Written By: McXal
Dragon Gate USA – Open The Freedom Gate – 28th November 2009
This is the final DGUSA event of 2009, and it has a significant purpose – to crown the inaugural Open The Freedom Gate Champion. The championship will be the top prize on Dragon Gate USA, with a one night tournament to decide who becomes the very first champion. We see four qualifiers (each with a different theme), with the four winners advancing to an elimination match final. There’s also a major tag team bout with rival teams Shingo and Dragon Kid opposing Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino. Lots to be excited about as we had back to The Arena in Philadelphia, PA to join Lenny Leonard, Mike Quackenbush and Leonard Chikarason
Matt Jackson vs Nick Jackson vs Lince Dorado vs Hallowicked vs Gran Akuma vs Johnny Gargano
This is the first of the four Open The Freedom Gate Championship qualifying matches, and one that ensures that at least one American-based competitor will be in the final line-up. Obviously it’s interesting to note that the Young Bucks are in this one…and whilst they may be able to team up to overcome their opponents, only one can progress to the finals. Obviously with Gran Akuma turning his back on his Chikara past to side with YAMATO, it will be interesting to see how he fares when opposed with Hallowicked and the debuting Lince Dorado, both of whom are proud members of the Chikara roster. There’s also a debut for Johnny Gargano after impressing on a number of the preshows.
It’s clear from the intros that the Young Bucks are the overwhelming favourites here. Akuma kicks out at Hallowicked to start proceedings. Wicked kicks back at Gargano and Akuma, wiping out both of them with a tope suicida. Dorado hits a back flip kick on Matt, only to eat a superkick to the face just moments later. Nick hits a nice spinning kick on Lince moments later, only to turn into a SLINGSHOT SPEAR through the ropes from Gargano. Bucks with the backflip basement dropkicks on him, then the gutbuster/neckbreaker combo on Hallowicked. The heels Gargano and Akuma then piss everyone off by denying them the much-anticipated Buck vs Buck showdown. Dorado gets caught with Go 2 Sleepy Hollow then a Rydien Bomb from Hallowicked and only just manages to kick out. Lince hits back with a shooting star press. TOMBSTONE GUTBUSTER by Akuma on him. CARTWHEEL STANDING MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR by Nick. Standing moonsault/springboard splash from the Bucks on Gargano. MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK ON HALLOWICKED! Nick stops Matt pinning him though! Now we do get the Bucks going at it with each other. Matt backflips under a clothesline attempt. INVERTED CODE RED ON NICK! Akuma breaks the fall! Dorado looks for a Lionsault but gets caught in MID-AIR with a dropkick from Gargano. SPRINGBOARD CORKSCREW SENTON TO THE FLOOR! RUNNING CORKSCREW MOONSAULT FROM NICK! Akuma drops Gargano with the Kobashi-plex, but Johnny comes back by throwing him into the second turnbuckle. TARANTULA exploder superplex, then an Akuma moonsault! He wins at 09:30.
Rating – *** – Mindlessly spotty, but it’s impossible to argue that it was anything other than a fun way to start proceedings. Everyone shone in their role so deserves maximum credit. Young Bucks were clearly the star attraction, and featured heavily leading to the couple of minute exchange we saw between the two. Akuma was the main heel coming into this, with one of the main storylines of the fledgling promotion thus far involving him, so deservedly won the bout to keep his heat. I liked Gargano too. Lenny Leonard framed him as a sneaky opportunist, sort of an updated version of Trent Acid’s ‘king of the multi-man match’ gimmick he had in 2004 ROH and he did great with that. Dorado hit some decent spots on debut too, although you can’t help but feel he looks and works too much like a Dragon Kid-lite to get particularly far in this promotion.
Nick and Matt Jackson tease some post-match dissension but eventually hug and walk to the back still proclaiming themselves to be the top team in DGUSA.
BxB Hulk vs Brian Kendrick
The theme of this match is that both men are looking for redemption. Hulk lost the very first Dragon Gate USA match and subsequently wasn’t booked for Open The Untouchable Gate. He returns tonight and will be looking to make amends for that. Kendrick, meanwhile, is looking for his own redemption having returned to the indies after an unhappy spell with the WWE. He also lost his DGUSA debut match to CIMA, and was pissed off to discover that his match was severely clipped for the ppv broadcast of that event. One of these guys will get their first DGUSA win tonight.
