Earlier today, New Japan held their second of their “Lion’s Gate Project” events, with another card showcasing up and coming “young lions” from New Japan and Pro Wrestling NOAH, taking on more seasoned veterans from both promotions. We now bring you our take on the first New Japan show on New Japan World since Wrestling Dontaku earlier this month…
Hirai Kawato vs. Kaito Kiyomiya
Both of these guys are just 19, with Kiyomiya being allowed to break out of the all-in-black get-up that the youngsters usually have. This was a good, but basic match, which ended in a little over five minutes when Kawato was caught in a Boston crab, and was yanked back into the centre of the ring twice after reaching for the ropes. I hope that the Boston Crab isn’t the finish for all of these matches! **½
Kiyomia continued to attack Kawato after the bell, kicking and slapping him for whatever reason.
Shiro Tomoyose vs. Teruaki Kanemitsu
We’re going up in age a little bit here, with Tomoyose being 24 to Kanemitsu’s 23 years of age, but we’re reverting back to everyone being in black. Speaking of black, my screen faded to black here just after the bell sounded, so I missed all of this match, but came back in time just in time to see Tomoyose lock in a Boston Crab. Unlike in the first match, Kanemitsu made the ropes, and was able to make a comeback culminating in his returning the favour with a Boston Crab of his own, but the time limit ran out on both men as this one ended a draw. (Not rating due to technical issues)
Ayato Yoshida vs. Hitoshi Kumano
We’re sticking with 23/24 year olds here, as NOAH’s Kumano – good enough to wear red shorts – faced off against Ayato Yoshida from the Kaientai Dojo. Another good, basic match, with the relative veteran Kuman schooling Yoshida early on, ending with Yoshida being caught in a single-leg Boston Crab, before be made a rope break. Yoshida returned fire with a rear chinlock, which he switched into a rear naked choke with body scissors, but again that forced a rope break.
Yoshida and Kumano exchanged strikes, with Kumano rolling out of another rear naked choke attempt, before finishing off Yoshida with a spinebuster into a uranage for the win. Decent match, albeit unspectacular **¾
David Finlay vs. Yoshinari Ogawa
I was surprised that they kept Finlay on this card, given that he’s been given one of the Best of Super Junior tournament berths freed up by injuries to the Young Bucks, and he’s got a tough challenge here against 30-year veteran Ogawa.
Another good match here, with Finlay more than matching Ogawa in the early going, but Ogawa started to work on Finlay’s left arm with a wristlock and an armbar-stretch, with Finlay successfully making the ropes every time. Finlay got his way back into the match with a missile dropkick, before mounting a comeback with forearms on Ogawa, with his father’s Finlay roll (rolling Fireman’s carry) earning him a near-fall. A flying twisting forearm smash got a similar result, but Ogawa caught Finlay with knees as he came off the top rope, with a jawbreaker and enziguiri flooring him, before a simple roll-up scored the win for Ogawa. A good match, with a flat finish… ***
Captain NOAH & Genba Hirayanagi vs. Mohammed Yone & Ryusuke Taguchi
Into tag-team, not-really Young Lion action here, as Captain NOAH (47 year old Jado) and Genba Hirayanagi (36) took on the team of Mohammed Yone’s afro (40) and Ryusuke Taguchi (37). Side note – it’s almost ten years since I saw Yone live when he did a tour of the UK (and took in three shows for the ill-fated 1PW group in Doncaster).
Initial thoughts: Oh God, the Shinsuke Nakamura tribute act continues… WHY?! At least I now know that the Captain NOAH outfit looks as dumb as the Captain New Japan gear… I wonder if he’s as much of a buffoon as CNJ?
Yone and the masked Hirayanagi started out here, before Taguchi came in to fall to a double groin claw. Taguchi and Captain NOAH came in for a few comedy spots, ending with NOAH low-bridging Taguchi out of the ring as he tried for a bodyslam. They fought outside for a while, with NOAH sending Taguchi into the ringpost. Mohammed Yone came back in and scored a near-fall on Captain NOAH with a legdrop off the second rope, before we went back to Taguchi and Hirayanagi for a bunch of hip attacks from the Nakamura wannabe.
