After 18 days of a largely forgettable tour, the World Tag League wrapped up with several surprises in store for Fukuoka!
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. David Finlay, Henare, Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura & Togi Makabe
It’s the New Japan Dads versus the Lions and their somewhat disappointed dad to wrap up the Tag League… and you might be able to guess the format here. Shoulder blocks between Tenzan and Kitamura initially give the Young Lion the advantage, but we’re quickly into the Dads’ Greatest Hits territory.
Chops between Nakanishi and Henare saw the veteran win out, before Kawato rushes in to stop Liger lifting Henare into a Romero special. Makabe gets the tag in to go after his fellow dads with the mounted punches, only to get caught with an Exploder by Nagata! Kojima tries to follow up, but only gets himself a lariat as Kawato gets tagged back into play, along with the rest of his team as the ring filled up against Kojima.
Finlay slips in a uranage backbreaker before Kawato’s pin from a missile dropkick gets broken up. The ring empties as Kojima’s left alone to decapitate Kawato with a Strong Arm lariat, and of course that’s enough. Basic stuff, but an enjoyable opener nevertheless. The Young Lions still looking for a win! **½
Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Hangman Page, Leo Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe), Jeff Cobb & Michael Elgin
After going to war on Saturday, War Machine and “Team Awkward” have to tag again against the Bullet Club, and it’s Elgin who’s showing off early, picking up Takahashi and Page for a double slam.
Hanson comes in but took too long to do the Forever lariats as the Bullet Club rush the ring to turn the tide, which led to Hanson taking a beatdown for a spell. Some of it beard-assisted, some of it not… Jeff Cobb single-handled turns it back around, throwing Chase with a pumphandle fallaway slam and a spinning gutwrench suplex that wowed Fukuoka, ahead of a standing moonsault for a near-fall.
An eye-rake from Page gives him a breather as the ring again fills, leading to a double stomp to Cobb’s head and a Samoan drop from Tonga. Hangman Page impresses briefly against War Machine, but Hanson cartwheels away from a slingshot lariat and delivers a clothesline himself as the pace quickened… Tonga’s dropkick dispatches Elgin, but Cobb hands him a spinning Athletic-plex before taking a superkick from Owens.
Owens teases a Tongan Death Grip, but Rowe just punches it away as a pop-up powerslam ended that exchange, with Leo’s attempt to interfere ending quickly as he tastes Fallout for the loss. Frenetic stuff, but otherwise your generic undercard fare. Hey, why’s Raymond Rowe not effing at Michael Elgin anymore?? **½
BUSHI vs. Bad Luck Fale
I don’t get this? Apparently this is because BUSHI pinned Fale at King of Pro Wrestling, but this seems like a set-up for something else… although BUSHI was not identified as a six man tag team champion, if you want to read into that.
It opens like a standard David vs. Goliath match, with BUSHI trying to out-do Fale with his agility, but as soon as Fale’s able to use his size, it’s game over. Fale tries to unmask BUSHI, then toys with him some more, before BUSHI sprayed Fale to escape a Grenade. A low blow to an already-blinded Fale ends it, as the intentional foul forces the DQ, as a MX left Fale down after the match. Well, this is why people hated it when WCW mixed the big guys with cruiserweights. It told a story, but it did nobody any favours. DUD.
Best Friends (Beretta & Chuckie T) vs. Death Juice (Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan)
We’re back to matches made from the off-cuts of the World Tag League – and it’s featuring the surprise imports for this year’s league, with Chuckie T and Sami Callihan getting their last New Japan dates (for now!)
Beretta and Juice start off, but they largely neutralise each other, going hold-for-hold before a blind tag let Chuckie T grab an Octopus stretch as Juice made his way to a tag. Callihan’s springboard clothesline helped put both of the Best Friends outside, with Beretta eating a low-pe, before Juice goes airborne as well.
Back inside, Juice and Sami kept the upper hand, with Beretta getting isolated for a long period, at least until he countered out of a sleeper. More tags out see Chuckie T explode into life against Juice, who manages to retaliate with Dusty punches to both of the Best Friends, which followed up with clotheslines and a cannonball to Beretta in the corner. Chuckie avoids a similar fate, and throws himself into a tope con hilo to the outside as Sami almost gets a target on his back, only to escape and tease a spiked Pulp Friction.
