Howdy everybody! Are you ready for an episode of Tiger Mask W featuring its most nonsensical gimmick match yet? I’m not waiting for you to answer because I know you and you’re always ready. Come along friends, let’s watch some big kitties. As always, 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 23 Recap: War Games Open

This episode begins with a GWM press conference to announce the War Game tournament. Sorry everyone, but it’s not the traditional War Games that we saw from JCP/NWA/WCW. WWE doesn’t use it, so I suppose it’s no surprise that the anime analog wouldn’t either. Miss X hosts the event, which is attended by many members of the press. Wrestling journalism is alive and well in Japan.

Miss X announces that the winner of the tournament will not only receive a prize of one million dollars, they’ll also get a shot at the GWM title, which is currently held by The Third, who will also be participating in the tournament. GWM is leaving participation in the tournament open to anyone that wants to join* (we’ll get to some rules later) and Miss X makes sure to call out New Japan. After the presser, Hikari Kuruma chases down Tiger the Dark to see what he knows about The Third. Tiger is pretty reluctant to talk to her until she trips over her own feet and falls to the ground. Hikari gets the info she wants out of TTD and in return, he asks her to track down what information she can on the Yellow Devil that disappeared three years ago after crippling Takuma’s father, Daisuke Fujii.

Over at the New Japan dojo/offices, Yuji Nagata informs Kazuchika Okada, Gedo, and Hiroshi Tanahashi that New Japan will indeed participate in the War Game. Young lion, Ryu Wakamatsu wants to enter too, but Nagata says that he can’t because GWM’s rules state that only past champions or people that have wrestled in GWM can participate. I need to point out that the subtitles for this scene are a bit confusing because they say that you need to have been a champion AND wrestled in GWM, which would actually disqualify Tiger Mask from entering because he’s never won a title. This is another instance where I feel like Crunchyroll would benefit from having a person with wrestling knowledge going over the subtitles before they’re released.

Needless to say, but Ryu doesn’t qualify for the War Game because he’s never held a title and the only time he wrestled in GWM was when he was wrestling in secret as Dragon Young. Okada and Tanahashi both intend to enter the tournament, as does Gedo. Okada actually asks Gedo if he’s ever held a title, which seems a little absurd initially, but upon looking into it, Gedo has never held a belt in New Japan while he’s been managing Okada. Gedo and Jado did win the GHC Junior Tag Team Championships recently, but I’m going to assume that NOAH doesn’t exist in this world. This discussion is interrupted by Naito, who was apparently laying in the ring this whole time. Naito says that he’s too busy to enter the War Game and doesn’t want to get stuck babysitting Okada. I feel like that’s a fair reason for not entering.

Later in the day, Nagata calls Miss X to let her know that New Japan will be participating in GWM’s big event. Nagata says that he hopes she doesn’t regret the invitation and then proceeds to laugh like a maniac until Miss X hangs up on him. This moment feels pretty on brand for Nagata as one of the New Japan Dads. I can easily see him laughing at his own jokes. The most important moment in this scene comes when Miss X addresses her assistant, confirming that her name is actually Lady. The only other time I can think of this being used as a name is when the Janitor in Scrubs got a girlfriend and her name was Lady.

Five and a half minutes into the episode, we get our first scene with Naoto and Haruna. Naoto plans to enter the War Game to win a title shot so he can eventually challenge the Yellow Devil that crippled his trainer when he’s champion. Naoto has it in his head that the champion can make any match that they want, but it doesn’t seem likely that he can challenge a dude that is hiding. Maybe the guy with that Richard Simmons podcast should try to win the GWM title. We learn that the tournament won’t be conducted under one-on-one rules, so Naoto’s coach, Kentaro, suggests that he goes into this with a partner.

The Mystery of Fukuwara Mask Solved

When faced with needing a partner in this tournament, Naoto turns to Fukuwara Mask. An unmasked FM sits in the eatery we saw him enter as last week’s episode ended when he gets a phone call from Naoto. The call isn’t really want matters here. As I’m sure you guessed, Fukuwara Mask agreed to enter the tournament and work with Tiger Mask. What really matters is that good dude and solid Twitter follow, @Paul_Sebert, worked out Fukuwara Mask’s identity. I give Paul a ton of credit for putting these pieces together because even as someone that pays close attention to this series, the small details will sometimes go over my head. Fukuwara Mask is far more than just the regional comedy wrestler that was initially presented to us. His true identity is that of Keiji Tanaka, a GWM wrestler that we saw briefly early on in the series.

Somewhere between episode three and episode five, the tag team of Tanaka and Billy the Kidman fell apart and Tanaka wanted to make an exit from the company. In that time, not only did he leave and come up with a new gimmick, he was also dealt some serious injuries for wanting to leave the company.

Now knowing this, the reveal of Fukuwara Mask’s face in the final moments of episode five makes sense. It was a big deal that we saw him because he was a former GWM guy. The only problem with that is the fact that we were having so many characters thrown as us in the early episodes, we weren’t able to keep track of all of them. I appreciate that this series is pretty heavily layered, but when you have things going over the heads of two of the most invested fans of the series for weeks and weeks, that might be a sign that you’re expecting too much from your audience. Big thanks to Paul for the revelation because unless I went through and rewatched the series, there is no way that I would have picked up on this.

