The Masked World League is here and it isn’t being run by Michinoku Pro… Sorry Great Sasuke, but today we’re talking about the beginning of what is set to be a huge tournament in Tiger Mask W.

GWM, the Global Wrestling Monopoly, has New Japan in its sights and is actively promoting a show against them. As we saw last week, Tiger Mask jumped ship from New Japan to GWM for this tournament because this might be his only shot to get a match against Yellow Devil and avenge the defeat of his trainer. Before we get into the meat of things, don’t forget that you can watch every episode of Tiger Mask W over at Crunchyroll and if you want to find the rest of my recaps, you can do that here.

Episode 9 Recap
The Stormy Opening Match

The episode starts off with GWM showing off their newly built arena in Japan, the Max Dome, and the unveiling of the tournament’s participants. The first entrant is our old friend and Kikutaro analog, Fukuwara Mask. In the New Japan offices, Yuji Nagata looks super bummed that Fukuwara Mask is working for GWM. Okada asks if Nagata ever made FM an offer and says that Nagata has nothing to complain about when he admits that he didn’t. This show goes way deeper into wrestling contract stuff than I ever expected it to. Then again, I never really expected the big bad of the series to be a WWE analog that’s trying to take out New Japan, so there’s been a lot of surprises.

The second talent announced goes by the name Dragon Young. We don’t get much of a look at him here, but we’ll find out a little something about him later in the episode. The third man announced is called It’s-The-Ace and he might as well be called It’s-Not-Tanahashi-Why-Would-You-Think-That. Last week Tanahashi said that he wanted to wrestle in the Max Dome and he clearly threw on a mask to join this tournament incognito. It’ll be fun to see how things play out for him as the tournament progresses. Okada clearly sees through the façade, but we don’t get to see Nagata’s reaction.

A fourth entrant named Poseidon is briefly shown. I’m really hoping that we get a Poseidon Adventure Splash Match at some point with this guy, but I doubt that will happen as he;s clearly here to take a loss in the first round. They announce Tiger Mask as “the strongest and nastiest tiger” to which Haruna adamantly says “He’s not a heel!” I would like to believe that this is a reference to the final evolution of the Fire Type starter Pokémon in the recently released Pokémon Sun and Moon. Incineroar, who kind of looks like Tiger the Dark, is known as the “Heel Pokémon.” This was announced a long enough time ago that I feel like this could be a wink to the wrestling fans that are also Pokémon fans.

The sixth man announced is GWM’s own Euro Champion, Wagner. We then cut to the GWM gym to see Tiger the Dark sparring with Wagner, who seems to be having a hard time with his mask. He removes the mask, revealing himself to be Tiger the Dark’s ally… Kenny? Bobby? Jimmy? As a person that watches and writes about this show every week, I really should know this guy’s name, but as far as I can remember, it was only said once and it was super generic. Wagner is way easier to remember, so he better get used to this gimmick. Wagner asks Miss X how he can be entered in the tournament when he’s just becoming this character and there isn’t even really a Euro Championship. Miss X then breaks kayfabe by telling Wagner that this happens all the time and that many times, plenty of different people will play the same masked wrestler role, pointing out Tiger Mask as her prime example.

Meanwhile at Tiger Mask’s secret hideout/training ground, Naoto gets ready for his big tournament appearance by engaging in a test of strength with a robot. Wrestling needs more robot! Someone talk to Triple H about putting some in the Performance Center. Once he switches off the machine, Tiger Mask’s coach warns him not to push himself too hard. There’s no use getting hurt before the tournament doing something stupid, especially when this is his big chance to fight Yellow Devil.

The evil Yellow Devil arrives at the arena and heads to the ring to check out the lay of the land. Tiger the Dark (without his mask, just as Takuma) demands a sparring match with Yellow Devil, who knows that he wants more of a fight than that and essentially big times him before heading to the back. As we’ve seen in the past, Takuma has even more of a bone to pick with Yellow Devil than Naoto does, so he’s going to fight his hardest in this tournament.

Yuji Nagata prepares for the day’s New Japan show by angrily staring at the fans waiting to get into the building. He asks how GWM’s turnout is and the much calmer Okada tell him to worry about it after the show. Over at the GWM show, Fukuwara Mask makes his way into the building through a large crowd of fans. Once he gets past the fans, he sees Dragon Young and It’s-The-Ace on their way in as well. Dragon Young says hello to Fukuwara Mask and it is made clear that he is really Ryu Wakamatsu, New Japan’s resident young lion. Whether he and Tanahashi are infiltrating the tournament on Nagata’s orders or if they’re just there to have fun remains to be seen.

Tiger Mask gleefully greets Fukuwara Mask, who is happy to see a friendly face. As they talk, FM reveals that he’s just here for the money, same as Haruna, who is planning on selling as much merch as she can. Fukuwara Mask warns Haruna that he was told that he wasn’t allowed to sell merch. Haruna goes to Miss X and sure enough, only official GWM merch is allowed to be sold. During this conversation, Miss X is prepping the lights in the arena, much like we’ve seen Triple H do in various behind the scenes looks at NXT. Haruna complains about not getting any comp tickets and then stomps off once Miss X tells her to get as many as she needs from the office. Later on we see that tickets are totally sold out so Haruna and her uncle will be relegated to the standing area. Hikari Kurama, a wrestling journalist we’ve met before, tells them that she’s stuck in the standing area as well because GWM has everything locked down in terms of getting any interviews.

