After a long, gruelling tour (to watch), the World Tag League wrapped up in Iwate as the Guerrillas of Destiny took on Los Ingobernables de Japon to decide what’d happen to those tag titles at WrestleKingdom on January 4.
Following a tournament of 91 matches, a two-way tie at the top of the block mean that we had a rematch of last year’s final to decide whether Los Ingobernables de Japon get a title shot at WrestleKingdom… or whether the Guerrillas get to pick their own opponents for the Tokyo Dome.
We’re at the Industrial Cultural Centre in Iwate, with Kevin Kelly, Excalibur and Rocky Romero on the English call….
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Togi Makabe, Toa Henare, Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino
The first of two “screw it, throw together some teams from the tournament for a big multi-man” match, and we seem to start with a battle of partners from two years ago in Nakanishi and Henare.
Nakanishi charges through Henare easily with a shoulder tackle, before falling to a leaping shoulder tackle from Henare. In comes Umino, who fells Nakanishi with a back elbow before a low dropkick gets a two-count. Another tag brings Kojima in, as he went straight for Umino with chops, before he eased through Umino with slams and neckbreakers for a bunch of near-falls. Tenzan keeps up the offence with Mongolian chops, then regular chops, before Ayato Yoshida raced in to break up a pin from a simple suplex. Umino stays in the ring though, at least until he scored a dropkick that allowed him to make the tag out to Makabe, who charged after his fellow veterans, scoring with shoulder tackles before pounding Nagata with some mounted punches.
A clothesline followed as Makabe put down Nagata for a two-count, before a stuttering low dropkick and an Exploder catches Makabe out for another near-fall. That’s the cue for Yoshida to tag in, as he charged at the newly-tagged in Kojima, taking him down with forearms before eventually getting off a slam. There’s a falling neckbreaker from Yoshida, but Kojima replies with a DDT before taking Yoshida into the corner for Machine gun chops. Makabe’s back to stop Kojima from going up top as the ring threatened to fill amid a Parade of Moves, emptying out as Yoshida ate a Koji Cutter before replying with a backslide for a near-fall. Moments later though, he runs into a Cozy Lariat, and that’s all folks. Your usual entertaining opening tag match – like night follows day, the Young Lions fall again. ***
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka & Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.)) vs. Michael Elgin, Jeff Cobb & Best Friends (Beretta & Chuckie T)
The top and bottom Suzuki-gun teams from the tournament combined for our next “throw them together” tag.
Yeah, we get a jump start as all eight men hit the outside, with Suzuki making a point for going after Chuckie T, throwing him into the chairs by the English commentary team. There’s even a cheeky gate swing for him as we had our usual bedlam. In the ring, Elgin takes Smith into the corner as we were without a ref briefly, although Kenta Sato did return to make a two-count from an Elgin slam.
Smith and Elgin exchange forearms for a while, before a caught kick from Smith’s met with a rolling forearm from Elgin. A superkick’s next, but Elgin gets caught up top as Smith brought him down with a superplex, before Archer and Cobb tagged in to clubber through each other. There’s a nice dropkick from Cobb, but he’s sent flying with an Archer pounce… an Athletic plex and a standing moonsault surprised Archer for a near-fall, as Chuckie T tagged in to keep up the momentum. It didn’t work.
In comes Suzuki to resume his brawling with Chuckie, taking him to the corner for a big boot ahead of a PK for a two-count. A missile dropkick sees Chuckie turn it around for another two-count, but a battle of elbows to the head just enrages Suzuki, who clonks Chuckie with an elbow shot. A belated “welcome to New Japan”, eh?
Suzuki tags out, and unmasks Iizuka, as it was snack time! Chuckie cuts him off with Sole Food, before Beretta tagged in and caught Iizuka with the Gobstopper for a near-fall. Suzuki-gun gang up on Beretta for a spell, cornering him for back elbows and boots before the KES landed their double-team slam for a near-fall. Iizuka tries to go for the Iron fingers, but in comes Chuckie T with a chair – he jabs it at everyone, including his own partners, as the red mist causes yet another DQ. This was alright until the DQ, but at least they’ve not been hammering this into our heads unlike we saw at the G1… ***
Post-match, Beretta tries to calm him down, then marches Chuckie to the back as Suzuki-gun laid out some Young Lions on their way to the back.
