After a day off, the World Tag League tour’s back on the road, with Hyogo hosting a full round of matches from block A.
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Bullet Club (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens)
We start with comedy here as Fale offers to too sweet Yujiro… but of course he’s too short. They finally do, then tag out, before Chase and Hangman just shake hands in a bid to avoid any cease and desists.
The two Americans go through some basic sequences, armdrags, leapfrogs and the like, before they avoid each others’ flashier fare. That gives way into a spot of shoving over too sweeting, as Fale and Owens just attack them from behind, leaving poor Yujiro in there on his own for a prolonged spell. Yujiro tries an eye rake, but Owens just returns fire immediately… and the same happens with them biting each other. Eventually Yujiro tags out to Page, who looked to catch Chase in a death valley driver… but instead puts him down so he can focus on Fale, before throwing in a nice dropsault (dropkick/moonsault combo).
The standing moonsault part gets Page a near-fall, before he headed outside for another moonsault. They stay on track, with a pop-up death valley driver getting Page another near-fall on Owens, then again after a back suplex/neckbreaker combo with Yujiro… but once Fale returned, the tide changed again, as he threatened to give Page a Bad Luck Fall. Yujiro talked him out of it, before falling to a roll-up as Owens grabbed the win. Eh, it was what it was – not as comedy-heavy as other Bullet Club vs. Bullet Club tags, but this was one that you can easily walk away from. *½
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Dear God, the entire video is almost 20 minutes long, with the entrances barely taking up three of them. This may be the slog we’re fearing…
We start with the shoulder blocks, as Nakanishi forces Kojima to tag out following a double-handed chop… before we get Nagata teasing some work over the arm of Tenzan. They slug it out for a spell, before Tenzan catches a kick and goes to his staple: Mongolian chops. The tide slowly ebbs and flows, with Nagata and Nakanishi taking control for a spell, leading to the Shirome armbar from Nagata on Kojima, as Tenzan just sort-of watched on from the corner as his partner tried in vain to fight back.
Eventually, Kojima gets off a DDT as he gets the tag out to Tenzan, who goes back to those Mongolian chops, before getting a near-fall on Nagata with a Mountain Bomb.The Anaconda Vice quickly follows, but Nakanishi wanders in to break that up as the momentum swings once again. A spinning heel kick from Tenzan ends that spell though, with Kojima tagging in to dish out some Machine Gun chops to Nagata, then to Nakanishi as neither pairing was able to maintain an advantage. The keenly-fought contest ambled on with Kojima taking a Nagata knee in the corner, before Nakanishi randomly went to the top rope… and of course he was stopped in his tracks.
After an Argentine backbreaker from Nakanishi, Tenzan’s back in with his favourite kind of chops, as the match came to a close, with Kojima eventually polishing off Nakanishi with the Strong Arm lariat. Not as bad as I feared going in, but this was as slow as you’d expect, with all four largely sticking to their Greatest Hits. **
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka)
As is always the way with Suzuki-gun matches, we have a jump start, and a spell of brawling outside the ring. Which is always nice on these fixed-camera shows…
When LIJ thought they’d taken over, Suzuki quickly neutralises EVIL with an armbar in the ropes, and we’re back outside again. At least this time they pivot a camera so we can sort-of see Suzuki batter EVIL with chairs in the crowd, although this was more of an audio show than anything else. Finally back in the ring, EVIL gets worked on by Suzuki and Iizuka, targeting the taped-up arm with holds and bites. It’s not quite as sadistic as Suzuki-gun are known for, but it’s still fairly remorseless, as they keep EVIL in the corner, away from any hope of tagging in SANADA. Eventually, EVIL gives Iizuka a taste of his own medicine with some biting, but Takashi’s still hungry.
After more nibbling, EVIL breaks free and gets SANADA in, who’s forced to brush off Iizuka’s attempts at using a rope before tying the mad man in a Paradise Lock. Suzuki returns to batter SANADA with more kicks, before the Ingobernable broke free and landed a springboard dropkick to keep his side in the game. EVIL’s back next, but his attempt to soften up Suzuki for the Banshee Muzzle quickly fades as he’s double-teamed… and choked with a rope after the ref stopped Suzuki from throwing a closed fist. Just like that though, EVIL traps Suzuki in that Banshee Muzzle, whilst SANADA has Iizuka in the Skull End, but Minoru gets a foot to the ropes to break the hold.
LIJ try to hit Suzuki with the Magic Killer, but he avoids it… before El Desperado causes a distraction at ringside. That stops the ref from seeing EVIL getting hit with Iizuka’s funky oven glove, as a Gotch piledriver gets Suzuki the win. This was really enjoyable to watch – despite the bad guys vs. bad guys formula that can so often struggle to get much of a response. Suzuki-gun largely controlled the match from the off, so this was the right result. ***¼
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Death Juice (Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan)
Our final block match of the day pits two teams against each other who won their first match – so someone’s perfect start is ending early!
Juice and YOSHI-HASHI get us off as they trade shoulder blocks, before Goto randomly wanders in and drags Callihan into the fray. That bit doesn’t go well for the CHAOS pairing, as we just have Juice and Sami shouting “Juice” a lot. It’s annoying. Things quickly spill to the outside, which is where I add my usual moan about that, as we hear but don’t see much. I can just about see YOSHI-HASHI chop Juice before rolling him back inside.
Goto keeps the momentum going with a suplex before grounding Juice with a chinlock, and it’s pretty much one-way against Robinson for the time being. He eventually fights back with some Dusty punches, then a spinebuster as both men tagged out, giving Callihan the chance to… take it outside and back into the realm of “I can just about see you”. Inside again, Calliham takes down Goto with almost a Mountain bomb-like death valley driver, before biting away on YOSHI-HASHI. That earns himself an ushigoroshi as Goto hit the ring, leaving Juice on his own once more, as YOSHI-HASHI took him down with a running Blockbuster.
Eventually Juice hits back with a fireman’s carry gutbuster as Sami comes in once again… with referee Red Shoes doing absolutely nothing to keep him out. Or even try to warn him, especially when they set up for a double-team finish, that Goto broke up as the CHAOS pair had a spell of double-teaming, leading to a double-team Bunker Buster that almost put away Juice.
YOSHI-HASHI tries to force a submission with a butterfly lock, but Callihan breaks that up as he then traded forearms with YOSHI-HASHI. A kiss quickly stopped that, as did a big boot and a double underhook shoulderbreaker, before Juice seals the win with Pulp Friction. Enjoyable stuff once again, but the Japanese crowd seems to be taking a while to get used to this pairing of Callihan and Robinson. ***
Thursday’s group matches fell largely how you’d expect – the matches that I expected to be a slog largely were, whilst the remaining pair were easy to watch. We’re two matches deep in block A, and there’s a rather surprising team at the bottom of the table already…
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens, Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan (2-0; 4pts)
Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi; Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka; Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan; YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto (1-1; 2pts)
EVIL & SANADA; Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata (0-2; 0pts)
Beretta & Chuckie T; Hanson & Raymond Rowe; Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.; Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb (1-0; 2pts)
David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura; Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa; Togi Makabe & Henare; Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (0-1; 0pts)
Friday has four block B matches from Tottori, featuring Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii vs. David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura, Henare & Togi Makabe vs. Guerrillas of Destiny, War Machine vs. Chuckie T & Beretta, and the Killer Elite Squad vs. Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb.