The World Tag League rumbled on, as we had more intra-Bullet Club matches, while Suzuki-gun looked to get back in the winning column.
We’re still on the commentary-free, VOD-only portion of the tour as we hit Aimesse Yamanashi.
World Tag League 2019: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
With his team currently bottom, Nagata started out by trying to work over Goto’s arm, only to get taken down with a shoulder tackle.
Tags bring in Nakanishi and Fredericks, who traded forearms before Fredericks’ slam had the veteran on the deck. Not to worry, Nakanishi’s back with chops to the throat, before bringing Nagata back in to do some heavy lifting, by way of double-team shoulder tackles before he booted Fredericks into the corner. A Fujiwara armbar has Fredericks down, but he gets a foot to the rope, so the veterans work his arms. Fredericks hits his fantastic dropkick, but Nakanishi doesn’t budge as a slam’s needed instead to take him down, as Goto got the tag in. Goto cleared house, suplexing Nagata onto Nakanishi, following up with a bulldog on Nakanishi for a near-fall.
Nakanishi’s back with almost a Mountain Bomb on Goto for a delayed two-count, before Nagata tried to use an Exploder on Goto, but Fredericks came in to help double-team him on the way to a Blockbuster/side-Russian legsweep combo. That cover’s broken up, as the veterans looked to land clotheslines and boots… doing so effectively for another two-count. Then it’s submissions as Goto’s racked, but he got free and broke up a Nagata Lock on Fredericks. Fredericks tries to win with a single crab, but Nakanishi breaks it up as Nagata eventually fought back with an enziguiri – while Nakanishi dropped in with a chop off the top rope – before we got the return of the Backdrop Hold as Nagata picked up his team’s first points of the tour. Solid enough, as they’ve found the solution: give Nakanishi as little to do as possible. The poor sod looked knackered after that chop off the top. **¾
World Tag League 2019: Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
The ghosts of World Tag League past here, as previous winners collide!
Makabe and Tenzan start, trading shoulder tackles with Makabe winning out, at least until some Mongolian chops took him into the corner as Honma and Kojima came in. Honma’s double-teamed as the slingshot elbow drop/falling headbutt awaited him, before Honma responded by throwing Kojima outside so he could get the guard rails.
Back inside, Honma catches Kojima with double sledges to the back, before Makabe returned to clothesline Kojima. A Koji Cutter stops Makabe as Tenzan tagged in to try and turn things around, trapping Makabe in the corner with Mongolian chops, following up with a Mountain bomb. Tags get us to Honma and Kojima, with the latter getting chopped into the corner ahead of a bulldog and the inevitable… a missed Kokeshi! Machine gun chops try to get the crowd going, but Makabe blocks the top rope elbow by press slamming Kojima down.
A turnaround sees Honma score with a falling Kokeshi, but then whiff off the top rope, before a TenKoji cutter led to an ultra rare bump for Makabe. Honma uses a leaping Kokeshi to avoid a second TenKoji Cutter, before he awkwardly rolled Kojima down for a near-fall. He finally connects with a Kokeshi off the ropes, only to get met with a brainbuster and a Cozy Lariat as Kojima took the win. This was… there. It felt slow at times, but this ended up being a bottom-of-the-table match that you’ll likely never think of again. **
World Tag League 2019: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer) vs. Jeff Cobb & Mikey Nicholls
Minoru Suzuki is positively mellow compared to Lance Archer these days.
Of course, we’ve a jump start, but Jeff Cobb reverses things by throwing Suzuki into the guard rails, while Lance Archer just tried to kick Nicholls’ head off in the ring. Those two struggle over a suplex, with Nicholls winning out before Archer kicked away a sliding lariat attempt… and now Suzuki-gun has some measure of control. We’re back outside, with Nicholls getting taken into the crowd. I don’t think laughter was the reaction Lance was gunning for as he tried to intimidate some fans. Nicholls struck back with some forearms, before he had to deal with Suzuki in the ring, who just laughed them off before an elbow took the Aussie down.
Archer’s back to chop through Nicholls in the corner, as Suzuki-gun were wearing down the smaller man, bouncing Nicholls off the turnbuckle before Archer just stood on him. Jeff Cobb, wisely, wasn’t rushing to make a save and distract the ref… and it served him well as Nicholls was able to get the tag out after landing a DDT. Cobb went straight for Suzuki with forearms, before he went for a suplex. It’s elbowed away, but Suzuki’s eventually dumped with an overhead belly-to-belly for a near-fall, before they traded elbows. Suzuki slides in with a rear naked choke to drag Cobb into the corner, as Archer’s back with running elbows before he was caught and dropped with an Olympic slam out of the corner.
