A sold out crowd showed up for the first authentic Dragon Gate show on UK soil, and the final leg of the company’s European tour. Some quick notes first on the non-match related stuff:
-The meet & greet was remarkably well run. Mark Sloan and his crew did a great job organising it and the wrestlers were really great and friendly. Everyone got tons of awesome photos and autographs.
-The venue was very cool and helped in creating a great atmosphere. It’s definitely somewhere I’d love to watch wrestling again.
-Aside from a couple of sound issues, the production was first class. Looked very very sharp.
Dark Match: Stixx vs. The Lion Kid
Lion Kid gimmick got over huge in, what I believe was it’s debut. Total big man vs. little man match and they put together some cool stuff. I particularly liked Stixx’s shoulder block based offence – he hit some big big tackles, including an awesome one to the back of Kid who was sitting on the apron. There was a lot of flying and catching which for the most part looked good, but none of it was as good as the KILLER Boss Man Slam by Stixx towards the finish. Finish played off that, as he went for another and was cradled for three. Fun match!
1. Real Hazard (Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito) vs. Jonny Storm & Marty Scurrl
Went way longer and was way better than I expected (and I was expecting a good match to begin with). Genki was absolutely hilarious throughout – he’s such a fun live act, getting offended at H-A-G-E chants, slipping odff the ropes, selling the twisting of his dreadlocks and repeatedly seeking comfort from Ryo. Both Brits looked right at home in there with the DG vets, and Scurrl in particular with how young he is, could really fit nicely into the roster in a way similar to PAC and The Young Bucks. Dude has tons of potential. The match was real fun interactive babyface/heel stuff for the first two thirds, but then they went nuts down the stretch with some big BIG moves like a German Suplex into the corner, a tope into a tornado DDT, a SWEET brainbuster by Genki and plenty more. Finish after all that was a double low blow by Ryo, but trust me, it worked. His reaction after getting the pin was awesome! Crowd ate this up.
2. KAGETORA vs. Mark Haskins
Haskins, unlike his compatriots in the first match, was working as a heel and did a very nice job! He had a valet (Kelly Adams) who was actually really really good in her role, particularly by current valet standards. Haskins controlled the majority of the match and there were a lot of teased comebacks for KAGE. He hit some of his trademark moves down the stretch like the KAGE Combo and the SUWA clothesline, but it was Haskins who got the (upset) win with a crazy pumphandle tombstone type move. Good match. KAGETORA seemed to be having the time of his life (he really loved the crowd response).
3. Dragon Kid vs. Masato Yoshino
Exactly what you’d expect from these two. They had a hell of a match, building it up slow with lots of awesome technical exchanges. When they kicked it up a gear in the second half, the crowd started going wild. Dragon Kid busted out his Bermuda Triangle moonsault, which is a sight to see live. Yoshino got a big nearfall off a Lightning Spiral. They did a bunch of moves and counters that they have never done in their prior matches. My particular favourite being a sick Yoshino counter into a Powerbomb. Finish was a Malenko/Eddy rollup sequence which Kid got the better of and held Yoshi down for 3. Standing ovation for both men.
4. Shingo vs. Susumu Yokosuka
This match was a work of art. Professional wrestling at it’s absolute best and it proved once again that Shingo is one of the best wrestlers in the world and Susumu is EASILY the most under-appreciated wrestler in the world. Susumu targeted Shingo’s knee and picked it apart in beautiful fashion. Whenever Shingo tried to mount a comeback, Susumu cut him off with some kind of clever knee attack. At one point, Shingo pulled down his kneepad, screamed “COME ON!!!” and dared Susumu to do his worst. The crowd popped huge for that. Yokosuka worked a nice Figure 4, complete with Keiji Muto poses. Shingo fought through it though. When he finally made his comeback, we started to get what I think everyone knew this match would turn into – an absolutely BRUTAL exchange of every strike in the book. They exchanged lariats in the most awesome fashion, they had a SICKENING forearm battle, Shingo punched Susumu right in the face and then they started dropping bigger lariat bombs that got some big nearfalls.
The moment of the match was Shingo repeatedly nailing Susumu with hard shots and Susumu walking forward like a zombie, no selling it and pushing Shingo back against the ropes, at which point Susumu lost his mind and DESTROYED SHINGO’S FACE with lariats and elbows. I (along with the rest of the crowd) was losing my mind at this point. Everyone was screaming and jumping up and down like crazy. They got one huge false finish each (Shingo with the MADE IN JAPAN and Susumu with the Mugen) before Yokosuka finally delivered the final blow – a falling Jumbo No Katchi lariat into a pin. Probably a ****3/4 match for me but I’m sure there are people in the crowd who’d have given it the full five.
Oh and Shingo did this match while suffering a serious serious flu. The man is a machine.
5. The Young Buck$ & CIMA vs. BxB Hulk, PAC & Naruki Doi
The Dragon Gate 6 man – the match that I think the majority of the crowd were anticipating most – did not disappoint. Quite frankly it didn’t even come close to disappointing. From BxB Hulk’s amazing entrance (complete with 3 verrrrry lovely young ladies) to the final bell, these 6 guys had the crowd in the palms of their hands. There were a million hilarious moments courtesy of CIMA (who was as over as anyone on the show except PAC). He started a “CIMA Jackson” chant at one point. Then when PAC entered the ring to an enormous ovation, CIMA sssshhhhh’d the crowd and made an announcement which was “everybody, LOOK AT THIS” and he proceeded to do regular pushups, clapping pushups and over the head clapping pushups (which I will attest to being impossible), and then gave PAC the floor. PAC got one pushup in before CIMA stomped him and did the Warriors-5 “Oooooo!” pose (which is the most over thing in wrestling as of November 2009).
Various guys got isolated at different times and were worked over in highly entertaining fashion by their opponents. The Bucks got to do a bunch of their cool double teams. The finishing stretch was glorious. Too many amazing spots too remember all of them (which makes me really stoked to see this again on DVD) but I’ll do my best to note the key stuff. PAC and the Jacksons (who had never wrestled each other prior to this) were left alone in the ring and did some incredible stuff together culminating in an out of nowhere twisting dive by PAC. Naruki Doi hit his signature moves like the Dai Bosou, the Doi555 and the Bakatare Sliding Kick. CIMA and the Bucks put together a great combo of CIMA’s Superdrol and Nick’s slingshot X-Factor, but topped even that with a spear-double stomp-moonsault-springboard splash combo. Yes I was of course, freaking out at this point. We got a couple of insanely awesome nearfalls with the biggest coming off the More Bang For Your Buck which was broken up at 2.999999 by BxB. The finish saw BxB lay out Nick with an EVO, followed instantly by PAC coming off the top with the 360 Shooting Star Press (an unbelievable move). Amazing match, that again if you were to give a star rating to, I’d say something like ****3/4.
Post match was really really cool. PAC cut an awesome promo thanking the fans. The whole roster (aside from Ryo and Genki, the heels) came out and all bowed to the crowd. CIMA went around the crowd and slapped hands with close to everyone. PAC announced that DG would return to the UK again!
I couldn’t have asked for anything more from a wrestling show than I got from this. It was a special, special event and my hats off to everyone involved from Mark Sloan (who worked tirelessly on this project) to the Dragon Gate office to the wrestlers to all the staff. Oh and to all the fans who created an unbelievable atmosphere. To echo the words of PAC – “domo arigato gozaimasu”.