New Japan Pro Wrestling
World Tag League 2015 – Finals
December 9, 2015
Sendai Sun Plaza – Sundai, Miyagi, Japan
Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu vs Juice Robinson & David Finlay
As we patiently wait for Juice Robinson to catch up to the rest of the young lions, we will soon say goodbye to Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu, who this reviewer will condescendingly remind you with the most apathetic of eye rolls that I was literally their first fan, way before you, and way before they sold out (grew their hair) and signed a record deal (wore knee pads). In all seriousness, these dudes were real good real fast (as in, almost immediately), and for perhaps the final time, I will tell you that I truly believe that along with Finlay & Jay White, that this is the best crop of young lions at this stage of their careers since the Keiji Muto/Masa Chono-era class.
As for Juice, like Cody Hall, he’s sort of young lion, but is slightly higher on the pecking order (Finlay took the fall here, for example), even though he’s way behind the full-fledged lions in his development. Where Cody is at least starting to connect with crowds (more on that later), Juice is struggling in all aspects. You could reasonably argue that he’s the worst guy on the entire roster (granted, it’s a loaded roster), and I still give him a ton of credit for having the guts to leave WWE on his own will and press reset on his career, but watching him in his first year here reminds me of when I was “promoted” to AP English in tenth grade and less than a week later asked my guidance counselor to send me back to regular class with the normals. I’m not ready to write him off, but Juice looks like he’s a little in over his head right now.
This was a disappointing match. Too much Juice which meant not enough juice, and Tanaka & Komatsu are looking like they have their bags packed for Mexico, relishing each sweep of the dojo like it may finally be the last. Now the countdown begins for the return. *3/4
Mascara Dorada vs Jay White
Speaking of looking like the bags are already packed, Dorada crammed some cool flying in here, but his body language is screaming GET ME OUT OF HERE. And who can blame him? With all of the (totally legitimate) talk of booking malaise, repetitive feuds, odd junior title changes, and every other 2015 New Japan complaint, perhaps the most egregious misstep was having Mascara Dorada on your roster for a year and doing next to nothing with him aside from being a random dude to fill out the face side in six-man prelim tags. After dispatching White here (who worked hard, even with the taped up shoulder that he’s been working with for weeks), BUSHI did a run (walk) in and offered him a Los Ingobernables hat. Dorada refused, but made the classic pro wrestling mistake of turning his back. BUSHI blew the mist, stole his mask, and stole the CMLL Welterweight Title belt. Cool angle, cool title match set up for Korakuen at the end of the month, but why did it take AN ENTIRE YEAR to build an undercard feud for Dorada and his title? Even if they were waiting for BUSHI to return, which I’m skeptical of as an excuse, there is an entire roster of juniors to choose from, and we could have seen a couple of Dorada title defenses this year instead of “tag in, do a dive, tag out, hit the showers”. **1/4
Jushin Liger & KUSHIDA vs Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi
As opposed to the complete waste of having the CMLL Welterweight Title at your disposal or a year and doing nothing with it, New Japan does do a good job with the various NWA titles that make their way through the company. These belts have given some of the older midcarders something meaningful to do, and we’ll see Tiger Mask defend the NWA Junior Title against tag partner Jushin Liger in Korakuen later this month. They fought over this same title earlier in the year (with the roles reversed) and these little undercard feuds are about a million times more interesting than tossing these guys in the six man tag pile to rot.
This was the best match on the show to this point, with all four guys working their asses off in what was a pretty intense prelim bout. This is what happens when you give undercard guys a purpose. Even Taguchi limited his ass shtick here, probably because the other three guys made it clear that they were wearing their working shoes. Tiger Mask crucifixed Liger for what felt like a flash pin, and they did a post match stare down that lasted so long that New Japan World had to repeat Tiger Mask’s overdub Musak theme about a half-dozen times. ***
TenKoji, Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi vs Guns & Gallows, Yujiro, Tama Tonga
TenKoji being relegated to the Wrestle Kingdom 10 preshow Rambo, joining Nagata and Nakanishi a year late, is sort of cruel reminder that time stops for no man. It was weird and sad watching Nagata slum it up with young lions and YOSHI-HASHI last year, and it’ll be weird watching Kojima & Tenzan do the same. I’m pulling for a Kojima win, not just because he’s a personal favorite of mine, but because he still has plenty left in the tank (watch G1 or the NOAH Global League for proof) for a good title match performance in February, assuming of course that the winner of the Rambo receives a title match as Nagata did last year.
