Welcome to this month’s edition of BRM’s Monthly “This Day in Wrestling History” Review Series. You knew I had to get around the final Gabe Sapolsky promotion (Style Battle doesn’t count) at some point didn’t, you? During our first (and so far, only) FIP review, I described FIP as “Gabe Sapolsky’s middle child.” We started this whole adventure off with big brother ROH and have since covered ambitious, artistic little brother EVOLVE. Today we meet the cousin who was sent to live with them for a while before moving back to his real home- the wild and crazy Will Smith to EVOLVE’s Carlton- Dragon Gate USA!
NOTE: When I review a show, I try to review the most complete version possible. This is another show where I don’t actually own the DVD, so instead we’re using whatever cut of the show is on Club WWN, and based on the length, I’m guessing that this was the PPV version of the event, rather than the DVD version with the non-PPV matches (can’t call them “dark” matches if they at least made the DVD).
JOHNNY GARGANO PROMO - Good. This pulled double duty as a standard heel promo from Gargano and a chance for some exposition. Ever since Jon Moxley formed Kamikaze USA, all of the Japanese stables are looking for an American representative to speak for them in the USA. Johnny says that he’s the hottest free agent in the company, so he’s going to watch tonight’s show before deciding who to join.
The only bad thing here was Johnny’s wardrobe. This early 90s Nickelodeon gear gimmick needs to go. I grew up on that stuff and there is definitely nostalgia for it, but I don’t want it mixed with my wrestling.
AKIRA TOZAWA vs. MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI - 4/10
Not to put too fine a point on it, but matches like this are why I stopped watching Dragon Gate in the mid-2010s. They started off with some good action, then both guys started working the knee… and then they just ignored the fact that both men had had their knees worked over and just started doing their fast-paced spots. In addition to just being bad selling, ding the match this way made it feel like they viewed working a limb as a thing they didn’t really want to do but “had” to do because that’s what you do in a pro wrestling match. It makes them come off like backyarders, because the proper pro wrestling answer would be “if you want to do a bunch of fast-paced spots at the end of your match, don’t work over a body part that would prohibit you from doing that.”
Also, that spot where Tozawa missed a splash and then immediately got up and missed another, then got right up again and went for another only for Mochizuki to get his knees up… only for Tozawa to get right up yet again and then hit a senton with Mochizuki now was unable to counter was idiotic. It completely killed the idea of there being any consequences for missing a move like that or having such a move countered.
The post-match segment was also weird, as Tozawa, a member of the big heel stable, was all nice and respectful. And, now that I think about it, he barely worked like a heel at all. What’s the point of having a big heel stable if the members aren’t going to be heels?
LENNY LEONARD & LEONARD F. CHIKARASON HYPE UP SOME MATCHES - Umm… I have a question. If it’s such a big deal that Dragon Kid and Shingo will face off for the first time since Fearless back in January when Shingo turned on Dragon Kid to join Kamikaze USA’s beat-down (which the two Leonards could have explained in more detail, here), why didn’t he try to confront Shingo at some point during the few shows between now and then? Even the “PPV continuity” explanation doesn’t really work because we have had a PPV between this one and Fearless (Mercury Rising) and both of them were on that show, but they did nothing to build to the idea of a confrontation between these two. At least have Dragon Kid cut a promo or something (and if he can’t speak English well enough to cut the necessary promo, have him cut it backstage in Japanese and air it with subtitles).
TYSON DUX vs. GRAN AKUMA (w/Jon Moxley) - 5.5/10
The commentary early on tried to impress on me just how “dangerous” Gran Akuma was. That’s a good track to take, but it only works if Akuma comes off as very dangerous in his match. In this match he went relatively even with a local guy and had to pull the tights to win with a roll-up. That doesn’t make someone seem particularly dangerous by pro wrestling standards.
NO DISQUALIFICATIONS MATCH:
Jimmy Jacobs vs. Jon Moxley (w/an unnamed brunette) - 6.75/10
Moxley is once again a little rough with his female companion, but this one seems to enjoy it, so good for them. Moxley shoved her into Jimmy to distract him as he charged at Jimmy to jump-start the match. She would later get involved several times, and was ultimately used by Moxley as a human shield.
There was some very good action here (though it was clear they were saving the crazy stuff for later on in the feud) and they told a nice little story with Jimmy’s ability to counter a whole bunch of different moves into the End Times, but the real point of this match was to effectively illustrate the points the commentary team was instructed to make. Those points were that Moxley has a “sadistic charisma” about him (explaining why these random women were willing to let him treat them so roughly, why they have been willing to get involved in his matches where they are not trained fighters, and why the members of Kamikaze USA have gravitated towards him), and that while Jimmy’s desire to stand on his own is noble, it might not be the best decision when you’re feuding with someone who has an entire stable of unscrupulous characters perfectly willing to interfere in his matches against you (and that interference costing Jimmy the match was the second story they told, first with the woman breaking up the End Times and being used as a shield to block his spear, and then with Shingo and YAMATO just running in and attacking him for the finish).
