September 16th, 18:00 from Hiroshima Sun Plaza Hall, Hiroshima
The second of three Destruction shows sees Hiroshi Tanahashi defend his Intercontinental title against Zack Sabre Jr., KUSHIDA vs. El Desperado for the junior title and both sets of tag titles on the line. Let’s get to it.
Here we go…
Tiger Mask IV, Jushin Thunder Liger & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. CHAOS (Jado, YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto)
Jado extended a handshake to Liger, but it was a ruse! Liger responded by flattening every opponent with a Shotei, only to be tripped on the apron and subsequently imperilled. Yoshi-Hashi and Goto took turns hitting signature offence, but Liger cut Goto short with a top-rope superplex and made the hot tag to Tenzan. Mongolian Chops and a suplex to Goto earned two, then they traded elbows before Tenzan was clotheslined and Yoshi returned. Tag made to Tiger Mask too, who scored a diving crossbody and crucifix pin for a near-fall, and a Tiger Driver got the same. Yoshi scored a left-handed lariat, however, and tied Tiger up in the Butterfly Lock for a submission victory. A very solid little opener. **1/4
Taguchi Japan (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) vs. Bullet Club (Leo Tonga & Bad Luck Fale)
A reminder that Leo Tonga, son of Haku and brother to the Guerrillas of Destiny, is replacing Kenny Omega, who is due back for next weekend’s main event. This is a repeat of the Fukushima match.
Finlay and Juice dropkicked Fale from the ring to target Tonga, but the plan was short-lived and Juice was soon double-team whipped into the guardrail outside, giving the big men the advantage. Back in, Tonga and Fale pummelled Juice, with Tonga’s delayed suplex earning two before Juice hit back and Tonga accidentally knocked his partner from the apron. Plancha from Finlay onto Fale outside, and Juice’s senton on Tonga got two. Tonga caught Juice coming down from the top, but Finlay was in to hit a Stunner and Juice followed with Pulp Friction for a second win in over their opponents. Juice gets a win, Tonga gets some ring time. Job done. *1/2
Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi)
Romero and Beretta mutually agreed to part ways after losing the junior tag titles at the G1 Special in the USA: Night 2 show in July and this has been promoted as Roppongi Vice’s final match. Yujiro, meanwhile, has taken exception to Beretta’s heavyweight ambitions on this tour and has so far bested him at every opportunity, including last weekend’s tag match in which Beretta teamed with Jado.
Bullet Club attacked before the bell, naturally, then targeted Beretta, keeping him cornered and earning a couple of two-counts (including one from Owens’ slingshot Codebreaker), but Beretta countered Owens’ straitjacket chinlock, hit a tornado DDT and made the hot tag! Springboard crossbody from Romero and he hit both opponents with Forever clotheslines. Roppongi Vice scored a double-team dropkick on Yujiro, but Owens blocked Strong Zero and legal man Beretta was planted with an assisted neckbreaker for two. The package piledriver was blocked, then Roppongi scored a double knee lift and Romero wiped out Yujiro with a suicide dive. Strong Zero to Owens! One, two, three! And Roppongi Vice’s final match as a team ends in a win!
Yujiro got on the mic to challenge Beretta to a singles match, then Roppongi Vice celebrated as a team one last time. Aww, that was a nice moment and a decent match to boot. **3/4
Kota Ibushi, Michael Elgin & Togi Makabe vs. Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka & Minoru Suzuki)
The fight spilled to the floor before the bell had rung and when it returned to the ring Ibushi was the subject of Iizuka’s dishonourable intentions, then in came Suzuki to swipe at the Golden Star with elbows and a headbutt. Next was Taka, who let the side down, allowing the tag to be made to Makabe, who pounded at Suzuki with mounted punches and landed a Northern Lights suplex for two. Penalty Kick from Suzuki, then they exchanged elbow strikes before Makabe floored Suzuki with a clothesline. Ibushi was back in for a strike flurry, but Iizuka choked him with a rope behind the referee’s back and looked to jab him with the metal glove, but Elgin made the save. High kick and standing moonsault from Ibushi for two, then he smashed Iizuka with the Kamigoye for the three-count!
