Saturday 2 March 2013

Dragon Gate UK 2013 Tour Night 1 (22/2) Review By Aiden O'Brien

Naruki Doi vs. Lion Kid
All pictures provided by @andrewcarberry

This was the third time Dragon Gate UK ran a show at Broxbourne, each of the previous shows also being Friday night shows, and I have to say that immediately after the show concluded I strongly felt that this was the best DG UK Broxbourne show. Of course the Saturday night show also at Broxbourne ended up surpassing this one, but I'll get to that later. For now I want to stress at this point the Friday night show was DG UK's strongest Broxbourne show at that time. Before the show even began you could tell this tour was going to be a step up from previous tours as this years stage looked incredible and better than previous years. It almost looked like a Dragon Gate PPV entrance as you had the stable logo's plastered on either side of the two blue and red entrances and it looked incredible.

Opening the show and weekend was the evening's dark match as Martin Kirby beat Stixx. I often sing the praises of Kirby as I feel he has been a really underrated credit to the UK scene over the past few years and now he's deservedly appearing for the majority of the top UK promotions in high-profile slots and has more than earned his place on the DG UK tour. But Stixx, who I was one of the vocal ones wondering why he was on the first DG UK show in the dark match, fully deserved his place also as these two had a great back and forth big man vs smaller, lighter opponent match. To begin with it was a battle of power vs speed as Stixx as the much larger and heavier had the natural advantage so Kirby really had to attempt to keep at an arms distance away from him to start. In a move I had never seen done before Stixx was outside the ring while Kirby took to his back on the ring apron, lifted his legs up over his head to catch Stixx's head in a rana off the apron. The big man was able to regain control of the match after that, kicking away the ring steps away from the turnbuckle so he could whip Kirby full force right into the steel post, but Kirby took hold of the ringpost and swung his body around it, his legs going over the ring apron and through the bottom rope to meet the charging Stixx in a dropkick. Very impressive and Kirby clearly was on a goal of bringing his A game, but inside the ring Stixx was able to dominate with a variety of back-breakers after first catching Kirby as he attempted to slingshot himself back into the ring onto Stixx but instead received a knee to the back. Stixx is one of the best big men in England right now, but he does have his moments of surprising agility. In this match he was more restrained although a running cross body right into Kirby in the turnbuckles stood out. Both men went for finishers by this point in the match, Kirby missing the Fame-Asser but Stixx got Kirby with a Black Hole Slam that Kirby was somehow able to kick out of. The two then engaged in a pinfall exchange which didn't exactly look the smoothest with the height difference between the two but Kirby ended it with a STOP! Enziguiri was a stroke of genius. In yet another move I've never seen before, Stixx went to the top rope but Kirby was able to cut him off and crotch him on the top turnbuckle. Kirby climbed up the turnbuckle behind him and then leapt back first down onto Stixx in a senton right onto the crouched Stixx. Near to the finish Stixx was in the turnbuckle, Kirby came charging and was able to catch the out-stretched leg of Stixx and then throw it through the ropes. Rather than run off the ropes on the other side, Kirby's jumped out onto the ring apron and ran the length of it to perform a boot to Stixx's face. With Stixx down on the mat, Kirby went to the top but Stixx rolled out of the ring. Kirby attempted to press his advantage but was caught with a clothesline right to his feet when he was on the ring apron. Inside the ring it looked like Stixx was finally going to be able to take the win, but Kirby rolled him up into a pin for the win to make his DG UK record 1-1 and Stixx's now 0-3.

