Watch: Dragongate Network
MEET OUR PREVIEWERS:
- Mike Spears (@fujiiheya): Co-host of both Open The Voice Gate & Everything Elite. Is very happy that Aichi is getting back “their” match and is preparing himself to cover two insane cage matches in one day.
- Andrew Rich (@AndrewTRich): Host of Music of the Mat, who is patiently waiting for the latest batch of DG themes to drop somewhere. He’ll settle for playing Keisuke Okuda’s theme on repeat in the meantime.
- Paul Völsch (None of your goddamn business): Paul takes a short break from covering the Champion Carnival to jump into his twice-a-year Dragon Gate coverage. It’s still Dragon Gate to me goddammit.
- Jon Hernandez (@OldJonHernandez): Is in LA this week and just found out the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel isn’t a real place, just some thing Zevon made up. A good Dead or Alive would really help him cope.
Funky Jacky Kamei vs. Yosuke♡Santa Maria
Mike: Funky Jacky Kamei FKA Taketo Kamei made his long awaited return in late April after time off with a shoulder injury and got a makeover from the rest of Natural Vibes as sort of a Kzy-cito tribute act. He’s got the overalls as Kzy had and has exhibited the kind of spark plug energy that Kzy had as a member of Dia.Hearts and Tribe Vanguard. Maria is someone still wafting in the unit shuffle. She isn’t on most shows and has been completely out of the mix since Dragongate Generation disbanded. This is sort of a test for Kamei against a stalwart of the roster. Normally a young wrestler versus established star in an inconsequential opener means the young wrestler is eating the fall. I can’t outright give this match to Maria: Kamei is playing some catch-up to SB KENTo and Kikuta and is a member (albeit the likely fall post) of a unit. As well, Dragongate is willing to put their near rookies over veterans. I’m going to assume this has a short time limit, as match zeros often do in Dragongate, and say it’s a five minute draw. PREDICTION: Draw
Andrew: Funky Jacky Kamei continues the longstanding tradition of wacky Dragongate names like Tomahawk T.T., Bakery Yagi, Mr. Kyu Kyu Naoki Tanizaki Toyonaka Dolphin, and countless others. It’s fitting he’s facing a wrestler who has a heart symbol in her name and used to go by Super Shenlong III. Kamei, the third part of the Kobune-Kikuta-Kamei rookie trio (do not shorten that, by the way), is a few rungs lower than his cohorts are. Case in point: he’s working the dark match while SBK is main eventing and Kikuta is getting his first Dream Gate Title match less than a year in. Still, Kamei’s just coming off an injury, and based on his new gimmick and look, he appears destined to fill the role of plucky lovable babyface, a Kzy for the new generation, which is not a bad career to have if everything works out well. I’ll be bold and say Funky Jacky picks up the win here. PREDICTION: Funky Jacky Kamei
Paul: Like El Lindaman and a long list of weird Dragongate names Funky Jacky Kamei is a name that I will not get used to before I inevitably get used to it. With that said him and U-T have been perfect additions to Tribe Vanguard. Now that he is finally back from injury Kamei can finally show what he can do as well. So far he has been somewhat left behind by his peers as Kikuta is challenging for the Dream Gate and SBKento is in the main event on this very show. However if given the time to develop Kamei will be fine in the long run, it will just take him a bit more time to get there. Maria meanwhile has been lost in the shuffle since DG Generation disbanded but given that she is on the versatile performers on the roster it should not take her much longer to find a new home. PREDICTION: Yosuka Santa Maria
Jon: Funky Jacky Kamei? Sure, alright. They prepped me for this one when they turned my sweet boy Madoka into Hip Hop Kikuta. We won’t get much from him here, most likely a tidy five minute draw with a very game opponent in Maria. I’m just glad he’s back to round out the stacked new version of Natural Vibes, where I’ll call him anything you want me to, as long as I can call him Not Punch Tominaga. PREDICTION: Draw
Ben-K, Bokutimo Dragon & Ho Ho Lun vs. R.E.D. (Diamante, H・Y・O & Dia Inferno)
Mike: It is great to see Big Ben reunite somewhat, but boy the reasoning behind it is a bit depressing. It’s the opener. Everyone who didn’t fit in other matches fit in here. Ho Ho Lun has looked pretty good, in my opinion, since returning this year and I’ll be interested in seeing how he meshes with everyone in this. There’s really not a whole lot to R.E.D. vs an Unaffiliated Group, but I’ll be stoked if somehow we see the Spear/Shotput Slam combo (we probably won’t). PREDICTION: R.E.D.
