September 22nd, 17:00 from Sun Plaza Hall, Hiroshima
Despite the unfortunate title, this is promising show on paper, featuring Omega vs. YOSHI-HASHI, Okada vs. Fale, Briscoes vs Young Bucks and Will Ospreay vs. the debuting Adam Cole. Let’s get to it.
Since last Saturday’s Destruction in Tokyo show, Katsuyori Shibata has been pulled from the tour and this has led to a reshuffle in the lower card. Shibata went against doctor’s orders to compete (in what was a very good match) against Bobby Fish and I sincerely hope he hasn’t exacerbated a problem that may have righted itself with proper rest. We shall see.
Here we go…
Captain New Japan, Togi Makabe & Yoshi Tatsu vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Ricochet & Satoshi Kojima
This was due to have featured dojo prospect Teruaki Kanemitsu, but Matt Sydal’s travel delays mean he misses out, reducing this from an eight to a six-man tag. Structured unusually, we only saw combinations of Ricochet/Tatsu, Tenzan/Makabe and Kojima/Captain, then it was run-ins galore before Kojima nailed Captain with the Western Lariat, and Captain was downed once more. He’s on a bad run of form lately and Yoshi Tatsu grows impatient. Strong, crisp work from all involved here – yes, even Tatsu – with Ricochet looking particularly good. **1/2
Bobby Fish, David Finlay, Kyle O’Reilly & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask, Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata
Honma is the man to replace Shibata, and he was the one that received most of the punishment in the early part of the match. Nagata was tagged in and soon thereafter the match broke down, allowing Nakanishi to bust out some feats of strength and Tiger Mask to go on a run. It was short lived though, and ReDRagon used their tag experience to work over Tiger Mask, dropping him with Chasing The Dragon for the three-count. A shout out to Finlay who always looks great in these. He moves so quickly around the ring it feels like fast-forward. You know the score – these guys know how to put together a multi-man. **1/4
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Roppongi Vice (Baretta & Rocky Romero)
Perhaps inspired by the speed of the preceding tag matches, the Guerrillas worked over Baretta with a pace and intensity that has been absent in their work until now. They were much the better for it. Eventually Tonga missed the Stinger Splash and Baretta hit a tornado DDT before making the hot tag to Romero, who ran wild. Roppongi hit double knees, then a combination rope-hung dropkick and low knee strike. After a brief interjection by Tanga Loa, Tonga countered Romero’s springboard to the Gun Stun, then the Guerrillas hit Guerrilla Warfare – their elevated double DDT – for the win. This was the best I’ve seen GOD look and long may their improvement continue. **1/2
Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii)
Takahashi is back to being accompanied by women in very little clothing. I mean, *I* don’t mind, but it feels so out of place with the rest of what’s presented, particularly if the company wants a family audience. Anyway, to start, a brief flurry by Ishii and Goto, then Bullet Club took the fight to the floor and took control. Back in, they worked over Goto with solid continuity, until a lariat allowed the tag to be made to Ishii. The Stone Pitbull dumped Takahashi with a German suplex, but Owens ensured the advantage didn’t last. Back to Goto, who ended up getting dropped by Owens’ package piledriver, only for Ishii to make the save. The CHAOS boys decided they’d had enough of these cheap perverts, and an Ushigoroshi/sliding lariat combo was followed by the GTR from Goto for the win. Solid enough, and it feels like teams are being established ahead of the World Tag League in December, but which bearded white American will Takahashi be paired with – Owens or Adam Page? Only time will tell. **1/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA & Michael Elgin vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito)
BUSHI beat KUSHIDA for the Junior title last Saturday and Naito will be looking to add to LIJ’s silverware this Sunday when he faces Elgin is this for the Intercontinental title. Tanahashi, meanwhile, is conspicuous by his absence in any major singles matches, but I suspect he will be watching Sunday’s match with great interest. Plenty of Los Ingobernables merch in the crowd, with Naito and Tanahashi getting superstar reactions.
