Ladies and gentlemen: Dragon Gate is really, really tremendous. Like, so absolutely, unbelievably–it’s great, okay? Everyone says so. Many, many people are calling it the greatest–thing–that has ever happened. Alright? Wrestling. Right? Yeah! Wrestling! BUT! But–lately, some of the people–not us! But some of the–other people–you know who I’m talking about. THOSE people–the losers we’ll call’em. They don’t think, perhaps, about Dragon Gate so much anymore. There’s even some people–if you can believe this–that have never even HEARD about Dragon Gate before. Yeah! Right? Unbelievable! It should–they should be locked up for that! I don’t know, maybe. So here’s what I’m going to do to single-handedly fix this travesty of justice and miscarriage of–to fix–look, I’m going to Make America Dragon Gate Again, okay? That’s what we’re doing, that’s what’s on that hat, okay? Did you forget about Dragon Gate and you wanna catch up? Well, you’re a loser and–but, you don’t have to stay one! This will fix you! Okay? Hey: never heard of Dragon Gate? You oughta be shot like a lousy race horse! Okay? Right in the face! It’s humane that way, I’m told. So yeah, you can–do you want to be shot? Well then Make America Dragon Gate again, okay? It’s a beautiful thing, believe me.
*Writer’s Note: This is the only portion of this written like America’s Idiot-in-Chief. Feel free to read the rest of this in a normal tone of voice and not in his trademark whiny, neanderthal drawl. There’s a brief rise-and-fall deal at the beginning, a breakdown of each faction and active wrestlers in the company, a description of titles, tournaments and traditions, and finally a look at Dragon Gate’s tonight’s huge Kobe World show. It starts at, like, two in the morning my time, I think. So technically it’s tomorrow? The show looks really good. Also, none of this would be possible without Jae of IHeartDG. He single-handedly makes being a Dragon Gate fan possible with his translations and results. He is the very, very bestest. Buy stuff from the international Dragon Gate shop HERE. Lastly, remember that this is just my opinion on stuff, even the wrestler descriptions. I’m not even sure I got timelines right. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments below. Or just shut up about it.
There was a time when Dragon Gate was the hottest Japanese wrestling company on the planet. They had a thriving brand of recognizable superstars combined with the fastest, most exciting style of wrestling ever witnessed by human eyeballs. Feuds were hot, matches were memorable and foreign independent representation was plentiful. Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Neville, The Young Bucks, Rich Swann, Ricochet, Roderick Strong, Apollo Crews, Johnny Gargano, Tony Nese, Luke Harper, Austin Aries and many more have done tours with Dragon Gate at some point in their careers. In 2009, DG opened up an American wing: Dragon Gate USA. A mix of US and Japanese talent fighting on American soil for brand new belts, all booked by the genius behind Ring of Honor’s rise to prominence. The future potential of Dragon Gate looked limitless.
Around the time of DGUSA’s creation, an incident occurred that put Dragon Gate in the national spotlight. It involved allegations of animal abuse at the Dragon Gate training facility. To this day, it’s impossible to ascertain exactly what went down and why. The culprits named in the original story, involving repeated accounts of intentional mistreatment of a pet monkey, and the ones who ended up actually being punished, for accidental abuse and neglect, were completely different. Regardless of what really happened, Dragon Gate was painted in the absolute worst light possible. Meanwhile, New Japan Pro Wrestling was about to have a renaissance. Shinsuke Nakamura was starting a metamorphosis into his strong style rock star persona and Kazuchika Okada had just returned from TNA, ready to claim his place at the top of the company. Together, with ace Hiroshi Tanahashi, the success of Price Devitt and his Bullet Club, and a refocusing of their big tournaments like G1 Climax and Best of the Super Juniors, NJPW climbed back into the forefront of puroresu.
Dragon Gate continued to slide. The demanding schedule of working 300+ shows a year takes it toll WITHOUT accounting for long flights across continents. Injuries became frequent. Less and less DG talent began flying out to DGUSA shows. The Dragon Gate dojo had not produced fresh talent in years, forcing Dragon Gate to rely on gaijin that were becoming increasingly harder to come by with other companies vying for their skills. Despite a red-hot feud in 2011 between the Blood WARRIORS and Junction-3, DG felt like it was burning out towards the end of 2012. It was still popular and exciting, no doubt, but the potential no longer seemed limitless. Dragon Gate mounted a streaming service well before the WWE Network and NJPW World launched, but it has not reached the same success as WWE or NJPW’s services have. DGUSA went on hiatus in 2014, its titles finally being deactivated in 2015.
All that being said: Dragon Gate, maybe now more than ever, is on the rise. Their dojo has produced a number of supremely-talented wrestlers in just the past few years, ballooning the roster and allowing DG to operate largely gaijin-free, save the occasional luchador. There are no longer single leaders within factions, opening the door for anyone from any faction to step up and challenge for a championship should he feel worthy. DG continues to sellout Korakuen and Kobe, has seen new top faces emerge in the wake Akira Tozawa’s departure to WWE and finally feels ready to capitalize on its momentum again.
