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Young Lions Class

Upon graduation, Young Lions often compete primarily in the shows and excursions.

Rookie wrestlers of the New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion are referred to as Young Lions. The name is a reference to the NJPW logo which features the fearsome beast.

To be considered a Young Lion one must have trained through the NJPW system.

Currently there are two schools where an individual can train to become a Young Lion: the NJPW Dojo in Japan and its American counterpart the NJPW Dojo in Los Angeles, USA.

OverviewEdit

Young Lions live in dormitories adjacent to their dojo and are expected to perform household duties such as cleaning, laundry, and cooking. Before wrestling shows a Young Lion is also expected to carry the baggage of their seniors, assemble the ring, and arrange guest seating. They are also responsible for the security of the audience, shielding them from brawls which may spill outside the ring. 

The Young Lion Cup 

In the past, the Young Lions had their own tournament dubbed the Young Lion Cup - a successor to the Karl Gotch Cup promoted by the NJPW in the 1970s. The Young Lion Cup was held to determine the top Young Lion of the promotion.  

For some wrestlers like Masahiro Chono, Manabu Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima and Hiroshi Tanahashi it was their first taste of success. Later in their careers, they would go on to win the G1 Climax and the IWGP Heavyweight Championships respectively. 

The Young Lion Cup went on hiatus in 2005 with no word on its return until 2017 when Yuji Nagata proposed a revival of the tournament.[1] On September 26 of the same year NJPW officially announced its return, and Katsuya Kitamura was crowned the first Young Lion Cup Champion in 12 years on December 21, 2017. 

Fun Fact: Shinsuke Nakamura and David Finlay are the only two wrestlers in history to win a championship title during their Young Lion days.

Lions Gate Project

The Young Lions also have their own show called the Lions Gate Project where they face off against veteran wrestlers and rookies from other promotions. Young Lion matches mainly consist of basic moves such as entrance with full power running, elbows, body slams, and dropkicks. At the end of a match, it is customary for a Young Lion to finish with the Boston Crab or an original technique.

TrainersEdit

The list of trainers who train the Young Lions during their early days.

Japan Dojo
Super Strong Machine
Hiro Saito
Kazuo Yamazaki
USA Dojo
Katsuyori Shibata
Scorpio Sky

AttireEdit

Young Lions typically wear black fitted shorts and ring shoes. This uniform is commonly seen as a symbol of strong style. Even a seemingly benign addition to their attire like a knee pad can leave an impression; implying that the rookie is well on his way to success. [2] As a rookie advances and gains the respect of his peers and the audience, he may be awarded more accessories such as kick pads. [3]

When Does a Young Lion Get Their Gimmick?

"[...] They usually start revamping themselves in terms of their look and style when they go on an excursion and their personas are fully-fledged or changed entirely upon return, like Hiromu Takahashi and EVIL."

However, some wrestlers like Katsuyori Shibata choose to keep their black shorts and ring shoes even after they become part of the main roster.

The Learning Excursion Edit

Typically three years after their Young Lion debut students are sent abroad to continue their training. This is often referred to as a "Learning Excursion". There are currently 3 NJPW training meccas in the world where a Young Lion might be sent: the USA, Mexico, and Europe.

Promotions where famous NJPW have trained during their Learning Excursion

TNA (Nashville, Tennessee, United States), PWS (Garfield, New Jersey), CMLL (Mexico City), WCW (Atlanta, Georgia, United States), NWA (Waterloo, Iowa, United States), ROH (Baltimore, Maryland).

GraduationEdit

After this special training is complete and a Young Lion returns home to the NJPW in Japan they graduate and are no longer considered a Young Lion.

A special few wrestlers made their debut on the main stage before their Young Lion training was complete such as David Finlay and Juice Robinson.

List of current Young LionsEdit

The following is a list that contains the current wrestler in their Young Lion status.

Name Debut Note
Hirai Kawato January 1, 2016 In learning excursion in Mexico
Teruaki Kanemitsu January 1, 2016 Inactive; cervical spine injury
Tomoyuki Oka January 1, 2017
Shota Umino April 13, 2017
Tetsuhiro Yagi May 9, 2017 Inactive; unla fracture
Ren Narita July 4, 2017
Yota Tsuji April 10, 2018
Yuya Uemura April 10, 2018

List of GraduatesEdit

The following is a list of Japanese and gaijin wrestlers who have graduated from the NJPW Dojo in Japan, along with the USA Dojo in Long Beach, California.

