Dot Net DVD Review: DGUSA Freedom Fight 2011 - Johnny Gargano captures the Open the Freedom Gate Championship, CIMA vs. Masato Yoshino, PAC vs. Ricochet, Ronin vs. Blood Warriors

Posted in: Other DVD Reviews, MUST-READ LISTING
Jul 28, 2012 - 03:25 PM

By Will Pruett

DGUSA Freedom Fight 2011 - November 13, 2011
B.B. King's Bar and Grill, New York, New York

This is the final installment of the November 2011 DGUSA triple shot weekend. The other two installments are available in the DVD review section.

The production value on this DVD matched the very high standard that DGUSA has set for themselves. I'm the type of person that is weary of indie wrestling DVD and suspicious of them being thrown together. DGUSA does not do that. They put out a great product.

The actual production value of this show left a little to be desired, especially in the lighting department. This was a very poorly lit show, which frustrated me constantly while I watched it. Many times the wrestlers in the ring could only be seen in silhouette. For most of the show, the brightest thing on the screen was the third row of the hard camera side of the house. I understand low budgets, but there is no excuse for not getting on a ladder and focussing every light in the building on the ring. This severely decreased my enjoyment of the show.

The wrestling content, which I'll get into further detail about in the match-by-match review below, was excellent. This was the best-wrestled show of the triple shot. For great wrestling, this show is a home run. The Yamato vs. Johnny Gargano, CIMA vs. Masato Yoshino, and PAC vs. Ricochet matches are well worth the DVD purchase price. This was the climax of the weekend. If you love wrestling and want a great introduction to the DGUSA product, I would instantly recommend this show.

Now, onto the match-by-match review:

The show began with a promo from the Blood Warrior's locker room. Ricochet, Brodie Lee, Akira Tozawa, CIMA, and BxB Hulk say tonight will be easy for them.

We then hear from Johnny Gargano in some sort of backstage hallway. He says tonight is about three years of hard work for one opportunity. He will attack Yamato with everything he has. He was in the bonus match of the first ever DGUSA show and he has been dreaming of becoming the man. He will become champion. This was a great promo from Gargano.

Lenny Leonard in the ring welcoming the fans to the building as they chant "Dragon Gate." This is their final event of 2011.

B.J. Whitmer comes to the ring to interrupt. He wants Brodie Lee right now. Blood Warriors music and Brodie Lee is on his way to the ring with Ricochet.

1. Brodie Lee (w/ Ricochet) vs. B.J. Whitmer. Whitmer can execute moves well, but I just don't buy him as a charismatic wrestler. Brodie Lee was great, as always, in this match. I'm almost sad that Lee is in WWE now, simply because I would have loved to watch another year or two from him on the indie scene. At one point there was an odd big boot exchange between the men that sounded better in theory than it looked in execution. Brodie Lee wins this one with a big boot, truck stop, and powerbomb combo.

Brodie Lee defeated B.J. Whitmer via pinfall.

Yamato is backstage and he demands his Open the Freedom Gate Championship back from Chuck Taylor. He says he will beat Johnny Gargano tonight.

Brodie Lee joined Leonard on commentary. As good as he is in the ring, he is that good on commentary as well. He's funny. He supports the narrative of the show. Most of all, he provides another voice on the broadcast, which it desperately needs (Lenny Leonard is a good commentator, but the one-man booth is too difficult of a task).

2. The Scene vs. Uhaa Nation and Jon Silver. This feels like an EVOLVE undercard match in a way. It followed the stereotypical indie tag match formula with a breakdown sequence where the referee forgets the rules to allow crazy double team moves and dives to the outside. Of course, these four men worked that style of match very well. Uhaa Nation is mind blowing every time I see him in the ring. The Scene was very good here as well. Although this was formulaic, it was a very good match. The Scene won the match with a DDT and wheelbarrow German Suplex combination on Jon Silver.

The Scene defeated Uhaa Nation and Jon Silver via pinfall.

An Enter the Dragon 2011 commercial and highlight package was shown. I actually enjoy the way these little commercials break up the action on DVD. We're not just staring at a hard camera focused on the ring in between matches and I appreciate that.

Rich Swann rapped Ronin (Swann, Johnny Gargano, and Chuck Taylor) to the ring. Johnny Gargano said that Taylor had to give the belt back. Gargano explained his situation the night before and guilt tripped Taylor for stealing the belt. Rich Swann then hyped up Gargano for his Championship match later on. He told him to bring that belt home to Ronin, baby. Swann hyped up the crowd from Ronin vs. Blood Warriors. This exchange did a lot to reinforce the dynamic that Ronin had developed at that point. It also caught the fans in New York, who may not have seen the show the night before, up on the proceedings.

3. Ronin (Chuck Taylor and Rich Swann) vs. Blood Warriors (Akira Tozawa and BxB Hulk). This was another really good indie-formula tag team match. The only real weakness I could find here was that is followed a match with the same formula. They worked in some comedy here with a long back-rake segment towards the beginning of the match, before getting more technical. Rich Swann showed some great babyface fire in his segments. Chuck Taylor was starting his tweener run, so he had less crowd support. Akira Tozawa was pinned by Swann after two super kicks, an Awful Waffle from Taylor, and a 450 Splash from Swann. This was a really good match that did the formula better than the match before it.

Ronin (Chuck Taylor and Rich Swann) defeated Blood Warriors (Akira Tozawa and BxB Hulk) via pinfall.

