On Saturday night, Dragon Gate USA returned to ippv with Untouchable, a stacked card that had a lot of intrigue surrounding certain members of the roster. Chris Pilkington settled in for a night of intrigue, excitement, and a big fat shot of amazing professional wrestling.
Dragon Gate USA (or DGUSA for short) subtitled their Saturday Night ippv ‘Untouchable,’ a name that would prove apt in more than one way. In terms of the quality of matches, particularly the main and semi main event, the show was amongst the best I’ve seen this year. Also, in terms of talent at their disposal, DGUSA proved that they ready and willing to fight for their share and hold off advances from WWE. If Vince McMahon and his WWE machine is the Al Capone of the wrestling world, then DGUSA and in particular Johnny Gargano are well on their way to becoming the Eliot Ness.
You see, WWE’s recent raids of the independent circuit have hit DGUSA hard. PAC, Brodie Lee and Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose) have all left the company for the greener pastures of WWE in the last year or so, and DGUSA champion Gargano was expected to be the next. A lot of eyes were on DGUSA and Gargano and what exactly they would do next. Would they hot shot the title off Gargano onto challenger Akira Tozawa, or did they have something else up their sleeve? Untouchable was their chance to cause a scene and firmly implant themselves into the minds of wrestling fans. It was a chance that they grabbed with both hands.
The opening match between The Manscout Jake Manning and Jon Davis was too short to be great but proved to be a decent opener. Before Davis entered the ring, Manning and his stable mate Chuck Taylor attempted to set up a camp fire in the ring, until Taylors rival Rich Swann ran him out of the ring. Davis continues his series of impressive displays, with a 40 second delayed vertical suplex spot in particular drawing awe from the intimate crowd. Davis would pick up the victory with a vicious looking powerbomb variation that he calls ‘Three Seconds Around The World’
Post match, Taylor and Swann would brawl their way back to ringside, the assumption being that they had done so all the way through the previous match, and the ref rang the bell to start match number two. It was billed as the first ever one on one between the two men (I’m far too lazy to check whether this is true or not,) as well as somewhat of a grudge match, so the excessive violence around ringside at the start of the match should come as no surprise. They fought around the arena, chairs and ladders quickly became involved, and Chuck Taylor hit one of the sickest DDT’s on the concrete floor that I have ever seen. As the action finally entered the ring Swann gained somewhat of an advantage until Taylor countered a hurricanrana attempt into a single leg Boston Crab. Taylor refused to relinquish the hold despite Swann holding onto the ropes leading to a DQ. In a match that featured previously mentioned DDT’s, ladders and chairs (oh my!) the referee stopped the action because of a failed rope break? Strange and abrupt finish aside, it was an entertaining affair that had the crowd oohing and aahing at all the right moments.
Next up, The Super Smash Brothers, who broke the entranceway on their way to the ring, faced Scott Reed and Caleb Conley collectively know as The Scene in a fast paced encounter with a few minor faults that failed to take too much away from the action. Indeed, it was so fast that at times it was hard to keep up, never mind pick out problems. SSB’s make for a great tandem and deserve a shot at the Open The United Gate titles, DGUSA’s tag titles, somewhere down the line. As for the scene..? The jury’s still out for me. There’s just seems to be something missing that’s stopping them from becoming a great team in my eyes. They can’t be faulted for their part in what was an exciting match though.
Ricochet vs YAMATO was another cracking match, starting with a slower pace than the last few matches as the returning YAMATO worked the leg of Ricochet. It didn’t take long for the match to quicken, and Ricochet began to show signs of why the people chant his name. There’s no denying the athleticism and innovation of Ricochet’s offence, but perhaps more could be done when he is on the defensive. His rallying flurries of offence aren’t nearly as spectacular when we feel he’s never really in any pain. It didn’t stop an impromptu ‘This is awesome!’ chant from the Michigan crowd who were well into the action all the way until the finish which saw YAMATO spear Ricochet for the victory.
After a sizeable intermission, D.U.F members Arik Cannon and Pinkie Sanchez faced Nate Madson and DGUSA seminar attendee Derick Ryze. For those that don’t know, D.U.F stands for Dirty Ugly… I forget the rest. For all intents and purposes this was a squash for The D.U.F. but it is a credit to the willingness and professionalism of Cannon and Sanchez that they turned it into an even handed affair. They gave their opponents a lot, perhaps a little too much in fact, but the result was never really in doubt. Madson and Ryze made good use of their opportunity but it was an average at best affair.
