Progressive DVD Reviews: DGUSA’s “Open the Historic Gate”
Progressive DVD Reviews:
Dragon Gate USA’s “Open The Historic Gate”
July 25, 2009 in Philadelphia, PA
To purchase the DVD from Dragon Gate USA, click here.
1) BxB Hulk vs. YAMATO
2) Kenn Doane vs. Too Cold Scorpio
3) Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, Fire Ant & Soldier Ant vs. Hallowicked, Amasis, Gran Akuma & Icarus
4) Dragon Kid vs. Masato Yoshino
5) CIMA & Susumu Yokosuka vs. The Young Bucks
6) Naruki Doi vs. Shingo
With bonus disc, show has over 4 hours of action and extras, including a pre-show match, highlight package, a Dragon Gate match from Japan, and a Full Impact Pro match featuring Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne) and Jushin Liger, among other.
When word started to spread that Gabe Saplosky, formerly of Ring of Honor, was hard at work at creating the U.S. branch of Japan’s popular Dragon Gate promotion, I was intrigued. I did not commit myself to unfailing loyalty, but I had hopes that something like this would be positive for professional wrestling. I even chatted with Mr. Sapolsky on behalf of my website at the time, Missouri Wrestling Revival, in hopes of giving some much deserving wrestlers in the Midwest an opportunity. While those talks didn’t pan out, Gabe was professional and offered much appreciated time and guidance. I promised myself then and there that I would give Dragon Gate USA (DGUSA) a chance.
One thing that this DVD has going for it before the seal is even broken on the case is that it is the beginning of something new. Any wrestling fan picking this up has no need of understanding any convoluted storylines or in-depth histories of top talent. There are no champions organic to DGUSA. No top contenders yet. It gives the viewer the ability to form his or her own conclusions and encourages that person to feel like he or she is part of something special. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) did this during the wrestling boom in the 1990’s. Not a bad model to draw influence from.
Dragon Gate USA takes that benefit and uses it as a building block for something much more. Gabe and his crew put together some of the best production values around, top-notch wrestling action, and a innovative marketing machine, combining the three elements together to make Dragon Gate USA the promotion right now for American pro wrestling fans. Sapolsky has made it known that he considers DGUSA a premium wrestling product. After watching Open the Historic Gate, I can’t help but think that this guy might be onto something. He seems to have good booking and business sense, which puts him light years ahead of most promoters out there.
Today I take a look at DGUSA’s first DVD release, Open the Historic Gate, which was originally released on pay-per-view as Enter the Dragon. I will go match by match and thought by thought through the release, and then assign a rating to the overall show based on individuals matches, flow of the show, crowd reaction, and my personal enjoyment. In Progressive DVD Reviews I will not assign star ratings to matches, as I find this practice to be very elitist by many individuals on the Internet.
If there were ever a match in the history of professional wrestling that embodied what I feel is the perfect opening bout, Yamato vs BxB Hulk is it. The DVD already had a feeling of excitement surrounding it when it showed the initial crowd reaction at the start, but this match told the fans in attendance and anybody who would ever watch the DVD at home that there was substance behind that feeling.
“Yes, wrestling fans, this is something special that you should be excited about,” Yamato and BxB Hulk metaphorically confirmed through their match.
The match wasn’t without a certain style of illogical wrestling from time to time which I personally dislike… you know, that whole style of wrestling where a big move or submission looks devastating and yet the receiver of said move hops up and does a couple of flippy moves as if everything prior to it those moves never happened? This style was kept to a very minimal level, however, due to one of my new favorite wrestlers, Yamato. His grappling/submission background translates beautifully in professional wrestling, and seemed to ground this match throughout with a legitimacy that is rarely found in pro wrestling of the last 20 years. I have promised myself that I will not issue out ratings for matches in my reviews, but I will tell you that this was one of the top three matches of 2009 I have witnessed, if not the best. It was far above and beyond even the best match at Wrestlemania 25 (Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels). I recommend that if any fan wants to sample the best that Dragon Gate USA has to offer, he or she look no further than the very first match in the young company’s history.
Toning the pace down after a hot opener without taking the crowd completely out of the show is extremely difficult, too. DGUSA offered up 2 Cold Scorpio vs Ken Doane, and I thought it was a masterful move. 2 Cold Scorpio is probably best known for his stint in the then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as Flash Funk, but I best remember him for his early 90’s tag team work with Marcus (Buff) Bagwell for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Ken Doane, regardless of his solid work as Ken Dykstra in the now World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), is probably better known for his work in that same company as a member of the Spirit Squad named Kenny.
