NJPW World Tag League 2023: Nights 5-10 recap: Lansdell’s results & analysis of round robin action

By Chris Lansdell, PWTorch columnist



Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 2023 World Tag League. Today I’ll be looking at the third round of block matches. 


Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 2023 World Tag League. Today I’ll be looking at the third round of block matches. 

A Block Night 3 – Akibadai Cultural Gymnasium, Fujisawa

Alex Zayne was once again with Chris Charlton on commentary. Hopefully with a higher energy level this time. Actually, maybe it’s a lack of confidence in the role? 

GATES OF AGONY (Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona) (0) vs. REN NARITA & SHOTA UMINO (2)

We got a nice spot early in this one with Kaun whipping Narita back and forth between the apron and the barricade on the outside. It was quick and brutal, which should be GoA’s hallmark in this tournament if they want to make a name for themselves. Do the things that make you different.

The timing on this match was kind of unfortunate, as neither team can really afford to lose here. It was also a bit of the green leading the inexperienced, but they made it work. This might have been the best showing for Gates of Agony, albeit a short one.  

Just when it seemed to be picking up pace though, we got a sudden ending with a Death Rider out of practically nowhere. The fact that Gates of Agony keeps opening the tournament portion of the show, and keeps getting short matches, does not bode well for their standing in the eyes of New Japan.

WINNERS: Umino & Narita (4 pts) via pinfall in 10:00. (**1/4)

BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin) (2) vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) (2)

I absolutely love it when, during round robin tournaments, teams adapt to the strategies their opponents have shown. Bullet Club came out first and were jumped during their entrance by Yano and Ishii. 

That led to an early story of a beatdown of Yano while Ishii was kept down on the outside. Naturally Ishii got back to the apron and tagged in to clean house, but it was cut off and we got a sustained beatown of Ishii. This led to typical Yano shenanigans, but throughout Bullet Club always felt like regaining control.

Sometimes it’s a simple story that takes a match up a notch. This match had definite phases, chapters if you will, with a logical progression between them and with everyone getting a chance to shine. Bullet Club were always the likely winners, and the match was nothing special in terms of action, but this is how you take simple ingredients and make it worth watching.

WINNERS: Bullet Club War Dogs (4 pts) via pinfall in 12:00. (***)

HOUSE OF TORTURE (Evil & Yujiro Takahashi) (2) vs. KAITO KIYOMIYA & RYOHEI OIWA (2)

This was a tough one to watch, honestly. After the early exchanges, House of Torture gained control by removing a turnbuckle pad. They then had an extended period beating down Kiyomiya, and their offence just isn’t entertaining. 

On the bright side, there was no ref bump tonight. Did that mean no HoT shenanigans? Of course not. They just did it with some very clumsy, ugly, contrived distractions from the whole faction. With Oiwa nowhere to be seen, Kiyomiya managed to take down all the House of Torture long enough to hit a huracanrana for the win.

With the exception of more Oiwa showcasing, there was not much to see here. Far too much plodding offence that went nowhere, none of the progression or story that we saw in the prior match. 

When the interference reaches these levels, it just breaks the suspension of disbelief and makes me want to close the window. It’s not generating effective heel heat for me, it’s just annoying. For the NOAH representatives though, they continue to look impressive and full of fire.

WINNERS: Bullet Club War Dogs via pinfall in 13:00. (***½)

UNITED EMPIRE (Henare & Great-O-Khan) (2) vs. TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) (4)

One continuing thread this year has been the rekindling of beef from the G1. There were a lot of tag team competitors in that tournament, and they have ended up in the same groups for World Tag League. One such pairing is Mikey Nicholls and Henare, with the latter very keen to get his hands on the former.

That story was woven throughout the match, leading naturally to some exchanges between Haste and O-Khan as well. I thought Haste especially looked good here, keeping up with the physicality of the strikes of the United Empire team. 

The Henare-Nicholls feud would not play into the finish, which came against the run of play when Nicholls broke up an attempted Imperial Drop. TMDK would then connect with the Tankbuster for the win, with Haste pinning O-Khan.

