We’re into the home stretch as teams look to lock up their place in Wednesday’s World Tag League final!
Ryohei Oiwa and Kosei Fujita went to a draw in 10:00 (**½)
World Tag League 2021 – Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan pinned TAKA Michinoku & Minoru Suzuki in 9:27 (**½)
World Tag League 2021 – Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma pinned Tiger Mask & Yuji Nagata in 9:07 (**½)
World Tag League 2021 – Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano pinned Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale in 9:53 (***)
World Tag League 2021 – Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga pinned Aaron Henare & Great-O-Khan in 13:31 (***½)
World Tag League 2021 – EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi pinned SANADA & Tetsuya Naito in 17:46 (***½)
World Tag League 2021 – Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI pinned Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi in 24:44 (****¼)
We’re at the Green Arena in Hiroshima for this final round of block action… and for the dead rubbers I’m going to workshop something different in terms of the match coverage.
Kosei Fujita vs. Ryohei Oiwa
We’ve had a lot of draws between the Young Lions, and I’d be stunned if that ended here.
We strayed from the usual “one guy dominated for a spell, then went on the defensive” template here, as Oiwa and Fujita stayed close on the mat, working side headlocks before Oiwa looked to pull ahead with a leglock, then with a half crab before forearms gave Fujita an opening, which a dropkick widened. Fujita tries to force a stoppage with a double wristlock, but that ends in the ropes as Fujita’s strikes just seemed to wake up Oiwa. They trade, as Oiwa returns with a dropkick for a two-count, before a Boston crab led to time running out. Better luck next time lads, although I have a feeling that those Road to Tokyo Dome shows might have them up against more established names… **½
World Tag League 2021: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Both teams were long-since eliminated – the only question was could Suzuki-gun avoid ending the tournament with nul points?
The typical Suzuki-gun jump-start’s for nought as Suzuki’s tossed outside, but we get the usual trip outside as Suzuki elbowed Kojima. Presumably for the Machine Gun chops he’d given TAKA earlier. Suzuki comes in, but gets stopped with a Koji Cutter as Tenzan tagged in to hit some Mongolian chops. A brainbuster gets a two-count on Suzuki, who returned with a PK for a two-count, before the pair traded elbows. Yep, we get the CLONKer, but Kojima’s back to help with Mongolian chops before Suzuki blocked a TenKoji Cutter. TAKA’s back to look for a Magistral cradle, then lands a running knee for a pair of two-counts, before Tenzan broke up a cover on a Michinoku driver.
You sensed that was TAKA’s big chance… and you’d be right. Despite nearly winning on a backslide, TAKA’s quickly caught with a Cozy lariat as Suzuki-gun end with the goose egg and the tournament’s wooden spoon. They kept this as short as it needed to be, complete with the visual of a disgusted Suzuki walking off afterwards, attacking Yuto Nakashima who was helping TAKA to the back. I can only assume TAKA got some too… **½
World Tag League 2021: Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
Both teams come in with one win so far in the tournament – so who’s finishing just above Suzuki-gun here?
Arm wringers early gave way to kicks and elbows, but it was a missed Kokeshi from Honma that created the first real opening as Nagata and Tiger Mask began to work on the arm. Honma manages to reverse a suplex as Makabe tagged in to clear house, taking Nagata to the corner for some mounted punches, before he got pulled into a Nagata Lock II crossface. Tiger Mask returns with a crossbody after Makabe had made it to the ropes, before Nagata came in to help turn it around, landing an Exploder as a swandive headbutt nearly wins it… Honma breaks up the pin as Makabe came back into it with a clothesline for a near-fall… before a Kokeshi from Honma and a King Kong Knee from Makabe sealed the win. Again, it didn’t need to be long, but this was exactly what you’d expect from this quartet. Age is just a number, but I thought it was established a long time ago that these guys were largely being cycled out. **½
World Tag League 2021: Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano
Another dead rubber, but Chase Owens was crowing about how he beat Tanahashi in the G1 going into this. Can he do it twice?