Suzuki smashed young lions with chairs post-match, but you already knew that. There wasn’t much evidence here that the Suzuki/Elgin feud is continuing, but then Elgin didn’t do much of anything. It’s always a pleasure to see Ibushi. **1/2
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship
Taguchi Japan (Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi) (c) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Taguchi and Ricochet’s pre-match dancing was a beautiful sight. Once the bell rung, they followed with a one-man train of corner charges from Ricochet and of course Taguchi’s first effort was unsuccessful. Isolated, he tried to apologise his way out of trouble, but this did not work, and Kanemaru nailed him outside with a leg drop over the guardrail, then back in the ring Taichi used a ringbell hammer, catching him in a delicate area with a counter atomic drop. Taguchi’s sunset flip counter failed and Kanemaru used hip attacks of his own, only for Taguchi to overcome the odds and make a hot tag to Ricochet. The high-flyer ran wild, dropkicking Kanemaru out of mid-air, then hitting Taichi with a springboard clothesline and standing SSP and planting Kanemaru with a suplex combo for two. The Benadryller was blocked, Taichi was tagged and he scored an enzuigiri before removing his stripper pants, but Ricochet nailed a twisting cutter. The Shooting Star Press hit the knees and a Gedo Clutch almost brought the with for Suzuki-gun, then Taichi went for the Last Ride, but Ricochet slipped out and a springboard dropkick preceded the hot tag.
Taguchi missed a pair of hip attacks and a counter back suplex from Kanemaru got two. Deep Impact diving DDT! Two-count only! Taguchi countered a German suplex into the ankle lock, but Taichi jabbed Taguchi with his cane then poured whisky down his throat. Double dropkick from Suzuki-gun and Taichi’s powerbomb was followed with Kanemaru’s moonsault. One, two, no! Taguchi blocked another double-team attempt with a back-jumping hip attack and Richochet returned for a top-rope frankensteiner and Benadryller to Kanemaru. Double-team Dodon/Codebreaker from Taguchi Japan, but the count was broken up by Taichi! Suicide dive from Ricochet to Taichi, then Kanemaru almost got the win with a roll-up, but Taguchi caught him in the ankle lock! Ricochet lent a hand by crunching Kanemaru with a springboard 450, then flattened Taichi once more with a twisting tope, while in the ring Kanemaru finally tapped! Taguchi Japan retain the titles!
Post-match, Rocky Romero entered the ring and said the next generation of Roppongi would be born and that Roppongi 3K are coming for the junior tag titles. Ricochet replied by saying he and Taguchi – aka Funky Future – would be the champs forever. The match was an absolute blast. A satisfying mix of Taguchi’s beautiful nonsense, Suzuki-gun’s blatant shenanigans, and Ricochet’s world-class flying. Everyone brought it. Great stuff. ****
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)
Take 2 of this match, for some reason. Hanson and Archer charged at each other, then GOD took charge, then War Machine took charge, then Hanson pounced at Hanson and the match broke down (to a greater extent than the regular three-way tag “structure”). Archer again shoulder blocked Hanson out of his boots for a two-count then threw the referee to the floor in frustration. More stuff happened and the Guerrillas were back in, Loa’s Olympic Slam on Hanson earning two. Hanson made the hot tag to Rowe, who ran wild for a minute before being interrupted by KES, who in turn were interrupted by the Guerrillas. A parade of signatures culminated in KES almost hitting the Killer Bomb, but War Machine were in the right place at the right time to plant Davey Boy Jr. with Fallout for the three-count. War Machine retain.
