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NJPW ‘Young Lion Cup Finals’ 12.21.17 Results & Review



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 tenth 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.

Tetsuhiro Yagi (0-4-1) vs Ren Narita (0-4-1) – 15 Minute Draw
The draw became obvious around ten minutes in and for their experience level I find that to be acceptable. The opening sequence was a lot of fun when they spent the first six peppering each other with strikes. The slowed it down with some submissions and picked back up with some great strikes in the closing stretch. Being asked to go fifteen minutes in a singles, at this point in their career, I’m sure was daunting but they managed to pull out a fairly decent match. Yagi starched Narita with a slap across the face but the bell rang before he could get the cover.

Hirai Kawato (4-1) def. Shota Umino (2-3) @ 8:28
These two young lions show the most promise as high flyers as they jump and springboard off the top for their highspots. Kawato is able to showcase more than the other lions and it shows with his flashy ideas on how to execute a rope break. The match was decent, both are more entertaining than Yagi and Narita so the draw would have been more interesting here but it was solid work for what they set out to accomplish. Kawato won with his spinning roundhouse, leaving Umino laying.

Katsuya Kitamura (5-0) def. Tomoyuki Oka (3-2) @ 11:20
The heavyweights of the division in the final match of the Young Lion Cup. This was a lot of fun. They beat the snot out of each other and whether it was on the mat, strikes or power, Oka was able to gain the advantage. Not until Kitamura repeatedly stomped Oka in the corner, even throwing the referee to the side, did Kitamura gain favor in the match. Once he was able to break Oka down a bit he found his opportunity to hit the spear + Jackhammer combination to not only win the match but also become the 2017 Young Lion Cup winner.

The tournament had its ups and downs but they ended on a high note. Kitamura versus Oka was one of, if not the, best match of the tournament. As a whole, each of these matches were good and all were significantly different from one another. Check out Kitamura/Oka if you have the time, it’s not mind-blowing but you should know what to expect for young lions and on that scale they exceeded greatly.

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.