365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
Pro wrestling is, above all, subjective. Still, if you asked even a diehard fan to list the best wrestlers in the world, would PAC even make the list? Because he should.
The man you also may know as Neville from WWE might be one of the more underrated wrestlers out there today. It’s not that people don’t recognize he’s good; they don’t recognize how good he is. Perhaps that’s a casualty of being signed with All Elite Wrestling and, as someone living in the UK, forced to take an extended hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His early work on the independents as a clean-cut high flyer makes for a nice highlight reel or gif, but he really hit his stride as the bearded bully of the cruiserweight division in WWE — and then expanded on that with his Bastard PAC persona once he left WWE. Now that PAC is AEW’s first All Atlantic champion, it will be interesting to see what his future holds. For this entry in 365 Wrestling, we look at the recent past of Pac, in this match from 2019 against Kzy for Dragon Gate.
You can watch the match on Dragon Gate’s streaming site, the Dragongate Network. You may or may not be able to find this match online with some shrewd searching.
When PAC walked out of WWE in October of 2017, he spent a full calendar year on the sidelines. He made his return not in the U.S., or England — but in Japan for Dragon Gate, his home away from home while building his name. Two months later, PAC won the Open the Dream Gate Title, a belt we’re familiar with from a prior entry.
This is PAC’s first defense of the title and it comes against Kzy, a product of the Dragon Gate dojo who by this point has become one of his home promotion’s top fan favorites. Dragon Gate is all about factions, and each man is joined by his crew. PAC is with R.E.D., the top heel faction in the promotion at the time. Kzy is repping for Natural Vibes, and joins his mates in a goofy synchronized dance number during the introductions.
The setting here is Hakata Starlanes, a bowling alley in Fukuoka that hosted wrestling events for many years before it closed in early 2019. Dragon Gate ran this venue regularly, and this was that promotion’s final event there. The intimate environment adds to the atmosphere, boosting an already engaged and boisterous crowd. And both wrestlers seemingly graze the relatively low ceilings on some of the flying maneuvers, especially a pair of top-rope superplexes.
The Fukuoka fans appreciate PAC, but they’re rooting for the challenger and a title change here. The feeling-out process is brief. After some early bullying by PAC, Kzy reverses momentum with a spectacular suicide dive that launches both wrestlers into the crowd. PAC answers with the first of those superplexes, and all within the first five minutes.
The story boils down to whether or not Kzy can avoid PAC’s finisher, a spectacular corkscrew shooting star press he calls the Red Arrow. PAC teases the move several times, only to be cut off or have Kzy roll out of striking distance. Kzy has a top-rope finisher of his own — a frog splash — and the first time he leaps with it, PAC gets his knees up to block, eliciting a collective moan from the crowd that is one of my favorite moments of the match.
Toying with his foe early, PAC goes from arrogance to all business, reaching deep into his repertoire for a backslide spike and avoiding defeat after Kzy hits the frog splash on his second try. In a match full of big moves, the finish is the biggest — an avalanche tombstone by the champion, followed by the Red Arrow. PAC remains slumped across the challenger after the three count, a testament to the physical toll.
Final Rating: 8.5
I don’t watch as much Dragon Gate as I should, considering that I consistently enjoy their product. This match contains everything I like about Dragon Gate: tremendous athleticism, eye-popping highspots, a beloved fan favorite, a match with significant stakes, and a fully engaged crowd. It’s also a showcase for PAC. He’s a much more complete wrestler in this bully bad guy persona. Everything he does is crisp, connects well, and is delivered with intent. This is a great match well worth your time.
Ten pounds of gold and two out of three falls.