September 24th, 16:00 from Kobe World Hall, Hyogo
The third of three Destruction shows sees Kenny Omega defend his United States title for the first time against Juice Robinson. Elsewhere, the build for King of Pro-Wrestling continues. Let’s get to it.
Here we go…
Hirai Kawato & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Monster Rage (Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka)
The ever-enthusiastic Kawato fared okay against Oka, but Kitamura was tagged and delivered a huge hip toss to keep him down. Soon after, Kawato managed a dropkick and Tenzan was in to demonstrate that experience > muscle mass. After a flurry from Tenzan, Kitamura scored a rebound spear, bringing Oka back in for a belly-to-belly for two. Oka messed up taking a Mountain Bomb, then Kitamura’s interruption was cut short by Kawato’s springboard dropkick, and Tenzan hit a Kokeshi before locking in the Anaconda Vice for the tap-out win. **
Taguchi Japan (Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask IV, Jushin Thunder Liger & Togi Makabe) vs. Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Takashi Iizuka)
I wondered if the non-Suzuki-gun team would be classed as Taguchi Japan, but Coach Taguchi had corner offence train rolling soon enough as confirmation. Unfortunately, Iizuka cut it short by biting Taguchi’s ass, and Taka then Taichi were in to continue the “limb” work. He survived having the ringbell hammer inserted inside his tights and made the tag to Ricochet, who dispatched the opposing team in a variety of spectacular ways, culminating in a standing SSP to Kanemaru for two. Makabe was in to deliver mounted punches to Taka, but Suzuki-gun swarmed for their own multi-man offence – nice to see. Taguchi’s ass (wrestling’s version of Chekov’s Gun) saved Makabe from being jabbed with Iizuka’s metal glove, then Ricochet flattened everyone on the outside with a twisting tope and Makabe finished Taka with the King Kong Knee Drop. It was short, hectic and fun, and I enjoyed it very much. **3/4
CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto) vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale)
Goto rattled Fale with a clothesline and heel kick, but a failed backdrop and Owens’ hairpull put the big man in control. Owens was in then, and did decently until being suplexed, then a fired-up Yoshi-Hashi was tagged in. Some double-team offence earned the CHAOS team a two-count, but Fale’s interjection put Owens back on top. The attempted Package Piledriver was countered to a ‘rana, however, and Yoshi’s left-handed lariat was followed by Karma! One, two, three. This was short, but a solid effort from all involved. **
Beretta vs. Yujiro Takahashi
Last weekend, following a tag team loss against Roppongi Vice in their final match, Yujiro made good on his objections to Beretta’s heavyweight division ambitions and challenged him to a singles match. And here we are.
Yujiro bit Beretta’s hand and slammed him face-first into the mat to halt some early control, but Beretta quickly turned the tide with a slingshot legdrop and followed with a tope con hilo. Back in, Yujiro hot-shotted Beretta onto the ropes, then did the same onto the guardrail outside, earning a two-count. Leg drop for two, and the chinlock was cinched in, then a couple of low dropkick got more two-counts and a back body drop kept Yujiro in control. He blocked a tornado DDT, but a clothesline from Beretta finally stopped the rot, and he eased his way into a comeback. The tornado DDT connected this time for two, only for Yujiro to land a reverse DDT, then he jabbed Beretta with his cane as the American attempted a plancha. Fisherman buster onto the ramp! Beretta leapt into the ring at 18, where he was met with Miami Shine for two. Beretta was crotched up top, allowing Yujiro to hit a top-rope superplex for a two-count followed by a sit-out Dominator – two-count only! Beretta countered to his figure-four pinning combination for two, then spiked Yujiro with a piledriver for a near-fall! They traded elbows and chops, and Beretta scored a half-nelson suplex before nailing the Busaiku Knee. Dudebuster! One, two, three.
Credit to both guys, they stuck to their task after a slow start and built to a really heated closing stretch. There was a little too much back-and-forth early on for my liking, but this ended up being a decent match. ***
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 3 of this match, despite War Machine defeating both KES and GOD in consecutive weeks, neither of which were good matches. Sigh. This one’s being fought under tornado tag rules.
War Machine went into the crowd for their introductions and invited their opponents to join them. They paired off (Davey/Tama, Hanson/Loa, Archer/Rowe) and the fight was on. From there, chaos ensued, as we ended up back near the ring with KES beating on Rowe as Hanson pulled a table from underneath the ring. Back in the ring itself, Archer clotheslined Rowe, then GOD and KES faced-off, with the former getting the better of the exchange. War Machine recovered and squished Tama in the corner, leaving them as the last team standing. Stereo suicide dives were blocked, though, and Rowe was once again beaten down by Davey Boy Jr. and Archer. A sidewalk slam/leg drop combo earned two, then GOD returned and Hanson took advantage with a run of corner clotheslines. Davey Boy’s interruption set off a sequence of signature moves from all concerned, capped by Archer using Hanson to aid a rope-walk dive onto everyone outside!
