The Gate of Maximum 2005
review by Luke M.

Date: July 3rd, 2005
Location: Kobe World Hall

1. Yokosuka Susumu, K-ness, & Arai Ken'chiro vs Anthony W Mori, B×B Hulk, & Super Siesar

PoS Hearts enters first to B×B's usual dance routine. However, this time Mori & Siesar are in on it, replacing two of the usual dancer girls. Bizarrely, they hit the routine perfectly. And of course, the girls in the crowd love it. Final M2K enter to Yokosuka's music and do not dance.

THE MATCH

Arai and Siesar start the match. They begin with good slightly lucha-influenced chain wrestling; the first sequence of which ends with an armdrag from Siesar. Locking up again, they transition some amateur stylings into a lucha sequence of knuckle-locked monkey flips, ending with Arai cartwheeling through a headscissor attempt. Showing respect, they both tag out, K-ness in for Arai and B×B in for Siesar. The girls immediately squeal for the pretty boy, which elicits mild annoyance from the masked former Darkness Dragon.

B×B wants a lock-up but K-ness goes for speed, both trading riding the ropes. K-ness hits a shoulder tackle but B×B kips up, leapfrogs, and nails a Mexican style overhand armdrag followed by a dropkick, sending K-ness to the floor. Yokosuka enters to replace him, and B×B tags out to Mori.

The leaders of the respective factions square off. Yokosuka fakes a knucklelock and gives Mori a boot to the midsection, then sends him to the ropes. After some back and forth running, Mori utilizes his gimmick, holding out his hand, making Yokosuka stop, then beseeching him to try the other side. This works three times, but not a fourth and Mori goes down from a hard shoulder tackle. Yokosuka works the crowd, then tries Mori's own gimmick on him, but receives a dropkick to the face for his troubles.

B×B enters the ring for a nice double team sequence ending with a legdrop from Mori followed by a standing moonsault from B×B for a two count on Yokosuka.

B×B and Yokosuka brawl a bit, Yokosuka directing the action to his own corner. Arai tags in and goes at him with a bodyslam, stomp, and elbow drop. Locking in a front chancery, he tags in K-ness, who immediately hits a brainbuster for two. M2K clearly seeks to isolate B×B Hulk, as Yokosuka tags back in, keeping the action close to their corner.

Yokosuka taunts the fans and gives B×B some rope burns, then holds him so Arai & K-ness can hit boot scrapes from the apron, followed by a knee drop back in the middle of the ring. K-ness tags back in, but all three enter for a beat down of stomps and slaps on the reeling B×B. Getting back to one on one, K-ness hits a chop and a hard whip into the corner. Yokosuka & K-ness combine for a second.

B×B struggles to his feet, feeling some fighting spirit. He trades chops with Yokosuka, hits the ropes, but takes a hard tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. K-ness and Arai charge the PoS Hearts corner as Yokosuka goes for the cover, but its only a two. As a reward for kicking out, B×B suffers a triple team powerbomb. Yokosuka and K-ness then drop Arai on B×B for a rather unique diving headbutt. Arai goes for the cover but B×B once again kicks out. Arai locks a single crab hold in the middle of the ring, but B×B eventually makes the ropes. Arai stays on him with a knee strike and a whip into the corner, which B×B reverses... but Arai reverses that, only for B×B to cartwheel out and hit a rolling sabato. Arai whips him into the red corner and a fresh PoS Hearts man enters by way of a missile dropkick from Mori.

On fire, Mori hits a face plant from a quesadora on Yokosuka, but gets bumped out of the ring by K-ness, who reverses a whip attempt from Siesar, who in turn uses the speed to hit a tope suicida on Yokosuka! In the ring, Mori & B×B double team K-ness, ending with B×B hitting a cutter. K-ness rolls out of the ring but Mori hits a plancha suicida from the top rope over the ring post!

Alone in the ring, B×B eagerly confronts Arai. They exchange chops, but B×B takes a big boot to the face off the ropes. Arai keeps kicking him in the head, but B×B comes back with a big lariat followed by a B×B Smash. Arai goes for a whip into the neutral corner but B×B reverses it, flinging Arai through the ropes and in shoulder-first collision with the ring post. B×B jumps out of the ring and Siesar & Yokosuka go at it.

Yokosuka & Siesar go into another fun lucha sequence, this one ending with a Japanese leg clutch cradle from Siesar for a near-fall. After a series of reversals, Siesar manages to hit his Yoshifuusha suplex bridge, but Yokosuka kicks out at two.

Siesar goes up top and misses a plancha. Yokosuka sets him up for the Yokosuka Cutter but Mori runs in and shoves him over. K-ness attempts a missile dropkick but Mori hits him mid-air with a dropkick of his own. Mori stays on him with a northern light suplex for two and a half. Back up, he and K-ness go through a rapid sequence of near-falls culminating with a big kick to the head from K-ness. He goes for the victory but only gets two and is replaced by Arai.

Arai immediately goes for the Hanshin Tigers Suplex but Mori back switches and elbows him out of the ring. Mori looks for a dive but is jumped by K-ness & Yokosuka. They immobilize him for a springboard dropkick from Arai, then seek the M2K signature triple team. However, they botch the arm arrangement and improvise a double team brainbuster, then bring it into a similarly configured double submission, which is quickly broken up by B×B.

Yokosuka snaps Mori over and goes up top. Siesar looks for a headstand frankensteiner, but is shoved off. B×B spots him, holding Yokosuka, and Siesar hits a running avalanche-style armdrag, followed by a nice looking corner-spring sunset flip (with a headstand pin). Yokosuka kicks out, but gets triple teamed. B×B hits the E.V.O., but Arai makes the save.

B×B slams Yokosuka back down and Mori hits an eleganton. Feeling a victory, PoS Hearts clears the ring, leaving B×B alone with a battered Yokosuka. B×B slams him down and looks for a moonsault press. Yokosuka rolls out of the way but B×B lands on his feet, only to be backdropped by Arai! He goes up top, but gets stymied by Siesar, who then takes a kick to the head from K-ness, who in turn gets DDT'd by Mori, who then takes an Exploder from Yokosuka!