Andrew: The Big Ben reunion feels like a monkey’s paw wish, as our friend Large Benjamin has been cycled down the card, working the opener with a recently shaved head like a Young Boy while his High-End stablemates are involved in matches of much greater importance. Shimizu is still doing the Bokutimo Dragon gimmick, which feels like it’s on borrowed time now that he’s wrestling maskless. And Ho Ho Lun is there too as their little buddy for the day. It’s a strange set of circumstances indeed. R.E.D. is the established unit here, and Ho Ho is on the other side, so I think we all know what the result is gonna be here. PREDICTION: R.E.D. (Diamante, H・Y・O, & Dia Inferno)
Paul: This is the match on the show that I can’t really get a good feel on. Ho Ho Lun is one of the lowest guys on the roster so him taking a loss wouldn’t be a surprise. But then again the RED team is also the lowest three guys in that faction. Dia Inferno has been especially pointless since Dragon Dia got injured. Maybe now that he is back they will reheat that feud. But he has been one of the coldest characters in the whole promotion so I’m not sure anyone would care. However, the Big Ben reunion is an interesting wrinkle. While I do not expect him to join High End, at least teasing that Shimizu will join is giving both him and Ben-K something to do. That is something that either man desperately needs right now. PREDICTION: Big Ben & Ho Ho Lun
Jon: We were all ready for Team Boku to disband when it did, but let’s show it some love; it spoke for all of us. When Big R Shimizu first began his retread into comedy, Team Boku formed around him like a chrysalis, urging him back (slowly) to his older, menacing ways. Even in death, it just wanted to get the hell away from Punch Tominaga. Now we have this strange in-between version of Bokutimo Dragon, who’s Mega Manned a few Ultimo moves into his old repertoire to great effect (we’re all going to bite on magistral attempts for months). Doesn’t it seem like this match is built around him? He’s flanked by his old tag partner Ben-K, a detail I’m confident will be acknowledged; he’s established a strong chemistry with Diamante; and he’s probably eating a pin from that little booger HYO. PREDICTION: R.E.D.
Ultimo Dragon & Don Fujii vs. Konomama Ichikawa & Problem Dragon
Mike: The low-stakes comedy match of the show features two of the best comedy wrestlers of all-time, Problem Dragon, and Ultimo Dragon standing there and hoping Ryo Saito’s Uber Eats jokes about his gear dies down. This will be nice and fun with very little stakes and after six to ten minutes it’ll be over and we will probably forget that this match happened at Dead or Alive 2021 in about two months. PREDICTION: Ultimo Dragon & Don Fujii
Andrew: A match where Don Fujii and Konomama Ichikawa are on opposite sides is already appointment viewing. You add a couple of dragons to the mix (one a befuddled veteran putting up with buffoonery like a teacher in an 80s comedy, the other a goon literally named Problem Dragon) and baby you got a stew going. PREDICTION: Ultimo Dragon & Don Fujii
Paul: Your comedy offering that DG will give you on every big show. As DG is the best promotion at comedy in the world this will be very enjoyable but there isn’t much else to say about it. PREDICTION: Ultimo Dragon & Don Fuji
Jon: I love Ichikawa as much as the next guy, but we’ve got three title matches and the cage match after this. Use this time wisely. PREDICTION: Ehh, turkey on rye? Or maybe I have time to throw together a decent tuna salad.
Open the Brave Gate Championship Match
Keisuke Okuda (c) vs. U-T
Mike: As we move into the business end of the card, we start with Keisuke Okuda making the fifth defense of the Brave Gate against U-T, who gets a second straight title shot at Dead or Alive in his hometown. Okuda’s taken the mantle from Susumu and Ishida and continued on the path of making the Brave Gate his own: The matches are fast, hard-hitting, and furious and have ended with him either knocking out or submitting his challenger. That will be a difficult task for Mr. Danger Zone as he brings his MMA-related offense to Nagoya against the Mini Maestro. U-T, when healthy, is one of the five best technical wrestlers in the world, and is someone that shows that Llave can be an exciting and fierce style contrary to many of the Llaveos who get the spotlight. I’m excited to see how the styles will mesh. The two haven’t had much interaction with Okuda entering the company right as U-T went on the shelf in 2019, and when U-T returned in 2020 they were both members of the Dragongate Generation.
