Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dragon Gate USA: United We Stand 2011 (1/30/11)

Dragon Gate USA United We Stand 2011
January 30th, 2011
ACE Arena, Union City, New Jersey
Attendance: 368

This is the big conclusion to the round-robin tournament to crown inaugural Tag Team champions for the company and was taped on January 30th, directly after the two consecutive live i-PPVs they aired on Go Fight Live on the 28th and 29th. The show itself didn’t pop up on PPV until mid-March, so here we are. The finals to crown inaugural tag champs are tonight, pitting the team of Masato Yoshino and PAC against Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano of the Ronin stable. Other matches booked tonight include the former World champ BxB Hulk fighting the young breakout star Akira Tozawa, a big eight-man match that is sure to be pure chaos, and a No Rules match between Jon Moxley and Homicide, continuing their feud. Let’s get right to it.

Your hosts are Lenny Leonard and CHIKARA-san

We open the show with Brodie Lee, CIMA, Naruki Doi, Dragon Kid, and Ricochet all in the ring, apparently refusing to go through with their scheduled matches for tonight, instead wanting to hit the town and party. It was originally supposed to be CIMA and Dragon Kid against Doi and Ricochet, but they’ve apparently all joined forces in saying “Fuck You” to the fans by refusing to wrestle tonight. Before they can get very far though, Jimmy Jacobs makes his way out to the ring with a microphone. He brings up his open challenge to any Japanese talent for tonight’s show, saying he’s heard nothing yet so he can only assume they’re scared. Jacobs wants to know which one of them will “step up to the plate”. Ricochet tells Jacobs to go to the back and find 3 partners, and tonight they’ll take on CIMA/Doi/Kid and himself in an 8 man tag team match later tonight. Sounds like good fun. Ricochet seemed awkward on the mic here, that seems to be one of the only things he needs to work on. Glad they’re sticking to the plans of focusing on the Americans as the main guys though, it’s the only way this promotion is going to succeed long-term.

AR Fox vs. Cheech Hernandez

Just your typical light-heavyweight action to kick the show off here. Fox is a CZW regular while Cheech is better known as one half of the Up in Smoke tag team in ROH and other indies. Cheech dominates to start with a few unique pinning combinations, taunting Fox while he applies a modified version of the Texas cloverleaf. Sunset flip gets Cheech a quick two count and he follows up with a big dropkick-STO combo for another near fall. I’m not crazy about this ACE Center venue, the show looks much better when they tape them at The Arena. The flags of all the countries hanging around like the old NWA set-up is a nice touch though. Fox finally gets some offense in with a big stunner that sends Cheech to the outside, where Fox follows him out with a nice somersault plancha. Fox misses a moonsault attempt and eats a vicious release pumphandle slam from Cheech, but Fox is able to kick out before the 3 count. The finish sees Fox hit a springboard lungblower from one side of the ring to the other on Cheech, scoring the pinfall victory at 4:35. Just your typical nothing opener that would usually be the dark match on these shows. Both men looked decent, but it was too short to be effective and the crowd was never into it, so it failed in that respect as an opener.