A solid if unspectacular match, which feels like the tagline for this year’s tournament. I honestly expected a better match from these two teams, but ultimately it was just a good midcard match…which happened to be the main event.

WINNERS: TMDK (6 pts) via pinfall in 15:00. (***1/4)

Overall thoughts: TMDK have separated themselves at the top of the pack, with Gates of Agony languishing at the bottom on zero. Oiwa & Kiyomiya, Bullet Club, and Narita & Umino are all well-positioned at 4 points each. With four matches to go nobody is actually eliminated yet, and I would not be surprised to see Gates of Agony and United Empire go on winning streaks from here.

The tournament as a whole does seem to be misfiring somewhat. There have been two matches I would suggest people go out of their way to watch, both containing Bullet Club War Dogs. Everything else has been OK to good. We have yet to see a surprise quick win, a staple of New Japan booking, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

B Block Night  – Big Pallette Fukushima

There was no English commentary option for these matches, once again. It was manageable before so let’s hope it stays that way.

SOBERANO JR. & ATLANTIS JR. (4) vs. MONSTERSAUCE (Lance Archer & Alex Zayne) (4)

The battle of two surprising undefeated teams! For the first time this tournament, Atlantis and Soberano were dressed in different outfits. Zayne on the other hand was reluctant to come through the curtain, and then reluctant to open his ring robe. He was wearing shorts, you see. Because he forgot his bag. Oh, Japan.

With Zayne’s unique offence and Archer’s ability to be a base, I was intrigued by how this would unfold. It was an exciting affair in places. One special spot saw Archer on the mat and Zayne being held by Atlantis. Soberano hit a missile dropkick into a German suplex by Atlantis, with Soberano landing on Archer in a splash. A unique spot that actually made me gasp with the timing. 

This was lucha offence at its best, and Monstersauce played off it very well to make for the best opener in the tournament so far. And that’s coming from an avowed lucha disliker.

Gates of Agony would have benefited greatly from a match with Monstersauce, because Archer is the perfect template for what they should have been. Pummeling the Young Lions around the ring, chasing referees, throwing his partner into their opponents…Japanese audiences eat that up, and it was on full display here.

Monstersauce got the win following a Taco Driver from Zayne on Soberano Jr. after Lance Archer cleaned house. Zayne yelling “Itadakimasu!” before his finish is rapidly becoming my favourite part of the tournament.

WINNERS: Monstersauce (6 pts) via pinfall in 9:00. (***1/2)

BISHAMON (Yoshi-Hashi & Hirooki Goto) (0) vs. BULLET CLUB ROGUE ARMY (Bad Luck Fale & Jack Bonza) (0)

Nobody had Bishamon on 0 points at this stage, including me. On the other hand, many people had Bullet Club at 0 points….also including me. You’d expect Bishamon to pull this one out to get in the win column, and pull it out they did. 

Sadly, it was not a good match. Jack Bonza is trying his best out there, bless his Aussie heart, but Fale just brings nothing to these matches. I am fairly sure this team only exists to give Bonza a showcase, and he has taken his opportunity admirably. It’s just that we have to sit through seven Fale matches to see what Bonza can do.

The finish mercifully came when Bishamon hit their finisher on Bonza, having double-teamed Fale to the outside. With as many as two undefeated teams at the end of the night, Bishamon will need to keep winning to have a shot at advancing.

WINNERS: Bishamon (2 pts) via pinfall in 11:00. (*½)

JUST FIVE GUYS (Yuya Uemura & Taichi) (4) vs. MINORU SUZUKI & YUJI NAGATA (0)

Taichi and Uemura always look like they would rather be literally anywhere else than wrestling together. They still take the time to go high-five the audience, though. Suzuki and Nagata changed it up this time, coming out to Suzuki’s theme for a change. 

Suzuki was the mentor and stable leader of Taichi in Suzuki-Gun for a long time, so there is some interesting history here. After an opening stalemate, they did not square off again until about eight minutes into the match when they did a fairly typical (if protracted) strike exchange. They did shake hands at the end of the match, however.

