Category Archives: Dragon Gate

(05/31) T-Hawk vs. Jimmy Susumu

Dragon Gate
Kobe Sambo Hall (Kobe, Hyoko, Japan)
King of Gate 2014 Tournament Final 

In terms of historical importance throughout the years, nobody is going to confuse Dragon Gate’s King of Gate tournament with the G-1 Climax or Champions Carnival.  The 16-person, single-elimination came off the heels of the promotion’s big Dead or Alive show and as such, felt more like a gimmick for a normal tour than a big anticipated event.  It is still 15 singles matches over a week and a half a period which is a lot for a promotion like Dragon Gate that leans heavily on tags and trios matches in its normal course of business booking.

T-Hawk’s offense – in general as well as in this match – is built around a hard knife edge chop.  In this match they demonstrated just one of the many ways you can get a lot out of such a simple signature move.  A few minutes into the match – after a fine feeling-out start – they spill to the outside.  Susumu ends up with his back against the ring spot and T-Hawk instinctively moves in for the chop.  Jimmy moves and Hawk smacks nothing but steel, which is always a great looking spot.  That one move sets in place the rest of the work for the match.

T-Hawk sells the wrist and fore arm the remainder of the match with Jimmy focusing on it at points.  Despite having the bum hand, T-Hawk continues to utilize the chops.  He is not going to drop his main weapon just because his hand and wrist are stinging.  It is hurting him – he makes that abundantly clear – but it is a pain he is going to choose to fight through rather than letting it define his strategy.  Later on when T-Hawk gains control of the match he goes right for Susumu’s hand/arm.  I loved the notion that the youngster T-Hawk remained calm and stoically sought his revenge by going all an eye an eye on Susumu.

T-Hawk’s arm revenge led us to the closing minutes of the 20-minute match where both guys were left exhausted and fighting with injured arms.  The ending wasn’t a barn burner like Dragon Gate often pulls out (for better or for worse) so I could see it leaving some people cold.  It wasn’t an ending that I thought was great, but it was perfectly effective.  Susumu has a taped up elbow which has been aggravated by the arm attack.  However, after surviving a few near falls he goes for broke by pulling off the elbow pad and landing a pair of lariats – the second of which wins him the tournament.

The knife edge chop match as always been a favorite of mine – the first 15-minutes of the “Summer of Punk” Roderick Strong vs. CM Punk ROH match is near all-time classic stuff in my book – so I liked this a bunch.  It is hard to go wrong when you a focus a match around a simple but logical premise like this one had.  It was maybe lacking a memorable ending to keep it from that next level, but I will take a match with a good body and decent ending nine times out ten.  Aside from a couple Ricochet matches and CIMA vs. Super Shisa, this is my favorite DG singles match of the year over other hyped matches like Yoshino vs. Mochizuki and Susumu vs. Flamita.

Junior Singles | Worthwhile | Quality & Tournament Final

(05/31) Super Shisa & Ryotsu Shimizu vs. K-Ness & Chihiro Tominaga

Dragon Gate
Kobe Sambo Hall (Kobe, Japan) 

Super Shisa tends to get lost in the Dragon Gate shuffle, but he shouldn’t.  Despite being on the tail-end of his career, he continues to be one of the more underrated mat wrestlers anywhere in the world.

The 2 count, 3 escape matches with and against CIMA have been impressive but it is hard to place your finger on how much of that should be credited to CIMA and/or the rules.  In a match where CIMA is not involved and the rules are standard pro wrestling fare, Shisa still impresses.  In a different environment or with more promotion, there is a good chance that many would view Shisa on the same level as other top-flight technical/mat wrestlers.

Shisa’s cohorts for this match include a relative rookie (Shimizu), a relatively inexperienced lower card guy (Tominaga), and fellow veteran K-Ness.  Shimizu and his comically oversized unibrow are very good for their experience level and the other two are capable, but Shisa is the standout.  Shisa blends the signature quickness of the Dragon Gate style with awesome submission attempts and counters.  He is beyond smooth in this match, pulling out all sorts of fun holds at just the right times.  He and CIMA are both great this style even working with guys who are less adept.  It makes me want to see him work some of the better mat guys in Mexico.  Super Shisa versus Virus has quickly shot up my own personal dream match wish list.

Junior Tag | Worthwhile | Quality & Performance (Shisa)

(04/20) Super Shisa & Dragon Kid vs. Eita & T-Hawk

Dragon Gate
Osaka Bodymaker Coliseum (Osaka, Japan)
2 Count & 3 Rope Escape Match 

Dragon Gate ran another 2 count & 3 Rope Escape match in Osaka as part of the build to their Dead or Alive PPV in May.  This one is a little different than some of the others from the past six months.  There is no CIMA, for one.  Dragon Kid – and to a lesser extent T-Haw & Eita – bring a different (more high impact) style to the match well.  All of that makes for a different type of 2 count & 3 rope escape match than the kind that CIMA and Super Shisa would have versus one another.  However, this match does provide further support for the notion that the gimmick is an effective one that can be used with wrestlers of differing styles (not just for mat work/submission focused matches).

