The 2019 Young Lion Cup kicked off as New Japan returned to Korakuen Hall for the start of the Road to Destruction.

It’s going to be jet-lag central on this card with a lot of the talent flying in from the UK – and SANADA in particular having worked Rev Pro’s Cockpit show on Sunday before heading back to Japan. We’ve only got Japanese commentary, since Kevin Kelly is taking a well deserved rest ahead of the bigger Destruction shows.

Young Lion Cup: Alex Coughlin vs. Yota Tsuji
The Young Lion Cup is a league-style tournament, with two points for a win and one for a draw. Like a kid’s table G1.

Coughlin took Tsuji into the ropes early on as the American looked for an advantage, but it’s Tsuji who took the early advantage, working the wrist before Coughlin got free and sunk in a side headlock. Switching up into chops saw Coughlin produce a heck of a sound, showing decent consistency as Tsuji was getting rather dull thuds in response.

Tsuji finally finds a way through with a shoulder tackle, as he worked his way through into a camel clutch. Coughlin got free and just swatted Tsuji down with another chop, before a scoop slam got him a quick two-count. A side Russian legsweep’s next, but Coughlin instead followed up with a leg spreader that Tsuji tried to chop out of… before he hauled himself into the ropes for the break.

More thunderous chops from Coughlin were finally replied to as Tsuji hit a body slam, before a dropkick put the American down for a near-fall. A Boston crab followed, with Tsuji having some difficulty rolling over Coughlin, who manages to hand-walk his way to freedom. A second Boston crab’s countered into a single leg crab though, with Coughlin dragging Tsuji away from the ropes ahead of the submission. A pretty good showing for Coughlin on his Japanese debut, as he takes points in the opening contest. **¾

Young Lion Cup: Clark Connors vs. Shota Umino
Shooter’s back, and he launches himself into Connors at the bell. Nobody’s getting paid by the hour here!

Uppercuts and forearms from Umino have Connors rocked, but there’s a prompt response in the form of a dropkick from the American, who grounds Umino with a chinlock. Connors begins to slap around Shota, which works as well as you’d think, with Umino fighting back… only to get laid out as Connors looked to work on his still-injured shoulder.

Chops from Connors keep Shota in the corner, but Umino comes out with a dropkick as he began to clock him with forearms in the corner. An uppercut and a suplex drops Connors for a near-fall, before a spinebuster and a Boston crab suddenly had Clark on top. A spear wrecks Umino, as Connors goes back to the Boston crab… and Shota taps! I was not expecting that, especially since Umino was fighting to get to the ropes, but the LA Dojo lads have won both their opening matches. **¾

Oh hi there, Gabriel Kidd!

Satoshi Kojima, Karl Fredericks & Michael Richards vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Ren Narita & Yuya Uemura
…and now, the rest of the Young Lion Cup field, with their New Japan Dads.

It’s a Japanese debut for Richards, who’s representing the Fale dojo in this tour after a decent showing on New Japan’s Aussie tour. Tenzan and Kojima start the match though, with Kojma busting out Mongolian chops, still salty over the time he gave Tenzan his G1 spot and… it got wasted.

Tenzan replies with authentic Mongolian chops, before tags bring in Uemura and Richards. Richards gets taken to the ropes, and took a chop on the break, before a mini slugfest ended with a Uemura dropkick. Tags take us to a chopfest between Fredericks and Narita, which went badly for Ren, as he ate a spinebuster and found himself trapped in the wrong corner.

Richards is back to turn Ren into a percussive instrument, before elbows from Fredericks led to a big slam. Narita tries to fight back, eventually landing the overhead belly-to-belly throw before Tenzan came in and charged through Richards. There’s Mongolian chops for the Kiwi, along with a brainbuster for a near-fall, before Richards fought back with a neckbreaker.

Kojima gets the tag in, but runs into a Mountain bomb, before Uemura came in and took the Machine Gun chops in the corner. Narita blocks Kojima from landign a top rope elbow, as Uemura presses the veteran to the mat, before he hits a capture suplex for a near-fall. In the end though, Kojima strikes back with a Koji Cutter for a near-fall, before a Cozy Lariat finished him off. Decent stuff from the Young Lions, and I get the sense that Uemura’ll be playing catch-up in the cup too. ***

Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Will Ospreay, Robbie Eagles, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
With ELP now full-time in Japan, I guess we can go full steam ahead on the “Birds of Prey”‘s challenge for his and Ishimori’s junior tag titles…

Yes, they still haven’t sorted out new music for Ospreay.

We’ve a jump start, with Ishimori and Phantasmo focusing on Ospreay, only to get caught out with a crossbody off the top as the next junior tag title challengers looked to isolate Ishimori. Henare gets involved too with a chop to the arm, before Honma completed the set with a headbutt.

