wrestling / Columns

Csonka: 5 Men That Shouldn’t Have Competed in the 2019 NJPW WTL

December 9, 2019 | Posted by Larry Csonka
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The annual NJPW World Tag League is the down portion of the year for the promotion every year. Part of that is the fact that the NJPW tag team divisions are very poorly booked, and due to that, the tournament is filled with cobbled together teams with almost no experience teaming together, and only start getting traction towards the end of the tournament. The field is unnecessarily bloated, most of the tournament is shuffled to VOD, and with lackluster crowds and shows that come off as skippable, the tournament comes off as a relic in order to set challengers for WrestleKingdom as they pretend to care about tag team wrestling. The good is hard to find, the great is really rare, and it’s a struggle to invest time into. Another issue in recent years has been the lack of the very top stars being involved. The tried to fix that with a few names, and some of those men will make the list, So today I want to discuss the men who shouldn’t have been in the tournament and why. Feel free to make your picks in the comment section. Thanks for reading! It’s wrestling, we love it and will disagree. The only rules are “have a take, be respectful, and don’t be a dick.”

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Manabu Nakanishi: Manabu Nakanishi has been wrestling since 1992, is a former IWGP Champion, G1 winner, multiple-time tag team champion, and even held the Never Openweight Six-Man titles. He’s now 52-years old, and one of the lovable New Japan dads who works the under cards with the lions and can still get a pop when he plays the hits. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this role for him at this stage of his career, he plays the role well, he helps the lions out, and that’s all well and good. Where he doesn’t belong is working the long NJPW World Tag League tour. The man is broken down, obviously in rough shape, and on top of that, moves either like a planet orbiting the sun or a glacier; it just depend on how spry he feels that night. I love my New Japan Dads, I respect all that they have done, and I don’t say this to be mean, but Nakanishi had no place in this tournament and never should have been included. If you take out a few people like Nakanishi and the others on this list, you thin out the bloated field and likely up the overall quality of it, at least a little bit. On a side note, have you seen this man’s Twitter? I want to dine out with him before I die.

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Bad Luck Fale: Bad Luck Fale is one of the top men in Bullet Club, which still one of the most important factions in NJPW. He’s the token big man in NJPW, although following the rise of Lance Archer, he shouldn’t be. Fale has shown signs of being “good” in the past, but all of those times were with a Tanahashi, Okada, Nakamura, or Ibushi leading him along and doing everything in their power to make him into a viable monster. Bad Luck Fale serves no purpose for me other than the amusing “fuck it” or “fuck em” banter during press conferences. He made effort to lose weight this year and get in better shape, but had an extremely poor G1 run and only feels like he’s around because he’s entrenched in Bullet Club and is running the Fale Dojo as NJPW has plans to continue expansion into Australia & New Zealand. The NJPW World Tag League is bloated and you know it is when we have to have THREE Bullet Club teams, and none of them are really any good. Fale had an embarrassingly bad WTL run, and it just wasn’t that it was bad, IT FELT LAZY. I don’t say that lightly, because I try never to say someone isn’t trying, but I can’t believe that anyone could watch his matches and think that he was putting in anything resembling effort. I can’t imagine being management and watching his matches and thinking that they are ok or even acceptable. I don’t expect 5 star matches out of Fale, but some effort and matches that don’t suck would be greatly appreciated. We would have been better off without him involved, he offers nothing these days.

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KENTA: In recent years, NJPW has excluded the very top stars from WTL in order to protect them for WrestleKingdom, which I support. This year, they included Goto & KENTA (mostly to setup their WrestleKingdom clash over the NEVER Title) and Tanahashi to add some star power to the tour. Much like Fale, I found KENTA to be completely embarrassing in this tournament. Yujiro worked 95% of their matches, and to say when KENTA was in that he did the bare minimum is likely an overestimate of the actual effort he put in. The NJPW World Tag League is bloated and you know it is when we have to have THREE Bullet Club teams, and none of them are really any good; GOD can be fine but even that is rare. It’s kind of sad when Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi as a team would have easily been the best Bullet Club tag team in the tournament, because at least they were working hard, hell they had to, they were both working for two men in their matches. KENTA’s lazy performances in this tournament have been completely embarrassing and the crowd knows it and they don’t care. I’m trying to figure out if Fale or KENTA is the laziest in this whole thing, it’s likely a push but more disappointing with KENTA since we know he can be good and even great still. But in this year’s WTL, he came off like an ex-WWE guy collecting a check from mid-2000s TNA. In my memoirs, I will dedicate many pages to KENTA’s untimely death in 2014.