Akira Tozawa vs. BxB Hulk

Before the match starts Reby Sky hits the ring and tries to convince Jon Moxley to give her another chance. They go off to the back, presumably to engage in loud and obnoxious sex. Tozawa doesn’t like this and neither does some guy in the crowd who shouts out “BROES BEFORE HOES!” at Moxley before he leaves. Damn skippy fat guy in row 3. I’ve heard some very good things about this match in particular from this show, so let’s see how it goes. Both men are cautious to start, trying a few leg kicks and missing, so they go to a lock-up. Tozawa quickly slaps on a side headlock, but Hulk counters out. They trade waistlocks and ground-position for a bit, displaying how evenly matched both men are in the opening minutes of the match. Both men trade rapid armdrags, but Hulk gets the better of Akira with a dropkick and the crowd chants his name in appreciation. BxB Hulk is probably the most over Japanese guy they've got here, and yet he's probably the least talented of the main players in Dragon Gate. Not an insult to Hulk either, as he's a very exciting wrestler with an awesome personality and sense of charisma, he just suffers from the terrible contagious Dragon Gate disease of “No-sell-everything-itis”. Not the case here though as he sells the closed fists shots to the ribs from moments earlier, nice to see. Hulk hits a pair of big kicks but Tozawa knocks away the third and hits a quick back senton. It's weird to think of Hulk as the veteran here, but he is in comparison to Tozawa. Akira hits a few stiff kicks of his own and then applies a chinlock. Tozawa teases a slap, but then hits Hulk right in the mouth with a cheap closed fist and Hulk sells it like he just got punched in the face with a brick while Tozawa laughs maniacally. Hulk comes back with a HUGE spinkick of his own though, nearly taking Tozawa's head off. Tozawa hits a few back elbows but Hulk comes back with another spinkick and then springboards into a delayed seated senton. Both men make their way out to the floor now, where Hulk hits a single very loud open-palm chop to Tozawa's back. Back inside the ring Hulk applies a neck cravant and knees him a few times in the face. He gives him a standing twisting moonsault but Tozawa kicks out at two. Tozawa tosses Hulk to the floor and then hits not one, not two, but THREE consecutive tope suicidas to Hulk on the outside floor! That takes a whole lot of endurance. Back into the ring Hulk tries to mount some defense with a few desperate knee strikes, but Tozawa just dumps him right on his head with a back drop suplex, 1-2---NOOO! Hulk kicks out at two, and the fans are chanting for Tozawa now. Hulk tries a cross-body block off the second rope but Tozawa counters with a lung-blower to the mid-section! Hulk hits a stiff series of rapid kicks and delivers a standing SSP, but Tozawa kicks out at two. Sweeping spinkick to Tozawa's face, and I swear for a second Tozawa had that look in his eyes that you see in the eyes of MMA fighters or boxers when they've just been NAILED right on the button and there's nobody's home. Hulk follows it up with a running side powerslam, 1-2—NOO! Somehow Tozawa kicks out. Hulk goes to the top but Tozawa hits a running Yakuza kick to the face and then superplexes him off! Both men trade forearms back on their feet and Tozawa tries for a German suplex, but Hulk flips out of it and delivers a sickening series of stiff kicks right to Tozawa's face. They both roll through roll-up attempts and Tozawa nails a big Shining Wizard, which explodes the crowd into a standing ovation for the efforts of both men in the ring up until this point, earning our first “Dragon Gate!” chant of the night. Both men are totally drained at this point, sluggishly laying in forearms and trading bicycle kicks. Hulk keeps trying to put Tozawa away, delivering bigger and bigger moves to the smaller man but again and again young Tozawa just keeps kicking out and Hulk can't believe it. Tozawa reverses a powerslam attempt and then hits a flying knee into a rollup, 1-2—NOOO! Hulk kicks out! Another bicycle kick from Tozawa and a towering, bridging German suplex!1-2—NOO! Crowd is eating out of the palms of their hands at this point. Another towering German suplex from Tozawa, and finally this is enough to put away Hulk and score Akira the (semi) upset at 20:29! Just a phenomenal match, though that's become the norm at this point with Akira Tozawa's singles matches in the US. Hulk played the role of the confident veteran while Tozawa was the young upstart who wasn't going to take any shit whatsoever, and made that clear from the start. Unlike a lot of Dragon Gate matches, the selling was never suspect and the moves built in a logical fashion, escalating as time went on and both men became more and more desperate. Add in the fact that this is the most excited and into a match I've seen the DGUSA crowd in probably a year's time, and this match more than delivered, it completely exceeded my expectations. ****¼

Austin Aries is out next, apparently for a match. As soon as he hits the ring though Jimmy Jacobs comes out and asks him to be one of his partners tonight for the eight-man tag match, which Aries accepts. Jon Moxley comes out with Reby Sky to insult Aries a bit for his rash decision, but before he can get too far into his diatribe Homicide runs out and attacks him from behind, leading us right into our next match…

