NJPW Destruction in Tokyo

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September 17th, 18:00 from Ota City General Gymnasium, Tokyo

This is the first of three Destruction shows over the next week and is headlined by KUSHIDA vs. BUSHI for the IWGP Junior Championship and Shibata vs. Bobby Fish for the NEVER Openweight title. The latter looked like it might be cancelled due to Shibata’s neck issues, but “The Wrestler” had other ideas.

Here we go…

David Finlay & Henare vs. Roppongi Vice (Baretta & Rocky Romero)

Finlay appears to have graduated from the Young Lions pride, and as of the Lion’s Gate: Project 3 show at the start of the month has been wearing some horrible cheetah print trunks and adopted the Ace Crusher for a finisher. Henare (aka Aaron Henry) is a young New Zealander who was present at ringside for the G1 and is clearly considered good enough to skip straight to opening match duty. The name is an “Engrish” adaptation of his surname.

Finlay dominated his early exchanges with Romero, using a sequence of European uppercuts for a two-count, then Henare was tagged in and Roppongi Vice were soon on top. Baretta cleared house before hitting a tornado DDT out of the corner then connected with the Dudebuster for the easy win. It was starting to get going as it ended, but as expected, Henare took the fall without too much effort from a team of Roppongi’s experience. *1/2

Captain New Japan and Yoshi Tatsu vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata

Last week, following yet another tag team loss, Yoshi Tatsu took to Twitter to poll his followers on whether he should split from his partner. As of the show starting, it was 3088-2209 in favour of leave. There’s no room for sympathy when it comes to lower card tag teams apparently. The match? Well, Tatsu looked okay (in relative terms), but this was another nothing tag match which had Nakanishi and Captain do most of the work. The closing sequence saw Nakanishi deliver a double Northern Lights suplex then he and Nagata targeted Captain, and Nagata hit the lesser-seen wrist-clutch Exploder for the win. Moving on. *1/2

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin Liger & Satoshi Kojima vs. Tiger Mask, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma

Kojima and Honma opened with a nicely aggressive striking sequence, then Tiger and Liger went at it. Tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and the Romero Special from Liger, much to the delight of the crowd, then Tenzan came in to land a couple of headbutts (and to throw shade to Honma, you would assume). Kojima came in again for the machine gun chops and a diving elbow, then back to Tenzan for Mongolian Chops. Tiger made the comeback and the hot tag went to Makabe, who delivered mounted punches to Tenzan but couldn’t hit the Northern Lights suplex. More Mongolian Chops, then simultaneous lariats led to Honma and Liger’s re-entry. After a Shotei and Liger Bomb the match broke down, and somehow, once the ring was cleared, Honma landed the top-rope Kokeshi on Liger and that was good for the three-count. Fun, crowd pleasing match, with a good deal more intensity than the first two. **3/4

Chase Owens, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa vs. Gedo, Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii

Tama Tonga’s music, to which the Bullet Club team entered, is a real crowd-killer. It’s almost impressive in the way it manages to suck the air out of a room. Anyway, perennial big match loser, Hirooki Goto, got us started with Chase Owens, who returns after a decent showing in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Tonga and Gedo were next, and Gedo’s impressive beard appears to have been grown for the express purpose of being grabbed in tag matches. Tanga Loa got his turn to beat on Gedo, and Ishii was met with a double-team neckbreaker when he tried to help. Hot tag made to Goto, who cleared house, before Tonga caught him with spinning neck breaker, then Ishii finally entered the fray, but Loa appeared to have his number, even before Owens and Tonga added to his woes. The CHAOS guys decided to even the numbers, then it was time for everyone to hit their signature moves, and thanks to referee Tiger Hattori’s lackadaisical approach to maintaining order, Ishii was eventually able to dump Loa with a brainbuster for the win. Good old Ishii, willing to be imperilled despite his obvious badassery. Double heat segment = my bag, Guerrillas of Destiny = not so much. **1/2

Juice Robinson vs. Kyle O’Reilly

Robinson has flourished in New Japan. In particular he’s improved in his ability to garner positive reactions from the crowd, which is not so easy when you don’t have high-flying or feats of strength to fall back on. And seeing as I mentioned Tonga’s terrible music, it’s only fair that I do so for ReDRagon/Kyle O’Reilly’s, which features perhaps the worst rock vocal ever recorded.

