NJPW World Tag League Final (9/12/18) Review

Sanada looks shocked to have found himself in this position. Credit: NJPW

We’ve made it! After what feels like years, it’s time for me to close out World Tag League by reviewing the all-important final. Who will seal that hallowed spot at Wrestle Kingdom? That’s not something that you can earn by just walking through the curtain and demanding to be added to the match… Anyway, unlike the rest of the tour, I’m going to review the whole show because why not? We’re entering Dome season, so I’m in an excellent mood. Let’s do this!

Tencozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan), Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi defeated Togi Makabe, Toa Henare, Shota Umino and Ayato Yoshida

If you are familiar with modern-day New Japan, you are familiar with this match. It’s th classic opener as the Young Lions (alongside their big brother Henare and his da Makabe) take on a troupe of New Japan Dads.

That familiarity means you can sense the flow of the action as it occurs. You know the rookies will get a chance to shine, we’ll get a couple of Dad offs and then one of the cubs will eat a pin. If I closed my eyes, I could probably guess what was happening from the sounds in the ring.

And I have no complaints about that. The reason the New Japan Dojo produces the talent it does is that the Lions learn on the big stage. It’s a pivotal part of their development, and I can take watching a few samey outings to get to the finished product.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr) defeated The Best Friends (Beretta and Chuckie T), Jeff Cobb and a piece of shit by Disqualification

I don’t review Michael Elgin’s matches and if you want to understand why give this a read.

Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, SHO and YOH) defeated Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru

It’s time to start building to the Dome as we get a sneak glimpse at a couple of match-ups booked for January 4th. All six of these guys have a chance to shine at the Dome with Ishii vs Sabre already pencilled in as my show stealer.

Ee got a taste of Suzuki-gun’s plan here and it’s what you’d expect. Despy and Kanemaru are going to attempt to cheat Roppongi 3K of the belts while Zack wants to twist Ishii up. The question is how the CHAOS men can combat that.

That will remain to be seen, but judging by what we got here we’re in for a treat either way. Zack and Ishii’s sequences were particularly brilliant as both men brought it. If that’s what they’re doing in a multi-man slot three from the bottom of the card, imagine what they’ll do when it means something?

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI) defeated The Elite (Hangman Page, Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi) 

Not going to lie, I’m still a bit salty that Chase Owens got kept out of World Tag League. Let’s assume it’s because they didn’t want him eating too many pins before New Japan starts pushing him towards the IWGP Heavyweight Title.

In things I would not have predicted happening, the crowd popped big for the No Limit face-off. They were before my time, but that garnered more excitement than anything involving Yujiro should. Sorry, Yuj. You had a good Tag League. I’ll give you that.

That was quickly cast into insignificance by Shingo and Hangman teeing off on each other. There’s a stud battle than everyone with the slightest interest in wrestling should want to see. God, I hope Hangman isn’t going to leave New Japan. I know The Elite have vowed to stick together, but that kid has a big future out there if he wants it.

As usual, Chase Owens was my other highlight. I want to make it clear that I’m not joking about that shit either. The guy is always brilliant in the couple of minute bursts he gets. It’s not a lot of time, but he packs those seconds with fantastic wrestling.

While there was nothing blow your mind exciting about this, it was fun, and I am not about to complain about fun.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

The Bullet Club (Jay White, Taiji Ishimori and Bad Luck Fale) defeated CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano) and KUSHIDA

Jay White’s quest to take down CHAOS continued. Although, it’s not only CHAOS as KUSHIDA joined Okada and Yano. Kazu’s army has become flexible towards teaming with New Japan Seikigun/Taguchi Japan members. It’s an intriguing move as you wonder whether we’re going to see more blurring of the faction lines in the future.

As for the match itself, it was more of what we’ve seen from these guys in the past. Kazu wants to get his hand on White, but Switchblade and his Bullet Club pals are going to bend every role to make sure that doesn’t happen. Plus, they have New Japan’s equivalent of a Hulk in Bad Luck Fale who got the pin over Yano.

In among all the shenanigans, there were hints of greatness. White and Okada had a couple of exciting flurries while there is little doubt that KUSHIDA and Ishimori are going to blow the house down. The build-up to these matches might have been lacking for some, but I think they’ll both be special.

The real story came after the bell as Bullet Club beatdown their fallen foes. Okada ate a vicious suplex from White, KUSHIDA was spiked on his head by Bloody Crosses while Yano was being set up for a Bad Luck Fall before Togi Makabe of all people made the same. The number of people standing against Jay White is growing.

Verdict: Three Stars

The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson and Marty Scurll) defeated Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, David Finlay and Ryusuke Taguchi)

I’m glad the rest of The Elite decided to join us. It is not like one of them is the IWGP Champion or anything… I jest, maybe. Do you think they all watched the tour? I doubt it.

Despite having a month off, The Elite kicked things off by taking it easy as they chose to rely on comedy over wrestling. I know that’s partly a side effect of having Taguchi involved, but it’s also a bit frustrating. We’re a month out from the Dome, stop pissing around.

Thankfully, business picked up as we got deeper into the action. It started with Finlay and Omega then really got into the swing of things when Tana was involved. There is a degree to which the build to this match doesn’t matter because you’ve got two sublime wrestlers who will deliver no matter what. In saying that, it would have still been nice to have something substantial to get our teeth into.

