Written By: McXal
Dragon Gate USA – Open The Ultimate Gate – 26th March 2010
DGUSA debuts in Phoenix, AZ with Vice President Gabe Sapolsky doing much as his former promotion ROH has done in recent years and trying to capitalise on the mass influx of wrestling fans to a WrestleMania town to draw big crowds and new fans. It’s also the start of a new business model for the young company. With it’s high production costs, big talent budget and other costs slipping slightly out of control and ppv/DVD sale revenue alone not proving to be enough when you’re only running a show every couple of months, Dragon Gate USA are looking to step up the number of events they do. Most shows will now be part of double shot weekends (so two shows for the price of one round trip plane ticket for all the guys they have to fly in from Japan) with night one being a house show release (so immediate DVD release rather than having to wait around for the ppv to air). Obviously it makes sense from a financial point of view. I think it’s dangerous territory for a company that markets itself as a premium independent wrestling product to start running potential ‘B-shows’ and still trying to get their fans to pay the same price. That said, tonight is the first house show, and the card is superb as they look to make a splash in another new market and in front of more new fans. BxB Hulk defends the Open The Freedom Gate title against Naruki Doi, the supposed ace of Dragon Gate Japan, and the main event sees the return of the WrestleMania Dragon Gate 6-man after missing out in 2009 after ROH/DG relations went sour. Lots of debuts tonight as well with Paul London, GAMMA, Jack Evans and the controversial Teddy Hart all scheduled to appear. Lets join Lenny Leonard going solo tonight…
Jimmy Jacobs opens the show by saying he’s got someone from Brian Kendrick’s past to team with him tonight after Spanky brought Lacey at Fearless. In comes Paul London to deliver one of the spaced out, stoner promos that has become loved for in PWG. In the end Jimmy has to tell him to focus and be serious then leaves. London stays behind to discuss why blood is good for vampires but not humans.
Mike Quackenbush/Jigsaw vs Susumu Yokosuka/Genki Horiguchi
At the last show we saw the Quack/Jigsaw team declare themselves one of the best tag teams in the world. They will immediately be putting that claim to the test with a stern test from these two top tier Dragon Gate talents.
The entrance music in the Celebrity Theatre is almost deafening. It’s hard to tell if it’s dubbed generic music over the live entrance themes or not. Genki Horiguchi appears to have turned face since his last Dragon Gate USA appearance, joining the Warriors stable in doing so. He’s involved in a low key, technical opening sequence with Quackenbush. Jigsaw tags in with a slingshot double stomp on Horiguchi before being clobbered off the apron by Yokosuka. Genki dropkicks Jig’s knee out from under him, then holds it prone against the bottom rope for Susumu to do the same thing. Jig looks for some chops on Yokosuka, who kicks again then hits a DOUBLE SHINBREAKER against the canvas for 2. Figure 4 applied, and as Jigsaw manages to roll the hold over Horiguchi on hand to push him right back. Finally Jigsaw manages to score with a missile dropkick and gets the hot tag to Quack. BTS on Yokosuka but Genki breaks the fall and nails a sweet tornado DDT. Yokosuka hits an exploder superplex on Jig, followed up with a Horiguchi brainbuster for 2. Jumbo No Katchi takes Jig out of the match permanently. QUACKENDRIVER III! Yokosuka kicks out and steamrolls back through Mike with a Jumbo No Katchi. YOKOSUKA CUTTER! He pins Mike at 13:34
Rating – *** – A little dull in places, with a totally dead crowd, but most of the work was solid. It did a good job of putting Yokosuka over and, since he challenges for the Open The Dream Gate title on ppv tomorrow night that’s probably the most important thing. Jigsaw put in his best DGUSA performance to date here if anyone is interested. I slate him a lot so it’s important I praise him when he does well.
In the back Naruki Doi prepares for his big title match tonight…alongside a sullen looking Yoshino.
TJP vs YAMATO
Perkins debuted at Fearless by defeating Gran Akuma. His win has been rewarded with future bookings, with tonight marking a huge opportunity for him. And speaking of being rewarded, it looks like YAMATO’s sensational form both in Japan and here in DGUSA has been rewarded as he is now the Open The Dream Gate Champion – the top prize in Dragon Gate. He gets to be the very first man to defend that belt in the USA tomorrow night at Mercury Rising, but tonight he’ll be looking to emulate his challenger Susumu Yokosuka in the previous match by scoring a decisive victory.
