Looking back at DGUSA WrestleMania weekend 2011
- By Lee
Since WrestleMania weekend 2012 is almost upon us, I thought it would be a good time to look back at (WrestleMania weekend) 2011. The first in this series will be focusing on the first of three Dragon Gate USA shows that took place; Open The Southern Gate.
I wrote a review of this show last year, but this article will be a little different, as I’ll be talking about what happened, what I thought about what happened, and what effects the show had in the long run.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The show took place on April the first, in Burlington (North Carolina). The headlining bout was another chapter in the rivalries between PAC/Ricochet and Ronin/Blood Warriors, while it also served to set up the PAC/Tozawa Brave Gate title match. Yeah, that sounds complicated, but it worked really well. It was a “dream partner” tag team match, in which Ricochet (of Blood Warriors) and Chuck Taylor (of Ronin) had to pick partners who weren’t from their own stable. Babyface Taylor picked the unaffiliated Akira Tozawa, who had rocketed top of DGUSA, usurping BxB Hulk as the top face, at the “United” weekend in January of that year. Heel Ricochet chose his arch rival PAC (of World 1).
Ricochet and PAC weren’t exactly a fluid team, they attempted to outdo each other throughout this wild match. Despite their differences, they ultimately emerged victorious, after a Ricochet 630 senton and a PAC 360 shooting star press to Taylor. The victory wasn’t without a cost though, as a vicious Tozawa headbutt busted PAC open the hard way (mid way through the match), a wound that would reopen in their title bout the following night.
It was a great match, that delivered mindblowing action while also managing to further three storylines at once. It was an important part of the PAC/Ricochet rivalry that raged in both America and Japan all the way through 2011.
The semi main event was also great, as Johnny Gargano (of Ronin) and CIMA (of Blood Warriors) went at it for the second time. The future Open The Freedom Gate champion Gargano came up short again, in a match that he cited as his favourite of his career when I interviewed him last year. This was a vital chapter in the ascension of Gargano, as this loss, along with the loss to Austin Aries three months later, set up his emergence as the top American (in DGUSA) at Enter The Dragon 2011, when he fought and ultimately forced them both into submission alone after his teammates had been eliminated.
Those two matches aside, the card suffered from a lack of star power. It was the only show of the weekend that Open The Freedom Gate champion YAMATO, number one contender Austin Aries, Open The Dream Gate champion Masato Yoshino and Jimmy Jacobs didn’t appear on, and the undercard did look a bit thin as a result.
Three matches were dedicated to the “breakout challenge”, featuring lower card Americans and various indy guys that hadn’t appeared for DGUSA before. The second of the two four way matches was pretty good, but the final, which saw Arik Cannon defeat Jimmy Rave, was underwhelming. Rave made up for it with a strong performance against Gargano two days later.
The main event was part of a larger “stable shootout” between Ronin and Blood Warriors. Two other stable shootout matches took place in the first half, Rich Swann of Ronin vs Sami Callihan (Blood picked his opponent), while Naruki Doi of Blood Warriors faced Jon Moxley of Kamikaze USA (Ronin picked his opponent). Both matches were good. Callihan decimated Swann, looking impressive partly because he’s very good at beating people up, and partly because Swann is very good at getting beat up.
Doi vs Moxley was particularly interesting, since a Blood Warriors pre-match attack made Mox the babyface by default. He played the role well, but resumed his heel antics later in the night. Little did we know that this night would be one of his last in this company…
Ironically, the last match I’ll write about was the first; Brodie Lee of Blood Warriors vs Jon Davis. It was decent. I think they would have a better match now that Davis has settled into DGUSA and EVOLVE.
Overall, it was a solid show that featured two great matches, the only problem being a little bit too much indy and not enough Dragon Gate, due to the absence of certain wrestlers and the three match breakout challenge. The headlining bouts were important in the long run, Gargano vs CIMA especially, as that’s where he first saw Gargano have a main event quality singles match.
I hope you enjoyed the first instalment of my WrestleMania weekend series. The next edition will be about Mercury Rising, the show that is widely regarded as DGUSA’s best of 2011.
