No debuts this month, but the sixth Lion’s Gate Project gave some us a better insight into how the current crop of youngsters are getting along.

We’re at Shinjuku-FACE again in Tokyo for the delightfully low-fi show – which only adds to the charm! As does the distortingly-loud volume, I guess…

Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. El Desperado
After making light work of Shota Umino on the last Lion’s Gate show, Desperado’s got someone even fresher this time! Despy starts by trading hammerlocks as the pair look for submissions early, with Yagi getting an armbar… only for Desperado to counter into a surfboard. A Tequila Sunrise follows as Desperado keeps on, but a single-leg crab’s quickly broken in the ropes, so Despy just works on the leg some more, with kicks and knee drops, before a leg-spreader puts on even more pressure. It’s about as one-sided as you’d expect given the difference in experience!

Yagi hits back with a dropkick, then tries a single-leg crab and actually pulls Desperado away from the ropes in doing so, before flat out slapping Desperado into the ropes. In the end though, Yagi ends up taking a spinebuster as he’s caught off the ropes, before another leg spreader forced him to the ropes as Desperado came back with a stretch muffler for the eventual submission. A solid opener, and a decent enough squash with some hope spots – which is about as much as you can expect for someone as raw as Yagi. **½

Hirai Kawato & Shota Umino vs. Gedo & Jado
Kawato’s best known as the more fearless of the Young Lions, and Umino’s quickly coming from the same cloth. Of course, Kawato goes straight for Jado, so you know he’s going to take a pounding.

The usual tag sequences sees the pair cycle in and out of the match early, with Gedo raking the eyes of Umino as the veterans focused on the less experienced of the Lions. Shota takes some chops in the corner, with Gedo mocking him in his usual sweary way, taunting Umino to “get up”.

Eventually Shota slapped his way back into it, at least until Gedo raked the eyes again. That led to Gedo taking Umino outside so Jado could beat him with a chair, which seemed a little unnecessary, and that sparked Kawato into coming into break up a pinfall attempt. Umino hits the standard issue Young Lion Dropkick to get free for a tag, and in comes Kawato, who almost hangs his head whilst running the ropes. Whoops!

Kawato redeems himself with a missile dropkick for a near-fall, before getting caught in a small package as Gedo went for some basic pinning attempts, only for Kawato to land another dropkick. Umino returns with a dropkick of his own, as he works over Jado with elbows in the corner, before trying for the Boston crab… and succeeding with a single leg!

Kawato tries to restrain Gedo’s interference, booting him out of the ring, but Jado’s able to break via the ropes before eventually catching Umino in a crossface for the submission. Entertaining enough, and whilst it’s cheap, I kinda liked how Jado felt the need to have to cheat against the upstarts. ***

Yeah, Kawato tried to go after Jado again after the match. That’s going to cost him one of these days…

DINOSAUR TAKUMA & Takuya Nomura vs. Tiger Mask & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
We’ve got the wrestling dinosaur again – with his Jurassic Park-inspired theme too! With ATTACK!’s Danny Jones going to All Japan later this year, my hope of a Dinosaur vs. Dragon match is still on for these Lion’s Gate Projects!

We actually start with Takuma and Tenzan, with the dino breaking a wristlock after his tail touched the ropes, before Tiger Mask came in against Nomura. The “visiting” team of Takuma and Nomura actually had the better of Tiger Mask, at least until the Dino missed a flip senton, allowing Tiger to grab the dinosaur by the tail and drag him into the opposite corner.

Tenzan works over TAKUMA with Mongolian chops for a spell, before Tiger Mask grabbed a leglock to force the Dino into the ropes. Eventually TAKUMA makes the tag out to Nomura, who runs into a knee to the gut before attempting armbars, which Tiger broke via the ropes. A Tiger Driver nearly wins it as TAKUMA had to break up the pin, but Nomura hit back as he went toe-to-toe with Tenzan, landing a dropkick too as both men were left laying.

The Dinosaur returns, but he’s quickly overwhelmed by the veterans, taking a Mountain Bomb from Tenzan for a near-fall, before eventually succumbing to an Anaconda Vice. Another entertaining outing, and I’m a big fan of DINOSAUR TAKUMA regularly appearing here – especially as the act doesn’t consume his matches. ***¼

Katsuya Kitamura vs. Manabu Nakanishi
It’s the past versus the future as New Japan’s resident power-men collide! We start with the pair trading shoulder blocks, to little effect but massive roars, until Kitamura started throwing forearms. Not a good idea, in hindsight!

