Jimmyz (Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!!, Ryo “Jimmy” Saito, Jimmy Susumu, Jimmy Kanda, & Jimmy K-ness JKS) vs VerserK (Shingo Takagi, T-Hawk, Takashi Yoshida, El Lindaman, & Punch Tominaga)
Losing Unit Disbands No Disqualification Elimination Match and De-Facto 5 Unit Survival League Finals
Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
(reviewed 09/18/2017) This was a long time coming. Jimmyz have been the longest-running unit in Dragon Gate history, nearly eclipsing Crazy MAX’s huge run of just under six full years back in Toryumon Japan. While they’ve always been real popular, their relevancy has waned both as a group and as individuals. With a median age on the higher end of 38, the Jimmyz were not long for this world as top-flight Dragon Gate stars. Despite being the best heel unit in about a decade, you might be able to say the same for the members of VerserK. Following his loss to YAMATO at Kobe World 2016, Shingo began taking a back seat as top heel and allowed his partners to take brief stints as the primary villain of the promotion. These short forays by T-Hawk and Yoshida were pretty poorly received and the fans didn’t get grow to fear or hate either of them the way they feared Shingo, which led people to believe that it was time for a major change with Dragon Gate’s sole heel unit, and besides, two years is a full life cycle for most units.
These sentiments came to a head with the announcement of the 5 Unit Survival League that would take place of the usual Summer Adventure Tag League, in which the unit that scores the fewest points by the end of the league has to disband. It came down to a tie between Jimmyz and VerserK, which leads us here to this de-facto finals match. Leading into it, there was lots of talk of war from both sides. Jimmyz had been growing more and more aggressive in the spring and summer before this match, especially towards the new unit MaxiMuM, and days before this bout they promised that “combat Jimmyz” would be arriving in Ota City. Likewise, Shingo had oddly been hyping up a barbed wire match and promised to make Jimmyz feel the pain of torn flesh and spilled blood at the hands of the mighty VerserK.
So that leads us here to a fairly mediocre unit disbands match in which the Jimmyz are covered in body paint vaguely reminiscent of camouflage and VerserK are all decked out in camo pants and shirts and carrying weak-looking barbed wire boards as well as a better-looking barbed wire bat that manages to break in half during the match.
Now, when I say “mediocre”, that sure doesn’t mean “bad”. There’s a lot to enjoy here, a lot of the usual unit disbands and multi-man tag tropes you see in Dragon Gate, things that I love. The big spots mostly all feel big and enjoyable, especially the eliminations. The only exception to that is probably Kanda’s elimination, an assisted Tombstone piledriver by Shingo and Linda onto the aforementioned barbed wire bat, because that’s just a real goofy spot. But, speaking of the barbed wire, it’s used quite well here. Seeing guys get whipped into the boards or hit with the bat or Punch having a spool of it rubber banded into his chest is great. The crowd, though, certainly doesn’t agree. When Shingo started hyping up the barbed wire stuff a few weeks back, long-time DG fans all made the comment that the crowd would not be into that at all, being that Dragon Gate is nearly devoid of blood and only utilizes the lowest level of hardcore paraphernalia such as chairs, cages, and the occasional table. So here when more than half of the eliminations in the match (five of nine) involve the barbed wire, not to mention a number of other big spots throughout the match, the crowd gives a requisite little pop but is mostly, sullenly silent. It really kills this major unit disbands match between one of the more beloved face units of the last decade and one of the more hated heel units. When I think back to two years ago, to the last time there was a unit disbands match in this building, the crowd was so hot it seemed like the roof was going to fly off. That Jimmyz vs Mad Blankey match is one of my favorite experiences in watching wrestling ever, a high point in a dark time in my life. And this? This just feels like nothing in comparison.
Truthfully, maybe that’s part of the problem, comparing this to an all-time great unit disbands match, one of the finest in Dragon Gate’s history. On its own, this match is fine, a few rungs above acceptable, sporting a couple great spots and an emotional farewell to a beloved group. But in the greater scheme of things, this feels more like a mid-level FMW main event from the post-Onita days than a high-level unit disbands match, not just because of the spots and weapons used, but because of the pace and the level of effort and the lack of heat and the knowledge that it could be, should be so much more. That’s the real kicker. This should make me feel heartbroken, seeing this team I’ve loved break up against their will, seeing one of my favorite promotions dabble in barbed wire in a big match setting. But it just doesn’t. It entertains but it doesn’t make me feel.