THE GATE OF DESTINY
November 25, 2007
I don’t think any promotion can match up with Dragon Gate as far as how fun it can be to follow. Between the various angles, turns, and faction shuffling, there’s never any shortage of excitement. But, actually watching it can be an exercise in frustration.
Magnitude Kishiwada . . . seriously outworks half the Dragon Gate roster.
Dragon Kid . . . drags Kenzo Suzuki to the best match that he’s probably ever had.
CIMA . . . can show the Muscle Outlaw’z a thing, or five, about heeling things up when working a limb.
BXB HULK/YAMATO/EL GENERICO vs. SUPER SHISA/ANTHONY W. MORI/PAC
This is mostly the standard DG trios affair, which is both good and bad at times. What keeps this from being much good is that the workers seem to be more concerned with style over story. Most of the action is of the fast-paced go-go-go nature, with precious little in the way of storytelling and meaningful selling. The only really good selling to be found is from Mori who takes several big shots from Generico and puts them over in an appropriate manner, and even he still recovers a bit too quickly from the brainbuster so that Pac and Generico can work the finish. The finish itself isn’t any different than your standard DG trios match, with no buildup to make it mean more than the right guy hitting the right move at the right time, although Pac did hit Generico with a reverse rana off the top to set up the corkscrew SSP.
The best exchanges are from Hulk and Shisa, their matwork early on is a bit unexpected, but it’s rather nice. They have a quick exchange a bit later on with Shisa having Hulk scouted and avoiding several moves. There’s not much else to be found though, YAMATO doesn’t do much more than a surprise backdrop suplex to Mori and Pac isn’t good for much more than his typical flipping and flying. Generico wasn’t in the match enough to really show his personality, although he woke up the crowd when he booted Mori in the corner. This really needed some sort of comedy or one of the steams to heel things up somehow.
GENKI HORIGUCHI/ARIK CANNON vs. KENICHRIO ARAI/AKIRA TOZAWA
Now we’re two for two in the department of potentially fun matches being wasted by not having any meaningful storytelling. This time it’s even worse because Tozawa is coming into the match with his ribs all taped up, and despite nearly four minutes of working him over, Cannon and Genki do a total of one spot to work them over, a pair of diving stomps. Genki’s crab hold with Cannon pulling the ropes further away from Tozawa was nice for showing that they can be dicks, but there’s nothing else beyond that, it’s just Genki and Cannon rolling out various moves without any rhyme or reason.
The heels aren’t the only ones who disappoint though, Arai makes a fun hot tag for Tozawa, but there’s nothing special from him other than beating Cannon to the proverbial punch and kicking him low, and he’s taken out of the match without too much trouble so that Tozawa can get finished off. Tozawa doesn’t do anything to put over his hurt ribs at all, he even busts out a big dive to the floor and his missed headbutt is due to him taking too long to crowd play rather than put over his ribs being hurt. The finish here looks like it’s straight out of a video game. Arai is already taken out so Cannon and Genki just start rolling out bigger moves until Tozawa stays down after the Beach Break.
MAGNITUDE KISHIWADA vs. CYBER KONG
For a few minutes, this looked like the best match of the show up to this point. From Magnitude’s moonsault up until Kong blew off the chair shot, this was looking pretty good. Their NOAH like strike exchange using shoulder tackles actually worked out rather nicely since they were actually selling the moves and then rebounding, rather than just pasting each other with strikes and getting nowhere. It was also impressive to see Kong press slam Mag, but more for Mag taking such a good bump than Kong getting him up for it. After Mag’s moonsault, he puts Kong through a table and then keeps working over the midsection for a bit, to make the table spot mean something. Then, Kong blows off the chair shot and it all goes to hell.
After the chair shot, neither of them really felt like selling anything, they just wanted to go back and fourth doing their moves. Mag isn’t too bad, since he’d only taken three real bumps, so it’s not like he killed the Cyberbomb by kicking out of it. Kong is atrocious. Mag tries to go back to the ribs with a big splash and Kong kicks out at one and jumps up like he’s completely refreshed. Mag finally just starts dumping him on his head and finally finishes him off with the Last Ride. How scary is it to think that Mag has been the best worker of the night so far? It’s just too bad that Kong didn’t feel like following suit.
MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI/K-NESS/DON FUJI © vs. GAMMA/YASUSHI KANDA/NOSAWA RONGAI (Open the Triangle Gate)
As fun as the DG boys can be to watch, a lot of these guys aren’t going to be mistaken for world class workers and this is a good example of why. There isn’t a whole to set this apart from the opener, the opening bit and most of the last half of the match is the typical hell-on-wheels affair with little in the way of storytelling or smart work. It was fun to watch Fuji knock around all three heels, and the blue box to the knee should have opened the door for them to return the favor, but that’s not what we get. Aside from a few good ideas from Kanda, such as the Dragon screw and the dropkick to the knee when he can’t John Woo Fuji into the corner, it’s mostly just them stomping on Fuji’s bad leg mixed in with the usual stuff like Gamma’s water spitting routine. Instead of giving the idea that the heels could use Fuji’s bad leg to help them win the match in the ring, it’s just an excuse to remind everyone that they’re a bunch of jerks.
The last half has some smart moments to it, but nothing that means a whole lot. It’s a lot of what’s already been done with the wrestlers pairing and off and a bunch of sequences where someone will get a near fall when victim’s partner saves, which leads to another sequence and save, and so fourth. There’s also the tired sequence of the heels (including Genki and Cannon) charging at Fuji in the corner, although they scrap the bit where the last guy misses and then the babyfaces take turns charging. It was nice to see Mochizuki kick the cane away from Gamma before he could use it, and Gamma’s blue box counter to Mochizuki’s high kick was a nice touch as well. It was also nice to see the finish being Fuji coming from behind the eight-ball to beat Kanda, but it’d have been better if his problem was having a bad wheel and not having power thrown in his face. It’s fun to see the heels tactics used against them when K-ness cheap shots Kanda from the floor and Fuji lariats the blue box back in his face before finishing with the German suplex. It’s a step in the right direction that the finish isn’t just another case of right place, right time, and right move, but it’s still a case of the finish not completely complimenting what’s come before to make it more meaningful.
DRAGON KID vs. KENZO SUZUKI
There’s no reason that this should have been any good. DK is usually one of the more frustrating wrestlers on the roster, unless he’s in the right setting. Kenzo is easily one of the worst outsiders that DG could have brought in. But, thanks to this being the right setting for DK (having him sell and fight from underneath instead of flying around like he’s RVD) as well as this being the first match to tell a story and stick with it, this wound up being pretty good.
One of the first big spots of the match sets the tone of the story, Kenzo had been handling DK with ease, but then got a bit lax and DK made him pay by taking him down with a crucifix bomb. Kenzo doesn’t take the hint that stares him right in face, instead of refocusing his energy on destroying DK, Kenzo continues to take him lightly and keeps paying for it. Kenzo’s offense is far from interesting, but that’s part of what makes it work, he’s too concerned with playing to the crowd and sitting in useless rest holds than he is trying to win the match. For his part, DK is as good as I’ve seen him in a long time, he’s perfect in getting over that Kenzo is hurting him, but he shows that he’s still got plenty of gas in the tank. Where Kenzo really comes through is when he bumps and sells when DK starts rolling out offense. Kenzo goes flying over the top when DK hits him with the blue box, and his reaction and bump from DK’s stunner is hilarious.
Some people would take issue with this being another overbooked match with plenty of run-ins and interference, but that’s something else that actually works to an extent. With Kenzo not seeming to understand that he needs to turn up the heat and finish off DK quickly, it makes sense for Gamma, Kanda, and the others to try to help him out, and Mori simply helps level the playing field, although I could have done without him throwing the powder in Kenzo’s face. Even the finish is smart with DK hitting a big rana from the top to stun Kenzo and then finishing him off with the Ultra Hurricanrana while he was still groggy. There’s no way that this should be the best match of an undercard that includes Genki, Shisa, Hulk, and Generico, but it happened.***1/4
NARUKI DOI/MASATO YOSHINO © vs. RYO SAITO/SUSUMU YOKOSUKA (Open the Twin Gate)
With almost thirty minutes to work with, there’s no reason that these two teams couldn’t lay the groundwork and tell a good story, along with providing all the fast-paced excitement that the promotion has become known for. But, they don’t. The bulk of the twenty-eight minutes is little more than filler before the finish. It started out looking promising when Yokosuka surprised Yoshino on two separate occasions with a kitchen sink knee-lift, and Yoshino was smart enough to sell his midsection which led to a fun little segment of the challengers working it over. After a pair of tags, Doi started singling out Ryo’s arm for a fun little run from Speed Muscle. But, not once in the last half of the match does either team try to go back to those areas, even just to recognize that they’d tried wearing them down before.
