We’re almost through it! The penultimate round of block matches came from Yamagata as the World Tag League hurtles towards its climax.
We’ve got full commentary and cameras here from Yamagata Big Wing, with Kevin Kelly and Excalibur on the English call!
World Tag League: Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Yoshida and Umino are 0-11 so far, but they could prove the unlikeliest of spoilers here. They started by jumping Yano and Ishii as my ears get blown out by the ring bell!
Dropkicks catch Ishii off guard as Umino started in the ring, but those shoulder tackles weren’t such a hot idea, as he managed to take Ishii down to a knee before the Stone Pitbull knocked him off his feet. Meanwhile, Yano’s taking Yoshida into the guardrails, before removing a turnbuckle pad… perhaps watching from the floor as Umino chops Ishii, only to get floored with a single chop in return.
There’s a single leg crab from Ishii that Yoshida tries to break up, but he gets thrown outside before Yano tagged in. Umino’s thrown into the exposed corner, before he tried for some payback… but Yano puts on the brakes as Umino instead went for a missile dropkick. Yoshida tags in for a bunch of slams, then a mid kick to Yano for a near-fall. A tag brings in Umino for a missile dropkick that gets a near-fall, but Ishii’s back in to lay waste with elbows. There’s a slap in response as Umino doesn’t go down, instead throwing another dropkick, before a second one’s blocked as Ishii quickly rolls Umino into a Lion Tamer. Yoshida tried to make a save, but Yano throws him out to the floor as Umino ended up dragging himself to the ropes in the end.
Another comeback from the Young Lions ends when Yano pulls Yoshida to the outside, before sparking an exchange of strikes with Umino that ended with an atomic drop. Yoshida has another flurry as he catches Ishii with a hiptoss knee, before Ishii got dumped on his head with a German suplex for a near-fall.
From there, Ishii reverses a suplex and waffles Umino with an elbow… only for Umino to bust out some pinning predicaments, but to no avail as Ishii rolls him into a Boston crab for the win. I loved the fire from the Young Lions, but in the end the difference in class was just way too much once more. ***
World Tag League: Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
Something funky’s going on with the ring music here – not an echo, but like someone’s opened the same track twice in YouTube, giving a delayed effect.
Elgin and Nagata start us off with shoulder blocks, before Nagata avoids an elbow drop as we reached an early stalemate. Tags follow, as Cobb gets knocked down by Nakanishi before instantly popping up for a slam, as Elgin quickly returned to try and wear down the least mobile man in the match.
Quick tags keep Nakanishi isolated as Excalibur throws out some PWG tidbits about Cobb… just as Nakanishi chops down Elgin and tags in Nagata. Kicks follow to the chest of Elgin, sending him reeling back into the corner ahead of a stuttering low dropkick and an Exploder for a near-fall. The crossface is next, but Cobb breaks that up, allowing Elgin to strike back with a big superkick and a Falcon arrow… which he couldn’t make a cover from.
Tags follow again as Nakanishi again chops Cobb in the throat, following up with a clothesline for a solid two-count, before the duelling submissions ended when Cobb slipped out of the Argentine backbreaker. Cobb looked to stagger across the ring as he’s whipped into a Nakanishi spear, ahead of a high/low that Cobb did his damndest to look impressive on for a near-fall. Elgin’s back to help out with a double-team suplex, which they eventually get off for a two-count, before an Olympic slam and a standing moonsault led to the pin for Cobb as my soul shakes with that infernal ring gong. Decent enough, but this wasn’t a match you’ll be shouting from the rooftops about. **¾
World Tag League: Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. The Elite (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi)
The KES came into today with a share of second place, while the Elite pair knew that they could easily spoil things for the former tag champions.
Smith and Page shoot out of the blocks, but the offence is all from Davey Boy Smith Jr., as he threw Page around the ring with suplexes before they looked to work on each other’s arms. Things quickly spill to the outside, where Smith waffles Yujiro by the guard railings, only for Archer to get thrown into the railings too as the Elite looked to try and wear down Smith.
It doesn’t work. Archer’s back in with a clothesline to Yujiro while Page meets the guard railings again. Chops keep Yujiro on the mat as Smith returned to help with a double-team slam for a near-fall. Smith stomps away on Yujiro as the pace slowed down, keeping the KES in control until Archer misses a charge into the corner. Some biting from Yujiro helps him get free to tag in Page, who goes after Archer with forearms before aiming at Smith with a plancha… then low bridging Archer to the outside as Page looked to fly again, only for the KES to cut him off. He eventually hits a moonsault to Archer in the ring for a near-fall, before he lost an attempt at the Rite of Passage, eventually landing a standing shooting star press after some quick double-teaming.
