Here it is; the final confrontation between New Japan and GWM. We’ve reached the grand climax of the series and Naoto is going to have his chance at the redemption he’s wanted since the first episode. Before we get to it, 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 37 Recap: Farewell Tiger

We begin this week’s episode the same way last week’s ended with Miracle I spraying green mist in the face of Okada as they were about to lock up.

Match 5: Miracle I vs. Kazuchika Okada

Miracle I attacks Okada like the truly despicable heel he is, battering the blinded champion with strike after strike. The GWM commentator refers to it as Asian mist, which is probably the first time I’ve ever heard the green mist called that outside of JCP. Miracle I stomps on Okada over and over until he gets tired of it and kicks him out of the ring.

When Okada lands on the outside, Ryu is quick to rush over to him and pour water over his head to wash the mist off. The angry IWGP Champion rises to his feet and he’s surprised by a tope from Miracle I, knocking them both over the guardrail and sending them tumbling through the fan’s chairs. In the tangle of flesh and metal, Okada gets his arm stuck inside of a chair. Both men are slow to get up, but they manage to make their ways back into the ring before the referee counts them out. Okada manages to sneak in behind Miracle I, allowing him to hit a Rainmaker. Luckily for Miracle I, Okada’s injured arm severely lessened the impact of the blow.

While Miracle I attacks Okada’s arm in the ring, we go to the New Japan locker room where Naoto realizes that Okada won’t be able to compete in the sixth and final match of this series, meaning that he’ll have to step up. The only thing nagging at him is his mask that was torn in half by The Third. The ever resourceful Haruna has a plan though and hurries off with both Naoto and Takuma’s masks.

Back in the ring, Miracle has Okada trapped in a triangle choke, which Okada manages to powerbomb his way out of. The champion quickly makes his way to his feet and then Rainmakers Miracle I out of his boots. Okada goes for the pin and scores the three count in what was a pretty good sprint. Miracle I threw everything that he had at Okada, but he ultimately discovered that he was out of his league. ***1/2

Following Okada’s victory, things are all tied up between NJPW and GWM at 2-2-1. Mister X is confident that the injury to the IWGP Heavyweight Champion’s arm has secured the victory of GWM. Okada still wants to fight in the sixth match, but it’s clear that he shouldn’t. Naoto asks for permission to replace Okada in the match, but he isn’t super open to the idea. Suddenly there’s a familiar voice from across the room and Tetsuya Naito finally makes his appearance. He tells everyone to tranquilo and then gives Nagata credit for finding a strong wrestler in Takuma to replace him. Naito, the unlikely voice of reason, convinces Okada to let Naoto step in for him. Just as the decision is made, Haruna rushes into the room with Naoto’s new mask.

Match 6: Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger the Great the Third

When Tiger Mask makes his entrance, we see his new mask for the first time and it’s half of his own with half of Tiger the Dark. Haruna grabs the microphone to announce Naoto as Tiger Mask W, a new persona merging both Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark into one super wrestler. When Haruna gets back to her seat, her ever critical uncle actually praises her work on the mask.

The bell rings and the two tigers rush to the center of the ring to exchange hard forearm strikes. Tiger Mask goes for two kicks, both of which are blocked by The Third and responded to with a boot to the stomach. Tiger Mask springs off the ropes and he’s taken down to the mat with a Thez press from The Third, who attempts a pin. W powers out of the pinning predicament at 1 in a show of defiance. The Third lifts Tiger Mask in the air and slams him back down to the mat, attempting to knock the wind out of him. Instead of being beaten by this, Naoto kicks out of another pin attempt, leaps to his feet, and spin kicks The Third in the face. W quickly grabs The Third and plants him headfirst into the mat with Takuma’s Darkness Driver. The Third struggles to his feet and he finds himself trapped in the Darkness Hold, a modified octopus.

The hold is broken when The Third reaches the ropes. In an act of desperation, The Third hits a devastating backdrop driver on Tiger Mask that Morishima would be proud of. The slam doesn’t keep W down for long though, as he’s back to his feet a second later and hitting The Third with a tornado DDT. The fighting spirit is off the charts in this one. The Third no sells the DDT, rising to his feet and spiking Tiger Mask with a vertical suplex. Instead of going for the pin, The Third allows W to fight back to his feet.

After a brief stare down, The Third charges at Tiger Mask, booting him in the chest. It looks like The Third is going for another vertical suplex, but instead he places him on the top turnbuckle. The Third attempts the Devil’s Crush, but Naoto knows how to block it now. He knocks The Third to the mat with a stiff headbutt and then crushes him with a Phoenix Splash, the move of his real life counterpart Kota Ibushi. W pins The Third, but that splash wasn’t enough to put him away.

After seeing his Devil’s Crush blocked, The Third means business now. He hits Tiger Mask with repeated Devil’s Tornado strikes to the chest, slashing him open over and over. When his assault is over, Naoto’s chest is a bloody mess. The Third taunts W, asking if he has any moves left. An enraged Tiger Mask springs off the ropes and leaps into the air, going for the Tiger Fang. The Third blocked the move once before, he’s confident that he can do it again. It turns out that this attack was a feint as Tiger Mask lands on his feet. The Third tries to take W’s head off with a punch, but Naoto is too fast and is back in the air immediately. This time Tiger Mask manages to nail a modified Tiger Fang, smashing The Third’s head with a scissors kick to the back of the neck and a knee strike to the jaw. The sideways attack from this modified Tiger Fang allows Naoto to immediately transition into locking the Darkness Hold on The Third for the second time in the match.