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Hiroshi Tanahashi: As previously mentioned, they added Goto, KENTA, & Tanahashi to the tour to try and add some star power to the tour this year. Tanahashi is obviously not the Tanahashi of a few years ago. He’s older, slower, banged up by several injuries, but is still a star that can deliver in the occasional big match situation. He’s still extremely valuable to the promotion, he’s a top star and draw, and again can still be heated up for the occasional big match, where he can still deliver a Tanahashi performance. Look, I know he’s not taking falls, but I have absolutely hated seeing Tanahashi, who needs the time off, booked like such a fucking geek in this tournament. It’s made no sense and hasn’t helped Henare, who’s still spinning his wheels in not young lion but not real star limbo. The tournament run and inclusion of Tanahashi hasn’t helped Henare, and if anything I feel has hurt Tanahashi a bit. He’s obviously not RUINED or BURIED by any means, but the tournament booking has done nothing to help him. Tanahashi should have spent this time recovering, relaxing, getting treatment and working out until the final three shows in December where he knocks off any rust and gets into “ring shape.” To use this tournament to notch more holes in his bump card was extremely short-sighted booking, made no sense, didn’t help him, didn’t help Henare and didn’t make a difference in attendance figures. In my opinion, it was a complete waste of Tanahashi and he never should have been included. I am fully aware that Tanahashi’s time as the top star is over and that his time as a major name is also coming to a close. He will eventually transition into a Jushin Liger-like role and become a a New Japan Dad. But he’s not there quite yet, has a major match with Jericho at the dome, and until this WTL travesty was being treated like the major name he is. Don’t come at me with “he’s not as good as he thinks he is” or “he’s washed up ands where he belongs,” because that’s bullshit. I know better and you should as well. I have nothing but love for my Ace, I just wish NJPW did.

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Tomoaki Honma: In the spirit of full disclosure, I loved Honma. I loved his NEVER title stuff, his insane matches, and I loved when Honmania ran wild. He was a man that delivered, had great matches, and more importantly than that fought with such heart that he would drag crowds into his matches and make them live and die as if they were in the ring with him. It almost all ended for him in 2017, when Honma was injured during a match while taking a draping DDT by Jado. He suffered a cervical spine injury and entered into a long recovery phase, having to learn to walk again before he could even think about working out. Honma persevered, made a full recovery and returned to the ring in 2018. For obvious reasons, he’s never been the same. Not as big, not as fast and while he works as hard as ever, is in all honesty a shell of his former self. I greatly admire his desire to make a comeback and accomplish that goal, and if he’s happy, that’s fantastic. But in this tournament, it has become clear that he’s not able to handle something like World Tag League. The tournament is too long, has too many matches, and he faded as it went along to the point where he was looking sad in there. The worst part is that NJPW has laid out several of his matches like he’s the Honma of 2015 with the long beat downs and him rallying to make a comeback and get the crowds behind him. On top of that, his opponents have constantly had to be extremely careful with him. Like they are working with a child they need to protect. I can appreciate his drive to return, his comeback is a tremendously great story. But what I have learned during the 2019 World Tag League is that he never should have been included, and now that GBH has had that last World Tag League, it may be time for him to hang it up before something bad happens… again.

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The 411 on Wrestling Podcast returns to the 411 Podcasting Network for episode 72. On the show, 411’s Larry Csonka & Jeremy Lambert discuss John Morrison returning to WWE & his likely role, and then break down week 10 of the NXT vs. AEW Wednesday night war. The show is approximately 89-minutes long.

* Intro
* John Morrison’s WWE Return: 5:30
* AEW Dynamite (12.04.19) Review: 15:25
* NXT (12.04.19) Review: 52:35
* The Head to Head Comparison: 1:10:00

* iTunes
* Spotify
* Stitcher
* Google Play

– End Scene

– Thanks for Reading.