The first of three big shows on this tour, Destruction in Beppu saw Zack Sabre Jr. try and regain his Rev Pro championship – just a fortnight after dropping it in London.

We’ve got English commentary from the B-Con Plaza in Beppu – and hopefully it goes a lot smoother for Kevin Kelly and Gino Gambino than last time out in the UK!

Young Lion Cup: Karl Fredericks vs. Yota Tsuji
Fredericks came into this with a share of the lead, but couldn’t get much going with Tsuji early as ther pair scrambled into the ropes from the opening lock-up.

After the break, Tsuji came out with a kick to the gut before he used a cravat to try and twist off Fredericks’ head, before they again ended in the ropes as Tsuji started to pull ahead with a big slam for a one-count. Tsuji goes in with ripcord shoulder charges, looking to work over Fredericks’ injured shoulder before he took him down in a key lock.

Tsuji stays on the arm before he trapped Fredericks in the corner with forearms, prompting the American to come back in with a slap and some elbows before a dropkick stopped Tsuji’s ideas of a comeback. A hiptoss and a leaping elbow gets a near-fall for Fredericks, as before he snapped and caught him with a spinebuster as a single leg crab wrenched Tsuji in half with quite the anguished scream for the submission. Fredericks’ arm is likely to be the thing that costs him this tournament, but it’s yet another win for Fredericks, and another loss for Tsuji, who now can’t win the tournament. ***

Young Lion Cup: Alex Coughlin vs. Shota Umino
Shota’s looking to stay on top of the pile after Fredericks’ win in the opener – while Coughlin’s trying to not fall too far away from the pack.

Coughlin and Umino trade holds in the early going, then shoulder tackles as neither man budged. Elbows and forearms from Coughlin put Umino down, with the American looking to steam ahead… at least until Shota fought back with an elbow and a suplex. Coughlin’s taken down for a low dropkick as Umino built up a head of steam, landing a missile dropkick for a near-fall. A standing dropkick from Coughlin cuts off Umino ahead of a gutwrench suplex before a Lion Tamer-ish Boston crab had Umino in trouble, but Shota’s able to drag himself to the ropes for freedom.

A paintbrushing-slap from Coughlin earned him a spinebuster, but he’s able to recover by trading European uppercuts and chops, which just led to Umino hitting a dropkick of his own. Umino heads up top for another missile dropkick, following up with a Fisherman’s suplex for the win. Coughlin’s building up a losing run here, and you’d have to think that’s him all but out of the title picture. ***

Young Lion Cup Standings
Karl Fredericks, Shota Umino (4-1; 8pts)
Clark Connors; Ren Narita (3-1; 6pts)
Alex Coughlin (2-3; 4pts)
Michael Richards (1-3; 2pts)
Yota Tsuji (1-4; 2pts)
Yuya Uemura (0-4; 0pts)

Manabu Nakanishi, Toa Henare, Clark Connors & Michael Richards vs. Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Taguchi, Ren Narita & Yuya Uemura
Taguchi’s happy because his Rugby World Cup is almost here!

Connors and Narita start us out, but Clark took a swing at Uemura… which just made Uemura want to tag in after the opening scramble. He gets Henare instead, before he took a swing at Connors for the hell of it, as a side headlock on Henare led to him getting thrown into the ropes for ineffectual shoulder tackles. Nakanishi hits the ring as Uemura’s partners were knocked off the apron, before Nakanishi himself tagged in to call some shots as he told Connors to put his boot up so he could toss Uemura into it. Seems a little elite. Richards comes in too as Uemura’s being kept isolated, with frequent tags giving him little hope as a big chop dropped him for a near-fall.

Eventually Uemura landed a dropkick on Henare, as Ren Narita tags in to mount a comeback, dropping Henare with a suplex for a two-count. Narita tried to catch Henare with the Narita Special #4, but Henare blocks it and dropped him with kicks as Nakanishi returned to… clear Nagata off the apron. Chops await Narita as my feed drops… it’s back with Nagata booting Nakanishi before a faked-out low dropkick from Nagata earned him a spear. The ring fills, then clears, as Nakanishi hauls up Nagata in an Argentine backbreaker, but Yuji slips free and hits an Exploder in return. Tags take us to Taguchi and Richards, with Taguchi going nuts with hip attacks… until Nakanishi swats his arse away. That gave Nakanishi’s lads a chance to corner Taguchi ahead of a Connors spear, with Richards almost getting the win from there as he pushed on… but it’s not enough.

Nor was a clothesline as Richards ends up running into a hip attack before Taguchi rolled him over with Oh My Garankle. Richards rolls out, but is quickly put back in the hold and eventually submits. Decent fare here, considering how much Uemura was taking a pasting, but I have a feeling that’s setting up for a big upset win later on. **¾

The Young Lions continue to go after each other after the match, but their dads and uncles split them up as tempers flared on.

