Dragon Gate is one of the largest independent Professional Wrestling federations in Japan - large enough that some wouldn't even call it an indy fed. It has broken the 10,000 attendance mark, and it has a weekly televised show.
The promotion was created in 2004 when the Japanese branch of Último Dragón's Toryumon dissociated itself from him. As Dragón took the Torymon trademark with him, the company renamed to Dragon Gatenote . It continued to produce young wrestlers from a dojo who would form a significant part of the roster (and in many cases, push the older Toryumon guys to the background), but it ended the isolationism. Dragon Gate has since become a visiting grounds for many an American wrestler in Japan.
In 2006, Dragon Gate sent six of their wrestlers - CIMA, Masato Yoshino, Naruki Doi, Ryo Saito, Dragon Kid, and Genki Horiguchi - to Ring of Honor. The match, a six man tag team battle pitting the first three named against the last three, obtained the coveted Five Star Match rating, and exposed Dragon Gate to an American audience.
The federation expanded fully into the American market with Dragon Gate USA. Initially it featured about 2/3rds of the regular DG roster and many big name indy wrestlers from America. There has been significant interpromotion with CHIKARA. Although the promotion became Dragon Gate In Name Only when the last of the Dragon Gate wrestlers had been fazed out by 2014 and eventually came to the point of being entirely absorbed by EVOLVE before the USA titles, Open The Freedom Gate and Open The United Gate, were retired.
2019 was a specially notable year for the promotion, as it changed its legendary red and black logo by a pink and white one and, in a move that had appeared impossible for fifteen years, Último Dragón reconciled with his students and joined the Dragon Gate roster.
As of April 2009, Dragon Gate recognizes and books the following titles.
- Open the Dream Gate - Yamato - since August 01, 2021
- Open the Brave Gate - Vacant - since August 09, 2021
- Open the Triangle Gate - Masquerade (Dragon Dia, Jason Lee & Estrella) - since May 5, 2021
- Open the Twin Gate - Natural Vibes (Susumu Yokosuka & King Shimizu) - since July 31st, 2021
There's also the Open the Owarai Gate Title, but it doesn't really count.
As a promotion, Dragon Gate has a few quirks. Most notably pretty-boys make up roughly 95% of the roster. For probably related reasons it also has a proportionally large female fanbase, and panders to it by repeatedly decreasing the size of the wrestlers outfits. It is also a great source of newly invented moves, making it wrestling's premier example of the Lensman Arms Race. Matches generally end with full on barrages of these newly invented moves, which causes a lot of non-DG wrestlers to dislike and resent the promotion. note
Dragon Gate is also very heavily factionalized, with usually at least four Power Stables active at one time, and generally only undercard wrestlers have no stable alignment.
Real Extreme Diffusion - R.E.D.Built from the remains of the faction VerserK and the failed faction ANTIAS, R.E.D. is currently one of the youngest, and more successful factions in Dragon Gate simply through their sheer ferocity and treachery. Their leader is Eita. Their faction color should be fairly obvious. They were the only faction to survive the re-structuring, largely by creating their own problem in the Dragon Gate and Toryumon Generation factions in picking up Bx B Hulk, and starting a feud with Ultimo Dragon.
Natural VibesA group of fun-loving goofballs who are sometimes...let's say "enhanced" in a natural way, inspired by Rastafarian culture. They're still a force to be reckoned with however, with some of the most talented high-flyers in the promotion being members. They are also noteworthy for performing their own entrance music and getting the crowd involved in their entrances. After the Generation War in 2019, KZY chose to reform the group with Genki Horiguchi and Susumu Yokosuka, and replenished their ranks by 2020. Their leader is KZY, and their faction colors are Red, Green, and Yellow.
