shisa, “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa, Shachihoko Boy & Hiroshi Yamato defeated Gamma, K-ness, “brother” YASSHI, Problem Dragon, Misterioso in a lively, quick opener following a Yoshitonic by Shisa on YASSHI. The second match was the 3rd place decision match between Tribe Vanguard’s U-T and Mochizuki Dojo’s Yuki Yoshioka, it starts slow but builds into U-T targetting the arm of Yoshioka and going for multiple holds to submit his opponent, this was one of the best matches of the night and was an incredibly well worked match for two so fresh into their careers, going to the submission well too much would be U-T’s downfall as Yoshioka countered a hold into an Inside Cradle for the pinfall victory, it will be interesting to see how U-T picks himself up from here as he entered this tournament with the most experience but has placed fourth.
The third match was a 6 man tag seeing R.E.D members, Eita, Yasushi Kanda and Takashi Yoshida going up against Kota Minoura, Hyo Watanabe and Don Fuji who was filling in for an ill Dragon Dia. Watanabe took the brunt of the R.E.D offence following him jump starting on Kanda. R.E.D never looked like losing this one as Eita provided 3 Imperial Uno’s to Don Fuji to get the pinfall victory. The next match featured the remaining members of R.E.D, PAC, Big R Shimizu, Ben-K and KAZMA Sakamoto taking on MaxiMuM, Doi, Yoshino, Jason Lee and Dragon Kid, before the match Dragon Kid unveiled the new Open the Brave Gate belt, the plates look the same but the leather strap is now white, think of the new IWGP Intercontinental belt. R.E.D quick started on MaxiMuM and held the advantage and dictated the pace for much of the match, the closing few minutes thinks quickened and got exciting with Jason Lee providing the impetus for a MaxiMuM come back. Friction is once again occurring between Big R Shimizu and Ben-K, after Shimizu accidentally hits Ben-K twice, Big R Shimizu would shrug it off to get the win on Jason Lee following a Shot Put Slam, R.E.D exit the arena while Big R stands alone in the ring.
After the intermission another match to celebrate the 20th anniversary was announced as Toryumon Japan, Don Fuji, Genki Horiguchi, Susumu Yokosuka & Ryo Saito face T2P, Shachihoko Boy, “brother” YASSHI, Masato Yoshino & Toru Owashi, Owashi hasn’t wrestled for Dragon Gate in 15 years.
The 5th match and the highlight of the show, the final of the rookie tournament between Shun Skywalker and Kaito Ishida. They really delivered in this clash of high flyer versus striker, Kaito look the strongest to me, and as most peoples likely favourite to win, it was unsurprising that he held much of the momentum but we remember what happened earlier as Yuki shocked U-T, Shun kept fighting on, his Bicycle Kick proving devastating a couple of times, Kaito kept returning to the Tiger Suplex Hold after Shun already kicked out of one. Shun would hit two Ashla’s and head up to the turnbuckle and hit a Moonsault, securing the pinfall victory in the process. Afterwards, Kaito Ishida was not a sporting loser and kicked off Shun. Shun following his win called out Ben-K for a singles match, Yagi set it for the February 4th at Korakuen Hall. Natural Vibes trio of Kzy, Genki Horiguchi and Susumu Yokosuka faced off against a decimated Tribe Vanguard trio of YAMATO, KAGETORA and associate member KAI. Kzy has recently pinned Doi and Yoshino, if he pins YAMATO it’ll be a lot of the pillars of Dragon Gate pinned in a couple of days, though this match started off light hearted it heated up when Kzy and YAMATO met, it would ultimately boil down to YAMATO and Kzy, Kzy countered out of a Ragnarok attempt, hit the Running Elbow Smash, followed it with Impact and hit Kzy Time for the win.
After the match, Kzy called out PAC, he challenged for the Dream Gate title, PAC accepted, Yagi set the match for February 10th at Hakata Star Lanes. Doi and Yamato had words afterwards, a triple threat was then set for 5th at Korakuen between Doi, YAMATO and Kzy. More promos, talking continued as YASSHI and Yoshino were talking, and Shachihoko Boy came out, they announced they’ll be performing the Toryumon Japan vs T2P match under their former names, YASSINI, YOSSINO and Shachihoko Machine #2. Afterwards, Yoshino announced that effective February 1st, Jason Lee will be a full time roster member, unfortunately by this point the speaking had gone on to long and the crowd had deflated. My spirits were still good for Shuji Kondo and his return to Dragon Gate to face his old rival and former stablemate in Aagan Iissou, Masaaki Mochizuki. They worked a typically Dragon System match, going for holds and such, mainly Mochi as Kondo used his power, but unfortunately it never lifted the crowd to the level of excitement that this match deserved. It was a tale of how Mochi could be resilient against the power of the stocky Kondo, he stayed resilient and fought on against his former foe, but all the King Kong Lariats added up and Mochi succumbed to defeat, which was surprising choice of booking, which begs the question, will Kondo be back? This match was good, but I felt could have been better. The two rookie matches are must watch for me.
A few Twitter mutuals are now operating a Dragon Gate podcast, @DreamKeyPod, the first podcast was released last week, give it a listen!