They’re four-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champions. They’re approximately three thousand times better than Roppongi Vice (Editor’s Note: These are the opinions of Rocky Romero and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SteelChair Magazine). They’re ridiculously good-looking. They are SHO and YOH, and together they are your current Jr Tag Champs, Roppongi 3K.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, Roppongi 3K were on a roll. They’d won back the tag titles at Wrestle Kingdom from Bullet Club juniors El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori. They’d mounted two successful defences against Suzuki-Gun, and against their own mentor, Rocky Romero, who teamed up with fellow coach Ryusuke Taguchi. Things were looking good for SHO and YOH.

But how did we get here? How did these two shiny boys skyrocket to the top of the junior tag division? As fresh-faced Young Lions, SHO and YOH – then Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu – were part of a stellar cohort including the likes of Jay White, Takaaki Watanabe (now known as EVIL) and Hiromu Takahashi. And although it seems as though they’ve been tag partners forever, that was initially not the case.

Tanaka and Komatsu made their NJPW debuts in 2012, each sustaining a tournament loss to Watanabe. Their second match was against one another. This would be the catalyst for a fierce rivalry, and it quickly became apparent that the fledgling SHO and YOH had tremendous in-ring chemistry. In 2013, the pair began to team intermittently, taking on the likes of Suzuki-Gun and Time Splitters, as well as their fellow Young Lions.

Nonetheless, their rivalry persisted, and their inspired back-and-forth built them a reputation as two of the most exciting rookies to come up through the dojo in quite some time. With a smooth ring style and impressive arsenal of moves, Komatsu was an exciting prospect.

Meanwhile, Tanaka’s amateur background and sheer strength made him the perfect foil. In singles competition, Komatsu narrowly pipped Tanaka in terms of victories, but there was never any question that Tanaka was every bit as talented.

2015 saw the duo turn their back on their rivalry, solidifying their partnership. In this formation, they took on such tag team luminaries as reDRagon, Liger & Tiger Mask, and perhaps prophetically, Roppongi Vice. If their feud had placed them firmly in the spotlight, their teamwork proved the spark which would propel them to stardom.

Tanaka and Komatsu would become the first Young Lions to be sent on excursion as a team since No Limit (Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi). In 2016 they were sent first to CMLL, where they would debut repackaged as the occasionally-masked Raijin and Fujin – the Japanese gods of thunder and wind respectively. Under the wing of veteran Okumura, they would spend a relatively brief period studying lucha libre before moving swiftly on to America, where they joined Ring of Honor in late 2016.

Here, they would be repackaged once more as the unfortunately-monikered Tempura Boyz. Despite the dodgy name, the duo were a solid addition to the ROH roster. They even earned a few title shots, albeit unsuccessful ones. Still, challenging the reigning champs Young Bucks twice indicates a degree of faith in their ability.

They would also team with Colt Cabana to challenge Dalton Castle and the Boys for the ROH Six-Man Tag Championships. And of course, they found time to hang out with Cheeseburger:

Their excursion tenure totalled a little over a year. A relatively short amount of time for an excursion, but the two had already clocked up well over 200 matches prior to excursion. They did not need much polish to become the full package, at least from a wrestling standpoint.

But, as Kenny Omega revealed in an interview a few years back, the boys had picked up very little in the way of character work during their time abroad. They would need a little extra help to become truly ready for their return to Japan. That’s where Rocky Romero comes in.

Tanaka and Komatsu burst back onto the New Japan scene in late 2017 in tremendous style. Debuting at Kings of Pro Wrestling as the fresh, exciting and very shiny Roppongi 3K, the duo dethroned reigning tag champs Funky Future (Taguchi and Ricochet) in their very first match back.

Truly, Romero’s claim that his new proteges were ‘three thousand times better’ than Roppongi Vice was not just a hollow boast. And if the homecoming heroes would go on to lose the titles to the Young Bucks on their very first defence, well – nobody would begrudge them.

Serving their time as Young Lions has undoubtedly done SHO and YOH the world of good, and laid strong foundations for the polished, proficient Junior Heavyweights they have become. But it wasn’t all hard graft. The recent Toru Yano talk show on NJPW World has shone a light on their rookie days, revealing that YOH once accidentally dented Ishii’s car when he tried to park it. Meanwhile, SHO’s various crimes include shrinking Nagata’s clothes in the dryer. They also briefly served as Jay White’s secretaries, fielding phone calls in Japanese.

So, where do they go from here? As stalwarts of an ever-shrinking Junior Tag scene, it seems unconscionable that Roppongi 3K might split up. And yet with both men giving strong performances in last year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament, singles success seems inevitable at some point. SHO in particular shone brightly in his feud with Shingo Takagi. Occasionally overshadowed by YOH’s charisma, SHO was able to demonstrate his own unique and valuable talent: being really, really strong.

With Will Ospreay setting a precedent, SHO’s strength and versatility could easily see him making the jump to heavyweight in the not too distant future. And SHO himself has occasionally shown signs of discontent. From his promos last year lamenting his perception that he is letting YOH down, to his awesome singles theme, the scene is already set for SHO to make a name for himself as a singles competitor.

YOH, meanwhile, is an excellent candidate for the next big breakout Junior star. Comparisons to a young Tanahashi and Stardust Genius-era Naito are not unfounded. But perhaps the most intriguing direction for YOH lies in his history with Naito himself.

As an ambitious Young Lion, YOH put himself forward when BUSHI, in 2015, indicated that he wanted a junior heavyweight tag partner. Speculation was rife that Yohei Komatsu might become the next member of LIJ – quite the accolade for someone who hadn’t even been on excursion yet.

Naito himself added fuel to the fire when he seemed to adopt Komatsu as his own personal Young Lion. Things came to a head the night before Tanaka and Komatsu were due to go on excursion. BUSHI called Komatsu to the ring to help secure the victory, which of course he did. As a reward, he was given Naito’s cap. Naito raised Komatsu’s hand in victory. The crowd went nuts. It seemed that the rumours were true; that Komatsu would forego excursion to become the newest member of LIJ.

Except things didn’t quite go in Komatsu’s favour. LIJ proceeded to lay into him; EVIL lariated the soul right out of his body. It was a lesson hard learned for young Komatsu: know your place.

While it seems unlikely that YOH will be joining LIJ anytime soon, his history with Naito raises the intriguing possibility of a future feud. Naito versus his sometime-protege, whose ring gear, style and charisma all pay obvious homage to Naito’s Stardust Genius phase. Played right, it could well prove the making of YOH as a singles phenomenon.

But Roppongi 3K are not quite done as a team yet. They’re still Junior Tag Champs, and they could be in it for the long haul. With the Jr Tag Belts switching back and forth on a regular basis, a solid run with the titles would be the least R3K deserve if they are to go their separate ways at some point in the future. And if we’re really lucky, we might even get another photobook out of them before they go.


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