NJPW World Tag League 2023: Nights 13 & 14 recap: Lansdell’s results & analysis of round robin action

By Chris Lansdell, PWTorch contributor



Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 2023 World Tag League. We have reached the end of the round-robin portion, and by the end of the day on Thursday we will know our semifinalists. There are 4 teams technically still alive in each block, which should make for some tense finishes to those matches.

A Block Night 7 – Karatsu Athletic Stadium, Saga

GATES OF AGONY (Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona) (2) vs. KAITO KIYOMIYA & RYOHEI OIWA (4) 

Neither team can qualify for the semifinals, but you wouldn’t know it watching the effort they brought. It wasn’t an off-the-charts great match, but it was exciting enough and engaged the fans. Gates of Agony finish 2-5 for 4 points, matching Oiwa & Kiyomiya. 

Both teams were impressive in terms of what they wantrd to achieve, though I think for Kiyomiya the lack of points would be seen as a letdown. I hope Gates of Agony learned as much as it seems they did, and come back to North America with a push and the same physicality they have shown here.

On their way out of the ring, Gates of Agony seemed to adopt Young Lion Yuto Nakashima. I wonder if he will come to ROH for an excursion?

WINNERS: Gates of Agony (4 pts) via pinfall in 11:00. (**1/2)

REN NARITA & SHOTA UMINO (6) vs. HOUSE OF TORTURE (Evil & Yujiro Takahashi) (4)

Although Narita & Umino can draw level with the top of the group on points, they do not have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the relevant teams and so cannot advance even with a win.

Umino & Narita tried to jump House of Torture during the latter’s entrance, but it did not go to plan. Narita seemed to be hurt on the outside, leaving Umino to fight three men on his own.

I fully expected a typical House of Torture match, and to be fair I did not have to suffer through that again. There was a little Togo interference, and some typical heel tactics (biting, eye gouging, the sort of thing I don’t mind when it’s at even strength), but the ref was left whole for much of the match.

Instead, what I got was Narita refusing a tag just after the five-minute mark, then getting off the apron and pulling up a chair to watch the rest of the match from the ramp. While the camera was focused on the drama, we got the expected ref bump and five-on-one mugging. 

Umino tried hard, fighting off the whole faction and blocking Everything is Evil AND Pimp Juice. He was setting for Death Rider when Narita grabbed him in a rear naked choke, completely dead-faced, and choked Umino out before passing him over to Evil for the win.

The match itself was OK (largely thanks to a sterling effort from Umino), but the angle was well done and somewhat surprising. Narita would join House of Torture post-match, with Desperado on commentary looking genuinely hurt.

WINNERS: House of Torture (4 pts) via pinfall in 10:00. (**1/4)

CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) (8) vs. UNITED EMPIRE (Henare & Great-O-Khan) (6)

United Empire need to win this match AND need TMDK to win in order to qualify. Chaos need to win and would also prefer TMDK to win, although if War Dogs win we have an interesting situation with a three-way tie. 

As if they knew what we all wanted to see, Ishii and Henare started the match just plastering each other with shots. For the most part United Empire had control of the offence, and despite Yano being Yano they kept it entertaining and mostly serious. These four men just seem to have exceptional chemistry.

The finishing sequence was truly exceptional, with several near finishes and some spots that made me gasp. Eventually United Empire would get the predicted win with Streets of Rage, setting up an all-important main event. 

I’m quite happy to admit I was wrong about the Chaos pairing. Ishii is a magician who has a sixth sense for when to turn up the pace and intensity, and Yano is the perfect complement. They have consistently had good matches every night, and this might have been the best yet.

United Empire didn’t always impress, but their style doesn’t mesh with everyone. With the right opponents they are still very entertaining even without Jeff Cobb.

WINNERS: United Empire (8 pts) via pinfall in 14:00. (***1/2)

BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin) (8) vs. TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) (10)

TMDK are through to the semis no matter what, as only War Dogs can pass them now. War Dogs need a win or draw to go through. 

War Dogs entered first, beating up poor Ichiban Sweet Boy Kosei Fujita on their way down the ramp. Gabe Kidd called out TMDK and we were underway with a brawl. I guess this is how they justify the teams not just agreeing to draw, since they would both go through in that situation.

We got chair shots, we got railings being swung like baseball bats, we got choking and more choking and then a little more choking for variety. 

Once they actually got to the ring, TMDK hit the Tankbuster (which has won them every match so far) on Kidd but Coughlin broke up the pin. Kidd then hit a piledriver on Haste, but Nicholls broke up the pin. All of that before we hit five minutes.

The story being told here was of two evenly-matched teams who hate each other. It was a constant back-and-forth, with Shane Haste taking the brunt of the beatdown but giving as good as he got. War Dogs got an extended period of offence, but then TMDK got their own spell where I genuinely thought they had the win. 

The finish came when an eye rake and a ref distraction broke up TMDK’s Super Tankbuster attempt. A low blow from Kidd enabled him to hit a piledriver, they threw Haste to the floor and hit a spike piledriver on Nicholls for the win.

WINNERS: Bullet Club War Dogs (10 pts) via pinfall in 16:00. (***3/4)

Overall thoughts: Well at the start of the tournament I picked War Dogs and TMDK to qualify, and I got it right…though War Dogs go through as block winners. Let’s not dwell on my calls for the rest of the block, especially Chaos.

This was one of the best nights of the tournament so far. Every match clicked, and the two matches with consequences really delivered. I would have liked the main event to go long, teasing the draw, but I guess since TMDK would go through anyway there was no point in doing that. 

The block as a whole really only had House of Torture as a blight. There was the one blip of night 7 (the fourth round of A block) and its three lacklustre to awful matches, but it also had the near-30 minute spectacle that was Oiwa & Kitomiya vs. Narita & Umino. 

