The World’s Strongest Tag Determination League (AKA the Real World Tag League) is the oldest continuously running tournament in professional wrestling. It began in 1977, and this year marks the 43rd edition of the tournament. If you want to follow along with the tournament this year, you’ll be able to do so on AJPW’s streaming service (AJPW.TV).
Past winners of the World’s Strongest Tag Determination League are a literal who’s who of legendary tag teams. In fact, it has brought us some of the greatest tag team matches of all time like The Funks vs. Bruiser Brody & Jimmy Snuka (featuring the AJPW debut of Stan Hansen) in 1981 and the 1996 finals of Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (which is my pick for greatest tag team match of all time).
Unlike other annual tag team tournaments in other companies, it is treated quite seriously and always features AJPW’s top stars.
From 1988-1994, the World Tag Team Championship was vacated at the beginning of the tournament and this also happened in 2012 and 2014 but was not followed after that.
There were also no formal finals unless there was a tie in the top of the standings until the mid-1990s. However, that tradition of no finals unless there was a point tie at the top was brought back last year and will also apply this year.
And if the tag league itself isn’t enough, the tour will also feature two first-round matches for the Junior Heavyweight Championship tournament on the 11/21 Korakuen Hall show with Black Menso~re vs. Hikaru Sato and Koji Iwamoto vs Fuminori Abe. Also, to mark one year since his debut, Hokuto Omori will also participate in a Three Match Trial Series from 11/17-11/19 where he faces Jun Akiyama, Koji Iwamoto and Yoshitatsu in that order. And if that isn’t enough, Kyohei Wada celebrates his 45th anniversary as a referee on the 11/21 show with the matchup of Jun Akiyama, Osamu Nishimura & Mitsuo Momota vs. Takao Omori, Masanobu Fuchi & Great Kojika dedicated to that accomplishment.
Let’s now take a look at this year’s competitors in what will be AJPW’s longest tour of the year, featuring 20 shows.
World’s Strongest Tag Determination League 2019 Participants
Zeus & Ryouji Sai – World Tag Team Champions
Zeus and Sai were yet another seemingly thrown together tag team to give the Violent Giants another tag team title defense. Much to mine and many others surprise, they won the tag titles in a great match where Zeus put on a tremendous performance. They also had a good title defense on 10/24 against One World.
Still, I think they are transitional champions. They will be in the mix going into the final days of the tournament, but will probably finish somewhere around second or third place and will probably drop the tag titles to the tournament winners on the 1/2/20 Korakuen Hall show.
However, I expect this team to have a good tournament given how their run as champions has been so far. Likelihood of winning: Extremely unlikely.
The Bomber (Joe Doering & Dylan James) – 2018 Winners
Doering has not been a full-time wrestler in AJPW this year and has been dealing with nagging injuries. However, he looked a lot better than he has this year during September’s Odo Tournament.
James had a breakout performance in this year’s Champion Carnival but hasn’t been booked strongly since then which has been very disappointing. Hopefully, he will try to prove why he should be a main event wrestler in this company during this tournament.
I expect this team to be in some fun hoss matches. And while they will finish at the near the top of the rankings, I don’t seem them repeating as tournament winners, especially if Doering isn’t 100%. Likelihood of winning: Unlikely.
Violent Giants (SUWAMA & Shuji Ishikawa) – 2017 Winners
This team is my choice for the tag team of the year. They have had some great hoss battles against Strong BJ and carried weaker teams like The End to great matches.
Both guys on this team are getting up there in years and are well into their 40s. While both can still go in the ring, don’t be surprised if they put over other teams in this tournament to establish them. However, they will still be a factor going into the finals days of the tournament. Likelihood of winning: Unlikely, but not impossible.
Naoya Nomura & Jake Lee
Nomura and Lee are former World Tag Team Champions that had to vacate the titles due to Lee suffering a knee injury. They then went through an angle where they split up and became rivals, only to agree to team again this past summer.
