NJPW Lion’s Gate Project 5 (5.9.17)

We’re back in Tokyo for another New Japan World show… but it’s Shinjuku FACE this time as it’s time for another insight into the latest batch of Young Lions!

New Japan’s looking to make Lion’s Gate more of a regular thing after it took a hiatus at the end of 2016 – and we’re back with more of the same, this time featuring folks from the smaller K-Dojo and HEAT UP promotions.

Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Hirai Kawato
It’s a debut for Yagi here, and we get to wheel out the usual line about New Japan’s dojo continuing to churn out new faces at a rate of knots. There’s plenty of grappling early as Kawato tries a toe hold, but Yagi crawls to the ropes, only for Kawato to drag him back and into the same hold.

Yagi counters with an armbar, this time forcing Kawato to break via the ropes, and they return by slapping the holy hell out of each other! Kawato gets a couple of near-falls out of a simple slam, but Yagi returns the favour with a dropkick and another slam. A Boston crab from Yagi is quickly broken via the ropes, allowing Kawato to make a comeback of sorts, slamming the debutant repeatedly, before catching Yagi in a Boston crab for the submission after the five-minute mark. **¼

I love the way the Young Lions are handled in these sort of matches here – basic holds, and having to learn how to win matches against each other using the basics before “learning” new techniques. It forces them to make everything mean something, which is only a good thing for their development.

Shota Umino vs. El Desperado
Last time out, Desperado had a fun match against Kawato – let’s see if he’s able to keep that up against an even less experienced Lion. Desperado starts with a go behind, mockingly slapping Umino as he tried… anything really.

Umino’s attempt at a waistlock quickly ends in an armbar from Desperado, which somehow gets reversed, only for Despy to take him down as he decided to work over the leg. A take on a sleeperhold keeps Umino at bay, but the youngster manages to make the ropes, then head outside as Desperado decides to follow him and throw the kid into the ring post.

Umino beats the count-out, but quickly gets slammed for a near-fall, then caught in a camel clutch that he somehow broke by reversing into the ropes. That inspires ol’ Black Shoes Umino into fighting back, but Desperado’s outclassing him in every department, taking the rookie into the corner for some chops, before shoving him down.

A dropkick gets Umino back into it briefly, as he charges into Desperado with a back elbow before a hiptoss got him a near-fall. We almost saw a submission as Desperado fought to break free of a single-leg crab, before he went back to the chops, only to get surprised with an inside cradle for a near-fall.

In the end though, a spear from Desperado saw him re-assert his dominance for a near-fall, before a double underhook powerbomb – the Guitarra de Angel – earned him the win. Decent, but this was a virtual squash of young Shota. **

Dinosaur Takuma & Toru Sugiura vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Tiger Mask
Yes! The Dinosaur from K-Dojo is back! Or as Chris Charlton put it on Twitter… “a human, a bull, a tiger and a dinosaur walked into a wrestling ring…”

The Tiger and the Dinosaur start us off, with a wristlock being broken… because Takuma’s tail hit the ropes. Great stuff! Tiger Mask went for the tail in response, then grabbed a chinlock before standing on the tail to keep Takuma on the ground. Comedy!

A couple of tags took us to Tenzan and Toru, who exchanged shoulder tackles in a battle that the veteran won as he followed up with some Mongolian chops for effect. Sugiura manages to get a near-fall from a slam on Tenzan, who’s then left laying by a pair of shoulder tackles as the Dino returned to bite away on him.

Tenzan returned fire with a Mountain bomb for a near-fall, as Tiger Mask returned to keep dropkicking away on the Dinosaur. Tiger Mask and Sugiura had an exchange that led to a back elbow for a near-fall, along with a Northern lights suplex and a Samoan drop on Tiger, before a missile dropkick forces Tenzan to break up the cover.

Tenzan comes back in to work over Toru with headbutts in the corner, which led to an avalanche splash and a suplex out of the opposite corner for a near-fall. Sugiura impressively launches back by leaping to the top rope for a crossbody on Tenzan, who then took a Samoan drop from the Dinosaur for another near-fall as Tiger and Toru spilled to the outside.

The fixed camera missed a lot of the brawling, which seemed to involve Tiger being thrown into a chair, but was able to show Tenzan trapping Takuma in an armbar, before landing a uranage and locking in an Anaconda Vice for the submission. A fun outing, and yes, I want to see more of the wrestling dinosaur! ***

Daisuke Kanehira vs. YOSHI-HASHI
Kanehira plies his trade for the Japanese independent promotion HEAT UP, but this is the 32-year-old’s biggest test to date. He starts by being taken down with a headlock from YOSHI-HASHI, before powering up and trying his luck with shoulder tackles… and succeeding too!

