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Hamilton’s Best of the Super Junior 27 & World Tag League 2020 Preview

November 10, 2020 | Posted by Ian Hamilton
NJPW World Tag League 2020 Best of the Super Jr.

This weekend, New Japan launches into their final full tour of what’s been a tumultuous year – and much like your least-favourite wrestler, they’re getting all their stuff in, merging the delayed Best of the Super Junior tour with the scheduled World Tag League.

World Tag League is oft maligned as a chore of a tour, one which is very easy to skip up until the final night(s), partially because a G1 of tag teams really isn’t that appealing when the tag team division has been lukewarm at best. However, this year, we’re seeing a truncated tournament… with the same number of dates. So, what gives?

Easy. We’re getting Best of the Super Juniors too, revived after being cancelled in May, with the tour following this schedule:

November 15 – Aichi – BOSJ & WTL
November 16 – Ishikawa – WTL
November 18 – Korakuen Hall – BOSJ
November 19 – Korakuen Hall – WTL
November 20 – Korakuen Hall – BOSJ
November 22 – Nagano – WTL
November 23 – Gunma – BOSJ
November 24 – Fukushima – WTL
November 25 – Niigata – BOSJ
November 28 – Kanagawa – WTL
November 29 – Korakuen Hall – BOSJ
November 30 – Korakuen Hall – WTL
December 2 – Osaka – BOSJ
December 4 – Beppu – WTL
December 5 – Kagoshima – BOSJ
December 6 – Fukuoka – BOSJ & WTL
December 11 – Budokan, Tokyo – Finals

For the sake of not making this one long run-on column, I’m not going to list every match – those can be found on the New Japan website

Who’s in the tournaments? Who’ll follow Will Ospreay and Fin-Juice in ending the year with some new trophies?

Best of the Super Junior 27 (updated 12/11 with line-up change)

Hiromu Takahashi
Hiromu’s first BOSJ in two years, having missed 2019’s edition as he was recovering from the broken neck, he’ll be looking to reclaim the crown he won last time out. Since returning at last year’s Power Struggle, Hiromu’s won – and lost – the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title, and is considered by many to be a lock to at least reach the finals.

Robbie Eagles
A return to New Japan for Eagles, who’s been away from the promotion since losing in a bid to win the NEVER trios titles back in February. Of course, “the thing” had a lot to do with that, as Eagles was restricted to appearing for PWA Black Label in Australia since the big shutdown. It’s fair to say that in New Japan canon, Eagles is a little adrift as the “Birds of Prey” team with Ospreay seems to be no more, although Ospreay’s love of falconry could well persist given by how he’s dressing. Last year, Eagles respectable 4-5 record left him fourth bottom in the block, and he’ll be looking to at least match that this year. An outside bet to make the finals.

Having vacated the junior tag titles earlier this year when tag partner YOH seriously injured his knee, the question remains: is New Japan going to pull the trigger on him as a singles act, or is he going to tread water until YOH returns? Last year, SHO went 4-5 in the tournament, having gone 3-6 the year before… at the very least he should be breaking 0.500 this year, right?

Taiji Ishimori
Going in as the reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion, you’d have to think that he’s the favourite to make it to the finals… but given that the tournament winner is likely to get a title shot at WrestleKingdom, Overthinking Wrestling Logic™ dictates that Ishimori is more likely to just miss the boat, rather than face his potential challenger three times in the space of two months.

El Desperado
Having had to sit out last year’s tournament with a broken jaw, Despy will be looking to make a mark… but as one half of the junior tag team champions, you’d have to think that Overthinking Wrestling Logic™ intervenes and keeps Desperado away from the finals. Stranger things have happened, but it’s more likely Desperado’s BOSJ campaign will feature him engaging with new challengers for the junior tag championships.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru
For Kanemaru, see Desperado… Just without the broken jaw! Interesting, both Kanemaru and Desperado went 3-6 in their last tournaments, and I wouldn’t be too shocked if they didn’t improve too much on that. Yoshinobu Kanemaru pulled out of the Best of the Super Junior tour with a knee injury, and in his place…

Yuya Uemura
A late replacement, Uemura will be entering his second tournament of the year, having gone out in the first round in this year’s New Japan Cup. Instantly coming in as a favourite to finish bottom of the group, Uemura’ll be looking for more vital experience – and perhaps, maybe, get that first win over an established roster member.

Sorry to break it to his fans, but when DOUKI’s sole win in New Japan was over a Young Lion, there’s no way he’s going to be able to pull off any sort of a U-turn. In the absence of any Young Lions in the group this year, he may well be full… after eating all of those pins.

It’s hard to think that just a year ago, BUSHI was in title contention – albeit to play a role that’d set up for the return of Hiromu Takahashi. At this stage of the game, I can’t see BUSHI being any more than a placeholder title challenger, even if he does have a pretty good record in BOSJs of years gone by. Perhaps another outsider to make the finals – but that’d be a stretch.

Ryusuke Taguchi
A two-time former champion, Taguchi’s been on and off these shows since the restart, and hasn’t been seen since before the G1. A tandem with Master Wato proved fruitless as the vacated IWGP junior tag titles eventually went the way of Suzuki-gun, Taguchi could be a masked horse… sorry, a dark horse for this year. Or he could just spend the next few weeks arseing about. Either’s just as likely.

