It’s time to do another review for this site as I will be covering the Dragon Gate Kobe Pro-Wrestling Festival, which is also the 20th anniversary of the promotion. A lot of hype went into this as we have the return of Ultimo Dragon, the website providing English commentary for the first time, and just nine matches to get the crowd hyped up. We got a lot to cover and let’s get right into it.
0 Stars: Dave Meltzer
1 Star: Vince Russo
2 Stars: Tony Schiavone
3 Stars: Eric Bischoff
4 Stars: Bruce Prichard
5 Stars: Jim Cornette
Ten Man Tag Team Match
Drastik Boy, K-ness, Mondai Ryu, Shachihoko Machine & Super Shisa vs. Dragon Diamond, Jason Lee, Jimmy, Keisuke Okuda & Kenichiro Arai
Review: Our opening contest is a ten-man tag match with Drastik Boy, K-ness, Mondai Ryu, Shachihoko Machine, and Super Shisa taking on Dragon Diamond, Jason Lee, Jimmy, Keisuke Okuda, and Kenichiro Arai. This match is mostly to get the crowd hyped before the rest starts and they have plenty of talent to work with, so which one of them will win?
Now right away, we have an amazing sequence between Drastik and Jimmy that already got me hyped up for this match, I love when they do stuff like this. The match was short, sweet, and too the point despite being all over the place at times but they didn’t have a lot of time to work with. All of them would deliver when they needed to and the first two opening sequences were more than enough to keep me interested in this five-minute match. K-ness and Dragon were the two in the ring as Dia would try to roll him up but K-ness would do the Hikari no Wa and then gets the pinfall victory. Very solid and fun quick match, worth watching if you have five minutes to spare.
Rating: Eric Bischoff
Six-Man Tag Team Triple Threat Match
Hyo Watanabe, Kota Minoura & Yuki Yoshioka vs. BxB Hulk, Kagetora & Yosuke Santa Maria vs. Genki Horiguchi, Punch Tominaga & YASSHI
Review: Our next match is a triple threat six-man tag match as we have units from Mochizuki Dojo (Hyo Watanabe, Yuki Yoshioka, and Kota Minoura) taking on Tribe Vanguard (Kagetora, BxB Hulk, and Yosuke Santa Maria), and Natural Vibes (Genki Horiguchi, Punch Tominaga, and YASSHI). This match is expected to show some comedy, athletic ability, and just a good time. Which of these units will win?
It’s good to see BxB Hulk return from his injury and he performed like he never left. Well, that was something I didn’t expect to happen. We had Yosuke and Kagetora getting their dicks grabbed by YASSHI to stun them but it didn’t phase Yosuke as he grabbed YASSHI’s dick, but they both do it to each other while having a staredown until Yoshioka Dropkicked them both. What just happened? Anyway, Mochizuki Dojo is one of my favorite units in the promotion next to Natural Vibes as it just has younger guys who are so gifted in the ring that they will be doing great things in the upcoming years, especially Hyo who shined the most in this match and I really enjoyed his encounters with Kagetora in the match, who is also an underrated talent. Surprised Hulk was going all out with a flip to the outside of the ring when he just had an injured neck a few months ago, he wanted to show that none of it was affecting him. Yosuke would go for the big smooch but Kota ducked, causing him to kiss Hulk instead as they got Dropkicked out. Kota slammed Kagetora down and Hyo hits a Diving Senton for the victory in another solid match.
Rating: Eric Bischoff
Two On One Handicap Match
Stalker Ichikawa & Ryo Saito vs. Hong-man Choi
Review: Our next match is a handicap match as we have Ryo Saito and Stalker Ichikawa teaming up to take on Hong-man Choi. I have no idea who Choi is, so I am going to assume this match is only for comedy purposes and it’ll work for Stalker and Ryo mostly. What I do know is that last year, Ryo and Stalker were fighting each other at the last Kobe Festival and Stalker apparently had an altercation with Choi, but nothing came out of it until now. Will they be able to win or does Choi overcome those two?
If you’re watching this and expecting a wrestling match, then you’re going to have a bad time. Choi isn’t a wrestler and is just here for a special attraction but he also did awful during this match, so that didn’t help at all. Ryo and Stalker were hilarious and that’s really the only thing you need to look for in this match, and nothing else. Ryo would even call a timeout to Choi so he and Stalker could argue after a miscommunication but that didn’t last long. Stalker even hits Choi with the Thousand Years of Death (kudos if you get it). Anyway, Choi would win the match when the referee called for the bell when Choi had Stalker lifted up to choke him out as Choi won the match. Choi would then dance with his daughters in the before they call it a day, hooray?