Yamato is such a weird guy. Just the looks he gives during his ring entrance are so bizarre. He’s still selling the effects of his title-winning bout with Naruki Doi a week prior to this show. Perkins has no problem hanging with the top dog in all of Dragon Gate in the early going. TJP hangs in the ropes to draw Yamato in, then moves to send him crashing to the floor. Unfortunately the OTDG Champion uses that to his advantage by hiding under the ring then appearing from the other side to cheap shot his opponent. He works TJ’s leg, preparing it for the Anklelock later in the match you’d suspect. He inadvertently makes Perkins kick the ref in the balls…but with the official down he capitalises by punting TJP in the nuts too. Perkins’ response is to back heel Yamato in the giggleberries too, meaning all three men in the ring are down clutching their crotches. Yamato goes for that Choke Sleeper that has caused his opponents some problems, but TJP rolls out and delivers a brainbuster for 2. Perkins locks in the Figure 4 Deathlock which is a cool move but completely no sells all the damage Yamato did to the leg earlier. Speaking of which, Yamato counters that to the Anklelock, then the Choke Sleeper. HEAD DROP SLEEPER SUPLEX! Brainbuster gets Yamato 2 just as it did for TJP. Choke Sleeper locked in again and this time Perkins taps at 11:23
Rating – * – That was a pretty poor match. Both guys showed flashes of talent, but in front of a dead crowd, this match was listless, aimless and completely flaccid. The only thread of story holding the whole thing together was Yamato attacking the leg – a strategy which both guys completely no sold in the end anyway, rendering it nothing more than an extended squash. This one felt VERY B-show.
Now in the back we see Open The Freedom Gate Champion warming up for the title match with Naruki Doi tonight, once again alongside a pensive Masato Yoshino.
Brian Kendrick/Jon Moxley vs Jimmy Jacobs/Paul London
One of the highlights of the Fearless show for me was the Kendrick/Jacobs match. Not because of the actual contest, but because of all the story-telling that went on around it. Kendrick brought Lacey back to taunt Jacobs, with the mysterious and anarchic figure of Jon Moxley lurking in the background. Spanky and Moxley seem so psychotic it’s hard to tell what will happen here. But after the mindgames Kendrick played with him in Chicago, this time Jimmy is looking to play some of his own by recruiting ‘The Intrepid Traveller’ Paul London, a long term friend/rival/partner of Spanky having gone through the TWA together, through ROH and Japan, all the way through to the WWE. But, just as Kendrick may struggle control the destructive desires of Jon Moxley, you feel that Jimmy will have an equally hard job keeping Paul London focused since he’s made a post-WWE career out of his loony gimmick.
This is the first time I’ll watch a Paul London match since he left ROH in 2003 by the way. He comes out dressed in a space suit and jumps around the lavish staging area of the spectacular Celebrity Theatre venue. He then hands out 3D glasses to a front row fan in Bret Hart fashion, as Jimmy watches on in total bemusement. Final London observation is that he’s gained a fair bit of weight since his peak earlier in the decade. Jacobs then dives into the ring to go right after Kendrick, despite the best attempts of Paul London to act as peacemaker. Moonsault press from London to Moxley gets 2. Mox hits back with a release vertical suplex on Jimmy. Both men tumble to the floor from a suplex spot, which is especially dangerous given that the ring is on an elevated stage area tonight. London comes in and tells Spanky to face him. But since he refuses…LONDON WRESTLES THIN AIR! He then starts chasing around the ring looking for the invisible man. Not finding him, he grabs a microphone and points out that he and Kendrick have lost to some ridiculous acts during their time in the WWE, eventually bating Spanky into opposing him in the ring. The former TWA graduates contest a fairly even couple of minutes of back and forth wrestling with Moxley interjecting just when it looked like London was set to get the upper hand. Spanky uses the distraction to low blow Paul and make the tag. What follows is an elongated beatdown of London, until London finally lands on his feet from a double back drop attempt and dives into a tag on Jacobs. End Time on Moxley, broken with a superkick from Spanky. Mox capitalises with a Black Hole Slam on Jimmy for 2. London drops Kendrick with a full nelson facebuster, then SCORES with the dropsault combo on both his opponents. Kendrick throws him out in particularly brutal fashion, but turns into the Contra Code from Jacobs. Random small package from Spanky to pin Jacobs at 13:51
Rating – ** – As a match it felt boring, slow and very long. As good as the storyline now is surrounding this one you’d hope that, considering the talent involved, the matches would be slightly better. Kendrick and London just don’t look to be the workers that they used to be and it definitely had a detrimental effect on the quality of this one. Jacobs and Moxley both fall into the bracket of great promo guys but wrestlers who need a better talent than they are to lead them through their very best matches. This one just never got started, outside of some flashes of entertainment from London. If he ever gets his passion back, drops a bit of weight and commits full time to wrestling again you feel that, now armed with his brilliantly entertaining crazy lunatic gimmick, he’d once again become a premier wrestler. But, after his WWE run ended, he’s made getting into acting his top priority and is quite happy with the comfortable life he has and taking occasional wrestling gigs like this one and his PWG slot as and when he can.