No dancing girls for BxB tonight, nor indeed any dancing from him either as he looks to take this one seriously. Spanky too looks all business as he makes his way to the ring. He goes straight to the canvas and looks to work Hulk’s arm. As soon as BxB shows any sign of coming back into things Kendrick dives out of the ring to take a time out. Hulk speeds things up with a couple of cartwheels interspersed with armdrags and dropkicks…driving Brian back to the ropes for another period of respite. He clings to the ropes, and when Hulk gives him a clean break, Spanky pounces with a cheap shot then takes it to the outside to throw BxB into the ringpost. Dragon Clutch next by Kendrick, scratching at Hulk’s face at the same time. Hulk tries to fight back and receives a poke to the eyes. He shows his tremendous pace by hurdling to the top rope to delivery a missile dropkick into a standing corkscrew leg drop for 2. Floatover exploder suplex gets another nearfall as Hulk has Spanky on the run now. He lines up Sliced Bread #2 but is thrown out of the ring by Hulk. But even on the back foot Kendrick is resourceful, jumping into the crowd and hiding behind the guardrail as BxB lines up a dive. He goes for a camel clutch variant for the third time in the match but Hulk fights out and lands a back flip kick. ROLLING RANA FOR 2! PUMPHANDLE EVO FOR 2! But Spanky is out of it now and gets rolled up at 12:33.
Rating – *** – Marginally disappointing purely because of the slow pace a lot of this was wrestled at. It wasn’t necessarily bad (indeed, as with his match with CIMA, Kendrick’s light-hearted heel chicanery is actually really fun to watch)…but with Hulk obviously needing to keep a lot in the tank for the final later, the mantle fell on Kendrick to carry the bulk of this match, and he looks like a man still very much feeling his way back into life on the independent circuit. He has noticeably changed up his style since 2005 when we last saw him on the indies, and, whilst the heel stuff is good, his methodical style needs some work. It lacks a little intensity and, to be honest, sort of gives the impression that he’s just not trying very hard. He either needs to add some verve and vigour to his ring work, or go the Joey Matthews route and work an intentional ‘keeping things basic’ experienced style to piss fans off. The middle ground is doing him no favours…
Spanky gets on a microphone and cuts an angry promo about the state of his neck, and having earned the right to wrestle for himself as an artist…and doesn’t care if the fans like him or not. He continues his meandering rant until referees start coming from the back to convince him to leave and quit hogging valuable ppv time. Spanky’s rant was better than that whole match. Jon Moxley arrives and decides to help Spanky fight off the jobbers and referees. I’m told that Moxley is a hell of a promo guy and has a lot of talent. He probably could have done with a graphic or something to introduce him there. If I was a casual viewer I’d have been left thinking ‘who was that guy’??
CIMA vs Mike Quackenbush vs Super Crazy vs Jorge Rivera
This match is the ‘Salute to Skayde’, aka Jorge Rivera, who makes his debut here after being eulogised as the father of a lot of the Dragon Gate and Chikara styles of the present day by Mike Quackenbush on show 1. Super Crazy also makes a return to the ECW Arena and his debut for the promotion tonight. Truth be told he looks in less than stellar ring shape, but given the inevitable lucha overtures of this match, should be able to slot in pretty well. He has history with Skayde, who de-masked him in Mexico several years ago apparently.