It would not lead to the finish, though. That would come courtesy of the Deadbolt suplex by Uemura on Nagata. A largely uneventful match, with only the Taichi-Suzuki exchange really standing out. Uemura’s offence just didn’t seem to be at home here, with the exception of the closing flurry against Nagata.

The tags between Suzuki and Nagata were actually less aggressive here, which is not what I expected as a development. Although I still expect them to have a match at the end of the tournament, maybe they will coexist before then?

WINNERS: Just 5 Guys (6 pts) via pinfall in 15:00. (**¼)

YOTA TSUJI & ZANDOKAN JR. (2) vs. GUERILLAS OF DESTINY (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo) (2)

Another curious choice for a main event, but El Phantasmo and Zandokan should be able to do some fun things together and Tsuji pairing off with Hikuleo could be interesting. 

Despite some good stretches, this underwhelmed in general. Tsuji is good, ELP has been a workhorse so far, and Zandokan Jr. has shown some good signs. You can’t even really blame the quality on Hikuleo, who sustained more of the damage than usual and ate the pin.

No, the lack of excitement in this one was mainly down to the dreaded lack of chemistry. With the win, courtesy of the Gene Blast spear, you would have to expect a title shot for Tsuji and Zandokan Jr. at some point. 

WINNERS: Tsuji & Zandokan Jr. via pinfall in 16:00. (**½)

Overall thoughts: Still two undefeated teams in the B block, as Just 5 Guys and Monstersauce both picked up wins. As they face each other in the next round, that’s unlikely to continue. Bishamon finally picked up a win and could be about to go on a run to be in contention at the end of the round robin. 

I am still struggling to find the usual high quality I’ve come to expect from NJPW matches, especially main events. In a compressed tournament like this, with so many matches in a short time frame, I understand that wrestlers cannot go all out every night. As it stands though we aren’t really seeing anyone go for broke yet. 

The next round of matches does look promising, and although I have said this basically every show I hold out hope that we will see an improvement. It’s not that many matches have been bad. They just aren’t what we expect from this promotion.


Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 2023 World Tag League. We’re passing the halfway stage today with the fourth round of block matches. 

A Block Night 4 – Nagoya Congress Centre Event Hall

We are once again without English commentary. 

GATES OF AGONY (Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona) (0) vs. BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin) (4) 

Oh look, Gates of Agony hitting leadoff again. This time they tried a different strategy, and called Bullet Club out of the ring to start the fight on the floor. Kidd and Coughlin obliged, of course. The referee eventually got them into the ring, called for the bell…and they went back to the outside to brawl some more. This is what I had been waiting for! Some sort of identity and story in a GoA match.

I’m not a walk-and-brawl fan, but I do like innovative spots. Gate of Agony sandwiching Kidd between a gate and the barricade was one such spot. Toa Liona getting buried under about 15 pieces of barricade was another. And while I didn’t like the ref letting them fight outside for a full ten minutes without once trying to count, it did make some degree of sense.

Somehow, in a 13-minute fight, we did not have a single legal tag and the referee made no effort to get the extra man out of the ring. Even the finish, with Kaun hitting the Pedigree on Kidd, saw Liona fly over him to cut Coughlin off from the save. It was a fun fight but…can we at least pretend there are rules?

I was about to make a comment about Bishop Kaun having a potential future as a singles guy but…he’s 37. I may never recover from that.

WINNERS: Gates of Agony (2 pts) via pinfall in 9:00. (**)

HOUSE OF TORTURE (Evil & Yujiro Takahashi) (2) vs. UNITED EMPIRE (Henare & Great-O-Khan) (2)

We’ve seen instalments of this rivalry before, and it usually sees members of United Empire run in to cut short the House of Torture shenanigans. The whole House of Torture unit came out from the start of the match for this, while United Empire figured they would be OK with just Callum Newman for company. No way that backfires on them, right?

They didn’t even attempt to hide it. They started off laying in boots on the outside, all five of them, and they quickly disposed of Newman. Then Sho put a bag over the head of the ref while his stablemates commenced the beatdown. Somehow, that is not a DQ.

