DGUSA presents their last show of 2011, Freedom Fight, live on iPPV and Pro Wrestling Ponderings has live coverage of the event as it happens. Headlined by an Open the Freedom Gate title match between Yamato and Johnny Gargano, as well as big grudge encounters between PAC and Ricochet and Dragon Gate icons Cima and Masato Yoshino, this should prove to be a huge event. Quick results at bottom of page
- Matt Waters here back again for the final part of DGUSA's triple shot. My mind is still pretty much blown from Chikara's High Noon iPPV, so if you're bored waiting for this show to start, check out my coverage over at The Wrestling Press, and make sure to look out for Justin Houston's forthcoming review.
BJ Whitmer vs. Brodie Lee
Recap: DGUSA's powerhouse Brodie Lee continued to roll after defeating his rival BJ Whitmer with a big powerbomb. Ricochet made his presence felt on the outside, attacking BJ several times but Whitmer overcame this and locked on the Peruvian Necktie, but Lee turned it into a pin which forced BJ to relinquish the hold. From there Lee used his distinct power advantage to get the job done, hitting several big moves and finishing Whitmer with a huge powerbomb that dropped him on his head.
Review: DGUSA worked hard to make its viewers care about this match, with these two brawling on several events, most recently during last night's main event, and having them go on first and for BJ to attack Brodie before he could even get in the ring was a smart move. It wasn't anything special, but it was a fun little battle with a brutal finish. Lenny Leonard announced the wrong man as the winner after the match, much to his embarrassment.
The Scene vs. Uhaa Nation & John Silver
Recap: The Scene picked up a victory over the makeshift team of Uhaa Nation and John Silver by isolating Silver and hitting their Wheelbarrow Hold/DDT/Wheelbarrow Suplex combination for the win. The Scene showed great poise as a team, using their chemistry as an advantage, but even that couldn't put the massive Nation down. Unfortunately Nation made the mistake of tagging Silver back into the match after dominating The Scene. Reed & Conley knocked Nation to the outside and Silver was left alone to eat defeat.
Review: Everybody involved in this match should be thankful they got to be on DGUSA's final show of the year, and it was a great chance for them to show off what they had, with The Scene trying to find a place in the standing order of the company, John Silver doing his best to win a roster spot, and Uhaa Nation just killing time before he finds himself involved in the main storylines. So how did they do? Okay. The Scene are decent but are in a weird position at the moment. Nation is of course insanely good, and I liked that The Scene basically beat them because he tagged out.
- Ronin head to the ring complete with Rich Swann rapping. Johnny Gargano asks Chuck Taylor to give the belt back to Yamato and he begrudgingly agrees to later on, but it's clear they're not happy with one another. Rich Swann reminds Gargano how hard he's worked to get where he is and to bring the belt to Ronin later tonight. He tells Taylor they're going to beat the Blood Warriors and with that peace is restored.
Chuck Taylor & Rich Swann vs. Akira Tozawa & BxB Hulk
Recap: Ronin's tensions didn't prevent them from getting a huge victory over the 2011 Summer Adventure Tag League winners Akira Tozawa and BxB Hulk, pinning Tozawa after an Awful Waffle and the Firebird. It seemed the Blood Warriors duo had the match in hand, demonstrating great cohesion and tag team moves, but somehow Ronin rallied late, isolated Tozawa and unloaded on him with their deadly finishers, with Taylor holding Hulk back as he tried to break up the pin.
Review: Let the record show this was the match of a thousand back-rakes. As far along as Swann has come, and as much as I personally like Chuck Taylor, Ronin were a little outclassed by the Blood Warriors duo who showed some great heel mannerisms and for the first time since forming their team several months ago some actual double team moves! The crowd didn't seem to care much which is a shame because there was absolutely nothing wrong with the match and I for one enjoyed it. I'm stunned that Hulk has gone winless this weekend and that Swann pinned Tozawa two nights running, but you can't say Ronin are fading into obscurity. This was a legitimately huge win.
- The Blood Warriors attack after the match, but Johnny Gargano and Masato Yoshino put a stop to it. With Cima and Yoshino alone in the ring they ask for the bell and get it.
Cima vs. Masato Yoshino
Recap: In a battle of Dragon Gate veterans, it was Masato Yoshino defeating his longtime rival Cima via submission with Sol Naciente Kai. They showed how very well they knew each other, both managing to reverse or dodge move after move, from minor parts of their arsenals, to their finishing moves. This forced them to dig deeper into their playbooks, with Cima hitting the Crossfire for the first time in a long while for a near pin. Likewise, as it appeared as though Cima would escape the Sol Naciente, Yoshino adjusted on the fly and modified the hold to the Sol Naciente Kai for the win. Yoshino appeared injured late in the match, collapsing in a heap and clutching his stomach, screaming in agony after what seemed like only a glancing blow from Cima, but he turned out to be fine.