Tournament Prep

The next day, we see The Third arrive in Japan and the man struts out like he’s one of the Horsemen. Between the white suit and the amount of chest exposed from his open shirt, this is a man of style. I’m in awe of him. I should also note, his full name is The Third so always be sure to capitalize the T in The Third. This is not unlike the character that was known as The World in Animal Sentai Zyuohger.

Meanwhile, the New Japan crew packs up the bus to head over to the show. Just when all hope is lost, Certified Good Guy, Tetsuya Naito shows up to join his New Japan rostermates in the fight against GWM. I said it last week, but it needs repeating; Naito is a good guy at his core, he just enjoys being a dick sometimes. As the New Japan bus leaves, Ryu grabs a duffel bag from the nearby bushes. Maybe we’ll see the return of Dragon Young in the War Game?

Over at the GWM offices, Miss X has a conference with Mister X. Lady goes over some numbers, explaining that War Game is already a success with tickets being completely sold out and subscriber numbers for the GWM streaming service on the rise. Regardless of how this thing goes, it’s looking pretty good for GWM. Things are also looking pretty good for Haruna now that Miss X has allowed her to sell Tiger Mask merch before the event starts. Tiger Mask starts to panic that Fukuwara Mask hasn’t arrived yet, but Haruna informs him that FM has been at his gimmick table this entire time. He’s soon sent backstage though when Miss X discovers that he has been peddling his wares without her permission.

There’s a very quick scene where Hikari tells Lady that she needs to see Tiger the Dark, but isn’t allowed backstage to do so. I can only assume that she knows what happened to the Yellow Devil that hurt his father. While he can’t meet with Hikari, Tiger the Dark is in the middle of a meeting with several other GWM talent. The group is told by Miss X that they need to work together to protect The Third in the War Game. The Third rejects their help and instead tells them to do as they please, welcoming them to challenge him. The Third is cool as hell.

Before the match, the entire arena is kept in the dark. As far as anyone can tell, there aren’t any seats for the audience, but there is a huge structure in the center of the arena.

Alright everybody, sit back while I explain what this nonsense is. There are multiple levels to this match, six to be exact. In order to go to the next level, you have to pin or submit someone on the level that you’re currently on. Essentially, the match is a race because the first portion ends when two people reach the normal sized ring that is the sixth and final level. From there it is a straight one on one match to determine the winner of the War Game. On the ground floor, the wrestlers are separated into four different sections where they’ll be able to fight anyone else around them. I’m not sure why the sections are there because there are doors that the wrestlers are free to walk through to the adjacent sections.

This feels like a crazy concept match that you would have seen in Ultimate Muscle. The list of the combatants is as huge as the structure they’re fighting on is. Let’s run down, who is all in this: Okada, Tanahashi, Naito, Nagata, Tiger Mask, the Metal Brothers, Bull & Dog (new dudes), Bosman (remember this barrel crushing Street Fighter knock off?), El Caracas, Bigfoot, Tiger the Dark, Yellow Devil (whattttttttt????), and The Third. Those are only the wrestlers that are officially announced by Miss X. We also know that Gedo, Makabe, Honma, Kevin, and Fukuwara Mask are in the match, but didn’t get the honor of an official intro.

When The Third makes his entrance, a chill comes across the arena. Kentaro reacts in complete fear of what stands in front of him. It turns out that he was almost killed by the first Tiger the Great so his reaction isn’t out of the question. It seems odd though that Kentaro wouldn’t know about The Third coming into this seeing as he makes a point to read the anime equivalent of Pro Wrestling Weekly. The Third is so confident that he stares right into the camera and declares that whoever wins the War Game will win the GWM championship. Miss X wasn’t prepared for this, but goes along with it anyways, turning this into an official GWM Heavyweight Championship match.

War Game Go Fight!

The bell rings and Tiger Mask takes off to go look for Yellow Devil. The same goes for Tiger the Dark and the two kitties run into each other very early on. There’s a brief stare down, but then Tiger the Dark sees Yellow Devil through one of the doors and takes off after him. Oddly enough, it’s the door that Tiger Mask ran through, so his dumb ass didn’t even look around before he took off running. Tiger Mask is taken off guard by TD running off and is jumped from behind by the Metal Brothers. They stomp the hell out of Tiger Mask until Fukuwara Mask makes the save by… shoving his fingers in their butts.

The Metal Brothers waddle off while holding their butts in agony as Fukuwara Mask helps Tiger Mask to his feet. The veteran masked man tells Tiger Mask that he needs to keep his cool in a match like this, which is fantastic advice for a lot of things in life. Tranquilo.

In another section of the first level, The Third begins moving towards a group of wrestlers in front of him, but they all scatter like cockroaches. Gedo sprints through the arena, looking for Okada. Just when he passes through a doorway, he slams into The Third. Uh oh. The champion towers over Gedo, who immediately tries to kick him in the balls. The Third catches Gedo’s ankle, lifts him into the air by it, and then slams him into the ground. He puts one foot on Gedo’s chest and the referee (watching the action through a drone) makes the three count, making The Third the first person to proceed to the second level. As always, Gedo booked himself strong here.

Elsewhere, Tiger the Dark searches for Yellow Devil when he’s jumped by Bosman and two of his friends. As they try to triple powerbomb him, we’re given the weirdest damn camera angle that this show has ever had.

Couple that shot with all the struggling and groaning from Tiger the Dark and we get a very strange way to close out this episode. I don’t even know what to say to follow this up. Join me again next week and hopefully I won’t be reminded of porn then. Thanks for reading!