CIMA leads Dragon Gate into Mania weekend
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
|CIMA at the Dragon Gate USA "Fearless" PPV taping, in January 2010 in Chicago. Photo by Ricky Havlik, RickyHavlik.com
As a star of Dragon Gate in Japan and the United States, CIMA sees the upcoming shows and iPPVs the promotion is presenting in Miami as a wonderful opportunity to showcase his skills and expand the audience.
With three events -- one Thursday in Hollywood, FL, and then the next two nights in Miami Beach -- CIMA is anticipating wowing some new fans.
"Wrestlemania weekend is very important week for the entire wrestling business," CIMA (real name Nobuhiko Oshima) admitted via email from Japan. "However we have to stay true to our roots and show the fans what Dragon Gate USA is all about. We have to keep our style. It's our Dragon Gate style. I believe that style will reach the fans and make them new fans of Dragon Gate USA. We are very proud of our style of wrestling."
For the uninitiated, the Dragon Gate style is high-flying and hard-hitting, with faction-based partnerships resulting in complex feuds and series.
The Dragon Gate wrestlers have been making regular trips to the United States since 2006, first with Ring of Honor and now with Dragon Gate USA.
There is a certain familiarity now with the high-spot oriented thrillfests, CIMA said.
"I think the American audience is more familiar with me and the Dragon Gate wrestlers, but we got a good reaction from American fans when I wrestled here in 2006," he recalled. "We are trying to make one style with the Japanese and American wrestlers, and develop American stars. I think that will lead to more appreciation of the Japanese style in the United States."
The crowds are different from the U.S. to Japan.
"I like both crowds. The United States crowds express themselves more vocally and with more gestures like clapping. Japanese crowds are sometimes very serious and sometimes they are silent to just watch the match in the ring. I think that is different national character," CIMA explained.
With his funky sunglasses and decidedly heelish demeanor, the 34-year-old CIMA stands out from many of his peers.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound grappler was trained at Ultimo Dragon's Toryumon dojo, and graduated in its first class in 1997. At the start, Oshima worked as Shiima Nobunaga -- including a couple of WCW matches -- then as Shiima, which is simply CIMA now. A regular in the Toryumon promotion, he was then with the splinter-promotion Dragon Gate from the start. A 2008 neck injury forced him to adapt and mature his style.
While CIMA has feuded with the likes of Magnum Tokyo, Masato Yoshino, and Johnny Gargano, he "absolutery" considers Stalker Ichikawa his toughest opponent. On this side of the ocean, CIMA has also had a couple of tryout matches with WWE, and abroad, he has held titles in Mexico and Australia.
"We call CIMA 'The Dragon Gate Icon' for a reason," said Gabe Sapolsky, the booker of Dragon Gate USA. "He is the face of the company. He's a well-rounded veteran who is extremely skilled at working just about any style -- as a face or heel. He is a real ambassador for the Dragon Gate brand. In addition, he is one of the hardest workers I've ever seen. He is a true leader."
Ah, but where did the sunglasses come from?
"I saw same sunglasses on TV about 15 years ago. A sprinter was wearling them. But I thought very cool. How do I look?!"
Ricochet and CIMA are victorious at Dragon Gate USA's Untouchable show in September 2010 in Chicago. Photo by Ricky Havlik, RickyHavlik.com
One of the American stars CIMA has helped move up the roster is Ricochet (Kentucky's Trevor Mann). Together they are Open The United Gate Tag Team Champions.
CIMA saw something in him and is mentoring him.
"He had high potential when before I meet him. But he didn't have the stage to reach that potential," CIMA said. He is special to me like my younger brother. The sky is the limit for Ricochet."
On tour in Japan himself, Ricochet said that it has been "unbelievable really" to be teamed with such a name. "Working with CIMA has helped me so much with not only my actual wrestling but just all-around ring presence and awareness," Ricochet wrote in an email. "He is a great great mentor to have and I am glad I had the privilege to work in the same ring with him."
As well as being a tag champ, CIMA is also the Open the Dream Gate Champion. His top challengers? "Right now?! Nobody Japanese. I think PAC, Ricochet, Johnny Gargano and Uhaa Nation!! They are all great new stars. I want to wrestle all of them."
Beyond the shows in the United States, CIMA wants to expand the Dragon Gate USA reach, and he has a dream -- and a prediction.
At first, Greece would seem an odd choice for his dream locale for a match, but it turns out "Greece is my second home country." His wife, television personality Eleni Masuda, is half Greek. "My daughter was born there. So Greece is a special place for me."
The more realistic step is a lot closer to Japan. "We should running show in China, too. In a few years China will be very important country for every business."
CIMA at Dragon Gate USA's Open the Untouchable Gate show in September 2009 in Chicago. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Back on the subject of dreams -- and WrestleMania -- CIMA shared his dream matchups in the ring.
"The Rock. He is one of my favorite American wrestlers. Also Keiji Muto too. They are both legends."
Dragon Gate USA presents two iPPVs this weekend: Open The Ultimate Gate 2012 is on Friday, March 30th, 8pm EST, and is just $1.99. That show is headlined by CIMA & Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano & Chuck Taylor, Low Ki vs. PAC and Akira Tozawa vs. Masaaki Mochizuki. The next night, Saturday, March 31st, Mercury Rising 2012 is presented at 8pm EST, at the regular price of $14.99. Headlining that show is Low Ki, Akira Tozawa & BxB Hulk vs. CIMA, Ricochet & Masaaki Mochizuki, Johnny Gargano vs Masato Yoshino, and Sami Callihan vs Sabu in a No Rules Match. See WWNlive.com for more details.
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Greg Oliver was among those in Chicago WrestleMania weekend in 2006 blown away by the Dragon Gate wrestlers at the Ring of Honor show. He can be emailed at email@example.com.