Dragon Gate UK Review 2011
What is Dragon Gate?
Dragon Gate is a Japanese professional wrestling promotion formed in 2007. Most of Dragon Gate’s wrestlers are graduates from Último Dragón’s Toryumon Gym, and thus the promotion is based on a Junior Heavyweight style. Since 2009 Mark Sloan has hosted 2 critically acclaimed Dragon Gate UK tours, would this year be any different?
DG:UK “Invasion 3″
Friday October 21th
Broxbourne Civic Hall
I have grown to really love the Civic Hall. I know it’s a long time established venue for wrestling, but this was only my third time here after Dragon-Gate last year and NOAH earlier in the year. I thought the set up was better this year with the entrance way positioned in the middle rather than the long walk around they had to do last year. The only fault I could say was from my vantage point, the smoke machine entirely obscured the wrestlers on the stage until they came further down to the ring. But the place was rammed, the atmosphere was incredible, and other than one loud mouthed fan, this really did look to be the best atmosphere I’ve experienced in Broxbourne yet.
I thought the dark match was decent. Jack Gallagher was great with the way he went after Robinson’s arm, twisting it in ways no arm should bend whilst showing off some great grappling skills also. Robinson didn’t get much chance to impress, he did a few nice dropkicks, used the turnbuckles a few times to escape Gallagher’s clutches, and it was attempting a Shooting Star Press that led to his downfall as Gallagher moved out of the way and quickly applied a Fujiwara armbar (to the best of my memory) for the submission victory. Gallagher was definitely something not from the DG mould so that helped him stand out tremendously. I know it was a dark match and all, but I was hoping for a little bit more from this, but with the time allotted, they did well enough.
Tozawa/Dragon Kid was DG UK’s best opener yet. I know it’s the first match to be a true DG match rather than DG vs UK, but the two set out to start the show with a bang. Tozawa has immense charisma and character; the crowd HAD to boo him for his actions while torn between being vastly entertained by the man. Some really great wrestling in this, Dragon Kid took to the air with a moonsault to Tozawa on the outside, Tozawa damn near kicked Kid’s head off as he fell from the top rope, almost hitting the floor however he managed to save himself and land on the apron. And I loved the finishing stretch with Kid managing to reserve a Tozawa move into a Bible, Tozawa getting straight back up for a German, before then eventually finishing things with the Straight Jacket German for the victory.
Gamma had to be one of the most over people of the entire weekend. For such a sick, disgusting, despicably dirty man… Gamma isn’t half lovable. And on the flip-side, Tanizaki may have been the most overwhelmingly hated man all weekend. Lots of cheating from Tanizaki and Tozawa that involved a chair set up in the corner, lots of spitting, water showers and sweet angel kisses from Gamma. At one point in the match, Gamma had Tanizaki in an Octopus hold at the top of the stage, Tozawa interfered to free Tanizaki and put Gamma in an Octopus hold of his own as the referee began to count Gamma out. Gamma just managed to get back into the ring at 19 much to the crowds delight. Really fun match and may have been better than their August match as it didn’t have the limitations the stipulations in the aforementioned match imposed.
I was shocked Team UK beat Blood Warriors. I felt sure it would be Marty fighting for survival in Nottingham, so you can imagine the deafening roar when Scurll pinned CIMA himself with that torture rack lift-knees into the back move he does. Team UK were incredibly over, Lion Kid surprised me with how over he was with the crowd as I didn’t know whether last years backlash would continue, but the RAWR!!! took on a life of it’s own. Marty was over on his own merits and Haskins got a hero’s welcome. TheBlood Warriors trio were hated, but a team of CIMA, Doi and Hulk still had it’s supporters. I loved BW taking early control of the match and brawling with Team UK around ringside, isolating Haskins in the ring before he was able to get the hot tag and Team UK roared back. Marty hit a fantastic dive to the outside onto Doi and Hulk. Lion Kid looked the best he has in a DG UK ring and went toe to toe with both Hulk and CIMA at various points in the match. This was just a crazy good match and seeing as it was the hated Blood Warriors for the home country heroes of Team UK, the atmosphere and structure of the match was different to the previous two six-mans as they could’ve been construed as Dragon Gate exhibition matches in comparison, here you had a country’s pride on the line and CIMA and Scurll battling for survival and the audience reacted as such so that when it came down to CIMA and Scurll at the end…well I want to watch the crowd reaction at the end on DVD as they just went mental and I hope that is captured in full on tape.
I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high for Yokosuka/Yoshino after what was said on the IHeartDG podcast about the disappointment about their previous matches, but I was thoroughly entertained. The early section of the match, the crowd was still settling in from intermission and with both being such strong fan favourites there wasn’t going to be much of a heated reaction. But the match kicked up a gear when the two started to strike each other, and then the match turned into the battle I was expecting with Yoshino trying to do enough damage to Yokosuka’s arm for the Sol Naciente before Yokosuka could take Yoshino down with the Jumbo No Kachi. Really good match that will warrant a DVD viewing before I could rate it fairly.