Instead, the Best Friends regain their position for an assisted cutter that almost wins the match, before Juice’s punch saves Sami from Strong Zero. A Chuckie superkick stops Pulp Friction as both teams traded counters, until a package tombstone from Sami nearly gets the win over Beretta. Callihan continues with a sit-out powerbomb and a Stretch muffler whilst the cameras miss Chuckie T piledriving Juice on the apron, as Beretta almost wins with a cradle.
Callihan tries for another powerbomb, but Beretta counters it into a Dudebuster, with Chuckie throwing in the Strong Zero part of it to ensure he goes out on the winning side. This was fun as hell to watch, with that amazing flurry of activity towards the end – it’s almost like some folks were angling for return tours! ***¼
Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith Jr., El Desperado, Lance Archer & Minoru Suzuki) vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI
English commentator Don Callis tried to run from Minoru… problem was Lance Archer caught him and sent him spilling into one of the crowd barriers. Nevermind, eh?
It’s another stop on the Suzuki vs. Goto hype train, but we start with Yano messing around and generally outsmarting Lance Archer. For about ten seconds. Goto and YOSHI-HASHI had better luck, but it’s not long before this degenerates into your usual Suzuki-gun fare as all hell broke loose on the outside, with Suzuki throwing chairs and railings onto Goto.
All that means YOSHI-HASHI’s left isolated as Suzuki-gun had their way, especially since Suzuki kept wandering off to have potshots at Goto around ringside. Finally Ishii gets the tag in, but he stuttered against the Bulldog, who lands a reverse DDT for a near-fall, and then Yano returns to keep up his shtick. Turnbuckles off, atomic drops and all that… but it quickly backfires on him as tags take us back to Goto and Suzuki.
Suzuki tries to sneak in a PK, but Goto blocks it, then backdrops out of a Gotch piledriver as Suzuki-gun swarmed the ring, battering Goto 4-on-1. A Hart attack and a PK almost gives Desperado the win, before YOSHI-HASHI’s interference just delayed things as Desperado took an ushigoroshi and a GTR, giving Goto the win! Well, another Goto win over Suzuki-gun keeps the tension up, but it’s mighty strange seeing the tag champions being throwaway bodies in a match like this. ***
Once again, Suzuki left the ring without even acknowledging Goto. Cue the spot where I scramble for summaries online from those who know Japanese… Goto wants a NEVER title shot, but Suzuki wants something from him since he feels Goto hasn’t earned it. I think we’re getting another wacky stipulation NEVER title match: hair vs. title?
Kota Ibushi & KUSHIDA vs. Bullet Club (Cody & Marty Scurll)
We’re mashing up two Tokyo Dome matches here, with Ibushi/Cody and half of the IWGP junior title match in the same bout. I sense a cheap finish here since everyone’s got to look somewhat strong coming out of this…
Ibushi refuses to kiss the ring – literally, not proverbially – and he starts by kicking away at Cody, who quickly powders to the outside. When he returns, we get a flurry, with Cody and Ibushi doing a lot of swinging and missing, so we get tags out to Marty and KUSHIDA, as commentary notes how jet-lagged Cody and Marty will likely be. KUSHIDA countered a sunset flip into a Hoverboard lock, but Scurll’s too close to the ropes, and a cheeky kick from Cody helps turn things around into the Bullet Club tandem’s favour as KUSHIDA went from hunter to hunted. A delayed front suplex gets Cody a near-fall, but it’s not long before Kota comes back in to unleash on Cody with some kicks, followed by a springboard moonsault out of the corner for a near-fall.
Cody hits back with an Alabama Slam, but KUSHIDA stops that comeback, and even finds time to sidestep Scurll, planting him into the turnbuckle with a Flatliner. Marty gets a receipt with a suplex into the corner, as they followed in with a Doomsday Dropkick to KUSHIDA, before Marty’s over-the-knee brainbuster almost gets the win.
