The biggest event on the New Japan Pro-Wrestling calendar — Jan. 4’s Wrestle Kingdom in — is on the horizon. But there’s two months to go before they hit the Tokyo Dome in the new year. Exciting (or should I say “X-Citing”?) as their upcoming Historic X-Over show with Stardom is, it won’t fill all that time, or fill out the remainder of the card for WK 17.
But you know what will? Tag tournaments, bay-bee!
New Japan’s annual World Tag and Super Junior Tag Leagues will run on shows from Mon., Nov. 21 through Weds., Dec. 14. The company’s website says the winner of each will “likely book their ticket to Wrestle Kingdom 17”, and it’s expected they’ll challenge for their respective division’s titles in the Tokyo Dome.
One of these teams in World Tag League should face the IWGP World Heavyweight Tag Team champions (currently FTR) at Wrestle Kingdom 17. They’re listed along with the credentials New Japan’s website lists for them:
• Be-Bop Tag Team (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano) - Yano: 3x IWGP Tag Team Champion, Tanahashi: 3x IWGP Tag Team Champion
• Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) - 1x IWGP Tag Team Champions, 2021 World Tag League winners)
• Los Ingobernables De Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) - 1x IWGP Tag Team Champions. Naito 2x IWGP Tag Team Champion, SANADA 3x IWGP Tag Team Champion, 2x World Tag League winner
• United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Aaron Henare) - O-Khan: 2x former IWGP Tag Team Champion
• Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) - 1x NJPW STRONG Tag Team Champions
• TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste)
• Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer) - 2011 G1 Tag League winners. Archer: 3x IWGP Tag Team Champion, Suzuki: 1x IWGP Tag Team Champion
• Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) - 1x IWGP Tag Team Champions
• House of Torture (EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) - 2021 World Tag League finalists. EVIL 2x IWGP Tag Team Champion, 2x World Tag League winner. Yujiro 1x IWGP Tag Team Champion
And here’s one of NJPW’s handy-dandy round robin tournament grids so you can see when each team wrestles every other team in the field:
Lots of interesting teams in there, including former NOAH & NXT standouts The Mighty Don’t Kneel (R.I.P SLAPJACK). But seeing as they already gave Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler a hell of a fight at Royal Quest II AND stepped to them after Battle Autumn, my money is on Aussie Open.
One of these teams in Super Junior Tag League should face the IWGP World Junior Heavyweight Tag champs at Wrestle Kingdom 17... although in this case, titleholders TJP & Francesco Akira are in the field, so they’ll probably get the right to pick their next challengers should they win:
• Wild Hips (Ryusuke Taguchi & Clark Connors) - Taguchi: 7x IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
• KUSHIDA & Kevin Knight - KUSHIDA: 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 2012 Super Jr. Tag Tournament winner
• Flying Tiger (Tiger Mask & Robbie Eagles) - 1x IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions
• CHAOS (YOH & Lio Rush) - YOH: 5x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion, 3x Super Jr. Tag League winner
• Alex Zayne & El Lindaman
• Los Ingobernables De Japon (BUSHI & Titan)
• Catch 2/2 (TJP & Francesco Akira) - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions
• Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Douki) - Kanemaru: 6x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, 2021 Super Jr. Tag League winner
• Bullet Club (Ace Austin & Chris Bey)
• House of Torture (Sho & Dick Togo) - SHO: 5x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion, 3x Super Jr. Tag League winner
And the schedule of their matches:
While I’m not a hater like some folks, I won’t confess to have as good of a handle on the cruisers storylines. So you tell us who the favorites are! Should be fun all around!