Toei has been uploading Kamen Rider episodes to its YouTube channel to celebrate the franchise's 50th anniversary. Recently, the studio uploaded the first two episodes of 2002's Kamen Rider Ryuki. The episode descriptions note that the series was brought to America as Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight, reminding many people of this long-forgotten adaptation.
Ever since Power Rangers took footage from Super Sentai and turned it into a cultural phenomenon, people have attempted to do the same with Kamen Rider. The previous attempt, 1995's Masked Rider, was considered be a complete flop. And because of this, no one attempted to adapt Kamen Rider for several years.
However, in 2006 Toei allowed producer Aki Komine to record a pre-show pilot to pitch an American version of Kamen Rider. Komine approached Steve Wang and Michael Wang, both longtime Kamen Rider fans, and asked them to write the pre-show pilot. They decided to adapt Kamen Rider Ryuki. The Wangs said this was because Ryuki had many well-defined Riders and recurring monsters, as well as a female Rider. When Toei was shown the resulting pilot, they were impressed and signed onto the project.
Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight made its debut on The CW with a special preview in 2008 and then started its full run in 2009. Unlike Ryuki's Battle Royale influenced storyline where the Riders make pacts with evil mirror world monsters and then fight to be the last Rider standing, Dragon Knight followed Kit Taylor, a young man searching for his missing father. While on this search, Kit finds the Advent Deck, a deck of cards that turns the user into a Kamen Rider, with his specific deck allowing him to become Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
Kit also meets Len, whose deck transforms him into Kamen Rider Wing Knight. Len and Kit don't get on at first, but they end up having to work together when they learn that an alien warlord called Xaviax is responsible for Kit's father's disappearance. And on top of this, Xaviax plans to kidnap more humans and use them to regain power on his home planet.
Xaviax does this by manipulating those who use the Advent Decks. It turns out these decks are from Ventara, a mirror-earth which is Len's home dimension. The Advent Decks can only be used by people who are the genetic double of the person who used the deck in Ventara. Kit is the double of the Ventara Dragon Knight. This Dragon Knight was tricked and then defeated by Xaviax, allowing the warlord to conquer Ventara. Now, Xaviax has set his sights on Earth and has started to distribute the Advent Decks, hoping he can manipulate the Earth's Kamen Riders and make them do his bidding. On top of this, defeated Kamen Riders can be Vented. This process locks the Rider in a space between dimensions called the Advent Void, removing their Advent Deck in the process, meaning that Kit and Len must be careful lest they suffer this horrible fate.
While this series did reuse lots of combat footage from Ryuki, new footage was also shot. Toei actually remade many of the Rider and monster suits from the series and shipped them over to America. This was to make sure that the new footage looked as close to the reused footage as possible. The new stunts filmed for the show are both impressive and beautifully choreographed, and the show actually won a Daytime Emmy for "Outstanding Stunt Coordination" because of these sequences.
However, the series did not have a smooth run on The CW. In fact, the channel cut the show before its final two episodes could air. Those who wanted to see how Kit's story ended had to go to the 4Kids TV website to stream the last two episodes. The series did have several international releases, but much like the American version, many of these releases were canceled before they finished airing. Amusingly, the show was re-localized to Japan and broadcast on the Toei Channel in 2009 as part of the tenth anniversary of Heisei Kamen Rider celebrations. Toei brought back many former Kamen Rider actors to dub the show. Satoshi Matsuda, who played Kamen Rider Knight in Ryuki, even dubbed his Dragon Knight counterpart Kamen Rider Wing Knight.
While Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight is now very obscure, it has developed a cult following among the tokusatsu fandom, who enjoy its unique spin on the source material and its fantastic fight scenes. Hopefully, this forgotten gem and Kamen Rider oddity is made available via a streaming service so that more people can enjoy its take on a tokusatsu classic.