New Japan kick off their winter tour, with the World Tag League and Best of the Super Junior tournaments running at the same time.
World Tag League 2020 – Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii pinned Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens in 5:34 (**)
Best of the Super Junior 27 – Master Wato pinned Yuya Uemura in 4:14 (**¼)
World Tag League 2020 – Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb pinned Toa Henare & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 2:28 (*½)
Best of the Super Junior 27 – Robbie Eagles submitted DOUKI in 10:35 (***¼)
World Tag League 2020 – Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi pinned YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto in 10:29 (**½)
Best of the Super Junior 27 – SHO pinned BUSHI in 10:19 (***)
World Tag League 2020 – EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi pinned SANADA & Shingo Takagi in 12:20 (**¾)
Best of the Super Junior 27 – Ryusuke Taguchi pinned El Desperado in 12:35 (***½)
World Tag League 2020 – Juice Robinson & David Finlay pinned Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa in 16:42 (***)
Best of the Super Junior 27 – Hiromu Takahashi pinned Taiji Ishimori in 20:06 (****)
We’re at Aichi’s Prefectural Gymnasium for this monster of a card – for the first and penultimate night of the tour, everyone’ll be in action, which gives us ten matches. The remaining nights will alternate between the World Tag League and Best of the Super Junior tournaments, which’ll give us five matches (plus a Young Lion match). Of course, the Best of the Super Junior tournament was delayed from this past spring, and has been condensed into a single block of ten wrestlers – while World Tag League similarly only has ten teams. There is a mystery in the World Tag League line-up too, with Great-O-Khan being joined by X – a new addition to the Empire, who’ll be revealed today.
World Tag League 2020: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Bad Luck Fale’s dropped a tonne of weight, and is back to chasing away ring announcers. Start as you mean to go on, eh?
Owens and Ishii start the match, with Chase clubbing down Ishii early on. Ishii knocks him into the corner, before an Irish whip saw the Stone Pitbull bounce out of the corner for a clothesline as both team’s partners got involved from the apron. Yano backs off from Fale… until he turned around, when Yano ran in and bopped him on the back of the head. He tries it again, but Owens blocks his exit, and so Yano needs the help of Ishii to try and neutralise things.
Until Fale just charges through both men with a shoulder tackle.
Owens takes Ishii into his corner for some jabs, then tagged in Fale as the pair stood on Ishii’s back. Clubbing shots from Fale keep Ishii in trouble, as Fale gets a polite applause from the Aichi crowd for announcing his return. Owens returns to go for a knee strike, but Ishii blocks it… then ran into a big boot before he headbutted Chase into the ropes… with Owens returning with a lariat. Another knee’s side-stepped as Ishii lands a German suplex, before tags bring in Yano and Fale. Of course, Yano removes a corner pad, but couldn’t slam Fale. He hooks the ropes and tries to use momentum to slam the big lad, but it backfires as Fale just slams him. Ishii runs in to help, and eventually does as Fale splashes Owens into the exposed corner… before Ishii pushed down a Fale slam on Yano. Chase tries to break up the pin, but Yano rolls off, so Chase splashes Fale… and Yano rolls back on top to snatch the pin. After the match, Fale slams him a bunch of times. At least they kept this short. **
Best of the Super Junior 27: Yuya Uemura vs. Master Wato
Uemura’s a late replacement for the injured Yoshinobu Kanemaru – and will likely be going 0-9…
Uemura comes out all guns blazing, running into Wato with a forearm and a corner dropkick, before he pulled him into a Boston crab. Get this Uemura! Wato’s dragged away from the ropes, but he pulls his way to the ropes before firing off a bunch of kicks to knock down the Young Lion. A slam drops Uemura for some kicks to the front and back for a near-fall, before some elbows knock Uemura into the ropes. Uemura gets back into it with some elbows and uppercuts, before he stomped a mudhole in Wato in the corner. A dropkick stops Wato as he looked for a way back in, before he was forced to block a Kanuki suplex. Instead, Uemura hits a release German suplex, then went back to the Kanuki, but instead Wato leaps up and hits the Recientemente abdominal stretch driver.