Rating: Tony Schiavone
Shun Skywalker vs. Kzy
Review: We now have our first singles match of the evening as we have Shun Skywalker taking on the leader of Natural Vibes, Kzy. Shun has been looking to prove himself as a future star over the past few months and he has been doing an excellent job to try and get his name on the back, now he needs to fight Kzy as his next step. Will Shun be able to win?
Kzy gets a live performance for the units theme song, amazing.
Rating: Eric Bischoff and three quarters. I like that the match started off technical and slow as the two were able to match each other before they kick it into high gear to show the style the fans know them for. This was another test for Shun in my opinion and I really do believe he will be an Open the Brave Gate Champion before the year is over, I feel like that belt will fit him perfectly and this match was a much better improvement compared to his match with PAC during March. Kzy is someone I really hope he gets his due one day as an Open the Dream Gate Champion since he is someone that has earned it for everything he’s done and the incredible performances he’s been putting on over the years. Shun would stop Kzy from attempting a Superplex as he goes for a Crossbody but Kzy catches him with a European Uppercut and a Frog Splash as Shun kicked out at two. Shun would roll Kzy up a couple of times for Kzy to kick out and gets him down to hit a Moonsault and would go to the top rope to hit one more so he could end it, but Kzy puts his knees up at the very last second. Kzy hits his Running Elbow Smash and this could be it as Shun kicked out at two again! Kzy quickly picks him back up and would hit the Impact to get the win in a great match.
Open the Triangle Gate Title Match
R.E.D. (KAZMA SAKAMOTO, Takashi Yoshida & Yasushi Kanda) (c) vs. Strong Machine F, Strong Machine G & Strong Machine J (w/KY Wakamatsu)
Review: Our first title match is set to take place as we have the Open the Triangle Gate Championships on the line with R.E.D members, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, Takashi Yoshida, and Yasushi Kanda defending them against Strong MAchines F, G, and J. Last time Strong Machine was involved in a match in Dragon Gate, they would win their match and now it looks like they want to win some gold this time around. Will R.E.D be able to retain or do the Strong Machine trio claim gold?
It was hard to figure out which Strong Machine was who and all I know is that J is the slimmer one of the group, I’ll eventually figure out a way to tell F and G apart. R.E.D would do their usual tricks, in the beginning, to attack Strong Machine on the outside once the bell rang but it luckily didn’t last a few minutes like the other times they do it as they get back into the ring to do the match. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would feel with Strong Machine being used in Dragon Gate and I do gotta say that it somehow fits despite seeming off in the roster as they’re more powerhouses compared to the majority. These people are considered the lower-ranking members of R.E.D despite KAZMA actually being good in the ring and Takashi slowly getting into my good graces after his performance in All Japan’s Champion Carnival in April. Yasushi though still doesn’t impress me in the group since all he’s known for mostly is when he hits his opponents with a black box, which he tried on here and failed as he gets hit with it instead. Strong Machine would hit a Hart Attack onto Yasushi and kick out but J would hit Yasushi with the Majin Fusha Gatame and we have new champions! Takashi would attack J after the match until Strong Machine K came in to fight him off as they celebrate in the ring. It looks like the Strong Machine group will be in Dragon Gate for a little while and curious to see how it goes. Solid match.
Rating: Eric Bischoff
Open the Brave Gate Title Match
Susumu Yokosuka (c) vs. Flamita
Review: Our next title match is Susumu Yokosuka defending his Open the Brave Gate Championship against Flamita. Susumu currently has two successful title matches under his belt as he retained against U-T and Jason Lee. He now looks to defend it for the third time against the rising Luchador. Will Susumu be able to retain or will Flamita become a two-time champion after five years?
Soon as the bell rang, Flamita charged a Susumu with a Dropkick and would start doing his Lucha style as he was on the top ropes to dive to the outside. It looked like Flamita was on a roll until Susumu made him land down hard and it appears as if Flamita has hurt his leg. Susumu would finally have an opening and would start to work on his leg during the match now. I like seeing Susumu in singles competition now since you can see how talented he really is on his own. Despite Flamita having a bad leg during the match, he still kept it up with the style but made sure he would be quick so it wouldn’t hurt as bad if he connected or missed. Susumu would weaken Flamita a little bit as he hits a couple of Jumbo no Kachi!gatame’s in the match but Flamita would kick out of them quickly and hits a Spanish Fly onto Susumu for a two count. Flamita had Susumu up on the top rope and he could’ve gone for another Spanish Fly but Susumu would fight him off before he could do it. Susumu would hit a beautiful Canadian Destroyer once he used his hands to jump over him and connected for another kick out at two. Flamita looked dazed now as Susumu would hit the Yokosuka Cutter and it looks like it’s over but Flamita kicked out again! Susumu would then hit one more onto Flamita for the pin and Susumu retained the title! They showed respect to one another after the match as Susumu is still the champion in a great bout.
