September 27th, 15:00 from Kobe World Hall, Kobe
After Wednesday’s show in Okayama, the second of two Destruction cards is headlined by an Intercontinental Title match between Hirooki Goto and Shinsuke Nakamura and also sees reDragon face off against Time Splitters in their first defence of the Junior Tag Titles.
David Finlay & Jay White vs. Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu
The youngs lions explode! (As they do on every show.) Solid wrestling here, peppered with some relatively outlandish spots, among them an Irish Curse Backbreaker from Finlay into diving dropkick by White. In the end, both gaijin were put in crabs hold with the legal man Jay White tapping to give Komatsu and Tanaka the win. **
Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Yuji Nagata vs. Captain New Japan, Juice Robinson & Manabu Nakanishi
Juice Robinson, if you weren’t aware, was formerly CJ Parker of NXT. Not much to see here. Nagata pinned Robinson (natch) with a Backdrop Hold. *1/2
CHAOS (Beretta, Rocky Romero, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma), Mascara Dorada & Ryusuke Taguchi
Ishii got in Makabe’s face before the match, following their post-match handbags on Wednesday. Honma played face-in-peril awhile before Makabe got the hot tag. He and Ishii had a friendly confab, trading witticisms and brave philosophical ideas. Dorada nailed Beretta and Romero (aka Roppongi Vice) with a beautiful corkscrew dive, but they got revenge in short order by hitting Strong Zero for the win. This was fun. **1/2
Matt Sydal & TenKoji vs. Bullet Club (Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Kenny Omega)
In many ways the usual New Japan six-man tag, but with the addition of some new spots (triple piggyback splash from Bullet Club to Sydal) and couple of mildly surprising near falls. Sydal pinned Omega with a running reverse hurricanrana followed by the shooting star press. The primary goal here was to hype a future Omega/Sydal match and in that they were successful. **3/4
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito
Nice video package to hype the match, telling the story of Naito’s turn (“Tranquilo Japoneses”). Naito was in control early, despite Shibata’s attempt to Pearl Harbor him (too soon?) as he was undressing. Shibata could only countenance Naito’s insolence for so long, however, and was soon laying in the elbows and kicks. He ragdolled his opponent into the barriers and returned to the ring to lock in a deep abdominal stretch. A hatch suplex got two, then Naito spat in Shibata’s face and staged a comeback until a lariat dumped him on his head. A Pre-Intermission Elbow Battle was won by Shibata, who transitioned into a crossface. The sleeper followed, but Naito made the ropes, so Shibata kicked him around for a bit. A second sleeper was blocked with a couple of low blows and the Destino got the three-count for Naito at 13 minutes. Like their G1 Climax match, I found this underwhelming. It lacked the typical intensity of most Shibata matches and I don’t find that Naito’s act translates to any real in-ring heat. Post-match, Naito attacked everyone – including the cameraman – so Shibata went after him, kicking him up the entrance ramp and out of sight. ***1/4
Bullet Club (AJ Styles, Tama Tonga & Cody Hall) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano)
As with Wednesday’s show, this was an opportunity to hype the forthcoming Okada vs. Styles title match. Their sequences together, which comprised a significant portion of this match, were excellent. If anything, my expectations for the singles encounter are now too high. Elsewhere, Cody Hall got to look like a monster… until Toru Yano gave him a low blow, then Sakaruba locked in the kimura and Hall tapped out. Not enough Yano, but very enjoyable. ***
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship
reDRagon (c) vs. Time Splitters
The Time Splitters are KUSHIDA and a fit-again Alex Shelley who was forced to pull out of the Best of Super Juniors tournament in May after suffering a fracture and ligament damage in his left foot. Way too much going on here to keep track of, but needless to say there were some decent submission sequences and double-team moves. reDRagon retained the belts with Chasing The Dragon to Shelley at 17 minutes. The work of both teams was at a high level, but the lack of structure in the Junior tags is what stymies my investment in them, and that was the case here. Who’s the legal man? Does it matter? Anyhow, everyone worked very hard to get the crowd into it – which they did – and I liked what I saw, but I just didn’t feel it. ***
Roppongi Vice attacked reDRagon post-match, so that’s your next title match.
Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi is defending his Wrestle Kingdom title shot here. Fale beat the eventual G1 Climax winner in a surprisingly entertaining match on Day 7 of the tournament, which is why he gets this match. They started slow, with Tanahashi’s early attempts at a slam failing, before Tama Tonga got involved to put Fale in charge. After a looong beatdown, Tanahashi was able to work his way back into the match, his offence culminating in a High Fly Flow crossbody from the top rope to the floor. From there, Tanahashi got to work on Fale’s legs and was able to briefly apply the Cloverleaf, but Fale powered out and a couple of splashes earned a two-count. The Bad Luck Fall was twice avoided and Tanahashi got the Sling Blade, but the follow-up High Fly Flow was countered to the Choke Lariat Slam. Tanahashi managed to cut short Fale’s excursion to the top rope with a huge superplex! The Twelve Six (Michinoku Driver) followed and a High Fly Flow earned Tanahashi the win. Tanahashi can always get a crowd into a match, although this is one I’ve seen too many times before and there was nothing new here. ***1/4
Tanahashi cut a promo, Naito came out to sit on the entrance ramp, and that’ll be a match at next month’s show too, I’d imagine. Again, Naito beat Tanahashi in the G1 Climax, so is entitled to his shot. The further away from that tournament we get, the more the impressive the intricately planned booking becomes. Wins and losses mean something! Remarkable.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hirooki Goto (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This is the third title match between these two. Goto won the belt from Nakamura at Wrestling Dontaku in May and defended it in the rematch at Dominion in Osaka. This third match is warranted because Nakamura was runner-up in the G1 Climax and defeated Goto on Day 10 of the tournament. I was pleased to see that Nakamura’s streak of viciousness had returned and it was clear he was working in less discomfort than was the case in July and August. Midway through, Goto began working on Nakamura’s arm and this fed into the closing stretch. Late on, Nakamura resorted to a straight punch, but when Goto tried the same it was countered to the juji gatame armbar, which in turn was countered to Goto’s Shoryu Kekkai. Nakamura managed to escape, however, and hit the Boma Ye to regain the title with which he is so closely associated. I’m personally a little disappointed by the result, as to my mind it lowers the stock of both men. Nevertheless, this was easily their best match, wrestled with great intensity and crowd heat. ****1/2
Karl Anderson interrupted the post-match celebrations and is your next challenger for the Intercontinental title. Well, that was unexpected.
Final thoughts: These Destruction shows were largely about clearing the debris from the G1 Climax whilst also acting as a prelude to next month’s big PPV. In that regard they can be counted as a success. Many of the matches were skippable, but the title matches delivered in the main and the headliner here – Goto vs. Nakamura – was absolutely tremendous and well worth seeing.
King of Pro-Wrestling is on October 12th and headlined by Okada vs. Styles. See you then!