As we get closer to DoA, I’m starting to believe there are some opportunities for title changes as we start the road to Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival 2021 and Speed Star Final. Okuda’s reign has been successful both in a ring-work and elevation perspective. He has an open path where he could go after he drops the Brave Gate. One could propose him and best friend Ben-K as future Twin Gate champions or he could be part of a High-End Triangle Gate team and both would be realistic possibilities. With Natural Vibes already holding the Triangle Gate, and generally the history of U-T, I don’t know if he has much more of a ceiling other than getting a Brave Gate run. Does this run start in his hometown? It’d be a nice moment, but given what’s happening in the cage, I don’t see that run starting on 5/5/2021. PREDICTION: Keisuke Okuda
Andrew: I’ve loved Okuda’s Brave Gate run so far. Not every match has been a classic, but they’ve helped forge the identity of the belt with Okuda as champion. These matches are intense, fast-paced, and (with the exception of the H・Y・O match) free of bullshit. In other words, this is a title that you fight for. And with Okuda’s style, that comes as no surprise. His next defense here against U-T feels like a fun mix of styles: Okuda is the hard-hitting MMA guy with an amateur wrestling background, while U-T is well versed in *Excalibur voice* llave and has all sorts of cheeky rollups. This could be one of the matches of the night, though I fear the winner is a bit of a foregone conclusion. I like U-T, but his reputation for having glass bones is well known at this point. Could he win the Brave Gate? Sure, especially in his hometown, but I’m not certain the company has faith in him to hold their secondary singles title without getting injured. Plus it just doesn’t feel like Okuda’s reign is ending just yet. If I’m proven wrong, it would be quite the shock indeed. PREDICTION: Keisuke Okuda
Paul: This will be a very interesting clash of styles. Okuda is arguably the best brawler in the promotion and tends to excel when he goes toe to toe in the stand up game with his opponent. As we have seen in his excellent feud with Kaito Ishida. UT meanwhile is someone that feels much more comfortable taking things to the ground and wear his opponents down with his Llave. While he hasn’t had as many chances to excel due to his penchant for getting injured, whenever he has been put in a big spot he has excelled. That said due to his high injury rate I would be very surprised if he won the title here. Dragon Gate generally does not trust him to stay healthy and for good reason. Okuda meanwhile has somewhat struggled outside of his matches with Ishida. However, he has a great chance here to get his reign back on track with a good defense against UT. This is definitely one of the most intriguing matches on the show. PREDICTION: Keisuke Okuda
Jon: U-T’s Brave Gate challenge at Dead or Alive 2019 against Susumu Yokosuka is one of my favorite matches from either man in recent memory. Why wouldn’t I be excited for him to challenge at Dead or Alive again? Since returning from injury and racking up some wins as a member of Natural Vibes, he’s felt more dynamic to me, like some of his freewheeling Millenials-era tendencies found their way back into his modern matwork-oriented incarnation. Keisuke Okuda makes for an interesting matchup. Not only does his MMA background potentially pair well with U-T’s high-paced grappling acumen, but I’ll also be afraid of U-T bursting into pieces like a Crash Test Dummy every time Okuda delivers a kick. The champ will win a brief and explosive bout, and hopefully U-T gets to try again next year. Then, I gotta imagine Punch Tominaga comes and challenges Okuda to five more matches this year to punish us for having fun. PREDICTION: Keisuke Okuda
Special 8 Man Tag Team Match
Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi, Eita & BxB Hulk vs. Ryo Saito, Kagetora, Yasushi Kanda & Kota Minoura
Mike: They aren’t calling this a “Road to Speed Star Final,” but this is the true second stop on the path towards Masato Yoshino’s retirement on August 1st, 2021 at Dragongate’s first ever Kobe World Kinen Hall doubleheader with Speed Star Final. The Yoshino side features half of the Big Six (with YAMATO in the main event, Shingo Takagi going for the IWGP bad looking belt, and Akira Tozawa being retired and hanging out with his Best O Friends) along with the leader of the Next Generation, Eita. In order to team with R.E.D, DoiYoshi needs to have red colored gear. Naruki Doi is a gear freak so he has all of his VerserK gear ready to go, but the most red Yoshino wore was red piping in Blood Generation, so maybe he’s dying some old Monster Express pants.
