New Japan Pro Wrestling returns to action with LION’S GATE PROJECT3 this Thursday, September 1st in Tokyo. Like its predecessors, LG3 takes place at Shinjuku FACE in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district. The show will be also broadcast live on New Japan World and be available for on-demand viewing shortly after completion.
This preview is intended to give you some background on the younger competitors. For reference, I’ve included match and article links throughout.
Tomoyuki Oka vs. Katsuya Kitamura
A welcome last-minute addition to the card. This will be a five minute exhibition match between NJPW’s top two heavyweight prospects; a follow-up to their slightly awkward, yet athletically impressive amateur-rule exhibition match on LG1.
Kitamura was an accomplished, three-time national amateur champion at 96kg (211 lb.). A two-year ban for anabolic steroids forced him to miss the 2012 London Olympics. Already 30 years-old, Kitamura is older than guys like Okada, Elgin and EVIL. He’s getting a very late start on his career, especially by New Japan standards.
Oka is more of a traditional prospect at 25 years old. He originally gained some buzz for his love of anime. Oka’s got his share of amateur and combat wrestling credentials, as well.
Henare NJPW Debut Match
Henare vs. Quiet Storm (NOAH)
Already billed as a heavyweight, Henare (23) will be making his New Japan debut. He’s spent months in the dojo, and was originally scouted by Jay White and Bad Luck Fale in New Zealand. Henare could be seen working ringside duties throughout the G1.
NOAH’s gaijin mainstay Quiet Storm will stand across the ring. His name has become somewhat ironic as Storm is known for his not-so-quiet grunting and yelling in the ring.
Hirai Kawato vs. Hajime Ohara (NOAH)
This will be Kawato’s first match since LG2 in May. Still only 19 years old, he has plenty of time to develop. Kawato has flashed impressive kicks that have been hyped since his public tryout. The young junior heavyweight delivered a perfectly acceptable performance against NOAH’s Kaito Kiyomiya on LG2.
Ohara is an excellent wrestler, one of my personal favorites in Japan. He’s an established NOAH junior heavyweight, and was originally trained by Ultimo Dragon.
Given their fondness of kicks, Kawato might be a better style fit against Kenoh down the road. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing how Ohara’s entertaining style meshes with Kawato’s developing demeanor.
Teruaki Kanemitsu vs. Kenoh (NOAH)
Like Kawato, Teruaki Kanemitsu (23) will also be working his first match since LG2. Prior to their hiatus, Kanemitsu was slightly ahead of the younger Kawato. Kanemitsu showed aggression and fire in a 10-minute draw against NOAH’s Shiro Tomoyose on LG2.
Kenoh is a key player in NOAH’s junior heavyweight division. He’s coming off a failed GHC Junior Heavyweight title match (his second of the year) and a good showing in the 2016 SUPER J-CUP.
Tomoaki Honma vs. Shiro Tomoyose (NOAH)
Tomoyose (25) debuted last May, but missed almost five months due to injury. Currently still listed as a junior heavyweight, Tomoyose is surprisingly agile for his bulky 5’7″ 209 lb. frame. Although he’s only worked about 80 total matches, Tomoyose moves with confidence. However, with about 30 singles matches under his belt, Tomoyose is still looking for his first win.
Tomoaki Honma started working pro matches before Tomoyose turned 6. Honma is an excellent and unselflish worker. I’m expecting him to give Tomoyose enough offense here to make a good impression.
David Finlay vs. GO Asakawa (K-DOJO)
With his generational peers on excursion, Finlay (23) has been a consistent, standout workhorse on undercards. In their preview of the show, NJPW mentioned that he might soon be headed for the heavyweight division. He’s developed a brutal, believable and crisp offensive moveset and he’s great on defense, keeping the crowd engaged in his struggle.
On previous LG shows, Finlay has been paired with more established opponents. However, after riding a losing streak to Jay White, and with his less experienced dojo-mates on hiatus for the last few months, Finlay has not won a singles match since March.
