Live from Miami Beach, FL.
A couple of changes to the card, which I missed because I got caught up on the road. First, Uhaa Nation suffered an injury, so his match against AR Fox was changed to AR Fox vs. Rich Swann (which was supposedly a fantastic match, though I missed it entirely). Second, the main event was tweaked, as CIMA was also scratched from the card due to injury, and was replaced in the main event by Masato Yoshino. That was setup during a segment where Chuck Taylor wanted to take the Open the United Gate titles and run, but Johnny Gargano didn't want to win them that way.
With those explanations out of the way, here's the rundown from there.
The Scene of Caleb Konley and Scott Reed are out with a few, ahem, "ladies of questionable value", and proceed to do... very un-family friendly things to each other. Bobby Fish is out as their opponent, to which it's pointed out that he doesn't have a partner. The mics really need to be improved, as Bobby Fish shouts from the aisle and can be picked up better than the men on the mics, as he reveals that he DOES have a partner... "The Innovator of Violence" Tommy Dreamer.
THE SCENE vs. TOMMY DREAMER & BOBBY FISH
This is basically "Tommy Dreamer's Greatest Hits", as Bobby Fish looks VERY impressive the few times he's in the ring, but it's Tommy who gets the focus with the "double-makeout" spot on two of the girls, a piledriver on one of them, and then spanking the final one. When he wasn't assaulting the women, Tommy looked to be in fine ring shape, though. Bobby Fish gets the submission with the Fish Hook (heel hook) to give his team the win. **
WINNERS: TOMMY DREAMER & BOBBY FISH
Up next it's the leaders of the Dirty Ugly Fucks (Sami Callihan) and Mad Blankey (BxB Hulk) squaring off. Mad Blankey may be the worst name for a stable ever. Dirty Ugly Fucks, on the other hand, might be the best.
SAMI CALLIHAN vs. BxB HULK
A heel vs. heel match-up here, with Christina Von Eerie watching the proceedings as she has announced that she has joined a DGUSA stable. BxB Hulk is one of my favorite DragonGate competitors, but he has toned it WAY down with his heel character (which is perfectly acceptable, as the character itself is awesome). On the other hand, Sami Callihan has tried to pick up the pieces Jon Moxley left behind on the indy scene, to mixed results. The match itself is a fun match, with some nice spots and a predictable but well-done finish (Von Eerie spits wine in Callihan's face to reveal she is part of Mad Blankey). ***
WINNER: BxB HULK
Sami cuts a promo after saying he should have never trusted a woman, then verbally attacks Sabu until the lights go out, and he gets the real thing. A brief brawl sees the rest of D.U.F., Jon Davis, and AR Fox all run out, leading right into the next match (one of Gabe's favorite conceits as a booker).
STREET FIGHT: SABU & JON DAVIS vs. ARIK CANNON & PINKIE SANCHEZ (D.U.F.)
It's kind of sad watching the waning days of Sabu, as I remember him wrestling in Michigan and Ohio back before the ECW days and being blown away by the crazy shit he was doing. Now we're getting to see the toll that style has taken, and it becomes VERY apparent why it only caught on for a short period of time. It's a testament to his fortitude that Sabu is even still walking at this point, much less wrestling. Like Tommy Dreamer earlier, Sabu busts out a few of his "greatest hits", including putting Arik Cannon through a table in a contrived spot that required Cannon to roll into position after he was dropped out of it. Speaking of Cannon, he was the glue that held this match together, busting his ass and using Pinkie Sanchez as a bludgeon to get the most out of the stipulation. But it was Jon Davis getting the win with a spinning rack bomb on Pinkie Sanchez. About what you'd expect from Sabu in 2012, and after tomorrow night, here's hoping that he hangs up his trunks and enjoys the rest he has earned after all these years of struggle. **1/2
WINNERS: SABU & JON DAVIS
Immediately after the match, Sami Callihan jumps Sabu, laying him out and pulling out a broken bottle (which he had used to carve up Sabu at the final ECW Arena show that started this feud). He doesn't use the bottle, instead telling Sabu that he has 24 hours until his career ends. Really hard to hear the audio on the mic, but a good promo from Callihan nonetheless.
MAASAKI MOCHIZUKI vs. AKIRA TOZAWA
This, kids, is where business picks up. Both men are incredible, with Tozawa having a breakout year in 2011 which carried over into 2012, and Mochizuki being one of the hardest hitting strikers in the world. They tear the house down here, exchanging strikes in a believable way that is part strong-style, part MMA, and all awesome. The story of the match is that of Tozawa trying to prove he can hang with the veteran Mochizuki, both in striking and in wrestling. In the end, his determination just isn't enough to overcome the non-stop assault, and he succumbs to a knock-out strike (in this case a springboard spinning kick to the face) that he can't recover from. For those critical of Davey Richards, these two show what can be done with Richards' style if reigned in and laid out in a more realistic fashion. The near falls are dramatic, every big move looks like it can be the end, but they don't overstay their welcome. This is a radically different match than most people expect from DGUSA, and more then lives up to the hype behind the two wrestlers. *****, and one of the best matches you're going to see this year (more on that statement later).
