Monday’s World Tag League finals are all set, after a six-way logjam was resolved in Ehime!
Tomoyuki Oka & Ren Narita vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tetsuhiro Yagi
The first of two (non-tournament) matches where we’ve got a young lion paired with a veteran, and it’s pretty much what you’d expect. Lots of holds between those in the black trunks, as Yagi and Liger worked over Narita for a spell.
Yagi tried to force Narita to tap to a keylock, but instead they just chop each other to pieces before Oka came in for more of the same. Eventually a Yagi dropkick restores order, before he almost cradled Oka for the win… which would have been a shock given the pecking order. In the end though, with Narita keeping watch on Liger, Oka forced Yagi to tap to a Boston crab as the more surprising team picked up the win. **
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & EVIL) vs. Hirai Kawato & Manabu Nakanishi
Given they won block A, this should really be a squash for SANADA and EVIL, rather than a competitive tune-up match for Monday’s final. Of course, Kawato wanted to start, and his first flurry actually does well against EVIL.
Things quickly go to plan though when the LIJ pairing started knocking Kawato down with ease, but Kawato does manage to sneak in a dropkick before tagging in Nakanishi. He lumbers in with some double axehandle blows before missing a knee drop to SANADA… who then ran into what I guess was a static spear.
Nakanishi hits a more mobile lariat for a near-fall, before EVIL tries to break up an Argentine backbreaker. Kawato begs for a tag back in, and gets it, surprising SANADA with a ‘rana, then a missile dropkick, but once SANADA started to hit back, it was trouble. Especially since EVIL and Nakanishi went off to brawl in the crowd, as a big backdrop suplex nearly put away Kawato, before he was ragdolled in the Skull End for the win. Some fun stuff from Kawato, who was having to move for two men since Nakanishi was damn near statuesque. **
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & El Desperado) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
Now their block is over, we’re back to the “hey, we’re getting Suzuki and Goto at the Tokyo Dome, right?” teases. Especially since we had a jump start with those two going straight for each other.
Poor Desperado gets double-teamed as Suzuki was left on the outside, and it’s a rather more vicious, Suzuki-gun like performance out of YOSHI-HASHI and Goto. At least until Suzuki got in the game with an armbar in the ropes…
With Ehime not having guard railings, Suzuki had to throw YOSHI-HASHI into the crowd before taking Goto towards the back of the arena. For some reason Suzuki’s taken a liking to taking shots at Milano Collection AT on commentary, which seems to be a recurring thing: Naito, SANADA, now Suzuki. That attempt at a count-out doesn’t work, so YOSHI-HASHI eats some more chops as he’s left stranded away from a much-needed tag. Another keylock attempt out of Suzuki segued into an armbar, but Goto’s attempt to break it up gets him a heel hook for his troubles.
Tags take us back to Suzuki and Goto, with the latter trying for an ushigoroshi and instead having to make do with a Saito suplex, before having to fight off some double-teaming, with a running spear from Despy almost causing the pin-fall. Suzuki’s hell-bent on going for Goto, but that leads to the Suzuki-gun demise as Suzuki gets distracted by a fight with YOSHI-HASHI on the outside – and can’t make the save as Despy eats an ushigoroshi and GTR for the win. By-the-numbers, but it’s nice to see some drama in these matches now the tag league’s wrapping up! ***
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Death Juice (Sami Callihan & Juice Robinson)
Featuring “the Bullet Club who don’t give a stuff about web series” or anything like that…
This one went a shade over ten minutes, which would give everyone a minute each if you’re big with a stopwatch… Death Juice seemed to share their time, combining to nearly end things early on Page, who dived for a tag out when Tenzan tagged in. Poor Yujiro eats a brainbuster as Tenzan dished out plenty of Mongolian chops before Kojima continues his Greatest Hits with the Machine Gun chops.
Fale shoved Kojima off the top rope as he went for an elbow, which sparked some double-teaming against Kojima as the Bullet Club continued to isolate him. Owens mocked Sami and Juice, just because, but those Dusty punches of his just earned him a Koji cutter instead. Chase keeps on mocking, doing the Nagata salute… and you know how that ends when Yuji got the chance… a stuttering dropkick, but the numbers game remains in effect and Nagata’s quickly overwhelmed.
Leo Tonga tried to involve himself, but he’s caught in the Shirome… until Fale wandered in to break it up. So we have another tag as Juice tries to get some receipts, with Leo taking the brunt of them, including an assisted cannonball from Robinson that nearly ends things… but the numbers game returns as the Bullet Club swarm Juice as the ring fills up.
Chase is STILL mocking, and earns himself a Mountain bomb from Tenzan before Yujiro stuffs a TenKoji Cutter… that sparked a Parade of Moves, ending with a spike Pulp Friction onto Leo for the win. Enjoyable stuff, but ultimately ten guys busting out their Greatest Hits here… which I’m perfectly fine with for a nothing midcard match. **¾
After the match, Sami Callihan gave Tenzan a kiss – making up for the jealousy he’d sparked after kissing Kojima earlier in the tour. Oh God, we even get Dancing Yuji!
