NJPW “LionsGate Project 11” 2018 review: Yuji Nagata and Shota Umino vs. Ayato Yoshida and Go Asakawa headlines the annual Young Lions showcase

By Anish Vishwakoti, Prowrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “LionsGate Project 11”
April 10, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan at Shinjuku Face Arena
Broadcast live on New Japan World

NJPW has been holding an annual showcase of their young Lion class every year for the past eleven. This year’s event featured young NJPW talent as well as outside talent from Michinoku Pro Wrestling and Kaientai Dojo (Taka Michinoku’s training school/ promotion).

1. Yuya Uemura vs. Ren Narita. This is Uemuras in ring debut. To kick things off, this year’s Lionsgate Project included the debut match for one of NJPW’s young lions. The match started off with a simple lockup and quickly the two wrestlers grappled for control of each other’s backs for the first part of the match. This ended with a clean break. Narita then managed to get a hold of Uemura’s head. While Narita wrenched his head around, Uemura delivered a series of elbows to Narita’s back.

Thinking this was enough to weaken Narita, Uemura attempted to slingshot Narita off the ropes, however Narita kept his grip and wrestled Uemura to the ground. Here, they exchanged holds on the ground for a while until Uemura managed to get to his feet and slingshot Narita off the ropes. However Narita simply hit him with a shoulder block to keep the momentum on his side.

Narita then attempted a face lock from a camel clutch position, however Uemura got to the ropes, frustrating Narita. Narita then changed strategy and began furiously stomping and striking Uemura, allowing Uemura to show some fire by slapping an angry Narita. Uemura and Narita then exchanged strikes before Narita unsuccessfully attempted a single leg Boston Crab. After this, Narita bounced off the ropes and got hit by Uemura’s dropkick. They exchanged strikes with Uemura remaining in control, until Narita managed to hit a dropkick of his own and lock in a Boston Crab for the win…

Ren Narita defeated Yuya Uemura.

Anish’s Take: Strong opening match. Since both of these guys are limber and quick they were able to make each other’s moves look strong by bouncing around the ring selling for each other. They also kept the pace of the match up and didn’t try to drag a grandiose story out of what ended up being a very simple one on one match. Nothing wrong with that, fine way to start the show.

2. Tsuji Yota vs. Tomoyuki Oka. This is Yota’s in ring debut. The bigger Oka started the match by hitting a few single leg takedowns to assert dominance. Oka and Yota then exchanged leg kicks before Oka grabbed Yota’s head and rand him off the ropes into a big shoulder block. Yota attempted to power out and showed some fire by hitting a big chop, however Oka responded with an impressive hip toss and a series of strikes and a scoop slam.

Oka then attempted a face lock and transitioned to a painful looking camel clutch, however Yota managed to get to the ropes and kick Oka off. Yota used his speed to duck under Oka and hit a dropkick, he then drove Oka into the corner and hit a series of chops, although Oka eventually hit him with a shoulder block and chopped him to the ground. Here, Oka locked in a Boston Crab and got the submission victory…

Tomoyuki Oka defeated Tsuji Yota.

Anish’s Take: Very short match, however the style pairing of Oka and Yota made for entertaining viewing as two big bald guys tried to beat the hell out of each other. Oka looked strong by taking out a fiery newcomer in his debut, so all in all, not a bad way to continue the show.

3. Tetsuhiro Yagi and Tiger Mask vs. Hiro Saito and Gedo. Tiger Mask and Gedo started this one off, with Gedo immediately leaving the ring in a heelish manner, frustrating Tiger Mask, who eagerly awaited in the ring. After a short test of strength between the two veterans, Gedo and Tiger Mask exchanged holds on the ground, with Gedo attempting a cloverleaf, before Tiger Mask countered into an armbar. When they got back to their feet, Gedo quickly tagged out and Tiger Mask responded in kind.

Saito used his superior strength to force Yagi to the ground, getting him in a leg lock, however Yagi used the ropes to break the hold. The crowd definitely seemed behind Yagi at this point, this feeling was furthered as Saito and Gedo cut the ring in half and wailed on Yagi in their corner. Saito also used a chair on the outside as Gedo distracted the referee inside the ring. Saito hit Yagi with a DDT on the floor, prompting more crowd sympathy for Yagi.

Gedo pulled Yagi back in the ring and started mocking him before he and Saito hit a double shoulder block. Gedo and Saito beat on Yagi for a little longer, with Tiger Mask having to make the save when they went for the cover. Finally, Yagi managed to hit Saito with a dropkick and make the hot tag to Tiger Mask, who drove Gedo out of the ring and attempted a Tiger Bomb on Saito. Saito managed to reverse this and hit a dropkick from the second rope, before making the tag to Gedo.

Gedo and Tiger Mask exchanged holds for a while, before Tiger Mask tagged in a vengeful Yagi who ran through Gedo and eventually locked in a single leg Boston Crab. Gedo was able to get to the ropes, and when Yagi attempted another Crab, Gedo lured him in for a pair of Senton’s from Saito, allowing him to get the pin…

Gedo and Hiro Saito defeated Tetsuhiro Yagi and Tiger Mask.

Anish’s Take: A very fun tag match that showcased Gedo’s heel tactics more than anything else. This was definitely effective in allowing Yagi to show his fire though, and the crowd were definitely on his side as Gedo and Saito used their strength and cunning to get their way. Tiger Mask was a good face foil for Saito as the main story here was between Gedo and Yagi. Tiger Mask didn’t add much to the match, but he didn’t detract from it either, all three of these veterans worked together to make Yagi look good in the ring.