 In the first official match of the night Lion Kid scored the upset of the weekend, potentially of the year, when he beat Naruki Doi. This match came about after the last tour when Doi as part of the villainous Blood Warriors took on Team UK on the first night at Broxbourne and during the match Doi attempted to remove Lion Kid's mask. Eventhough 16 months had passed since last they were in the ring and Doi had forsaken his heel-ish ways by now being part of World-1 International since last March, but there was still a lot of animosity between the two as Doi made his intentions known to attempt to take Kid's mask before the match even began. And this wasn't Lion Kid's usual mask as for the occasion he'd upgraded his whole attire with a shiny new more silvery mask with manes of fur. Considering Doi's outward heel-ish actions, the two wrestled civily at the start of the match, fighting over a wristlock. Kid picked up the pace with an armdrag and a springboard into a rana to send Doi out of the ring. It didn't look the smoothest so credit to both men for pulling it off. After being shown up like that Doi was even more aggressive with his strikes and made a strong effort to remove the mask and tore at Kid's mask to rip bits of fur from it, smiling all the while. Doi hit the first hard chops of the weekend, but each team Kid took the hit and "RAWR"'d right back into Doi's face but the last chop was a thud right to his throat that shut Kid up. Doi tied up Kid into the ropes to be able to hit his running dropkick full force into Kid's chest leaving a very visible boot print and then followed it up with his diving senton to the back as Kid was hung up in the ropes from the top rope. Doi dominated with a Dai Bosou!, his running cannonball splash and looked to have things wrapped up with the Doi 555 and then a Baktare Sliding Kick but Kid miraculously kicked off. Rather than go for his "kill" move in the Muscular Bomb, Doi attempted to once and for all remove the Lion Kid's mask only to be surprised with a Samson Clutch roll up and Kid to take the victory. Major, major upset and it really shocked me that Kid won and Team UK immediately started off with a big win. But that didn't sit too well with Doi who immediately after the match had ended attacked Kid. He followed it up with another big Dai Bosou and then proudly dragged Kid right into the middle of the ring so he could un-mask him, Kid immediately covering his face with his hands and burying his head in the canvas as Doi so gleefully displayed the mask in hand. Good start to the weekend and the issue would continue for these two into the next night as they were already set to square off again in tomorrows four-way.
Noam Dar vs. Jimmy Susumu

After such a good start for Team UK, Noam Dar hoped to make his main card DG UK debut and start of his trial series weekend as successful as Kid did, but standing in his way was the first of three former Open The Dream Gate Champions he would face, Jimmy Susumu. A fair bit has changed from the last UK tour as at that time Jimmy Susumu was Susumu Yokosuka and one of the most beloved DG UK roster members but only a month and a half after the last show for the second time in his career he would lose his name in a match and be repackaged as Jimmy Susumu. Jimi is a Japanese word which stands for "plain" or "boring". But Susumu and several others have embraced that and turned it into a term of endearment in the Jimmyz stable. Noam Dar is a hot prospect in England as well as potentially international in the future and whereas he's faced some of the best America has to offer with former WWE stars, current TNA stars, ECW legends and the current hottest names on the Indies, this was the first time he'd stepped in the ring with a Dragon Gate competitor so he had to step up his game considerably to show that not only was he a future star, but that this future is imminent. And to start the match the two wrestled the match evenly on the ground, fighting over little things like leg take downs and head scissors. Dragon Gate are more known for the fast paced, highly athletic, big move type of matches but they do the little things on the mat and tests of strength and power to make it look like a genuine struggle for control and that's where Noam Dar fit in perfectly. Susumu worked the crowd perfectly, engaging them to cheer wildly whenever he raised his arms and then silence them by simply bringing his hands down. During a simple shoulder tackle display of strength and will power between the two Noam took the advantage by doing exactly what he's known for and he drop-kicked Jimmy's knee right from under him. From there Dar was of a singular mind and worked Susumu's knee, although Susumu returned the favour and dropped Dar on his knees repeatedly in kind so the two both attempted the Knee Bar and Figure Four respectively. I felt that Dar really stepped up with strikes this weekend as his elbows, double handed palm thrusts, headbutts, European uppercuts and kicks all looked sharper than normal, knowing well that against a guy like Susumu he had to work a little more snug. Dar has one of the best suicide dives in the business right now and he really got all of Susumu when he landed on him. Dar continued his assault of Susumu's knee and even had him trapped in two or three more attempts in the knee bar, but each time Jimmy was able to reach the ropes to Dar's increased frustration and desperation. And just when it seemed that Dar couldn't win Susumu really laid him out with a Jumbo No Kachi! lariat that Dar somehow kicked out of it. But in the most sickening Mugen (A double underhook gutwrench into a DDT) I have ever witnessed Susumu practically planted Dar face first right into the canvas for the very convincing three count. I was worried for Dar's health after the last time the ref put his hand down to the mat but fortunately he was alright although that visual of him being driven face first right into the mat will stay in my mind for a long time. A good match in which Dar suitably stepped up and stood toe to toe against a former Open The Dream Gate Champion and one of the most well liked members of the DG roster in England.

