Spotlight on Japan

‘Sup duders, Jake Mulligan here with our weekly puro dose. This week we’ve got results from Dragon Gate’s latest PPV, some news on NJPW’s big juniors league, analysis of CIMA’s 10 month Dream Gate reign this far, and why people aren’t digging his matches, plus news from NOAH, BJW, and yes, TNA. Then, we’ll have a match review to wrap things up.


Dragon Gate’s big pay-per-view on 5/5 provided a number of angles and great matches, and was a huge show for the company. The first half of the show was extremely low-key, but the second half was full of great stuff. I will also note that my match winner predictions last week were 100% accurate, nooch. First, a legitimate juniors dream match went down, as KENTA took on Naruki Doi. These two faced off in a 6-man last year in NOAH where they displayed tons of hate, and that continued here. I have a review of the match later in the column, so I will not comment fully on it now, but KENTA earned a hard fought victory, then the two buried the hatchet post-match. KENTA did not, as expected, make a challenge to CIMA, but YAMATO has emerged as the next challenger pre-World, so they may wait till after that match to announce CIMA vs. KENTA if it is going to occur.

In the semi-main event, Keni’chiro Arai and Taku Iwasa lost their Twin Gate title belts to the Typhoon team of Ryo Saito and Susumu Yokosuka. AraIwa did not have a lot of opponents left, but there are certainly a number of challengers set up for RyoSuka. The recently reunited Speed Muscle hold a victory over RyoSuka from November, you could have an interesting inter-squad match with CIMA and Dragon Kid, assuming they are reforming their tag team, Shingo and Hulk, former GHC Jr. Tag Champs, have yet to have a Twin Gate shot…there’s lots to do with these two as champs, so I am excited to see where this reign goes.

The main event was the return of a classic Toryumon matchup, the Luchas de Apuestas cage match. A cage surrounded the ring, with five flags flying high above. Six men are in the cage, and when all five flags are retrieved, the sole man without a flag is either shaved, or loses his mask. The match featured Typhoon reps CIMA and Dragon Kid, New Hazard rep BxB Hulk, and MO’z reps Yasushi Kanda, Masato Yoshino, and YAMATO. In the end, after much infighting from everyone, Speed Muscle finally split from MO’z, as Yoshino and Kanda really went at it, and Yoshino eventually cost Kanda his storied hair. Post-match, Doi and Yoshino made their MO’z split official, seemingly turning face, and seemed to indicate they will start a new faction. Rumored members include Naoki Tanisaki, and possibly either Keni’chiro Aria and/or Taku Iwasa should Tozawajuku split, which at this point, looks likely. The show featured a great second half for sure, and all three matches covered here should be sought out and watched by fans of the Dragon Gate style.


New Japan announced the lineup for the annual Best of Super Jr’s tourney this week, which is sure to be an exciting tournament. It was won last year by Milano Collection A.T., and as last year, the winner will receive an entry into Augusts’ G1 Climax, the premier Japanese wrestling tournament. The League will follow regular New Japan rules: two blocks of six wrestlers, with two #1 vs. #2 matches after a full round robin, then a final. The lineup for Block A consists of IWGP Jr. Champion Wataru Inoue, IWGP Jr. Tag Champion Jushin “Thunder” Liger (1994/2001 winner), Minoru (2006 winner), Ryusuke Taguchi, Yujiro, and ZERO-ONE MAX rep Tatsuhito Takaiwa (2000 winner). Block B consists of IWGP Jr. Tag Champ AKIRA, Koji Kanemoto (1998/2002 winner), Tiger Mask (2004/2005 winner), Tetsuya Naito, Prince Devitt, and TNA rep Jimmy Rave. I see the eventual semi finals being Koji Kanemoto vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa, to continue the NJPW vs. Z1MAX feud, and a battle between Ryusuke Taguchi and Prince Devitt. I then see Taguchi taking the tournament over Koji Kanemoto, and earning a run in the G1 Climax tournament. This tournament can set up a number of future matches, such as Minoru d. Liger leading to Liger/AKIRA vs. Minoru/Milano, Devitt, who has shown incredible promise, can run through his weaker block, and through rollups and such could conceivably only lose to Kanemoto, and you can have Taguchi, who is also in the Z1 war, have a war with Takaiwa. Either way, there are a number of great looking matches in this tourney (Liger vs. Minoru, Liger vs. Taguchi, and Kanemoto vs. Devitt jump out to me) and I’m certainly looking forward to watching whatever occurs.


