The Young Lion Cup is an in-frequent tournament promoted by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) as a means of showcasing the younger talent on their roster. The tournament is the successor to the Karl Gotch Cup that NJPW promoted in the 1970s. NJPW has held the tournament eleven times since 1985. After the 2005 tournament, NJPW did not hold another Young Lion Cup for 12 years, until reviving the tournament in 2017.
The Young Lion Cup is a round-robin tournament in the same style as NJPW's annual G1 Climax tournament. Wrestlers traditionally earn 2 points for a victory, 1 point for any sort of draw and 0 points for a loss. The two wrestlers with the most points at the end of the round-robin tournament will then face off in a singles match for the Young Lion Cup trophy. The winners of the Young Lion Cup would also be rewarded with an learning excursion overseas.
List of winnersEdit
The 1985 Young Lion Cup was a round-robin tournament held from March 29 until April 18. The tournament featured 9 participants. The tournament was held during the Best Fight Series II tour. The winner of the tournament was Shunji Kosugi, who defeated Keiichi Yamada to win the tournament. Four wrestlers of the tournament like Keiichi Yamada, Keiji Mutoh, Masahiro Chono and Shinya Hashimoto became japanese legends. Yamada would later work as Jushin Thunder Liger becoming a eleven times IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and Mutoh, Chono and Hashimoto became know as The Three Musketeers, with the three winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and also the G1 Climax. Its unknown the point, positions and some matches for the tournament, the only information that is known is the finalists.
|2 Cold Scorpio||??|
The 1986 Young Lion Cup was a round-robin tournament held from February 28 until March 25. The tournament featured 8 participants. The tournament was held during the New Wave Dash tour. The winner of the tournament was Keiichi Yamada, who defeated Tatsutoshi Goto to win the tournament. After winning the tournament, Yamada went on his overseas excursion in September 1986, beginning in England for All Star Wrestling. After finishing up with ASW in April 1987, he went across the Atlantic to Canada for Stampede Wrestling, where he remained until his return to NJPW in August 1987. Two wrestlers of the tournament like Masakatsu Funaki and Akira Nogami would later win various championships in their carrer, Funaki would win one of the major championships in japan the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship and Nogami would become a IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and a IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion.
The 1987 Young Lion Cup was a round-robin tournament held from February 23 until March 20. The tournament featured 9 participants. The tournament was held during the Spring Flare Up tour. The matches with the dash (—) didn't happened. The winner of the tournament was Masahiro Chono, who defeated Shinya Hashimoto to win the tournament. Chono and Hashimoto would later became veterans achieving very success winning the G1 Climax and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
The 1989 Young Lion Cup was a round-robin tournament held from April 1 until April 24. The tournament featured 10 participants. The winner of the tournament was Naoki Sano, who defeated Hiro Saito to win the tournament. Three months later Sano would defeat Jushin Liger to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
The 1991 Young Lion Cup was a round-robin tournament held from December 6 until December 14. The tournament featured 7 participants. The winner of the tournament was Michiyoshi Ohara he would later be in a excursion in Europe for Otto Wanz's Catch Wrestling Association.
|Koji Kanemoto||Runner up|
|Too Cold Scorpio||Unknown|
The 1993 Young Lion Cup was a round-robin tournament held from March 3 until March 23. The tournament featured 8 participants. The winner of the tournament was Hiroyoshi Yamamoto who defeated Osamu Nishimura to win the tournament. He would later be sent on a European excursion.
|Ishizawa||X||Kojima (8:44)||Ishizawa (7:37)||Nakanishi (7:31)||Nishimura (9:03)||Otani (9:57)||Ishizawa (5:57)||Yamamoto (11:35)|
|Kojima||Kojima (8:44)||X||Nagata (9:05)||Nakanishi (9:44)||Nishimura (9:59)||Kojima (11:13)||Kojima (8:37)||Kojima (11:00)|
|Nagata||Ishizawa (7:37)||Nagata (9:05)||X||Nakanishi (10:59)||Nishimura (11:19)||Nagata (10:33)||Nagata (9:55)||Yamamoto (10:59)|
|Nakanishi||Nakanishi (7:31)||Nakanishi (9:44)||Nakanishi (10:59)||X||Nishimura (8:47)||Nakanishi (8:35)||Nakanishi (9:00)||Yamamoto (13:02)|
|Nishimura||Nishimura (9:03)||Nishimura (9:59)||Nishimura (11:19)||Nishimura (8:47)||X||Otani (9:30)||Nishimura (5:52)||Yamamoto (13:12)|
|Otani||Otani (9:57)||Kojima (11:13)||Nagata (10:33)||Nakanishi (8:35)||Otani (9:30)||X||Otani (9:13)||Yamamoto (10:27)|
|Takaiwa||Ishizawa (5:57)||Kojima (8:37)||Nagata (9:55)||Nakanishi (9:00)||Nishimura (5:52)||Otani (9:13)||X||Yamamoto (11:03)|
|Yamamoto||Yamamoto (11:35)||Kojima (11:00)||Yamamoto (10:59)||Yamamoto (13:02)||Yamamoto (13:12)||Yamamoto (10:27)||Yamamoto (11:03)||X|
The 1994 Young Lion Cup was a round-robin tournament held from March 5 until March 24. The tournament featured 7 participants. Outside participants included Nobukazu Hirai from WAR. The winner of the tournament was Satoshi Kojima who defeated Manabu Nakanishi to win the tournament. He would later be sent on a European excursion.
