The major event surrounding Wrestle Kingdom 10 season that I’m most intrigued in is the January 3rd festival show, which is taking place as I publish this. It’s not because of those typical multi-mans, or the fact that Okada may play a game involving physical drums on camera again. It’s the fact that two new young lions will debut. The young lions that were unusually sky-rocketed into “crowd favorite” levels popularity as of 2015 amongst rest of the world based viewers. The same young lions that are among some’s ‘top lists’ of New Japan talent. I’ve never been into puroresu as much as I am now, so I understand the way certain processes work; whereas a year back I’d still be confused yet attempting to understand, much like listening to Japanese commentary for the very first time. Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu, will respectfully be passing the torch, as it’s symbolic of the wrestling world’s veterans vs. students concept. Except, in this case, it’s the prior dojo mainstays letting the new ones through the dorms for the first time. They’re veterans of the young lion process, introducing the “newer” future of the company to the dance, before they head out on their ever-so-important excursions.
Introducing the newest batch of young lions to join the New Japan Pro Wrestling roster: Hirai Kawato & Teruaki Kanemitsu. These boys will have to toughen up, lend their helping hands, and step into the worn-out shoes previously worn by their successors in Komatsu and Tanaka. Although I know nothing except for a few simple facts via NJPW’s website profiles of the two, I am over-the-top levels of excited for both of their debuts. In the state that New Japan’s in, fresh faces are always welcomed, as we continue to have rotation after rotation of feuds over belts, as well as fluctuating talent who deserve better than what they get (sitting on the sidelines to the big four). The simple fact that opening matches are a lot more exciting makes you want to tune into every show that airs on New Japan World. Komatsu and Tanaka made matches worth watching because of their talent. Kawato & Kanemitsu will draw intrigue based on the fact that they’re brand new rookies, but may also hold the same rule pertaining to matches they’re in. Depending on pick-up of the craft and skill level, we could have two just as good young lions; ready to be placed in any predicament possible, even sometimes beyond the opening match.
First up is Hirai Kawato, who faces Yohei Komatsu in the opener of the show. Born on March 13, 1997 in Ikeda, Osaka, he is only 18 years of age. 5″9, weighing in at 176 pounds, and secondly is Teruaki Kanemitsu, who faces Sho Tanaka in the other debut match of the show. Born on January 24, 1993 in Kobe, Hyōgo, he is 22 years of age. Standing at 5″10, weighing in at 198 pounds.
Just when you thought all of the dynamics were in play, you’re wrong. Hiromu Takahashi, otherwise known as Kamaitachi, will be returning to New Japan Pro Wrestling very soon. He was recently relieved of his crazy looking hair on CMLL’s January 1st iPPV, losing to Maximo as he bids farewell to Mexico. He’s one of the better examples of an excursion gone well. Having some of the best matches this year, as well as being one half of ‘Feud of the Year’ with Dragon Lee; the man has elevated himself to a completely different level as not only a performer, but a wrestler, during his travels to the U.K., but mostly CMLL.
The final point of discussion is ex-young lion EVIL. This is an example of going bold with a return from excursion, and an excursion that didn’t work out to its potential. Watanabe only started to pick up steam in the second-half of 2015, working for the likes of CZW, and getting a mini-push in ROH; with his last match being Jay Lethal for the World Television Championship. Upon return, Watanabe joined Los Ingobernables de Japon, and is now the character EVIL; a dark mystical big man who stops at nothing to get you hurt, keep you hurt, and keep you down for the count. He hasn’t had the ideal return as of yet, but you can’t ask for much as we’re still experiencing the trajectory of his character, as well as his progression in matches with the new persona; not the heavy-hearted “leave it all in the ring” version of himself, which was himself turned him to another level, Watanabe.
The actual passing of the torch will happen soon. When the flame lights on, Komatsu & Tanaka will be off to the races on their journeys around the globe. My best bet for Komatsu is CMLL where with his build, moveset, and pace, he could pull off incredible luchas with the like of the CMLL roster. Tanaka in ROH is the other bet, where the “pure” style of wrestling can serve as a launchpad to his improvement. It’s an ideal location, or even, hopefully more successfully, a round of the United Kingdom where he could exchange holds with some of the countries’ finest.
The young lion system is starting to deliver on more fronts than letting down, as boys like David Finlay Jr., Jay White, and Cody Hall (even a more experienced but still young lion treated Juice Robinson) are all coming into their own in their own ways as foreign but known like the back of crowds hands’ talent. The future is uncertain but bright, as tonight’s show includes the debut of those two new lions. As we dive into the new year two new lions look to transition into different roles, EVIL becomes a full time character, and lastly, Hiromu comes home. The flame burns bright as we look at the future of New Japan Pro Wrestling.