BxB Hulk vs. Mark Haskins vs. Marty Scurll vs. CIMA
Team UK dominated the first half to allow the second half to be made up entirely of Dragon Gate roster members against each other, but the story in the last match before intermission was less about UK vs Dragon Gate and was more about survival. Current Open The Dream Gate Champion CIMA and runner up of TNA's British Bootcamp, Marty Scurll both entered this four-way match up with negative records. CIMA's DG UK record stood at 2-4 while Scurll's was 1-5. A minus five loss record for any DG UK roster member regardless of their standing elsewhere would result in them being cut from the DG UK roster and as this was a four-way the winner would go +1 while all three losers, whether they were involved in the result of the finish or not, would go -1. So this was a must win situation for Marty Scurll as his DG UK career was literally on the line. But on the flip side Mark Haskins and BxB Hulk both had positive DG UK records with both tied on 4-2 and while -5 saw you cut from the roster +5 had a reward of any match of that person's choosing. So this match was more about the story of Scurll's desperate struggle for survival, CIMA's determination to be the one to eliminate Scurll from DG UK as retribution from being pinned by him the last time in Broxbourne, Haskins attempts to save his Team UK comrade even at the expense of his own record, and BxB Hulk merely wanting to spit wine in peoples faces before kicking said faces off. Haskins and Scurll worked as a well oiled team at the start of the match isolating CIMA with constant tags. CIMA rolled out of the ring to make Hulk legal (Lucha rules) but when Scurll evaded Hulk's clothesline and ran straight through into a suicide dive outside the ring onto CIMA. Again Team UK teamed up against Hulk and the two showed why they were a team on the previous tour as they had Hulk run the ropes through and over them, Haskins then taking him down to the mat for Scurll to come off the opposite rope with a knee to the back of Hulk's head. Hulk was able to fight off Haskins and Scurll with pin-point accuracy kicks but Hulk and CIMA weren't able to work half as well as Team UK. They got along for the most part, CIMA even having to instruct Hulk to converse in English due to their location, but when CIMA trusted Hulk long enough to hold Haskins or Scurll in a camel clutch for Hulk to come off the opposite rope in order to kick the Englishman he instead made the decision to kick CIMA on the top of the head. Haskins was isolated and worked over, primarily by Hulk although CIMA did tag in a few times although the trust between the two DG roster members was gone, but after an extended heat period he was able to make the hot tag to Marty. By this point the structure of the match had completely broken down and all four were involved without tags, Haskins now making it abundantly clear that he wanted to save Scurll and repeatedly allowed him to go for pinfalls. Here I was wondering whether Haskins would even end up being sacrificed himself for Scurll to survive. But eventhough you could argue all the clear signs were pointing towards Scurll winning before the weekend even began with everything on the line, when Hulk sprayed him in the face with wine and CIMA rolled him up, everyone was buying that as the finish but Scurll survived. Haskins and Hulk fought away from the ring after Haskins dived out of the ring and they then made their way towards the stage where Hulk went for the E.V.O but Haskins escaped and hit a superkick but before Hulk collapsed to the floor, with Haskins on his knees after the force of the superkick, Hulk took Haskins head off with a First Flash on his way down onto the stage. Inside the ring with Hulk and Haskins out of the picture, CIMA hit Scurll with the Perfect Driver but again Scurll kicks out. CIMA went to the top for his ultimate finisher, the Meteora, but Scurll was able to move out of the way. With CIMA stunned Scurll was able to lift him up onto his shoulders in torture rack position and then bring CIMA back first right onto Scurll's knees, one of Scurll's finishing moves and the move that he used to pin CIMA the last time they were in Broxbourne. But Scurll wasn't done there, it would take more than that to pin the current reigning and defending Open The Dream Gate Champion so he pulled out a second finisher and what he'd been using as a "kill" move over the past year, a Tombstone piledriver was the death blow and Scurll achieved for the second time in his career a pinfall over CIMA. But this wasn't the same as October 2011 as this time he pinned THE Champion in Dragon Gate right now and became the first Englishman to pin CIMA during his latest reign, something not even PAC could do in any fashion. This was the biggest victory of Scurll's career as he just pinned CIMA during his third reign as OTDG in a Title reign in which he has just amassed the most defenses and is on course for surpassing Naruki Doi's 15 month reign. So this result was huge as to date the only American to directly beat CIMA in Dragon Gate USA is Johnny Gargano on his way to becoming their Open The Freedom Gate Champion via submission both times and now here was Marty Scurll who has pinned CIMA twice, the latest time when he was top of the food chain in Japan.

