By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “World Tag League & Super Jr. Tag League 2022”
November 22, 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 across a 24-day span. The 10 teams will compete in a round-robin format, so each team has nine matches, with the tournament winners earning a title shot at Wrestle Kingdom. Chris Charlton and Alex Zayne provided live commentary.
“FTR” Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler are the IWGP tagteam champions, but they are not competing in this tournament. Also notably absent are the team of Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi, as ZSJ already has a match lined up for Wrestle Kingdom on January 4. Another top team absent is Guerrillas of Destiny, as Tanga Loa is still injured. (I wouldn’t have minded a team-up of Tama Tonga and Hikuleo.) Point being, this is a wide-open field this year, although “Aussie Open” Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis have to be viewed as the favorites.
1. Ryohei Oiwa defeated Yuto Nakashima at 7:45. More basic mat wrestling from the Young Lions. Oiwa applied a Boston Crab, and Nakashima tapped out. These two are so good when facing top-level members of this roster, but they just keep it basic when it is one-on-one.
2. Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe defeated Oskar Leube and Kosei Fujita at 8:54. Leube is the tall, pale white German who is a lankier Gunther. He opened against Togi. Oskar and Honma traded hard chops. Fujita hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Honma and was fired up. Oskar hit a Hogan legdrop on Makabe for a nearfall. However, Makabe slammed Oskar for the pin.
3. Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi, and Bushi vs. Taichi, Desperado, and Douki ended in a draw at 3:22. Shingo and Taichi have been feuding off and on for the past few months, and apparently Taichi wants another shot at the KOPW trophy; they opened and traded chops and forearms. They all began brawling and the ref, for the second straight night, threw the match out. This is an acceptable outcome for this under-card feud.
4. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Shane Haste and Mikey Nichols (2) defeated Gabriel Kidd and Alex Coughlin (0) in a tournament match at 16:32. I like Kidd and Coughlin, but as recent Young Lion graduates, they might struggle here. I don’t know if Nichols has been in New Japan since before the pandemic. Nichols and Coughlin started, and Nichols hit a delayed vertical suplex. Haste entered and hit a basement dropkick on Kidd’s back at 3:00. Nichols, while on the floor, tripped Kidd, and that allowed TMDK to take over. Nichols whipped Kidd into the guardrail, and they took turns beating down Kidd in the ring.
Coughlin entered and suplexed both opponents at 10:00, then he hit a fallaway slam for a nearfall on Nichols. TMDK did a team suplelx move out of the corner on Coughlin for a nearfall. Kidd re-entered at 13:00 and hit some chops and a head-capture suplex on Haste for a nearfall. Kidd hit a second-rope moonsault to the floor onto everyone. Kidd dragged Haste into the ring and nailed a brainbuster for a nearfall, but Nichols made the save. Nichols hit a double clothesline. TMDK hit a team DDT move, with one leaping off the second rope. Nichols then slammed Kidd for the pin. Good match.
5. Minoru Suzuki and Lance Archer (2) defeated “The Bullet Club” Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens (0) in a tournament match at 10:33. Archer and Fale started and traded shoulder tackles, with neither man budging. Chase entered at 1:30 to face Suzuki, and they all immediately brawled to the floor. In the ring, Suzuki set up for a Gotch-style Piledriver, but Chase escaped it at 3:30. Suzuki dropped Chase with one forearm blow. Fale entered and hit several punches to Suzuki’s gut, then a running Stinger Splash in the corner at 5:30.
Suzuki applied a cross-armbreaker, and Fale immediately got his feet on the ropes. Fale and Archer tried to chokeslam each other. Chase hit a running kneestrike to Archer’s chest for a nearfall at 8:30. Chase set up for his package piledriver, but Archer escaped. Archer nailed a hard clothesline, then he hit the Blackout/flipping Razor’s Edge on Owens for the clean pin. That was fun, and it’s clear the crowd is going to be cheering Archer and Suzuki.
6. Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto (2) defeated “House of Torture” EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi (w/Dick Togo) (0) in a tournament match at 9:16. The HoT attacked before the bell, and they dominated early. Yoshi-Hashi hit a basement dropkick on Yujiro’s knee at 6:00. Goto made the hot tag and hit a bulldog and a hard clothesline. The ref got bumped, and EVIL hit a low blow on Yoshi-Hashi. Togo hopped in the ring and choked Goto with his wire. Out of nowhere, Yoh hopped in the ring and beat up Goto, so Sho hopped in the ring and beat up Yoh. Lio Rush hopped in the ring and helped beat up Sho. All the guys not in the match left the ring, allowing Goto and Yoshi-Hashi to hit their team slam on Yujiro. Naturally, the ref woke up just in time to make the pinfall count on Yujiro. Decent, and I didn’t mind all the interference here.
