12/14 NJPW “World Tag League & Super Jr. Tag League 2022” results: Vetter’s review of “Aussie Open” Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher vs. Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto in the World Tag League finals, Lio Rush and Yoh vs. Chris Bey and Ace Austin in the Super Jr. Tag League finals, Karl Anderson vs. Hikuleo for the Never Openweight Championship

By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “World Tag League & Super Jr. Tag League 2022”
December 14, 2022 in Miyagi, Japan at Sendai Sunplaza Hall
Streamed live on New Japan World

This is the final event of the 17-show tour, where each team completed nine matches in a round-robin format. The finals of both tournaments features teams that each went 7-2.

This is a huge venue; the lights are low so it’s hard to get a sense of the size of the crowd. (Charlton would later say the crowd is 2,000.) We have live English commentary from Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton. Of the 40 wrestlers who competed in the two tournaments, 38 are in action today. (Chase Owens returned to the United States, and his partner Bad Luck Fale is also off.)

1. El Lindaman and Alex Zayne defeated Kosei Fujita and Ryohei Oiwa at 6:07. Zayne and Lindaman had a very successful 6-3 run in the tournament. They both bit at Oiwa’s arm early in a comedy spot. Lindaman hit a German Suplex with a high bridge to pin Fujita. Solid opener.

2. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls defeated Kevin Knight and Kushida at 6:10. TMDK also finished an excellent 6-3, while Kushida and Knight won their final match to finish 2-7. Knight and Haste started, and TMDK worked over Knight. Kushida made the hot tag at 3:30 and hit a crossbody block on Nicholls, then a handspring-back-elbow. Knight hit his picture-perfect dropkick on Nicholls, then a Doomsday Dropkick for a nearfall. “To be blessed with the skills that Kevin Knight has,” Kelly observed. Knight hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee on Haste at 5:30. However, TMDK hit a team faceplant on Knight out of nowhere for the pin.

3. “United Empire” Francesco Akira, TJP, Aaron Henare, and Great-O-Khan defeated Gabriel Kidd, Alex Coughlin, Robbie Eagles, and Tiger Mask at 7:35. Coughlin showed his strength by overpowering TJP to start the match. He was seated on the mat, picked up TJP, stood up, and hit a delayed vertical suplex. Cool. Eagles entered and traded good offense with TJP. Akira hit a Doomsday senton on Eagles for a nearfall at 3:00, and the UE began working Eagles over.

Kidd entered and hit a dropkick on Henare. Coughlin nailed a fallaway slam on Akira, and Tiger Mask hit a Tiger Driver for a nearfall at 6:00. Akira hit the team X-Factor faceplant, and TJP hit the Mamba Splash frogsplash for a believable nearfall on Tiger Mask. TJP hooked both of Tiger Mask’s arms, rolled him over, and scored the pin. Good match.

4. “Suzuki-Gun” Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Douki defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Sho, and Dick Togo at 5:02. All eight brawled at the bell, in and out of the ring. Douki hit a flying headbutt on EVIL. Archer tagged in at 2:30, and he slammed Togo onto Sho. Kelly and Charlton talked about the struggles both HoT teams saw in their respective tournaments. The HoT put the boots to Minoru and they worked him over. EVIL and Archer fought over a chair, until the ref confiscated it. Suzuki applied the sleeper on Togo, then quickly hit the Gotch-style piledriver to pin Togo. The announcers called this a “blowout.”

* Suzuki got the mic and said in Japanese, that he started Suzuki-Gun in 2011. “We’ve gone through an awful lot.” He praised Taichi for his growth as a wrestler. He said Lance Archer is his brother. He called El Desperado “an ace” in the junior division. He praised Zack Sabre Jr. He said for the past 11 years, fans have cheered them and booed them, and thrown trash at them. Suzuki said they are all going on their own individual journeys, and at the end of 2022, Suzuki-Gun will be no more. Kelly was shocked by Suzuki’s comments. (The other members were in the back so we didn’t see their reaction to this news.)

5. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Titan, and Bushi defeated Clark Connors, Ryusuke Taguchi, Toru Yano, and Hiroshi Tanahashi at 8:39. Sanada and Yano started and Sanada immediately tied him in the Paradise Lock for some fun comedy. The LIJ guys got Taguchi alone in the ring, so Taguchi tried to throw up his fist in solidarity, as if he was a member of LIJ, but they beat him down. Funny. Bushi crotched Taguchi around the ring post at 2:30. LIJ worked over Taguchi.

Tanahashi made the hot tag at 4:30 and he hit a dragon screw leg whip on Titan, then one on Naito. He hit his second-rope summersault senton for a nearfall on Titan. Naito entered and hit his swinging dropkick in the corner on Connors. Connors nailed his powerslam. Naito hit a tornado DDT on Connors, then the Destino for the pin. Kelly and Charlton talked about how strange it is that Sanada and Naito don’t have opponents yet at Wrestle Kingdom, and they wondered what is next for them.