Open the Dream Gate: This is the company’s main championship. The champion’s name is placed on a plate the front of the belt, locked by a gate. A title challenger gets a Challenger’s Key. If the challenger wins, the key unlocks the gate and the challenger removes the previous champion’s name. If the champion successfully defends the Dream Gate, he hangs the key from the front of the championship like a spoil of battle or a scalp or something. It’s awesome. The more you defend your title, the janglier it gets. YAMATO, the current champion, and Shingo Takagi, the man YAMATO beat to become champion, have each held the championship a record 4 times. Masato Yoshino and CIMA have each held it 3 times. CIMA holds the records for longest reign, most defenses in a single reign and most total defenses of the championship. Ricochet is the only gaijin to ever actually hold the Dream Gate championship.
Open the Triangle Gate: These are Dragon Gate’s trios titles. Teams of three battle other teams of three for the right to be called Open the Triangle Gate champions. Due to the difficulty in defending such titles, the championships change hands rather frequently. Naruki Doi has been a Triangle Gate champion 13 times, most recently as part of the 59th champion team before being unseated by the VerserK squad of Shingo Takagi, Takashi Yoshida and El Lindaman. CIMA, Gamma and Ryo Saito have all been a Triangle Gate champion 12 times. However, Masato Yoshino is the most prodigious Triangle Gate champion in history, having been one-third of the trios champs 10 times across a record 1,149 days. Other notable former champions include Ricochet, current WWE Cruiserweight champion Neville, Lucha Underground wrestler Jack Evans, former WWE Cruiserweight champion Rich Swann and WrestleMania 21 competitor Akebono.
Open the Brave Gate: This is Dragon Gate’s secondary championship. It has a weight limit, but I don’t know how much it really matters. I’m fairly certain current Brave Gate champion Jimmy Kagetora is in violation of it, but it’s fine. It’s fiiiine. Like the Triangle Gate, Yoshino is the ultimate Brave Gate champion, having the record for most reigns, total defenses and total time as champion. However, it’s the current WWE Cruiserweight champion Neville who holds the single reign records for time held and defenses. Ricochet unseated Neville as Brave Gate champion. The aforementioned Rich Swann and Jack Evans have both challenged for the Brave Gate, as have Tony Nese and Sami Zayn.
Open the Twin Gate: I mean, do I really have to spell this one out? It’s their tag belts. CIMA and Dragon Kid, collectively known as CK-1, are the current Twin Gate champions. Four teams (CIMA & Gamma, Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora, Eita & T-Hawk and Shingo Takagi & YAMATO) have been tag champions on three occasions. YAMATO is a 7-time Twin Gate champion, and his 2015 run with Naruki Doi is the current record-holder for defenses and number of days as champion. Of course Neville and Ricochet are former Twin Gate champions. Of course they are. The Young Bucks unsuccessfully challenged for the titles back in 2009, making the Twin Gate, like, the ONLY tag titles the Bucks haven’t held before.
Open the Owarai Gate: This is Dragon Gate’s comedy championship. Debuting at a Pro Wrestling Guerrilla show, the belt has a special set of rules: the outcome of the match is immaterial to the champion’s retention of the title. Win or lose, post-match audience approval via applause determines who leaves as champion. Current champ “Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa is king of Owarai, holding the title six times. However, CIMA and Masato Yoshino have both held the belt as well, making them the only two wrestlers in Dragon Gate to hold ever single title. Other former champions include Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa and legendary comedy wrestler Kikutaro, who once misplaced the title only to finally find it again almost TWO YEARS LATER, leading to a record 695 day reign.
King of Gate: This is Dragon Gate’s yearly singles tournament, running since 2005. The first ten tournaments operated under single-elimination brackets. The last two years, however, have been leagues: four groups of six wrestlers face each person in their group only once. Two points are earned for a victory, one for a draw and none for a loss. The guy in each group with the most points at the end goes to the semifinals and then the finals. Also in recent years, the tournament moved from winter to late spring, allowing the winner to challenge for the Dream Gate at either Kobe World, DG’s big annual summer PPV, or just before it at Hakata Star Lines, perhaps DG’s most raucous building. Ryo Saito won the inaugural tourney, taking the Dream Gate shortly after. There has never been a two-time winner of King of Gate.
Summer Adventure Tag League: The annual tag team tournament since 2007. Early years were single block round robin tourneys featuring as many as ten tag teams. Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino absolutely dominated those years, winning three out of the first four tournaments, only losing in 2009 because they had chose separate partners. You know…to give others a chance. Modern tag leagues have typically been two blocks of five teams each. 2013 saw it become a one-time trios tourney, where previous year’s SATL winners Akira Tozawa and BxB Hulk added T-Hawk and were victorious yet again. This year’s tournament looks to be the biggest one ever, as it has been suggested that the end result of it will somehow see one of Dragon Gate’s current factions forced to disband.
Dead or Alive Cage Match: Every year since 2008, Dragon Gate has held a PPV known as Dead or Alive on May 5th. In recent times, those PPV main events involve a multi-man Cage Match with dramatic rules and stipulations. The basic premise is that the cage would have four flags on each post and usually a hard-to-reach fifth flag. Grab a flag, leave the cage, you’re safe. Last man left pays a terrible price. This year, Dream Gate champion YAMATO had to put his title on the line as the rest of the challengers inside had to put either their mask on the line or their hair. Last year, the loser got his head shaved and could not grow it back for a full year. Sometimes you fight with your hair on the line, sometimes with someone else’s at stake. The matches are dramatic and campy and weird and unbelievably fun. A near perfect embodiment of DG as a whole.