The other is a real smorgasbord of talent without any true connection to Yoshino: Kagetora is a Toryumon X graduate, and his only real teaming with Yoshino came last year as Toryumon Generation. SaiRyo and Kanda are somewhat Yoshino contemporaries (both were Toryumon Japan graduates, Ryo Saito is considered the “bridge” between TJ and T2P), but other than Kanda being the heel ref for Muscle Outlaw’z, not a lot of teaming there either outside of Toryumon Generation yet again. Kota Minoura has no real link to Yoshino. So maybe it makes sense that this isn’t “Road to Speed Star Final.” Anyways this will be a feel good match for whenever Yoshino is in, and the rest of the seven can go (No Kanda slander allowed), so this will be an exciting matchup. Maybe Yoshino will give Minoura one of his old moves after this match. PREDICTION: Yoshino, Doi, Eita & Hulk
Andrew: We’re just a few months away from Masato Yoshino’s retirement and boy howdy is that a weird sentence to type. I (rather foolishly) believed for a long time that Yoshino, like many other DG wrestlers, would just be around forever because they didn’t seem to age or slow down, but the sands of time come for us all, even if you’re the Speed Star. It’s gonna suck to see him hang up the boots, but that day is not here yet. We have this odd little match to get to first, born out of Yoshino’s hometown finale in Higashiosaka a few days ago where he said he wanted to team up with unique pairings before he retired. This is certainly unique given Speed Muscle are faces and R.E.D.’s Eita & Hulk are heels (with Eita also being the one to beat Doi for the Dream Gate last year). They’re also facing an equally strange quartet of random dudes who have nothing else to do on the card, but hey, if Yoshino wants it, he gets it. I just hope he doesn’t get a Bakatare Sliding Kick to the teeth as well. PREDICTION: Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi, Eita & BxB Hulk
Paul: If you told me that this was a Doi Darts match I would have certainly believed you. They are doing some light teasing that Doi might join RED but he has also been pretty steadfast in his commitment to not join another faction until Yoshino retires. Then again I wouldn’t be shocked if Doi betrayed Yoshino one more time before the latter’s retirement. However, we have been down that road a lot of times already. Now Yoshino turning on Doi is the one thing we have not yet seen but I also doubt that this is what they want to do with a guy on his retirement tour that has been one of the most beloved babyfaces in the history of the promotion. But then again if there was any promotion bold enough to pull a move like that its this one. PREDICTION: Speed Muscle & R.E.D.
Jon: I’ve got some apprehensions about this match. The clock is ticking on Yoshino’s career and as a result his bookings are becoming more and more precious, especially on big shows like this one. This match has a real throw-some-shit-at-the-wall vibe to it on paper. I have a hazy view of how Yoshino’s home stretch ends up being the impetus for Eita’s next chapter, but I can’t quite piece it together, so let’s talk about the other team. Ryo Saito’s teased some kind of relationship with Masaaki Mochizuki after a few try-hard Royal Sambo performances, while Kagetora’s been excellent in his tour through the other factions. Seeing both turn in inspired performances of late has been a joy, and I want more. It’d be nice to see whatever’s brewing for the factionless veterans to progress, even if this match is primarily a showcase for their opponents. PREDICTION: Speed Muscle & R.E.D.
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Open The Twin Gate Championship Match
Masaaki Mochizuki & Takashi Yoshida (c) vs. R.E.D. (Kaito Ishida & Kazma Sakamoto)
Mike: Masaaki Mochizuki, one of my five best wrestlers of all time, has done the impossible: He’s made me love Takashi Yoshida. Some of that is Yoshida’s doing to be fair: his face turn has exceeded everyone’s expectations and who thought “buffoonish YouTuber” would be a great act in Dragongate? The Buddy Cops, as I call them, have been a very fun Twin Gate team. I don’t know if I’d say they revitalized the YAMATO/KAI/Hulk domination of it over the last few years, but it absolutely has been a pleasant title run.