The early going sees Tanahashi control Owens, at least until we had hair pulling, before Chase’s attempt at a Tanahashi-like crossbody out of the corner came to nought as Tanahashi did the nonchalant Samoa Joe-like walk away. That’s never not funny. Toru Yano’s in against Fale, but couldn’t undo a corner pad in time for Fale to run into it. Nor could he slam the big man. Owens is back to slap Yano from the floor, before Owens and Fale stood on Yano… before Yano manages to get free, with hair pulling.
Tanahashi’s back with flying forearms before he knocked Fale off the apron… a flip senton off the middle rope gets Tanahashi a two-count, while Chase’s inside cradle nearly nicks a win. Some double-teaming nearly puts Tanahashi away, but Yano breaks up the pin as Owens looked to put Tanahashi away with knee strikes… but the package piledriver’s escaped as Tanahashi went back with a grounded Dragon screw. A Texas Cloverleaf followed, but Fale broke it up… only to get taken outside by Yano as a Slingblade and a High Fly Flow gets Tanahashi the win. A winning end to “Be-Bop Pro Wrestling’s” tournament, but ultimately the makeshift tandem had one loss too many to be in contention by the end. ***
World Tag League 2021: United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
The United Empire go in with a chance… but it’s one of those slim “need a win and a lot of luck” chances…
When the Empire let them in the ring, we started with a pair of big boots from the Empire, but a quick turnaround sends them outside in frustration. The Guerrillas get sent to the rails as the Empire takes over with some double-teaming on Tanga Loa, including the ol’ “O-Khan takes a seat in the corner” spot, with Henare pulling Tanga Loa as O-Khan was damn near doing the Rick Rude hip swivel. Henare fires back with a running Samoan drop for a near-fall, before Tama’s dropkicks cleared the way for Tanga Loa to come in with a senton atomico for a two-count. Clotheslines and an Exploder bounce Henare for a near-fall, before a leaping enziguiri almost set up Henare for Apeshit… only for him to push Tanga into a throat thrust from O-Khan. The double-team Sheep Killer stretches Tanga next, before Tama Tonga got held up for a Henare thrust kick.
Another Sheep Killer awaits Tanga Loa, but a Tama Tonga Gun stun breaks it up to start a Parade of Moves, including an assisted Tonga Twist to Henare, before a Magic Killer put him away. A rather sudden finish as the United Empire fell face-first into the final hurdle, as it’s the Guerrillas who end a disappointing tournament on fourteen points. ***½
World Tag League 2021: House of Torture (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
Coming in with all the tie-breakers, a win for EVIL & Yujiro here books their spot in Wednesday’s finals. The threat isn’t just implied, it’s real…
Naito’s ring entrance took about as long as it takes me to make a pot of coffee, which might be telling you “it’s too long, mate.” When we do get going, it’s No Limit who start off the battle of former tag partners, as Naito and Yujiro circle the ring, then tied up into the ropes while EVIL and SANADA indulged in tripping… and ring announcer killing. Yujiro’s isolated early on, but EVIL removes the corner pad as SANADA and Naito get thrown into the exposed corner… and hey, SANADA’s used to kill the ring announcer again. You know, the usual. SANADA’s choked with a microphone, then taken back inside as the House of Torture lads wore him down… EVIL tosses him outside for Dick Togo to take his shot, while SANADA’s attempt at a fight back saw him nibble away on Yujiro as those teeth came into play.
Naito’s in to clear house, hitting headscissors on Yujiro ahead of a Combinacion Cabron. Yujiro escapes a full nelson to sweep Naito down for a low dropkick, before EVIL took over, only to get booted as Naito bounced out of the exposed corner. SANADA’s back with an atomic drop and a plancha to EVIL, before Dick Togo’s distraction allowed EVIL to kick the rope into SANADA as he got back into the ring. SANADA recovered to hit a TKO, before a Skull End on EVIL ended with EVIL grabbing the ref so Dick could choke out SANADA. It’s powered out of, so in comes Yujiro as dualling submissions looked to end the House of Torture, with EVIL fading from a Skull End… but SANADA lets go and misses a moonsault. Same old, same old. From there, SANADA’s baited into the exposed corner, but puts on the brakes as an attempted O’Connor roll ended with Dick Togo distracting the ref, so Yujiro could crack SANADA in the balls with the Pimp Cane.
