WH Park: A Tale of Two Tag Leagues 2019

Well, here we are in November of 2019, and both NJPW and AJPW are set to present their respective annual tag team tournaments to the viewing public.

A Tale of Two Tag Leagues 2019 by WH Park

Well, here we are in November of 2019, and both New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling are set to present their respective annual tag team tournaments to the viewing public. NJPW has its World Tag League and AJPW has the Real World Tag League.

I thought it would be useful to present a preview of both tournaments looking at all the teams and some key matches on each tour.

For NJPW, there will be 16 teams in a one-block round robin. The tour runs over 17 shows between November 16 through December 8. Here are who you’ll be watching on NJPWworld.

  • Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare

Tanahashi returns to WTL action for the first time since 2016, when he teamed up with Juice Robinson. Henare continues his rise up the ranks in terms of tag partners going from Manabu Nakanishi to Togi Makabe to Tanahashi.

There is no way they are winning this as Tana has a match set with Chris Jericho on January 5th and is unlikely to be booked in a World Tag Title match on the 4th.

Henare is in a double-edged sword position this year. On one hand, he’s teaming with the ACE and the legend of New Japan but most people probably don’t see him as more than a pin-eater for his team which is a shame as Henare has so much upside as a future star.

  • Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma (Great Bash Heel)

Reuniting after Honma’s return from his neck injury this is GBH’s first appearance in the WTL since 2016. A beloved duo that was the first team to win back to back championships in 2015-2016.

Both men are not what they used to be and are unlikely to get any significant push outside of some upset wins.

  • Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi

Despite New Japan hardly using either of these two in any kind of visible way throughout the year, here are the Dads being put in the Tag League. Don’t know why they even bother since no one believes Nagata and Nakanishi are going to win the thing.

Purely in here to fill out the block and be a nostalgia act.

  • Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (Tencozy)

Basically what I wrote about Nagata & Nakanishi above applies to Kojima & Tenzan.

Next.

  • Juice Robinson & David Finlay (FinJuice)

Finlay reunites with Robinson after coming back from his shoulder injury (which he suffered on an ROH card in a match against the Briscoes). Juice seems to be rehabbing his pride after losing the United States title to Lance Archer. Both guys would be well-served to go for a run with the tag titles. This team would be a refreshing welcome to the tag team title picture and have excellent chemistry together.

My dark horse picks to win the whole thing and get the title shot on one of the Wrestle Kingdom nights.

  • Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb

With Big Mike Elgin going off to Pro Wrestling NOAH this left Cobb without a partner. Enter perennial tag wrestler going nowhere in singles, Mikey Nicholls. Earlier in the year, he was teaming with Juice while Finlay was recovering from his shoulder injury. But with young David back, this left Mikey out in the cold so why not put Cobb and Nicholls together.

  • Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI

CHAOS representatives that have pretty good chemistry as a tag team. Yoshi does very well in tag team situations either in the underdog role getting heat or as the hot tag.

Very good chance for them to go very far and get some key wins during the tournament.

  • Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks

Goto went to the LA Dojo to find his mojo for the G1. Fredericks is the top prospect in the LA Dojo.

So let’s put them together.

This is probably my favorite new team in the tournament. Goto excels in tag teams with good workers and which Fredericks is in spades. Expect some surprisingly good chemistry between these two.

  • Toru Yano & Colt Cabana

Two comedy wrestlers who are united in bringing some laughs to the tournament.

They’ll probably get some upsets over higher-ranked teams and that’s about it.

Though I do wonder if ROH pretends Cabana is repping them here. 

  • Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa (Guerrillas of Destiny)

The current IWGP Tag Team Champions yet again, and (seems like) forever.

On their fifth reign as champions and reigning over a very lackluster division, the one accolade that has eluded them is the WTL championship.

Because of their status as champions and since the tag league winners usually get a title shot, it seems unlikely that they would be booked to win the whole thing BUT not out of the question either.

  • Shingo Takagi & Terrible

Both Shingo and Terrible making their WTL debuts this year. Terrible is like the only member of Los Ingobernables left in CMLL after the messy divorce between Rush and CMLL. I can see Shingo excelling in this tournament and getting a push here similar to what he got in the Best of the Super Juniors and G1 Climax.

  • Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer

Actually not a new team. They won this tournament in 2011 when it was known as the G1 Tag League. Expect a lot of brawling in the crowd and chicanery.

Suzuki is rumored to be leaving and Archer’s foreseeable future in New Japan is as a singles star.

They’ll do well but won’t win.

  • Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi

Dangerous Tekkers did surprisingly well in last year’s tournament and have excellent chemistry. Taichi recently has dropped a lot of the nonsense in his act and has raised his stock as a tough competitor as a result.

 Another team that would freshen up the tag championship scene as well as their own careers in New Japan.

  • KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi.

Poor KENTA.

  • Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens

For some inexplicable reason, New Japan likes to give both these two pushes in the company.

So they’re likely to do well in the overall tournament.

I’ll be skipping all of their matches.