World Tag League 2017 – Block B: David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Togi Makabe & Henare
Unless we get a no contest, someone’s getting points here! Both teams went throughout the league without even a hint of a win, since we had two “Young Lion” teams in the same block – which was quite the turn around for Makabe, who had come into this winning the last two tag leagues.
The two Young Lions went for each other at the bell, with Kitamura having fun aiming for the throat of Henare with chops. Henare’s attempt to comeback saw him run into a Finlay dropkick as the lesser-experienced team took over, cornering the Kiwi and generally wearing him down with chops and shoulder tackles.
Kitamura tries to force a submission, but in the end tags out to Finlay who tries a superplex, only to get shoved down as Henare gets in a flying shoulder tackle en route to a tag. As you’d expect, Makabe clears house and obliterates Finlay with a shoulder block, before having trouble with Kitamura, who almost beat him with a spear.
Finlay and Kitamura try to double-team, but just get a double clothesline from Makabe before a Henare Samoan drop and the King Kong knee from Makabe made sure the veteran left with something. Exactly what you’d expect in a wooden spoon match: scrappiness, but in the end, it’s the more experienced team who left with the spoils. **½
World Tag League 2017 – Block B: Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) vs. Best Friends (Chuckie T & Beretta)
Both teams have a shout at winning the block, but would be relying on other results to get into Monday’s tournament final. Lance Archer seemed to have things under control early, taking Beretta and Chuckie outside, before winding himself up for… something to Beretta. I don’t quite know what he bumped from from that camera angle…
The KES continue to wear down Beretta, with Smith using a rear chinlock, before dropping him with a powerslam for a near-fall. It took Archer to miss a charge into the corner for Beretta to have a hope of tagging out, but Archer knocked Chuckie off the apron… and so we continue down the road! Beretta finally gets the tag after escaping from an inverted crucifix bomb, allowing Chuckie to clear house… before Beretta tried to return with a tope, only to get an apron chokeslam in the process.
Back inside, Chuckie eats a Hart Attack-ish lariat for a near-fall, then a high/low as the KES wiped out Chuckie T some more, with a chokeslam and a sit-out powerbomb almost doing it… only for Beretta to make a save. Instead, Beretta nails Smith with a Dudebuster to buy some time, which Chuckie almost capitalised fully on, getting a near-fall with a piledriver to Archer.
Archer rebounds with an inverted crucifix bomb, but from the cover he’s almost rolled up for the win… as the KES instead decide to just cut the crap and hit a Killer Bomb for the win. That’s their job done, they just need to hope that the Guerrillas and War Machine don’t win, otherwise tie-breakers will kill them. A pretty good match, but despite looking in control for most of this match, KES just haven’t done it for me on this particular tour. ***½
World Tag League 2017 – Block B: War Machine (Raymond Rowe & Hanson) vs. Jeff Cobb & Michael Elgin
WELL THEN. Could the team dubbed “Team Awkward” by some hang with War Machine? For reasons I can’t quite speculate on, the mobile camera microphones seem to be muted here.
Rowe and Cobb show their athleticism early, with some leapfrogs almost costing Rowe as we instead saw both men square off before we get Hanson mouthing off to Elgin. After tags, naturally.
A series of suplex counters led to a blind tag as Elgin gets double-teamed by War Machine, who stack up Cobb, then Hanson onto his problematic self. Elgin and Cobb then team up to mimic them as War Machine were forced onto the back foot for a spell, with Cobb getting off an impressive Oklahoma Stampede to Hanson.
A whoopee cushion out of the corner stops Cobb, as we go back to Rowe and Elgin, who happily batter each other, with Rowe this time edging ahead with a uranage as right hands quickly became the order of the day. Hanson knocks Cobb and Elgin into opposing corners for his forever lariats, but they hit him first with duelling clotheslines before Cobb gets off a pumphandle fallaway slam.
Rowe’s forced to fight away a 1-on-2 handicap, but instead takes an Angle slam from Cobb as things threatened to break down, only for a Cobb to get taken down with a clothesline-assisted German suplex instead. The pop-up slam looked to have Cobb done, but things swing back around as Elgin tries for a superplex to Rowe…
…and gets it! But Rowe backdrops out of an Elgin bomb and mounts another comeback of sorts… except he takes a swinging back suplex and a Cobb headbutt before retaliating with a knee as they rush into Fallout for the win. Well, that’s the KES out – but with War Machine having lost to both remaining teams, they’ll need a draw or a no-contest to make it to the finals. This was a solid match, but it was hampered for drama by it not being the last one in. New Japan don’t like doing leagues like this where the last match doesn’t count, so it was what it was. ***¼
World Tag League 2017 – Block B: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
This is basically the Guerrillas’ match to lose – having tie-breakers over War Machine and KES. If they lose, then it’s the KES in the final, so all Ishii and Yano can do is spoil things.