Yokosuka hits the ropes against B×B, but takes the beautiful Mouse backflip kick and a hurricanrana, but its only for two! B×B looks to ride the ropes but takes a knee in the back from Arai, who then spits in his face! Yokosuka goes for a running lariat but B×B counters with a backflip, only to take a leg lariat from K-ness! This time, Yokosuka hits the Jumbo no Kachi, flipping B×B all the way around, but only for two! Seconds later, though, the deal is signed, sealed, and delivered with a Yokosuka Cutter. The rookie B×B fought valiantly, but Final M2K wins at 17 minutes, 51 seconds and Kobe is off and running!

THE ANALYSIS

A rookie? GET HIM!! While a certain quartet of El Dorado roster members can certainly tell the world that it doesn't always work, the dojo system used by most pro-wrestling promotions in Japan is designed to teach respect and discipline. One of the primary reasons for this match was to beat down future superstar B×B Hulk, but put him over via that beat down. Mori and Siesar served mostly supporting roles. The fact that this was about showcasing B×B is made obvious by the fact that they came out to his dance routine and allowed him most of the ring time. In doing so, he was able to show his signature moves and get valuable in-ring experience. In other words, Dragon Gate is doing their job and developing young talent the correct way. Sure, it wasn't exactly dancing through lillies for the young heartthrob, but he showed fire and spirit and proved even in defeat that he is the next big thing.

More immediately, this match served as a great pyrotechnic kickoff to the big show, in many ways setting the pace and preluding things to come. On other Dragon Gate shows, this could have been the main event (even in terms of length), but at World Memorial Hall, its merely the introduction!

2. Michael Iwasa & Daniel Mishima vs Jackson & Johnson Florida

Prior to the match, a digest is shown of the Florida Brothers - Florida Express "feud". Basically, Danny & Michael were jumped by a mysterious masked man that was revealed to be former Italian Connection member and current Dragon Gate referee Bakery Yagi. Teaming with the still-unidentified Johnson Florida, Bakery took the name Jackson Florida and the two formed the Florida Express. To be clear, this is a comedy match. Indeed, anything with Michael Iwasa and Daniel Mishima is a comedy match unless otherwise noted.

The Florida Express enters first, using the Florida Brothers' theme with different lyric. Danny & Michael enter next and do a mic performance. I couldn't tell you most of what they said, but their gimmick is that they're Americans and so speak Japanese with such an accent, which even to me, an American, is hilarious.

Before the match officially starts- even before the introductions- the Express quickly takes the offensive, hitting stereo dropkicks which send the Brothers to the outside. They promptly skidaddle backstage. After a few seconds of confusion, Sky High (the song Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras used in the 70s in Japan) hits on the arena loudspeakers- well, a hilarious Florida Brothers karaoke version thereof- and out they come in masks! When they get to the ring, they introduce themselves as El Hijo del Iwasanto and Mishi Mascaras.

This was a very amusing comedy match lacking most of the cliches one usually finds in such matches. At one point, Danny is placed on Michael's shoulders and the two function as one person, even attempting a chop exchange and a hip-toss against one of the Expressers. My personal favorite moment is when Michael manages to figure four the two together and proceeds to stomp their legs, counting each stomp in Spanish until forgetting what "four" is in the language and resorting back to Japanese.

The finish saw the Florida Express get the advantage and cover the prone Brothers with loaves of bread (Bakery Yagi, get it?) and attempt stereo diving body presses, only to come up three feet short each. The Florida Brothers pounced and immediately got the double pinfall for the win 9 minutes, 55 seconds into the 30 minute time limit. Afterwards, the Florida Brothers show their respect and the four raise their arms in the ring... but Stalker Ichikawa's music hits! Everyone proceeds to completely ignore him, to the point of the lights being turned off on him, and we're moving on to the next match.

3. Yoshino Masato & Takagi Shingo vs Hino Yuuji & SUPER-X

Though production errors seem to truncate it, a highlight package is played showing the establishment of the Hino-Takagi rivalry. Apparently something had gone on at a K-Dojo show sometime previous. The Kaientai Dojo team enters first. Hino is a large, thinnish fellow- not quite on the order of Ootani in his junior days, but clearly like Mr Fire Festival, Hino is destined for heavyweightdom. SUPER-X, not surprisingly, is masked. Yoshino & Takagi enter to the Blood Generation theme, exercise implements akimbo. Yoshino's sucking it way in to try to look more buff, but alas, he's still a scrawny quick little guy. Shingo, on the other hand, is not, just plain looking like a monster, albeit a junior heavyweight one.

THE MATCH

Not surprisingly, Takagi and Hino begin the match. They start out with some fast chain wrestling, neither man gaining any kind of advantage. Hino gets the first headlock, but Takagi reverses it and the stalemate continues. After a couple more headlock trades, they return to their feet and trade big macho shoulder blocks, each prefaced with some beach-bully posing. Takagi ironically takes exception to Hino's attitude and slaps him in the face. After an exchange of chops and more shoulders, Takagi hits the ropes and draws first blood by bowling over the K-Dojo rookie. Instead of staying on his man, Takagi poses to the crowd and thus fails to respond to Hino's flying forearm attack. Takagi rolls out, and Yoshino replaces him. Hino tags out to SUPER-X.

Yoshino, the Speed Star, lives up to his name with some near-unbelievably fast rope riding and lariat dodging punctuated with a hard joshi-style dropkick. The bewildered masked man seems uncertain how to counterattack as he begins to get to his feet and takes a boot to the head for his indecision. They exchange chops, Yoshino backing X into the neutral corner. After some hard shots, he tosses him into the red corner and tags in Takagi.

Takagi chokes X with a boot to the throat and receives a warning from the referee (which Takagi could care less about). In the middle of the ring, a shot to the head and a big chop takes the K-Dojo man down, and Takagi stays on him with stomps. When he sets him up for a powerbomb or other such move, X takes the opportunity to check Takagi into the blue corner, and Hino tags back in. Some double team chops and kicks takes the big man down.

Hino angrily goes at Takagi with spine kicks and stomps to the head. Returning to his feet, Takagi initiates and exchange of hard forearm shots, gaining the advantage. He checks Hino into the corner and tags in Yoshino, who enters the ring with a double sledge from the top, followed by a rear chin lock that quickly degenerates into some fish-hooking. Yoshino cockily stays on him with a snapmare and a double stomp to the forehead. He shoulder blocks SUPER-X off the apron, but this allows Hino to return to his feet and counterattack with chops and hamfists. He slams Yoshino head first into the blue corner and tags in the masked man.

X immediately hits repeated body shots and kicks, bringing Yoshino down to the mat for boot scrapes and, of course, a big running kick to the head. Yoshino slaps the mat and returns to his feet, haughtily no-selling the cliched offense. X says "ok, fine, be that way" and motions for Yoshino to chop him. The two go back and forth in this manner until Yoshino hits a face rake and tags in Takagi. They hit a nice double team of a gut buster from Takagi followed by a diving legdrop from Yoshino. Takagi hits a DDT for a near-fall.

Staying on his man, Takagi snaps him over and hooks on a headlock. X somewhat inelegantly calls a spot and Takagi disengages the hold and lets him up, where X hits a rake to the eyes and stomps to the prone muscleman. X once again checks him into the red corner and tags in Hino.

Hino goes at him with stomps, kicks, and even punches to the back of the head, but this serves only to anger Takagi, who no-sells and quickly returns to his feet, laying in with forearms. Hino takes him back down with shots of his own. Sending Takagi back to the blue corner, Hino tags X back in.

X whips Takagi into the neutral corner and hits a nice combination of a running kick followed by a springboard dropkick. Sensing Takagi could be reeling, the K-Dojo team stays on him and Hino tags back in, hitting hard chops and a bodyslam followed by a running body press off the ropes, but only for a near-fall. X enters the ring and they whip Takagi into the corner, X hitting a running back elbow and Hino a no-frills body attack, followed by a fall-away slam for another near-fall. Hino locks on a sleeper in the middle of the ring but Takagi powers out of it and seeks a counterattack, only to be stymied by a knee to the back from SUPER-X. Hino looks for a brainbuster but Takagi counters with one of his own. Takagi tags out and Hino rolls out of the ring. Yoshino & X enter.

Yoshino once again hits the ropes fast, dodges a lariat, and brings X down hard. X rolls out and Hino re-enters and whips Yoshino into the corner. He charges in but meets a boot and a tornado DDT. Yoshino goes for a cover but only for two. He waits for Hino to return to his feet and hits a fast rolling palm strike. Hino attempts a rear waistlock but Yoshino elbows out and hits the ropes, only to be dropped by a belly to belly suplex. Hino picks him up, hits a body slam, then a flying body press for a cover, but Takagi makes the save.

Hino escapes and X immediately attempts a hurricanrana but Takagi catches him and slams him down hard, but only for two. Takagi follows with what looks like a Thunder Fire attempt, but X squirms to his feet. Takagi boots him in the gut and hits the ropes, but X counters with a flying kick to the head, the resulting cover being only a near-fall. Back up, he whips Takagi into the corner, who reverses it and hits a big lariat followed by an STO. Yoshino enters for a double team attack in the corner. Takagi then hits an atomic drop and Yoshino a missile dropkick. He goes for the win but Hino makes the save. Yoshino hits another rolling palm strike but X replies with a boot, throws him out of the ring and hits a tope suicida.

Back in the ring, Hino and Takagi engage in more macho chop exchanges. Takagi gets the advantage, though with a punch to the head. He hits the ropes for what could have been a hurricanrana but Hino was out of position so nothing happened. After a second of awkwardness, Takagi goes back to the well and this time receives an inelegant spinebuster followed by an exploder, but Hino only gets two. Back up, they each attempt German suplexes, but neither can get the other over. Takagi finally goes down in a German suplex hold when SUPER-X stuns him with a leg lariat, but only for a near-fall.

X replaces Hino and hits some forearms on the dazed Takagi, but Yoshino, seeing his partner is in trouble, shoves him out of the ring and hits the ropes, only to take a hurricanrana, kicking out at two and a half. Back up, he blocks an enzigieri and tries a palm strike, but X counters with a hard leg lariat to the head. Yoshino though won't be dissuaded and hits the Torbellino! He then signals for and hits the Lightning Spiral, and that's all for the K-Dojo team at 14 minutes, 31 seconds.

THE ANALYSIS

The problem with interpromotional matches is usually the unfamiliarity between wrestlers, and rookie wrestlers in interpromotional matches face even higher hurdles. This came into play here with a few blown spots and one very obvious moment of spot calling. However, considering the relative inexperience of everyone other than Yoshino (Takagi to this point had only been pro seven months), this could have been MUCH worse. While this looked to be building towards a Hino - Takagi singles match, that match never happened, which is probably a good thing, as Hino needs far more work than Takagi. Like B×B Hulk's match, Takagi got most of the ring time because he needed more experience.

This was probably, in the final analysis, the weakest link of the show, but that doesn't mean it was a bad match. Just rather ordinary and at times clunky. Also, it served to give Takagi & Yoshino something to do on the show, as the bulk of Blood Generation was involved in the Triangle Gate match later on the card.

4. Magnitude Kishiwada vs Tanizaki Naoki

A video (set to Slipknot) is shown recapping Big Boss MA-G-MA's entry through the Gate and his eventual alliance with Blood Generation, his subsequent name change to Magnitude Kishiwada, and finally the feud with Tanizaki. Dragon Gate sets this up with clips of Tanizaki defeating various members of Blood Generation and Kishiwada Last Ride-ing basically everyone who gets in his way, all the while set to very epic Hollywood score choral music, almost as though this is a semi-main event.

Tanizaki enters first, dressed in a white death mask, proceeded by two rookies pushing carts- one with a spray-painted oil drum, the other with something else (maybe bags of quick drying cement). The rest of DoFixer- Saitou Ryou, Dragon Kid, and Horiguchi Genki- are in his corner. Kishiwada enters with Blood Generation in full, but to his own music, not the faction's.

THE MATCH

Tanizaki charges as Kishiwada's introduced. Chops are exchanged, and Tanizaki attempts repeated shoulder tackles off the ropes, but Kishiwada is a wall. Finally, on the fifth attempt, after dodging a lariat, Tanizaki brings him down. He hits the ropes, Kishiwada leapfrogs, and hits a big bodyslam. Tanizaki escapes to the floor. Kishiwada goes up top for a dive, but instead backflips into the ring, getting a round of applause from the crowd (despite being the rudo).

Tanizaki slowly makes his way back in the ring, only to get kicked and thrown out again. Blood Generation takes some shots at him and Kishiwada attacks with a chair before throwing the battered blonde back into the ring.

