OPEN THE GLOBAL GATE
They started out in Japan, then they made waves all over the United States. Now, Dragon Gate continues their global expansion by heading to Europe for a weekend, with stops in Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Sean South . . . is living proof that it’s possible to make maximum progress by putting in minimum effort.
Shingo Takagi . . . does everything possible to get a watchable matches out of generic, white, musclehead wrestlers.
KAGETORA . . . makes people wish that he opted to stay behind and let Gamma represent the Warriors-5.
SHINGO TAKAGI/DRAGON KID vs. NICK JACKSON/MATT JACKSON
DK and Shingo make an interesting team. Their combo of power and flying makes for some great spots and sequences. This isn’t bad or anything, but it’s mostly a spotfest. There are a few hints throughout the match that they’re trying to make it something more, but they never follow through with them. It looks for a minute like the Jacksons are going to counteract Shingo’s power by taking out his arm, but it’s gone as soon as it’s there. The match looks a bit like a southern tag for a bit, with the Jacksons working over DK and building to a hot tag for Shingo. Where it goes wrong is that they’re not very heelish at all when working him over. Their flashiness and flying endear them the fans just as much as DK’s sympathy does. Considering that one of the things that always made Toryumon/Dragon Gate stand out is that they placed a greater emphasis on babyfaces and heels than most other feds in Japan, it’s actually a bit discerning.
That’s not to say that this isn’t fun to watch, because there are several things to enjoy. Shingo’s fired up hot tag bit is very well done, his no-selling their punches even works a bit, showing them they can’t hurt him as easily as they could put the hurt on DK. And, of course, there’s the truckload of flying from DK and the Jacksons, and the tandem spots from both teams, which culminates in Shingo pinning Nick with the Stay Dream. There’s nothing especially wrong with their work, but it’d have been nice to see a little more build to the finish than Shingo hitting the right move at the right time on the right Jackson.
EL GENERICO vs. PAC vs. SEAN SOUTH vs. MANDRIL
If this was a singles match or a even a 2/3 falls match between Pac and Generico, then it might have been at least good. I’m not a huge Pac fan, but at least he brings something to the table by taking things to the air the way he does. Pac and Generico are the only two here that manage to stand out. Pac with is ridiculous flying ability and Generico’s willingness to boot people in the face. The only good things from South were a lariat toward the end of the first fall, before Mandril is eliminated, and the Jig ‘n’ Tonic that he uses to win the match at the end. Mandril wasn’t much more than a warm body. You’d think that being the hometown guy to an extent would make him either put in a bigger effort or at least make him the crowd favorite, but neither holds true. The best thing here was the portion after Madril’s elimination and before Pac’s, featuring South staying out of the way while Pac and Generico put on a show, Pacs eats knees on an SSP and Generico kills him with a brainbuster. The Generico/South portion isn’t horrible, thanks to Generico, but the Jig ‘n’ Tonic was the only decent thing from South.
CIMA/SUSUMU YOKOSUKA/KAGETORA vs. NARUKI DOI/MASATO YOSHINO/BXB HULK
It takes a bit of time for this to get going, but it picks up nicely when it does. It starts out looking a lot like the Kamikaze/Young Bucks tag, more of an exhibition than anything else. Everyone gets their chance to show off their stuff, and the match doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But, when Hulk gets himself in trouble, this starts getting good. The big reason is CIMA’s willingness to heel things up when working over Hulk, even when the Barcelona fans are cheering him on, CIMA doesn’t even try to babyface things up. His best spots are his various diving foot stomps. KAGETORA seems to be trying to follow CIMA’s suit, but he’s just a pretender in comparison. Yokosuka isn’t bad, but he spends the bulk of the match on the apron, his only real contribution is a Jumbo No Kachi near fall on Hulk and holding Hulk in place for one of CIMA’s diving stomps.