A chicken wing’s avoided as KUSHIDA instead counters with a Spanish Fly into a cross armbreaker… but Cody pulls him up and goes for Cross Rhodes as everyone tries for their big stuff, finishing with a Golden Triangle moonsault to Cody on the outside as those two fought to the stage, with Cody dropping Kota with some Cross Rhodes. Meanwhile, in the ring, the cameraman misses Marty throwing powder into KUSHIDA’s eyes, leaving so much there it left the ref look rather stupid since KUSHIDA had what looked like an entire bag of flour on his chest… one small package later, and Marty wins. Well, that was a finish, I guess, but it’s built up something new, so I can’t complain too much, regardless of my feelings for that particular section of the ‘club. **¾
Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. Rocky Romero & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
After winning the junior tag titles on their first night back, Roppongi 3K aren’t quite having to grow into their titles, but it is a strange aesthetic having to establish someone as champions.
We start with a flurry as Nick Jackson tried for a Sharpshooter on YOH, but that just led to a six-way brawl as the ring filled up, which saw the Roppongi trio edge ahead as they took the Elite out for some knees off the apron. Back in the ring, YOH tried to work over Nick, but Kenny Omega interferes, which allows the Bucks to show a snippet of their usual double-team routines.
Repeated superkicks to YOH see him knocked off, then thrown back onto the apron… before Rocky’s attempt at a save earned him a flip senton as he was draped off the apron. YOH continues to get triple-teamed as a Kotaro Krusher from Omega kept YOH down for some more Bucks offence, which he eventually snuck out from as his “brother” SHO gets the tag. Oh, Kevin Kelly…
SHO lit up the Bucks with some quick-fire offence, before Rocky Romero’s sunset flip to Omega sparked a pair of Germans to the Bucks. Conveniently, the Elite sought refuge in the corners for some Forever lariats, ending with a snap Dragon suplex from Omega, as he rattled through all of Roppongi 3K with those. A V-trigger shakes SHO, but Romero makes the save from a One Winged Angel, only to get taken out as a chain of superkicks break out.
SHO and YOH take out the Bucks with stereo topes, before fighting up the ramp as Omega takes a running Sliced Bread from Romero. Of course, that’s not it, as Omega gets the win when he counters a standard Sliced Bread into the One Winged Angel for the win. Pretty standard match, but it was clear what Rocky was in there for… ***
The big story came after the match though, as we got another promo video hyping up Omega vs. Jericho at the Tokyo Dome. It looks like it was shot from the same warehouse, as Jericho asks Kenny if he’s ready… but he’s here! Omega eats a Codebreaker as Jericho unleashes on him… prompting Young Lions to enter the ring. They all get laid out as Omega comes up bloodied. Don Callis leaves the commentary table to check on Omega, but Jericho spots him and goes back to the ring to deliver one more Codebreaker.
Yep, I popped.
Finally the Young Bucks return, baseball bat in hand, as Jericho leaves for good this time, whilst the remaining Young Lions prepare a stretcher for Don Callis.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay
One more time… except it’s now just a straight tag, a la the earlier match with Scurll and KUSHIDA. So we’re either having a third unclean finish, or someone’s not going in strong.
The match starts as cagey as you’d expect, with a tie-up leading to the suspenseful Okada clean-break before he clocked Naito with a big boot as a response looked to be in motion. Naito looked to rebound, but he just sent Ospreay and Okada scurrying as he went all Tranquilo on us.
Tags got us to Ospreay and Takahashi, with Hiromu low-bridging Ospreay to the apron, which only delayed a dropkick from Will and the eventual dive attempt… with the Ingobernables instead double-teaming him into oblivion. Meanwhile, Naito and Okada head around ringside and up the aisle, where Okada tasted a slam on the ramp, leaving us with Ospreay all by himself for a spell.
Ospreay manages to evade some double-teaming with his flips before Okada’s back in to spike Naito with a DDT for a near-fall. Okada gets spiked with a neckbreaker on the apron in retaliation, then a missile dropkick as Naito looked to target the recently-injured neck of the champion… but Okada rebounds as he teases a Cobra clutch, only for Hiromu to break it up.