MasqueradeMasquerade was formed in the waning days of the 2019 Generation War, as Shun Skywalker returned from excursion in Japan to poach several members from the Dragon Gate Generation stable, and announced formally the creation of Masquerade, based on the Carnival of Venice, with each member coming to the ring with a special carnival mask. They quickly got involved with R.E.D., and as of May 2021, hold both the Open the Dream Gate title and the Open the Triangle Gate title, both of whom they ripped from R.E.D.'s clutches. Their leader is Shun Skywalker, and their faction color is Purple.
High-EndHigh-End was formed in the wake of the Generation War, where YAMATO and Ben-K split the Dragon Gate Generation stable amicably. However, after a match with Dragon Kid, YAMATO was reminded he had exceptionally few allies in the war against R.E.D., but was impressed enough with him to shack up with him in order to properly avenge Toryumon Generation. They have since added Ben-K and Keisuke Okuda to their ranks, and while one of the smaller Units Dragon Gate has ever seen, they are among the most skilled. Their leader is YAMATO, and their faction color is White.
CrazyMAXThe original heel stable of Toryumon Japan, founded by Shiima Nobunaga (CIMA), Judo Suwa (SUWA) and Sumo Fuji (Don Fujii). They ran roughshod over the original promotion, and quickly became 'cool heels', very similar to the New World Order. As their fan support grew and new threats like M2K and the T 2 P wrestlers joined the promotion, C-Max ended up as faces. C-Max fell apart after the Toryumon/Dragon Gate split - SUWA left the promotion, TARU hit the age barrier hard, and JUN suffered a career ending injury. CrazyMAX ended with a formal ceremony in the ring rather than by being forced to disband by stipulation or treachery. CIMA cried when he announced the stable's closure. The faction colors were black and white.
M2KAnother one of the original Toryumon stables. Masaaki Mochizuki was floundering in the upper card when two young upstarts named Susumu Mochizuki (no relation to Masaaki) and Yasushi Kanda returned from having trained in Mexico. The three of them chose the name 'M2K' based on their last names, and proceeded to run roughshod over the promotion. They weren't just out to win matches but tried to actively ruin events - one of their favorite things to do was try to force tournaments to end in double-countout finishes. They added Darkness Dragon to the stable. They also added Chocoball KOBE to the stable and, after he failed to perform, replaced him with Genki Horiguchi.
M2K's history gets convoluted from here. Masaaki was kicked out for trying to reform it with Susumu becoming the stable leader. Masaaki defeated Susumu in a match where the loser had to quit using 'Mochizuki' in their name. Kanda suffered a neck injury that put him out of action for 4 years; he became a referee who helped M2K win. Magnum Tokyo joined and took over as stable leader. Darkness Dragon lost a mask vs mask match to Dragon Kid when Kanda turned face and prevented M2K from interfering in the match; he renamed to K-Ness, faked a face turn and formed a stable called DO-Fixer with Dragon Kid and Ryo Saito. Magnum abruptly announced that he was dissolving M2K and making it the "real" DO-Fixer, and that K-Ness had been a mole and was part of the group.
Masaaki tried to form a new group called Shin-M2K, but the fans rejected it - whereas M2K had been known for its outrageous heel antics, Shin-M2K was just a generic collection of faces who had fought the old M2K. This lead Masaaki to become disillusioned, turn heel again and form Hagure Gundam, which in turn would kick him out become Aagan Iisou.
To feud with Aagan Iisou, Masaaki created Final M2K, rejoining forces with Susumu and K-Ness (now an actual face), as well as Keni'chiro Arai and Second Doi. This was about the time of the Toruymon/Dragon Gate switch. When Aagan Iisou left Dragon Gate, Final M2K moved over to feuding with new heel stable Blood Generation, only for Second Doi to backstab them and join Blood Gen. They added Masato Onodera, the rookie who would later become Yamato, to the group. Final M2K was forced to finally disband when Masaaki, Susumu and K-Ness lost a Triangle Gate match to CIMA, Don Fujii and Matt Sydal.