Chops come next, which worked out fairly well until Nakanishi threw a two-handed chop to knock the rookie down. A headbutt did the same trick as Nakanishi was taking the youngster to school, resisting anything that was thrown his way. It’s a basic formula, but it works, proving that you don’t need to be a firecracker like Kawato to be a ballsy Young Lion. Kitamura then surprised Nakanishi by reversing a suplex, before lifting up the veteran for his own Argentine backbreaker. Of course, Nakanishi got free as they went back to the chops, before Kitamura ducked a double-handed chop and threw in that standard issue dropkick. A clubbing forearm got Nakanishi back in it, as did a clothesline for a near-fall, before Kitamura was caught in an Argentine backbreaker for the submission. I really enjoyed this outing – yeah, it could be seen as slow and plodding, but everything they did was for a reason – and told a great story. ***½

Yuma Aoyagi vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Considering YOSHI-HASHI is getting a shot at Minoru Suzuki’s NEVER title in a few weeks, it’s certainly odd placing that he’s on this small show against All Japan’s Aoyagi.

The pair start off on the mat, with Aoyagi trying for an early armbar as YOSHI-HASHI tried to stay a step ahead, before doing so with chops. A dropkick from Yuma quickly quashes that, as he takes over with a strait-jacket hold, only for YOSHI-HASHI to escape and take the match to the outside. Or more specifically, the ring post as the pair traded chops before YOSHI-HASHI just decided to throw Yuma into the post again.

Back in the ring, YOSHI-HASHI goes for a rear chinlock, really pulling on the back of Aoyagi in a bid to force a submission, but that’s eventually broken via the ropes. YOSHI-HASHI keeps on top of him with clotheslines and forearms in the corner, before a crossbody sparked a comeback, with Yuma scoring another crossbody off the top for a near-fall.

A single-leg crab gets YOSHI-HASHI back in the game though, as he again cinched in the hold… but Aoyagi again broke via the ropes, and rebounded with a dropkick and a Fisherman’s suplex to nearly win the match. A bridging German nearly did the job too, before Yuma went back for a Fisherman’s suplex that was countered out of, with YOSHI-HASHI landing a left-arm lariat for another near-fall. From the kick-out, YOSHI-HASHI went straight for the butterfly hold, giving Aoyagi no choice but to submit. A decent enough outing, but this did little for me I’m afraid. ***

Satoshi Kojima & Ayato Yoshida vs. Yuji Nagata & Tomoyuki Oka
Kaientai Dojo’s Ayato Yoshida provided the unusual choice of partner for Satoshi Kojima in the main event, against Tomoyuki Oka and his “step dad” Yuji Nagata (since his “mentor” Nakanishi’s been going at it with Kitamura these days…)

Oka started off with Yoshida, trading headlocks in the opening stages before the K-Dojo trainee just started to chop away at Oka. A shoulder tackle put an end to that briefly, before the two veterans came in to show them how it’s done. Kojima took Nagata to the ropes from a headlock, before Yuji kicked him free to spark a back-and-forth sequence with forearms, which Kojima just about edged as he took Nagata to his corner for some double-teaming.

Yoshida had some joy with knees to the midsection of Nagata, but of course, Nagata hit back harder, chopping down Ayato with a swift kick to the chest. Oka kept the theme going, leaving Yoshida free for an armbar once Nagata returned to the fray, before Oka tried one of his own as the pair homed in on Yoshida’s left arm. Eventually Yoshida brings Kojima in to light up Oka with the machine-gun chops, before he actually hit the top rope elbow for a near-fall. Yoshida tagged back in to grind down on Oka with a chinlock, before Kojima returned to keep up the pressure, utilising a neckbreaker on the Young Lion.

A PK from Yoshida almost did the job – and looked to anger Nagata in doing so – but Oka was able to pull off a spinebuster before bringing Nagata back into the match to put the finishing touches on Yoshida. Ayato’s able to kick out of an Exploder, before some more kicks to the chest were returned with a big boot as Kojima and Nagata went back at each other.

Kojima knocks down Nagata with a discus elbow, then sets up for the Kozy Lariat… but that’s turned into the eye rolling armbar! Yes, even on this fixed camera show, they remembered to zoom the hard camera in for it! Ayato broke that up with a kick to the back of Nagata, which was his dumbest idea of the whole match as Nagata slapped him back, before bringing in Oka… which proved to be equally daft as Kojima outlasted a powerslam – whilst Nagata and Yoshida fought in the crowd.

Yoshida returned to break up a Boston crab with a kick, but Nagata and Oka went back to work double-teaming Kojima, with an Oka belly-to-belly almost winning it. Instead though, Kojima dead weighted himself out of a spinebuster, before scoring a DDT for a near-fall. A Koji Cutter had the same result, but with Nagata and Yoshida tying themselves up to the outside, it was just the matter of a Strong Arm lariat before Kojima go the win. A really fun outing, and even if you want to be cynical and say “I knew it’d be a youngster taking the fall”, you’re really missing the point of these Lion’s Gate shows. ***¼

There was a little bit of afters between Yoshida and Nagata, with Kojima just walking away and letting the pair slap each other silly. I guess we have our main event for July’s Lion’s Gate Project! These Lion’s Gate Project shows are about as bare bones as you can get – and certainly not the place to go if you’re looking for matches to blow you away. What they are, though, are the wrestling equivalent of looking at youth-team football matches… not everyone from here will be the next big star, but it’s always good to watch how the next batch of trainees progress!