Archer hits back with a solid POUNCE, as both men tagged out, allowing Yujiro to score with a couple of low dropkicks on Smith. An attempted Fisherman buster gets blocked as Smith hits a snap suplex instead, before Page saved his partner from a powerbomb as Yujiro eventually gets that Fisherman buster off for a near-fall. A Buckshot lariat from Page finds its mark as Yujiro looked to finish off with the Pimp Juice, but Smith counters it into a sidewalk slam for a near-fall.
From there, Page is dispatched with another double-team powerslam, before a high/low almost put away Yujiro… as the Killer Bomb removed all doubt. THAT BELL. Another decent match, with the KES controlling most of the match without going to the Suzuki-gun bag of shenanigans. ***¼
World Tag League: Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Effectively a dead rubber (unless we’re going to get a wacky four-way final, and even then I’m not going to go through tie-breakers to check quite yet!), this upper mid-table clash could make tomorrow’s final placing even more agonising.
Yeah, we’ve a jump start, and thankfully the mic on the ring bell has been turned down. Things calm down as Sabre’s clobbered in the corner with clotheslines, but he rolls away from a cannonball as Taichi goes to form as he took Finlay into the crowd so he could jab him in the jaw with a chair. Around ringside, Sabre restrains Juice with a choke as Taichi uses a chair on him behind the ref’s back, following up with more choking once all four men made it back to the ring. Sabre keeps up the pressure as Suzuki-gun looked to have their number, including countering a spinebuster as Juice’s hopes of a fightback were squashed when Sabre switched it into a guillotine.
Juice tries to counter out with a suplex, but Sabre just switches it back into an Octopus stretch, before Juice finally hit free with the Juice Box gutbuster. Tags follow as Finlay and Taichi return, with Finlay scoring a running uppercut and a diving uppercut for a near-fall. An eye rake stops Finlay in his tracks as Taichi began to unload with some kicks ahead of a PK from Sabre and a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall.
Off come the trousers as Taichi seemed to prepare for more shenanigans. His mic stand shot misses as he ends up taking a double-team flapjack, before Zack tries to get involved… and gets thrown outside for good measure. In the end, Taichi blocks a Prima Nocta but can’t quite get a powerbomb off, as he instead throws Finlay into the referee. With the referee unsighted, there’s a low blow before the Gedo clutch gets the win. Well, that’s the slim chance gone for Fin-Juice after a solid match that fell into the bracket of “I couldn’t quite get into this”. Tellingly, Fin-Juice lost all three of their matches vs. Suzuki-gun tags, but on the whole have been surprisingly good this tournament. ***
World Tag League: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Togi Makabe & Toa Henare
If this prior match was a “upper table clash” then this could be a relegation six-pointer if we’re using football/soccer analogies. I hear they’re all the (misguided) rage right now…
Once again, Henare is spoiling for a fight, but he starts on the apron as Makabe and Tenzan get us going, starting with shoulder blocks before an attempt at Kokeshi missed from Tenzan. Tomoaki Honma, on commentary, applauded the authentic miss. Tags follow as Kojima and Henare go back and forth, with the Kiwi scoring from a shoulder tackle, then a double-handed chop for a near-fall.
A DDT from Kojima turns it around, as Henare found himself in the more familiar position as he took Mongolian chops from the former tag champs. The slingshot elbow/falling headbutt follows, before a spinning heel kick from Tenzan gets a near-fall. Henare’s kept isolated for a spell, but he eventually fought back with a leaping shoulder tackle as Makabe comes in and goes right for Tenzan with mounted punches. Headbutts and Mongolian chops follow before Makabe returned with a clothesline for a near-fall, following up with a suplex for another two-count. Clubbering clotheslines are next, sending both men to the mat before they tagged out, as Henare lights up Kojima with machine gun chops. You know what’s next… the receipt!
After that, there’s a running forearm into the corner, but Henare pops up and lands a Samoan drop instead of staying down for the elbow, before a rugby tackle eventually took Kojima down for a near-fall. A Cozy lariat’s next, as is a TenKoju cutter, but Henare’s saved by his partner, before things turned around as Kojima’s caught and held up for a flying shoulder block from Henare. Henare keeps up the pressure, but quickly runs into a Cozy Lariat which ends the match right there. A valiant effort, but an oh-too-familiar result for the New Zealander. ***
World Tag League: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA)
LIJ storm the ring to start, but they’re quickly thrown back outside as Suzuki-gun were the early aggressors, with EVIL getting thrown into guard rails by Iizuka, while SANADA was getting the boots put to him by Suzuki.