Blood GenerationThe first trueborn Dragon Gate stable, as well as the successor to C-Max, formed by CIMA and Don Fujii out of the remnants of CrazyMAX. The stable's theme was muscular bodies and bare faces (no masks), although they allowed the masked Magnitude Kishiwada to join after he jumped to Dragon Gate from Osaka Pro. Blood Gen was unusual in that the stable had two Big Bads in CIMA and Magnitude. It was also the first 'super-stable' - where previous stables generally had between 3 and 5 members, Blood Gen had 7 at its peak: CIMA, Magnitude, Fujii, Shingo Takagi, Naruki Doi, Masato Yoshino, and Gamma. Blood Gen splintered when CIMA and Gamma couldn't get along, and Gamma split from Blood Gen to create his own stable the Muscle Outlaws. Blood Generation's faction colors were black and red.
Aagan Iisou (& Hagure Gundam)Aagan Iisou's roots started when two different stables were in turmoil. On one side, the Italian Connection was sharply divided on whether to turn face or remain heel - leader Milano Collection AT, along with YOSSINO, wanted to turn face whereas Condotti Shuji, brother YASSINI, Berlinetta Boxer and Bakery Yagi wanted to remain heel. On the other, the fans had rejected Masaaki Mochizuki's Shin-M2K stable (see above). Mochizuki abandoned Shin-M 2 K while Shuji, YASSINI and Boxer abandoned the ItaCon, and they formed Hagure Gundam, which translates roughly to 'Stray Army'. Condotti Shuji and brother YASSINI renamed to Shuji Kondo and brother YASSHI, Boxer unmasked and became Shogo Takagi (no relation to Shingo Takage). They added Toru Owashi to the group, and kicked Yagi out.
Things went sideways for the stable rather quickly, as Mochizuki and Kondo couldn't agree on who was the leader. The stable eventually backed Kondo, kicking Mochi out and renaming to Aagan Iisou, roughly 'Villains All Wear The Same Colors.' Those colors were orange and red. They added the former Henry III Suguwara, now Takuya Suguwara, as their final member.
Aagan Iisou was Demoted to Extra during the Toryoumon/Dragon Gate split, and so in December of 2004, all five members of Aagan Iisou quit Dragon Gate in unity. Dragon Gate chose to try and save face by saying that Aagan Iisou had been fired for bad conduct in the locker room. Aagan Iisou - now represented only by Kondo, YASSHI and Suguwara - resurfaced in the short lived dragondoor and its successor El Dorado. It was an angle in El Dorado in which all the factions were forced to break up and the promotions' four Aces draft new units that ended Aagan Iisou, as Kondo and YASSHI were both seen as Aces and separated for the first time since their Italian Connection days.
Aagan Iisou, including Owashi and Shogo, briefly reunited in 2019 during the Dragon Gate Generations angle.
JimmyzInitially created when Susumu Yokosuka and KAGETORA lost their names as a stipulation in a match with Akira Tozawa and BxB Hulk - the Japanese word for 'boring' is 'jimi', and were renamed Jimmy Susumu and Jimmy Kagetora. They rolled with it, and went on to become one of the oldest and most successful units in Toryumon/Dragon Gate, winning nearly every title they could get their hands on in their seven year history. They were notable for their Bunny-Ears Lawyer approach to pro-wrestling, and their signature pose: the jimmyz train. They were disbanded in 2017 by VerserK. Their color scheme was often merely beige or cream.
Tribe VanguardTribe Vanguard's general concept is that of a group of Social Darwinists who view pro-wrestling as a jungle, and the only way to survive is to band together and to be on the bleeding edge, which they largely have been. Their leader was YAMATO. Their faction "colors" were Green Camouflage, or often White.
MaxiMuMCreated from the loss of the unit Monster Express and after one of their co-leaders was kicked out of VerserK, and were notable for being the group full of hard-headed and tough veterans, with only two wrestlers under 30 on their roster. They were also notable as being the faction that clashed the most with the Jimmyz during 2017. They are co-led by Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino. Their group colors were Black and White.
