:: 2011 DVD Reviews
DG:UK Invasion III DVD, Review by Ben Corrigan
Friday October 21st 2011
Broxborune Civic Hall, Hertford, UK
Purchase DVD : Trailer :
After a full year, Dragon Gate UK returns for their 2011 tour, their third up to this point. Much like the 2010 run, the opening night takes place in the lovely setting of the Broxbourne Civic Hall. A lot has happened Dragon Gate-wise since the previous event in St. Ives. For the first time in the promotion’s history, rather than being split across around four different stables, the roster has found themselves falling into either one or the other of two ‘super factions’, as the heroic Junction Three (formed from the remnants of World-1, Kamikaze and the Veteran Army) join forces and stand up to fight the dastardly Blood Warriors in the promotion’s key storyline.
Packaging and presentation are, like all the DGUK DVDs to date, simply first rate. In addition, the picture quality on offer here is possibly the best I have ever seen on a UK-based wrestling DVD release. The main feature begins with a suitably impressive recap of the St. Ives show the previous year.
Akira Tozawa starts things off for Blood Warriors by squaring off with DGUK favourite Dragon Kid, now in Junction 3. Tozawa may be making his very first UK appearance here, but is well-known to many due to just coming off a lengthy US excursion that saw him take in DGUSA, EVOLVE, AIW and a superb PWG run. He superbly plays the ultimate dick here, as his dominance of Dragon Kid down the main stretch of this one is broken up by various degrading slaps, kicks and verbal insults. It’s all great, and keeps he audience right with them. Kid comes back with a springboard headscissors takedown, sending Tozawa to the floor, where he follows up with the Bermuda Triangle moonsault from the buckles. Dragon comes up with a Diamond Dust for a 2 count, but Tozawa fires back with a bicycle kick and a head-first back suplex for a near-fall of his own. Big moves aplenty, leading to a super spot where Tozawa rolls through a Crucifix Bomb ( the ‘Bible’) attempt to plant Kid with a deadlift German suplex for a 2. Not giving his opponent a chance to recover, Tozawa follows up immediately with a double-arm-capture version of a bridging German for the win. A really good opener gets things going nicely, with a particularly exciting closing stretch. ***1/4.
The Junction Three vs. Blood Warriors theme continues in the second match, featuring GAMMA and Naoki Tanizaki respectively. Both are making their DGUK debuts, though GAMMA immediately endears himself to the Broxbourne fans with his willingness to do the always-popular double-arm former babyface Warriors salute: “OOOOOOOOUUUUHHHHHH!!!!!!”. This is mainly a basic punch-kick match, but broken up by GAMMA’s various entertaining antics (dribbling water into Tanizaki’s face, rubbing his spit-filled hands over his opponent’s head, and locking in an abdominal stretch on the entrance stage). Tanizaki is accompanied by fellow Blood Warrior Tozawa, whose distractions allow his buddy opportunities to try to use various ropes, chairs and canes to his advantage. GAMMA eventually becomes wise to Tozawa’s interference, knocking him off the ring apron and catching Tanizaki with the Blitzen over-the-shoulder face-first slam. When that only results in a 2 count, he follows up with a GAMMA Special (Air Rair Crash) to gain the victory. This wasn’t anything special, but still an enjoyable little match. **1/4.
Always a highlight of the DGUK tours so far, the Dragon Gate six-man tag team attraction is up next. This time, however, instead of two native Dragon Gate stables contesting the spoils, a Team UK trio of Mark Haskins, Marty Scurll & The Lion Kid step up to the plate for a crack at an elite Blood Warriors threesome of BxB Hulk, Naruki Doi and captain CIMA. Now being four shows into DGUK, the win-loss records concept has really started to become established. It’s simple, but is something that has taken shape, something that everyone can understand and something that adds meaning and a sense of purpose to the bouts. Commentators ‘Irish’ $tew and the returning Dean Ayass are excellent at explaining the significance of this, especially the key rule that if a wrestler’s record goes to a minus-5 aggregate, he will be kicked out of DGUK competition. There’s a similar rule for a wrestler that moves to a win-loss difference of +5, in that they earn the chance to make a match of their choosing (which includes putting them into direct contention for the hinted DGUK Championship). I love the concept, to be honest. All of these bouts, as great as they often are, would otherwise just end up being a bit pointless if the results didn’t actually count towards anything. With something on the line, something to fight for, everyone understands what’s at stake. No better way to demonstrate this is the fact that both CIMA and Marty Scurll come into this tag bout with 0-3 records, meaning one of them will definitely drop to 0-4 here and will be fighting for their DGUK lives in Nottingham tomorrow. This plays into the story of the match, making it even more gripping. What’s more, Haskins, Hulk and Doi all come in with 3-0 records, and Lion Kid, who spent 3 months in Japan after the 2010 tour, has some issues with the way the former nicey nice BxB Hulk treated him in Japan... It also is very evident that with Lion v Hulk and Haskins & Scurll v CIMA & a partner of his choosing the following night in Nottingham that this is a HUGE match all of this and the continuing trend of CIMA vs the UK too...
