Wednesday saw New Japan roll into Aichi for the fifth day of this year’s World Tag League – and its more from block A…
Hirai Kawato vs. Teruaki Kanemitsu
That Young Lion entrance video still proclaims New Japan to be “King of Sprorts”… The match these two had on day three was almost a carbon copy of their first-night match, so hopefully they change things up a little here. They did, thankfully, with Kanemitsu starting on offence as the two youngsters started trading chops back and forth. Kanemitsu caught Kawato in a camel clutch, and just like last time, Kawato fought his way to the ropes, only for Kanemitsu to regain the hold and wrench back before the rope break finally happened.
Kawato mounted a comeback, hitting a bodyslam before Kanemitsu again tried to slap his way out of a Boston crab. Kanemitsu had a little less trouble in reaching the ropes, before being sent to the corner for some more slaps. The tables turned though as Kawato was sent into the turnbuckle and took a dropkick, before a suplex and a spinebuster led to a busted-open Kawato tapping to a Boston Crab. They’re definitely getting their routine down, and whilst this wasn’t as much of a copy as their prior matches, they really need to stop having the same template every time. **
Billy Gunn, Yoshitatsu, Ryusuke Taguchi & David Finlay vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask
You know the drill here – standard undercard tag match, with the focus yet-again on Gunn and Yoshitatsu against Honma and Makabe… despite them already having wrestled in the tournament. Plenty of arse-based offence from Taguchi to begin with, before we saw Liger briefly get isolated as Finlay, Yoshitatsu and Gunn took shots at him. Gunn no-sold a variety of chops from Honma before eventually taking a slam, a bulldog, and a Kokeshi. Yep, Honma hit it first time!
Yoshitatsu came in and took a two-count from a spinning heel kick on Honma – which was broken up by Liger, who then stomped on Honma, presumably out of disgust. Honma then backdropped out of a Pedigree and brought in Makabe for his mounted corner punches. Finlay tried his luck against the veteran with a series of uppercuts in the corner, before a diving uppercut off the middle rope got him a near-fall. Makabe fought back with a double clothesline, before Finlay took a pair of clotheslines and finally the King Kong kneedrop as the veterans picked up the win. Decent, but throwaway at the same time. ***
EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata & KUSHIDA
With a jump start, EVIL and SANADA took Shibata and Nagata to the outside, before turning their attentions to KUSHIDA, who managed to overcome a triple-team before taking down BUSHI. As Nagata and Shibata sold, this was effectively three-on-one for a long time. When KUSHIDA did make it to the corner, he was able to tag in Nagata, who dropped SANADA with a Yakuza kick and an Exploder for a near-fall. EVIL came in and fell to a low dropkick before Shibata renewed ties with EVIL, immediately taking him to the corner.
EVIL gave as good as he received, before tagging out to BUSHI – except that just served o give us some more three-on-one beatings. An MX from BUSHI missed Shibata, but KUSHIDA ensured he was taken down with a missile dropkick, before Nagata and Shibata peppered the former junior heavyweight champion with kicks. The onslaught ended when Nagata held BUSHI upright for a PK, as Shibata scored the win. A fun match, but at eight minutes, it’s another one that was way too short to be anything other than filler. ***¼
Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Bone Soldier vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii
No jump start here, but it’s worth noting that each half of this eight-man tag would be facing each other in the next round of tag league matches… YOSHI-HASHI started with Fale, and did pretty well for himself before bringing Ishii into the match. They ran through the stuff they’ve done in previous eight-man tags, with Fale overpowering Ishii’s suplex attempt, easily slamming him to the mat as the rest of the participants ended up brawling outside.
The Boner came in and choked on Ishii, as the rest of the Bullet Club took their turn, ending with Omega locking in a figure four. Ishii freed himself, only for Fale to rush in and clear the apron, before Ishii finally made the hot tag to Okada. Again, the Boner interjected himself, but Okada pushed him away as he looked to keep up the offence on Omega, only to fall to an Omega/Owens superkick, then a leg lariat/flatliner combo for a near-fall.