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
“What’s left” of Suzuki-gun’s out next as we start to mash-up WrestleKingdom matches as we looked to finally acknowledge that Sabre/Ishii Rev Pro title match.
Sabre and Ishii start out, scrambling for holds before they ended up in the ropes for a clean break… which Sabre pounces on as he lands uppercuts before he looked to go to work on Ishii’s arm. A wristlock’s easily countered as Ishii took Sabre into the corner, with SHO looking for a key lock… only for Zack to get free and take SHO into his own corner, as a tag brought in Desperado. There’s some double-teaming from Roppongi 3K against Kanemaru and Desperado, but the tables turn as the match spilled outside, with SHO and YOH getting taken into the guard rails. Back inside, Kanemaru puts the boots to SHO some more, before a snap DDT gets him a near-fall, as SHO finally gets a break with a spear… only for Sabre to run in and clear the opposing apron.
SHO quickly shoves Desperado aside so he can get that tag out to YOH, with the fresh man landing a flying forearm to Desperado, then a Dragon screw to an onrushing Kanemaru, before he pulled Despy into a splits ahead of a low dropkick for a two-count. Desperado hit back with a spinebuster as tags took us back to Ishii and Sabre, with the former landing a Northern Lights suplex.
Sabre looks for an Octopus hold, but Ishii hiptosses free as there’s a lot of swinging and missing as the pair damn near sprinted through some of their usual stuff. A cross armbreaker from Sabre’s quickly rolled out of before a couple of kicks took Ishi into the corner as Sabre tagged out, realising his usual gameplan wasn’t working here. Zack does sneak in a PK before a dropkick-assisted back suplex gets Kanemaru a near-fall, as does the Deep Impact DDT as SHO had to make the save.
Parade of Moves time follows, with Zack making the most of the melee as he went for Ishii’s arm some, only for a headbutt to break it up. Kanemaru tries to surprise Ishii with the whiskey mist, but Ishii ducks it as the ring fills, then clears, as Ishii kicks out of a schoolboy before finishing off Kanemaru with a sheer drop brainbuster. This took a while to get going, but man, that Ishii/Sabre match is going to be a cracker. ***
The Elite (Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi)
For some reason Owens and Yujiro are still pining for the days they were in the Bullet Club.
We started with BUSHI and Owens, with the latter blocking an early ‘rana attempt before dumping BUSHI with a backbreaker. Yujiro comes in… but he demands to face his former No Limit partner Naito, and now the crowd wakes up! They get their wish too, but Naito’s hair gets pulled… and he quickly forearms free of that before Yujiro bit… and was spat on.
There’s a frantic exchange until BUSHI comes in to help out with the numbers game, before Shingo tagged in and charged through Yujiro as the inevitable “is Shingo a heavyweight or a junior?” question was again posed. BUSHI’s back with a missile dropkick before he choked Yujiro with a t-shirt. Another tag brought Shingo back in to trade shots with Yujiro, ending when Yujiro landed a reverse DDT before tagging out.
Hangman Page leaps in and goes straight for Naito on the apron, then BUSHI, before a fallaway slam dumps Shingo. There’s a plancha straight away for Naito on the outside as Page became a one-man wrecking crew, only for his Buckshot lariat to be blocked as a regular clothesline had to do. Page flips out of a German suplex before he and Shingo trade clotheslines, ending with a Pumping Bomber as the pair were left laying!
Owens comes back with a nice reverse DDT/uranage combo, putting BUSHI onto Naito for a near-fall. Shingo makes a save as BUSHI was set for a package piledriver, as we led to Owens taking some two-on-one beating before a tornado DDT almost ended things for Naito. An attempt at Destino’s pushed off by Naito, who responded with an enziguri instead before he finally lands Destino for the win. Another solid undercard match, with the Naito/Yujiro teases being the highlight as Naito continued his path towards a reluctant Chris Jericho with a win. ***
If you were expecting a run-in from Chris Jericho on this show… sorry!
Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & KUSHIDA
After the Okada/Tanahashi dream team went 0-7 against the Bullet Club on the tour, will Okada and other-friends have more luck?
We’ve another rush start by Okada and co, with the ring quickly settling down as Okada and KUSHIDA double-teamed Jay White. Taiji Ishimori makes a save, but he gets double-teamed too, before Yano came in and celebrated everyone else’s hard work. KUSHIDA stays in with Ishimori, working over the arm with a little help from Okada as we get a dropkick to the limb in the ropes. Ishimori gets free and turns up the pace, scoring with a springboard seated splash as the other four in the match took their fight to the outside, with White taking Okada up the entrance way for a single leg grab. Ishimori gets in on the act as he tries up KUSHIDA in the guard rails while Jay White took the referee’s attention.
White gets in against KUSHIDA while simultaneously baiting Okada… a tag’s made to Fale as the size differential comes into lay as Fale and Ishimori stood on KUSHIDA at the same time. There’s a huge back body drop Fale to KUSHIDA for a two-count, before Ishimori tried to pick apart the bones, only to get met with an enziguiri. A Pele kick from KUSHIDA finally got him some breathing space, with Okada getting a tag in as he went straight for White!
Forearms trap the Kiwi into the corner ahead of a running back elbow and a DDT, but White’s right back with a suplex into the turnbuckles as he stopped Okada in his tracks. A Saito suplex follows, as Fale again tagged in, prompting Okada to go for a slam… which he doesn’t get off. There’s a Dragon screw instead as Okada took down Fale… and in comes Yano!
Off come a turnbuckle pad, which he uses to bop Fale on the head with, before a whip’s reversed as Yano goes into the exposed corner. Cue the shtick, before Gedo trips Yano in the ropes, and now the numbers game took over against Yano. A big splash from Fale nearly puts Yano away, before the ring threatened to fill up as Okada broke up a Grenade. White tries for a Bladerunner on Okada, but gets net with a neckbreaker slam as the Parade of Moves continued until Fale charged through Okada and KUSHIDA.
Yano almost shocked Fale with a backslide for a near-fall, but he’s made to pay with a Grenade as the Bullet Club increase their streak. Another solid match, but my God, the one-sided nature of this feud so far is making me wonder if the clean sweep will continue at the Tokyo Dome? ***¼
Post-match, Okada kills White with a dropkick off the ropes before a Rainmaker’s countered into a half nelson suplex that dumped Okada in his head. Ishimori gets in on the act too with a Bloody Cross to KUSHIDA, while Yano looked to take a Bad Luck Fall… only for Togi Makabe of all people to run in from the commentary position to make a save. You what?! Makabe makes the save for his former tag partner, and that makes me wonder with the blurring of the lines between the groups in New Japan, could we be in for a wider and more unified CHAOS?
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. The Elite (Kenny Omega, Young Bucks (Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson) & Marty Scurll)
Not counting the Lion’s Break show, this was Omega’s first outing in New Japan in over a month… and Scurll and the Bucks’ first since King of Pro Wrestling in October.
Taguchi and Scurll start us off almost doing a mirror match, before Marty sidestepped a flying hip attack as Taguchi crashed and burned. Nick Jackson and David Finlay tag in next, with the former landing a shoulder tackle before a Finlay dropkick drew in Juice for a double-team bulldog. Matt Jackson comes in to even the numbers as the Elite quartet were in trouble, with Nick taking some corner attacks.
A four-way dropkick misses as Nick clung onto the ropes, then began a comeback of his own, spamming slams before Taguchi rolled away from everyone’s elbow drops. Comedy! Four clotheslines sent the Elite to the outside, but their quartet of planchas miss, with Tanahashi looking to have tweaked his knee on the landing as we get replays. Meanwhile, Finlay eats a Kotaro Krusher before the Elite scored with those elbow drops – and this is right up there with those Elite matches that their naysayers will instantly fear becoming too shticky. The Bucks combine for a neckbreaker to Finlay in the ropes, then a senton bomb, before another double-team backbreaker left Finlay on the mat, allowing Scurll to come in and work over the arm with stomps.