No DQ Match
Jon Moxley vs. Homicide

These two fought recently at the EVOLVE 6 a few months before this, where the referee was forced to stop the match for Homicide, awarding it to Moxley. This has actually been a decent feud so far in the company as for once we actually get some promo-work and background as to why these guys are feuding and fighting, with Moxley wanting to prove himself as the baddest hardcore wrestler on the planet and having the veteran Homicide to get through to try and prove that point. The matches themselves haven’t been particularly great, but it’s nice to have a well built feud between two guys in this company for once instead of just wrestling matches for the sake of wrestling matches. Total brawl to start with Homicide beating up Moxley throughout the crowd for a big until Moxley tries shoving Homicide into a giant fan. Homicide lays a few chops in and Moxley responds with some forearms and choking. Homicide slams Moxley face first into a table while the crowd frantically shuffles out of the way of the two wrestlers. Moxley just slams Homicide’s head into a concrete wall a few times right in front of the commentator’s table. Not much heat for this brawl so far, and considering we’ve basically seen this same match on every Dragon Gate USA card since Homicide and Moxley joined the company, this just isn’t going over very well. Homicide gets a bit fired up and starts slamming chairs onto Moxley, who is trapped underneath the steel guardrail. Homicide breaks a beer bottle and teases cutting up Moxley with it, but Moxley gets a low blow and gets some offense in. He tries a power-bomb but Homicide counters with a backdrop onto the concrete. Moxley tries the powerbomb again and succeeds this time, tossing him into a wooden door that makes a lovely cracking sound as Homicide’s head smashes against it. Moxley takes the action back into the ring and hits a lariat on Homicide. Reby Sky gets into the ring…but she low blows Moxley! SWERVE! Homicide hits a quick backdrop suplex and gets a near fall while Moxley is dazed. Slapfest ensues, followed by an exchange of forearms. Homicide hits the ace crusher and tries for a lariat, but Moxley hits an ace crusher of his own and then locks Homicide in the crossface chickenwing. Homicide fights out of it eventually and backdrops Moxley into the front row, where he follows him out with his trademark tope con hilo! Weird, crowd barely popped for that at all. Moxley is busted open now and crawls back into the ring, where Homicide gives him another lariat and ace crusher combo, but again Moxley kicks out. Moxley is a bloody mess but still taunting Homicide to give him all he has. Homicide hits him with the top-rope ace crusher, 1-2---NOO! Moxley kicks out again. Wow this crowd sucks, no heat for that near-fall at all. Homicide just boots Moxley in the face and gives him the Cop Killer. The crowd chants “One more time!”, but instead Homicide just grabs Moxley and drapes him over his own body, letting Moxley pin him and score the win at 13:21. Huh? Apparently what Homicide was going for here is trying to show Moxley that this feud isn’t about wins and losses and that he doesn’t care about if he wins or loses so long as he beats the hell out of Moxley, but the crowd didn’t get the finish at all. They really weren’t very into the match to begin with, despite a few moments where it seemed like things might pick up. A sub-par effort from both men, mix in a dead crowd and booking that fell flat on it’s face and this match was pretty much an unequivocal flop.

After the match Homicide beats down Moxley some more and gets on the mic, confirming the whole “I don’t care if I win or lose” mentality. He pulls out a freaking pair of scissors and actually teases CUTTING OFF MOXLEY’S TONGUE! Oldboy references anyone? Akira Tozawa hits the ring to make the save before he can do any damage with the scissors though, so unfortunately I’m guessing this feud will continue. I like the whole blood-feud mentality of the program, it’s just that the matches seem to come off pretty flat most of the time. They can redeem themselves with a big brutal blow-off match though, so we’ll see if they can deliver when the time comes for that.

Jimmy Jacobs/YAMATO/Austin Aries/Sami Callahan vs. CIMA/Naruki Doi/Dragon Kid/Ricochet