Crazy noticeably refuses to bow to Skayde before the bell rings. Quack and CIMA start in predictably complex fashion on the canvas. Crazy in with Rivera…and Skayde still moves like lightning considering his age. He ricochets off the ropes into a headscissors leading to a neat segment where everyone goes for pinfalls…then duelling dropkicks. Four way stand-off and warm applause from the Philly crowd. Skayde monkey flips Crazy out of the ring, before Quack and CIMA, Jorge’s two star pupils, team up on their mentor. Slingshot double stomp from CIMA for 2. The next 90 seconds are somewhat confused with all four men slipping in and out of the ring, standing around doing nothing and waiting for their next spot. Crazy, having had enough of that, dropkicks Rivera’s knees out from under him. He starts working Skayde’s leg, with CIMA and Quack both concerned for their mentor’s wellbeing. Horrific botched spot between Crazy and Rivera…before Skayde falls over putting a pendulum hold on Quackenbush. Inverted cloverleaf on CIMA next…which Crazy breaks. Quack sends Super out of the ring to score with a tope atomico. CIMA pins Rivera at 09:17
Rating – * – At times that was bowling shoe ugly, whilst at best that was an over-complicated mess. I really rate Quackenbush, but he always works best with a more Americanised worker to reign in his ultra-lucha tendencies and ensure he works a more hybrid style. Here, with 3 other lucha-style workers, he didn’t contribute an awful lot other than some nifty matwork. Crazy and Rivera are well past their prime and it showed. I liked Crazy being the villain of the match, but the ECW Arena only wanted to cheer on the former ECW star so that didn’t pan out too good…and in truth Crazy is a shadow of his former self. He is still fairly agile but he’s lost the snap and athleticism he brought to the ring a decade ago. Rivera, legendary figure to a number of these wrestlers he may be, really had no place in the ring there. It was nice to see him get a ‘salute’…but this is a national pay-per-view broadcast. If I were a casual viewer, I wouldn’t be happy having paid money to watch that. At least the right man won.
Quack continues his somewhat militant pro-Chikara stance by shoving CIMA, the poster boy of Dragon Gate, after the match. He wants CIMA to win tonight so he can take the belt from him.
Davey Richards vs YAMATO
This is the final qualifying match to see who joins Gran Akuma, BxB Hulk and CIMA in the finals of the Open The Freedom Gate tournament. Richards made a huge impression on debut by defeating Shingo, then refusing the endorsements of Bryan Danielson. YAMATO has himself cut an impressive figure over the course of the first two DGUSA shows. He won the first ever match, then formed a partnership with Akuma which has thus far seemed determined to disrespect the Chikara guys.
The theme of this one is ‘Next Level’ as both have had breakout years in 2009 and will be looking to round it off by winning the DGUSA title. Richards goes for an early anklelock, but Yamato makes a point of not grabbing a rope and opting to roll over into a counter instead. Kicks from Davey, and as Yamato catches a boot and looks to attack the leg, Davey rolls the former shoot fighter into a cross armbreaker. They take the fight to the outside, with Richards sending Yamato into the guardrails with such force that several members of the crowd are visibly knocked off their feet. But Yamato hides under the ring, sneaking from the other side to dropkick Richards in the leg and go straight for a half crab. Anklelock next, the Japanese competitor doing severe damage to his opponent’s leg now. Richards aims a kick at Yamato’s torso, then drops straight to the canvas clutching his own leg. Ten minutes gone, as Richards drags Yamato out of the corner into a kick with his good leg. Belly to belly suplex and a clothesline to the floor…ABSOLUTELY CRAZY TOPE CON HILO TO THE CROWD! Richards landed completely unprotected on the floor in the front row there. Flurry of kicks to the chest, followed by the handspring enzi for 2. Happily leg selling follows that. Northern lights into the Kimura, but Yamato finds a way to wriggle to the bottom rope. He dropkicks the legs again and latches on to the Anklelock for a second time. This time it’s Davey struggling to the bottom rope. Richards starts HULKING UP! KICKS! YAMATO NO SELLS! BACK DROP DRIVER! DAVEY NO SELLS! LARIATOOOO! Both men collapse on the mat. Yamato climbs the ropes only to be kicked in the face and dropped with a superplex. ALARM CLOCK! NECK DROP GERMAN SUPLEX FOR 2! Davey is in disbelief and thinks about the SSP that won him his DGUSA debut match. SHOOTING STAR PRESS INTO YAMATO’S KNEES! REAR CHOKE! This is the move Yamato destroyed Quack with at Open The Untouchable Gate. Davey breaks it once but runs into it again. HEAD DROP SLEEPER SUPLEX BY YAMATO! DAVEY KICKS OUT! BRAINBUSTER! DAVEY KICKS OUT AGAIN! GALLERIAAAAA! Yamato finally puts Richards away to advance at 21:25
Rating – ****1/2 – That may well be my favourite DGUSA match thus far. Once again they brought a big fight atmosphere. The selling here was a touch better than Shingo/Richards from the previous show, and the last five minutes were absolute money. YAMATO is perhaps the outstanding performer amongst all of the Japanese guys to have come over. He is a hell of a wrestler, combining his MMA background with a unique physical charisma and aloof style. His facials in this one were superb, really SELLING the beating Davey was giving him. And it’s a vote of confidence in YAMATO that he has gone over Davey here, when Richards had been positioned as the top American talent in DGUSA after his explosive debut victory. Unlike the major matches on the first two shows, I’ve heard no praise at all for this match – it really is worth checking out.
