The 2018 World Tag League comes to a close with not only the tournament finals but also a NEVER Openweight Championship match, a #1 contender’s match for the same title and sees the return of the Elite. There’s plenty to unpack here as the vision of what’s to come at Wrestle Kingdom 13 comes into focus. Let’s get started!
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima def. Togi Makabe, Toa Henare, Shota Umino & Ayato Yoshida @ 8:29 via Kojima Lariat on Yoshida – **
Bare bones match compared to what we saw from all of these guys throughout the tag league. The young lions had fire but were relegated to only forearms. Nagata and Kojima showed good fire too but other than an Exploder suplex and the machine gun chops, there wasn’t much to get anyone excited. Perfectly fine but disappointing after some of the performances seen on the tour.
Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka & Killer Elite Squad def. Jeff Cobb, Michael Elgin & Best Friends @ 10:12 via Disqualification – **1/2
Chuckie T. has snapped for a third straight show, this has officially become a trend. Beretta was getting the business from all four members of Suzuki-Gun before Chuckie ran in with a chair, beating down not just Suzuki-Gun but Cobb and Elgin as well. There were some nice moments between both Smith and Elgin as well as Chuckie and Suzuki, who had a strike battle. Beretta had to pull Chuckie away after the match and the two shoved each other as they headed backstage while Suzuki-Gun attacked young lions at ringside.
Tomohiro Ishii, YOH & SHO def. Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado @ 11:12 via Ishii Brainbuster on Kanemaru – ***
The match started off between Ishii and Sabre. Ishii was able to slip out of each hold Sabre tried which upset Suzuki-Gun and lead to a brawl on the outside. The juniors had nice little moments scattered throughout but the main focus was on Ishii and Sabre. Ishii was able to transition out of everything and he put Kanemaru away with the Brainbuster. Post-match they jaw jack as we all await for the Wrestle Kingdom announcement. It should be a good one.
Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI def. Hangman Page, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens @ 8:53 via Naito Destino on Owens – **3/4
Biggest reaction to this point in the show was Yujiro calling out Naito. The former tag partners traded bites for spits in the face and that was about it for them. ‘No Nights Off’ Page fired off like he’s known to do, hitting a sting of slams and plancha. He showed good chemistry with Shingo. Hopefully he sticks around long enough for a singles match. Great fire from Page and Shingo before Naito finished the match off with a Destino.
Jay White, Bad Luck Fale & Taiji Ishimori def. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & KUSHIDA @ 11:01 via Fale Grenade on Yano – ***
Great teamwork from Okada and KUSHIDA to open to match but Ishimori had a flurry and Bullet Club were able to take the advantage. These series of matches have done a lot to add excitement for the Wrestle Kingdom matches. Both Ishimori and KUSHIDA and White and Okada have built great chemistry and can now seemingly wrestle each other in their sleep. Tonight we had the addition of Yano who thumped Fale in the back of his head which will always get a laugh. He took the Grenade for his troubles and that was that. After the match, Okada lands the dropkick, White a Sleeper suplex and Ishimori a Bloody Cross. Makabe comes in from commentary to put an end to the Bullet Club beatdown.
Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks & Marty Scurll vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, FinJuice & Ryusuke Taguchi @ 13:10 via Indytaker on Taguchi – ***
Omega and Tanahashi meet again, just under a month away from Wrestle Kingdom. The match starts with a dance off between Scurll and Taguchi so you knew off the bat what you were getting tonight. This was very goofy, very coregraphed and an overall good time. Omega and Tanahashi had an exchange towards the end where they traded strikes until Tanahashi was laid out with a V-Trigger. High energy goof off match by everyone but Tanahashi, who took this very seriously and was left laying by the end.
#1 Contendership for the NEVER Openweight Championship
Will Ospreay def. Taichi @ 17:01 via Stormbreaker – ***3/4
Ospreay came out with bandaged ribs and so Taichi, ever the opportunist, went on the attack, jamming the mic stand into the ribs before the bell. Ospreay was quick to come back so Taichi bailed outside, goaded Ospreay to follow and gained the upper hand once again. He takes Ospreay in, who has another flurry, and this time follows Taichi to the outside with a tope suicida. Taichi is sent back in this time and Ospreay looks for the springboard forearm but Taichi pushes the ref into the ropes.
More assault on the outside from Taichi, this time leaving Ospreay for dead but he breaks the count at nineteen. Taichi grinds down on the injured ribs and looks to have full control until a slap wakes Ospreay up. A handspring kick, enziguri, top rope 619, springboard forearm but he can’t muscle Taichi up for the Stormbreaker. He wall flips off Taichi’s chest but Taichi is quick with a head kick and crumples Ospreay with more kicks to the ribs. Taichi sets up for his thrust kick, eats Ospreay’s instead who then climbs to the top for a Shooting Star Press but Taichi gets the knees up and gets the Gedo Clutch for a two count.
He immediately follows with the Ax Bomber for another two and lays in the Kawada kicks in frustration. Ospreay escapes the Last Ride, goes for Oscutter, gets caught into another Last Ride attempt but Hurricanranas himself out and lands the Robinson Special. Taichi catches another Oscutter and turns it into a Saito suplex, then hits the Last Ride for two. Ospreay transitions the next Last Ride into a Destroyer, Taichi fights out of the Stormbreaker, takes a standing Spanish Fly instead and is finished with the Stormbreaker.