The next three minutes were sheer chaos, culminating in O-Khan spitting green mist at Takahashi and hitting the Dominator for the win. Well, there’s the surprise flash finish.This was a mess, but at least it was a short mess. 

WINNERS: United Empire (4 pts) via pinfall in 3:00. (*)

CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) (2) vs. TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) (6)

Would we, in our third tournament match of the night, finally get a legal tag? Would Yano’s antics cost TMDK their perfect record, the only one in the block? 

We did in fact get a tag, but not before Haste hit Ishii on the apron and Ishii just blanked it and then came in the ring with a receipt. A lot of the early stages of the match would follow that sort of pattern, humour dressed as physicality. I do enjoy doses of Yano-style humour when they are in moderation, and the entry of Ishii (legally) in the match provided both moderation and contrast. 

It wouldn’t last. Yano’s re-entry on a hot tag saw the match descend into chaos, much like the previous two. TMDK tried every tandem move they could find, to no avail. Ishii broke up a pin, then ate a Tankbuster. That gave Yano the time to recover, and after a series of misdirections and low blows he picked up the surprise win to break up the perfect game. 

Well, this has been one miserable night for match quality.

WINNERS: Chaos (4 pts) via pinfall in 10:00. (*½)


Okay, to this point the night has been miserable with three duds. I had high hopes for this one though, all four men have been on their game and have a lot to prove.With TMDK losing, one of them will end up in a tie for first. 

The match started slow, which combined with the shorter matches earlier on made me expect a time limit draw. It would not stay that way for long. What followed was the best 28 minutes of tag team wrestling we have had all tournament. 

It had its flaws; it too often felt like two singles matches joined together with tape. The impact move suite we had at the end was a little too much to be credible. But relative to everything else we have seen in the tournament, it was a real boost. I had this on my list of potential bangers, and it lived up to every bit of that billing. 

After a stiff and crisp exchange of near falls, Umino connected with the Death Rider on Oiwa for the win. All four men had their moments, but Oiwa and Umino had the best of this match. Oiwa’s excursion to NOAH seems to be doing him the world of good.

WINNERS: Narita & Umino (6 pts) via pinfall in 28:00. (****1/4)

Overall thoughts: Well. we’ve had our long match and our short match. We got a big upset, arguably two. We finally had an exceptional match. And we have a very tight A block going into round 5. We still need a draw to hit the New Japan tournament bingo, but tonight checked off a lot. I wish they had spread these mainstays out over the first few nights, it would have made things feel more interesting.

The first three matches almost made me stop watching tonight, I won’t pretend otherwise. Yes the main event was excellent, but that isn’t a reason to do three matches of extracurriculars first. Hopefully the remaining nights are more like the main event.

B Block Night 4 – Twin Messe Shizuoka

I really hope this night went better than the previous night’s A block action. Still no English commentary, by the way.

BULLET CLUB ROGUE ARMY (Bad Luck Fale & Jack Bonza) (0)cvs. YOTA TSUJI & ZANDOKAN JR. (4) 

I had a feeling this might be the first win for the Rogue Army. I was right. 

It only took a few minutes for us to get a legal tag, already putting us ahead of where A block was through most of two matches. We also saw a couple of things for the first time: Tsuji and Zandokan finally connected with their double-team Anchor move, and Fale hit the Grenade.

The latter would lead to a backbreaker from Bonza and a big elbow drop from Fale for the rather anticlimactic win, but one that I’m sure a few people expected. There was nothing really wrong with this match, it was pretty standard fare. Tsuji and Zandokan got a bit more shine than normal in an eight-minute match, but that’s because they were losing.

On reflection, I think my issue with this result is that it didn’t really make sense in the context of the match or the tournament. With the A block upset, you could put it down to cheating. This result just sort of came out of nowhere. 

My expectation now is that Rogue Army gets no more wins, and their match with Suzuki and Nagata will determine the bottom finishers.

WINNERS: Bullet Club Rogue Army (2 pts) via pinfall in 8:00. (**)


The Murder Grandpas were back to Nagata’s entrance theme. Poor Nagata looks like every step he takes is agony.