Iizuka gets involved with a chair, catching SANADA in the ropes as we’re back outside… and this time into the crowd too as Suzuki uses some more chairs, aiming for SANADA and some Young Lions too. Christ, those are WILD shots too… Guard railings come into play too, as they tease a count-out, but SANADA dives in at 19 to keep the match alive. Problem was, SANADA just leapt back into the lion’s den as he was stretched by Suzuki and Iizuka at the same time. A tag brings in Iizuka, who’s quickly unmasked as it’s time for lunch. Everyone’s a hors d’oeuvre, with things being intensified when Suzuki had one of SANADA’s arm in an armbar while Iizuka nibbled the other.
The referee refuses to count a pin after Iizuka’d stopped biting, and just as well really as SANADA fought back with a missile dropkick, then a Dragon screw to put Suzuki down. EVIL comes in for some corner clotheslines, before shoulder tackling Iizuka out of the ring as a neckbreaker dropped Suzuki. There’s a back senton too for a near-fall from EVIL, but Suzuki quickly hit back with a snapmare and a PK as the near-falls kept on mounting.
EVIL and Suzuki trade off on chops, then forearms and elbows, with the latter being Suzuki’s clonking specials, before a Fisherman buster finds its mark from EVIL. After tagging in SANADA’s cornered and met with a big boot as Suzuki-gun wore through him en route to another PK for a near-fall. He hit back with a Skull End on Iizuka, but he’s left open for a rear-naked choke by Suzuki as a Parade of Moves broke out, ending with a clothesline from EVIL to Suzuki that dispatched him from the ring.
From there, Iizuka’s left alone… but he tries to bite his way out of trouble, and succeeds in doing so before a dropkick sets up for a Magic Killer. A Skull End is next as EVIL restrains Suzuki in the ropes, and that’s enough for the submission! That’s enough to ensure that Suzuki and Iizuka end with a losing record, and to keep LIJ in the hunt for the final day of the tournament. Those poor Young Lions, on the other hand, met their certain doom afterwards as they try to restrain Suzuki post-match. ***¼
World Tag League: Best Friends (Chuckie T & Beretta) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
With Chuckie T having cost the Best Friends some wins (despite being in denial about it), they’re out of the tournament… but they can spoil things for the Guerrillas and set-up for a four-way finale tomorrow.
Chuckie T and Tama Tonga start us off, but Tama’s instantly got the upper hand as the tag champions worked over the Best Friends, cornering them with punches. They overcome it and shove Tama and Tanga into each other, before clotheslining them to the outside ahead of duelling planchas… which don’t find their mark!
Tanga Loa tries to powerbomb Beretta on the floor, but he saves himself and lands an Asai moonsault. Jado stops the momentum with a Kendo stick shot before he jabbed Beretta with it on the outside, before Tama shoved Beretta into the guard railings as the Guerrillas found themselves in control. A death valley driver onto the apron from Tanga keeps the pressure up, before Tama whipped Beretta into the corner for the old Ric Flair bump.
A big back body drop from Beretta gets him free, but Tama’s able to restrain him for long enough to make the tag out. Tanga charges Beretta into the corner but he charges back out with the Gob Stopper diving knee, which led to a tag to Chuckie T, who then wiped out the champions with a tope con giro. Jado threatens again, but Chuckie stares him down before returning to the ring as an Asai DDT almost got Chuckie a win.
He heads up top next, landing a double stomp to Tama for a near-fall. A spear from Tama cuts off that offence as Tanga Loa returned to wear down Chuckie some more, before Sole Food gets Chuckie free for a tag out. Beretta flies in with a crossbody into Tanga Loa, before a series of chops led to a clothesline before Tanga blocked a tornado DDT and dropped Beretta across the ropes. From there, a Blue Thunder Bomb drops Beretta, but Tanga Loa toys with him rather than go for a cover. He throws Beretta hard into the corner, head-first, but taking his time again backfires as a tornado DDT followed for a near-fall as Tama Tonga had to save his man. Beretta flips out of a German suplex before we get a series of ref bumps as Tama and Tanga squash Red Shoes Unno in the corner.
With no ref, Tanga Loa’s caught in a Dudebuster, but he rolls out as Jado comes back in with the Kendo stick. From there, the Guerrilla Warfare follows, before Chuckie T throws some chairs to save Beretta from the double-team top rope powerbomb. The referee’s still down as Chuckie just waffles Tanga Loa with chairs, bouncing them off his head as Tanga was busted open. Ironically, Chuckie pulls out a stretcher and slams Tama onto it, before he shrugged off a Kendo stick shot from Jado, staring him down as he scurried to the back. With everyone’s attention diverted, Beretta rolls up Tanga Loa with a big handful of tights… and that’s enough to get the win over a bloodied Tanga Loa. That’s going to leave a mark. Well, that sets things up nicely for tomorrow’s finale, and it’s a nice usage of the “loose cannon” Chuckie T angle which actually helped his team for once! ***¼
Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, Taiji Ishimori & Gedo) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Rocky Romero
After losing every round of this battle last week, can the New Japan Dream Team finally score a win over the Bullet Club?