They unsuccessfully challenged the Violent Giants for the tag titles in July, in a match many expected them to win.
Since then, they have both raised their stock with awesome Triple Crown challenges against Miyahara. Since they were both unsuccessful in dethroning Miyahara (so far), now is the time to give them something, especially since the top of the card in this company is getting stale. Likelihood of winning: The frontrunners.
NEXTREAM (Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi)
Miyahara and Aoyagi are probably the most common partners in the company. While not always teaming as a 2 man tag team, they are constant partners in six-man tags on the main event of smaller spot shows.
But with Yoshitatsu now teaming with Joel Redman, Miyahara and Aoyagi are now a team in this tournament.
With Nomura and Lee making big strides this year as they climb to the top of the card, this tournament would be a good chance for Aoyagi to get some big wins. While people don’t quite see him as being the kind of future champion Nomura and Lee will probably be, Aoyagi definitely has the potential to be a solid upper midcarder and title challenger and deserves the chance to show his true potential.
They will probably be finishing in the top half of the rankings and given that they are facing Nomura and Lee on the final night, they are probably going to figure into the final results of the tournament as either a spoiler or a possible winner on the final night, but I doubt they’ll win. Likelihood of winning: Unlikely.
One World (Yoshitatsu & Joel Redman)
Another thrown together team that has turned out to be a lot of fun. Their title challenge against Zeus and Sai was pretty good, and Redman and Zeus showed great chemistry.
Both Redman and Yoshitatsu have developed a vocal cult fanbase among AJPW fans. They will have support from the crowds. They will probably finish somewhere in the middle but even finishing second or third isn’t impossible, but don’t hold your breath for an outright victory. Likelihood of winning: Nil.
Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard – BJW Tag Team Champions
Our BJW participation in the tournament.
This team is technically going to be in two tag leagues at the same time. The BJW Saikyou Tag League ends on 11/26, however, Sekimoto and The Bodyguard have been eliminated.
I’m looking forward to this team going up against teams like Violent Giants, The Bomber, and The End in hoss battles.
Also, keep an eye out for their match against Miyahara and Aoyagi on 11/21 in Korakuen Hall. Could we see Sekimoto pin Miyahara to set up a Triple Crown challenge on 1/3/20?
Since they are also the BJW tag champs, I’d expect them to be protected and finish near the top. Winning it all seems unlikely, but I guess you can’t really rule it out. Likelihood of winning: Unlikely, but not impossible.
KAI & TAJIRI
These guys have tagged before in this tournament in 2017. They also recently unsuccessfully challenged Jake Lee and Koji Iwamoto for the All Asia Tag Team Championship in a match that wasn’t great.
The problem with this team is inconsistency. In KAI’s defense however is he has been good in tags this year, particularly in Dragon Gate. But in the All Asia rag title match, TAJIRI relied on cheap heel tactics and mist. And given the length of this tournament, I expect that to continue.
Anyway, they will probably finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Likelihood of winning: Nil.
The End (Odinson & Parrow)
After a shaky start in last year’s tournament, The End has managed to improve and have become a fun hoss team. Their match against Violent Giants this past June was awesome.
I think the stronger workmate teams in this tournament will pull some good stuff from these guys, but ultimately they will probably finish somewhere in the upper middle of the rankings. Likelihood of winning: Nil.
Gianni Valletta & Takashi Yoshida
When this match announced, this team got a lot of laughs and jeers. These guys are not exactly Kawada and Taue and haven’t teamed much outside of some undercard multiman tags during the Champion Carnival this year.
However, I will say this. Valletta has become passable since he started in AJPW and Yoshida is better suited for tags where he can come in and hit his power spots.
So while they are probably the weakest team in this tournament (though that may not be the case depending on how much effort TAJIRI puts in), it will not be some kind of all-time bad performance.
That being said, I expect them to finish dead last. Likelihood of winning: Nil.