CK-1 (CIMA & Dragon Kid) (c) vs MaxiMuM (Big R Shimizu & Kotoka)
Open the Twin Gate Championship
Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
(reviewed 09/18/2017) Real downer of a match despite not being altogether bad or anything. If you’re at all familiar with the western Dragon Gate fan base, you’re probably aware of the sentiments some people have regarding CK-1. A number of people aren’t happy that two of the oldest guys on the roster have gone and broken DoiYAMA’s Twin Gate record for longest reign a year after it was set, especially as Dragon Gate is suffering from a major problem of not being able to get the younger guys over. There’s not much of a discernible story behind this reign either, nothing like Mochizuki wanting to have one last shot at the Dream Gate title or Jimmyz trying to hold onto their place in the world as the younger generations pass them by. It’s just a long title reign for a long title reign’s sake. What’s more, their matches aren’t even that great. Despite liking CIMA and Dragon Kid a lot and despite liking their opponents more often than not, their title matches do little for me and are hard to write about. I’m pretty sure this is the first title match of this Twin Gate reign that I’ve reviewed, and we’re almost a year into it now. That’s absurd.
So, as far as this match itself is concerned, it’s not bad. There’s lots of fun goofin’ from CIMA, lots of him being the huge prick that he is. There’s some great highflying from DK as usual. There’s some good big man offense from Big R. There’s lots and lots of endearing selling and struggling from Kotoka as he gets worked over for a good 70% of the match. All of these are solid elements that should combine together to make a good match, but they just sort of don’t. As mentioned, the match is mostly based around CK-1 working over Kotoka, which is pretty standard for all Kotoka matches. For the most part they target his midsection, doing a punch of shots to the gut, gutbusters, knee drops, etc etc. It stays pretty light-hearted or professional most of the way through but at times, especially in the finishing stretch from CIMA, it feels like a veteran taking liberties with a younger guy just because he can. That feels gross, especially when it’s with a veteran who has a long history of that and a younger guy who has had that happen to him a lot over his career. What’s more, it’s not all that compelling. Kotoka gets manhandled for a while and then he and Big R even things up a bit and everyone trades spots until CIMA isolates Kotoka and stomps him in the gut a bunch and does a knee drop off the top for the win. That’s not interesting or enjoyable past a certain level, and this match gets well past that after 12 minutes of the same gut work. Combine that the greater concerns about the company’s direction as a whole and this title reign and how this specific veteran has treated specific youngsters and you’ve got a middling title match that has gross undercurrents beneath the surface that make it feel worse than it is. After a number of fun matches on this card building up to a series of bigger top-level bouts, this is a huge step back and it’s a shame to see.