Power Struggle tour is over and we’re not quite to January 4 yet. This can only mean one thing: it’s NJPW World Tag League time!
The NJPW World Tag League has a reputation for being the most skippable tour of the New Japan calendar and going from 182 tournament matches last year up to 240 this year makes it look a chore more than ever.
This year’s tournament features 16 teams in a single block league running from November 16 to December 8 with a winner determined by points scored.
There is merit to that claim that World Tag League is skippable but it does produce some gems every year and it is my duty, no, it is my honor to get you pumped for some of these potential NJPW World Tag League 2019 gems in this preview.
NJPW World Tag League 2019 Participants
IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS
TAMA TONGA AND TANGA LOA
In kayfabe these guys would be the favorites, they’ve held the titles since February — successfully defending the belts six times against a wide range of teams and even winning another companies tag titles too.
This sounds like an extremely impressive tag run but it’s been actually pretty flat. Guerillas of Destiny have largely been out of sight out of mind as they parachute in for tours, defend the titles then vanish. Their title defenses have ranged from painfully mediocre to decent. They’ll win a lot, but enough to win? Probably not. They’ll finish close to the top, however.
Match to watch: One team down in this preview and I’m already going for the lazy option of EVIL and SANADA.
EVIL AND SANADA
The two-time defending champs return to NJPW World Tag League. These two should’ve been the tag aces: two popular guys defending the titles against up mid-carder and main event guys that don’t have anything to do for a month, established tag teams, tag teams from other companies, everyone and anyone, just to elevate these belts. Instead, their two reigns were over before you knew it and had no lasting memories.
It’s the NJPW World Tag League, it’s EVIL and SANADA they are always a chance to win again however my crystal ball is telling me there are singles matches in both of their Wrestle Kingdom futures so I believe they’ll get spoiled on the final night
Match to watch: vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi is what I’ll go with. I think it is pretty obvious SANADA will challenge ZSJ at one of the nights at the dome for the British title so I’m interested to see how this one plays out.
TOMOHIRO ISHII AND YOSHI-HASHI
I love big Tom Ish, he’s in my top five favorite wrestlers in the world and YOSHI-HASHI is a wrestler for New Japan Pro Wrestling. These two teamed throughout September eventually failing to capture the tag titles in what can only be described as a match that happened. This is one of those teams that can uncover one of those precious NJPW World Tag League gem matches but can also have perfectly average matches (despite Ishii). There is a reality where this team wins and YOSHI-HASHI wins his first title in New Japan (or ever?). However this is not the reality where that happens, they’ll finish middle of the pack.
Match to watch: vs. EVIL & SANADA. Yes, yes, yes I know what you’re thinking but this is only because I think EVIL and Ishii are going to have some quasi NEVER title number one contenders match at the dome and want to see this advance that.
TORU YANO AND COLT CABANA
The comedy team. This will be a funny team for the first four matches maybe before it gets old. Fingers crossed they don’t blow their comedy load at the Korakuen shows and can do unique stuff in all their matches. They’ll finish near the bottom.
Match to watch: vs. Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer. The seriousness of these guys will probably make for some interesting comedy and good flash pin nearfalls.
JEFF COBB AND MIKEY NICHOLLS
In the words of Frankenstein “He’s Alive!” that’s right folks, my fellow countryman “Mad” Mikey Nicholls is back in Shin Nihon. His NJPW run has definitely left some people very disappointed. I do think he is a much better tag wrestler than a singles wrestler so there is that. I like Cobb, Cobb is good and should at least give some pretty decent effort if the last two World Tag Leagues are anything to go by. Middle-bottom is where these guys will end up.
Match to watch: Ummmmmm, maybe vs. Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa. Mostly because it’ll be interesting to see how much they give Cobb before Nicholls takes the fall.
ZACK SABRE JR. AND TAICHI
‘Dangerous Tekkerz’ has returned for another go at NJPW World Tag League glory. They were a surprise team last year in the way that they had some really good matches. I think we can count on them to be up there again this year as Zack is Zack and Taichi is having a career-best year. With a big RevPro title defense most likely coming up in January I can see these guys finishing near the top.
Match to watch: vs. Suzuki & Archer again. Inter-faction matches are always cool and good.
JUICE ROBINSON AND DAVID FINLAY
Without knowing Jon Moxley’s Wrestle Kingdom plans, these guys might actually have the most realistic chance at winning the entire thing. Both pretty over, both have nothing (maybe) to do. You can definitely see them winning. These two always put in good effort and any wrestler in training should be forced to watch the these guys on the single-cam house shows just to watch what makes Juice one of the most elite pro wrestlers in the world.
Match to watch: vs. Tanahashi & Henare. They’re all mates, they’re all great and all have good chemistry with each other.