This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a little while. I love Dragon Gate, straight up. I love the storylines, the fast paced action, the hate they constantly produce in-match, the flashy moves, everything. Everything, that is, except the CIMA singles matches that have been headlining PPV’s for the past year. These matches, should you want to search them out, are CIMA vs. Jushin Liger (7/1/07), vs. Taku Iwasa (Infinity 71), vs. Naruki Doi (9/22/07), vs. Shingo Takagi (11/25/07), vs. Gamma (Infinity 80), vs. Masato Yoshino (3/20/08), and most recently vs. Ryo Saito (Infinity 85, airing this week). The fact of the matter is, I cannot get into these singles matches, and I feel it has to do with the style in which they are wrestled. These matches feature long bouts of limbwork, little hate, are consistently over 30 minutes, and because of this, I can’t get into them. It’s just to me, why do all those things that hurt the style your known for. Going long, and doing lots of limbwork, disregards the flashy, quick paced style DG is known for. And the match I like most, vs. Doi, was very flashy and exciting, yet featured basically no hate, even though those two really beefed leading up to the match. Now, I’m not even calling for CIMA to lose the belt, as he has been drawing well, but when I see a match like Doi vs. KENTA, my favorite DG singles match in a long while, I can’t help but think, “why not have Dream Gate matches in this style?” I know CIMA has his supporters out there, so I’d love to hear a response to my problems here. E-mail me at with your thoughts on this issue, and should the discussion prove intelligent, I will surely publish it later. And check below for a truly great, DG STYLE singles match, with Naruki Doi, who hopefully can turn things around with his eventual Dream Gate reign, taking on one half of the GHC Jr. Tag Champs, KENTA.


I’m going to share some news bits with people here, be it about things too small for a full article, promotions not widely followed, and general news I don’t have much of a personal take on. Use the email above to tell me what companies you’d like to hear about!

NOAH: Partial cards for the next tour were announced, and the notable matches include a 3-way at Korakuen Hall on 5/15 featuring ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness vs. KENTA vs. BJ Whitmer. On the same show, Atsushi Aoki will have his 4th trial series match, against Bryan Danielson. Ya, that’s gonna rock the house. On 5/17, Yoshinobu Kanemaru will defend his GHC Jr. Title against an on-fire freelancer, Magnitude Kishiwada. A switch here, while unlikely, would not shock me, and would be pretty great, as Kishiwada has been tearing it up lately against the likes of Nakajima in K.Office and Kondo in El Dorado. The undercard of that show will feature Shuhei Taniguchi’s 3rd trial match against Yoshihiro Takayama. On 5/23, Bison Smith and Akitoshi Saito will get the title shot they earned in the Global Tag League, taking on GHC Tag Champs Naomichi Marufuji and Takashi Suguira. I see Smith and Saito winning the titles in that one, as sad as I am to predict it, as I feel MaruSugi have a lot more to offer as a team. On the next night, KENTAfuji reunites, as KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji take on Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi in what I believe is Kobashi’s first 2 vs. 2 tag since his return on 12/2. Finally, the tour ender on 6/14 will feature Aoki’s next trial match against Yoshinari Ogawa, and in the main event, Takeshi Morishima makes his v1 defense against the man who pinned him in the Global Tag League, Takashi Suguira. This should be a great power match, and Morishima will go over, perhaps leading to a v2 against Suguira’s higher ranked tag partner and Morishima rival Naomichi Marufuji. It’s certainly an interesting tour for American indy fans, with BJ Whitmer, Nigel McGuinness, Bryan Danielson, and “M-Dogg” Matt Cross (under a hood as Raptor) competing.

BJW: Shadow WX defeated the hated Ryuji Ito for the BJW Deathmatch Title this week in front of Korakuen Hall. All roads seem to lead to an eventual WX defense vs. Yuko Miyamoto, who I believe would likely win the title there.

TNA: TNA has announced participants from New Japan and Dragon Gate are coming in for their eventual World X Cup. Assuming it’s a four man team, I would expect Tiger Mask to certainly be there, then perhaps Minoru to round out NJPW participation. From Dragon Gate, basically anyone can go, though I hope it’s Doi and Yoshino so TNA can use my Homer Simpson-esque plan to get back in the black.
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This week we have a match from Dragon Gate’s PPV on 5/5/08, and it’s a NOAH vs. Dragon Gate dream match. It’s Naruki Doi vs. KENTA, and these two, having shown it in a 6-man in NOAH last year, haaaaaaaaaaaaaaate each other.

