As New Japan continues to trundle down the Road To Destruction, we shall keep our focus on the important stuff, the opening two matches. It’s been so far so good for the cubs in front of the Korakuen crowd, so let’s see if they could keep that up.
Alex Coughlin (2-0) defeated Michael Richards (1-1)
Having chopped it out with Tsuji in the first match, Coughlin decided to take a similar path with Richards, engaging in a strike-off early on. That was an extra ballsy move as you could still see the damage from that first battle on his chest. Still, Richards was soon the proud owner of an unwanted handprint on his, so Alex got to pass the pain on to someone else.
That set-up perhaps the most one-sided Young Lion match I’ve ever seen. Coughlin dominated Richards, chopping the shit out of him and controlling the vast majority of the action. It felt like a showcase for the LA Dojo man as he showed off a few tricks including the Bridging Indian Deathlock that got the win.
I noticed Shibata has been speaking highly of Coughlin’s potential and judging by this Gedo and co feel the same way. It’s not often they send one Young Lion out to be fed to another, but that was basically what happened here. Perhaps Coughlin should be placed next to Shota and Ren as a favourite to take home this whole thing.
Verdict: Three Stars
Karl Fredericks (1-1) defeated Clark Connors (1-1)
This was the first time Connors and Fredericks had faced off one on one in Japan (they did so on a New Japan show in South Carolina) but having come through the Dojo together, I had high expectations for this. Living like that, you’ve got to know each other inside and out by the time you get to this stage, and I wanted to see what they’d cooked up during those long training days.
Right from the start, the chemistry between them was obvious, not only did we get some smooth chain wrestling, but they were hitting each other hard. Nothing exemplified that more than the finish where after locking in a Single Leg Crab Fredericks began stamping on Connors’ head, making sure there was no chance he was getting out of it.
Before that, we saw Fredericks’ arm continue to play a part in the tournament. Connors made sure to attack it, even specifically pinning it to the ground when going for covers. Karl, meanwhile, did a solid job selling, struggling to get Connors up for a Slam and then letting out little mews of complaint when he hit Connors with the injured arm. These are all the little touches that Young Lions often miss, so to see these two already getting them was great.
New Japan has a tendency to pair the cubs up and have them either face-off regularly or eventually team. Occasionally, that extends forever, as you see those two men go back to each other time after time in one form or another. From what we saw here, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Connors and Fredericks follow that path, and judging by this they could do a lot worse than spending their careers together.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
That was another enjoyable pair of matches from the Young Lion Cup. While the opener was for all extents and purposes a squash, it was one I had fun with, so I have no complaints. Connors and Fredericks, meanwhile, went out and showed the chemistry that coming through the ranks together gives you. This tournament might not provide any match of the year contenders, but it’s dishing up some good wrestling, and with how short the matches are, you’d be silly to skip it.
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