From there, he borrowed the Tenzan Tombstone Driver… and that’s the win. Fantastic graft from Uemura, but I suspect that’ll be his template for this tournament. **¼
World Tag League 2020: The Empire (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare
Okay, last time out I got some flak for the “Poundstretcher Gideon Grey” comparison for Will Ospreay. That’s stream of consciousness live-writing and not going back for you, because clearly Ospreay isn’t Great-O-Khan’s hype man. Speaking of which, X was Jeff Cobb. Sadly, without the tea-towel.
We’ve a jump start as O-Khan and Cobb jumped Henar-Ace, but things quickly turned around with a Dragon screw and a Samoan drop as Cobb found himself isolated, eating an elbow drop and a fist drop before a double-team Boston crab had him in bother. O-Khan’s in to break the hold up with two face-hugging claws, and then it’s time for the Mongolian chops. Tanahashi quickly eats the Eliminator (at barely 90 seconds into the match), before Henare tried to fight back. He blasts O-Khan with a back elbow, before knees to Cobb and a rear spin kick lulled Henare into a false sense of security, as he ran into a front kick. From there, O-Khan throws him into a Tour of the Islands, and that my friends, is a SQUASH. *½
Post-match, O-Khan rolls Tanahashi back inside and worked a leg lock on him. Young Lions go to make the save, but Cobb runs them off as O-Khan whacks Tanahashi’s knee with a chair. That’s how you redebut someone – and perhaps the Empire are a shout to at least make the finals on this form?
Best of the Super Junior 27: DOUKI vs. Robbie Eagles
DOUKI’s splurged and bought himself a new pipe for this tour. It’s already badly damaged before he even hit the ring.
DOUKI jump starts the match, fed up of Eagles taking so long to un-velcro his new gilet, but the Aussie’s back with a spinning heel kick to knock DOUKI outside, following up with a tope con giro. Rolling back inside, Eagles gets a two-count before he tied up DOUKI to stomp on his knees. An eye rake from DOUKI gets him back in, before he lifted Eagles onto the apron… Eagles climbs the ropes, so DOUKI just LAUNCHES the ref into the ropes to crotch the Aussie and send him to the outside. Of course, the guard rails come into play next as DOUKI goes for a chair under the ring… but the ref is back to remove the chair as DOUKI went for a DDT.
The ref’s shoved down as DOUKI instead grabs his pipe for a swinging neckbreaker, before a chinlock back in the ring forced Eagles to dive to the ropes for a break. A whip takes Eagles to the corner, but he blocks DOUKI before scooching under for a pin… a front flip kick to the arm helps take DOUKI back down, before a missile dropkick to the knee kept things going. Kicks to the chest and a diving kick get a near-fall, forcing DOUKI to roll to the corner for some refuge. Running knees keep DOUKI there, before a 619 to the knees leave him down for more running double knees. Those get another two-count, before Eagles went up top for a 450 splash… but DOUKI shifts before the impact and ties up Eagles in an Italian Stretch #32!
Eagles easily gets to the ropes for the break, as DOUKI sets himself up for a Daybreak DDT… but it’s caught as Eagles looked for a Turbo Backpack. That’s escaped, so instead we get a blocked Shiranui before a high knee, a high kick and an enziguiri left DOUKI doozy… but he’s right back with a lariat! Daybreak’s attempted again, and he absolutely SPIKES Eagles with it for a near-fall, before Suplex de la Luna was countered with a wheelbarrow roll through, then a jack-knife pin for a near-fall. A seatbelt pin nearly nicks DOUKI the win, but he’s quickly caught with a Turbo Backpack, before Eagles went up top for a 450 splash to the leg, before a Ron Miller Special got the win. The first “proper” match of the night, and a real humdinger too – with DOUKI more than holding his end of the bargain, but in the end Eagles was able to get it over the line. ***¼
World Tag League 2020: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi)
A rematch from the recent tag title match at Korakuen, this one won’t go as long, since these matches have 30-minute limits…
We don’t get the jump start here, as Goto and Taichi looked to get us going. The opening lock-up sees Taichi melt towards the ropes, before another go around saw Sabre run in to interfere, with the tag champions quickly on the back foot as Sabre got clotheslined. YOSHI-HASHI gets involved with a double-team hiptoss to help Goto to a near-fall, before a shoulder tackle knocked Taichi down for another two-count. Sabre distracts on the outside, allowing Taichi to throttle Goto into the corner… while Sabre and YOSHI-HASHI scrapped in the aisle. The other two head outside also, with Taichi choking Goto with some camera cabling, before back inside more choking kept Goto in the corner. Yeah, the Suzuki-gun lads are generally shit-housing their way through this, keeping YOSHI-HASHI away as they wear down Goto as we crossed the five minute mark of a match that was mainly chokes.