Archer threatened to throw Tama into the crowd from the ramp, but Loa blocked it, and Archer was dumped with Guerrilla Warfare instead. Next, Davey Boy, lying prone on the aforementioned table, had Hanson slammed onto him from the apron, drawing blood! Ouch! Back in, War Machine scored the pop-up slam on Tama for two, but the German suplex combo was blocked and Tama hit the Headshriker DDT. Splashes connected, but Hanson ensured the Guerrilla Warfare was blocked before flattening Tama with a suicide dive. Fallout to Tanga Loa – referee pulled from the ring! KES cleaned house and sent Hanson from the apron through a second table at ringside! Killer Bomb to Tama, but the referee was yet to recover. Powerbomb to Rowe from Davey Boy, followed by chokeslam from Archer – two-count only! Killer Bomb! One, two, three! New champs!
What the what?! That was… great! Hard-hitting, fast-paced, hot crowd. Needless to say, this was by far the best of their series. Believe me, I want a return to two-on-two matches, but if putting up with the first two was what we needed to get to this third match, then so be it. ***3/4
Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. David Finlay & Kota Ibushi
Ibushi and Tanahashi got us started with quick headlock exchange before a stand off, much to the crowd’s delight, then in came Elgin and Finlay, with the latter unsurprisingly failing to shift the former, although a dropkick did send Elgin to the floor and Finlay followed with a plancha. Back in, Elgin hit a pop-up cutter for two then requested silence for a big knife edge chop, before Tanahashi returned to retain control. He slammed Finlay over Elgin’s knee before Big Mike catapult-splashed him onto Finlay for two. Finlay then found an opening for a tag and it was back to Tanahashi and Ibushi, with the Golden Star landing a kick flurry and standing moonsault. They traded elbows, then Tanahashi scored a Dragon Screw, but Ibushi ducked the follow-up and hit a German. Elgin blocked Kamigoye after Ibushi had nailed a high kick and Tanahashi score a Sling Blade. Ibushi flipped out of Elgin’s German only to be hit with an enzuigiri and back-and-forth clotheslines, then Ibushi’s dropkick put both men down. Finlay was back in, and his run of offence culminated in a missile dropkick for two, but Elgin countered the follow-up to a Falcon Arrow. Ibushi and Finlay doubled-up on Elgin, but he powered up and threw Tanahashi onto Ibushi on the floor. A discus lariat turned Finlay inside-out and the buckle bomb was followed by an Elgin Bomb for the win. Good stuff, with Ibushi and Tanahashi largely kept apart and Elgin doing what he does. ***
CHAOS (Rocky Romero, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito)
Ishii wanted Naito, so Naito tagged in Bushi. Naito paid for this when Ishii threw him to the floor and whipped him hard into the guardrail. In the ring, Yano successfully blocked the rolling cradle for the first time, but Sanada caught him with it shortly after “Break!” and in came Romero. He and Bushi traded chops, before Forever Clotheslines proved to be a misnomer and LIJ rushed the ring to take control. Bushi choked Romero with a t-shirt, then Sanada and Naito delivered a double-team low dropkick and an interfering Yano was put in the Paradise Lock and dropkicked to the floor. Naito launched a spitwad to anger Ishii, which worked, and when Romero made the hot tag, Ishii pummelled and suplexed Naito for a two-count. Bushi blocked the superplex, and a low dropkick led to Naito applying a modified figure-four. Ishii was broken free, but despite his best attempts, Naito caught him with the leaping forearm. Sanada and Bushi teamed up on Ishii before clearing the ring, and Bushi’s Codebreaker earned two, but Ishii ducked the MX and finally caught Naito with a lariat on the apron. A lariat to Bushi got two, then, once Romero had wiped out Sanada with a suicide dive, Ishii nailed the brainbuster and the three-count was academic.
Post-match, Ishii and Naito went at it, with Ishii hammering the man he faces at King of Pro-Wrestling. They’ve done a very good job of building the Naito/Ishii match throughout this tour and Ishii finally getting the better of their exchanges leads us nicely into the singles match in a few weeks’ time. This was lively. ***1/4
CHAOS (Will Ospreay & Kazuchika Okada) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Hiromu Takahashi & EVIL)
Evil got the better of the opening exchange with Okada (whose neck was taped), avoiding a tope atomico and the Rainmaker before both men tagged out. Hiromu immediately went for the sunset flip powerbomb, but Ospreay flipped and rolled his way out of it, then back in the ring a ludicrously quick back-and-forth culminated in a dive fake-out and Evil ran-in to ensure LIJ took the advantage. Okada was clotheslined over the guardrail, while Ospreay received some nasty chops and a double-team suplex for two. Ospreay fought his way free and a handspring kick eventually enabled to hot tag to Okada, who planted Hiromu with a flapjack before dropkicking Evil to the floor. Outside, he kicked Evil into the crowd and looked to go for a running crossbody, but just like the G1 he had a chair thrown at his face instead! Back in, Evil’s fisherman buster got two, as did Darkness Falls, then Okada blocked the STO and nailed The Dropkick. Tags made, and Hiromu and Ospreay threw strikes, before a springboard forearm and standing corkscrew moonsault got a near-fall for the Englishman. Hiromu countered a charge into a nasty-looking belly-to-belly into the turnbuckle and followed with the Dynamite Plunger! One, two, no! Ospreay flipped out of the Time Bomb, Evil ran-in to block the OsCutter, Okada ran-in to Rainmaker Evil, and finally Ospreay did connect with the OsCutter to pin Hiromu!
