By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “World Tag League & Super Jr. Tag League”
November 21, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World
NJPW is running both the Junior Tag League and the heavyweight “World Tag League” simultaneously over 17 shows. This event kicks off the nearly month-long event, with 10 teams in a round-robin format, so each team has nine matches. Chris Charlton and Chase Owens provided live commentary.
TJP and Francesco Akira are the current champions, so I don’t expect them to win the tournament. Likewise, they just beat Titan and Bushi, so I don’t see that duo winning the tournament to set up a quick rematch.
1. Kosei Fujita defeated Yuto Nakashima at 8:01. Fujita focused on the left elbow. Fujita applied a Boston Crab, and Yuto tapped out. As basic as it gets.
2. Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare, Kyle Fletcher, and Mark Davis (w/Gideon Grey) defeated Oskar Luebe, Ryohei Oiwa, Tomoaki Honma, and Togi Makabe at 9:27. I said this a day ago, but Oskar is pale white and a tall, skinnier Gunther. Davis and Honma opened, with Mark hitting some hard chops. O-Khan entered and squared off with Oiwa. All eight brawled on the floor. Back in the ring, Davis and Fletcher passed Oiwa back and forth before hitting the longest-ever delayed vertical suplex at 5:30.
Oiwa hit a dropkick and tagged in Makabe at 7:00 for the first time. Makabe hit a clothesline on Henare for a nearfall. Oskar tagged in and traded blows with Fletcher, and Oskar hit a Hogan legdrop for a nearfall. Davis and Fletcher hit their “Korealis” team spinning slam on Oskar for the win. O-Khan spoke on the mic and vowed that the United Empire is going to dominate both the junior and world tag leagues.
3. Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, and Desperado vs. Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo Takagi, and Tetsuya Naito ended in a double-count out at 7:26. Shingo and Taichi attacked each other before the bell. They brawled to the floor and were both nearly counted out. Desperado and Hiromu traded overhand chops. Desperado applied a Stretch Muffler at 3:00, but Naito made the save. Suzuki attacked Naito, pulling him off the ring apron to the floor. Shingo and Taichi re-entered and continued to brawl. We had three separate brawls going on, with no one in the ring. Shingo and Taichi brawled to a far wall, then back to ringside, but were both counted out. A satisfying brawl, and no one had to eat a loss.
4. El Lindaman and Alex Zayne (2) defeated Kevin Knight and Kushida (0) in a tournament match at 10:18. Charlton explained how this is Kushida’s first matches since September after a bout with foot-and-mouth disease. Kushida and Knight worked over Lindaman’s arm early on. Zayne hit the Baja Blast swinging faceplant on Knight at 4:00. Lindaman bit Knight’s arm as he worked it over, getting quite a pop. Knight hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on Lindaman, and he made the hot tag to Kushida at 6:30.
Kushida unloaded a series of kicks on Zayne, and a kneedrop on Zayne’s arm. Kushida applied a cross-armbreaker on Lindaman, while Knight had Zayne in a Sharpshooter. Zayne and Knight traded stiff forearm shots. Knight hit his picture-perfect dropkick to the face. He then hit a dropkick as Zayne was on Kushida’s shoulders! Lindaman hit a German Suplex, dumping Kushida high on his neck. Zayne then nailed the top rope Cinammon Twist/Phoenix Splash on Knight for the pin. That was a heck of a way to open the tournament.
5. Clark Connors and Ryusuke Taguchi (2) beat Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Douki (0) in a tournament match at 8:33. Taguchi came out dressed like Connors in a cowboy hat, looking like Jimmy Wang Yang. (cringe!) Kanemaru and Taguchi — probably my least two favorite to watch in this tournament — started, and Taguchi hit his running butt bump. The heels worked over Taguchi. Clark made the hot tag at 4:30 and he speared Douki in the corner. Douki nailed a dive through the ropes on Connors.
Douki hit a top-rope doublestomp to the chest for a nearfall on Connors, then he applied the “Douki chokey” triangle choke. Meanwhile, Kanemaru had Taguchi in a Figure Four Leglock. Connors reached the ropes at 6:30. Douki hit a slingshot DDT for a nearfall on Connors. Douki hit a thrust to Connors’ neck. Connors hit a powerslam on Douki. Connors and Taguchi hit simultaneous butt bumps to Douki’s head. Connors cut Douki in half with a spear, then he hit his one-handed modified chokeslam on Douki for the pin. Solid match.