Goto finally gets back in with a choke of his own, which drew in Sabre to pull him away with a rear naked choke of his own. Finally YOSHI-HASHI comes in to chop Taichi in the corner, following up with a Head Hunter off the ropes. More chops trap Taichi in the ropes before he’s hung across them for a dropkick to the back, with a low dropkick following for a two-count. Taichi tries to get back in with a Dangerous backdrop driver, but instead boots away YOSHI-HASHI ahead of an Axe Bomber clothesline. Zack Sabre Jr. tags in and blasts into YOSHI-HASHI with an uppercut that started a brief exchange that has Sabre on the deck. A Bunker Buster’s attempted, but Sabre rolls out and into a guillotine… before YOSHI-HASHI suplexes him away.
An Irish whip takes Sabre into the corner as Goto and YOSHI-HASHI double-team, leading to a side Russian legsweep/Head Hunter combo for a near-fall. Taichi breaks it up as everyone but ZSJ tries to choke each other… the double-teaming works as Taichi’staken down, before he avoids a double-team… only to take a double-team neckbreaker. From there, Taichi chokes Goto again to break up what looked to be a double-team GTR, as Taichi snuck the win with a roll-up on YOSHI-HASHI. I just could not get into this match at all – the finishing stretch was okay, but it felt unfocused, even compared to their overly-long Korakuen match. **½
Best of the Super Junior 27: BUSHI vs. SHO
Oh my gosh…
BUSHI’s kept his shirt on, so expect some choking here. They start with a lock-up, with BUSHI muscling SHO into the ropes before a switcheroo saw SHO break cleanly. BUSHI did not though, booting him before some misdirection in the ropes led to a shoulder tackle, sending BUSHI outside… where he avoids a PK and pulls SHO onto the apron. An Irish whip launches SHO into the guard rails. Three times, all of which looked nasty. SHO makes it back inside, but he’s knocked down into the corner for some boot choking, before a STF forces SHO to drag himself to the ropes. SHO tries to elbow back into it, but a knee to the gut from BUSHI cuts him off, only for SHO to come back with a spear.
SHO takes BUSHI into the corner for a running clothesline, before kicks wear him down some more. Working the arm sees SHO yank it over his shoulder, maintaining a wristlock too, but BUSHI recovers with a low dropkick, sending SHO outside for a tope suicida. Back inside, BUSHI stays on top of SHO, but some stomps get caught as SHO tries to fire back up, trading elbows before a clothesline knocked BUSHI down. BUSHI escapes a powerbomb, then backslides SHO… rolling back up to hit an enziguiri before a lungblower was caught, with SHO countering back with a cross armbar. BUSHI almost steals the win as he rolled up to break the armbar, before he got dumped with a German suplex. A Power Breaker followed for a near-fall (and a bad back), before SHO went for a Shock Arrow, planting BUSHI for the win. This was perfectly fine – both men showed a little, but this seemed to be more about SHO looking impressive than anything else. ***
World Tag League 2020: Bullet Club (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Shingo Takagi)
Former World Tag League winners explode on the first night – as they meet with their new partners. Unluckily for EVIL, it’s a huge downgrade as he meets his ex, who’s traded up.