Doi Darts: Back in 2011, Naruki Doi unveiled a special method of randomly selecting competitors for main events and titles matches. It was a big, spinning dartboard with wrestler’s names written on it. Over the last six years, Doi Darts has performed several “miracles” as it’s called when your name is chosen. Nowadays kids from the audience usually throw the darts. However, the original game is still the best. When Doi unveiled the board, his name was, like, 99% of it, ensuring he’d get picked to challenge for the Triangle Gate per his rules. The rest was made up of Blood WARRIORS members. The second dart landed on Kzy, the lowest rung in the faction at that time. The second dart, which sent Masato Yoshino into a fit of laughter, was Naoki Tanizaki, another loss post. Doi’s team sucked. Everyone was in hysterics over this turn of events, including the Blood WARRIORS. Team Doi Darts managed to capture the Triangle Gate though, another miracle in its own right. They held on to the belts for quite some time thanks to…
2-Count Rules: 2-Count Rules means that it only takes a count of two to win. In Team Doi Darts case, they’d get two counts but their opponents would still have to get the customary three. Tanizaki also did something similar defending a stolen Brave Gate Title. Two-Count Rules still come up now and again, including at Kobe World to help determine a challenger to the Triangle Gate. Even now though, it’s basically just…
Cheap Heel Tactics: Every heel Dragon Gate faction cheats the exact same way. They directly interfere in matches, using boxes, chairs and kendo sticks as weapons. They throw protein powder into your eyes to blind you. They kick you low. All of them do this. All of them.
Masked Mystery Men: Specifically, a guy named Dr. Muscle and another called Metal Warrior. Both started out as devious masked members of the Muscle Outlawz and Blood WARRIORS respectively. They have since been used by other wrestlers to hide their identities before ultimately revealing themselves and their intentions. Sometimes it directly precedes someone leaving their unit for another one. Sometimes it’s just a bored, mildly-injured Don Fujii trying to trick people. You never know.
Elimination Matches: It feels like they’ve done them less in recent years, but Dragon Gate has had some of the most spectacular elimination matches this side of mid-90s Michinoku Pro. They have a lot of different types, too. I can’t remember them all. Naniwa Rules means guys come in one at a time until both teams are in the ring and they can start eliminating each other. There’s Captains Fall, where the match continues with eliminations until the designated captain on the other team is pinned. Loser Revives means eliminating someone from the opposing team lets you bring someone back from your team. Of course, the most dreaded of all elimination matches is one with a stipulation that the…
Losing Unit Disbands: In Dragon Gate, almost every faction has ended for one of two reasons: mass betrayal or coming up short in a Losing Unit Disbands Match. Sometimes it’s elimination, sometimes just a straight multi-man one fall tag. You lose, your faction is finished forever. The last faction to lose its existence was Monster Express in October of last year in a Loser Revives Captains Fall Elimination Unit Disbands Match. They lost to VerserK . As mentioned, this year’s Summer Adventure Tag League will somehow force at least one faction to end, maybe more. Dun-Dun-DUUUUUUUUUUN.
Of the original VerserK, only leader Shingo Takagi and central ally Takashi Yoshida have remained for the entirety. Punch Tominaga, a footstool in any faction he’s a part of, was an original member who defected to Over Generation, only to return after feeling underappreciated by that group. Guys like Eita, YAMATO and Naruki Doi have all been kicked out due to perceived weakness, replaced by “loose cannons” like Naoki Tanizaki and “brother” YASSHI or supremely strong guys in Shingo’s mold like El Lindaman and T-Hawk. Much like DG heel groups from the past such as the Muscle Outlawz, Real Hazard and Mad Blankey, VerserK heavily relies on cheating and having a numbers advantage.
Shingo Takagi is the top heel in Dragon Gate and leader of the only true heel faction. He is big and muscled and rude. He wasn’t always this way. For a while, he was a tepid babyface, unable to rally much support, even as Dream Gate champion. So he went bad. REAL bad. Takagi is Dragon Gate’s first truly hated heel in a long time, maybe since Gamma was leader of the Muscle Outlawz. He cheats, he boasts, he claims to HATE Dragon Gate and his lariat is second to none. He hates BxB Hulk, but not as much as BxB Hulk hates him. He hates YAMATO…for now. They’ve been allies as much as they’ve been enemies. He mostly just hates weakness in general. He has outstanding hair, even by Japanese wrestling standards.
T-Hawk is an undeniably brilliant in-ring competitor. He’s not even in his prime yet and he’s already had several stand-out performances. However, DG doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. For AGES, he wrestled pretending to be another wrestler who was out injured. Then he went to Mexico for a while. He came back under his current name, bouncing around a couple of factions centered around friendship and trust, forming a notable team with Millennial mate Eita. However, he turned his back on friendship (and Big R Shimizu in particular) to join up with fellow meathead Shingo Takagi in VerserK . He’s not a super-believable heel though, so I’m not sure how long he’ll last there. Regardless, he is consistently one of Dragon Gate’s most reliable performers, possessing some of the hardest chops in wrestling and an endless array of brutal finishers, the most recent of which being a counter knee strike called Cerberus. He is also this year’s King of Gate winner and YAMATO’s next challenger to the Dream Gate.
