NJPW Destruction in Fukushima

September 10th, 16:00 from Azuma Sports Park, Fukushima

The first of three Destruction shows sees Minoru Suzuki defend his NEVER title against Michael Elgin in a lumberjack match, with the six-man and heavyweight tag titles also on the line. Let’s get to it.

And we’re back! It’s been three weeks since the G1 final and I don’t know about you, but for me it was a welcome break. There’s only so much good wrestling I can take. But seriously, the downtime is smart for wrestlers and viewers alike, and I’m looking forward to these shows over the coming weeks.

With October’s King of Pro-Wrestling already shaping up, it would fair to describe the trio of Destructions as B Shows. They’re effectively one excellent card split into three. That’s not to say they won’t be decent and, in fact, the benefit of this method is that we get to see the likes of Michael Elgin, Zack Sabre Jr. and Juice Robinson in main event spots, titles (every one of which is being defended at least once) are given a brighter spotlight, and young talent is more heavily featured. That said, there is unquestionable some filler here, and with that in mind…

Here we go…

Hirai Kawato & Yuji Nagata vs. Shota Umino & Manabu Nakanishi

Umino looks noticeably bigger than he did during the G1 tour. Perhaps he’s been at Kitamura’s protein shakes. In any case, the veterans briefly went at it before tagging in their young partners, with the slightly more senior Kawato maintaining control while Nagata kept the referee occupied.  A dropkick from Umino enabled the return of a surly Nakanishi, who blocked an Exploder to slap legal man Nagata to the mat. A clothesline earned two, but Kawato flattened him with a springboard dropkick, then Umino returned only to be hit with an Exploder. Nagata cinched in the Nagata Lock II and Umino tapped straight away. Nakanishi can barely move, but Nagata winding him up raised a smile. **

Monster Rage (Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka) vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto)

I’m very pleased that Kitamura’s fanged gumshield has been retained. He started well against Yoshi, flooring him with a shoulder block and hitting a deadlift gutwrench suplex for two, but the CHAOS boys were soon in control, tagging back-and-forth, with Yoshi’s rope-hung dropkick and a double shoulder block getting two-counts. Kitamura powered Goto into a suplex, however, and Oka was tagged in, with a run of offence culminating in Kitamura’s spear and Oka’s elbow drop. Goto hit back with a clothesline, then applied a Boston Crab, but Oka was able to crawl to the ropes. Goto nailed his praying chest kick immediately after, though, and that was plenty for the three-count. Honestly, if this was your first time watching you’d think Kitamura and Oka were the established stars. **1/4

CHAOS (Beretta & Jado) vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi)

Jado and Owens had an amusing little sequence before Jado landed the chops. He caught a boot to the face from a middle-rope whatever, and a much-delayed Flair Flop was followed by some mocking chops from Owens. A rebound clothesline allowed tags to be made, with Beretta brushing off both opponents before landing a tope con hilo to the floor! Back in, Yujiro crotched him on top and faceplanted him for a two-count, but a desperation tornado DDT brought Jado back in, and a bunch of kicks and a clothesline got two. Yujiro avoided the rope-hung DDT, took care of Beretta, then a fisherman buster followed by the Pimp Juice DDT earned the win. In this week’s Korakuen Hall shows, Yujiro had taken exception to Beretta’s heavyweight ambitions, but you wouldn’t have known it from this match. Another match than simply existed. **

David Finlay & Juice Robinson vs. Bullet Club (Leo Tonga & Bad Luck Fale)

Kenny Omega was supposed to appear here, but he’s taken a few weeks off to let a knee injury heal. He’s still due to defend his US title against Juice in two weeks’ time. In his place is Leo Tonga, the huge son of Haku and brother of the Guerrillas of Destiny. He debuted in Korakuen Hall this past Thursday.

Juice and Fale started off, but the former was caught by his dreads, allowing the big boys of Bullet Club to pummel him and Finlay, and it was quite sweet to watch Fale mentor his monster protege. Juice punched his way free of Tonga, then Fale took an accidental boot to the face and Juice and Finlay clotheslined him to the floor, where Finlay nailed him with a plancha. In the ring, Juice was rescued from Tonga’s chokeslam and Pulp Friction landed to put the giant youngster down for the three-count. You guessed it, this was: just a match. *1/2

Taguchi Japan (Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi, KUSHIDA, Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku & Takashi Iizuka)

