We’re back to ShinjukuFACE as New Japan’s Young Lions continued their quest to be named the leader of the current pack.

Young Lion Cup: Ren Narita vs. Tomoyuki Oka
It’s 0-1 against 1-0 in this tournament match, which started a little scrappy as Oka wrestled Narita to the mat in search of any kind of a hold he could grab.

Narita was more of a match for it though, and caught Oka in a chinlock on the mat until they broke free and squared off. Wash, rinse, repeat; this time with Oka throwing in pinning attempts into the mix. As much as Narita was holding his own, there was a clear gulf in class between the two of them… if not size, as Narita stood firm from a shoulder tackle before dropkicking Oka into the ropes.

Heck, Narita even tried to grab a heel hook, but Oka was able to clamber over him into the ropes for a break, only for Narita to keep on at that leg like a dog with a bone. Eventually, Oka gets in a spinebuster to free himself, but Narita’s belly-to-belly nearly gets him the shock win… and the love of the Tokyo crowd.

Once Narita’d applied the standard issue Young Lions submission, Oka was forced to fight out of the Boston crab, before bulldozing Narita with a shoulder tackle as the end seemed rather evident… even if Oka’s knee looked to be giving him trouble. In the end though, after escaping an STF and a rear naked choke, then kicking out of a belly-to-belly, Narita was left with no choice but to tap after Oka sank in a Boston crab.

This took a while to get going, but was all kinds of fun. Even without looking at the background of “Oka’s sort-of slipped down the pecking order”, since he lost his Tag League spot, this was a good display of aggression from the clearly-superior Oka. ***¼

Young Lion Cup: Shota Umino vs. Katsuya Kitamura
Hang on! Umino’s dad is the referee here! Conflict of interests, much?

Umino looks to have bulked up a bit, and gets a very slight ticking off when he chops Kitamura in the ropes. That quickly gave way to strikes as Umino took Kitamura into the corner, shoving away his own dad so he could stomp a mudhole in the big guy. Have some respect man! Despite that, Kitamura’s able to muscle up, lifting Umino out of a headlock position, only to get dropped by a low dropkick as Umino went to work on the legs. It’s amazing how much you can neutralise someone when they’re not on two feet…

Anyways, Kitamura makes it to the ropes and manages to level Umino with a chop… but the plucky kid comes back… and gets leathered some more. Oh, how the sweat flew with those chops! Again though, Umino responds with a missile dropkick, then a running forearm as he succeeded in keeping Kitamura down.

Then he went to that Standard Issue Submission, which is where things derailed a little… Kitamura easily powered out, but he’s again taken down as Umino launches off the top rope with a back elbow drop. An attempted spear from Kitamura misses as Umino leaps over him and followed in with a German suplex, before a neckbreaker got a pretty slow two-count.

Again, Umino goes to the Boston crab, which Kitamura tried using push-ups to escape, but instead he makes the ropes once more before Umino slapped him silly. There’s a LOT of fire from this kid, considering he’s not been able to do better than draw in singles action… but in the end this threatened to go to form, as Umino took a huge spear for a near-fall, before Kitamura Goldberg’d it up with a Jackhammer for the win. Impressive stuff from Umino, even in defeat. Not bad going for someone with six months experience under him. ***

Young Lion Cup: Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Hirai Kawato
It’s that Young Lion’s theme yet again! Kawato’s reknowned for being a firecracker, at least with his aggression, and it was no different here as he and Yagi traded forearms right from the off.

Heck, Yagi keeps the aggression upm shoving away the ref as he choked away on Kawato in the corner. Eventually Kawato gets free and just kicks Yagi in the spine as they continued to just pound on each other, with Kawato slowly edging ahead with submission attempts. Kawato stops himself from running into a dropkick as Yagi totally whiffs it, before blasting him at the second attempt.

That sparked a comeback from Yagi, who went for a single leg crab before a series of roll-ups picked up near-falls, but again Kawato takes over, grabbing an armbar and knee bar at the same time, before finishing off Yagi with a missile dropkick and a corkscrew enziguiri (Kofi Kingston’s Trouble in Paradise). This was fine, but it started scrappy and barely escaped… Kawato probably needs to find a new finisher as that corkscrew enziguiri’s not looked good for a while now. **¼

So after two rounds of matches, there’s a clear gap: Kawato, Kitamura and Oka are top with 4 points from their 2 matches; whilst Narita, Umino and Yagi are mirroring them with nothing on the board as we headed into a swift interval. Three matches inside 40 minutes? A massive win for me here…

Dinosaur Takuma & Kotaro Yoshino vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi
The story of Dino Stones against the New Japan Dads continued here, but for some reason we’re not getting Tenzan and Kojima on the other side. In terms of experience, it’s a bigger test than Nakanishi and Kitamura – the pairing the Dino Stones faced in July, but… eh, I’ll let you make the prehistoric gag!

