New Japan’s latest stay at Korakuen Hall came to an end as we ploughed into the second half of the World Tag League tournament.
There’s no English commentary for the live stream, and (at bell time) there was also no word on the fall-out from Chuckie T’s actions yesterday. Given that the Best Friends are in the second match, we’ll find out soon enough…
World Tag League: Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino vs. Togi Makabe & Toa Henare
As sure as night follows day, Ayato Yoshida’s music and video opens the show since he’s in the opener. Hey, maybe Toa Henare will get the win here? Nah, it’ll be Togi who takes it…
Umino and Makabe start us off, as we see (but don’t hear) the Samurai TV commentary crew that features Jushin Thunder Liger. The early exchanges see Umino grabbing a headlock before he’s shot into the ropes for a shoulder tackle, but Makabe decides to slam him instead rather than wash/rinse/repeat as we rather awkwardly got a pair of tags. In comes Henare and Yoshida, with the Kiwi landing a shoulder block of his own before Makabe took over to club Yoshida down to the mat. A single leg crab from Makabe saw him bust out a rare submission attempt, but ultimately it was too close to the ropes as Yoshida got free and tried to mount a comeback on Henare.
A mid-kick from Yoshida’s caught, but he continues to pile on the pressure… which weirdly included a bodyslam that Henare originally dead weighted on. Umino tags back in and tries to light up Henare with forearms, then shoulder blocks, before eventually knocking him down with a forearm. There’s a dropkick from Umino that finds its mark, then a missile dropkick, but the Young Lion team quickly get thwarted when Makabe comes in and clotheslines the pair of them. That left Umino easy pickings for Henare, except he gets suckered into a small package, then a backslide for some near-falls, before a series of strikes left both men rocked.
A headbutt from Henare finally has Umino down, before he finished him off with the Samoan drop. That’s back-to-back wins for Henare and Makabe, while the Young Lions look to be doomed to the winless tournament as you perhaps had this pegged as their only real shot of a point. **¾
World Tag League: Best Friends (Chuckie T & Beretta) vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
After that opener, Nagata and Nakanishi are a clear second-bottom of the league – although they may well pick up points here if we have a repeat of Thursday’s events. Both men came out together, sort-of, with Beretta having a rather uneasy look as Chuckie T didn’t seem to remember what happened yesterday.
Chuckie wanted to start the match, but Beretta talked him out of it as he instead starts with Nakanishi. Headlock, shoot off, shoulder tackle. It’s a parody now. Beretta tries to fire back with forearms, but Nakanishi swats him away, before a crossbody attempt just sees Beretta bounce. Chuckie looks for a save, but he’s charged down by Nagata and Nakanishi, who looked relatively sprightly compared to prior outings.
Chuckie actually makes a save, as we get a hug and a double-team elbow drop… but Beretta’s still uneasy. Wouldn’t you be after getting punched in the face? Beretta tags back in and lands a double stomp to Nagata’s back for a near-fall, only for Nakanishi to return and turn things around, setting up for a lariat that gets him a two-count. OH MY GOD… Nakanishi teases and pulls off a plancha. What the hell has gotten into him? It hits its mark, but by no means was it pretty. Is the end of November the time for the New Japan Dads to try and fly? He takes Beretta back inside, only for a Gobstopper to end that momentum as both men tag out… with Nagata lighting up Chuckie with kicks.
A stuttering low dropkick and an Exploder keep Nagata ahead, as he followed up with a Shirome armbar while Nakanishi had Beretta in an Argentine backbreaker. Chuckie breaks via the ropes and looks to hit back with a piledriver, but a back body drop gets Nagata free as Nakanishi and Beretta looked to brawl to the back for… reasons. Not to worry though, as out of nowhere Chuckie gets the win with the Skayde special roll-up. He was happy with that, but there was still that look in his eye when Beretta wasn’t watching… ***
World Tag League: Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Juice dusted off his robe for today, and after all four men shook hands, we started out with Finlay and Kojima, working an arm wringer, hammerlocks and holds, rather than go straight into the template opener. The shoulder tackles followed though, which Kojima won out on as Finlay quickly got peppered with Mongolian chops and the falling headbutt/slingshot elbow combo.