|Hirai||X||Hirai (9:15)||Kojima (11:51)||Hirai||Nakanishi||Otani||Hirai (10:33)|
|Ishizawa||Hirai (9:15)||X||Kojima (13:11)||Nagata (11:38)||Nakanishi (12:08)||Ishizawa (10:33)||Takaiwa (10:07)|
|Kojima||Kojima (11:51)||Kojima (13:11)||X||Kojima (13:45)||Kojima (13:11)||Kojima (14:40)||Kojima (10:48)|
|Nagata||Hirai||Nagata (11:38)||Kojima (13:45)||X||Nagata||Nagata||Nagata|
|Nakanishi||Nakanishi||Nakanishi (12:08)||Kojima (13:11)||Nagata||X||Nakanishi||Nakanishi|
|Otani||Otani||Ishizawa (10:33)||Kojima (14:40)||Nagata||Nakanishi||X||Otani|
|Takaiwa||Hirai (10:33)||Takaiwa (10:07)||Kojima (10:48)||Nagata||Nakanishi||Otani||X|
The 1995 Young Lion Cup featured a league with six participants and it was held from March 7 until March 27. Outside participation included Yuki Ishikawa from Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. In the finals Manabu Nakanishi defeated Yuji Nagata to claim the Young Lion Cup trophy. Nakanishi went on an excursion to North America and joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Later on their carrers Nakanishi and Nagata won the IWGP Tag Team Championship together.
|Ishikawa||X||Ishizawa (11:13)||Ishikawa (12:27)||Nakanishi||Otani||Ishikawa|
|Ishizawa||Ishizawa (11:13)||X||Ishizawa (10:22)||Nakanishi (9:04)||Otani (12:15)||Takaiwa (10:30)|
|Nagata||Ishikawa (12:27)||Ishizawa (10:22)||X||Nagata||Nagata||Nagata|
The 1996 Young Lion Cup featured a league with five participants and it was held from March 9 until March 26. In the finals Tokimitsu Ishizawa defeated Yuji Nagata to claim the Young Lion Cup trophy. Nagata is the only wrestler to have lost in the finals twice. Ishizawa then went on a learning excursion to Austria's Catch Wrestling Association promotion. Later on his career Ishizawa became a two time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and a one time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion.
|Ishizawa||X||Ishizawa (13:35)||Ishizawa (15:09)||Takaiwa (8:19)||Ishizawa (5:56)|
|Otani||Ishizawa (13:35)||X||Nagata||Otani (10:31)||Otani|
|Takaiwa||Takaiwa (8:19)||Otani (10:31)||Nagata||X||Ishizawa (8:42)|
NJPW brought back the Young Lion Cup in 2000 with a round-robin tournament that took place between April 14 and May 5, 2000 during NJPW's "Strong Energy II 2000" tour. The tournament featured five rookies from NJPW, Shinya Makabe, Kenzo Suzuki, Wataru Inoue, Katsuyori Shibata and Hiroshi Tanahashi as well as Masakazu Fukuda from the G-EGGS promotion. The tournament was marred by a tragedy on the first night when Masakazu Fukuda was hurt by a flying elbow smash from Shibata. Following the blow he collapsed on the mat and was taken to the hospital. He died five days later from an internal brain hemorrhage. The rest of the tournament was dedicated to Fukuda's memory. Both Shinya Makabe and Kenzo Suzuki remained undefeated after the first four rounds, qualifying them for the final before they had even wrestled the final match of the league. On April 30, 2000 Makabe defeated Suzuki, making him the only undefeated wrestler in the tournament. On May 5, 2000 during Wrestling Dontaku 2000, Kenzo Suzuki defeated Makabe to win the 2000 Young Lion Cup.
|Masakazu Fukuda (Deceased)||0|
|Fukuda||X||Inoue (Forfeit)||Makabe (Forfeit)||Shibata (Forfeit)||Suzuki (Forfeit)||Tanahashi (Forfeit)|
The 2002 Young Lion Cup was a single elimination tournament instead of the past years that had a round robin format with six participants and it was held on March 6. In the finals Kenzo Suzuki defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to claim the Young Lion Cup trophy. This made Suzuki the only wrestler to have won the Young Lion Cup twice. Later Suzuki and Tanahashi would form a tag team known as The Kings of the Hills. Tanahashi would then became a japanese legend holding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship seven times, winning the G1 Climax twice and holding the IWGP Intercontinental Championship twice, while winning the IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship twice.
