By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “World Tag League & Super Jr. Tag League 2022”
November 28, 2022 in Nagano, Japan at Nagano Athletic Park Gymnasium
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. These 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. This is the fifth show for the Super Junior Tag League; this is overall show #7 of 17 in the tournament.
This is one of the smaller gyms that NJPW uses, and the crowd is perhaps 600 to 1,000. No guardrails, which is weird, but the seats are far away from the ring. We have Japanese commentary. Six of the 10 teams in World Tag League have matches here in the undercard.
1. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Shane Haste and Mickey Nicholls defeated Yuto Nakashima and Oskar Leube at 8:24. TMDK are off to a solid 2-1 start in World Tag League. Oskar hit some big bodyslams on Nicholls; I keep using this phrase, but he’s a lankier Gunther and I see a lot of promise in this Young Lion. TMDK beat up Yuto on the floor, then in the ring. Oskar got the hot tag and hit a Hogan Legdrop. Nicholls hit a Blue Thunder Bomb to pin Oskar. Solid match.
2. “United Empire” Great-O-Khan and Aaron Henare and “Aussie Open” Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher defeated Rohei Oiwa, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Toru Yano, and Kosei Fujita at 9:45. Just to be clear, AO are a team within the UE, and these aligned teams will meet at some point later in the tournament. GOK and Yano started. and Yano dragged him by his braid. The UE began working over Fujita. Fletcher passed Fujita to Davis as they gave Fujita a delayed vertical suplex at 5:00.
Tanahashi finally made the hot tag and he cleared the ring. Fletcher hit a half-nelson suplex on Hiroshi. Hiroshi hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip on Henare. Oiwa made the hot tag at 8:00 and he brawled with Henare. Henare hit his running football tackle to pin Oiwa. Decent match; I prefer the way the Young Lions were used in these two matches by mixing it up with the top tier.
3. Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Lance Archer, and El Desperado defeated Hiromu Takahashi, Sanada, Shingo Takagi, and Tetsuya Naito at 7:40. Taichi and Shingo are feuding and they attacked each other as Shingo climbed in the ring, so all eight men brawled in and out of the ring. Sanada paired off with Minoru as they fought away from the ring, while Naito brawled with Archer. (I am advocating for a future Naito-Archer singles match!) Desperado and Hiromu, who also are feuding, traded overhand chops. Now in the ring, Shingo and Taichi traded hard chops at 2:30; the other six are standing on the floor, not on the ring apron.
They hit double clotheslines and Shingo got a rollup for a nearfall. Hiromu and Desperado hopped in and traded punches, and Desperado hit a high back suplex. Sanada escaped Minoru’s Gotch-style piledriver and he hit a dropkick. Archer hit a Pounce on Naito. All the while, Shingo and Taichi kept brawling in the ring, then on the floor. Shingo dove into the ring to avoid being counted out, but Taichi caught him with a rollup for the pin. This mirrors exactly what happened two days ago when Shingo pinned Taichi in the same finish.
4. Clark Connors and Ryusuke Taguchi (4) defeated Kushida and Kevin Knight (2) in a tournament match at 9:38. A babyface matchup, and they shared beers before the bell. Knight and Taguchi started with mat reversals. Kushida and Connors entered at 2:00. Kushida and Knight took turns working over Clark’s left arm. Connors nailed his Pounce on Knight, and he tagged in Taguchi. Taguchi hit some Eddie-style rolling suplexes on Kushida, then a closed-fist punch to the gut. This allowed Connors and Taguchi to begin beating down Kushida.
Kushida gave Connors a drop-toe-hold, with Clark’s head landing on Taguchi’s groin, for some comedy that appeals to no one. Knight made the hot tag and hit his picture-perfect dropkick to Clark’s face at 7:30, then another one as Clark was on Kushida’s shoulders. Connors and Taguchi hit front-and-back running buttbumps on Knight for a believable nearfall. Connors hit a spear from the top rope on Knight, then he hit his one-handed chokeslam-style move to the chest to pin Knight. Really good match as I thought either team could win here. At 1-4, Kushida and Knight are essentially eliminated.
5. “United Empire” TJP and Francesco Akira (8) defeated “House of Torture” Sho and Dick Togo (0) in a tournament match at 13:08. HoT attacked from behind before the bell. TJP hit a running Facewash on Sho. Sho hit a running punt kick on the ring apron to TJP’s chest, and the heels worked over TJP. Togo kept TJP grounded with a hammerlock. Akira finally made the hot tag at 7:00 and he hit some running elbow shots in the corner on Sho, then a double stomp to Sho’s chest for a nearfall.
