Dragon Gate USA wasted little time in establishing their top singles Championship, the Open the Freedom Gate Title. The third show was named after the title and a one-night tournament took place on November 28, 2009. The first round featured two multi-man matches and two singles matches. In a six-way match, Gran Akuma got by Hallowicked, Johnny Gargano, Lince Dorado, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson, while CIMA defeated Jorge Rivera, Mike Quackenbush, and Super Crazy. In singles matches, YAMATO bested Davey Richards and BxB Hulk beat Brian Kendrick to set up for the four-way elimination match in the finals. YAMATO eliminated CIMA, then Hulk took care of Akuma and YAMATO to become the first-ever Open the Freedom Gate Champion.
Hulk had no time to rest on his laurels, quickly defending his title in Japan to put the DG in DGUSA with a victory over Susumu Yokosuka. He returned to North America for successful defenses against Dragon Kid, Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, Masaaki Mochizuki, and SHINGO, before dropping the title on January 28, 2011 to the surging YAMATO. Hulk was the Champion for 426 days.
YAMATO picked up right where Hulk left off, with a pair of defenses during WrestleMania XXVII weekend over Austin Aries and Akira Tozawa. He went over to Japan for a defense against Yasushi Kanda, then returned stateside to defeat PAC, CIMA, and Chuck Taylor. After 289 days as Champion, YAMATO left Freedom Fight 2011 on November 13 without the title. Johnny Gargano, who began the first DGUSA show with a pre-show FRAY! match, had made his way all the way up to the highest level in DGUSA.
Gargano went on to have an epic 873 day title reign, with 22 successful defenses. He was able to defeat a wide array of challengers, including Ricochet, Masato Yoshino, AR Fox, Chuck Taylor, Akira Tozawa, Jon Davis, Sami Callihan, Brian Kendrick, SHINGO, Samuray del Sol, Rich Swann, Chris Hero, Uhaa Nation, Trent Baretta, and Roderick Strong. Gargano also made it to England for defenses against Jonathan Gresham and Robbie X, and also went to Dragon Gate to defeat Ryo Jimmy Saito.
Finally, on April 4, 2014, Ricochet, another superstar that rose through the ranks of DGUSA, was able to dethrone Gargano in New Orleans. It would take four months for Ricochet to make his first defense, and it was a great match against Matt Sydal. He would go on to defend against Uhaa Nation the following month, and then went north of the border to successfully defend against Josh Alexander. Ricochet began the wildly successful WWNLive tour of China as the Open the Freedom Gate Champion, and got by Chuck Taylor and AR Fox, setting the stage for an epic rematch with Gargano. In the capital city, Gargano became the first two-time Open the Freedom Gate Champion, ending Ricochet’s reign on November 16, 2014 at 226 days.
This time around Gargano would only hold the title for 132 days, and made just three defenses. He beat Shane Strickland and AR Fox in America, and heading back to England to defeat Pete Dunne. He headed into San Jose against EVOLVE Champion Drew Galloway in a winner-take-all match, and Galloway emerged victorious to become the first-ever double Champion on March 28, 2015.
Galloway immediately took the title over to the UK and successfully defended the belt against Marty Scurll, Doug Williams, Joe Hendry, Luther Valentine, Tron, and Rampage Brown. He returned to EVOLVE and got by Biff Busick, and then was defeated by Timothy Thatcher on July 10 after 104 days as dual Champion.
During Galloway’s title reign, it was announced that DGUSA would no longer be operating as an entity. Gargano thus took it upon himself to try and force Galloway into vacating the title, which Galloway flatly refused. Thatcher felt differently about the issue, and handed the title back over to Gargano at EVOLVE 47 to do with what he wanted. Thatcher was no longer Champion after 37 days.
At EVOLVE 48, Gargano’s former tag team partner and best friend Rich Swann turned his back on him, and helped hand the title over to Ethan Page, who will presumably use his possession of the title to further antagonize his number one rival.
In the almost four years the Open the Freedom Gate Title existed, six great Champions held the gold – BxB Hulk, YAMATO, Johnny Gargano (twice), Ricochet, Drew Galloway, and Timothy Thatcher. Gargano holds the record for most time as Champion, with 1,005 days as the kingpin, and a total of 25 title defenses. All other Champions combined for 22 defenses.
The EVOLVE Championship has taken over as the number one title in the WWNLive Universe, and in the hands of Timothy Thatcher it is certainly in good hands. But it will be hard to forget the many classic matches contested over this prestigious title.
You can read my reviews for many of these matches, and many other DGUSA and EVOLVE matches over at Ziegler Gate USA.
Tags: DGUSA, evolve, johnny gargano, Open the Freedom Gate, Ricochet