New Japan Pro Wrestling has been doing the annual World Tag League tournament since 1980. Some amazing teams have entered this tournament throughout the years like Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto. Some teams are still going strong after several years like Kojima and Tenzan. This year three wrestlers will step foot in an NJPW ring for the very first time. The champions are involved to prove that they are the best, not unlike the G1 Climax tournament every summer. Here’s the rundown on all sixteen teams in Block A and Block B in the World Tag League tournament, kicking off this Saturday, November 18 in Tokyo. The finals will take place on December 11 in Fukuoka with the winning team receiving an IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on January 4.
The A Bracket
Sami Callihan and Juice Robinson
“The Callihan Death Machine” will make his debut in NJPW after rumors circulated for months that Callihan would be The Switchblade, that ended up going to the returning Jay White. Here it’s a very unlikely team with the fun-loving fan favorite Juice Robinson and the eccentric brawler Sami Callihan. That will for a fresh dynamic and may even throw a monkey wrench into other teams plans. Both were in WWE NXT at the same time just a couple years ago, Robinson chose Japan and Callihan chose the independents. This is a very fun way for Callihan to enter Japan and Juice will be performing at a high level as always.
EVIL and SANADA
The Los Ingobernobles team faced each other in the G1 Climax tournament this year, both showed that one possesses something the other doesn’t. SANADA uses speed and agility to get into position, whereas EVIL likes to use chairs and perform like a heavyweight. Usually Tetsuya Naito and BUSHI are in this tournament but Naito has the main event of Wrestle Kingdom looming on January 4 so he needs to stay fresh. The odds are this team goes far and possibly even to the finals. The more dirty tactics used by Los Ingobernobles De Japon the better.
Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata
The oldest tag team in New Japan with 50 combined years of experience in the ring. “Blue Justice” just enjoyed his twenty-fifth anniversary in pro wrestling and faced Nakanishi who himself was celebrating his twenty-fifth anniversary that night. Nakanishi may be getting a little long in the tooth but he does everything very well still just not as smooth. It’s up to Nagata to try his armbar to win matches and get his team to the finish line but if this year is any indication, Nagata and company are gate-keepers that usually lose but still can have a great match.
Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima)
Tenzan and Kojima have been a beloved tag team for years and for good reason, both are former IWGP heavyweight champions in their own right. Tenzan is now the ageless veteran in NJPW, wrestling since . Kojima has a tendency to win matches seemingly out of nowhere and some you wouldn’t expect, with a Lariat as sudden as ever. This team won the IWGP heavyweight tag team championships but lost the titles to War Machine this year. Kojima is always a standout, using his unbridled intensity to kick out time and time again in tag matches and singles matches. It’s not likely that TenCozy wins Tag League 2017 but they will be the people’s choice.
Yujiro Takahashi and Adam Page
“The Tokyo Pimp” will bring the lovely ladies down to ringside, having a good time and looking to pour champagne before the matches even start. Hangman on the other hand is developing into more than just a mid-card act, with solid matches night in and night out as a tag wrestler and a singles competitor. This Bullet Club team has become somewhat of a regular tag team in NJPW, with Page coming from the ROH contingency of Bullet Club. Yujiro has had some good outings against Trent Baretta lately so he is more than ready but this team is going to have to do overtime to make it far against the tough competition. Page’s Right Of Passage finisher is certainly a difference maker though that could change things in a heartbeat.
Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens
Bad Luck Fale is one of the few big men in NJPW and one that has big credentials at that as a former IWGP Intercontinental champion. Chase Owens is the “crown jewel” of Bullet Club and the workhorse, usually competing in multi-man tag team matches but holding his own against the likes of Tomohiro Ishii. A package Pile-driver and it could be all over from Chase and same goes for Fale’s Bad Luck Fall. This second Bullet Club team has roughly the same chance and that’s slim but it’s not out of the question that they shock a team or two on the way out.
Minoru Suzuki and Iizuka
Iizuka doesn’t wrestle too often in NJPW, he is more of the bodyguard to Suzuki-Gun but a fair himself. The iron claw is a classic weapon in Iizuka’s arsenal and if things go the way Suzuki-Gun want, he will get to use it with the referee distracted or even taken out. Suzuki is the reigning NEVER Openweight champion and just defeated Toru Yano in a defense, he is strong going into this tournament but this is a tag team tournament. Suzuki likes to bully his way out of situations and it may work sometimes but not all of the time, he should look out for teams like War Machine that will mean a much business as he does.
Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi
Goto has been in this tournament before only with other tag teams, here he joins his CHAOS stablemate, the rising and underrated Yoshi-Hashi. Both are more featured as singles wrestlers but you can’t deny this will be a very good team even if they don’t defeat some top tag teams this year. Goto’s strong style offense is a test for anybody and Yoshi-Hashi has athleticism for days to level the team’s strengths out. Both have a couple of the most devastating finishing moves today in the Goto-Revolution and Kharma, but can they pull off some combo tag moves to finish their opponents? We will see how good this team can become.
