Monday, 20 June 2011 20:00
Bushido: Code of the Warrior DVD
Dragon Gate USA
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Note: This DVD aired as an iPPV on October 29th, 2010
Dragon Gate USA continues to present a top notch pro wrestling product, integrating some of the best wrestlers from Japan with some of the most promising talent in the United States, and has reached a point where the promotion is truly established as a force in the industry.
Interestingly, in a week where Austin Aries has arrived back on the TNA scene, this event marked a significant promo by the former ROH World Champion, one that put him on the map both as a free agent, and as a defender of professional wrestling scene.
Aries debuted for the group, and took the mic with a vengeance, responding to comparisons to MMA, talk about the downturn of the business, and emphasizing the reality of the sport to those who don’t seem to ‘get it’.
The promo solidified Aries and his standing as a ‘free agent’ after leaving ROH, and strongly explains his further exploits in EVOLVE and across the indy scene. While I have some confusion about his almost ‘straight shooter’ attitude here and his recent swerve of talking retirement and then signing with TNA, I definitely cannot fault a professional wrestler of Aries’ caliber from getting the best deal, exploring his options and hopefully making himself a rewarding career in what is considered a major company.
Of course, TNA simply cannot compare to Dragon Gate USA in terms of a pure professional wrestling promotion, in terms of that actual concept called ‘professional wrestling’ in the ring, nor the atmosphere and attitudes towards the fans.
And, there’s that particularly forgettable tenure where we knew this man as The Austin Starr.
But the name on this review is Bushido, and the iPPV from several months back is well deserving of praise, especially in the excellent match between Aries and Masato Yoshino.... but more on that later.
Dragon Gate USA on this date presented their own take on “the draft” that is so ridiculously held in another world of professional wrestling. I wasn’t too keen on the concept, but as I am typically with the workings of the mind of Gabe Sapolsky, what sometimes seems questionable often turns into a backdrop for things more clever, and quite often, into something far more involved and interesting than I originally feared.
Yes, that’s the kind of cynicism that runs rapid in the minds of people who try to follow this crazed business.
Bushido features a culmination of the whole draft concept – by which top American Indy wrestlers are being courted by various Dragon Gate factions. Some names are named, and a group of renegade warriors (in Japanese terminology, masterless samurai are called Ronin) establish themselves. More on this a little later as well.
One other culmination involve the vicious feud between Jon Moxley & Jimmy Jacobs.
Otherwise, and as usual, Dragon Gate USA provides a card very deep with in-ring mastery, a whole lot of fast action, interesting angles and storylines involving rising American stars and the broken English pronouncements of a variety of Japanese stars, and overall – a whole lot of pro wrestling to be excited about.
And now, on to some match specific commentary:
Four Way Freestyle (Ricochet vs Johnny Gargano vs Chuck Taylor vs Arik Cannon)
By the way, in DG USA, Fray! Indicates a six man elimination style match (such as with the bonus match of the DVD), but this opener is a Four Way Freestyle, in which it’s all men for themselves, and one winner by submission or pinfall.
As the storyline progresses on the DVD, the Gargano vs Taylor aspect doesn’t quite make sense, but the conspiring of those who would be Ronin means that they would be out to showcase themselves in this match.
CIMA brought out Ricochet for the match, and makes it known that the winner of this match would be ‘drafted’ onto Warriors 5.
In terms of guys trying to make impression, this match does not fail. Too much to fairly comment upon, but between the high-flying of Ricochet, the power of Cannon, the surprising plancha by Taylor and the all-around talent of Gargano, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about.
And Taylor’s post match declaration, then Gargano’s begging, set the stage for later in the show.
This was the match on the DVD that made me questioning, then annoyed, then getting it, then really getting it.
The style clash between Homicide & Swann wasn’t so bad as I feared, but there’s something about a guy who thrives on violence taking on a guy that has shown great high-flying and athleticism that had me wondering why. And then, once I got through some minutes of seeing these two guys work it out, I started realizing that maybe it wasn’t a bad approach.
And then, the sense of showing that Rich Swann wasn’t just a flyboy started to show through.
Swann – who had an amazing reaction from this crowd – showed that he could withstand Homicide’s assaults and could work with a veteran and could show his stuff. I loved the concept of getting Swann more experience with an experienced guy, and in the end, the finish worked and the selling in the ring after the match made it even more intriguing with the various storylines.
At this point, Austin Aries made his awesome promo, making a point to point out Swann, and what hyped the whole thing to another level was having Swann out there watching this next match.
Masato Yoshino (Open the Dream Gate Champion) vs Austin Aries [Non-Title Match]
What I appreciated about the match was that it was a must-see in terms of watching two solid veterans putting on a clinic in the ring.
What I didn’t like, despite the debut, the promo, the ‘dream’ quality of the matchup, was how quickly we get a big match between two big guns, and also that it was a Non-Title Match.
