More from New Japan, as we take our delayed look at the third day of this year’s World Tag League, emanating from Takasaki.
It’s action from block A this time, and we’re getting the full card on New Japan World – threatening some interaction between Billy Gunn and Katsuyori Shibata.
Hirai Kawato vs. Teruaki Kanemitsu
Usual Young Lions fare here – basic holds and takedowns as Kanemitsu worked over Kawato. After a rear chinlock, Kanemitsu cranked back in a camel clutch on Kawato, who somehow managed to slide his way back towards the ropes for a break. Kawato fought back with a dropkick and bodyslams, before Kanemitsu was caught in a Boston crab, and eventually grabbed the ropes. Kanemitsu ended up reversing an Irish whip into the corner, before landing a dropkick into the corner, as a suplex softened up Kawato for a match-ending Boston crab. Technically fine, but having seen the match before, it came across more choreographed this time around *¾
Yoshitatsu, Billy Gunn, KUSHIDA & David Finlay vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask
Your usual undercard tag, starting with KUSHIDA and Liger matching each other move-for-move, before Liger threw in a playful slap to KUSHIDA’s backside. After a seated surfboard, KUSHIDA scrambled for the ropes, before we had our next weird exchange involving Billy Gunn and Tiger Mask.
Didn’t think I’d be watching this in 2016…
After a Snake Eyes to Tiger Mask, Gunn tagged out as KUSHIDA and Yoshitatsu worked over Tiger Mask for a spell. Tiger Mask checked a kick and hit a Tiger Driver on Yoshitatsu before Shibata tagged in and laid into Yoshitatsu with knees in the corner. Billy Gunn unwisely broke up an abdominal stretch by Shibata, before tagging in and getting a punch to the gut as Nagata worked a little while with Gunn. Nagata sidestepped a Stinger splash and trapped the former “Mr Ass” in an armbar that was broken up when the ring filled, but once the smoke cleared, Nagata took the win out of nowhere with a Backdrop Hold on Finlay. Decent, but way too short for it to be of any substance. **¼
SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Ryusuke Taguchi
More undercard tag fare, starting with BUSHI and Taguchi mocking the others’ poses, before Taguchi rolled into some stomps. We got our first Kokeshi from Taguchi, and it actually worked as he wobbled and fell down like the actual doll would.
The match slowed down as Honma and EVIL paired off, and yes, Honma missed his Kokeshi attempt, before EVIL put a chair on him and threw him into the ring post. A back senton saw EVIL pick up a near-fall, before Honma slipped out of a suplex and finally hit a Kokeshi. Makabe came in with his mounted punches and a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall, before Taguchi tagged in to pepper BUSHI and SANADA with hip attacks. SANADA kicked out of a diving knee from Taguchi, before blocking a Dodon, which led to Taguchi taking a superkick, a Code breaker, then a back suplex for a near-fall. In the end, Taguchi was forced to tap to the Skull End after a brief comeback was quickly thwarted. A decent six-man, but again, way too brief. ***
Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Bone Soldier & Chase Owens vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
We get our usual jump start as Omega mocked Okada’s ring entrance, but once it settled down, it was the CHAOS quartet who were surprisingly getting the upper hand over Omega. The Bullet Club took the fight into the crowd, with Fale choking away at Okada using a towel, as YOSHI-HASHI was almost thrown into the front row by Omega.
Things remained the same once the action returned to the ring, with Fale sitting on YOSHI-HASHI for a near-fall, before Omega and the Boner choked away on YOSHI-HASHI. That pairing sounded like the world’s worst buddy cop pairing, didn’t it? YOSHI-HASHI fought back by trying for the Bunker Buster, but Omega chopped his way free, only to fall into a flipping neckbreaker off the ropes.
Okada spiked Omega with a DDT, before trapping the Bullet Club leader in his Red Ink modified STF. The Boner (of all people) broke it up, before Omega almost took the win with a moonsault. Hirooki Goto came in and took down the Boner with a shoulder charge, before the Boner countered an ushigoroshi with a uranage. A slingshot Codebreaker from Owens and a big splash from Fale got the Boner a two-count, before a frantic parade of finishers ended with the Boner taking an ushigoroshi and a sliding lariat as the GTR earned Goto the win. As a “first half” main event, this was quite good once it got into gear – and I can appreciate the Boner being the Bullet Club’s designated jobber. ***½
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Henare
Both teams lost their first match, and this followed a lot of the patterns we expected, with Henare taking the lion’s share of punishment. Page and Takahashi tried their luck against Nakanishi when he came into the match, but with much different results, as he simply suplexed the pair of them. Henare landed a running flip senton for a near-fall on Takahashi, but the Bullet Club pair hit back with Takahashi catching Henare in a Boston crab, forcing a rope break. Distractions from the Bullet Club saw Nakanishi’s tag ruled out – because the referee didn’t see it – before Henare slipped out of a Fireman’s carry and managed to tag in the veteran.
Nakanishi fought off Page and Takahashi, before falling to a slingshot flip clothesline from the Hangman. Henare came back in to drop Takahashi with back elbows and slams, before getting a two-count off of a suplex. A spear from Nakanishi looked to have taken out Page as Henare and Nakanishi mimicked each other en route to a pair of lariats for another near-fall. The mimicry continued with a pair of Argentine backbreakers, but the Bullet Club raked some eyes to free themselves, before a Takahashi brainbuster scored another two-count. In the end though, it was a short DDT – tagged the Pimp Juice – that got zero reaction as the Bullet Club pairing picked up their first win. A technically fine match, but aside from Henare playing mini-Nakanishi, there’s little you’ll remember. **¾
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Brian Breaker & Leland Race
After the usual Bullet Club jump start, Breaker and Race enjoyed a period of offence over the tag team champions, picking up a couple of near-falls over Tanga Loa. The tables turned when the Guerrillas took the match outside, before Tonga and Loa isolated Race with shots in the corner.
