We are coming up to one third distance in the grueling World Tag league. With a third of the huge 120 matches of the tag league behind us, which teams are standing out, and what are the key matches in the coming seven days?
FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) Rank: 1 Record: 4-1 (8pts)
A strong start for Finlay and Robinson was almost derailed after a meeting with Dangerous Tekkers on Monday in Korakuen, a hat trick of wins in their first three matches stopped. The third win came at the expense of GBH, however, and momentum stayed strong with a win against HenarACE, putting them at the top of the league table at eight points. The asterisk there is an intense first week schedule for the leaders that has given teams like EVIL and SANADA two matches in hand against FinJuice, but hopes and expectations are high nevertheless.
Key week 2 match: November 27 vs Jeff Cobb & Mikey Nicholls
Mikey Nicholls stated that he had ‘upgraded’ his tag partner by teaming with Jeff Cobb for this tour, which is sure to rankle with his summer teammate Juice. Expect to see friendly competition in this bout, but competition nonetheless, and fierce competition at that.
EVIL & SANADA Rank: 2 Record 3-0 (6pts)
A light week one schedule for the two WTL finalists will give way to a busy middle and end to the tournament for both EVIL & SANADA and GoD. Nevertheless, the back to back league winners are in fine form, having won their first three bouts, including a crucial win over their LIJ comrades, Shingo Takagi and Terrible. There’s lots of work still to be done, but it’s a safe bet that this team will be in contention until the bitter end.
Key week 2 match: November 28 vs Dangerous Tekkers
Suzuki-Gun versus LIJ is one of the narratives that weaves in and out of the spotlight in NJPW, and bad blood continues to brew. After SANADA pinned Zack Sabre Junior at Power Struggle, it seemed as if he moved up in line for ZSJ’s British Heavyweight Championship, and Cold Skull might be looking to involve the Brit in the finish in order to further solidify that claim. Meanwhile Taichi is still smarting from his loss to Tetsuya Naito in Osaka, and will look to take out his ill feelings on any LIJ member he can get his hands on.
Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI Rank: =3 Record:3-1 (6pts)
Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI got off to the best start of the tournament, the first to reach six points in the league with back to back opening weekend victories. Their streak may have been put to a stop by Colt Cabana and Toru Yano, but hopes are still high. As YOSHI-HASHI said in the rare spot of closing out the action on opening night in Fujisawa, it only takes an instant to change a life, and if this team can string together more of those instants, it could turn into a tag league win, and tag gold in the Tokyo Dome to boot.
Key week 2 match: November 29 vs EVIL & SANADA
Back to back league winners EVIL and SANADA found themselves with matches in hand in the early going, and in week two will be more active and eager to overtake Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI. For all the teams in this year’s league, the LIJ pair is the team to beat.
Toru Yano & Colt Cabana Rank: =3 Record: 3-1 (6pts)
If anyone suspected that Cabana and Yano were in the World Tag League for mirth, merriment and merchandise sales alone, their theories were quickly quashed on night two in Korakuen Hall. With a win over IWGP Tag Team Champions GoD, Cabana and Yano instantly found themselves in the center of conversation, and are still in strong position going into the second week, with a match in hand and the same one loss record as FinJuice at the top.
Key week 2 match: November 27 vs EVIL & SANADA
Yano and Cabana have already beaten tag champions, and repeated WTL finalists GoD. Can they beat the team who have succeeded in beating The Team in two consecutive league finals, in the form of EVIL and SANADA? We’ll find out Wednesday night.
TenKozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) Rank: 5 Record: 3-2 (6pts)
Tenzan and Kojima are coping with long odds in this tournament with tough competition, but exploded out of the gates in the World Tag League. Far and away the best bout of night one was a tremendously wrestled victory over Shingo Takagi and Terrible, a match that shopwed these two didn’t come to just show up. With a second win over the younger tandem of Toa Henare and Hiroshi Tanahashi in Korakuen, and a victory over two time league winners GBH, they had strong wins under their belt in a busy five match first week.
Key week 2 match: November 27 vs Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer
Suzuki and Archer’s mix of brawling punishment and power should match well with TenKozy’s stylings. On the one hand, Archer and Suzuki might have the advantage in size strength an athleticism, but Tenzan and Kojima have the edge of years of tag team experience together without the long break Archer and Suzuki have had since their 2011 G1 Tag win.