And no-one cared. War Machine have now beaten the Guerrillas and KES in successive matches, so why is there another one of these next week? Would it have been too much to ask that we get a pair of two-on-two title matches then a three-way, if you must, on the third show? Because these matches have seriously chipped away at whatever goodwill the division was building. Mindless, heatless nothingness. *1/2
CHAOS (Gedo, Will Ospreay, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, SANADA, EVIL & Tetsuya Naito)
Ospreay (sans cat facepaint) and Hiromu faced off first in a swift exchange, culminating in a dive fake-out from Ospreay and a stand off. Yano and Sanada were next, with Yano insisting on a “Break!” before being caught with a rolling cradle for two then tied up in the Paradise Lock. The fight continued outside as Yano remained prone, then Sanada returned to dropkick him before Bushi choked him with a t-shirt. Ishii and Naito entered the fray and Naito’s spitwad resulted in him being dumped with a big suplex for two, but he recovered to score a low dropkick and over-the-knee drop. The slingshot corner dropkick landed and allowed LIJ to swarm while Naito earned another near-fall, but Ishii blocked the tornado DDT and hit a backdrop to put both men down. Tags made to Okada and Evil, with the former scoring first with the reverse neckbreaker and diving elbow before signalling the Rainmaker. It was ducked, however, and Evil’s fisherman buster was followed with a corner clothesline and the side kick. Lariat – two-count only. Okada blocked the STO, nailed The Dropkick, and flapjacked legal man Bushi to bring in Gedo. Gedo scored a couple of punches and set off a series of strikes and signature moves from everyone in the match. Evil planted Okada with the STO and stood over him as Bushi nailed Gedo with the MX for the win.
Post-match, Naito continued to attack Ishii’s taped leg and applied a modified figure-four, while Evil dumped Okada onto a pile of chairs with Darkness Falls! Typically good stuff here, with lots of entertaining interactions and yet more heat added to the King of Pro-Wrestling matches. ***1/4
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA (c) vs. El Desperado (w/ TAKA Michinoku)
Suzuki-gun’s El Desperado earned this shot by defeating KUSHIDA in a very good match on the opening night of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament way back in May. It’s his first time challenging since October 2014.
An intense lock-up and wristlock exchange saw Kushida work his way to an advantage that was capped with a handspring elbow. Desperado pulled him off the apron, however, and followed with a vicious flipping suicide dive before taking the fight into the crowd, where he applied Numero Dos (Stretch Muffler). After Kushida limped back in, Desperado continued to punish the leg, and threatened to smash it with his guitar only to be stopped by referee Red Shoes. He settled for whipping Kushida with a belt instead, then applied a chinlock, from which Kushida broke free and landed a low dropkick. A jumping DDT planted Desperado, then Kushida took a shortcut with an eye rake and capitalised with a diving armbreaker from the middle-rope. Arm-trapped stomps allowed the double-wristlock to be applied, but Desperado countered into Numero Dos! Nicely done.
He dragged Kushida to the middle of the ring and wrenched the hold, but Kushida somehow wriggled to a rope-break. The trainer checked on Kushida while Desperado wedged a chair in the turnbuckle, but he was hoist by his own petard and then Kushida went for the arm. Desperado confused Red Shoes by claiming Kushida had ripped off his mask, then landed a low blow and Guittara de Muerta! Two-count only. Kushida blocked Pinche Loco and scored an overhead kick, but Desperado blocked Back to the Future and tripped Kushida into the wedged chair. Up top, Desperado went for super Pinche Loco, but Kushida brought him down with a flipping double-wristlock! He rolled Desperado back into the middle of the ring then planted him with Back to the Future! One, two, three.
The flow was harmed by Desperado’s many attempted shortcuts and sadly it was not the equal of their Best of the Super Juniors effort. A slightly disappointing end to Desperado’s strong run over the past few months, but a decent match nonetheless. ***1/4
Post-match, Will Ospreay was out to challenge, and acknowledged that he hadn’t been able to beat Kushida. But wait, Hiromu Takahashi was out too! And then Ospreay floored him before he had a chance to speak. Looks like Kushida/Ospreay is on at King of Pro-Wrestling.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/ TAKA Michinoku)
Sabre Jr. made a instant impression in his debut G1 by forcing Tanahashi to submit on the opening night of the tournament. As if that wasn’t enough, he repeated the trick in a tag match on the final show, so he’s more than worthy of this shot at the Ace of the Century’s title.