Kaientai Dojo’s GO Asakawa makes his LG debut on Thursday. I’m not very familiar with Asakawa, but what I’ve seen in tags and multi-man matches has been solid. He’s already 27 and only one year into his career.
Juice Robinson vs. Ayato Yoshida (K-DOJO)
LG2 will mark the end of Juice Robinson’s first year in NJPW. Over that year, the 27-year-old has undoubtedly improved and become more confident working in Japan. From what I’ve seen, Juice had career-best matches on the first two LG shows in losses to Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki.
Kaientai Dojo’s 23-year-old prospect, Ayato Yoshida makes his second LG appearance. Yoshida earned an invitation to return through a losing, but impressive encounter with NOAH’s Hitoshi Kumano on LG2. He still has less than one year of experience, but Yoshida has had an impressive rookie year. He recently made it to the finals of K-DOJO’s J-CUP qualifying tournament, losing to eventual winner Kaji Tomato. Getting paired up with Juice is a vote of confidence for Yoshida.
Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Hitoshi Kumano (NOAH)
Kumano should be out of his young lion stage by now. He’s worked 400+ matches; over 100 more than EVIL. He had a GHC Junior Title program with Yoshinobu Kanemaru in May. Kaman’s powerful offense is especially crisp for a wrestler of his stature. After facing the younger Yoshida on LG2, Kumano returns to the face an older opponent, this time in the semi-final match.
Like Homna, Ryusuke Taguchi is an established NJPW veteran who doesn’t need an introduction. Taguchi is having one of the best years of his career, so this match should be good. This is the first match on the card with any potential uncertainty in the outcome, but even here the doubt is minimal. Taguchi will probably win, but we could see an upset.
Katsuyori Shibata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Go Shiozaki, Maybach Taniguchi, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya & Kaito Kiyomiya (NOAH)
In general, all three LION’S GATE cards have had been heavy on the NJPW versus NOAH match-ups. However, the inter-promotional rivalry is now a major storyline coming off the G1 finals in early August. Shibata is the biggest NJPW name to be used on a LION’S GATE show to date. He joins the third generation NJPW quartet.
Nakajima (28) will celebrate his 13th anniversary as a pro next week. His run in the G1 gave him a higher level of well-deserved exposure. Kitamiya (27) has main evented all three LG shows. He’s got a GHC title match with Takashi Sugiura coming up on September 23rd.
Kiyomiya (20) debuted last December, but already has nearly 100 matches under his belt. He’s in a big spot here, and I expect him to rise to the occasion. Kiyomiya is one of the most impressive prospects in Japan for his age. He’s shown good fire and aggression, especially in his interactions with Minoru Suzuki. He’s got a nice dropkick too! The veteran team of Shiozaki and Taniguchi joins the younger NOAH trio.
The match will likely highlight the interactions between Shibata and Shiozaki, a pairing that NJPW has been pushing online. It’s also a follow-up to LG2’s main event that highlighted Nakajima and Nagata. The two teams really show their respective companies’ contrasting depth. NJPW’s team is midcard guys, while NOAH’s is basically all of their top babyfaces other than Marufuji. Nonetheless, it’s an exciting match given the context of the new feud. It could go either way, but I’d personally like to see Kitamiya get a pinfall here heading into his match with Sugiura.
Most of the LION’S GATE PROJECT 3 match-ups pair a veteran with a rookie, which unfortunately makes the card very predictable. The late addition of the Oka/Kitamura exhibition match added some more intrigue. The only notable absence is Takumi Honjo, who has not worked since March. Luckily we won’t have to wait until the next LION’s GATE show to see the other young lions again as Kanemitsu, Kawato and Henare are all over the Road to Destruction cards. This show gets an extra boost for the main event, the next chapter in one of the most interesting storylines in Japan. It will be interesting to see if the other NJPW/NOAH matches on the show get an extra kick from the new feud.