Block A of the World Tag League came to a head on Wednesday as New Japan visited Mito.
With a two-point lead on top of the group, block A was the Guerrillas of Destiny’s to lose – if they win, they’re into the finals. If they lose, then either Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan or the Los Ingobernables pairing of Tetsuya Naito and Rush Kojima could snatch their places.
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Manabu Nakanishi & Henare vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson
This was a dead rubber, seeing how neither team could make it to the finals. Nakanishi, not wanting to finish pointless, started out in a headlock with Juice Robinson, before they traded shots.
This was a basic outing for all teams – after an initial sequence, Henare tagged in and enjoyed some brief offence against Tanahashi, before running into an abdominal stretch. The young lion was kept grounded, but was able to make a tag out to the veteran after Tanahashi missed a flip senton. Tanahashi was able to withstand Nakanishi’s offence and eventually elbow out of an Argentine backbreaker and take him down with a Dragon Screw.
Robinson came in with a cannonball to Nakanishi in the corner, but the veteran and his young buddy hit back with a pair of Argentine backbreakers as their comeback almost won them the match, as Henare landed a running flip senton for a two-count. Nakanishi even went airborne with a top rope crossbody for a two-count, before Henare’s attempt to force a submission fell short. Tanahashi literally wiped out Henare with a low dropkick that Henare spiked himself on the head in selling, and from there it was just a matter of time as a Slingblade Hart Attack, then the Pulp Friction saw Juice and Tanahashi get the win. Nakanishi and Henare end the tournament as expected – with a 0% record – after a good, but slow-paced outing. **¾
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Brian Breaker & Leland Race vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
Thank God… this should be the last time this pair appear here, unless New Japan book them again for another tournament. And even then, I’ll ponder over whether to just pretend they don’t exist.
Tenzan and Kojima need a win to stay alive here – and unfortunately, they didn’t get it. This was very much by-the-numbers, with Race and Breaker showing you nothing to win you over. Both teams exchanged shoulder tackles, with the big men on each side triumphing, before Race raked the eyes to escape some Mongolian chops.
Race took some more Mongolian chops as Kojima and Tenzan double-teamed him briefly, but the tables turned as the Americans double-teamed Tenzan for an extended period. A spinebuster from Breaker led to an assisted legdrop for a near-fall. Breaker missed a knee and took out Race by mistake, before Race kicked out of a TenKoji Cutter… perhaps the game was up there? Race blocked two Strong Arm attempts and knocked down Kojima, before Breaker came in to assist with a Shiranui for the win. Not bad, but not great either. **
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page vs. War Machine (Hanson & Rowe)
We got the Bullet Club jumpstart here, as Page and Takahashi knocked War Machine off the apron during their entrance.
The match started on the outside with War Machine being sent into the crowd barriers, before War Machine reversed a whip and ended up lawn-darting the Bullet Club into each other. This picked up from there, as the Bullet Club worked over Rowe by dropkicking him in the knee, before Page scored a near-fall with a nice looking deadlift, pumphandle fallaway slam. Rowe remained isolated for a bit, but he eventually made the hot tag to Hanson who obliterated Takahashi with a spinning side slam, then ran corner-to-corner with a repeated series of avalanches to the Bullet Club.
Rowe lost both men on a double slam attempt, and fell into a reverse legsweep from Takahashi as the Bullet Club resumed double-teaming… at least until Hanson ran in and blasted Page with a corner splash and a Bronco buster. Takahashi took a pop-up bodyslam, but in the end it was some more Bullet Club double teaming that won the day, as Page flipped into the ring and landed a clothesline on Rowe, who then took Takahashi’s Pimp Juice short-DDT for the win. A decent, short match, which creates the possibility of a real log-jam if the Guerrillas of Destiny win the main event… ***
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Tetsuya Naito & Rush
This is effectively “winner goes through to the finals”, as a win for the Ingobernables team would put them level on 10 points with the Guerrillas… but with a head-to-head win.
This didn’t feel like a “must-win” match for either team – after some standard fare with both teams trading shoulder tackles, the match spilled outside as the Ingobernables pair became familiar with the crowd barriers, leading to Naito just about beating the 20-count to keep the match alive.
The Guerrillas took over in the ring, with Tanga Loa scoring a near-fall from an elbow drop, before Naito attempted to fight back, and eventually succeeded with a tornado DDT off the ropes onto Tama Tonga. Rush came in and kept up the pressure on Tonga with a Stinger splash in the corner, before faking out Tonga with a diving dropkick that was really a kick to the face. Tanga Loa turned things around again briefly, until Naito tagged in to clean house, landing an outside-in dropkick on Loa before succeeding with a missile dropkick. Rush took care of Tama Tonga outside, leaving Naito free to try for a Gloria… but Loa just hiptossed himself free.
The Guerrillas once again took over and took down Naito with a Fireman’s carry/corkscrew neckbreaker combo for a near-fall. Naito hit back and turned a powerslam into a Destino, before Loa turned a proper Destino attempt into a powerslam. Rush came in and hit back with a shotgun dropkick to Tama Tonga for a near-fall, before Tanga Loa made the save on a Rush Driver attempt. Naito ate an assisted DDT as he tried to fight off the Guerrillas, which just left Rush by himself. After taking down Loa with a German suplex, Rush blocked a Gun Stun, only to fall to it at the second attempt for the surprising match-ending win. Given what was at stake, this so did not feel like a big match – it felt like another run-of-the-mill tournament match. Such a shame… **¾
With block A wrapped up, here’s the final standings:
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa – 6-1 / 12pts
Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima, Tetsuya Naito & Rush, War Machine – 4-3 / 8pts
Brian Breaker & Leland Race, Hiroshi Tenzan & Juice Robinson – 3-4 / 6pts
Henare & Manabu Nakanishi – 0-7 / 0pts
EVIL & SANADA, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii, Katsuyori Shibata & Yuji Nagata, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma – 4-2 / 8pts
Billy Gunn & Yoshitatsu, Kenny Omega & Chase Owens – 2-4 / 4pts
Bad Luck Fale & Bone Soldier – 0-6 / 0pts
So that’s the tag team champions in the final – and logic could dictate that they’re losing that final, so as to set up a rematch for the titles at the Tokyo Dome. It’s been sad to see so many empty seats on the tournament-only shows, as the practise of setting up to capacity made things obvious – even more so in the well-lit venues used on the tour.