6. Robbie Eagles and Tiger Mask (2) defeated “The House of Torture” Sho and Dick Togo (0) in a tournament match at 9:28. The heels attacked at the bell. The faces hit simultaneous kicks to Sho’s chest. Togo beat up Eagles on the floor, and Sho took control of Eagles in the ring. Eagles hit a spin kick to Sho’s face at 4:30 and made the hot tag to Tiger Mask. Sho hit a spear on Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask hit a sit-out powerbomb, and they were both down.
Eagles entered and hit a running knee on Togo at 6:30. Eagles applied the Jaime Noble-style Trailer Hitch leglock, and Togo tapped out, but the ref didn’t see it. Togo applied a crossface on the mat. Togo hit a HHH-style Pedigree. Tiger Mask dove through the ropes onto Sho. Eagles hit a springboard dropkick on Togo, and he once again applied the Trailer Hitch, and Togo tapped out.
7. “Bullet Club” Ace Austin and Chris Bey (2) defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Bushi and Titan (0) in a tournament match at 13:28. The heels attacked at the bell. Titan hit a top-rope doublestomp on Bey’s left arm. Charlton and Chase bantered that they both “wish Kevin (Kelly) was here.” The heels began working over Titan. Ace hit a gutwrench suplex at 3:30. This was an extended beatdown, until Bushi made the hot tag at 9:00. Austin hit a back suplex and spin kick to Bushi’s head.
Titan hit a top-rope moonsault to the floor at 11:30. In the ring, Bushi hit a Lungblower to Bey’s chest. Ace hit a spin kick. Bey hit an impressive flip dive to the floor. Ace hit The Fold/flipping faceplant on Bushi. Bey then hit a Ace-assisted stunner on Bushi for the pin.This started really slow but the last five minutes were really, really good.
8. “United Empire” TJP and Francesco Akira (2) defeated Lio Rush and Yoh (0) in a tournament match at 19:03. Charlton said TJP doesn’t look like’s aged a day since he debuted, which is fairly true. Yoh and TJP started with mat reversals. Lio and Akira entered at 3:00. LIo hit a huracanrana and kipped to his feet, getting a nice pop. Akira hit a plancha to the floor on Yoh. The UE began working over Yoh. Akira hit a senton for a nearfall at 8:30. LIo made the hot tag and he hit a second-rope moonsault and a series of clotheslines.
Rush hit a dive through the ropes on TJP, then one on Akira, at 10:30. In the ring, Rush hit a back suplex on Akira for a nearfall. Rush clotheslined TJP over the top rope to the floor. Yoh and Akira traded stiff forearm shots, and Yoh hit a wheelbarrow slam for a nearfall. Rush hit a Shining Wizard on TJP. Akira hit a Dragon Suplex, and suddenly, everyone was down at 14:00.
Akira hit a German Suplex with a bridge for a nearfall on Yoh. The UE hit their team X-Factor faceplant on Yoh, then simultaneous kneestrikes. TJP nailed the Mambo Splash frogsplash on Yoh for a believable nearfall, but Lio made the saveat 17:00. TJP and Yoh traded rollups. Lio and Yoh nailed simultaneous superkicks on TJP. Rush hit his stunner out of the ropes, and Yoh nailed a neckbreaker over his knee for a nearfall on TJP. The crowd was hot. TJP got a rollup on Yoh out of nowhere for the pin. Fantastic.
* TJP and Akira each said a few words in Japanese on the mic. Gideon Grey got on the mic and started to say “goodby and good luck” (Kenny Omega’s catchphrase) but he got booed and stopped. Funny.
Final Thoughts: That was a fantastic main event. Charlton said TJP and Akira are now 5-0 as a team, but I fully expected them to lose here. Lio Rush is just so good when he’s healthy in body and mind, and he looked great here. I really enjoyed Zayne/Lindaman’s tag match for second-best, then Ace/Bey tag for third place.
The field looks fairly even this year, and it won’t be surprising if nearly every team winds up 5-4 or 4-5. I do feel like it is missing some star power, as Hiromu Takahashi, El Desperado, Taiji Ishimori and Master Wato have a four-way match at Wrestle Kingdom, so none of them are competing in the tournament.
The show clocked in at just under three hours.