TOGI MAKABE AND TOMOAKI HONMA
My first ‘why are these guys here?’ of the preview. I know the answer but it doesn’t stop me from asking. Makabe doesn’t take bumps any more and Honma has been painfully bad for a while. They’ll finish at or near the bottom.
Match to watch: vs. Toru Yano & Colt Cabana. It’ll be short.
MINORU SUZUKI AND LANCE ARCHER
Here we go baby, a shinning light in this year’s field. Archer has been GREAT all year and Suzuki can still go and thankfully won’t be weighed down by Iizuka this year. I fully expect them to have some of the better matches of this tournament and finish pretty close to the top. There are 100% some gems to be uncovered with this team.
Match to watch: vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay. You’d think either Mox or Juice will challenge Archer for US title at the dome and this match should give us insight into what is happening there as well as being really good.
KENTA AND YUJIRO TAKAHASHI
This team exists for one reason.
Match to watch: vs. Goto & Fredericks. This match is the only reason these teams are in this tournament. The sole purpose is to advance the NEVER title match story at Tokyo Dome whether that be Goto facing KENTA or the potential juicy, juicy return of an LA Dojo head trainer (Shibata).
HIROYOSHI TENZAN AND SATOSHI KOJIMA
Wouldn’t be NJPW World Tag League without them. Kojima is still really good; he’s one half of the New Japan Dads that are still good. Tenzan walks on 25% of his feet and is one of half the New Japan Dads that is washed. They’ll still pull off some pretty decent little matches—because that’s what legends do—however, most of the matches will be bland like my mother’s cooking.
Match to watch: vs. Shingo & Terrible. Kojima and Shingo had a really good match in June so you know this will be at least half really good.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI AND TOA HENARE
Henare is young, great and hungry which is always a good combo and Tanahashi will put on a master class of how to get a lot out of doing absolutely nothing. These guys will finish surprisingly high.
Match to watch: vs. Goto & Fredericks: Two young guys, two veterans. I don’t know just seems tasty to me.
YUJI NAGATA AND MANABU NAKANISHI
Excuse me while I just copy and paste. Wouldn’t be NJPW World Tag League without them. Nagata is still really good; he’s one half of the New Japan Dads that are still good. Nakanishi walks on 25% of his feet and is one of half the New Japan Dads that is washed. They’ll still pull off some pretty decent little matches—because that’s what legends do—however, most of the matches will be bland like my mother’s cooking.
Match to watch: vs. Fale & Owens because that means no one else is wrestling them, no disrespect to Chase.
HIROOKI GOTO AND KARL FREDERICKS
Very similar to the KENTA/Takahashi preview but there are obviously more layers to this team. Goto is Katsuyori Shibata’s best friend and Fredericks is Shibata’s standout student. This team exists to advance either Shibata returning or Shibata cornering Goto in the NEVER title match at Wrestle Kingdom.
Match to watch: vs. KENTA & Takahashi. See KENTA and Takahashi preview.
BAD LUCK FALE AND CHASE OWENS
In the G1 Climax, Owens practically wrestled Fale’s block matches for him, now with any luck he’ll do the same here. Hopefully they’re all six-minute matches with Chase wrestling five and a half minutes of them. These guys will finish inexplicably in the middle somewhere on their road to a NEVER Six-Man gauntlet at Wrestle Kingdom.
Match to watch: vs. EVIL & SANADA. I really like EVIL and SANADA.
SHINGO TAKAGI AND TERRIBLE
Interesting team and the only realistic partner for Shingo given the CMLL feud with Rush. These guys will have good matches on the back of Shingo but will ultimately finish middle-bottom somewhere. Terrible was apart of the Fantasticamania tour all the way back in January and was serviceable.
Match to watch: vs. Suzuki & Archer. Like most of these matches to watch, there are Wrestle Kingdom implications here. Suzuki and Shingo were been going at each other during the Power Struggle/Jr. Tag League tour and that looks like it could continue at Dome.
NJPW World Tag League Winners Prediction
The usual favorites are all looking like they have plans for Wrestle Kingdom, so where does that leave us? It’s hard to pick just one team so I’m predicting a three-way tie leading to a four-way match at Tokyo Dome.
For extra context remember there are two Tokyo Dome shows this year so a team can win the Tag League, challenge for the IWGP Tag Team titles on January 4 then have their singles match on January 5. With this caveat in place, here are the three teams I see emerging:
- EVIL and SANADA
- Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI
- Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi
This three-way tie helps builds EVIL vs. Ishii as well as SANADA vs. ZSJ as well for the next night.
Alternatively, Jon Moxley is booked for Tokyo Dome and challenges Lance Archer for the IWGP United States Championships opening up Robinson and Finlay to win the Tag League and challenge for the titles.