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Dragon Gate Champion Gate 2023 – Review

1 year ago

Dragon Gate Champion Gate 2023 – Review

By: Abid Chowdhury

4 Championship matches headlined back to back nights of action inside Osaka’s Edion Arena 2nd Stadium with a total of 13 matches. The Open The Brave Gate Championship along with the Open The Triangle Gate Championships were defended on night 1, while the Open The Twin Gate Championships and Open The Dream Gate Championships were defended on night 2.

This year, we’ll take a look at the four championship matches that were held during Champion Gate weekend on March 4th and March 5th.

Jason Lee of Natural Vibes challenged Minorita of Gold Class for his Open The Brave Gate Championship. Jason failed to win the Brave Gate Championship on 3 separate attempts in the past. This would be his fourth challenge for the title. Jason was headed to visit his native homeland in Hong Kong the following weekend, and he promised to bring home the Brave Gate Championship as a prize to show to his family and friends.

As these two went at each other, the Osaka fans were vocal for Lee. But as they exchanged offense, fans became split, rooting for both Minorita and Lee. Minorita hit this beautiful slingshot tornillo and landed on Lee outside of the ring. Lee hit a combo enzuigiri to the back of Minorita’s neck while they were nearby the turnbuckles, and followed up with a cutter only to get a 2 count. Nearfall after nearfall, it looked like Jason’s time was running out and the champion was going to have a successful title defense.

Lee pinned Minorita with the Maximum Driver to win the championship in a stellar match at 11 minutes and 49 seconds. Minorita failed to defend his championship, and the challenger became the 47th Brave Gate Champion.

As English commentator Jae mentioned, when Lee first came to Dragon Gate in 2017, the faction who took him in was Maximum, led by legends of the game – the retired “Speed Star” Masato Yoshino, and current freelancer Naruki Doi. After the Maximum faction disbanded in late 2019, Lee retained the Maximum driver in his repertoire because it reminded him of the first faction, and made him feel at home.

For the main event of night 1, The Open The Triangle Gate Championships were on the line. The Champions (Gold Class) Ben-K, BxB Hulk & Kota Minoura vs. the challengers (M3K) Mochizuki Jr., Susumu Mochizuki & Yasushi Kanda.

All six men got to shine within this match but it was the final sequences within the match that made the fans think there was a possibility of there being new Triangle Gate Champions. Mochizuki Jr. hit a combination of running jumping knee strikes to Ben-K and followed up with a beautiful german suplex bridge only to get a 2 count. Mochizuki Jr. expressing his displeasure with the 2 count the referee made, Ben-K took advantage of the distraction and hit his spear. Another nearfall, Ben-K picked up Mochizuki Jr. and pinned him via his Masakari at 16 minutes and 58 seconds.

This would mark Gold Class’s first successful title defense as Triangle Gate Champions. Everyone shined within this match but it was Mochizuki Jr. that really stepped up. One might not be aware that Mochizuki Jr. is actually a rookie, but his performance within this match made him perceive to be a veteran sharing the ring with his peers. As the name implies, he is the son of Dragon Gate legend Masaaki Mochizuki. Like the Brave Gate Championship match, the crowd was split between rooting for both teams. The match was an explosive bout that any fan of quick workrate tag-team action would enjoy.

Night 2 of Champion Gate featured the Twin Gate Championships and Dream Gate Championship titles being defended.

The 2023 Rey De Parejas Tag League winners D’Courage (Yuki Yoshioka & Madoka Kikuta) earned the right to challenge the champions Natural Vibes (Big Boss Shimizu & KZY). If Yoshioka & Kikuta win the Twin Gate Championships, it would have meant that every member of D’Courage wore the Twin Gate Championship (Dragon Dia, Yuki Yoshioka & Madoka Kikuta).

Madoka Kikuta and Big Boss Shimizu as the two big men traded forearms and shoulder tackles with each other. KZY and Yoshioka traded their best moves with each other. Shimizu picked up both Yoshioka & Kikuta, put them on his back, and samoan dropped them both. Shimizu caught Yoshioka in mid air and hit the Boss Man Slam.

After Kikuta hit a discus lariat to KZY, Yoshioka went for a frog splash but KZY had his knees up. Throughout tag league, Yoshioka hit his frog splash to get victories. However, KZY the experienced veteran and champion was ready for it and held his knees up. KZY hit a swanton bomb onto Yoshioka while Shimizu hit his Big Boss Press, and pinned Yoshioka at 15 minutes and 51 seconds. An exciting contest that had the fans in attendance at the edge of their seat.

The main event was for Dragon Gate’s most prestigious championship, The Open The Dream Gate Championship. This championship is about making your dreams come true for wrestlers who are in control of their own destinies. A fun detail that illustrates the title’s meaning, there’s is a keyhole in the center of the championship.