On paper this was a clash of styles that would have trouble meshing. Sure, ELP is adept at the comedic side and Suzuki is actually an excellent foil for that, but the others are not on that track and it wouldn’t carry the whole match. It did give us a fun spot where ELP delivered an atomic drop to Suzuki and an inverted atomic drop to Nagata, then sold his leg.

In the end it was not that bad. The finish came out of the usual Nagata/Suzuki spot where they both apply their trademark submissions. Having fought off the sleeper, ELP was able to escape the Gotch-style piledriver and hit Sudden Death and CR2 for the win. We also got to see a beautiful Lionsault from ELP earlier in the match.

I do understand why teams like Nagata & Suzuki are in the tournament, and they have been a lot more entertaining than a Young Lion team would have been (as an example), but I think the overall quality of the matches has suffered with so many teams that have no realistic shot at winning.

WINNERS: Guerillas of Destiny (4 pts) via pinfall in 11:00. (**)

JUST FIVE GUYS (Yuya Uemura & Taichi) (6) vs. MONSTERSAUCE (Lance Archer & Alex Zayne) (6)

The battle of the undefeateds is somehow not the main event tonight. There’s also the additional history of Archer and Taichi as former Suzuki-Gun stablemates.

You’ll be glad to know that Alex Zayne had his regular tights back for tonight. I will never get used to seeing Taichi slapping hands with the fans and patting babies on the head. It just ain’t right, man.

I was happy to see them play up the Taichi-Archer connection right away, much like they did with Taichi and Suzuki. I also enjoyed a spot around the 9-minute mark where Uemura tried to arm drag Archer. Sometimes a simple move can tell a story, even a short one.

Despite how good they have looked and how much I like them, I was somewhat surprised that Monstersauce picked up the win here. Archer picked up Zayne (yes, his own partner) for the Blackout, but dropped him on top of Uemura for the pinfall.

Overall a good match, but with less of what had made Monstersauce so much fun to watch. I have no idea how they came to be a team, but they have found something special as a pairing. They have the right balance of comedy, intimidation, offensive innovation, size and speed, charisma, and experience. I would dearly love to see them in North America.

WINNERS: Monstersauce (8 pts) via pinfall in 12:00. (***)

SOBERANO JR. & ATLANTIS JR. (4) vs. BISHAMON (Yoshi-Hashi & Hirooki Goto) (2)

The champs have not impressed so far in the tournament, despite having decent matches. We know they are capable of more but just have not found that gear yet. On the other hand I have been impressed with the CMLL team and their ability to adapt their lucha style to the NJPW ring and style. It’s been a smoother transition than I expected.

When the ring announcer said five minutes had passed, I was at a loss to think of anything I had just seen. It was an utterly unremarkable opening stretch, but it’s almost as though that call woke all four men up. 

Unfortunately, they woke up a little muddled in the head. Soberano and Atlantis took the match to the outside, working over Goto on the floor, and it was very clearly not their strength. It just did not look convincing, with the exception of a cool tiger feint kick using the apron. They tried to play the heels (or rudos, if you prefer) and it just did not work for me.

That probably was not helped by the fact that the crowd seemed to get behind them, which does not augur well for the ostensibly-face champions. However, it took an inspired Yoshi-Hashi to bring the match back to regular service. So long the butt of jokes for NJPW fans, he’s found a niche in this team. It was his exchange with Soberano Jr. that put some energy back into the match…albeit after 15-plus minutes.

As the time ticked down, Bishamon spent far too long playing to the crowd. All four men did try to pick the pace up for the last three minutes, but Yoshi-Hashi in particular kept taking the time to scream and call for the fans. 

The rating will seem low for a 30-minute draw, but the pacing was all over the place and a lot of the psychology just made no sense whatsoever. It was a strange match that I had a hard time getting into. Every time I thought it was going to draw me in, they slowed it down again. I expect a fair few will like this a lot more than I did.

