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NJPW World Tag League: The finals are set

The stage is set for Monday's World Tag League finals, and to no one's surprise, the deciding bout will feature teams from the two most dominant factions in New Japan Pro Wrestling today. 

Representing Los Ingobernables de Japon will be the A Block winners, SANADA & EVIL, while Bullet Club's Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa emerged from the B Block to secure their place in the final. If the tournament had been booked with match quality top of mind, the results might have been different. Instead, the two most over stables in New Japan will fight for tag team supremacy.

Fukuoka will host the tournament final, which will also feature a tag match with Tokyo Dome implications, as Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay face off against Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi. 

Okada has primarily gotten the best of the tag team encounters with his upcoming Wrestle Kingdom opponent on the Tag League shows, and even laid Naito out with a choke after their night 17 encounter. But after Naito's team scored a win on Saturday, Okada paced around the ring, teasing a confrontation. 

With Monday's show serving as the biggest remaining stop before the Dome, more angles will take place there to set up the Wrestle Kingdom card. 

Night 14 results --

Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano defeated Best Friends (Beretta & Chuck Taylor) (B Block)

They did a lot of comedy involving hugging at the outset. The Besties worked over Yano for several minutes, knocking Ishii off the apron at every turn. Ishii finally got a tag and things picked up considerably. 

Taylor missed a moonsault and nearly killed himself in this comedy match. Yano pinned Taylor with a schoolboy after more comedy spots involving the ref and an undone turnbuckle pad. The crowd loved Yano's stuff, and he plays his role perfectly.

Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb  defeated Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (B Block)

Elgin is over to a disturbing degree. His power stuff has consistently received the biggest reactions of the tournament, and that continued here. After some standard Tonga wackiness to start, this became a pretty nice match.

There were some great near falls, including Cobb hitting a standing Shooting Star Press. Cobb pinned Tonga after hitting the Tour of the Islands.

Night 15 results --

Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi defeated Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka by DQ (A Block)

This was your standard Suzuki and Iizuka tournament brawl. They brawled all over the arena. Both teams used chairs and guardrails as weapons with impunity. Suzuki threw down the referee, but that was not a DQ. Iizuka used his iron fist on Page, and that was a DQ. The very little bit of actual wrestling that Page and Suzuki did was good.

Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI defeated Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata (A Block)

Nagata and Goto kicked things off, and it was quite good. Nakanishi and YOSHI-HASHI tagged in, and it was not quite good. Nakanishi is a tired old warhorse, but his power spots still get over because of who he is. Nagata is great for his age, but asking him to do most of the work nearly every night for two weeks is a lot. Goto pinned Nakanishi after a GTR.

Night 16 results --

War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson) defeated David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura (B Block)

After shaking hands and making nice with War Machine, Finlay attempted a sneak attack at the opening bell. This did not go well for young David. 

This was just short of a squash match, showcasing War Machine's move arsenal. Finlay got a little bit of offense late, but Kitamura almost exclusively sold.  Ray Rowe pinned Kitamura after Fallout.

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) defeated Togi Makabe & Henare (B Block)

Makabe and Henare came out firing, clearing the ring of Smith and going to work on Archer. KES took over as Makabe stepped out of the ring, and they worked over Henare. Smith hit a Shake, Rattle & Roll on Henare, in tribute to the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time. 

Makabe got a tag and scored some blows for his team, including a top rope German suplex on Archer. While Smith and Makabe brawled outside, Henare got a two count on Archer. Makabe broke up a near fall, but ate a Hart Attack and rolled outside, leaving Henare to take the fall. Archer picked up the victory after a Killer Bomb.

Night 17 results --

Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata defeated Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens (A Block)

Owens and Fale worked over Nagata in as dull a manner as possible until Fale missed a charge into the corner. Nakanishi got the tag and lumbered through a comeback, then Owens cut him off.

Nagata made the save, and Nakanishi racked Owens, scoring the tapout with an Argentine backbreaker. This was one of my least favorite bouts of the tournament.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima defeated Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka by DQ (A Block)

The typical Iizuka and Suzuki brawling started things off. Suzuki settled into more actual wrestling than at any point in the tournament, though, working over Kojima's right arm.

Things broke down and got sloppy towards the finish. Iizuka used a chain on Kojima while Suzuki took the ref, but Suzuki only got a near fall. Suzuki ate TenKoji's double-team finish, and appeared to tweak his left knee in doing so. Ultimately, Iizuka used the iron fist on Kojima for the DQ. What a waste of time. 