Captain NOAH came into save Hirayanagi from rolling suplexes, then helped out with some double teaming as a big splash almost won it for the heel (?) team. Taguchi ripped off the mask of Hirayanagi, before some more comedy, as a running hip attack secured the win for Taguchi and Yone. Again, a solid but unspectacular match, with the comedy not coming across that well **¾
Jay White vs. Naomichi Marufuji
The second half of the card opened with Jay White taking on a man who held the GHC heavyweight crown as recently as this past January, so this’ll be a massive test for the New Zealander.
White worked over Marufuji with a wristlock early on, as the pair traded reversals, before upgrading into a chop battle, as they headed out into the crowd, where this show’s single, fixed-camera broadcast became a major weakness. Back inside, Marufuji grounded White with a rear chinlock, and it was pretty much one-way traffic from there. The fixed-camera became a negative again, as we just about saw Marufuji drop White on the apron with a suplex from the floor, with White just finally making his way back into the ring at the count of 19 (they could zoom out for him getting back into the ring, but not for the suplex?!)
Marufuji stayed on top of White with some chops in the corner, but White ducked a clothesline and dropped Marufuji with a DDT, before going for a crossface, and rolling through the move, only for Marufuji to make the ropes. Marufuji rolled out of a Regalplex attempt, before chopping away at White some more, but a dropkick took the former champion down, as did a pumphandle overhead throw.
In the end though, it wasn’t enough for White, who took a superkick for a near-fall, then almost shocked Marufuji with a crucifix roll-up, before a Shiranui (Sliced Bread #2) secured the win for the veteran. Pretty good match, with White getting more offence than I figured ***½
Juice Robinson vs. Go Shiozaki
It’s still weird that Juice Robinson is being labelled a “Young Lion”, given that he’s been wrestling for eight years, but here we go. Basic stuff to start off with, as they traded arm wringers and hammerlocks, with things picking up when Shiozaki dropped Robinson on the apron, before kneeing him to the floor.
The fixed camera came into play again as Robinson eventually took a whip into the guard rails, with Shiozaki keeping up the offence. Some stiff chops from Shiozaki sent Robinson to his knees, before he fired back briefly, including hitting a leg lariat, then a plancha to the outside, and finally a cannonball in the corner.
Robinson almost won it with a Jackhammer-like suplex that got him a two-count, but Shiozaki punched his way out of a powerbomb, only to take the move at the second attempt, with Robinson scoring yet another near-fall. Robinson followed up with a cobra clutch, but Shiozaki elbowed out before trading clotheslines, with a lariat earning Go a near-fall of his own. Shiozaki almost had it won with a stalling brainbuster, earning him a near-fall, before getting the win with a Gowan Lariat. A fun match, and again, Robinson got in a lot more offence than I expected. ***¼
Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya, Maybach Taniguchi & Quiet Storm vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata
This was a Pro Wrestling NOAH vs. New Japan main event (but we’ll forget that Nagata held NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight title two years ago, eh?)
Sadly, more technical problems plagued my feed for this, although what I did see was pretty good. Nakanishi and Taniguchi had a good exchange, with Taniguchi trying in vain to knock the elder off his feet, before we ended up with a heel four-on-one beatdown of Nakanishi.
Things picked up when Nagata and Nakajima got in the ring, with Nakajima flooring Tenzan and Nagata with kicks, before decking Satoshi Kojima with a Yakuza kick. A Koji cutter dropped Nakajima, as Nagata was tagged back in to go to work with some more kicks to the chest. Quiet Storm was tagged in briefly to work with Nagata, and even scored a near-fall from a Northern Light’s suplex, as a Ten-Cozy Cutter wiped out a member of the NOAH team, before Nagata scored the winning fall over Quite Storm with the backdrop hold. ***¼
All-in-all, a fun, compact show, which served its purpose in giving the Young Lions of New Japan (and NOAH and the Kaientai Dojo) some much needed ring-time. That being said, the later matches involving the bigger names hurt a little bit because of the overriding expectation of nobody expecting the likes of Jay White, David Finlay or Juice Robinson to score a win against their more experienced counterparts.