Honma misses a Kokeshi, and that allowed Ishimori to go to work on the neck, allowing ELP to come in with… a deadly back rake off the top. We’ve got all the rakes here, before Honma got double-teamed with the gas pedal in the corner. Phantasmo keeps up on Honma with a chinlock, only for Honma to get free and land a Kokeshi.

In comes Ospreay to turn the tempo with an over-the-top 619 and a springboard forearm to Phantasmo, before Ospreay propelled an Eagles monkey flip, kicking Phantasmo on the way down. Ospreay and Eagles work so well together, it’s insane. A double-team Asai DDT gets a near-fall, before Phantasmo clocked Eagles with an enziguiri to leave both men laying.

Tags get us to Chase and Henare, with the latter landing a leaping shoulder tackle and a deadlift suplex. Yujiro and Chase combine as a Fisherman’s suplex and a diving knee helps Chase to a near-fall, before a reverse DDT put paid to Honma as a Parade of Moves broke out. Chase goes for a package piledriver, which Henare counters out of, before eventually succumbing as Owens picks up another W. There were some real good flashes in this match, as that junior tag title match could steal the show (while being a fresh match to boot!) ***½

Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Rocky Romero vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
This was Jado’s first outing in three months, and we had a jump start as the CHAOS crew refused to let the Bullet Club settle.

There’s plenty of guard railing goodness as Ishii threw Tama Tonga into them before he was taken inside for Rocky Romero to follow-up on. Jado trips up Rocky, but gets taken in to the railings before Rocky’s ‘rana was caught and turned into a big powerbomb.

Jado tags in to chop Rocky as he was being held in a Gory stretch, following in with an old school rope burn to the eyes. Tama Tonga dropkicks Ishii off the apron for the hell of it, as the Bullet Club stayed on top, right as my feed gave out. It’s back as Rocky’s trying to make a tag out, eventually doing so after landing a reverse enziguiri to Tanga Loa.

In comes Ishii, who absorbs forearms and shoulder tackles before taking down Tanga with one of his own. A spear from Tanga stops all that, before a powerslam from Ishii gave him an opening to tag in YOSHI-HASHI. If that’s your last hope… man. Ishii’s whipped into Tanga in the corner, before landing a brainbuster as a Parade of Moves broke out, calming down as Jado tagged in to help triple-team YOSHI-HASHI.

A backdrop suplex gets Jado a two-count, before he looked for a draping DDT… which Rocky broke up. Rocky ups the pace with a ‘rana before Ishii clotheslined Tama to the outside, clearing the ring as we’re left with YOSHI-HASHI and Jado. An attempted Kendo stick shot’s blocked as Jado ends up taking a clothesline for a near-fall, before Karma forced the submission. This was fine, but the pace and energy felt all over the place, and lost my attention a few times. **¾

After the match, the Guerrillas tried to lay out YOSHI-HASHI with a Magic Killer, but Ishii comes in to make the save. Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI have a match with the Guerrillas in Beppu next weekend… I wonder if there’ll be a push to make that a title match?

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Hey look, it’s DOUKI!

Sabre’s in the unusual position of being belt-less, as he gears up for his rematch with Hiroshi Tanahashi after having lost the Rev Pro title in London on Saturday.

SHO & YOH went to work early on DOUKI and Kanemaru as the good guys stood tall, leading to Taguchi directing traffic as Kanemaru took a bunch of splashes in the corner… culminating in a hip attack and a guillotine choke as Suzuki returned to drag Taguchi to the outside. Taguchi’s taken into the crowd as Suzuki laid waste to him with chair shots, while Sabre and Tanahashi locked horns as you’d expect.

Suzuki’s waiting with a chair to stop SHO from making it back to the ring… but for some reason Red Shoes was counting Taguchi out. He had to be stopped, as I guess we all missed a tag. Meanwhile, Suzuki’s tapping out Taguchi in the aisle, as DOUKI came in to restrain SHO, allowing Suzuki to tag in to keep up the beatings.

Sabre has a go too, trapping SHO in a mounted key lock… but SHO manages to power out with a suplex. Tanahashi gets the tag in, knocking down Sabre with a forearm efore Kanemaru and DOUKI swarmed the ring… and got summarily taken down with Dragon screws. A Cobra Twist from Sabre restrains Tanahashi, but it’s countered as tags get us to Taguchi and Suzuki.

Yeah. Minoru’s not in the mood for hip attacks this early on, countering one into a rear naked choke before DOUKI returned to land a stomp for a near-fall. The Day Breaker springboard DDT from DOUKI’s good for a near-fall, before Taguchi elbows out of a Suplex de la Luna… allowing Roppongi 3K in to land their dualling leaping knees.