So thus far the first half had been good and had major upsets like Lion Kid pinning Doi and Scurll pinning CIMA, both of which would come into play tomorrow. The crowd had been alright for the first half, maybe a little bit flat but then I always find this to be the case with Friday night Broxbourne shows. But things just entirely kicked up a few extra gears as soon as we returned from intermission with an incredible sprint of a match between Akira Tozawa and Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!! Horiguchi had to replace El Generico only a week before the tour began during the Generic Luchadore signing with the WWE and out of the three matches Horiguchi slotted in to replace Generico, this was the match I was most looking forward too. These had a fantastic King Of Gate finals last year in which Horiguchi won, so this match started hot. IHeartDG has the match timed at 10:19 whereas the man with the time in BritWres, Gadge, has it down at 8:41 so I'm more inclined to believe Gadge as this was an absolute blitz of a sprint between two incredible wrestlers who really know how to work this style of match. Before the bell even rang both men were tense and ready to spring into action so when that bell sounded both ran at each other, Tozawa missing a bicycle kick attempt. Horiguchi had the early advantage after that avoidance but as is customary, Tozawa took control by grabbing and yanking away at the hair extensions at the back of Horiguchi's balding head. H.A.G.E is Japanese for bald/ing and Genki has now spent a decade either loving or hating that chant depending on his face/heel alignment. And the chants were in full force during this match with the crowd torn between Tozawa and Horiguchi, some even cheering for both. As always this didn't sit well with Genki as he was able to fire back, bellow out "Don't touch my hair!" before catching Tozawa in a rana. From there he declared "I am angry" and the two went at it with a bit more intensity this time, Tozawa getting Horiguchi in the turnbuckle to deliver some Kobashi style chops, much to the crowd's enjoyment, but when Horiguchi still showed signs of fight with a beaten chest, Tozawa merely punched him straight in the jaw. In another Tozawa staple he was able to hit consecutive suicide dives onto Tozawa and really set the crowd on fire. And the finishing stretch was absolutely sublime. Horiguchi went for the Backslide From Heaven, but Tozawa rolled through and went for a German but Genki reversed it into another Backslide attempt which once more Tozawa slipped out before any time the ref could get his hand down to the mat and got a snap German suplex. Tozawa then hit a deadlift German, but that didn't get the three count. When he went for his Straight Jacket German, Genki once more reversed into the Backslide but Tozawa was able to kick out just before the three. But shortly after Tozawa was able to capture both arms and complete the Straight Jacket for a decisive three count, this move is still Tozawa's ultimate finisher. Absolutely incredible sprint that the entire crowd loved and a contender for one of the best matches under 10 minutes to be fun and absolutely enthrall the crowd with the wrestling talent on display.

I had thought that YAMATO vs Mochizuki would end up being the match of the weekend, but in the end it didn't even take match of the night. I'd say it tied with Tozawa/Horiguchi as the second best match of the night. But I absolutely loved this match. This match had me hook, line and sinker from the moment it started and kept me gripped right until the final bell. After the sprint in the last match, these two were a lot more pre-meditated and took things slow at the start of the match. These two have incredible chemistry against each other and their three previous matches since 2010 are favourites of mine. I said that Dragon Gate is more known for high-octane sprint wrestling as shown in their Six Mans and matches like Tozawa/Horiguchi, but their epic singles encounters that start slow and build up to insane finishing stretches where each man has to struggle and calculate ways and moves in which to keep the advantage over their opponent are equally as prominent and just as good. And YAMATO and Mochizuki do that style of wrestling so well, especially when in the ring against each other. After the sprint of the last match the crowd was slow to react to these two testing each others strength and wrestling on the mat, but Mochizuki's hard thud-like kicks soon woke the crowd back up. And Mochizuki really lit YAMATO up with those kicks, with pin-point accuracy aiming for the arm/shoulder region. The kicks continued outside the ring and Mocchy even ended up slipping on beer when his foot was already in mid-air after connecting with YAMATO. Mochizuki snapmared YAMATO down onto the floor to deliver a kick right to the spine. The two battled on the ring apron, Mochizuki capturing the same arm of YAMATO's he was kicking and brought him crashing down onto the steel frame of the ring apron with an arm wringer. Inside the ring YAMATO attempted to fire back with elbows with his other arm, but Mocchy again caught YAMATO's weakened arm but when he began to slam it down onto his own shoulder, YAMATO slipped his arm free and caught Mochizuki in a sleeper hold. Things continued to escalate as it became a battle of submissions, Mochizuki still went for YAMATO's arm but YAMATO kept grabbing hold of Mocchy's leg for an ankle lock, a submission move loved by both. YAMATO's elbows were tested against Mochizuki's kicks, at one point Mochizuki looked to be gearing up for a knock out kick only for an elbow to the face to momentarily rock him but when YAMATO went to follow it up with a second, Mocchy finally landed that hard kick to YAMATO's face. The fact that both of them so love the ankle lock came into play as both men were able to reverse and put the other in the same hold, over and over again. All the work towards YAMATO's arm came into play when Mochizuki pulled a Kimura lock out of nowhere, but YAMATO was able to make it to the ropes. By this point it was becoming clear that this match was going to end via submission, Mochizuki on a side note is an incredible seller when in a submission hold as he may even be inches away from the ropes but his selling of the pain he's in makes it look like he may as well but on the other side of the ring for the effort required to make it to the ropes and break up the hold, so both men started looking more towards their big moves. YAMATO had the sleeper hold/Galleria combination but Mochizuki was able to escape. Mochizuki has those knock out kicks and the Twister, but YAMATO kicked out. It took Mochizuki's big move finisher, the Sankakugeri to the face (a second rope springboard kick directly to the face) to put down YAMATO for the three count. Fantastic match, these two really bring out the best in each other. But then my expectations were a little too high so I'd only rate this on par with their first singles encounter before the Open The Dream Gate Title was added to the equation. But still I said I would kill to see Mochizuki vs YAMATO live and I have to say this was still a fantastic match that built and built until the finish.