LIJ immediately took the match to the floor, where Evil and Naito hammered Elgin’s left leg with a chair, leading to the Canadian being taken to the back. Back in the ring, Kushida fought off the attention of Sanada and Bushi to tag in Tanahashi, who took out all of LIJ before being hit with Sanada’s leapfrog dropkick. The Dragon Sleeper was countered, and in came Juice and Naito, with the former hitting a cannonball and diving crossbody for two. Soon, LIJ made the numbers advantage count, but here was Elgin (with his knee taped up) to try and make the difference. He battered Naito, reversing the tornado DDT to a Falcon Arrow for a two-count, before Naito went to the knee. Evil came in to earn a couple of near-falls, then Elgin’s teammates lent a hand and the super Oklahoma Slam got a close two-count. Lariat, bucklebomb, Elgin Bomb – one, two, three. Post-match, Naito received an Elgin Bomb and Big Mike stood tall. This was all about making Elgin look like a star ahead of Sunday’s main event. Mission accomplished. ***1/4
IWGP Tag Team Championship
The Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)
After successfully defending their Junior tag titles against the Motor City Machine Guns at the Super J-Cup, the Bucks challenged the Briscoes for their Heavyweight belts. Will this be the start of a unification process? We’ll see. The Briscoes last defended their titles against the Bullet Club team of Adam Page and Yujiro Takahashi on the final night of the G1 tournament. It wasn’t very good.
The Bucks took the early advantage, knocking the Briscoes to the floor where Nick hit them with a tope con hilo. Back came the Briscoes, and they stayed on top with strong continuity close to their corner, tagging frequently and wearing down Matt Jackson with double team moves. They prevented the initial hot tag, before Matt flipped out of a back suplex and in came Nick to cause havoc in and out of the ring. Mark Briscoe stopped the rot, but Matt flipped out of the Doomsday Device and it was superkicks all round. Rope-hung swanton from Nick for two, then the combination 450/moonsault was broken up by Jay. The Jay Driller dumped one of the Jacksons, but the pin was broken up by the other. Super powerbomb/neckbreaker combo from the Briscoes for a two-count (oh come on) then the Doomsday Device connected and the Briscoes retain. Here’s the thing, the Briscoes have had a bunch of matches since coming in in January and it doesn’t seem to me like the audience is any closer to getting them, and neither are they any closer to understanding their audience. They go out there and do stuff, some of which looks pretty cool, but there’s no emotional attachment to any of it. ***
Post-match, the Guerrillas of Destiny attacked and demanded a rematch. No wonder they were so hyped up earlier.
Ring of Honor World Championship
Adam Cole (c) vs. Will Ospreay
This is Cole’s first appearance in New Japan. He became a member (and arguably defacto North American leader) of the Bullet Club in Ring of Honor earlier this year and the debut has been a little while coming. Ospreay is due to make his debut in Ring of Honor at their UK shows in November, so today, as far as I’m aware, marks his first official interaction with the company.
Ospreay mocked Cole with “Ospreay BAYBAY!” then sent him to the outside before faking a dive. Octopus hold, from which Cole made the ropes, then he pushed Ospreay down to the floor. He grounded Ospreay with a chinlock back in the ring, then twice whipped him hard into the corners. Ospreay came back with a clothesline and handspring kick, then the headscissors sent Cole to the floor and the Sasuke Special followed. Springboard forearm for two. Rebound German and a standing corkscrew for two, then the Oscutter was countered to a lungblower and the Ushigoroshi earned a two-count for Cole. Ospreay countered a suplex to a stunner, then hit the standing C4 (sort of). Handspring something-or-other countered mid-air to a kick from Cole and he pulled down his knee pad for a running knee to earn a two-count. Panama Sunrise, followed by the Last Shot and that was enough for Cole to retain. Fine, but hardly a blowaway debut for Cole. Neither he nor Lethal before him did much to suggest they were worthy of being called world champions and simply putting the ROH title out there doesn’t mean people will care. ***1/4
Bad Luck Fale vs. Kazuchika Okada
Fale beat Okada during the G1. If Okada wins he gets his vengeance, if Fale wins he gets a title shot.
