Tetsuya Naito made his return from injury as he partnered with SANADA in the main event of the opening night of World Tag League.

Quick Results
Kosei Fujita and Yuto Nakashima went to a 10:00 draw (**¾)
World Tag League 2021 – Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. defeated TAKA Michinoku & Minoru Suzuki via knockout in 18:44 (***)
World Tag League 2021 – Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan pinned Tiger Mask & Yuji Nagata in 10:09 (***)
World Tag League 2021 – Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa pinned Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe in 14:00 (**¾)
World Tag League 2021 – Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens pinned Aaron Henare & Great-O-Khan in 9:13 (**¾)
World Tag League 2021 – Toru Yano & Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL in 12:16 (**½)
World Tag League 2021 – Tetsuya Naito & SANADA pinned YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto in 18:12 (***½)

We’re underway with some curious choices for World Tag League – with Tiger Mask (who’s half of the IWGP junior tag champions) taking part alongside Yuji Nagata. I have a bad feeling about who’ll be eating the pins in that team…

We’re back at Korakuen Hall for this, with English commentary coming after the fact on VOD.

Kosei Fujita vs. Yuto Nakashima
Despite debuting months earlier, Nakashima’s still “behind” Oiwa and Fujita by way of his injury lay-off… and much like yesterday, he’s quickly on the mat as Fujita looked to go for the arm early on.

We get arm wringers as Nakashima tries to pull ahead, but Fujita goes back to the arm as his search for a submission ended in the ropes. Wash, rinse, repeat, as Fujita then rolled Nakashima down in a wristlock, only for Nakashima to fight back with forearms as I assume he was getting really fed up with everyone going for his arm. A half crab from Nakashima forces Fujita into the ropes, before a Fujita dropkick earned him a two-count as time started ticking away… Nakashima rolls up out of a cross armbar, but could only get a two-count as time ran out on Fujita’s bid to get the win. I like the story everyone’s telling with Nakashima, but him holding on to draws will end up going one of two ways – either the arm snaps, or he does. **¾

World Tag League 2021: Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi)
This was TAKA’s first match in New Japan since May 2019 – ironically in the Best of Super Juniors – as he got injured and left the promotion under a cloud. In his time off, TAKA’s formed a new promotion, but got called back for the World Tag League, some assume as an injury replacement for Lance Archer…

Taichi ran straight for TAKA as we’ve a jump start with Taichi going after Sabre’s former cheerleader… taking him into the guard rails before choking him with camera cabling. Kicks to the back wear down TAKA, while Sabre stayed with Suzuki on the outside, taking him into the rails. In the ring, Taichi and TAKA choke each other, while a neck crank keeps TAKA in trouble as Taichi seemed to be in no rush to even go for a pin. Sabre’s in with a strait-jacket choke that ends in the ropes, before a shot to the midsection from Taichi led to TAKA finally doing something… taking out Taichi’s knees. TAKA tries to go for a tag, but Suzuki felt disappointed in TAKA and told him to keep fighting… which didn’t exactly go well for him.

Finally Suzuki tagged in as he engaged his former tag partner ZSJ with chops, before a rear naked choke had Sabre sitting on the mat. A roll-through cradle has Sabre back in it, as he built up to a PK that just pissed off Suzuki… so Taichi returned to kick him when he’s down, only for Suzuki to headbutt his way free and tag TAKA back in. A running knee from TAKA nearly upsets Taichi, who returned with a Holy Emperor Cross Mausoleum as Sabre’s Octopus stretch had Suzuki tied up… but TAKA was somehow able to get up and stagger into the ropes for the break. TAKA returns with an attempted crossface that Taichi blocked, before TAKA maneuvered in for a ZSJ-ish headscissors submission that drew Zack in to kick it apart.

TAKA keeps going with a superkick for a near-fall, before Taichi hit a leaping enziguiri and ripped off his trousers to boot. Thrust kicks keep TAKA down, as did an Axe Bomber, before a Dangerous backdrop driver ragdolled TAKA… but Taichi broke the pin at one. Suzuki tries to shout TAKA back to life, but instead the ref starts a standing ten count, which TAKA beat. Taichi keeps going for the stoppage, dropping TAKA with Black Mephisto without following up with a cover. Another standing ten count starts, as Sabre and Suzuki stand over TAKA… who doesn’t beat the count, as what looked like a big ol’ hazing session ended with the reigning tag champions getting the win. A little long, even if I liked the story, but I feel like TAKA’s going to get beaten like a drum in the next month. ***

World Tag League 2021: Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
We’re two-for-two with tag league matches today with juniors in them… and Tiger Mask isn’t wearing his junior tag title. Oh no.

