The epic Q&A continues! We discuss Dragon Gateâ€™s first (real) show in the US from last year, booking weirdness, and attempt to peer into the future. Plus some big news and results, the biggest of which is a new and different Dragon Gate USA. Coincidence? â€¦.yes.
Section 1- Results
Dragon Gate: CIMA, Gamma & Kagetora won the trios belts from Shingo, Dragon Kid & Iwasa on the 15th. Iwasa suffered a neck injury in the match and will miss some time.
New Japan: Both sets of tag titles were defended at Lockdown. Tanahashi beat Omori and Goto beat Nakanishi on Wednesday. Makabe, Honma and Wataru Inoue seem to have become a face stable to oppose the Nakamura/GBH alliance.
NOAH: The 4/19 show saw Akiyama retain over Shiozaki, Sasaki & Morishima beat Saito & Smith in a tournament match, Kotaro Suzuki beat Ricky Marvin with a figure-four (?!), and KENTA beat Hirayanagi in a no-DQ match. Attendance wasnâ€™t very good (under 2500), which is what I expected given NOAHâ€™s weakness outside Tokyo. Other notable tournament results include D-Lo & Buchanan over Saito & Smith, Taue & Inoue over Takayama & Sugiura with Inoue pinning Sugiura (â€¦), D-Lo & Buchanan over Sasaki & Morishima, and Misawa & Shiozaki vs Rikio & Yone going to a draw.
Section 2- News
Dragon Gate: As Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve heard by now, Dragon Gate (with the help of Gabe Sapolsky) will be running several shows per year in the US. The debut is on July 25th at the ECW Arena. Shows will have around 8 wrestlers from Dragon Gate, with indy wrestlers making up the rest. DVD sales are the target revenue stream and ROHâ€™s fans and main stops (Philly, NYC, Chicago) are the target audience.
Yamato vs BB Hulk (possible Hulk heel turn) and a three-way tag title match have been added to the 5/5 card. They did an 8-team tournament to determine who got the shot and then wound up adding another team afterwards. A three-way tag with four-man teams is set for the 5/15 Korakuen show, probably a first in wrestling. The Kobe World Hall show is set for July 19th, and one would hope that they can avoid big injuries right before the Philly show.
NOAH: Two interpromotional matches have been added to beef up the Budokan card. First is Liger & Kanemoto vs Kanemaru & Hirayanagi, and second is Kobashi & Ito vs Tenzan & Okada. A correction: the heel stableâ€™s name is â€˜Disobeyâ€™, not â€˜Changeâ€™.
Section 2a- Meltzer News
DG/ROH falling out: More details on what happened at ROHâ€™s Japan shows from last September. It seems the instigator was NOAH, who felt that Dragon Gate didnâ€™t do nearly as much for promoting their ROH show as NOAH did for theirs. The DG/ROH show drew 600, compared to 1000 for NOAH/ROH. Cary Silken felt that Dragon Gate let them down, but Gabe wanted to let it go and maintain the relationship with DG. That was just one of several disagreements leading up to Gabeâ€™s firing.
Section 3- Shillinâ€™ Up 2009
Phil is a slowpoke. I mean, the Death Valley Driver puro board doing results in mid-March is one thing, but mid-Aprilâ€¦ well Iâ€™m sure he has his reasons.
Section 4- Media Corner
Why donâ€™t I just call it Big Japan Corner and get it over with
Miyamoto and Isami came from the nether regions of the indy scene, but Isami got injured and looks anorexic (or rather â€˜like an average Japanese maleâ€™) while Miyamoto has been healthy and has a better look. As a result Miyamoto has the Big Japan deathmatch title while Isami is tagging with fellow small-indy wrestler Takeda as an â€˜up-and-comerâ€™ team. Big Japan does the underdog dynamic better than anyone going and by the end of the match Korakuen is on fire for Isami and Takeda. Itâ€™s unfortunate that the main event was a weak draw because of their being unknowns, but because itâ€™s Korakuen a half-full arena makes more noise than an average sellout. Loads of big bumps and nasty weapon shots, but thereâ€™s also lots more structure and DRAMA than you expect from a hardcore match.
Is it â€˜classicâ€™ if itâ€™s not even 3 years old?
Morishima missed the last five months of 2004 with an injury. Upon his return in January 2005 he just wasnâ€™t the chubby ass-kicker we knew and love, and most of his 2005 was unremarkable. In October he won the tag titles (with Yone) and he returned to form. In 2006 he was as good as anyone on NOAHâ€™s roster and had several outstanding performances. This match is what got him booked in ROH, especially after Meltzer gave it ****1/2. It starts slow with Rikio and Marufuji but finishes in a frenzy with Morishima and KENTA. It was voted #1 in the year-end puro vote at DVDVR by a comfortable margin. If you havenâ€™t given it a look yet, you oughta.