A good gimmick match is one that slightly alters the rules to create unique and/or expanded possibilities, while still retaining the fundamental elements of a pro wrestling match.  A standard cage match can be a good gimmick match because the match alteration is the cage around the ring that prevents interference and otherwise all of the fundamental elements of a wrestling match are left in place.  An escape-the-cage match is a bit trickier because the gimmick alters one of the fundamental elements of a pro wrestling match.  Instead of trying to defeat your opponent, you are trying to escape from your opponent.  It is a major alteration.  That is not to say that all gimmick matches of that ilk are inherently bad.  A ladder match replaces pins/submissions with climbing which is certainly a major alteration, but ladder matches can still be executed well.  They are just more difficult to pull off, I think.

The beauty of the 2 Count & 3 Rope Break gimmick match is that while it alters the traditional match rules and elements, it does not do so at the detriment of the fundamental components of a pro wrestling match.  Basically they take a normal match and just remove some of the room for error by tightening the rules.  These matches can and often do play out like normal matches, only with altered rules that open a world of cool possibilities.

For example, CIMA and Super Shisa have worked their singles matches under these rules as mat based submission-heavy bouts.  The rules favor the wrestler that has forced his opponent to use his rope breaks so submissions become a very handy tool.  Once the rope breaks are gone, submissions become a great finishing weapon because the only escape is to physically break the hold.  They use the rules to create a match that makes sense, is unique, and yet still sticks to those fundamental elements.

In this match, submissions are used but are not necessarily the focal point they are in the CIMA vs. Super Shisa bouts.  Instead, a greater focus is given to two areas:  (1) pinning combinations and (2) saves.  With only a 2 count needed for victory, a quick roll up or cradle is suddenly a much more valuable weapon.  There are some cool flash pin attempts in this match from all of the wrestlers that create legit near falls throughout the match on moves that would otherwise get little or no reaction.

There is also a strong focus on breaking up pins.  Dragon Kid, T-Hawk, and Eita use much of their “normal” offense throughout the match and particularly late in the match, moves are landed that we would expect to get at least a two count.  Since that would end the match, tag partners are diving in to the ring for saves early and often which creates a cool, frantic feel.  I think that utilizing high impact moves in a singles match with these rules would become problematic because kicking out of so many big moves after a one count flies in the face of established wrestling logic.  In a tag environment where saves are utilized big time, it works well.  There was only one time in this match – after a Dragon Kid spinning tornado DDT – where there was a one count kick out that seemed to be pushing the envelope a bit.

The submissions in here are also cool.  Super Shisa goes for a bunch and as we have seen in the CIMA matches, he has a nice arsenal of them.  The Millennial duo bring a few to the table as well – including a couple of ones that involve neat looking transitions and set ups.  T-Hawk and Eita eventually seize control of the match by forcing two rope breaks (one right after the other) on each of their opponents to leave them without any.  Eita rather quickly capitalizes on the situation by forcing Super Shisa to submit to the Numero Uno (arm bar).

This was not the best of the 2 Count & 3 Rope Break matches but it did do the gimmick justice.  I don’t think I’d want to see a full card of these rules on a regular basis or even see the gimmick used on a regular basis.  Like any gimmick match, it is best served in moderation.  However, I am convinced it is a gimmick that should be used elsewhere because there are certainly some creative wrestlers currently who could utilize this gimmick match effectively and interestingly.

2 Count, 3 Rope Escapes| Worthwhile | Quality & Gimmick Match

(05/05) Ricochet (c) vs. YAMATO

Dragon Gate
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium (Nagoya, Aichi, Japan)
Open the Dream Gate Championship 

Even in losing the Open the Dream Gate championship in just his second title defense, Ricochet still comes off in this match like a wrestler who is not that far off from blossoming into a truly valuable worker.

The match is built around YAMATO grounding Ricochet by targeting his leg.  Two years ago having an average-ish wrestler like YAMATO control the match while Ricochet’s high-flying offense (really, his only offense) lays dormant would have been a recipe for disaster.  At best it would have totally downplayed Ricochet’s real value (crazy flying) and at worst the leg work would have just been blown off and rendered meaningless.

In this match at this point in his career, however, Ricochet does a really great selling job the leg.  He doesn’t overdo it and at points gets into that nice sweet spot of body part selling where you start to feel you are watching a guy who is hurt rather then watching a guy who is selling being hurt.  After a fine, slow burn to start (which again I am not sure would have happened between these two a couple of years ago), they transition into the legwork portion of the match when YAMATO uses a wrench to tweak Ricochet’s knee.  I thought that was a well done transition and the illegal object was used to good effect.

YAMATO’s limb work is nothing great but it did the job.  The cutoff spots were strong and Ricochet did an admirable job mixing in some of his flying and acrobatic spots well still selling the leg.  He also has added enough other offense to get by in these types of matches.  On Colt Cabana’s podcast recently, Ricochet described himself – somewhat tongue-in-cheek – as a suplex guy now and he does have some decent suplexes that have made his offense much more well-rounded.

Rather than Ricochet slow-climbing the ropes to payoff the leg work not on a 450 splash attempt, he instead got up to the top just fine but then paused in a very natural way as if second guessing if his leg can handle the stress of the move.  That split second delay allowed YAMATO to avoid the splash.