Now this R.E.D. team are a bunch of killers. I’ve written much about both Ishida and Sakamoto, but the thing that really stood out for this challenge is the immediate chemistry the two have shown in the lead up. I started this review on a coin flip with who wins in Nagoya, but I’ve talked my way out of it. Mainly because the Buddy Cops provide a good thing for Yoshida to do and lets them feature Mocchy in a good role when he’s working NOAH a lot, I’m leaning for them to retain. As well, it feels like the Twin Gate would prohibit my general idea of Ishida as the leader in whatever the next heel unit ends up being. So the Buddy Cops retain to fight another day PREDICTION: Mochizuki & Yoshida
Andrew: There’s a lot of “Don’t talk to me or my son” energy in this one. Of course the “son” on one team (Yoshida) is the same age as the “dad” (Sakamoto) on the other, but that’s beside the point. Mochizuki and Yoshida have held the belts for two months now, and while the standard route would be for them to eventually lose the belts and possibly split up, I don’t see that happening here because it still seems too early. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ishida and Sakamoto as a team and wouldn’t mind seeing them run with the belts, but I think Mochizuki and Yoshida are staying put as champions for a little while longer. Would I be stunned though if R.E.D. wins? Not at all. PREDICTION: Masaaki Mochizuki & Takashi Yoshida
Paul: I’ve actually been a big fan of Yoshida since he turned. After successfully Stockholm Syndroming myself into enjoying him as a heel due to his run in the Real World Tag League in 2019, I think he has been a genuinely great fiery babyface in this run. His hot tags have been a source of joy and Mochizuki is great like always. However, with that said this is a logical end point for their reign. Ishida winning the Twin Gate here gives him something to do and Mochizuki and Yoshida can figure out if they want to expand this partnership into a full unit or call time on it. PREDICTION: Kaito Ishida & Kazma Sakamoto
Jon: At least one of these belts has to change hands here, and I’ve got my fingers crossed these are the ones. Like the others have said, the Mochi/Yoshida pairing has been the surprise treat of the year. That said, this is the perfect time to shut it down while we all still have good will towards it. We can all look back at those two months where Takashi Yoshida was fun to watch with a smile. Mochizuki seems to be spending more time with his M’s Alliance pals over at NOAH, and the Ishida/Sakamoto squad is fierce as all hell. Mike brings up a great point about tying up Ishida when he’s a likely candidate to inherit whatever R.E.D. becomes — but we’ve got until August 1st to sort that out, and Kobe World would make a fine place to drop these titles off. Yoshida will come up just short in an impassioned last stand for the belts. Then, just as I’ve dreamt it, Mochizuki will tearfully send Yoshida away for his own good, like John Lithgow at the end of Harry and the Hendersons. I’ll see you back here in the next DG preview for my victory lap. PREDICTION: Kaito Ishida & Kazma Sakamoto.
Open the Triangle Gate Championship Match
Natural Vibes (Kzy, Genki Horiguchi & Susumu Yokosuka) (c) vs. Masquerade (Jason Lee, La Estrella & Dragon Dia)
Mike: HERE WE GO. Natural Vibes are kind of this eternal Triangle Gate champion team that molds itself to its opponent, and BOY DO THEY HAVE SOME OPPONENTS TO WORK WITH. Masquerade feels more exciting with Dia returning and now you have two absolute madmen in Estrella and him on a challenger team. And that’s not mention Jason Lee, your sneaky Most Outstanding contender in Dragongate this year. We are in May and I don’t think Jason Lee has taken off a match and always delivers. Susumu was chosen as Estrella’s first opponent and suffered a surprise upset and the two have gelled a lot whenever they were in the ring together.
The overall Masquerade Problem (Has absolutely everything you want from aesthetic and in the ring, but doesn’t have nearly the charisma and microphone skills to be THE UNIT to the native fanbase) won’t be solved with this match and the likely new set of belts being brought into the group, but this is your match of the night this will rock and will showcase yet again why Dragongate is a decade ahead of the rest of the world in terms of wrestling innovation. My only doubt in Masquerade winning this is that you still have Dia Inferno lurking around, and for the sake of whomever is most likely under that very heavy and hot mask, they’ve gotta blow off the Dia vs Dia feud sometime soon since Dragon Dia is back and healthy, and that would be difficult with a Triangle Gate belt around the Infinite Carat Diamond’s waist. PREDICTION: Masquerade
Andrew: Banger alert! Banger alert! On paper this has a very good chance of being match of the night. The Natural Vibes team are three excellent veteran wrestlers who could have a great multi-man tag in their sleep. On the Masquerade side, you have Jason Lee, one of the most underrated wrestlers going today; La Estrella, who lacks in experience what he makes up for in Doing Cool Shit; and Dragon Dia, an incredible highflyer who will only get better with age. This should rule. As for who wins, if any match on this show is going to see a title change, it’ll most likely be this one. Masquerade winning the belts would be exactly what the group needs to help further legitimize them, plus Natural Vibes can drop the titles without losing a shred of credibility. This is also Dia’s return match from injury, and him winning the Triangle Gate would be a great first step back into the pool. PREDICTION: Masquerade (Jason Lee, La Estrella & Dragon Dia)
Paul: This match should be a ton of fun. Natural Vibes have been great Triangle Gate champions and have been carrying the belts for a relatively long time. It feels like their reign has run its natural course and giving Masquerade some more gold helps legitimize them. The match itself should be pretty bonkers with guys just bouncing all over the ring. At the very least expect some high octane action. REDICTION: Masquerade