Death Juice (Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan) defeated Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi (A Block)

The Bullet Club jumped Death Juice before the bell, but Robinson made a quick comeback. Callihan hit a dive on Takahashi, Page hit a standing Shooting Star off the apron onto Callihan, and Robinson came off the top to the floor on to all three of them. 

Page and Takahashi scored the first near fall after another standing Shooting Star in the ring. After Callihan was worked over for the bulk of the match, Robinson tagged in and made a comeback, nailing Takahashi with Pulp Friction for the win.

This was good, but not great. Page has been very good in this tournament, but I would like to see more variety in his arsenal. 

SANADA & EVIL defeated Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI (A Block) -- SANADA & EVIL win the A Block and advance to the finals

With both teams needing the victory to take the block, this had an intensity that has been lacking from many of the tournament matches so far. The moves themselves were fairly average, but the facial expressions and urgency with which all four guys went for pinfalls were quite superb. 

Goto escaped a Magic Killer, and EVIL accidentally nailed SANADA, which led to a near fall that the crowd bought as the finish. Goto hit the GTR, which the crowd also bought as the finish, but that was ultimately a near fall as well.

SANADA and EVIL hit a Magic Killer on YOSHI-HASHI, then went for another on Goto, who was the legal man, but he escaped. EVIL hit Darkness Falls for a near fall, which the place went crazy for. EVIL and SANADA followed up immediately with a Magic Killer for the pin, securing the Block A victory for Los Ingobernables de Japon. This was not the most spectacular match of the tournament in terms of moves, but the psychology and drama of the bout made it excellent.

Night 18 results --

Togi Makabe & Henare defeated David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura (B Block)

Makabe scored the win with a knee drop off the top, in a battle of the only winless teams in the tournament. It seems to me that both Finlay and Kitamura are better than Henare and have something that he lacks, but making Henare look strong in defeat was a theme throughout the tournament. 

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) defeated Best Friends (Beretta & Chuck Taylor)

KES worked over Beretta for several minutes at the outset. Beretta tagged Taylor after nailing Archer with a DDT. Taylor hit a tope, but KES quickly regained the advantage, using a chokeslam on the apron and a Hart Attack. 

Beretta fought back, escaping a Killer Bomb and nailing Smith with a Dudebuster. Taylor got a near fall on Archer but missed a moonsault, allowing Archer to regain control. Archer hit a Blackout, but Taylor turned it into a backslide for a great near fall. 

The finish saw Smith take Beretta outside, then jump back into the ring to help Archer hit Taylor with the Killer Bomb for the win. The Best Friends didn't get as much offense as I expected.

War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson) defeated Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb (B Block)

Four big hosses slamming into each other was the entire psychology in this one. They did a cool bodyslam spot at the outset, and Hanson and Elgin teased suplexing each other for a long time before neither succeeded. 

Elgin hit a superplex and Cobb followed up with a standing moonsault for a near fall. Hanson hit a big dive to the outside onto Elgin, leaving Cobb to eat Fallout for the pin. This was not as good as expected, but it wasn't bad by any means. Cobb started strong, but did not blow away the Japanese audiences with his performances.

Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) defeated Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (B Block) -- Guerrillas of Destiny win the B Block and advance to the finals

The Guerrillas took the first five minutes, first taking out Ishii, then working over Yano. Ishii made a comeback and ran wild with some cool corner clothesline spots that got a good reaction and a series of suplexes. Loa cut him off, and they both tagged out.

Yano untied a turnbuckle pad, with Tonga crashing into the exposed buckles and giving Yano some time to ham it up for the crowd. Yano hit an inverted atomic drop and a slingshot into the exposed buckles on Tonga. Loa ran in to cut Yano off, but Yano escaped and nailed a low blow on Tonga for a two count.

The Guerillas used teamwork to evade another Yano low blow, then hit Guerrilla Warfare on Ishii, taking him out of the picture, and another Guerrilla Warfare on Yano to secure the victory. By virtue of their head-to-head wins over the teams they tied with, the Guerrillas advanced to the finals. 

Final standings --

A Block

  • SANADA & EVIL -- 10
  • Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI -- 8
  • Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi -- 8
  • Death Juice (Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan) -- 8
  • Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens -- 6
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima -- 6
  • Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka -- 6
  • Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata -- 4

B Block

  • Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) -- 10
  • War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson) -- 10
  • Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) -- 10
  • Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb -- 8
  • Best Friends (Beretta & Chuck Taylor) -- 8
  • Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano -- 8
  • Togi Makabe & Henare -- 2
  • David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura -- 0