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Lion's Gate Project 1 results: Nagata vs. Kitamiya; NJPW and NOAH rookies shine

Lion's Gate

Announced last year, this morning’s Lion’s Gate event was the first in what is to be a regular series of events highlighting rookies from New Japan, NOAH, and other associated promotions with New Japan. Tonight’s card is a mixture of NOAH and New Japan rookies and veterans squaring off in a nice mix of singles and tag matches.

Takumi Honjo vs. Shuhei Taniguchi

Taniguchi is the former Maybach Taniguchi who I guess has taken off his mask in recent weeks and has sided in NOAH in their battle against Suzuki-gun. This is Honjo’s debut match, graduating from the New Japan dojo. The former Maybach isn’t the best first match to have. Honjo looked like someone in his first match and Taniguchi wasn’t that good. Honjo got some chants going for him at least. Taniguchi got the win quickly with a Boston crab.

Kawato Hirato vs. Hitoshi Kumano

Kawato is the really young NJPW lion, only 18 years old. He looked good here and showed some fire with his offense, and his strikes look good. This didn’t last long either. Kuwato him have some offense, cut him off and pinned him with a fisherman’s suplex.

Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Ryusuke Taguchi

Kiyomiya is a NOAH rookie, wearing green tights as I guess that’s the rule over in that promotion. He has a good dropkick and handled basics pretty well. It was very much in the same formula as the previous two matches. Taguchi eventually cut him off and got the win with the dodon.

David Finlay vs. Taiji Ishimori

Pretty good while it lasted. Ishimori came off looking really good, doing some great dynamic spots throughout the match. I wonder why he didn’t get a spot in the Super Juniors tournament last year. Finlay got some great near falls and submissions, including the stretch muffler. Ishimori gave him a lot. ishimori gave him a uranage then followed with a 450 for the win.

Jay White vs. Yoshinari Ogawa

Another good match. White looked good here too. He’s the best out of the current crop of the young lions in terms of overall athleticism and ability. He would have been my rookie of the year if Chad Gable hadn’t come along. He took a lot of this match and people were behind him big time. He even handled some mat wrestling with Ogawa well. He cut him off with an eye poke and tried to go for a superplex but White stopped him. Ogawa avoided him, gave him a dragon screw and put him in a figure four, submitting him.

Lion’s Gate Project 2 was announced for 5/19.

Quiet Storm vs. Manabu Nakanishi

I haven’t seen a singles bout from Nakanishi in forever. There’s a good reason for that. Storm is an interesting story as he wrestled in the very early era of Ring of Honor, was mostly a small independent level guy, then went to Japan in the mid 2000s and has pretty much found consistent work there ever since. They did a lot of big guy spots even though Nakanishi is about a head taller than Storm. Wasn’t bad. Nakanishi can only do so much, but he got all of this spots in and was fine. After Storm teased putting the Rack on Nakanishi, he cut him off and put him in the rack, with Storm quickly submitting.

Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Genba Hirayanagi & Captain NOAH

Genba was billed as Captain Genba as he was wearing a mask like Captain NOAH’s. Kojima & Tenzan dominated a lot of the match. Genba got heat momentarily by cutting off Kojima with a testicular claw. That’s one way of halting a comeback. The masked duo got double submissions on Tencozy but they didn’t submit. Kojima came back with a diamond cutter and a brainbuster but NOAH broke it up, only to get a 3D. Genba tried to get a cheap win with the claw again and a roll up, but Kojima hit the ropes and scored a lariat for the win. Perfectly fine match.

Juice Robinson vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima

This was pretty good. Robinson was given a lot and has improved a lot in his time here with New Japan. He’s that weird situation where it doesn’t seem like he’s a young lion, but not really a pushed guy either in New Japan, so he was given a lot more here than other young lions in previous matches. Nakajima is riding a big wave of momentum as he’s pinned Minoru Suzuki and is probably next in line for the GHC Heavyweight title. Robinson also got over big time with the crowd as they were with him from the start. Lots of back and forth great action. Nothing too fancy, but a really well worked match that people got into. Nakajima picked up the win after a brainbuster.

Yuji Nagata vs. Mitsuhiro Kitamiya

Kitamiya looked good against Nagata, who did a good job in this match. There’s the occasional showing his age signs here and there, but he’s still a tremendous preformer and looked great here. He gave Kitamiya a lot and they had a pretty good back and forth match, as was the theme for many of tonight's matches. Nagata hit the backdrop driver but Kitamiya kicked out. Kitamiya laid into Nagata with some slaps but Nagata no sold them and fired back with another backdrop driver for the win. Very nice main event with a great finish.

Nagata said a few things to close out the show.

Overall, this was a solid show. Quality wise, maybe about your average New Japan house show, maybe a little less. Nothing really bad, mostly solid to good. The unique matches really added a lot to the show and made it a fun watch.