Today, the final battle of the war between New Japan and GWM begins. Where we got story development last week, we get pure action this week. There’s a whole lot of punching, kicking, throwing, and tiger-ing to talk about so let’s just dive right into it! Before we do that, 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.

Tiger Mask W Episode 35 Recap
Tiger Fangs Strike

We pick up this week immediately where we left off at the end of last episode. Kazuchika Okada and Togi Makabe stand in the ring, ready to face off against Tiger the Black and The Third in a tag match. The announcer character really nails the WWE commentary style by occasionally shouting out the name of the show, reminding viewers that they’re watching GWM. Seriously, fire Byron and put this guy on Raw.

Match 2: Kazuchika Okada and Togi Makabe vs. Tiger the Great the Third and Tiger the Black

Makabe and Black are still fired up after last week and they charge at each other right as the bell rings. The two beasts exchange blows. Makabe attempts a crossbody block on Tiger the Black, but the massive kitty stands his ground and Makabe just bounces off him. Before Makabe is able to get to his feet, Tiger the Black crushes him with a huge splash. Black climbs to the top rope, looking for his moonsault. He isn’t able to achieve lift-off as Makabe knocks Tiger off his feet, crotching him on the top rope. Makabe takes the advantage in the match by hitting his trademark spider German suplex on Tiger the Black, spiking him right on the top of his head.

Makabe stands on the top rope, looking to put away Black with the King Kong Knee, but he’s stopped by an elbow strike from The Third. Okada tries to keep The Third from interfering and he’s knocked back with a kick to the stomach for his troubles. The Third stands with Makabe on the top rope, setting him up as though he was about to hit a Spanish Fly. Makabe takes just as nasty a bump as Tiger the Black did when The Third spikes him with the Devil’s Crush. With both legal men out of commission, The Third casually drapes Tiger the Black’s body over Makabe and tells the referee to make the count. The stunned Okada is reminded by Ryu that he’s a part of the match and runs in to break up the pin, but he’s cut off by The Third. With Makabe unconscious, Black scores the three count and the first win for GWM. This wasn’t so much a match as it was an angle to knock the sweets loving Makabe out of the interpromotional battle. **1/2

Both teams suffered casualties in that match with Tiger the Black and Makabe headed to the hospital. The GWM locker room is calm and relaxed. Miss X seems more annoyed by Tiger the Black than anything. In the hallway, Miracle II (Kevin) talks to Mike Rodriguez, who tells him that Takuma is in the audience. Kevin’s really excited to wrestle for him and boy is he going to be disappointed in a bit.

The New Japan locker room is nowhere near as calm as the GWM boys are. With Makabe being taken to the hospital and Naito just having gotten to the airport, this five man team is down to three. The next match is the trios match, meaning that Okada would have to wrestle, even though they’re saving him for the singles match against The Third later in the night. Nagata briefly considers joining the team, but he hurts himself trying to take off his tie. Ryu enters the room in his Dragon Young gear, wanting a spot on the team so that he can avenge Makabe. A man dressed in a grey hoodie enters behind Ryu and Tiger Mask immediately vouches for him to become a part of the team.

Who is this mystery man? None other than Tiger the Dark. They wait a long time to reveal him, when it’s totally obvious that Takuma’s under the hood, but I suppose this is a cartoon for dumb babies so maybe someone was surprised. It takes a bit of convincing, but the New Japan crew eventually accepts his offer. This has to be heartbreaking for Ryu. Last week he gets turned down by Haruna and this week he’s turned down by New Japan.

Match 3: Miracle I, Miracle II, and Big Tiger the Second vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tiger Mask, and Tiger the Dark

The GWM side is taken totally off guard at the reveal of Mystery Wrestler X. They had never expected Takuma to turn on them, especially Kevin. Before the action starts, Tanahashi lets Dark know that he still hasn’t earned his trust and he won’t hesitate to end him if given a reason to. Cartoon Tanahashi is just as badass as neck-snapping Tanahashi from Kamen Rider.