Name Debut Current Status Note
Yoshiaki Fujiwara November 12, 1972 Active in Japan
Gran Hamada March 16, 1972 Active in Japan
Mr. Pogo March 20, 1972 Died on June 23, 2017
Ryuma Go September 9, 1972 Died on October 18, 2009
Don Arakawa September 19, 1972 Died on November 5, 2017
Kuniaki Kobayashi February 1, 1973 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Killer Khan 1973 Retired on 1987
Satoru Sayama May 28, 1976 Active in Real Japan Pro Wrestling
Akira Maeda August 25, 1978 Owner of Fighting Network RINGS
Hiro Saito August 26, 1978 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Shunji Kosugi Febuary 1981 Retired on April 10, 1988
Nobuhiko Takada 1981 President of Rizin Fighting Federation
Kazuo Yamazaki May 6, 1982 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Tatsutoshi Goto December 2, 1982 Semi Active in Japan
Jushin Thunder Liger March 3, 1984 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
AKIRA October 12, 1984 Active in Wrestle-1
Shinya Hashimoto September 1, 1984 Died on July 11, 2005
Keiji Mutoh October 5, 1984 Owner of Wrestle-1
Takuma Sano March 3, 1984 Active in Japan
Hirokazu Hata 1984 Retired
Yoji Anjo July 8, 1985 Retired on March 19, 2015
Kenichi Oya April 20, 1986 Active in Cho Sento Puroresu FMW
El Samurai July 24, 1986 Semi Active in Japan
Hiroshi Hase February 28, 1986 Retired on August 27, 2006
Ultimo Dragon May 13, 1987 Active in Toryumon Meixco
Michiyoshi Ohara June 30, 1990 Retired in 2008
Koji Kanemoto November 7, 1990 Active in Japan
Hiroyoshi Tenzan January 11, 1991 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Satoshi Kojima July 16, 1991 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Osamu Nishimura April 21, 1991 Active in All Japan Pro Wrestling
Shinjiro Otani June 25, 1992 Active in Pro Wrestling Zero1
Tatsuhito Takaiwa July 21, 1992 Active in Pro Wrestling Zero1
Yuji Nagata September 14, 1992 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Kendo Kashin September 21, 1992 Active in Japan
Manabu Nakanishi October 13, 1992 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Yutaka Yoshie December 9, 1994 Active in All Japan Pro Wrestling
Tadao Yasuda February 1994 Retired on February 4, 2011
Kazuyuki Fujita November 1, 1996 Semi Active in Japan
Togi Makabe February 15, 1997 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Hiroshi Tanahashi October 10, 1999 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Katsuyori Shibata October 10, 1999 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Wataru Inoue October 10, 1999 Retired on March 3, 2013
KENSO January 4, 2000 Active in Japan
Shinsuke Nakamura August 29, 2002 Active in World Wrestling Entertaniment
Yoshitatsu October 12, 2002 Active in All Japan Pro Wrestlting
Ryusuke Taguchi November 22, 2002 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Hirooki Goto July 6, 2003 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Finn Bálor April 2006 Active in World Wrestling Entertaniment Graduated from NJPW USA Dojo
Yujiro Takahashi July 26, 2004 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestlting
Tetsuya Naito May 27, 2006 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Taichi December 2, 2002 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Mitsuhide Hirasawa January 28, 2006 Inactive
Yoshi-Hashi July 6, 2008 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Kazuchika Okada August 29, 2004 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Tama Tonga 2008 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Bad Luck Fale April 4, 2010 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
El Desperado March 7, 2010 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
EVIL May 13, 2011 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
David Finlay December 22, 2012 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Hiromu Takahashi August 24, 2010 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Juice Robinson September 4, 2015 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Sho November 15, 2012 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Yoh November 19, 2012 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Jay White January 30, 2015 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Toa Henare September 1, 2016 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Hikuleo November 12, 2016 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling

Non-GraduatesEdit

The following is a list of notable wrestlers who have trained at the NJPW Dojo, but did not officially graduate.

Name Debut Current Status Note
Masakatsu Funaki March 3, 1985 Active in Japan Funaki would left NJPW in 1988 and later graduated in the UWF Dojo.
Minoru Suzuki June 23, 1988 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling Suzuki would left NJPW in 1989 and later graduated in the UWF Dojo.
Akira Katayama Januray 25, 1987 Retired on January 8, 1992
Masakazu Fukuda March 20, 1996 Died on April 19, 2000
Katsushi Takemura July 22, 1997 Retired on January 6, 2009
Akiya Anzawa September 21, 2003 Retired on January 8, 2006
Hiroshi Nagao February 2, 2003 Retired on October 26, 2008
Taiji Ishimori 2004 Active in New Japan Pro Wrestling
Takumi Honjo February 25, 2016 Retired Retired, after leaving the NJPW Dojo.
Katsuya Kitamura March 13, 2017 Inactive Winner of the 2017 Young Lion Cup, Four months later he left NJPW.

References Edit