Section 5- Dragon Gate USA, part 2
Moving on from last time.
Q: Last year, you were brought in by Dragon Gate to help with a show in California.
a. At what point were you first in contact with the promotion?
b. What did you do for them?
c. Who in the company did you get to interact with?
d. Do you anticipate them doing future events?
A: a. I had met some of the office guys during the ROH shows, but never introduced myself. When the US shows were announced I contacted CIMA and the Houston office and basically offered to help in any way I could. Satoshi Oji, who is the head of Dragon Gate USA actually knew my site, remembered me and let me get involved.
b. Basically just promotion through my site. CIMA sent me a few messages to pass along to US fans, as well. I also acted as the question answerer to people who wanted to know about tickets, hotels, and other things like that. At the show itself I was asked to translate the SPACE GATE narration for the show intro. That was pretty crazy, since I was basically handed a handwritten in Japanese note and told “We’re recording this in 10 minutes”. I was actually pretty stoked that they trusted me enough to do that.
c. Mainly Mr. Oji and CIMA. CIMA actually called me on the phone one night at like 4AM to talk about the show. That was something else.
d. The LA show was a huge success, and as far as I now there were plans to return this year. Hopefully the economy being jacked doesn’t hamper that. I am really looking forward to getting involved again. There have been 2 European shows announced for the fall, as well (The UK and Germany)
Q: What are the internal politics of Dragon Gate like? Any famous incidents or internal feuds?
A: I would say SUWAs’ departure is the most interesting, since he was the first to go, and it came so close to the split. Then he spoke out with the “Social dance” and “Today I finally am a wrestler” tirades. Samurai TV recently did a 10 year anniversary special and SUWA was ignored completely despite how important a figure he was, while the others that are gone like Magnum, Milano, and Aagan-iisou were mentioned.
SUWA was apparently loyal to Ultimo despite initially going with Dragon Gate, so there was some tension there. A few weeks into Dragon Gate, SUWA announced that he was going to NOAH and buried the company.
Q: What’s the deal with Dragon Gate and MIDBREATH gym?
A reference to CIMA naming one of his moves after a steroid. There’s a lot of speculation that MIDBREATH, whose members include most of Dragon Gate, Masato Tanaka, Jado & Gedo and many others, is a hub of steroid activity.
Q; Takashi Okamura could pretty much have anyone he wants killed, couldn’t he.
A: I’ll have to ask him if I ever meet him. Guess it is a good thing I am on their side.
Okamura was a key office worker in Toryumon and has been the big boss of Dragon Gate since it started. He has… connections.
Q: What gimmicks/angles over the years baffled you the most?
A: Stalker Ichikawa joining Crazy MAX in 2001. The whole thing was just so ridiculous. Then he gets the huge win over M2K at the end of the year, and they proceed to go nowhere with it and have CMAX kick him out. Shin M2K, because nothing says M2K like Raimu Mishima and Dragon Kid. Araken as Heno Heno Kamen vs. Touru Owashi. That had to be a case of it makes no sense if you aren’t Japanese. I mean, HOW COULD OWASHI HAVE NOT KNOWN IT WAS HIM!? King Ali Baba destroying Takamichi Iwasa to the point that he had to do comedy for 3 years to recover. The Italian Connection announcing they weren’t really Italian but then remaining in their Italian characters. 2 mini Arakens existing at the same time. SUWA not wrestling in a match over 5 minutes long for like 5 months straight in 2001~02 (including a title win!). The Mori vs. Sugawara feud that had 2 hair matches but neither of them lost their hair.
One thing about having a promotion with lots of gimmicks and angles is that there will be some head-scratchers. The bulk of weird things took place under Ultimo, and that was part of why the split happened.
Q: Genki Horiguchi is (according to Meltzer) the booker of Dragon Gate. His better-looking and fully trained brother Hiromi is a nomad wandering North America. Huh?
A: Turns out Hiromi is only his gimmick brother. Guess that explains why he was never brought in. Incredible to think Hiromi has been around for 5 years and he hasn’t done a single thing of note ever.
Hiromi is one of the Toryumon X class. Much of Toryumon X had gimmicks based on the original Toryumon class, though they were usually miniatures rather than ‘brothers’. Ultimo had big expectations for Hiromi.
Q: Who do you see leading Dragon Gate in the next decade?