Takashi Yoshida is Cyber Kong. The former masked man lost his cowl and moniker in the most recent Dead or Alive Cage Match, where YAMATO stripped him of both. Now he’s trying to forge a new legacy under his real name. But he’s still basically Cyber Kong. He is a big, loud cannonball. He briefly quit Dragon Gate way back when, only to beg his way back in with the support of his bestest buddy Shingo Takagi. The two have had a volatile friendship ever since, constantly turning on each other only to eventually reconcile. Due to his prodigious girth, Yoshida enjoys tossing around smaller foes. Like Takagi, Hulk and YAMATO are his central foes. Like Takagi, he favors the lariat. Unlike Takagi, he rarely gets respect from fans or other wrestlers due to his reckless style and propensity for having lousy performances in big matches.
El Lindaman is a ridiculous name for a supremely talented young wrestler. One of the smallest wrestlers to ever enter Dragon Gate, Lindaman has a ton of muscle on his small frame, allowing him to manhandle guys much larger than himself. Originally wanting to join up with CIMA & Gamma, he joined The Millennials instead after CIMA briefly turned heel. He eventually did team up with them in Over Generation, but wound up kicked out of the group after his infatuation with Yosuke♡Santa Maria caused him to go on a losing streak. When Maria’s own faction wouldn’t allow Lindaman to join, she slapped him, ending their romance. VerserK came calling, and Lindaman has been a rope-swinging suplex machine since then, favoring several versions of the Tiger Suplex to put people away.
“brother” YASSHI was fired from Dragon Gate over a decade ago for…reasons. I don’t know. Masato Yoshino brought him back into the fold and YASSHI betrayed him almost immediately to join VerserK . He occasionally uses his long dreadlocks to taunt his opponents. He’s semi-regular. He isn’t very good.
Naoki Tanizaki is still listed in the opening video of Dragon Gate shows so I’m listing him here as a member of VerserK even though he hasn’t wrestled for the company at all in 2017 and isn’t on the official roster page. A freelancer and almost always underappreciated, Tanizaki has had many memorable moments in DG over the years. He favors knee strikes. He is very good. Here’s hoping he returns soon.
Punch Tominaga is great, I don’t care what anyone says. After spending nearly a decade in development, a miracle offered Tominaga his first real shot at graduating the DG Dojo. The final dart thrown in a game of Doi Darts granted Tominaga a Triangle Gate shot alongside Gamma and Shachihoko Boy. His team lost, but Tominaga managed to claw his way onto the roster…and into our hearts. Technically speaking, he’s not awesome. But his gimmick, which I could not explain even if I wanted to, and his palpable determination, make him a pleasure to watch.
VerserK betrayed YAMATO during last year’s Dead or Alive Cage Match, and if not for BxB Hulk, Kzy and Yosuke♡Santa Maria running in to save him, YAMATO would have lost and gotten his head shaved. The three wrestlers expressed great admiration for him afterwards, and YAMATO emotionally apologized to the fans for his heelish behavior lately. They formed Tribe Vanguard very quickly afterwards, adding the high-flying Flamita as a part-timer. Despite technically being the smallest faction in Dragon Gate, Vanguard is likely the most popular as well due to their charisma, in-ring excellence and role as eternal underdogs.
YAMATO is the sexiest goddamn man on this or any other planet. His coolness is intergalactic. He is the bomb diggity. The current Dream Gate champion has been a heel as much as he’s been a face, but his popularity as a heel has often caused DG to just turn him face anyway. Basically, people like him too much. It’s a bit of a Randy Orton thing: he’s clearly a better heel but people just can’t stop (won’t stop) cheering him on. He’s had serious rivalries with many on the roster, including Shingo Takagi, Takashi Yoshida, Don Fujii and Masaaki Mochizuki. He can beat you with a variety of submissions, but his reverse suplex into a sitout piledriver called Gallaria usually gets the job done.
BxB Hulk is also very adorable I guess. If you’re into that sort of thing. He was long viewed as a talented wrestler and capable speaker, but not a Dream Gate-level champion like long-time rival Shingo Takagi. But Hulk became DGUSA’s first champion and, a year after Takagi had a failed title run as a babyface with the Dream Gate, Hulk managed to win DG’s top prize, defending it seven times and earning the respect of the fans. He favors a variety of wild kicks, from axe kicks to springboard spin kicks to his signature strike called First Flash, a brutal superkick to a kneeling opponent.
Kzy has always had promise. As m.c.KZ, he bounced around many units, serving as chief instigator and primary loss post wherever he went. He was always entertaining, just undersized and not fully cooked in the wrestling department. This year, however, it finally all started to click. Tozawa’s exit from Dragon Gate paved the way for Kzy to become the new fan-favored underdog. He got in the best shape of his life and added an absolutely filthy uppercut to his arsenal. Like, Cesaro-level filthy. It’s that good. After coming up short in King of Gate and chasing CK-1 unsuccessfully for the Twin Gate, it’s only a matter of time before he finds title success again. One thing’s for sure: he’s not a loss post anymore.
Yosuke♡Santa Maria began wrestling in Dragon Gate as Yosuke Watanabe. Debuting alongside Eita and Punch Tominaga in 2011, Watanabe quickly separated himself from the other two due to his raw athleticism. He would become the third man to wear the Super Shenlong persona, forming -akatsuki- with Tominaga, Shingo Takagi and YAMATO. They found little success, eventually leading to the group disbanding and Watanabe stripped of his mask. He had to start from scratch. Watanabe join Eita’s stable Millennials and announced himself as Yosuke♡Santa Maria, identifying as a woman. Even after Millennials disbanded, Yosuke remained Santa Maria. Though wrestlers continue to use her over-the-top antics and gender identity for mockery, Yosuke’s new found confidence has resulted in a Brave Gate Title victory and tremendous support from fans. Her crucifix bomb (often preceded by a kiss) is capable of pinning anyone in Dragon Gate.