Mochizuki DojoMasaaki Mochizuki in 2018 decided that he wanted to both mentor new talent and also compete with Shun Skywalker, and was convinced by a group of Dragon Gate Dojo trainees to join him. A big part of the dojo is not just getting exposure for new stars, but also for the group to compete against each other to become better wrestlers. Their faction colors were Black and Gold.
Dragon Gate GenerationAfter Tribe Vanguard's YAMATO was betrayed by Bx B Hulk and tore his faction apart by joining R.E.D., Fellow stable leaders Ben-K and KZY proposed a massive alliance to face the incoming threat between the old guard Toryumon Generation, and the ballooning in size R.E.D., with the express goal of surpassing both and truly showing who the promotion's stars are: The youngsters. Their leaders are YAMATO, KZY, and Ben-K. Their faction color is gold. After the Toryumon Generation was disbanded, YAMATO made the decision to go their separate ways, with three different factions being created from the ashes.
Toryumon GenerationUltimo Dragon helped celebrate Dragon Gate's prototype federation/wrestling school Toryumon's 20th anniversary in 2019, but began being hounded by his former students to help return to the federation he started in order to help it grow and become stable after years of unit-based chaos. He finally returned to face R.E.D., with a host of his old students joining him initially, with more coming in the following months to help him face Eita and his goons, usually to save their former sensei. Their feud with R.E.D. helped start and escalate the current generation war, however they were forced to disband after losing a match to R.E.D. Their de-facto leader was Ultimo Dragon, their faction color was light blue.
Tropes associated with Dragon Gate
- All-American Face: The Florida Brothers, Taku Iwasa and Raimu Mishima... excuse us, Michael and Daniel.
- Ascended Meme: The Gate To Heaven match isn't just a tag team where tags are strictly enforced (unlike most in Dragon Gate), it starts out with with two referees, as Gorilla Monsoon always said there should have been.
- The Bad Guy Wins: It has been noted how the vast majority of stable vs stable feuds in Dragon Gate end with the heel stable winning, forcing the face stable to disband - followed by the Big Bad and his Dragon having some kind of a falling out and one or the other turning face.
- B Show: PRIME ZONE and Infinity
- The largest member of the World Wrestling Network by far, it still benefited from some cross promotion with FIP, Shine but working relations died down and DG USA was then discontinued. Dragon Gate used to have a pretty good relationship with Ring of Honor, ROH even hosting a "Dragon Gate Rules Match" featuring CIMA, Shingo and Matt Sydal vs Delirious, Roderick Strong and Austin Aries but the relationship seems to have soured for some reason. Also, as noted above, Chikara.
- Dramatic Dream Gate and DDG Returns in 2008.
- The Pro Hanshin Puroresu Battle: Dragon Gate vs. Osaka Pro in the June 2010, which featured WARRIORS vs LOV elimination match, CIMA challenging Billy Ken Kid for the Osaka Pro title in the main event, among other things. Also, Open The German Gate with westside Xtreme wrestling.
- The roster was apart of GAORA 20th Anniversary ~ Super Fighting Spirit 2011 along with AJPW's and some from Oz Academy
- Determinator: One of the few promotions able to get bookings in locations where WWE tries to keep all other companies out.
- Double X: Magnitude Kishiwada and Gamma tag teaming as "FluXxx".
- Dreadlock Warrior: Delirious and Cyber Kong have tassels hanging off their masks to invoke it, while brother YASSHI has the real things and further invokes it with braids, including some in his beard.
- Engrish: Theme song names are frequent offenders, with names like WILD DRANK HUSKEY (Don Fujii) and KICK START THE ELEPHANT (Yasushi Kanda).
- Final Battle: Every year has Final Gate, though in 2013 Final Gate was followed by... The Last Gate of 2013
- Handshake Refusal: Dragon Kid's first DGUSA angle revolved around Masato Yoshino and Naruki Doi continued refusal to shake his hand.
