New Japan’s tag division has recently been on the rise from a relatively lackluster period of title reigns. While the division still suffers from a lack of available talent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is doing much better than it was a year or two ago. Much of this is because of the quality of its tag teams despite the number of title contenders.
In terms of tag divisions in NJPW, the trios division has had the most remarkable rise. The 6 man titles have been treated like even more of an afterthought than the tag titles, to the point wrestlers like Taichi would joke about them not being worth their time.
The prestige of the NEVER 6-man titles took a sharp upturn thanks to three wrestlers, the CHAOS stablemates Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, and Yoshi-Hashi. Ishii, Goto, and Yoshi-Hashi have not only made these belts matter, but they’ve also shown themselves to be a very solid tag team.
Courage, Wisdom, and Power
The Triforce is a golden relic in the Legend of Zelda video game franchise. It’s comprised of three gold triangles that represent courage, wisdom, and power, respectively. The recurring theme in these games is that whoever wields the Triforce has the power to rule (or ruin) the world.
In the New Day’s comic book series, The Power of Positivity, Xavier Woods likens himself and his teammates, Kofi Kingston and Big E, to the three components of the Triforce. Xavier is wisdom, Kofi is courage, and E is power. Reading this analogy taught me that in reality, every good pro wrestling trio has team members that can fit into three respective roles: the brain, the brawn, and the heart. In other words, every good trio has courage, wisdom, and power.
The NEVER champs fit fairly neatly into these three roles, which makes them a very effective trio. Ishii, the hard-headed pitbull of Chaos, is the brawn. Goto, the meditative veteran is the brain. Yoshi-Hashi, the persevering underdog, is the heart of the trio.
What’s in a Title?
To make a championship matter to the audience, it has to matter to the wrestlers vying for it. This was the trios titles’ biggest problem; no wrestler on the roster ever made passionate challenges for the trios titles, there were never any hot, contested feuds for the belts. All the wrestlers had their eyes set on bigger prizes. Yoshi-Hashi, though, saw immense value in the trios titles. Within his decade-long career, he had never held gold in New Japan. This never dissuaded him, though. If anything, being the perpetual underdog makes Yoshi-Hashi stronger. The spirit and drive were ready, waiting, and only in need of an opportunity.
After Los Ingobernables were forced to vacate their 6-man championships due to Evil’s defection, the 2020 NEVER trios title tournament was announced. Ishii, Goto, and Yoshi-Hashi were one of the teams representing Chaos. Funnily enough, their stablemates on the other side of the bracket, Kazuchika Okada, Sho, and Toru Yano, met them in the finals. Despite the clear friendship between the two trios, their match was hotly contested and physical. It resulted in a victory for the current champs, and a heartwarming show of appreciation from Chaos for their friend, Yoshi-Hashi. In fact, it was Okada who put the NEVER belt around Yoshi-Hashi’s waist for the first time, starting the Headhunter’s very first title reign in NJPW.
Yoshi-Hashi treasures his NEVER title. His adoration and pride in his belt make its value rise in the eyes of both other wrestlers and the audience. The trios division, which was once an afterthought in NJPW, now puts on main events in Korakuen Hall. Trios matches that were once thoughtless card openers are now the culminations of heated feuds between rivals.
All in all, the NEVER 6-Man titles are now a valued prize thanks to the work poured into them by Goto, Ishii, and Yoshi-Hashi. These three are an incredibly effective trio and are therefore the most capable champions in leading the trios division out of irrelevance and into the main event picture. Let’s hope NJPW keeps this momentum going for the trios division, even after the Chaos trio’s reign comes to an inevitable close.
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