Team Rambo fell to the Bullet Club here, as Nakanishi ate a Gun Stun AND a Magic Killer, and sold it like he was paralyzed. Something bugged me about this. I get that this generation has to be phased out, and they shouldn’t be winning many meaningful matches, but this match meant nothing. I get that the tag champs aren’t losing. I get that Yujiro has a hot deal going with Yano heading into a Dome match. But Tama Tonga can’t take a fall here? Would that have done any damage whatsoever? **1/4
The Kingdom vs The Addiction
I bet New Japan World has more subscribers than Comet has viewers. The Kingdom worked as total babyfaces here, which is always odd. This was an old school heel/face tag, with old school behind the ref shenanigans, a long heat spot on Taven, a hot tag where Bennett did the best he could while wrapped up like a mummy and clearly banged up after a long tour, and the champions winning in the end with the spike piledriver (this was not an ROH Tag Title match). This isn’t a match style you see very often in New Japan, and Christopher Daniels is a pro’s pro and could probably hold my attention doing the stalliest of southern stall routines if he tried, so the match structure worked for me. Good stuff all around, even by Maria, who had to adjust to the always tricky babyface manager role. ***
Shinsuke Nakamura & Toru Yano vs Bad Luck Fale & Cody Hall
Let’s have a chat about Cody Hall, who was the star of this match.
Yes, Cody Hall was the star of the match. In fact, it wasn’t even close. This was one of those nights where Nak wasn’t in the mood to do shit, Yano was selling the Bullet Club attack angle from three nights earlier (complete with taped up ribs), and sometimes Fale is Fale, and WHOA BOY was Fale Fale here. Cody, on the other hand, was fan-fucking-tastic, not only because he worked the hardest, but he was also the most charismatic person in the match, and by a wide margin. Cody taunted the crowd (howling COOO-DEEE!! to a chorus a boos). Cody taunted Nak. Cody had Nak set up for the Razor’s Edge, and was about to win the goddamn match, but Yano (who tied Fale to the guard rail) made the save, leading to Cody’s demise. I was rooting for him to win the match. Shit, he should have won the match. He earned it. If he channels whatever he did here, watch out for this guy in 2016. **3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto, Katsuyori Shibata, Michael Elgin vs Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Kazushi Sakuraba, YOSHI-HASHI
These matches stink when everybody decides to dog it, but that wasn’t the case here. They all busted their asses, and this was one hell of an eight man tag. The Tanahashi/Okada stuff was great, including a spot where they traded missed Rainmakers that ended with Tanahashi slapping Okada across the face, thoroughly convincing me that we’re getting smarmy heel asshole Tanahashi at the Dome (which would fit the story perfectly). Elgin was given total shine, hot tagging and cleaning house with throws and bombs as Sendai chanted “EL-GUN EL-GUN”. People who think Elgin vs Jay Lethal in the Dome is going to be met with tepidness might end up with egg on their faces. I know the Dome is a different dynamic, but Elgin is very clearly over. The finish was a great visual, with Shibata choking out Ishii, who sold it by drooling all over himself like he was unconscious and no longer had control of his functions, before Shibata hit a completely unnecessary PK for good measure. If pressed for time, start the show here. ***3/4
World Tag League 2015 Final
Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) vs Tetsuya Naito & EVIL
Unlike the absolute lock of Shibata & Goto winning the tournament last year, there were three legitimate teams you could make an argument for this time around (both of the finalists, and Shibata & Goto). From that perspective, this final, and the WTL tour as a whole, had more juice than it normally does, even if the slight favorites over the other two realistic contenders, GBH, did ultimately win.
This was one heck of a match. Naito used a reverse neck breaker off of the apron and through a table on Honma, and Honma’s neck became the focus of the rest of the match. This was a neat & tidy story, because Naito used frequent cut off spots centered around Honma’s nack, plus both of Naito’s key moves are neck based. A long pluma blanca spot on Honma was one of the more dramatic moments, and Honma’s overall selling and facials in the match was incredible, elite tier stuff. BUSHI blew the mist in Makabe’s face, but Makabe fought through it and took him out with a lariat. That was a key spot that popped the crowd, because the BUSHI mist spot had led to finishes in prior Los Ingobernables matches on the tour. This led to a King Kong knee drop and Kokeshi on EVIL for the finish, with Honma in tears and Makabe’s face covered in green mist making for quite the postmatch scene. Some people may prefer to stay away from Honma right now, which is fair as we wait for the story to settle, but this had an emotional feel throughout, and I would call this a must watch match for New Japan fans. ****