Want to discuss Open The Southern Gate, or anything about WrestleMania weekend, or wrestling in general? Feel to talk to me on Twitter @IWEnews.
Also, be sure to check out @CallingSpots’s great article on the ten most anticipated matches in WrestleMania history:
Thanks for reading!
New Dragon Gate USA DVD trailers
Open The Southern Gate:
Thoughts: Good stuff. They don’t give much indication as to what matches or feuds take place on the shows though. Southern Gate featured the stable shootout, Mercury Rising had big stories like the Blood Warriors/Ronin feud and the Aries retirement angle that could have been hyped in the trailer. Potential buyers need to know what sets these apart from other DGUSA DVDs.
IWE rundown - All the news from the past week (18th - 24th)
* The biggest event in IWE history occured last week….we interviewed JOHNNY GARGANO!!! Thanks again Johnny, not only for granting us the interview, but for giving such great answers too.
- Here is the link to the interview:
* In Ring Of Honor news, Jay Lethal was named as the number one contender for El Generico’s TV Championship, and Roderick Strong was made number one contender for Davey Richards’ World title. Both matches, as well as the Kings Of Wrestling vs Haas and Benjamin (for the tag titles), will take place at the TV tapings on August the 13th.
* “Officer” Colt Cabana won the JCW Heavyweight Title live on ippv on Wednesday. Rather than his usual cheerful persona, Cabana plays a heel police officer in JCW.
* I review Dragon Gate USA’s Open The Southern Gate ippv. Check it out at this link:
* The full PAC/Ricochet series that will take place over the course of the next Dragon Gate USA weekend was announced. You can view the details here: http://tumblr.com/xk33n8hj5j
* Some changes were made to the EVOLVE 9 line up. The show will take place tomorrow, and will be available on live online pay per view. You can view the alterations at this link: http://tumblr.com/xk33n4xwki
* Marcellus King defeated Cedric Alexander to become the second Pro Wrestling Evo Champion. More details here: http://tumblr.com/xk33owyvtz
* Despite losing two big stars in Low Ki and Davey Richards, PWG: Eight turned out to be a big success. Kevin Steen is the new Champion. The full results of the action packed show are available here: http://tumblr.com/xk33ob0ika
* On Saturday night, WWE Champion CM Punk made a surprise appearance at an AAW show with Colt Cabana. You can read more about and watch the video here: http://tumblr.com/xk33ocl1cx
IWE interview with JOHNNY GARGANO!
I conducted an interview with a man who is currently one of the top guys on the indy wrestling scene. Star of Dragon Gate USA, EVOLVE and more…..JOHNNY GARGANO!!
IWE: Hi Johnny Gargano, how are you?
Johnny Gargano: How am I? In a physical sense?.. or a spiritual sense?… or a sixth sense? This is a pretty deep question, man.. I don’t know.. Short answer? I’m doing just swell. No complaints!
IWE: What made you want to become a wrestler, and how did you go around doing it?
Johnny: Well, I wanted to be a Power Ranger, A Ninja Turtle, and Dennis The Menace when I was growing up.. turns out, unfortunately those aren’t real job titles. Who knew, right? I always mimicked what I saw on television, so of course I was a huge fan of Professional Wrestling growing up and I wanted to be apart of it. My Dad owns a catering company, and knew of my love for Pro Wrestling, so when an independent company came to him wanting to run a show in his back parking lot, he went with it. I was allowed to get in the ring at the show, and they showed me a few things (sidenote: horribly unprofessional as I was 8. Shrug.).. it kinda snowballed from there. I got formal training when I was 13 and had my first pro match at 16/17.
IWE: Do you have an all time favourite wrestler?
Johnny: I do. That Shawn Michaels guy is PRETTY good. Also.. favOUrite? Not favorite? Are you Canadian? Those Canadians with there random adding of U’s to things! Bah!
IWE: You are well known as one of the top stars in Dragon Gate USA, EVOLVE and Chikara, but they are not the only companies you wrestle for. Where else do you work?
Johnny: Most notably, I wrestle alot in my hometown of Cleveland, OH for Pro Wrestling Ohio (pwowrestling.com) and Absolute Intense Wrestling (aiwrestling.com). Two awesome places definately worth checking out! I’ve also gotten the honor of wrestling for Dragon Gate in Japan as well.
IWE: Your stable in DGUSA, Ronin, have taken the company by storm in the past year. In the finale of your feud with Blood Warriors, you eliminated both CIMA and Austin Aries via submission. You have usurped Aries as the top American guy, a role previously occupied by Davey Richards and Bryan Danielson. Did you expect to have so much success when you debuted for the company back in 2009?
Johnny: Um.. I’d LIKE to say yes.. but probably not, ha. I remember the very first DGUSA very vividly though. I remember it was actually my very first time in the Arena. I remember sitting up in the balcony being absolutely blown away watching The Young Bucks take on CIMA and Yokosuka. I thought to myself.. “man.. I wish I could do that” and now to be put in that position to go out there and have top tier matches with some of the best talent in the WORLD is absolutely amazing to me. It’s something i’m very proud of. I’m my own worst critic, and to even be mentioned in the same breathe as some of those guys.. is something i’m truly honored by. Trust me, It’s only the beginning though. Only the beginning.
IWE: In March, you made your debut in Japan for Dragon Gate. How did that go, and how did it differ from wrestling in America?
Johnny: Japan has always been my dream, so to be able to go over there for a company the stature of Dragon Gate was of course a dream come true. I loved it over there. In America, sometimes “Rasslin” is looked down upon, but over there the fans really treat it like a sport. It’s a HUGE deal to them. It’s a super cool atmosphere to be in as a wrestler.
IWE: What was the biggest match of your career (and why)?
Johnny: I got the chance to take on Bryan Danielson in one of his first matches back from WWE. It was for AIW, and we went to a 30 Minute Draw in my hometown. The one thing I can say about Bryan is he brings it every single time he steps in the ring. You dont realize how good someone truly is until you’re in the ring with him. Bar none, Bryan is the best wrestler I’ve ever been in the ring with, and the best wrestler in the world in my book. That match is to this day one of my favOrites. (See what I did there? Called that little Canadian grammar joke back, bam!)
IWE: Was that your favourite match?
Johnny: AHHH! Again with the U’s! Yes that was one of them. I also wrestled CIMA in North Carolina at the Open The Southern Gate show, which you can catch NOW at WWNLive.com (PLUG!) and we beat the crap out of one another, man. The crowd was electric and I really think that match helped solidify me in DGUSA. Like I said, I’m my own worst critic, so I barely like any of my matches.. but that’s one I’m proud of.
IWE: In 2007, you appeared on an episode of WWE SmackDown as Cedrick Von Haussen, in a match with MVP. How was that experience?
Johnny: That was my first “taste” of WWE, and it was a VERY big deal for me at the time. I was 19, and it was just that.. an experience. It really helped open my eyes to the wrestling world. Also.. when I came in the back after the match Vince Mcmahon said “Good Job, kid”.. so I probably could of retired after that and been happy.
IWE: Your second WWE appearance was as a security guard on NXT last year. Had much changed in the 3 years since you’d last been there?
Johnny: I dont think so. Not really. I’d grown up alot! Ha!
IWE: What are the biggest matches/shows you have lined up this summer?
Johnny: EVOLVE 9: GARGANO (That’s me) VS Taylor is on July 26th and you can watch that live on WWNLIVE.COM.. as you can tell by the name, it’ll be myself VS my brother from a completely different mother, Chuck Taylor. That should be quite the contest! On August 7th for Pro Wrestling Ohio , Wrestlelution 4 it’ll be a match pretty much 4 years and beyond in the making as I take on my mentor(s) and friend(s) per say. It’s Johnny Gargano vs Josh Prohibition vs Matt Cross (From WWE Tough Enough)! Go to PWOWRESTLING.COM for the info on how to watch that bad boy live online! That’s gonna be something! Then the big DGUSA midwest shots on Sept 9th, 10th, and 11th! A lot of cool stuff on the horizon!