Both men stare each other down during intros, with no taunts or calls. The crowd is fairly split, with Doi getting a bit of a “home-promotion” support but there’s no real hate towards KENTA from the crowd. Bell rings and they go RIGHT after each other with forearms, and KENTA off the ropes with a face kick, kicks to the chest, Doi with a dragon screw! Running forearm, dive to the outside! Really energetic open, and Doi gets on some chairs to huge applause. Back in, Doi takes control, and applies a chinlock, leading into a leghold. He controls with some strikes to the leg, and now a figure 4 leglock. KENTA makes the ropes, but Doi retains control and goes for a suplex. KENTA fights, and sets Doi up on the ropes. Kicks to the body, KENTA up top…kneedrop! Doi’s up, and we trade strikes again, neither man backing down. KENTA wins this war with a stiff kick, and whips Doi. Sunset flip, but KENTA stays up…slap to the face! These two are really going at each other, KENTA with back kicks, but Doi gets right up…slap fight! This is brutal! Doi off the ropes…KICK TO THE FACE from KENTA! Jesus. Slam by KENTA, camel clutch. I swear, I will make no humbling jokes. Doi makes the ropes, and KENTA kicks him on his way up, but Doi fights through with slaps! Face kick again by KENTA! These two are not letting up and are smashing each other every chance they can get. I fuckin’ love this. Leg triangle hold by KENTA. Doi gets the ropes, and KENTA fires back with uppercuts. Another forearm exchange leads to Doi regaining control with a running forearm strike. KENTA tied up in the ropes now… Dai Bosou!! Doi tries to suplex him from the outside in, but KENTA fights out, and is springboarding into a…slap from Doi! Jesus, right outta midair. He ties KENTA up and gets a dropkick, and now comes with a splash onto the tied up KENTA from the top. It gets 2. KENTA reverses a whip and sends Doi into the corner, and gets a powerslam. KENTA gets a lariat for two. STF. He’s really cranking on it, but Doi makes the ropes. Kicks from KENTA, but he misses a corner kick. Doi stun guns him, and gets a DDT for 2. Doi with a back elbow, and hits a non-headdroppy Vertebreaker for 2. Doi up top, but KENTA kicks him in the face. Both up top…Doi goes for a sunset bomb, but KENTA fights out. Doi fights back though…release German off the top!! 2. He goes for the Bakatare Sliding Kick…countered into an STF! Doi fights hard and makes the ropes. Springboard dropkick by KENTA, and a dropkick straight to a seated Doi! Fisherman’s Suplex gets two. KENTA off the ropes, caught by Doi into a Doi 555’s! Bakatare! 2!!! Doi goes for a top role Doi 55’s but KENTA fights with elbows…not enough, Doi hits it!! 2!!! Doi, feeling desperate, sets up for the Muscular Bomb, KENTA fights out! Tiger Suplex! 2! KENTA Kombo, but Doi fights it off with strikes, off the ropes, Busaiku Knee! Doi up though, Straightjacket German! 2!! Both men are down and this crowd is loving the action here. Doi goes up top, KENTA clubs him, and goes up top. Going for a superplex… Doi tosses him down. KENTA back up…top rope falcon arrow! 2!! The crowd totally bought it, even though it’s never finished anyone, as this match is layed out perfectly. KENTA Kombo, Busaiku Knee! 2!!! Doi is bleeding hardway from his mouth. KENTA picks him up for go 2 sleep, but he fights out…MUSCULAR BOMB!! He fights to make a cover and does…2~! Only CIMA has kicked out of that! Doi goes for another, but KENTA returns the favor and hits go 2 sleep!! 1…2…Doi gets the ropes! KENTA picks him up for another…reversed into a crucifix pin! 2! KENTA with a discus lariat…2! Both men up…forearm exchange again, slaps! Doi with a hard combo, but KENTA with a diesel strike takes control…go 2 sleep!!! 3!!!

Okay, I loved this match, and this is how the Dream Gate matches should be layed out, and hopefully how they will be layed out when Doi takes control of the division. The match was consistently fast paced, with lots of action at all times and no control segments killing crowds that have already seen like, 3 hours of DG action. The hate was in full effect here, as these two went after each other every second they could, and you can’t even give CIMA a break for not having storylines, as these two never had an issue that started the hate, they just fucking BRING IT. Finally, the match was quick enough, and layed out well enough, that non-finishers, such as the falcon arrow and lariat, got bought by the crowd as the finish. If CIMA could do this, DG’s main problem, ridiculous overkill, could be solved. Overall, this was and extremely exciting matchup with a great last 1/3rd, and I give it ****1/4, thus far one of my favorite matches of the year. Full recommendation.

That’ll do her for this week. Check back next week for a match review from yet another promotion (NJPW and DG down, tons to go), and more news and predictions. Thanks for reading!

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