New Japan Pro Wrestling
World Tag League 2015: Night 12
December 5, 2015
Kobe Sanbo Hall – Hyogo, Japan

AJ Styles’ injury cuts this down to a two-match viewing again. He and Yujiro Takahashi forfeited to Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson here.

Including this night, there are only three World Tag League shows left. The nights of staring into a fixed  hard cam in obscure buildings before just over 1000 attendees is coming to a close, for now. Thus far the memorable performances have been slim. Manabu Nakanishi may be in the running for tournament MVP — or at least, he’s been most surprisingly entertaining.

The team of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin is the only one competing on this night that is statistically alive. The first league match here has no bearing on the outcome of the tournament, but Tanahashi and Elgin are in a must-win situation.

World Tag League – B Block
Matt Taven & Michael Bennett vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima

English-speaking fans’ resentment of the Kingdom is probably exacerbated by the fact that their act is exactly the type that said fans have come to New Japan to escape: goofy, laughy guys, who bring a repetitive American formula to these series of matches, at least one of whom is more valued for his appearance than ability, valeted to the ring by a woman whose main feature is being a sexual distraction for opponents. This kind of presentation and these types of gaijin must be what’s favored by booker Gedo in his otherwise smartly-booked promotion. What Taven and Bennett do they’re good at; yet what they do isn’t the dramatic, intense style that most fans like readers of this website prefer to see in New Japan. Being disconnected from mainstream Japanese fans, it’s harder to say how well their act works with New Japan’s mainstream audience.

The Maria distraction spot here leads to Tenzan being pulled by the legs and dragged crotch-first into the ring post, kicking off a pedestrian few minutes of heat.

For something different, Kojima stacks Taven and Bennett in the corner for his chop spot. The Kingdom momentarily get control on Kojima but lose it as Taven lands hard on Kojima’s knees, going for a flipping senton off the top.

The excitement after that picks up. Tenzan and Kojima hit the TenKoji Cutter on Taven, followed by Tenzan putting him in the Anaconda Vice. That looks to be a believable finish, until Maria jumps up on the apron for the second time in the match. Having somehow not learned, Tenzan releases the hold, stands up and flails his arms at her. His folly is his downfall as the Kingdom hit double superkicks on both their opponents, and a Spike Piledriver on Tenzan for the finish. **1/2

World Tag League – A Block
Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi

Michael Elgin’s unwavering seriousness has been refreshing. His team with Tanahashi has been one of the real highlights of the tour.

Elgin finds no humor whatsoever in Yano’s comedy rope break act, which actually gives the act a new way to be funny as Yano tries to avoid Tanahashi, but unwittingly backs into Big Mike with comedic timing.

With all the power spots he’s been hitting, Elgin wows the crowd by hitting a slingshot splash from the apron, ending his pairing with Yano.

Even the better of these tag matches has the inevitable pairing off routine, where when one wrestler tags out, the other always, without fail, tags out as well. That’s all fine in each match, but to see it happen again and again over dozens of matches defies realism, and you can’t help but notice.

Nonetheless, the pairing of Sakuraba and Tanahashi gets the latter grounded with an armbar. They cut-off the New Japan Ace by bumping him into the unprotected corner.

Elgin runs hot, starting with a double shoulder tackle off the top and awesomely repetitive corner splashes to both opponents. His powerbomb attempt on Sakuraba is countered with a standing front facelock, which he keeps while simultaneously catching Tanahashi in a standing anklelock. In the same string, Elgin powers Sakuraba up, but Sakuraba hooks him in an armbar, just hanging off the strong man’s body, which of course turns into a brute strength powerbomb. Elgin’s power moves set him apart from most everyone else in wrestling, as it requires a lot of legit strength to do what he’s doing; it’s a perfect fit for New Japan, as well.

Tanahashi and Yano double tag in as Tanahashi runs a standard comeback, ending in a Sling Blade. Yano blocks a German suplex by amusingly putting referee Red Shoes in a waistlock. This leads to Yano’s usual finishing strategy: low blow, Sakuraba’s kick to the chest, roll-up. But Elgin gets in for the save for a close nearfall.

Yano tries to hang on to Sakuraba to avoid a German from Elgin this time, but of course Elgin hoists them both over for suplexes in a chain reaction to the awe of the crowd, and a nice call back of what was teased earlier. An electric chair splash double team move from Tanahashi and Elgin, deadlift powerbomb and High Fly Flow finishes off Yano, ending one of the better matches of the tour, but not one I’ll long remember. The Unbreakable Ace team get the win they needed to still have a chance to advance to the finals. However they need YOSHI-HASHI and Kazuchika Okada to beat Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe on the next night, as they have the tie-breaker with the former but not the latter. ***

Final Conclusion: After the opener at Korakuen Hall, World Tag League has been downhill from there. Check out that show and you’ll get the gist of it. After Night 1, most everyone’s gears were turned down a notch or two. The rest of the Tag League has some decent matches, some overachieving performances from the likes of Manabu Nakanishi, YOSHI-HASHI and Toru Yano, but the tour almost completely consists of matches you can easily skip without missing anything important or memorable.

NJPW World Tag League 2015 Standings

Block A

    • Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin: 8pts
    • Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma: 6pts
    • Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI: 6pts
    • Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian: 6pts
    • Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata: 4pts
    • Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba: 4pts
    • Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga: 4pts

Block B

    • EVIL & Tetsuya Naito: 8pts
    • Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata: 8pts
    • Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii: 6pts
    • Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson: 6pts
    • Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan: 4pts
    • Matt Taven & Michael Bennett: 4pts
    • AJ Styles & Yujiro Takahashi: 2pts