Freedom Fight DVD
Dragon Gate USA
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
This was originally aired as an iPPV….
Jimmy Jacobs vs Arik Cannon
On one hand, I’m always hoping some promotion does the opener to the Championship route for a wrestler. Then when it starts, I wonder why the guy’s in the opener to begin with? But that’s because almost no promotion in existence has the patience or the long term vision to actually make it work.
Dragon Gate and Jimmy Jacobs could the exception.
I can’t say enough about the talent in the ring here. Arik Cannon is a long time Chicago area wrestler, awesome with the punk look, the Anarchy symbol on his pants, a gut and knockout power. Jacobs is no stranger to him, and Jacobs has been through hell and back, not just in his battles with Moxley.
Very strong opener, with Cannon getting a lot of offense but the story is that he just cannot put Jacobs away, and Jacobs as the more experienced wrestler pulls it out in the end.
Thus begins the journey for Jacob’s goal of his first major Championship.
I don’t usually label the promos but this DVD featured some good ones. Not so much for the quality or the quantity but for the use of setting up characters, fights and long term vision. Here, we’ve got Johnny Gargano, Chuck Taylor and Rich Swann staking their claim to be the power in Dragon Gate USA.
Taylor’s got the talent, Gargano the attitude and Swann the mouth (and the high-flying) in this trio.
Akebono vs Brodie Lee
Well, if you want a mix of styles, and want to see Godzilla vs King Kong, then by all means this is interesting. Akebono is, in a word, huge. Lee is huge enough in comparison to his typical CHIKARA roster, and towers over most of the Dragon Gate roster, but huge isn’t a good word in this battle for him.
It was short, ironically.
Nice as a change of pace. Bruiser Brody vs Abdullah the Butcher it was not.
Sami Callihan Promo
Interesting twist on the up-and-comer promo. Callihan does have a unique look and approach, and since he’s moved on from gross, and sports a chiseled body, he’s definitely someone to watch.
And his promo is definitely a character builder.
BxB Hulk & Homicide vs Jon Moxley & Akira Tozawa
Kind of an odd couple versus the heel stable feel, but this was a Dragon Gate style tag, even with two overly violent Americans in the mix. Of course, BxB Hulk vs Tozawa was more in the ring and more carrying the action, but they kept it moving throughout, kicked it up in the end, and it was well put together….. until the post match craziness.
I liked the featuring of Tozawa and I know there is storyline going on here, but also the establishment of a guy who’s not up to par with BxB Hulk today, but will be down the road.
Homicide vs Jon Moxley is something of an oddity. They’ve battled a few months across the indy scene, and while the dynamics are there – veteran violence versus new blood, the ‘hood vs the spoiled brat, and even some racial overtones in potential, there’s just something about these two together that screams for more, but the screaming isn’t a positive.
I get the post match battling, in terms of theory and progressing the feud, but then again, I didn’t get it …. It just didn’t feel right.
Warriors International Promo
Austin Aries as the special one-night-only member of Warriors International, taking on the brash upstarts: in the end, it was a great setup.
CIMA vs Shingo
This is a classic Dragon Gate battle, let alone Dragon Gate USA. Shingo has stepped up since his battles with Danielson and Richards. Shingo has moved from just the strong man role, and while he’s still the guy that gets a lot out of the smaller, faster roster, he’s much, much more than that.
CIMA, of course, is a Dragon Gate original.
The match brought out the depths of speed, cleverness and in-ring action everyone expects from DG USA.
Sami Callihan vs Shane Smalls
Just twenty years ago, a match like this would have been expected several times on any TV show.
Today, it’s a rarity to even speak of a squash.
While there was some ugliness in that Stretch Muffler (think single leg Boston Crab, but Callihan is folding that leg over his shoulders/neck), but I’m more impressed by seeing Callihan get the old school push and old school spotlight on his talent and finisher.
Jimmy Jacobs Promo
Jacobs is a guy that has it all, and the promo puts an exclamation point on it. The storyline is being set up, and Jacobs can deliver match after match, and I’m looking forward to the long term payoff.
RONIN vs Warriors International
This match shows that Dragon Gate isn’t just the Japanese roster putting on great match. In a match with only the ‘bald one’ from across the Pacific, we see a classic Dragon Gate style six-man match, featuring not only the awesome young heel team of RONIN, but the in and out of the ring action of Ricochet really shined here.
There are a number of high flyers that should be on everyone’s radar, and Rich Swann, AR Fox and PAC are definitely there, but I’ve always thought Ricochet had huge potential. PAC can soar, Fox is the next big thing, and Swann has promo ability in spades, but give me Ricochet in the ring today, because he not only brings in (like a Space Flying Tiger Drop), but he can work, sell and deliver beyond just the high spots.
But RONIN is rising and there’s a gentleman from Kentucky that has ringleader and superstar and “best in the world” all over him. I’m definitely looking for more from Mr. Taylor, Johnny Gargano and Rich Swann.
Masato Yoshino vs YAMATO
There’s only one thing that can follow, and build from, a six man Dragon Gate style match, and that’s two of the best of the Dragon Gate parent company, in Yoshino (speed, speed and submissions) and YAMATO (all around heel with submission and power).
While the “this is awesome” chant is trite, there were reasons for it here.
The biggest was the awesome use of counters and the speed and in-ring talent that brought it off. Sometimes the finisher-kick out, finisher-kick out stretch at the end gets tiresome. Here, they put on a show with blocks, counters, roll-throughs and then eventually settling into the finisher sequence.
Not to harp, but letting talent put their skills and creativity on display, in the center of the squared circle, almost always looks better than the product put on by automatons, thought up by third rate Hollywood rejects.
With Dragon Gate USA, we’re talking all about that speed of the in-ring action and transitions and an ongoing smoothness in the work.
Another awesome aspect to this match was that submissions base, that MMA inspired work to the finish, and also the distinct reality of that finisher. Once it was locked on, they sold, went to the finish, and that was that.
None of that overly worked nonsense that has no basis in real fighting.
Freedom Fight is one more excellent DVD available from Dragon Gate USA, announced exceptionally by Chikarason and Lenny Leonard, presenting top notch action, lots of long term booking, superior finishes and a perspective on professional wrestling that should appeal to fans who have one eye on the old school and another on the future of the sport.