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#MustWatchMonday (8/8/16): Shingo Takagi vs. YAMATO (Dragon Gate Kobe World 2016)


On today's edition of #MWM, we take a step back from wrestlers who are or have been contracted by the WWE, and instead focus on introducing you to some of the great wrestlers that ply their craft.

Today's match comes from Dragon Gate, the number two promotion in Japan. Dragon Gate focuses on stable warfare, and employs a style of wrestling that is a hybrid of lucha and puroresu. Some WWE Superstars that have been through Dragon Gate are Adrian Neville, Apollo Crews, Sami Zayn, and current CWC participant Akira Tozawa.

The match I'm going to show you today comes from Kobe World Pro Wrestling Festival 2016, which is Dragon Gate's equivalent of WrestleMania, and this match is for the Open the Dream Gate championship, the top prize in the company.

The champion going into this match is Shingo Takagi. Takagi is the leader of the heel group Verzerk, and plays the bully type of heel, constantly berating the other wrestlers and mocking them saying that they aren't on his level or that they aren't good enough to even challenge for his championship. He's had two reigns since becoming the leader of Verzerk. During the first run he beat the old guard of Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fujii, Gamma, and CIMA, the heart and soul of Dragon Gate. While all these matches were great, his match against Mochizuki was considered to be a match of the year candidate for 2015, and received nothing but praise.



The first half of Takagi's reign as champion whilst leader of Verzerk came to an end when he lost against Jimmy Susumu, a member of the Jimmyz stable. This loss was pivotal as it drove the story that there was dissension in the Verzerk group, particularly between Shingo Takagi and YAMATO. While Takagi won the title back from Susumu in quick fashion, it was starting to look like Verzerk was about to fall apart.

In May 2016, during Dragon Gate's Dead or Alive pay-per-view, a six-man steel cage match was set between the members of the Verzerk group to try and settle their differences. This wasn't an ordinary steel cage match however, but I won't go through explaining the rules of said match. What you need to know is that by the end of it, YAMATO was betrayed by the other members of Verzerk, and had to dig down deep to win the match. This betrayal caused YAMATO to leave Verzerk, and ally with other Dragon Gate wrestlers to form the new Tribe Vanguard stable.

The challenger for this match comes in the form of YAMATO, who earned the opportunity for the championship when he won the 2016 edition of the King of Gate tournament, beating Big R Shimizu in the finals. This is a tournament that you should go out of your way to seek out and watch. YAMATO had been a heel for the longest time, as a member of Verzerk, and while he was in his old stable MAD BLANKEY. After being betrayed however, YAMATO realized the error of his ways, and made it his mission to take down Takagi and bring to an end his title reign.


This story of Shingo's reign of terror and YAMATO's redemption was told over the course of more than a year, starting from Takagi's heel turn from happy friendly babyface in the Monster Express stable, to this match I'm about to present. The eye for detail in storytelling and the amount of continuity involved is what makes me love Dragon Gate so much.

(Fun fact: the story of vanquishing Shingo was supposed to go to Akira Tozawa, who Shingo betrayed when he first turned heel and formed Verzerk. However, due to Akira Tozawa's extremely likely move to WWE, this didn't push through, and the story shifted to YAMATO.)


The drama was set to maximum in this match, with YAMATO working on Takagi's arm, applying sleeper holds and having to use multiple variations of his Galleria finisher in order to finish Shingo off. Shingo was no slouch either, and used his power and surprising agility to try and stick it to YAMATO. Whenever Shingo would make a run however, YAMATO would have an answer, and eventually YAMATO won the Open the Dream Gate championship. Words can only do so much to describe this match, you have to actually watch to appreciate its beauty. This match is going to make a lot of match of the year lists.

What did you think of the match? Do you like these wrestlers? Leave a comment below!

*****

Brandon Sy is a PhD student in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics currently based in Sydney. Since he wasn't allowed to watch wrestling as a kid, he's been overcompensating ever since. Despite being a huge fan of Japanese wrestling, he still holds a soft spot in his heart for WWE's Kane. He's good for recommending matches from pretty much anywhere, whether it be Japan, Europe, the US or Mexico. He'd be ecstatic if you watched Dragon Gate though.

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