We’ve yet another jump start, as the Bullet Club lads looked to isolate Shingo early, but Shingo manages to dispatch of EVIL with a suplex inside the opening minute. SANADA comes in with a low dropkick for a two-count, before a Paradise Lock was easily pushed away. EVIL gets low bridged to the outside by SANADA, who followed him outside… only to get charged into the apron as EVIL tried to kill the timekeeper again. Dick Togo distracts the referee as EVIL choked SANADA with some cable, before they rolled back inside with EVIL getting a two-count out of it all. Yujiro tags in for a snapmare so he can hit a leg drop, elbow drop and a falling headbutt for a two-count, before SANADA got thrown outside so Dick Togo could get his shots in.
EVIL then knocks SANADA off the apron, which in turn took the poor timekeeper through his own railings and into the crowd. Oh, I bet he wishes they never learned that spot. Back inside, EVIL gets some two-counts on SANADA, before Yujiro caught SANADA in the ropes with a front kick. SANADA wriggles out of a Fisherman suplex, before he began to bite Yujiro, who had to rake the eyes to get free. A low dropkick from SANADA finally stops Yujiro, before Shingo tagged in to start stomping away on Yujiro. EVIL looks to make the save, but just ends up eating some clotheslines as we go back to Shingo and Yujiro. Another eye rake from Yujiro just annoys, but he’s able to hit a reverse DDT before tagging in EVIL… who quickly falls to a Dragon screw from Shingo. SANADA’s back, but gets tripped by Yujiro on the outside as the Bullet Club again went to work with duelling Fisherman busters on their LIJ foes.
Darkness Falls for EVIL next, which nearly puts away SANADA, who’s then pulled up for Everything is EVIL… but he escaped before a Pumping Bomber from Shingo dropped EVIL. Yujiro gets knocked off the apron, as SANADA drops EVIL with a TKO after some double-teaming… but Yujiro’s back to break up the pin. Shingo follows him out as SANADA looks to put EVIL away with a Skull End… but EVIL backs him into the ropes as Togo pops up with that bloody garrote wire. SANADA overpowers it and sidesteps as EVIL charges at him… a roll-up gets a near-fall, before another Skull End was broken up up Yujiro… SANADA tries for a TKO to get rid of Yujiro, but EVIL sneaks in with a low blow, then rolls up SANADA for the win. You’ll be shocked, but this match fluctuated all over the place, largely being good when Shingo was in, and pretty meh otherwise. They didn’t do too much on EVIL vs. SANADA either, as those two seem to be staying the hell away from the traditional “we were friends!” route… **¾
Best of the Super Junior 27: El Desperado vs. Ryusuke Taguchi
It feels like ages since Taguchi’s had a singles match. June, in fact, when he lost to SANADA in the New Japan Cup. He’s not carrying any sports props for now, which makes me a little sad… Meanwhile, Desperado’s wearing both of the junior tag titles, which seem to be a little cursed…
Taguchi’s acting like a Jack in the Box at the bell, springing up and down as he looked to be doing the bleep test in the ring. That knackered him out, so Desperado comes in with elbows before Taguchi made him run the ropes, dropping down and sending him on before tripping him up. Some short-range Shoteis just see him pat Despy on the head, before an eye rake stopped that… as a low dropkick spun Taguchi to the mat. Desperado drags him into the corner, crotching him on the ring post before wrapping Taguchi’s legs around it, as the referee begins to count out the arse man. Taguchi rolls in at 19 to break the count, but heads right back outside as Desperado posts him once more. Back inside, Taguchi tries to log roll outside once more, but he’s pulled up for a knee breaker as Desperado proceed to tie him up into an Indian deathlock.
Taguchi drags himself to the ropes to force a break, but Desperado “can’t break the hold” conveniently enough. A suplex is escaped by Taguchi, who tweaks his knee on the landing, before a hip attack gets countered by an atomic drop. He fakes out another hip attack, but gets caught with another atomic drop, before he took Despy outside, following him outside with a body press. They head back inside with Taguchi reeling off the Three Amigos, before Oh My Garankle forces Desperado to dive to the ropes for a break. A Gourdbuster drops Desperado as Taguchi measured up for a Bummer-Ye, but Desperado ducks, and comes back with a Dragon screw that Taguchi worsened by not taking the landing.