Things start in frantic fashion with a six-man brawl, before Team UK shines with smooth team-work and quick tags. Not liking the way things are going, Blood Warriors take over as all 5 members (teammates Tozawa and Tanizaki being present at ringside) get their shots in on Haskins, then continue their dominance with the heat on The Lion Kid. The Warriors really excel at their lucha rudo-esque brawling and gang-like double- and triple-team approach. Team UK is cheered on with an awesome chant of “Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land!!” as The Kid fights off his aggressors and makes the hot tag to Haskins, which is where the trademark Dragon Gate multi-man sprint gets underway. As usual, it’s a fluid, exhilarating, breathless affair full of the quick switches and big moves I’ve described previously. Scurll fools everyone with a terrific moonsault from the top rope to the floor while Haskins and CIMA go toe-to-toe in the ring. The Lion, putting in his best DGUK showing so far, goes after Hulk with escalating impact, nailing a top-rope Frankensteiner, a blockbuster and then a 450 splash but is incredulous that he is only able to gain an increasingly-close 2-count after each. Scurll and Doi take a turn with each other next, before BxB comes in with theEVO on Marty for another near-fall. More insanity as Haskins and Scurll hit stereo superkicks on Doi, then Hulk and CIMA damn-near KILL Haskins with kicks of their own. Blood Warriors continue their awesome display of seamless teamwork as CIMA blasts Haskins with Super Drol and Doi follows up with the Doi555 and Bakatari Sliding Kick for another desperately close count. The finish sees CIMA isolated by Haskins & Scurll, as Lion Kid and Hulk have taken each other out. Haskins hits CIMA with Hasta La Vista, Baby and Marty immediately follows with a double-knee backbreaker from a torture rack position. 1...2...3...!! Big win for the English lads in an excellent match. Probably just a shade below the trios bouts from the first two DGUK tours, but a thrilling effort that’s not far behind. ***3/4. Of course, the result also means it will be CIMA’s last chance to defend his DGUK career tomorrow night.
After the live show’s interval, ‘Invasion 3’ concludes with a double main event of Susumu Yokosuka vs. Masato Yoshino then SHINGO vs. Pac. Considering all four of these men are members of Junction III, this seems a bit odd initially and could be dismissed as simply an attempt to put matches on for no other real reason other than “because it’ll be a good match”. However in a cool little storyline, the following night in Nottingham, SHINGO and Yokosuka, although now stablemates, are scheduled to bring their tied epic UK series to a decisive conclusion. So, for this, the night before, each man has been able to pick the other’s opponent. ‘Pick Your Poison’, if you will. Both SHINGO and Yokosuka have therefore picked further members of their own faction in order to ‘test’ their UK rival before the climatic showdown but without risking serious injury ahead of the huge clash. I think. Of course, there is now also the increasingly important issue of win-loss records at stake, too.
With both being teammate vs. teammate, both bouts are contested in straight-up, clean, pure, athletic style. Yoshino vs. Yokosuka starts tentatively with both men feeling each other out and trying to find an advantage, before the ‘Speed Star’ starts working over Susumu’s left arm. It develops in deliberate fashion, gradually picking up steam. Yoshino hits a slingblade and tries going for his over-the-ropes hanging headscissor, but Yokosuka blocks and hits him with a Death Valley Driver. Similarly, Yokosuka goes for a Last Ride, but Yoshino counters into an octopus hold. Yoshino tries going up top, but his opponent immediately intercepts and throws him down with an Exploder suplex. The pair go on blocking and countering each other’s trademark moves, before Yokosuka puts Yoshino down with a couple of lariats for close-counts. Yoshino kicks out of a Mugen and counters a second into the Lightning Spiral. A Torbellino sets up Sol Naciente (too... many...names... for... moves...), but Yokosuka counters out and nails Jumbo no Kachi-gatame to earn the win. A decent, solid match, but one that lacked the edge, intensity and interest of many other similar DGUK matches. ***1/4. After their nicey-nicey battle, the pair hug and shake hands...