Tanahashi, still wearing a support on his arm, was understandably tentative in locking up with Sabre, and was promptly caught in elevated headscissors from which he eventually escaped. Sabre then yanked him down into an armbar and Tanahashi scrambled to the floor. Good idea. Back in, Sabre controlled the left arm via the wrist, but Tanahashi used his power in reply, grounding Sabre until the Englishman slid his back into control with a straitjacket chinlock. Tanahashi powered into a counter hold, drawing applause, Sabre reversed again at the second time of asking, then Tanahashi snaked back into the hold and an irritated Sabre took a time out on the floor.
When Sabre returned, Tanahashi targeted his leg, putting pressure on the hips, but Sabre somehow slipped out and wrenched Tanahashi’s injured arm with his feet! He tied up Tanahashi’s legs as he manipulated the arm, then threw dismissive kicks and some stiff European uppercuts, but a dropkick from Tanahashi sent him to the floor. No matter, as the follow-up plancha was countered mid-air to a Fujiwara armbar! Back in, Sabre scissored the arm and applied an ankle lock to both legs before once again stomping the injured arm. Tanahashi tried and failed to make an impact with elbow strikes, but did succeed in dropping Sabre on his head (accidentally) from what might’ve been a rope-hung neckbreaker. Leaping forearms from Tanahashi, and an attempted armbar was blocked with a grounded Dragon Screw, then he landed a low dropkick. Sabre kicked at the arm to block the Cloverleaf, leading to an extended exchange of pinning combinations, eventually culminating in Sabre’s overhead kick to Tanahashi’s arm. Sabre wrenched the arm and caught Tanahashi in a triangle choke, but Tanahashi turned it into the Cloverleaf! Sabre reversed again, though, and Tanahashi made the ropes.
Another low dropkick connected, but Sabre clamped back on with the Octopus Hold, modifying it mid-hold, until Tanahashi practically collapsed into the ropes. Out on the apron, Tanahashi scored a Dragon Screw, then followed up with High Fly Flow crossbody from the top-rope to the floor! High Fly Flow crossbody in the ring, but with the referee distracted Minoru Suzuki appeared to block the splash. Sabre nailed Tanahashi with a Penalty Kick for a near-fall, then Big Mike came to the rescue, and he elbowed Suzuki all the way to the back. Uppercuts from Sabre, but another Penalty Kick was countered to the Sling Blade! One, two, no! The High Fly Flow hit the knees and Sabre applied the hammerlocked armbar, but was almost rolled-up for three. European Clutch from Sabre – two-count only! Sabre jumped into a Guillotine Choke, but Tanahashi countered into a trio of spinning neckbreakers. Sling Blade again! High Fly Flow! One, two, three!
A very good match, though I suspect it won’t be to everyone’s taste. The duelling limb work was great and the slow build worked for me. Suzuki-gun interruption was unnecessary but you knew it was coming (and it seems Elgin/Suzuki is not done). Sabre Jr. looks comfortable at any level and that was no different here. I hope he gets more opportunities to main event shows in New Japan. ****
Post-match, Tanahashi called out Ibushi and Ibushi obliged. It’s on at King of Pro-Wrestling. Tanahashi gets to close out the show with his schtick, something we don’t see as much these days, and we’re out.
Final thoughts: A big step up from last week’s show even if some of the matches didn’t quite reach the heights I hoped they might. The junior tag title match was great, as was the main event, and the show as a whole was very watchable. Just skip the three-way for the heavyweight tag titles.
The final Destruction show takes place next Sunday in Kobe, headlined by Kenny Omega vs. Juice Robinson. I’ll likely be a day late with my review as I’m away. See you then.