Tanahashi’s short hair is still weird, but Taguchi Japan is a stable that accepts any and all perversions. Suzuki-gun attacked as Taguchi was giving a team talk, but Iizuka was isolated and hit with a continuous train of offence from everyone apart from Taguchi himself, who kept getting kicked in the face. Iizuka then bit Taguchi’s derrière to enable his teammates’ return, and Kushida soon faced-off with El Desperado (next week’s challenger to his title) only to be locked in the Stretch Muffler. Kushida was able to make the tag to Ricochet, who ran wild on everyone with crisp offence, nailing Taka with a standing SSP and Taichi with a 619 and springboard clothesline. Tanahashi was in next, but he was tripped on the apron, and a distraction allowed Taichi to nail him with the ringbell hammer. Iizuka ripped off the taping on his arm and bit his still-injured bicep (psychology!), but Tanahashi hit back with a middle-rope crossbody and made the hot tag to Makabe. A powerslam to Kanemaru was followed by mounted punches to Iizuka, and a clothesline earned two. Taguchi was tagged, and he hit one hip attack before missing a protracted second, then the match broke down, but Taguchi used Taka’s finger poke against him and rolled him up for the win! This was fun, heated and a significant step up from the previous four matches (thankfully). ***

***INTERMISSION***

IWGP Tag Team Championship

War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) (c) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer)

Killer Elite Squad (part of Suzuki-gun) returned at the G1 final show, with Archer now recovered from back surgery and sporting some horrible cornrows. Tanga Loa is also wearing some horrible gear today, but presumably he’s just returned from his Sunday cycling club.

War Machine and KES traded shoulder blocks and slams in the opening exchange, then GOD interjected only for Loa to be hit with the Hart Attack and the fight spilled to the floor. Back in, Hanson was able to score some running clotheslines, but KES double-teamed him to take control and Davey Jr. nailed some kicks, a big boot and a leg drop for two. Hanson eventually fired back with a handspring elbow and seated senton out of the corner and the hot tag was made to Rowe, who exchanged Exploder suplexes with Loa. The Guerrillas took control with some sloppy offence and a double-team Tongan Twist set up the Guerrilla Warfare, but Davey Jr. interrupted and KES hit their Killer Bomb on Loa. Hanson then took them out with a rolling senton from the top-rope and War Machine planted Loa with Fallout to retain the titles.

Six foreigners just doing stuff with little purpose and no flow. At least previous examples of this match type had native teams for the crowd to get invested in. This was rubbish – irritatingly so. *1/2

CHAOS (Will Ospreay & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito)

Naito and Ishii will face each other at King of Pro-Wrestling with Naito’s Wrestle Kingdom title shot on the line. On Twitter, Hiromu said Ospreay was a cat, which the latter initially denied, but like yesterday’s Korakuen Hall show he is wearing rudimentary cat facepaint. Curious.

Ospreay and Hiromu went at it with vigour, with the former taking out both opponents with a springboard dropkick. Ishii was tagged and went straight for Naito, whipping him into the guardrail outside before returning to the ring to take care Hiromu. He became distracted, however, and Hiromu and Naito took advantage by targeting his taped-up right leg. They brushed off strikes and scored a double-team seated dropkick, but the Stone Pitbull scored a delayed vertical suplex to enable the hot tag. Ospreay ran wild, nailing a corner dropkick and standing SSP to Hiromu, but was caught with a belly-to-belly into the turnbuckle and more tags were made. A pissed off Ishii fired away with chops and a powerslam, but Naito hit back with the slingshot corner dropkick and returned to the right leg. A low dropkick and spitwad further pissed off Ishii, and he turned Naito inside-out with a lariat, but the follow-up powerbomb was blocked by Hiromu. Ospreay flew in with a springboard clothesline to Naito and the rebound C4 for a two-count, then the OsCutter missed and Hiromu was back in for a super kick. Ospreay initially blocked Destino, but Hiromu distracted the referee and a low blow from Naito allowed it to connect at the second time of asking for the three-count.

A lively match and a good effort from all four men. The Naito/Ishii and Hiromu/Ospreay interactions were most enjoyable. ***

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship

Los Ingobernables de Japón (SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI) (c) vs. CHAOS (Rocky Romero, Toru Yano & Kazuchika Okada)

The main issue here is between Okada and Evil, who face off at King of Pro-Wrestling for the IWGP title – a shot earned by Evil’s surprise win in the G1, but Okada also has the opportunity here to win his first-ever non-IWGP title.