After Hulk’s tag this both loses some steam and picks up. The match breaks down with all six hitting their stuff for a bunch of near falls, and their timing is near-perfect. However, it’s a bit of a downer to see Hulk forgetting about CIMA and KAGETORA diving onto his midsection a bunch. It’s a bit of a positive to see Hulk tone things down to an extent, he’s nowhere near as flashy with his spots as Doi and Yoshino, but there’s not even a hint of selling from him either. In the end, this is just a better done version of the previous tag match, there’s just as little build to the finish, Doi simply hits KAGETORA with the bakatare kick when his partners can’t save, there’s nothing any deeper than that. Of course, it should be a given that this is better done, given the disparity in experience level between the participants in both matches. ***
NICK JACKSON/MATT JACKSON vs. MARK HASKINS/TOMMY END
Like the Bucks’ previous tag match, this is noticeably lacking in the story department. It’s almost like a southern tag match worked backwards. The fans are very vocal in support of End and Haskins, but they’re the ones who get the extended control segment to work over Matt and build to Nick’s hot tag. It’d have been one thing if Haskins and End had heeled things up to the point of the fans switching their allegiance to the Americans, one of the Hallmarks of great workers is their ability to get the fans so into what’s happening that they wind up changing their tune during the match itself. That doesn’t happen here though, the Bucks do get cheered, but it’s more for their flying and flashiness.
It’s fun to watch the Bucks do their thing, but the match is lacking in anything to give the work itself any real meaning. The selling when Matt is getting worked over isn’t anything more than passable. There’s nothing in any of the work that gives the idea that either team is working toward anything specific, such as body part work or any type of real storytelling. Both teams have their nice moments, Haskins RKO into Dragon Clutch was nice, and Matt and Haskins dual kip up and superkick spot was cool, and Matt realizing what happened and superkicking Haskins was a nice touch as well. But, at the end of the day the bulk of the match wasn’t much more than filler until the Jacksons score with More Bang for Your Buck.
KAGETORA vs. BAD BONES
If this is any indication, KAGETORA is better off playing CIMA-lite, in tag and trios matches. He’s not actively bad, but he’s a terribly bland singles wrestler. He’s too big and built to be as effective a sympathetic babyface for Bones the way that DK or BxB Hulk would probably be. Bones looks and wrestles like your average WWE musclehead in developmental. The only nice things out of Bones are a standing Lo-Down frog splash, and the spot where he catches a charging KAGETORA with the Original. The rest of his offense is generic power guy stuff, lots of shoulder tackles and a spear that makes Nakanishi look like an expert. Bones and his bland offense hog most of the match, leaving KAGETORA with only one nice offensive moment, a kick flurry that culminates in a step up enzuigiri. KAGETORA catches a charging Bones with a cradle for the win, which is fine, considering that Bones controlled about 95% of the match, but it’d have been nice if KAGETORA had at least gotten a move or two in to show his superior wrestling ability to make the finish look like more than just a fluke.
SUSUMU YOKOSUKA vs. MASATO YOSHINO vs. DRAGON KID vs. EL GENERICO
Aside from a nice enough finish from Yokosuka and DK, there isn’t much to see here. The tandem spots, such as the four-way headlock, abdominal stretch, and others, were amusing at first but the joke kept going long after it ceased being funny. Sort like the running gags in Mallrats about the back of the Volkswagen and the magic eye sailboat. This is yet another case of the match being an exhibition of spots rather than them trying to genuinely make anyone care about who wins or what happens. The best stuff comes in the last few minutes, when DK hits a huge rana on Generico that he sells perfectly, until ten seconds later when he boots Yokosuka in the face. The match shifts from a 3-on-1 to Generico to a 3-on-1 to Yokosuka, and Yokosuka basically snatches victory from the jaws of defeat when rolling through DK’s rana and getting the win.
CIMA vs. MIKE QUACKENBUSH
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this is the best match thus far. CIMA and Quack are both good, and smart, enough workers to know how to blow away most of the other wrestlers on this DVD. This is also the first match to feature some real storytelling and not feel like little more than an elaborate exhibition of moves. Quack knows that CIMA has the tools to beat him, so he tries to nip things in the bud by taking out CIMA’s leg early on. There are thousands of matches predicated on leg work, but this works so well when one remembers that CIMA has a long history of knee problems. He innovated the Schwein because of the damage that the Mad Splash was doing to his knees, and even now, he still relies quite a bit on his legs and knees for a good amount of his main offense.
If there’s one wrestler who has the tools needed to take the fight to CIMA that way, it’s Quack. He literally uses every freaky looking leg submission that you could think of. He even uses the ultimate in holds, the Chikara Special (although it’s incorrectly called the Lighting Lock, most likely since this isn’t Chikara), which CIMA is able to counter. In addition to Quack’s fun submissions, CIMA gets his own chances to look good by proving he can do anything that Quack can do. Not long after getting a rope break on a submission hold, CIMA takes Quack down and puts on one of his own. Quack gets a near fall with a cradle, and CIMA does the same thing to him a moment later. Their work is also noticeably smooth and fluid more often than not. Their best spot is Quack’s backslide to CIMA’s Schwein, back to the backslide and back to the Schwein sequence, with Quack’s roll though of the Iconoclasm and then the victory roll into another submission being a close second.