Tenzan stays in and avalanches Finlay in the corner, before a suplex picked up a two-count. More Mongolian chops follow to Finlay and Juice, who finally work together before a double-team bulldog puts Tenzan down. Juice comes in for a back suplex that gets a two-count on Tenzan as Kojima just shouted from the floor, which just leads to Tenzan being double-teamed for a while as he took double axehandle smashes to the arm. Eventually Tenzan moves so the double axehandle hit him, but Juice manages to get back up and prevent the tag from being made… only to run into a Mountain bomb as Kojima came in. Juice mocks the machine gun chops as you just know he’ll pay for that… and he did! The Irish whip, leaping forearm and top rope elbow follows, before Kojima ducks a rather desperate leg lariat to take down Juice with a Koji Cutter.
The leg lariat finds its mark at the second attempt as Finlay rushes back in, with a barrage of corner attacks leading to a cannonball from Juice, only for his attempt to follow up off the top to get countered into an avalanche Koji cutter for a near-fall. Finlay makes another save, but takes a TenKoji Cutter for his troubles, while Juice ducks a Cozy Lariat before Finlay’s Prima Nocta stunner and Juice’s Pulp Friction put away Kojima for the win. This was okay, but felt a little disjointed in parts – maybe it was just my feed buffering, but I couldn’t get into this one much. **¾
World Tag League: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) vs. The Elite (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi)
Yep, we had the jump start as Suzuki booted Page during the intros, and we’re taken outside as Suzuki choked Page with his own rope.
Suzuki and Iizuka threw the Elite pair back into the ring, but are quickly met with duelling dives as Page and Yujiro decided to work on Iizuka early on, scoring with a low dropkick and a running shooting star press. Chops followed, but Yujiro gets kicked in the ropes before he’s caught with an armbar by Suzuki, as the match was predictably scrappy. The crowd brawling resumed as Iizuka took Page into the crowd for some chairshots, while Yujiro ate some from Suzuki on the other side of the room. They return to the ringside area as Suzuki swipes the bell hammer and eventually smashes it into Yujiro’s head – but not before he’d distracted the ref! That beating resumed in the ring as Suzuki tried to chop through Yujiro, whose responses were damn near laughable, as bedlam again breaks out with Iizuka biting on Page, while Yujiro’s hung up on the apron.
Iizuka goes back to biting once he’d been tagged in, but Yujiro can bite too, and bite he does before he tagged in Page, who had some forearms for Iizuka… before he gets caught in the ropes by Suzuki. Page shrugs it off and goes flying with a plancha to Suzuki on the outside, before a superkick to Iizuka’s caught and bitten on. An atomic drop from Iizuka followed as Suzuki tags back in, but he just ends up taking a dropkick/moonsault combo before sitting bolt upright as he went back after Page. Yujiro’s back for the back suplex/neckbreaker combo that nearly ends the match, ahead of a Fisherman’s brainbuster as Yujiro was building up some momentum. A Buckshot lariat from Page lays out Suzuki as Yujiro looked for Pimp Juice… but Iizuka breaks it up before Suzuki fired back with a rear naked choke.
Somehow Yujiro slips out with a reverse DDT, but Suzuki switched back in with a Gotch Style piledriver and that’s all folks. This was another okay match – the effort and pace was there, unlike some of the other tour stops, but again this just didn’t click with me. **¾
World Tag League: Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer)
Billed by TAKA Michinoku as a “dream fight”, this was the last of the intra-Suzuki-gun matches for this tournament… unless both teams make it to the finals, anyway.
Davey Boy Smith Jr. came out in a wacky new mask, and seemingly squared off with Sabre at the bell as Archer had designs on “heavyweight” Taichi, whom he derided. It worked too, as Taichi and Archer start the match, but there’s a lot of stalling because Taichi. The offer of a handshake led to a cheapshot that Archer was wise to, before Taichi slid to the outside as I got flashbacks to his match with Chris Brookes earlier in the month.