Race took the fireman’s carry/flipping neckbreaker combo for a near-fall as Breaker came in to… err… break up the cover. Leland made a comeback of sorts with a clothesline out of the corner on Loa, before Breaker came in to charge down Tama Tonga. A massive back body drop was given to both of the Guerrillas, before a pop-up powerbomb saw Breaker get a near-fall.
A Doctor Bomb saw Breaker get another near-fall as Loa broke up the cover. Breaker caught a Stinger splash from Tonga and turned it into a neckbreaker, before he tagged in Race for the finishing spring, as double knees in the corner from Race and a Breaker spinebuster should have led to something more than a count of one. Breaker’s pumphandle shoulderbreaker got Race another two-count, before Tama Tonga’s fight back earned him a shotgun dropkick into the corner.
As the match crossed the ten minute mark, Loa came in to save Tonga from the assisted Shiranui (or the Death Squad’s Sheffield Hammer for you UWA fans…), before Race was popped up into an elevated Gun Stun. One elevated DDT later, and the Guerrillas took the win. Yeah, I’m not too sold on Leland Race – he was bland in his first outing, and in this outing he added “awkward bumper” to it. I’m still not going to cry nepotism for this booking, but I think we’re finding the reason why the son of a Hall of Famer hasn’t had a crack with WWE. This wasn’t a bad match, but it’s another one you’ll want to forget. **
World Tag League 2016, Block A: War Machine (Hanson & Rowe) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson
That got your attention, didn’t it? War Machine looked impressive on their debut on Friday’s first round of matches, and they continued that trend here. Robinson and Tanahashi caught their bigger opponents in abdominal stretches early on, before Hanson went flying towards Robinson on the outside with a tope that missed.
After overcoming some double-teaming with a sit-down senton on Robinson and a backbreaker on Tanahashi, Hanson tagged out to Rowe, whose first move was to blast Juice with a forearm to the face. A seated Robinson then took a diving crossbody for a near-fall, before playing babyface in peril as Tanahashi’s outstretched hand finally collected the tag. Tanahashi impressively took down Rowe with a German suplex, but then walked into a Superman punch as both men slumped to the mat. Robinson came in to pepper Hanson with some right hands, but the War Beard just charged at him… and got low bridged by the former NXT star.
Tanahashi held up Rowe’s legs so that Robinson’s big splash could connect – and get a near-fall – before Hanson tripped up Tanahashi as the faces went for what I could only presume was a Hart Attack. That left Robinson vulnerable for a pop-up bodyslam for a near-fall, before using a roll-through on Rowe as War Machine set up for an assisted German suplex. After Hanson was slammed onto Tanahashi, War Machine looked to end things with a double chokeslam on Robinson. However, Juice elbowed out and launched into his Dusty punches (and a foul-mouthed tirade). The double chokeslam followed for a near-fall as Juice just about stayed alive, but fell quickly to the Fall Out as War Machine went 2-0. A fun match, easily the best thing on the card so far! ***¾
World Tag League 2016, Block A: Tetsuya Naito & Rush vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
Both teams won their first match on Friday, so one of these teams will likely join War Machine at the top of the block after this.
Naito’s traditional tranquilo pose acted as a distraction for Rush to attack Kojima from behind at the bell, but the veteran made a quick comeback before a spot of pec’ flexing. Rush and Naito regained the advantage after the match spilled outside, where Rush wore down Kojima with a sleeperhold, as Tenzan was thrown into the barriers. Upon returning to the ring, the Ingobernables pairing kept wearing down Kojima, but a countered suplex from Kojima saw him land a DDT on Rush before tagging in Tenzan. You know the drill: Mongolian chops for all! Naito thought he’d gotten a way back into it, but was taken down by a Mountain bomb as Tenzan’s tagged out once again, allowing Kojima to hit the rapid-fire chops to Naito.
Rush cut-off Kojima’s top rope elbow drop as the heels took over, with Naito’s Gloria attempt being countered… only for him to tie up Kojima in a Koji Clutch instead. Tenzan broke that up, but was again thrown to the outside by Rush, who then went after Kojima with an avalanche in the corner, before an extremely lackadaisical pin got a near-fall. Naito cut-off an attempted comeback from Kojima with an outside-in dropkick, before a diving corner dropkick from Rush earned another two-count for Los Ingobernables. Kojima did manage to fight out of a Rush Driver, before dropping Naito with a lariat, and finally giving Rush the Strong Arm lariat to get the win. A surprising result, but a terrific, hard-fought main event… even if I’d have switched the last two matches around! ***¼
So, with two rounds in the book for block A, we have a two-way tie:
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima, War Machine – 2-0 / 4pts
Tetsuya Naito & Rush, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Brian Breaker & Leland Race – 1-1 / 2pts
Henare & Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson – 0-2 / 0pts
After two matches, there’s one team that’s pretty clearly being set up for a late run towards the finishing line, since I can’t see Tanahashi repeating his low-scoring runs with Captain New Japan in 2012 and 2013!
Billy Gunn & Yoshi Tatsu, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii, EVIL & SANADA, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma – 1-0 / 2pts
Kenny Omega & Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale & Bone Soldier, Katsuyori Shibata & Yuji Nagata, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI – 0-1 / 0pts
These shows are quickly falling into the pattern we’ve seen with other tournaments: mostly forgettable undercards, and decent tournament matches. That being said, if I have to see many more iterations of the same Young Lion’s match, we may be forced to skip some matches…