Kishiwada hits chops, a running body attack, and a release double underhook suplex before applying a choke around the top rope. Throwing Tanizaki to the mat, the fire hydrant of a rudo hits a nice standing moonsault for a two count. He picks his opponent back up and hits some slaps, a body slam, and a dropkick from the second rope for another near-fall, hooking on a side choke on the kick-out. Kishiwada then hits another bodyslam and attempts a moonsault from the second rope, but Tanizaki rolls out of the way.

Back up, he attempts a counter-offensive with a dropkick off the ropes. Kishiwada escapes to the floor, but Tanizaki hits a nice tope con hilo (which the production staff approves of with a replay). Back in the ring, Tanizaki nails a missile dropkick and goes for a cover, but Kishiwada throws him off at a one count and takes Tanizaki's head off with a huge left-armed lariat. The following cover is only a two, but Kishiwada does not relent, hitting another bodyslam, followed by a diving body press from the top- but Tanizaki won't go down to that, either! The crowd begins chanting "NA-O-KI! NA-O-KI!"

Kishiwada goes for the Last Ride, but Tanizaki counters with a back drop, then reverses a whip attempt into a Russian legsweep. Whipping Kishiwada into the corner, he hits a DH, then a running enzigieri off the ropes for a near-fall. Another Last Ride is reversed into a cradle, but Kishiwada kicks out, then kicks out of a second cradle attempt.

Kishiwada counterattacks, dropping Tanizaki on his head with a high angle German suplex! Tanizaki no-sells and jumps to his feet, only to be destroyed with a lariat- but its not enough to put him down! The crowd resumes their chant, but alas, Kishiwada hits a an absolutely brutal Last Ride and doesn't even bother with a real cover. The Blood Generation monster wins at 9 minutes, 12 seconds.

Not surprisingly, post match, a brawl ensues between Blood Generation and DoFixer, adding heat for the upcoming title match later in the show.

THE ANALYSIS

Kishiwada is a monster. That is what they wanted to establish, and that is what they did establish. Tanizaki was allowed some moments of heroism, and while he wasn't exactly buried, it was obvious he had absolutely no shot in this match. It was short and to the point: Kishiwada is a monster. So, considering that was the purpose of the match, and that purpose was established swimmingly, I can't really complain about its execution. Tanizaki got destroyed, some heat got added to the forthcoming title match, and th-th-th-that's all, folks.

5. Magnum TOKYO & Tenryuu Gen'ichirou vs Sasaki Kensuke & Nakajima Katsuhiko

Kensuke & Nakajima enter first to a pretty big ovation. Next out is Tenryuu on his own, followed at last by the Magnum Dance. Mr Egoist himself comes out with his pink umbrella, and upon reaching the ring hands it off to Tenryuu, who has absolutely no idea what to think about the spectacle being played out before him. They never did this stuff in SWS, that's for sure. Magnum's getting a little too bulky to dance on the level of B×B Hulk, but his enthusiasm certainly hasn't waned, and even if its not exactly for the right reasons, the Magnum Dance is quite entertaining.

Nakajima is set to begin the match, but Magnum demands Kensuke, who eventually obliges. The bell sounds and we're off.

They lock up collar-elbow, heavyweight style. Kensuke pushes Magnum to the ropes and gives a clean break, but Magnum impetuously spins him around and slaps him in the face! They lock up again, and this time Kensuke locks a brutal headlock. Magnum sends him into the ropes and gets bowled over with a shoulder tackle, followed by two consecutive bodyslams. Kensuke tags out.

Nakajima and Magnum kickbox, Nakajima getting at least the psychological advantage with his superior form. They trade off until they both connect with simultaneous high kicks, sending both men down. Magnum tags in Tenryuu.

Nakajima immediately goes at the ancient warrior, tussling a bit and narrowly avoiding an early defeat. Changing strategy, Nakajima attempts shoulder tackles but Tenryuu isn't going to go down to that... but does after suffering some low kicks! Quickly back to his feet, Tenryuu ducks an enzigieri and goes for a big chop which Nakajima ducks and replies with one of his own, sending Tenryuu staggering back to his corner. Understanding that Magnum wants more of Kensuke, Tenryuu tags him in and, after some words, Kensuke accepts the challenge.

They trade strikes, Magnum fighting valiantly but obviously taking the worst of it until he nails a rolling sabato (which may have struck a little low), followed by an enzigieri Magnum locks in a pump-handle, looking for the Viagra Driver, but that sure isn't going to happen, so he changes up a bit and lays in with knee strikes, bringing Kensuke to his knees. Magnum's powerbomb attempt is then countered with a back drop, followed by a big powerslam. Kensuke hits the ropes but takes a kick from Tenryuu, followed by a double team lariat and enzigieri! Tenryuu tags in and a big loud chop exchange ensues, the crowd chanting to each strike.

Kensuke hits a headbutt, a final chop, then tags Nakajima in, who immediately knocks Tenryuu down with a dropkick for a near-fall. Staying on him with kicks, Nakajima whips the man old enough to be his grandfather into the neutral corner and rushes in with a flying forearm, followed by a brainbuster for a near-fall. Picking his opponent back up, Nakajima locks on for his high-angle German, but Tenryuu elbows out, only to be kicked hard in the head! Tenryuu goes down, shell shocked, and Nakajima goes for the cover.... but its only a two!

Nakajima does not relent, hitting some stomps and locking in a rear naked choke. Tenryuu eventually makes the ropes for a narrow escape.

Kensuke tags in and hits a series of headbutts followed by a brainbuster for a two. They engage in another exchange of chops, both men ending up dazed. Tenryuu staggers back into his corner and Magnum tags himself in, hitting a jumping knee strike, running lariat, and bulldog. He goes up top but doesn't stay there long as Nakajima hits him with a high jumping heel kick, followed by a dropkick sending him to the floor. Nakajima meets him there with a plancha.

When Magnum finally gets to the ring apron, Kensuke is there waiting for him, and helps him back into the ring with a brainbuster and a Tornado Bomb for a couple of near-falls. Upon kick-out, Kensuke locks on the Strangle Hold Beta. While the hold is on, Nakajima rushes Tenryuu, kicking him to the floor. Not apparently taking kindly to this, Tenryuu retaliates by throwing a chair at him, and Nakajima returns the favor! Meanwhile, Magnum reaches the ropes, but is not in good condition. When he reaches for a tag, Tenryuu kicks him in the head and tells him to stay in!

