Thursday, December 14, 2017

NJPW World Tag League Finals Review

NJPW World Tag League Finals
December 11th, 2017 | Fukuoka Convention Center in Fukuoka, Japan | Attendance: 3,147

The World Tag League is a largely forgettable round robin tournament set just before Wrestle Kingdom. It’s the time of the year where I mostly tune out NJPW. The last two years, I tried following, but couldn’t get into it. This year, I chose to only check out the finals. It works as a bit of a go-home for the Tokyo Dome, which should give us something to talk about.

David Finlay, Henare, Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura and Togi Makabe vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, TenKoji and Yuji Nagata
Togi Makabe brought his kids to work to take on the New Japan Dads. Tenzan started with Kitamura, who brought a lot of fire. Everyone got to shine a bit. Makabe wasn’t in the mood to bump, as expected, unless it was for Nagata. Kawato was his fun self, until Kojima put him down with a lariat at 6:58. About what you’ve come to expect from an opener like this. Some fun spots and good energy. [**½]

Chase Owens, Hangman Page, Leo Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Jeff Cobb, Michael Elgin and War Machine
Yujiro brought out Tokyo Latina, which is always the only time I become a Bullet Club fan. Cobb and Elgin didn’t do the War Machine paint, which is upsetting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the worst thing Elgin did that week. The highlight of this was watching Cobb manhandle everyone. I heard that he quickly got over in Japan, which I understand because they love their powerhouse gaijins. If NJPW cut ties with Elgin in 2018, Cobb would be a suitable replacement. War Machine hit Tonga with Fallout for the win in 8:28. Not bad, but other than the novelty of Cobb wrecking fools, it was completely skippable.[**¼]

Bad Luck Fale vs. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion BUSHI
The rare heavyweight vs. junior match. BUSHI scored an upset over Fale in a tag to set this up, though Hiromu would be the junior in LIDJ with a bigger beef against Fale. BUSHI did a fair amount of stalling, but once caught, Fale toyed with him. BUSHI spat the mist at Fale and hit a low blow for a lame DQ at 3:55. Yea, this wasn’t any good. I also don’t like how inconsistent NJPW rules are sometimes. Low blows are only DQs when it serves the story. [¾*]

Best Friends vs. Death Juice
These teams were in opposite blocks during the tournament. I don’t like Sami Callihan, but enjoyed him as Jeremiah Crane in Lucha Underground. Chuckie T and Beretta are a fun group, who had a stellar match in PWG earlier this year. Both teams worked well together here. The crowd was into everything Juice did, though less so with everyone else, which is a shame because Beretta has been very good this year. There was a fun spot where Chuckie hit a dive outside and ran up the ramp to high five his buddy. Sami came close with a powerbomb and Stretch Muffler, before falling to the Dudebuster at 11:56. That was better than expected. The action was solid, but what made it work was the quirky antics of both units. [***]

El Desperado, IWGP Tag Team Champions The Killer Elite Squad and NEVER Openweight Champion Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI
I’m just assuming this feud will never end. Lance Archer got to be an impressive powerhouse at times. He clubbed everything moving, slammed them around and jawed with the fans. Minoru attacked Goto in the crowd, continuing their build. Yano was Yano, while Ishii did his equivalent of mostly taking the night off. He did get a pretty solid hot tag spot. It came down to a Suzuki/Goto interaction, before everyone went outside and left Desperado with Goto. Don’t teams realize that leaving a junior heavyweight with a heavyweight usually results in the finish? Goto applied the sleeper and won via GTR in 11:54. It was Suzuki-Gun vs. CHAOS and nothing more. Moving on. [**]

Post-match, they seemed to officially set up Suzuki/Goto for Wrestle Kingdom. You know, the same match we got on a “Road to” show in April and at Dominion. The ones that haven’t been good in the slightest. I would’ve totally booked Minoru/Ishii for the Dome. Ishii is so much better, deserves a spot like this in the Dome and gives us a fresh match.