The Taichi coming out party is official. Great performance from both guys. They held their own, there was no carrying, just two well defined characters putting together a great, cohesive match. Well done by both men.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Kota Ibushi def. Hirooki Goto (c) @ 16:53 via Kamigoye – ***3/4
Omega comes out to second hid Golden Lover. Goto asks for a handshake, which Ibushi accepts but it’s a trap! Goto muscles Ibushi up for an Ushigoroshi, Ibushi escapes, hiptosses and kicks Goto in the back. Goto fires off a kick of his own but Ibushi catches and sends Goto out with a Hurricanrana. Ibushi looks to hit the Golden Triangle Moonsault but Goto slides back in and levels Ibushi with a lariat down to the apron. Another big lariat, a rope-assisted neckbreaker and Goto begins grinding down on Ibushi.
A dropkick finally allows Ibushi a breather. Goto bails and is met by the Golden Triangle Moonsault, thrown back in for a flurry of strikes, ending with a standing moonsault. Goto fights back, drives Ibushi into the corner and drops him with a Saito suplex. Very heated exchange of forearms, neither wanting to show weakness. Goto lands the corner spin kick, goes to the top and looks to hit the Kaiten. Ibushi flips out of the move and the two begin matching lariat for lariat.
Goto fights out of the Last Ride, eats a high kick, catches the Kamigoye and turns it into an Ushigoroshi. He locks in a sleeper hold and when Ibushi fades, attempts to finish with the GTR but Ibushi rolls through, sets up for a lawn dark, Goto slips through and hoists Ibushi for a German suplex but Ibushi flips to his feet. Ibushi headbutts Goto on the back of his head, locks the arms for the Straightjacket German, Goto delivers a headbutt of his own. He keeps wrist control, tries a front headbutt but Ibushi gets a knee up, gives a headbutt of his own and finishes Goto with a Kamigoye.
Fiery performance from Goto. Strong match from both and they kept it to a length that allowed no wasted motion. As expected, Ospreay makes the challenge to Ibushi for Wrestle Kingdom. That match will have all the potential to be a show stealer. An Absolute dream match.
World Tag League Finals
EVIL & SANADA def. Guerrillas of Destiny @ 27:01 via SANADA Moonsault on Tama – ***3/4
Most people will see the time this match went and decide to pass. What made this match great was the support the crowd gave EVIL and SANADA. The match started off with an attack before the bell by Jado. G.O.D. took the match outside and grinded down while the referee counted. Tama chased SANADA and looked to take him down before he could break the count.
They spent a while continuing to grind SANADA down inside the ring before a desperation dropkick get EVIL tagged in. He fire off forearms, bulldogs and sentons. Loa, in desperation, got in a suplex, a corner lariat and dropped EVIL off the top with a Superplex. EVIL fights out of a powerslam and SANADA comes in to help him flurry. Tama is set up for a Magic Killer, fights out and Jado causes a distraction on the outside that allows G.O.D. time for a neckbreaker.
They go back outside where the beatdown continues and the crowd begins rallying behind EVIL. Tma spits at the fans and continues the attack, Loa gets in on the jawjocking as well. They look for a double team dive but SANADA cuts off Tama’s portion and EVIL rolls away from Loa. Next is an attempted double team suplex on Tama but Loa cuts it off and slams all three instead. After some forearms between EVIL and Loa, SANADA and Tama sprint from rope to rope, looking for an advantage. SANADA comes out on top with a flurry on planchas, even giving one to Jado. There was an ugly Skull End botch where SANADA domed himself and is soon after up for Magic Killer.
He fights out, gets Tama in an O’Connor Roll but kicks out and drop SANADA with Magic Killer and spear EVIL after he breaks it up. Next, SANADA is set up for a Super Powerbomb but he ranas out, he and EVIL look for Magic Killer, Tama causes a ref bump, Jado comes in with the cane but is caught and dropped with a Magic Killer. Tama looks for the Tongan Twist which SANADA transitions to Skull End. Loa breaks it up, EVIL hits Loa with EVIL, crowd reacts huge. Gun Stun is transitioned into a Magic Killer for two. Darkness Falls, Moonsault, LIJ win.
Great match to cap off the tournament. Everyone knew coming in who was winning but when you’re as popular as these two, it doesn’t matter, it’s still nice to have happen. Before they could celebrate, the Young Bucks come out and request a match for the IWGP Tag Team Championships. The two teams have a stare off before the Bucks leave and they can send the fans home happy.
This was a very strong show. Outside of the opener, everything here had merit. There weren’t any down moments, the show continued to build the entire way through and they capped the tournament off with its best match. The top three matches were all legitimately at the same level of great that I can’t decide which I liked the most. There was a lot of good stuff to be seen here and that’s a good sign because this the last major show until Wrestle Kingdom. A very easy three and a half hour show that left me energized with the good results up and down the card.
Tag League Finals
Goto vs Ibushi
Ospreay vs Taichi
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