Jon: This is the match that grabs your eye when you first glance at the card, isn’t it? All the pieces are in place: the Natural Vibes trio is a Triangle Gate dream team, while “the Masquerade multi-man match” has become a staple of recommended match lists in 2021. Any combination from that faction has shown a tremendous aptitude for turning your average tag match into a firework show on a dime. The returning Dragon Dia is surely eager to remind everyone how often he dropped their jaws before his injury, Jason Lee hasn’t taken a day off in three years and La Estrella is a GIF-factory that excels when he doesn’t have to do boring things like “sell” or “not jump off shit.” I’m still not confident they topple the champs, though. For starters, I don’t like the lineup. If they’re getting gold, Kota Minoura should be here – the Lee/Minoura duo still the best non-Speed Muscle pairing the company has to offer. Beyond that, there isn’t a lot of room right now to plug Kzy or Susumu back into notable singles roles. Let the Vibes boys ride a little longer, I say. This team can’t miss. PREDICTION: Natural Vibes
Open the Dream Gate Championship Match
Shun Skywalker (c) vs. HipHop Kikuta
Mike: The combined age of Shun and Kikuta is younger than Masaaki Mochizuki’s most recent Dream Gate run (Mocchy was 47 at its start, Shun is 24, Kikuta doesn’t turn 22 until September). Dragongate’s decision to go all in on the youth movement was not just the most bold thing a promotion could do in the COVID-19 era, but it’s something that was created out of necessity. Masato Yoshino’s impending retirement is only the first in what will likely be the shifting of generations within the Dragon System. It’s imperative for Dragongate to get their next generation ready to take the baton, and even more so, it’s essential for their native fans to not leave when their favorites, many that they followed for the last twenty years, retire for good. It’s also a very sneaky and well thought out main event. “Oh we’ve gotta get these guys ready for the future? One of them hasn’t wrestled in front of a non-clap crowd? The other went away on excursion and has only been champion with clap crowds? Okay. Why put them in a title match that isn’t headlining the show because the show is headlined by two hometown guys and the company ace.”
The chemistry is there for Skywalker and Kikuta. They’re two of the tallest people on the roster and they have thrown bombs against each other in Masquerade vs R.E.D. matches that have littered DG since December. The biggest test here isn’t the fact that it’s Kikuta as a rookie main eventing a big five show: it’s the fact that he’s only had TWO singles matches in the company since debuting and one was at Memorial Gate and was fifteen minutes (the other, against Shun and was four minutes and during Shun’s “I’m going to murder everyone with the SSW in under ten minutes” return phase). If Kikuta doesn’t have a main event performance, that’s fine, he’s still under 100 matches. But this isn’t going to be a short match most likely. He’s going to be brought into the deep water. I feel like the company and dojo has the track record that I expect Kikuta to pull it out, but it’s a test of which only Hiphop Kikuta has the answers. PREDICTION: Shun Skywalker
Andrew: There’s being bold, and then there’s Dragongate. 21-year-old HipHop Kikuta, the spitting image of Jordan Oliver and Matthew Lillard (good luck unseeing that one, folks), is getting his first shot at the Dream Gate less than a year after his wrestling debut. That’s pretty damn bold. It seems to be a recurring theme in Skywalker’s reign, as his previous two challengers Sakamoto and Ishida also received their first ever Dream Gate shots against him. Both of those matches were excellent, but then again both of those challengers had years of experience under their belts; Kikuta is still so wet behind the ears that you could build a water park behind them. How well he does is going to be the focus here. His match against Ben-K at Memorial Gate didn’t knock my socks off, but that was a midcard match on a lower-tiered single camera show. This is Dead or Alive. This is for the Dream Gate. Big Boy Shit. You might call it “sink or swim” territory, but even if Kikuta doesn’t hit it out of the park against Skywalker, I’m not yelling for the lifeguard. He’s only 21, it’s his first title shot, and oh yeah, he’s less than a year in. The guy doesn’t even have his own theme song yet (though I predict he’ll debut one on the show). It’s okay if this match isn’t a five-star affair. The fact that a 21-year-old rookie is getting this spot on one of DG’s biggest shows of the year (against a 24-year-old champion, no less) is enough of a statement. PREDICTION: Shun Skywalker
Paul: Less than a year after his in ring debut Jordan Oliver’s twin brother from another mother challenges for Dragon Gate’s biggest title. This a meteoric rise that is only outdone by his peer SBKento who main event this show. Shun’s reign so far has been off to a bit of a rough start. He had the accidental knockout against Ben-K and so far his opponents tend to have been cheered louder than him. It’s not something that he can’t come back from but this is a big litmus test for him. If a rookie with less than a year of experience who is a heel gets cheered over him then either him or the promotion needs to think about some tweaks to right the ship. Regardless of that the match has the chance to be good even though Kikuta is still rough around the edges, which again is not surprising for someone with less than a full year of experience. PREDICTION: Shun Skywalker
Jon: Some time ago our very own Case Lowe made an airtight case for Tim Duncan as Susumu Yokosuka’s NBA comp. I still think about it whenever I watch the ol’ Gate. I’ve been drawn to Madoka Kikuta since he arrived on the scene, but as a lifelong fan of the burgeoning New York Knicks, my attachment has only grown as I see more and more R.J. Barrett in him. I’ve got a big soft spot for Barrett as a Duke guy (sorry, I was five when Laettner hit “The Shot” and there was no turning back) and have loved watching him learn to utilize his size and strength to compensate for limited athleticism, keeping defenders at bay with his big ass hips. Sound familiar?