Despite still being teammate vs. teammate, Pac vs. SHINGO has more of a competitive edge to it and has more fire right out of the blocks. I’ve been watching Pac since 2005 and he still continues to impress and amaze me, particularly in the way that he manages to incorporate all of his incredible high-flying into just the standard body of the contest without making it seem contrived or out-of-place. Seemless. After an even first few minutes, the Japanese starts asserting control with his array of powerful slams and clubbing strikes. A very sweet section sees Pac fire back, side-step a charging SHINGO who goes chest-first into the ropes, with Pac catching him in a German suplex on the rebound. That one gains what I believe to be the very first “THIS IS AWESOME (clap clap clapclapclap)!” chant of the night. Not quite, but pretty damn good, for sure. There’s no escape on the floor for SHINGO as Pac comes over the ropes with a spectacular no-hands arching backwards dive. A ridiculously high cross-body from the top earns Pac a 2-count, as does a wonderful satellite DDT. The tide is turned in a big way when Takagi catches Pac in a backbreaker as he is coming in over the ropes for another airborne attack. A turnbuckle powerbomb from SHINGO is nasty enough, but he follows that with a face-first powerbomb-style overhead slam. Determined to put this challenge to bed, SHINGO steps out of his comfort zone and ascends the ropes, hitting a fabulous senton from the top. The live audience is well into this one by now, not really favouring one man over the other, but reacting huge to everything either man does. A couple of enziguiris sets Pac up to hit his shooting star knees, which leaves SHINGO in perfect position for the ‘British Airways’ corkscrew shooting star. Upon impact, however, Pac immediately reels back and covers up, appearently hurting himself on landing. This lets SHINGO back in with an explosive Death Valley Driver and a crazy lariat for a massive 2. Putting it to bed, SHINGO flattens Pac with TWO Made In Japan pumphandle drivers for the winning pinfall. Given the focus on the huge SHINGO vs. Yokosuka III contest tomorrow, with the ‘Pick Your Poison’ stipulation on this night, it seemed fairly obvious that both men would pick up their wins tonight in order to go into the big one totally even. That said, SHINGO and Pac did a great job of trying to convince you otherwise, and this ended up being a tremendous competitive effort. I didn’t particularly enjoy this one live on the night for some reason, but watching it back for the first time now, I enjoyed it a whole heck of a lot. ***3/4
There are no show-closing speeches like there have been on each DGUK show to date, so the curtain comes down on the feature with a fancy package to accompany the production credits. Another difference from other DGUK releases is that the only bonus material on offer is DVD trailers for each of the eventual 6 DGUK shows, together with a ‘The Lion Kid in DGUK’ compilation. No additional matches, etc, not even the evening’s dark match (which was something like Paul Robinson vs. Jack Gallagher). With a main feature run time of around 2 hours, I can only assume that they stripped down everything that wasn’t totally essential, leaving more space for the highest image quality possible. If so, it paid off – while the extras are nice to have, the picture quality of the DVD is just stunning.
As for the show itself, my viewing of the event again here didn’t change my opinion that this is clearly the weakest of the 4 DGUK shows put out up to this point. That said, DGUK has set a tremendously high standard with its offerings so far, and this is still a decent effort that will surely entertain.
Up next: Part Five of my guide will move onto Night Two of the 2011 tour, as SHINGO and Yokosuka bring their UK rivalry to a close and CIMA gets desperate as he literally fights to save his DGUK career.
DG:UK SHINGO vs. Yokosuka III DVD, Review by Ben Corrigan
Saturday October 22nd 2011
Albert Hall, Nottingham
Purchase DVD : Trailer
Part Two of the 2011 tour, in front of probably the biggest collection of DGUK fans to date. No word of a lie, there are hundreds upon hundreds of the buggers. Hey, there’s me, sat there on the front row with Gadge, Alexander and Dearly Devoted Dexter. The Albert Hall is just a superb venue, which looks absolutely fantastic on camera. Live, it was conducive to a great experience and what we have is the loudest, most enthusiastic and most reactive DGUK audience yet. Optional commentary is again ably provided by ‘Irish’ $tew Allen and ‘Twisted Genius’ Dean Ayass. Before progressing, however, I must make mention of the picture quality. DGUK has always been impressive in this field, but this release takes it to another level. Indeed, you would be forgiven for mistakenly thinking you were watching a BluRay with this one.
The DVD kicks off with a ‘grudge match’ between the dark BxB Hulk of Blood Warriors and Team UK’s The Lion Kid, as mentioned previously, while in Japan Lion Kid was disrespected by Hulk and is looking for a measure of revenge. Also worth noting that the previous night, they were on opposing teams in the huge trios, 6 man Blood Warriors v Team UK tag team match. Coming off his best showing so far, The Kid is massively popular here, with masses of people joining in with THE RRRRRRRAAAAAAARRRRRRRWWWWWRRR. The Lion looks great early, springing around the ring and catching Hulk in a spinning headscissors which causes BxB to seek the safety of the floor to regroup. Not giving him more than a second, though, Kid comes after him with an acrobatic handspring to the floor, then sends his opponent scurrying again with a flying headscissors off the apron. As Lion waits for Hulk to get back in, the crowd entertain themselves with a collective “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO RRRRRRAAAAAAARRRRRRRWWWWRRR!!!!”. Back inside, the heel escapes a surfboard and nails an axe-kick to gain the advantage, then starts stomping and stretching away at his smaller foe. At one point, Lion starts ‘Roaring Up’, shaking off Hulk’s strikes with a “RRAAWRR” for each which, of course, the audience needs little persuasion to join in with. Kid gets a 2-count off a Final Cut (which should probably have some feline-related pun as a name...) then knocks Hulk to the floor with a springboard dropkick. His attempt to follow-up with a tope, however sees him catch his foot on the ropes on the way through, causing him a fall dangerously as he just about nails his opponent. Back inside, the crowd is with them all the way as they start pulling out big move in an attempt to put the other away. Kid brings Hulk down from the top rope with a headscissors, then the pair engage in an exchange of stiff slaps. The Japanese goes for an EVO, but The Lion Kid slips out the back and hits a perfect bridging German suplex which has you convinced he’s got the upset. Awesome near-fall. Hulk then does manage to hit the EVO but, amazingly, Kid is up at 2. Having had enough of this, Hulk kills Kid with a series of kicks to keep him down for 3. The audience gives Kid a big ovation after, the masked man finally winning them over and earning their genuine support and respect in his new best DGUK performance. A cracking opener; just great pro wrestling. Two strong, colourful opposing characters going at it in a massively enjoyable back-and-forth little contest. ***1/2.
