World Tag League picks up after a longer-than-usual break, as Yuji Nagata and Tiger Mask headline in Togane.
Yuto Nakashima & Kosei Fujita went to a draw in 10:00 (**¾)
World Tag League 2021 – Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan pinned Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe in 11:39 (**¾)
World Tag League 2021 – SANADA & Tetsuya Naito pinned Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale in 10:22 (**¾)
World Tag League 2021 – Toru Yano & Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Aaron Henare & Great-O-Khan in 11:49 (***)
World Tag League 2021 – Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL pinned YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto in 11:20 (**½)
World Tag League 2021 – Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi pinned Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga in 17:41 (***½)
World Tag League 2021 – Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask pinned TAKA Michinoku & Minoru Suzuki in 14:46 (***¼)
We’re coming from the Togane Arena in Chiba, a venue that’s usually held the Yuji Nagata “Blue Justice” anniversary shows… and after some introductory words from Nagata, we get going. Don’t worry, he’s not introducing the scoring system for our opening match!
Kosei Fujita vs. Yuto Nakashima
Ten draws in a row for the Young Lions on this tour. Yeah, this’ll be an eleventh…
There looked to be a degree of urgency to start with in the opening stages, with Nakashima trying for an early cross armbar before he found luck with a hammerlock on the mat. Fujita manages to get back up, but Nakashima Gator rolled his way in for a sleeperhold on the deck, but couldn’t get away from the ropes as a break’s called. A head and arm choke from Nakashima keeps Fujita down, before Fujita broke free and smashed Nakashima with a big ol’ dropkick. From there Fujita went after Nakashima’s previously-injured arm, but a Fujiwara armbar ends in the ropes, as did a double wristlock.
Fujita goes back to the cross armbar, but again Nakashima’s able to make it to the ropes as the pair then traded elbows until a running elbow took Fujita down. A back body drop flings Fujita for a two-count, before a bodyslam sets up Nakashima for a half crab… that ends in the ropes, but Nakashima pulls him away as the hold’s reapplied… and time runs out! We’re definitely in the phase of these guys getting closer to winning in their ten minutes, but for now, draws have to do… **¾
World Tag League 2021: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
Makabe and Honma are one of three teams starting the day with zero points…
Honma and Tenzan start this one off with lock-ups, then shoulder tackles, before Tenzan just hit a clothesline. Kojima joins in, but the falling headbutt/slingshot elbow misses as Kojima ends up getting cornered and chopped by Honma for a two-count. A pair of shoulder tackles has Kojima down for another two-count, before Makabe ate a DDT. Tenzan’s in to charge folks down, then hit some Mongolian chops and a brainbuster to boot. Makabe elbows away an Anaconda Buster, then went for clotheslines before running into a Mountain bomb.
Kojima and Honma return as Kojima pulls ahead with the Machine Gun chops, but a Kokeshi and a brainbuster from Honma draws a near-fall before Kojima’s met with sandwich lariats and another diving Kokeshi for a near-fall, We cross the ten minute mark with Honma teasing a Kokeshi Otoshi, only to eat a Koji Cutter for a near-fall. In the melee, Makabe takes a TenKoji Cutter as he’s bumping more than usual here, while Honma ends up hitting a lariat of his own for a near-fall… which just prolonged the inevitable as a Cozy lariat ends up getting the win for Kojima. **¾
World Tag League 2021: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
We get the customary stalling from Naito before the bell, as he’s over-dressed for the occasion…
Owens bounces Naito into the corner early, but can’t avoid headscissors or a low dropkick as LIJ took over, primarily going for his ponytail. Fale breaks up a chinlock but Naito stays on Owen, hitting a Manhattan drop before Fale stopped a Combinacion Cabron by grabbing onto Naito in the ropes. The turnaround sees the Bullet Club tandem focus on Naito’s bad knee, then squash him in the ropes as SANADA just stood and watched from the apron. A knee in the ropes from Owens hits Naito, but a missed clothesline sees Fale charge Owens off the apron before a leaping forearm put Naito back ahead.
SANADA tags in and dropkicks Fale into the ropes, then low bridges him to the outside for a plancha, before Fale charged him down back inside. Owens comes in and pushes away a Paradise Lock… then tried one of his own, eventually rolling SANADA into the hold after what feels like aeons of trying. Naito rolls SANADA free, then booted away a Grenade Launcher attempt, only to get clotheslined to the outside, while SANADA eats a running knee from Owens for a near-fall. SANADA ‘rana’s out of a package piledriver in response… then rolled up Owens with an O’Connor roll for the win. At least they kept it short, and showed that they can win out of nowhere, I suppose… **¾
World Tag League 2021: United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano
We open with Tanahashi and Henare, but the reunion of former Tag League partners starts badly as Henare kicked away at Tanahashi before he ate a crossbody out of the corner.
