Open the Northern Gate
Dragon Gate USA
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
There are times when, as a fan, you see a face, see a new body, see a spectacular performance and say, who is THAT!?!
This DVD provides one of those opportunities.
I’ve heard of PAC, and seen results and watched him in action. At least I am now convincing myself, because after seeing him tear it up in the Tag Team Main Event of Open the Northern Gate, I’m not so sure. There’s no way I saw this action, no way I saw that talent on display.
Even his face on the cover was not ringing a bell. I thought for the longest time it was Jon Moxley, but it aint’.
And no disrespect to Mr. Moxley, whom I don’t want on my bad side (Jimmy Jacobs can have that unique pleasure), but PAC and Moxley aren’t readily confused anymore.
What’s more impressive is the company PAC keeps on this show, and his headline status over a troupe of talented wrestlers. Dragon Kid vs Masato Yoshino is the best 2 out of 3 falls culmination to their lengthy (and spectacular) feud. But they don’t get the cover. The explosion of Moxley vs Jacobs is a more American based feud, full of potential violence and likely to get crazy good, crazy fast. And the roster is replete with talent, from the CHIKARA crew to CIMA to Naruki Doi vs veteran Masaaki Mochizuki.
But none get the cover, and none are so deserving of it like PAC.
The Tag Team Action match alone has guys that few on the indy scene can truly hang with. BxB Hulk and YAMATO are the yin and yang of Dragon Gate, both pure representatives of the babyface and heel roles, respectively, and yet neither are the sort of painfully obvious modern mainstream version of the same. BxB Hulk’s appearance screams for the 18-35 year old demographic to hate him as a more female friendly appeal, with an over-the-top entrance, and a not so tough on the surface look. And yet, what’s there to grumble about? He’s a Champion, he’s been through the top names, and he fights with a passion few others can match.
YAMATO scream of the tweener role of the past decade, heelish, insulting and indifferent. And yet he’s able to tweak the fans and make them hate him, and doesn’t play that ‘I’ll get you to like me’ approach. Maybe in any other promotion he’d be made a face fast, but it’s the core booking approach of Gabe Sapolsky that keeps YAMATO, and BxB Hulk true to their talents.
Who’s left in that match, well, it’s SHINGO.
The guy who blew most matches out of the water last year in battling Bryan Danielson.
And who shines? Well, the cover boy does. PAC puts on a high-flying display, but at the level of a gymnast, with a solid-packed muscular body, and none of the indecision of a John Morrison. Just look at that cover, and the quasi-demented glare, and you know PAC isn’t someone to be messed with.
And in battle, he shows that he is not to be messed with.
No matter the result, this was a display of pure wrestling talent that only comes across in a generation. There are those in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that have seen that happen, and there are those in St. Louis who saw it happened a little more recently, but something tells me that PAC might be more of the lineage of that Dynamite Kid fellow, just because he comes from that same Island.
But in the least, DG USA has a guy that can stand up to comparisons like that, and with Davey Richards entrenched with the competition, there’s room for that role here.
I like to pull out my “words cannot describe it” phrase, but really, words cannot describe it when PAC is in action. Even in a match where BxB Hulk pulls out the mouse, and YAMATO pulls out the Gallaria, you get that sudden sense of hey, this is awesome, and then SHINGO catches PAC in mid-air and delivers a Blood Fall or such, and you realize that the timing and speed and execution that is absolutely intrinsic to Dragon Gate’s Style, is taken up a notch.
And that’s no easy feat.
But the dives, contortions and acrobatics of PAC steal the show, and it seems so effortless. He truly is “The Man that Gravity Forgot” and that moniker is touted by the superb announce crew of Lenny Leonard and “don’t call me Leonard, too” CHIKARASON.
What’s more on the Open the Northern Gate DVD?
How about that culmination of the Dragon Kid vs Masato Yoshino feud, one that is recapped during the DVD, featuring all the ins and outs and lightning-fast action of these two prototypical Dragon Gate wrestlers?
If you’ve never seen these two do battle, you don’t know what to expect, but the recaps put it in perspective. If you’ve seen them in battle, the recaps remind you of what you’ll encounter later in the DVD. When they do battle … well, once again words can do the two justice, and the speed of the internet isn’t fast enough to keep up with them.
Dragon Gate is also into showcasing American Indy Talent, and two matches here are of note.
For one, everyone’s crazy newcomer, Jon Moxley, who happens to hold the Full Impact Pro World Title Belt, takes on Ontario favorite Phil Atlas.
I liked Atlas and his look, and he flew high early and got a lot of offense in.
But Moxley is Moxley, and he’s rounding out his resume quite quickly. That FIP Belt was held by big names in the business, and he’s rolling towards joining them. Plus his feud with the utterly entertaining Jimmy Jacobs is just picking up steam … don’t flash forward or turn the DVD off after the main event!
The other showcase has Bolen & Tyson Dux (as in Dukes) taking on Xtremo & Brad Martin. What could have been a routine indy level match justified its positioning and place on this card, and there are some definite characters here. All four come from the Maximum Pro Wrestling group.
Two additional matches – not including the bonus matches of Bryan Danielson vs Matt Sydal (unencumbered by the WWE style), and three home Dragon Gate tag match (in which I love to see the venues and Japanese crowds) – epitomize the Dragon Gate USA promotion.
The mixture of American talent and Japanese veterans shines when CIMA (pronounced Shee-ma) takes on Jimmy Jacobs, and also in the tag team match between CHIKARA’s Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw taking on Gran Akuma (also of CHIKARA) & Akira Tozawa.
Jacobs is one of the most underrated guys in the business, and could put a strong division of like-sized wrestlers on his shoulders. He not only has the talent, but the attitude, the psychology and the effort that puts him at a level above his peers (in this promotion or elsewhere).
CIMA is one of the guys that put Dragon Gate on the map, and he still has it despite his history of injuries. CIMA in the ring is everything that Cena isn’t – crisp, confident and commanding.
I’m still amazed that the big ground haven’t stolen the Warriors (once Warriors 5) fan interactive double arm lift/grunt, or some variant of the same, because that’s the evolution of getting the crowed involved that died with ECW, but lives on in this promotion.
There really are no tag teams like Quackenbush & Jigsaw, and while the CHIKARA style isn’t quick to grasp, it’s quick to enjoy, and quicker than most, and it’s utterly fascinating to watch how the roots of both Dragon Gate and CHIKARA can evolve so differently from a single source.
In an age where getting tired of the jokes and laughing about wrestling is the norm, there’s nothing to laugh about and yet everything to enjoy about Dragon Gate USA and the Open the Northern Gate DVD.