By Ethan Renner
New Japan Pro Wrestling's World Tag League is underway, and the story of the tournament so far is how the newcomers have fared.
Sami Callihan, paired with Juice Robinson, Jeff Cobb, partnered with Michael Elgin, and Chuck Taylor, teaming with Beretta, have all tasted victory in their opening matches.
In Callihan's case, it was difficult for me to believe that he was the same performer that I saw in WWE in 2015. Particularly when in the ring with EVIL, Callihan displayed a confidence as a performer that I thought he was lacking in his NXT tenure. Robinson played well off his over-the-top intensity, and the duo held up their end of the main event spot on night one of the tournament.
Taylor might have a tougher road, as his reactions in the early going of his opening match were tepid at best. But as illustrated by the great response to some of his flying work late in the match, his stuff will play here, and he will eventually get over.
Cobb was born to wrestle in NJPW. His powerhouse frame and intensity are pluses, and to top it off, he got to work with Tomohiro Ishii, both in a six-man on night one, and in a tournament match on night three. Any time Ishii sold for Cobb it gave him instant credibility, and coupled with his ability, it is easy to predict singles stardom for Cobb here in the future.
Night one results --
Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI defeated Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka (A Block)
They did lots of crowd brawling early. I am of the opinion that the next time a crowd brawl looks good in modern wrestling will be the first time. Suzuki and Iizuka used chairs as they fought all over the building, but no disqualifications were called.
This was fine, maybe even good when Goto and Suzuki were in together, but ranged from middling to poor otherwise. The finish saw YOSHI-HASHI break up a guillotine attempt by Suzuki on Goto, who recovered and nailed Suzuki with his finisher for the pin.
Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan defeated SANADA & EVIL (A Block)
Robinson and SANADA did some nice mat work early. Callihan and EVIL did some power stuff, and Callihan hit a sick dive through the middle and bottom ropes to the outside.
SANADA and EVIL worked over Robinson before it broke down into a four-way. Callihan kissed Robinson at one point to try to fire him up. He saved Robinson as EVIL went to finish him, and Robinson recovered and hit the Pulp Friction for the pin.
Night two results --
Best Friends (Beretta & Chuck Taylor) defeated Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (B Block)
A couple of nice spots early highlighted Taylor's agility. This was all about establishing Taylor and Beretta's friendship and teamwork. After some flying and crowd brawling early on, this settled down into your basic tag match, with the Guerillas working over Beretta.
The match wasn't getting over to a great degree until Taylor hit a beautiful tope. Beretta eventually hit a Dudebuster for the win.
Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb defeated Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (B Block)
Cobb and Ishii started off. They pounded away at each other, no-sold each other, and the crowd ate it up. When Ishii eventually left his feet and bumped for a Cobb shoulder block, the place loved it. Elgin and Yano did some comedy. Ishii and Yano double-teamed Cobb, then Elgin got a tag and ran wild.
Elgin and Ishii did some of their trademark power stuff before it broke down. Cobb saved Elgin from a near fall with rolling German suplexes on Ishii. Cobb and Elgin got a great near fall with a double team move, and Elgin hit Ishii with a buckle bomb and a sit-out powerbomb for the pin. This was good stuff.
Night three results --
Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page defeated Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (A Block)
They kept it simple and tried to milk the crowd early on. The Bullet Club got the heat on Nakanishi with a low blow while the referee was distracted. Page and Takahashi then worked over Nakanishi forever with chops, kicks, and eye gouging.
Nagata got a tag and looked pretty good in working with Page, but Takahashi ended up hitting Nakanishi with the Pimp Juice DDT for the pin.
Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima (A Block)
A battle of the Bullet Club and the Bread Club. Tenzan and Kojima worked over Owens in the early going. He recovered and all four guys brawled outside and into the crowd. Back inside, Owens worked on Kojima with punches and elbows.
Fale tagged in for the occasional power spot, but this was largely Owens doing the bulk of the work and keeping it very simple. Fale hit the Bad Luck Fall on Kojima for the pin.
Night four results --
This show took place in Yamanashi on Tuesday and was recently uploaded to NJPW World. Here are quick results from the two tournament matches:
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) defeated David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura (B Block)
Smith Jr. pinned Kitamura after a double-team powerbomb.
War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson) defeated Togi Makabe & Henare (B Block)
Rowe got the pin on Henare after War Machine hit Fallout (a diving leg drop/belly-to-back suplex combo).
Current standings --
- Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI -- 2
- Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan -- 2
- Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens -- 2
- Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page -- 2
- SANADA & EVIL -- 0
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima -- 0
- Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata -- 0
- Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka -- 0
- Best Friends (Beretta & Chuck Taylor) -- 2
- Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb -- 2
- Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) -- 2
- War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson) -- 2
- David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura -- 0
- Togi Makabe & Henare -- 0
- Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) -- 0
- Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano -- 0