YOSHI-HASHI changes things up by dragging Kanehira out of the ring and taking him into the aisle – thank you, fixed camera! – before whipping the relative newcomer into the ring post. Back inside, YOSHI-HASHI keeps down Kanehira with a chinlock, before throwing some chops as he kept his foe cornered.

The attack continues with a dropkick as Kanehira was hung in the ropes, before he finally got some offence in, catching a kick and taking down YOSHI-HASHI with a Dragon screw. A couple of armbars from Kanehira almost force YOSHI-HASHI to give up, but in the end, the CHAOS member recovered to hit a flipping powerbomb for a near-fall, before going back and forth with some forearms.

Kanehira goes back to the armbar, but YOSHI-HASHI can only wriggle into a triangle choke as Kanehira’s armbar is quickly broken up as they roll into the ropes. YOSHI-HASHI replies with a left-arm lariat for a near-fall, before locking in a Butterfly lock for the eventual submission. Another decent, yet unspectacular outing. **½

Ayato Yoshida vs. Satoshi Kojima
Yoshida’s another from the K-Dojo, whilst Kojima’s wrestling his first singles match in nine months – and it’s the Bread Club leader who’s on the back foot, having to defend against an early armbar from Yoshida, before landing a shoulder tackle.

Unfortunately for Kojima, he takes a snapmare and a kick to the back as Yoshida heads outside briefly, before Kojima took over with a neckbreaker when he was rolled back inside. A side Russian legsweep follows for a two-count, as Kojima follows up with some regular-speed chops in the corner that slowly build up into his traditional rapid-fire chops.

Yoshida knocks Kojima off the top rope as he teased an elbow drop, and we’re back outside for Kojima to hit a clothesline to the ankles, acting as a leg sweep as he prepared to DDT his opponent on the apron. Such violence… has Satoshi had bread withdrawals? The punishment continues with a DDT in the ring, and this crowd is lapping up everything from Kojima.

Yoshida hits a bulldog, then a series of PKs to get a near-fall, before he went to what looked like a modified chicken wing that Kojima broke via the ropes. Kojima runs into a uranage as he went for his lariat, before being forced to fight out of a guillotine choke… successfully doing so as he powered up into a brainbuster for a two-count.

Another clothesline effort is blocked, but third time was the charm as Kojima picked up the win – his first in singles action in over a year (a New Japan Cup win over Tomoaki Honma last March). A decent outing, but one that felt way too short. **½

Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata
The students were against their teachers here, and we started with Kitamura against Nakanishi – the new and old “power guys”. Of course they trade shoulder tackles, with neither guy budging until they decided to start chopping… and it’s when Kitamura gets chopped in the throat that Nakanishi starts to get the upper hand on things.

Yuji Nagata comes in and just shoves Kitamura into a tag, so we get Nagata and Oka – the latter of which gets a nice chant from the Tokyo crowd. Oka trips Nagata, but the veteran popped back up as he shrugged off the newbie’s offence in the early stages. Eventually Oka gets ahead with a headlock as he drags Nagata into the corner for some chops from Kitamura… but Yuji gives as good as he got, and the pair continued to trade chops and kicks.

A solid kick to the back sees Nagata send Kitamura reeling, and it’s his turn to get cornered as the two veterans switch between attacking him and knocking Oka off the apron. An armbar forces Kitamura to reach for the ropes, but Nagata stays on top of him with some armbreakers, before Nakanishi did more of the same. Some headbutts follow, but Kitamura tries to fight back with chops… which are certainly loud and impressive, but they barely move Nakanishi, who just cross-chops Kitamura in the throat.

After taking a suplex from Kitamura, Nakanishi stood his ground from an Oka slam, but Nagata had no way to block an overhead belly-to-belly from his mentee. Nakanishi takes that slam eventually for a near-fall, as Oka switched up to a Boston crab, but of course Nakanishi made the ropes, before he speared Oka and made a tag out.

We’re back to Nagata, who boots Kitamura in the face, only for the big guy to hit a dropkick in response. The students then ape their mentors as Kitamura has Nagata in an Argentine backbreaker whilst Nakanishi is caught in a Nagata lock by Oka. It’s broken up as Kitamura decides to go for a Boston crab, which Nakanishi just breaks up with a slam as he slams the two newbies. Lariats and boots follow for a near-fall, before Oka eats a double axehandle off the top from Nakanishi and a Nagata enziguiri… which just left him to take the Backdrop Hold for the win. Fun stuff here, as Kitamura and Oka may certainly have shown everything they were taught… but are definitely some way off knowing everything their mentors know! ***

After the match, Oka and Kitamura slapped away the offer of a handshake from their trainers, and I would dare say that this is a feud that’ll continue here for some time to come!

As a show, this stayed true to the Lion’s Gate pattern – a really easy show to watch, but nothing that you absolutely need to watch unless you’ve got a keen eye for the next generation of New Japan’s black-trunk’d grapplers.

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