Much like before, the Okada/Tanahashi team storm the ring, but this time they largely get the upperhand, except for Jay White, who was only stopped from beating on Okada by Tanahashi. The pair combine with duelling back elbows to White, sending him outside, before Gedo was thrown into the ring like a lamb to the slaughter. Tanahashi shouts out Honma with a Kokeshi, which found its mark (so… not an authentic version then!), before they all spill to the outside, albeit to bring Gedo back to the ring for more payback.
KUSHIDA and Romero trap Gedo with some Forever lariats, before Fale hit the ring and squashed Rocky as the match turned on a dime. In the aisle, White chokes Okada with a towel as the production crew struggled to keep up with the melee, which led to Rocky Romero having to beat the count-out after a mugging. Gedo stood tall over Rocky, picking him up for a rake to the eyes, before White took over with his methodical attacks. A back elbow sends Rocky down to the mat, before Gedo comes back with some more eye rakes ahead of throwing Rocky back outside for more mugging.
He’s thrown back inside as White grounds Rocky with a side headlock as the Bullet Club quartet maintained their relative stranglehold on the match. That’s personified when Fale picks up Rocky in a bearhug… but eventually Romero gets free and tags in Tanahashi to try and turn things around. A low dropkick staggers Fale, but he goes for a slam way too early in the match, prompting Fale to club his way free. The slam’s tried again, but Tanahashi loses his grip repeatedly, before scoring with a Twist and Shout neckbreaker. Fale fought off a Slingblade as White gets a tag in, knocking Okada off the apron before going after Tanahashi, teasing him with a Dragon screw, before Tanahashi got free and tagged in Okada, who gleefully went to work on his former CHAOS stablemate.
A neckbreaker slam from Okada leaves White down as KUSHIDA stormed the ring to clear the apron, allowing Okada to go for a tombstone, only for White to slip out and land a Saito suplex instead. White’s forearm barely fazes Okada, who hit back with an uppercut and a chop, before running into a flapjack. Tags follow as KUSHIDA take out Ishimori with a cartwheel dropkick, then catches him in a cross armbreaker… but Ishimori rolls him up for a near-fall. Switcharounds led to KUSHIDA going for a wheelbarrow that’s sat down on for a near-fall, before Ishimori’s handspring enziguiri left both men on the mat. Rocky comes in with a series of ‘ranas that set up for a duelling kick to Gedo in the corner as the referee lost control a mid a big Parade of Moves.
An Okada dropkick wiped out Fale, while Tanahashi Slingblades White away from Okada as we looked to lead to a shenanigan-based finish. KUSHIDA ducks a brass knuckle shot and punched Gedo instead, before Ishimori shoved away a Hoverboard lock, throwing him into a Blade Runner from White before a Bloody Cross puts KUSHIDA down for the count. Another loss for KUSHIDA certainly raises eyebrows on the day that it was reported WWE had interest in signing him… but as for the match, well, it was solid, albeit not spectacular, as the Bullet Club continue to re-establish themselves with this convincing win. ***½
Post-match, White brags about the growing winning streak he’s got over Okada and Tanahashi, as the show came to a close. World Tag League wise, today’s results leave us with a four-way tie at the top, with KES vs. LIJ and GOD vs. Ishii/Yano in the final round of block action…the winners of those two matches go through to Sunday’s final in Iwate!
1. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (9-3; 18pts)
1. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (9-3; 18pts)
1. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (9-3; 18pts)
1. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) (9-3; 18pts)
5. Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb (8-4; 16pts)
6. Juice Robinson & David Finlay (7-5; 14pts)
6. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (7-5; 14pts)
6. Best Friends (Beretta & Chuckie T) (7-5; 14pts)
9. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) (5-7; 10pts)
10. Togi Makabe & Toa Henare (4-8; 8pts)
10. The Elite (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) (4-8; 8pts)
10. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (4-8; 8pts)
13. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (2-10; 4pts)
14. Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino (0-12; 0pts)
For those wondering, Excalibur had a really solid debut outing – he came into this with oodles of product knowledge… and if he was doing it from notes, it sure as hell didn’t sound as stilted as prior announcers have. This live show wasn’t a blow-away outing, but it did contain plenty of good action – even if you go on the sliding scale. That being said, the biggest takeaway I’ll have from this show is the deafening gong, as the show built up to the predictably tense final round of matches. We’re nearly done, folks!