Flamita, a former Brave Gate and Triangle Gate champion, is regarded as one of the most crisp and dynamic high-flyers in the world. A freelance luchador from Mexico, Flamita joined Tribe Vanguard thanks to his connection to Hulk and Kzy, whom he was teammates with in Dia.HEARTS. He’s in PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles this year. He is super good.
A combination of old generation Dragon Gate guys and new generation dojo graduates, Over Generation has a tradition where they invite a young fan to ring the opening bell of their first contest of the night. It’s cute. I think they ask the lil’ bugger some questions like who’s your favorite wrestler and everyone laughs if it’s, like, Tominaga or someone shit. I’m not completely sure. In the immortal words of Chris Farley, “MOTHER OF MERCY, I DON’T SPEAK JAPANESE!”
CIMA is divisive. You either love CIMA or you hate CIMA or you think he’s okay or you’re all, “What’s a CIMA?” He’s a wrassler, silly. He was (and kind of always will be) the face of Dragon Gate during, before and after it’s rise to prominence. However, in July of 2013, his record 15 defense, near 600 day Dream Gate reign came to an end. Since then, he’s been much less at DG’s forefront. He’s also evolved his wrestling style from frenetic, no-selling alpha dog to…I’m not sure how to describe it. He went down to Mexico for a bit and came back with some new submissions, but it seems to have overstuffed the wrestling part of his brain. His matches now seem like bad video game contests where everything’s a jumbled mess, nothing means anything and the matches just sort of end. Maybe he can turn it around, I dunno.
Gamma is DG’s version of Marvel’s Loki: a devious trickster you love to hate. After spending many years as Dragon Gate’s most reviled villain, Gamma is now viewed much like many of DG’s veterans are: a wily, lovable prick. His antics are the same: spitting on people, drooling on people, blatant cheating, etc. But he seems more jovial about it now. He battled babyface CIMA for years only to finally join up with him in WARRIORS. The Blood WARRIORS / Junction Three War divided them again, but they found their way back to each other eventually. He likes to ape moves from other wrestlers and rename them after himself, though ironically his preferred finish of the Skytwister Press has recently been used more by young stablemate Yamamura than himself. He’s not seen as a credible Dream Gate challenger, but he’s a former Triangle Gate and Twin Gate champion many times over.
Dragon Kid is one of the greatest high-flying wrestlers in history, up there with Rey Mysterio, Hayabusa and…I don’t know. 2 Cold Scorpio? Is it too early to say Ricochet? Anyway, despite his diminutive frame and this being his 20th year in wrestling, Kid is still flying. In modern Dragon Gate, he has always been a babyface, taking huge hits from big brutes only to bounce back and send guys spinning on their heads. His signature spots include a rana to an opponent standing on the top rope (he does this EVERY match), a triangle moonsault to the floor and his still-stunning springboard hurricanrana.
Eita is the top young guy in Over Generation and perhaps the top overall new generation Dragon Gate wrestler. With T-Hawk, Eita formed an unbelievably successful team in Millennials, holding gold together on five separate occasions. The faction ended and the two have opposed each other ever since. Unlike T-Hawk who has generally been respected since he debuted (a rarity for young wrestlers), Eita has had to fight hard to earn the respect and praise he now bountifully enjoys. Much like T-Hawk, he’s got quite a cache of brutal match-enders, none more so than his excruciating submission, Numero Uno. Eita and T-Hawk seem destined to one day ascend to the top of Dragon Gate, trading the Dream Gate back-and-forth for years to come.
Takehiro Yamamura is Dragon Gate’s breakout star of 2017. Debuting in late 2015 against future stablemate Kaito Ishida, Yamamura was victorious and earned a spot replacing CIMA in that year’s Summer Adventure Tag League teaming with Gamma. A few months later and Over Generation was born. By the end of 2016, it seemed that perhaps Ishida would be the breakout star of the pair. However, Ishida was sidelined just as Yamamura began to blossom. His technical skills were much improved. His strikes were potent. His high-flying was smooth and deadly accurate. His personality real started to shine through. The fans were getting behind him. He had a fantastic match with Big R Shimizu in Korakuen. He earned a Brave Gate Title Match, coming up just short against current champion Kagetora. Everything was coming up Yamamura! He earned a spot in this year’s King of Gate, too. Though he only won one match, it was over CIMA. By submission. That’s a big deal. Yamamura’s a big deal.
Kaito Ishida has to look at Yamamura and dream about what could have been. In late 2016, he beat his stablemate and generational contemporary clean in the middle of the ring in Korakuen. It was a huge moment for him. He was sidelined by a serious injury just a month later. He returned at the end of May to find that the man he beat half a year prior was not the same man. Yamamura has surpassed Ishida in personality and overall development in a short amount of time. This left Ishida, whose style is kick, with a lot of ground to make up. He still has a ton of potential and very educated feet. Plus, this is some juicy fuel should he ever turn on Over Generation. Juicy, juicy fuel.
