Since Ring of Honor is currently on a downward slide and Dragon Gate USA is due to explode on the scene this Saturday, I thought the ideal show to check out this week was Dragon Gate Challenge II from Orlando, Florida on 28 March 2008 during WrestleMania XXIV weekend. Of course I expected a solid ROH show and the opportunity to get to know the Dragon Gate guys a bit better, and I got that, but I also found a little something more than I expected…
TODAY’S ISSUE: Age of the Fall (Jacobs & Black) versus BxB Hulk & SHINGO
The show was rolling along nicely with a solid opening singles contest and a fun tag match before the ROH vs. DG series began, and the first two matches in that inter-promotional war were every bit as satisfying as an indy fan could hope for. But once the wrestlers in the third of four inter-promotional matches took the ring, things really heated up.
Even before the opening bell sounded the Dragon Gate team found their backs against the wall. Ring of Honor was victorious in the two previous matches in the series (Austin Aries beat Genki Horiguchi and Steen & Generico defeated Yoshino & Doi), so Dragon Gate was losing 0-2 and in dire need of a win to have a prayer of tying the four-match challenge and avoiding defeat at the hands of their American hosts. National and company pride were on the line for the Japanese visitors, but the former ROH world tag team champs stood across the ring, intent on maintaining momentum and stomping any team in their path.
I’d seen SHINGO before but this was my very first look at BxB Hulk and I was interested to see if he’d live up to the hype. The crowd in attendance displayed their indy-hipness by chanting for Hulk in his ROH debut. The Dragon Gate guys can flat out go in the ring, bringing speed, agility, innovation and explosive aggressiveness to a match. Before they crumbled, Jacobs and Black were a great tandem that complimented each other well. In addition to their devastating double-team maneuvers, they each brought different strengths to the table; Jacobs is a tough-as-nails brawler who will never quit with a vile, evil streak running through his tortured psyche. Black is a smooth-as-silk hybrid who defines the word “ability”. It’s unfortunate that ROH fans are still waiting for his big break-out, but he’s consistently performed so well against every big gun in the company that it’s impossible to regard him as anything less than a prodigy. He’s got all the tools a young lion needs, and with the diabolical Jacobs pointing him at AoTF’s intended targets for well over a year, Black was a deadly weapon with a point to prove.
When the contest began Jacobs and Hulk started with the traditional exchange of mat wrestling, and Hulk delivered an impressive Pele-style backflip kick followed by a very cool roundhouse strike to Jacobs’ skull. Tags were made, and Black got the advantage over SHINGO before tagging Jacobs in. SHINGO and Hulk hit a nice tandem maneuver on the leader of the Age of the Fall, with SHINGO holding Jacobs horizontally for Hulk’s leg drop off the second rope. Jacobs drove Hulk back-first into the turnbuckle with an absolutely wicked spear, then tagged out. Black and Hulk exchanged a few chops, and the New Hazard squad double-teamed Black with an outstanding combination; first SHINGO drilled him with a DDT and quickly followed up with a senton, then Hulk flattened Black with his standing, corkscrew shooting star known as the BB-star press. I love that sort of bang-bang offense.
Black fought back by tossing Hulk out to the floor, and in keeping with his Foley-ish self-mutilating tendencies, Jacobs dove off the apron onto the floor to deliver an elbow drop on Hulk. Ouch! Black and Jacobs displayed their own combo-attack savvy by lashing Hulk to the tree of woe and ringing his bell with their awesome double-team spot in the corner; Jacobs does a springboard mule kick which lands at the precise moment as Black’s running, hesitation dropkick – WHAM! After suffering that devastating assault, Hulk played Ricky Morton while the AoTF wore him down for several minutes. Hulk eventually utilized a springboard missile dropkick to escape, and in came SHINGO with the hot tag which finally woke up the crowd (who were still at intermission, apparently). SHINGO nailed Jacobs with an incredible overhead suplex, and planted Black with a gorgeous DDT. Hulk took a huge risk, flipping over the corner ring post and out to floor on Black; that was impressive.