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. BxB Hulk ran out and saved Jimmy from a post-match beat-down. I was pretty shocked to see three heels running away from a lone, unarmed babyface, even if he is the DGUSA Open the Freedom Gate Champion. BxB Hulk offered Jimmy a spot in WORLD-1 but Jimmy turned him down.
WORLD-1 (Naruki Doi & Pac) vs. CHIKARA SEKIGUN (Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw) - 8.5/10
Quack, Jigsaw, and Doi continue to consistently be the best performers in this company. This match was AWESOME and had the crowd on fire pretty much the whole.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Great! We get a big show of respect after the match. After WORLD-1 leave, Quack calls YAMATO out and challenges him to bring his guys and face them in a big blow-off match. YAMATO came out, but only to act as a distraction so that Gran Akuma and Akira Tozawa could sneak up behind CHIKARA Sekigun and attack them. Kamikaze USA beat the babyfaces down, including Akuma and Tozawa holding each babyface up in turn so that YAMATO could give them a totally unnecessary kick in the nuts. This was excellent heel stuff.
JIMMY JACOBS RANTS AND RAVES IN A PARKING LOT - Okay. This was shot in an extremely weird way. It seemed like Jimmy took a camera and placed it way on the other side of the parking lot and then cut a promo challenging Moxley and his goons to come fight him and saying he doesn’t need anyone’s help. I don’t understand how Jimmy intended for Moxley to see this promo in time. Was he going to run it to the office and demand that they play it in the middle of the PPV, then run back to the parking lot and wait for Moxley and pals to show up? The content of the promo was good, but the framing was extremely wacky.
RIP IMPACT vs. JOHNNY WAYNE - no rating, fine segment
Lenny Leonard told us that this was a match between two wrestlers who were very impressive at the seminar they had earlier today. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Brodie Lee saved us from having to sit through this pointless exercise by running out and destroying both wrestlers and the referee. The crowd apparently really wanted to see this match, as they began to curse Brodie out very loudly. Brodie cut a promo saying that he was the biggest and baddest wrestler in the locker room, and would take out whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
CHIKARA SEKIGUN PROMO - Okay. Their intensity was great (and I loved that they were still selling), but they didn’t say anything that they didn’t say last night or earlier tonight, and it was really hard to ignore the fact that they clearly shot this promo in a bathroom.
KAMIKAZE USA (Shingo Takagi & YAMATO) vs. WARRIORS (Dragon Kid & CIMA) - 9/10
They started off hot and fast and still managed to have a match that was paced fantastically and built extremely well. The last few minutes in particular were insane. This is one you absolutely need to go out of your way to see.
JOHNNY GARGANO PROMO - Terrible. He came off like the world’s biggest idiot goof loser.
DGUSA OPEN THE FREEDOM GATE TITLE MATCH:
BxB Hulk(c) vs. Masato Yoshino - 8/10
This was an awesome main event with some CRAZY athletic stuff in it (especially from BxB Hulk) and a very hot crowd, but as awesome as it was, it was outshined by the previous two matches and thus didn’t really feel as great as it was. The other thing working against it is that I don’t think anyone bought a title change happening.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Jon Moxley came out and cut a promo saying that BxB Hulk was Kamikaze USA’s next target. This promo also served as a distraction so that Shingo and YAMATO could come through the crowd and attack both BxB Hulk and Masato Yoshino from behind. Jimmy Jacobs came out and tossed Moxley out of the ring. He thought about going to help BxB Hulk for a moment but instead just dove onto Moxley and brawled away with him.
CIMA came out with a broom and actually did try to make the save for BxB Hulk, but that save was short-lived, as Kamikaze USA’s reinforcements arrived in the form of Gran Akuma and Akira Tozawa, and they beat CIMA down. Dragon Kid came out (still selling from his match, which was nice) and made the big save for CIMA. CIMA then picked up the Open the Freedom Gate Title and posed with it for a moment, then put it down in favor of a microphone and cut the big babyface show-closing promo. In that promo he promised that DGUSA would return to the Toronto area, but they never did. There must be some sort of big reason behind this, because this crowd was ON FIRE all night long.
Despite the bumpy start, this was an AWESOME show from Dragon Gate USA. That last hour or so was f*cking fantastic. The storylines don’t quite have my interest the way they did at times during the previous weekend of shows, but between the CHIKARA Sekigun vs. Kamikaze USA feud, Jimmy Jacobs’ storyline, and the fact that Bryan Danielson returns on the next show, I’ll definitely keep watching 2010 DGUSA for at least the next few shows. In fact, this show has me feeling pretty positively disposed towards all Dragon-related things, so next month’s review will definitely have a dragon theme.<