When booker-extraordinaire Gabe Sapolsky announced the launch of Dragon Gate USA earlier this year, many a wrestling fan were excited about the idea of blending Japanese superstars with some of North America’s finest in-ring talents. This weekend, those fans can see the idea become reality, as the company presents its first pay-per-view show and also a big live event in Chicago.
The "Enter the Dragon" pay-per-view debuts this Friday, September 4 on multiple providers including Viewers Choice and Bell ExpresVU in Canada. Taped in July at the famed Arena in Philadelphia, the show has been called by some wrestling experts as one of the greatest ever.
The show earned high praise the Pro Wrestling Torch, which raved "Every match is like opening up a great present on Christmas morning ... there’s just not a bad match on the card." Dave Meltzer at the Wrestling Observer was equally complimentary: "If you like to watch two hours of not good, but great to incredible wrestling, then you will love this show. There are no match of the years here, but from start-to-finish, this is as good a wrestling PPV show as there has been."
Those matches include Japanese stars BXB Hulk vs YAMATO, an 8-man tag match featuring the stars of CHIKARA Pro Wrestling, and a main event pitting Naruki Doi, the current Open the Dream Gate Champion (Dragon Gate Japan’s top title) against Shingo. While these may not necessarily be household names, that shouldn’t dissuade wrestling fans from ordering the show, as noted wrestling journalist Bryan Alvarez of the Figure Four Weekly newsletter attested in his review of the show.
"(Even if you’re) a Dragon Gate newbie," Alvarez wrote, "you’ll probably watch this and find it to be the best PPV you’ve seen in years. And if you’re a hardcore Dragon Gate fan, you may very well find it even better. It may legitimately be the best wrestling show top to bottom in history."
Not surprisingly, Sapolsky, Vice President of DG USA, echoed those sentiments.
"I firmly believe that no one has ever put two hours of wrestling like this on North American TV before," he told SLAM! Wrestling via email just days before the PPV debut. "Dragon Gate USA offers a wrestling style that has never been seen before on pay-per-view. It's something you just have to see."
Sapolsky is confident that watching the first show will impress viewers enough that they’ll continue to follow the promotion throughout the year. With only six shows scheduled for the year, and relatively inexpensive pay-per-views ("Enter the Dragon" costs only $19.99 on Viewers Choice Canada), fans can see all of the action without breaking the bank.
"We will be a very easy and affordable product to follow," he stressed. Sapolsky estimates that a fan could enjoy everything that DG USA has to offer for only about $150 a year. Through buying each event on PPV or on DVD, or even attending a live event -- such as the one coming up this Sunday at the Congress Theatre in Chicago -- Sapolky says a fan could "get a couple of great nights out, and see every match, angle, and storyline twist storyline twist over the course of an entire year. I don't think any form of entertainment can say that."
The Chicago show, which is also being taped for a future PPV event, continues the trend started with "Enter the Dragon." Sapolsky boasts that the company’s style is based on athleticism, innovation and charismatic wrestlers, and the lineup for Sunday certainly conveys that on paper. Featured matches include recent WWE departee Brian Kendrick against CIMA -- who fans were dazzled by when he appeared on some shows for Ring of Honor in the past couple of years, ROH’s Davey Richards versus Shingo in what should be a hard-hitting battle, CHIKARA’s Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw against YAMATO and Gran Akuma, and Naruki Doi taking on "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson in one of his last appearances before heading to WWE. In addition, WWE Hall of Famers Jerry "the King" Lawler and Jim Ross will be there for a special autograph appearance.
The mixture of stars from various companies is something that Sapolsky hopes will be seen as a signature for DG USA.
"We aren’t trying to replicate what Dragon Gate is in Japan," he emphasized. "Dragon Gate USA is its own company, and we need American stars (at our shows) for the fans here. Bringing only the best talent means drawing from all pools."
It’s a formula that he hopes will captivate fans -- starting with this weekend’s PPV and live Chicago event -- and ultimately earn DG USA the reputation of being the premium brand of pro wrestling.
More information, including ticket info for Chicago - www.dgusa.tv
Photo Gallery from the Dragon Gate USA debut
July 21, 2009: Dragon Gate USA enters with Sapolsky at the helm
Dragon Gate USA website
Bob Kapur will be road-tripping to Chicago with SLAM! Wrestling photographer Mike Mastrandrea this weekend to see the Dragon Gate USA show. Mike and Chicagoan photographer Ricky Havlik will have the show covered for SLAM! Wrestling. Email Bob your deep dish pizza place suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.