At 3:00 sharp, the show begins with a huge flash of pyro. All of the tournament participants are already in the ring, waiting to be announced. The first round matches are determined through a “random” draw by a lucky audience member. Match one is Tiger the Dark versus Fukuwara Mask. In the second match, Tiger Mask will take on Wagner. It’s-The-Ace faces off against Poseidon in the third match. Finally, the fourth match is Yellow Devil versus Dragon Young.

The opening ceremony takes a violent turn when Tiger Mask gets in Yellow Devil’s face, demanding a match right there. Tiger the Dark tries to calm down Tiger Mask, who shoves him away and tells him to stay out of it. Cooler heads prevail and HAHAHA, no they don’t. A brawl breaks out between the two Tigers. The fight is pretty heated, almost like the brawl between the NJPW and NOAH wrestlers we saw at the G1 Finals earlier this year. The wrestlers in the ring finally get the fight broken up on the orders of Miss X, who then officially ends the opening ceremony and throws to a young boy tag match. Dragon Young points out that Tiger Mask’s cape suffered a pretty big rip in the scuffle, but luckily Haruna brought a new cape with her and it just so happens to be RAD AF!

Match 1
Tiger the Dark vs. Fukuwara Mask

In case you missed his first appearance on the show, you get a feel for Fukuwara Mask’s fighting style very quickly. He wrestles much like Toru Yano, going for many rope breaks and trying to outsmart his opponent instead of out-wrestle them. He ducks an early kick from Tiger the Dark, but then plays it off as though he was only trying to pick up a piece of garbage he found in the ring. Tiger the Dark isn’t used to wrestling this type of match and gets frustrated with Fukuwara Mask very early on. FM catches Tiger the Dark off guard and plants him with a backdrop driver. Fukuwara Mask goes up to the top rope and attempts a senton, but over shoots Tiger the Dark and crashes into the canvas. The fed up Tiger takes advantage of this slip up and puts away Fukuwara Mask with a Darkness Driver. Tiger the Dark makes it to the second round in a solid comedy match. **3/4

Fans watch the show outside the building on a big screen, lamenting the fact that they couldn’t get a ticket because they were all sold out. This doesn’t bode too well for New Japan’s attendance, but in this episode we don’t find out how well they drew. I’m sure they did fine. I doubt that real life New Japan would be cool with a cartoon depicting them drawing poorly while another company runs against them. The crowd outside the Max Dome starts to part as a man clad in white cloth makes his way towards the doors of the arena.

Match 2
Tiger Mask vs. Wagner

Tiger Mask makes his entrance and as I said earlier, his new cape is awesome. A tiger’s face and stripes cover the outside of the cape in a nice pattern. The inside is a simple red with white fur on the edges. It is some truly spectacular ring gear and a tournament like this is the perfect time to break it out for the first time. The masked man in white that we saw outside the building suddenly appears on the top of one of the ring posts and demands a match with Tiger Mask before Wagner can even make his entrance. Tiger Mask side eyes Miss X, assuming that this is her doing. She tells the masked man that GWM doesn’t allow just anybody to compete in their ring.

The masked man introduces himself as India’s Mister Question and says that Miss X would have known who he was if she had done her homework. In the audience, Hikari recognizes Mister Question as a wrestler that fought against the original Tiger Mask. Haruna’s uncle confirms that they fought at the All Asia Pro Wrestling Championship. Miss X isn’t sure how to proceed and Tiger Mask now realizes that she has nothing to do with this man’s challenge. Wagner finally makes his appearance, running into the ring and booting Mister Question in the back. He brings the fight to the intruder, hitting him with a big suplex and following it up with kicks and shoulder blocks.

Wagner thinks he’s winning the fight, but Mister Question, with a smile on his face, asks if he’s done yet. Mister Question lands a hard knee to the gut and follows it up with a flurry of strikes. As Wagner starts to fall to the mat, Question grabs him and slams Wagner down with a brainbuster. As Wagner lays convulsing on the mat, it’s clear that he won’t be able to compete in this tournament. Mister Question says that the best move is to let him fight Tiger Mask now, but he’s interrupted when Tiger the Dark comes to the ring. Instead of backing down to TD’s demands to leave, Mister Question proposes a league style of matches between the three men in the ring.

Miss X makes a snap decision and orders Tiger the Dark to take his friend Wagner to the backstage to get medical treatment. Tiger the Dark questions her and she literally cracks the whip, telling him to do as she says. As the stunned crowd looks on, Miss X announces that the second match of the tournament has now been changed to Tiger Mask versus Mister Question. Haruna asks if she should go object as Tiger Mask’s manager, but her uncle says that Tiger has messed with cards in the past, meaning that he has probably had something like this coming for a while. Hikari tries to get a statement from Wagner as Tiger the Dark helps him to the back, but TD angrily tells her that it’s not happening.

Miss X makes the ring introductions and the two men walk to the middle of the ring to face off. Tiger Mask asks why he wants the match and Mister Question says that he wants to see if he’s the real deal, if he’s as strong as the first Tiger Mask. TM asks Mister Question who he is and the mystery man simply points to the question mark on his chest. Tiger Mask will have to win the match to solve this mystery and we’ll have to wait a week to find out what happens.

The tournament is a familiar trope for fans of fighting anime and manga. I have to admit that I’m a huge sucker for it so this story arc has me fully invested. There’s so many small stories at play here. What are Ryu and Tanahashi doing here? How will Ryu fare against Yellow Devil? Who will win the first match between Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark? Will that match even happen or will Mister Question move on to the second round? How did the New Japan show draw? There’s so much going on and I love it.

Join me back here next week for more tournament action!