By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “World Tag League & Super Jr. Tag League 2022”
November 23, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi
Streamed live on New Japan World
NJPW is running both the Super Junior and 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. Each win is worth two points. We have Japanese only commentary on this event.
This venue seems to be the equivalent of a small college’s gym; larger than a high school’s gym. The floor is full, but seats in the risers are only partially filled. I’ll estimate the crowd at 600-800.
1. Oskar Leube & Kosei Fujita defeated Ryohei Oiwa & Yuto Nakashima at 7:43. Oskar and teammate Kosei were arguing before the bell, which is never a good sign for a new tag team. I believe this is the first time we’ve see Oskar go against the other Young Lions; he opened against Yuto with some stiff forearm shots. Fujita put Oiwa in a Boston Crab, and Oiwa tapped out. Basic opener.
2. Taiji Ishimori, Gedo, Bad Luck Fale, and Chase Owens defeated Tomoaki Honma, Master Wato, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Jado at 8:12. Ishimori and Wato are among four competitors in the junior title match on Jan. 4, and that’s the only storyline here. Honma and Owens opened, with Owens missing a Kokeshi falling headbutt (Honma’s move). Wato and Ishimori got in at 4:00 and sped it up with quicker reversals. Gedo entered and brawled with Jado. Tenzan clotheslined Fale over the top rope to the floor. Honma hit his Kokeshi on Gedo. Owens hit his ‘C-Trigger’ kneestrike to the collarbone on Jado for the pin. Okay stuff.
3. Taichi, Desperado, and Lance Archer defeated Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, and Hiromu Takahashi via count-out at 10:36. The heels ran down the ramp to attack Naito’s team to start the match, and everyone was brawling on the floor. Archer worked over Naito in the ring, and this feels like a fresh matchup; Naito never had time to take off his shirt and pants. Desperado and Hiromu began trading blows at 4:30; they are the other participants in that four-way on Jan. 4. Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall. Desperado hit a spinebuster, and they were both down.
Shingo and Taichi entered at 6:30 and they traded blows; Taichi is focused on winning back the KOPW trophy from Shingo. Archer entered and hit a Pounce on Naito that sent him flying. More of this, please! Shingo and Taichi traded blows and clotheslines on the floor and ignored the count. Taichi leapt into the ring right before the 20-count, and Shingo was counted out.
4. Kushida and Kevin Knight (2) defeated Sho and Dick Togo (0) in a tournament match at 9:32. Both teams lost on night 1, so someone is going to start 0-2. The heels worked over Knight early on. Kushida made the hot tag at 5:30 and hit a handspring-back-elbow on Sho. Sho hit a punt kick on Kushida’s left elbow, and Kushida screamed in pain. Sho and Kushida traded kicks, and Sho was selling an elbow injury too. The heels hit a double shoulder tackle on Kushida, and Togo applied a crossface, but Kushida reached the ropes at 8:00.
EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi appeared at ringside to help cheat. Knight hit his picture-perfect dropkick on Sho, then a planca. That left Kushida and Togo in the ring. Kushida hit his hammerlock suplex with a bridge to score the pin. Decent action. It’s so good to see Kushida back after a couple month layoff due to illness.
5. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Bushi and Titan (2) defeated Ryusuke Taguchi and Clark Connors (2) in a tournament match at 10:04. Taguchi again is wearing the cowboy hat, looking like Jimmy Wang Yang. Connors and Taguchi pounded beers before the bell. LIJ attacked Connors before the bell. Connors hit his Pounce on Titan. Taguchi tied up Titan on the mat. Bushi applied a leglock around Connors’ head at 4:30, and LIJ began working Connors over.
Taguchi entered and hit some Eddie Guerrero-style rolling suplexes at 7:00. Titan hit a springboard missile dropkick on both opponents, then a flip dive to the floor on them. Titan hit a springboard frogsplash for a nearfall. Titan hit his springboard doublestomp to Taguchi’s back, and Bushi covered Taguchi for the pin. Good, fast-paced match. Taguchi stayed away from his brand of silliness that makes my eyes roll. So often, the build to the hot tag mid-match goes too long, but it felt the right length here.