The only real mark against this is that CIMA didn’t make the leg work matter as much as he could have. It was a big disheartening to see him getting worked over like that, and then one of his first big moves to be the superdrol (lung blower/back cracker). CIMA remembered to sell the leg after hitting some simple kicks in the corner as well as after his slingshot foot stomp. The only time it leaves a bad taste is with the finish, CIMA stuns Quack with a superkick while he’s on the top, that itself is fine since Quack took the Venus and still rolled through the Iconoclasm, but then CIMA hits the corner to corner dropkick and finishes with the Meteora. The Mad Splash would have been more fitting, because at least CIMA isn’t diving directly onto both knees to finish him off. Thankfully, Quack sells the corner to corner and the Meteora awesomely so there’s at least something positive to take away from it. Between their fluidity and their usual propensity for working smart here, it’s easy to see that this is a cut above everything else on this set so far. I can only hope for a rematch down the line at some point, because these this pairing seems to have the tools to do something great. ***1/4
NARUKI DOI/BXB HULK/ZACK SABRE, Jr. vs. RYO SAITO/GENKI HORIGUCHI/EMIL SITOCI
You’d think that there are enough elements in this match to make it at least good. Doi, Hulk, and Genki are all good hands, Sabre and Sitoci have clearly worked together before when you see how smooth their exchanges are, and Real Hazard is the current super heel group in Dragon Gate, so they’ll really get to have some fun. But apparently all of those elements at work aren’t enough this time around. Horiguchi and Sitoci both have their good moments, but Saito is a total bore for most the match, he only impresses when he’s part of a double team spot with Genki and one brief moment when Hulk gets tripped from the floor and Saito hits a basement dropkick. Real Hazard’s extended control segment on Hulk seemed to be going somewhere when Genki used the blue box on his ribs and they started working them over, but it’s far too short to matter much and they didn’t use of the creative spots to work him over the way that Crazy Max or M2K would have. Hulk’s selling isn’t anything too special, he’s got a few nice moments, such as the big bump from Saito’s lariat, and there’s a nice moment when he hits Genki’s knees on a standing moonsault attempt and sells rather well, but they’d have probably done the exact same thing even if Hulk’s ribs hadn’t been touched.
This picks up a bit after Doi’s hot tag, and the babyfaces get to hand back the abuse a little bit, but that’s about as deep as this really gets. It’s certainly a positive that this doesn’t come off as anything more than an elaborate display of their spots, because that’s what the fans want to see, but they also don’t show much other than that. The Hulk’s midsection story came and went, and the match broke down a bit too quickly after the hot tag for the revenge spots to take on much meaning. The finish is another case of little more Doi getting a nice streak of rights, he’s in the right place at the right time and hits the right guy (Genki) with the right move (bakatare).
ABSOLUTE ANDY © vs. SHINGO TAKAGI (WXW Heavyweight Title)
If not for Shingo doing everything he could to make his hurt knee matter, then this would have been a complete waste, Shingo’s effort makes the match just a little bit shy of a waste. Andy is a lot like Bad Bones, he wrestles and looks like your generic WWE developmental worker. The only thing he does that’s especially impressive is his jumping rana, which is more due to his height than it is his execution or anything else. Even when busting up Shingo’s knee, he’s not especially exciting, certainly not on the level of Quack when working over CIMA’s leg. The best thing he comes up with is the figure four when Shingo escapes the vertical suplex and his knee buckles when he hits the ground. The finish is Shingo passing out from a Sharpshooter and Andy can’t even get that right, he loses one of the legs when putting it on, so he essentially does a half crab and then grabs the leg and makes it a sharpshooter, albeit an extremely bad one.
Shingo is determined to make sure that he does a better job than CIMA at making his hurt knee matter, and he does succeed in that goal. Even long after Andy has moved away from actively working it over, Shingo hammers home the point. He gets on the ropes to crowd play and shakes it out when he jumps down. His knee prevents him from picking up Andy for Made in Japan the first time around, and he has to alter it a bit to hit it later on. But that’s the only positive to take away from this match.