Now Shingo vs PAC…what a main event! Match of the night for me. We saw a great sequence early on that Shingo and PAC have done in six mans for a while now where PAC will end up stood on Shingo’s shoulders in the course of avoiding a move, backflip off to surprise Shingo and turn the match in his favour with a knee strike. I didn’t expect this match to end up as physical as it was as PAC did not back down from exchanging strikes with the much more powerful Shingo, and those elbows of his even managed to rock the mulleted beast. PAC definitely didn’t look that dissimilar from Shingo in height and muscle so after his record breaking Brave Gate Title reign comes to an end, I’d love to see him move into Dream Gate Title contention. This was everything you expected from a Shingo vs PAC match and more, it easily managed to better their California match from 08. I loved this match, this was a main event and then some!
DG:UK “Shingo V Yokosuka 3″
Saturday October 22nd
Albert Conference Hall
I know it’s been said numerous times, but the Albert Hall is a beautiful venue. It looks awesome and the acoustics were out of this world, every clap and cheer was amplified. Nice and easy to find, Nottingham is a great location and it’s right in the city centre so there’s no shortage of things to do. Easy to get to via car and with validated parking I only ended up paying £5 for like a 7 hour stay.
I enjoyed the press conference, it was put across professionally and was a really cool experience. The Blood Warriors answers were great fun, true heels. Loved CIMA picking Gamma as his partner and Gamma’s subsequent reaction and comments to Haskins and Scurll when he was posed the question about his thoughts on his opponents – “I only just found out I had this match, I don’t know who these bastards are” or something like that was the full translation. Speaking of translation, well done and a big thank you to the gent who did a fantastic job.
Nottingham’s bonus match may be my favourite bonus singles match on any previous DG UK show. I was happy when Dar got the call and he more than earnt his spot with this match. I can’t recall much of Daniel Roberts from his Dan Head days, but he did well for himself here, but, as already has been stated, this was the Noam Dar show. Much like Jack Gallagher the night before he worked the arm which eventually led to the submission, but Dar just has so much character and presence with his mocking of Roberts, the chewing gum spot (and the accidental 5 second rule) and he has some great kicks in his arsenal to really flesh out his wrestling skills. They got longer than the night before to play with so they really made their most with the time and had a great back and forth contest.
BxB Hulk vs Lion Kid was Kid’s best match I have seen live to date. I’m glad I didn’t get chance to post my thoughts on the matches prior to the shows as I was going to remark how with LK’s unfavourable reaction at points last year, this would be the match for those fans to witness Lion Kid getting his face kicked off. Well Kid-oh didn’t get any of that backlash from last year, the RAWR!!! is now almost as over as the UUUUH! and Lion Kid wrestled a back and forth match with a world-class talent and had the match of his life. A really good opener, even if there was a terrifying spot where LK went out for a dive and I guess the tip of his boots must have just clipped the ropes as from my vantage point it looked like he went down hard. But he was fine and even though Hulk won in more than convincing fashion, he did more than enough to trouble the Blood Warrior and even had a few near-falls himself.
There was some doubt in my mind at how well two Blood Warriors, two heels, against each other would work. Fortunately, Tanizaki’s dickheaded-ness forced a Tozawa face turn for the match, declaring he would fight for the UK, and the crowd treated him like the star he is. This definitely had the most overwhelming face/heel divide and the atmosphere for this match was electric. I love Tozawa as a face and to make up for not getting his motor-mouth, he became the most over man on the show and his moveset changed to suit his newfound popularity as he hit those consecutive suicide dives I love so much. Tanizaki is a great wrestler in his own right and this match showed off the best attributes of both. Tozawa managing to kick out of the Implant was something I wasn’t expecting so when Tozawa hit the Straight Jacket German for the second night in a row, the place exploded for the victory of their newfound hero….. But the joy was short lived when Tozawa declared on the mic that, after all, he does still hate the UK.
I did really like Doi vs Yoshino but I am glad I didn’t get opportunity to publically declare that Doi/Yoshino was going to be the sleeper match of the weekend and potentially one of the best matches to take place. They couldn’t really do a PPV main event quality before intermission so they did the kind of match they needed to, one that would top the first half and leave enough for the second half to build on. One thing that will stick out to me most about this match was an animated Spunkmeyer calling Doi a traitor and demanding vengeance for World-1. Fantastic stuff. Doi and Yoshino are incapable of having a bad match together and I get the feeling this will rank highly against their J3 vs BW match earlier in the month.