The ending goes a little further than I generally care for in-terms of kick outs in the sense that they didn’t really didn’t get near fall reactions nor did they ultimately feel necessary.  It wasn’t a deal-breaker though.

Perhaps this title switch was in the cards the entire time, but the timing does call that into question.  Ricochet was announced for the Best of the Super Juniors right before the event.  One can assume that if the original plan was to leave the title on Ricochet, that would have changed when he agreed to the BOSJ.  The promotion likely would not want their main champion dropping matches to Matt Jackson, KUSHIDA, or whoever and he will almost assuredly lose couple of falls during the tournament.  It is certainly possible that influenced the decision to a title switch.

If that is the case, I would also venture a guess that Ricochet is going to go far in the tournament or possibly even win it.  Unless NJPW’s monetary offer for the tournament was too much to pass up, it is hard to see a guy giving up the top spot in his main promotion just for a chance to compete in a tournament that he has competed in before.  I’d bet that Ricochet is winning the tournament, facing Ibushi for the title (in what could be a very fun or a mess of a match), and possibly winning.  The NJPW junior division needs a major overhaul.  Ricochet would not be a bad place to start.

Juniors | Worthwhile | Quality & Title Switch

(03/02) Ricochet vs. Masato Yoshino (c)/(03/06) Ricochet (c) vs. Uhaa Nation/(03/08) Ricochet vs. T-Hawk

(03/02) Ricochet vs. Masato Yoshino (c)
(03/06) Ricochet (c) vs. Uhaa Nation
(03/08) Ricochet vs. T-Hawk

Dragon Gate
Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum #2 (Osaka, Japan)/Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)/Nagoya International Conference Hall (Nagoya, Aichi, Japan)
Open the Dream Gate Championship/Open the Dream Gate Championship/T-Hawk Millenial Best of Seven Series

I think this group of three matches from Dragon Gate provides a good snapshot of the quality wrestler that Ricochet has turned himself into.

The first is Ricochet challenging for Dragon Gate’s top singles championship against Yoshino. I haven’t been too into any of the Yoshino I have seen this year. For a guy that is super-fast and agile, he doesn’t really “wow” me. Like any attribute a wrestler can have, quickness and agility are only positive attributes if utilized correctly. Yoshino to me is a guy that has those tools, but doesn’t utilize them in any impactful way. Ricochet also possesses those same qualities but he makes them count. I think you can see some of that in their title match. Yoshino does the La Mistica or runs the ropes fast and I shrug. Ricochet hits a big 630 or counters a move by landing on his feet and he looks like a star doing it. That is a bit vague, but there is a noticeable difference between the two.

Ricochet also stands out in a side-by-side comparison to Yoshino these days because he has a lot of the other small things down. He transitions well. He spaces out his big moves correctly. He sells in a really naturally and engrossing manner. If anyone is still calling Ricochet a pure spot guy, that’s just wrong at this point. He has become a guy with truly high-level spots that are strung together to work in a long singles bout.

Ricochet captures the title here – the first foreigner to do so – and barring an out-of-nowhere run for veterans like Super Shisa or CIMA, he seems to be the Dragon Gate wrestler most qualified to hold the top championship.

The second match is his first title defense against former stable mate, Uhaa Nation. This is less of a one-sided match as Nation is really great as the small, power wrestler in a company full of small, high flyers. He looks like a monster (a small monster, but a monster) next to a guy like Ricochet and appropriately throws him around the ring with a variety of suplexes. Ricochet’s selling is once again top notch, but Uhaa’s limping around on his injured leg is also very effective.

Ricochet makes well-timed comebacks against his more powerful opponent. The leg work is solid and a good choice for the structure of the match. Seeing Ricochet work a power wrestler shows that he could be perfectly fine working all different sorts of guys in a non-Dragon Gate environment. They probably went a few minutes too long but to their credit, the match never quite descended into near fall and kick out madness. Rather it was just a match that probably would have hit a higher peak ending a few minutes earlier, even if there was nothing all that wrong with those “extra” minutes.

The third match is Ricochet working a more compact match in the different role of the veteran against T-Hawk. It is the first match in T-Hawk’s seven match trial series so Ricochet is cast in the role of the proven wrestler and he handles it well. He controls the tempo and the flow of the match, working over T-Hawk and allowing him to get some comebacks and near falls. This is much shorter than the prior two matches which is fine by me. At some point in his career – six months, a year, two years ago – Ricochet could not have led a young wrestler through a match like this, but here he did with little problem.

All three matches are worth seeing although I wouldn’t describe any one of the three as a need to watch. They are probably worth watching together for a chance to see Ricochet cast in a few different roles, all of which he handles confidently and with great success. I imagine that short of going to WWE, he is plenty happy with his current arrangement of US indies and Dragon Gate but some other US promotions (mainly Ring of Honor) are really missing the boat on him. He might not be totally there yet, but he is pretty close to turning himself into the rare wrestler with blow-away spots who knows how to lay out a cohesive match while incorporating them.

Juniors | Worthwhile | Quality & Individual Performance (Ricochet)