Tenzan and Tiger Mask start us off, but it’s not long before Kojima’s in to double-team Tiger Mask with Mongolian chops. The double team headbutt/slingshot elbow misses as Nagata tagged in and began to work over Kojima’s arm. Tiger Mask exacerbates that as a Nagata kick helped get a two-count, only for a Dragon screw from Kojima to spin Nagata down afterwards. Tenzan’s back for a brainbuster, then a Mountain bomb, before Kojima’s Machine Gun chops in the corner earned some Machine Gun elbows from Nagata. Tiger Mask’s in to try his luck with a roll-up on Kojima, only to get caught with a snap DDT before he blocked a TenKoji Cutter… an Exploder from Nagata, then a Tiger Driver nearly puts Kojima away… only for a Cozy lariat to shut the door in a hurry. The prophecy was foretold – they kept it short, but I don’t think anyone’s expecting either of these teams to be close to next month’s finals. ***

World Tag League 2021: Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
These teams last met as part of 2019’s World Tag League, with the Guerrillas picking up the win on that night.

Tama Tonga and Tomoaki Honma start us off here, but it’s the Guerrillas who were on the back foot early on as Tama found himself in the wrong corner. Of course, a missed Kokeshi ends that streak, as Honma ended up being taking to the Guerrillas corner for an extended spell. Some choking on the mat from Tama leads to a side chinlock that’s fought out of, as Honma hits a DDT/Flatliner combo before tagging in Makabe, who goes straight for the corner-to-corner clotheslines, leading to a two-count on Tanga Loa. A spear knocks down Makabe as Tama returned, before Honma came back and hit a Kokeshi on Tama… whose attempt to retaliate with a Gun Stun was easily blocked.

A sleeper slam from Honma, then a diving Kokeshi gets a two-count, while Tanga Loa’s sandwiched with clotheslines, ahead of a double clothesline of his own… a back suplex/neckbreaker lands for Tama for a near-fall, before a Gun Stun puts Honma away. This was fine, but probably isn’t a match you’ll be racing back to. **¾

World Tag League 2021: Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale) vs. United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare)
This was Fale’s first match in New Japan since April’s Sakura Genesis… and a reunion of last year’s tag team with Chase Owens. Meanwhile, Henare’s gone in on Movember, while Great-O-Khan’s turned his tea-towel face mask into a much more apt-for-the-times design…

Owens runs around O-Khan to attack Henare before the bell, as we then got Fale clotheslining O-Khan for a quick two-count in the ring. Fale and Owens stand on O-Khan, while a short clothesline gives Chase another two-count. O-Khan manages to knock Fale off the apron as he began a turnaround with the help of Henare, before he pulled Owens into a Sheep Killer stretch. Henare pulls Owens up into a Cloverleaf at the same time, before Henare hit a suplex for a two-count. More two-counts from Henare takes us past the five minute mark, while O-Khan sat on Owens in the corner as Fale was distracting the ref with arguing. Owens ducks a boot from O-Khan to take out Henare, then hit a Jewel Heist to O-Khan as a tag brought in Fale to clear house.

An elbow drop lands on Henare for a two-count, before O-Khan saved his man from a Grenade. Henare runs in with a body blow as Fale was in a head claw, before a roundhouse enziguiri nearly gets Henare the win… before Owens ran in to interfere. Henare keeps going for the Streets of Rage, but in the end gets overwhelmed as a Grenade Launcher (Grenade-assisted German suplex) put him away. **¾

World Tag League 2021: House of Torture (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano
Come on, let’s have the garotte wire and the shenanigans early…

Yujiro and Tanahashi trade holds in the opening moments, before we get all the hair pulling, ending with Tanahashi baiting the ref into breaking it. In comes Yano and off comes the corner pad as he, then Tanahashi get thrown into the exposed buckles, as the usual shenanigans in the crowd kick off. Back in the ring, Yujiro’s falling headbutt lands for a two-count, while EVIL tagged in for the cheating abdominal stretch – with help from Yujiro and Togo – for a near-fall. Eventually Tanahashi gets in to Slingblade EVIL, before a baseball slide knocked Togo into the crowd barriers. A Dragon screw takes care of EVIL too, while a flip senton squished EVIL for a near-fall.