The ring fills and clears, leaving us with Taguchi and DOUKI, as the latter kicks out of a roll-up before Taguchi countered his own missed hip-attack into a roll-up for the win… despite DOUKI having been rolled up so much his feet were on the ropes. That’ll not go down well with Suzuki-gun… ***

After the match, YOH seizes the camera for some close-up musical pec flexing…

Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Gedo) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & BUSHI)
It’s been a few weeks… so how’s BUSHI’s mask as his boss prepares for an upcoming title defence? THe defence of a title that Jay White steals during the entrances…

After some switching, we start with the big size differential as BUSHI and Fale open the match, but we’re quickly taken otuside for the usual guard rail shenanigans as Bad Luck Fale steals Milano Collection’s EVIL spinner and threatened to carve up BUSHI with it, I guess.

There’s more beating for BUSHI as White and Fale charged him between the guard rails and the ring apron… which led to referee Red Shoes refusing to count the pin for the obvious reasons. Gedo tags in to drop a fist, which again doesn’t get counted as Red Shoes tries to enforce the rules.

BUSHI recovers, but gets crotched on the top rope by Gedo as White took over, stopping only to spit at Naito before he got caught with a DDT by BUSHI out of nowhere. A tag brings in Naito, who lands some elbows and a low dropkick, following up with a neckbreaker in the ropes as the Intercontinental champion pushed on.

White rolls away as Naito looked to leap off the top rope, and comes back with a death valley bomb instead as Naito was suddenly on the defensive. A sleeper suplex is avoided before tags get us to Gedo and EVIL, with the latter pushing on with a release Fisherman buster for a near-fall. Fale sneaks in to flatten EVIL, with Gedo picking up a two-count, before the ring filled up, sparking another Parade of Moves.

Things calm down when BUSHI launches into Fale with a tope, while Gedo gets spun with an EVIL lariat for a near-fall, before being forced to tap to the Scorpion Deathlock. By the numbers stuff, but it’s telling that the White/Naito stuff was kept to a minimum. As was, thankfully, Fale. ***

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Shingo Takagi) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto
Having main evented at the Rev Pro Cockpit show on Sunday, SANADA’s in another main event as he prepares to challenge Okada for the IWGP title later in the tour.

Okada and SANADA start where they left off in London – well, at least SANADA was in his gear this time. Exchanging wristlocks, SANADA’s taken to the mat as Okada looked to work the leg, before they reached the obligatory stalemate so Shingo and Goto could tag in, building up to their singles match later on in the tour.

Shingo launches himself into Goto with shoulder tackles that get swatted away, before Goto rebounded off the ropes with one of his own. Goto keeps up the pressure with a kick to the back, but Shingo gets back up to spark an exchange of chops, before things spilled outside as Okada and Goto ended up in the guard rails.

Back in the ring, SANADA drops some elbows on Goto, before he had to abort a standing moonsault. Shingo’s back in to elbow away on Goto, before a suplex dropped Goto, who was quickly finding himself isolated. SANADA’s back, but Goto fought back against the numbers game and got himself free to tag in Okada…

…who went right for SANADA. The sliding back elbow catches out SANADA, before Okada went for the neckbreaker slam too soon. It’s escaped, with SANADA returning fire with a low dropkick instead before Shingo came in and had to duck out of a Rainmaker, instead responding with chops to Okada before he ran into a flapjack.

Goto tags in to go after Shingo with a back suplex, before Shingo scooped him up and fell on his back to counter a sleeperhold. A sliding lariat’s next out of Shingo for a near-fall, as the two ran at each other again, swatting away strikes until Shingo punched out Goto and landed a short Pumping Bomber.

Goto’s quickly back with an ushigoroshi, but Shingo makes it free to tag in SANADA to build up some more pressure. SANADA teases a TKO, but Goto slips out… only to get switched into a Skull End, with some added swing, which caused SANADA to lose his grip. He tries to reapply it, but Okada breaks the hold, then takes out Shingo and SANADA with separate dropkicks.

Goto picks up the pieces, picking up SANADA for an ushigoroshi, almost winning out with that, before lots of switching around took us into an O’Connor roll as SANADA eked out the win. Well, if you can’t get the Skull End locked in, you may as well try and get something else to trick out your opponent! A solid main event, but like the rest of this card, very abbreviated. ***½

With a LOT of the roster having been in England on Friday and Saturday, this was the muted show you’d expect. Your typical road-to show, with a few good flashes, but otherwise the first step on the path to bigger shows in Beppu, Kagoshima and Kobe later this month.