New Japan’s World Tag League rolled into Yamanashi on Tuesday, as block B completed their first round of matches.

World Tag League 2017 – Block B: Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) vs. David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura
A very tough opener here for Finlay and Kitamura, but someone had to face the champions first, I guess. The Baby Bulldog has added sunglasses to his entrance gear… but let’s face it, he could wear Dalton Castle’s peacock-like cape and still not look as daft as he did when WWE made him wear a cowboy hat back in the day “because Calgary stampede”.

We start with some power between Kitamura and Davey Boy, with the former being taken into the ropes for an unclean break. Kitamura tries for a gutwrench, but it’s reversed, and it’s looking rather easy for the Bulldog here. Archer tags in and keeps Kitamura cornered with some right hands, before Davey Boy returns and wrenches back in a crossface. Heck, Smith even goes for the Young Lions’ own finisher, but Kitamura’s wise to it and gets the ropes – despite Archer’s efforts to get in his way. Eventually, Kitamura stops the onslaught by reversing a suplex from Archer, and brings in Finlay with a lukewarm tag, but at least Finlay hits a dropkick and some corner uppercuts to stem the tide.

Smith cuts that off though, and tags take us back to Archer and Kitamura – with the former looking surprisingly small now. Shoulder tackles from Kitamura didn’t work, so he throws in a spear for a near-fall, before gorilla press slamming Archer. Impressive!

That was the end of the offence though, as Archer gets a blind tag out to Davey Boy as the champs hit a version of the old Hart Attack clothesline, before they cut off another Kitamura comeback with a Killer Bomb for the win. Largely a competitive squash, but this wasn’t as painful to watch as some matches we’ve already had here. I’m not expecting Kitamura and Finlay to score anything in this tournament, but they’re used to staring at ceilings… ***

World Tag League 2017 – Block B: War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) vs. Togi Makabe & Henare
Like Finlay and Kitamura, I see similar results for Makabe – but only because he’s partnered with a young lion. Even more so because said young lion, Henare, is back from injury and is still heavily taped up!

We have a handshake to open, but War Machine quickly took the fight to their opponents with avalanche clotheslines, before using each other as weapons. Is it any wonder the Japanese crowds took to them the way they have? Everyone likes an ass-kicker… Somehow, Henare and Makabe got back into it with shoulder tackles, but a low bridge from Hanson gets rid of Makabe, leaving poor Henare in there against the former tag champs. It doesn’t go well for him, as you’d expect, as War Machine wear him down with knees and… beard rubs.

Makabe’s only able to watch as Henare’s chopped to the mat, before he has Hanson slammed onto him… but he rolls out of the way of a big splash from Hanson to get him a chance. A tag out finally brings Makabe in to mount a comeback, with mounted punches in the corner, before bringing Henare back in… perhaps a touch too soon, as War Machine threatened to take over again.

Despite a brief flurry from Makabe, Henare’s left alone for a springboard clothesline-assisted German suplex that gets the former tag champs a near-fall. At least Makabe saves Henare from Fallout, and almost helps Henare get the win with a roll-up, then a Samoan drop… but the New Zealander’s attempt to help Makabe set up for a King Kong knee drop goes wrong as he ends up taking a knee from Rowe instead, before Fallout secured the win. Exactly the match you’d expect, with Henare taking the majority of the beatings here. Fun, but hardly competitive. **¾

Now everyone’s had a match, here’s the standings, and there’s not much in the way of shocks:

Block A:
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens; Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi; Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI; Sami Callihan & Juice Robinson (1-0; 2pts)
EVIL & SANADA; Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima; Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata; Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka (0-1; 0pts)

Block B:
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)

The crew have a day off today (Wednesday), and return to the grind on Thursday in Hyogo for a card that features an entire round of block A matches: Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka vs. EVIL & SANADA; Sami Callihan & Juice Robinson vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI; Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi and Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page.

Those last two matches might be a little tough…