They played the formula to a tee in the early going before kicking into high gear with a tremendous second half of the match. Lots of great interactions here, and the intensity was palpably raised between Okada and Evil. Another singles match between Ospreay and Hiromu in the near future would be most welcome – their pace is incredible. Very good match. ***1/2
IWGP United States Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs. Juice Robinson
Omega, having missed the entire tour to this point, returns to the ring after surgery to resolve a knee injury. He became the inaugural US champion by winning the two-night tournament that took place in Long Beach in July and this is his first defence of the title. The ever-improving Juice earned the shot by scoring a surprise victory over Omega during the G1.
Juice overpowered Omega in the opening exchange, grounding him briefly, then tweaked Omega’s knee by flipping him to the apron. Outside, Omega took a measure of control then scored a leapfrog bulldog in the ring for a two-count before applying a chinlock. An elbow drop followed, and Omega began to work over Juice’s neck, but the Finlay Roll combo was blocked and Juice’s spinebuster gave him the advantage once again. Full Nelson Slam for two, and a big corner clothesline set up the running cannonball. Diving crossbody – two-count only. Omega flipped out of a suplex and a counter ‘rana sent the challenger to the floor where he was flattened by a tope con hilo!
Back in, a missile dropkick to Juice’s back connected, as did the cross-legged Ushigoroshi, but it seemed to hurt Omega as much as Juice and the delay in the follow-up allowed Juice to nail a crescent kick and the Jackhammer for two. Omega nailed a bicycle knee and reverse ‘rana for two after blocking Pulp Friction, then smashed Juice with the V-Trigger. The One-Winged Angel was countered to a roll-up for two, but Omega stayed on top by scoring another jumping knee, that is until Juice freed himself to take out Omega’s left knee with a chop block and locked in the single-leg crab! Omega kicked his way out, but Juice stayed on him, smashing his knee into the ringpost and – in a reversal of the G1 match – applying a ringpost figure-four! Boos for Juice, if you can believe it. Omega kicked Juice hard into the guardrail, but Juice avoided the plancha and nailed a reverse DDT on the floor, rolling Omega back in for two. He scoop slammed Omega legs-first against the ropes and was on target with a diving headbutt to the knee, before flooring him with a lariat.
After Juice scored a second cannonball to send Omega through the ropes they traded strikes on the apron, then Omega lifted Juice for a delayed suplex and both men dropped all the way to the floor! Holy s---! I was not prepared for that. Juice barely rolled into the ring at 19 and was immediately dumped with a Snapdragon suplex, then a gleeful Omega hit another, and a third! The V-Trigger connected, even with a stuttering run-up, and two huge bicycle knees followed. Juice shook his head in defiance, so Omega smashed him with another. “C’mon, you son of a bitch!” said Juice before blocking one more and hitting an Electric Chair facebuster. Omega scored an enzuigiri, however, and the double underhook piledriver spiked Juice – two-count only! Juice’s desperation lariat was blocked, but Eat Defeat landed and the lariat connected second time around. He failed with a powerbomb, but the haymaker hit the mark, as did a Tiger suplex! Another huge haymaker floored Omega and Juice picked him up before spiking him with Pulp Friction! One, two, NO! Up top, Juice was looking for a super Pulp Friction, but Omega blocked it and countered to a super One-Winged Angel! F---! One, two, three!
Excellent main event. I loved so much about this match, but particularly the big shifts in momentum and the story told of Juice’s initial reticence but eventual acceptance that he would have to go after Omega’s knee. This was the best match of Juice’s young career. He earned this opportunity, delivered huge and loses nothing in defeat. Credit to Kenny too, who took a backseat here and allowed his opponent to shine. So good. ****1/2
Post-match promo from Kenny, who declared himself the best in the world and thanked the crowd for the sellout. Goodbye and goodnight – bang – and the confetti fell to close the show.
Final thoughts: The best show of the three, with a clear step up in the undercard and a main event which was the best match of the tour. Thumbs up.
I’ll be back for the stacked King of Pro-Wrestling show on October 9th, which features Okada vs. EVIL, KUSHIDA vs. Ospreay and Naito vs. Ishii. See you then.