September 7, 2009
Danielson says his goodbyes at Dragon Gate Chicago
By "Bloodthirsty" BOB KAPUR - SLAM! Wrestling
CHICAGO - Two days after making its pay-per-view debut, Dragon Gate USA wrestling made its debut in Chicago this Sunday for its "Open the Untouchable Gate" show. Delivering the hard-hitting, quick-paced style of action that its Japanese counterpart is famed for, DGUSA might well be emerging as the premiere North American company in terms of in-ring action.
The show took place at the Congress Theatre, an old movie palace originally built in the 1920s and now a declared Chicago landmark. Throughout the golden age of cinema, fans filled the Congress, in awe at the epics unfolding in front of their eyes. So, too, were the 700 or so fans watching the puroresu action as their heroes waged their wars in the ring.
Before the show, fans were treated to an autograph session with WWE Hall of Famers Jim Ross and Jerry "the King" Lawler, courtesy of the event's primary sponsor, SLAM! Wrestling Store host, Highspots.com.
For the next three hours, six matches showcased the high-paced, hard-hitting action, blending some of Japan's top names with those of North America's independent leagues, such as CHIKARA and Ring of Honor.
One of the night's highlights saw "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson -- in one of his final indy performances before heading to WWE -- face the Dragon Gate Open The Dream Gate Champion, Naruki Doi. Dragon was introduced simply as "a man who needs no introduction," and he came out to a standing ovation with no entrance music and no spotlight. After the lights turned back on and fans saw him standing in centre of the ring, he was given a standing ovation, fans standing as one, thanking the wrestler considered to be the best in the world for appearing at the show.
The match started off with a very deliberate pace with many hard hits exchanged. Over the course of the next 20 minutes or so, Danielson put on a submission clinic, working over Doi and targeting the pain points on his opponent's body with expert precision. A few times during the match, fans expressed their appreciation by spontaneously breaking into song, belting out Europe's The Final Countdown, Danielson's signature theme song -- more poignant now that his indy career is indeed coming to an end very soon. As the match progressed, Danielson hit many more of his trademark moves, including the Cattle Mutilation submission and a series of elbows to Doi's head. Doi battled back, though, with some furious offense of his own. In the end, Doi was able to overcome the Dragon's fury, and hit a sick-looking wheelbarrow front powerbomb for the pin. In what he said was not his goodbye speech, Danielson thanked Doi for the match, and offered his thoughts on Davey Richards, the man that he said would inherit his crown as the best wrestler in the world. Later on, this endorsement proved to be unwanted as Richards attacked Danielson, stating that he already deserved that honour.
Another stellar match saw the Young Bucks Nick and Matt Jackson taking on the Open The Twin Gate Champions Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito in a non-title match. Earlier in the night, the Bucks had been Pearl Harbored by Ring of Honor's Jimmy Jacobs and his protégé Mustafa Ali, after rejecting Jacobs' offer to join his ROH stable. But the duo, who are reminiscent of a young Rockers or Hardy Brothers in terms of looks and of move-sets. The first half of the match was slower than most of the matches on the show, with Horiguchi and Saito laying punishment on one of the Bucks, cutting him off from tagging in his brother. Some innovative offense here, including a great visual where the champs do the standard tag move of one man twisting his opponent's arm then the other jumps down from the turnbuckle and elbows that same arm, but in this case it was the Buck's long ponytail instead of the arm, and the effect was to basically rip his hair from out of his head -- ouch! Then another ouch moment, as the Buck gets the wrong end of a foot stomp to the gut from the turnbuckle. Eventually, the other Buck gets tagged in, and as the action picks up, they fight back with their own tandem offense. A cool sequence in the latter stages saw one of the champs throw a Buck to his partner who floats over the Buck into a big German suplex. A missed superkick attempt by a Buck flattens the ref, allowing Horiguchi to use the evil blue mist to blind the Buck and Saito to hit a powerbomb flapjack for the pin.
2) Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw beat YAMATO and Gran Akuma after Quackenbush hit a piledriver to get the pinfall victory. The match was solid, though it kind of stuttered in the latter stages with some awkward momentum shifts.
3) CIMA beat Brian "Spanky" Kendrick after hitting a high double knee stomp off the top rope. Former WWE star Kendrick was the aggressor for much of this one that featured a flurry of offensive moves from both men at a breakneck pace throughout.
4) Davey Richards submitted Shingo with an armbar. This was a stiff affair with both men delivering and taking a pounding. Richards hit the scariest move of the night here when Shingo ducked a huge suicide somersault dive attempt, sending Richards flying over the ringside barricade and into the stands. The crowd loved the action as the two of them threw everything but the kitchen sink at one another. Other highlights included a Shingo sequence where he hit a Spicoli Driver off the middle turnbuckle, then a Burning Hammer, and followed that up with a supersonic clothesline. Good match that helped elevate Richards who Danielson had praised earlier. It was after this match that Richards attacked Danielson, likely setting up a grudge match at a future show.
"Open the Untouchable Gate" will be broadcast on pay-per-view and will also be made available on DVD later this year. The show is recommended viewing as it features action the likes of which most North American fans have never seen before.
"Bloodthirsty" Bob Kapur thinks Chicago is his kind of town. He was able to eat a deep dish pizza, hit a couple of blues clubs, and even got to see the fountain from the opening of "Married... with Children." E-mail him your Windy City memories at firstname.lastname@example.org.