The brawl continues after the match with London and Jacobs setting up a table on the floor next to the elevated stage that the ring is situated on. But before he can dive from the top at Moxley, Kendrick drags him back for a chat. He convinces his friend not to hit the crazy dive that he doesn’t need to for a cheap pop. And speaking of needless high spots for cheap pops…here comes Teddy Hart. He implies they’ve forgotten about the importance of the fans. SPRINGBOARD 50 FEET MOONSAULT ONTO MOXLEY AND JACOBS ON THE FLOOR! You can decide for yourselves if that was a legit fifty foot drop or a ‘Teddy Hart’ fifty foot drop. In a comedic send up of his Scramble Cage controversy in ROH, London and Spanky encourage him to do another moonsault…then maul him when he obliges. Seeing the London/Kendrick team on the indies is just awesome by the way, even if nobody has a f*cking clue what’s going on. Hart fights them off to scale the ropes for a 90 FOOT PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! Seriously…what the hell is going on? Somehow a match between where London and Kendrick were on opposing teams has degenerated into them fighting together with Teddy Hart. I’m loving the anarchic, troubled outsider vibe they’ve got going on with this angle…but at the moment this is so chaotic it’s hard to see where it’s going!
Masato Yoshino vs Shingo
We’ve seen some interesting backstage vignettes featuring Masato Yoshino tonight. He’s in a difficult position, as he’s on the outside looking in as both his World-1 colleagues get their chance at gold whilst he goes without despite being on a real hot streak in DGUSA which saw him win both falls of the triangle elimination tag team bout on the last show. His opponent tonight is Shingo, who turned heel by joining the faction of YAMATO, Gran Akuma and Davey Richards at the last show, although Akuma hasn’t been booked tonight after a couple of defeats, whilst Davey is now done with DGUSA…so you wonder where that leaves the former Open The Dream Gate Champion. These two have had confrontations on every show thus far.
The match begins with repeated examples of Shingo’s power advantage over his opponent. But quick as a flash Yoshino drops into tarantula in the ropes to bring himself back into the match. Yoshino starts to target the arm of his larger opponent with the logic being that, with Shingo grounded and one-armed, he’s less able to use that power to dominate. Bearhug into an overhead suplex once again shows just how easily Takagi can throw Yoshino around if given the opportunity. A one arm sidewalk slam follows a couple of minutes later and makes a largely similar statement. This crowd is absolutely awful by the way. There is no energy for the wrestlers to feed off and it’s killing the show as a spectacle on DVD. Slingblade neckbreaker from Yoshino, but at this stage he’s a little worn down and can’t capitalise right away. Finally he launches himself from the top into a double stomp on that arm he worked earlier. From Jungle stretch but Shingo muscles him into the air from that position into a vertical suplex. Second rope armbreaker from Yoshino, but his attempt to follow that with the Sol Naciente is thwarted as Shingo grabs a rope. Lightning Spiral misses too and Shingo hits the lariato on the bad arm (without selling it) for 2. Made In Japan (what I’ve been calling the Last Falconry) is blocked with an armdrag. Super Slingblade leaves both men down on the canvas. Shingo powerbombs him out of another From Jungle attempt, then climbs the ropes for the SECOND ROPE DVD! Yoshino hits back with a Lightning Spiral for 2. Torbelino nailed into the SOL NACIENTE! Shingo taps to the Sol Naciente Kai giving Yoshino another colossal victory at 16:04
Rating – *** – It was your basic big man vs little man match, worked with a neat Dragon Gate twist, and for the most part it worked fine. I didn’t like everything, but there was enough there to ensure this was comfortably better than everything else on the show thus far. Shingo’s selling of the arm was pretty mediocre, but then again, Yoshino’s attack on it never felt anything more than a perfunctory nod rather than a genuine assault on that aperture. The dreadful crowd, who have sat on their hands all night, sucked the life out of a lot of this one sadly.
Shingo shakes Yoshino’s hand as sign of respect to arguably the hottest wrestler on the roster right now. Jon Moxley comes to the ring to console Shingo as he continues to cast his mysterious spectre over the Dragon Gate USA.