When Kikuta got pegged with the “Hip Hop” moniker, I groaned. I thought it would draw attention away from the sharp striking assault that paired so well with his relative lengthiness on this roster. He’s proved me wrong. While I roll my eyes at most “hip attacks,” Kikuta’s made blows from his posterior feel like certain death. In the 4/22 main event tag against Masquerade in Kobe, it felt like thunder struck each time he collided with a prone opponent. Maybe it’s because he gets to slap those thick, resonant thighs. Is this getting weird? Much like R.J. Barrett however, he’s still undercooked for the big spot – a big singles opportunity against Ben-K at Memorial Gate in Wakayama was disappointingly clunky. He’s exhibited a promising toolset though, and as a challenger probably doesn’t warrant a 20+ minute epic. We’ve seen what kind of fireworks are possible in a short n’ tight Shun Skywalker Dream Gate defense, so let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best. PREDICTION: Shun Skywalker
Mascara contra Cabellera Steel Cage Survival Tag Team Match
YAMATO & KAI vs. Dragon Kid & SB KENTo
Match rules from facebook.com/dragongateen:
3 flags will be placed atop the cage. The first team to pull 2 flags will win the match. The losing team will then immediately face each other in a singles match, with the loser having to share their head or remove their mask.
Due to the overwhelming numbers advantage that R・E・D has over HIGH-END, on 4/29 in Kanazawa Dragon Kid sought to enlist the help of Natural Vibes & Masquerade. Both units agreed, so a lottery was held to determine which team each unit will provide support for.
・Masquerade: Dragon Kid & SB KENTo
・Natural Vibes: YAMATO & KAI
Mike: I really love the fact that they are throwing it back and are doing a Parejas Incredibles Revelos Suicidas Cage Match this year. The main event of the first Toryumon Japan Aniversario (the precursor to Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival) was a Revelos Suicidas with the Crazy Max team of CIMA and Don Fujii having to face off after losing to the Michinoku Pro team of Great Sasuke and Tiger Mask IV. I feel like there was a possibility of Dragon Dia and Dia Inferno in this match before Dia got injured on the last show of 2020, so nice audible Dragongate!
So you’ve got former best friends and now brutal enemies KAI and YAMATO teaming against Team Nagoya That Hates Each Other in Dragon Kid and SB KENTo. The build up started at the last cage match (Dangerous Gate 2020) with KAI turning on Dragongate Generation to join R.E.D. as were terms of him escaping first from the cage. Since then, the two have been embroiled in a bitter feud that involved the Twin Gate, a lot of no contests and could only be settled in an apuestas match. The feud between SB KENTo and Dragon Kid begun with the Loser Must Disband match between Toryumon Generation and R.E.D. at Final Gate where the deciding fall of the match was between the two and SB KENTo tore apart DK’s mask to a degree never seen in Kid’s career. The months since then have had constant unmasking and no contests. Pretty simple build to the biggest gimmick match in Dragongate’s calendar, right?
The issue of the match is two fold: the match was set in March and there really was nothing else to build towards, and I don’t believe the result in doubt at all. The interactions between the four since this became official were tepid at best and there was no escalation. We all knew what the end point was. It was almost like there was no purpose in having preview matches at all (and it didn’t help that they kind of did preview matches well before the cage match became official). SB KENTo is the prohibitive favorite to lose this match. YAMATO has already lost a cage match once (2011) and no one has lost the cage match twice in their career yet, which makes it unlikely his hair is getting cut. KAI is still a freelancer although he only works Dragongate. Unless he’s getting a big bonus or was secretly signed, he’s not losing as Dragongate doesn’t have freelancers lose these sort of matches. Dragon Kid’s mask is the most prestigious thing in the Dragon System after Ultimo’s mask. Unless he’s going to suddenly retire, I don’t see a world where he ever loses it. That leaves the uncrowned 2020 Rookie of the Year’s suspiciously long hair to get trimmed. Usually a loss in the cage leads to a babyface turn (if the person is a heel) or a huge push towards the Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival main event. I don’t see either of those things happening (but babyface SB KENTo getting booted out of R.E.D, and then doing the royal road of King of Gate then winning at Kobe World isn’t something I can dismiss out of hand). So the result isn’t in doubt in my mind, but the path afterwards is a giant question mark and I’m incredibly excited to see it all play out in Nagoya. PREDICTION: Dragon Kid defeats SB KENTo, SB KENTo loses his hair.
