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NJPW bringing back Young Lion's Cup

After being dormant for over 12 years, New Japan Pro Wrestling announced last night that the Young Lion’s Cup tournament would be making a return on their Lion’s Gate Project events.

It will be called the Kotetsu Yamamoto Memorial 11th Young Lion Cup tournament, in honor of Yamamoto who was a longtime trainer in the New Japan Dojo after retiring from active competition in 1980. The format this time around will be round-robin style, taking place on more than one show with six young lions vying for the cup. They are:

  • Tomoyuki Oka, 26, a former amateur wrestling champion
  • Katsuya Kitamura, 31, another former amateur wrestling champion whose career in that field was cut short after testing positive for steroids in 2011 
  • Hirai Kawato, 20, who has trained in MMA and joined NJPW right out of high school, making him one of the youngest wrestlers on the roster
  • Ren Narita, 20, who is actually a few months younger than Kawato, making him the youngest member of the NJPW roster 
  • Shota Umino, 20, who is the son of NJPW referee Red Shoes Unno
  • Tetsuhiro Yagi, 25, who has a background in baseball and is the newest young lion, having debuted this past April

Lion’s Gate 8 on October 12th will kick things off with Kawato vs. Narita, Kitamura vs. Yagi, and Umino vs. Oka.

The last tournament was held in 2005, with Hirooki Goto defeating independent wrestler Hiroyuki Ito to win the cup. Previous winners have included Keiichi Yamada (Jushin Thunder Liger), Masahiro Chono, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi, and Ryusuke Taguchi.