Everyone’s down to their penultimate matches, as the contenders in this year’s Young Lion Cup continue to fall.

Our pair of matches today come from the Matsue City Public Gymnasium in Shimane, and man, those empty seats opposite the hard cam are not a good look.

Young Lion Cup: Yuya Uemura vs. Ren Narita
Uemura was the first one to fall, so he’s reduced to playing spoiler…

We’re slightly slow to start as Narita took Uemura down in some headscissors, leading to a prompt rope break… but Narita clings on with a cravat instead. Uemura rolls free and into a wristlock, rolling through to keep the hold on. Things switch up to a side headlock as Uemura tries to force the unlikeliest of submissions, but Narita slips out and grapevines the leg to force Uemura to crawl to the rope for a break.

Narita stays on him with a toe hold, taking it to the mat for more torque, before he busted a page out of the LA Dojo playbook with a leg spreader. Uemura tries to slap his way out of it, enabling himself to drag to the ropes for another break. A slam dumps Uemura for a two-count, before a single leg crab led to another rope break as this was pretty much one-way traffic. Uemura clings to the rope to avoid an Irish whip, but manages to reverse it as he began a fightback with chops and forearms. A dropkick into the corner’s next, followed by a shoulder tackle and a leaping elbow drop that almost won him it… but then he rolls into a Boston crab way too close to the ropes. Narita’s dragged away, but gets to that bottom strand regardless.

A dropkick from Narita turns the tables again, but an overhead belly-to-belly was blocked with Uemura landing one of his own instead. Another Boston crab looked to follow, before Uemura looked to go back to strikes… only to get caught off the ropes with the Narita Special #4, as that bridging overhead belly-to-belly gets Narita the win. Poor Uemura’s likely to finish bottom of the table, and has a lot to do to elevate himself in the pecking order. **¾

Young Lion Cup: Alex Coughlin vs. Clark Connors
A win for Coughlin would take him to a 3-3 record and all but end Connors’ slim chances of winning the cup.

We open with a lock-up as Coughlin looked to be the aggressor, but it’s Connors who traps him in a toe hold. A quick escape leads to some scrambling, with Connors flipping out of a wristlock before he looked to gain control… only to get rolled to the mat as Coughlin looked for an armbar. Connors hit back with some headscissors on the mat, but Coughlin headstands free and dove in with a headlock.

Wash, rinse, repeat, as Coughlin then got free with an armbar, only for it to end in the ropes. Coughlin begins to force the issue now, only to get taken into the corner for a stinging chop as the unmistakable sound of sneakers on leisure centre floors squeaked around the venue. Connors gets rolled down to the mat, but he’s back up and charged down with a shoulder tackle before he’s taken back into the corner.

Coughlin blocks a hiptoss and lands his own for a two-count, before he stung Connors with some chops. That’ll mark his chest up some more. There’s receipts before we move to uppercuts, then it’s back to chops as they tried to cave in each other’s chests. A spear out of nowhere puts Coughlin down as he’s rolled into a Boston crab, but there’s a rope break. The end’s nigh though, despite Connors responding with a chop off the ropes, before a bridging fallaway slam almost led to the win. A leg spreader/deathlock from Coughlin follows, before he smartly rolled Connors back into the middle of the ring, keeping the hold on, as he proceeded to bridge back for the submission. Some good stuff towards the end, but this took a long while to get going. **¾

Young Lion Cup Standings
Ren Narita (5-1; 10pts)
Karl Fredericks, Shota Umino (4-1; 8pts)
Clark Connors, Alex Coughlin (3-3; 6pts)
Michael Richards, Yota Tsuji (1-4; 2pts)
Yuya Uemura (1-5; 2pts)

In terms of “who can win”, well, it’s down to a three-horse race: Narita’s only loss so far has been against Shota Umino, but he holds a tie-breaker over Karl Fredericks. Umino’s sole loss in the opening match to Clark Connors could have opened the door for him, but Clark’s loss today now makes it one of those “messy tiebreakers that New Japan never do”. Thursday’s cup matches in Tottori sees Shota Umino face Yota Tsuji, while Michael Richards and Karl Fredericks face off. Friday in Kyoto is Yuya Uemura vs. Alex Coughlin and Michael Richards vs. Yota Tsuji – but with those four out of contention, the Young Lion Cup is likely to come down to the winner of Umino/Fredericks at Destruction in Kobe on Sunday, with Ren Narita vs. Clark Connors the last match in the tournament.