As 2021 comes to a close with WrestleKingdom 16 beginning to take shape, the World Tag League begins, set to determine the challengers for the IWGP Tag Team Championship in January. For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the tournament, as many of New Japan’s gaijin talent will not be competing.
With the returns of Great Bash Heel and TenCozy after missing last year’s Tag League, this year’s tournament shakes up the format by adding Junior Heavyweight competitors for the first time since 2010.
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
- Past World Tag League Appearances: 2016-2020
- Accolades: 2020 World Tag League Champions
- Combined Win/Loss Record: 39-12
Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa are not only the reigning World Tag League champions but are the most dominant tag team competing in the tournament. The sons of Haku were either finalists or the then-current IWGP Tag Team Champions in the past before their WTL victory in 2020. After Wrestle Kingdom 15, G.o.D. won the IWGP Tag Team Championships, holding off the likes of Dangerous Tekkers and Goto & YOSHI-HASHI for the first half of the year. At the June 1 Road To Dominion show, they lost the titles to Dangerous Tekkers. With their strong showings in previous tournaments, the Good Bad Guy and the Silverback are heavy favorites to make it to the finals.
Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.)
- Past World Tag League Appearances: 2018-2020
- Combined Win/Loss Record: 23-14
The current IWGP Tag Team Champions, Taichi, and ZSJ have been competitive and relatively successful in their three previous outings in the tournament. Should they win the World Tag League as champions, they have more say on who they face at Wrestle Kingdom 15. The Suzuki-gun soldiers, however, have their work ahead of them. The incumbent Tag Team champs have yet to have won the tournament. In addition, they have to contend with the Guerrillas of Destiny, who gave them a hard time before defeating them for the Tag Team titles in their third attempt. Dangerous Tekkers have yet to defeat G.o.D. in the World Tag League. Tetsuya Naito & SANADA, who defeated the Tekkers for the titles before Taichi & Zack retained, may also prove to be a stumbling block.
Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma)
- Past World Tag League Appearances: 2009-2010, 2013-2016, 2019
- Accolades: 2015 & 2016 World Tag League Champions
- Combined Win/Loss Record: 24-26
A seasoned and acclaimed team in the World Tag League, Makabe and Honma’s chances of a third victory are not great. Outside of their World Tag League victories in 2015 and 2016, their efforts have been abysmal, as highlighted by their horrible combined record. Those victories also came before Honma’s severe neck injury that kept him out of action from Mach, 2017-June, 2018. They are 2-2 in 2v2 tag team matches in 2021, with one win coming from defeating the Junior team of Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi. Sadly the question isn’t will these acclaimed veterans pull the World Tag League hat trick but rather, will Honma hit his Kokeshi successfully at any point.
TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima)
- Past World Tag League Appearances: 1999-2001, 2008 2012-2019
- Accolades: 2001 & 2008 G1 Tag League Champions
- Combined Win/Loss Record: 47-46
Take nothing away from Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima, as both men have had long, fruitful careers in pro wrestling. TenCozy amassed several accolades, including being six-time IWGP Tag Team Champions, two G1 Tag League victories, and even consideration for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. They were strong competitors in the World Tag League until 2014. From then on, TenCozy’s dominant ways gave way to losing records (aside from 2016) and being bested by younger talent. Even though they are 5-1 in 2v2 tag matches in 2021, they don’t have a prayer of winning this year’s World Tag League.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI)
- Past World Tag League Appearances: 2017, 2020
- Combined Win/Loss Record: 9-7
Two-thirds of the most dominant NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions (with Ishii), Goto & YOSHI-HASHI as a duo have also made waves in New Japan’s Heavyweight Tag Team scene this year. They received two opportunities at the IWGP Tag Team Championships from the Guerrillas Of Destiny then Dangerous Tekkers. With Goto winning the World Tag League in 2012 and 2014 with two other partners, any chance the pair has of winning falls on YOSHI-HASHI. Considering that YOSHI-HASHI’s other World Tag League partner for five years straight was Kazuchika Okada, and they never made it to the finals, it’s a bit of a hard sell. At the very least, the pair will be a formidable obstacle for other teams to face.
House of Torture (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi)
- Past World Tag League Appearances: 2020
- Combined Win/Loss Record: 3-6
I’m just going to say it, EVIL and Yujiro have no shot of winning. They will have no intention of intentionally winning any of their matches clean. Like Gedo and Dick Togo in the Super Junior Tag Tournament earlier this year, House of Torture will use every dirty trick in the book, which will get them disqualified more often than not. Here’s hoping their matches will be short.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens)
- Past World Tag League Appearances: 2017, 2019-2020
- Combined Win/Loss Record: 12-19
Bad Luck Fale returned to New Japan for the first time since Sakura Genesis this past April. He and his Honorary Tongan brother, Chase Owens, make up the third Bullet Club team in the World Tag League. Like the House of Torture, expect cheating to happen, but not to the same extent. They’ll put away some teams with the Grenade Launcher and maybe play spoiler to other opponents. In the end, they’re almost certainly not going to get very far.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA)
- Debut Entry
Naito and SANADA were, briefly, IWGP Tag Team Champions in July of this year, willing and then losing the belts to Dangerous Tekkers. On paper, they are one of the stronger competitors in the tournament. However, Naito will be coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him from the G1 Climax.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano
- Debut Entry
Yeah, this pairing is a strange one. As Tanahashi had been teaming up with various CHAOS members against the Bullet Club, he and Yano have worked together in 2021. They’re a slightly stronger team that will have big wins, but I cannot see them competing in the World Tag League finals.
United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare)
- Debut Entry
Last year, the United Empire gave New Japan a much-needed shot in the arm. Despite travel issues caused by the pandemic and injuries keeping Will Opreay, O-Khan, Henare, and Jeff Cobb apart, the group continued to grow on a global scale. After Henare returned to New Japan in October after five months, he and O-Khan went on a 9-match winning streak. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how far they get.
Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask IV
- Debut Entry
This Hontai tag team has worked together now and again, but this is an odd pairing. The sudden inclusion of Junior Heavyweights to the field like Tiger Mask feels like New Japan filling holes in the tournament caused by the pandemic making travel a nightmare. It’s a different dynamic, to be sure. Due to Tiger being a Junior, opponents will be going after him, so I don’t see him and Nagata making too much headway.
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku)
- Debut Entry
After Suzuki’s tour in the US, he came back to fight in the World Tag League, and he brought an old friend. After two years away, TAKA Michinoku is back (mother fucker). I am excited to have him back and can’t wait for the destruction this team will unfurl. Like Tiger Mask though, TAKA being a Junior will make him a target in the tournament. Considering Suzuki and TAKA go back to the beginning of Suzuki-gun, they may still have some tricks up their sleeves.
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