Last week, we saw the wrestling playbook get thrown out by a renegade persona making a major statement against the Grand Wrestling Monopoly. This week, New Japan Pro Wrestling has caught wind of this piece of news, and wants in on the action, and in our main event, we’ll be seeing some serious tag team turmoil. There’s a lot going on with this week’s episode, so I’ve divided this up into two parts: story and wrestling. So let’s dive in, shall we?
It seems as though Tiger Mask has made headlines, showing up in some of the recent wrestling magazines, while the shamed and defeated Odin is heading back to the Tiger’s Den. To form some retaliation against Tiger Mask, Miss X states that the Tiger’s Den will send in strong wrestlers to combat him, and execute him in the ring. Let’s take a quick look at Naoto, now – when he’s not doubling as the new Tiger Mask, his family life consists mostly of working with Kentaro Takaoka, the former Tiger Mask in the original series, and Haruna, his niece, in their motorcycle repair shop. Back at the shop, Haruna comes in with news from GWM, via her tablet: a new match has been announced for the next Wrestle Max show, Black Python, an older and more seasoned wrestler, is coming in from Britain to face… Tiger Mask! And it’s looking to be a bit of a styles clash (no pun intended), with Python’s expertise in catch wrestling versus the Japanese puroresu style. Over at GWM, Miss X puts on a press conference, demanding an apology from Tiger Mask over what happened at their show and for him to sign on for their next show. Then out comes Black Python, demanding that Tiger Mask fight him, only for Haruna to step in, playing the role of Tiger Mask’s agent. Haruna states that Tiger Mask will accept the challenge, and a condition is met – the match will be in a third-party ring, that of New Japan Pro Wrestling at the Ryougoku Sumo Hall, thanks to Yuji Nagata making a run-in on behalf of his organization. The terms are met, and the match is on, and the following day, both Haruna and Miss X are brought to the NJPW head offices to talk shop with Nagata, with another match agreed to, Black Python and Tiger Mask competing in a tag team match at their Sannomiya tournament show, with their respective partners of Tiger the Dark and a New Japan Young Lion in Ryo Wakamatsu.
It’s the day of the show, and Tiger Mask seems to be a bit green with tag matches, which is… surprisingly odd. Someone needs to show him some tag matches with Roppongi Vice and the Young Bucks. Anyway, onto the play-by-play of the match: Tiger Mask and Tiger the Dark start things off with a collar and elbow tieup and a shoulder tackle; Black Python and Wakamatsu tag in, but Python catches the young lion with a series of boot stomps to the chest. Python and Tiger the Dark get a double-team locked in, but the ref goes “No, no, don’t do that” before the illegal hold is broken up. Python throws Wakamatsu out of the corner and hits him with a backbreaker. Tiger the Dark climbs the corner and lands a knee right on Wakamatsu’s throat. He tries to tag in but gets caught by Python in a bow-and-arrow submission hold, but Tiger Mask doesn’t run in to break the hold, because he’s a babyface and follows the rules. The hold is released and Wakamatsu lands a spear to Python before tagging Tiger Mask in. And now it’s Python vs. Tiger Mask, locked in a grapplefest stalemate. Python catches Tiger Mask for a double-arm duplex, but lands on the corner and counters with an overhead kick into a German suplex; only gets a 2 count. But this leads to several more suplexes, and suddenly Tiger Mask has turned into Brock Lesnar. Tiger the Dark breaks the hold and catches Tiger Mask in another collar-and-elbow tieup, and in the corner, Wakamatsu tags in to pin Black Python, still down from the suplexes, and he gets the 3! What an upset by this young lion! After the match, Tiger Mask calls out Miss X and demands someone stronger fights him; he may just get it, as Miss X introduces Red Death Mask as his next opponent.
There was a LOT going on with this episode, so apologies if I couldn’t keep is as concise as I would’ve liked it to be. This was a rather good episode, and I have a lot that I would like to discuss about it. Firstly, I just have to point this out – Miss X is really top-heavy. Normally, I wouldn’t mind that, and I’m not one to knock obligatory fanservice, but part of me feels that she needs more support with that area. It certainly can’t be good for the back or spine. Oh, also, there were some fanservice moments with Miss X in this episode, at around the 10-minute mark. Now, regarding the whole “execute in the ring” thing, I’m pretty sure that the bookers would put a stop to that – it’s not like this is CZW, you can’t literally kill a guy in the ring. (On purpose.) Knowing that Black Python is from the UK, I have to wonder where his home federation is – Revolution Pro? Progress? WhatCulture Pro Wrestling? Regardless, he should probably cut back on the smiling; heels don’t smile, and because of it, he reminds me a bit of Fire Emblem from Tiger & Bunny with his character design. You know, minus the genderqueer-ness of Fire Emblem. We also learned a little bit of history with the “Tiger Mask” name – it is fabled to be the name of a rebel who turned against and destroyed the Tiger’s Den, so this is quickly turning into a very personal and heated feud between him and GWM. As made a bit clear above, we have our second NJPW cameo, this time with former NEVER Openweight Champion Yuji Nagata, serving as the stand-in figurehead of New Japan Pro Wrestling. We’re just about guaranteed cameos from Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe, but I want to see a Bullet Club cameo somewhere in here. Make it happen, guys.
Miss X demanding that Tiger Mask apologize to GWM, and wanting him to be on their next show, it reminded me a lot of Stephanie McMahon constantly berating and emasculating Roman Reigns, only to grant him title match after title match after title match. It makes zero booking sense. Regarding the matches being booked, think of how surreal a situation like this is: a GWM-contracted wrestler and an unaffiliated wrestler fighting in a New Japan ring. That’s like WCW’s Mike Awesome fighting the WWF’s Tazz in an ECW ring – and yes, that really happened. Another note I’d like to address: the main booker of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Gedo, was nowhere to be found in this episode. So I sure hope everyone involved agreed to all of this before the match started. And lastly, the match between Tiger Mask and Red Death Mask is actually going to take place, for real, at New Japan’s King of Pro-Wrestling pay-per-view, this coming Monday, as a dark match. This proves that wrestling may not be real, but anime certainly is. In conclusion, I really liked this week’s show, it took the more self-contained episodic route to it, but I can see how some wouldn’t be as interested in it as I was. Again, it’s centered around wrestling, in the ring and behind the scenes, so keep that in mind when watching this show.
Tiger Mask W is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, every Saturday at 3:45pm EDT.