Up next, the commentators explain that this was originally supposed to be a handicap/3-way match with Blood Warriors Akira Tozawa and Naoki Tanizaki against Junction 3’s GAMMA, until GAMMA was shockingly chosen as enemy CIMA’s mystery partner at the Press Conference earlier in the day for his high stakes match later on which leaves stablemates Akira Tozawa and Naoki Tanizaki go 1-on-1. Being buddies, they go in for a handshake at the start but, proving there’s no honour amongst thieves, Tanizaki moves his hand, Tozawa objects to this and in retalliation Tanizaki cheapshots his mate with a punch, then CELEBRATES HIS EVILNESS. A perplexed Tozawa grabs the mic and proclaims this to be “BULLSHIT”. He adds “I HATE TANIZAKI. TONIGHT, I WANT TO FIGHT FOR UK”. Yay! Already massively popular, this throws the huge audience firmly behind Akira in a big way. Neither man is particularly fond of the rules, but Tanizaki in particular takes joy in using the ring ropes, a length of rope, eye rakes and low blows to keep Tozawa grounded. He fires back, however, knocking Tanizaki to ringside with a running Yakuza kick, then immediately follows-on with TWO consecutive spectacular topes through the ropes. A crazy-looking backdrop driver only gains Tozawa a 2-count, then the pair exchange knees and kicks, ending with Tozawa catching his teammate with a Shining Wizard for a double-down. Brilliant near-falls for Tanizaki off a running knee and his Implant finisher (stick-shift driver) bring the crowd to their feet as their guy stays in it. Tozawa comes back with another Yakuza kick, a release German suplex and the deadlift German for a desperately close call, before the arm-capture bridging German suplex is successful in gaining him his second win of the weekend. Just like the opener, this was a great match; ***1/2. The crowd gives Tozawa a standing ovation afterwards, before their adopted countryman grabs the microphone again to state “I HATE UK, BOOOOOO!” and storm off. Ha! That was awesome.
Match three could be (and, indeed, was) a Dragon Gate pay-per-view main event, as former notable ‘Speed Muscle’ tag team partners Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino square off in a singles bout. To set the scene, Doi turned on Yoshino and the rest of World-1 just after the 2010 DGUK tour to form his own heel faction. Doi has since merged his stable into the evil Blood Warriors, while Yoshino now finds himself a part of Junction 3 (....and just as I type that, Dean Ayass recaps the same story, almost word-for-word, on commentary...). Just like a DG PPV main event singles bout, they start with a slow, methodical pace, testing each other with submission holds and technical wrestling exchanges. The pace quickens as Doi catches an inverted Yoshino with his trademark cannonball into the corner, but Yoshino is back shortly after with a Slingblade. Being well-known former partners, much of the bout is based around them going for a signature technique but their familiar opponent countering it and coming at them with a move of their own. As a stunned Yoshino lies in the ropes, Doi comes off the top with a cannonball senton. Masato escapes a Doi555 attempt, though, then comes off the top rope with a shotgun-style high-impact missile dropkick to Doi’s chest. A series of go-behind reversals ends in Naruki throwing his former friend in a Tiger suplex. The theme of quick counters and reversals continues as Yoshino reverses a Doi charge into the Torbellino, but finds his subsequent Sol Naciente attempt countered into a cradle for a Doi 2-count. There’s more, as Doi escapes another Torbellino and is able to hit his Doi555 – Bakatari Sliding Kick combination, but his attempt to put it to bed with the Muscular Bomb sees Yoshino reverse into the Lightning Spiral for another double-down. After another Torbellino and a further series of rolling reversals on the mat, the Junction 3 member does finally manage to decisively lock in the Sol Naciente, and the Blood Warrior has nowhere to go but into submission. Yoshino moves to 3-2 in DGUK. A terrific match, this, with all the reversals and counters making for an engrossing story that firmly keeps your attention; ***3/4.
