New Japan Pro Wrestling‘s World Tag League returns to internet streaming/Japanese TV on Thursday. After three live shows earlier this month, a big chunk of the tournament has taken place on house shows, with the league matches uploaded to NJPW World later. I opted out of reviewing those matches for the Best and Worst of NJPW mostly because of the volume of them and the schedule on which they became available to watch. But because I did watch them, here’s a breakdown of what’s been going on in World Tag League so far in terms of points and storylines, plus a few match recommendations before the tour starts being broadcasted again.
The Tag League Part Of World Tag League
Because there are sixteen teams in the tournament and one non-league match per night (a tag featuring Wrestle Kingdom rivals Jay White and Tetsuya Naito on the first half of the tour, then one featuring Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi on the second half while the other half of the double title picture gets a break), not every team has wrestled the same amount of matches. At this point, everyone has had between nine and seven. That skews the tournament scoreboard a little.
While FinJuice and the team of Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi lead the league with fourteen points (7-1), the teams in second and third place (Evil and Sanada with twelve points and the Guerillas of Destiny with ten) each have eight more matches to earn enough points to make it to the finals and aren’t even halfway through the tournament yet, while the top teams only have seven to go. (The other teams with ten points can’t be counted out yet either, especially Suzuki-Archer and Yano-Cabana at 5-3.)
Here’s how all the points stack up so far:
14 points – 7-1 – FinJuice, Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi
12 points – 6-1 – Evil and Sanada
10 points – 5-2 – G.o.D.
10 points – 5-3 – Suzuki and Archer, Yano and Cabana
10 points – 5-4 – Cobb and Nicholls
8 points – 4-5 – Doble Rampage, TenCozy
6 points – 3-4 – Kenta and Yujiro
6 points – 3-5 – Dangerous Tekkers
6 points – 3-6 – GBH
4 points – 2-5 – Fale and Owens, LA Dojo
4 points – 2-6 – HenarACE
2 points – 1-8 – Nagata and Nakanishi
Despite not being in first place (yet), Evil and Sanada have probably been the strongest looking team in the tournament, to the no one’s surprise. They’ve main evented a lot of shows and clearly aren’t any less popular than the last time they were active as a tag team — possibly more so after their singles stuff this year. They’re also only the second team in to beat the IWGP Tag Team Champions in this year’s World Tag League, after Yano and Cabana — who, coincidentally, later ended Evil and Sanada’s six-match undefeated streak. (Yano and Cabana really might walk away with this whole thing.)
The other teams at the top of the scoreboard have consistently looked good too. Sometimes early New Japan tournament scoreboards seem set up to throw you off, like old man Tiger Mask going undefeated in last year’s Best of the Super Juniors for a while, but FinJuice and Ishii-Yoshi-Hashi have consistently had strong performances. If this is an indication that either or both teams will be more regular parts of the tag division going forward, I wouldn’t complain.
Fantasy Boyfriend Kenta Is Being A Real Dick Right Now
Aside from just wins and losses though, there’s been some notable Not Strictly World Tag League stuff on this tour, and a lot of it has to do with Kenta and the NEVER Openweight Championship.
Previously on World Tag League, Hirooki Goto won a match for his team by pinning Kenta, meaning he’s well on the road to a match for the NEVER Openweight Championship and some revenge on behalf of Katsuyori Shibata. While their feud-culminating match probably won’t happen until Wrestle Kingdom, Kenta made sure to keep the hate alive but beating up Goto after one of his other WTL matches.
Since then, Goto has been the target, like Ishii before him, of Kenta promos that are part heel trolling, part attempt to start a viral hashtag (#HIRO is about the ultra-serious Goto being, in Kenta’s eyes, a goofball or an airhead), and part “accidental” fantasy video in which he flirts with the NJPW World camera person. I’m pretty sure no one had “Kenta has some of the most essential promos in the game (and also he’s called Kenta again) (but he’s not back in Noah; he’s in New Japan)” in their 2019 wrestling predictions, but I’m glad it’s happening.