CHAOS attacked before the bell, but Romero soon found himself in trouble after LIJ turned the tide effectively. Bushi choked Romero with his t-shirt and Evil’s senton earned a two-count, then Romero managed a jumping knee and flipped out of Evil’s fisherman buster to make the tag to Okada. The champ nailed Evil with a flapjack and locked in Red Ink, but Bushi broke it up and Evil utilised Sanada’s distraction to hit a sidewalk slam. A discus lariat and fisherman buster got two, Sanada was tagged, and Okada blocked his springboard dropkick and countered to a reverse neckbreaker. In came Yano, but Sanada caught him in a rolling cradle! One, two, no. Yano avoided the Paradise Lock, then they exchanged hairpulls before Sanada flattened him with a dropkick. Bushi followed with a missile dropkick, but Yano freed himself to bring in Romero. Bushi pushed him outside and nailed a suicide dive, but back in, Romero connected with Forever Clotheslines and, after the match momentarily broke down, hit Slice Bread #2 for a near-fall. LIJ swarmed and Bushi scored a Codebreaker and the MX only for Okada to break up the count, then Bushi was crotched on the top-rope by Yano, who in turn was tied him up in the ropes with the Paradise Lock. Evil ducked the Rainmaker and hit the STO, then Sanada used the Dragon Sleeper on Romero to set up Bushi’s top-rope MX! One, two, three and the champions retain.

Post-match, Gedo was brought into the ring and put in the Paradise Lock next to the prone Okada. Another good tag match here with plenty of intensity and chemistry between the teams. Best thing on the show. ***1/2

NEVER Openweight Championship Lumberjack Match

Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Michael Elgin

This became a lumberjack match on Thursday, because Suzuki said it was and I’m guessing no-one wanted to disagree. And, as Nagata said on commentary, Suzuki-gun would’ve run-in anyway, but now it’s been made official. Suzuki was backed by Kanemaru, Taka, El Desperado and Taichi. Elgin was backed by Tanahashi, Ricochet, Taguchi and Kushida.

Surprisingly, both men decided to wrestling to get us started, with Elgin’s shoulder block sending Suzuki outside and his seconds sending Suzuki straight back in. Suzuki then gave us a demonstration of his own team’s seconding skills, and I think we’re all now familiar with the rules. They exchanged chops, then Elgin’s elbow strikes set up a slingshot splash for two. Elgin delivered a delayed vertical suplex, giving Suzuki-gun the middle finger as he did so, so Suzuki retreated to the floor and the lumberjacks faced off. Back in then back out again, and Suzuki took Elgin into the crowd while the lumberjacks brawled, then cracked him with elbows when they returned to the ring. Elgin was caught in the tarantula armbar, then sent to the floor, where Suzuki’s crew pounced.

Back in, Elgin and Suzuki traded elbow strikes, with Elgin demanding more until he was floored for a two-count. Suzuki smacked Elgin with a chair while the referee was distracted, but Elgin fired up and refused to use the chair, instead making the comeback with a running elbow and slingshot neckbreaker to a rope-hung Suzuki. Deadlift German suplex – two-count only. Front-and-back clotheslines from Elgin connected, but Suzuki blocked a lariat and nailed slaps and a Penalty Kick for two. They slapped and elbowed each other then, and once again a referee distraction brought in Suzuki’s lumberjacks. This time Elgin took care of them, then he planted Suzuki with a Falcon Arrow for a near-fall. Suzuki shielded himself with the referee to bring in Suzuki-gun again, but this time Elgin’s boys actually helped him out, culminating in Elgin tossing Taka onto everyone outside and Ricochet scoring a Sasuke Special. In the ring, Elgin hit a buckle bomb and the Elgin Bomb, but Taichi dragged out the referee and here were Killer Elite Squad followed by War Machine. Once they’d dealt with each other, Iizuka was in to stab Elgin in the throat with his metal mitten and Suzuki spiked Elgin with the Gotch-Style Piledriver! One, two, three.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many run-ins and shenanigans in a match, even with the lumberjack stipulations. The crowd seemed to be into it, so there’s that, and it was a decent enough brawl otherwise, but it was far from great. I guess I’ll go: **3/4

Post-match promo from Suzuki and we’re out.

Final thoughts: The weakest New Japan show of the year. There were three good tag matches, but the main event – even as someone who can deal with the Suzuki-gun nonsense – was the poorest since Naito/Lethal at Power Struggle last year. The tag title match was also as poor a title match as I can recall. There’s certainly nothing here you need to go out of your way to see. Thankfully, next weekend’s show looks much, much better on paper, so let’s hope this was an aberration.

I’ll be back next Saturday for the unfortunately named Destruction in Hiroshima, which is headlined by Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and KUSHIDA vs. El Desperado. See you then.