This Friday, NJPW’s World Tag League 2016—a round-robin tag tournament held by New Japan Pro Wrestling annually since 1980—kicks off with a live (free!) airing on NJPWWorld.com.

If you haven’t already, please read my NJPW World Tag League 2016 A Block preview which was published yesterday. Today, we’re going to focus on the B Block and use a similar format, I’ll talk about each team, my thoughts about them leading into the tournament and cap it off with my most intriguing matchup for each. At the end of the piece, I’ll give my prediction for the winner, though that should seem obvious over the course of this preview.

Bad Luck Fale & BONE SOLDIER

Oh dear god. I’ve turned the corner on Bad Luck Fale in 2016 and find myself enjoying his work more than ever before. If he had a good partner, I would be super excited to see what he does in this year’s Tag League. Alas, his partner is BONE SOLDIER, the former Captain New Japan who both wrestlers and dresses like a backyard wrestler from 1998 (and that may be disrespectful to some late 90s backyarders!). I can’t fathom these two having any good matches during the tournament unless BONE SOLDIER twists his ankle on the way to the ring and Fale has to fly solo. This is going to be brutal.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI

Billy Gunn & Yoshitatsu

Nope. You read that right. Yes. That Billy Gunn. Mhm. The same one. The One, actually. Mr. Ass. One-half of The Smoking Gunns. THE OUTLAW. Voodoo Kin Mafia mainstay. Yep. Nope, I don’t understand it either.

I want to get mad about Billy Gunn being apart of New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2016 but I’ve learned not only to accept but embrace it. Kazuchika Okada and Billy Gunn will be in the ring with one another. Tomohiro Ishii will headbutt Billy Gunn. Tomoaki Honma may hit a Kokeshi on him. KENNY OMEGA can talk shit to Billy Gunn in 2016. The wrestling pundit in me wants to get upset, rant and rave but the fan in me can’t wait. I just hope he has a variation of the Ass-Man theme.

Most Intriguing Matchup: All of them?

Chase Owens & Kenny Omega

Oh good, phew, this Block won’t be so bad after all. Chase and Omega should make for a fun team with a lot of intriguing matchups up and down the block. Owens has been getting consistently better with each New Japan tour and this should be a great opportunity for him to grab part of the spotlight. Omega will likely be taking things easy but his character work alone can prop up matches. Similar to Brian Pillman in his ability to harness his character to unseen levels, Omega doesn’t have to leave the ring apron to affect a match positively. I’m really looking forward to seeing these two progress through the tournament. All eyes will be on their matchup versus Okada and YOSHI-HASHI. Not only does that match have the chance to be fantastic but the building tension between Omega and Okada leading to Wrestle Kingdom 11 should add another layer of intensity.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI





EVIL & SANADA

Another solid team featuring two guys who should have very important 2017s in New Japan. Their 2016 is really just waiting out the clock. With that said, unlike many of the teams or individual wrestlers in this year’s tournament, EVIL and SANADA both have a lot to prove. You won’t get lazy efforts from them and they could emerge as the standout team of the tournament.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii

Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii

Echoing many of the same thoughts as the team above, Goto & Ishii will be a fun team to follow throughout the tournament. I’ll make my official prediction at the end of this preview but Goto & Ishii are my pick. Right now, neither man has anything to do for Wrestle Kingdom 11 and I just can’t fathom either being in the Rambo or a meaningless six-man. They are too good for that. While most see a higher ceiling for both men, I love the idea of them becoming the tag division aces. Goto has never been able to find his footing as a singles star and while Ishii IS an unbelievable talent, there does seem to be limitations as far as him being a IWGP Heavyweight or even IWGP Intercontinental Champion. At the very least, them becoming consistent members of the tag division finally gives it a true workhorse team — a welcome change after years of mundane teams ruling the division.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma

Katsuyori Shibata & Yuji Nagata

Just a few months ago these two wanted to rip each others throats out. Now unified by NJPW’s Lion symbol these two are the ultimate representation of strong style and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Before this week, they made an interesting darkhorse case for World Tag League champion but with Shibata winning the NEVER Title back from EVIL, they don’t stand a chance. Either way, they’ll have fun matches throughout and are another feather in the cap of a stack World Tag League B Block.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii

Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI

You want to think Okada is going to coast this tournament, rest up, bide his time before Wrestle Kingdom, but you know goddamn well he isn’t. Okada doesn’t get enough credit for busting his ass each and every time he walks through the curtain, be it a six-man on a random Road To show or a World Tag League tilt with Bad Luck Fale & BONE SOLDIER! Even if he wants to take it easy, his partner YOSHI-HASHI has had an all-around awesome year and can more than carry the load. Don’t sleep on any matchup with these guys.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Chase Owens & Kenny Omega

Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma

Last year at this time, 2015 World Tag League winners Makabe & Honma seemed destined to rule the division for years to come. Unfortunately, they barely ruled half of 2016 as the Guerrillas of Destiny barged in, stole their titles and haven’t looked back. Makabe & Honma should be in the running to win this tournament for the second straight year but they seem so lost and directionless right now. Honma has really suffered since becoming just another guy and Makabe gets by on his native popularity just fine but his work has been well below average this year. Here’s hoping they deliver in this block with so many great potential matches. Don’t be surprised to walk away disappointed though.

Most Intriguing Matchup: Billy Gunn & Yoshitatsu

Prediction:

As I made clear above, I think Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii are taking home the trophy this year. It just makes far too much sense given they have nothing else going on for Wrestle Kingdom 11. Some may find the tag titles below both men and while I can absolutely see the argument, I don’t agree. NJPW is more fluid than America’s often-too-rigid class structure. Goto and Ishii becoming tag champions or at the very least tag title contenders does more to enhance that division than it does hurt either man. And if the top of the card is too crowded for either to get a real chance, the next best thing is having them revitalize a wrought, often boring New Japan tag division.