WINNERS: Time limit draw. Bishamon goes to 3 points, Soberano Jr. & Atlantis Jr. go to 5 points. (***¼)

Overall thoughts: Monstersauce continues to set the early pace, both in entertainment and points. Bishamon have their work cut out for them if they want to advance, but there are still 3 matches left. I believe only Nagata & Suzuki are mathematically eliminated now, but they can and likely will play spoiler. In fact I have them beating Monstersauce next.

Just 5 Guys and the CMLL team of Soberano Jr. & Atlantis Jr. are next in the table, which is probably not what most would have predicted. I fully expect Monstersauce to lose the next match, likely playing off the Archer/Suzuki history, and that could make for a very interesting last two rounds. 

If Bishamon is going to fulfil any part of my prediction they will need to win out from here. I think it more likely that one of Just 5 Guys and Tsuji/Zandokan progress, and on the strength of their performances I would be just fine with that. 


Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 2023 World Tag League. The fifth round has us coming around the corner into the home stretch, which is when we traditionally see things picking up. 

A Block Night 5 – Wakayama Prefectural Gymnasium

We are once again without English commentary. It’s also worth noting that in a very small venue, only the floor seats and one section of the upper level were occupied, and that upper level was sparse. It’s not unusual for the round-robin stages of these tournaments to visit smaller buildings on tour, but they could not have been happy with the attendance. 

GATES OF AGONY (Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona) (2) vs. HOUSE OF TORTURE (Evil & Yujiro Takahashi) (2) 

No special garb for our traditional curtain jerkers tonight. They were instead wearing…House of Torture shirts? What has happened here? This is where I really miss English commentary. When did this happen?

Oh it was a setup! Gates of Agony threw the three extraneous House of Torture members to the floor, tore off their shirts, and started beating down Evil and Takahashi. Unfortunately from there we devolved into HoT shenanigans. 

I will give credit to Gates of Agony, they have figured out the formula for being the type of monsters that Japanese audiences enjoy. Toa Liona in particular seems to have won over the fans. I hope they can translate this learning to the North American audience.

Despite the result, which of course came after copious interference and a plethora of weaponry, I actually enjoyed this match more than most of the cheating-infested contests we get from House of Torture. That is probably due to the fact that you can actually feel Gates of Agony improving.

With this result, Gates of Agony are mathematically eliminated.

WINNERS: House of Torture (4 pts) via pinfall in 11:00. (**1/4)

TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) (6) vs. KAITO KIYOMIYA & RYOHEI OIWA (4)

Oiwa and Kitomiya have really impressed me so far, and TMDK have been consistently solid. I wasn’t sure going in how they would play off each other, but I expected a more traditional New Japan-style contest. 

I was, to a degree, wrong. This was a sprint, and an enjoyable one to boot. Oiwa continued to show off how far he has come, and how good he is going to be. Kiyomiya has repaired the damage done during the G1. TMDK, on the other hand, has been played up (at least when there has been English commentary) as the best team never to win the IWGP tag titles…and they look it.

TMDK jumped into the group lead thanks to the Tankbuster on Oiwa. They have looked like the class team in the group, despite not having the best matches in my mind. This was likely their best of the tournament so far, and to go at this speed for 12 minutes with a much younger team is impressive in itself. 

WINNERS: TMDK (8 pts) via pinfall in 12:00. (***1/4)

BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin) (4) vs. UNITED EMPIRE (Henare & Great-O-Khan) (4)

These men do not like each other. I am not sure anyone likes Bullet Club to be fair, but there is particular animus between these teams. 

Once again, I found myself greatly enjoying a War Dogs match. They have this hard-hitting, physical style that is a cross between strong style and the North American style. They still manage to mix in enough technical moves and throws to keep it interesting. 

United Empire make the perfect opponents for that style, as they can give as good as they get. While their relative lack of success in this tournament is a surprise to me, they are still a talented unit. I’m not sure why Jeff Cobb wasn’t the partner for O-Khan, but that could be due to a larger planned role for him following Ospreay’s AEW move.