A: YAMATO, Yoshino, and Tozawa. As far as the current top end goes, Yoshino is the most complete. By top end I mean the level Doi, Yoshino, Saito, Iwasa, and Yokosuka would be on. Below that, there are nice generational rivalries that will be very interesting to watch play out. Shingo/YAMATO/Hulk could very well be CIMA/Mochizuki/Magnum in a few years, but Hulk really would need to step up. I wasn’t feeling Shingo as ace, but the circumstances weren’t ideal for it last year. Below that, there is the Tozawa/KZ/KAGETORA level. (Even if KAGETORA is a 7 year veteran by now!) Then we have the just started Kenshin vs. RYOMA rivalry, with Kotoka Shiiba debuting next week. So the future has a lot of potential.
Q: If you were given the chance to book Dragon Gate, what are some of the first things you’d do?
A: Given that this is the 10 year anniversary, I would have reunited M2K at the beginning of the year as a heel group. All the pieces were in place, with all the RH internal strife going on, Typhoon splitting, and Knessuka reuniting on the last Buyuden. Mochizuki, Kanda, Susumu, black K-ness, and Horiguchi together for one last run during the 10 year would have been pretty hot. I’m pretty happy with the way the unit shuffle ended up though. That said, I would:
-Restructure the Brave Gate division, and treat it as a true secondary title to elevate the holder. When Doi held the title it legitimized him. Right now it is basically the Yoshino Memorial Gate, and it doesn’t really do anything for guys like him, Horiguchi, CIMA, or Dragon Kid. Having it act as a title on for those on the level of KZ, Tozawa, or the Chinese Hero Super Shenlong would help push them into the next tier.
-Go back to treating the 3 and 4 way 6 man tags as a special event. What made the ones from the Toryumon era so good was that they were the focal point of the card, not just an undercard/semifinal.
-I would have put K-ness in WARRIORS-5. Makes too much sense. No knock to RYOMA.
-Sign Shinobu to, at least, a freelancer contract and have him on tours full time. He is too good of a talent to waste away on the indys. I guess there are reasons why he hasn’t been.
-Get on the road to a Doi vs. Yoshino World main event. While there is that temptation to keep that match saved for a rainy day ala CIMA vs. SUWA, well, that match never ended up happening. They need to split them at some point so they both can be positioned at the top.
Q: Akebono: WTF?
A: Well. With CIMA vs. Dragon Kid they already have a huge drawing match for Aichi, so it’s an acceptable risk on that regard. But, man, I just don’t see an upside. Doi wins, it doesn’t do anything for him because the sheer physics of the whole thing are ridiculous. Doi loses, then we have to watch more Akebono matches, and then the same rule from A applies to whoever beats him. Unless Shingo were to Last Falconry him or something. I understand there was very little time to build up a decent challenger after Sumo Hall, given the short time between the 2 shows. I guess we’ll see. The rest of the show should be compelling. CIMA vs. DKid is a big singles match that hasn’t happened in several years, there should be a rematch of the Twin Gate from Sumo Hall, an angle surrounding (black) Hulk and RH.
Doi is really starting to remind me of Susumu in 2006, where you had a champion that needed credibility in the worst way, but he was overshadowed by everything else that was going on. The main issue I have found with Doi thus far is that I haven’t been rooting for him to win. I was rooting for Iwasa in the V1, and I was rooting against Kanemoto in V2. Same thing will apply in V3. I want him to win because I don’t want the other guy to win. I’m sure that isn’t the universal case, but I know I am not the only one who feels that way. There are a ton of strong challengers at this point. YAMATO will have to get his shot, CIMA and Yoshino are right there. If he wins 2 out of those 3 in a convincing manner then his reign will not end like 2006 Susumu.
Otherwise, there is a lot to look forward to in 2009. For the first time in awhile there are some very unique and interesting units. You can see a lot of backstory and history in all of them which makes them feel a heck of a lot more cohesive than say, Typhoon. Typhoon was just a bunch of guys thrown together, WARRIORS-5 you can tie the 4 established members together going all the way back to their rookie times. The rest of the year should be really fun to watch play out.
Susumu Yokosuka’s reign was in the middle of 2006. At the time the big angle had to do with the split in Blood Generation, centered around CIMA vs Magnitude Kishiwada. That match headlined the big Kobe World Hall show instead of Yokosuka’s title defense, making it very clear that CIMA was the real star of the company regardless of who had the belt. Yokosuka doesn’t seem to have gained much long-term benefit from his reign, although his title shot against Shingo last year drew a good crowd.
POSTSCRIPT: Just after the Q&A, the â€˜officialâ€™ Dragon Gate USA was announced. Both Dragon Gate USAs got in touch shortly thereafter, and Jaeâ€™s DG USA will stay as-is barring unforeseen developments.
My thanks to Jae for answering my absurdly long list of questions! Be sure to visit Dragon Gate USA for all your Dragon Gate news & results!
Next Time: Another interview. Try not to pass out from the shock.