The next bout sees Marty Scurll and Mark Haskins of Team UK combine to take on Blood Warriors leader CIMA and a partner of his choice. It’s a tag team match, playa. As detailed on the last event, CIMA comes into this bout literally fighting to save his DGUK roster place as a result of his 0-4 win-loss record (anyone who goes to an aggregate -5 is cut). Desperate times call for desperate measures, so CIMA at the Press Conference stunned everybody by selecting his longtime on-off rival/partner GAMMA, with whom he describes as his "Best Tag Team Partner" and he won the Open the Twin Gate Titles with, even though GAMMA is now affiliated with the arch-enemy Junction 3 stable. The situation here is understood by the fans, who taunt CIMA with chants of “Oh-and-Four!” on his entrance. Naturally, a tentative GAMMA is distrustful of CIMA at first, but accepts CIMA’s handshake and it appears as though they are on the same page. The Brits are once again cheered on by chants of “Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land, Eng-er-land!”, but the odd couple Japanese tandem jump the at the bell, kicking off a 4-man brawl around ringside. Haskins and Scurll dominate the early going, using quick tags and running their opponents together as CIMA and GAMMA struggle to gain a foothold. Haskins is cut off, however, by a GAMMA eye-rake, which is where the Japanese duo takes over. CIMA holds Haskins on the floor as GAMMA, from the top rope, dribbles water out of his mouth down into Haskins’ face. Recalling days gone by, CIMA and GAMMA work as the proverbial well-oiled machine and seem to be on the same page as they simultaneously rub their spittle into the faces of their opponents before continuing their united approach, still isolating Haskins with various stomps, kicks and spit. Team UK gets back into it as Haskins floors CIMA with a springboard cross-body and makes the hot tag to Scurll, who runs wild on both foes. Things break down, as all 4 men start going all out. CIMA hits a Perfect Driver on Haskins for a 2-count. A fabulous spot sees CIMA ascend the ropes, helping GAMMA put Haskins down with an assisted Blitzen, roll through on his landing and then seamlessly take out Scurll with the Super Drol (backstabber) while he was sat in the turnbuckles. Yep, the audience loved that one.
The English lads prove they can do the whole teamwork thing too, though, as Party Marty blasts CIMA with a codebreaker, then stays in place on the mat to allow Haskins to powerbomb CIMA onto his knees. Team UK goes for the Hasta La Vista, Baby -> Backbreaker combination they won with the previous night, but GAMMA saves CIMA’s career by breaking up the fall. Things get a little insane as GAMMA plants Haskins with a cradle Tombstone piledriver OFF THE SECOND ROPE, but Scurll jumps in at 2.9999 for the save. Haskins is done. The Japs put Scurll down with stereo dropkicks off opposing turnbuckles, then take him out for good as Scurll first eats the GAMMA Special, then the knees of CIMA on the match winning Meteora (double-kneedrop off the top-rope). A thankful CIMA embraces GAMMA and the pair are joined by CIMA’s Blood Warriors teammates to celebrate the win. Can you guess what happens next? Yep – with the job done and CIMA’s career safe (for now), CIMA, BxB Hulk, Tozawa, Tanizaki and Doi all turn on GAMMA and beat him down until Junction 3 run them off. THAT was a hell of a match; ****.
Next, a singles title is on the line for the first ever time in DGUK, as Open the Brave Gate champion Pac defends against his Junction 3 ally (and former Brave Gate champion himself) Dragon Kid. Unfortunately, the title belt itself decided to go missing somewhere on the journey between Japan and England, so there is no physical strap in sight. It should be noted that PAC defeated DK on both of the 2010 DG:UK events and the subsequent 2010 PPV Epic. So the stakes are high and It doesn’t take long for Pac to take to the air, crashing down onto Dragon Kid with a standing moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the floor of the Albert Hall. He follows with a standing Shooting Star Press in the ring a few minutes later as the Briton controls proceedings, but the tide is turned when he goes for some kind of springboard-like manoeuvre and Dragon dropkicks his legs out from under him and falls midsection first onto the ring ropes. It would appear he has re-injured the ribs from the previous night's battle with SHINGO. Being a straight-up, cleanly-contested title tilt between two teammates, the crowd watches on in quiet appreciation for the most part, keenly taking in everything going on, with waves of polite applause greeting each move. After Kid tries to slow Pac down with various stretches on the injured ribs, the Geordie fires himself back by leaping over the ropes into a Diamond Cutter, then gets a 2-count off a Northern Lights suplex. Continuing to hold the upper hand, Pac reverses a Cristo octopus hold into a side-walk slam, then converts Kid’s hurricanrana attempt into a jack-knife powerbomb. As they battle for position, both men find themselves stood up on the top rope. Kid manages to hit a super-duper-hurricanrana up there, sending Pac crashing to the mat below. A few moments later, DK goes for a reverse version of the same move again, except Pac lands on his feet to a roar from the crowd, who then goes for a release German suplex on Kid, only for Kid to land on his feet his time, and come out on top with an awesome-looking satellite DDT that plants Pac right on the top of his head. A simply stunning series of events, but one that only gains Kid a count of 2. As Kid goes up for a Dragonrana, Pac cuts him off and brings him down with a breath-taking moonsault fall-a-way-slam, yes - you really have to see this move . With Kid down, Pac goes up again and comes down with the jaw-dropping inverted (backwards-facing) 450 splash, but finds nothing but a face-full of canvas and more major damage to his ribs. With the audience going berserk, Dragon Kid takes advantage to hit the crucifix bomb, but Pac escapes at a 2-count and manages to hit a jumping Tombstone piledriver when Kid charges at him again. With Kid down, Pac climbs the ropes one more time, this time coming off with the British Airways corkscrew shooting star for the title-retaining 1...2...3. Incredible match, showing high-flying wrestling in the best possible way and creating a thrilling championship occasion. ****1/4. Live on the night, I preferred the tag bout to this one but, watching it back now on-screen, I would now put this Brave Gate championship match ahead of it. Don’t ask me...