4. Manabu Nakanishi and Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Ken45° and MANJIMARU. MANJIMARU and Ken45° are wrestlers representing Michinoku Pro Wrestling, and they’re paired up here with NJPW legends, Tenzan and Nakanishi. Tenzan and MANJIMARU started as the two legal men with Tenzan immediately showcasing his strength, blocking takedown attempts with massive shoulder blocks to MANJIMARU. Both of them tagged in their respective partners, and Nakanishi towered over Ken45°, driving him into the corner using chops and following up with a clothesline and then double stomps with Tenzan.

Tenzan hit his signature chops, before MANJIMARU and Ken45° dragged the two veterans to the outside to gain an advantage. MANJIMARU even used a chair on Tenzan’s back before throwing him back in the ring. While MANJMARU distracted the ref, Ken45° used his hips to force Tenzan’s neck onto the ropes, choking him. From here the Michinoku Pro Wrestlers cut the ring in half, using quick tags to maintain control over Tenzan.

At one point, MANJIMARU showcased his strength by lifting Tenzan for an impressive looking Suplex. Finally, Tenzan managed to fight out, hitting Ken45° with a northern lights Suplex, allowing Nakanishi to get tagged in. Nakanishi then came in and cleared house, hitting Ken45° and MANJIMARU with a double Suplex.

Nakanishi then tagged in Tenzan who ran through the two with clotheslines, although Ken45° and MANJIMARU eventually fought back and used their numbers to regain control. This didn’t last long however as Nakanishi stormed the ring, and after a double team maneuver, a clothesline from Tenzan and a crossface, Tenzan got the submission victory…

Manabu Nakanishi and Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated MANJIMARU and Ken45°.

Anish’s Take: This was a rather slow tag match. Although it wasn’t bad by any means, as the crowd were definitely into it, probably due to the presence of legends in Tenzan and Nakanishi. The Michinoku Pro Wrestlers definitely had chemistry with each other, however they didn’t have the best in-ring dynamics with Tenzan and Nakanishi.

5. Yuji Nagata and Shota Umino vs. Ayato Yoshida and Go Asakawa. Yoshida and Asakawa are representing Kaientai dojo here. Asakawa and Umino started things off in this match, exchanging very fast paced strikes and throws. The crowd were very much behind Umino. Yoshida tagged in quickly, as did Nagata, the two started going at it with more fast paced strikes and grapples, notably a lot of kicks by Nagata.

Asakawa and Yoshida tried to back Nagata into a corner but the veteran fought out of it and allowed Umino to tag in and take control of Asakawa. This didn’t last long as Asakawa tagged inn Yoshida who took Umino down with strikes and a powerbomb. From here, the two Kaientai wrestler tagged in and out, hitting Umino with repeated scoop slams. They also kicked Nagata off the apron multiple times, allowing Asakawa to lock in a dragon sleeper. Eventually, Umino hit Yoshida with a dropkick, and tagged in Nagata who stormed the ring and laid into Asakawa with a barrage of kicks and a Suplex, followed by a crossface attempt which was broken up. Asakawa managed to hit Nagata with a clothesline and tag in Yoshida, who went toe to toe with Nagata, striking him with kicks and forearms.

Nagata got the better of the exchange and tagged in Umino, who hit a quick dropkick. Nagata and Umino then double-teamed Yoshida, with Umino hitting a massive dropkick on Yoshida, leading to a two count. Umino tried to mount a final offensive, hitting Yoshida with a flurry of strikes, however Yoshida managed to hit Umino with a disorienting knee. This allowed Yoshida to knock Nagata off the apron and subsequently hit Umino with a belly to back Suplex to gain the pinfall victory…

Go Asakawa and Ayato Yoshida defeated Yuji Nagata and Shota Umino.

Anish’s Take: This was a really fun match, with the two heels telling a great story across from the veteran Nagata and the crowd favorite Shota Umino. The two Kaientai wrestlers synced well with Nagata and Umino and all four wrestlers managed to show what they could do in the ring before the finish came. It also didn’t overstay it’s welcome, acting as a very fast paced finish to a show that at times dragged along. What’s odd is that on the NJPW website it states that Nagata and Umino won, which is odd because they certainly didn’t, this is likely a simple mistake.

After the match, Yoshida grabbed a mic, speaking to Nagata he stated that because of his victory today he’d like one thing. He asked for a singles match with Yuji Nagata. Nagata stated that he can’t just make matches like that, instead he would ask the fans what they thought. The fans chanted for Ayato Yoshida in approval. Nagata asked the fans once more if they really wanted to see that, and they chanted approvingly again. Nagata then stated that he would grant this wish and that himself and Yoshida would give the fans what they wanted soon, but for now he was also going to leave it to Yoshida to close the show. Yoshida closed the show by grabbing the mic and stating that he was happy to get this opportunity from Nagata. He stated he would show everyone the truth that he will not run away from Nagata. He thanked everyone for coming and the show ended with the fans cheering for Yoshida and Asakawa…

Anish’s Take: Final Thoughts – If you don’t have time to watch the whole show but still want an idea of what the best of the Lionsgate project shows are like then definitely check out the opening match as it was a fun one and showcased the typical Young Lion style. Also if you can, check out the main event tag match, it highlighted two great talents from Kaeintai Pro Wrestling and also showed off Shota Umino, who has been getting some good fan reactions recently.


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