Tanahashi throws Henare an air guitar, which just seems to disgust him, as tags bring in Yano and O-Khan. O-Khan lays down and I’d throw in a screenshot of O-Khan inviting Yano to “paint me like one of your French women,” but TV Asahi would probably copyright strike me to smithereens for what’s effectively 1/24th of a second out of a 2h 45m show. Stuff like that is why you’ve lost your Western audience, lads… O-Khan and Henare double-team Yano on the way to a near-fall as they looked to isolate Yano for a spell. A leg lock ends in the ropes as O-Khan followed with Mongolian chops and some sitting. Yano pulls down O-Khan by the hair and made his way out to tag Tanahashi, who lands some leaping forearms and a flip senton out of the corner for a two-count.
A Cloverleaf followed, but Henare’s instantly in to break it up (albeit at the cost of a Dragon screw), while O-Khan returned with a Sheep Killer into a backbreaker. Henare’s in to wear down Tanahashi in the corner, before a suplex got countered into the Twist and Shout neckbreaker. Yano’s back to rip off the corner pad, while Henare’s double-teamed and slingshotted back into the corner. Henare ducks a Slingblade as all four men stay in the ring, leading to some sandwich boots on Yano for a two-count. Tanahashi’s dispatched by a throat thrust from O-Khan, before another pair of submission attempts stretch out Yano… Tanahashi’s Slingblade breaks it up, before Yano pushed the ref, hit a low blow, then rolled up Henare for the win. I mean, there’s a bloody obvious DQ just before the finish, but it seems logic’s gone out of the window on these last few tour stops. ***
Milano just about makes it back from the toilets during the interval. I know that feeling…
World Tag League 2021: House of Torture (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
House of Torture matches are like bad pennies. You know you’re getting them, but you’re always saddened when you see one.
Goto and YOSHI-HASHI jump start the match, knowing how it’d go otherwise, taking things outside and into the rails. Back inside, shoulder tackles lead to YOSHI-HASHI getting hiptossed onto Yujiro, before EVIL bailed. Dick Togo’s dragged in and takes a beating, while Yujiro bit at Goto to escape a suplex. Goto’s thrown into an exposed corner next, before EVIL used Goto to wipe out the timekeeper once more. It’s one-way traffic for the House of Torture from there, particularly as Togo gets involved when Goto’s thrown outside, but Goto manages to use that exposed corner to his advantage, side-stepping EVIL into it before tagging out to YOSHI-HASHI.
YOSHI-HASHI dropkicks EVIL into the ropes for a two-count, but a trip turns it around as EVIL and Yujiro double-team, leading to an Incolle Slam from Yujiro for a two-count, before Goto clotheslines away an attempt at Pimp Juice. Goto stays in as EVIL’s met with a side Russian legsweep/Head Hunter combo, while Yujiro takes a superkick-assisted ushigoroshi. From there, they call for Shoto on Yujiro, but Dick Togo distracts… allowing EVIL to bump the ref, hit low blows, then grab some plunder as this ref was out of it. A garotte holds YOSHI-HASHI for a chair shot, before a Pimp cane clothesline actually shatters Yujiro’s cane in two, before the Big Juice DDT gets the win. Deep sigh. Next, please. **½
World Tag League 2021: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi)
The Guerrillas have largely had Sabre and Taichi’s number, beating them in the last three Tag Leagues – in fact, the match where Sabre and Taichi won the tag titles off of Suzuki-gun back in June was their first win ever over them.
We’ve a slow start as Taichi melted into the ropes from a Tanga Loa lock-up, before Taichi began to engage, kicking Tanga in the thigh as he was given elbows in return. Tama Tonga has more luck as he has Taichi down, only to get charged into the corner as Sabre tagged in with uppercuts before a quick exchange ended with a Cobra twist on Tama. Tama hiptosses free, but gets rolled up for a neck twist before more headscissors had Tama on the mat. Sabre clings on with a side headlock, but gets surprised with a flatliner from Tama as the Guerrillas rushed the ring. On the outside, Tanga Loa chucks Sabre into the rails, which almost led to the count-out… except Tanga rolled Sabre in at 19. Your choice, I guess…
Tama gets a two-count as he proceeded to wear down Sabre some more, while a tag brings in Tanga top try and keep Sabre in the corner… all he manages to do was fire up Zack, before a neckbreaker and a stalling Jackhammer drew a near-fall. Uppercuts from Sabre offered some response as Taichi gets a tag in to light up Tama with some Kawada-ish kicks. A spin kick has Tama down, while an enziguiri took down Tanga, before Tama gets caught with the Holy Emperor Cross Mausoleum. It’s escaped as Taichi returned with an Axe bomber, which was the cue for the trousers to come off, before an enziguiri from Tama stopped a Dangerous backdrop driver.