As The Third screams in pain, Miss X hands a towel to Mister X, telling him to throw it in before his champion is seriously injured. Mister X refuses to give up the fight, telling The Third that defeat isn’t an option. Tiger the Great fires up and hulks out of the hold, throwing Tiger Mask across the ring in the process. As Tiger Mask gets to his feet, The Third takes him off guard with a Devil’s Tornado slash to the top of the head, busting him open. Back in control of the match, The Third puts Naoto’s legs in the figure four position and lifts him into the air for Sacrifice.

The Third nails his signature move and a hush falls over the crowd as it looks like things are finished. Before the referee is able to slap the mat three times, Naoto’s fighting spirit rouses him back to life, allowing him to kick out. The Third staggers backwards into the corner, clutching his injured arm, completely spent. Tiger Mask goes for his flying double knee strike, which The Third takes the brunt of, but he still manages to catch Naoto. Instead of being powered to the mat, Tiger Mask shifts his weight, turning it into a modified monkey flip that he doesn’t let go of, driving his knees into The Third’s chest again.

The referee is in shock. Tiger Mask roars at him to make the count, but The Third somehow manages to get his shoulder up at two. Were it not for that delay, the match might be over right now.

In one final rush of adrenaline, both men charge at each other. Tiger Mask unleashes a flurry of strikes on The Third. Naoto leaps into the air to deliver another Tiger Fang, which The Third attempts to block, but he’s immobilized by the sharp pain in his arm. Tiger Mask crushes The Third’s skull with an axe kick to the top of the head and a knee to the jaw. In one final act of contempt, The Third refuses to go down. His legs tremble and he manages to spit out a few words before vomiting and falling to the mat. The referee calls for the bell as The Third loses the match and the war in complete disgrace with his mask full of his own bodily fluids. Not only did Naoto defeat his arch enemy, he beat the company that tried to destroy Japanese wrestling. What an incredible match this was. W and The Third threw bombs at each other for the entire match, fighting as though this was to the death. This was the awesome climatic match that I was hoping we would get. *****

The crowd goes crazy as Mister X is in complete shock. Miss X has the ultimate “I told you so” look on her face. She announces Tiger Mask W as the victor and the celebration begins. Kentaro has tears in his eyes as he watches his surrogate son bask in the glory of victory. A second Tiger Mask beat a second Tiger’s Den. History repeats itself and things end well once again.

The GWM commentator wonders what will happen to the company now that they’ve lost everything to New Japan. Hopefully he’ll be able to find another job soon, I liked that guy. The camera pans the crowd and we get quick cameos from Taguchi, Hiromu Takahashi, Kojima, and Tenzan.

A Happy Ending

Following the end of the match, we spend the last few minutes of the show bouncing around to wrap up storylines throughout the series. Our first stop is the Tiger’s Den, which has totally been overgrown by ivy and other plants. It looks as though they’re officially dead.

At the hospital, Ruriko and Daisuke work on his physical therapy. Where it first looked like he would be crippled for life, he’s now walking with assistance. He asks if the fight has started yet and we head over to a New Japan show headlined by Okada taking on Kota Ibushi. Okada says “long time no see” to Ibushi, who replies with “not really.” This is the most meta scene in the entire series, bringing in the real life Tiger Mask W and slyly making reference to the match between Okada and Tiger Mask W. Ibushi actually did his own voice acting here making he and Makabe the only two wrestlers to play themselves in the series.

While watching the match, Yuji Nagata remarks that with the signing of Ibushi, New Japan is back on top. Ryu wishes that the two Tigers were there too. As Nagata says, it’s impossible to tame a tiger. We catch up with Takuma and Naoto at the airport, who are planning on going to the US and Mexico, respectively. Both men have a split Tiger Mask/Tiger the Dark mask and are going to use the Tiger Mask W name.

As the two Tigers go their separate ways and board their flights, Haruna arrives looking for Naoto and Ruriko arrives looking for Takuma. The girls aren’t the only ones looking for the Tigers as Kevin runs around, frantically looking for Takuma. Kuruma shows up as well and, not being able to choose, looks for both of them. Sadly, the Tigers are already gone before any of their potential love interests can find them (poor Kevin). Then, from out of nowhere, Miss X pops up to ask Haruna for help.

One more loose end that gets tied up is the Secret Tiger Base, which is now given to Fukuwara Mask. FM accidentally refers to Kentaro as senpai, revealing that he was trained by him in the Tiger’s Den years ago. Kentaro tells Fukuwara Mask to use the base as much as he wants because he doesn’t think that Naoto will be back anytime soon. We get brief glimpses of both Tiger Mask W’s working in Mexico and America. Naoto teams with the cactus headed wrestler from the worst episode of the series while Takuma teams with Odin. The episode ends with each Tiger wrestling in a different part of the world, the two sides of the same coin.

And there you have it, there was Tiger Mask W. Wait, what? That wasn’t the finale? With Naoto out of the picture, it looks like Haruna will take on the role as the series lead for the remaining two episodes and Tiger Mask W will become a joshi series. I like the idea of giving the series two epilogue episodes to wrap things up instead of just leaving the characters with a bunch of open ends. I’ll talk to you all next week when Spring Tiger takes center stage!