An interesting thing to watch coming out of this match is that Gabe Kidd hit the Os-Cutter, quite well I might add, and called out Ospreay several times ahead of his title shot on Dec. 18. War Dogs also won the match with a spike tombstone that looked suspiciously Young Bucks-ish. 

WINNERS: Bullet Club War Dogs (6 pts) via pinfall in 10:00. (***½)

REN NARITA & SHOTA UMINO (6) vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) (4)

Putting aside the tantalising prospect of Narita and Ishii locking up, did anyone really ask for a main-event Toru Yano match in 2023? 

After some forearm smash exchanges between Narita and Ishii, and then Ishii and Umino, the match settled into typical Yano territory. That would be mercifully short, and we returned to the forearm battle. It’s not that I do not like Yano or his unique humour, I just don’t want it in the main event.

To his credit, Yano did tone it down a little as the match progressed. No matter what he has become, he used to be a top-tier tag-team heel and he can still pull out the skills sometimes when needed. Tonight, it was needed.

I am honestly not sure which was more impressive: Yano turning on the seriousness (to a degree), or Ishii wrestling the majority of the match and keeping up with two people twenty years his junior. 

Narita is growing on me, but I really noticed in this match that Umino seems to be borrowing more and more offence from his mentor’s stablemates. We saw the Lebel lock, we saw a few pop-up European uppercuts. That’s in addition to his use of Death Rider as a finisher. 

Sometimes you have to eat your words, and I do not mind doing so here. This was a banger. Yano played his part in that, making sure there was some variety in the match and changing modes to be serious when needed. The finishing sequence was pure New Japan: counters and reversals of finishers into a clean pin in the middle following the sheer-drop brainbuster. 

WINNERS: Yano & Ishii (6 pts) via pinfall in 23:00. (***3/4)

Overall thoughts: We’re starting to see a marked improvement in match quality. Even House of Torture delivered a watchable product for this show, and Yano was in the match of the night somehow. It just goes to show something I have said for years: there is a big difference between “cannot wrestle” and “does not wrestle.” 

The A block now has TMDK at the top with 8 points, followed by Bullet Club War Dogs, Chaos, and Umino & Narita all on 6 points. Only Gates of Agony are technically out of the running. With TMDK facing Umino & Narita next, the door could swing wide open for qualification going into the final night. 

I still see TMDK going through, and either War Dogs or Umino & Narita joining them. War Dogs have the tougher final match, against TMDK, but with Umino & Narita facing House of Torture it’s fair to say anything could happen there.

B Block Night 5 – Edion Arena Osaka

It’s quite easy to tell that the NJPW brass does not expect many people to watch these round-robin matches. The lack of English commentary for almost all of them, even done virtually like Kevin Kelly used to do, is a glaring indication.

BULLET CLUB ROGUE ARMY (Bad Luck Fale & Jack Bonza) (2) vs. GUERILLAS OF DESTINY (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo) (4)

A loss here would eliminate Rogue Army, and I fully expected that outcome. The entire tournament for that pairing has been about making Jack Bonza look good, and for the most part it has been successful.

Hikuleo and Fale have history. In addition to being cousins, Fale was one of Hikuleo’s first trainers. They were also in Bullet Club together of course. Fale seemed to be more motivated for his exchanges with Hikuleo…but that’s not saying much given how lacklustre he has been all tournament.

A Thunderkiss ‘85 off the shoulders of Hikuleo secured the win, despite a comical spot where Hikuleo played sentry to make sure nobody broke up the pin…when he was the legal man. A perfectly fine opener, Bonza once again looking good and Hikuleo selling well as the recipient of the early heat. “Vulnerable giant” is a tough line to straddle, but he is learning well.

WINNERS: Guerillas of Destiny (6 pts) via pinfall in 11:00. (**1/2)

SOBERANO JR. & ATLANTIS JR. (5) vs. JUST FIVE GUYS (Yuya Uemura & Taichi) (6)

Quite a significant matchup to be second on the card, as the winner of this would be in a very strong position to move on. Both teams have surprised me with their results thus far. I’ve also been very impressed with the ability of Soberano and Atlantis to adapt their styles to a NJPW ring.

