Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) has a Junior Heavyweight division that is ever evolving, Will Ospreay had such a terrific run as the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion this year that Ospreay is testing himself in the Heavyweight division. Ospreay has adapted his ring-work more to the NJPW style of hard-hitting strikes and creative offense. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Will Ospreay for that Junior Heavyweight Championship at NJPW Dominion this past June but Takahashi suffered a broken neck at the NJPW G1 Special In San Francisco against rival, Dragon Lee. These two major voids to the Junior roster in NJPW have left the door open for many new Junior Heavyweight roster members from other companies. There are several new additions to the 2018 Super Junior Tag Team Tournament, some may become mainstays in the tag team and singles divisions amongst the Junior Heavyweights. Here’s a rundown of the eight exceptional teams going into this year’s NJPW Junior Tag League, with the tournament showcased at NJPW Power Struggle.
Super 69 (Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH)
The irony of Will Ospreay wanting to move to the Heavyweight division is Ryusuke Taguchi turned down the chance to become a Heavyweight years ago. Taguchi has held tag gold before, even with WWE Superstar Finn Balor (Prince Devitt), and ACH is the perfect partner for Taguchi, even if both descend into goofiness a little too often. “Super” ACH last appeared in NJPW for the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament in May, with ACH’s match with Flip Gordon one of the very best of the entire tournament. ACH held the AAW Pro Heavyweight championship during that tournament, and Taguchi is complimented by ACH so well with the high-speed offense to throw opponents off. This Taguchi Japan team could have a lot of success in the future – an IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team title match with the champions, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru, would be a great match and win for ACH and Taguchi.
Sobernaro Jr & Volador Jr
Sobernaro Jr. wrestled TITAN this year for Rev Pro in the United Kingdom at Summer Sizzler and it wound up being one of the best of the show. Now Volador Jr. teams with Sobernaro Jr, replacing Lucha Libre team TITAN and Dragon Lee in this year’s tournament. Volador Jr is one of the most spectacular performers in any Junior tournament, Volador Jr has competed in multiple previous Best Of The Super Juniors tournaments. If this aerial duo makes it far in the tournament, they should look out for the veterans, Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Tiger Mask lV.
Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
All Summer long, SHO and YOH have been teasing a breakup for singles competition because of the interference of “Switchblade” Jay White in CHAOS. White attempted to destroy CHAOS just like he did with Bullet Club ever since Wrestle Kingdom 12. SHO and YOH wrestled as singles competitors in this year’s Best Of The Super Juniors tournament, now is the time for Roppongi 3K to go back in the hunt for the Junior tag team titles. SHO and YOH will have much more competition this time around if they become champions again, Roppongi 3K have defeated The Young Bucks in the past so they aren’t unmatched against any team.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
Shingo Takagi has been a Dragon Gate favorite for years in Japan, Shingo has achieved worldwide popularity as well due to appearances in Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) in California. The sixth member of Los Ingobernobles De Japon was revealed at NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling and Shingo meshed so well with Tetsuya Naito and company, Shingo wrestling as a junior may be a surprise to some with his powerhouse style but he will be a fresh addition to provide a whole new catalogue of great matches in NJPW. BUSHI was unsuccessful against KUSHIDA in the IWGP Junior tag team championship tournament so a tag team is just what BUSHI needs right now. A wide variety of opponents will be first time matches against BUSHI and Shingo and that’s very enticing, Shingo could very well start his NJPW career with a tournament win and a title shot.
KUSHIDA & Chris Sabin
Alex Shelley has retired but his legacy lives on with this tag team, Shelley was a tag partner with Sabin in The Motor City Machine Guns and teamed with KUSHIDA in The Time Splitters. KUSHIDA and Shelley managed to capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championships in a very memorable feud with WWE’s Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish. Chris Sabin just debuted in the Juniors division this past May, meanwhile KUSHIDA became the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion at NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling for the sixth time. As long as Chris Sabin is ready to Cradle Shock his way to more big wins in NJPW instead of Ring Of Honor Wrestling (ROH), this will be a tag team in the title mix for a long time.
Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & Robbie Eagles)
The Bullet Club OG promised a new member of the Club, a foreigner from Australia and it turned out to be the highly athletic, Robbie Eagles. Taiji Ishimori was the sole Junior Heavyweight member of Bullet Club until now and Ishimori himself just debuted in NJPW this past year. Eagles has been a major highlight of the Austrian wrestling scene for the past couple years. A feud with Will Ospreay produced matches that show just how fast-paced and athletic pro wrestling can be. Robbie Eagles has parlayed that into a great Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) run and debut in the Battle Of Los Angeles tournament. Ishimori and Eagles will be top heels in the Junior division as singles or tag teams in the near future, and the likelihood of Bullet Club winning is just as promising as Los Ingobernobles De Japon winning.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask lV
Jushin “Thunder” Liger has exited the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament for good but that doesn’t mean the tag team tournaments have to go up in smoke for Liger. The most experienced and tenured tag team in NJPW lost to Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado at NJPW King Of Pro Wrestling but it was such a close match that the champions had to use dirty tricks out of the Suzuki–Gun playbook to beat the veterans. While Tiger Mask lV and Jushin “Thunder” Liger may not be as fast or agile as the competition of many factions, they have faced some of the best and come back for more their entire careers.
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)
Kanemaru and Desperado enter this tournament as the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champions for the first time. Taichi was once the cornerstone of the tag teams in Suzuki-Gun but that mantle now belongs to former Pro Wrestling NOAH star, Yoshinobu Kanemaru. This tag team is well-rounded in a variety of ways, Kanemaru owns the ground game while Desperado excels at a mixture of strikes and high-impact moves. KUSHIDA and Sabin will be the biggest challenge, having a similar skill set for each team members. If things ever get dangerous for the champions, there’s always a Suzuki-Gun member ringside to distract the referee Red Shoes for a timely guitar shot to the head.