Review: This was great, and their undeniable chemistry was on display for all to see. I loved how they kept avoiding or countering each other's signature moves to show their familiarity, it kept things very interesting and it became a battle of wits and who could surprise their opponent. Great, subtle storytelling there. The stomach injury was a bit strange, as Yoshino genuinely seemed like he was done and Cima not doing anything made it seem like he didn't know what was happening. It didn't lead anywhere so it obviously wasn't an angle, but for Yoshino to bounce back moments later and show no ill effects for the rest of the match seemed unlikely. Weird. Those who didn't read DGUSA's press releases this week may not realise there was a minor story at play here, beyond the fact these two are longtime rivals. For the first 6 months to a year of the company's existence Cima was the face, the icon, the ambassador, but in recent times that role has shifted to Yoshino, especially now he's defeated him one on one.
- Intermission. Long one at that.
- Back from intermission and Lenny Leonard brings out Uhaa Nation who is thankful for his spot and getting to wrestle in New York. He says 2012 will be his year, and then leaves. Okay then.
PAC vs. Ricochet
Recap: In what was billed as the final meeting between wrestling's premiere high-flyers, it was Ricochet who emerged triumphant over PAC, and he did it with impact ground offensive rather than aerial attacks, ultimately putting PAC away with a huge kick to the head after a succession of head-drops. At one point Ricochet tried to escape into the crowd, but then ran along the row of seating and executed a diving hurricanrana on the floor, and followed it with a flipping tope over more furniture. Not to be outdone, PAC hit a reverse rana on the floor, nearly knocking Ricochet out. That set the tone for the rest of the match, with both men dropping huge bombs on each other. Surprisingly, Ricochet's bombs did more damage, as he hit PAC with a german suplex, backslide driver and a snapmare driver, which was more than enough to soften the Brit up for the killing blow.
Review: When these two met back in September I was left thinking “was that it?”, expecting a pheno
menal aerial explosion. That was not at all the case here as they finally delivered what I was hoping for. BB Kings doesn't allow for a whole lot of flight, but they found some very creative ways to take to the air anyway. Instead they focused more on their personal feud, with Ric heeling it up and PAC being the inhuman marvel that he is. Ricochet doing much better than he has in previous matches would have resulted in this being my favourite of their matches to date even if he had lost; it wasn't as insane as their Japanese encounters, but it felt more well-structured to me. Great stuff.
Open the Freedom Gate Title Match
YAMATO vs. Johnny Gargano
Recap: After a herculean effort, Johnny Gargano was able to capture the Open the Freedom Gate, making Yamato tap out to the GargaNo-Escape. Gargano found success in the early part of the match, going hold for hold with the champion and using his unorthodox offense to take the fight to Yamato. Turning up the intensity, Yamato took the advantage thanks to some slightly underhanded tactics, and soon had him locked in the same modified CBV he made Taylor tap out with, but Gargano survived. Things looked bleak for Gargano when the referee was knocked down, seemingly having the match won with Hurts Donut but there was nobody to count the pin. Chuck Taylor then tried to attack Yamato with the title belt but missed and struck Gargano, but the challenger wouldn't give up, surviving this and Gallaria. Fighting his way back into the contest, Gargano countered Yamato, hit another Hurts Donut and transitioned straight into his patented submission for the biggest win of his career, becoming the first American champion in the title's history.
Review: I loved the slow burn here. Last night Chuck Taylor was unable to deal with Yamato's versatility, outclassed at every turn. Conversely, Gargano's finely-tuned technical ability was able to somewhat match Yamato's, and his unusual chain-based offense kept the champion on his toes. In response, Yamato got a little vicious, using some of his old heel flair, and while he never broke the rules, he stopped wrestling clean halfway through the match, perhaps because he was perplexed by Gargano's plan of attack. He went from just being more aggressive to outright cheating because he didn't seem to know what else to do. Gargano looked great in there with one of the very best in the world and his babyface comeback was great, overcoming quite a stacked deck to get the stunning victory and the title. It didn't feel as big as it should have, but make no mistake, this was a very big thing.
- Chuck Taylor won't give up the belt after the match so Gargano gets on the mic and gives him a long talking to about how Ronin have proved how good they are, and it doesn't matter which of them is champion and that Taylor and Swann should be number one contenders. Taylor hands the belt over and teases betraying him, but instead hugs Gargano and states they're coming for the United Gates so they can hold all the belts in the company. I didn't expect that.