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) Rank: 6 Record 2-1 (4pts)
GoD are doubtless frustrated with their first week schedule, a light setup of three matches making their one loss, a shock defeat to Colt Cabana and Toru Yano, all the more noticeable. They will doubtless be looking to ensure that only one mark stays in the loss column, as they march forward with more violent intent into week two.
Key week 2 match: November 24 vs EVIL & SANADA
It’s an understatement to say a lot of bad blood exists between these two teams. For the last two years, this has been the final of the World Tag League, but in the 2019 schedule comes midway through the tour, and with a vital two points at stake. GoD have stayed ahead of the LIJ duo throughout 2019; can they secure their third direct tag team victory over the pair this year?
Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer Rank: =7 Record: 2-2 (4pts)
Suzuki and Lance Archer started the league in commanding form against Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale, but faltered in the Korakuen Hall double header that followed. They would lose first in an intense bout against Suzuki-Gun compatriots Dangerous Tekkers, and then, more injurious to their pride against Toru Yano and Colt Cabana. There is considerable work to put in if results are to come hand in hand with their considerable fearsomeness.
Key week 2 match: November 23 vs GoD
Not long ago, Lance Archer was involved in some incredible battles with the Guerrillas of Destiny as half of Killer Elite Squad. Now with Minoru Suzuki at his side, this should be yet another wild affair, and a chance for Archer and Suzuki to assert themselves against the tag champions.
KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi Rank: =7 Record: 2-2 (4pts)
A middling record for KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi in the World Tag league so far might be partially attributed to KENTA’s mental state. After falling to an emphatic GTR in Korakuen Hall Sunday, KENTA would attack Hirooki Goto after his match Monday, and is evidently pre-occupied with the Fierce Warrior. Can Yujiro reign his aggressive teammate in during week two?
Key week 2 match: November 25 vs EVIL & SANADA
Through KENTA’s debut G1 Climax campaign, he was 1-1 against the two time WTL winners; defeating EVIL in Korakuen Hall at the end of a formidable start to his campaign, he would fall to SANADA in a late tournament slump. Now, with Yujiro in tow he looks to stay strong against one and turn the tables against the other.
HenarACE (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare) Rank: =9 Record: 2-3 (4pts)
Tanahashi and Henare got off to a strong start in the World Tag League, defeating the established Great Bash Heel tandem of Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe. Helping to beat Makabe, to whom he was a junior partner for the last two tag leagues, was a huge confidence boost for Henare, but the next night was a blow to that enlarged confidence, falling once more to Chase Owens’ dreaded Package Piledriver. Since then, they’ve stayed roughly even to finish their first week at 2-3 with four points. Can they elevate themselves past the middle of the pack?
Key week 2 match: November 29 vs KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi
KENTA and Yujiro represent an important scalp that HenarACE will want to take. Henare has frequently struggled with breaking through to the next level of competition, which is strongly represented by figures like Owens and Takahashi, and a pin in this bout could help do that. Meanwhile, Tanahashi hasn’t forgotten his G1 loss to KENTA, and this match could be key to the Ace.
GBH (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) Rank: =9 Record: 2-3 (4pts)
For GBH so far in the league, a slow start has turned to some success. Honma and Makabe were defeated by HenarACE in the league opener, but in Korakuen Hall, swept to victory against the veteran pairing of Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi, and the senpai/kohai tandem of Hirooki Goto and Karl Fredericks. A couple of tough matches followed though, with losses to FinJucie and TenKozy. In the long league, they’re still in the running for a historic third league win, but there’s a lot of struggle to come.
Key week 2 match: November 23 vs Toru Yano & Colt Cabana
Interesting dynamics surround Makabe and both opponents in this bout. It was Cabana that surprised Makabe inside of eight minutes in the first round of the New Japan Cup this year, part of a stunning NJPW debut tour. Yano, meanwhile, is a former GBH partner to both Makabe and Honma, a co-holder of the NEVER 6-Man Tag Team Championships with Makabe, and someone who could know every potential weakness to exploit on his opponents.
Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks Rank: =9 Record: 2-3 (4pts)
The short resume of Fredericks as an individual and he and Goto as a team put these two in an underdog spot in thsi league, and that’s reflected in their position thus far. That said, the preternatural ability and fighting spirit of both has showed itself in every match, and none more so than in Korakuen Sunday, where Goto pinned KENTA to scoop two points for the team, and further elevate a brewing situation with the NEVER Openweight Champion. Another strong performance against TenKozy, and this team is looking solid going into week 2, even with a negative win:loss record.
