Sunday, 24 July 2011 12:41
Open the United Gate: New York
Dragon Gate USA
Reviewed By Joe Babinsack
Just as I’m talking another company up about how they exclusively feature Tag Team wrestling, Dragon Gate’s American branch blows up my statements as they introduce their Tag Team Championship: the “Open the United Gate” belts.
With Dragon Gate, there is a difference, in that the home style is light years faster, vastly beyond being a spot-fest, and featuring a complexity and a Lucha Libre foundation that simply cannot be readily put into words.
Everything in DGUSA is faster than the eye can follow. I’m not quite sure how they pull it off, match by match, without things falling apart, but they do it. I’m not quite sure how American talent can merge so readily with the core Japanese roster, but they do it. I’m not quite sure how they do it, but they do it.
I’ve written it before, and I’ll write again, but if anyone needs an infusion of fresh wrestling action because they are jaded with the mainstream, this is the way to go.
What’s great about Dragon Gate now is that they’ve moved beyond the introduction phase, and they’ve moved into a sense of featuring the top-notch action, they’ve integrated the American talent, and they aren’t burdened by trying to figure out how to present the product. They just do it.
What’s interesting about the first installment of the “Open the United Gate” trio of DVDs is the smooth flow of the event. Hailing from the BB King Blues Club & Grill in NYC, the look is great, and the positioning of the big screens and the Dragon Gate logos (and the BB King logo) helps to keep the venue looking top notch professional.
This isn’t the almost too typical gymnasium or second rate arena.
There’s also that ECW feel of moving from match to match. Which is great, because we don’t need to see where the guys are coming from or wonder where the locker room is, and it’s the sleight-of-hand that more promotions should be thinking about to enhance the positives and diminish the negatives of the venue.
But that’s what I expect from Gabe Sapolsky’s take on pro wrestling, as opposed to some guy named Vince.
Ok, enough of that. So we’re looking for the crowning of Tag Team Champs, and there’s a Round Robin format, which again is unique and interesting and will play out over the weekend trio of events. The first installment is top notch and I know it will get better.
We’ve also got a few storylines developing and a high impact Championship match – for the “Open the Freedom Gate” title held by BxB Hulk, challenged by YAMATO, that makes this opening end of the trio of DVDs all the more important.
Yeah, that’s the closest I’m getting to a spoiler.
Interesting, though, how the card is laid out.
And I do like that the listing on the back of the DVD isn’t quite the way things play out as it airs. I think too many promotions think that they have to be detailed or have to say what’s going to happen before it happens. Just sell the product … no one says you have to spell it out before it happens.
Which means I’m not telling what happens if I can help it, either.
Let’s get to the matches and my impressions.
Reby Sky is in the house, proudly displaying the Open the United Gate belts with Bryce Remsberg. She would mix it up with Moxley as the card progresses. …
Akira Tozawa vs Sami Callihan
If you’re following Dragon Gate, you know Tozawa is being groomed for bigger things. His placement in DGUSA, in the opener, is not condemnation of potential, but showcases him instead. He also comes out with Jon Moxley, to further the factional situations in the promotion.
Callihan can best be described as a smaller, less pale version of Sheamus, with black hair and a crazier look in his eye, and at least he seems to be toning down the disgusting aspects of his gimmick.
Tozawa doesn’t quite present a look of an impressive physique, but he’s one of those guys who turns it on in the ring. There’s a series of headbutt attempts that was awe-inspiring (even though one worries about smashing your head into the mat so many times, from so many heights, so quickly).
Tozawa has this non-stop activity to his work that gets him over. Battling Callihan in the opener, it kicks off the event with a more hard-hitting style, but still within the fast action expected with DGUSA.
Jon Moxley vs Jigsaw
I liked the ECW flow here, as Moxley shoots his mouth off and Jigsaw answers the challenge. Jigsaw presents the CHIKARA branch of Skayde’s training legacy, so there’s a bit of a different feel here.
Jigsaw is of the tall beanpoles of CHIKARA, and seems to be a little off since he and Mike Quackenbush peaked last year in DGUSA. But Jigsaw comes out on fire and opens with a big plancha and some outside flying. He saves Reby Sky from attack, which also furthers potential issues between Moxley & Tozawa.