From there, Desperado locks in Numero Dos, but Taguchi’s able to get to the ropes with his free arm. Despy goes for Guitarra del la Angel, but Taguchi escapes and looked for a Dodon… but his knee gives out. A dropkick from him probably doesn’t help, but he’s able to follow in with a Bummer-Ye for a near-fall. Desperado tries to throw Taguchi into the referee so he could go for a low blow, but Taguchi blocked it, then avoids a Pinche Loco and came back with an enziguiri. Dodon follows, but Desperado wheelbarrows out of it… only for Taguchi to reverse the pin and snatch victory. The Taguchi shtick doesn’t really work well in the “clap crowd” era, but this was a pretty great match as Desperado looks to be doing the heavy lifting for Suzuki-gun here. ***½
World Tag League 2020: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Fin-Juice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson)
It’s a welcome back for both teams, with Juice being the only one of the four here to have wrestled in Japan since February. Heck, only a few weeks earlier, the Guerrillas defeated Fin-Juice for the tag titles in Atlanta just before everything went to hell.
Juice and Tama start us off, with a lock-up into the ropes as Juice avoids a cheapshot… and rubs his nipples for good luck. Tama comes back with a headlock takedown, but it’s escaped… as we wash, rinse and repeat, with Tama eventually clinging onto the hold. Juice gets free to tag in Finlay, who hits a back elbow before he grounds Tama with a chinlock, moving onto an armbar, only for Tama to fight free. Tanga Loa tags in and finds himself in an armbar also, before Juice comes in with a double sledge off the top to the arm. Arm wringers and tags keep FinJuice fresh, and Tanga’s arm sore, leading to a diving European uppercut from Finlay and a back senton from Juice for just a one-count. Loa charges Juice into the corner so Tama could tag in after some brief double-teaming… and we’re back to chokes in the corner as a face-washing boot kicks Juice’s face off for a one-count.
A neckbreaker gets Tanga Loa a two-count as chinlocks wear down Juice, who gets free and tags out to Finlay who sent the Guerrillas packing with uppercuts ahead of a plancha to Tanga Loa on the floor. Back inside, Finlay has to deal with Tama again, which buys time for Tanga Loa to catch Finlay with a butterfly superplex off the top rope, before throwing him back outside for Tanga Loa to toss him into the guard rails. Oh, and so Jado could threaten with the Kendo stick. Back inside, the Guerrillas land a double back body drop on Finlay, before a snap suplex from Tama nearly put Finlay away. Sentons atomico from Tama and Tanga get them a little closer, but Finlay’s able to sneak back in with an uppercut off the middle rope before he finally made the hot tag out to Juice, whose left hands and spinebusters had the Guerrillas on the ropes. A cannonball and Dusty punches follow as Juice got the crowd riled up with the “don don pah” rhythm, following up with a dropkick to Tanga Loa before Jado tripped him in the ropes. Juice retaliates with a baseball slide to knock Jado into the railings, but Tanga just slams Juice down to the mat to buy them some time.