Key week 2 match: November 25 vs GoD
Goto and Fredericks’ win over KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi will have no doubt angered the entirety of BULLET CLUB, and at its tag team top, the Guerrillas of Destiny. It was Tama Tonga himself who sealed the deal to bring KENTA into BULLET CLUB, and he will be taking the responsibility of payback on Goto very seriously indeed.
Jeff Cobb & Mikey Nicholls Rank: =9 Record: 2-3 (4pts)
The explosive power and agility of Mikey Nicholls and Jeff Cobb have seen both men attain some success in the league thus far, with victories over current joint league leaders Cabana and Yano and then Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi. Losses to other top contenders in Ishii and Yano and EVIL & SANADA have slowed their momentum somewhat however, and these two will need a strong second week to stay in the memories and conversation at tournament’s end.
Key week 2 match: November 24 vs Dangerous Tekkers
Cobb and Nicholls provide a combination of impressive, raw, natural athletic ability. While that will see them well against teams willing to fight them on those terms, there might well be questions about how they deal with combinations willing to play outside of the rule framework here and there. They beat rule benders Yano and Cabana in the opener; can they do the same against ZSJ & Taichi?
Shingo Takagi & Terrible Rank: =9 Record 2-3 (4pts)
Takagi and Terrible have an uphill battle against them after a poor start saw them lose three straight, to a game Tenkojy and then their own partners in EVIL & SANADA, before a third loss in Korakuen on Monday rounded out a terrible (sorry) opening stretch. Since then, they’ve rallied to two successive wins against both Owens and Fale and Dangerous Tekkers, the pendulum of momentum swinging their way again.
Key week 2 match: November 24 vs KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi
While Terrible will look to out-rudo the rudos of Yujiro and KENTA in this bout, keep an eye on Shingo Takagi’s interactions with the NEVER Openweight Champion. When KENTA was still competing in NOAH, he delivered a Go2Sleep to Takagi that, in the Dragon’s words made him ‘Go2Hospital’ and Shingo has been looking for the chance to deliver a receipt ever since.
Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Junior & Taichi) Rank: =9 Record: 2-3 (4pts)
Zack Sabre Junior and Taichi have had a turbulent first week in the league. At one end of the spectrum, they handed FinJuice their one league loss thus far, unleashing a ‘Zack Mephisto’ to send the hot pick team packing and close things out in the main event of Korakuen Hall Monday. That came after an amazing display against Suzuki-Gun teammates Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer, but less fondly memorable are two losses to other strong tournament picks in GoD and Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI. Yamanashi saw them close out a busy week with another loss; and further seeing their huge potential frustrated.
Key week 2 match: November 23 vs KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi
After a strong start to his G1 Climax campaign, KENTA started to fall away toward the end, and it was Zack Sabre Junior who prevented him from ending with a double digit score after a memorable bout. They will pick up where they left off in the summer on November 23, this time in a tag setting.
Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi Rank: =15 Record: 1-4 (2pts)
The elder statesmen of the World Tag League have gotten off to a slow start, with losses running through their first week. A win over Hirooki Goto and Karl Fredericks could be starting the ball rolling for the pair; there’s still a long way to go, but a slow start could already have put paid to their league chances this year.
Key week 2 match: November 28 vs Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens
Nagata and Nakanishi last crossed paths with Nagata’s former student Bad Luck Fale back in September as part of Nagata’s 35th wrestling life anniversary match. Back then, Nagata came through with a submission victory, but not scored on the Rogue Wrestling General, but instead, the ever meddlesome Jado. Jado won’t likely be involved on Nov.28 in Korakuen, but Fale and Owens are a formidable combination in their own right.
Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale Rank: =15 Record: 1-4 (2pts)
A tough opening schedule for Fale and Owens saw them emphatically defeat HenarACE, but fail to make headway against their other opponents. They will need to turn things around, lest their storming of the World Tag League become only as successful as September’s storming of Area 51.
Key week 2 match: November 27 vs GoD
Fale and Owens’ second BULLET CLUB derby of the tour will see them try and overturn the stinging defeat of the first. Then, KENTA suggested that as champion, Owens should lay down for him; Owens refused but eventually tapped out to Game Over. Will GoD pull rank again on November 27, either verbally or by force?