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NJPW World Tag League: Updated results, standings & analysis

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By Ethan Renner

As the 2017 World Tag League continues, each block tells a different story. 

After eight nights, and three matches for each team, Block A is one of parity. Each team has scored at least one victory, and also tasted defeat once. Block B stands in contrast, with one dominant, undefeated team, Killer Elite Squad, and two winless teams. 

As a rule, I prefer the booking of the B Block, as I believe in a firm pecking order. In practice, I can nitpick the choice of team, as I can point out three other teams in the block that have looked as good or better than Killer Elite Squad. I also understand that the A Block is stacked with a couple of more veteran teams, and to honor and respect the legacy of more veteran performers, and perhaps to placate fading stars, a more parity-based approach is understandable. 

Another story that continues to bear watching is the fate of the newcomers, Chuck Taylor, Jeff Cobb, and Sami Callihan. 

Of the three, Callihan has continued to receive the best reactions. His confidence seems renewed, and his loose cannon shtick, and the way that veterans like Satoshi Kojima have sold for that act, have helped in that regard. Cobb's reactions were notably less vibrant than in his first two outings, but his pairing with Elgin, who reminds me of a modern Vader in Japan right now, will continue to serve him well. Elgin is really over and his power stuff has received some of the bigger reactions of the tournament. 

Chuck Taylor, as predicted in my previous tournament piece, seems to be having the toughest time getting over. The Best Friends comedy has been subtle at best, and non-existent at times. Without the comedy act, I would expect that Taylor would need a winning streak or a blow-away match to solidify him with the new crowd.

None of those things have happened yet, but I am still confident that the overall quality of Taylor's work will shine through, and the New Japan audience will take note.  

Night five results --

Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens defeated Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page (A Block)

Both Bullet Club teams here, so the match began with a group hug. Fale and Yujiro did some comedy, then Page and Owens tagged in for a nice mat work sequence. Owens and Fale proved to be the badder of the bad guys, and put the boots to Page and Takahashi.

Page did a nice top rope moonsault from the post to the outside. The finish saw Fale hoist Page for the Bad Luck Fall, but Takahashi begged him not to do it. While Takahashi dealt with Fale, Owens hit him with a schoolboy for the win. The teams hugged after the match, so no Bullet Club dissension here.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima defeated Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (A Block)

This had great heat. The crowd was very forgiving of the physical limitations of these four veterans. The match was good when Nagata, Tenzan, and Kojima were in, but Nakanishi is clearly hurting.

Nagata and Nakanishi worked over Kojima for a long time. Nakanishi hit a crossbody off the top rope onto Kojima, which the place went nuts for. Kojima hit a stunner, a suplex, and a massive lariat on Nakanishi for the pinfall victory. 

Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka defeated EVIL & SANADA (A Block)

The fans loved Iizuka's entrance through the crowd. Suzuki attacked EVIL and SANADA while the introductions were still taking place. They brawled all over the arena and Suzuki repeatedly used a chair on EVIL. Back in the ring, they worked over EVIL's right arm, which was heavily taped up.

SANADA tagged in and looked great, even in working with Iizuka. SANADA did the Ric Flair turnbuckle spot out onto the apron and followed up with an awesome dropkick to Suzuki. The finish saw El Desperado take the ref, allowing Iizuka to hit EVIL with a loaded glove, and Suzuki nailed him with the Gotch piledriver for the win. 

Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan defeated Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI (A Block)

I would be hard pressed to explain the psychology of this match to you. YOSHI-HASHI and Robinson worked the bulk of it, most of which was YOSHI-HASHI working over Robinson, getting the better of every striking exchange, and Juice's only hope spots coming when YOSHI-HASHI missed a move.

Callihan continued to get over well with his intensity and the loose cannon stuff, including kissing YOSHI-HASHI, which ultimately led to the finish. 

Night six results --

Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano defeated David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura (B Block)

Finlay and Kitamura jumped Ishii and Yano before the bell to claim the early advantage. That was short-lived. As they brawled into the crowd, Yano took over on Kitamura, nailing him with a chair. Ishii was great selling Kitamura's chops, but refusing to bump for them.

Ishii and Yano continued to work over Kitamura in the ring. Finlay got a tag and ran wild on Yano, who undid a turnbuckle pad. Finlay and Yano did some crotch comedy. Kitamura and Ishii traded gutwrench suplexes and chops while Yano and Finlay went outside. Ishii hit a brainbuster on Kitamura for the victory. 

Guerrillas of Destiny defeated Henare & Togi Makabe (B Block)

Henare hit a couple of beautiful arm drags in the opening minute. Tama Tonga's standing frog splash looked awesome. Everything Makabe did was technically sound, but he looked to be moving in slow motion compared to the other three guys in the match.

Makabe broke up a near fall and brawled with Tonga on the outside. Tanga Loa hit a lariat and a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall, before eventually hitting Henare with a reverse piledriver for the win. Nothing special.

