The independent wrestling scene has been abuzz lately with the words Dragon Gate USA. The creation of this new company, their personnel moves, and the first live event they promoted have taken the wrestling world by storm this spring and summer, but you might not be familiar with what DGUSA is all about yet. So here’s a brief introduction to the hot new indy sensation for those fans who aren’t up to speed.
TODAY’S ISSUE: An introduction to Dragon Gate USA.
What is Dragon Gate USA? DGUSA is an international expansion of the Japanese Dragon Gate promotion, which features a heavy emphasis on the “junior heavyweight” or cruiserweight style often associated with Mexican lucha libre. The famous masked man known as Ultimo Dragon, a Mexican-trained Japanese luchador, ran pro wrestling dojos in Japan and Mexico called Toryumon which included live shows at which his students performed as part of their training. Five years after this arrangement began, Ultimo Dragon left and took the Toryumon name and trademarks with him. The company then continued under the Dragon Gate moniker.
Since many of the Dragon Gate wrestlers were trained by the explosive lucha-puro hybrid, they employ a flashy, quick, high-risk style loaded with impact, and the foreign wrestlers (known as “Gaijin”) who often associate with Dragon Gate fit right in. Exciting stars like Matt “Evan Bourne” Sydal, Jack Evans, PAC, The Young Bucks, Delirious, and El Generico are currently booked in Dragon Gate on a regular basis. Between these explosive performers and the incredible roster of Japanese stars, Dragon Gate produces a thrill-ride up and down the card, night after night.
Their championships include a featured singles title, a cruiserweight belt, tag team and trios team straps, plus an unconventional comedy title with a singles and a tag team variant. Most of the roster is divided amongst several stables or factions, including Real Hazard, WARRIORS-5, KAMIKAZE, and WORLD-1. Since factions play such an integral part in the promotion, they are always changing and evolving. Some teams which have since been retired include New Hazard, the Muscle Outlaw’z, and Typhoon.
Dragon Gate has co-promoted several shows with US indy powerhouse Ring of Honor, and while any ROH event featuring DG talent is good, the two shows they ran in Orlando during WrestleMania XXIV weekend in March of last year, Dragon Gate Challenge II, and Supercard of Honor III, both provide a fantastic introduction to what Dragon Gate USA is; the best eastern and western indy performers working together to entertain pro wrestling fans. I highly recommend you check out these shows if you’re looking for a glimpse into how the two styles blend, and just what the Dragon Gate guys bring to the table. Many of the Japanese wrestlers featured on these two DVDs are permanent members of the DGUSA roster.
Speaking of DGUSA, what’s their story? Former ROH head booker Gabe Sapolsky was released from Ring of Honor in October of last year, and he didn’t waste much time rekindling his working relationship with Dragon Gate to create DGUSA, snagging ROH’s expired pay-per-view deal and an outstanding array of US wrestlers in the process. “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson, Davey Richards, “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush, recently released WWE talent Brian Kendrick, Jigsaw, and the amazing tag team of brothers Nick and Matt Jackson, known as the Young Bucks, are all permanent members of the DGUSA roster, alongside some impressive regulars from the original Dragon Gate promotion.
CIMA, Dragon Kid, Genki Horiguchi, Naruki Doi, BxB Hulk, Yoshino, SHINGO, and Ryo Saito are among the Dragon Gate regulars who are also on the DGUSA roster that you will see on the ROH shows linked above. They tend to work a very fast paced, high-energy style that will satisfy and amaze cruiserweight fans, but rarely at the expense of the psychology and match building that supporters of the heavyweight style also look for. A few of them, like SHINGO, actually work a more traditional heavyweight style as well, albeit with a strong influence of puroresu’s inventiveness and creativity.
As I’ve previously discussed, DGUSA’s goal is to present nothing but high-caliber shows with no filler. They’ll only promote a few events per year, but each will be supercard quality, highlighting only big matches and going balls-to-the-wall every time. Their first event was a loaded show in Philly that took place a few weeks ago, filmed for a ppv that will debut on September 4th known as Enter the Dragon. The follow-up live event takes place in Chicago on September 6th, and that card is already starting to shape up nicely.
While the original Dragon Gate championship titles are recognized by DGUSA, they’ve also announced a special singles crown to be created specifically for the U.S. side of the family, known as the “Open the Freedom Gate Championship”. This fits in with all the Dragon Gate titles, which utilize the naming convention Open the _______ Gate, where the blank depends upon what title it is. “Dream Gate” is the singles title, “Brave Gate” the cruiserweight strap, “Twin Gate” and “Triangle Gate” are obviously the multi-man titles, and “Owarai Gate/Owarai Twin Gate” are the comedy championships.
“Owarai” is the Japanese word for comedy, and according to the Wikipedia description of the title, “The championship is both unique and very unusual. The title is not necessarily defended by traditional methods of simply beating the champion by pinfalls or submission. While such a situation can still happen, the title also has a stipulation regarding audience approval during the match. This means that while the champion could still technically lose the match, he could retain the belt simply by earning more applause and/or laughter from the audience.” That sounds different. I’ve never seen an Owarai Gate match so I’ll reserve judgment, but I’ve witnessed plenty of “serious” Dragon Gate action, and it is amazing to say the least.
The “Freedom Gate” champion will be crowned in a one-night tournament at the third live event in Philadelphia on November 28th, with the winners of four singles matches earlier in the card advancing to a four-way elimination match in the main event to determine the inaugural champ. Not surprisingly, that’s exactly the way Ring of Honor’s old Survival of the Fittest events used to go down, only with six undercard matches leading to a six-way main event finale. If Gabe wants to continue bringing good ideas from his days at the helm of ROH to Dragon Gate USA, I’m on board.
DGUSA’s homepage is loaded with great information, links to video intro packages about several members of the roster, featured articles, news alerts, and an online store currently offering some great DVD sales which I’ve capitalized on. I highly encourage curious fans to click around and get to know the new fed. The Enter the Dragon ppv on September 4th is sure to be an incredible show as the era of DGUSA begins. Don’t miss out; you’ll want to be on the ground floor of this new evolution as wrestling’s future is revealed.
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “The man who fights too long against dragons soon becomes a dragon himself.” – Frederich Nietzsche
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…
It’s a sad day for me as a colleague and fan of John Wiswell’s Cult of ROH, which is going on the shelf after this column. Sometimes real life gets in the way of our hobbies, and Mr. Wiswell has to attend to some family business. I certainly hope to see him around the ‘Net again someday. Good luck with everything, Wis.
Brian Eison has the WWE Superstars Recap for 8/6/09 and the SmackDown! Recap for 8/7/09.
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