NJPW Lion’s Gate Project1 Review

Air Date: 25/2/16

It seems like every promotion in Japan has a rookie show now, and not to be out done NJPW is joining the fray with Lion’s Gate Project. This show features a mix of guys from NJPW and NOAH which is pretty exciting even if they aren’t the top guys from either promotion. Before the show starts proper we get an amateur wrestling exhibition between NJPW’s two heavyweight young lions, Katsuya Kitamura and Tomoyuki Oka. It only went a few minutes, ended in a tie, and was generally fine.

Takumi Honjo vs. Maybach Taniguchi

Honjo is one of NJPW’s new Young Lions this year, and this match was your standard grumpy veteran beating the hell out of a rookie. It’s far too early to make any meaningful assessments of Honjo, but he looked okay enough and took a beating like a champ so he has that much going for him. Taniguchi submits Honjo with a Boston Crab ** ¼

Hitoshi Kumano vs. Hirai Kawato

Kawato was on Nakamura’s retirement show so it’s fair to say he is one of the top prospects in the dojo right now. To that end, while this relied a lot on the veteran v rookie dynamic Kawato actually got to go a little more evenly against Kumano. Hirai even got to fire up a little before getting the loss and his fire actually left me impressed. Kumano was better in his role than Taniguchi was in the last match as well since he has much more dynamic offence, good stuff all round. Kumano pins Kawato with a Fishermen’s Suplex ** ¾

Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kaito Kiyomiya

Kiyomiya is a NOAH rookie, and while he needs to work on his body a little he really impressed here. He did some basic high flying, like a cross body which looked alright, if a little sloppy. Taguchi was all business here and really helped walk the young guy through a fun match. Taguchi pins Kiyomiya ** ¾

David Finlay vs. Taiji Ishimori

We are at the point in this card where matches start to really get good. Finlay got a decent amount of offence against the veteran junior, and these two had a stiff as fuck back and forth match. Finlay always looks great and he really went all out here and boy did this match deliver because of it. Ishimori pins Finlay with a 450 Splash ***

Jay White vs. Yoshinari Ogawa

This was a very matwork heavy match built around Ogawa going after White’s leg. White sold his leg pretty well, and Ogawa was fairly vicious going after it so the story was told well. My only real issue with this was that, like a lot of matches on this show, it wasn’t all that exciting. Ogawa didn’t do much interesting or dynamic when going after the leg, which obviously hurt things a fair amount. Ogawa submits White ** ½

Manabu Nakanishi vs. Quiet Storm

On paper this looks like an awful match, but this was a great mean guy match. It was just two big, heavyweight monsters going after each other and it was a damn joy to watch. It feels weird to say this, but it might even be the best match on the card so far. Nakanishi submits Storm *** ¼

TenKoji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) vs. Captain NOAH and Genba Hirayanagi

Genba came out wearing a Captain NOAH mask and refused to take it off. This was a totally fine, traditionally structured tag match. TenKoji are obviously incredibly over in front of this crowd which is important in this kind of a match. Kojima pins Genba ** ½

Juice Robinson vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima

Juice looked absolutely great here, it might be his best match since coming to Japan even busting out some things I’ve never seen from him before. He came across more confident, and took a hell of a beating from Nakajima while dishing out the same. It’s a credit to both men that there were several times when it was completely believable that Juice was going to pin Nakajima. Nakajima pins Juice with a Brainbuster *** ½

Yuji Nagata vs. Mitsuhiro Kitamiya

Nagata was a full on grumpy old man in this match and it was glorious to watch. He and Kitamiya just beat the crap out of each other, with Nagata trying to beat some damn respect into the young Kitamiya. This was a fun main event to a fun show. Nagata pins Kitamiya ***

Overall: 6.0

I wouldn’t make this show a priority by any means, but it was a fun watch with the second half being better than the first. It’ll be fun to watch these shows going forward to see guys like Juice get some big matches.


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