The bells rings and the match starts with Tiger the Dark and Miracle II in the ring. They lock up and Kevin angrily asks Takuma why he betrayed them. Kevin doesn’t seem to accept his answer of wanting to fight The Third and hits Tiger the Dark with two headbutts in the corner. The two men find themselves in a stalemate. Takuma compliments Kevin’s skills, saying that he’s improved since the last time they were in the ring together. He tells Kevin not to hold back and that opens the floodgates. Good memories with Takuma flow through Kevin’s mind. They were best friends, maybe more, but that doesn’t matter now. Tears pour down Kevin’s face as he rips off his mask, looking directly into Takuma’s eyes to tell him that he’s no longer one of them and that he’ll be the one to take him out for good.

This is the closest that this show has come to capturing the emotion that belongs in a big match like this. Even though Kevin is on the wrong side of this war, we still feel for him. At the end of the day, Kevin’s anger isn’t over Takuma turning on GWM, it’s about Takuma choosing Tiger Mask instead of him. Kevin ripped off his mask so that Takuma knows that he’ll be the one to put him down for good, not Miracle II. This isn’t business, it’s personal. What a tremendous moment. Easily my favorite of the series thus far.

Kevin charges at Takuma, spearing him into the ropes and then nailing him with a hard elbow strike on his rebound back. Dark can’t mount any offense as Kevin attacks from all angles. Tiger Mask tells Dark to tag out, but he refuses, determined to be of some usefulness in the match. Kevin gets Tiger the Dark in a headlock, but he’s almost immediately tossed with an overhead throw into the GWM corner, allowing Miracle I to tag in.

Miracle I gets Tiger the Dark in a waist lock, which is broken by a dropkick from Tanahashi. The ace helps Takuma to his feet and reminds him that he doesn’t have to do this one his own, he’s a part of the team. Tana’s a stern man, but he’s also the kind of friend that you absolutely want to have. Tiger the Dark follows Tanahashi’s advice and tags Tiger Mask into the match. The action is fast and furious (and clipped) after that. The storytelling is out of the way, time for the spotfest!

Things slow back down when Big Tiger and Tanahashi are in the ring together. The two men exchange forearm strikes in the middle of the ring and the fighting spirit is through the roof! Naoto and Takuma have a conversation on the apron and the entire time we hear Tana and Big Tiger smashing each other in the face over and over. This is a rare example where hearing the action might actually be better than seeing it because this sounds brutal. Tanahashi slams Big Tiger down to the mat and scales the turnbuckles to the top rope. He goes for the High Fly Flow, but Big Tiger gets the knees up, completely driving the air out of Tana’s body.

Big Tiger lifts up Tanahashi for the Skewer, the move he took out Nagata with. Tiger the Dark is unable to run-in when he’s pulled off the apron by Miracle I and Tiger Mask is blocked by Miracle II. Tiger Mask takes this as the opportunity to break out his new killer move, nailing Kevin with an axe kick to the shoulder and a knee strike to the chest. The move instantly KO’s Kevin.

With Tiger the Dark neutralized on the outside, this allows Miracle I to get in the ring and hold back Tiger Mask as Big Tiger drills Tanahashi into the mat with the Skewer. With the Team NJPW Tigers being held at bay, Big Tiger scores the pin on Tanahashi. This match was legitimately great, but it may have peaked early on with the Kevin/Takuma stuff. I wish this show could always have been this good. ****1/2

And with that victory, GWM is up in the series 2-0, meaning that the next match is do or die for New Japan.

This is the first time I’ve considered that New Japan might not win this war. I mean, it would be a pretty crazy cliffhanger leading into season two if New Japan were to lose all of their belts to their competition. Crazier things have happened. Next week, Naoto and Takuma try their best to keep that from happening as they face Big Tiger and Miracle I in the fourth match of the series. I’ll see you all then.