So apparently Sami Callahan is the mystery fourth partner for Jacobs team. Would have been nice if they told us at some point that YAMATO was on Jacobs team now, as I guess we’re supposed to just assume he is as he comes out with Jacobs and Aries. Not sure why YAMATO would want to be on the babyface team with Jacobs and Aries when he’s a total heel in every way, but I’ve grown to just accept the constant stable-changing and group swerves with this company at this point. They tease a big 8 man handshake to start but of course the heels just give ‘em the bird instead and get jumped as the bell rings. Jacobs team all work wristlocks on a member of the opposing team, hitting a big tandem arm-chop at the same time which the crowd loves. This one is going to be hard to call with all the action, so bear with me. Jacobs and Dragon Kid “officially” start us off, with Kid countering the wristlock sequence that Jacobs attempts and giving him a few armdrags. Callahan and CIMA tag in now and CIMA tries working a side headlock. Callahan sweeps the legs and tries for an over-the-shoulder single leg Boston crab, but CIMA counters out only to eat a lariat from Sami. Aries and Doi both tag in now and Aries hits a series of unique palm strikes before they go into a nifty little headscissors-takedown sequence, displaying how evenly matched both men are. Ricochet and YAMATO tag in now, and this is definitely a singles match-up I’d like to see down the line. They do a lock-up/feeling-out process with Ricochet trying to work a side-headlock. Ricochet hits a hurricanrana follows it with a springboard armdrag that sends YAMATO to the floor for a breather. CIMA tags back in and they try to isolate YAMATO in their corner, grinding him down on the mat with headlocks and frequent tags. Dragon Kid tags in and hits a series of knees for a quick near fall, but YAMATO tosses Kid into his corner and they play the isolation game for a bit, trading quick tags and teaming up on Dragon Kid in their corner. Ricochet tags back in and hits a nice spinkick for a quick two count. Twisting moonsault press from the second rope by Ricochet, but Aries quickly kicks out again. Ricochet tries for another high-risk move but Aries moves out of the way and tags Sami Callahan back in. Jacobs tags in and hits a series of doublestomps. The beatdown continues with YAMATO whipping Ricochet with his t-shirt. He lays a few stiff chops in drags Ricochet back into his corner, preventing the tag. This isolation goes on for a bit until Ricochet hits a spinning enziguri kick and tags CIMA in. Callahan gets teamed up on for a bit, getting crotched on the ring post. Back inside the ring the triple-teaming continues on Callahan. Callahan fires back at CIMA with some stiff chops, but CIMA just eats them with a smile and gives Sami a dropkick. CIMA taunts the crowd a bit which gives Callahan the opportunity to sneak up behind him with a Saito suplex, enabling him to make the hot tag to YAMATO. Tag rules of course fly out the window right around this point as it’s just chaos in and outside of the ring with guys diving all over the place. Aries and Doi do a sweet little counter sequence and then Aries locks Dragon Kid into the Last Chancery. Every member of his team slaps a submission hold on one of their opponents as they do the tandem-submission spot, but CIMA breaks them all up eventually. Roaring elbow from Aries on CIMA gets two. Callahan and Ricochet go at it for a bit, evading each other’s moves and countering out of everything the other has to offer. Callahan eats an elbow and basically no-sells it, just firing himself up. He avoids an Omori driver attempt from Ricochet and hits him with big Saito suplex for a pin attempt, but Doi breaks it up. YAMATO tries for the Galleria, but Doi counters out they trade rapid-fire elbows. Springboard stunner from Dragon Kid lays out YAMATO and Doi hits him with a lungblower and Ricochet tops it off with a standing shooting star press, but Callahan breaks up the pin attempt. BIG powerbomb from Aries on Dragon Kid, 1-2—NOO! Kid kicks out on his own. Dragon Kid hits a top-rope hurricanrana on Sami Callahan and Ricochet hits a splash, but again there are too many people in the ring and the pinfall attempt is broken up. The ref isn’t even bothering with attempting to maintain order at this point and I don’t really blame him. They do the classic lucha spot with each man hitting a high flying move to the group on the outside floor, everyone tumbles down while the next guy sets up the next spot, rinse, repeat, etc. While this is going on Jacobs locks in a guillotine choke on Doi in the ring, but Doi counters out with an F5 and a finishes Jacobs off with a running kick to end the match at 24:34. This match was basically what you can expect out of Dragon Gate in a nutshell---fast-paced exciting wrestling, but not much heat or sense of direction overall. Don’t get me wrong, the match itself was quite good, but when you’ve seen a thousand of these Dragon Gate tag matches before, “good” just isn’t enough to cut it anymore. I can appreciate the efforts by all eight men though, and for a nearly 25 minute match it certainly wasn’t boring at any point. Jacobs loses again though, and they need to hurry up and figure out where that whole angle is going, fast. ***¼

Open the United Gate Title Tournament Finals
Masato Yoshino/PAC vs. Chuck Taylor/Johnny Gargano