WINNER: MAASAKI MOCHIZUKI
Intermission time! When the show comes back, it's right back to the action, and a brief stop-gap before the double main event.
SAMURAI DEL SOL vs. JOHNNY VANDAL
Odd placement on the card here, as this is nothing more then a placeholder match. Samurai Del Sol has some impressive spots, but has no idea how to put them together into a sensible match, at least with the amount of time given to him. Mind you, his moves are breathtaking, but he is exactly what people complain about when they talk about "flippy-floppy indy guys". It certainly doesn't help that the finish sees Johnny Vandal almost break his neck mis-selling a springboard poisoned 'rana, either. Some people might rave about Samurai Del Sol; I'm not one of them. *1/2
WINNER: SAMURAI DEL SOL
The first of the double main event is up, in a first time ever "dream match" between Low Ki (WWE's Kaval/TNA's Senshi) and UK superstar PAC.
This might have been a case of expectations being far too high, as Low Ki and PAC didn't do nearly enough to impress me. Their early wrestling went on too long, especially considering the rudimentary nature of it, and just as they got out of second gear, the match ended. I understand the "less is more" nature of things, but beyond Low Ki hitting some blistering chops, he looked off a step, while PAC was clearly slowed by the extra bulk he's put on. The funny thing is, even slowed down, PAC (referenced comically as "PAC Lesnar" by Arik Cannon on commentary) is clearly on the road to big things. If his bulking up wasn't helped along by illicit chemicals, I could see the WWE come calling by the end of the weekend, especially with their new found love of non-American workers. The finish has PAC missing a spectacular looking corkscrewing shooting star press, and Low Ki following that up with a MASSIVE Warrior's Way (top rope double stomp) for the three. It just wasn't the match I, or many people, was expecting. ***
WINNER: LOW KI
Following the match, Low Ki cuts a promo putting over PAC, and challenging him to a rematch down the line, then talking about being the best "pure" wrestler in the world and wanting to hold a title that proves that point. Sounds like someone is gunning for the Open the Freedom Gate title.
OPEN THE UNITED GATE TITLE: RICOCHET & MASATO YOSHINO vs. JOHNNY GARGANO & CHUCK TAYLOR
I mentioned earlier that Maasaki Mochizuki vs. Akira Tozawa was one of the best matches you're going to see this year. This is the other one. If you had told me before this match that this would end up being my "match of the night" after that earlier match, I would have called you crazy. But these four men were virtually flawless in their pacing, ringwork, and storytelling in the ring. This IS what DragonGate USA is about; a mixture of high-flying, hard-hitting action combined with an old school narrative sense that is lacking in most of wrestling today. The fact that it's all contained within one match just shows you the talent of everyone on display. The fact that Johnny Gargano is in there doing all of this after a severe back injury that many feared would be the end of his career is nothing short of a miracle.
The story is told simply enough. Ricochet was forced to vacate the titles earlier that night when CIMA couldn't compete, and Masato Yoshino stepped in not only to win for his stable, but to send a message to the man he would be challenging the next night for the Open the Freedom Gate title, Johnny Gargano. For his part, Gargano could have taken the Open the United Gate titles, but didn't want to win them without a fight. Chuck Taylor, on the other hand, was perfectly OK walking out with the titles without having to win them. This sets up the narrative of the match; Chuck Taylor was put in this position by his partner because of his desperation for respect from the men of DragonGate Japan, and is resentful of that (and his partner's success as the Open the Freedom Gate champion). That plays into the end, when Gargano & Taylor have the match won, but Taylor yanks Gargano off the pin to try and get it himself. That dissention leads to Yoshino locking on the Sol Naciente (a straight jacket triangle choke) on Chuck Taylor, and getting Taylor to give up the match while Gargano watches on helplessly for the floor.
Everything about this match was as close to perfect as you can get. Even the story afterwards, with CIMA finally showing respect for Ronin, only for Chuck Taylor to kick CIMA in his injured neck and superkick Johnny Gargano and steal his title, was seamlessly done. The threads of the Ronin story came to a close, leading right into the threads of Chuck Taylor vs. The World. Go out of your way to see this match, either through WWN Video On Demand, or purchasing the DVD when it's released. This match alone is worth the price of admission, and is easily the best match I've seen in two years (since Shawn Michaels/Undertaker II). *****
WINNERS AND NEW OPEN THE UNITED GATE CHAMPIONS: RICOCHET & MASATO YOSHINO
This was my first foray into iPPV, as DragonGate USA and WWNLive.com offered this show at $1.99 live. I had heard mixed things about iPPVs in the past, but this exceeded any expectations I had. While the audio wasn't the best, the video never cut out and was in typical SD quality. As for the event itself, it was an excepiontally well-paced and well-presented card, with two matches that I consider two of the best professional wrestling matches in the history of the sport. This is more than worth the $15 you'll spend on Video OnDemand, and will be a day-one purchase when the DVD is released (my first DragonGate USA DVD purchase, as well). If you've been apprehensive of DragonGate USA before this point, you'll find no greater opportunity to jump feet first into the pool than this event. "Enter the Ultimate Gate 2012" gets my highest recommendation.