Day four and there’s still not much to say up here. It’s World Tag League, you know what you’re getting yourself in to. Plaster a smile on your face, grab yourself a beverage and try to enjoy it as much as you can.
Tencozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) (1-1) defeated Shota Umino and Ayato Yoshida (0-2)
The lion cubs vs the grizzled old alphas, it’s a New Japan staple that never lets them down. Who doesn’t love a fiery Young Lion getting the chance to battle it out with one of their mentors?
As usual, it was Shota Umino who brought a lot of that fire. Yoshida hasn’t been around that long, so he’s probably yet to build up the resentment that makes for a great rookie veteran battle. You can’t watch Umino try and chop down the tree that is Satoshi Kojima and not suspect there is some real-life animosity there. I’m not claiming hatred, more a smidgen of pent-up frustration.
Umino is not the only one showing anger, as it appears the rivalry they have been building with Yoshida is set to continue. The two rookies aren’t quite operating as a team, but two individuals, with Yoshida taking the time to admonish Umino after he broke up a Tenzan pin attempt. New Japan seems to see big things for these men, and one suspects they’ll be tied together for life.
The finish came as Yoshida displayed a burst of fighting spirit only for Umino to call for the tag. Of course, we all know how that finished. After an impressive flurry from the wee cubs (including a couple of Umino armbars), he was introduced to the Western Lariat and his second defeat of the tournament.
Still, this was another impressive performance from Yoshida and Umino, and I’d rather watch their development than two teams going through the motions every day.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
The Best Friends (Beretta and Chuckie T) (2-0) defeated Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi) (1-1)
Zack Sabre Jr. and Chuckie T having amazing chemistry is a strange quirk of wrestling. On the surface, those two would appear to have nothing in common. Yet, I’ve never seen them have a bad interaction, and they’ve had a few incredible ones.
This won’t go down as their best work, but it started well as the two of them were given some time to tango. Then Taichi got involved, dragging Beretta into the crowd to attack him with some steel chairs. He’s never going to change, is he?
Said attack was focused on the leg, so you can probably guess where this was going. Poor Beretta was left with only one leg to stand on. Wait, does that work? Although it did build to a Chuckie T hot tag which was all kinds of spicy.
Despite that, the final minutes looked like they were going Suzuki-gun’s way as that injured leg held Beretta back. At least, that was the case right up until Taichi lifted him up for a Powerbomb and Trent slipped out into a Small Package for the three. It was slightly sloppy, but this was the rare occasion where the sloppiness added to the effect. It looked like he was scrambling to roll Taichi up.
I expected the singing ballbag to ruin this, but you know what? He didn’t. They gave me a bit of ZSJ vs Chuckie T and a load of Beretta’s perfectly pitched selling, I can put up with the occasional nugget of Taichi bullshit if that’s the reward.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada and EVIL) (2-0) defeated The Elite (Adam ‘Hangman’ Page and Yujiro Takahashi) (0-2)
There were duelling crowd chants for Yujiro and Sanada at the start of this one. I get Sanada, but Yujiro? Why?
If you want proof of the changed opinion of Hangman Page in NJPW, you need only point to the fact this match was built around his hot tag. It wasn’t two scrubs across the ring from him, it was LIJ, the most over faction in the company. To build to Page over them was quite a statement.
And it’s a statement he’s deserving of too because that kid made one hell of an entrance to the ring. His long-form singles game still needs a bit of work (although he’s improving every month), but in short bursts, he is fantastic. It allows him to show off all that athleticism especially when he’s working with someone as gifted as Sanada.
It was a choice that turned this into an enjoyable back and forth match-up. Even Yujiro seemed to have his working boots on, enjoying his chance to main event the tournament. While a lot of the bigger stars can coast through Tag League, it’s a good opportunity for the likes of Yujiro to impress, I hope he realises that even as he eats pins to keep the Hangman strong.
Verdict: Three Stars
This was easily the best Tag League show so far. All the matches hit around the three-star mark and continued to be short and breezy bursts of wrestling. It’s still missable, but this is at least slightly less missable than what came before.
Watch World Tag League: https://njpwworld.com/