I think I enjoyed this match more than almost all the other CMLL team matches. There were a few too many top-rope crossbodies for my liking, but Soberano Jr. in particular looked very good. He hit a particularly impressive Lionsault from a standing position on the second rope, and there was a loud and savage chop exchange with Taichi that made MY chest hurt.

Not to be outdone, Atlantis and Uemura had their own nasty chop battle.  After a couple of very close near falls, Uemura picked up a sudden win after a deep arm drag and a crucifix roll-up. Not a sentence I ever expected to type, but sometimes you need these surprise pins to make other near falls feel convincing.

For the variety of offence on display, the way the four men gelled, and the surprise finish, I recommend catching this match. Likely the best all four men have shown throughout the tournament.

WINNERS: Just Five Guys (8 pts) via pinfall in 15:00. (***1/2)

MINORU SUZUKI & YUJI NAGATA (0) vs. MONSTERSAUCE (Lance Archer & Alex Zayne) (8)

First against last in the semi-main event, and a battle of mentor and student in Suzuki and Archer. The latter was all business in his entrance, not even pausing to knock out a young lion at ringside.

The crowd was VERY into Suzuki and his entrance, and he and Archer stared down immediately. I don’t use this expression lightly, but you could actually feel the tension. Nagata and Zayne just backed out of the ring and let the two former stablemates go at it.

Archer produced a Suzuki-Gun t-shirt and challenged Suzuki to bring it. Suzuki did, in fact, bring it. Even after both men tagged out they continued jawing at each other. I was sure that animosity would play into the finish, but instead we got a somewhat surprising back drop suplex bridge from Nagata on Zayne for the win.

I did predict this outcome, but I didn’t want it to come true. I also didn’t particularly like the way the match ended. We did just have a surprise finish in the previous match which worked well, but this one just felt disjointed.

A really enjoyable slugfest, with Monstersauce continuing to show off some excellent teamwork. The match rating was hurt by the suddenness of the finish. It didn’t seem to fit, and given everything that came before it didn’t look or feel like it deserved to be the final blow in the match.

WINNERS: Nagata & Suzuki (2 pts) via pinfall in 10:00. (***1/4)

YOTA TSUJI & ZANDOKAN JR. (4) vs. BISHAMON (Yoshi-Hashi & Hirooki Goto) (3)

I’m not sure I understand why this was the main event. To my knowledge there is no history here, and although the champions should be the main event by default (in my opinion anyway) there was a better choice in the previous match. This has been a common complaint all tournament though.

The match was fine, I couldn’t really point to anything that was bad, but it never came together to make it a worthy cap to the night. It was only in the closing sequence that the match felt like it had a natural flow. It’s not a coincidence that for that entire sequence, Bishamon was in the ascendancy.

There’s not much to report here. Tsuji and Zandokan Jr. are not a regular tag team and will not be going forward, so it’s not surprising to see a bit of a lack of chemistry. Bishamon have been very streaky all tournament, but they seemed to be back on track here with their performance. The tag team champs should be leading by example with match quality, and they have not. 

WINNERS: Bishamon (5 points) via pinfall in 14:00  (**1/2)

Overall thoughts: After losing to Monstersauce in the previous round, Just Five Guys has now joined them atop the standings. Guerillas of Destiny are next on 6, then Bishamon and Soberano Jr. & Atlantis Jr. on 5 each. Tsuji and Zandokan Jr. need a miracle to go through, and the other teams are out of the running.

That does leave us tantalisingly poised for the last two rounds. I believe Monstersauce can secure a spot with a win and a GoD loss, while the same goes for Just Five Guys. However I think we will end up in a situation where Bishamon has to win on the last night while hoping one of Monstersauce and J5G loses, which means one of them will need to be on 8 points going in to the final night. 

Tonight’s matches are all worth watching, though the opener and the main event are somewhat skippable if you are shorter on time. The match quality has definitely improved as the tournament progressed, possibly because the makeshift teams are learning to work together better. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts at lansdellicious@gmail.com or on Twitter @lansdellicious . Thanks for stopping by!

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