Both teams are also guilty when it comes to blowing off moves that should be big spots and lead to nice near falls, just so they can get to the next spot. The worst moment is when Doi gets slammed into an exposed turnbuckle and then quickly recovers and gives Yokosuka a superplex. Yokosuka jumps to his feet and then gives Doi an Exploder off the top. Doi gets his knees up when Ryo tries to follow up with a splash and then Doi jumps up and assists Yoshino with a double team. Bigger moves and finishers aren’t given any more respect, Saito completely no-sells the Bakatare, he doesn’t kick out and go back to offense, he gets hit and then jumps back to his feet. Doi hitting the Muscular Bomb doesn’t feel like the climax that the finish of a near thirty-minute match should, it’s just another spot because nothing before it had meant very much.
If the only expectation that one has when watching this is to see state-of-the-art double teams then this is hard to steer away from, because that’s the one area where this delivers in spades. Ryo and Susumu’s tandem Germans were rather nice, and even the spot where they German suplexed Yoshino into Doi, who was in the corner, looked great and not contrived at all. The champions add their own nice spots with Yoshino’s assist with the Doi 555, as well as the early spot where Doi locked Susumu in the Indian Deathlock and Yoshino hit a running dropkick. In fact, as far as innovative spots goes, this is a classic. But it’s also a classic example of why athleticism and innovation don’t mean much when the moves aren’t put together to elicit genuine emotion.
CIMA © vs. SHINGO TAKAGI (Open the Dream Gate)
It’s a good thing that CIMA and Shingo both brought their work boots with them, otherwise the Kenzo match would have wound up being the best match of the show. When CIMA works over Shingo’s arm early on, you remember why you love him. He’s supposed to be the top babyface in the company, but between his innovative (and totally dickish) spots and his use of the chair he makes Gamma, Kanda, and NOSAWA look like an alter boy trio. Shingo gets his turn to have some fun and work over CIMA’s neck, he’s not bad, but he’s not CIMA, so what was great is now simply good. What makes Shingo’s control segment work though is that he’s usually smart with his spots. Shingo bumps CIMA around to show his power advantage and he throws in smart submissions like the STF and Crossface, along with the Manriki.
In addition to their body part work, their selling is also good more often than not. CIMA, once again, outshines Shingo in that department, but it’s another case of Shingo not being bad, but simply not being as good as CIMA. Their lariat to the post spot was a bit odd, considering CIMA had been doing all kinds of nasty things to Shingo’s arm, so it really wasn’t the time for Shingo to try it, and nobody was shocked when he missed. What was surprising was Shingo quickly hitting a follow up lariat to CIMA and being smart enough to continue selling. But, CIMA is great about keeping his bad neck in mind, even when he’s firmly on offense, he’ll add little touches to show that his neck is still hurting. A really great moment is his back body drop reversal, it’s a very commonplace spot, but CIMA does it very slowly, to put over how much stress it’s putting on him to pull off. Shingo winds up eventually forgetting about the arm completely, which is a bit disappointing, but not a huge deal because CIMA had long since moved away from it, in favor of trying to beat Shingo with his usual offense, which CIMA winds up paying for.
The last five minutes look like your usual Japanese main event, with both of them getting some close near falls after some relatively big moves. The really cool thing here was Shingo digging out the Blood Fall, a move he’d long left by the wayside. CIMA pays the price for not sticking with trying to wear down his arm, after several lariat near falls. They’ve got a killer finish, which plays off of Shingo’s survival of the Schwein, with CIMA deciding to outsmart, and outwrestle, him when he ducks another lariat and wraps him up with the Jorge Complete to get the flash pin. This is everything the Twin Gate match should have been, it’s got all the excitement that you’d expect, and still manages to be smartly worked. ***1/2
Conclusion: The main event and the best Kenzo Suzuki match ever are the big saving graces to this show. The rest of is typical Dragon Gate, there’s some fun to be had, but there’s also plenty of frustration.