The D.U.F. vs. AR Fox, Sabu & Jon Davis
Recap: The D.U.F. may have finally settled their issue with AR Fox once and for all, defeating him and his allies after Sami Callihan smashed a bottle over the young high-flyer's head. It was wild from start to finish, with Fox flying off the top rope and crashing through a guard rail on two occasions. At first it appeared The D.U.F. would have a 3-on-2 advantage, with AR Fox stating Sabu had been taken out backstage, but the ECW legend returned moments later to even the odds. But even Sabu's creative violence and Davis' power couldn't save Fox from a bottle to the skull.
Review: Why did this get to go on last besides the inconvenience of creating a lot of mess by breaking furniture? What was the point in stating Sabu had been taken out and it would be 3-on-2, only for Sabu to appear less than 30 seconds later? How many people stopped watching after Gargano won the title? These are questions that will remain unanswered. I don't want to say that Gabe's personal love for Sabu and Callihan affected his judgment here, but Gargano winning the title should have closed the show. A decent portion of the audience lost interest before the match even started, myself included. They did some moves, used some weapons, everybody bled and somebody won. To be fair there were several Oh My God! moments, mostly the many deaths of AR Fox, and that bottle very well may have been real as it made more of a thud than the usual easy-break ones used in wrestling. But while mindless violence has its place, it isn't in the main event of a show that features a title change two years in the making. I won't go as far as to say it ruined the event, but it certainly felt like a completely different show and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Shove this on before intermission and let Cima and Yoshino open the second half and everything is fixed. Oh, and AR Fox is an idiot. His look and high-flying ability will make him a fair amount of money in the wrestling business. There is absolutely zero need for him to take hardcore bumps like he does just because Sami likes dishing them out. He could have legitimately been crippled by the pair of spills he took the outside, and as I said that bottle sounded a little more real than most, so if he took a legit bottling just to try and entertain the fans, he's a moron. Get this kid away from the D.U.F. and let him fly around the ring like a maniac.
- Callihan & Cannon say 2012 is their year and then leave. Sabu and Davis help Fox to the back to close the show.
This show was a little strange. There was plenty of quality to be found throughout, but it was strange. Opening with Brodie vs Whitmer was a good idea, but following it with what felt like a pre-show match between four men who are floating around in the ether may not have been. Ronin versus BxB & Tozawa was decent and Cima versus Yoshino was as great as you'd expect. The long intermission was followed by PAC and Ricochet's best match to date and the emotional title switch that should have been the main event. The drama with Ronin would have been a great choice to close the show. Instead we're treated – and I use that term in the loosest sense of the word – to barely ten minutes of hardcore wrestling with an ultra-violent but fairly meaningless ending.
However if the Extreme Warfare match had gone on right before intermission and Cima/Yoshino right after, the first half of the show would have only featured one match with Japanese talent, which sounds a little crazy for a company based on integrating Japanese wrestlers with American ones. I'd have been willing to accept that odd paradigm in order to avoid the extremely ill-advised decision of letting the six-man close the show, as I'm having some trouble assessing the event fairly.
Was this the best show of the triple shot? Without having seen Revolt! yet, I'd say yes. Did it close out 2011 effectively for DGUSA? Again, yes. Gargano finally achieved his dream, we got a title change, Ronin remained together, Ricochet finally beat PAC when it mattered most, Masato Yoshino proved he's the icon for DGUSA by beating Cima, Brodie proved he's tougher than BJ Whitmer, and the D.U.F. (hopefully) finished their feud with AR Fox and proved they could out-crazy Sabu. Most importantly, was it worth paying for? I'd say yes. If you only want to purchase one of the three iPPVs from this weekend go with this one. But that last match in addition to the masterclass Chikara put on earlier in the night hurt things a little bit for me.
Brodie Lee d BJ Whitmer
The Scene (Scott Reed & Caleb Konley) d Uhaa Nation & John Silver
Rich Swann & Chuck Taylor d Akira Tozawa & BxB Hulk
Masato Yoshino d CIMA
Ricochet d PAC
Open The Freedom Gate title match: Johnny Gargano d YAMATA to win title
Extreme Warfare: Callihan, Arik & Sanchez (Callihan pinned Fox after a bottle to the head) d Sabu, AR Fox, Jon Davis
Matt Waters became a wrestling fan through the 1990s WWF video games. He didn't know who on earth Austin was, but he knew playing as him was a very good thing. He got on board with the televised iteration of the pseudo-sport at age 10, watching WCW and later WWF. Becoming bored with the product around 2005, he turned to Ring of Honor and indie wrestling and... well... here we are. Occasionally he writes, mostly he hosts the Podcast of Honor.
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