Tanga Loa’s back with an enziguiri to Taichi, but he gets one back in the corner before Sabre ran in with uppercuts. More kicks from Taichi soften up Tanga Loa for a PK, before a back suplex/nodo otoshi chokeslam combo almost put Tanga away. A simple bodyslam frees Tanga as Tama has Taichi into the rails, as the Guerrillas then double-team Sabre for a bunch of near-falls, while a Supreme Flow splash nearly nicked it for the Guerrillas. From there, Tama and Tanga set up for a Super Powerbomb, but Taichi stops them in their tracks. Sabre kicks away a Magic Killer attempt, before Taichi saved a second one as Sabre managed to sneak out the win with an inside cradle. Far from a definitive win, but it was the competitive match you’d expect from these teams as Dangerous Tekkers keep their spot in joint-second place. ***½
World Tag League 2021: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask
Someone’s leaving here with their first points of the tournament, surely… and given that Tiger Mask’s come out with his junior tag title belt, I don’t like TAKA’s chances here.
Nagata and Suzuki start us off as I’m dreaming of their hot series just after the restart last year, when they made the empty arena format work. Those early exchanges lead to nought as we go to TAKA and Tiger, with TAKA pulling ahead before Tiger Mask gave him a kicking. Nagata’s back to put the boots to TAKA, but ran into Suzuki in the ropes, whose hanging armbar forces a ref break as things spilled to the floor, where Nagata’s choked with some camera cabling. The pair continue to scrap as Nagata’s taken into the rails, before we return to the ring as Suzuki choked out Nagata with what looked like the tag rope as the Suzuki-gun lads isolated Nagata.
The ref refuses to count a nonchalant cover on Nagata, while TAKA gets a two-count from a step-up knee in the corner. A Kitchen Sink knee finally takes TAKA down, as Tiger Mask gets the tag in… and is quickly forced to kick away a surfboard stretch. Tiger Mask rolls out of a crucifix and in for a chicken wing, but Suzuki breaks it up. TAKA avoids further attacks and tags out to Suzuki, who leathers Tiger Mask with elbows, only for a rear spin kick to stop Suzuki as Nagata gets the tag back in. Kicks and a double underhook suplex land for a two-count, while a PK gets Suzuki a two-count. Suzuki mocks the crowd’s clapping as the pair begin to trade elbows, including some Suzuki CLONKers, before a rear naked choke drew in TAKA for some double-teaming.
Kicks drop Nagata for a two-count, as a rear naked choke looked to put him out… but Suzuki lets go to try a pin, and gets a two-count from there. A Gotch piledriver’s blocked in the ropes, as a Parade of Moves breaks out, leading to TAKA needing help to get out of a Nagata Lock II crossface. Suzuki gets thrown outside for that, before Nagata’s step-up knee and a brainbuster nearly put TAKA away… as a Backdrop Hold moments later got the job done. Nagata gets his first win of the tournament in his hometown, and we’re now down to two pointless teams who could well be out of the running in the next few days. ***¼
Five matches in, here’s how this year’s World Tag League is shaping up – remember the top two teams go into a play-off final…
Tetsuya Naito & SANADA (5-0 / 10pts)
Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano (4-1 / 8pts)
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI, Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (3-2 / 6pts)
EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (2-3 / 4pts)
Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask (1-4 / 2pts)
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma, Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku (0-5 / 0pts)
We’re back to alternating nights as Monday sees the Best of the Super Junior tournament hit Korakuen Hall – World Tag League returns to Korakuen on Tuesday with the United Empire vs. LIJ on top, before a VOD-only stop in Saitama on Thursday.
We’re not even halfway through this part of the tour and it’s living down to expectations. Mentally, this show was an absolute grind to get through for the most part, as we continue to churn through matches that’ll largely be forgotten about within a month. Not the show to watch if you’re burnt out on this stuff…