Mondai Ryu has been wrestling for eleven goddamn years. He’s never held a single championship, he lost his ring music in a stipulation match, he lost his MASK in one too before CIMA decided to give it back to him out of pity, and he has a shooting star press so bad it makes Billy Kidman’s look elegant by comparison. He spent seven years as Super Shenlong before shifting to his “problem dragon” persona. He’d spend the next six years as every heel group’s grubby mascot, losing every match he was in and just looking to cause mischief. He had a dynamite match with Yosuke♡Santa Maria for the Brave Gate in mid-2016 but it lead nowhere. In March of this year, CIMA brought him into OG on the pretence that Ryu take time off to heal a serious neck injury. He’s been out ever since.
Dragon Gate’s newest unit MaxiMuM sees the reconciliation of DoiYoshi aka Speed Muscle aka Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino, the best tag team in Dragon Gate history. After VerserK kicked out YAMATO, they removed Doi as well. Yoshino, without a unit since Monster Express had ended, was out injured. So…Doi waited. And waited. Aaaaaand waited. Finally, Yoshino returned ready to forge a new path. Doi brought Ben-K and Big R Shimizu along for the ride. Kotoka kind of talked his way into it. Currently they are at war with The Jimmyz. That’s not sentence I ever expected to write, but here we are.
In a company filled with high-flyers and ass-kickers, Naruki Doi stands out as one of the few pure technicians in the company. He isn’t faster or stronger or tougher than anyone else, but he is incredibly crafty. He won’t throw a hard lariat, but he will catch your clothesline and roll you back into a three count. Rivals like YAMATO, Dragon Kid, CIMA and Jimmy Susumu have moves that literally no one else can counter but Doi. But what some call crafty others might call conniving. Doi says he’s glad to be back with Yoshino, but he’s betrayed him before. TWICE. It’s usually because Yoshino has success beyond Doi. Let’s hope they succeed together this time.
Masato Yoshino is the fastest man in the history of professional wrestling. You find me anyone, anywhere who runs or ran ropes as fast or faster and I’ll give you ten billion doll hairs. You ain’t findin’em. That being said, he’s a little older now. Maybe a little heavier. He’s still lighting fast, but he’s using his increased mass effectively, countering more with powerbombs and lariats than he did in the past. Other than that, he’s still the same Yoshino. He has a lot of old grudges against guys like Dragon Kid and CIMA, but with MaxiMum focused heavily on The Jimmyz, it’s his rivalry with Jimmy K-ness J.K.S. that seems most likely to spark again soon.
Big R Shimizu is one of my absolute favorite wrestlers in Dragon Gate. Debuting as Ryotsu Shimizu two years after Eita, T-Hawk and Maria, he had little luck early on. He wrestled in a blue jumpsuit with drawn on eyebrows in a character I did not understand at all. He somehow managed to get into both King of Gate and the Summer Adventure Tag Leagues in just his second year, but he couldn’t manage a win in either tourney. He joined Dia.HEARTS later and started finding confidence, changing his name to mimic WWE’s Big E and using a sick stalling chokeslam called The Shot-Put Slam that beat absolutely everyone. In just the last two years, he’s held the Twin Gate, the Triangle Gate twice and made it to the finals of King of Gate. If you’re talking about who’s going to be big for DG in future, he has to be in the conversation.
Due to his impressive strength and incredible physique, Ben-K already has a spot in a unit and a Triangle Gate reign despite debuting just last year. He’s even got a finish, too, something a lot of other guys struggle to find. He’s beaten every one of his contemporary young wrestlers with his Ben-K Bomb, a deadlift sitout powerbomb. He’s still really raw though and incredibly well protected, so it’s hard to know exactly how he’s going to round out. The sky’s the limit though.
Kotoka followed a similar career pattern to Mondai Ryu. As one of DG’s smallest guys, he wrestled for some time as the loss post in Doi and Yoshino’s original babyface stable, WORLD-1. After that group broke up, he drifted for YEARS. Like Ryu, he was a constant butt of CIMA’s jabs. He teamed with CIMA for a bit as CIBA, a play on his real last name, but that didn’t fly either. So he started wearing face paint and going, “BLEEEEEH” like a fucking ghoul and hey, it worked out okay I guess. He held the Brave Gate for a little bit! He uses a double stomp to a seated opponent as a finish and it is gross-looking. You will go “BLEEEEEH” when you see it.
Oh man, okay. So The Jimmyz are all Akira Tozawa’s fault. Half a good goddamn decade ago, Susumu Yokosuka and KAGETORA lost a Twin Gate match to Tozawa and BxB Hulk. As a result, Akira forced them to rename themselves after the word “jimi”, which I guess is slang for stupid or simple. I dunno. Anyway, they pulled the ol’ switcheroo and turned it into a positive, embracing the new names and labels. They wore glasses and…yeah, okay, they had pretty sweet merchandise. After a while, Genki Horiguchi, Ryo Saito and Yasushi Kanda joined them and changed their names. Then Naoki Tanizaki did, too. But then he left because he hated the newest member, K-ness. That’s it. Five years and that’s pretty much all of it. They are the longest-running, most prolific faction in Dragon Gate history and everyone agrees that it needs to fucking end already.The Jimmyz
Possessing one of the hardest lariats in wrestling, Jimmy Susumu has somehow gotten better with age. After a short reign as Dream Gate champion early in his career, Susumu slipped into the role of a somewhat overlooked, dependable mid-card guy in various groups. Slowly but surely, his personality began showing more and more. He got in better shape, too, ditching his long-preferred shirted torso for one sans top. He stopped wearing a shirt. He got another cup-of-coffee Dream Gate reign last year, as well as a Twin Gate and Triangle Gate reign. He had a good 2016. He’s still rivals with Masaaki Mochizuki and Dragon Kid I suppose. His lariat still sounds like baseball player crushing homer run.