CIMA/Gamma vs Haskins/Scurll was amazing stuff. After being such a great face the night before, Gamma really did heel it up so CIMA/Gamma were the unanimous bad guys in this match. They attacked as soon as the bell was rang and brawled around ringside to start the match, the same as the last night, but really put across CIMA’s determination to win at any means necessary. This match was just as good as the six man from the night before as it had the same dynamic but the drama was increased. Gamma even Tombstoned Haskins from the second rope! What I really liked from this match was Scurll again going back for that torture rack-knees into the back move and CIMA reversing it the first time by landing on his feet, and when Scurll managed to successfully hit it the second time, everyone thought it was curtains for CIMA until Gamma came out of nowhere for the save. We got stereo coast to coast dropkicks from CIMA and Gamma, that rolling turnbuckle backbreaker spot and CIMA got retribution from the night before by pinning Scurll via Meteora. This match may end up looked on as favourable as CIMA/Kid vs Haskins/PAC was.
PAC vs Dragon Kid was immense. Built up slow and grounded but then exploded in the second half of the match. Some great dives, amazing reversals that defied the laws of gravity and shows how well these two know each other as former rivals and now team mates. I don’t think any write up can do justice to this match. It was just that good, an absolutely sublime contest between two of the absolute best light-weight wrestlers alive in the world today.
If I said no write up can do justice to PAC/Dragon Kid… I am at a loss to explain the main event.
Amazing. Incredible. Brutal. Epic. Stiff. One of the best matches I have ever been privileged to see live. I’m going tell you something about myself that is going to make me sound like a real idiot and a douche…. In my early BritWres days, I was one of those loud mouthed fans who attempted to get themselves over. So I am really remorseful for those days and have been trying to be what I feel to be a “better” fan who appreciates the shows as best as I can and get the wrestlers over. So I hate to hear idiots at shows like the dreadlocked dude at Broxbourne, and Tourettes guy behind me at Nottingham. So when I tell you that I was losing my mind and absolutely SCREAMING at the ring, that’s how much I got into it. I try not to swear at shows (I know, if you’ve ever met me I am really foul-mouthed but I have been attempting to moderate my behaviour at shows) but when Yokosuka hit Shingo with the first Jumbo No Kachi, I was screaming for Shingo to “KICK OUT!!”. Then when Yokosuka landed the Yokosuka Cutter I was seething with rage roaring “KICK THE *FUCK* OUT!!!!!!”. I had the translator from the press conference sat next to me who was looking at me like… Dude, WTF???
I loved this match. It was what I loved in wrestling and more. I want this on DVD NOW!!!
DG:UK “DG v UK”
Sunday October 23rd
Beeston Youth & Community Centre
And the third show, the “small” thank you show in an intimate venue with only about 150 fans…. Ends up being another amazing show, showing that these Dragon Gate guys do not take a rest!
Gamma vs Man Manson in the opener that was comedy gold. There was seriously not a single person there who wasn’t smiling or laughing. I spied Yoshino laughing his tits off at it.
CIMA beat Lion Kid in another enjoyable contest that has shown how far LK has progressed in the past year. He went from being ridiculed at previous shows along with some negative comments in regards to his wrestling skills, to his character finally getting over with the audience. His wrestling has greatly improved with his time in Japan and abroad in Europe over the past year.
Masato Yoshino & Dragon Kid beat BxB Hulk & Naoki Tanizaki and Martin Kirby & Joey Hayes. Absolutely great match. I didn’t get my hopes and expectations up as I didn’t know how well a three way tag could work with two guys who hadn’t worked Dragon Gate before (bar a Cyber Kong squash for Hayes last year) or even this style of match…. I didn’t have any need to worry in the end. This match all came together beautifully and Kirby & Hayes did very well, held their own and looked comfortable in that ring. Had all the necessary three way tag spots you’d expect, and some great wrestling.
Akira Tozawa beat Marty Scurll in what seems almost a universal MOTN from everyone I’ve spoken with. Absolutely blinding match, this is worth the price of the DVD alone and should more than earn Marty’s plane ticket to Japan in the future. Tozawa’s charisma is undeniable and these two just tore the house down with some brilliant fan interaction. I f**king love Tozawa.
PAC beat Susumu Yokosuka. I’d put this over their Brave Gate decision match from last year as well. PAC, Yokosuka and Shingo are the stand outs and “core” of DG UK to me, and this weekend and their unofficial round robin really proved it. PAC is like an action figure come to live with his physique and jaw-dropping moveset. Everything looks crisp and makes sense, it’s not flips for the sake of flips.
Shingo beat Mark Haskins in a damn fine main event. Shingo was the man of the weekend for me, he more than deserved his spot headlining all three shows. All three matches were different and all three of them were quality, main event quality more importantly. I hope Haskins can work DG UK in the future, but if not, this was as good a send off as any as he had his best match in DG UK.
To find out more about Dragon Gate UK and pre-order the DVDs see: DragonGateUK
A few more photos…