You might have noticed this says Young Lion Cup at the top rather than Road to Destruction. I am not going to write about/watch the Road to Destruction shows because life is far too fucking short. However, I do want to catch the Young Lion Cup, so I will be doing a series of quick reviews covering their matches before doing full coverage of the actual Destruction shows. Sound good? It better.
Alex Coughlin (1-0) defeated Yota Tsuji (0-1)
As I skipped the entirety of the G1 undercard, I haven’t seen much of the LA Dojo Young Lions, so I’m looking forward to finding out what they can do. Alex Coughlin was the first one out the gate as he took on Tsuji who gets beefier every time I see him. That cub is growing up into a big boy.
It ended up being a beefy match too as these two chopping the shit out of each other. Coughlin was winning when it came to getting a satisfying sound from his blows, but the state of his chest by the end suggested Tsuji’s were doing plenty of damage too. I’m a simple man, give me two big boys hitting each other hard, and I’ll be happy.
The rest of the match was pretty straightforward. Tsuji hit a beautiful Dropkick at one point setting himself up for the Crab, but Caughlin was able to power up and crawl to the ropes, dragging himself across the mat before locking in a Single-Legged Crab of his own. Tsuji nearly escaped, crawling most of the way only for Alex to drag him right back and get the win.
That was an impressive start to the tournament from both men. They both played to their strengths, keeping the wrestling simple and embracing their size instead. It was also a nice introduction to Coughlin who not only has the look but backed it up with a strong performance, lovely stuff.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Clark Connors (1-0) defeated Shota Umino (0-1)
Connors and Umino flew across the ring at each other, quickly breaking out into a strike-off as they hit full-speed from the word go. It was a nice contrast to the match beforehand as these two are probably future heavyweights, but are a lot lighter on their feet than the Yota Tsuji’s of New Japan.
The LA Dojo cub came into this one with a plan, going after Umino’s arm which was already strapped up. His offence was pretty basic, but he did a good job of keeping his focus in that direction. Umino’s comeback would then turn the action up a notch as he’s already an exciting wrestler. There is a natural scrappiness to the way he fights, and I love the way he throws himself into moves. He’s got to be one of the favourites to win this tournament with where he is in his development.
Not that being a favourite helped him here, Connors showed a few street smarts, stepping back as Umino went for the Missile Dropkick and using the shock of him hitting the ground to put on a Crab. Shota would battle out of that one, scratching his way to the ropes before delivering a vicious set of slaps. He should have hit Connors even harder, though, as he would run into a Spear seconds later before passing out in another Crab.
I’d put this a step below the opener as it was shorter and I don’t think Connors was quite as impressive as Coughlin, but it was still a fun match featuring a classic bit of Gedo booking as a favourite ate a first night defeat.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
The Young Lion Cup isn’t a G1, so you shouldn’t go in expecting incredible matches. What you can expect is solid, well-worked contests that showcase these rookies to the best of their abilities. That exactly what we got here as all four men impressed and left me feeling confident that we’re in for a good tournament.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/