When Pac, fka WWE’s Neville, returned to the wrestling world from his time off the grid, he returned to Dragon Gate and was quickly pushed to their world title picture. He joined R.E.D., the company’s top heel stable, and pinned their previous big bad – Shingo Takagi, on his way out of Dragon Gate and into New Japan Pro Wrestling – in his first match back. Soon after, Pac won the Open the Dream Gate Championship, which he held for over 200 days. On June 21 at Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival, which celebrated Dragon Gate’s 20th anniversary, he dropped the title to rising star Ben-K.
For many wrestling fans, the most notable part of Pac’s reign wasn’t his defenses against Kzy or Shun Skywalker or Dragon Kid, but how his status as Open the Dream Gate Champion affected his booking elsewhere. Pac never lost cleanly when he wrestled for independent promotions in Europe, with a few of his matches ending by DQ or time-limit draw. The story of Pac as an unbeatable villain ruling over Dragon Gate wasn’t given an asterisk by someone in RevPro, for example, beating him before someone who could actually replace him on the throne.
This was reportedly the reason why the Pac vs. Hangman Page match at AEW‘s first PPV, Double or Nothing, was called off. There are a few different versions of the story that boil down to “creative differences.” One is that Pac wouldn’t lose cleanly to Page, who ended up winning a pre-show battle royal to earn a world title shot at All Out, and AEW refused to have a finish that wasn’t a win or a loss on their first show. (AEW ended up doing a time-limit draw in which the time ran out after a two-count on their second show, Fyter Fest.)
By the time Pac kayfabe-injured Page’s leg during an impromptu match in the UK that ended with a DQ finish, wrapping up their feud for the time being, the story had become that the real issue was that Pac might not be willing or able to lose in a future feud with Kenny Omega, against whom Pac would face off in a six-man tag match at Fyter Fest, if he was still the Open the Dream Gate champion. While this situation resulted in a card change for that show, it didn’t result in Pac’s relationship with AEW ending – according to Cody in an interview with Comicbook.com, Pac in AEW is still, “something we’re actively working on and making it happen. He’s a big part of AEW.”
While creative differences have remained the official story, the theory that visa issues were the real reason Pac wasn’t at Double or Nothing hasn’t gone away. Supporters of this theory point to, along with how the Pac vs. Page showdown in the UK played out and AEW booking Cody vs. Darby Allin with a screwy finish, the fact that Pac and other Dragon Gate talent were pulled from WrestleCon – less than two months before DON – because of visa problems.
Ultimately, the story of Pac as Open the Dream Gate Champion is of Dragon Gate working to build new stars in the wake of recent departures from the company, with his reign solidifying R.E.D. as a top-notch heel stable, providing main event opportunities opposite a skilled and high-profile worker for rising stars like Kzy and Shun Skywalker, and making Ben-K’s first world title win feel extra important. Also, it led to a bunch of drama in the Western wrestling world! And though the next step in for Pac’s career is currently unknown, it’s very possible that with AEW he goes from this successful return to Dragon Gate to a return to American and UK wrestling TV.