New Japan Pro Wrestling is currently in the midst of their annual World Tag League tournament. Ten of the best teams in the company are battling for not only the trophy but a chance at the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Championships.
Looking at the history of New Japan’s tag division, it has grown and changed over the years. During this time, these teams have also made an impact on the division, the company and the business in general.
Here is a look at the top 5 heavyweight tag teams in New Japan history.
5. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr.)
The Killer Elite Squad (K.E.S) team of Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. may be one of the most underrated in New Japan history. In 2012, Lance Archer was already a menacing figure in the heel faction Suzuki Gun. In July, he challenged champions Tencozy (Tenzan and Kojima) for the titles without any details of who his partner would be. That August, Davey Boy Smith Jr (then Harry Smith) made his debut as the newest member.
Like many teams on this list, K.E.S defeated Tencozy in their first title match to win the IWGP Heavyweight tag titles at Power Struggle in October 2012. It was also the first championships that came to the newly created Suzuki Gun faction. In that same year, they made to the finals of the 2012 World Tag League. Despite losing in the finals, the duo retained at Wrestle Kingdom.
During their time in New Japan, the duo had three reigns as tag champions lasting a combined 365 days. They had some high calibre matches against teams such as Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson, EVIL and SANADA and War Machine.
Just like their faction, Archer and Davey Boy Smith were dominant during their time in the tag division. With their mutual desire to cause trouble and hurt people, they created a strong bond complimenting each other’s ring style perfectly.
4. Cho-Ten (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Masahiro Chono)
It is no secret that when it comes to New Japan tag team wrestling, Hiroyoshi Tenzan is one of the most successful wrestlers in the company’s history. His first taste of this came was with Japanese legend Masahiro Chono. The duo first won the titles back in June 1995. They then went on to hold the titles five times and won the 1995 Super Grade Tag League.
Throughout this time, both men also made an impact as singles wrestler winning various titles and tournaments. It was the similarities in their ethos and approach to traditional Japanese wrestling which made them so effective as a team.
However, like many tag teams, Tenzan and Chono went through their fair share of conflicts within the team. After Chono returned from injury in 2006, the two men showed some tension which led them to refusing to defend their titles. It was this feud that led to the creation of Chono-Nakamura Gun and Great Bash Heel.
The duo went on to team for a total of ten years and, even now, they still hold several records. These include the highest number of successful defences at 12 and the longest combined days as champion at 1010 days.
3. Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson)
There are some names that are just synonymous with tag team wrestling. Two of those names are Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson who have had tag team success in different companies. However, this iconic duo’s beginnings came in 2013 as part of the Bullet Club faction.
When the stable needed a team for World Tag League, founding member Anderson teamed with Gallows. The two won the tournament and beat the champions Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer at Wrestle Kingdom 8 to win their first Heavyweight tag titles.
After this win, the duo continued to dominate the tag division of New Japan as part of one of the most dominant factions. Spanning across three years, Gallows and Anderson won the titles a total of three times with a combined total of 607 days as champions.
Even after leaving New Japan, Gallows and Anderson continued with their tag team success in various American companies. Although the duo has not been part of the company for almost four years, many fans are still hoping to see the ‘Good Brothers’ back in New Japan.