The B Bracket
Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.)
The IWGP heavyweight tag team champions just returned to NJPW after Lance Archer came back from a herniated disc in his back. Killer Elite Squad came back in a big way defeating The Guerrillas Of Destiny and War Machine in a three-way for the titles. The resident brawlers can heavy-hit with the best of them, they had to surprise a lot of people by winning the championships so quickly. Now with these fifteen teams vying to become the number one contenders, Killer Elite Squad are backed into a corner and that’s just the way they like it. The road to Wrestle Kingdom may not be pretty for Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer if they fall early in the tournament or go down to an unestablished team.
War Machine (Rowe and Hanson)
Raymond Rowe and Hanson are quite possibly the very best tag team today, blending double team power moves and high flying like moonsaults and suicide dives. Since losing the IWGP Heavyweight tag team championships they have been on the hunt, getting wins in ROH, PWG AAW alongside NJPW. War Machine are more than willing to brawl with Suzuki-Gun as they are to trade powerbombs with Cobb and Elgin. War Machine employ everything you want in tag team wrestling and it would make sense if they won this whole thing but that’s probably not in the cards since they held the gold already for most of 2017.
Jeff Cobb and Mike Elgin
Jeff Cobb has only been wrestling for 9 years but he has gotten notoriety from playing Matanzas on Lucha Underground. Cobb is Hawaiian and competed in the Olympics in 2004 representing Guam. His debut in NJPW teaming with big Mike Elgin is ironic as both have tag team partners already just not in NJPW. Cobb teams with Matt Riddle as The Chosen Bros and Mike Elgin teams with Brian Cage as The Unbreakable F’N Machines. A dream team of heavy hitters here is sure to impress fans and management alike. Cobb will throw his opponents no matter the size is like a rag doll with his uncanny strength and Elgin is capable of doing the same. It would be nice if this team became a regular tag team but we will have to see how they do in this tournament first. Tag team wrestling is alive and well in 2017 and this would be a great team to propel NJPW into 2018.
Best Friends (Trent Baretta & Chuck Taylor)
Trent Baretta no longer teams with Rocky Romero as Roppongi Vice since moving to the heavyweight division and now he brings in his best friend. Trent formed his tag team and friendship with Taylor when Trent left WWE in 2011. Chuck Taylor is an independent wrestling veteran, finally capturing the PWG championship this year and wrestling in multiple promotions in the same month. This is no doubt going to be the most fun to watch tag team involved, Taylor can work a comedy spot better than anybody and the Japanese fans will get to witness it first hand finally. Best Friends really could beat anybody if they do what they do best, and that’s tricking opponents into underestimating them.
The Guerillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa)
Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa have been teaming for almost two years now and the brothers have only gotten better and more proficient as a well-oiled unit. Tanga has improved listening to his brother but Tama Tonga is the star of the show, playing to the camera every match being “the bad boy.” You are in for a fight when you step in the ring with G.O.D. and there aren’t many teams that can stand toe to toe with them in a slug-fest. Don’t put it past G.O.D. to get past many teams and reclaim their former glory. Now doesn’t seem like the right time but Bullet Club is on the rise judging by this being the third Bullet Club team in this tournament.
Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii
It doesn’t get more strange of a pairing than Ishii and Yano but yet they are former champions. Yano puts the opponents in a daze with bizarre moves and cheating to win, Ishii just comes in and clobbers everybody. Ishii and Yano are a part of CHAOS together but it’s safe to say Ishii is the singles competitor that could carry this team further than any other odd pairing. Friends that make for an unexpected successful unit, Ishii is a main event player and Yano is the king of comedy in NJPW. Yano could get shocking wins or he could be the fall man, it really could go either way with this team.
Katsuya Kitamura and David Finlay
Kitamura is breaking out of Young Lion status, competing in singles matches to open big NJPW shows to gain experience. Finlay defeated Kitamura at Power Struggle with relative ease but the more matches Kitamura gets, the better he will become. This is a unique team, Finlay previously teamed with Ricochet this year and he now wants to be the teacher after being a Young Lion himself 2 years ago alongside Jay White. This is surely to be a team put in to take the loss but they could impress all the same, Kitamura has a lot of eyes on him with his muscular frame and breaking the mold of the typical Japanese pro wrestler. The powerhouse and the technician will have to be at their very best and even that may not be enough, experience will be the end game for both.
Henare and Togi Makabe
Henare is from New Zealand, possessing 5 years of experience and utilizes one of the nicest looking German Suplexes in pro wrestling. Makabe is the senior to this team, after wrestling for 20 years he has won many championships and become one of the most successful stars in NJPW history. If Henare can take his opponent down and set up “The Unchained Gorilla’s” King Kong Knee Drop that would be the ticket. This is a pairing you wouldn’t expect to win win but one you shouldn’t miss either. One can only begin to think about how good Henare can become with the guidance of Makabe. The young lion and Makabe will be appearing in World Tag League for the very first time this year.