The tournament for New Japan completionists – the World Tag League – carried on as Shiga played host to the latest round of matches out of block A.
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens)
A relatively swift match here, starting with comedy as Fale and SANADA grabbed hair on the apron as both teams tried to out-cheat each other.
Eventually Fale got fed up of being outdone, and yes, we headed outside, with Fale forcing the camera to swivel as he dragged SANADA into the crowd. Chase did the same with EVIL, jabbing part of the crowd barriers into him for the sake of it. All of that left the Bullet Club pair on top, with EVIL having the crowd rally behind him as Fale stood on him… although I’m not quite sure how Chase resting his boot on EVIL added anything.
Finally, EVIL turns things around, with a little help from the ref, before bringing in SANADA to rock Fale with dropkicks. Chase tries to help, but he’s quickly rolled into a Paradise Lock as a missile dropkick finally took down the big guy.
Owens gets tagged back in, and nearly wins it with a Stundog Millionaire on SANADA, but with Fale being kept at bay, it almost looked straightforward for LIJ. Except Owens kept fighting back, and with a little help from a Fale squash, landed a slingshot lungblower to almost secure victory. In the end though, once Fale was clotheslined out again, it was just a matter of time as EVIL and SANADA double-teamed their way to a Magic Killer for the win. This was alright, but I do keep wondering why they’ve suddenly brought back that move… ***
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Death Juice (Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
By now, everyone’s more than a little cagey when it comes to Sami, especially when he’s throwing chairs before he leaves the locker room…
Early on, Sami grabs Tenzan’s Violent Bull mask, and of course it doesn’t bloody help him with shoulder tackles. What kind of thinking would ever have taken you to that conclusion?! It’s not long before Callihan tags out, leaving Juice open for some double-team Mongolian chops… and yes, the referee’s not caring about who the legal man is. At least Juice rolled away from the duelling elbows, as Callihan helped the team get back in, with a step-up big splash onto Kojima almost snatching the win. Juice keeps Kojima down with a chinlock, but it’s fought out of as a DDT helped to bring Tenzan back in for more shoulder tackles and Mongolian chops.
Tenzan keeps up when he suplexed Sami onto Juice, before ending another attempted fightback with a spinning heel kick to Juice, who then squirmed to break free of an Anaconda Vice. Kojima returns for his Machine Gun chops, but his top rope elbow misses as Death Juice work together to pepper Kojima with kicks and cannonballs in the corner.
Juice breaks up a Kojima headlock by helping up into a powerbomb for a near-fall, before Callihan countered it into the Stretch Muffler, which Tenzan finally broke up with his Mongolian chops. For some reason, Death Juice tried for a stuff Pulp Friction, but Kojima avoids it, and gets spat on by Callihan. Yeah, that wasn’t wise, and it’s almost the last thing Sami did as a Koji Cutter would have ended the match…
Instead, Juice makes the save as Sami kisses Kojima, who responds with the Strong Arm lariat for the win. Well, that’s one way to react to it! Another fine, yet unspectacular match – with World Tag League living up to its reputation of bouts that somehow are largely disposable. **½
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
Yeah, we get a jump start. Do you not follow Suzuki-gun matches?!
Nagata and Suzuki try for some arm-work early, before Nakanishi had some success against Suzuki, trapping him in a torture rack before we head outside. Yep, Suzuki and Iizuka head into the stands, causing the panicked ring announcer to blast out his usual warnings, one of which didn’t seem to include “Minoru will try and bury you under crowd barriers”. Suzuki does a Taichi as he grabs the timekeeper’s hammer, and attacks Nakanishi with it. Of course, the ref is nowhere near the scene, so all that happens is Red Shoes just starts counting them out as Suzuki-gun looked to be firmly in control, working over the arm of Nakanishi that’d been hit with the hammer.
Iizuka tries to take things a little too far with some biting, before Nakanishi is trapped in the ropes for a combo of biting and armbars. Eventually Nagata’s had enough, and that prompts Red Shoes to do his job… for what felt like the first time in the match! After what felt like an age, Nakanishi hits a spear and gets the tag to Nagata, who’s more than happy kicking Suzuki into the corner, but of course Suzuki hits back!
Nagata’s quickly trapped into a rear naked choke as Iizuka stumbles in for more biting. He almost wins the match by pinning Nagata whilst choking him with his little rope, but he gets caught using his funky oven glove, which Nagata kicks off of him before a Backdrop Hold pins the lunatic. Decent enough, with Nakanishi down perhaps a little too long… but when you’ve got a combined age of nearly 200 in one match, then you’ve got to expect this. **½
World Tag League 2017 – Block A: Bullet Club (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
It’s a battle of headlocks early for Page and Goto, but the Bullet Club lackey loses out as he’s quickly outnumbered and taken to the corner.
Page responds with a shooting star headbutt to YOSHI-HASHI outside, and it’s pretty standard stuff back in the ring, apart from that awkward backbreaker that Yujiro busted out. A period of isolation keeps YOSHI-HASHI on the back foot, and it looked to continue when Hirooki Goto came in… except he was able to power through a double clothesline attempt. Yujiro’s met with a spinning heel kick into the corner, then a back suplex out of it as Goto’s brief flurry came to an end, courtesy of a fisherman buster. More tags lead us to Hangman getting dropkicked in the ropes by YOSHI-HASHI, followed by a Bunker Buster, but Yujiro’s in the ring early to break up the cover.
Hangman finds a way to dropkick Goto and moonsault onto YOSHI-HASHI at the same time, before pulling YOSHI-HASHI into a back suplex/neckbreaker combo for a near-fall. You know the move – the “alternative” 3D from the video games. The tide swings again as Hangman takes an ushigoroshi and some running knees for a near-fall, before avoiding a left-arm lariat as YOSHI-HASHI took out his own man.
With no Goto, YOSHI-HASHI was left on his own, and after taking a slingshot lariat, the Rites of Passage belly-to-back piledriver proved to be more than enough for the Hangman to get the win. Solid, but unspectacular – the tag-line for this tournament to date! **¾
Another round of matches down, and we’re into something of a logjam now with no clear leader, and half the block on top. Let’s be honest though, this is perhaps the tournament with the least amount of interest this year, and matches hovering around “alright” aren’t going to change that. This is a tournament for completionists and the ultra-hardcores, right?
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens; Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi; Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan; Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan; (2-1; 4pts)
EVIL & SANADA; Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata; Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka; YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto (1-2; 2pts)
Hanson & Raymond Rowe (2-0; 4pts)
Beretta & Chuckie T; Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer; Jeff Cobb & Michael Elgin; Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa; Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (1-1; 2pts)
David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura; Togi Makabe & Henare (0-2; 0pts)
Sunday is block B’s turn in Aichi, with these matches: Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb vs. David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura; Togi Makabe & Henare vs. Beretta & Chuckie T; Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano; Raymond Rowe & Hanson vs. Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa. At least that one isn’t yet another three-way!