Ricochet vs SHINGO
 My match of the night had to be Shingo vs Ricochet. This was absolutely incredible, a truly spectacular contest and worthy main event. I'm not someone who has to think the main event has to be the best match on the card, it just needs to be a spectacle and have a main event feel about it. As Ricochet's European debut and someone who has more than earned his place on the Dragon Gate roster winning 3 Dragon Gate Title's all within a year of debuting, he faced off against THE man in DG UK, Shingo, who main evented all three nights of the previous tour - All in winning efforts might I add - and was in the main event of each night of this tour. The last time Shingo main evented Broxbourne it was against PAC in a brilliant power vs speed/high-flyer battle in which power won. PAC was the man who Ricochet defeated to win the Open The Brave Gate Title in November 2011, and Ricochet is likely to the man to take PAC's spot as the greatest high-flyer in both Dragon Gate and Dragon Gate USA. Maybe even now DG UK? But Ricochet has a completely different style to PAC, PAC is very stoic and English in nature, whereas Ricochet is very outward and charismatic in nature and he showed that by having the audacity to mess with Shingo's mullet in the opening few minutes of the match. If we learned anything by Horiguchi vs Tozawa earlier, you don't touch another mans hair, and Shingo made him pay dearly by throwing him halfway across the ring in a display of power after a test of strength and then unloading on him with chops and punches in the corner. Ricochet is capable of absolutely breath-taking and graceful displays of athleticism, none more impressive than a corkscrew Sasuke Special where he was able to take Shingo down outside the ring and land on his feet in order to high five fans. Ricochet really is one of the most graceful flyers in the world and he really showed that with standing moonsaults, running shooting star presses, corkscrew roundhouse kicks and his 630 Senton. Shingo was as impressive as always, I am yet to see Shingo in anything that wasn't close to MOTN, MOTN itself or even a MOTYC. And he was in fine form on this night being the base and foil for Ricochet's impressive aerial offense while putting forth some impressive displays of power himself as he was able to throw Ricochet up in the air, hit several Made In Japans including a dead lift version and sealed Ricochet's fate with a Last Falconry. A truly incredible contest that featured too much action for me to even begin to attempt a play by play. An absolutely epic main event that may have even bettered the Shingo/PAC match due to Ricochet's charisma.

Like I said at the beginning after the show had ended that night I felt that this was the strongest Broxbourne DG UK show to date. Looking at Gadge's match times bell to bell the entire (main) show was just under 80 minutes long. So it really was all killer no filler. Each match bettered the one that had proceeded and the card just built and built masterfully with each match having something different to offer so by the time the show ended the crowd was on the edge of the seat by the time Shingo finally put Ricochet away. There's not a weak match on the entire show, the first half was good and highly enjoyable, but the second half was absolutely incredible and worth a DVD purchase for the last three matches alone. What an excellent start to the weekend!

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