Given how the main event unfolded tonight, we have an interest in both A block teams winning their semis to have the rematch in the final. I expect B block will do something similar, so that’s by no means the only possible storyline.

B Block Night 7 – Miyakonojo City Hayamizu Sports Culture Centre

Only the last two matches are relevant in terms of who can progress. With nothing on the line I hope the first two matches don’t phone it in.

BULLET CLUB ROGUE ARMY (Bad Luck Fale & Jack Bonza) (4) vs. MINORU SUZUKI & YUJI NAGATA (2) 

Our night started with the Battle for the Bottom. I fully expected this to be even more of a Jack Bonza showcase than any of the other outings for the team, and to some extent it was. Bonza got the better of Suzuki on multiple strike exchanges, a sentence few have ever predicted typing. He definitely looked comfortable in an NJPW ring, but never really set the world on fire. 

They also managed to continue telling a story of Nagata and Suzuki’s evolving situationship, this time with Nagata pushing Suzuki out of the way of Fale’s Grenade. Suzuki had done similar for Nagata in the previous round. The win came from an exploder by Nagata followed by the Gotch-style piledriver by Suzuki. That they shook hands and acted like friends after the match might be the most notable occurrence here. 

The match itself was fine, just perfectly acceptable wrestling in a spot that needed exactly that.

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


Before we get into the match, I should point out that during the preview tags the night before, Yota Tsuji wrestled in a pirate-styled mask complete with faux eye patch…until it was torn off by Atlantis Jr. That led to a post-match attack by Tsuji and Zandokan on Soberano and Atlantis, during which both luchadors had their masks removed. Tetsuya Naito, who was ringside, seemed FAR from impressed by this antic.

Nagata has strong respect for lucha traditions, and this sort of tension in LIJ has been around since Tsuji returned from excursion and basically added himself to the faction. However that unfolds, it certainly adds some spice for tonight in an otherwise-dead rubber.

Tsuji and Zandokan did go after the masks early on, successfully tearing Atlantis Jr’s mask in the process. I am relatively sure he had an extra one hidden under the ring, as he seemed fine for the remainder of the match. 

That said, the match didn’t really come together for me. For the spots they pulled out it should have been much better than it was, but it felt stilted and clunky in between those spots. Massive props to Soberano Jr. for hitting a tilt-a-whirl tombstone for the win, a move I have loved for a long time. It’s another hard one to rate, a trend with the CMLL team I have found.

After the match there was a weird interaction between Naito, who came to ringside after the fall, and Zandokan. It was too quiet to hear even in Japanese, but I’m sure we’ll find out.

WINNERS: Guerillas of Destiny (8 pts) via pinfall in 14:00. (***)

GUERILLAS OF DESTINY (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo) (8) vs. MONSTERSAUCE (Lance Archer & Alex Zayne) (8) 

My Monstersauce fandom has only grown during this tournament, and I would love to see them win here in this rematch from Lonestar Shootout. The problem then is that we might not see them in AEW for a while, which I also want a great deal. This was a straight win-and-in for both teams. A draw makes things really murky, especially if Just Five Guys win the main event.

Early on I heard one of the loudest chest smacks I have ever heard, from Hikuleo to Zayne. I am surprised he didn’t crack a rib from that one. The expected kaiju battle between Hikuleo and Archer was surprisingly high-speed and really made Hikuleo look better than I’ve seen him. 

What a fun match though. We had two giants facing off without being lumbering behemoths. We had two excellent offensive innovators trying to outdo each other. The finishing sequence was a little protracted but it worked in the context of the match. All four men came to work today. 

GoD picked up the win with the Godsend into Super Thunderkiss ‘86, breaking my heart but probably moving the right team forward, being as they are championship holders. 

WINNERS: Guerillas of Destiny (10 pts) via pinfall in 15:00. (***1/2)

BISHAMON (Yoshi-Hashi & Hirooki Goto) (7)  vs. JUST FIVE GUYS (Yuya Uemura & Taichi) (8) 

This match was also a win-and-in, with the additional wrinkle that a draw would send Just Five Guys through as well. 

Worthy of noting here that Sanada came out with his stablemates, and got nowhere near the reaction that Naito got earlier. His title run really has been mediocre. 

I thought the match started a bit timid, with Goto especially being a little light on his strikes. Although it would pick up, it never really hit the top gear I know that three of the four men are capable of hitting. To be fair, I just haven’t seen enough of Uemura yet to know what he can do. 

Uemura does seem to be right where he should be as a recently-returned young talent. He’s on the outside looking in at the Reiwa Musketeers (Umino, Tsuji, and Narita) but he was not that far behind them in reality. He held his own here with three established names. 

The match had its moments and was likely the best of the night, but I was (perhaps unfairly) expecting greatness. My rating will seem high based on my comments, but the match actually was very good. It had enough momentum shifts to hold the attention, and I believed both teams were about to win at various points.

It would be Bishamon picking up the win with Shoto, sending them through to the semis in second place in the block.

WINNERS: Bishamon (9 points) via pinfall in 24:00  (***3/4)

Overall thoughts: Guerillas of Destiny win the block with Bishamon coming second. I was sad that Monstersauce went 4-0 and then 0-3 to miss out, but they had a really strong showing and I am excited to see what comes next for them. The other 8-point team came from Just Five Guys, somewhat surprising given that they are unlikely to continue as a unit. 

Our semifinals will see Bishamon and Bullet Club War Dogs renew their rivalry, while Guerillas of Destiny will take on TMDK. I got three of the four teams right, including calling one of the semis. I expect the finals really will be a rematch of TMDK vs. War Dogs, though I cannot call a winner in that right now. 

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

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