The first round of World Tag League matches wrapped up as the tour rolled into Korakuen Hall.
Kevin Kelly and Don Callis are on hand for commentary alongside a returning Chris Charlton! My God, commentary is a crowded space!
Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
It’s Juice and Uemura who start us off, with the Young Lion scrambling for a takedown as we got a shot of a weird-looking DENIM LIGER on Japanese commentary.
Juice hits first with a chop in the ropes, but Uemura hit back as the rookies combined to charge through Juice with duelling shoulder tackles. Finlay gets the same treatment too, before Juice ran into a double hiptoss for a near-fall.
Fin-Juice recover as a double dropkick laid out Tsuji, and they kept up the offence with a pair of back sentons as Tsuji was left massively isolated. A Tsuji dropkick doesn’t find its mark, but he’s able to tag out as Uemura had some better luck, scoring with a body slam on Finlay for a near-fall before the Young Lions went for a pair of single-leg crabs on Finlay. It doesn’t work, largely because Juice dropkicks his man free after some impressive fire. A double-team flapjack nearly puts Uemura down forever, as he almost landed square on his head seemingly trying to tuck into a back body drop, before a Blackheart Buster from Finlay got the win. Your usual solid opener, but my God, that almost went badly off the rails at the end. **¾
Tomoaki Honma & Ren Narita vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
In theory, this ought to be a quiet night for the reigning tag champions, who jumped their opponents before the bell.
They focus on Honma from the off, but he comes back with some hiptosses as referee Kenta Sato took his time to clear the ring. We’re quickly in with a slam, but Jado whacks Honma in the back with a Kendo stick to prevent a Kokeshi, before whipping him into the guard railings. Ren Narita’s also beaten down on outside as Honma tried to fight back, only to take a snap suplex from Tama for a near-fall.
Tanga Loa scores with a slam and an elbow drop for a two-count, before he’s charged into the corner as a Stinger splash from Tama left him down. A much-delayed cover gets Tama a two-count, while Tanga’s back with short-arm lariats as the focus seemed to be on Honma’s neck, playing up a possible ref stoppage as Tanga Loa ragdolled him. Tama Tonga’s back to ragdoll Honma, but he misses with a mocking Kokeshi… as does Honma. A DDT catches Tama, as Honma finally gets the tag out to Uemura, and what a surprise, the pace quickens! There’s dropkicks from Narita, eventually taking down Loa, who tries to hit a slam… only for Narita to hold him in place as a slingshot Kokeshi found its mark from Honma.
A Boston crab from Narita almost had Tanga in trouble, but Jado’s distraction helped again as Tama Tonga broke it up. Narita’s quickly back with a dropkick ahead of a Kokeshi from Honma, before he nearly won with an O’Connor roll… in the end Tanga kicks out and almost got the win with a brutal lariat, before finishing off the Young Lion with Apeshit. This was fine, but painfully slow at times. **½
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Ayato Yoshida, Shota Umino vs. Togi Makabe, Toa Henare, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima
Chris Charlton noted that Yoshida had already wrestled once today, appearing on a K-DOJO show earlier in the afternoon. Busy lad.
Henare and Nakanishi start us off, with the veteran hitting first with a chop before Henare returned the favour with forearms. There’s more chops from Henare, who tries to stick and move before tags took us to Yoshida and Kojima. The K-DOJO trainee connects with a chop, then a forearm to try and wear down Kojima, eventually knocking him off his feet… only for Kojima to quickly recover and take him into the corner for some Machine gun chops.
A DDT puts Yoshida down as Tenzan tagged in, with the former tag champs working up to a diving headbutt/slingshot elbow as Yoshida was taking a beating. Nakanishi breaks up the cover on that, before a suplex prompted Umino to come in and break up the cover as the pace became rather more deliberate. Yoshida tried to fight back on Makabe, but forearms snuff that out, only for him to come back with a knee to the gut and a mid-kick as he finally got the tag out to Nagata.
Big boots from Nagata see him fire up into a series of kicks on Makabe, before an Exploder suplex is blocked as the pair descended into back-and-forth forearms. The Exploder comes off anyway, and after a refresh to my feed, Umino’s in as his team triple-teamed Henare, leading to a missile dropkick from Shota for a near-fall. A headbutt from Henare triggers a huge dropkick from Umino, who then charges into a rugby tackle for a near-fall as Yoshida makes a save. Yoshida’s dispatched with a TenKoji Cutter, while Nagata and Nakanishi collides with a double clothesline from Makabe as Umino and Henare go back to those strikes. A palm strike sends Henare into the ropes, but he rebounds with a Samoan drop for a near-fall, before a uranage got him the win. While the tempo was, as expected, all over the place, when we were down to the relative Young Lions, this was pretty sprightly… and hey, it’s a rare win for Henare too, which is always a good thing. ***
The Elite (Kota Ibushi, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hirooki Goto & Best Friends (Chuckie T & Beretta)
Hmm, the addition of Ibushi and Goto to this trios match certainly hints at a certain direction, doesn’t it?