The Young Bucks discuss their pending debuts in TNA, calling themselves ‘future celebrities’ in the Celebrity Theatre. They introduce Jack Evans as their partner in the main event
BxB Hulk vs Naruki Doi – Open The Freedom Gate Title Match
It’s definitely fitting that it’s Naruki Doi who gets the second American shot at Hulk’s championship. He’s undefeated in DGUSA thus far and has been on an incredible run of great matches too. And it’s a major engagement for him as he’ll be looking to rebound after losing the Open The Dream Gate title to YAMATO days earlier in Japan. Both of these guys are World-1 representatives.
Just one dancing girl for BxB tonight, and after the trainwreck that was the two girls who danced with him at Fearless, this one doesn’t even attempt to dance. She runs in a circle around Hulk whilst he does the dance by himself. Without the girls dancing too this entrance is a little stupid. Doi was Dream Gate Champion for over 440 days. Hulk displays some athleticism with a few early kicks. He’s dominant in the early minutes until Doi traps him in the corner for a hangmen’s neckbreaker then the cannonball senton. The challenger scores the first nearfall of any note coming off a DDT. The crowd is bringing another match to a grinding halt by putting very little energy into this one too. BxB kicks Doi back into the corner and lands his own variant of a cannonball senton, followed by the Hulk Bottom then the BxB Star Press for 2. Standing corkscrew senton nailed, but Doi isn’t beaten down enough for the EVO as yet. Doi misses a tumbling senton attempt and eats a springboard heel kick from Hulk for another 2. Saito suplex drops BxB on his neck so both men are down. Doi 555 countered with a kick to the face but the challenger refuses to be beaten. PHOENIX SPLASH MISSES! BAKETORI SLIDING KICK gets 2. BxB evades the Muscular Bomb into the FTX-EVO which gets another nearfall. EVO countered to a nasty inverted DDT. DOI 555 into another Baketori Kick nearly wins it for Naruki. SUPER DOI 555 GETS 2! He still can’t land the Muscular Bomb and Hulk hits the FTX-EVO again before collapsing. The competitors slug it out with an elbow duel in the middle of the ring…which BxB wins out with slaps and kicks. EVO-P for 2…then the H-Thunder EVO variant wins it at 14:02.
Rating – *** – A pretty unintelligent, head droppy offensive splurge here…particularly from Hulk, who has now delivered two somewhat underwhelming defences of this belt on DGUSA releases. That said, it was certainly a lot more exciting that anything else we’ve seen tonight and drew far greater reactions from the sullen audience. Once again, much like this whole night, it felt very B-show.
Ahead of the main event Jack Evans announces that Teddy Hart has been sent to hospital with a suspected broken clavicle, and demands he gets the opportunity to face Paul London and Brian Kendrick, the men responsible for that, tomorrow night on the ppv.
Young Bucks/Jack Evans vs CIMA/GAMMA/Dragon Kid
This was around the time that the Jacksons debuted in TNA as GenerationMe – Max and Jeremy Buck. I believe they’re heels in Orlando so it’ll be interesting to see how we play this. They side with a man who has had experiences with Dragon Gate in the past in Jack Evans…but Jack has spent a lot of his time in Mexico recently so this is the first time a while that Dragon Gate audiences anywhere will have seen him. There’s a debut on the opposition side too as GAMMA makes his first appearance. CIMA hyped his debut at the end of Fearless and called him his ‘best partner’. He is certainly physically quite imposing compared to your typical Dragon Gate competitor – think a DG guy crossed with the facial expressions of a Bushwhacker. The Bucks put CIMA over earlier and called their victory over he and Yokosuka at the first DGUSA as a career defining match for them thus far. They want their next career defining moment to be a victory in the signature match of Dragon Gate – the trios tag bout. It was a WrestleMania weekend tradition when Dragon Gate made the trip to the States in conjunction with Ring Of Honor, and after missing out in ’09, DG are looking to bring the ‘Six Man Tradition’ back to northern America in a major way with trios matches on both nights.