Okada nailed a couple of shotgun dropkicks early, but went for a slam too soon, and Fale easily reversed it. He splashed Okada’s arm, then smashed it into the barriers and returned to the ring while Takahashi attacked on his behalf. Strategy from Fale – whatever next? Well, next he stood on Okada and clubbed away at the arm, and the commentators discussed how it would weaken the Rainmaker. Okada managed to power out of a Bad Luck Fall attempt, then nailed a couple of big boots and a DDT. Again, unwisely, he went for a slam, but somehow at the second time of asking he hit it! Fale shrugged it off to hit a splash for two, then Okada sent him to the floor with a dropkick and followed with a tope con hilo! Back in, the diving elbow connected and the Rainmaker was signalled, but Takahashi’s distraction allowed Fale to hit a Samoan drop and a spear for a two-count. Okada slid out of the Bad Luck Fall to hit The Dropkick, but the Rainmaker was countered and the Grenade earned a near-fall. The Bad Luck Fall was countered again, this time to the reverse neckbreaker, and both men were down. Fale headed up top, but Okada managed to throw him off, then he used the ropes to flip into a makeshift Rainmaker, but couldn’t get the tombstone. A missile dropkick bought him time, however, and this time the tombstone connected. Back up, and the Rainmaker landed for the win, with Okada selling the arm all the while. Really good match, the through-line of the arm-work added significantly, and Okada got to demonstrate some lesser-seen strength and flying abilities. ***3/4
Kenny Omega vs. YOSHI-HASHI
This is for the Tokyo Dome IWGP title shot that Omega earned by winning the G1 Climax in August. Kenny wanted to prove himself deserving of the prize by beating those who beaten him during the tournament and first in line is Yoshi-Hashi, who throughout 2016 has improved beyond measure, not just in-ring, but in garnering a genuine emotional reaction from the crowd.
Omega (accompanied by the Bucks) controlled early, targeting Yoshi-Hashi’s taped midriff, but Yoshi came back with a flurry. Outside, Omega ripped up the mats and threatened a powerbomb, but Yoshi-Hashi hit a back body drop instead. With the referee distracted, the Bucks used the cold spray, leading to superkicks and a barrier asai moonsault from Omega. Yoshi-Hashi made it in before the count, but Kenny dropped him with a pumphandle backbreaker before applying the single-leg crab; the rope-break came but the damage was done. Yoshi tried to fire back a couple of times only to be cut off by Omega, who continued to work over his midsection. A running blockbuster provided the eventual opening, and a hurricanrana and rope-hung dropkick followed, but his back wouldn’t hold out for a powerbomb and Omega hit the cross-legged Ushigoroshi to send him to the floor. With the referee distracted (again), Omega and the Bucks piledrivered Yoshi-Hashi onto a trashcan on the floor, then back in, a missile dropkick and Dragon suplex got a two-count.
Yoshi-Hashi countered the One-Winged Angel to a DDT, and although second to his feet, managed to hit his suplex into a neckbreaker. A side kick and running knee followed, and double knees got a near-fall. The Butterfly Lock had Omega stretching for the ropes, then the middle-rope moonsault missed and allowed Yoshi-Hashi to land the shoulderbreaker and another running knee for two. Up top for the Swanton, but it hit the knees, and a deadlift Doctor Bomb from Omega got two. Stomps and kicks from Omega, then it was time for the strikes. Yoshi-Hashi no-sold a German suplex and the Main Event Slap Battle was on. Left-handed lariat from Yoshi-Hashi! Pinning powerbomb! Two-count only. Swanton! Another near-fall. The Butterfly Lock was cinched in and Omega was dragged to the middle of the ring, but somehow he managed to roll into the ropes. Lungblower from Yoshi-Hashi, Karma blocked, inverted ‘rana from Omega for a two-count. V-Trigger knee strike and the One-Winged Angel, and Kenny Omega retains the Wrestle Kingdom title shot. This was a very good main event, and they worked hard to overcome what many would’ve seen as a foregone conclusion. Yoshi-Hashi maintains the excellent crowd reaction and Omega gets a monkey off his back. Job done. ****
Goto, who was Yoshi-Hashi’s second gives Omega the eyes, then we get the post-match promo from Kenny, who mocks Yoshi-Hashi, then says Goto can “Goto Hell”.
Final thoughts: The top two matches delivered, without a doubt, but the two title matches before them were a letdown. Foreigners vs. foreigners is not a recipe for great crowd reactions. Still, check out Okada/Fale and Omega/Yoshi-Hashi and I’d say the Los Ingobernables tag is worth a watch too (as is usually the case). Regarding Goto’s possible challenge to Omega, you have to assume New Japan is hedging its bets with Shibata’s injury, since that would’ve been up next. It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s about the best they can do in the circumstances.
I’ll be back on Sunday for the final Destruction show which features Elgin vs. Naito for the Intercontinental title. See you then.