There is hardly chance to catch your breath, as the main event comes right after. As would guess from the name of the show, this is the third and final DGUK singles meeting between Shingo Takagi and Susumu Yokosuka. The pair are now stablemates in Junction 3, but with their tremendous previous DGUK singles efforts being the most talked-about matches from the 2009 and 2010 tours (and the wins being split), it is only fitting that they get to settle their UK rivalry on the biggest stage. As with their previous matches, Yokosuka begins by targeting SHINGO’s left leg, driving it into the canvas, then the ring post, then stretching, bending and smacking it in various deliberate ways. This continues for several minutes, until Susumu tries to drop SHINGO knees-first onto the ring apron and SHINGO escapes to nail Yokosuka with a brutal Death Valley Driver out there. Now with the advantage, SHINGO goes for Yokosuka’s right arm, his lariat arm, bending it around the ring post and up behind his opponent’s own body. Much like their previous 2 contests, this is a slow-burn masterpiece, with much subtlety and little notes of detail to make it a captivating spectacle. After Susumu wins an extended battle to land a vertical suplex, they go back-and-forth with Exploder suplexes, then both go down from simultaneous clotheslines. SHINGO goes for Made In Japan, but Yokosuka escapes and manages to lock in a triangle choke. In an impressive feat of strength, SHINGO gets out of that one by lifting his aggressor up off the mat from that position, holding him over his head and bringing him crashing back down with a powerbomb. Yokosuka tries to fight back with a pair of half-nelson suplexes, but SHINGO puts him on his back with the STAY DREAM (wrist-clutch Olympic Slam... from the ropes).
The exhausted warring rivals trade super-stiff lariats, head butts, elbows, punches and slaps, with Susumu coming out on top by entering into ZOMBIE MODE, walking through SHINGO’s attacks and hitting 2 hyuuooooge lariats. Everyone thinks it’s over, but NO: SHINGO kicks out! A Mugen from Susumu only gains another near-fall. SHINGO escapes a second Mugen attempt, hits a Death Valley Driver and comes off the ropes with a massive Pumping Bomber lariat for a 2-count of his own. Going all out for the win, SHINGO blasts Yokosuka with a delayed Made In Japan, but Susumu kicks out at 2 as the already rabid audience totally loses its sh!t. SHINGO nails another Made In Japan, but Yokosuka kicks out AGAIN in a fabulous false finish. With the crowd on their feet to see the close to this one, Yokosuka hits a Jumbo No Kachi-gatame out of nowhere for yet another incredible near-fall, before SHINGO hoists him onto his shoulders and hits the Last Falconry. 1......... 2.........3......!! SHINGO wins!! An awesome, awesome match to close a classic trilogy. This match was everything that made the first two so great, but taken up even further, especially down the exhilarating closing stretch, putting it as the best match in DGUK so far. ****3/4.
As with the previous night’s DVD, there are no bonus features available here – but they aren’t needed. The peak of Dragon Gate UK’s achievements so far, this isn’t just the best DGUK event, it is right up there as one of the best wrestling shows to have taken place anywhere for a long time. With every match being at least ‘great’, and several being ‘excellent’, this is an utterly essential DVD purchase.
DG:UK : Dragon Gate vs. UK DVD, Review by Ben Corrigan
Sunday October 23rd 2011
Beeston Community Centre, Nottingham, UK
Purchase DVD : Trailer
...and so, we come to what was billed as a bonus event. This one was a much smaller show in a more intimate venue. If you had tickets to the previous two nights events then you were able to attend this event, presented as a treat for fans that had supported the previous DGUK events, held in what the DVD packaging accurately describes as “an intimate venue just outside Nottingham”. The theme of this special night is native Dragon Gate Japan stars taking on a selection of hand-picked UK talents.