Besides claiming HIRO is just too naturally goofy to take seriously, Kenta costs Goto a possible two points and probably some brain cells when G.o.D. vs. Goto and Karl ends with an extremely WWE Divas distraction finish caused by Kenta entering the arena and standing like two feet away from the ring. Goto looks like an idiot, eats a Gun Stun to lose the match, and gets beaten up a little. While I don’t think the execution of this moment really worked, the fact that they’re continuing to add wrinkles to the Goto vs. Kenta feud so it isn’t only Shibata’s Best Friend vs. Shibata’s Other Best Friend is definitely a smart choice. These two are gaining more and more reasons to want to beat each other up with every passing day.
Shingo Takagi Would Like A Title Shot, Please
Along with learning Spanish 1 For Pro Wrestlers (the version of Spanish 1 that includes “Pinche cabrón referee!”), Shingo Takagi, like, the other samurai guy on the NJPW, has taken a shine to the NEVER Openweight Champion. Takagi’s thing with Kenta isn’t anywhere near as personal though, but more about the title he’s holding.
After winning the main event in his hometown on his 37th birthday, Takagi says that he’s frustrated because, despite all the opportunities he’s gotten this year, his current position in NJPW isn’t one he’s happy with. “I can move up even more,” he says, and promises to return to this town with some gold. After a match opposite the NEVER Openweight Champion (who does not eat the pin for his team), Takagi remarks that the NEVER title “didn’t look so shiny. Is that the title’s fault, or the champion’s? I personally think it’s the latter.”
Much to think about! Takagi is basically meant for this title like Ishii and Shibata were meant for this title, so this is promising, though promising for something that might not happen until like New Year Dash!!/the New Beginning tour.
Archer Is Going For Infamy
The other singles champion active on this tour, IWGP United States Champion Lance Archer, has a lot less going on than Kenta right now, but he still has a lot to say about it. He’s sounded way more committed to winning Tag League with Suzuki than Kenta has with Yujiro, but he also cut a promo kind of out of nowhere (after a match with G.o.D.) on Juice Robinson. That combined with their standoff in San Jose makes a Wrestle Kingdom rematch seem likely for these two, and it’s easy to guess that, given the weird circumstances under which Archer won the title, this all could be part of a master plan to get the title back on Juice in a match with some build.
Archer has also said, while standing very close to the camera, that nobody will ever take the U.S. title from him, wherever they come from in the world, and that he’s starting a new legacy for the title, “a legacy of pain.” He also got very into calling out Terrible after one match, possibly because he wanted to switch things up and do his catchphrase in Spanish. (But Terrible also insisted that “This isn’t over!” between their teams, so maybe that will be a thing.) (It probably won’t be a thing.)
What About The Actual Wrestling?
If you want to catch up on some of the VOD WTL matches, here are some recommendations! It’s possible that the ones from 11/27 blow these out of the water (Evil and Sanada vs. Yano and Cabana in the main event is almost definitely worth watching), but to me, these are some highlights of the matches that are available to watch right now:
- G.o.D. vs. Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi) features a full babyface Taichi and a finish that could be summed up as someone being hoisted by their own petard, but I won’t get more specific than that.
- Dangerous Tekkers vs. Kenta and Yujiro Takahashi I’m recommending because I’m loving the heel-on-heel action this tournament, apparently, and Kenta and ZSJ bring back that amazing chemistry they showed in their G1 match, which mostly makes up for Taichi and Yujiro not bringing their valets to this one.
- Dangerous Tekkers vs. Jeff Cobb and Mikey Nicholls is just a good tag match in front of a hot crowd, and I think one of the best matches of the tournament so far.
- Evil and Sanada vs. Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi is one of the most fun matches so far for both of these teams. Hyper-athletic Sanada vs. Nakanishi, who wrestles like he can’t take more than one bump every six months, is a way more entertaining mashup than you might guess.
- Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer vs. Terrible and Shingo Takagi is two of the most aggressive teams in the league being very aggressive against each other, with a good amount of tag teamwork involved.
The normal broadcast of World Tag League resumes on Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you back here after the holiday with the Best and Worst of that.