Archer plays cat and mouse as we got the Benny Hill chase down into the crowd, with Taichi heading up to the seating decks to get away from Archer. The silent Yakety Sax intesifies as Taichi used Milano Collection AT as a human shield as Taichi’s bid to win by count-out almost came off – albeit by way of a held-up count, as both men returned to the ring before Archer chased him to the back. Good.
So we get some grappling between Sabre and Smith instead – and shockingly, it was quite good. Smith’s in his element when he’s able to work on the mat, and Zack Sabre Jr. is Zack Sabre Jr. An attempted guillotine choke’s countered into a bridging Northern lights as Smith gets a near-fall, before he followed up with a British Bulldog-esque stalling suplex. The technical part of the match ends when Taichi’s brought back to the ring by Archer, as he takes a splash-assisted sidewalk slam before Sabre began a fightback, lighting up Archer with uppercuts before countering a Pounce with a guillotine choke. Smith headbutts it away, before Taichi and Sabre began to work on his legs, largely with kicks.
A buzzsaw kick follows as Taichi nearly put away Archer with a Gedo clutch… and off come the trousers! Archer blocks a superkick and follows up with a Pounce, before Smith returned to help with a Killer Bomb for the win. Well, this was a match of two halves – and sadly, those halves weren’t equal! The Taichi antics at the start were harmless enough, but I just wish we got more out of Smith and Sabre in this. ***
World Tag League: Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb
We started this one with your typical Yano antics, as Elgin and Cobb went after him… so he rushed out to tag in Ishii, who probably had a better idea of how to handle things.
Ishii and Cobb work next, exchanging rapid-fire elbows that Cobb edged ahead on, before a suplex is reversed by Ishii for a near-fall. There’s a weird kick-out as Cobb rolled back up to his feet and his his suplex anyway, before following up with a standing moonsault that missed as Yano went to work on Elgin on the outside. More elbows between Ishii and Cobb keep the ROH TV champion down, but Cobb’s able to duck a clothesline and take Ishii back into the corner, before we got an Ishii-like powerslam to an onrushing Yano. Tags are made as Elgin comes in, and he’s got German suplex attempts for all… Yano takes one, as does Ishii after a superkick, before a Falcon arrow nearly put Yano away.
Yano uses the referee as a human shield, but it doesn’t work as he ran into an Elgin dropkick anyway, before some more double-teaming saw Yano eat an enziguiri, then a Angle fallaway slam for a near-fall. Ishii made the save there, but gets tossed outside as Yano nearly picked up something from nothing as a roll-up from a missed charge almost got him the win. Cobb shrugs it off and hits back with a suplex, only to get thrown across the ring with a Yano belly-to-belly. Ishii tags back in but quickly gets pulled into an Athletic-plex from Cobb, who tagged in Elgin as a uranage came Ishii’s way. Another lariat followed, but Ishii shrugs it off as the two hosses laid into each other, leading to Elgin hitting a Chaos Theory?! Rolling Germans follow from there as Elgin and Cobb went a little overboard with the move, trapping their foes in the corners for body attacks.
Yano’s left alone, but he sneaks in a mule kick to Elgin before a lariat from Ishii almost took the win. From there, Elgin’s slingshotted into an exposed corner before Jeff Cobb runs in and gets pulled back by the hair. He responds with a double clothesline that got rid of Yano, as Elgin sized up Ishii for the clothesline sandwich, which was followed up by the powerbomb/backcracker combo that forces Yano in for another save.
Cobb pulls Yano to the outside too as Elgin and Ishii remained legal, with the latter taking a buckle bomb, then an Elgin bomb for a near-fall as Ishii still had some fight left in him! More back-and-forth led to Ishii landing an enziguiri before he runs into a series of Elgin elbows. A lariat from Ishii gets a one-count, before a second one almost took the win as Ishii had to go to his brainbuster for the victory. Sticklers for tag team rules may loathe bits of this, but this was a match that started slow and got real good by the end. Add this to your “maybe check out” list if you’re pushed for time! ***¾
World Tag League: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
A win for LIJ will keep them standing alone at the top of the league, while a win for the reigning tag team champions means that we’re back to having a tie at the top of the board.