Much like Susumu, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito has held the “dependable mid-card” label for years. Unlike Susumu, he never really managed to shake it. That’s not a huge deal mind you. He’s a former Dream Gate champion. He’s a 14-time DG tag champion. He’s a Brave Gate win and a Tag League victory away from having won literally every single title and tourney Dragon Gate has to offer. He done good. He favors dragon suplex variants and an astounding double jump splash called the SaiRyo Rocket, which has to be seen to be believed. But really, he just wants to tap people out with Cycling Yahoo, a complex hold that no one seems willing to let him apply.
Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee has hair, let’s just get that out of the way right now. It’s just not on top of his head. Or on the sides. Or in the front. Sporting a braided ponytail and scowl that says, “Don’t remind me I am without hair”, Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee gets his name from the Japanese word “hage”, meaning bald. His rallying cry “H-A-G-E” became “H.A.Gee.Mee”. He’s held numerous titles in DG, mostly with his Jimmyz mates. He usually wins with a backside. He runs in place for extra leverage. At least I think that’s why he does it.
Jimmy Kagetora is the current Brave Gate champion and he has no plans to give that title up anytime soon. He spent years challenging and losing Brave Gate opportunities before he finally won the title this year for the first time. If you read the other Jimmy bios above this one, you know this story. He was overlooked and underappreciated until he became a Jimmy. Though he has the strongest cradle in Dragon Gate (a snap exploder counter to a running opponent called Kagenui), lately he’s been more interested in beating his opponents definitively with Gurumakakari, a sort of…um…it’s hard to describe. It’s scary-looking though.
Jimmy Kanda is a quintessential Jimmy. He had a terrible neck injury early in his career, causing him to spend around five years or so as a referee. After returning to active status, he was bounced around to every single heel faction Dragon Gate had. That is, until The Jimmyz came calling. This was his first opportunity in a very long time to wrestle as a babyface. There’s no noticeable difference in his moveset outside of a lack of cheating. He still uses his signature John Woo Kick, high-flying elbow drop and spinning double underhook facebuster. However, he smiles when he wrestles now. You can’t smile when you’re a heel, not out of glee anyway. When Kanda wrestles now, he really seems like he’s enjoying himself. Oh geez, now I feel bad about saying I want The Jimmyz to end.
Jimmy K-ness J.K.S. is the most recent addition to The Jimmyz. Wrestling as Darkness Dragon and then K-ness after losing his moniker, Jimmy K-ness J.K.S. (meant to be said with Rob Van Dam’s signature posing) was a fixture in villainous factions in early Dragon Gate. Unfortunately, injuries have continued to derail him in his career anytime he starts to rebuild momentum. He’s had a lot of success with Jimmy Susumu over the years though, including holding the Triangle Gate, Twin Gate and winning 2015’s Summer Adventure Tag League together. He’s a natural fit for the Jimmyz and oh dear lord, I’ve changed my mind. Please let The Jimmyz stay together forever. They NEED this, okay?
Masaaki Mochizuki is 47 years old. He’s 47 and his kicks are “shit your pants” stiff. Masaaki has spent much of the last decade wrestling within various Dragon Gate veteran groups. His kicks were notable, if not feared. Much like Susumu, he would usually wrestle in a shirt, hiding a less-than-sublime physique. As he slowly crept towards forty-years-old, his physical prowess began to improve. His got in tremendous shape, adding gratuitous force behind already stiff kicks. When the Blood WARRIORS formed and the opposing force needed a leader, it was Mochizuki as Dream Gate champion who rose to the occasion, fending off challengers throughout 2011. He has settled back into his long-time team with Don Fujii, but his physical skills have remained sharp as ever.
I’m sure there was a time that Don Fujii wasn’t a cantankerous old man, chokeslamming rookies and slapping his own tag partners when they acted insolent. But Fujii has been this way for at least a decade. Outside of a brief forced run as a heel within Mad Blankey, Fujii has stayed out of faction warfare, teaming with other veterans and “helping” young wrestlers find their way in Dragon Gate. I say “helping” because he mostly just beat them up. He’s a former Dream Gate champion though, and a multi-time tag champ with partner Mochizuki. However, over the last four years his only championship success has been two Triangle Gate reigns, one of which lasted less than two weeks. He’s still having fun though, clotheslining people half his age.
Kenichiro Arai is a Dragon Gate veteran who mostly wrestles on the Japanese independents now. In fact, I don’t think he’s wrestled in DG this year. Well…he’s still on the official roster page so whatever. I’m a big fan, even if he rarely had success in Dragon Gate.
Like Arai, Super Shisa hasn’t had much success in modern Dragon Gate and hasn’t wrestled for them in some time. I think he’s still the main trainer in the Dragon Gate Dojo. I’m pretty sure. Maybe not. Anyway, he’s on the roster, so he gets a spot.