Nicholls is back for a fist drop to combine with Cobb’s Gachimuchi-sault, before a Spin Cycle from Cobb and a sliding Nicholls lariat… just drew Suzuki in to break up a cover. Cobb tries to put Suzuki down with a Tour of the Islands, but Archer rakes the eyes before POUNCING Nicholls away, as the EBD Claw put the Aussie down for a near-fall. Not to be outdone, Archer goes for it again, smashing Nicholls’ head off the mat, and that’s enough for the three-count. Not as wild as other Suzuki-gun tags, but they kept it short enough while keeping the aggression high. ***
World Tag League 2019: Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare
It’s Juice and Henare who start us off, trading holds and shoulder charges in the early going.
Henare took Juice down with a clothesline though, only to get surprised with a roll-up as the pair reached their obligatory staredown. Tanahashi and Finlay come in, with the latter having luck with a side headlock… at least until Tanahashi got free. Henare’s back to help roll Finlay into a pair of half crabs, which of course were stopped by the ref, before Finlay hit a diving uppercut off the middle rope to get free. Juice is back in with Henare, landing a back senton as we crossed the five minute mark, and I’m zoning out here. Tanahashi’s back to try and up the pace, dragging down Tanahashi and Finlay with separate Dragon screws, following up with a Cloverleaf on Juice that ends in the ropes.
A full nelson slam helps buy Juice some time, as tags bring Finlay and Henare back in. Finlay nearly nicks it with a uranage backbreaker, but Henare responds with a lariat for a near-fall, before a Slingblade/leg sweep combo almost had Finlay done. Tanahashi takes Juice outside, but he lost him as a double-team flapjack nearly had Henare done… Henare pushed away a Prima Nocta, then a Pulp Friction to keep his side alive, before almost taking the win with a crucifix… only to fall to an Acid Drop as Finlay got the win. Solid enough, but this is probably the dictionary definition of the “Gentleman’s Three”. ***
World Tag League 2019: Bullet Club (KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
I’d seen Larry Csonka’s star rating for this one, and I’m fearing the worst. Even more so when the Bullet Club teams came out as one as if they’d just shared a big laugh at ROH office boy Greg and his texts.
It’s all laughing and joking from the start as they hug and too-sweet each other, before the Guerrillas attacked at the bell. Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa decided not to co-ordinate their gear today, which clearly made Yujiro mad as he bit them both. Yeah, I’m trying to make this intriguing. Both sides try and cheat, with Yujiro and Tama getting kicked in the ropes, before Yujiro put on the brakes to avoid a Jado cane shot. Tama beats down Yujiro some more as he throws him outside… but the obligatory brawl’s avoided. A suplex/slingshot senton combo from the Guerrillas gets my attention, but the pace slows down again as Yujiro slipped out of a running slam hotshotted Tanga Loa.
KENTA finally tags in to throw some forearms, before he rolled up Tanga for a near-fall. There’s a DDT too, then a running knee as Tanga was in the ropes… but KENTA’s eventually caught with a scoop slam as that brief momentum was stopped. Yujiro returns with some boots for Tama, only for the Guerrillas to double-team their way back in on the way to an assisted Tongan Twist that gets a near-fall. A Magic Killer, then a Gun Stun were blocked as Yujiro almost got the upset with a Fisherman buster, before Tama sidestepped a boot in the corner and rolled him up – getting the win with his feet on the rope. Because he’s a good bad guy. Skip this one. I’m not getting those 14 minutes back… ½*
World Tag League 2019: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA)
Larry’s rating for this match also filled me with dread. As did Fale coming out wearing a shawl…
We have a jump start and head outside as Fale took EVIL into the aisles, while Chase Owens made SANADA mug for the cameras. At least they’re doing something. Fale Brookeses EVIL as the crowd scattered… then kept up raking SANADA’s face back in the ring. A nerve hold follows so we can catch our breath, while Chase used a side headlock to force SANADA Into the ropes. SANADA tried to get free, but he’s knocked down by Chase… who tried, and failed, with a Paradise Lock. Fale’s in, but misses with elbow drops as EVIL tags in to try and spice things up, but he just runs into a goozle. EVIL switches around with a thrust kick, before sidestepping a charge from Owens as Fale was left in the corner, on his arse. A Bronco Buster follows for a two-count, before EVIL tried in vain to slam Fale… and ended up getting charged down.