Never is the unique nature of this event on display more than in the opening contest, pitting GAMMA against Mad Man Manson. GAMMA is buoyed by his increasing popularity over the course of this 3-date weekend, but seems utterly perplexed by the madcap antics of Manson, who displays his technical skills by wrestling the referee to the ground during his entrance. Much of Manson’s comedy comes from his little comments to the live audience during his bouts, but there’s plenty of visual slapstick that works just as well on the TV screen. Of course, GAMMA is not one to shy away from getting a little silly, so we get 3-way referee spots, ballroom dancing, nipple twists, tope dives out of the wrong side of the ring, self-chopping and even the occasional wrestling move. The finish comes as Manson tries to put a figure-four leglock on GAMMA, only to end up tying himself in a knot. GAMMA sits on top for the pin. A suitably daft and wonderfully entertaining opener; **1/2.
An interesting bout next sees The Lion Kid, coming off his best ever DGUK performances over the course of this weekend, continuing the UK v Blood Warriors feud being put to the test against Blood Warriors leader and long-established Dragon Gate ‘ace’, CIMA. Who again continues to target the UK natives. The match itself plays out as a decent story of a veteran schooling a youngster. Things start slow, with both men fighting for arm holds and such, before the experience gap shows and CIMA takes over with a crafty shot to The Lion Balls. Kid starts to come back by head-scissoring CIMA off the top rope and following-up with a springboard blockbuster, but CIMA grounds him once again and stretches him with a surfboard. Not to be put down, The Lion fights back again, but misses a 450 splash. Having enough of the young kitty, CIMA brings things to an end with a coast-to-coast dropkick, a Schwein and the Meteora. It never really gets above 3rd gear, but it’s a decent little match, this; **3/4. Also: RRRRRRAAAAAWWWWWRRRRRRR!!! Ahem. Yes.
Up next is a 3-way, first-fall tag match featuring Blood Warriors duo BxB Hulk & Naoki Tanizaki, Masato Yoshino & Dragon Kid of Junction 3 and a Team UK combination of Joey Hayes & Martin Kirby. Kirby still had hair at this point!!!. Well, he had some hair, anyway. Like with other Dragon Gate 3-ways, this is fought under ‘proper’ 3-way rules, as in one man from each team legal in the ring at any time. Quite right, too, none of that “anyone can tag anyone” nonsense - a singles 3-way normally has all 3 in there at once, surely the tag version should be the same? The formula works, as there is always something going on to keep your attention and never a lull in the action. Dragon Gate aficionados will enjoy the signature multi-man spots, such as the 9-man wrist-locks, 9-man head-scissors, 9-man suplexes, heels amusingly accidentally hitting their partner in the chaos, and everyone taking it in turns to charge an opponent in the corner. Blood Warriors take over by keeping Dragon Kid on the outside and getting the heat on Hayes. Joey gets back in it with a Stunner and a Cesaro-style uppercut, leading to Kirby cleaning house off the hot tag. What is intriguing is that this bout features all the key points you would get in a normal tag affair, like a heat spot, hot tag, etc, but the unique rules mean they need to be presented in a different way. It breaks down into a 9-man again, as the Junction 3 boys simultaneously apply their own versions of the octopus hold, then everyone getting a turn in coming in and hitting some big move, but getting cut off before they can follow up by someone doing the same thing to them. Dragon Kid hits a super huracanrana on Hulk, while Hulk is sitting on Yoshino’s shoulders in the corner. Continuing to work together, Yoshino dropkicks Kirby right into Kid’s crucifix bomb, leading to the Junction 3 victory. A good blend of action, character, comedy and excitement; ***1/4.
Match number 4 is Akira Tozawa vs. Marty Scurll, the most-requested match of the entire weekend after the former was announced as appearing. Another Blood Warriors and Team UK battle, with that there is an intensity between the two right from the start, exchanging strong looks and insulting gestures. Tozawa finds it hard to compete with Scurll’s technical wrestling at first, as Marty runs rings around him, but the tide turns when Marty tries to follow his fallen foe to the floor with a tope, but Tozawa blocks it with a nasty kick on the way through. With Tozawa now on top, the style changes as he slaps Scurll around a spits Pepsi in his face, all while swearing at the audience. He even rakes the eyes of referee Chris Roberts who, for some reason, decides not to disqualify him after Tozawa explains it was an "accident". Coming back, Marty manages to hit his second attempt at a tope, then hits a quick kick in the corner back inside the ring. From here, it’s all about big moves and near-falls. Tozawa hits a pumping-Yakuza kick in the corner and follows with a backdrop driver, but is only able to get a 2 count. He goes for his signature German suplex, but Scurll escapes and the pair go forehead-to-forehead in the middle of the ring, trading elbow strikes. Marty gets the better of that one, finishing with a spinning elbow to the back of Tozawa’s head, but is only able to get a count of 2. More moves, more reversals, more near-falls, as the crowd is electric. Scurll manages to kick out after release and bridging German suplexes, but a third arm-capture version proves too much and earns the Japanese the win. Excellent match; ***3/4. This takes Scurll's record back to 1-5 and one the following tour Scurll's career (much like CIMA's was the night before) is on the line.