6. “Bullet Club” Jay White, Taiji Ishimori, and Gedo defeated Kazuchika Okada, Tama Tonga, and Master Wato at 10:50. Kelly and Charlton talked about how Okada is perceived as the favorite at Wrestle Kingdom in his singles match against Jay White. White and Okada opened. White choked him on the floor. They traded forearms in the ring. Okada hit a faceplant at 5:00 and made the hot tag to Tama. Tama beat up Gedo. Tama hit a Stinger Splash on White for a nearfall, and Tama was in charge. White hit a DDT at 7:00 and tagged in Ishimori.

Wato and Ishimori traded offense, with Wato hitting a top-rope diving elbow. Ishimori nailed a jumping knee to the face at 9:30. Gedo immediately tagged in and hit a Flatliner for a nearfall. Okada and White began brawling on the floor. Tama hit the Tongan Twist faceplant on Gedo. Wato hit a top-rope corkscrew press for a believable nearfall on Gedo. However, White hit a Blade Runner faceplant on Wato. White then dragged Gedo onto Wato, and the prone Gedo scored the pin.

7. Karl Anderson (w/Gedo) defeated Hikuleo (w/Jado) to retain the Never Openweight Title at 10:19. Anderson wore a T-Shirt that read “Hollywood Club.” Charlton said that Anderson “took the money and ran.” Kevin Kelly was struggling with his voice and had left to get a hot cup of tea, and that seemed to help. They immediately brawled to the floor. In the ring, Anderson hit a dragon screw leg whip at 4:00. They traded forearm shots. Hikuleo nailed a decapitating clothesline for a nearfall at 7:30.

Anderson nailed a spinebuster for a nearfall. Anderson went for a stunner but Hikuelo pushed him away Hikuleo nailed a powerslam for a nearfall at 9:30. Gedo tried to interfere but Hikuleo pushed him off. However, it allowed Anderson to nail a Gun Stun stunner for the pin. That is a shocker. “I didn’t come over here to drop no damn title,” Anderson said to the camera.

* Anderson then got on the mic and said that Sendai loves him. He said he will be the Never Openweight champion “for all of eternity.” That brought out Tama Tonga, and they immediately began brawling. Anderson hit a Gun Stun.  Anderson grabbed the mic and said, “Tama Tonga, I’ll see you at Wrestle Kingdom, bitch!” He then posed with the title over the prone Tonga.

* A video package aired showing how we got to the finals, with plenty of clips of Lio Rush saying that he “loves Yoh.” It felt a bit heavy-handed. It reminded me of Owen Hart saying how much he loved his big brother, Bret. There also was footage from a press conference a day ago, where Bey’s comments angered Rush. Bey and Ace won the first meeting during round-robin competition.

8. Lio Rush and Yoh defeated “Bullet Club” Chris Bey and Ace Austin to win the Super Junior Tag League tournament at 21:25. To me, this is the real main event. Lio and Yoh attacked at the bell. Lio and Austin opened. Yoh entered to face Bey. Yoh slammed Rush onto Bey for a nearfall at 2:00. Lio made a blind tag and attacked Bey. Lio and Yoh were arguing, and Yoh was trying to calm him down. The BC began beating up Yoh in their corner; Rush was livid on the ring apron. Bey hit a suplex for a nearfall at 6:00.

Austin hit a back suplex. Bey and Lio jawed at each other. Yoh hit a dropkick on Bey’s knee; he went for the hot tag, but Rush was yanked off the apron. The BC hit their legdrop-and-standing moonsault combo for a nearfall at 9:00. Yoh hit an enziguri and finally made the hot tag. Lio hit some clotheslines on Bey, then his Rush Hour stunner out of the ropes for a nearfall at 11:00. Rush nailed his frogsplash on Bey.

Rush hit an ax kick to the back of Bey’s neck, and they were both down. Yoh re-entered and hit a flying forearm on Austin. Ace hit his punt kick to Yoh’s chest from the ring apron. Bey nailed a flip dive to the floor on Yoh at 14:30. Rush hit a dive through the ropes on Bey. Ace hit the Fosbury Flop to the floor. Yoh nailed a Falcon Arrow on Ace on the floor, and everyone was down on the floor. The crowd was hot. Everyone dove back into the ring before the 20-count.

All four brawled in the ring. Lio hit an enzuigiri. Lio nailed a clothesline on Ace at 17:30. Lio accidentally hit a stunner on Yoh! The BC hit kicks to Rush’s head. Ace nailed a top-rope corkscrew splash on Yoh for a believable nearfall. Bey hit a stunner. Ace set up for The Fold, but Lio jumped in the ring and cut him off. Lio and Bey squared off and began trading hard blows. Lio and Rush hit their modified Big Rig for a believable nearfall on Ace, but Bey dragged the ref to the floor at 20:30. Lio hit a frogsplash half-way across the ring on Ace. Yoh nailed a Moxley-style double-arm DDT on Ace for the pin. That was a really good match.