Rating: Eric Bischoff and a half.
Six Man Tag Team Match
Masaaki Mochizuki, Shuji Kondo, & Takuya Sugawara vs. Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Kid, & Masato Yoshino.
Review: Our next match is a six-man tag match with Masaaki Mochizuki, Shuji Kondo (W-1), and Takuya Sugawara (ZERO1) taking on Masato Yoshino, Dragon Kid, and the returning Ultimo Dragon. Last time Ultimo competed in a Dragon Gate type ring was when it was called Toryumon years ago and was even the president of the company until he left in 2004 and he never looked back. Ultimo made a surprise return during the Dead or Alive show and Masato Yoshino along with other members of Dragon Gate would come out and beg him to compete as this show and he would say yes to it. So this is a special treat to the fans and the people he took in to make this match happen. Will Ultimo be able to win in his return or will the other team ruin it?
It really is a shame that Dragon Gate network had Ultimo’s theme muted for copyright reasons as it looked like he had an incredible entrance with a big ovation too that would’ve made it perfect if his music was playing. Mochizuki was gonna start against Dragon Kid but he wanted Ultimo in the ring instead, so Ultimo would come in after the fans chanted his name and they will be starting us off. Seeing Genki getting emotional on the commentary booth pretty much explains how much Ultimo making his Dragon Gate debut means to them when it was just Toryumon Japan in the beginning. It was amazing seeing Ultimo perform more here than he did in his last few matches in All Japan, like he was able to let loose a little bit despite his age, showing that he does still got it and the fans were happy to see that. All six of these men would perform well in this match as there were no complaints, especially from Shuji Kondo who showed his powerhouse ability in Dragon Gate as he meshed very well with guys like Kid and Masato, I would love to see him have a small run in Dragon Gate against most of these people.
Masato went in for the hot tag and both him and Dragon Kid would hit an Asai Moonsault to the outside while they call for Ultimo to hit one as the crowd went nuts again. Ultimo would start to attempt the Asai Moonsault until Takuya would grab his leg and throw him down, causing the loudest boos of the night. Very nice Double 619 combo from Masato and Kid onto Shuji here and Takuya with a beautiful Reverse Samoan Drop onto Kid for a two count. Masato and Takuya were on the top rope as Masato would get him up on his shoulders for Kid to hit a Springboard Rana, then Masato hits a Missle Dropkick for a two count while Kid hits Shuji with the Dragonrana. Masato and Mochizuki were in the ring fighting back and forth until Masato hits the Torbellino and Ultimo would get into the ring to hit Mochizuki with the La Magistral for the three count victory! After the match, Genki and Masato would ask Ultimo if he would come back to Dragon Gate again someday and it looks like Ultimo will be doing that. Great moment throughout the match and happy to see Ultimo find a way back into something he once created.
Rating: Eric Bischoff and a half.
Open the Twin Gate Title Triple Threat Elimination Match
Tribe Vanguard (YAMATO & KAI) (c) vs. R.E.D. (Eita & Big R Shimizu) vs. MaxiMuM (Naruki Doi & Kaito Ishida)
Review: Back to the title matches as we have another triple threat match but this time, it’s for the Open the Twin Gate Championships as YAMATO & KAI defend the titles in a triple threat elimination match against Eita & Big R Shimizu, and Naruki Doi & Kaito Ishida. Since it’s an elimination match, the champs would need to be careful to try and retain their titles. Will they be able to retain or will we have new champions?
One of the big things I love about Dragon Gate is their tag team division as they can have different people team up together and can still have great chemistry all around, and the Twin Gate Championship matches have been stealing the big shows lately. This one is no different as they have delivered again and it wasn’t the main event of the show, it’s been crazy action from the beginning to the end. All six of these men delivered and yes, even Big R who most people know that I am not a big fan of the guy but will admit that he does serve a purpose. Naruki Doi is someone that I will always enjoy watching in matches due to how energetic he is in the ring and performs at such a fast-pace that he makes it look so easy. Plenty of action to go around as these three teams didn’t make it a dull moment at all. We almost had our first elimination when Doi hits Eita with the Bakatare Sliding Kick but Eita kicked out just in time. We had a nice tower spot with Big R stacking the chairs in the ring as Doi took him out and had YAMATO in a Powerbomb position with YAMATO having Eita up for a Superplex as all three of them go down.