The two had a logical, slower paced match than the opener, but it also had its high impact moments. My favorite was a misstep by 2 Cold Scorpio in which his finishing stomp maneuver out of the corner resulted in a double foot stomp directly on Doane’s face. It busted Doane up and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was really angry with 2 Cold with the look on his face. This added to the match regardless of what was going on in each man’s mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my opinion at that point, DGUSA was two-for-two.
If I were to pick a weak link on the DVD, it would be the eight-man tag team match featuring CHIKARA wrestlers, although with the show being in CHIKARA’s backyard in Philadelphia, the fans were into it. That isn’t to say that the wrestlers aren’t talented. For me, there is just such an illogical mindset to these kind of matches that I stop caring unless there is some high-flying or high impact move… and usually I miss those because I am zoning out. In other words, the entire match stops being about the wrestlers, a storyline, or psychology. Why not watch figure skating or balet when you get to that stage? Seeing this type of match live might be a different experience for me, but I highly doubt it.
After the eight-man tag match there was a great angle involving Mike Quackenbush and Yamato that peaked my interest, but in my humble opinion the match was a bust. That being said, it could be right up your alley.
Next up was Dragon Kid and Masato Yoshino, two men who are no strangers to one another. I expected this one to be good, and I wasn’t disappointed. Hold-for-hold and move-for-move, Kid and Yoshino went at it, with the crowd seemingly most supportive of Dragon Kid. Dragon Kid ended up being my personal favorite by the end of the match, reminding me of both a young Rey Mysterio Jr. and Ultimo Dragon at various points throughout the contest. Although this match wasn’t as good as the match featuring Yamato and BxB Hulk, it was enjoyable and kept the crowd involved.
The end of the Dragon Kid vs Masato Yoshino match left things open for a rematch. That rematch took place at the next DGUSA event that I will be reviewing in a week or two, called Open the Untouchable Gate. Be sure to make your way back to The Progressive Pro Wrestling Fan for that review.
The big tag team match of the DVD featured two guys who have received a lot of great press recently in The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson), as they would face CIMA & Susuku Yokosuka. The Young Bucks were just recently signed to a contract with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) after a tryout match against the Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin), so there is no denying the talent there, but I have never been a huge supporter of the team. They’ve got some flashy moves and the “More Bang for Your Buck” finisher is one of the best tag team finisher in the history of pro wrestling, so I’m guessing that my lack of excitement for the team is simply superficial – their wrestling gear is hideously atrocious.
With that out of the way and objectivity in full effect, I have to admit that this was an exceptional match. CIMA was very popular with the Philadelphia crowd for good reason, and the Young Bucks were definitely up for the challenge. If I am right about DGUSA’s intentions with this match then the company was very successful in their choices and the two teams executed near-flawlessly. The Young Bucks came away from the match with much more of my respect… as I am sure was their goal all along. I kid, I kid…
My sense of self-worth aside, we arrive at the main event for the night. Naruki Doi and Shingo was a solid feature match with the crowd’s reactions adding to the enjoyment. I was most impressed with Doi, but Shingo was solid for his role in the bout, too. By this point in the DVD, I’ll admit that I was a bit weary and nothing stood out in the match as phenomenal, but this was not a bad match in the least. I’ll need to see more of Shingo to formulate an opinion, and it looks like I’ll have that opportunity in my next review, as he faces the accomplished Davey Richards at Open the Untouchable Gate.
With this main event as one bookend and the opposite being BxB Hulk vs Yamato, DGUSA balanced putting on a great show with introducing many fans to the technical skill of Japanese wrestlers.When I first popped in this DVD, I was excited about the possibilities. After watching the entire show from top to bottom, I came away with an even better understanding of Japanese wrestling and a positive outlook for the future of DGUSA as a viable top independent promotion. With the early outlook for pro wrestling in 2010 looking brighter than any year before it for at least 11 or 12 years, here’s hoping that real pro wrestling fans are treated to events and DVDs the caliber of this one more frequently.
[The Progressive Pro Wrestling Fan’s Real Wrestling Rating takes into consideration each individual match, overall flow of the show, and crowd reaction to the event as well as my own personal enjoyment. With criteria varying so much and with a scale that goes from 0 (zero) to 10 (ten), a rating of either extreme is nearly impossible. As such, a “7” is considered an exceptional score.]
The Progressive Pro Wrestling Fan’s Real Wrestling Rating (from 0 to 10):