CIMA starts with Matt and that’s fairly even, so in come GAMMA and Nick. GAMMA spits in Nick’s face, which is apparently a signature spot of his. Jack comes in and tries some break dancing, but Kid knew that was coming and boots him in the face. Evans then lines up a standing SSP only to be shunted over from behind by GAMMA. Dropsault on Dragon and GAMMA gets 2. But just as Evans looks like he’s set for the first big dive of the contest he gets tackled by CIMA. It’s interesting to see that the Warriors team definitely seem to have Jack scouted and want to target him early. Awesome spot from GAMMA as he steals Jack’s do-rag, blows his nose on it then smears it in Evans’ face. At last Jack gets a tag to the Bucks, who suplex him into a somersault splash on DK for 2. Jack hits a handspring elbow on GAMMA, but the biggest member of the Warriors team spits in his face again and gets the tag to CIMA who delivers the shotgun ass dropkick in the corner. He then holds Jack down on the mat whilst GAMMA climbs the ropes with a bottle of water. HE DRIBBLES WATER IN JACK’S FACE! KENDO STICK TO THE CROTCH BEHIND THE REF’S BACK! Jack comes back with a few kick combos that look like they came straight from a kung fu movie and gets a crucial tag. Back flip double dropkick from the Bucks into a standing 450 from Jack for 2. Three-way baseball slides. STANDING MOONSAULTS OFF THE STAGE TO THE FLOOR! Back inside GAMMA drops Evans with a powerbomb facebuster. KENDO STICK TO THE HEAD! He tries to use it on Matt but he ducks under it with a spear. Splash/standing moonsault combo on him for 2. CIMA with the PERFECT DRIVER on Jack! Nick evades the 619 from Kid to hit a double underhook backbreaker. Pace is crazy fast now. Leg drop/somersault senton from the Bucks. 630 SENTON FROM JACK! CIMA SAVES DK! GAMMA waffles Matt with the kendo stick then holds him on his shoulders for the SUPER RANA by Dragon. ULTRA HURRICANRANA GETS 2! Bucks with superkicks…SKIPPING A GENERATION MOONSAULT MISSES! MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK INTO KIDS KNEES! SCHWEIN BY GAMMA! METEORA KNEE DROP BY CIMA! Warriors win at 18:01.
Rating – **** – Really fun trios match that basically saved the show here. It walked the right line between light-hearted entertainment and the unique brand of spotty mayhem that people love to see from the Dragon Gate guys in this environment. I haven’t seen Evans wrestle for a couple of years (as in, the last Jack Evans matches I’ve seen are from early 2008) and I was a little disappointed to see that he hasn’t improved much. Not that’s necessarily bad as we all know how fun he is to watch when the dives and high spots start coming thick and fast. But I was hoping the time he’d spent in Mexico would have made his basics a little more fluid and less awkward, but he still looks like largely the same worker as he was a couple of years ago. GAMMA was a welcome addition to the DGUSA roster. His spitting and nutty kendo stick wielding was perfect as a bit of light relief after what has been a pretty tough show to sit through. The conclusion was also a nice pay off from Open The Historic Gate where it was the Bucks beating CIMA’s team – this time it was CIMA getting to beat the Bucks.
The crowd has basically emptied before CIMA can cut a post-match promo which is sad. Even though is ‘English is sh*t’ (his words, not mine) he hypes up the Warriors vs World-1 trios tag which is tomorrow night’s main event. He vows Mercury Rising will be a ‘miracle show’. To add to the comedy of CIMA’s promo, GAMMA falls off the apron on his way out (causing Genki Horiguchi to laugh hysterically) then leaves threatening a kid in a Rey Mysterio mask with his kendo stick.
In the back Jon Moxley talks to Shingo about the fact that he lost again tonight. Shingo slaps him in the face so Moxley backs off…but has his point been made??
Tape Rating – ** – Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but I found this one very hard to sit through. I don’t know if this was a legitimate B-show, or if the completely lifeless crowd was just sucking all the enjoyment out of the event for me. Until the main event you could be forgiven for thinking this was an empty arena show, it was genuinely that quiet at times. And it’s a shame because, in terms of look, this is easily the best venue Dragon Gate USA has run thus far. In terms of in-ring quality, it’s not bad, but never really hits the highs of other shows. A few low-end 3* matches, a bit of a mess between TJP and YAMATO…in truth up until the main event this was entirely skippable. If you’re buying this show, you’re basically purchasing it to see the indescribably odd chaos that was the end of the midcard tag between Kendrick/Moxley and Jacobs/London. Much like with this group of guys at the Fearless show, it just had such an out of control, unpredictable vibe to it. Granted the actual match quality wasn’t up to much, but between Paul London’s complete insanity to Teddy Hart randomly showing up to satirise himself and do some back flips. And of course, we did get a high quality main event. The Warriors are an entertaining and experienced trios unit and that every much showed, whilst the Bucks and Jack can throw spots around with the best of them. If you don’t to be a DGUSA completist this is still an easy skip though…
Top 3 Matches
3) Susumu Yokosuka/Genki Horiguchi vs Mike Quackenbush/Jigsaw (***)
2) Masato Yoshino vs Shingo (***)
1) CIMA/GAMMA/Dragon Kid vs Young Bucks/Jack Evans (****)