Naito takes a shot too, and with EVIL back up, all that’s left is Everything is EVIL to take the win. An unpopular result, but at least they didn’t overload the bullshit here as the House of Torture all-but-booked their spot in the finals. ***½
World Tag League 2021: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi)
Winner goes through to face EVIL & Yujiro on Wednesday… unless it’s a draw, in which case they’ll re-do this match as the finals. Never before would I be so happy with a telegraphed draw…
We open with Taichi doing his usual “melt into the rope” shtick as YOSHI-HASHI went for a lock-up, before a spell of double-teaming saw YOSHI-HASHI and Goto taken outside, with Taichi properly moving the guard rails as he flung YOSHI-HASHI into them. Goto becomes the target as Sabre and Goto stretched him around the rope, before a Taichi calf slicer and a Sabre bow-and-arrow hold, then a Muta lock continued to torture Goto. Goto’s swivelling clothesline has Taichi down, allowing YOSHI-HASHI to come in with a neckbreaker for a two-count. A thrust kick gives Taichi an opening, but a standing Karma from YOSHI-HASHI and a spin kick knocked Taichi away, with a thrust kick putting him down as a brief Parade of Moves broke out, ending with a back suplex from Goto to Sabre.
YOSHI-HASHI and Taichi trade strikes, with elbows and kicks ending with a leaping enziguiri from Taichi, before an Axe Bomber was stopped with a YOSHI-HASHI lariat. Goto tags in and hits a spinning heel kick and a bulldog for a two-count, before his knee gave out amid an exchange with Taichi. Sabre tags in and pounces – literally – on the knee as he tried to force a submission, but that only drew in YOSHI-HASHI to stomp it apart, before a side Russian legsweep/Head Hunter combo took care of Taichi. Sabre’s focused on next, as he ran into a superkick, before a superkick-assisted ushigoroshi did more damage to Goto’s knee. Shoto looks to follow, but Taichi straight up kicks Goto’s knee out as Sabre tries to win with a knee bar, before Taichi held up Goto for some Dragon screws. Sabre can’t get the win with a jack-knife pin, so Taichi called for a Zack Mephisto, only for YOSHI-HASHI to break it apart… and take an assisted nodo otoshi chokeslam for his troubles.
Goto fights away a Zack Driver, but ends up being battered with kicks as a Last Ride from Taichi and a PK gets a near-fall. The end comes seconds later when YOSHI-HASHI grabs Taichi from the floor to stop a buzzsaw kick, before the Goto-Nishiki roll-up manages to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for Goto – and cost the champions their spot in the final. Easily the match of the tournament for me, and not just because of the stakes involved, as Goto and YOSHI-HASHI fought from the bottom throughout before snatching a last-gasp win. ****¼
Your final standings then (and spot the moment when I realised I messed up the last round’s standings…)
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI (9-2 / 18pts)
EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi (8-3 / 16pts) – EVIL & Yujiro win through on tie-breakers
Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (7-4 / 14pts)
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens (6-5 / 12pts)
Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (3-8 / 6pts)
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma (2-9 / 4pts)
Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask (1-10 / 2pts)
Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku (0-11 / 0pts)
New Japan returns on Wednesday for the final night of the tour, coming from Ryogoku Kokugikan, with Hiromu Takahashi vs. YOH and YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto vs. EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi in the respective tournament finals… in what’ll be my final New Japan review for a while. If you’ve seen the Tweet, you’ll know why – it’s either going down in flames or removing something, and I don’t do well in the warm!
We’ve a pair of first-time finalists, but I’ve a feeling that one of those teams ain’t going to be popular. It is what it is with New Japan’s tag divisions – and while some may look at (say) the United Empire team as having been elevated here, my cynicism tells me that at best they’ll be on the periphery of the scene in 2022.