Open the Ultimate Gate 2012
Dragon Gate USA
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
It remains tragically ironic that this promotion could benefit immensely from more mainstream exposure, while there are other promotions that have opportunities to showcase their product, and yet never seem to maximize (let alone monetize) that exposure.
Dragon Gate USA continues to present a level of talent, a spectacular array of styles and a depth of roster that catches your attention immediately, and holds it for two hours. While the matchmaking seems constrained by both ongoing shifts in the parent, Japanese promotion as well as the expectations of the indy scene, there are distinct differences on display.
While other promotions are always mired in the same old matches, there is an obvious effort here to mix in names and talent. It helps that DG USA can bring in veterans from Japan, can introduce newcomers, and can bring in ‘names’ like Sabu and Tommy Dreamer.
Unlike most other promotions, DG USA is vastly capable of working new talent in, and out.
With a ‘home-grown’ roster that is both faction based and stylistically diverse (high-flyers and strongmen to name two distinct types), there remains a core roster and a consistency, a continuity as well as a promise that these guys will make it to the mainstream. (Jon Moxley is now in the Shield, there’s a big guy in FCW, and even Johnny Gargano has gotten some looks. Then there’s the thought that BxB Hulk’s former gimmick was absconded by that giant dancing fool in the WWE.)
DG USA’s factions of RONIN and D.U.F. have been the national equal of the shifting winds of the Japanese home base. RONIN’s Gargano became the Open the Freedom Gate Champion, and D.U.F. has terrorized the roster with its punk inspired (more Rancid than Ramones, less Green Day than Stiv Bators) violence.
But where the promotion shines is with the styles.
There is no Dragon Gate “House” style, although almost all wrestlers here work a pace that is light years ahead of anyone else, and often at light speeds in comparison.
This roster touts the greatest assemblage of high-flyers since New Japan’s 1990’s run with Liger, Wild Pegasus, Ultimate Dragon, Eddie Guerrero and others. Here, we see AR Fox, Ricochet, Rich Swann and PAC – who cuts a promo here, showing off a brogue that immediately gives a WWE fan creative ideas.
(PAC, if built around for the much rumored lighter weight WWE product, can be every much the Dynamite Kid or Rey Mysterio of the next decade).
Recently added to the mix is Samuray Del Sol, who can bring it, too.
If you’re more into the strong man, DG USA has Jon Davis, Scott Reed and to some degree, Sami Callihan. (Callihan is this promotions personification of violence).
But what’s more important is the clash of those styles, and the interactions between wrestlers working from different perspectives. Because of this, there’s not so many spotfests, more storytelling and for the most part, a lot less need for all the creative aspects of modern pro wrestling.
However, Open the Ultimate Gate 2012 did go crazy with a lot of creative stuff, visual vulgarity and talk.
Is that a bad thing?
The cheekiness and the Tommy Dreamer inspired piledriver spot and the gratuitous displays were definitely over-the-top. The interference of Christina Von Eerie wasn’t so much, even if it was over-the-top, but it was clever. We’re already dealing with the D.U.F. and that other four letter word with “F” and “K” in it.
I understand the need to get attention – is this the way to go? I guess if it means attracting attention, try it. But there’s a line that gets crossed that cannot be readily dialed back, isn’t there?
All that being said, on to my take on the event:
I spoke of styles, and one distinct display was an All-Japan inspired match between Masaaki Mochizuki and AKIRA Tozawa. Mochizuki is the veteran, Tozawa the rising star, and both have a similar hard-hitting approach, blended with the dives, ability to work with the relatively smaller guys, and a strong mat wrestling foundation.
This was the ‘This is Awesome”, “That was Awesome” and “Dragon Gate” chant-able match.
This was all about two guys beating the heck out of each other, which I know many assume is one of the core concepts of professional wrestling, but … well, really, is it something on display like this on a regular basis?
Low Ki vs PAC. Dream Match. What more can be said?
What was great here was the pure wrestling aspect of the match – slow building, selling, working holds and keeping it simple – all the while emphasizing the conflict and the effort to be the best.
There’s a believability here that defied the normal, indy match.
Which is what I expected from these two, top talents, but watching it play out was important. I love how DG USA has established that high-flying is high-risk and not intended to be a long match. Here, keeping the match grounded kept a lot of that concept – these guys aren’t out for going crazy and messing up, they’re not needing to go crazy and ‘entertain’, they’re more than capable of doing something peculiar to the indy world – wrestle.
And guess what!
The crowd loved the match, got behind the action, chanted and got into what was happening.
Instead of burning out, they were built up, lead and inspired.
And when they hit something crazy, we got a “That was splendid!” chant.
That was different!
Yeah, this is a term of endearment for the punk faction D.U.F. Horrible name, and Sami Callihan can be one disgusting dude. But Callihan is less snot and more cruddy singlet, a little less over-the-top gross and a lot more violently attuned.
It was a weird dynamic to have a heelish BxB Hulk battling the established heel of D.U.F., and the crowd was more into the Japanese veteran as the de facto babyface, which really got odd in the end.
From BxB hulk with blood red stuff dribbling from his mouth, to the Mutoh-like mist, to Callihan’s spit-slaps and the ongoing question of hygiene, there’s a lot to this match that looked ugly.
Which I believe was the point, and point made.
Awful is Sami Callihan’s look.
Awful is Christina Von Eerie’s attitude.
Awful is actually very interesting in certain situations.
Yeah, I don’t have much to say about the entourage of The Scene. And there’s something about Lenny Leonard making the calls around gratuitous wiggling and simulation and camera shots.
If you want to get a good look, there’s a lot of stuff hanging out all over the place.
Ironically, the main event has three Americans and one Japanese wrestler. It’s well beyond the point where DG USA has proven to the Japanese home roster that the talent level has reached a level of equality.
It’s well beyond the point where there’s an awareness that Dragon Gate USA has proven an ability to actually create new stars.
Who would have suggested, five years ago, that American workers could compete with, compare with, let alone Champion in a promotion well-established as the best in the world?
If you’re a fan of professional wrestling, and not aware of DG USA, why?
After it’s all said and done, Open The Ultimate Gate 2012 is one more event setting the standard of Dragon Gate’s excellence. What impresses me the most about DG USA is that the talent in the ring seems vastly interested in raising the bar and pushing each other to new levels of professional wrestling greatness.
Which, to me, is what sets the American branch of Dragon Gate above and beyond most other promotions in this country.