  • EVIL & SANADA

Last year’s League winners and the winners of the IWGP Tag Team titles at Wrestle Kingdom. They are the odds on favorites to win the whole thing again. 

Can’t see them repeating both feats this year as both SANADA and EVIL seem poised for pushes as singles stars.

Over on the old King’s Road, there will be 10 teams in one block round robin battling it out over 19 shows between November 11 to December 9. Here are the teams you can catch on AJPW.tv:

  • Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi (Nextream)

The ACE of All Japan and the current Triple Crown Champion teams with young Yuma Aoyagi, the only other remaining member of Nextream after the departures of Jake Lee and Naoya Nomura from the group.

Miyahara is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now and Aoyagi is one of the more promising young talents in the company. I’m really hoping this tag league will showcase how sneaky good Aoyagi is and take him to that next level that Lee and Nomura have already gotten to.

They should point high in the league and have a good chance of making the final four.

  • Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa (Violent Giants)

Former World Tag Team champions, a top team in All Japan, and honestly, the world. They were the dominant team in the company until being unseated for the tag titles by Zeus and Ryouji Sai. A good showing in the tournament would give them some momentum to make another run for the tag titles. Heavy favorites to go to the finals.

  • Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard

The current Big Japan World Tag Team champions. Both Sekimoto and Bodyguard appeared in last year’s League teaming with different partners. Sekimoto with Jun Akiyama and Bodyguard with his long-standing Big Guns partner, Zeus.

Politically, I can’t see this team not doing well and possibly reaching the finals.

  • Odinson & Parrow (The End)

Making their 2nd appearance in the RWTL is The End. They acquitted themselves very well last year, scoring 6 wins for 12 points. They also had a very good match with Violent Giants back on June 30 for the tag titles. This will be their return to Japan since that match and they’ll likely have a good showing again this year.

  • Takashi Yoshida & Gianni Valletta

Dragon Gate’s Yoshida (the former Cyber Kong) makes his return to All Japan after this year’s Champion Carnival and he teams with Valletta, who’s been just chugging along on the undercard in All Japan doing his Bruiser Brody cosplay act.

Both men like to employ rulebreaking and heel tactics so expect a lot of shenanigans in their matches. Also, expect their matches to suck since neither of them is remotely good.

While I don’t expect them to do well overall they will likely get a couple of upset wins.

  • Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura

Former World Tag Team Champions whose reign was cut short due to a knee injury Lee suffered after their first defense. They recently reformed their team, re-uniting over the shared goal of wanting to overthrow, surpass, and outshine Kento Miyahara.

AJPW is very high on both these young talents, and winning the RWTL would be a 

big feather in their caps. My odds on favorites to win the whole thing.

  • Zeus & Ryouji Sai

The current All Japan World Tag Team champions who defeated the Violent Giants this past September for the belts. A bit of an oddball pairing but they have excellent chemistry with one another and will likely reach the finals themselves.

Expect them to lose to some key teams to set up future title matches though.

  • Yoshitatsu & Joel Redman (One World)

Another odd couple pairing that recently came together in order to challenge Sai & Zeus for the tag titles (spoiler – they didn’t win). Yoshi is pushed strongly in the company and Redman has been a great surprise in how well he’s acclimated to working in All Japan and getting over with the Japanese fanbase.

I expect this team to do well if not go all the way to the finals.

  • TAJIRI & KAI

A pairing that has been working sporadically on the Japanese indies, they recently made a challenge for the All-Asia Tag Titles held by Jake Lee & Koji Iwamoto on October 9th Korakuen Hall show.

TAJIRI is a solid mid-card act in the company and KAI is someone who All Japan would likely get more behind if he worked more regularly for them. I can see these two pointing well but not making the finals.

  • Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama

Originally this spot was meant for the team of Joe Doering & Dylan James (The Bomber) but unfortunately James suffered an injury recently. Cue to Akiyama who is stepping in for the injured Dylan James and teaming with Doering. Both men are generally banged up but are quite capable of turning it up a notch when called for. Expect them to do so in key matches, particularly at anything in Korakuen Hall. Will likely finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.

As for key matches you should keep an eye on, make sure to watch these matches over the next month:

**Please note that as of this writing New Japan World has not updated their broadcasting schedule for the month of December so I wasn’t able to include which of those dates will be live or VOD**

NOVEMBER 11, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Tokyo Korakuen Hall Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Zeus & Ryouji Sai vs. TAJIRI & KAI
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa

NOVEMBER 12, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Ojiya City General Gymnasium Sub Arena VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard vs. Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa

NOVEMBER 13, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Nasu Town Sports Center VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: TAJIRI & KAI vs. Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura
Real World Tag League: Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard vs. Parrow & Odinson

NOVEMBER 16, 2019

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Chichibunomiya Memorial Gymnasium Live on NJPWorld
World Tag League: David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks
World Tag League: Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Shingo Takagi & Terrible
World Tag League: YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.