CIMA and Brodie Lee ran to the ring to attack Ronin. Gargano and Masato Yoshino run in to even the odds. Yoshino and CIMA are in the ring to kick off the next match.

4. CIMA (w/ Akira Tozawa) vs. Masato Yoshino. This match was a nice change of pace with a slower, more technical match. This was necessary after the two crazy tags in a row. The timing in this match is impeccable, as these two are apparently big rivals in Japan. At one point, CIMA attempts to go coast-to-coast, but Yoshino moves. This entire match flowed really well, with a seamless transition from gear to gear. This actually made me want to run out and try to buy some of their Japan matches as well. The crowd was quiet for this one, but the match more than made up for it. After a long sequence of near falls and near submissions, CIMA tapped out to Yoshino's Sol Naciente hold. This was a must-see match, the first of a few on this DVD.

Masato Yoshino defeated CIMA via submission.

A WWNLive commercial was shown.

The Scene joins Leonard on commentary and they are quite distracting.

5. Ricochet (w/ Akira Tozawa) vs. PAC. This is another match that began with a technical sequence, but Ricochet and PAC worked in a little more speed and athleticism. They brawl out to the crowd, but none of that was visible because of the poor lighting. As the match accelerates to its climax, we see some great high flying. They aren't working in too much speed, but they are giving every move a chance to matter. I can't do this match justice in writing. It just needs to be seen. Ricochet won this one with a series of moves dropping PAC on his head, followed by a big kick to the head. This match had drama, intensity, and athleticism. It's another must-see on this show.

The D.U.F. spoke in the back about how they would be tag champions right now of it weren't for Jon Davis. They said they are going to do what they do best, "F*** people up." Calihan said they are madmen and they're pissed off. Calihan dares Sabu, Davis, and A.R. Fox to step up.

A Johnny Gargano video package was shown. He talked about his three turning points as a wrestler in DGUSA. This package was fantastic. It built towards Gargano and his big moment. My major complaint is that we didn't see something like this for Chuck Taylor on the show the night before.

6. Yamato vs. Johnny Gargano (w/ Rich Swann) for the Open the Freedom Gate Championship. This match has the event feel, even without being the main event with introductions. Leonard is alone calling this one. There is a slow feeling out period to kick it off which showed that this is going long. Yamato played the aggressive heel here and controlled the middle portion of the match with an extended beating. It was slow, but not in a bad way.

The referee was bumped and Gargano hit the Hurts Donut for a visual pinfall with no referee. Chuck Taylor ran in with the DGUSA Championship belt and hit Gargano. Yamato hit Gargano with Galaria, but Gargano kicked out. They trade finishers again, until Gargano finally locks in the Gargano escape for the win. This was a great, historic match. It felt big league and Gargano's performance was off the charts. This is the third must-see match in a row on this show.

Johnny Gargano defeated Yamato via submission to with the Open the Freedom Gate Championship.

There is no belt to hand Gargano. Chuck Taylor is on the ramp. Gargano cuts a promo about how Taylor needs to remember what Ronin was about. He talked about how there isn't a class difference in DGUSA anymore. He talked about the Ronin win over Blood Warriors earlier. He encouraged Taylor to go after the tag titles. Taylor handed Gargano the title belt and Ronin shares a hug-fest.

I didn't like this post-match segment or the belt theft angle here at all. Gargano was built up for the big celebration moment and, although he was able to celebrate eventually, there was all of this drama beforehand. The adrenaline and excitement of the title change had worn off. This was different than any angle I've ever seen, and I'll give it props for that, but it was not successful.

We saw highlights from a show in the same building where it looks like people watching on DVD were actually able to see. If they had the lighting right once, what happened? The package was on the D.U.F. and their issues with A.R. Fox and it went on for a little too long.

A.R. Fox came to the ring cut a promo about the D.U.F. jumping Sabu in the back like cowards. Apparently that happened.

7. A.R. Fox, Jon Davis, and Sabu vs. The D.U.F. (Sami Calihan, Pinkie Samchez, and Arik Cannon). As the bell rang, Sabu showed up. Gabe Sapolsky showed up on commentary. This match was absolute insanity. It was bloody, and intense. The lack of lighting hurt this match more than any other as the ring was poorly lit and the area around it was even darker.

Most of all, I felt like this match was unnecessary on this card. They already had three amazing matches before it and this bloody, violent spectacle took away something from those three matches. I know that attempts to recapture ECW are going to happen forever, but this match was an unnecessary one. It left a bad taste in my mouth after I loved those other matches so much.

The end of this match came when Sami Calihan hit A.R. Fox with a bottle and pinned him. Don't get me wrong, the performances of all six men were great here. It is the booking and the plans for this match that I did not appreciate.

The D.U.F. defeated Jon Davis, Sabu, and A.R. Fox via pinfall.

Overall, for wrestling action, I grade this show an A. Two good tag team matches and three great singles matches really push it over the top. If you enjoy the "hardcore" wrestling style more than I do, the main event is a good execution of that as well. This is one of the best indie shows I've watched in quite a while.

With that said, it is hard for me to recommend it. The wrestling is fantastic. The story-telling is solid. The card was amazing. The lighting in the building was the only issue, but it was a major one. With good conscience, I can't recommend this DVD to you without warning you about that very frustrating aspect. Aside from the lighting, this show is amazing. Even with the poor lighting, I found myself enraptured by matches on this show and very engaged in them.

The DVD is available in the store section of DGUSA's website.

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