- I Have the High Ground: Besides Sydal, AR Fox really stands out here, as he jumps on a lot of things. Ricochet is among the first wrestlers with a documented two full rotation moonsault. Rich Swann and Uhaa Nation don't need the high ground. CIMA used to be a high flier but became less of one as time went on.
- Interesting Situation Duel: Every bout on the Wakayama Bicycle Racetrack Special Match show.
- The Load: Stables will often have one member who is far enough below the others in skill that his teammates have to spend time rescuing him in addition to trying to win the match themselves. Raimu Mishima and Akira Tozawa were Loads in the past, as was Mondai Ryu in VERZER-K.
- The Millstone: Stalker Ichikawa during his affiliation with CrazyMAX. Worse than being simply a load, if they so much as tagged him into the match he'd immediately screw up his offense and need saving. Teaming with him in a trios match was more like wrestling a 4 on 2 handicap match - or worse, like pro wrestling's version of an Escort Mission.
- New Year Has Come: Originally the Primal Gate shows fulfilled this purpose. Later, they were replaced by Open the New Year Gate.
- Planet of Steves: Everyone in Jimmyz was either renamed "Jimmy" or had a name that incorporated it.
- Power Trio: Most teams who hold Open The Triangle Gate titles, though they are often part of larger groups. The Dirty Ugly Fucks (Pinkie Sanchez, Sami Callihan, Arik Cannon) were primarily a three man team. Currently there's Team Boku (themselves a subsidiary of Toryumon Generation) comprising Naruki Doi, Punch Tominaga, and BR Shimizu.
- Punny Name: The Spiked Mohicans CIMA and Ricochet were not so named because the were Mohican.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Or are a part of World 1 International
- Scandal Gate: Infinity had an episode called Scandal Gate where BXB Hulk lost the Dream Gate title after facing four members of Mad Blankey by himself.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After the Toryumon/Dragon Gate split, Aagan Iisounote were demoted from "menacing top heel stable" to "warm bodies in multi-team matches". And so at the very end of December 2004, they quit. Dragon Gate covered it up by announcing that they had been fired, and it wasn't until years later the truth came out.
- Something went very sour between CIMA and Dragon Gate management, and he left the promotion in 2018, taking T-Hawk and El Lindaman with him. Because both sides handled the departure professionally and described it as CIMA going to China to become an "ambassador" for Dragon Gate, it wasn't immediately realized how acrimonious the departure was until CIMA failed to return - or even be mentioned - for the ongoing angle between the Dragon Gate trueborn and the older Toryumon Japan wrestlers.
- Sexy Secretary: Su Yung is one for The Premier Athlete Brand, as well as a recruiter
- Take That!: Austin Aries and CIMA were engaged in an angle which turned out to be a comedic jab at WWE Tough Enough.
- Tag Team: Downplayed, the matches are usually more like Parejas, as tags usually are not necessary. Considering the Mexican origins of Toryumon/Dragon Gate, it's not surprising.
- The Cheerleader: Averted Trope. All the wrestlers were provided two cheerleaders during the WWN China tour. Cheerleaders who were actually sweet and there to get pops, even for the heels.
- Took a Level in Badass:
- Happens fairly often, since not only are rookies in the Dragon Gate system often expected to do a lot of losing, but are frequently started in jokey if not humiliating gimmicks.
- Also any time someone who spends an extended period of time as a jobber starts getting pushed and wins titles - examples being Taku Iwasa and Akira Tozawa.
- Tournament Arc: Summer Adventure Tag League, Battle Of Tokyo, King Of Chop Tournament, Young Dragon Cup...
- Trope Codifier In the USA, there hadn't been a promotion that catered as much to a female audience by way of male fanservice since the mid 1980s, none that managed to be a major blip on anyone's radar anyway.
- Writing Around Trademarks: Combined with gratuitous English for Tigers Mask and Black Tigers, although the gimmicks came from Osaka Pro and somewhat make sense, since they have the added spin of being fan boys of a baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers.