Shore's Dragon Gate USA in Burlington, N.C. review: Stable Shootout between Ronin and Blood Warriors, Breakout Challenge, Shane Helms, Reby Sky, and Jonny Fairplay
By Chris Shore
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My personal quest for great independent wrestling started back in January with ROH. That led to a tiny black theater the next where my connection with Pro Wrestling Evo was established. And this week it led me to a building in a small industrial park in Burlington, NC where Dragon Gate USA had come to Open the Southern Gate on their way to Atlanta and WrestleMania 27 weekend.
I had seen some of DGUSA's work. They had sent me a couple of DVDs to check out, and I had covered the first two nights of their Open the United Gate triple shot weekend. So while I was familiar with the product, I was still unprepared for some of the things I saw during the show. And based on crowd reactions, I wasn't the only one unprepared.
This trip was even more enjoyable because not only was my buddy Joe riding shotgun with me, we also met up with Bruce Mitchell—who writes for PW Torch—and his buddy Hitch, who proved to be quite the comic relief of the night. Bruce has been involved with wrestling for years, cutting his teeth at the same Greensboro Coliseum JCP/NWA shows I did. We weren't there 15 min when he pointed across the ring and said, "Do you see that guy standing just to the right of the hard camera? That's Don Kernodle who used to sell out the coliseum in Greensboro." I knew we were setup for a great night.
The building we were in houses the CWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling promotion. CWF is one of the more stable independent promotions in the Carolinas. They have been around for several years, and many big name stars of the past frequent the shows. They are even the home of the Weaver Cup, named after the legendary Johnny Weaver. (Oh how my mind rings with Dusty Rhodes screaming about the "Weaver Lock"). The building is fantastic, though they could use a few more restrooms.
We were treated to four CWF matches to begin the show, including two title matches. Readers of my Through the Curtain series would recognize two of the names as Trevor Lee opened the show in an entertaining match, and Chivas—yes, the goat—teamed up with the Kamikaze Kid to challenge, unsuccessfully, for the tag team championships.
The final match featured Shane "Hurricane" Helms vs. Ric Converse, a "very European" looking guy that Hitch assured me was very good, in what was changed at the last moment to a PWI International Championship match instead of the announced qualifier. (PWI is an organization similar to the old NWA). Helms won the match and title, but it was a very uninspiring performance from him. Reby Sky was there to present him with his new title.
Dragon Gate USA started with the Blood Warriors coming to the ring. BW is the most dominating faction in DGUSA and the entire Burlington show was built around a "Stable Shootout" between them and Ronin. BW consists of the hulking Brodie Lee, Ricochet, Naruki Doi and their leader, CIMA.
Brodie Lee was the only one of the four not involved in the Stable Shootout—as Ronin only has three members—so this was an opportunity to see the big man work. And work he did against a guy whose name I missed. Lee worked a solid match, winning with a sitout powerbomb. He is a monster of a man with crazy athleticism. I would pay almost any amount of money to see him face Mike Knox.
After a short beat down from BW, we saw the first of two Four Corner Survival matches dubbed the Breakout Challenge. The winners of the two matches would face each other to become the DGUSA Breakout Star. The first match featured Jimmy Rave vs. Jon Davis vs. Kyle Matthews vs. Sugar Dunkerton.
Dunkerton does a basketball gimmick, complete with tossing baby powder in the air. Since DGUSA functions under lucha rules, this match was as chaotic as you would expect. Jimmy Rave won after rolling out of a sunset flip and hitting a running knee.
We got our first look at Jonny Fairplay at this point. He came to the ring dressed in a suit you have to see to believe. He said that the winner of the Breakout Challenge would be presented a contract and that Rave was his favorite. He tried to shake Rave's hand, but Rave walked away. Say what you want about Fairplay, the guy gets good heat as the crowd booed him mercilessly.
The next match was the first of the Stable Shootout matches as BW picked Sami Callahan to face Rich Swann. Callahan is not a big guy, but he is batshit crazy. Swann is very skinny and has great leaping ability. The chops in this match were unreal, and Swann even managed to open a small trickle of blood on Callahan's chest.
After some great back and forth action, and some not so great back and forth spitting in each other's faces, Callahan locked in a submission hold that Swann had to tap to. Callahan, not to be outdone by taking the last spit from Swann, blow a ball of snot on him before leaving the ring.
Next was Breakout Challenge match two which featured Arik Cannon vs. AR Fox vs. Facade vs. Shiima Xion. First let me apologize for butchering these names on my Twitter. There was no program that I could find, and I am not familiar with these guys so I did the best I could.
This match started very slow, but built to a solid finish with several guys flying over the top in various dives and planchas. Arik Cannon scored the pinfall after hitting Total Anarchy, a spinning slam out of a suplex lift. This match was better than the first Breakout Challenge, but not by a huge amount.