Tama’s back with some right hands, before they lifted up Juice for an elevated Tongan Twist. Finlay gets one too, but FinJuice recovers with a double-team flapjack to Tama, before a dropkick-assisted side Russian legsweep drew a near-fall. A version of the Magic Killer nearly gets the Guerrilas the win, before Tanga charges Juice into the corner for a Stinger splash from Tama… and then the set-up for a Super Powerbomb. Except Juice counters the suplex as Finlay went up for a superplex on Tanga… a big splash from Juice keeps Tanga down, while the Left Hand of God knocks Jado off the apron. Tama Tonga avoids Prima Nocta, but couldn’t get a Gun Stun off, as FinJuice instead polished off Tama with a Doomsday Device for the win. A decent tag match between some of the only established teams in this tournament – but it wasn’t really until the final stretch of double-team moves that this really fell into any kind of groove. ***
Best of the Super Junior 27: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Taiji Ishimori
We’ve a rematch from Summer Struggle here, where Ishimori defeated Hiromu to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title…
Ishimori tries to charge at Hiromu early on with a big boot, before a Bloody Cross was blocked as Hiromu had no intention of this being a quick blow-out. He escapes being hung in the ropes, coming back with two low dropkicks to knock Ishimori outside, following up with a missile dropkick off the apron to send Ishimori into the railings. A lap of honour from Hiromu ends with him just stomping on Ishimori, before they returned to the ring, where Ishimori tries for a springboard… but Hiromu knocks him down to the floor, before an attempted sunset bomb was countered. A ‘rana from Hiromu is also blocked, as he gets powerbombed onto the edge of the ring, before a cravat and a neck twist back inside saw Ishimori aim for Hiromu’s healed neck.
Hiromu throws some chops as he gets back to his feet, but Ishimori knocks him down before Hiromu came back with a wheelbarrow’d Flatliner. Clotheslines in the corners see both wrestlers go back and forth, as they trade up to corner dropkicks before Hiromu looked to suplex Ishimori into the corner, only for that to be escaped as Ishimori ended up handspringing into a German suplex. Ishimori comes right back with a reverse ‘rana that shook up Hiromu, but he replies with an overhead belly-to-belly as both men took head drops within seconds of each other. Getting back to their feet, Hiromu tries to suplex Ishimori on the edge of the apron, but it’s escaped as Ishimori spiked Hiromu with a piledriver on the edge of the ring. ‘Kinnel…
Ishimori bides his time and went for a Golden Triangle moonsault, but Hiromu counters with almost a Michinoku Driver on the floor, as both men needed to drag themselves back up to beat the count. They make it back inside, as a dropkick through the ropes from Hiromu took Ishimori back onto the apron, before a Dynamite Plunger dropped Ishimori for a near-fall. They trade kicks and leaping knees back-and-forth as Ishimori ends up running into a clothesline which almost puts him away. Ishimori retaliates with a clothesline that left Hiromu in a heap, before he pulled him up for a Papa Shango-ish shoulderbreaker and a Cipher UTAKI tombstone gutbuster for a near-fall. Ishimori follows up with some headscissors into a Yes Lock, but Hiromu keeps grabbing onto the referee as he eventually pulled himself towards the ropes… only for Ishimori to roll them back into the middle of the ring, with Hiromu eventually getting his freedom via the ropes.
Sensing blood, Ishimori went for a Bloody Cross, before opting for another lariat, leaving Hiromu almost as dead weight on the mat. A Bloody Cross is countered into an armdrag, with Hiromu returning with a powerbomb and Victory Royal for a near-fall. Time Bomb 2 looks to follow, but Ishimori countered out, only for Hiromu to roll him up for a corner death valley driver… keeping him on his shoulders for a running death valley bomb! From there, Hiromu lifts him up for a Time Bomb, planting Ishimori for the win! A pretty definitive win to easily the match of the night, even if some of the head drops may have been a little much for “the opening night.” ****
World Tag League 2020
EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi; Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb; Juice Robinson & David Finlay; Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.; Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (1-0; 2pts)
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens; Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI; SANADA & Shingo Takagi; Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa; Toa Henare & Hiroshi Tanahashi (0-1; 0pts)
Best of the Super Junior 27
Robbie Eagles, SHO, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiromu Takahashi, Master Wato (1-0; 2pts)
BUSHI, El Desperado, DOUKI, Taiji Ishimori, Yuya Uemura (0-1; 0pts)
Given how quick the first three matches went, I was fearing this would be something like NJPW Dark – but we were always going to get that on a ten-match card in the current New Japan era. Of course, it wasn’t going to be like that, and especially with the line-ups on hand, this joint show was always going to be more filler than killer. At least it wasn’t a total wash, with some pretty good matches, a cracker of a main event, and the bad not being too bad.