Togo drops up Tanahashi, opening the door for Yujiro to capitalise… but a Twist and Shout neckbreaker gets Tanahashi free, and allowed him to tag in Yano again. Yano removes a corner pad as Yujiro charged into it… but EVIL comes in to intervene as a pair of corner pad-aided Dragon screws took down the House of Torture. Then we get the bollocks as the lights go out… they come back up amid camera flashes with the ref down as EVIL and Yujiro stood tall… Dick Togo wanders back in, as we’re meant to think he’d turned off the lights (or perhaps he’d gone to the toilets for a crafty one?) With no ref, Yano’s low blow’d as some double-teaming leads to a near-fall with Tanahashi diving back in to break up the cover.

EVIL distracts the ref as Yujiro went for his pimp cane… but Yano lows EVIL and Yujiro twice, then rolled up Yujiro for the win. Eh, it didn’t disappoint, in as much as it gave me the shenanigans I went in fully expecting, even if I wasn’t expecting the House of Torture to be holding their nuts afterwards. **½

World Tag League 2021: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
After Naito sat out the vast majority of the G1 due to a knee injury, he’s back for the final “proper” tour of the year, as he’s SANADA’s partner for this go around.

When we finally get going, SANADA and Goto lock horns, but it’s not long before Naito tagged in and came close with a dropkick. YOSHI-HASHI’s in to get hiptossed onto Naito, while SANADA’s used as a war drum as two thirds of the recently-deposed NEVER trios champions took control. YOSHI-HASHI stings Naito with chops, while Goto’s kicks lead to just a one-count before a neckbreaker from Naito countered Goto’s bulldog out of the corner. SANADA’s in to clear house with atomic drops, before a trip led to Goto being forced to push his way free of a Paradise Lock.

A low dropkick from SANADA spins down YOSHI-HASHI as Naito wanted back in, taking down YOSHI-HASHI for a low dropkick before the headscissors stretch looked to force a stoppage. It did not. Instead, Naito’s clattered in the corner with clotheslines and chops, before a Head Hunter-assisted side Russian legsweep left him laying. Naito’s caught with a Head Hunter off the top for a near-fall, before SANADA slipped on a springboard… faking out an injury as a Parade of Moves ended with a swinging Naito DDT. A Western lariat from YOSHI-HASHI lands as he prepared to put Naito away with a Kumagoroshi, but Naito kicks out at two before he was put in a Butterfly lock. Goto’s ushigoroshi and an armbar keeps SANADA at bay as Naito was forced to squirm his way towards the ropes for a break.

A back cracker followed, as did a superkick as Naito continued to get ragdolled, this time with an ushigoroshi, before a GYW was stopped by SANADA, who then took care of Goto with a Magic Screw before a back suplex on YOSHI-HASHI was pounced on by Naito, who almost snatched a win with a roll-up. SANADA keeps going on Goto with a plancha to the outside, while YOSHI-HASHI blocked a Destino. Karma’s also blocked, as Naito and SANADA batter him leading to a BRUTAL Snow Plow that dumped YOSHI-HASHI on his head… as a Destino then gets the win. Naito taking a lot of the offence makes sense as he’s working his way back in, but with the main event title scene sewn up, don’t be shocked if SANADA and Naito are not-so-dark-horses for this tournament. ***½

After one round, here’s how World Tag League’s shaping up…

Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr., Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA (1-0 / 2pts)
Aaron Henare & Great-O-Khan, EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi, Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku, Tiger Mask & Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto (0-1 / 0pts)

The tour continues in Korakuen Hall on Monday for a Best of the Super Junior show, with El Desperado and Taiji Ishimori in the main event spot. World Tag League resumes in Toyama on Wednesday, with the pairing of Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens taking on Sabre and Taichi in the main event.

The evergreen issue with World Tag League is that New Japan rarely showcase more than one or two teams in the division – so lining up a dozen of them for this tour really is padding things out. Two shows down, 21 to go on this tour… it’s going to be a tough ride!