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NJPW ‘Young Lion Cup’ 11.16.17 Results & Review

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Lion’s Gate are New Japan’s smaller shows used to showcase their young wrestlers (known as young lions) as more than just the fall guy. They’re able to show more personality and connect with the crowd on a more intimate level in this smaller venue.

The ninth edition of Lion’s Gate featured what is called the Young Lion Cup and that’s what I’m going to be talking about here. This was the first time since 2005 that New Japan has put on the tournament, last won by Hirooki Goto. In round-robin style, this is all for pride. To show that you are the best of the current crop of young wrestlers in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

Tomoyuki Oka def. Ren Narita @ 13:23
The New Japan audience will always get behind the smaller and/or less experienced wrestler. In the case of Narita, he is both of these so the crowd roared behind him the entire time. They started on the mat with some solid chain wrestling which favors Oka due to his size and experience. The loudest reaction came when Narita refused to fall after a shoulder tackle and followed his defiance up with a running dropkick which really got the crowd hot. From then on the story was Narita’s defiance. He had a moment where he slapped Oka across the face and delivered a belly-to-belly which was great. Ultimately Oka scored the win via a Boston Crab but the heart of Narita was the highlight of the match.

Katsuya Kitamura def. Syota Umino @ 10:05
A common complaint from Kitamura’s first round match was the 50/50 booking. He is a large man and him surrendering fifty percent of the match annoyed people. Those who didn’t like that match likely won’t be a fan of this either. What shouldn’t be forgotten is that these matches are meant to allow the young wrestlers to show their versatility, not just their offense. With all that said, Umino did get a lot of offense in that made Kitamura look like an oaf at times. His strength is undeniable but his offense is very limited while the smaller, more flexible man was able to showcase more. In any case, it was a fun match. The giant Kitamura lumbered around swinging at Umino, who ducked and evaded everything he could before getting caught by his opponent’s strength. Kitamura won with a Spear + Jackhammer combination.

Hirai Kawato def. Tetsuhiro Yagi @ 6:44
These two were positioned as the main event of the Young Lion Cup section of the show. The way the match was structured was both threw bombs at each other from the jump. Yagi wanted to prove that he could take it to the most experienced of the young lions but once Kawato took control he was able to handle Yagi with ease. Unfortunately the finish wasn’t as smooth as anyone would have liked. Kawato missed pretty big on his Roundhouse Kick but still ended up being the finish. Pretty disappointing considering they were slotted as the main match.

As one should expect, this was a mixed bag. These six wrestlers are all inexperienced but their growth is allowed to be shown in these positions and some succeeded while others wish they’d have done better. Narita was the big highlight of the show and deserves praise for his performance.

Recommended Matches:
Tomoyuki Oka vs Ren Narita

Robert McCauley is an NJPW enthusiast who has seen every show live since Jan. 4, 2015

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