GENKI HORIGUCHI/RYO SAITO vs. JONNY STORM/MARTY SCURLL
When RH was allowed to do their thing, this was at least watchable. The early parts are amusing, with Scurll getting a lot of cheap pops by mocking Horiguchi and his capacity as a man of very little hair. RH gets some revenge by double teaming and working over his knee a bit. Horiguchi is much better than Saito, but Ryo has a couple of nice moments here, his diving stomp was a nice touch and choking Scurll with the whip behind the ref’s back actually garnered some decent heat for them.
This levels out after Storm’s hot tag. The match breaks down into the typical Dragon Gate affair with no sense of real structure or any semblance of order or rules to the match. Scurll totally forgets about RH tearing apart his knee. He even does a big dive not long after the tag. Storm has a couple of nice moments, his wheelbarrow DDT is his best overall spot, but he surpasses that with a great sell job from a tornado DDT. The finish seems a bit anticlimactic, but actually works on some level, the nonstop spots had the fans going pretty good, and Saito totally rains on the fans’ parade by hitting two low blows on Scurll and pinning him with a small package. It’s certainly not the expected finish, but it works in making the fans that were cheering for Genki and Ryo switch allegiances.
KAGETORA vs. MARK HASKINS
Take the KAGETORA match with Bad Bones, and replace the generic musclehead with CM Punk’s doppelgänger that tries to be Ric Flair, and you have this match. Actually, that’s not quite fair to Haskins. In addition to having some personality he’s fairly agile and is able to put it to good use from time to time, he’s got a nice superkick, a fine SSP, and a jumping Ace crusher that rivals the RKO. But, like the Bones match, this never seems to really come together all that well. Mark wiping out on the SSP seems like it should have led to a nice comeback from KAGETORA, but it never came. KAGETORA doesn’t show anything here that wasn’t in his match with Bad Bones, a nice flurry of strikes topped off with a step-up enzuigiri, and he avoids a second Ace crusher for an Emerald Frozian, which causes Haskins’ valet to distract the ref and allows Haskins to hit a Tombstone for the win. I’d like to see more of Haskins after seeing this match, which is more than I can say about KAGETORA after only seeing three of his matches, which isn’t a good sign when its Dragon Gate wrestlers who are being showcased.
MASATO YOSHINO vs. DRAGON KID
These two had their moments, but usually, unless Yoshino was running and DK was flying it was hard to care too much about the match one way or another. The idea here is that DK and Yoshino are in the midst of a rivalry, but with only a few exceptions from Yoshino, there’s rarely any sign of it. Yoshino heels things up a tiny bit with a big backbreaker and a couple of overly stiff chops, which the fans only care about enough to chant for him to do another one. Beyond that they more or less just plod along and do their thing, but there’s no real intensity or story to pick up on to really draw you in. There’s a tiny bit of leg work from Yoshino which, ostensibly, is meant to keep DK grounded, but it disappears quickly and never does go anywhere. As the match wears on both of them start throwing out bombs looking to get the win, but can’t keep the other one down, until DK outsmarts Yoshino with a cradle. It’s a bit like the finish to the RH tag match, it’s not bad that they go that route, but it negates the idea that DK and Yoshino were building to something by each pulling out some of their bigger moves. The match didn’t *need* anything more, it had plenty of time and DK and Yoshino both had their chances to look good, DK and Yoshino just needed to do a better job of getting over the feud and/or telling a story.
SHINGO TAKAGI vs. SUSUMU YOKOSUKA
Although Shingo isn’t as good about selling his knee, this is still head and shoulders above the Shingo/Andy match from Germany. The first indication that it’s going to be smart comes when Yokosuka can’t drop Shingo with a shoulder tackle, he stuns Shingo by punting him in the head, but takes too much time to try to drop him and Shingo drops him first. Like Andy, Yokosuka controls Shingo by going after his knee, and is also 1,000 times more interesting about it. It doesn’t hurt that Susumu isn’t shy about heeling things up either, he drops down on it from the ropes, uses the post, and even does a claw hold to the leg. For his part, Shingo is still good about keeping the leg in focus, although not as much as he did against Andy. His best moment comes when he escapes a vertical suplex and clutches his knee after landing.