This is what this whole weekend of wrestling has been leading up to, the crowning of inaugural tag team champions for Dragon Gate USA, with spiffy new title belts and all, coined the “Open the United Gate” title. I dig the whole Dragon Gate thing of having all your titles have different and kind of out-there names, but it can really make things confusing when trying to figure out the importance of certain titles, or even what they mean. Open the United Gate should make it easy to remember these are the tag belts though. Taylor and Gargano would appear to be the favorites here with the big focus on their Ronin stable playing a major factor in this weekend’s trio of shows. PAC and Yoshino are coming off of a brilliant match with Doi and Ricochet the prior night though, so good luck trying to live up to that one boys. Yoshino and Gargano start us off, locking up with the collar-and-elbow tie-up. Yoshino tries for a backslide but Gargano counters with an ace crusher. Chuck Taylor and PAC both tag in and do a nice little running-the-ropes sequence, which PAC gets the better of. PAC tries some high-risk offense early but Gargano stops him before he can go through with it. PAC and Doi double-team Gargano for a bit, working on the left wrist and forearm. PAC rolls through a German suplex attempt into a rollup, but Taylor breaks the pin up and applies an armbar to PAC. Gargano and Taylor isolate PAC for awhile, working your traditional tag formula and building up heat for the eventual hot-tag. PAC hits a missile dropkick on Taylor and gets the hot (or rather, lukewarm) tag to Yoshino and Masato quickly fights off both members of Ronin, hitting Taylor with the slingblade. Taylor comes back with the Sole Food and takes Yoshino down for a pin, but Masato kicks out at two. Yoshino tries the Octopus Stretch but Gargano breaks the hold up. PAC hits him with a boot and then slingshots into the ring with a nice ace crusher on Gargano. Shooting star press from the second rope from PAC, 1-2—NOO! Gargano kicks out at two. German suplex attempt by Gargano is countered out of by PAC, but he just launches him into the second turnbuckle like a lawn dart and follows it up with a superkick, but again PAC kicks out at two. Spear-quebrada combo from Ronin gets a two count on Yoshino as obviously tags and legal men have flown right out the window, which you have to expect not just here but with any fast-paced tag match these days. Yoshino hits a sweet missile dropkick/back-senton combo on both Gargano and Taylor, but PAC’s pin attempt only gets two. Taylor flips off his own partner’s back with the Buff Blockbuster on PAC (haven’t seen that move in years), and then tosses PAC into the air where Gargano meets him with an ace-crusher in mid-air. Taylor hits the Awful Waffle on PAC! 1-2---NOOO! PAC kicks out of Taylor’s finisher! Gargano applies the Border City Stretch to PAC (or the “Gargano Escape” as he’s calling it) while Yoshino applies his own submission to Taylor, but Gargano relinquishes his hold to break up Yoshino’s. Yoshino misses a first Lightning Spiral attempt, but hits the second for a near fall. Phoenix splash from PAC to Gargano, but again Gargano kicks out at two. He hits a big superkick and rolls up PAC for a very close two count, and the crowd is getting into it now. Full-nelson suplex on PAC, but Gargano didn’t hit all of it and PAC is right back up and he delivers a big bridging german suplex to Gargano for the quick three count and the titles at 17:27. A worthy finale to the fun tournament to crown inaugural tag champs, but there was no way they were going to live up to the match PAC and Yoshino had with Doi and Ricochet the night before. They didn’t try for the “big epic” here, just a solid exhibition of tag wrestling, and that’s really all it needed to be at the end of the day. A fine way to close out the company’s January events. ***¼

After the match Ronin shakes the hands of PAC and Yoshino, hinting at a babyface turn that would come to fruition in a few months, hopefully setting up 2011 as their year.

Backstage Jon Moxley and YAMATO are waiting around for Akira Tozawa so they can cut a promo, Tozawa tells Moxley he has a big mouth and then says in Japanese to YAMATO that Moxley is only interested in himself, and not Kamikaze USA as a stable. Moxley doesn’t understand but he gets the gist of it and he and YAMATO beat down Tozawa to close the show. So it looks like they’re going to be setting up Tozawa for a nice face turn, and that’s definitely the right move. He’s proven himself to be the MVP of all of the Dragon Gate Japan regulars over the last year and I’m glad he seems to be in line for the next big push.

Bottom Line:
Another strong show from Gabe and the boys in Dragon Gate here, with the obvious highlight being the excellent Akira Tozawa vs. BxB Hulk match, which I more than recommend giving a viewing. While nothing else on the card was as good as that match, we did get two more good tag team matches, including one to crown our inaugural tag team champions (Masato Yoshino & PAC) and nothing here was flat-out bad, even the Moxley-Homicide match, while misguided and strangely booked wasn't a particularly bad match, it just didn't have any heat and had a bad finish. Still though, for a two hour shows, two ***1/4 matches and one ****1/4 match more than makes this show worth your money and time. Thumbs Up

Score: 8.5/10

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