We get a video package showing the participants for the final later tonight. YAMATO, having just wrestled 20+ minutes is flat on his back in the locker room. I think it’s a given he’s not winning. Anyway, the final is Gran Akuma vs BxB Hulk vs CIMA vs YAMATO
Jigsaw vs Eddie Kingston
Not sure what the premise is behind bringing Kingston into DGUSA with no story behind him. He was in the midst of a decent run in ROH at this stage, but came up through Chikara along with guys like Jigsaw, and has feuded with him in multiple promotions.
Eddie definitely hasn’t dropped any weight since the last time I watched him compete. For a guy who’s always been told he’s got all the tools, but a horrible look, you’d think he’d try losing that gut. His promo skills are so exceptional you’d think he’d get a real crack and becoming a premier independent wrestler. Jig tries shoulder blocks on the big man which obviously isn’t going to work. Heel trip into a double stomp to the gut instead. King catches Jigsaw coming off the turnbuckles to hit an overhead belly to belly suplex. In between spots you’ll see Eddie clawing and pulling at Jig’s mask. The masked man manages to bait Eddie out of the ring to deliver a somersault plancha. Shotgun dropkick sends King into the corner for a Generico-style Yakuza kick which draws a 2. Spinning Back Fist misses for Eddie but he lays Jigsaw out with a straight jacket German suplex instead. He powerbombs Jig into the turnbuckles then destroys him with a Shotgun Lariat. Still no victory for the big man though. Back Fist misses for a second time. THIRD TIME LUCKY! Jigsaw kicks out at 2. He comes off the top with a lame looking double stomp to put Kingston away at 07:48
Rating – ** – Basic and inoffensive, but for a promotion that markets itself as a promotion that puts on a ‘supershow’ with every DVD release, this really should have been cut to the bonus features. If nothing else, it was an example of the skillset of both men. Kingston is a decent big man worker, but with his look you’re always going to struggle to take him seriously, particularly in a promotion with so many smaller, fleeter footed workers like DGUSA. Jigsaw continues to be one of the most underwhelming performers on the indies. His mat skills are fine but everything he does looks so low impact and fake. I’ve been watching this guy for 2 years now and in that time he’s just got no better. You can bet your bottom dollar if Dragon Gate USA wasn’t working with Chikara at this time he wouldn’t be anywhere near such a high spot on the card.
We go to exclusive footage of the aftermath of the Dragon Kid/Masato Yoshino bout from Open The Untouchable Gate (with a voiceover from what sounds like Gabe Sapolsky doing a horrific face voice). In the locker rooms Dragon Kid and Shingo bust into Doi and Yoshino’s dressing room and get into an argument. Yoshino tells them to be ready in Philadelphia…
Naruki Doi/Masato Yoshino vs Shingo/Dragon Kid
This match is fascinating on a number of levels. The rivalries between these four go back years. But in recent times, they contest the two top rivalries in DGUSA right now. Dragon Kid has beaten Masato Yoshino twice on the first two shows, but the bad blood between them has seen handshakes refused both times. Meanwhile Doi and Shingo headlined the first show, bringing the rivalry which has seen them battle to be the ‘ace’ of Dragon Gate to the United States. Doi won that bout, and also won his match against the debuting independent ace at the last show (Bryan Danielson) whilst Shingo went down to Davey Richards.