Finlay’s tossed into the corner as Omega tagged in and reignited their match from the Lion’s Break show last month. Omega shushes the crowd so he could chop Finlay, but a back suplex effort’s countered as Finlay hit back with a backbreaker before tagging in Tanahashi, who got him some with a low dropkick to Omega. A Dragon screw sends Omega across the ring, before the Bucks’ run-in failed ahead of a Just Kidding superkick from Scurll. Duelling superkicks from the Bucks catch out Tanahashi though, before their duelling gamengiri in the corner ends up landing on Omega.
Tanahashi blocks a V-Trigger – perhaps knowing he’ll have to do it a billion more times – but he can’t avoid a snap Dragon suplex as taggs bring in Matt Jackson and Juice Robinson. Juice has to give out Dusty punches to all of the Elite, before the final left hand’s stopped as Scurll threatened a finger snap. Taguchi makes a save with hip attacks, setting up for some four-on-one on Matt as a Juice cannonball set up for a near-fall.
The Elite get whipped into Taguchi’s rear end… except Omega countered it into a One Winged Angel attempt as he looked for a V-trigger… but Tanahashi makes a save with a Slingblade! Omega heads outside as he took a plancha, and we’re into the frantic action as Fin-Juice gives a double-team flapjack before taking a double-team Bucks dropkick, as Taguchi ends up taking a quartet of superkicks for a near-fall. Tanahashi and Omega are back in the ring trading shots until a V-Trigger hits its mark, taking Tanahashi outside as we rushed to a finish, with Omega lifting up Nick Jackson for the Indytaker on Taguchi for the win. This was okay, but not that much more. Based on this, it’s probably just as well the Elite were off this tour until the finals! Compared to other crowd reactions, Iwate didn’t seem that fussed for the Tanahashi/Omega interactions. ***¼
Taichi vs. Will Ospreay
This was meant to have been the title match at Power Struggle, but a busted rib for Will Ospreay meant we got that abomination from Taichi and Goto instead. The winner of this gets a NEVER title shot, so, go figure!
Ospreay’s rib is still taped up, and it’s instantly targeted before the bell as Taichi jabbed him there with the mic stand. The bell sounds as Taichi keeps the focus on the ribs, using a claw on the taped-up area, but Will’s right back with a monkey flip as we’re in for a lot of midsection selling here. He chops Taichi, but winces after each shot, as Taichi slid to the outside, suckering in Ospreay who had to leap over the crowd barrier before a springboard forearm left Taichi down at ringside.
After going back to the ring, Taichi slides outside again… but Ospreay takes him out with a tope just as quickly. Taichi uses the referee to crotch Ospreay as Will crashed and burned out of the corner, and here come the guard rail spots as Ospreay’s flung into the barrier chest-first. They go into the crowd as Taichi does the same thing he’s done all tour, tossing Ospreay into the crowd as we led to a count-out tease which Ospreay narrowly beat.
Taichi keeps up the pressure, standing on Ospreay’s back in the ropes, before trapping Ospreay in an abdominal stretch. There’s another claw intermittently applied to the ribs as this methodical version of Taichi is at least doing something logical. He fixes up his trousers which looked to come undone too early, before Ospreay tried to fire back with a desperation forearm. More strikes succeed, before the handspring enziguiri found its mark as Ospreay again winced on the landing.
An over-the-top 619 finds its mark, as does a springboard forearm as Ospreay came close, as did Taichi after an enziguiri of his own. There’s a big kick to the ribs that finds its mark from Taichi, as he started to assert himself on Ospreay. Off come the trousers, to little reaction, but Will clocks him with a superkick and a lifting reverse DDT to cut him off… and then Will sees the top rope. Heading up top, Ospreay lands a shooting star into Taichi’s knees, as a hurried Gedo clutch gets a near-fall. An Axe Bomber folds Ospreay in half for a near-fall, but Ospreay hits back as he slips out of a Last Ride with a ‘rana, then lands a Robinson special. A second OsCutter’s blocked and met with a Saito suplex, before Taichi lands the Last Ride for another near-fall!