At some point, it was discovered that Shisa BOY and Shachihoko Machine were the same person. It was SHOCKING. So he became Shachihoko BOY instead. He held the Twin Gate with best buddy Masato Yoshino in 2015, but he’s not in MaxiMuM, so how close could they possibly be? Eh? EHH?! Anyway, he’s a fun wrestler, just not a very important one.
I keep mentioning Eita and T-Hawk in terms of recent young wrestler success in Dragon Gate. Well U-T was there beside them as the third man in the original Millennials trio. He was undeniably talented, if a bit less developed than the other two men. He held the Triangle Gate with them briefly before Millennials expanded. He got a little lost in the shuffle. Then Millennials ended and he couldn’t quite find his footing in another group. He was seemingly being courted by several factions before suffering a catastrophic injury mid-2016. Almost a year later, he has finally returned. Will he regain his form? Will he play a role in the upcoming faction wars? YOU’LL HAVE TO TUNE IN TO FIND OUT!
Shun Skywalker’s direct generational contemporary is Ben-K. So comparatively, he’s not off to a hot start. However, he’s a lot of fun to watch even if he hasn’t found a unit yet. He’s got some good high-flying stuff, and he’s getting better every day. Dragon Gate hasn’t produced an in-house aerial attacker before, relying on gaijin to fill that role. Having a talented home grown one would be a big boon for their dojo I’m sure. I’m SURE.
Hyo Watanabe debuted a couple of months after Shun and Ben did. He’s roughly Kotoka’s height, but he’s got a big more meat on his bones. He hasn’t had a lick of success yet, but he’s got a lot of creative moves in his arsenal already. If his opening matches with Skywalker are any indication, he’s going to be very good, very soon.
Yuki Yoshioka debuted last of all the 2016 debuting wrestlers. He has a primitive moveset and hasn’t shown much character stuff since he’s debuted. He’s shown tremendous resilience though, going toe-to-toe with Masaaki Mochizuki on a few standout occasions. Of all the unaffiliated new guys coming into DG, he’s the one I’ve been most impressed with. Oh, and he recently debuted really bright, colorful pants for his ring gear! Fun!
Katsumi Takashima debuted earlier than all these guys and has made less of an impact so far. Hang in there, kitty.
“Hollywood” Stalker Ichikawa is one of the most dangerous and skilled wrestlers in Dragon Gate history. A six-time champion, Ichikawa is renowned for taking supreme punishment and surviving the very best wrestlers have to offer. He favors the bridging German Suplex, which he’s used to beat everyone from…um…I honestly can’t remember the last time he won a match.
July 23rd, 2017 – Hyogo, Kobe World Kinen Hall
- Triangle Gate Tournament Match #1: Hulk, Kzy & Maria vs. Susumu, Horiguchi & Saito
- Triangle Gate Tournament Match #2: Kotoka, Shimizu & Ben-K vs. Gamma, Eita & Yamamura
- 8-Man Tag: 1. Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fujii, Jimmy Kanda & Jimmy K-ness J.K.S. vs. Kaito Ishida, Yuki Yoshioka, Shun Skywalker & Hyo Watanabe
- Triangle Gate #1 Contender Tournament Finals: Match #1 Winner vs. Match #2 Winner
- Open the Brave Gate: Jimmy Kagetora© vs. Flamita
- Open the Triangle Gate: Takagi, Yoshida & Lindaman© vs. Tournament Winners
- Open the Twin Gate: CIMA & Dragon Kid© vs. Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino
- Open the Dream Gate: YAMATO© vs. T-Hawk
VerserK, the Triangle Gate champions, insisted on everyone else wrestling a tournament rather having to face them all in one five-way trios match. They got their wish and will be defending the titles against a team that’s already wrestled twice, though the tournament matches will carry two-count rules for the sake of time. Still, I would not expect them to lose but maybe the indomitable spirit of The Jimmyz is strong enough to carry them past Shingo’s crew.
The eight-man is thrown together from everyone who doesn’t have a match, but as jumbled necessities go, this one’s pretty damn good-looking. Four veterans versus four young guys. This one might surprise.
Jimmy Kagetora asked for Flamita specifically, wanting to defend his title against the best. He may have bitten off more than he can chew. Expect this to be incredibly fast-paced.
CK-1 has had a fairly uninspired tag title reign despite the fact that they’re closing in on the all-time record for days held. Doi and Yoshino are the greatest duo in DG history. I fully expect them to unseat CIMA and Dragon Kid.
YAMATO’s title reign hasn’t exactly been spectacular either. He won the Dream Gate at last year’s Kobe World show, making just five defenses in a year. T-Hawk certainly has the skill to take the title off of him. He drilled YAMATO with a knee strike in Korakuen, allowing Shingo Takagi to get the pin on the Dream champ. If he does it in Kobe, he’ll walk out with the belt. Depending on your viewpoint, history may not be on his side. The last two King of Gate winners went on the win the title at World, but the previous six winners were unsuccessful. Furthermore, he’s lost in the main event of Kobe before, against Masato Yoshino in 2014. My money’s on YAMATO to retain, but I will not be shocked either way.
That’s what’s exciting about this year’s show: I’m uncertain about the outcome of every single match. Even the Triangle Gate champions aren’t safe. With a unit shake-up looming, anything is possible.
Dragon Gate is heading into a new era. It may start tomorrow.
Disagree with anything or everything I’ve written? Have something to say? Comment below! Also, apologies for any spelling, tense or punctuation errors. I am no a best grammar. Thanks for taking your time to read this. You are a good person.