The Boner went airborne, but missed a swandive headbutt on Okada, before Goto took a triple-team from the Boner, Omega and Owens. Another springboard Codebreaker and a big splash on Goto for a near-fall, before the Boner took a clothesline-assisted Russian legsweep from Goto and Ishii. After giving Omega a ‘rana, YOSHI-HASHI took down Owens and then delivered a plancha to Omega on the outside… which conveniently left the Boner exposed for an ushigoroshi and a GTR for the win. Some good action here, but at this pace I’m going to be bored of these line-ups before the end of this tour…. ***½
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Brian Breaker & Leland Race vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Henare
I had been warned about this match… Breaker and Race have hardly set the world on fire with their appearances to date. This didn’t start well as Breaker and Nakanishi exchanged soft-looking shoulder tackles, before Race and Henare came in.
Henare showed fire, Race did not, pulling off his moves with all of the passion and emotion of a video game model. Breaker drilled Henare with a knee to the back as he ran the ropes, before Race pushed Nakanishi off the apron – which led to some heel-ish double-teaming that saw Henare dropped chest-first across the crowd barriers. Back in the ring, Race caught Henare in a rear chinlock, before bringing Breaker in to get a near-fall from a back elbow smash. Henare continued to take the lion’s share of the offence, before dazing Breaker with a shoulder tackle and tagging out to Nakanishi. More clonking moves between the two big guys ended with Nakanishi clotheslining Breaker for just a one-count.
Race escaped out of a bodyslam from Henare, but ran straight into the same move seconds later for a near-fall, before Race was caught in a Boston crab. Breaker, erm, broke it up, before Henare and Nakanishi worked together to take him and Race out with flying chops. A running flip senton saw Henare get a near-fall on Race, before Henare was launched into Race for another two-count. The New Japan Dad and the Young Lion landed duelling clotheslines, before the AMericans fought out of a pair of Argentine backbreakers. Race dropped Nakanishi with a DDT, leaving Henare alone for a spell of double-teaming, before a Breaker spinebuster and a hideous swandive headbutt got Race another two-count.
After Breaker’s shotgun dropkick knocked Henare into the corner, Race followed up with the assisted Shiranui for the win. The match wasn’t bad, but there’s one team here that just does not fit in this group. Or should I say, one guy. Bland, generic, and somehow unable to do his own moves? If you’re unwilling to take a swandive headbutt bump, then don’t do the move! I get why these two are getting a push, but if one of them didn’t have a famous father, they would absolutely not be on the tour. *½
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Rowe)
Much, much better. Whereas the last match had a lot of what looked like pulled punches, War Machine – and the Guerrillas – brought the fire by laying into each other. Hard. The action quickly spilled into the crowd, with Tonga choking Rowe in amongst the seats, before Tonga slipped out of a slam into the bleachers. Both of the Guerrillas were lawndarted into a wall, before Rowe ran into Tanga Loa with a Yakuza kick in the crowd.
We passed the five minute mark as they were still in the crowd, as Loa headbutted ROwe whilst Hanson and Tonga eventually stumbled back towards the ring. With no sign of a count-out even beginning from referee Red Shoes, all four men fought in the aisle before Hanson was slammed by his own partner onto the two Guerrillas.
Finally we get a count-out started, with Tama Tonga barely beating the count at 19.9 to return to the ring. Both teams went at it once again, with Tonga backdropping Hanson out of the ring, allowing the Guerrillas to drop Rowe with a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo for a near-fall. An attempt at an elevated DDT was cut-off as Hanson rushed in and shocked the crowd with a cartwheel, before just about saving a pop-up bodyslam on Loa. Tonga took a pop-up backbreaker, followed by a Doctor Bomb and a big splash for a near-fall. More hard hitting stuff followed, as Rowe’s attempt at a shoulderbreaker on Loa was cut-off by a Gun Stun from Tonga, before the elevated DDT earned the tag champions the win. Good stuff, with the long in-crowd brawling not hurting the match since they did more than use it to kill time. ***½
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito & Rush
Yujiro found a potential lady of the night in Aichi, and we’re in for another potential reminder as to why the Bullet Club/Los Ingobernables feud was ditched. Naito and Takahashi took stomps in the corner at the start, before Takahashi was dragged outside… only for Naito to fall into a Tranquilo pose instead of diving onto him. Back in the ring, Takahashi was stomped on, before the match degenerated into the usual Bullet Club outside-the-ring fare.