Chase takes over, but EVIL gets free to land a clothesline… SANADA’s back to put Chase in a Paradise lock, before some double-teaming from LIJ led to a back suplex that almost got the win. Fale tries to get involved, but he’s clotheslined to the outside as Owens is eventually put away with a Magic Killer… only for Fale to pull out the ref. Oh. Fale charges through EVIL & SANADA, before he splashed SANADA in the corner ahead of a backbreaker/elbow drop combo. Fale didn’t even leave his feet for that, for crying out loud. SANADA kicks out at two, before he avoided a package piledriver, shoving Owens into the ropes to win with an O’Connor roll. Eh. Compared to the previous match this was Omega/Okada, but gone are the days where a Bad Luck Fale team is actually dangerous in these things. *¾
World Tag League 2019: Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & Terrible)
They actually came out to Zack’s music for a change. Taichi mustn’t have felt like singing.
Taichi uses his mic stand to jab Shingo before the bell as we have a jump start, with all four men heading outside as the Suzuki-gun pair built a lead. Taichi dismantles some of the railings so he could bowl Shingo into the crowd, while Sabre stretched Terrible… and laughed at some fans who were crying. Shingo beat the count-out, but was cornered by the boots of Sabre and Taichi, before he got free with a snap DDT on Sabre. Shingo can’t get the tag out, so he’s thrown outside so Taichi can post him, as Sabre went back to work on the arm as LIJ’s newest heavyweight was being kept isolated. A desperation attempt at Noshigami was pushed away as Sabre countered back with a guillotine choke, with Shingo eventually suplexing his way free.
Finally he gets the tag into Terrible, who immediately lays into Sabre with palm strikes as the crowd went… mild? Taichi gets some too, before Sabre got dropped to the mat. Zack caught Terrible up top with a keylock, before he got shoved down so Terrible could miss a senton. Taichi tries tags in to try and take some control, but to no avail as Shingo comes back in and took down Taichi with a suplex. Taichi responds with a gamengiri in the corner, before a buzzsaw kick dropped Shingo for a two-count. A Stretch Plum holds Shingo back as Sabre had Terrible tied up in the ropes with an Octopus stretch, but there’s no submission as Shingo fought back, peppering Taichi with elbows only to get dumped with a Saito suplex for a near-fall.
Off come the trousers as Taichi pushed on, but a clothesline has him back on the mat. Another Noshigame’s helped as Terrible punched Taichi as Shingo finally got the move off, then knocked Sabre off the apron as LIJ geed each other up for some double-teaming. It culminates in a splash by Terrible off the top, then a sliding lariat for a near-fall. Sabre tries to intervene, but gets a lariat for his troubles, before a Pumping Bomber dropped Taichi for a near-fall. From there, Taichi takes Made in Japan, and that’s the win for Shingo – a note-worthy win over a former NEVER champ, as he continues to find his feet as a heavyweight. ***¼
This was the show where a LOT of the proverbial fat in the field was shown. At a stretch, the main event is worth cherry picking, but otherwise, save your time and data limits for something else.
We don’t need sixteen teams in these tournaments, especially when about half the field are either makeshift combos or barely on shows these days. I’m not saying “ditch the tour”, but unless New Japan begins to actually put some degree of focus on the tag ranks, it may be an idea to turn this into an elimination tournament and stretch it across the tour?
We’ve still got the wacky split as some teams have had three matches and others – including the leaders in FinJuice – have had five. For now, we’re only ranking teams higher if they’re on the same points but with matches in hand, but it doesn’t really matter…
1. David Finlay & Juice Robinson (4-1; 8pts)
2. EVIL & SANADA (3-0; 6pts)
3. Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI; Toru Yano & Colt Cabana (3-1; 6pts)
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare; Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima (3-2; 6pts)
7. Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (2-1; 4pts)
8. KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi; Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer (2-2; 4pts)
10. Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks; Jeff Cobb & Mikey Nicholls; Shingo Takagi & Terrible; Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma; Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi (2-3; 4pts)
15. Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale; Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata (1-4; 2pts)