Meanwhile, SHINGO and Jacobs were alone in the ring. After Jacobs landed a few shots the Japanese fireplug actually caught Jacobs on his shoulders while Jimmy came off the top rope, and SHINGO scored with a gut-buster and a unique “helicopter bomb” (gut-wrench into a spinning power bomb) and shifted the momentum to Team Dragon Gate, who performed another fantastic double-team attack on Jacobs; Hulk nailed Jimmy in the chest with a missile-style double mule kick off the second rope just as SHINGO tossed him with a belly-to-back suplex, and I believe that’s Excedrin headache #161. Jacobs tagged out to Black, who ate a few brutal kicks and a standing shooting star press from Hulk but answered with an amazing inverted superplex off the top, and chained oh-so-smoothly into his Paroxysm for what should have been the finish, but SHINGO rescued Hulk. That was some Gucci maneuvering by Black.
Jacobs hit an incredible spear on SHINGO to take him out of the fray for a few minutes, and the Age of the Fall went into their breathtaking triple combo: Jacobs hit the elevation senton on Hulk atop Black’s shoulders, then kicked Hulk squarely in the jaw as Black drove him down with a reverse Death Valley driver, and Jacobs slipped right into the End Time on Hulk. SHINGO had to rescue his partner or that most certainly would have been it. Black executed an amazing corkscrew dive over the top rope onto the floor on SHINGO, leaving Jacobs alone in the ring with Hulk.
Jacobs fell victim to a nice moonsault press by Hulk, who made the tag to SHINGO as Jacobs brought in his partner as well. A double-team doomsday device-style twisting leg lariat by Hulk with Black on SHINGO’s shoulders should have ended the match and brought the New Hazard duo a victory, but Jacobs made the save. BxB Hulk hit the BBO, and now SHINGO looked to finish. He nearly took Black’s head off with a huge lariat that turned the young gun inside out, and followed up with the Last Falconry for the pinfall and the win. Whew, what a match!
This was the sort of fast paced, high-energy performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I couldn’t imagine that ROH would let the visiting company go down three matches to none, but the way they built the match it looked like the Age of the Fall might just put the final nail in the coffin of their Japanese guests and shut the door on them for the night. So when SHINGO nailed his big finisher on Black and got the victory it was almost a relief; now Dragon Gate at least had an opportunity to tie the series two matches each.*
* As it turned out, the Briscoes defeated Dragon Kid and Ryo Saito in the fourth and final match of the inter-promotional war allowing ROH to win handily, three matches to one. But SHINGO and Hulk did their part; they got on base in the bottom of the ninth and waited for their teammates to bat them around, and you can’t ask more than that from anyone.
It’s too bad Ring of Honor isn’t what it once was, but if this is the sort of action we can expect to see on a regular basis from Dragon Gate personnel, the DGUSA debut this Saturday ought to blow the roof off the arena in Philly, and indy fans will have a new place to hang their hat. Enter the dragon? Indeed…
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell
The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Monday morning on Pulse Wrestling.
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…
TNA on ppv? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our staffers’ attempt to keep up with the deranged booking crew in the Rasslin’ Roundtable for Victory Road 2009, as well as Paul Marshall’s Real Time Report. Also widro, PK, Tom Daniels and GRUT bring the first Mango PPV Rewind of July as they discuss TNA’s latest ppv in this audio commentary.
Speaking of TNA, Jon Bandit’s always got 10 Thoughts on TNA iMPACT! for ya’.
In this week’s Cult of ROH, the Wis continues his foray into other companies during Ring of Honor’s thin season. This time around it’s the 2009 16 Carat Gold Tournament from wXw.
Mark Allen has all your WWE news in the latest This Week in ‘E.
Here is Big Andy Mac’s review of this wee’s ROH on HDNet.
Finally this week, Brian Eison has your SmackDown! Recap for 17 Jul 09.