World Tag League hits critical final stretch in Fukuoka.
Fukuoka on December 5 will see live English coverage return to NJPW World, and the final sprint to World Tag League glory begin. Who will emerge from a tense scene at the top of the table?
Main event: FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) (10-2) =2nd vs Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer (8-4) =4th
The main event in Fukuoka sees what should be an intense battle, with more than just two points at stake.
Those two points are important ones, mind; at time of writing, FinJuice are just one win behind leaders EVIL & SANADA in the World Tag League rankings, and this match could well be make or break by the time we get to Fukuoka on Thursday. Suzuki and Archer’s odds of being in the conversation in Hiroshima December 8 are long at this point, but this situation is the kind that Suzuki-Gun relishes; with points scores a background concern, dealing damage can rise to the fore.
When it comes to dealing damage, there are few people Archer in particular will enjoy damaging than Robinson and Finlay. The Murder Hawk Monster defeated Juice back at King of Pro Wrestling to lift the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship, and steamrolled Finlay in San Jose in November to retain. He will likely take great pleasure in ruining FinJuice’s WTL chances; his opponents would take great delight in putting the champion on the mat.
7th Match: Shingo Takagi & Terrible (6-6) 10th vs Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (10-2) =2nd
Shingo Takagi and Terrible have been a surprisingly potent combination during World Tag League, one that has gotten progressively more potent as the league’s gone on. The normally fiercely monlingual Takagi has managed to communicate effectively enough in Terrible’s native Spanish, and with a combination of Terrible’s terrifying splashes and Takagi’s own offensive arsenal, they’ve put together some solid wins.
Still, a new team will always find it tough to run the WTL gauntlet, and the pair can’t win the trophies this year. They could end up spoiling Guerrillas of Destiny though. Terrible in particular is one to know how to bend a rule or two, and could be the perfect antidote to GoD’s tactics as far as drawing the referee, and getting Jado involved physically goes.
Nonetheless, Jado’s influence extends beyond the use of his ever present Kendo stick. From the OJK submission hold taught to Loa, to the Super Powerbomb that’s been a GoD staple for the last year, the Master Heater’s fingerprints are all over the team, to successful ends. One win off the pace at time of writing, GoD are in with a shot of finally accompanying five IWGP Tag title reigns with their first World Tag League trophies.
6th Match: CHAOS (SHO, YOH & Kazuchika Okada) vs Kota Ibushi, Tiger Mask & Jyushin Thunder Liger
Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada joined the World Tag League tour last Thursday, but after two nights with Young Lions in Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura fighting their hardest alongside Kota Ibushi, the Golden Star has upgraded his partners with Tiger mask and Jyushin Thunder Liger in his corner.
It seems hard to believe, but on December 5, Liger will only have eight matches left in a New Japan ring, and will be in front of his home Fukuoka crowd for the last time. Fighting with even more pride than normal, Liger will be looking to leave a mark on this star studded six-man tag as Okada and Ibushi continue to seek the upper hand heading into the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 14 night one.
5th Match: Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma) (3-10) 13th vs EVIL & SANADA (11-1) 1st
Sixth on the card, we see a generational clash, with 2015 and 2016’s back to back World tag League winners in Makabe and Honma taking on the 2017 & 2018 back to back winners EVIL and SANADA. GBH have had a challenging time in 2019’s league as they returned to the WTL field, while EVIL and SANADA have been in the top flight mix from the outset with a hot opening streak. Yet GBH have not been without their wins, and neither have EVIL & SANADA been without defeat. A GBH win over the darkly ungovernable pair would be all it takes to instantly propel Honma and Makabe back to major tag team contention, but that’s easier said than done.
4th Match: HenarACE (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare) (2-11) =14th vs Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi & Zack Sabre Junior) (7-6) 9th
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Junior’s long standing issues come to the fore once more in Fukuoka. After five singles meetings in 2019, they now meet again in tag team action. Their respective teams are now out of World Tag League contention; the question is how badly each of these four want to secure victory for their own momentum and will to win. ZSJ and Taichi seem to have their heads elsewhere, while Henare in particular is desperately eager to turn his fortunes around, and Tanahashi will need some strong performances; if nothing else than as a message to deal to January 5 opponent Chris Jericho. On motivation alone, HenarACE may have the edge, but dealing pain is always a big motivator for Dangerous Tekkers.
3rd Match: Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb (7-6) =7th vs KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi (7-5) =7th
The powerful, athletic, mad and mighty Jeff Cobb and Mikey Nicholls combination has been a quiet success story during World Tag League. They might not have been sending crowds home after main event victories, but they have been amassing points, and while they are now out of the running when it comes to trophy contention, the doors of future possibility beckon. In the way of bursting through is a BULLET CLUB side of KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi, who are dangerous if their heads are in the game. Should KENTA have his sights set on teaming with tag veteran Yujiro, they’ll be in strong shape against Cobb and a man KENTA knows well from his NOAH days in Nicholls. If KENTA has his thoughts fixed on his ongoing feud with Hirooki Goto, the two points might be further out of reach. We’ll find out Thursday.
2nd Match: TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan) (4-8) 12th vs Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens (5-7) 11th
With a win over Mikey Nicholls and Jeff Cobb earlier in the week under their belts, Chase Owens and Bad Luck Fale could be having a late resurgence in the league, and a strong finish could send a message to matchmakers to boost BULLET CLUB’s presence over the two Tokyo Dome nights for Wrestle Kingdom 14. TenCozy have been somewhat disappointed by some heavy losses, but have thrown big bombs on the way to some big wins, and taking down the huge Fale and his partner Owens would be one for the list.
1st Match: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks (2-10)=14th vs Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI (8-4) =4th
The opening bout of the evening in Fukuoka will see Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI with backs against the wall, as they face CHAOS teammate Hirooki Goto and Karl Fredericks. Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI suffered what could be a severely damaging loss to FinJuice on Monday night, and more damaging, were beaten by Fale and Chase Owens on Tuesday, putting them in a very difficult spot when it comes to contendership. They will need a lot of help, and hope EVIL and SANADA lose out; all they can do on their own steam is win and keep winning.