:: 2009 DVD Review

DG:UK: Invasion DVD, Review by Ben Corrigan
Sunday November 1st 2009
The Regal, Oxford, UK
Purchase DVD : Trailer

First up, a note about the presentation. The packaging is superb, with excellent use of photographs on the DVD casing. The disc label, too, is as good as you would find on a DVD from even the top international studios. Once in the machine, the DVD menu is less impressive, but offers a choice of playing the main feature, selecting individual matches or viewing the ‘Bonus Features’. More on this later. Commentary comes courtesy of ‘Irish’ $tew Allen and ‘Twisted Genius’ Dean Ayass and, in a refreshing change for a UK product, is actually really, really good. Natural, knowledgeable and informative, the boys do a good job. If you do prefer, however, there is the option hidden away in the bonus features menu to turn them off and just have the sound from the building. Throughout the main show, there are polished on-screen graphics which really underline that this is a top-notch professional release. I don’t exaggerate when I say that picture quality is awesome.

We kick things off with the evening’s ‘dark’ match, included on this DVD as part of the main feature. The bout pits ‘Heavyweight House of Pain’ Stixx against the debuting Lion Kid. Hey look: there’s me sat in the front row. The big bald baddie jumps LK before the bell, then proceeds to use his strength and size advantage to dominate the majority from there. The commentators appropriately point out that the Nottingham heavyweight displays a very “un-Dragon Gate” style. Wise-cracking fans take the mick out of baldie Stixx’s follicle shortcomings. The crowd is slow to warm to the Lion, a couple of early springboard slips, but he looks sharp by the end and gains their support as he fights back as and when he can with brief flurries of high-flying offence. In the end, Lion Kid reverses a Black Hole Slam attempt into a cradle for an upset win in about 13 minutes. A perfectly acceptable warm up for the main attraction; **1/4.

Next up, the show begins proper with UK team Jonny Storm & Marty Scurll taking on the scheming duo of Ryo Saito & Genki Horiguchi, at this time still representing the Real Hazard heel stable. Real Hazard immediately reveal their disdain for the fans, sneering at the crowd and rejecting any cheers cast their way. The contest begins with a slick display of clean wrestling exchanges between Horiguchi and Scurll, with the Cambridge youngster getting the upper hand. Then, it’s over to Storm and Saito, the Brit again winning out as Team UK continue to shine in a fair fight. Storm even takes out both opponents with a twisting dive to the floor, before the heels become fed up of playing nice and resort to double-teaming and a variety of other underhand tactics for the heat on Scurll. After a period of control, Party Marty makes the hot tag to Jonny, then wipes out Saito with a perfect tope. The match breaks down into a scramble, highlights including Saito suplexing Storm right into Scurll in the corner and Storm taking over both opponents with a double-version of his Japanese armdrag from the ropes. The ‘Wonderkid’ takes out Genki with a beautiful tope-into-a-tornado-DDT on the floor, leaving Scurll and Saito to do battle in the ring. With a distracted referee, the villain lives up to his nature by blasting Marty with TWO massive lucha-style kicks to the stones, before rolling him up for a Real Hazard win. In many ways, this was a by-the-numbers tag match, but was very well executed, showcased all 4 well and served as a good introduction to Dragon Gate. ***1/4.

The UK vs. Japan theme continues in the following bout, with IPW:UK heel Mark Haskins up against former Toryumon X and Michinoku Pro star KAGETORA, here representing CIMA’s Warriors5 group. Haskins is accompanied tonight by Kelly Adams. Being a familiar antagonist to many in the audience, Haskins is subjected to abuse from the crowd, including chants of “Haskins is a Hobbit, NAR NAR NAR” and “HOOOOOOBBBBIIIIIITTTTTTTTT!!!!”. It has to be said, the heel vs. face dynamic in these early bouts makes them much more accessible and immediately engagable on Dragon Gate’s first visit than if they had simply chosen to present these contests as straight up international exhibitions. Haskins, The Middle Earth, resident takes control with stomps, eye rakes and opportune interference from Kelly, setting up a couple of springboard-type moves. All of this builds to him missing a Shooting Star Press, at which point KAGETORA begins his comeback. They go back and forth, until the Japanese hits a Shining Wizard-esque kick to the head, but Haskins cuts him off with a Codebreaker and a leaping neck-breaker. They exchange big kicks and elbow strikes. KAGETORA looks to have it won with an Emerald Frosien, but the distraction of Kelly prevents the referee’s count. The plot pays off, as the Brit hits the Cradle-2-The Grave (pumphandle into a tombstone piledriver) for the win. KAGETORA is left in the ring to receive the applause of the Oxford crowd. Much like the tag match preceding it, this was another example of the basic principles of pro wrestling being done well to make a thoroughly enjoyable encounter. ***1/4.