NOVEMBER 17, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Hotel Emisia Sapporo Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Zeus & Ryouji Sai vs. Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura
Real World Tag League: Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama vs. Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Tokyo Korakuen Hall Live on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. KENTA & Yujiro Takahashi
World Tag League: YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb
World Tag League: SANADA & EVIL vs. Shingo Takagi & Terrible

NOVEMBER 18, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Obihiro City General Gymnasium Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa vs. Parrow & Odinson
Real World Tag League: Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama vs. Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Tokyo Korakuen Hall Live on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Colt Cabana & Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer
World Tag League: YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Shingo Takagi & Terrible
World Tag League: David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.

NOVEMBER 19, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Mukawa Shiki-no-Yakata Tanpopo Hall VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Parrow & Odinson

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Big Palette Fukushima VOD on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa
World Tag League: Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb vs. SANADA & EVIL

NOVEMBER 21, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Tokyo Korakuen Hall Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard
Real World Tag League: Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama vs. Parrow & Odinson

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Aimesse Yamanashi VOD on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. David Finlay & Juice Robinson
World Tag League: Shingo Takagi & Terrible vs. Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.

NOVEMBER 23, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Hiroshima Marina Hop VOD on AJPW.tv
Nothing

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Culttz Kawasaki VOD on NJPWorld
World Tag League: David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. Shingo Takagi & Terrible
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii

NOVEMBER 24, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Takamatsu Symbol Tower Exhibition Space VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura vs. Takashi Yoshida & Gianni Valletta
Real World Tag League: Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama vs Zeus & Ryouji Sai

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium VOD on NJPWorld
Nothing

NOVEMBER 25, 2019

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Komatsu City Suehiro Gymnasium (Yoshitsune Arena) VOD on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb
World Tag League: Shingo Takagi & Terrible vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa

NOVEMBER 26, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Acros Fukuoka Event Hall  Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Joel Redman & Yoshitatsu vs Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Zeus & Ryouji Sai

NOVEMBER 27, 2019
AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Oro City Hall VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi vs. TAJIRI & KAI

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Act city Hamamatsu VOD on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. Shingo Takagi & Terrible

NOVEMBER 28, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Shunan Nanyo Fureai Center VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa vs. Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
|Tokyo Korakuen Hall Live on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. Shingo Takagi & Terrible
World Tag League: SANADA & EVIL vs. Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.

NOVEMBER 29, 2019

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Tokyo Korakuen Hall Live on NJPWorld
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb
World Tag League: YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii vs. SANADA & EVIL

NOVEMBER 30, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
EDION Arena Osaka #2 Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard vs. Zeus & Ryouji Sai

DECEMBER 1, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Osaka Edion Hall #2 Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Ukaru Chan Arena
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. SANADA & EVIL

DECEMBER 2, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Nagoya International Conference Hall Event Hall Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: TAJIRI & KAI vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard
Real World Tag League: Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa vs. Yoshitatsu & Joel Redman

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
OSAKA MUNICIPAL CENTRAL GYMNASIUM Sub Arena
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.
World Tag League: SANADA & EVIL vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer
World Tag League:  David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii

DECEMBER 3, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2018”
Takaoka Echool VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard vs. Yoshitatsu & Joel Redman
Real World Tag League: Parrow & Odinson vs. Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Kochi Prefectural Gymnasium
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. SANADA & EVIL

DECEMBER 5, 2019

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Fukuoka Citizen Gymnasium
World Tag League: Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks vs. YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.
World Tag League: David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer

DECEMBER 6, 2019

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Grand Messe Kumamoto
World Tag League: YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Minoru Suzuki & Lance Archer

DECEMBER 7, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Kitamoto City Sports Center VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama vs. TAJIRI & KAI
Real World Tag League: Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa vs. Zeus & Ryouji Sai

DECEMBER 8, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Ueda Innovation Center VOD on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Yoshitatsu & Joel Redman
Real World Tag League: Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard

NJPW “WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Hiroshima Green Arena
World Tag League: Mikey Nicholls & Jeff Cobb vs. Shingo Takagi & Terrible
World Tag League: David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. SANADA & EVIL
World Tag League: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare vs. Hirooki Goto & Karl Fredericks
World Tag League 2019 Final: TBD

DECEMBER 9, 2019

AJPW “REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2019”
Tokyo Korakuen Hall Live on AJPW.tv
Real World Tag League: Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa vs. TAJIRI & KAI
Real World Tag League: Daisuke Sekimoto & The Bodyguard vs. Joe Doering & Jun Akiyama
Real World Tag League: Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi  vs. Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura
Real World Tag League 2019 Final: TBD

I really feel the New Japan league is underwhelming and is indicative of a general malaise in their overall booking and in their lackluster tag division. They seem to be doing this tournament strictly as a placeholder tour to get through the next couple of months until Wrestle Kingdom in early January. It feels bloated and uninspired to me.

All Japan’s league is a lot easier to digest because it has fewer teams in it, but actually more star power in those teams. The tag division here is pushed and protected way more than New Japan’s and thus the stakes of getting a tag team title shot just seem that much more important.

Thanks to Matt McEwen for proofreading and editing.