As the match ended, Cannon announced that they would be debuting a new member of the D.U.F stable and introduced Masada to the ring. Masada informed them that this wasn’t the case, and we have ourselves an impromptu match between Masada and Pinkie! Can you have too much of a good thing? Two Pinkie Sanchez matches in one night pushed it close. I’ll chose to blame Masada, who is seemingly a replacement for the departed Brodie Lee. Whilst in theory he fits that rather large mould, in practice he proved to be somewhat underwhelming. The crowd were unsure whether to cheer or boo so instead they sat on their hands. It was disjointed, overlong, and Masada won with an STF, a strange finisher for a bad ass brawler.
An auspicious start for the second portion of the show then, but business, as they say, was about to pick up. CIMA and AR Fox vs El Generico and Samuray Del Sol. Four men who just know how to spark some life back into the card. The crowd are pleased to see each competitor, starting a chant of ‘ Everybody!’ both before and during the match. The genetics of the match reminded me somewhat of the Davey Richards/Kyle O’Reilly vs Eddie Edwards/Adam Cole match that headlined the ROH anniversary show, with Generico and CIMA taking the veteran roles as their young charges Del Sol and Fox tried to prove that they belonged in the ring with them. And they do. Del Sol is quickly becoming one of my favourite breakthrough wrestlers of the year and he impresses once more here. His exchanges with AR Fox have to be seen to be believed.
It was a match of emotional peaks and troughs. The action was never less than intriguing, taking it’s time to evolve from slow burning and considered into tiny pockets of high spot explosions, before simmering back down and telling a great story. My match of the year list only has a handful of contenders on it so far, but this will surely be in contention. CIMA picked up the victory, pinning Del Sol after a double knee drop from the top rope, as the astounded crowd returned to applauding all four competitors. Post match they all raised each others hands to the delight of the audience and the victors CIMA and Fox claimed that they were ready to win the tag titles.
And then it was time for the main event; Open The Freedom Gate champion Johnny Gargano vs Akira Tozawa with the title on the line. I’ll make no bones about the fact that Tozawa is one of my favourite current performers in the world, nor that I am often left underwhelmed by Gargano. With that being said, this was another barnstormer and the credit belongs to both men. I really felt that Gargano came into his own during this match, and I finally saw what a lot of people see in him, including the people down at FCW.
There were so many great moments…a series of quick fire dives to the outside, performed from both sides of the ring was exhausting to watch, Tozawa’s rapid chops in the corner followed by a vicious punch to the face got a huge reaction, suplex after suplex after suplex. They had a hard assignment to compete with the previous match but both men gave it their all, Gargano not afraid to sell Tozawa’s offence, and coming out looking stronger for the fact that he was surviving it.
There was a genuine buzz around the crowd. Was Gargano leaving for WWE? Would Tozawa actually become the new DGUSA champion? The back and forth of the match certainly helped sell this aspect and kept the audience on the edge of their steel chairs throughout. All questions would be answered when Johnny locked in the Gargano Escape, and Tozawa eventually tapped out. As the ring cleared and the cheering subsided, Gargano laid his title in the ring and sat down beside it, microphone in hand. He had something to say.
He told the crowd that he got into wrestling because he wanted to be an independent wrestler. It upsets him when wrestlers say that what they do on the indies is all to make it to the next level. He does what he does to give the fans their moneys worth. It hurts him to see the current state of Independent wrestling. Independent wrestling is dying but Gargano isn’t ready to jump ship, he’s ready to steer independent wrestling to where it belongs! He informed the crowd that he’s been to see DGUSA officials and had agreed a new deal and that he was going to do everything in his power to make the DGUSA title as important as he can.
It was an impassioned promo that fit the bill perfectly, setting just the right tone between the realities of the situation and the practicalities of being the DGUSA champion. Gargano really hit the ball out of the park with this one. Indie wrestling does seem to be lacking an indie crusader at the moment, a role that Gargano just filled with one promo from the heart.
Overall I can’t praise this show enough. The main and semi main event are worth the price of the show alone, two matches that separately are great, but as a double act prove that DGUSA has the talent to become the big dog of the US indie scene. There was nothing truly awful on the show, which seems to be becoming more of a rarity, and pretty much everybody delivered. And Gargano, to me, had his breakout moment. He proved he is a main eventer, a worthy champion, and a man that fans of indie wrestling can put their faith in, all in one night. If the tag match was match of the night, and it was, then Gargano was the man of the night. I urge you all to check out the replay.
This article was written by Chris Pilkington.