Master Wato
Oh boy. Returning from excursion early on in the restart shows, Master Wato’s had a bit of a stumble in the new gimmick. An unsuccessful run with Taguchi saw them fall short of the vacated IWGP junior tag titles, and while Wato did appear at the tail end of the G1 tour, this tournament will likely slot the former Hirai Kawato for the foreseeable future.

If you’re asking me to pick a final, I’d have to go with SHO vs. Hiromu Takahashi… especially given that the final night’s matches feature SHO vs. Ishimori and Wato vs. Hiromu.

World Tag League 2020

Juice Robinson & David Finlay
Last year’s winners return for another crack at the trophies – with David Finlay returning to Japan for the first time since the Manabu Nakanishi retirement show. Since then he’s been a runner up in the New Japan Cup USA, and reached the quarter-finals of the ROH Pure title tournament, as Juice Robinson kept himself busy with the G1 (and some NJPW Strong as well). Could it be back-to-back happy beers for Fin-Juice? Don’t be too surprised…

Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi
Coming in as the defending champions, “Dangerous Tekkers” haven’t really had much of a chance to get their feet under the table, so to speak. Once they’d run off the former champions in Tanahashi and Ibushi, the G1 was right around the corner – and while Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI offered a stern test, that’s been about it for them. Much like other champions in tournaments like these, I’d expect them to take maybe one or two losses to set up potential challengers – but they’re not winning this outright.

Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa
Despite sharing the record for most title reigns (with Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan at six), the Guerrillas of Destiny have never won the World Tag League. The last three years the tournament had finals, they finished runners up (last year was a straight-forward “top team wins” scenario). Of course, with the worldwide shutdown, the Guerrillas of Destiny haven’t wrestled in Japan since February, and have been limited to NJPW Strong outings since. If you thought New Japan were “cycling them out”, you’d be wrong, but I could see the Guerrillas making the final – if not the win.

EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi
Woof. What a downgrade, am I right? Having won back-to-back World Tag Leagues in 2017 and 2018, EVIL (with SANADA) narrowly lost out on a three-peat… and then would go on to ditch Los Ingobernables de Japon for the black and white of the Bullet Club. A brief run as the dual IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental champion was derided by critics, and after being comprehensively beaten by Tetsuya Naito at Power Struggle, you’ve got to think EVIL is done on the top level for now. An outside bet for the finals, EVIL does have a partner in Yujiro who wins a lot of falls in undercard tags, but those brief months in the spotlight could well be over for the King of Darkness.

Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens
Someone asked for this? Reuniting after going 8-7 last year, Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens are back in the country to set off red flags for a potential Bullet Club breakdown… They’ll be problematic and nuisances in the league, but I’d be shocked if they broke into the top half of the standings when it’s all over.

Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
First up from CHAOS is a pairing reforming from two years ago – and a tandem that finished in joint second in 2018. The blend of Tomohiro Ishii being a brick outhouse and Toru Yano’s pranks isn’t to everyone’s tastes (okay, just that Yano bit), but it’s shockingly effective – and with the KOPW trophy not really meaning much, I wouldn’t be too shocked to see this pairing flirting with the finals.

Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
The most recent challengers to the IWGP tag team titles, Goto and YOSHI-HASHI have had a fairly successful year, with YOSHI-HASHI finally winning his first title, and then developing a taste for some more gold. They came close at Korakuen Hall earlier this month, but Goto and YOSHI-HASHI having the NEVER trios titles makes me think that that’ll be their lot for WrestleKingdom.

Shingo Takagi & SANADA
Is this an upgrade? Probably. While SANADA often gets criticised for his singles stuff, particularly the failure to emote much, he’s not been saddled with any lengthy “revenge” stuff with EVIL, instead being allowed to be his own man. Pairing with the new NEVER champion SANADA may restrict this duo’s future as a tandem, but at least the in-ring stuff will be way more palatable.

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toa Henare
If you believe the Internet, 2020 was meant to be Toa Henare’s big year, with a breakout match with Tomohiro Ishii being among the many things that fell by the wayside. Instead, Henare spent most of 2020 stewing and training – with Cagematch listing just one match since the shutdown, that being a tag team match in Auckland featuring former (?) Britwres standout TK Cooper. Back in Japan, Henare’s reforming the Henar-ace tandem with Hiroshi Tanahashi – but with Tanahashi having struggled all year long, don’t be too shocked if this tandem comes close to last year’s 3-12 record. Despite Henare’s efforts.

Great-O-Khan & X
We wrap up the block with the addition of good ol’ X, as the Empire looks to expand. Again, if you believe the Internet, then Overthinking Wrestling Logic™ could have you believe that Jeff Cobb will be X, given that he’s apparently still in Japan, and was meant to have been involved at the start of the original Empire angle. Cobb and O-Khan would be a wacky tag team, that’s for sure, but it’d not be a pairing that would have me expecting them to make the finals.

If you’re looking for tip-offs, since all of the fixtures are out… on the final night of World Tag League we’ve got Fin-Juice vs. YOSHI-HASHI & Goto, Sabre & Taichi vs. Yano & Ishii, and the Guerrillas vs. Henare/Tanahashi. That last one may well be a spoiler…

The joint World Tag League & Best of the Super Junior tour starts on November 15 – with all cards being streamed live on NJPW World. English commentary will be live for the final night on December 6, and the finals on December 11, with all remaining shows being Japanese-only commentary (with English being added on the VOD).