After impressive performances from the Young Lions on day one of the Cup, we’re back with another two matches and a new selection of rookies who will be looking to impress. Will they? Let’s find out.
Michael Richards (1-0) defeated Yuya Uemura (0-1)
With all the attention on the battles between the New Japan Dojo and the La Dojo, poor Fale’s Dojo must be feeling a bit left out. Richards came into this match with an opportunity to show people that New Zealand has a dog in this fight too.
It was Uemura who showed more fire, though, pounding away on Richards in the corner with stomps and elbows. Then, when he went for the Crab, he stopped halfway through, putting on a Liontamer version of the move before twisting Richards over.
That meant that despite Richards getting the win, this felt like Uemura’s match. It was the Japanese wrestler who brought the intensity to proceedings, and while Richards wasn’t bad, it felt a bit like he could have been anyone. It didn’t help that he fell over on the final Crab, making Uemura look a bit weak for tapping at a moment when the pressure would have presumably lessened.
Still, this was a solid match that saw the New Japan Dojo continue their losing streak in the tournament. You’ve got to assume that will turn around at some point, but so far it’s been all about the foreign boys.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Ren Narita (1-0) defeated Karl Fredericks (0-1)
Alongside Shota, Ren Narita is my other favourite to win the Young Lion Cup. He’s had a great year, competing in the Super Juniors and the Super J-Cup, so it would be fitting if he used his big tournament experience to get a win over his fellow rookies.
He and Fredericks weren’t pissing around either, starting things off with an exchanging of stiff blows. Fredericks had a size advantage over Narita, but he more than negated that with his fiery persona. Finding the intensity to sell that you’re in a fight is such an important part of wrestling, and Narita is already nailing that.
On the other side of the ring, I think this was my first time seeing Fredericks, who certainly has the look for wrestling. Thankfully, he backed that up between the ropes, showing some nice athleticism and hitting a lovely Dropkick. His shoulder was strapped, and he made sure to sell it, flinching away when Narita avoided an elbow in the corner.
Towards the end, Narita caught Fredericks coming off the ropes with that beautiful Belly to Belly, but wasn’t able to bridge. He’d then lock on a Single Leg Crab, dragging Fredericks away on his first attempt to make it to the ropes. Then, when it became clear that Fredericks was going to make the crawl again, he twisted him over into that cool Cloverleaf style submission he does for the New Japan Dojo’s first win.
That was a step up from the first match with an impressive performance from both cubs. Narita is clearly a future star, but I wouldn’t put Fredericks that far behind him. With his look, he doesn’t have to be a super worker but judging by this, he’s on his way to being a good wrestler anyway.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
That was a step down in quality from night one of the cup, but I was still relatively impressed with all involved. Richards was the only one who didn’t leaping off the page as a potential star and even he looked like a solid enough hand. This Young Lion Cup is setting up to be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to making my way through it.
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