Out of nowhere, Ospreay lands a Destroyer for a two-count, before he tries for a Storm Breaker… but he can’t get Taichi up. Instead, a series of kicks follow before Taichi slips out of the Storm Breaker, then runs into a standing Spanish Fly! A hook kick followed, then the Storm Breaker… and that’s Will Ospreay into title contention after a match that was aeons above what anyone expected. The story of Ospreay selling the ribs and having to tweak his gameplan a little to avoid causing more damage worked well, especially alongside a way-more-focused than usual Taichi. Hey, I finally enjoyed a Taichi match! ***¾
NEVER Openweight Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Hirooki Goto (c)
Winner faces Will Ospreay, you’d have to assume at WrestleKingdom… and this all came from Goto using reverse psychology on Ibushi right at the start of the tour.
Kenny Omega was out to second Ibushi, while Goto was alone as the Iwate crowd seemed to come alive at the bell. Ibushi accepts the handshake, but Goto holds on and pulled him in for an ushigoroshi, only for Ibushi to slip free and begin a strike battle as the pair trade forearms briefly. Goto’s sent into the ropes, but he runs into a kick to the chest, then a ‘rana as Goto was sent outside.
Goto goes back inside as he avoids a Golden Triangle moonsault, instead landing a clothesline as Ibushi landed on his head on the apron. He hates it. Having a neck, I mean…
Back in the ring, Goto peppered Ibushi with clotheslines before we got a hanging neckbreaker off the top rope. My feed stutters a little as it comes back with Ibushi taking Goto outside with a dropkick, following up with a Golden Triangle moonsault that finds its mark before he returned to light up Goto with body blows and a standing moonsault for a near-fall. Goto tries to strike with a forearm to the back of the neck, before a kick softened up Ibushi for a Saito suplex for a near-fall. Ibushi hits back as the pair trade elbows, only for Goto to edge ahead with a spinning heel kick into the corner before he went up top… and got caught! Ibushi’s body blows catch him off guard, only for Goto to counter with a Code Red… which Ibushi flipped out of!
The pair follow up with clunking clotheslines, before Ibushi looked for a Kamigoye… it’s blocked as Goto nails ushigoroshi instead! A rear naked choke looked to follow from Goto, as he caught Ibushi in the middle of the ring, before he pulled up Ibushi for a GTR… which gets countered into a wheelbarrow for anear-fall. Goto keeps up with the pinning combinations, before he blocked an overhead kick with an ankle lock as a roll through almost gave Ibushi the win.
A leapfrog from Ibushi leads to a GTR… which Ibushi escaped as he looked for a lawn dart… only for Goto to get free as Ibushi just clonked him in the back of the head with a headbutt. Goto tries to come back with headbutts of his own, but he leans into a Kamigoye as Ibushi lands a headbutt, then another Kamigoye… and that’s enough to give him the title! A rather understated match, with the largely quiet crown hampering things as they have been want to do all but. Ibushi wins his first title in New Japan since 2014, and hey, we got to Ospreay/Ibushi after-all! ***¾
Ospreay comes out after the match, wearing a compression shirt to help his ribs… and it’s the obligatory staredown before he took the mic. He talks up the match – and it’s set for WrestleKingdom 13 on January 4! Just a little under four weeks to go then!
World Tag League – Final: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
A rematch of last year’s final, where LIJ won… and they actually have a 2-1 advantage in prior matches, with the Guerrillas winning for the first time when they met earlier in the tour.
Ominously, commentary flagged up SANADA’s neck injury going into this, and we’ve a jump start as Jado cracks EVIL with the Kendo stick before the bell, as the match starts on the outside. Heck, they instantly go deep into the crowd, or at least SANADA and Tama Tonga do, going to the back of the room, where we see Tama whipped into a wall. EVIL and Tanga Loa have similar ideas, but SANADA and Tama were deemed the legal men as they both sprinted back to the ring to save the match.