EVIL and Tanga Loa begin the contest, and as soon as I saw Tanga’s headlock I dreaded the template. Shoot off into the ropes and shoulder tackles ahoy! The tide’s stemmed when EVIL rakes the eyes of Tanga, before LIJ eased ahead as Tama Tonga’s knocked down and met with a back senton.
SANADA’s in alongside Tama, clubbing him to the mat with forearms to the back, before he tied up Tama in a Paradise Lock, almost daring Jado to get involved. Stupidly, Tanga Loa trips SANADA as he measured up for the low dropkick to free his partner… but it did give us the visual of Jado poking Tama with a Kendo stick, like the “c’mon, do something!” meme. Hey, it worked though, as he eventually turned Tama around and free, as Tanga Loa and EVIL fought into the crowd.
Tama and SANADA go into the other side of the crowd, but the camera barely can get a shot of SANADA being thrown into a wall. The count-out tease we had two matches ago is repeated as as SANADA had to dive back in from the crowd to keep the match alive, but he’s back into the hands of the Guerrillas, as Tanga Loa tagged in to keep the beating going. Tama tries to tie up SANADA in a Paradise lock, as revenge for earlier, but he gets frustrated at being unable to perform, so he just stomps on him instead. Tanga’s back with a back elbow as SANADA’s trapped in the corner, before catching an attempted leap over to charge him back into the GOD corner. Eventually SANADA gets free as he back body dropped Tanga Loa… but Tama pulls EVIL off the apron as the isolation continued. A dropkick from SANDA quickly puts an end to it, as EVIL gets the hot tag in… and here come the shoulder tackles!
A superkick and a neckbreaker from EVIL have Tanga Loa in trouble, but Tama Tonga restores order with a dropkick of his own. He and EVIL switch around until an eventual Tongan Twist is landed for a near-fall, before another round of double-team combinations led to another two-count over EVIL. EVIL kicks away from what looked to be Guerrilla Warfare, before blocking a Gun Stun as he eventually nailed Tama with a lariat. SANADA tags back in and lands a dropkick to Tama before a plancha wiped out Jado on the outside… back in the ring, headscissors to Tanga Loa are almost countered into a powerbomb, but SANADA slips free and hits a back suplex to keep the momentum going. Tama Tonga makes a save as LIJ went for a Magic Killer, sparking a Parade of Moves that culminates in a springboard missile dropkick from SANADA to Tanga Loa.
From there, SANADA placed Tanga Loa for a moonsault… but that misses as SANADA looked to tweak his knee. He’s able to shrug it off and flip back into a Skull End, but Tanga Loa pulls down the referee which shockingly wasn’t the instant cue for shenanigans. Jado does trip SANADA and hold him in the ropes, but Tanga Loa hits the wrong man before SANADA goes for an O’Connor roll… the kick out sends him into a Kendo stick shot before a lariat almost put him away. EVIL makes the save, but ends up eating Guerrilla Warfare as SANADA had to stand on his own two feet… and was quickly put away as a powerbomb off the top rope got the GOD the win. This was another outing that was good in parts, but it was quite telling that the Guerrillas didn’t take a third loss here, which could tip off the final I feel? ***½
Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, Taiji Ishimori & Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Rocky Romero
Take Thursday’s main event, and add Gedo and Rocky Romero, because why not?
The Okada/Tanahashi-led team storm the ring as they took the fight to the Bullet Club… quickly spilling outside too as things paired off how you expected. Well. Mostly. Rocky tries to club away at Fale, but the Tongan swats him away with ease before an early attempt at a Grenade was shooed away. KUSHIDA comes in to help with low dropkicks, but Ishimori makes a save before he ate a double-team hiptoss and a pair of cartwheel dropkicks from Rocky and KUSHIDA. Tanahashi blind tags in, but the match spills out to the floor as we get another dose of crowd brawling. Tanahashi and Fale stay in the ring, as Tanahashi became a human step for Fale, before Gedo tagged in to try and pick the pieces.
