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NJPW WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2023 SEMI-FINAL ROUND REPORT
DECEMBER 8, 2023
KIRISHIMA CITY MAKIZONO ARENA, KAGOSHIMA
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
BY CHRIS LANSDELL, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
The round robin matches are over, and we have reached the semi-final stage. Before the two important knockout matches, we had a full card of multi-man tags. Because I love you all, I watched them (with Japanese commentary) solely so I could tell you that nothing of importance took place. You are most welcome, dear readers. Nevertheless, some results:
(1) Bad Luck Fale & Jack Bonza & Taiji Ishimori beat Master Wato & Oskar Leube & Yuto Nakashima via pinfall when Bonza hit Nakashima with the Napalm Thunder Driver.
(2) Monstersauce (Alex Zayne & Lance Archer) & Minoru Suzuki beat United Empire (Henare & Callum Newman & Great-O-Khan) via pinfall when Zayne hit the Taco Driver on Newman. A funny and entertaining match in which Henare and Suzuki battered each other silly.
(3) House of Torture (Evil & Sho & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) beat Kaito Kiyomiya & Ryohei Oiwa & Ryusuke Taguchi via pinfall thanks to a wrench shot from Sho to Taguchi. The only entertaining thing here was Taguchi pretending to be the Drunken Master.
(4) House of Torture (Ren Narita & Yujiro Takahashi) “beat” Shota Umino & Tomoaki Honma via pinfall. Umino never made it into the ring, they both got jumped before the bell. Narita dragged Honma to the ring, put him to sleep, and pinned him with one hand. House of Torture beat down Umino after the “match”.
(5) Gates of Agony (Toa Liona & Bishop Kaun) & Atlantis Jr. & Soberano Jr. defeated Chaos (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) & Hiroshi Tanahashi via pinfall when Gates of Agony hit Fall from Heaven on Yano. An interesting result, I wonder if a six-man title shot is in the offing for Gates of Agony and a partner?
(6) Just Five Guys (Sanada & Taichi & Douki & Yuuya Uemura) beat Los Ingobernables de Japón (Shingo Takagi & Bushi & Yota Tsuji) & Zandokan Jr. via pinfall when Uemura pinned Bushi with the Deadbolt suplex. Tetsuya Naito was ringside but there was no development in the tension between him and Tsuji.
NJPW WTL 2023 SEMI-FINAL ROUND MATCHES
(7) TMDK (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls) vs. GUERILLAS OF DESTINY (Hikuleo & El Phantasmo) – World Tag League semifinal match
El Phantasmo was grimacing during his entrance and had a lot of kinesio tape on his shoulder. I had not heard anything about him working injured so I hope it’s kayfabe.
It took five minutes of action before TMDK went to work on the shoulder of El Phantasmo, and it would continue to play a part throughout the match. I do love a good sell job, and I especially love when something like that weaves a thread through a match. TMDK worked over the shoulder, and Phantasmo continued to sell it even after the match.
The real story of the match though was the number of false finish sequences. At least three times I thought we were building to the end, with both the Super Thunderkiss ‘86 and the Tankbuster being countered.
Eventually Hikuleo would connect with the snap powerslam and Godsend for the win, once again leaving TMDK short of their goal and robbing me of the rematch I wanted between TMDK and War Dogs in the final.
A very enjoyable match that was slightly hindered in terms of flow by Phantasmo’s shoulder. I think the story and psychology more than compensated for that, however. My suspicion is that the injury will play into the final.
WINNERS: Guerillas of Destiny via pinfall in 17:00 (***¾)
(8) BISHAMON (Yoshi-Hashi & Hirooki Goto) vs. BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin)
I am sure this will shock you, but Bullet Club sprinted up the ramp and attacked Bishamon during the latter’s entrance. You know what’s not smart? Attacking a team who come to the ring carrying bo staffs. Not your brightest moment, War Dogs.
There is history here between these teams. War Dogs beat Bishamon to become the Strong Openweight tag champs in July, before War Dogs dropped the titles to Guerillas of Destiny.
After 3 or 4 minutes of brawling through the crowd, Goto and Kidd finally made it to the ring. Soon thereafter, Bishamon was in control. In what would become a pattern, it was brawling and dirty tactics that regained momentum for War Dogs.
A ref bump at 15 minutes saw War Dogs introduce chairs. The match was sort of trundling along at that point, neither good nor bad. This is where it ground to a near halt. After Coughlin’s attempt to bring in a very short metal ladder was thwarted, the four men traded knockout blows. We had all four men down for an extended period, which took any steam out of the match.
Consequently, they built to a finish that was less tension-filled and exciting than it should have been. Yoshi-Hashi and Coughlin had an intense chop battle, and Yoshi-Hashi kicked out of a pumphandle Death Valley driver before reversing a second one into a crucifix bomb for the win.
I feel like the match will improve on second viewing. It just felt like the break in action happened at the wrong point in the match and took the energy down when it should have gone up. That said, the match was still good and Bullet Club War Dogs are going to be very good very soon. They might well be there already.
WINNERS: Bishamon via pinfall in 21:00 (***¼)
Overall thoughts: An interesting final will pit the IWGP tag champs against the Strong Openweight champs. That does tend to suggest that El Phantasmo’s shoulder will not be the focus of nefarious tactics, at least.
I don’t think either of the teams in the final represents the best team in their block. That would have been TMDK and Monstersauce in my mind. Champion vs. champion was, in hindsight, the obvious choice for the finals. Of course nobody wants to pick the obvious choice.
I cannot see Bishamon winning as the champions, unless they are going to call out FTR? Or maybe the Bucks? We live in hope.
I’d love to hear your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lansdellicious . Thanks for stopping by!