Ibushi refuses to start with Goto, so we instead start with Beretta and Yujiro, with the former instantly getting clocked with a boot to the head. He shakes it off and scores a near-fall with a sunset flip out of the corner before he chopped away at Yujiro, then met him with a dropkick after a spot of rope running. Yujiro bit back, then tagged in Page, who became a one man wrecking ball as he instantly stole the spotlight with a breathless series of moves and dives. Back inside, he’s snuffed out with a tornado DDT from Beretta, before things spilled outside, where Goto posts Ibushi.
Chuckie T puts down Page with a back suplex, but he can’t get a cover. Page tried his luck on Beretta, but a slingshot in from the apron’s caught and turned into a Northern Lights for a near-fall, as Page quickly found himself isolated in the ring. A chinbreaker gets him free, but Beretta tagged in and cleared the apron to stop Page from getting out… only to end up taking a short lariat as Page finally got himself free.
Ibushi tags in, as does Goto… and hey, Korakuen woke up for that! Kicks from Kota put Goto down for a standing moonsault for a near-fall. A slingshot splash from the apron gets a similar result for Ibushi, before he ran into a floating ushigoroshi from Goto, as Chuckie T came back in and nearly took the win with a sit-out powerbomb. Chuckie heads back up top, but a double stomp missed as Ibushi comes back with a kick… and here comes Yujiro to try and finish off the job. Sole Food puts Yujiro to the apron as we eventually got duelling planchas to Yujiro and Page from the Best Friends amid a Parade of Move teases, which led to a Buckshot Lariat from Page, then the Pimp Juice DDT from Yujiro on Chuckie for the win. A bit of a surprising result, but this was another solid undercard match with some interesting teases for Goto’s next title defence. ***¼
Post-match, Goto forces the issue, challenging Ibushi to the NEVER openweight title shot. Kota plays hard to get, then accepts the offer – so we’ve got our WrestleKingdom match!
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Our final non-tournament match of the day, and I still don’t get this combination… I guess it’s the “what’s left of the tour” portion of the card?
It’s Okada and Naito who start us off, and we almost have a flash pin as Naito sits down on a roll-through for a near-fall. The pacey start continued, at least until Naito goes Tranquilo, before he tagged in Shingo. We don’t get Okada vs. Shingo yet, as instead it’s YOH vs. Shingo, with the latter absorbing chops before derailing YOH with one of his own.
Shoulder tackles put YOH down, but he kips back up and scores with a diving forearm as the match was quite delicately poised, with LIJ quickly taking over with some nefarious means. Including a HUGE Irish whip to SHO that saw him sail into the guard rails. In the ring, BUSHI chokes YOH with his t-shirt, then nails a neckbreaker, before Naito comes in to stretch YOH with a single leg crab.
Shingo’s back as he keeps up the pressure, clobbering YOH with a clothesline in the corner before a Dragon screw’s blocked… then returned by YOH! SHO tags in to try and turn it around, and he does so… lifting BUSHI onto the apron then dropkicking him off as SHO tries to haul up Shingo for a deadlift German… only to have to make to with a knee to the gut. SHO and Shingo trade strikes, before a Pumping Bomber’s avoided and met with a spear. Shingo makes him pay with a punch and a clothesline, before BUSHI tagged in for a missile dropkick and a spiking DDT that planted SHO on his dome. Shingo and BUSHI combine for a spinebuster/backcracker combo on SHO for a near-fall, while we saw Okada fling Naito through a crowd barrier out of shot. Okada’s quickly back in as BUSHI’s down, catching him with a neckbreaker slam for a near-fall, before a dropkick and a Rainmaker did the job. By the numbers stuff, but probably the best thing on the undercard… I just wish they were able to do something more than “grr this is angry Okada warming up for a challenge to Jay White.” ***½
World Tag League: Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka)
Nice catch there, Kevin! Meanwhile, Davey Boy’s stolen one of Teddy Hart’s fluffy jackets…
Of course, we’ve got a jump start as Suzuki-gun turned their sights on each other, brawling around ringside before it settled down somewhat. There’s a stalling suplex from Davey Boy to Iizuka, while Archer had Suzuki choked in the guard railings… which he’s made to pay for as Suzuki throws a chair at Archer. Smith gets the same treatment from Iizuka as the referee starts a count-out… which is stopped and restarted, with Smith backdropping Suzuki to the outside.