IWE:Thanks very much for participating in this interview Johnny. Good luck with EVOLVE 9!
Note from Lee: Click the banner at the top of this page to sign up for wwnlive! There you can watch EVOLVE 9, Open The Southern Gate, and many other shows featuring Johnny Gargano!
Another note from Lee: Dragon Gate USA recently made Johnny Gargano vs Jimmy Rave (from Open The Ultimate Gate 2011) available for free download at the following link:
Yet another note from Lee: I’ve since informed Johnny that I’m English, and it is actually Americans who spell “favourite” incorrectly.
Review - Dragon Gate USA: Enter The Dragon 2011
PAC vs YAMATO
Awesome main event. These two just get better and better. Definitely a match of the year candidate. Great wrestling, great high flying, hard hitting, great drama. I’d probably rank PAC and YAMATO as my number one and two favourite wrestlers right now. If you haven’t already, order the replay and watch it.
Blood Warriors vs Ronin
What a night for Johnny Gargano. Making CIMA and Austin Aries tap out! It was a very enjoyable match. The atmosphere was electric when it went down to him and Aries.
Yoshino was a logical replacement for Taylor. Also, Rich Swann deserves credit for his selling. And the spot with CIMA and Aries stretching Swann while Lee splashed him was sick!
Yoshino vs Ricochet
Very good opening match. Both men are always great to watch, so I really enjoyed this one. Nice set up for Yoshino aligning with Ronin later too.
D.U.F vs Mochizuki & Yokosuka
I really hope we see more of Mochizuki in DGUSA, he is simply awesome. His kicks are absolutely brutal! Anyway, I’m not crazy about DUF going over, but at least it was Yokosuka who tapped. And I still really like Sami’s submission finisher (the stretch muffler).
AR Fox vs Pinkie Sanchez
AR Fox lived up to the hype. So awesome. That spin into the death valley driver, his finisher, everything he did just looked great. He is the future!
As for Pinkie Sanchez, he was good too. I thought him pulling his tights down was a bit weird, but I suppose it did get him heat.
I enjoyed the FRAY!, and Davis deserved the win. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with him in the future.
New guy and Lenny did a great job on commentary this weekend. Congratulations!
The crowd were hot all night, and added a lot to the Ronin match and the main event. The Aries/Gargano face off was a great moment, and they deserve a lot of credit for that.
The chat box next to the stream provided a lot of laughs while the technical difficulties were taking place. I still think the transcript should be a bonus on the dvd.
I won’t dwell on this as everyone knows what happened. Hopefully everything will run smoothly in the future! We got a free show out of it, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing in the end.
No Akira Tozawa
Where were you Tozawa?! Obviously he would have been booked if he was available, and I’m sure he had a good reason not to be, so I won’t hold it against anyone. Still, it was a shame he wasn’t on the Second Anniversary Show, especially considering what an asset to the company he has been this year.
Does Tony Nese look like Chris Masters?
Some guys in the crowd thought so.
“C’mon Chris Masters finish him off!”
“Use the Masterlock!”
Buy the replay of the show at the link beneath.
Dragon Gate USA: ippv/matches announced
The Dragon Gate USA: Enter The Dragon ippv is now available on demand! Also…..Open The Southern Gate (ppv from the Friday of Wrestlemania weekend) is available on demand for free for anyone who ordered Enter The Dragon! It is also available for anyone else to order.
Thoughts: I can’t wait to watch Enter The Dragon again. I’ll review it tomorrow. Make sure you sign up via the link above, as that way I will get paid every time you order a show :D
PAC vs Ricochet series announced
The international PAC/Ricochet rivalry will reach new heights at the next series of DGUSA shows in September. They will face off in a variety of match types. The stipulations for each match will be announced soon.
Thoughts: This will be awesome. Ricochet has a shot at the Brave Gate in Japan before September, so he may the champion going into this feud.