While it’s smart of Yokosuka to take out Shingo’s knee, he’s not able to totally counteract Shingo’s huge power advantage, which Shingo is able to show him. Early on, Shingo impressively catches Yokosuka in midair and plants him with an Exploder. Even after Yokosuka has put the hurt on the knee, Shingo is still able to throw him around with relative ease, while still showing that Yokosuka has succeeded in hurting the knee. The only parts of the match that are really weak are the long lariat sequences toward the end, it’s no different from watching two NOAH wrestlers stand in the middle of the ring and take turns kicking and elbowing each other only to rebound and hit a strike of their own. Sure, it’s fun for the live crowd, but it doesn’t take the match anywhere special. The finish looks like the DK/Yoshino finish, but it’s also a bit smarter. Shingo and Yokosuka both try to get the win with their bigger moves, Jumbo No Kachi and Mugen for Yokosuka and the Made in Japan for Shingo, but neither can put the other away. Yokosuka finds the answer first, in the form of the Jumbo No Kachi Gatame (Jumbo No Kachi segued into a cradle), they’d established that it was going to take something more to keep Shingo down, so the JNK stunned him long enough for the cradle to keep him in place for the pin. Had their work been as smooth as CIMA/Quack and Shingo been as good with his knee as his match against Andy, it’d be an easy pick for the best match of this compilation, but, as it is, it’s just good enough to still stand out. ***
CIMA/NICK JACKSON/MATT JACKSON vs. NARUKI DOI/BXB HULK/PAC
This is certainly a case of saving the best for last. They’ve got the same basic problems that the previous trios matches have had, there’s a noticeable lack of a real story to carry the match before the home stretch, and the finish isn’t anything deeper than the winner hitting his big move at the right time. However, this has enough good things to help carry it above its weaknesses. The big positive to this match is CIMA, he might be the face of the company, but being opposite of the UK’s own Pac, he heels things up as much as he possibly can, not by cheating the way that RH does, but by simply making his opponents look foolish. Early on, he goads Pac into a pushup contest, and when Pac obliges, CIMA cheap shots him. Later on, he outsmarts a charging Doi with a drop toehold and starts to do an Indian Deathlock, he baits Hulk into the ring, but catches him charging and does a vertical suplex, which also wrenches on Doi’s knee. CIMA also comes up with the funniest method of breaking up a pin, when Matt is on the wrong end of some triple teaming, when he pours a bottle of water over Pac.
CIMA is also lots of fun during the Warriors-5 control segment on Hulk, he’s every bit as heelish as he was in the trios from Spain, he targets Hulk’s neck a bit when positioning him in the corner for his dropkick, but first he playfully slaps Hulk on the ass. He smartly follows up with a full nelson to keep his neck hurting. The Jacksons aren’t bad, but they aren’t in CIMA’s galaxy here, the best things from them are their assisted tandem spots with CIMA, such as holding Hulk in place for the big diving stomp, and a triple team version of their N’Sync dropkick spot. Doi is perfect in his role as Hulk’s hot tag, showing all the intensity expected and taking the fight to all three of Warriors-5.
The only real issue with the work comes toward the end, in the form of long term selling. Pac is the guiltiest party by a long shot. He takes several big spots from CIMA and the Jacksons, barely kicking out on his own, and then gets hit with More Bang for Your Buck and Hulk needs to make the save. That’s fine by itself, but once CIMA and Nick miscue and superkick Matt, leading to the other team getting their turn to have some fun, Pac is completely refreshed. If someone walked in and started watching while this was happening, or DG shows this in clipped form on TV starting here, you wouldn’t know that Pac was milliseconds away from being pinned. The superkick miscue leading to the finish is a nice touch though, it’s really the only storytelling element of the match, with CIMA outsmarting his opponents so easily, the one mistake by his team costs them the match. Matt gets hit with some big stuff from the other team and is pinned by Pac after the corkscrew SSP. It’s fine that Pac goes over, he’s the hometown guy after all, but it’d have better to see CIMA take the fall and continue playing up how the one mistake from Warriors-5 cost them hugely. ***1/2
Conclusion: This isn’t a bad pickup, if one isn’t well versed too much in the DG product or style, it’s a perfectly fine starting point since there’s really nothing as far as current storylines are concerned. But, for those who follow DG and are already familiar this isn’t anything special. They’re a fun promotion at times, and it’s great to see their European excursion was successful for them, but that’s the best thing to say here.