9. Yoshi-Hoshi and Hirooki Goto defeated “Aussie Open” Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher (w/Gideon Grey) to win the World Tag League tournament at 28:23. AO won the first meeting during round-robin competititon. Grey gave them a long-winded intro. All four brawled at the bell. Fletcher hit a bodyslam on Goto for a nearfall at 1:30 and they worked Goto over early on. Yoshi-Hoshi tagged in, but Davis dropped him with a hard chop, and they began working over Yoshi-Hoshi. Kelly talked about the history of AO, and how they weren’t teaming in Australia; they were put together when they both went to the UK. Davis hit a senton at 8:00.

Yoshi-Hoshi hit a brainbuster on Fletcher and he finally made the hot tag to Goto. Goto hit a running bulldog on Fletcher for a nearfall, then a brainbuster for a nearfall at 10:30. Goto flipped Fletcher over the top rope, with Kyle crashing onto Davis on the floor. They all brawled on the floor, and AO rammed their opponents’ backs into each other at 12:30. AO got a table and set it up at ringside. They set up to hit Corealis on Yoshi-Hoshi through the table, but Goto made the save.

In the ring, Yoshi-Hoshi hit a running clothesline in the corner on Davis, then a basement dropkick at 16:00. Fletcher hit a top-rope moonsault to the floor on Goto. Davis hit his modified Angle Slam on Yoshi-Hoshi for a believable nearfall. Fletcher hit a sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall and the crowd was really coming alive for Yoshi-Hoshi. They set up for Corealis again, but once again Goto made the save. Goto and Fletcher fought on the ring apron, and Goto slammed Fletcher through the table that was set up on the floor at 19:00.

In the ring, Yoshi-Hoshi and Davis traded hard forearm shots as we hear the 20-minute call in the background. (No time limit in the finals.) Goto hit the Headhunter mid-ring flipping faceplant. Goto hit his neckbreaker over the knee on Davis. They nailed the Shoto team slam for a nearfall, but Fletcher made the save at 23:00. Fletcher hit a half-nelson suplex, then a running knee on Yoshi-Hoshi, and everyone was down. Davis hit a Lance Archer-style Black Out slam for a believable nearfall on Yoshi-Hoshi.

AO hit front-and-back clotheslines on Yoshi-Hoshi. Yoshi-Hoshi got an inside cradle on Fletcher for a beleivable nearfall. Goto hit a headbutt that dropped Fletcher. They set up for Shoto again, but Davis made the save. Davis hit a clothesline on Goto at 27:00. Yoshi-Hoshi nailed a Dragon Suplex on Davis. They again hit Shoto on Fletcher, but they didn’t immediately go for the cover. They hit a team stunner move to pin Fletcher and win the tournament. I didn’t expect that outcome.

* Yoshi-Hoshi spoke on the mic, saying “We won it again!” He said it was a great night for Chaos, as Yoh and Lio Rush won their finals match as well. He called them down to speak. Yoh got on the mic and said he had positive vibes. Lio got on the mic and said he’s been wrestling for nine years. “This moment, right now, and I’ve had a lot of great moments in my professional wrestling career. This moment, winning these trophies, with my partner Yoh, is by far the greatest moment in my professional wrestling career.” The four of them posed together and the confetti cannon covered them in streamers, to close out the show.

Final Thoughts: That was a really good main event, but I fully expected the Aussie Open-FTR rematch after their epic encounter in England. I definitely underestimated Bishamon throughout the tournament; even though they were defending champions, I had Aussie Open and Naito/Sanada as the most likely winners.

NJPW did a good job of swerving me with Rush and Yoh. I think Rush is such a great, cocky heel character, I was on guard for a heel turn, especially after he accidentally hit a stunner on Yoh. I was cheering for Yoh and Rush, but I felt that match could have gone either way.

I was truly surprised that Karl Anderson didn’t lose the title here, but I cannot imagine he retains at Wrestle Kingdom against Tama Tonga. I really felt the time was right to put the belt on Hikuleo, who has had a good year and is a rising star. That said, Tonga had a phenomenal year and is in great shape.

The Super Junior tournament earns an overall A grade. They brought in the right, top free-agent juniors in the United States (Zayne, Rush, Austin, Bey) to fill out a good roster. Even with Hiromu Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori and El Desperado not in the tournament, their absence was never felt because they competed on most of the shows in non-tournament action.

The World Tag League earns a B- grade. Star power was down compared to past years, with no Zack Sabre Jr./Taichi team, no Guerillas of Destiny, and they didn’t bring in a top team from the U.S. I think having an OGK (Matt Taven & Mike Bennett) or even Kevin Ku/Dominic Garrini or JD Drake/Anthony Henry would have been good choices to have an additional team from the U.S.


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