September 25th, 16:00 from World Memorial Hall, Kobe
The last of the three Destruction shows is headlined by Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito for the Intercontinental Championship. Let’s get to it.
Here we go…
CHAOS (Baretta, Rocky Romero & Will Ospreay) vs. Henare, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi
Tiger Mask has been wearing some nice new gear on this tour ahead of a new Tiger Mask anime series, just by the by. A solid, if thrown together, opener that was notable because after Taguchi made Romero tap with the ankle hold, Romero expressed annoyance with his teammates for not helping him out. Rumours are a-swirling that a return to the Black Tiger mask is on the cards. Interesting. Also, Henare, in only his second televised NJPW match, didn’t take the pin and was on the winning team. That doesn’t happen very often. **1/4
Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Hunter Club (Captain New Japan & Yoshi Tatsu)
For those following Tatsu’s twitter activities (…tumbleweed…) his poll to determine whether Captain should remain his partner resulted in a win for “Leave”. It’s like Brexit all over again. Pre-match, Tatsu tried to explain this to Captain, so Captain turned on him and appeared to align himself with Bullet Club! Ha ha! This gave Takahashi the token pin, then Captain continued to choke out Tatsu. Good. N/R or five-stars, I haven’t made my mind up yet.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Teruaki Kanemitsu vs. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma)
Kanemistu is a young lion who debuted earlier this year and has featured on the Lion’s Gate shows. The enforced absence from Thursday’s Hiroshima show (due to Matt Sydal’s travel issues) means, fittingly, that he gets to make his televised debut for New Japan proper in his hometown. Isn’t that nice? Well, Honma and Makabe certainly made sure he’d remember it by absolutely pummelling him throughout. The extended exchange between Tenzan and Makabe was decent and hard-hitting, then Kanemitsu was tagged again, but Honma forced the tap out in short order with the most “young lions” move of all: the Boston Crab. Tenzan’s issues with GBH will likely play into the World Tag League in December. **1/2
Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata vs. reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly)
Nakanishi replaces Shibata, whose inclusion would’ve made a lot of sense having beaten Fish last week, with O’Reilly as his next likely challenger. Anyhow, Nakanishi busted out a top-rope crossbody here, which is an indication that he respects the ReDRagon pair, both of whom worked well around the big guy’s limited abilities. Nagata’s interactions were good, and if Shibata doesn’t recover in time, a singles match against O’Reilly is something I’d want to see. The finish came as Nakanishi failed to properly lift O’Reilly, who had him in a triangle hold, then O’Reilly transitioned to armbar for the submission win. Passable, but everyone was clearly working hard, and a submission over Nakanishi is nothing to be sniffed at. **1/4
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
David Finlay, Ricochet & Satoshi Kojima vs. Bullet Club (Adam Cole, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)
Finlay replaces Matt Sydal (who once again misses a show because of “travel complications”) and therefore the teams are now fighting for the vacant belts. Cole requested Kojima to start, likely in reference to him being Jay Lethal’s last opponent in Japan. Finlay bore the brunt of the punishment, and there was a funny spot where all three BC members tried to “Brainbuster!” Finlay, only to be denied, then were suplexed themselves by the babyface team. Eventually, Kojima was tagged, and he was in no mood for a superkick party, then Ricochet came in to prove why he is likely the best high-flyer in the business. The Bucks tipped the balance to allow Cole to hit the Panama Sunrise, but it only got a two-count. Finlay re-entered, but was almost pinned after a succession of knee strikes, then he and Ricochet were victims to a double rope-hung swanton. Ricochet, however, spectacularly prevented the Meltzer Driver with a springboard cutter, and after Kojima interjected, a Finlay Roll followed by Ricochet’s Shooting Star Press earned the win. Finlay’s first silverware with the company – go David! Very enjoyable, with some excellent timing throughout. ***1/2
Post-match, Finlay and Ricochet appeared to challenge for the Bucks’ junior tag titles. Quite what that means for Sydal, I’m not sure.
Another Time Bomb promo and here we go again…
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Hirooki Goto, Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe & Tomohiro Ishii
Omega tried to step up to Ishii with strikes, and when that didn’t work, used an eye poke instead. Your Tokyo Dome No.1 Contender, folks. Ishii and Fale then had a decent sequence that recalled their better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be G1 match, before the Briscoes took out GOD with a suicide dive and moonsault and the match broke down. Ishii remained the pitbull-in-peril until a hot tag was made to Goto, and he and Omega worked through some of their issues for a minute. Next, the Briscoes and Guerrillas had it out, but the Bullet Club got the numbers advantage and began picking on Mark. The ring was cleared, allowing the Guerrilla Warfare assisted-DDT to be hit, and Mark Briscoe took the fall to Tama Tonga. A decent tag match, elevated by the ongoing feuds. ***1/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & KUSHIDA vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA)
The real juice here (sorry Juice) was in the interactions between Bushi and Kushida. The latter had the better of the opening exchange, until Bushi wiped him out with a suicide dive, which allowed LIJ to take control on the floor – as is the custom. Kushida then overcame the force of Evil and made the hot tag to Tanahashi, and the babyface team came in for triple submission holds. Sanada retook the advantage with the leapfrog dropkick, but the Dragon Sleeper was countered, and in came Juice to clear house. Double planchas from Tanahashi and Kushida, and Juice hit a diving crossbody to Sanada for two. Sanada used the springboard dropkick to get rid of Tanahashi, then benefitted from the help of his teammates to first gain a near-fall with the TKO and then force the tap out from Juice with the Dragon Sleeper. LIJ win the Destruction multi-mans 2-1. There’s no sign yet that we’ll get anything other than a Bushi/Kushida rematch for the junior title, meanwhile Sanada continues his steady ascent with yet another submission win. ***1/4
CHAOS (Gedo, Jado, Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada, Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano
Kotoge and Harada are NOAH’s current Junior tag champs (Kotoge also won Junior Heavyweight title on Friday), while Marufuji and Yano have been GHC tag champions since May. Yano, as you may know, is a member of CHAOS. How will he deal with this conflict of interest? I can’t be sure, but I assume it’ll involve several low blows.