Frequent tags keep Tanahashi grounded, as the Bullet Club riled up their opponents with ease – allowing them to focus on Tanahashi, with Jay White in particular taking the G1 winner from ring apron to crowd barrier. White tags in and lands a Dragon screw to mock Tanahashi, before Fale returned just in time for Tanahashi to try and mount a comeback… only for him to go for a slam too early as Fale fell on top of him for an easy near-fall.
Tanahashi manages to move away from a big splash as he then looked to tag out to Okada… only for Gedo to rush in and stop it. There’s a jawbreaker from Gedo, but his follow-up superkick is caught and turned into a Dragon screw as Okada finally came in for his latest taste of revenge on his former manager. There’s a DDT coming Gedo’s way, before Okada knocks White off the apron as he changed his focus, unwisely. It led to White landing a Saito suplex before he was tagged in properly, following up with a suplex into the turnbuckles as White seemed to have Okada’s number. A twister suplex gets a near-fall for White, who followed in with chops before an attempted Blade Runner was pushed out of as Okada hit back with a dropkick.
KUSHIDA’s begging for the tag, and gets it as he charges at the newly-tagged Ishimori. Kicks batter the junior heavyweight title challenger, including one as he went for a handspring, before Gedo cuts off a dive…and takes a buzzsaw kick for his troubles. There’s a plancha for Gedo to boot, but all that just gave Ishimori time to recover as he blocks a slingshot DDT before some trickery led to the springboard seated senton.
Romero tags back in as he had another chance against “Fredo” (presumably not the chocolate bar that the UK uses to informally measure inflation!), and after getting rid of Fale with some headscissors, Rocky’s able to catch Gedo and Ishimori with some Forever lariats. White sneaks in from behind with a Blade Runner attempt, only to get taken out by a double-team suplex from Okada and Tanahashi, who continue to work together to clothesline Fale to the floor.
Rocky looked to get the win with some Sliced Bread, but Ishimori blocks it and hits a tombstone gutbuster for a near-fall, before KUSHIDA makes a save from the Bloody Cross. There’s a bicycle knee from Ishimori to stop that as he goes back to Rocky, who catches him out of nowhere with a small package for a near-fall. From there, Rocky calls for another Sliced Bread, but Ishimori counters out of nowhere into the Bloody Cross… and the new Bone Soldier’s gone 2 for 2 in getting the fall in these Korakuen main events! An enjoyable, pacey main event… and there’s something triggering my Spidey senses as the Bullet Club picked up another big win here. ***½
Post-match, Gedo tried to lay out Okada with some brass knuckles, but it’s stopped as Okada broke free. He fights off some Young Lions, before a body attack from Fale fed him for the Blade Runner as the Bullet Club eventually scarpered… returning only so White could brag about how the “New Japan Dream Team” were still unable to get the job done.
Compared to Thursday’s show, this felt like a slight step below, at least in terms of the tag league matches. After Friday’s results, we’re back to having a tie at the top of the table, as at least the final placings look interesting – although we’ll slowly begin to lose challengers in the next few days. We’re firmly past the halfway point, but with matches coming thick and fast ahead of next weekend’s final, I’d be shocked if we had too many gems coming from the remaining bouts. Here’s how the table stands after eight matches…
1. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (6-2; 12pts)
1. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (6-2; 12pts)
1. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (6-2; 12pts)
4. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (5-3; 10pts)
4. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) (5-3; 10pts)
4. Best Friends (Beretta & Chuckie T) (5-3; 10pts)
4. Juice Robinson & David Finlay (5-3; 10pts)
8. Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb (4-4; 8pts)
8. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) (4-4; 8pts)
10. The Elite (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) (3-5; 6pts)
10. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (3-5; 6pts)
10. Togi Makabe & Toa Henare (3-5; 6pts)
13. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (1-7; 2pts)
14. Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino (0-8; 0pts)
The tour has Saturday off, before we have a live show Sunday morning in Osaka, headlined (in the tournament sense) of the Guerrillas of Destiny taking on Sabre and Taichi, as the tour begins to wind up – with on-demand shows on Monday and Tuesday, then the final three nights that’ll air live.