I don’t know if I wasn’t in the mood for this or what, but it did not click with me. It was, of course, a well-wrestled match. The men in that ring could do that at 5% effort. However, this was the first time I began to understand a lot of people’s complaints about The Elite. There was a lot of flash, it’s just a shame they forgot the substance.

Verdict: Three Stars

Will Ospreay defeated Taichi to become the Number One Contender for the NEVER Openweight Title

Ospreay came into this with a legit injury as he’s only just back from a torn muscle around the rib area. In an unsurprising move, Taichi went straight after it, attacking with his microphon stand before the bell rang.

It’s quite a contrast coming to Will after The Elite because, for every shortcut they take, he takes a risk. It didn’t take long for him to start pulling out the big manoeuvres and a question was being asked. Could Will’s ribs survive long enough for him to put Taichi down?

And Taichi wasn’t going to make it easy for those ribs to make it through. He’s picked up a few tips from Zack as he stretched Young William in all manner of awkward ways. Will, meanwhile, was doing an incredible job selling. Every move saw him grunt out loud and instinctively crunch up his body in an attempt to protect the injury. It was often a tiny thing, but it was giving Taichi seconds that opponents don’t usually get in there with Ospreay.

As the match went on, the story began to shift, though. It stopped being about Will Ospreay’s injury and became about his resilience. He was roaring defiance into Taichi’s face, and while he took a beating, he never looked like staying down as he even kicked out of the Last Ride.

And it was that defiance which proved pivotal. Taichi gave a lot, but he didn’t have enough as he became the latest person to fall to a Stormbreaker in a cracking match. Will Ospreay is wonderful, but a few times this year Taichi has put away the bullshit and gone out to have a good showing. When he does that he proves he can deliver.

Verdict: Four Stars

Kota Ibushi defeated Hirooki Goto to win the NEVER Openweight Title

I didn’t talk about it during the tour, but Goto using Dad tricks to fool Ibushi into a title match was some genius booking. He looks a bit silly now that he’s lost it, but I’m sure he’ll be proud of his belt son as it goes on to feature in a match that now rivals ZSJ vs Ishii for the show stealer at the Dome.

Having had some time off it didn’t take Ibushi long to throw himself neck first onto the apron. That’s not only an example of Kota being a nutter, but it gave us our story. Goto’s offence is built around attacking the neck, so he wasn’t going to turn that opportunity down.

Unfortunately, this also led to the action slowing. Goto working the neck saw these two go to the mat which isn’t what I want from Goto vs Ibushi. It’s a pairing that is better suited to facing off in the centre of the ring, exchanging strikes and daring the other man to keep standing.

Lucky for us, they did eventually get to that, and when these two were on their feet battling it out, this was great. While Ibushi has more flash than Goto, they share a DNA in that both of their movesets look like they fucking hurt and as they danced around each other looking for an opening it was hard not to get caught up in it.

Nowhere was that more exemplified than in the finish where Ibushi countered a headbutt with a knee. He followed up by driving his head into Goto before saying goodnight with a Kamigoye. There was a period where this lost my attention, but on the whole, it was brilliant. God bless Kota Ibushi and everyone’s favourite da, Goto.

Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada and EVIL) defeated Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa) to win World Tag League 2018

I know it’s why we’re here, but following those two great matches with the World Tag League final felt weird. Especially as they both went seventeen minutes and this went twenty-seven! Christ, I’d have rather seen Taichi (nevermind Kota and Goto) get those minutes than this.

The worst thing is that it felt like it went 57. GOD attacked before the bell and set up a match that they controlled. If you’ve read any of my Tag League reviews, you’ll know my thoughts on that. It was slow and oh so dull. Poor Sanada took the beating in the first act as all I could think about was how much better this would be if it were him controlling the pace.

Now and then, things would come alive as the action broke down and the pace picked up. However, it was never sustained. It always returned to GOD and whatever it is they do.

If this had been fifteen minutes, I think there was enough in there for it to be a great match. For all that I rag on the Guerrillas, they are good enough to be lead to something impressive. It was all that extra time that let it down. Everything dragged and for every flourish of Sanada offence or EVIL and Loa big boy off; there were five-ten minutes of nothingness. Sometimes, less is truly more.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Of course, we weren’t done yet as The Young Bucks made their way to ringside and barged their way into the Dome match. Now, I could moan about that and I have plenty of reasons to do so. The Bucks didn’t work this tour and quite frankly it’s an insult to those who did that they walk in and get a title shot. It’s no different to WWE calling in part-time stars for WrestleMania. Oh, and Matt sounded obnoxious as hell when he started going on about being on a fifteen-year gruelling tour as if no-one else in that company has been working hard.

However, I don’t want to watch GOD vs LIJ again. It’s not a match I enjoy because I don’t like GOD. I’d much prefer LIJ vs The Young Bucks, but if we have to do something, I’ll take the Three Way Dance.

Overall Show

This show peaked with the NEVER Title angles. Taichi capped off an impressive tour by delivering a four-star match before Kota and Goto did what Kota and Goto do. Even more excitingly, it set-up Will Ospreay vs Kota Ibushi, and there is no way that won’t be incredible. If I could inject a match into my veins, it would be that one.

More importantly, Tag League is over and I am FREE! WOOP WOOP!

Watch World Tag League: https://njpwworld.com/

If you enjoyed this review, please consider contributing to my Ko-fi, even the smallest amount is appreciated.

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