7. “Aussie Open” Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis (w/Gideon Grey) (2) defeated Toru Yano and Hiroshi Tanahashi (0) in a tournament match at 12:16. Hiromu and Fletcher opened, then Yano and Davis squared off at 2:00. They brawled to the floor, where Davis whipped Yano into the guardrail. In the ring, Davis hit a senton for a nearfall. The AO worked over Yano in their corner. Hiroshi entered at 8:00 and hit some dragon screw leg whips. Fletcher hit a half-nelson suplex on Hiroshi.
Yano got a schoolboy rollup on Davis for a nearfall. Davis nailed a massive senton on Yano for a believable nearfall at 11:00. AO hit superkicks on Hiroshi’s jaw, then they hit front-and-back clotheslines and the Korealis swinging slam, with Fletcher pinning Yano. The match you’d expect here.
8. Tetsuya Naito and Sanada (2) defeated “The United Empire” Aaron Henare and Great-O-Khan (0) in a tournament match at 22:40. I am disappointed that Henare has replaced Jeff Cobb in this tag team for the tournament. O-Khan and Naito opened with some silliness, with O-Khan autographing a book for Naito; the bell rang and Naito immediately got a rollup for a nearfall. They fought over the book, and this is more comedy than you’d expect from the main event slot. Henare and Sanada entered at 2:00, but Henare couldn’t figure out how to tie Sanada in the Paradise Lock.
The UE began working over Naito, and O-Khan choked him with his braid at 6:30. Sanada made the hot tag at 10:30 and he hit dropkicks on each UE member. Sanada hit Mongolian Chops and an airplane spin on O-Khan; Sanada was dizzy and collapsed, hitting a low blow on O-Khan, and the crowd loved this silliness. Sanada hit a mid-ring huracanrana on Henare at 14:30, and he made the hot tag back to Naito. Naito hit a basement dropkick on O-Khan’s back. (We have the 15-minute call, right on with my stopwatch, but Charlton thought it was 20 minutes.)
Sanada hit a back suplex and Naito immediately got a jackknife rollup for a nearfall. Naito tried for a tornado DDT but Henare blocked it. Henare nailed a Berzerker Bomb/modified Blue Thunder for a nearfall at 18:00. GOK hit a thrust to Naito’s throat. Naito hit a Destino out of nowhere on Henare for a nearfall. Henare nailed his football tackle on Naito at 20:30. Charlton is getting frantic, thinking we’re approaching 30 minutes, but we aren’t. O-Khan went to spray mist on Naito, but Naito ducked and it hit Henare in the face. Naito hit a Sanada-assisted DDT, then the Destino on Henare for the pin. Good match, but certainly not great. Charlton said that Great Muta is still in O-Khan’s head, and made him try using the mist.
* The other members of Los Ingobernobles de Japon entered the ring. Naito spoke on the mic, saying that all the wrestlers agree it is great to wrestle in front of vocal crowds. He thanked the crowd for being patient during this period. He said they’ll go all over the country in the next month. Naito led the crowd in saying the LIJ catchphrase, and Naito said they haven’t been able to do that since late 2019.
Final thoughts: Naito seems like he should have a major singles match at Wrestle Kingdom. If he doesn’t, I guess a teamup with Sanada versus FTR for the tag titles isn’t a terrible idea. I just prefer the FTR-Aussie Open rematch instead. The main event was good, but it had its share of comedy and a lot of extended beatdowns.
I have no idea how much “15” and “20” sound alike in Japanese, but Charlton is pretty fluent. However, he clearly said “20 minute call” when we hit 15 minutes even, and it thus affected his call of the action the rest of the way, thinking we were nearing the 30 minute time limit.
This Archer-Suzuki team promises to be fun. They likely won’t win the tournament, but they should finish third or so in total points behind Aussie Open and Naito/Sanada. I wouldn’t be surprised if they take some losses for being disqualified.
This is a grueling tournament, so I’m really glad that NJPW scheduled these events so the juniors have the day off every other show. The junior tag league is back in action on Wednesday.