Takahashi used his cane to choke at Rush, before the Bullet Club pair hit a back elbow and back senton for a near-fall. So far, this is tedious, slow-paced tripe… After missing a dropkick, Rush was picked up for a deadlift, pumphandle fallaway slam as Page got a near-fall. Naito came in for a short burst of offence, taking out Page with the outside-in dropkick, but Takahashi again took over with a diving dropkick and a release Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall. Page picked up on offence with a tornado DDT on Naito, but quickly started to struggle when Rush came in, as he was sent crashing with a superplex.
Rush evaded a double-team with a dropkick, before Naito came in to help with the double-team on Page. Once more, the tables turned, as Page flew in with an axehandle-assisted Dominator on Naito, before finishing Rush with the Rite of Passage (belly-to-back piledriver) for the win. This was just forgettable, and not just because of the ring. The match felt like it was at half-speed, with a crew that didn’t want to be there. Avoid! *
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson
This started out slowly with Kojima and Tanahashi trading headlocks, before Robinson and Tenzan came in for more of the same. Robinson mocked the Mongolian chops, which never ends well, and it didn’t here as Tenzan promptly took down Robinson with a series of the real thing.
A slingshot elbow and a diving headbutt saw Kojima and Tenzan keep Robinson down, eventually setting up for some rapid-fire chops in the corner. Robinson fought free with a back suplex, before bringing Tanahashi into the match, who scored with a crossbody block into the corner, and then with a flip senton off the middle rope for a near-fall. Tanahashi and Robinson caught their opponents in simultaneous abdominal stretches for a spot of air guitar, before Kojima hiptossed his way out of the hold. Kojima then got some receipts for earlier chops from both men, before he fought free and dropped Tanahashi with a DDT in the middle of the ring. Tenzan returned to charge at Tanahashi in the corner, before a brainbuster saw him pick up a near-fall.
Another comeback saw Tanahashi use the Mongolian chops, before Tenzan fell down whilst trying for a kick… and that just saw him take a Dragon screw on the mat. A series of Dusty punches helped Robinson stay on top, before a back senton squashed Tenzan, only for the veteran to return fire with a Mountain Bomb. More rapid-fire chops from Kojima followed on Robinson, before he actually landed the top rope elbow for a near-fall. A rolling forearm, then a Koji cutter took down Juice, before both teams tried for double suplexes, with Kojima and Tenzan eventually ending on the worst end of that exchange.
Robinson followed up on the double suplex with a spinebuster, before tagging out to Tanahashi… who just got flattened with a clothesline. Tanahashi was able to block a Tenzan Tombstone Driver with a spin-out suplex, before following up with a Slingblade for a near-fall. Another double-team dropkick knocked Kojima out of the ring, before a flying crossbody from Robinson looked to set up for a High Fly Flow… but Tenzan rolled away at the last second.
Tanahashi fought out of a TenKoji Cutter (3D), whilst Tenzan and Kojima quickly fell into the path of a pair of cannonball dives from Robinson, who then utilised a Jackhammer on Kojima for a near-fall. There’s suddenly a lot of love for Goldberg’s finisher now, huh?
We see a Slingblade version of the old Hart attack on Kojima, as Tanahashi throws himself at Tenzan on the outside. That doesn’t go well though, as Kojima pushes out of the Pulp Friction (Unprettier) and levelled Robinson with a Strong Arm lariat for a near-fall. Tanahashi gets one too, but Robinson’s again left in the ring as he took a TenKoji Cutter for another two-count. With Tanahashi nowhere to be seen, Kojima finally landed an armpad-less Strong Arm lariat for the win – ending Robinson’s impressive run at the end there, and ensuring that TenKoji keep a perfect record. ***½
With block A having had three rounds, and B having two, here’s where we stand, with a four-way tie for second in block A:
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima – 3-0 / 6pts
Brian Breaker & Leland Race, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa, War Machine – 2-1 / 4pts
Tetsuya Naito & Rush, – 1-2 / 2pts
Henare & Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson – 0-3 / 0pts
Billy Gunn & Yoshitatsu, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii, EVIL & SANADA – 2-0 / 4pts
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI – 1-1 / 2pts
Yuji Nagata & Katsuyori Shibata, Bone Soldier & Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega & Chase Owens – 0-2 / 0pts
As far as tournament action goes, this was entirely a hit-and-miss card. The latest iteration of Los Ingobernables vs. Bullet Club was completely throwaway, as was the outing for Breaker and Race. To be honest, in spite of the ***+ matches, this was probably the first full New Japan show in ages that you could get away with skipping.