Andrew: Dead or Alive cage matches normally involve some sort of multi-man scramble, so the fact that it’s a 2 vs. 2 match makes it rather unique. It’s still Dead or Alive, though, with the usual measure of zaniness you come to expect out of the event’s annual attraction. YAMATO and KAI have been feuding since Dangerous Gate last September when KAI turned on YAMATO to join R.E.D. (which was also during a cage match, funnily enough), while SB KENTo and Dragon Kid have been feuding since Final Gate in December after SBK ripped DK’s mask and made him submit to the SBK Shooter to kill the Toryumon Generation stable in a Unit Disbands match. Needless to say these are the two biggest feuds in the company, but now enemies must team up, climb a cage, grab some flags, and try not to lose their hair, or their mask in DK’s case. Oh, and a bunch of other DG guys are going to be outside the cage with weapons to help out their respective teams. It’s madness and it’s beautiful.
As for the final result, I think this is coming down to SBK and Dragon Kid. YAMATO isn’t losing his hair (High-End already have a bald dude anyway) and nobody gives a turkey if KAI loses his hair. The real drama lies in DK’s mask being on the line, in his hometown, against the young prick who ripped said mask almost all the way off and forced him to submit back in December. SBK has taken a lot of scalps in the short time he’s been wrestling (which is barely longer than Kikuta) and while I shudder to even think about it, there’s a possibility that he could take Dragon Kid’s mask for good here. BUT! While it’s clear that the company has put the rocket pack on this guy, taking DK’s mask might be a bridge too far. Call me a coward for not making the hot prediction, call me a fool if I turn out to be wrong, but I think Dragon Kid is going to beat this young man and put him in his place. Plus SBK grew out his hair into a puffball ponytail and that thing is just BEGGING to get cut off. PREDICTION: YAMATO & KAI escape the cage, SB KENTo loses his hair
Paul: This is a change from the way the DOA cage match has been normally done but its actually a setup that has been used a number of times in lucha. CMLL used a similar stipulation at the 80. Aniversario show to set up the big La Sombra vs Volador jr Mask vs Mask match, though in that case the winners advanced. The rise of SBKento has been nothing short of extraordinary. With barely a year and a half of experience he has been put into major spots twice already. The first time in big Toryumon vs R.E.D. Unit Disbands match he unequivocally delivered and was the star of the match. If he can deliver to a similar degree in this match then Dragon Gate can be certain that they have a future massive star on their hands and someone that can carry the promotion for the next 20 years. If for some reason you are not a regular DG viewer and you for some reason your read this preview then jump onto the SBKento hype train now as its about to leave the station. PREDICTION: Yamato & Kai win the tag. SBKento takes Dragon Kid’s mask.
Jon: Everyone’s made strong cases for why SBKento and Kid win the tag, and I agree that all signs are pointing to SBKento losing this match, including that total bullseye of a hairstyle on his head. But that seems too easy, doesn’t it? Let’s pick with our hearts, folks. SBK and Dragon Kid made heartstopping magic as the final two competitors in the Unit Disbands Match at Final Gate 2020, but if you fast forward to their meeting at the 4/3 Korakuen show, things sure fell back to Earth, didn’t they? They certainly couldn’t match the intensity and fire of match that followed: YAMATO vs. KAI. For seven-and-a-half minutes, YAMATO and KAI finally gave us an honest glimpse at the growing hatred between them. It was physical in a way that popped off the screen, YAMATO was interesting again, and after what’s felt like an eternity it seemed to actually be pushing the never-ending YAMATO-KAI-BxB story toward something resembling a satisfying conclusion. Then, naturally, R.E.D. interfered and cut it off. The last big cage match was where KAI betrayed YAMATO, let ‘em kill each other at this one. I’m begging you. PREDICTION: SBKento and Dragon Kid escape the cage. YAMATO defeats KAI.