Robinson took the early advantage with a senton and series of chops, but made the mistake of attempting a sunset flip, which O’Reilly always  reverses to a cross armbreaker. Punches, knees and kicks from O’Reilly, a nice legbreaker variation, then he hammerlocked Robinson and began to assert his dominance on the mat. Shoulderbreaker, back suplex, straight into the kneebar and I’m thinking it’s cool to see a wrestler target multiple body parts. I mean, why not? Robinson fired up after receiving kicks to the chest, and managed to reverse a charge to a spinebuster to get back into the match. The axe kick just about connected to send O’Reilly to the floor and a plancha followed. Back in the ring, Robinson hit a cannonball and gutbuster for two, but O’Reilly went to his knee once more and floored him with a knee to the face. A modified Sleeper grounded Juice, then O’Reilly lifted him for a leg-hook suplex for two. Robinson nailed a huge lariat, then delivered a powerbomb, but O’Reilly reversed the pin attempt into a triangle hold. Juice tried to lift him, but that was turned into a guillotine then into a brainbuster for two. Immediately O’Reilly grabbed the cross armbreaker, this time with the leg hooked as well, and Robinson tapped. Good match, lots of strong work that wasn’t necessarily rewarded with the crowd reaction it deserved. Nevertheless, Robinson continued his run of reliably decent singles matches, while O’Reilly looked like the world class technician he is. ***1/2

***INTERMISSION***

Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & Yoshi-Hashi

Kenny allowed one of Takahashi’s broads to hold his Wrestle Kingdom title shot briefcase. What a gent! Bullet Club cleared the ring and Omega held up Okada’s belt, before the champ returned to the ring to target Fale – his more immediate concern. The big man took control in short order, however, and Okada was your IWGP Champ-in-peril. It was all rolling quite nicely until Okada countered Fale’s Grenade to a dropkick and managed to land a scoop slam. Enter Ospreay, and he and Omega went at it. Fosbury flop onto Takahashi, then the Cheeky Nandos kick to Omega, and a standing corkscrew moonsault for two. Standing C4 from Ospreay, and Yoshi-Hashi was tagged. He ran wild on Omega until a hurricanrana was countered to a powerbomb, then it was 3-on-1 in favour of the Bullet Club. Okada and Ospreay eventually ran in to stop the rot, and Yoshi-Hashi cleared Omega from the ring with a lungblower, before grabbing Takahashi (the legal man) and delivering Karma for the three-count. Good energy here. Omega and Okada were unselfish and it always helps the multi-man tags when there are feuds involved. ***

Post-match, Fale and Okada brawled on the outside, but were eventually separated, and Omega delivered a funny aside to camera on his way to the back.

Los Ingobernables de Japón (EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi

Taguchi wore a skull mask with silly glasses and carried a child’s baseball bat to mock Naito and Sanada. The big face-off here was Naito and Elgin, who meet next Sunday in a match for the Intercontinental title. Elgin outmuscled the entire group to deliver Oklahoma Slams, then in came Taguchi to deliver “hip attacks” to Naito. Tanahashi did the same, and so did Elgin! The Cesaroplex was broken up by Sanada, who was tagged in and began targeting the Canadian’s leg. Next came Evil with a spinning neckbreaker for two, but Big Mike fought back, despite being triple-teamed. The hot tag was eventually made to Tanahashi, and it was Dragon Screws all round. Middle-rope senton to Evil for two, but a sidewalk slam allowed a tag to be made to Sanada, who hit the leapfrog dropkick. Dragon Sleeper blocked, but the Elgin-assisted splash hit the knees and it was time to make the tag to Taguchi. Shirome armbar from Taguchi (complete with Nagata facials!), but LIJ weren’t having any of it. Sanada countered the jumping ass attack to an atomic drop and cinched in the Dragon Sleeper for the submission win. Typically enjoyable LIJ tag match, with some amusing comedy spots thanks to Taguchi. The right guy went over and they’re quietly building Sanada with regular submission wins. ***1/4

Post-match, Naito put Elgin in the scissored kneebar and no-one came to help. Poor Mike.

NEVER Openweight Championship

Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Bobby Fish

Katsuyori Shibata missed some house shows earlier this week due to what was described as a “cervical spine injury”, but has been cleared by a doctor at his own insistence. Hmm. Fish successfully defended his ROH TV title against Shibata in a match that was broadcast earlier this week in the USA.