We didn’t get out first elimination until twenty minutes later as Kaito and Big R were in the ring together and Kaito went for the Tiger Suplex but Big R finally hits him with the Shot-put Slam and we’re now down to R.E.D and the current champions. Big R had YAMATO in a wheel barrel position as Eita hits a Double Stomp on the back of his head and Big R topped it off with a German suplex for a two count. Big R then hits YAMATO with a Splash off the top rope until KAI broke the pinfall and then the two would exchange Lariats, but KAI would win that fight but Big R still kicked out at two. KAI hits Eita with a couple of Superkicks and once he had Eita upon his shoulders, Eita would roll him up for a two count and Big R hits KAI with a Lariat. Once Big R had KAI set up for the Shot-put Slam, Eita hits KAI with a Superkick and slammed KAI down but YAMATO breaks the pinfall before three! YAMATO and Eita would start exchanging blows until Eita hits a Pop-up Superkick with KAI breaking the count and Big R would use this opportunity to hit YAMATO with the Shot-put Slam and YAMATO barely kicked out at two! Eita had YAMATO on the turnbuckle and hits him in the head with a chair before hitting the Salamander for the victory as R.E.D are the new Open the Twin Gate Champions. Fantastic match and definitely my favorite tag match this year.
Rating: Bruce Prichard and a half.
Open the Dream Gate Title Match
PAC (c) vs. Ben-K
Review: It’s now time for our main event as we have PAC defending the Open the Dream Gate Championship against the winner of this year’s King of Gate Tournament, Ben-K. If you’ve read my What to Expect article for this match, you know the history of this match and if you haven’t read it, I’ll explain it quickly. At the Dead or Alive show, R.E.D had to kick out a member for losing the main event and they kicked out Ben-K, so Ben would wanna get revenge. Ben would get his opportunity by defeating R.E.D’s leader, Eita to win the King of Gate Tournament and now he is one step closer to getting his revenge. Will we have a star in the making or does PAC retain?
I will give credit when credit is due, PAC really does play the heel role well in Dragon Gate and he has been doing that ever since he came back to them. Ben would show his power and go for the Ben-K Bomb right away before PAC was able to break it up. PAC wouldn’t play fair for long as R.E.D would attack Ben-K outside of the ring and piled chairs on top of him before PAC hits a Shooting Star Press on top of him. Ben barely made it into the ring before the count-out and PAC would work on his rib area to dominate the match more. Ben slowly made a comeback when he Speared PAC through the ropes as the two landed outside of the ring. Ben-K is someone who I’ve followed since 2017 and I said the kid would be a star when I saw him and in 2018, he started to perform better and when I saw his match against Masaaki Mochizuki for the title, I knew it would be a matter of time before he was ready.
Ben was up on the top rope but PAC would quickly get up there to deliver a Superplex and once they landed, Ben would get up to show his fighting spirit and hits PAC with a Spear and the two are down. Once they were outside, PAC pushed Ben into KAZMA SAKAMOTO and hits the Pop-up Powerbomb when the referee was distracted and PAC used this to get him back in for the Firebird Splash but Ben kicked out at two. PAC hits Ben with a Falcon Arrow off the top rope and it looked like he was going for the Black Arrow, but Ben rolled out of the way to get out of his reach. PAC would get off the rope to go for a Powerbomb but Ben tossed him over as PAC landed on the referee as he’s down. R.E.D quickly rushed into the ring to attack Ben but Ben would slowly fight them off one by one, hitting a Double Spear to end it all as PAC quickly rolled him up and Ben barely kicked out at two! Ben quickly got up and hits PAC with two Spears and instead of pinning him, he picked him up for the Ben-K Bomb but PAC kicked out at two! Ben quickly picked him back up and hits a second Ben-K Bomb and gets the pinfall to win the Open the Dream Gate Championship! PAC’s nine and a half month winning streak is finally over!
That’s right, Ben-K has won the Open the Dream Gate Championship, Dragon Gate has done something right this time! After the match, YAMATO, Naruki Doi, and Masato Yoshino were in the ring to congratulate him as Ben-K looks to be the new ace of the company now. Masato told Ben he hasn’t forgotten when he betrayed MaxiMuM last year and it looks like there could be a future match between these two down the road. Ben-K is an incredible talent and I’m very happy that he was able to win the title finally. PAC, you had an average run and thank you for being loyal to Dragon Gate during this time, now go out and have fun at AEW. Great match and what a battle.
Rating: Bruce Prichard and a quarter.
Overall: I thought it was a great show from top to bottom, even the handicap match had fun laughs despite it being a bad match but was still entertaining. Last year, I soured on Dragon Gate due to the poor booking of the main event scene but they did the right call with a new star and has restored my faith in them fully. You guys won me back, now please keep the ball rolling and we’ll have a great year of Dragon Gate!
Favorite Match: Tribe Vanguard (YAMATO & KAI) vs. R.E.D. (Eita & Big R Shimizu) vs. MaxiMuM (Naruki Doi & Kaito Ishida)
Least Favorite Match: Stalker Ichikawa & Ryo Saito vs. Hong-man Choi