|Katsuyori Shibata||Pin||Katsuyori Shibata||8:39|
|Katsushi Takemura||7:45||Kenzo Suzuki||Pin|
|Blue Wolf||Pin||Blue Wolf||8:44|
The 2004 Young Lion Cup featured a league with eight participants and it was held from April 9 until April 27. Outside participation included Kazuya Yuasa from Michinoku Pro Wrestling. In the finals Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Kazuya Yuasa to claim the Young Lion Cup trophy. After winning the tournament Taguchi was awarded a title opportunity, as he unsuccessfully challenged the IWGP U-30 Openweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi on May 13. Later he went on a learning excursion to Mexican promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL).
|Anzawa||X||Anzawa (10:50)||Goto (9:14)||Nagao (6:41)||Taguchi (8:04)||Wicks (11:14)||Yamamoto (9:31)||Yuasa (6:51)|
|Boy||Anzawa (10:50)||X||Boy (10:38)||Draw (20:00)||Taguchi (8:22)||Draw (20:00)||Boy (9:10)||Draw (20:00)|
|Goto||Goto (9:14)||Boy (10:38)||X||Goto (6:12)||Draw (20:00)||Goto (11:09)||Yamamoto (6:27)||Goto (7:43)|
|Nagao||Nagao (6:41)||Draw (20:00)||Goto (6:12)||X||Taguchi (8:43)||Wicks (8:27)||Yamamoto (9:26)||Nagao (7:57)|
|Taguchi||Taguchi (8:04)||Taguchi (8:22)||Draw (20:00)||Taguchi (8:43)||X||Wicks (9:51)||Taguchi (7:56)||Yuasa (10:39)|
|Wicks||Wicks (11:14)||Draw (20:00)||Goto (11:09)||Wicks (8:27)||Wicks (9:51)||X||Wicks (9:02)||Yuasa (10:01)|
|Yamamoto||Yamamoto (9:31)||Boy (9:10)||Yamamoto (6:27)||Yamamoto (9:26)||Taguchi (7:56)||Wicks (9:02)||X||Yuasa (9:11)|
|Yuasa||Yuasa (6:51)||Draw (20:00)||Goto (7:43)||Nagao (7:57)||Yuasa (10:39)||Yuasa (10:01)||Yuasa (9:11)||X|
The 2005 Young Lion Cup was the twelfth tournament held by NJPW and ran from to March 3 to March 23, 2005. The league matches took place during NJPW's "Big Fight Series 2005" tour and the final was on their NJPW "Nexess V" show. The tournament was scheduled to feature seven wrestlers but Tommy Williams was injured and had to withdraw from the competition without wrestling a single match, forfeiting all matches. The tournament also featured Naofumi Yamamoto, Yujiro, Hiroshi Nagao and Akiya Anzawa, in addition to the top two point scores Hirooki Goto (9 points) and Hiroyuki Ito (11 points). In the league Ito wrestled to a draw against Goto and won the other five matches, making him the only undefeated participant. On March 23, 2005 Hirooki Goto defeated Hiroyuki Ito to win the 2005 Young Lion Cup.
|Tommy Williams (Withdrew)||0|
|Anzawa||X||Anzawa (08:51)||Ito (07:59)||Anzawa (07:42)||Anzawa (Forfeit)||Anzawa (07:16)||Yujiro (10:04)|
|Goto||Anzawa (08:51)||X||Draw (20:00)||Goto (06:03)||Goto (Forfeit)||Goto (05:53)||Goto (07:19)|
|Ito||Ito (07:59)||Draw (20:00)||X||Ito (03:54)||Ito (Forfeit)||Ito (06:56)||Nagao (08:47)|
|Nagao||Anzawa (07:42)||Goto (06:03)||Ito (03:54)||X||Nagao (Forfeit)||Nagao (09:02)||Yamamoto (06:05)|
|Williams||Anzawa (Forfeit)||Goto (Forfeit)||Ito (Forfeit)||Nagao (Forfeit)||X||Yamamoto (Forfeit)||Yujiro (Forfeit)|
|Yamamoto||Anzawa (07:16)||Goto (05:53)||Yamamoto (06:05)||Nagao (09:02)||Yamamoto (Forfeit)||X||Yamamoto (06:05)|
|Yujiro||Yujiro (10:04)||Goto (07:19)||Ito (06:56)||Nagao (08:47)||Yujiro (Forfeit)||Yamamoto (06:05)||X|
After his match at the Lion's Gate Project 7 event on July 4, 2017, Yuji Nagata proposed bringing back the Young Lion Cup. On September 26, NJPW officially announced the revival of the tournament after 12 years. The round-robin tournament starts on October 12 at at Lion's Gate Project 8 and will conclude on December 21 at Lion's Gate Project 10, and includes six wrestlers who debuted in 2016 and 2017. The tournament is dedicated to the memory of Kotetsu Yamamoto, who served as the head of the NJPW dojo.
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