Let’s keep going on with the tournament previews, sticking with New Japan Pro Wrestling, and the World Tag League ! Just like Best of Super Juniors, the tournament kicks off on November 15th !
Now then, who will end up meeting with Dangerous Tekkers in the Tokyo Dome ?
For this year’s Tag League, New Japan has reduced the number of participants, and will use the same format used for Best of Super Juniors. Going from 16 teams last year, to « only » 10 this year. 10 teams, which a few of them would tend to look like relatively « free » points for other, more credible teams. Little sidenote, once again, the wrestlers meant to be involved in high profile singles matches next January are not taking part in the League. As used as we may be to this, it may truly be worth to point it out this year.
With that said, it’s time to look at which is which, and dive into the pool of participants !
- HenarACE (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare), 2nd entry
Starting off with Hiroshi Tanahashi and Toa Henare, and I am both happy for Henare yet kind of disappointed for Tanahashi. Now, with Kota Ibushi still being involved in the running for the double IWGP gold, Tanahashi is paired with the same partner he had last year in the New Zealander. The success of this team depends a lot on Henare’s role : Will he show signs of progress and help his legendary senior win more than three matches ?
Key match-ups : Dangerous Tekkers, G.O.D, Ishii & Yano, L.I.J.
- FinJuice (Juice Robinson & David Finlay), 3rd entry, 2019 winners
Next up are the defending Tag League winners Robinson and Finlay, the latter also making his return to Japan for the tournament. Both because of their tournament win last year and how things are shaped up, FinJuice enter World Tag League as clear cut favourites. However, will they be able to repeat ?
Key match-ups : Dangerous Tekkers, G.O.D, L.I.J, EVIL & Yujiro, Ishii & Yano.
- Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI, 2nd entry
Moving on to a team which already lost to the current champions 11 days ago, yet also two tiers of the NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team champions. There is at least one CHAOS which we probably should expect to end up having good results, and it might be Goto and Yoshi.
Key match-ups : EVIL & Yujiro, O-Khan & X, Ishii & Yano, Dangerous Tekkers.
- Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano, 3rd entry
Speaking of CHAOS teams, here is the more experienced one which already snuck in an IWGP Tag titles match at Wrestle Kingdom once. Ishii and Yano could be considered as the ultimate spoiler pairing, in a sense. Either through Yano shenanigans or Ishii « being Ishii », this team can end up doing much better than you might expect them to.
Key match-ups : L.I.J, G.O.D, FinJuice, Dangerous Tekkers.
- Shingo Takagi & SANADA, 1st entry
Moving on from CHAOS to L.I.J with a « new » team making their Tag League debut, and easily standing out of the pack. Both SANADA and Shingo have had success as tag team wrestlers in New Japan, but with different partners. This is a team which may look stronger than they could end up being, but who could also fulfill all expectations, pulling off a great tournament.
Then, could Shingo Takagi find his Wrestle Kingdom opponent for the Openweight title in this tourney ?
Key match-ups : FinJuice, Dangerous Tekkers, G.O.D, Ishii & Yano.
- Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi), 2nd entry, IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions
Now we take a look at the current tag team champions. Taichi & ZSJ being the champs, they logically should end up rather high in the rankings by the time the finals occur. They also will have a target on their back, depending on they leave the Tokyo Dome with the titles. Can the champs enter Wrestle Kingdom as tournament winners ?
Key match-ups : Ishii & Yano, FinJuice, L.I.J, G.O.D, HenarACE.
- Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), 5th entry
Lastly with the teams I would consider to be favourites, the 6 times tag team champions whom never won World Tag League : G.O.D. The returning Tongans once again will look to finally grab this particular accolade.
Now, once looking at who are currently holding the belts, it becomes harder to imagine Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa to head to the Dome as League winners.
Key match-ups : L.I.J, FinJuice, HenarACE, Ishii & Yano.
- EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi, 1st entry
Let’s keep going with the Bullet Club teams, and one which I will say is more interesting than it may look like. EVIL has been pushed since COVID returned, and Yujiro is far from a bad tag team wrestler. Would I expect this pairing to make a strong run in the Tag League ? No, but they certaintly may cause issues to certain pairings. Looking at you, Shingo & SANADA…
Key match-ups : HenarACE, Ishii & Yano, FinJuice, L.I.J
- Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens, 3rd entry
Last on the list of Bullet Club teams… Can I call them the filler team ? Let’s be honest, there is no other purpose to Fale and Owens being inserted than eating losses, for the most part. No one is exactly safe from an upset, but it is difficult to imagine Fale and Owens to have much of an impact on this tournament.
Key match-ups : HenarACE, FinJuice, L.I.J, Goto & Yoshi, Ishii & Yano.
- Great-O-Khan & X, 1st entry
Last but not least, here is a team… Or should I say half a team right now, who may have an impact on the tournament. O-Khan will be accompanied by the newest member of The Empire, Will Ospreay’s faction. With two fresh roster members making their tournament debut together, it is fair to assume these two will look relatively strong. To the point of knocking at the door of a finals appearance ? That remains uncertain.
Key match-ups : Ishii & Yano, Goto & Yoshi, HenarACE, FinJuice.
Val’s prediction finals : FinJuice vs L.I.J
Needless to say that people such as Kota Ibushi, Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay not taking part in this year’s World Tag League limits the potential for stories to be told through the tournament. Therefore, let’s fall back to something rather simple. You still have a handful of strong teams in this tournament, and even « longshot finalists » which could be elevated to create a bit more depth in the tag division.
However, we can doubt Gedo continuing in what seemed to have started before COVID happened, and we might witness a similar fall-back to things we are familiar with. Though, that can be done while elevating people to a certain degree, still.
This is why FinJuice, last year’s winners, make it back to the finals. Both Juice and Finlay have nothing to do coming Wrestle Kingdom season and are a « safe bet » from a story standpoint. You have a team which failed to capitalize on their first tag titles win last January and are looking to repeat.
Also, which white-meat babyface team in the current field is a better contender to win the tournament and face Dangerous Tekkers than FinJuice ?
Moving on to L.I.J, they are my other finalists because you, probably, do not want to have G.O.D in the finals again, while not necessarily needing the champions to make it there. Therefore, it doesn’t leave a good amount of credible teams for FinJuice to face in the finals. While EVIL & Yujro could be serviceable as heels to defeat, overlooking the powerhouse team that is Shingo & SANADA seems a little odd. While they never tagged in a tournament before, they did spent spent two years as part of the same group, so the foundation of a successful team, at least for one Tag League, are there to be exploited.
Now, between these two teams, which one would be my pick to win ? It would be FinJuice. Robinson & Finlay going back to back makes sense, whether it is to ultimately give them the titles again and let them enjoy a proprer run with them, or give Dangerous Tekkers another big win, thus elevating them even more. No matter who wins that match then, the job would essentially be done, as two new teams would be set at the top of the division.