For those unaware, challengers in Dragon Gate are given a challenger key that acts as a sort of “Money in the Bank” briefcase – if the challenger wins, they can use that key to unlock the door to their dreams and their destiny. However, there’s a small railing on the championship. If the champion retains, they get the challenger key and can hang it on the championship.

The Open The Dream Gate Champion Shun Skywalker of Z-Brats looked to defend his championship against the son of wrestling legend Super Strong Machine, Strong Machine J of Natural Vibes. Machine J was focused as ever. He came to the ring and wore a completely different colored mask. He did not wear the fun loving Natural Vibes green colored mask, he wore a white and red colored mask. As English commentator Jae mentioned, “this was not the fun loving Natural Vibes J, this was a killing machine, he’s the killing machine J.”

Skywalker on the other hand was a completely different version of the man we saw fight for the Dream Gate Championship during Champion Gate in 2021. As Jae mentioned, “he was idealistic, believed in winning the right way, not taking any shortcuts to winning matches.”

The current version of Skywalker has completely gone beyond his previous ideals.

In 2021 he carried the championship with respect, and held the title around his waist or on his shoulder. In 2023, he dragged the championship around like it was a pile of luggage.

This evening, Skywalker dominated the challenger early on. He took Machine J to the outside and while the referee was distracted by other members of Z-Brats, he hit Machine J with multiple chair shots. In 2021 Skywalker was very respectful of the mask, and would never try to rip the mask off an opponent. Two years later, this same Shun tried to rip off Machine J’s mask. Machine J got back on his feet and stood toe to toe against the champion, as they both went back and forth with forearms.

Skywalker once again tried to rip off Machine J’s mask, but Machine J blocked it and delivered a vertical suplex. The Osaka fans were behind Machine J throughout this match, and heavily cheered on the challenger. Machine J hit his signature Machine suplex and Skywalker kicked out. This shocked Machine J. As Jae mentioned on commentary, Shun was the first person to ever kick out of his Machine suplex. Machine J did not waste the opportunity, immediately got back up and hit a Machine lariat and went for another Machine suplex but Skywalker countered and pinned Machine J via the jackknife cradle pin at 20 minutes and 54 seconds. Skywalker made his first successful title defense against an up and comer in Strong Machine J.

Machine J was seconds away from becoming the new Dream Gate Champion, but Skywalker’s time is clearly not over. Machine J took Skywalker to his limit, but it wasn’t enough.

After the match, Jae translated what Shun said, “For a trash wrestler, I had more fun than expected. There’s a still a difference in strength between us. The champion is still Shun Skywalker.”

Machine J said, “I was close. Shun, what you said about me is true, I agree. It’s not the great or strong, it’s the strong or great. Skywalker was the winner today. Thank you for the fans for cheering for me today, and I hope you can continue to cheer me on.”

A fantastic title match, and a star making performance for Machine J. This was the best match of the career for the 2019 Tokyo Sports Rookie of the year. Despite the loss, Machine J looked like he belongs in the main event scene moving forward.

Night 1 Results

1) (Natural Vibes) KZY, Big Boss Shimizu & Strong Machine J vs (Z-Brats) KAI, H.Y.O & Shun Skywalker (15:00 Time Limit Draw)
2) YAMATO defeats Konomama Ichikawa (0:28) match restarts, (5:41)
3) Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fuji defeat Kaito Nagano & Yoshiki Kato (11:43)
4) Dragon Kid, Yuki Yoshioka, Dragon Dia & Madoka Kikuta defeat Genki Horiguchi, Naruki Doi, Eita & Takashi Yoshida (7:44)
5) Open The Brave Gate Championship: Jason Lee defeats Minorita (c) (11:49)
6) Open The Triangle Gate Championship: Gold Class (Ben-K, BxB Hulk & Kota Minoura) (c) defeat M3K (Mochizuki Jr, Susumu Mochizuki & Yasushi Kanda (16:58)

Night 2 Results

1) Gold Class (Ben-K, BxB Hulk & Kota Minoura, with Minorita) defeat Ho Ho Lun & Natural Vibes (Jacky “Funky” Kamei & Jason Lee) (10:10)
2) M3K (Masaaki Mochizuki, Mochizuki Jr & Susumu Mochizuki) defeat Don Fuji, Konomama Ichikawa & Shachihoko Boy (3:02)
3) Don Fuji vs Mochizuki Jr (3:02, Double Count Out)
4) Z-Brats (H.Y.O & KAI) defeat Genki Horiguchi & Kagetora (4:58)
5) Dragon Dia, Dragon Kid & Eita defeat Naruki Doi, Takashi Yoshida & YAMATO (10:31)
6) Open The Twin Gate Championship: Natural Vibes (Big Boss Shimizu & KZY) (c) defeat D’Courage (Madoka Kikuta & Yuki Yoshioka) (15:51)
7) Open The Dream Gate Championship: Shun Skywalker (c) defeats Strong Machine J (20:54)