Tanga Loa starts by playing the shoulder tackle game with Ishii, and actually wins out before getting a prompt receipt. Yano wants to play the same game with Tama, but he’s quickly into his shtick because he’s afraid… and again, he’s outdone. One quick trip into the front row seats later, and Yano’s having to kick out as the Guerrillas take over, with Yano having to kick out of some Stinger splashes.
Loa’s back in to choke and stomp away, but a quick hair-pull from Yano gets him free to make a rather lukewarm tag to Ishii, who just runs into some boots. Tama Tonga tries to sneak in a headbutt, but remember, you can’t headbutt a Stone Pitbull. Even if you’re Samoan.
Ishii allows the Guerrillas to charge into each other as he resumed the offence with chops to Loa, who then replied with lariats and a fireman’s carry as the Guerrillas increased their aggressiveness. An Ishii brainbuster put paid to that as Yano’s brought back in… and he’s gone straight for the turnbuckle pads!
Tama charges into an exposed corner as Yano seems to be outsmarting the Guerrillas, and having a blast doing it! A slingshot sent Tama Stinger splashing into the exposed corner once more, but Tanga Loa quickly returns to swing the double-teams against Yano, who eats a neckbreaker and a standing splash for a near-fall.
The old Cryme Tyme G9 fireman’s carry/leaping neckbreaker combo nearly gets the win, but Yano blocks a Gun Stun and gets in a low blow before a lariat-assisted roll-up almost gets the an unlikely victory! Another low blow attempt afterwards is blocked and gets him a Gun Stun as Ishii eats a double-team Tonga Twist, before a double-team DDT puts Yano down for the count. It’s the Guerrillas vs. EVIL & SANADA… and given one of those teams already have gold, I’m fearing yet another Guerrillas/KES match in some form. Still, at least this final was solid, but much like the vast majority of the block matches, nothing special. ***
After the match, the Guerrillas demanded that “Los Horribles” face them… and their opponents in the final obliged. There’s no fight, just a staredown as we have to wait to Fukuoka on Monday for that!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & Gedo
Weirdly, the main event here wasn’t the last World Tag League block match, so we have yet another go around in the built for Naito vs. Okada at the Dome!
If you’ve seen any of these matches on the tour so far, you’ll be aware of the formula. Hot flurries between Naito and Okada, Ospreay and Hiromu… and everything else is there or there abouts. It’s not bad, but had this not been a live stream as part of the World Tag League, this wouldn’t have been the main event.
BUSHI started out as the crash test dummy for Okada, who quickly tagged out to Gedo so they could… triple-team BUSHI. That’s not fair, but it does give Ospreay the chance to hit a standing moonsault so Gedo could get an early pin attempt. That’s quickly met with the Ingobernables rushing the ring so everyone fights in the crow, with Naito seemingly holding up Okada for Milano Collection AT to have a shot. Needless to say, he does not.
Back in the ring, Naito pulls at Gedo’s beard before Hiromu tags in to keep up pulling at the facial hair. BUSHI’s at it too, and it’s around this point where Gedo probably thinks of investing in a razor, as a series of axehandles to an already-tugged beard increase the pain. Gedo gets his own back with a hair-pull of his own, before reaching out for a tag as we get that Ospreay/Takahashi flurry.
A running shooting star press nearly gets a win, but Hiromu countered a ‘rana into a sit-out powerbomb to put the brakes on… as we go back to Okada and Naito. The back elbow spins Naito around, before he’s propelled into a flapjack as Okada nearly ended it right there. Naito hits right back with a neckbreaker, before setting up for the outside-in dropkick in the corner as the two went toe-to-toe.
Naito’s leaping forearm almost set up for Destino, but Okada teases countering into a tombstone, before the counter to a counter ended with Okada hitting a neckbreaker slam instead. Gedo keeps the pressure up until he’s raked in the eyes by BUSHI, who followed up with a missile dropkick as the ring became more of a revolving door.
Ospreay’s back and quickly takes out Hiromu with a plancha, as a Gedo clutch nearly puts away BUSHI. Instead, BUSHI rebounds with a lungblower, then an MX as the Ingobernables left on top for once. A solid main event, but the real story was the ongoing build to the Tokyo Dome, with Naito getting a measure of revenge for the cobra clutches Okada’d given him earlier in the tour. ***
So that’s settled – Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Bullet Club’s Guerrillas of Destiny will be the final – on a card that also features, bizarrely, BUSHI vs. Bad Luck Fale. WHAT? Our coverage of that will be delayed since we’ll be travelling back to our usual base…
Block A (Final):
EVIL & SANADA (5-2; 10pts)
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHIl Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan; Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page (4-3; 8pts)
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens; Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka; Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (3-4; 6pts)
Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata (2-5; 4pts)
Block B (final)
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (5-2; 10pts – win on tie breakers); Hanson & Raymond Rowe; Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer (5-2; 10pts – lose on tie-breakers)
Beretta & Chuckie T; Jeff Cobb & Michael Elgin; Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (4-3; 8pts)
Henare & Togi Makabe (1-6; 2pts)
Katsuya Kitamura & David Finlay (0-7; 0pts)