NJPW Destruction in Okayama

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September 23rd, 15:00 from Momotaro Arena, Okayama

The first of two Destruction shows is headlined by a NEVER Openweight Title match between Togi Makabe and Kota Ibushi and also sees KUSHIDA defend the Junior title against Kenny Omega.

Here we go…

Tetsuya Naito, David Finlay, Jay White & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Katsuyori Shibata, Sho Tanaka, Yohei Komatsu & Yuji Nagata

This was all about hyping Naito vs. Shibata on Sunday and it did so effectively. Anytime either of them was in the ring they would interrupt the other’s offence, Naito’s insolence infuriating the ultra-serious Shibata. In the meantime, the young lions carried the majority of the match, with Finlay Jr. already looking sharp, and veterans Nakanishi and Nagata doing their thing towards the end. Nagata won the match for his team with the Backdrop Hold as Naito decided he didn’t care to help his teammate. Post-match Shibata battered Naito several times over, much to Naito’s apathy. ***

reDRagon vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Máscara Dorada 

reDRagon are the Junior Tag champs, but this is non-title. I’ve never seen anyone better at walking the ropes than Dorada and he got a few opportunities to demonstrate that here. Elsewhere, NXT Superstar Liger threw a couple of Shoteis and, as expected, the champs won after hitting Chasing the Dragon on Dorada. Fine. **1/4

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship

Steve Anthony (c) vs. Tiger Mask

‘Who is Steve Anthony’ you ask? I ask that same question. And I can’t say I know much about the title’s lineage either. Anyhow, Anthony’s representative (and NWA president) Bruce Tharpe got involved early on, putting the champion in control. Tiger Mask flattened Tharpe with a crossbody, then followed up with the same to Anthony, but couldn’t put him away. Anthony unsuccessfully attempted the 450 Splash, then Tiger Mask connected with a kick and got the tap-out with the scissored armbar at 10 minutes. The new champ cut a short promo to celebrate the win while Tharpe threw a tantrum with the vigour of a New Day victory dance. Serviceable but dull. **

Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga vs. Matt Sydal & Hiroshi Tanahashi

A preview of Tanahashi’s No.1 Contender defence versus Fale this Sunday and Sydal’s first appearance with the company. If you were in any doubt as to Jado and Gedo’s WWE fandom, Tanahashi is now carrying a gold briefcase around to represent his Tokyo Dome title shot. Sydal started out with Tonga, giving him a chance to show what he could do, and the faces stayed in control with stereo slingshot dives. Soon, however, Tonga and Fale were on top and Tanahashi was your No.1 Contender-in-peril. Our heroes got the win when Tonga suffered a Shooting Star Press followed by the High Fly Flow. Not much to see here outside Fale and Tanahashi’s interactions, but Sydal impressed the crowd and is, I hope, another regular addition to the steadily improving Junior division. **1/4

IWGP Tag Team Championship

Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (c) vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan 

Anderson has the dreaded black shorts + white boots combo going on. Gross. A couple of nice TenKoji combinations aside, the first half was uninspired stuff. It improved when Tenzan got the hot tag and went on a moderately-paced tear, at one point trapping Gallows in the Anaconda Vice for what looked like the victory. Kojima kicked out of an inverted Giant Gun Stun and TenKoji hit their own version for a near fall, but eventually and inevitably, Bullet Club hit the Magic Killer on Kojima to retain the titles. Hard to care about anything this branch of the Bullet Club get up to these days. ***

Alex Shelley, Captain New Japan, Hirooki Goto, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tomoaki Honma vs. CHAOS (Baretta, Rocky Romero, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi)

Honma played face-in-peril before hitting the Kokeshi on both Baretta and Romero which allowed Shelley to run wild in his first appearance back from injury. We were given a taste of Sunday’s Goto vs. Nakamura match and, soon after, the match broke down. Honma, Taguchi and Captain hit a triple Kokeshi on Ishii, but sadly it did not get the three-count. In the melee, Captain New Japan missed a top rope headbutt, and a Boma Ye followed by a brainbuster from Ishii won the match for CHAOS. Fun stuff. ***1/4

A.J. Styles & Cody Hall vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano

This was some build-up to the title match between Styles and Okada in October. Their sequences here were tremendous. I would not be adverse to seeing Hall vs. Yano in a singles match either, could be fun – their interactions here certainly were. Yano baffled poor Cody throughout with his antics and got the win with a low blow and Akakiri cradle. Post-match, Styles and Okada went head-to-head, then Yano and Okada swapped poses which was excellent. ***

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

KUSHIDA (c) vs. Kenny Omega

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Kushida beat Omega for the title in July, defended against Ricochet at the G1 Finals, so now Omega gets his rematch. See? It’s not that hard to make logical booking decisions. Not that the camera caught it, but early on Omega smooshed Kushida with a trashcan he’d brought to the ring (he’s The Cleaner, you see). From there, Omega worked on the midriff, hitting a backbreaker and a delayed deadlift suplex, but Kushida flipped and kicked his way out of trouble, culminating in a senton from the top rope to the outside. A moonsault got a two-count and was immediately transitioned into the Hover Lock (Kimura), with Omega able to roll through into a deadlift Doctor Bomb for a two-count of his own. The ref got bumped, Omega absolutely nailed Kushida with a knee and, after a Gun Stun from Karl Anderson, Omega regained the belt with the One Winged Angel at 15 minutes. In the post-match promo, Omega announced he would be facing Sydal at October’s show. I personally would’ve preferred a longer reign for Kushida, but perhaps Shelley’s return from injury meant a change of plans. Good match, although I had higher expectations. ***1/2

NEVER Openweight Championship

Togi Makabe (c) vs. Kota Ibushi

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Ibushi beat Makabe on Day 17 of the G1 Climax. Both men were out of the running for the tournament by that point, but it’s good to see that even seemingly inconsequential matches have a point and lead to something. The match began, as you’d expect, with Makabe shouting a lot. He had firm control, but when unable to finish Ibushi with a powerbomb, he went outside and took a table from beside the commentators. Ibushi hit a barrier-assisted hurricanrana and a dropkick to block whatever Makabe had in mind, then he laid Makabe on the table and double stomped him from the top rope to the outside! The table did not break – ouch. Back in, a sit-out powerbomb got a close two-count, then Makabe blocked Ibushi on the top, went for spider suplex, but Ibushi flipped out and hit a german suplex for another two. The Phoenix Splash missed and the Main Event Lariat Battle was on. Elbows followed, before a huge lariat turned Ibushi inside out for a near-fall. Makabe then hit a spider Dragon suplex(!) and the King Kong Knee Drop to retain his title at 19 minutes. Ibushi chokes again. As soon as the table was introduced things got really good. ****

Ishii interrupts Makabe’s celebration. He wants his title back. Promo to close, and we’re out.

Final thoughts: The two top matches delivered, but not to the extent they might have. Still, both are worth a watch. The rest of the card… well, a surfeit of multi-man tags does not make for an inspiring show, but at least they had a purpose in building to future matches.

Back on Sunday for Destruction in Kobe, headlined by Goto vs. Nakamura. See you then.