What’s Up with NJPW’s Tag Division?

What’s Up with NJPW’s Tag Division?

Introduction

New Japan’s tag division is full of peaks and valleys. Sometimes they deliver high quality feuds and matches, while other times it seems like the tag division is the perpetual afterthought of the company. Compared to other promotions, I would say NJPW’s tag division is slightly better than WWE’s haphazardly booked roster, but is pretty lackluster next to AEW’s stacked division

Here’s a look at the main tag teams that comprise NJPW’s tag division, presented in no particular order. 

Photo Credit – NJPW

Guerillas of Destiny

Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa are probably the most consistent tag team in NJPW at the moment. For this reason, it’s understandable that NJPW likes to keep the belts on them. They have the cultish following that typically follows members of the Bullet Club. The brothers have decent charisma and solid in-ring performances.

One downside of GoD’s consistency, though, is that it’s made their act become stagnant. Their routine for a good while has been having Jado hit opponents with his kendo stick, winning the belts, losing the belts, and then rinsing and repeating. Sure, there was their recent World Tag League victory, but the only real result of that was the return to GoD’s default setting as champions. 

 I think it would be best for Tama and Tanga to elevate their feuds. There’s been some recent attempts at this, with the stealing of Taichi’s iron fingers, but there hasn’t been any real substance in GoD storylines. Much of this, at least to me, seems to stem from the fact that Tama Tonga is more focused on riling up AEW fans than anything else. As happy as it makes him to make fun of Kenny Omega on Twitch, I think it would be best for Tama Tonga to focus on storylines in his own company, rather than continuously obsessing over what AEW’s doing (unless, of course, there’s a secret AEW/NJPW partnership in the works). 

Dangerous Tekkers 

Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi have effectively taken over the Killer Elite Squad’s role of Suzuki-Gun’s heavyweight tag team.  While the pair are also strong contenders in singles competition, they also have strong chemistry as a tag team. The breakout tag team of the COVID era for NJPW, having a months-long feud with the team formerly known as Golden Ace. 

The pair won the IWGP tag titles using heel tactics, but while holding the belts there was a bit of a shift in their alignment. The crowd noticeably started to favor them, even going as far as to cheer Zack Sabre Jr on in his feud with Toru Yano. Now that they’ve lost their titles to another pair of heels, Dangerous Tekkers definitely seems more sympathetic in comparison to Bullet Club. 

FinJuice

David Finlay and Juice Robinson are undoubtedly the biggest babyfaces of the tag division. They’re also one of the most consistent tag teams, along with their biggest rivals, the Guerillas of Destiny, who recently stole World Tag League Victory from them in 2020. Injuries and quarantine have disrupted FinJuice’s run in the past year, but given how chaotic 2020 was, it’s hard to fault them for any loss in momentum.

FinJuice is especially beloved by the audience. They even have a cute catch phrase, “Happy Beers,” used by Finlay and Robinson after victories to explain how they’re going to celebrate their win (you can, of course, buy t-shirts and drink holders with “Happy Beers” written on them from NJPW’s store). Considering how they;re the only well-established, pure babyface tag team in the heavyweight division, it would make sense for NJPW to keep giving FinJuice a major role in the title picture.

Photo Credit – NJPW

Sanada & Shingo Takagi

While Sanada and Shingo have been teammates for about two years, they only started tagging together after Evil’s defection to Bullet Club this past summer. While Sanada and Evil had massive success as a tag team together, Shingo and Sanada have yet to do the same. They had an average run in the 2020 World Tag League, and have yet to so much as challenge for the IWGP heavyweight tag team titles. However, Sanada and Shingo have a fun dynamic together, both in the ring and in terms of their personalities. Perhaps with time the two will establish themselves as major players in the tag division. 

Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi

Goto and Yoshi-Hashi are probably Chaos’ most experienced tag teamers. Goto has captured IWGP gold in the past with Katsuyori Shibata, and the pair are currently two-thirds of the NEVER Six-Man tag team champions alongside Tomohiro Ishii. Additionally, they had a strong showing in the 2020 World Tag League that definitely indicated that the two could see success if they continue as a team

Goto and Yoshi-Hashi are both favorites who’ve been lost in the midcard for a while now. In this regard, maybe a tag team title feud or a run with the IWGP titles is what they need to re-energize them and re-establish the two as strong babyfaces in the company

The Rest

The rest of the tag teams in NJPW aren’t so much tag teams as they are two singles wrestlers who team up when booking needs them to. Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb from the new faction, the United Empire, are strong enough wrestlers that they can pretty much tag with anyone and have a good match, but they don’t exactly have strong chemistry yet. Also, since their faction is so small at the moment, they’re most likely going to be focusing on singles competition. Chase Owens and Fale, the “Alien Hunters,” are there as well. Though, they’ll likely remain in GoD’s shadow and continue their lackluster performances. Another tag team that could come out of Chaos is the pair of Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano. The two are a funny clash of personalities that could become an entertaining tag team if they decide to pursue it. 

Photo Credit – NJPW

Conclusion

As stated before, it seems like the tag division is simply not a priority for NJPW. This is a real shame, since there is not only potential there for great matches, but also for stars who have been lost in the shuffle to reassert their place on the roster. All the teams I discussed here have potential, though some admittedly have higher ceilings than others. Only time, along with Gedo’s booking decisions, will determine how much of this potential is met.

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