Analyzing New Japan’s reshaping of the tag team division

Gedo has struck again ! The tag team division which a good portion of New Japan fans have complained about for being, to put it simply, badly booked, is receiving quite the special treatment in this early 2020 !
Today, I invite you to discuss all of this, from Wrestle Kingdom to now as well as diving into future possibilities to have elements to, eventually, give an answer to this question… Will we finally get the tag team division we should have ?

It seems like New Japan has, hopefully, decided to increase the focus on their tag team division, which is great news for any fan of the promotion given the state of said division. There were, and let’s be real, still are, very few established tag teams we can consider as pillars of the division, whether it is on the Heavyweight or Junior Heavyweight side of the fence. However, since Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan is taking different directions compared to what has been done the last few years. Roppongi 3K finally managed to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championship match on the biggest stage, and retained the belts since against rivals Desperado & Kanemaru as well as against seniors Taguchi and Romero, which probably means we will finally get to see a long title run for SHO and YOH, something which is now long overdue.

We also got to witness the rise of FinJuice, winning both World Tag League and the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles, and while their reign didn’t last long (which was to be expected), we still got to see a new team rise up to the occasion against the everlasting top heels in Guerrillas Of Destiny, who reclaimed the titles from Juice & Finlay. However, this wouldn’t be the end of the shift, as the now 6 times tag champs, now tied with TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan), would be challenged by the superstar duo of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi… Who would win the titles during the New Japan Road tour. Not one, but two new babyface teams have been propelled to the top of the tag team scene in this very short span, and while it is unlikely that the team known as Golden Ace remain a staple team for a long while, given Ibushi’s main event star status in the path of “redemption”, this is yet another breath of fresh air for the division. Lastly, right after Tanahashi and Ibushi won the belts, they were attacked by none other than Dangerous Tekkers, the team of Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi. A team which has already entered World Tag League twice but had yet to have any championship match, which is another good news given how the division was severely lacking heels to defeat besides G.O.D. While New Japan has yet to make any announcement regarding an eventual first defence against Dangerous Tekkers for Golden Ace, big chances are we will eventually see that match happen, and an aura of unpredictability surrounds that match-up.
After all, Golden Ace, while beating a very experienced team in G.O.D, remain a very young team in terms of how long they have been together, even though both Tanahashi and Ibushi have teamed up more than once in multi-men tags before and, obviously, have faced each other on multiple occasions. They definitely know one another, but the question, and the story here is to see if this team can be more than a one-hit wonder, when they will have to face another team which has more experience than them as a duo, while also having no problem with cheating in order to win.
Point being, with the rise of Dangerous Tekkers and an eventual return of FinJuice later this year, New Japan has started to rebuild the Heavyweight side of the division, at least that’s what it seems so far.

Before putting an end to this article, I would like to address something else. Who are representing CHAOS within the Tag division outside of Roppongi 3K ? The last “established” team we had was Ishii and Yano, who last competed together in World Tag League in 2018. With Best Friends gone to AEW now, the faction lacks representation in that division and while Ishii found YOSHI-HASHI as his partner for WTL last year, it is hard to say if New Japan will ever capitalize on such a pairing, which could ultimately elevate YOSHI-HASHI a bit. Now, while this is a solution, allow me to put something else on the table : Ishii and Goto teaming up again. The reasoning here is very simple. Here we have two guys who had countless battles over the years, to the point where they can legitimately be considered rivals of some sort, even though the singles record largely speaks in Goto’s favour, with 11 wins in 14 matches. However, they have now been apart of the same faction for a few years, and one can easily assume there is a mutual respect between both men, coming from their own rivalry to them being the two staple NEVER Openweight Champions besides Katsuyori Shibata.
What better way to add even more fuel to the tag division than by taking two of your bigger singles stars, two which you barely used outside of the NEVER Openweight title scene, and give them a real run as a tag team ?

With how little the chances of seeing either Ishii or Goto getting AT LEAST an Intercontinental title run, which in both cases would feel earned after all the dedication they put in to elevate the NEVER Openweight belt, the better alternative to keep both of these men relevant outside of tournaments and occasional Heavyweight title challenges may very well be a tag team run.
And, of course, this wouldn’t only benefit them, but the division as well. Let’s compare with the current tag team champs, who can fit in a similar role depending on how long their run will last. Whoever will eventually defeat Golden Ace for the titles will gain a big boost as we are still talking about a team featuring two of the biggest characters New Japan has seen throughout the last decade and beyond. However, like I pointed out earlier, Ibushi will have bigger goals in mind than being a tag champ with his “God”, as big of a goal it might be for him. While we might see them team up again after this first run ends, the chances of seeing Golden Ace become a staple team within the division are slim. That wouldn’t be an issue with an Ishii / Goto pairing for the reason I first gave. Furthermore, to finish things up regarding our little comparison, you can easily use such a team as the obstacle to overcome for another team to step-up and establish themselves even more, following a relatively dominant run by our newly reformed CHAOS duo… Something FinJuice or Dangerous Tekkers would easily benefit from in the future.

2020 has started fairly well for New Japan’s tag team division. The Junior Ace team looks to dominate, and the Heavyweight side sees new teams rise up. Do you think this good dynamic will last ? What do you make of an Ishii & Goto pairing to keep going in that same direction ?

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