Marufuji upset Okada in dominant fashion on the opening night of the G1 tournament and this match is part-preview of their King of Pro-Wrestling title match. As such, they started us off, but soon enough the juniors had at it, then chaos (pun intended) ensued and Yano was removing turnbuckle pads like nobody’s business. Gedo was the unfortunate recipient of this action, then found himself on the wrong end of Marufuji’s chops. Kotoge and Harada continued the beatdown with double teams, but Jado lent a hand, and Okada was back to face off with Marufuji. The NOAH man had the better of the exchanges until The Dropkick connected, and in came Yoshi-Hashi (with his terrible dye job) and Yano. Running blockbuster and a DDT for two, then Harada and Kotoge initiated the breakdown of order, eventually leaving Harada and Yoshi-Hashi alone. A lungblower and Karma later, and Yoshi-Hashi (and New Japan) claimed the win. A sign of deep respect, surely, that Yano didn’t use a single low blow, and as everyone trash talked after the match, he stayed out of it. Marufuji was once again portrayed as a question to which Okada has no answer. Decent heat for this one, which is good news for the ongoing NOAH/NJPW feud. ***
Michael Elgin (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito
Naito beat Elgin on Day 4 of the G1, and since the IWGP title scene is occupied right now, he’s been happy to take this shot. Ahead of the match he said (translation c/o Chris Charlton): Where does Elgin get off being high and mighty? All he did was pull a belt off a hook. Even if he has that belt, it’s like putting a diamond necklace on a pig. The IC title is a symbol of worldwide growth, perfect for LIJ. I’ve come around to that being my main goal. Right now, I’m in the zone. I have a very precise plan. I know what I’ll do when I win that belt. Go ahead, think about it. Speculate. But for now, tranquilo.
Elgin matched Naito with the psych-out, but Naito spat at him to draw a reaction, which worked well. Elgin, however, followed up by mimicking Naito’s lounging pose and Naito needed a few moments to regroup. A delayed suplex in from the apron earned two, but Naito found an opening to target Elgin’s left knee and struck with a chop block and a couple of low dropkicks, before wrapping his left leg in the barrier and dropkicking it from the apron. The knee work continued in the ring until a charge was countered to an enzuigiri, then Naito blocked the follow-up, but Elgin countered a victory roll to a German suplex and a big boot dropped Naito on his head. Big Mike managed a couple of corner clotheslines, despite the bad leg, then went on a good run, but Naito once more found an opening to attack the leg, and did so with vigour, following up with the slingshot corner dropkick, diving dropkick to the knee and a figure four from which Elgin made the ropes. The tornado DDT was blocked and turned into the Falcon Arrow, and both men were down.
Main Event Elbow Battle time, Naito missed the leaping elbow and Big Mike landed triple Germans, then up top, Naito knocked Elgin down, but the dropkick was reversed to a powerbomb for two. The Big Mike Fly Flow missed the mark and there were simultaneous Elgin/Naito chants as Naito connected with the enzuigiri and tornado DDT for a two-count. Top-rope frankensteiner followed by the inverted ‘rana for a near-fall, then Naito immediately went to the scissored knee bar and Elgin just made the ropes. He caught Naito with an apron Death Valley Driver, leading to a near-count out, and followed with the Cesaroplex Falcon Arrow for a near-fall that had the Kobe crowd biting, then the bucklebomb was reversed to a ‘rana thanks to the Naito grabbing referee Red Shoes Unno. While Red Shoes was out, Bushi and Evil attacked, as did Tanahashi and Kushida! Then out came Sanada to turn the tide, but Elgin overcame the odds and powerbombed Bushi onto his teammates on the outside.
Naito caught Elgin with a not-quite-Destino for a near-fall, then Elgin reversed the actual Destino to a spin-out slam for two and two huge lariats followed for a near-fall. Bucklebomb. Elgin Bomb countered to Destino. Destino! One, two, three. Naito is the new Intercontinental Champion. They played really well off the leg issue that had been established on Thursday, and Elgin did a great job of selling it, even with all his feats of strength. I’d say this was on par with their G1 match, and I might’ve preferred it if not for the interference, but it is a Los Ingobernables match after all. Credit to both guys, who clearly take it upon themselves to deliver whenever they’re in the main event, and the result was a very good match. ****1/4
Post-match promo from Naito, who takes a shot at the former champion who wanted so badly to main event the Tokyo Dome (i.e. Nakamura) and the confetti falls to end the show. Naturally, Naito chucked his new title to the mat and left without it.
Final thoughts: The main event was the best match of all three Destruction shows, even with the copious (if expected) interference. Elsewhere, whereas I feared the show would become mired in middling tag matches, everyone had their working boots on and there was enough angle development to keep things interesting. The consistently boisterous Kobe crowd helped too. Good stuff.
I’m back in just over two weeks’ time for King of Pro-Wrestling, headlined by Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuni. See you then.