Nakanishi insists that Yoshino’s got something hidden in his massive afro, but instead he just has to watch as Yoshino dances around him. It’s catchy as hell for the crowd, but it’s not exactly fast-paced. Tags take us to Takuma and Tenzan, with the latter sort-of cheating by pulling back on the Dinosaur’s tail before Mongolian chops knocked Takuma down for a near-fall.

There’s more cheating as Takuma stumbled into the wrong corner and got double-teamed, before being held as Nakanishi sailed off the top rope and chopped him in the head. More things happen, but the pace is achingly slow, at least when the Dads were on offence.

Takuma has plenty of time to duck a Nakanishi clothesline, and manages to get in a bulldog after Yoshino’s distraction… but then the afro’d one tries for a chokeslam. Which doesn’t work. Nor do his forearms, so instead he sweeps the leg and splashes Nakanishi for a near-fall.

The Dino Stones mock their opponents mannerisms some more, but they actually avoid being instantly made fools out of as they hit some shoulder blocks. Nevermind, Nakanishi reverses a double-suplex and sent them packing, at least until Takuma returned to slam, then flip onto Tenzan for a near-fall. A double-team spear and a death valley driver to Tenzan nearly does it, but Takuma’s forced to think of something new… by which I mean “Mongolian chops”.

Tenzan quickly cut him off with a Mountain bomb, before a back suplex allowed Tenzan to lock in an Anaconda Vice for the submission – while Yoshino was trapped in an Argentine backbreaker by Nakanishi. There was a good comedy match in this, but the pace was so mind-numbingly slow, I have to go back to my Lee/Mastiff precedent for this rating: *.

GO Asakawa vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
This was Taguchi’s first Lion’s Gate appearance in over a year – stretching back to the days of that New Japan/NOAH relationship. He’s still pining after Ricochet, as Taguchi’s wearing the Funky Future gear that he’d made for that brief pairing.

Asakawa started out well, but quickly fell into the trap of mocking Taguchi with hip attacks… and we all know how that usually ends up. Plenty of receipts! After those, Taguchi starts to work over Asakawa’s left leg, whilst fighting through some hair pull attempts from GO, finally watching his foe scramble to the ropes to escape a leg spreader.

Taguchi’s a touch too keen to go back to the hip attack, and after landing on a knee, he’s quickly wrapped in a Dragon sleeper by Asakawa. Second time was a little better, as he delayed the hip attack, catching out GO, before forcing another rope break as Asakawa scrambled to avoid an ankle lock.

GO fought out a Dodon and rolled up Taguchi for a near-fall, before catching another hip attack and turning it into a mighty judo takedown. Taguchi rebounds with a front suplex though, nearly winning the match, before ultimately getting the submission with the ankle lock. Much, much better than what preceded it – with Asakawa putting up some fight before being outclassed. ***

After the match, Taguchi offered a show of respect… and got dropkicked in the face for his troubles.

Daisuke Kanehira & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata
Another wacky New Japan Dad’s tag match to finish us off here, and it’s an even start with a new take on a cheapshot, as Aoyagi took Kojima into the ropes… before shoving Nagata down into the crowd.

After settling down, Nagata tagged himself in to make Yuma pay, but he was quickly cornered and stomped on by both his opponents, with Kanehira looking to prove a point. Precisely what “blasting Nagata with knees in the corner” will prove, remained to be seen. Apart from earning his partner a beating outside of the venue, as Nagata dragged Aoyagi into the lobby whilst Kojima had his way with Kanehira in the ring.

Back in the ring, Nagata was like a man possessed, taking on all comers for a while as the veterans comfortably took over. Kojima managed to get off his machine gun chops to Kanehira, who instantly replied with a scoop slam out of the corner, before tags got us to Nagata getting his revenge on Aoyagi.

Despite taking a big boot in the corner, Aoyagi’s able to avoid an Exploder, and actually comes back with a crossbody and a dropkick as he nearly pulled off the shock… instead though, he just delayed the inevitable as he ran into an Exploder, before we went back to Kanehira getting chopped to pieces by Kojima. This time around, Kojima can follow up with a top rope elbow, before Kanehira again knees him to the mat.

Some more strikes take us to a Kojima DDT, but Kanehira comes back with an armbar as Nagata was being held back by Aoyagi. Kojima’s able to make it to the ropes though, and whilst Nagata and Aoyagi took the fight to the outside, he’s able to finish off Kanehira with a Strong Arm lariat for the win. Another enjoyable match, but in keeping with the Lion’s Gate motif, these matches are for the relative rookies to learn, rather than win. Or in the case of Aoyagi, hit and get hit, as he found out afterwards when he sparked a melee… which will lead to Nagata vs. Aoyagi at Lion’s Gate Project 10 in December ***

Another decent, but unspectacular outing from the Lion’s Gate series. The Young Lion Cup is progressing rather nicely, with some largely impressive performances… it’s just a shame that Kawato and Yagi didn’t mesh at all. If you’re into seeing the next generation, then watch the swift first half of the show, otherwise, this is one you can get away with skipping past.