The Killer Elite Squad finally start double-teaming, focusing on Suzuki… who’s actually inviting this stuff on. He’s dragged into the crowd for more chair shots, but back in the ring he manages to sidestep a big boot and catch Smith with one of his own. A PK leathers Smith, who asks for more… and gets it in a Shibata-like show of fire. Suzuki eventually knocks him down for a near-fall, before his attempt at a guillotine choke was countered into a release Northern Lights.
Lance Archer comes in to keep up on Suzuki, but the leader of Suzuki-gun sparks a chop battle… which neither man flinches on! Suzuki counters a chokeslam into a rear naked choke, before tagging in – and unmasking – Iizuka, who goes straight in with the biting. He grabs his rope to choke Archer with as Suzuki’s tied up the referee… who begins to count a pin as he was oblivious to the rope. Iizuka goes for his funky oven glove, but referee Marty Asami stops him… the KES finally get hold of Iizuka for a Killer Bomb, but it’s fought out of by Suzuki, who takes a sidewalk slam/big splash combo. More biting from Iizuka sees him nibble Archer’s boot before he’s wiped out with a sort-of Pounce, ahead of a Killer Bomb for the win. Perhaps a surprising result from a match that wasn’t THAT awful once we got past the crowd stuff. Just remember, we’ve also got ZSJ/Taichi as a pair in this tournament, so we’ve got two more goes round of this! **¾
Suzuki fist-bumps the KES afterwards… then boots Yota Tsuji as the Young Lion looked to be caught properly unawares.
World Tag League: Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Hey… I can finagle some build for this – Sabre faces Ishii at WrestleKingdom for the Rev Pro title, which perhaps tips off that his pairing is NOT winning the tournament? (although commentary kayfabes the already-announced match!)
Taichi and Yano are understandably tentative about starting, with Yano just offended at being in the ring with Taichi. I feel you. All the shtick as Yano calls for a break for something that didn’t happen, which just shows off Red Shoes Unno’s new Underarmour deal – red wristband, red belt… all the branding! Sabre tags in and looks to stretch Yano… but he forgets that Yano is no wrestling idiot, as he tags in Ishii. Zack throws a forearm at Ishii’s head, as he then tried to play keep-away… only to get dropped by a forearm from the Rev Pro champion. A neck twist from Sabre puts Ishii down as Yano and Taichi bugger off into the crowd. Taichi’s back as he tries to wrap Ishii’s arm in the ropes, softening him up further for Sabre as he stretches Ishii to the mat for a near-fall.
Zack kicks away at Ishii’s arm before bringing Taichi back into the picture… eventually Ishii tags out to Yano, who instantly goes for the turnbuckle pad, then tries to whip Taichi into the exposed corner. The other turnbuckle pad comes off, only for Taichi to whack Yano with the first pad. My feed again needs to refresh, and comes back as Yano rolled up Taichi for a near-fall, before hooking himself in the ropes…. A hair pull hauls down Taichi, as Ishii comes back in… but he runs into the exposed corner and takes a gamengiri from Taichi, who measured up the champion for ahead kick. It misses, as a chop/kick battle broke out, ending with an Ishii headbutt and a kick from Taichi. Sabre tags in as Ishii was still on the mat, and it’s easy pickings as he torques the arm of Ishii before stomping on it.
Ishii blocks a PK and forearms Sabre to death, only for him to run into an exposed corner as Taichi and Sabre double-teamed while Yano just complained. An Octopus from Sabre’s accompanied by Kawada-style kicks to Ishii… but Sabre’s neck’s causing him issues so he can’t quite get the purchase he wanted on the hold as Ishii finally got into the ropes. Yano’s back as he tries to outsmart Sabre… and succeeds as Zack charges into the exposed corner before taking an Ishii German suplex for a near-fall.
A sliding lariat follows from Ishii, but Zack counters into a crucifix pin for a near-fall… then stretches Ishii on the mat until Yano broke it up. Taichi breaks up the break-up, taking Yano outside as Zack tried to finish off Ishii with a PK… but Ishii pops back up only to get rolled up for a near-fall! Ishii rolls back up for a lariat that almost gives him the win, before the sheer drop brainbuster’s countered into a triangle armbar… which Ishii powerbombed out of? No! Sabre clings on!