Unfortunately, that’s the way of the business these days, and to be fair, it’s an (internet) PPV so it does need to deliver, but once again, delivering matches – no matter how good they are – without a build up just seems so wrong.
The story of the match was awesome. Aries targeting the legs of Yoshino to slow him down was classic. That they worked that angle, that Yoshino sold that punishment, that both men worked to their established finishers all kept the build going, and established the match beyond most others.
It was a battle between the Last Chancery vs the Sol Naciente, mostly because Aries was able to neutralize the kicks and the speed and the fast action expected with Masato Yoshino.
But a Champion, even in a Non-Title Match, should win over his challenger in a short notice situation.
And then, once the dust settled, Aries got “Swanned” and that was awesome to have the fan’s point it out, and it again played to the bigger story.
Jon Moxley vs Jimmy Jacobs (I Quit Match)
Restraint isn’t something easy to say after watching this match, but the restraint I praise is that there wasn’t four matches with the same finish or the same amount of gore.
And gore it was.
Quite frankly, Jacobs diving from the balcony onto Moxley was purely insane and opened the match at a level that it required. Once it settled down a bit, the spike came out. At first, I thought it wasn’t playing out seeing Moxley stabbing away. But then the blood started pouring and while the phrase ‘crimson mask’ seldom comes into use the past few years, it was actually an understatement here.
Watch it for the details, because I’m not squeamish, but I’m not hyping this garbage style other than the hype of implied violence and blood you will see.
Seeing Jimmy Jacobs with his hair drenched in blood is description enough. I thought the match was one step too clever for itself, but the finish (once you overlook the referee stopping Moxley’s assault and giving Jacobs an opportunity to regroup) was logical.
Cool thing was Jacobs getting serious afterwards and saying he’s going for gold, he’s overcome much to get to this point, and we’ll unlikely see the blood or the crazy dives in his pursuit.
Akebono & Brodie Lee vs The Osirian Portal (Ophidian & Amasis)
I’ve honestly not seen Akebono in action, and he looks like Samoa Joe with 250 pounds added to his front. There was something off about his work, and he’s no Samoa Joe in the ring, but as a team of giants and primed for the battle the next day, it was passable.
Ok, the brief hypnosis angle was too much comedy for me, but The Osirian Portal team is vastly talented and underused here. The only thing I’ll point out is that if it were ever possible for Akebono to do the “splits” like the Portal team, that hypnosis spot would have brought the house down.
Literally and figuratively.
The only odd thing was announcing the Lee vs Akebono match as being set before the match ended. While this was an obvious setup, let’s do the setup then announce the match later?
An interlude of a promo with Homicide ensued. It made sense, and was an unexpected backdrop for an attack by Moxley, setting up a feud that crossed into EVOLVE. Great for the live show, in hindsight a bit too much with the run-ins, but then again, this wasn’t a match being interrupted.
CIMA & Genki Horiguchi vs YAMATO & Akira Tozawa
Tag team action in the Dragon Gate USA style starts off at awesome and only gets better. In terms of the talent in the ring, you’ve got two of the most reputable wrestlers in CIMA and YAMATO, plus a wily veteran in Genki Horiguch, and a rising star in Akira Tozawa. In terms of telling a story, showing off talents, hitting big spots and all within the octane-fueled style, it’s over the top.
Can YAMATO set himself up for bigger things? Can he plant the Galleria?
But getting there was the story.
And after the story, Johnny Gargano delivered on the dramatic buildup of his quest for a slot in Warriors by declaring that he didn’t want to be part of Warriors International.
And Chuck Taylor & Rich Swann joined in, beating down any help CIMA would have received.
That cemented a pretty strong angle that ran for several months in the promotion, and the further inclusion of Austin Aries to help a shorthanded Warriors take on some ‘punks’ was a cool interruption of the format, as Lenny Leonard would note in terms of not having time for the brief promo.
BxB Hulk (Open the Freedom Gate Champion) vs. Shingo
As great as this match was, I think it screamed for a primer for new fans to understand the moves: The H Thunder, the “Made in America”, the Mouse, the various power moves of Shingo and the various kicks and submissions and speed moves of BxB Hulk.
Just an awesome match, again featuring power and technical prowess, featuring some out-of-the-ring action and various displays of talent on behalf of both guys.
While BxB Hulk proves once again why he’s one of the best and one of the true fighting Champions in the world, SHINGO once again delivered on a main event and high profile match.
This is a match that does deserve a blow-by-blow, but I’m already threatening 2000 words, so I don’t want to overburden the reader.
Bushino: Code of the Warrior is one of many DVDs from Dragon Gate USA, featuring top notch action, great match-ups, a variety of styles and a variety of approaches, all of which distinguish it from other promotions.
The names may be a little different, or a little unknown, but any true fan of professional wrestling would enjoy watching a couple hours of the DG USA product.