SANADA misses a standing moonsault, allowing Tama to hit a low dropkick before a chinlock keeps SANADA down. Tama clings onto the ropes to stop himself from running into a dropkick, meaning that this match remained fairly easy for the reigning tag team champions, with Tama raining down blows to SANADA. He gets free and lands a missile dropkick, then a double dropkick as he looked to get free and make the tag out to EVIL.
The crowd wake up as he goes through the GOD with shoulder tackles, before a bulldog/clothesline combo hits its mark for a near-fall. Tanga Loa blocks the Fisherman buster, and hits a suplex of his own as EVIL’s kept in the corner ahead of a superplex from Tanga. A quick turnaround sees LIJ tease a Magic Killer, but a spear from Tama Tonga stops that before EVIL stopped himself from running into a Jado Kendo stick shot… and ends up taking a Tama Tonga neckbreaker for a near-fall. On the outside, Tanga Loa whips SANADA into the guard rails, while EVIL’s isolated again in the ring, with a body slam from Tama getting a near-fall. A standing splash gets Tama a two-count as you sensed they were perhaps getting frustrated… a feeling that only intensified as EVIL blocked a powerbomb and back body dropped free. EVIL can’t tag out as SANADA’s charged off the apron by Tama Tonga, who played his part in Guerrilla Warfare before SANADA makes a save as the Guerrillas’ headbutt/frog splash combo was blocked.
Instead, SANADA and EVIL combine up top for a superplex, but Tanga Loa makes a save as he instead sparked a Tower of Doom. Tanga Loa’s back up with forearms to EVIL, who blocks a lariat before a duelling clothesline sent EVIL down to a knee, before he responded with a clothesline out of the corner for good measure! SANADA’s tagged in for the double-leapfrog dropkick to Tama, before a plancha wiped out Jado… then Tanga Loa as well… and finally Tama to complete the hattrick!
SANADA almost landed on his head as he moonsaulted over Tama Tonga en route to a Skull End. An escape from Tama almost landed him back in the same hold, before SANADA hit the ropes and got tripped as the Guerrillas landed a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo to almost win the match. The Guerrillas tease a Magic Killer, only for SANADA to push away as he goes for an O’Connor roll… from the kick-out he’s clocked with a Kendo stick as Tama almost stole the win. A Magic Killer connects, but EVIL breaks it up only for his brief flurry to end with a spear from Tanga Loa. From there, SANADA’s charged into the corner as the Guerrillas looked for the top rope powerbomb… but SANADA ‘ranas free! Another EVIL comeback sees him take out Tanga with a superkick before a LIJ Magic Killer’s pushed away… and we have a ref bump! That’s the opening for Jado to come in with the Kendo stick, but EVIL stops him as Jado takes the Magic Killer, knocking his Bullet Club cap off in the process. A Skull End follows, but there’s still no referee as we pass the 25 minute mark… and Tanga Loa breaks it up just as Red Shoes come to check.
EVIL and Tanga Loa tease their finishers, with EVIL landing his first, before blocking a Gun Stun. The Magic Killer followed for a near-fall, before Tama Tonga took Darkness Falls, then a SANADA moonsault for the win! LIJ win back-to-back World Tag Leagues, and book their place in the Tokyo Dome next year! Another understated match, keeping it low on shenanigans, but if you’d been following the tour, there’s plenty of the little things that paid off for you. Not a classic, but a damn good match. ***¾
The Young Bucks crash the celebration at the end, noting that they missed the World Tag League tour “because they’ve been on a 15 year tour.” Yeah, make light of that, eh? They look to get their rematch for the IWGP tag titles, and we’re probably getting a three-way at WrestleKingdom. Are there any other former champions who want in, because we may as well stuff every tag title match to the gills. Sigh. The crowd were silent for that, by the way.
Although it was a good, consistent top-to-bottom show, the World Tag League finals were played out in front of a crowd that sounded like they largely struggled to care. This isn’t a show to skip, but if you’re pushed for time, you can probably get away with just checking out the two matches regarding the NEVER title and call it a day. In past years, this show has given us something of a surprise going into WrestleKingdom, but if any is forthcoming, then it’ll have to come on next Friday and Saturday’s Korakuen Hall shows – the final dates of the year for New Japan.