Eventually Yano comes in to try and stomp away the triangle armbar, only for Taichi to destroy his mic stand on Yano as his attempts failed. Ishii’s still in the triangle… and the referee’s forced to wave off the match. This had some flashes of good stuff, but they found a way to kill the Sabre/Ishii build: just add Taichi! ***
Sabre sits on Ishii after the match, holding his belt – just to add some more fuel to the fire for the (cough) unannounced match before Ishii had to be carried to the back.
World Tag League: Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs. Jeff Cobb & Michael Elgin
Our final tournament match of the night sees the former tag champions up against a team that caused a little bit of a stir when they debuted here a year ago. Albeit not for wrestling reasons…
We start with Cobb ragdolling SANADA into the corner, before he and Elgin double-teamed with a double hiptoss/backbreaker as SANADA was quickly on the ropes. SANADA tries to recover, but gets thrown into the corner before scoring with a low dropkick to the knee of Elgin, as EVIL tags in… and quickly becomes part of a Pass-the-Parcel suplex. That gets Elgin a near-fall, but EVIL turns it around as he caught Elgin with a superkick, ahead of the match heading outside so EVIL could play with some chairs.
SANADA tries to pick up the slack, but Elgin blocks a suplex before he ended up taking it for a near-fall. A back senton from EVIL gets a similar result, before Elgin mounted a one-man comeback, knocking EVIL down and using him as a human step for a tornado DDT to SANADA. There’s a dropkick for EVIL too, before Cobb returned to throw EVIL around with suplexes… oh, and a standing moonsault too, which EVIL blocks with his knees.
SANADA cranks it up with a double-leapfrog dropkick, before Cobb avoids a springboard dropkick and just T-bones him with a suplex. Elgin’s back with discus forearms for all before he flies into EVIL with a tope! There’s running clotheslines to SANADA in the corner before another double-leapfrog from SANADA’s caught and muscled into a backbreaker. OW. A German suplex from SANADA is avoided, as Elgin hits one of his own for a near-fall, before the ring filled up as LIJ tried to snatch a win… with SANADA grabbing a Skull End. Cobb’s being restrained in the corner by EVIL, but he manages to charge into SANADA to POUNCE free the submission. Elgin and Cobb batter SANADA with clotheslines before a powerbomb/backcracker combo forces EVIL to break up the cover. There’s a low bridge from EVIL to take Cobb outside, but EVIL’s quickly caught with an enziguiri from Elgin… only for SANADA to catch Elgin with another Skull End!
SANADA lets go so EVIL can throw a superkick, before a Magic Killer forces a near-fall with Cobb breaking up the cover. From there, SANADA dumps Elgin ahead of a moonsault, but he crashes and burns before Cobb and EVIL have a go… there’s a huge lariat from Cobb ahead of an Athletic-plex for a near-fall as SANADA breaks it up. He’s dispatched as Cobb and Elgin double-team EVIL, leading to a superplex from Elgin that BOUNCES EVIL, before a standing moonsault from Cobb somehow only got a near-fall! There’s another turnaround as Elgin takes a springboard moonsault from SANADA, allowing the legal Cobb to mount one last comeback, only to get caught with a Magic Killer. A SANADA plancha makes sure Elgin can’t return, as Everything is EVIL polishes off Cobb. Easily the best thing on this card, with the LIJ team stealing the show – and getting their campaign underway with a hard-fought W from this hoss battle. ***½
Everyone’s had a match, so you’re either joint top or joint bottom…
1. Best Friends (Beretta & Chuckie T) (1-0; 2pts)
1. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (1-0; 2pts)
1. Juice Robinson & David Finlay (1-0; 2pts)
1. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) (1-0; 2pts)
1. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (2-0; 2pts)
1. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (1-0; 2pts)
1. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (1-0; 2pts)
9. Ayato Yoshida & Shota Umino (0-1; 0pts)
9. Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb (0-1; 0pts)
9. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (0-1; 0pts)
9. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) (0-0; 0pts)
9. The Elite (Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi) (0-1; 0pts)
9. Togi Makabe & Toa Henare (0-1; 0pts)
9. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (0-1; 0pts)
Much like night one, this was very much a skippable show – and I fear this is going to be par for the course. From the field of 14, there’s really only 3-4 teams that you can buy having a real shot of winning the whole thing, which makes a LOT of the tournament matches a much of a muchness. And a slog too, when these shows come across as low-energy affairs…
From here on in, at least for a few days, we’re on the “tournament match only” edition of the reviews, as we’re not getting live streams, but instead VOD of the league matches. The tournament picks up on Tuesday in Toyama (with the matches dropping on Wednesday), featuring a quartet of bouts: Henare/Makabe vs. Nagata/Nakanishi, Cobb/Elgin vs. KES, Yano/Ishii vs. Suzuki/Iizuka and Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Juice/Finlay.