The first all-Japanese match of the night comes in the form of Dragon Kid vs. Masato Yoshino, two long-time opponents representing the KAMIKAZE and World-1 factions respectively. At this time, these two had just faced each other on the Dragon Gate USA debut event and now brought their rivalry here for the UK version. They start slow, feeling each other out, painting a picture of two men who know each other’s offence well. DK is the first to gain the upper hand but, continuing the theme of knowing their opponent’s moves, Yoshino cuts him off when he attempts a springboard, subsequently getting to enjoy a period of control himself by utilising various stretches and holds. The always spectacular ‘Deja-Vu’ (double-rotation tilt-a-whirl headscissors) brings Kid back into it, allowing him to immediately follow up with the ‘Bermuda Triangle moonsault from the post to the floor. The switch towards bigger, more impressive moves continues with a Dragon Kid springboard dropkick back into the ring. From here, the pace is permanently quickened as they start going move-for-move, counter-for-counter with big signature techniques. Yoshino hits a slingblade, a stupendously high elevation delayed dropkick from the top, the Lightning Spiral and the Torbellino, while Kid is in there amongst all that with a Diamond Dust-like stunner, a 6-1-9, a quick-as-a-hiccup hurricanrana and the ‘Cristo’ octopus hold. This match is telling a heck of a story by building to the big moves and near falls. It works, as all of this has the audience on the edge of their seats. All of this comes down to Dragon hitting his ‘Bible’ crucifix bomb, leading to a series of reversed near-falls, before Kid turns the momentum into the winning 3-count to a standing ovation. This was a masterfully-paced match which built to an action-packed closing stretch. ***3/4.

After the live show’s intermission (see, I remembered that), Kamikaze leader Shingo Takagi (who actually goes by his US moniker of simply SHINGO here in DG:UK) takes on veteran Susumu Yokosuka of Warriors5. By this point in the night, the Warriors arm-raise “UUUUUUUUHHH!!” pose/call/salute is starting to get over with the UK fans, with increasing numbers joining in. Like the previous match, they start slow in true DG singles main event fashion. The intensity and attention to detail with little things is right there from the start, though, meaning the match is captivating from the get-go. The fans obviously agree with me on that, since they react to every single thing they do, no matter how big or small. Fairly early on, Yokosuka takes over by targeting SHINGO’s left leg, starting with a knee-breaker on the ring apron, then going to work with kicks, stomps, a dragon screw leg whip and a figure-four. Not to be deterred, SHINGO catches Yokosuka in a big head-drop suplex, which Susumu sells brilliantly with an awesome extended blank, stupified look on his face. SHINGO tries an Anaconda Vice, but the bad leg soon allows Yokosuka back in, where he continues his assault of lariats and miscellaneous suplexes. SHINGO is there to hit a big Death Valley Driver, but Yokosuka fights through to hit a lariat as they both go down. This is just great. A massive war of standing elbows (including Yokosuka’s trademark zombie no-sell) brings the crowd to their feet, and from here the match is just incredible as they fight and struggle for each advantage and each reversal, ending up with one of them catching the other with something massive. Takagi catches a convincing near fall off Made In Japan, but his opponent scores one of his own by reversing Last Falcony into a victory roll. Yokosuka hits the Jambo No Katchi and the Mugen for a 2, then tries to put SHINGO down with a series of clotheslines. SHINGO fires up, though, and fights through them a score with a stinging left-hand punch and a huge impact short-arm clothesline. Seconds later, Yokosuka manages to hit the Jambo No Katchi-gatame (a lariat, directly into a cradled pinfall attempt) for the decisive count. WOW. A simply stunning match, probably at that point one of the best to be held on British soil in a few years. While I think many fans in attendance would have expected the main event traditional Dragon Gate 6-man tag to steal the show, this bout on the undercard was a blow-away classic. An excellent starting point to what would eventually turn out to be an exceptional trilogy. ****1/2.


