I cannot say what exactly prompted me to explore Dragon Gate. My project from a couple months ago looking at DGUSA was perhaps the genesis (I still have one DVD to go). But, I've become a Shingo fan after the AJPW 2018 Champion Carnival . Then, I saw he is/was in this years PWG BOLA. Oh that's what prompted this! yeah, I have a mountain of older PWG DVDs to watch but, I might have check those out. So, let's get on with this!
I'm going to list these in order of viewing so, you can get a better feel for what I saw and have some context for my views.
Shingo Takagi vs YAMATO (Kobe Wrestling Fest 2016): Fucking radical sick match! No seriously this was a great match. YAMATO was trying to put Shingo to sleep or break his arm. That war of attrition really helped draw this out into a longer match without necessarily running through killer moves. The Y-man damaged Shingo's wing which both weakened the effectiveness of his strikes AND kept YAMATO in the fight longer than Takagi's ferocity would normally allow. I say that because this resembled a AJPW match more than Dragon Gate to me. The one con (at first glance) is YAMATO seemed sedate at the start. This was my first Y-Man match so, this could have just been ignorance of his style/mannerisms. Nonetheless, this was a fantastic singles match between my two most favorite DG guys.
KAGETORA vs Dragon Kid (04/06/18): It's nice to see KAGETORA since my 2010 wXx project and Dragon Kid has been cool with me since the DG influx in ROH more than a decade ago. But, something did not click early on with me. I lost interest rather suddenly...Unlike the above match, this resembled Dragon Gate in bad way. I suppose that's shitty of me but, if it's lost me in the first few minutes, it's not worth me working through the match. It's building on a shitty foundation.
BxB Hulk & YAMATO vs Ben-K & Big R Shimuzu (Kobe Fest 07/22/18): Right here I'm going to say this was my favorite match of the whole project. This was Classic tag wrestling! The Big-Ben team is such a back-to-basics team. They remind me of a late 80's AJ team who rely upon energy, effort, and stiffness. Really, the same can be said of YAMATO. BxB Hulk was the weakest participant at the start but, old-age or experience has quieted his flippy tendancies. He's traded that and his dance moves for precision kicks ala Katsu Nakajima. (Speaking of which- check the ref out! The frizzy fro and 70's stache must be a trend in Japan!? Rock it the fuck out dude!!).
More about the match: Ben-K and Big R are rolling like true legendary tag machines (sans the metallic pants). YAMATO is about up top on the "Sorry I slept on this Dude" list along with Shingo. BxB is still creepy but, the dude is axe kicking brain stems and I cannot/will not hate that! Mixed this with their amazing chemistry, basic story, surprises and I'll consider this a classic contemporary tag classic. If you're watching Indy Wrestling or NJ even, you owe it to yourself to watch this bout.
Shingo Takagi vs Masato Yoshino (07/22/18): So, I had high hopes for this but, yeah this was very super disappointing. It was very 1 sided and Yoshino's repeated comebacks were not believable. I might say this was comparable to the 03/26/95 Aja Kong vs Toyota WWWA match. Similarly, some people loved that and some did not. This was just too long and not very good because of that. This would have benefitted from a 2/3 falls stipulation. Instead we get a ton of kickouts and selling shit like death then popping up like a whack-a-mole trying moves at warp speed.
Rysuke Taguchi vs YAMATO (NJPW 05/30/09): Best of the Super Jrs.- Tha Funky Weapon vs the Y-Man- aw yeah! The K-Hall crows is eating this up big time as both dudes are working the crowd. Taguchi starts showing 'Mato that he's NJ elite and powers past any counter attempts. Luck runs out though. Ryusuke is elbowing the Dragon Gater in the face but, YAMATO is actually smiling. Now, it gets straight violent and quiets the crowd. God Bless YAMATO! This is a great match that is truly competitive. Go see this!! Plus NJ has it on their Youtube channel so, you've got no excuses
Jushin Thunder Liger vs YAMATO (NJPW 06/03/09) Again BOSJ match. A shorter fun match between these two talents. Liger is such a puro hero. Again, free and easy on the NJ YT.
YAMATO & Kzy vs CIMA & Ricochet (08/11/17): Ricochet back in DG and YAMATO just wasn't enough for me to get past the first few minutes. Again, this is more of my preference than saying it's crap.
YAMATO & Cyber Kong vs EITA & T-Hawk (12/28/14): A match with clear face/heel roles so, it's hard to screw this up. Both teams impressed but KONG & TOMATO were my team of choice since their stuff was simpler. Hawk & EITA did an excellent job hanging in there with their seniors but, their intensity (or sense of it) was sacrificed for a good performance. That is to say they were being careful. A very good match and Y-Man's star continues to shine.
BxB Hulk vs Shingo Takagi (12/28/14): This had a nice into video showing that these 2 have history. Good enough for me! Petty Meltzer gave this ****1/2 and I could see that but, I felt it was a tad below that. It could have been slimmer but here's my take away notes.
Pros: Nice Appropriate amount of stiffness (Hulk's kicks & Shingo's elbows & lariat), great execution of moves (stuff looked fought over, pulled off in a believable manner), Good pacing despite 30+ minutes
Cons: That being said if this was a couple minutes shorter this would have been a Classic bout.
Despite this not being what I'd call a classic (****1/2-*****), I watched this twice in a row. It is just a blast to watch and totally worth seeking out if any of this stuff appeals to you.
So, yeah! Pretty awesome stuff overall. Dragon Gate isn't my favorite promotion and even from what I saw it can be hit or miss. When it hits though, it hits as well as NJPW or NOAH for me. So, it's no true surprise that Shingo has been called up to be the newest member of Los Ingobernales de Japon. I loved that promo video NJ released and to have Shingo be the man, ah that's awesome! It's not yet time for my 2018 Best Match Viewed awards but, Shingo is damn near locked to win my wrestler of the year pick!