ROH World Champion Cody and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Marty Scurll vs. Kota Ibushi and KUSHIDA
KUSHIDA and Scurll meet as part of a four way at WK12, while Kota meets Cody in an ROH Title match. Cody and Marty haven’t quite gotten over big in Japan. Cody’s had a string of solid, but unspectacular matches, while Marty hasn’t done a whole lot. Marty and KUSHIDA had some quality back and forth to preview part of their WK12 outing. KUSHIDA played face in peril and Kota’s hot tag was fun, but short lived. Kota and Cody brawled on the ramp, where Cody hit a Cross Rhodes that Kota sold like his neck broke. In the ring, Scurll threw powder in the eyes of KUSHIDA (which the camera missed like Kevin Dunn was producing) and rolled him up to steal it at 12:21. That was the best thing on the show so far. It took a bit to get going, though the back half was strong. It also succeeded in building WK12 with the cheap Scurll spot and Cody hurting Kota’s neck. [***¼]

After the match, Scurll bragged to commentary, while Cody called Kota the Brutus Beefcake to Kenny Omega’s Hulk Hogan. Ouch.

IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks vs. Rocky Romero and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Roppongi 3K
This was here to build Roppongi 3K/Bucks for the Dome. With him gearing up for the Tokyo Dome, we got t-shirt Kenny. Due to that, a lot of the focus of the match was on RPG 3K against the Bucks. Commentary continually hyped the Bucks as the best Jr. Heavyweight tag team in NJPW history. I mean, they have the most reigns, but barely ever get in successful defenses. Kenny and Rocky had a few solid interactions, though nothing special. We did get to see Rocky’s FOREVER clotheslines. In the end, Kenny scored with the One Winged Angel on Rocky in 11:11. Solid little match that showed the Jr. Tag Title match at WK has potential. [**¾]

Kenny Omega’s celebration was cut short by another Chris Jericho video. It was an odd video, but was just the setup for real angle. The lights came on and Jericho was in the ring. He hit the Codebreaker on Kenny and busted him open with a shot from the US Title. Some friends the Young Bucks are, they disappeared. Don Callis got in the ring to check on Kenny after Jericho left. Jericho saw this and got back in. He hit Callis with a Codebreaker, which Callis sold like death. Jericho posed with the US Title until the Bucks finally returned with a baseball bat to run him off. I liked that this added intensity to the match. It won’t just be two guys working on their names. It should lead to a match with a more deliberate pace that should work in Jericho’s favor. Don Callis did a stretcher job out of the arena.

Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay
Obviously, this builds towards Naito/Okada and the Jr. Title match at WK12. Okada and Naito started with a strong exchange, before Ospreay and Hiromu moved at a crazy pace. Ospreay took the heat segment and when Okada got tagged, he looked to apply his new modified cobra clutch. Commentary hyped it as a big deal and it will clearly play a factor in the Wrestle Kingdom main event. Could Okada have added something new that will allow him to retain? We got more from Ospreay and Hiromu, including Will taking an insane bump on a corner belly to belly. Hiromu finished him with the Time Bomb, while Okada was dumped outside at 14:23. Lots of action and hype for the Tokyo Dome matches. Very good stuff. [***¼]

Post-match, Tetsuya Naito got on the microphone. Whatever he said set up a brawl. He went for Destino, but Okada countered it into that cobra clutch again. Hiromu had to save Naito, who couldn’t escape. However, he ended up on the cobra clutch as well. Chaos left LIDJ out cold. That cobra clutch/Destino stuff is going to be quite exhilarating come January 4th.

World Tag League Finals: EVIL and SANADA vs. The Guerrillas of Destiny
GOD made the WTL Finals last year, while EVIL made it in 2015 with Tetsuya Naito. SANADA’s a WTL Finals rookie. There was some added tension here, as apparently GOD weren’t happy with the LIDJ guys using their own version of the Magic Killer. The early portions of the match did nothing for me. LIDJ took the heat segment, which isn’t something they’re suited for. It’s not GOD’s strong suit either, but them with the advantage isn’t as interesting. BUSHI got a run-in but was chased away by Fale, most likely setting up GOD & Fale against LIDJ for the NEVER Tag Titles. The closing stretch took this up a notch and was easily the highlight. EVIL got the win for his guys at 21:57. Like a lot of NJPW main events, I think this would’ve been better served if it was a bit shorter. The first half of this match was a lot of nothing, but the closing stretch delivered enough to save it. [**¾]

Overall: 5.5/10. An average event in terms of in-ring quality, made memorable by the Omega/Jericho angle. BUSHI/Fale was ass and the early multi-man tags were typically decent and nothing special. There were some strong matches in the tags involving Naito, KUSHIDA and Best Friends, but most things were either forgettable or underwhelmed (like the main event).