Kensuke goes for a whip, but Magnum out of nowhere cartwheels out of it and hits a hurricanrana! He goes again for a tag but Tenryuu slaps him hard in the face! Gaining fighting spirit, Magnum goes at Kensuke with elbow strikes, but he retaliates with hard chops and finally a running lariat for two. Kensuke goes up top for a tumbleweed, but loses his footing on the (oddly) loose ropes and falls on the back of his neck, but doesn't seem seriously hurt and regains his feet rather quickly.

Magnum hits a series of four missile dropkicks, finally knocking Kensuke down for a near-fall, followed by a POS for another pinning attempt, but Nakajima breaks it up. Kensuke & Nakajima double team Magnum, but he kicks out at one following a lariat from Kensuke. Unrelenting, Kensuke gives Nakajima a German suplex while Nakajima holds Magnum in a rear waist lock! Nakajima seems to get hurt being sandwiched between the two men, but the crowd applauds the innovation and GAORA shows a replay.

When he finally returns to his feet, Kensuke assaults him with a series of hard lariats, then picks him up for the Northern Light Bomb. Magnum struggles mightily, but its not enough, and Kensuke drops him on his head, the cover largely being a formality. Sasaki Kensuke gets the win at 15 minutes, 34 seconds.

THE ANALYSIS

One could call this a Magnum TOKYO heavyweight trial match. Training with Kensuke and Tenryuu, he clearly wants to become a heavyweight, indeed utilizing a style not unlike another junior who moved up to heavyweight stardom, Misawa Mitsuharu- hard hitting "oudou" style with an occasional burst of junior heavyweight moves at the right time. In any event, the purpose of this match was to show that while he's made progress, Magnum has a long way to go before he can realistically tangle with a powerhouse like Sasaki Kensuke.

Aside from Kensuke's tumble while trying the tumbleweed, this match didn't really have any flaws. Some may point to the double German suplex sandwich as being superfluous, which it was, but that doesn't make it less than entertaining. I found it curious that the GAORA commentator several times in his calls referred to Magnum by his real name of Kuroki Katsumasa, perhaps suggesting that at some point in the future, Magnum will be going back to that name when his heavyweight transition is complete.

To conclude, this match was perfectly placed on the card. In addition to its own entertainment value, it served excellently as a palate-cleanser before the double main event.

6. Open The Triangle Gate Championship

Saitou Ryou, Dragon Kid, & Horiguchi Genki (c) vs CIMA, Don Fujii, & Doi Naruki

A highlight package of the DoFixer-Blood Generation rivalry is shown. All of Blood Generation accompanies the challengers, while the champs are on their own. Bakery Yagi, unmasked, is the referee.

THE MATCH

Blood Generation charges right as Saitou is introduced; all six men quickly taking the battle to the floor, where they pair off and brawl around the ring and into the crowd. Eventually, the action settles down to Doi taking on Horiguchi in the ring. After some quick action, Horiguchi dropkicks Fujii through the ropes to the floor.

Dragon Kid enters to replace Horiguchi. He and Doi exchange some fast-paced action culminating in Kid hitting an armdrag out of a quesadora, followed by a running corbata which sends Doi to the floor. Kid thinks about a dive, but Fujii dispels the thought with a running shoulder tackle. Kid rolls out and is replaced by Horiguchi.

Horiguchi and Fujii exchange hard strikes, with Fujii gaining the advantage, but Horiguchi is able to send Fujii to the floor with a corbata. Horiguchi escapes to the floor instead of facing CIMA, but Saitou is more than amped to go at it with his rival.

And go at it they do, exchanging hard chops and- of all things- heart punches! Saitou gets the advantage but CIMA dropkicks him hard after a couple nice leapfrogs off the ropes, then sends him into the neutral corner and goes for a hurricanrana, only to be powerbombed for his trouble. After some strikes, Saitou locks in a front chancery to immobilize CIMA for Dragon Kid.

Kid stomps and knees the reeling CIMA and goes for a cover, but its way too early for that and CIMA kicks out at two 5'20" in. Kid puts on a chinlock, but CIMA manages to push him backwards into the blue corner. Doi and Fujii pound on Kid with stomps and strikes as Takagi distracts the referee. At this point CIMA is no longer in the ring but due to the television production its hard to tell where he went.

Now in the middle of the ring, Doi hits Kid with a few bodyslams for a preliminary near-fall at 6'33". Doi locks a front chancery, but Kid manages to push forward to his own corner. Kid & Horiguchi lay into Doi as Saitou charges Fujii & CIMA, sending them to the floor.

Thus isolating Doi, the DoFixer team hits a beautiful double team sequence climaxing with a bulldog drop from Horiguchi to meet a running dropkick off the ropes from Saitou right to Doi's head. Leaving Doi bewildered on the mat, Saitou works the crowd. He then goes back after Doi, but CIMA jumps him with what appears to be bread left over from the Florida Brothers match. This allows Doi to launch a counter-offensive, sending Saitou into Blood Generation corner, where Fujii tags in.

Fujii lays into Saitou with HARD chops, then chokes him on the middle rope with a leg draped over his shoulders. Holding him thus, CIMA hits a nice running dropkick from the floor to Saitou's head. CIMA enters the ring with the slingshot Black Tiger senton. He misses a second rope senton and gets dropkicked in the back of the head. Seeing him dazed, Saitou pulls him into the red corner where Horiguchi & Kid beat him down.

After a double team dropkick, Horiguchi gets a near-fall on CIMA at 10'32". CIMA retaliates, eventually hanging Horiguchi in the tree of woe, where from the second rope he applies his boot to a very uncomfortable part of Genki's anatomy.

CIMA tags out to Doi, who hits a brainbuster on the highly immobilized Horiguchi for two at 11'38". Horiguchi takes a backbreaker and a cobra twist from Doi, followed by a dropkick from Fujii. After an elbow drop, Doi officially tags out to Fujii.

Fujii goes at Horiguchi with shoulder blocks and a side slam at the 13 minute mark for a near-fall. Fujii & CIMA hold Horiguchi up off the mat for a brutal senton off the ropes from Doi. Not bothering to attempt a pin, they drape him back first over the top rope. With CIMA holding Horiguchi's legs, Fujii hits a running leapfrog body attack, then trades off with CIMA so all of Blood Generation can do the same, with CIMA finally hitting a top rope double stomp. Doi goes for the cover at 14'9", but Horiguchi kicks out!