The above mentioned trios headliner brings the show to an end and features Dragon Gate’s signature inter-faction warfare. Warriors5 is represented by leader CIMA and allies The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson), all making their UK debuts as they square off with the World-1 combination of BxB Hulk, Naruki Doi and England’s own Pac. Each get their own entrance, allowing Hulk the benefit of his full dance routine (remember, this was 2009, when he was still a happy, clappy, dancing goodie), complete with three dancing girls. Continuing a note from earlier, the Warriors “UUUUUUUUUHHHHHHH!!!” battle-cry has, by this point, gotten over to the extent that just about everyone in the building now joins in. It’s something CIMA in particular appears to get a massive kick from. A few tentative early exchanges leads to CIMA and Pac getting down in a press-up contest, While PAC out does the Warriors 5 supremo, CIMA stomps Pac in the head to gain an early advantage. If you’ve ever seen a Dragon Gate six-man tag, either in Dragon Gate itself or elsewhere (such as those they put on for 3 consecutive WrestleMania weekends in Ring of Honor), you’ll already be familiar with what to expect from this one, as it very much follows the formula. That is by no stretch a bad thing, since they have it down to a fine art and it is one of the most progressive, exciting styles in wrestling. Just the chance to see one of these matches in the UK, live in the flesh for those in attendance, was a huge selling point for this show. Both teams take it in turns to dominate periods of the match, utilising teamwork and quick tags to control their opponents, before switching it round and letting the other side have a go. Things gradually become more and more frantic, as the advantage switches increase in frequency, before they all end up in a breathtaking, heart-stopping sprint to the finish. Things kick into top gear about 15 minutes in, as Doi smashes into an upside-down Matt Jackson with a cannonball and Pac follows up immediately with a running elbow onto Nick directly into a Fosbury Flop onto his brother on the opposite side of the building while on the floor. This is just the start of the insanity, as teams link chains of trademark moves onto individual opponents in an attempt to win, only for their teammates to make the save and ensure the first-rate combat continues. Warriors use Super Drol and More Bang For Your Buck, but it isn’t enough. World-1 come right back at them with Pac hitting a shooting star kick to the back and Doi utilising the Doi 5s and the Bakatari Sliding Kick. That only leads to a 2-count, but Pac caps things off with a corkscrew shooting star press (that I believe Japanese commentators refer to as ‘British Airways’) to keep Matt Jackson down for the 1,2,3 and earn yet another standing ovation. While it’s fair to say there have been better Dragon Gate six man tags, this was still a fantastic, non-stop, incredibly exciting effort that was wonderfully executed and was simply a treat to have take place in our country. ****1/4.

The curtain comes down with Pac thanking everyone for coming, thanking Dragon Gate for coming over and promising they will be back. Of course, they did. The following year, in fact, that time with 2 back-to-back events....

Bonus features come in the form of the trailer/advert for this very DVD, a series of pre-show interviews with Mark Haskins, Jonny Storm and Marty Scurll, and the entire highly-regarded November 2009 Mark Haskins vs. Lion Kid British Cruiserweight Title bout from IPW:UK. It isn’t as good on DVD as I remember it as being live at the time, and is spoilt by Dave Bradshaw’s commentary, but it is still a very good contest indeed. It plays on the good guy vs. bad guy theme particularly well and is an enjoyable and worthwhile extra (***1/2). Also included, which came as an unexpected and welcome surprise, is the ‘dark’ match from Pro Wrestling NOAH ‘European Navigation 2008’: El Ligero & Bubblegum & Luke ‘Dragon’ Phoenix vs. Mark Haskins & Zack Sabre Jr & Dave Moralez (now Mastiff). I recall this being voted UKFF British Match of the Year 2008, and this was the first chance I’d had of seeing it since the actual night. You know, it’s still an absolutely cracking little all-action 10-minute match. Six young guys going all-out to show what they can do to a big audience (****).