Guess what, everyone? We’re into Tag League season! It’s the worst time of the year. I jest, but it’s safe to say that the Super Junior Tag League and World Tag League tend to fall short of their singles counterparts. However, every day is Christmas, and there’s a chance this will be the year that changes. Yea, I don’t believe it either.
As usual, I’ll be ignoring the undercard unless something particularly exciting happens.
Volador Jr and Titan (1-0) defeated Tiger Mask and Yuya Uemura (0-1)
Jushin Thunder Liger’s imminent retirement has left Tiger Mask without a partner, so he’s moved onto Young Lion duty, taking Uemura under his grumpy paws. Meanwhile, we got a Fantastica Mania announcement pre-match which combined with Volador and Titan’s presence in this tournament suggests that relationship ain’t dead yet, contrary to some rumours.
I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to say Volador has some history of sleepwalking through Tag Leagues and with Tiger’s years limiting him, it was left to the cub and Titan to work the bulk of this match. That’s not a complaint, though, as they had some nice interactions, showing some good fire on a chop exchange. Titan isn’t someone who ever blows my mind, but he’s improved across his tours in Japan and become someone you can rely on to provide a handful of decent performances.
This seemed to be heating up in the final few minutes as Uemura defiantly gritted his teeth through some Volador chops to keep a Crab on Titan before Tiger Mask rolled back the years to leap from the top rope to the floor. Unfortunately, Titan’s winning sequence went just a bit too long and ripped the fire out of proceedings. Still, it was a solid little match.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Super Coach (Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero) (1-0) defeated TJP and Clark Connors (0-1)
Rocky and Taguchi have agreed to put their great tactical minds together and form a team. TJP’s mind is neither great nor tactical, but sadly he’s there too. (Sorry, he pisses me off. It’s not even his bullshit opinions because, despite people telling me he has them, I don’t know what they are. My dislike is fuelled purely by his smug little face).
Annoyingly, he is a decent wrestler and was part of a fun technical match with his former LA Dojo peer, Romero. Of course, there was a bit of coach based comedy in there too, as Taguchi and Rocky weren’t always working from the same play book. They nailed the balance between the two, though, with Connors and TJP always falling victim to the antics rather than taking part, and keeping this as a serious match.
It would again be the cub who impressed in the closing minutes, Connors continuing his strong showing from the Young Lion Cup with a surprisingly back and forth finishing sequence. Of course, like Uemura before him, he was always heading towards defeat, a Rocky Armbar getting the job done, but he can be proud of his performance in a match that was a load of fun.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (1-0) defeated Roppongi 3K SHO and YOH) (0-1)
Despy and Uncle Nobu have been a pain in Roppongi 3K’s arse for a long time. These two teams have been the cornerstone of New Japan’s Junior Tag Division and faced off a mere 48 hours before this match at King Of Pro-Wrestling. That means they know each other pretty well, which explains why SHO and YOH didn’t wait for the introductions before going on the attack. If they hadn’t, Suzuki-gun would have.
Not that it was enough to stop the antics. Despy and Kanemaru have perfected this shit, and the second they got an opportunity, they went to work. At one point, Despy was attempting to choke SHO with his own teddy, which will have either ruined it or added to its value depending on the owner’s point of view.
And I’ve said it before, but it’s a combination that just works. SHO and YOH are the sparky and energetic babyfaces while Despy and Kanemaru have a way to undercut them at every step. Even when SHO hit Powerbreaker, the work Suzuki-gun had done to his back prevented him from getting the pin. Then, when they avoided the whiskey spray, Kanemaru simply smacked YOH in the head with the bottle before distracting the ref to let Despy do some damage with a chair. It doesn’t matter what SHO and YOH do, Suzuki-gun are standing in the dark, ready to screw them over.
That was a step-up from their King of Pro-Wrestling match even with the dirty finish. It also set-up SHO’s story for the tournament, as Suzuki-gun added an exclamation mark to the victory by driving a steel chair into his back once more, lovely stuff.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
The Bullet Club (El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori) (1-0) defeated Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles) (0-1)
Oh for fuck sake. It hadn’t occurred to me that we were going to have to watch Ospreay and ELP engage in their bullshit again so soon. The previous match and this one either being an outright repeat or having similar elements to KOPW might explain why there were some rare empty seats in Korakuen Hall.
Although, when we were in the middle of a long period of ELP and Ishimori doing back rakes to Will, I was beginning to think I might prefer the bullshit. Then they went straight from that into Phantasmo’s stupid rope walking shtick which I hate even more. Fucking hell, am I turning into the kind of grumpy bastard that I despise? Is this when I start listening to Cornette’s podcast?
Jokes aside, this was a bit of a rollercoaster match, but not in the good sense of the phrase. The ups and downs were in my mood as I went from really enjoying it to being in a grump. I thought Eagles had a fantastic hot tag, making me wish it had been he and Ospreay having the headline feud over the last few months. The lack of Ishimori in big spots recently also means that I’m happy to see him getting the time to be awesome, which is exactly what he is.
Unfortunately, the focus of the match was still ELP and Will, and it just doesn’t work for me. It’s two guys doing lots of cool shit that has no meat on its bones, and while there are places where that works, it’s not in New Japan main events. For example, why the fuck is ELP using a V-Trigger before going for the One-Winged Angel? What’s the Kenny connection in this feud? Or does he just like those moves? And don’t get me started on how bored I am of Will back flipping as a reversal.
There was an awesome false finish, ELP looking like he was moving away from an Eagles 450 only to very naturally open his leg up to it, setting Robbie up for the Ron Miller Special. We then got some defiance from Eagles as he survived a misfire from Will (it’s not often a misfire means you hit your partner with a 450 Splash) before the bullshit saw us home with an ELP Low Blow followed by a Bloody Cross and a CR2 for the three.
Look, I don’t hate these matches half as much as it might sound like I do. However, I definitely don’t love them. They’re just too much. Too much nonsense, too much bullshit and too much stuff. If you’d stripped half of that away, I suspect I’d have loved it.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
That was an alright opening show which was very watchable. I think I’ve said my piece on the main event, so I won’t bother going into it, but I’m relieved to have got that match out of the way early on. Hopefully, the rest of the tournament will learn from their mistakes and practice restraint rather than excess. I can only dream.
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