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DragonGate: ‘The Final Gate’ delivers despite main event controversy

Coming out of DragonGate’s The Final Gate show this past Sunday in Fukuoka, wrestling pundits have focused on the haphazard finish in the main event Open The Dream Gate title match. The inadvertent elbow from Shun Skywalker that knocked Ben-K unconscious deserves scrutiny. However, the mistake should not be the sole focus of what otherwise was a very successful show. Pro Wrestling is a high-impact, contact sport, and accidents will happen. The promotion should and hopefully, will make adjustments to mitigate future situations. The unfortunate injury will remain an important topic, but what should not be glossed over is DragonGate’s tremendous booking and the elevation of their young talent.

In the semi-main event, the generational feud between the Toryumon faction and RED exploded in a one-team-must-disband, no-disqualification, ten-men-elimination match. The faction war has been DragonGate’s centerpiece program in 2020 and served as a microcosm of the promotion as the aging veterans fought to retain relevancy against the heel stable. RED has fast become the hub for DragonGate’s young talent.

Former Dream Gate Champion Eita led his unit, featuring H-Y-O and young guns Kaito Ishida, SBKento, and Hip Hop Kikuta. Representing the Toryumon generation and the original students of Ultimo Dragon was Naruki Doi, who led the veteran team of Masato Yoshino, Susumu Yokosuka, and Genki Horiguchi. Rounding out the Toryumon team was Dragon Kid, Ultimo Dragon’s protegé, who recently returned to the promotion that bears his name.

What transpired was an epic battle that was both violent and exciting. Imagine a WarGames match without a cage that plays out in reverse. Surprisingly, Eita suffered the first elimination of the match. The RED. Yoshino and Doi followed the RED leader. Three of the company’s longest-tenured performers were shockingly eliminated, setting the stage for a finish that will redefine DragonGate for years.

The chaos continued as the Twin Gate (tag team) Champions, KAI, and BxB Hulk interfered. After Genki Horiguchi fell victim to a gruesome piledriver through a table from SBKento, Dragon Kid was left alone to face Kento and Kikuta. Kid, a veteran of more than twenty years, needed to defeat two wrestlers with less than two years of experience between them to save Toryumon. The twenty-year-old Kento (who was robbed of the Tokyo Sports Rookie of the Year distinction) and the nineteen-year-old Kikuta attacked Kid, destroying his trademark mask.

 

As the RED punks looked to put away Dragon Kid, the Toryomon reserves charged the ring, refusing to surrender their unit’s very existence. In a surprising turn, Konomama Ichikawa, an impish-looking comedy performer who earlier in the night hilariously missed a traditional dive spot, ran out and hit a huge German suplex on Kento. The clap crowd erupted as the silly Ichikawa turned the battle in favor of Toryumon.

 

After eliminating Kikuta, Dragon Kid faced Kento in the closing stretch. As the Kid roared back, it seemed the RED team was finished. However, Eita returned, preventing the referee from making the final three count. Eita then superkicked the maskless Dragon Kid. The match closed as SBKento locked Kid in the Sharpshooter, forcing the submission. RED survived the war on the back of a burgeoning superstar whose career has just started.

 

The defeat was cinematic. RED immediately fled the ring to celebrate, leaving the veteran Toryumon generation to reconcile their failure. The students of the Ultimo Dragon were beaten by a man born in the 21st century. Toryumon sat together in the ring, trying to figure out their futures. Masato Yoshino announced his retirement for 2021, while Doi will fall back into the Team Boku faction. The future remains cloudy for Dragon Kid, who escorted to back by K-ness, his greatest rival.

While in the US, WWE has decided to counter their recent rating skid with an infusion of retired veteran talent. In Japan, DragonGate has quickly moved into a new era. The statement was clear. The company’s future will be ruled by a collection of young, dynamic athletes carrying on the traditions of a company whose work-style redefined professional wrestling. 2021 should be an exciting year in Kobe.

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