Moxley continues to show the reasons why he’s now with the WWE Development, which of course is an oxymoron. There’s something about his attitude that would do money if teamed with The Miz, which I’ll put out there since people seem to be reading what I write. Moxley has a deceptive size, has worked with guys who can fly – as a base, and has an intrinsic heelishness that just oozes.
Kamikaze USA flying high for now, but we all know what that Japanese word implies….
YAMATO (Challenger) vs BxB Hulk (Open the Freedom Gate Champion)
Again with the ECW flow.
BxB always comes across as this typical modern babyface, but he always overcomes the inherent weakness implied by that these days. In other words, he comes out with this somewhat goofy approach and gets heeled, but he then comes back and establishes himself strong.
I loved how they got Moxley out of ringside, with an unexpected attack by Julius Smokes, prolonging the Moxley/Homicide feud and cleaning up this match with something clever.
Wow, if Gabe continues to channel the best parts of his ECW heritage, DG USA is headed for bigger and better things. (Hey Spike TV !)
I’d say it’s a classic Dragon Gate match, but it is a classic Dragon Gate match.
Between BxB and YAMATO, there’s a take on wrestling that you just do not see very much of any more. While sometimes clever and unique and improvisation comes too fast, too furious, too overwhelming, I’m not complaining about it here.
I still think the moves and maneuvers and terminology needs to be explain with educational efforts and/or squash matches, but let me move away from distracting the greatness of this match, after I mention Julius Smokes channeling Wesley Snipes (and hopefully not in paying taxes).
In the ring, out of the ring and all throughout this match, it’s Dragon Gate on display – with the sense that every piece of the action – even if it’s far faster than what you can handle – made meaningful.
What’s also awesome here is the announce crew – Lenny Leonard and (don’t call him Leonard) Chikarason – in setting up the storyline and providing insight that this match is more to soften up BxB Hulk for later this weekend.
Ok, sometimes the announcers don’t have to be right for it to be right.
It’s just a little too bad that finisher came across the way it looked.
Jimmy Jacobs vs Brodie Lee
Jacobs has a renewed purpose in chasing the Title, but Brodie Lee is a monster being built up for challenging that same Title.
They clash, and it’s well set up, and well executed. What more can I say?
Once again, the ECW flow holds true, and Jacobs challenging YAMATO is what future matches are all about. I loved how YAMATO shook Jacobs hand, with that smile on his face, and with attitude in spades.
Chuck Taylor & Johnny Gargano vs Naruki Doi & Richochet
This is the first of the Round Robins, and these guys set the bar pretty high. I love the approach by Ronin – there’s the underlying attitude that they have to prove themselves as worthy of the Japanese talent, and with Taylor & Gargano (of F.I.S.T. in CHIKARA), and with Rich Swann as the mouthpiece here, they just exude the heel faction dynamics.
Doi very well is the fastest man on the roster, but Richochet surpasses him as a high-flyer. It’s power versus speed and tag team action – combinations, working the concept, action – that redefines expectations.
There’s nothing awful about the waffle.
And then they segue into the next match.
Austin Aries vs Rich Swann
There’s something about Swann that screams future star.
Yet Aries and how he opens this match is just amazing. And the way they play out that opening minute makes you realize that professional wrestling is more than just entrances, stale characters and poorly written & delivered promos.
Just watch this match and see what two talented guys can deliver.
It does go longer than I’d like to see, but to make a guy like Rich Swann, you can’t just bury him.
CIMA & Dragon Kid vs Masato Yoshino & PAC
Here’s the problem with Dragon Gate USA: I can either write 5000 words and feebly attempt to convey the action in the ring, or I can burn out a thesaurus and overplay the impressive nature of what I’m enjoying on the screen.
This match features three of the veterans of the Dragon Gate promotion, and a man who defies gravity.
This match features some of the fastest guys on the roster, or some of the best high flyers in the roster. Strike that, this match features four guys who are among the fastest and best high flyers in the business.
And instead of boring everyone with words that can’t fully or accurately describe the action in the ring, let me just exhort the reader to buy this DVD and enjoy a take on the artform of professional wrestling that simply cannot be duplicated in any other promotion.