Shingo with a regular person haircut just doesn’t feel right. Dragon Kid demands to start with Masato Yoshino, and Shingo is more than happy to oblige. Fast-paced mat action between those kick off proceedings. Apparently Dragon Kid gets the first shot at the new Open The Freedom Gate Champion as a result of being 2-0 on ppv thus far. DK and Shingo take the early advantage, isolating Doi from his partner. Kid 619’s around Shingo into a double boot on Doi for 2 at the five minute mark. Naruki finally gets the tag, then joins with Yoshino to work over DK’s arm with axehandles and double stomps. Doi then stands guard as Yoshino locks in a submission hold to wear down the masked man. Flapjack/facecrusher combo scores for 2 as Doi continues to hold Shingo at bay. They then change roles as Naruki works an abdominal stretch with Yoshino hopping around the ring preventing Shingo from invading. DK cranks up the pace with a lucha armdrag and a headscissors and gets the vital tag to his partner. Doi tries to elbow Shingo but gets CAUGHT in a urinage suplex. BERMUDA TRIANGLE MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR from Kid. Yoshino goes for a sunset flip but Shingo incredibly powers him all the way into the air for a brainbuster. Shingo Lariato misses though and Yoshino capitalises with a running neckbreaker for 2. STEREO CRISTO’S FROM YOSHINO AND DK! They end up breaking the holds because they’re so pissed off at each other! Doi evades a 619 from Kid and HAMMERS him with a capture dropkick in the ropes. Shingo hoists Naruki into the air for an elevated double stomp by Dragon. Stunner into the BLOOD FALL FOR 2! Doi hits back with a Rydien Bomb before Yoshino returns to help him out. He manages to hoist Shingo into the air for a cradle back suplex. HANGTIME MISSILE DROPKICK ON KID INTO A BACK SENTON ON SHINGO FOR 2! Now everyone fights on the turnbuckles. Kid CLIMBS UP SHINGO INTO A MASSIVE SUPER FRANKENSTEINER! POP UP DVD ON YOSHINO! Ultra Hurricanrana from Kid misses, only for Shingo to nearly Gallon Throw Yoshino through the ring. He clobbers Doi…WHO THEN BLOCKS THE ULTRA HURRICANRANA TO NAIL DOI 555! DOOMSDAY SPINNING NECKBREAKER INTO POWERBOMB COMBO FOR 2! DÉJÀ VU CRUCIFIX DRIVER FROM DK! LIGHTNING SPIRAL FROM YOSHINO! BAKETORI SLIDINGKICK NAILED! SHINGO SAVES! Torbelino on Kid, into the Sol Naciente! KID TAPS! Yoshino finally beats Dragon Kid at 19:56
Rating – **** – Vintage Dragon Gate tag team action there. It’s the calling card of the whole promotion to put on crazily exciting tag team bouts like the one we just witnessed. Indeed, it’s an indication of the incredible consistency and quality of the four men involved that they’ve probably wrestled MULTIPLE matches with each other that were better than this one. The start was slow and a little aimless (largely why I knocked the rating down a little), but you always know what’s just around the corner with these workers – that being fast-paced, full throttle high spots and false finishes galore. I’m sure this one had high expectations placed upon it but they certainly met them.
After refusing handshakes at Historic Gate and Untouchable Gate, Yoshino has the cheek to demand a handshake from Dragon Kid this time around – and is firmly rebuked by Shingo. Out come the Young Bucks to congratulate Doi and Yoshino on their performance…but once again proclaim themselves to be the top tag team in DGUSA. They challenge Doi and Yoshino for a future match.
Jon Moxley gets some promo time, giving off a real Heath Ledger/Joker meets Raven vibe.
Gran Akuma vs BxB Hulk vs CIMA vs YAMATO – Open The Freedom Gate Title Match
This match will be fought under elimination rules. In fatigue terms, you’d have to think that Akuma and CIMA have clear advantages given that they had the shortest matches, and both were multi-man bouts meaning that they will have taken comparatively less abuse than Hulk and YAMATO who were in singles matches. Bear in mind YAMATO comes in having shaded a 20+ minute classic with Davey Richards which left him unable to stand in the locker room. You’d have to consider Akuma the likely underdog here, but given that he and YAMATO formed an alliance on show 1, before teaming together on show 2, that gives those two a competitive advantage.