Sho shoved the ref at Akira for a distraction, then he hit a spear on Akira, and that allowed the heels to take over again. Akira hit a shotgun dropkick. TJP missed the Mamba Splash frogsplash. Togo applied a Crippler Crossface on TJP, but TJP reached the ropes at 10:30. TJP applied an STF on Togo. EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi ran to ringside, so Aussie Open ran down to beat them up. With the ref distracted, TJP got Sho’s wrench and did the “Eddie spot,” collapsing and pretending he was hit by it. TJP and Akira hit running front-and-back kicks to Togo, with TJP scorign the pin. The House of Torture is now 0-8 across both tournaments, and Sho and Togo are eliminated.
6. Alex Zayne and El Lindaman (8) defeated Tiger Mask and Robbie Eagles (4) in a tournament match at 10:13. Tiger Mask and Lindaman traded standing reversals, and Tiger Mask hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee at 3:00, and they began working Lindaman over. Lindaman hit a neckbreaker out of the corner on Eagles and he made the hot tag to Zayne. Alex hit a series of kicks on Eagles, then his swinging faceplant for a nearfall at 5:30. Eagles hit a mid-ring Sliced Bread, and they were both down.
TM made the hot tag, and he applied an anklelock on Zayne, then a Crucifix Takedown for a nearfall, then a standing powerbomb for a believable nearfall, but Lindaman made the save. Tiger Mask went for a Tiger Suplex out of the corner, but Zayne blocked it. Lindaman got in and hit a couple Exploder Suplexes, and he hit a flip dive to the floor to take out Eagles. That allowed Zayne to nail his top-rope Phoenix Splash to pin Tiger Mask. Once again, NJPW is allowing the top tier to separate from the lower tier in this tournament.
7. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Bushi and Titan (8) defeated Douki and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (0) in a tournament match at 11:46. Titan and Douki started. The heels tried to remove the masks of their LIJ opponents. Douki hit a double stomp to the chest for a nearfall at 4:00. Kanemaru hit a Helluva Kick. Bushi made the hot tag and hit a double huracanrana, then a top-rope missile dropkick on Kanemaru at 7:00. Bushi hit a huracanrana on Douki.
Titan hit a springboard crossbody block on Douki, then a springboard huracanrana, then a flip dive to the floor on Douki. Kanemaru hit a tornado DDT on Titan, and Douki applied his “Douki chokey” modified Triangle Choke. Douki hit a catapult DDT on Titan at 10:30. Bushi nailed a Lungblower on Douki. Bushi nailed a dive through the ropes on Kanemaru. Titan hit his springboard doublestomp to Douki’s back as Bushi held Douki in place, with Titan scoring the pin. I must point it out again — NJPW is making the rare decision to separate the top tier from the bottom tier, with the 0-5 Douki and Kanemaru eliminated.
8. Lio Rush and Yoh (8) defeated “Bullet Club” Chris Bey and Ace Austin (8) in a tournament match at 15:01. The Bullet Club is the last undefeated team, at 4-0. Lio and Bey traded fast reversals at the bell. Yoh and Ace entered at 2:00. Lio dove through the ropes and barreled into Ace, and they were all down. In the ring, Bey was beating down Lio Rush, and the Bullet Club hit a team back suplex at 6:30.
Yoh made the hot tag and he hit a flying forearm on Bey, then a twisting Vader Bomb on Bey for a nearfall at 10:00. Bey and Ace hit their legdrop-and-senton combo on Yoh, and they began working over Yoh. Bey hit his Eddie-style rolling suplexes, but Yoh hit a Falcon Arrow, and they were both down at 12:00. Lio made the hot tag and he traded rapid offense with Ace, and this was really good. Lio hit a stunner on Ace, then his stunner out of the ropes. Yoh hit a neckbreaker over his knee on Bey. Lio hit the top-rope frogsplash to pin Bey, as our last undefeated team fell.
* Lio Rush got on the mic and said he loves New Japan Pro Wrestling, and he loves his partner, Yoh. He said they are on their way to being Super Junior tag champs. Yoh took the mic and spoke in Japanese to close the show. Backstage, Lio spoke again, saying they are a real tag team and a dominating force. Yoh informed Lio that their next match is against the House of Torture (with his former teammate Sho.)
Final Thoughts: So, we have five teams at 4-1 and have completely separated themselves from the pack. Right now, it seems unlikely any of those five will lose to the lower five teams. Two teams are at 2-3, one at 1-4, and two at 0-5. I definitely prefer this to the even-steven booking where everyone is 5-4 or 4-5.
The main event is among the best of the tournament so far and earns best match of the show. Zayne-Lindaman get second-best match, and the Connors-Taguchi match gets third-best, largely because I felt either team could win.
With 17 shows in 24 days, this is a non-stop grind. So, Tuesday is a welcome day off for the competitors, before the tournament resumes on Wednesday.