With Hiromu dispatched, Naito’s forced to escape a tombstone as he gets in a tornado DDT, and we’re back to Ospreay and Takahashi. Hiromu teases the sunset bomb to the floor for the first time in ages, but it’s blocked as Ospreay instead gets in a Sasuke special to leave the Time Bomb down on the floor. Back inside, a ‘rana’s turned into a powerbomb as the pair continued to go tit-for-tat, with all four men busting out their Greatest Hits here.
Ospreay edges ahead with a Revolition kick to Hiromu, but an OsCutter’s turned into a German suplex as Will’s eventually double-teamed to oblivion as Destino and a Time Bomb put him away. Hiromu wins, and I’m guessing that this’ll be the start of a run? This was better than some of the Naito/Okada tags, but I’ll be glad when we get to the Tokyo Dome. ***¼
After the match, Naito did his customary end-of-show promo (yeah, we’ve a match left), and that seemed to bait Okada to try and cheapshot Naito. It started off badly, but eventually he manages to counter a Destino into the Cobra clutch… and my God that’s going to be a momentous counter (and escape) next month! They’ve done a good job establishing the new feather to Okada’s bow, that’s for sure…
World Tag League 2017 – Final: Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA)
The (rather underwhelming) league ends here, with a match that could generate a new tag title match-up… and the underlying story of dissent that EVIL & SANADA have stolen an old Bullet Club finisher here in the Magic Killer.
We’ve a tentative open on both sides, with SANADA and Tama stripping off so they could start throwing chops without anything to cushion the blow… but they don’t go straight to that as EVIL & SANADA just double-team Tama. Everyone ended up outside for the obligatory around-the-ring brawl, which drew little reaction as despite their flashes, technically both teams here are bad guys.
The tempo raises a little when SANADA takes out Tanga Loa with a plancha, before throwing in a Paradise Lock… as a crucifix attempt gets stuffed when Loa countered that into a Samoan drop. Still little reaction. Things pick up again when Tama Tonga comes in, but he’s quickly neutered by a SANADA ‘rana, and just as EVIL accidentally bumps into the ref, Tanga Loa returns with a chair. Of course, he uses it…
In the midst of the referee-less CHAOS, BUSHI headed out and misted both of the Guerrillas, but Bad Luck Fale waddles out to stop a MX to Tama Tonga and chase away BUSHI… but not before EVIL’s taken a Grenade. Thanks to some water from Kevin Kelly, the Guerrillas can see again, just in time for Red Shoes to get back to his feet as the Ingobernables are forced to defend.
Tanga Loa’s swandive headbutt and a frog splash from Tama almost beats EVIL… LIJ try for a Magic Killer but it’s turned into a Gun Stun by Tama as the wacky rope running ends up getting Tama a Saito suplex as a parade of counters broke out, ending with a Blue Thunder Driver from Loa. Speaking of Tanga, he spotted a table that’d been set up earlier at ringside, and tried to slam SANADA off the apron through it… but they counter back-and-forth on the apron before EVIL popped up… and we get a Magic Killer off the apron and through the table!
Fortunately, it broke!
Back inside, they try a Magic Killer on Tama, but it’s blocked as the Ingobernables have to make do with Darkness Falls that ALMOST won it. They eventually hit a Magic Killer, but Tama kicks out at two, before the Everything is EVIL STO gets the win. A final that was suitably flat – in line with the rest of the tournament – but at least the result bucked a lot of predictions. **¼
My concern here is that commentary during the main event emphasised “anything can happen” – and if that means we get a switch to the tag title match at the Tokyo Dome, then there’s going to be a lot of worried folks. Especially if we get another rehash of KES/GOD/War Machine. Not that it’s a bad match, just it’s been done to death! On the plus side, there’s been precious little mention of EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI as being the current NEVER six-man champions, but that could just be a distraction tactic…
We do get a face-to-face between LIJ and KES after the trophy presentation, and that’s all folks! A so-so show that fit in with the motif of the whole tour, but at least there were moments here that kept the train going en route to WrestleKingdom!