I have reviewed every match of every New Japan tournament this year, and because of that, I’m going to review every match of World Tag League. Why do I hate myself, you ask? That’s for my therapist and me to discuss. So, if you know a good one, get in touch. This tournament rarely, if ever, gets above average, so it’s going to be a long one, but you never know, maybe it will surprise me.
As is the norm, I won’t be reviewing non-tournament matches.
FinJuice (David Finlay and Juice Robinson) (1-0) defeated LA Dojo (Hirooki Goto and Karl Fredericks)
For what it’s worth, FinJuice are my bet to win this thing, so if you are a gambling human, go for anyone else. Although, I did predict Hana would win the 5STAR, so maybe my luck is changing.
Anyway, these opening matches are all about the Young Lions, and I thought Fredericks looked alright here. I’d like to see a bit more personality from him, as outside of that ridiculously extra Dropkick where he flips around, his wrestling feels a bit generic. However, he’s a decent talent, and this tour will do a lot for him.
Throw in some Juice vs Goto, which is always a good pairing, and it was a solid opener. I don’t think it ever got past that, but we’ll see much worse matches in this tournament.
Verdict: Three Stars
Jeff Cobb and Mikey Nicholls (1-0) defeated Colt Cabana and Toru Yano (0-1)
Colt has got into the spirit of things and joined Yano in promoting merch while making his entrance. I’m not quite sure how many copies of ‘Wrestling Dreams’ (a children’s book that is presumably in English) he’ll sell, but you can’t blame a man for trying (head to coltmerch.com to get your copy).
Coming in, I was hoping that being in the ring with Colt and Yano might entice some personality out of Nicholls. Sadly, as he slapped a chin lock on The Master Thief, I realised it was a lost cause. If you’re wrestling Toru Yano, then you play his games, don’t bore me.
Those who enjoy Colt and Yano’s comedy will get a sliver of that and a great hot tag from Cabana. Outside of that, it was a nothing match. I suspect Nicholls and Cobb are going to be a pairing that will be perfectly proficient, but not at all fun to watch.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Tencozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) (1-0) defeated Terrible Dragon (Shingo Takagi and El Terrible) (0-1)
Terrible has a wrestler’s face, which is a polite way of saying that he looks like he’s been punched a lot. He’s not someone I’ve seen much of, but he does have history with Kojima, so this was a decent place for him to start.
And this was easily the best match so far. If there’s a team I’m looking forward to watching in this tournament, it’s Kojima and Tenzan. I feel like I haven’t been treated to my Koji fix this year, and while 2019 Tenzan is incredibly limited in what he can do, there is pleasure to be found in watching two old men whose bones have hardened to oak being grumpy bastards.
Most of that pleasure shall be found in matches like this one where these four bastards hit each other hard. There was nothing pretty or complicated about it, but there didn’t need to be. They are all good, and it was the first performance to put a proper smile on my face.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
The Bullet Club (KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi) (1-0) defeated Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi (0-1)
Everything I said to explain my excitement for Tencozy can be repeated for Nagata and Nakanishi. The big man can barely walk, but Nagata is better at 51 than a lot of wrestlers who currently appear on TV every week. It might only be snippets, but the chance to see him dance with some of the younger members of the roster is always a delight.
And while I’m not sure watching Yujiro working over Nakanishi is anyone’s idea of a good time, it did lead to KENTA vs Nagata, and that was a lot of fun. They’ve shared the ring before, but the last time was in 2013, and a lot has happened since then. Their brief back and forths were the highlight of the match, as I could watch them kick each other all night.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and we didn’t get enough of it to raise this above alright. If you’re in a real hurry, you could use that fast-forward button to get to all the KENTA vs Yuji bits and skip the rest.
Verdict: Three Stars
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer) (1-0) defeated The Bullet Club (Chase Owens and Bad Luck Fale) (0-1)
Suzuki and Archer didn’t hang around, attacking before Kazi ni Nare had finished. That set-up a pretty standard walk and brawl, as they vanished into the crowd for Suzuki to wreak havoc.
We had a big man war in this one, and despite Fale being there, it was actually alright. Big Lance’s year doesn’t need to be explored again, but he managed to get a bit of fire out of old Bad Luck, and that’s no small feat.
Throw in some nice exchanges between Chase and Suzuki plus MiSu being his usual delightfully evil self and this was a lot better than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t great, but I expected shite.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
HenarAce (Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toa Henare) (1-0) defeated GBH (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) (0-1)
I would be fascinated to know what exactly made those behind the scenes in New Japan decide Honma was ready to work an entire Tag League. He has been okay at best since returning and, at times, downright bad, and he’s teaming with Makabe! Old Togi is not a man who is happy to work the bulk of a match. Ask Henare.
To be fair, for a match involving Makabe and Tanahashi (two men famous for vanishing during tags), there was a surprisingly high work rate in this one. Whether it was down to the history they share or the fact it was the first night, they all seemed intent on impressing. I’d go as far as suggesting Honma could have probably gone a bit easier, as he should probably avoid taking too many Avalanche Samoan Drops.
In the end, Tanahashi hit High Fly Flow on Honma for the three, but it was Henare who impressed me. What will it take for him to get a push? Just a small run at the NEVER Title to see what he can do? He never gives less than 100%, and he has the kind of hard-hitting intensity that would make him the perfect opponent for an Ishii or KENTA. Please, Gedo-san.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI) (1-0) defeated Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi) (0-1)
I can’t quite believe I’m about to say this, but the final act of this match heavily featured the Singing Ballbag, and it was 100% the right decision.
For alongside Naito, Ishii is Taichi’s best opponent, and they continued their recent wars in this match. The two of them don’t understand the words holding back, and the duel between chops and kicks was a hell of a thing to watch. Even a wild YOSHI-HASHI popping in now and then couldn’t take away from what became a Taichi vs Ishii singles match.
Throw in the occasional delightful snippet of Zack Sabre Jr plus the fact they didn’t go much over ten minutes, and this was an excellent main event. Wow, I did not see that coming.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Okay, this wasn’t a brilliant show or even a great one. What it was, though, was really good. From start to finish it was an easy watch, and the matches all hovered around the ten-minute mark. I went in dreading having to sit through boring tags, and the closest we got was Mikey Nicholls being Mikey Nicholls. I’m not going to be silly and convince myself Tag League could actually be enjoyable, but this was a strong start.
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