Doi goes for another brainbuster, but Horiguchi reverses it. CIMA strikes and locks in an abdominal stretch, but Horiguchi hip tosses him and finds his second wind, hitting a somersault elbow strike, dropping the incoming Fujii. Seeing the opportunity, Horiguchi makes the hot tag to Saitou, who comes in with a vengeance, immediately going at CIMA with a kick, shoulder block, and eventually a big belly to belly suplex.

The action kicks way up now as Dragon Kid hits the Deja Vu on Doi, sending him to the floor. Saitou then tosses Kid up in the air so he can hit a top rope frankensteiner on CIMA, who had been up there looking for a move. Kid then hits the Bermuda Triangle on Doi after Horiguchi hits him with a tope con hilo! In the ring, Saitou & Fujii go back and forth with chops and elbows. Saitou hits a hurricanrana but Fujii rolls through for a pin, Saitou kicking out at two and seven eighths! The crowd is hot 16'41" in!

Back up, Saitou hits the ropes but Fujii takes him over hard with a powerslam for another near-fall just eight seconds later. Saitou is whipped into the corner- CIMA hits a running double knee, Fujii a big lariat, and Doi a back elbow. The heels then position Dragon Kid on Saitou's shoulders for a diving top rope bulldog from CIMA, sending both men's heads to the mat. Fujii locks a front chancery on Horiguchi and swings him, causing his legs to smack Kid's head! Not finished, he and Doi put Horiguchi laterally on to their shoulders for a top rope double stomp from CIMA! He goes for the victory at 17'29", but Horiguchi will NOT go down!

The action doesn't slow down as CIMA rushes Horiguchi in the corner. He dodges a Venus strike and goes for a tornado DDT; CIMA spins him back around, placing him on the top turnbuckle. Horiguchi blocks a second Venus and ties the DDT again, this time hitting it, but CIMA flips through it to his feet... only to take a flying corbata from Dragon Kid, sending him into the corner! Saitou hits a running elbow and Kid a leg lariat, followed by a double team bulldog for a near-fall at 18'11"!

Staying on CIMA, Saitou hits a spinebuster and Kid hits the Jesus, but CIMA's not done yet and kicks out at two. Kid goes for a hurricanrana, but CIMA holds on so Doi can hit a dropkick to the now-inverted Kid. He sends Kid into the corner, who attempts a springboard maneuver but gets dropkicked in mid-air! Kid reverses a brainbuster attempt into a cutter then applies the Christo. Doi breaks the hold with a side slam at 19'19" and places Kid on his shoulders for a flying lariat from CIMA, but Kid dodges with a victory roll, though Doi kicks out at two and a half!

All six men begin battling in the ring, with Kid hitting the Ultra Hurricanrana on Doi for a near-fall but smelling victory, Kid signals for the Dragonrana and goes up top! Doi dodges and Fujii hits Kid with a big lariat, then tries to bodyslam Horiguchi, who reverses it into a reverse DDT. Doi hits a spinebuster on Horiguchi, but Saitou replies with a fisherman buster, then turns his attention to CIMA. After two rolling fisherman suplexes, CIMA reverses a fisherman buster attempt into the Perfect Driver, but Saitou kicks out in the nick of time at 20'46"!

CIMA goes for the Mad Splash, but Saitou pulls up his knees, then hits a German suplex hold for a very close near -fall. Saitou goes up top, but Doi meets him there. They jockey for position, culminating in Dragon Kid hitting Doi with a frankensteiner off of Saitou's shoulders! Saitou hits a flying body press but CIMA makes a last minute save at the 22 minute mark!

Saitou attempts a dragon suplex on Doi but gets backed into the corner. Doi reverses a whip and Fujii lariats Saitou. In the middle of the ring, Fujii goes for another, but Saitou blocks it, only to be hit with a left handed one. He no sells and screams for Fujii to come at him, and come at him he does with a diving lariat, bringing both men down. Doi hits the Doi555 on Saitou but gets tackled by Kid before he can effect a result.

Horiguchi goes for a tornado DDT on Fujii but gets thrown off. Fujii hits the ropes but Horiguchi backslides him! Fujii rolls out and hits a nodowa otoshi for a near-fall, then setting him up for the Nice German preluded by a CIMA thrust kick, but Horiguchi ducks and Fujii takes it right in the mouth! Seeing the chance, Horiguchi drops Fujii on his head with the Beach Break, but cannot make the cover! Agonizing seconds pass, but finally he goes for the pin... but Fujii kicks out at 23'48".

Fujii retaliates with a powerbomb. Doi hits Horiguchi right in the face with the Bakatare Sliding Kick and goes for the win, but Saitou makes the save at the last possible second. CIMA attempts the Schwein, but Horiguchi reverses it into The Backslide Where God Dwells! Its not enough, and CIMA does not relent. He drapes Horiguchi in the corner and kicks him in the head, then hits a cross-ring dropkick off the top, followed by another Schwein, BUT HORIGUCHI REFUSES TO LOSE! CIMA nonetheless smells blood, hitting the Venus and Goriconoclasm, then going up top for the Mad Splash. He comes down hard, hooks the leg and gets the three! Blood Generation has become the 3rd Open The Triangle Gate Champions at 25 minutes, 53 seconds!

THE ANALYSIS

Perhaps the model for future junior six man tags, there was practically nothing to complain about in this match. It began with a fast pace and kept that pace throughout the entire 26 minutes. There were some complex spots to accomplish as well as some precision timing required at key moments, but I couldn't detect a single blown spot from any of the six men in this match. Additionally, Dragon Gate's liberal lucha-based tag rules opened this wide open and made it a beautifully free-flowing affair, eliminating the usual cliched strictures created by tag team wrestling.

The idea here wasn't on "scientific wrestling" as such, but on a more holistic, mid-90s All Japan big match theory, or perhaps even the strong visual fighting of early-90s Zenjo. That is to say, specific limbs were not worked on for a specific and deliberate offensive strategy; if anything each wrestler himself was the "body part" that was being worked on. CIMA didn't defeat Horiguchi by cleverly pecking away at a weak spot, he defeated him by brutally wearing him down over the course of the whole match- and who is to say this latter theory is any less valid than the former?

