Lion’s Gate was formed in early 2016 and is a platform for the younger wrestlers of not only NJPW, but outside companies. In the beginning they used NOAH talent but now in 2017 the NOAH/NJPW relationship has dissolved thus meaning NJPW is working with other companies for their Lion’s Gate shows. For long time NJPW fans they might remember ‘Lock Up’ which is very similar to Lion’s Gate, using younger outside talent and putting them on a platform to either succeed or fail. Lock Up used talent like a young Daisuke Sekimoto as well as other long time puro outsiders like Mammoth Sasaki, GAINA, Gentaro, Yusaku Obata, and Masao Orihara among many others. I’m not going to go over Lock Up or the short history of Lion’s Gate, today I want to talk about this Lions Gate 4 card and the outside talent being used on this show. It’s very intriguing because they are using names I never thought would work for NJPW. But first let’s just give you the card for this show:
Shinjuku Face – April 13 – ‘Lions Gate 4’
1. Shota Umino vs. TAKA Michinoku
2. Hirai Kawato vs. El Desperado
3. Jado & Gedo vs. Yuma Aoyagi & Koji Iwamoto
4. YOSHI-HASHI vs. Toru Sugiura
5. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Ayato Yoshida & Dinosaur Takuma
6. Tomoyuki Oka & Yuji Nagata vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Katsuya Kitamura
The opening match pits newcomer ‘Shota Umino’ making his debut against Taka Michinoku, who’s in his 25th year of professional wrestling. I don’t know much about Umino as he is only 19 years old weighing 93kg. He has a background in baseball and maybe the most fun fact about this kid is that he is the son of non-other than Red Shoes Unno! Yes, very popular NJPW ref Red Shoes has a kid in the dojo! I had no clue of this but it’s pretty cool. Taka is very well versed in working with rookies, he owns and runs his own dojo/promotion ‘Kaientai Dojo’ where two guys who will be later on in the card trained. No clue what this match will be like but Taka Michinoku is one of the most timeless and best wrestlers ever in my opinion who will lead the way.
Next up is one of two matches featuring just NJPW guys. Hirai Kawato who has slowly won me over against one of the more underrated talents in Japan, El Desperado. Because Despy is apart of the SZKG antics we sometimes forget how good he is. Go watch his earlier stuff in 2013/in Mexico. He is a great talent. Kawato is developing into a very good worker has nearly every guy who comes out of the NJPW does. His dropkick is superb, this will be 6 minutes and harmless.
Moving onto match #3 and my most anticipated match of the evening without a doubt. Not only does it feature one of my favorite tag teams of all time and head bookers of NJPW, but it features a couple of Uncle Jun’s hottest young talents in Koji Iwamoto & Yuma Aoyagi. This will be a tremendous junior tag, I’m so excited for this. You don’t even know. Yuma & Koji are from All Japan Pro Wrestling owned and operated by Jun Akiyama. NJPW might remember Yuma from his Super J-Cup appearance last year in a terrible match against Taichi. Yuma wasn’t given much of a chance to succeed in that match but this will be something completely different… I promise. Yuma is into his third year of wrestling and over the past year he has made some insane improvements. He is really starting to look like a superstar, I believe whole-hardheartedly that one day Yuma will be a Triple Crown Champion. His charisma is off the charts and his in-ring talents speak for themselves. I highly recommend his match against Keisuke Ishii from January this year which I gave **** and his match against Yohei Nakajima in February which is one of the best pro wrestling sprints I’ve EVER seen. Now onto Koji Iwamoto, I’d like to consider myself in the ‘indie puro bubble’ on Twitter and this guy has been a favorite of ours for over a year now. He broke out in HEAT-UP early last year and ever since then his been on everyone’s radar. Akiyama was able to pick him up and persuade him to leave his home promotion ‘Sportiva’ for a full time spot on the AJPW roster. Since joining AJPW he has been very successful, he won the 2017 Junior Battle of Glory and semi-main evented Korakuen Hall against Keisuke Ishii in a tremendous match. Iwamoto will be a heavyweight star one day as well. This will be awesome and I’m hoping for an upset. Don’t be shocked if one of the AJPW guys are in the BOSJ this year either.
Match #4 is a match I NEVER thought would ever possibly happen but 2017 has been full of surprises and this is a huge one. Non-other than FREEDOMS roster member Toru Sugiura will be making his NJPW debut against TACOS! This is so goddamn cool, will be a very interesting and good matchup also! I doubt many of you reading will know much about Toru and rightfully so, he has been on the indies since his career started. His debut match was against non-other than Katsuhiko Nakajima! Since 2009 he’s been applying his trade everywhere from Kensuke Office to GUTS WORLD until finding his home at FREEDOMS owned and operated by Takashi Sasaki & Jun Kasai. He’s improved rapidly over his 8 year career and has had many wars with guys like Kasai and tag partner Mammoth Sasaki. He is the currently one half of the FREEDOMS Tag Champs with Mammoth. Last awesome match of his I can remember is from November last year teaming with Mammoth against Yuya Susumu & HAYATA.
This next match is sort of insane and it’s the semi-main event. I’m not complaining in the slightest, as I think this will be a good match and I’m so happy for Ayato Yoshida getting spotlight at this level. Dinosaur Takuma is good in ring and he is a goddamn Dinosaur so how can you not love the man! He will always reply to your tweets in English as well, so hit him up and tell him I sent you (hehe). Let’s talk about Ayato Yoshida though. This guy is a youngster from Osaka who’s been wrestling for just 2 years now and is one of the best young prospects K-Dojo has to offer. Taka thinks very highly of him as he put him over a week ago and is going on to main event Korakuen Hall against Kengo Mashimo for the Champion of Strongest-K Title in April, which I see him winning. They will obviously pick up the L against the NJPW Tag Champs but it will be great to see the young K-Dojo boys have this spotlight. They will most certainly deliver.
The main event is beautiful and makes tons of sense if you’re a big time NJPW fan. An outsider looking in just sees two young guys teaming with different dads but, no no no! You are so wrong. This is super interesting because in NJPW every veteran is allotted a young boy who travels, trains and cooks for them among other things. Oka is Nagata’s young boy and Nagata is very proud of that. Kitamura is Nakanishi’s young boy which makes tons of sense because they are both very big humans. Kitamura is the most muscular guy on the roster and he has only had a handful of matches. Physically the changes between Oka and Kitamura are very different, Oka’s rocking the dad bod and Kitamura is stage ready. Kitamura has looked good in the few matches he’s had, but Oka already looks like a polished performer just months into his career. He will be a champion in NJPW once he gets out of the young boy stage and develops some charisma. Based on looks alone NJPW will push Kitamura but I believe he has what it takes to produce great matches one day. This will be great, not to mention Nagata is one of my favorites of all time and the current dad version of Nakanishi is probably my favorite version of Nakanishi. This will be great!
There you have it, everything you need to know about Lions Gate 4 and the guys involved on the show. I will be back with the review after this show takes place, no word yet on if this show airs live on NJPW World but I’ll have a review up one way or another. Thank you for reading.