War Machine defeated Best Friends (B Block)

The teams shook hands before the match. To call this a clash of styles would be an understatement. They did some stuff early to establish both that War Machine can do comedy, and that Beretta and Taylor can be serious competitors.

Ray Rowe worked the bulk of the match for his team and did a ton of impressive throws and power moves. War Machine hit a modified Hart Attack for a cool near fall. Beretta hit a top rope release German suplex on Hanson and followed with a piledriver for a near fall. They really had the crowd by this point.

War Machine hit a double team powerslam and Hanson connected with a tope on Taylor. Taylor was the legal man, so Hanson threw him inside. Rowe escaped a schoolboy, and War Machine hit Fallout on Taylor for the victory. Good match. 

Killer Elite Squad defeated Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb (B Block)

Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Cobb did a lot of grappling and mat work early on, which Smith largely got the best of. If Smith is going to work jiu-jitsu into his matches, shouldn't he wear a gi? If you're a shooter, dress like a shooter, not like a street brawler from 1999 in jeans and work boots.

Elgin did some good power spots with Smith, and the crowd was into everything he did. On the other hand, Cobb was not as over as he was in his last outing. Elgin hit a superplex to Lance Archer, with Cobb following up with double standing shooting star presses for a near fall. Archer and Smith recovered and hit Cobb with their double team powerbomb move for the finish. 

Night seven results --

EVIL & SANADA defeated Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens (A Block)

Owens and Fale worked over EVIL for several minutes, and both teams brawled into the crowd. Owens used a guardrail on EVIL. Maybe the crowd brawling gets over live, but I have always hated it on television. SANADA tagged in and did his Flair corner bump into a dropkick spot, which still looks amazing.

Owens hit a Codebreaker on EVIL for a great near fall. EVIL, SANADA, and Owens did a great finishing sequence which saw Owens eat a pin from EVIL. This really picked up towards the end and turned into a good match. 

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima defeated Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan (A Block)

Tenzan and Kojima got some chants. Tenzan worked with Callihan and Kojima with Robinson, early on. Robinson worked over Kojima, who then hit a DDT to shift the momentum. Tenzan tagged in and worked on Juice, but Callihan ran in and interfered at will. Kojima tagged in and did some of his trademark spots with Robinson, with Callihan again breaking up TenKoji's momentum.

Kojima kicked out of a powerbomb. Callihan spit on Kojima and kissed him, but Kojima turned him inside out with a lariat and scored the pinfall. The crowd was into this perhaps more than any match in the tournament to this point. 

Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi defeated Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka (A Block)

It was wild to see Suzuki selling for Nakanishi's offense, but I suppose there's a respect factor there. After an initial flurry from Nakanishi and Nagata, everyone brawled outside. Shocking, I know. Back inside, Suzuki worked over Nakanishi for what felt like days. Nagata got a tag and briefly got the upper hand, then Suzuki reclaimed control.

Iizuka got in and did some brawling and biting comedy with Nagata. The finish was something of a cluster. Suzuki took the ref, Iizuka went for the loaded glove, Suzuki gave up the ref, the ref took the glove away, Suzuki and Nakanishi brawled outside, and Nagata hit Iizuka with a backdrop hold for the pin. This is not worth going out of your way to see. 

Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page defeated Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI (A Block)

Goto and YOSHI-HASHI ran wild in the opening minute until Page and Takahashi took over. They worked over YOSHI-HASHI, with Page doing most of the heavy lifting. They did a nice tandem clothesline into a leg drop and senton double team.

Goto tagged in and cleared Page out of the ring, and went to work on Takahashi. Page recovered and did an awesome dropkick/standing shooting star combo on Goto and YOSHI-HASHI. YOSHI-HASHI and Page did some more spots. YOSHI-HASHI sure gets a lot of offense for someone of his skill level, doesn't he? Takahashi broke up a pin on Page, who rolled outside. Page flew back in and nailed YOSHI-HASHI with the Rite of Passage for the pinfall win. A decent match to close night seven. 

Night eight results --

This show took place in Nagoya on Sunday, and was just recently uploaded to NJPW World. Here are quick results from the four tournament matches:

Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb defeated David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura (B Block)

Best Friends defeated Henare & Togi Makabe (B Block)

Killer Elite Squad defeated Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (B Block)

Guerrillas of Destiny defeated War Machine (B Block)

Current Standings -- 

A Block

  • Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens -- 4
  • Death Juice (Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan) -- 4
  • Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi -- 4
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima -- 4
  • Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI -- 2
  • Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka -- 2 
  • SANADA & EVIL -- 2
  • Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata -- 2

B Block

  • Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) -- 6
  • War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson) -- 4
  • Best Friends (Beretta & Chuck Taylor) -- 4
  • Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb -- 4
  • Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) -- 4
  • Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano -- 2
  • David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura -- 0
  • Togi Makabe & Henare -- 0