Some wrestling purists may point at the ridiculousness of Horiguchi surviving so much offense per that fact alone, but within the context of the match it made sense perfect sense. Unlike many promotions- say- ZERO1-MAX or most US indies, no-selling in Dragon Gate would be more appropriately called "delayed selling", as is evidenced (for example) by Horiguchi's pain following the Beach Break, which, again is more reminiscent of the workrate peaks of All Japan and Zenjo in the 90s. More specifically to the match's story itself, Blood Generation obviously saw Genki as the weak point in DoFixer's line and sought to exploit that; the strategy being isolate and conquer. One could argue that- conversely- DoFixer's ultimate downfall was their hatred of CIMA; when they should have been more actively isolating Doi, they were going for the big kill and trying to humble CIMA instead of focusing on defending their title. The end result, though, was that the perceived weak link, Horiguchi, showed remarkable fighting spirit and came out of the match perhaps stronger than before despite being the loser.

A subplot of the match is that it allowed for future rivalry between CIMA and Saitou, as both inflicted for the most part equal damage on each other with no resolution therefrom. Indeed, all six men in the match were kept strong. No one from neither red nor blue corner was shown to be weak or dishonored in victory or defeat. Even though the Blood Generation members not involved with the match (Takagi Shingo, Magnitude Kishiwada, & Yoshino Masato) interfered, their presence was brief, sparse, and done in such a way that CIMA & company's victory did not feel like a screw-job. Indeed, when the Mad Splash connects, the last thing the viewer is thinking about is the outside interference from previous minutes.

All in all, a beautiful, exciting match- and one that will certainly not be the last for these six!


7. Open The Dream Gate Championship

Mochizuki Masaaki (c) vs. TAKA Michinoku

TAKA is the "Triple Crown Junior Champion", holding All Japan, Michinoku Pro, and K-Dojo's belts, but only Mochi's Dream Gate title is on the line. After the title proclamation and pre-match photographs, the Japanese national anthem is played. Only the Japanese seem able to make title matches seem genuinely special. Mochi seems more into the pomp & circumstance than TAKA (who probably developed a short attention span in America, one would speculate). In any event, Mochi's former M2K mate Kanda Yasushi is the referee and we're ready to go!

THE MATCH

The bell sounds and the two champions stare each other down, then begin to circle. Mochizuki opens with a shot right across TAKA's bow with a high roundhouse inches from his face.

At first contact, they chain wrestle on the mat, stalemated when TAKA manages to reach the ropes. Mochi gives him a clean break.


TAKA goes at Mochi's leg, dropping him down. He hooks from the leg to a chinlock to a hammerlock, bringing Mochi to his feet. Mochi reverses, applies a headlock, and brings his opponent down, but TAKA reverses into a headlock of his own. The chain wrestling continues, climaxing with TAKA spinning into a headlock takeover which Mochi reverses into a leg scissors, which TAKA kicks out of, the stalemate intact!

Circling again, TAKA feints a knucklelock and shoots in for Mochi's right leg then opts for a rear waist lock, finally applying a headlock. Mochi fires shots to TAKA's back and tries to send him into the ropes, but TAKA will have none of it and hangs on to the headlock, pulling his opponent back down to the mat. A second such attempt brings the same result. Finally, TAKA applies another takeover and goes back to work on Mochi's neck with a triangle leg scissors from the top. Mochi manages to find the ropes with his left leg and gets a clean though delayed break.

As Mochi returns to his feet, TAKA lays in with a stomp and chops, which Mochi gladly replies to with chops, a leg kick, and a shoulder tackle off the ropes. TAKA gets in his face and they trade tackles, TAKA getting the worst of it. Mochi hits the ropes and TAKA leapfrogs, but gets a kick to the leg on his way down, dropping him to a seated position, followed by a big kick to the spine. TAKA rolls out of the ring to regroup, re-entering on a count of 11 from Kanda.

As he enters, Mochi strikes with chops to TAKA's arm and kicks to his leg. His left arm hurting, TAKA slumps into the red corner, where Mochi does not relent, firing kicks to the back and shoulder. Kanda calls for him to back off, which he does, allowing TAKA his feet- only to go at him again, this time wrapping the injured arm around the top rope. Despite Kanda physically inserting himself into the situation, Mochizuki cruelly stays at the hurt arm. In obvious pain, TAKA tries fighting back from his knees with overhand chops from his right, but he's stymied with a sharp kick to his left. Mochi grabs the left arm and hits repeated armbreakers over his own shoulder. TAKA tries to fight back, even no selling two more kicks to his left shoulder, but its too much, and a third drops him back to the mat, where Mochi meets him with a Fujiwara armbar, presently transitioned into a short arm scissors seconds before TAKA makes the ropes.

Seated against the ropes, TAKA suffers more kicks to his injured arm, prefacing more rope-based stretching of the limb in the corner. Mochi hits a knee then whips TAKA to the opposite corner and charges in for a flying chop. TAKA dodges and, using the ropes for leverage, goes for a high kick, but Mochi ducks and gracelessly shoves TAKA over the ropes and on to the apron, where he pulls the hurt arm down hard across the top rope. Mochi wraps the injured arm around the neutral corner turnbuckle and goes for a Yakuza kick to it along the apron. TAKA sees it coming and grabs Mochi's leg. He yanks down on it while jumping off the apron, slamming the leg hard across the metal connecting turnbuckle to post. Mochi falls to the floor, clutching the right knee in pain. TAKA grinds his foot against the hurt knee, looking for revenge for the treatment of his arm.

TAKA sends Mochi back into the ring, attacking the injured knee with kicks, stomps, and an elbow drop leading to a cross-body ankle lock. Mochi tries breaking the hold by barring TAKA's left arm, but repeated elbow strikes to the knee gives TAKA the advantage. After repeated such treatment to the leg, Mochi struggles to his feet. TAKA sends him to the ropes, but Mochi tries a reversal, but TAKA trips him up and applies a standing ankle lock, quickly pulling Mochi down into a juujigatame on the knee, but Mochi makes the ropes once again.

Following a purposefully delayed break, TAKA lays into the hobbled Mochi with knee strikes and a low altitude dropkick right to the hurt knee, bringing him down. TAKA immediately goes back to the knee lock, looking for a submission, but Mochi makes the ropes.

Up to one knee, Mochi tries mounting a counterattack, eventually able to muster a combination of two punches and a high kick. Seeing an opportunity, he hits the ropes... but is quickly stymied by another low dropkick to his knee. While writhing on the mat, he suffers a second such dropkick.

TAKA continues methodically attacking the hurt knee, gaining more confidence and bravado as the match progresses. He tosses his beleaguered opponent out of the ring and rams the damaged knee hard into the ring post, then after sliding Mochi back into the ring, applies a figure four around the post!