Next was the second Stable Shootout match where Ronin picked Jon Moxley to face Naruki Doi. Moxley had barely made it down the short ramp when Brodie Lee and Doi attacked him. Lee tossed him into the chairs—after the audience cleared the way—and then hit a sick sounding chair shot to the back. Besides the obvious advantage this gave Doi, it also served to deal with the fact that both Doi and Moxley are heels and gave the crowd somebody to cheer for.
This was a fantastic match that took a little time to get going because of Moxley's attack. They still went somewhere around 15 minutes and Doi won after a shining wizard type kick. The best part came just before the finish when Doi hit his trademark fast slaps to the face, and Moxley replied with a double bird. Fun moment for the crowd.
After intermission, Reby Sky came to the ring in different clothes than she had worn when presenting Helms his new title belt. She looked ready to fight. She tried to get the crowd hyped up, but there were too many wives in the audience for the men to cheer too loud. Jon Moxley limped out to the ramp and said he wouldn’t date her and told her to stop trying to get him to. This is playing off their moment at the Open the United Gate shows where she slapped him and he almost slapped her.
A girl dressed in school girl Goth ran out and attacked Reby while she was talking to Moxley. In the "wardrobe malfunction" of the night, she kept pulling her skirt down. Reby fought back and hit a spike DDT. The girl was helped out of the ring, still fighting her skirt, while Reby promised revenge on Moxley.
After what was almost a crowd killing moment, we were treated to the co-match of the night when in the third Stable Shootout match, BW leader CIMA faced Ronin's Johnny Gargano. Both Brodie Lee and Naruki Doi accompanied CIMA and Swann and Chuck Taylor joined Gargano. The outside antics of the groups were entertaining in and of themselves. I especially enjoyed watching Swann talk garbage to Lee and Doi, only to run screaming like a little girl if they came close to him. The in-ring stuff was completely off the charts.
The moment of the match, maybe even of the night, was when Gargano and CIMA stood in the middle of the ring and exchanged slaps to the face. CIMA struck first with a nasty slap that made the crowd go, "Ooooh." Gargano responded with a slap that made the crowd go silent after a sucking in air. I have never heard anything like that slap in my life. I literally wanted to cry and it made my face hurt like I was the one slapped.
After the show, while talking to Gargano and Taylor, even they marveled at what it sounded like. The bruises on Gargano's face only made me wonder what CIMA's must look like. CIMA won the match after hitting the Schwein twice, followed by the Meteora. Just a great, great match.
Jimmy Rave and Arik Cannon returned for the finals of the Breakout Challenge. This was a tough spot for them as they had to follow CIMA and Gargano's match. They did well, and put on an entertaining match that would have done better coming out of the intermission to get the crowd fired up. As it was, Cannon won with a Glimmering Warlock, much to Jonny Fairplay's visual displeasure on the entrance ramp.
Fairplay entered the ring, and after some snatching of the mic back and forth, took a Total Anarchy from Cannon. Even though Fairplay assured me after the show that it wasn't that bad, both Bruce and I agreed it looked pretty rough at the time.
The main event was a dream tag partner match and the final Stable Shootout match featuring PAC and Ricochet vs. Chuck Taylor and Akira Tozawa. This was the match I had been personally waiting for since I covered the United Gate PPVs because I think Tozawa is a star, PAC and Ricochet can do unbelievable things with their bodies and Taylor is just a flat stud.
This match had everything. There was great tension between PAC and Ricochet as the two best high flyers on the promotion. The lucha rules made this a spectacle to watch. At one point, PAC and Tozawa battled on the floor across the ring from me. I'm not sure what happened, but PAC came up covered in blood. A closer look after the match showed that he got there the hardway as a goose egg at his hairline was busted open.
After insane back and forth, Tozawa took a 630 from Ricochet immediately followed by a Shooting Star Press from PAC for the pinfall victory. PAC closed the show by thanking everyone while the crowd chanted "Please come back!" PAC said it would be his honor and privilege to come back. I sincerely hope they do.
It was a great night for independent wrestling in Burlington, and I hope a successful night for Dragon Gate USA. They put on a great show, though there were a few problems. I'm still not a fan of no selling moves like happens a lot with the DGUSA style, and the show suffered from a lack of any real stars.
Don't get me wrong, there were great, great wrestlers. But that does not make a star. John Cena is a "bad" wrestler on the grand scale of move sets, but he is an unequivocal star. DGUSA needs to do a better job of highlighting individuals and teams as their stars. I get the feeling they were trying to do that with the Stable Shootout, but it didn't quite translate, no pun intended.
I still recommend that you try Dragon Gate USA if you get a chance. They do entertain, let there be no doubt. And I hope they do come back to see us in North Carolina very soon.
If you are reading this on April 2, consider checking out the DGUSA iPPV tonight on WWNLive at 7:00 CT.
Questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @the_shore_slant.
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