CIMA comes to the ring sweeping the floor with a broom. No idea what that is supposed to mean, other than the fact that CIMA is a weird guy. Yamato looks like a drug addict and can’t even walk straight on his way to the ring. All four men stand-off from the bell. CIMA and Hulk look like they’re going to have to work together against the Yamato/Akuma duo. CIMA tries to then side with the heels by whacking BxB into the corner…but his reward is to eat a double back drop from them. Hulk with kicks to both the heels then a HULK BOTTOM on Yamato. CIMA once again acts like he’s going to team with Hulk, before dropping him with a lungblower. Tarantula exploder by Akuma, into the moonsault. That combo got him to the finals but CIMA kicks out this time. CIMA to the top only for Yamato to shove him off, who then scores 2 on Hulk with an exploder suplex. BxB standing moonsaults into Yamato’s knees…then EATS a brutal spear. He looks for Galleria again but CIMA comes to BxB’s aid. Akuma low blows CIMA behind the ref’s back, allowing Yamato to eliminate him at 05:17. And that doesn’t bode well for Hulk as the Yamato/Akuma tandem waste no time in double-teaming him. Half crab/camel clutch combo applied, into CBV crossface from Yamato. Interesting tactic from Gran Akuma, who perches on BxB’s legs to stop him crawling backwards to the ropes. Hulk drops Akuma with a springboard heel kick out of sheer desperation. DROPSAULT on both opponents…then a reverse rana for Akuma. PHOENIX SPLASH! Yamato dives in to save his partner! EVO ON GRAN AKUMA! He’s eliminated at 11:31 meaning it’s the two men who contested the very first DGUSA match opposing each other to become first DGUSA champion. Yamato hits a powerslam, but having now had well over 30 minutes of ring time tonight, is too exhausted to follow up. Hulk cleans his clock with a spinning heel kick in the corner then a SUPER POWERSLAM! Elbow smashes traded even with both men down on their knees now. PALM STRIKES FROM HULK! ELBOW SMASHES FROM YAMATO! EVO! YAMATO KICKS OUT! EVO AGAIN! Hulk wins at 15:53
Rating – *** – Not really a top quality main event, and certainly not the legendary bout you’d like to crown your first ever champion in. But that’s the problem with one night tournaments. Since stepping aside from the very top of Dragon Gate cards CIMA has really worked hard to elevate new talent. Tonight was no exception as he was eliminated first to put over the threat of the YAMATO/Akuma duo. But whilst that was noble, it crippled the match as a contest. Hulk spent the majority of the remainder of the match on the deck, meaning you’re relying on YAMATO (who’d already worked a 20 minute match) and Gran Akuma who isn’t in the same league as the rest of the field in the final. It never seemed like Akuma and YAMATO had a great deal of chemistry as a team, which definitely hurt the drama. People were glad to see the Hulk win, and the last few minutes when it got down to Hulk and YAMATO were decent. ‘Decent’ is probably a good word for this match.
The first man to the ring to congratulate Hulk is Davey Richards. He attacks Hulk, completely ruining his moment…and YAMATO returns to make it a 2-on-1. Dragon Kid runs in to make the save for BxB, which is ironic considering he will be Hulk’s challenger on the first DGUSA show of 2010.
Tape Rating – *** – Once again a solid show from the Dragon Gate USA promotion. As with Open The Untouchable Gate, I felt the card was maybe a little patchy, and certainly didn’t match the consistently high quality of Open The Historic Gate…but considering the lack of hype I’ve seen this one get in comparison to those first two shows, I really enjoyed this. YAMATO/Richards is absolutely superb and probably worth the price of the DVD alone, but the Doi/Yoshino vs Shingo/DK tag is ample support, along with some other fun tournament bouts and the interesting debut of Jon Moxley. Admittedly I was pretty brutal in my dislike of the ‘Salute to Skayde’, and the Jigsaw/Kingston match had no business being on the main show either. But with the amount of Dragon Gate talent being flown in for these DGUSA shows, you really can’t fault them for quality and depth of roster. We just need to find some American talent (outside of Davey Richards) who can keep up with them.
Top 3 Matches
3) Gran Akuma vs Johnny Gargano vs Matt Jackson vs Nick Jackson vs Lince Dorado vs Hallowicked (***)
2) Naruki Doi/Masato Yoshino vs Shingo/Dragon Kid (****)
1) YAMATO vs Davey Richards (****1/2)