Back in the ring, TAKA taunts the champion with boots to the head, but this seems to only inspire Mochizuki, who slowly returns to his feet and fires elbows and low kicks. Noting the foolishness of using the right leg for striking, TAKA grabs it and flings Mochi over with a dragon screw, immediately following up with a figure four leglock in the middle of the ring. Struggling, Mochi eventually manages to roll to the ropes right around the 15 minute mark.

TAKA continues his offensive with chops and knees, sending Mochi into the neutral corner. He wrings an arm and sends him across to the opposite corner, rushing in with a jumping knee which takes him over the ropes and on to the apron. He seeks to follow up with a springboard maneuver, but Mochi gets there first, kicking him in the head to the floor!

Trying his best to no-sell the hurt leg, Mochi looks for a dive, but TAKA meets him on the apron with an elbow to the mush. He climbs up top and goes airborne, but Mochi hits him with a right kick to the midsection on the way down.

Seeing the tables balanced, Mochi unloads left kicks: the first hits, then the second, but the third is caught! Mochi lashes out for an enzigieri with the right, but TAKA ducks, only to be kicked from the other direction as Mochi goes to the mat!

He whips his opponent into the corner, but TAKA reverses it and rushes in- only to take an axe kick. He hits the ropes, TAKA blocks a Yakuza kick, but not the leg sweep and drops to the mat in a seated position. Mochi tips the scales with a hard left kick to TAKA's left shoulder, hooks a leg and goes for the win at 16'54" but TAKA kicks out! Mochi immediately goes for an armbar but TAKA quickly grabs the ropes.

Mochi sends him into the ropes, but TAKA reverses and floats over, looking for his JUST Facelock, but Mochi ducks out and goes back to the left arm! TAKA makes the ropes but Mochi keeps at him with kicks. TAKA retaliates with chops but is stymied by a high kick to the left shoulder. Mochi goes back to the armbar but TAKA rolls through and latches on a facelock. Mochi ducks out of it and slaps on a juujigatame, but TAKA makes the ropes.

Mochi sends TAKA into the blue corner and charges in but TAKA dodges and hits two big kicks to the head. Mochi replies with a rolling sabato and the Sankakugiri (which was pretty enough to elicit a replay from the GAORA staff). Unrelenting, Mochi looks for the Twister but TAKA flips out of it into a rear waistlock. Mochi breaks and hits the ropes, but takes a boot to the face. TAKA signals that its the end and goes for the Michinoku Driver, but Mochi reverses it into a snap brainbuster, then follows with the Yokosuka Cutter (after pointing to Yokosuka at ringside).

TAKA gets back up, but takes a lariat off the ropes!

They exchange chops and kicks, Mochi winning the advantage with TAKA going down. Mochi hits the ropes and slashes his opponent down with a running kick. He goes for the cover, but TAKA kicks out at two and a half. Mochi immediately gives him the Twister and covers again, but TAKA will not go down, the match entering its 21st minute.

Mochi picks his battered challenger up but TAKA kicks him to the apron, then again to the floor. Pumping himself up by slapping his left shoulder, TAKA hits a back kick and an Asai moonsault, then rolls Mochi back into the ring, goes up top and drops a big knee to the back of the champion's head!

Bringing him to his feet, TAKA hits a big enzui thrust kick, then a front thrust kick, dropping Mochi to the mat. He goes for the cover, but doesn't hook a leg and Mochi rolls his shoulders at two and a half. TAKA immediately locks on the JUST Facelock near the middle of the ring, but Mochi just barely makes the ropes.

TAKA once again signals the end and Mochi once again flips out of a Michinoku Driver attempt. He attempts a German suplex but TAKA flips out of it to his feet. Mochi hits a rolling sabato but TAKA ducks the Sankakugiri attempt and dives into another JUST Facelock! Mochi reaches for the ropes but TAKA grapevines the arm- Mochi looks like he's going to tap... but just barely reaches the ropes with his free hand.

Back up, TAKA tries the Michinoku Driver again but Mochi leaps out of it and kicks TAKA's shoulder, who replies by dropkicking Mochi's knee! They trade strikes and Mochi hits a Saikyou high kick and a dragon suplex hold but TAKA kicks out at two and nine tenths!

Mochi hits another high right kick to the shoulder, and follows up with a left, but TAKA grabs the leg and hits a quick Michinoku Driver, but cannot make the cover!

Both men return to their feet and trade kicks. Mochi hits a rolling sabato. TAKA replies with a thrust kick and ducks a high roundhouse. Coming back around, Mochi hits a high crescent kick and finally the Shin Saikyou High Kick! TAKA goes down! Slowly, Mochi goes for the pin and- with the crowd counting along- gets the three for his 3rd title defense at 25 minutes, 25 seconds.

THE ANALYSIS

This match was the main event of the biggest event of the year for Dragon Gate, and it delivered the way it was supposed to. Both men sold their injuries the entire match, but didn't prohibit them from big moments. I'm not sure what I dislike more- guys who work on body parts then forget about it entirely later in the match, or guys who focus so much on the body parts it strictures the entire course of the match. In any case, Mochizuki and TAKA both were great and sold their respective in-match injuries very well. TAKA's left arm injury didn't seem to be developed within the match itself, so I'm assuming he had or was coming off a real injury some time prior to the match. The Japanese seem to love worked shoots like that (see Kobashi-Akiyama '98, for example).
The two title matches at the top of the card were interesting contrasts. The tag match stuck to the visual fighting aspects, while this stuck to a more traditional format. The bulk of near falls were reaching the ropes on submission attempts, and unlike the tag match finishers were blocked, countered, and reversed more than taken and kicked out of. The sole example being the Michinoku Driver at the end, but it was established by prior offense that one such move wouldn't be enough to defeat Mochizuki. Conversely, the finish was a barrage of hard head kicks, creating a completely legitimate finish and victory for Mochi.

In closing, the Puroresu Festival In Kobe is the best top to bottom wrestling show of 2005. Perhaps other shows may have stronger single matches, perhaps not. But in terms of a single show from beginning to end, NOTHING on either side of the Pacific comes close to matching this. My copy of this show came on 3 dvds from an online vendor. Track it down, buy it cheap, and enjoy.

Luke can be reached at lunarorrery33@yahoo.com if you'd like to give any feedback about the review


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