Sunday started in lethargic fashion but I soon had to get on the go. I’d been out with Kat and friends for someone’s birthday on Saturday night and I was still feeling it in the morning. Kat had to get up for work and, due to the torrential rain, I had to get up and give her a lift to the train station. Then it was straight home to put some washing on and do a lot of washing up. Next I had to drop my friend’s gift round to him, stopping for a cup of tea before heading off to get a new tyre. I’d driven over a screw on Friday and had to drive to Oxford this Sunday so needed to make sure my car was up for the trip!
I headed off on my journey in the pouring rain, some directions scribbled on a bit of paper to make sure I ended up in the right place. That place being The Regal in Oxford. Unfortunately the directions I had scribbled down were, while correct, not particularly easy to follow. I knew I had to be on the A34 and take the junction for a particular road. The problem was that the road itself was not signposted, so I missed the turning. Fortunately I’d given myself so much time to get there that I could turn around further up the road and make my way back by a different route.
I pulled up to a very convenient parking space about 150 yards up the road from The Regal at about 3.20pm. Spectacular timing considering the reason I got there was to start at 3.30. That reason was the Dragon Gate Invasion show.
I’ve wanted to see Dragon Gate live for a few years, ever since I first came across their style of wrestling in 2007 when watching a few Dragon Gate stars appearing on a Ring of Honor show. So when I heard they were planning a UK show I was like a kid on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to get my ticket. I’d also wanted to see Pro Wrestling NOAH for a long time but sadly missed their 2008 UK show as it clashed with one of my best friends wedding. This time I was determined not to miss out.
I bought my tickets on the first day of release, and booked my place at the meet & greet session too. Now, at 3.30pm on Sunday 1st November 2009, the meet and greet session was about to begin as me and 40 or so other people were shepherded into The Regal.
The first thing that struck me was the venue. It’s not the biggest of places but it felt right for this type of show. I got stuck straight into the merchandise tables and picked up the “Official Pamphlet” as well as a Dragon Gate towel and a couple of DVD’s.
Then it was time for us to move into the next area and meet the wrestlers themselves. They were mostly very friendly and all happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Shingo was visibly under the weather while Naruki Doi and BxB Hulk looked bored and lost. But then after what’s been a long trip and busy weekend for these guys it’s totally understandable. The rest of the Japanese guys were more chipper, as were the English guys. I had the chance to have a brief chat with Marty Scurll, who I’ve never seen wrestle before, and he seems like a nice bloke. I could tell that he, as well as the other UK talent, were very excited at the prospect of wrestling on the show.
I got pictures with all the Dragon Gate guys and autographed photos of them all too. Plus I got them all to sign the towel I’d just bought. It was a nice and relaxed meet and great and put me in a good mood after a hectic morning.
The show itself was superb. From the all English dark match through the UK against Dragon Gate matches and the full on Dragon Gate matches. Every match was entertaining. I think there were many highlights, too many to list them all. But I’ll fill you in on the ones I will remember the most:
During the dark match (Stixx vs. Lion Kid) some guys in front of me tried to get everyone singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. It didn’t catch on, sadly, but hearing a bunch of blokes going “awimbaway, awimbaway” was funny. As were the chants of “You tried your best” to a defeated Stixx.
The first proper match of the show was Real Hazard (Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito) against Jonny Storm & Marty Scurll. There were three things in this match that I remember well. The first being the ability of Scurll, he really impressed me. Also the way he sold the top rope foot stomp from Saito was quality. Now either Scurll is the king of selling moves or Saito really busted a couple of his ribs. Scurll sat bolt upright, went a nice shade of purple and let out a primal “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK”.
The thing that I loved most about this match was when Genki & Saito shouted “Fack you England” at us. The crowd laughed then inexplicably started to chant “Fack you England” back at the bemused pair. Priceless.
KAGETORA versus Mark Haskins was an ok match. I liked the move Haskins used to win with as well as the chants of “Haskins is a Hobbit” which KAGE also seemed to find funny. Other than that the match was a pretty average affair.
Then came the match that I was looking forward to the most. Dragon Kid against Yoshino. I’d seen their previous matches, each time getting better and better. Yoshino is simply the fastest person I have ever seen in a wrestling ring. And Dragon Kid was the reason I got into Dragon Gate in the first place. To get to see these two go at it live was a privilege. I don’t think this match was as good as their match from Dragon Gate USA but it was a delight to watch and brought a standing ovation from the crowd.
After the interval it was time for Shingo to take on Susumu Yokosuka. I wasn’t expecting much from this match, especially having seen how ill Shingo had looked at the meet and great. My concerns evaporated during the match as the two men went at it hell for leather. I found myself yelling, clapping and stamping my feet like a man possessed as they continued to build the match more and more. A truly brilliant example of Dragon Gate that was many peoples match of the night.
The main event of the night was another I was excited about witnessing. The World-1 team of Naruki Doi, BxB Hulk (my favourite DG star) and the homecoming PAC were taking on CIMA and the Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson). A 6-man tag match, a staple of Dragon Gate wrestling. And this match was a superb example of how a 6-man tag should be. It was fast paced, lots of exciting spots that had me and the rest of the crowd leaping out of their seats. CIMA is comedy gold, getting the crowd to chant “CIMA Jackson” and challenging PAC to a press-up contest two of his highlights. And it was good to see a solid performance from Doi, considering his injury, he didn’t hold back. Plus seeing BxB Hulk’s ring entrance (complete with dancing girls) is always cool to see.
After the show the whole roster came out into the ring to pose for pictures and PAC got on the microphone and promised that Dragon Gate would be back. Something that really got us all excited. Personally I can’t wait til they come back. I’ll be there, hopefully front row this time! For anyone who likes Dragon Gate, or thinks they might, I recommend getting the DVD of this event when it’s released!