Juntion 3 teammates Susumu Yokosuka and Pac contest the next match, both fresh off blistering matches the night before. Things start nice and slow, with neither man able to gain a sustained advantage as they feel out their opponent. This all changes when Pac goes for his standing shooting star press and Yokosuka blocks it by getting his knees up to agrevate the already injured midsection of PAC (From the first night of the tour). From here, Yokosuka starts to work over the ribs and chest of the Englishman, targeting it with knees and a bodyscissors. Gaining a brief respite, Pac goes for a running back-flip dive over the ropes onto Susumu on the floor, and lands on his feet when Susumu moves out of the way, but is on the back foot again when Yokosuka dropkicks his legs from under him damagining the high flyers knee in the process. Now it would seem as if Pac’s left knee then becomes the object of Yokosuka’s attention, including a figure-four leglock and more dropkicks to the leg. Not really having a reason to support one man over the over, the crowd responds to the majority of the match with encouraging clapping and applause after anyone does anything, but they are intently glued to the match as it develops. Pac shakes off the injury to flip across the ring and hit a springboard dropkick. A second springboard attempt ends with Pac being Exploder-ed, then Exploder-ed into the turnbuckles moments later. Yokosuka then tries to plant Pac’s knee-first into the canvas off the top rope, but Pac thankfully lands on his feet as the pace quickens and the drama intensifies. Yokosuka earns a 2-count off a Jumbo no Kachi, but Pac reverses a Mugen attempt, kicks Yokosuka’s head in a lands an incredible springboard 450 splash. Reminiscent of the Yokosuka’s matches with SHINGO, the pair trade elbow strikes, before Pac hits a quick German suplex. It looks like Pac is going for a second German, but instead rolls through into an inescapable O’Connor roll for a big win in another terrific match; ***3/4.
The match that takes the main event position is another interesting-looking collision of a standout UK star taking on a key Dragon Gate talent in a singles match. This time, it’s Mark Haskins vs. SHINGO. It’s not as good as the Tozawa/Scurll and Yokosuka/Pac contests, but it’s still very good. Much like the latter of those, it starts slow and steady with both men engaging in clean exchanges. The advantage switches frequently, until Haskins starts to edge in front by focussing his offence on SHINGO’s right arm. He bends it, he stretches it, he pulls it, he kicks it and he slams it. This is until SHINGO clotheslines him up against the ropes, then throws him overhead with a suplex. From there, SHINGO pounds away on the Brit with his trademark clubbing, power-based approach. SHINGO drops Mark face-first on the ring apron, then continues the assault on the inside, but Haskins starts his comeback by springing over the ropes into a neckbreaker, then hitting a dive to SHINGO on the floor. More springing by ‘Skins, this time into a DDT, but SHINGO fires back seconds later by slamming him viciously back-first across his knee, then tossing him face-first into the buckles. Sensing the end is near, fans do start to chant for their chosen wrestler as the combatants go toe-to-toe in the ring. SHINGO shakes off a sort-of superkick (an okaykick?) to hit a lariat and starts looking for Made In Japan. Mark gets a 2-count off a Skin Cutter and nails Hasta La Vista, Baby, then follows-up with a spectacular shooting star press. SHINGO isn’t done, though, and hits Haskins with a Death Valley Driver, a Pumping Bomber lariat and Made In Japan for a fantastic false finish. SHINGO hits a second Pumping Bomber, this time keeping Haskins down for the 3. Really good match; ***1/2.
SHINGO and Haskins shake hands in the ring, then Haskins walks away, leaving SHINGO, draped in the Japanese flag, stood in the ring as the fans rise to their feet with chants of “DRAGON GATE! DRAGON GATE!”. The 2011 tour is over, concluding with another strong event. Sure, this one lacks the big, spectacular matches of some of the other shows, but this was always supposed to be something a little different as a ‘thank you’ to those who follow DGUK. The event is well worth checking out, not just to complete your collection, but for a wealth of matches you wouldn’t normally see and three particularly strong singles efforts in the second half. Again, there’s nothing in the way of bonus features this time (and I’m gutted that CIMA’s between-match attempts to attack Dragon Kid, but being thwarted by GAMMA as some technical issues were being worked out didn’t make the cut, although the camera crew weren't around), but this is a extremely fun little package. You almost come to expect it now, but the quality of the presentation continues to be top notch, beyond virtually anything else I’ve seen in wrestling outside WWE (and putting most US indie companies to shame). This is a UK product that we can be proud of, both in and out of the ring.
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