Soon after New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s next big show, King of Pro Wrestling on October 14, the Road to Power Struggle begins, and with it, Super Junior Tag League. Last night, NJPW announced the teams, a mix of experienced duos and a lot of new pairings, who will compete for a big, shiny trophy and a match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Team Team Championship at Wrestle Kingdom.
How Super Junior Tag League Works
For most years since it began in 2010, New Japan’s autumn junior heavyweight tag team competition was called Super Junior Tag Tournament and was an eight-team, single-elimination tournament. Last year, though, it became Super Junior Tag League and started operating under the same round-robin format as the G1 Climax, but with one block. That’s how the 2019 tournament will work as well.
The teams will all wrestle each other throughout the tour and earn two points for each win, zero for each loss, and one for each tie. The top-scoring teams will go to the final and the winner will earn a match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom. It’s possible not only the winner will end up in the match, though, based on last year’s tag league result.
The 2018 final was a triple threat and the winners (Roppongi 3K) never pinned or submitted one of teams in the final (Bushi and Shingo Takagi), so both of those teams made it into the title match at Wrestle Kingdom along with the champs (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru), and the guys who didn’t win tag league ended up winning the titles at last year’s. New Japan tournaments tend to make sense, at least in terms of math and use of win-loss records, but judging from history, there’s a possibility that this one won’t!
All of these tournament matches will be available to watch on NJPW World, some as part of live shows and the ones on house shows uploaded individually later. The live Road to Power Struggle/Super Junior Tag League shows will take place on October 16-17, 27-28, and 30-31. The league final will be part of Power Struggle on November 3.
With all that out of the way, let’s go over the teams in this year’s Super Junior Tag League.
The Super Juniors Tagging In This Year’s League
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) April 26, 2019
The team in this year’s tag league with the best record is Roppongi 3K, who won the 2017 and 2018 iterations of the tournament. Earlier this year, it looked like Sho and Yoh might go heavyweight when they earned a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, but they’re back with the juniors after losing that championship match with the Guerrillas of Destiny, which took place on a house show in the U.S. Roppongi 3K are sure to be a lot of people’s favorites to win this year’s Super Junior Tag League, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them try to enter the heavyweight one later this fall too.
Suzukigun’s Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado are the other competing duo with significant tag team experience. They held the junior tag titles for most of last year and made it to the tag league final. Even if this tournament doesn’t get them back in the title picture, it should be fun to see El Desperado again, who was out of action for months after suffering a broken jaw and is scheduled to make his return to the ring at King of Pro Wrestling.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) September 2, 2019
Two other teams fans can reasonably expect to go far are the Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles) and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo. ELP made his NJPW debut just before Best of the Super Juniors, he and Ishimori beat R3K for the junior tag titles in their first match as a tag team, and he won this summer’s Super J-Cup, so he’s pretty much the top heel of the junior division now. There’s also a chance he could go into this tournament as Junior Heavyweight Champion if he beats Ospreay at King of Pro Wrestling next week.
Ospreay and Eagles had their first match as a team at Royal Quest after getting together as part of a storyline where ELP and Eagles were having an Internal Bullet Club Quarrel and Eagles turned on BC to join Chaos. They have a lot of neat tag team moves and showed them off in a title match against Phantasmo and Ishimori at Destruction in Kagoshima.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) May 23, 2019
A wild card team in this year’s Super Junior Tag League is the Coach And Coach Connection (not actually their name) of Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi. Both of these wrestlers have had some of their most significant NJPW career accomplishments in the junior tag team division, but with not with each other. The product of the Chaos-home team alliance, R3K thinking about going heavyweight, and a BOSJ battle to determine the true head coach of New Japan (Taguchi won, but he said they could be co-head coaches), the Romero-Taguchi tag team has the potential to do all comedy or all technical wrestling, or somewhere in between. They could believably get zero points or make it to the finals.
Three more new teams who are less likely to rack up a lot of points round out the tournament lineup: CMLL’s Volador Jr. and Titán, Tiger Mask and Yuya Uemura, and TJP and Clark Connors. Volador Jr. made his first Super Junior Tag League appearance last year teaming with Soberano Jr., while Titán wrestled alongside Ángel de Oro and Dragon Lee in the 2016 and 2017 single-elimination Super Jr. Tag Tournaments, respectively. Both luchadores have also competed in NJPW as singles wrestlers.
Tiger Mask sadly won’t team up with Jushin Thunder Liger like he has every junior tag tournament since 2012 but will be a veteran partner for Young Lion Uemura. LA Dojo trainee Clark Connors will also tag with a more experienced wrestler in TJP, who will be performing for NJPW in Japan the first time since BOSJ 2011. The former WWE Cruiserweight Champion made appearances for New Japan earlier this year in the Super J-Cup and Fighting Spirit Unleashed tours in the U.S. and wrestled for the company in the early 2000s.
A notable absence from the year’s tag league is Bushi or any representation of Los Ingobernables de Japon. Bushi and Hiromu Takahashi made it to the semi-finals of the tag tournament in 2017 and the team of Bushi and Shingo Takagi made it the final last year, but with Takagi having moved to the heavyweight division at the end of this year’s G1 and Takahashi still out injured (and I guess they couldn’t nab Kawato-San from CMLL and give him some eyeliner or something) (or have Naito claim to have lost five pounds) it looks like Bushi will have the tour off. There also no participants from Ring of Honor this year.
What do you think of the Super Junior Tag League lineup? Which team will it send to the Tokyo Dome? Give us your opinions and theories in the comments.