Probing kicks to start, then Shibata mounted Fish, but never got control and they found themselves in the ropes. Knees from Shibata, Penalty Kick ducked and Fish took a moment, but he got stomped and Shibata locked in the figure-four. Simultaneous knee bar/heel hook until Shibata had to relinquish the hold and take a rope-break, then Fish swept Shibata to the mat and wrapped his knee over the apron edge. Exploder, and Shibata rolled to the floor clutching his neck. Fish followed and whipped Shibata into the barrier, then rolled him back into the ring, but Shibata rolled straight back out. Back in, after some respite, Fish delivered a slingshot senton and a back suplex for two, then another. Fish somehow spiked Shibata with a nasty snap suplex (I winced), then a big kick to the chest floored The Wrestler. Chest kicks from Fish, and Shibata decided enough was enough and started the fight back with elbows, a corner dropkick and a half hatch suplex for two. Cobra Twist locked in, then switched to a deep guillotine choke, but Fish slammed Shibata to the mat and cinched in a kneebar. Exploder from Fish, German from Shibata and Penalty Kick hit the mark, but Shibata couldn’t make the cover. He went for a second, but it was countered to the kneebar and Shibata fought desperately to make the ropes. A third Exploder and a backdrop earned another two-count, then Shibata flipped out of a brainbuster and busted himself open (again) with a stiff headbutt. Eww. The Sleeper put Fish to the mat and the Penalty Kick followed for the hard-earned win. Deliberately paced, hard-hitting, with the added edge of knowing about Shibata’s neck injury. Really good. ****

Post-match, Kyle O’Reilly challenged and it looks like it’s on.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

KUSHIDA (c) vs. BUSHI

This match pays off Bushi’s win over Kushida in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament in June which cost the champion his place in the final. Since then, Kushida won the Super J-Cup, while Bushi went out in Round One. Being part of Los Ingobernable, Bushi is fortunate that for now his win/loss record seems to mean little and yet he remains a threat.

Bushi came out in all-white suit and, underneath it, all-white gear, and was accompanied to the ring by the unknown masked and suited man who was with LIJ in the opening show of the tour. Bushi tried a quick roll-up to begin, then faked out on a dive with the La Sombra pose. An enzuigiri sent Kushida to the floor, a chair-assisted low dropkick connected, and back in the ring Bushi stayed on top with a chinlock. The beatdown continued, and Bushi grabbed an STF before hitting a middle-rope missile dropkick. The t-shirt choke was reversed to a back suplex, but the comeback was cut short when the masked man tripped Kushida. It was only temporary, however, and he slingshotted in for a lariat, then connected with the handspring back elbow. Bushi was sent into his associate, then Kushida flew with a tope con hilo onto both of them. Back in, Kushida hip tossed Bushi into the armbar, but Bushi made the ropes. The slingshot dropkick hit referee Red Shoes(!), Kushida got misted, and here was Naito to lend a hand. Suicide dive to Kushida, then Naito helped out with a rope-hung dropkick. Enter Big Mike to take care of Naito and they brawled to the back. Kushida managed a German suplex, then landed a moonsault for a two-count. Backslide (with low blow) from Bushi for two, then Kushida caught Bushi with a Codebreaker coming off the second-rope and both men were down.

Main Event Elbow Battle, hard slaps, then Kushida delivered a shoulderbreaker, and another, and the Hoverboard Lock was cinched in. Small package from Bushi for a near-fall, then Kushida resorted to a straight punch which sprayed mist from Bushi’s mouth – very cool. Hoverboard Lock countered, Canadian Destroyer from Bushi! Two-count only. Codebreaker. Middle-rope Codebreaker. Two-count only! Bushi headed up top and connected with the diving Codebreaker! One, two, three! Bushi is the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. The match was decent and I felt benefitted from the interferences, silly as they were, since they got the crowd’s attention but didn’t directly play into the finish. I really thought Kushida would carry the belt all the way to Wrestle Kingdom, but it was not to be and Los Ingobernables are once again in possession of some silverware. Not for long, however, as Bushi mists the belt and throws it to the mat (Naito will be proud). ***1/2

Bushi gets the promo to close, a modest amount of confetti falls, and we’re out.

Final thoughts: The three singles matches are the ones to watch, with Shibata/Fish the clear pick of the bunch. The multi-man tags in the second half gave some added heat to the singles matches in Hiroshima and Kobe later this week, but they’re not anything you need to go out of your way to see.

I’ll be back on Thursday for the stacked and eye-catchingly titled Destruction in Hiroshima which features the Briscoes vs. the Bucks, Adam Cole vs. Will Ospreay, Okada vs. Fale and Omega vs. YOSHI-HASHI. See you then.