6. Lio Rush and Yoh (2) defeated Tiger Mask and Robbie Eagles (2) in a tournament match at 9:52. Lio and Yoh hit some quick team moves early on Eagles. Eagles hit an impressive flip dive through the ropes, barreling into Lio at 2:00. Tiger Mask and Eagles hit simultaneous kicks on Rush. Yoh hit a Falcon Arrow slam on Eagles for a nearfall at 5:00.
Tiger Mask hit a spin kick to Yoh’s head for a nearfall. TM hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee on Lio, then a Tiger/butterfly powerbomb on Yoh for a nearfall. Eagles unloaded a series of kicks on Lio. Yoh nailed a Lungblower on Eagles at 9:00, then a superkick. Yoh and Rush hit their modified FTR-style Big Rig on Tiger Mask, and Yoh covered him for the pin. Good match that Yoh and Rush needed to stay in the running; I couldn’t imagine them starting in a 0-2 hole.
7. “Bullet Club” Chris Bey and Ace Austin (4) defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Douki (0) in a tournament match at 11:09. Bey hit a plancha to the floor on Kanemaru early on, and Austin followed with a Fosbury Flop to the floor. The Bullet Club worked over Kanemaru in the ring. Bey hit a standing moonsault as Austin hit a legdrop to the throat at 6:30. Kanemaru hit a DDT on Bey and he tagged in Douki.
Douki hit a huracanrana on Austin. Douki nailed a dive through the ropes onto Ace at 9:30. Back in the ring, Douki hit a top-rope doublestomp to the chest, and he applied the “Douki chokey” modified triangle choke on Austin, but Bey made the save. Ace hit The Fold/flipping faceplant on Douki for the pin. Good action.
8. “The United Empire” TJP and Francesco Akira (w/Gideon Grey) (4) defeated Alex Zayne and El Lindaman (2) in a tournament match at 18:56. TJP and Akira are the junior tag champions, which is why I expect them to NOT win this tournament. Zayne and Akira started with quick reversals, with neither man able to hit their major offense. TJP and Lindaman entered at 2:00, and they traded mat holds. Lindaman hit a DDT, and he bit TJP’s arm at 5:30. TJP hit a top-rope dive to the floor on Zayne, and the UE began working over Lindaman in the ring.
TJP hit a back suplex on Zayne that sent Alex to the floor, and the UE kept working over Lindaman. Lindaman finally hit a neckbreaker as TJP was in the ropes at 10:00, and he made the hot tag to Zayne. Zayne hit a series of clotheslines and a swinging faceplant on Akira. The UE hit simultaneous dropkicks on Zayne at 12:00. Zayne hit a double suplex, and they were all down, and the crowd was hot. Lindaman tagged back in and traded forearm shots with TJP.
The UE hit their team X-Factor faceplant on Lindaman at 13:30. Akira hit a doublestomp on Lindaman’s chest, and TJP hit the Mamba Splash frogsplash on Lindaman for a nearfall, but Zayne made the save. Zayne suplexed TJP onto Akira, and Lindaman hit a German Suplex on TJP for a nearfall. LIndaman hit a flip dive to the floor on Akira. Zayne got a jackknife cover on TJP for a believable nearfall at 17:30. Zayne missed the top-rope Phoenix Splash. TJP and Zayne traded mat holds, and TJP got a rollup for the pin. That was fantastic and easily the best match of the first two nights of the juniors.
* TJP spoke on the mic. Grey also spoke briefly, both essentially saying the United Empire will keep winning.
Final Thoughts: What a main event. TJP and Akira were both 4-5 in the Best of Super Juniors tournament earlier this year, but they have just clicked as a tag team. That match had a lot of fun nearfalls. Being as I expect them to NOT win the tournament, there were some nearfalls where I expected Zayne and Lindaman to pull out a win.
Literally yesterday, I was expressing indifference on the idea of Naito & Sanada winning World Tag League, saying Naito deserves a better singles match at Wrestle Kingdom. After what we saw here… how about Naito vs. Archer in a singles match?
I really like that it appears NJPW will be rotating roster members in the opening, non-tournament matches, to remind us of other feuds going on, such as Wato getting to square off with Ishimori.
When it comes to these tournaments, NJPW values parity. I fully expect of the 20 teams in the two tournaments, 12 will finish either 4-5 or 5-4. So far, we have two teams at 2-0, six at 1-1, and two at 0-2.
No tournament action on Thursday. When we return on Friday, we are having the juniors again. So, it means that the heavyweights in World Tag League won’t be back in action until Saturday.