Jimmy Kagetora (c) vs Yosuke Santa Maria
Open the Brave Gate Championship
Ota Ward Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
(reviewed 09/18/2017) Leading up to this, Maria had repeatedly flustered Kagetora in tag matches with her womanly charms and Kagetora made a big deal of saying “I hate kissing! Girls are icky!” and whatnot. So here, when Kagetora makes his entrance with the oni face mask that he usually wears for big match entrances, he just doesn’t take it off for the match itself as a way to ward off Maria’s luscious lips. While it takes away a powerful tool in her arsenal, Maria’s other exotico tricks are still in play, allowing her to take control of this match pretty handily until Kagetora returns to his game plan from Kobe World and starts going after his opponent’s leg. Thankfully he does more work with that here than he did at Kobe World and Maria sells it better than Flamita did there for the most part. I say “for the most part” because while it immobilizes her briefly and she’s moving notably slower throughout the rest of the match, she still strings together like three springboard dives in and out of the ring that feel a little out of place. Granted, it’s not like, say, the WK10 main event where Tanahashi’s doing ten, twelve straight minutes of leg work and Okada’s shrugging it off at his convenience, but there’s enough leg work and enough shrugging off here that it gives me pause. Still, with his mask and this leg work giving him confidence, Kagetora starts to get cocky and more than a little aggressive, urging Maria to give him her best shot as he’s unloading some of his big signatures with ease. Maria does just that before long, actually utilizing a leg sweep + slap combo that Kagetora uses quite often, and it gives her the opening to be able to strip the mask off her opponent. With Kagetora’s confidence gone, the match is much more even as they transition into the false finishes, most of which feel sort of off, far less crisp than the usual work these two put in. Still, this is a pretty fresh matchup, so even if the moves aren’t done as effectively as they could be, they’re interesting spots and reversals of spots and Ota City gets well into them by the end. After Maria scrambles out of it twice, Kagetora is finally able to hit the Gurumakakari for the win. An enjoyable Brave Gate title match here, one with some not insignificant problems that drag it down from being on the upper end of good, but one that is perfectly functional and colorful and fun, and that’s about all I can ask for from a midcard title match on a show about much bigger things.