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
So I guess we’re back on the Liger/Suzuki hype train for real, and poor Gabriel Kidd gets kicked off the apron during the entrance by Minoru Suzuki.

We head outside from the off, with Suzuki hurling Liger into the barriers while YOH met a similar fate. No idea where SHO went. In the ring, a corkscrew forearm from YOH takes down Kanemaru, before a low bridge took YOH outside as everyone takes the guard rails again. Oh boy. Gino Gambino “saved” Kevin Kelly as Kanemaru hit a slicer legdrop off the guard rails as the cameras focused on Suzuki dumping guard rails around Liger, before taking out his frustrations on poor Gabriel with some chair shots. Back in the ring, YOH’s worked over by Kanemaru before Suzuki tagged in and booted YOH in the back for a near-fall.

Again, Suzuki peels off so he can turf Liger into the barriers as we have more chair shots as YOH again remained isolated. YOH tries to fight back, but Suzuki walks through it before an elbow shot dropped him to the deck. Poor YOH. Eventually he catches a boot from Kanemaru, turning it into a Dragon screw as the tag’s made out to Liger, with SHO bravely standing on the floor for some reason. Liger’s instantly swarmed by Kanemaru and DOUKI, but meets the latter with a tiltawhirl backbreaker as Suzuki tags in. Now we get the face-off as they trade palm strikes, leading to a Shotei in the corner, only for a brainbuster attempt to get turned into a Fujiwara armbar. SHO stomps it away, but he’s taken outside as Suzuki keeps up on Liger, sliding behind into a rear naked choke before he looked to unmask Liger.

The laces get loose as the mask is worked off, but the referee thankfully gets free… then gets shoved down for good measure. Tags get us to DOUKI and SHO, with the latter connecting with a spear before the ring filled again as Suzuki-gun triple-team SHO, with DOUKI’s springboard stomp almost ending things. YOH comes in to help take out DOUKI with leaping knees, before SHO looked for a Power Breaker… DOUKI slips out and uses a lucha roll-up for a near-fall, only to get met with a 3K for the win. Thanks for coming DOUKI – but this match was all about the Liger/Suzuki stuff, as they continued long after the final bell. ***

Post-match, Suzuki keeps pulling off Liger’s mask before the Young Lions stopped him. They got what they deserved, in his mind. Afterwards, Liger grabbed the mic and challenged Suzuki to a singles match right now… of course, we didn’t get it.

Bullet Club (KENTA, Bad Luck Fale, El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Kota Ibushi, Will Ospreay, Robbie Eagles, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
We’ve got the junior tag title match tomorrow – and KENTA’s challenge for Kota Ibushi’s G1 briefcase. There’s also new music for KENTA, and a sweet new mask for Ishimori as the Bone Soldier continues to evolve…

We’ve a jump start after all ten men got their intros, but it instantly breaks down to the junior tag teams as Ospreay made ELP and Ishimori wince ahead of faked-out dives that quickly turned into dualling pescados. Fale clotheslines Eagles on the apron as Gino Gambino directed traffic from commentary, including throwing a chop as Kevin Kelly had a moan. Back in the ring, Eagles gets raked, then flattened by Fale and co, before KENTA came in to drop some elbows for a two-count. Tags get us to Makabe and Yujiro, as of course we got the mounted punches in the corner, but Fale breaks those up only for Makabe to return fire with some clotheslines, eventually spinning Fale over the top to the floor. From there, KENTA and Ibushi come in to have a scrap, with KENTA putting a LOT of mustard into his forearms, before Kota kicked him to the mat.

A kitchen sink knee to the gut sparked another kick exchange, with duelling head kicks knocking both men down. Honma tags in to take KENTA into the corner, following with a bulldog and a Kokeshi… and of course it misses. Five-on-one offence awaits Honma in the corner, as the Bullet Club resist a fightback… even with Honma striking in as he misses another Kokeshi ahead of a PK from KENTA for a near-fall. The Go 2 Sleep follows on Honma and that’s it. This was fine, but as you’d expect with the names in, the momentum was all over the place. Interesting that Honma ate the pin… but KENTA winning kind of tells me he might not be a shoe-in for tomorrow. ***¼

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & Rocky Romero
You know what we do here. Time to check what mask BUSHI pulled out of the drawer this morning…

Shingo and Goto start us off here, pelting each other with forearms until Shingo looked for an early Noshigami as the pair were teasing their own, and each other’s finishers. Things spill outside as Shingo’s taken into the guard rails, before Goto returned to the ring to stomp away on BUSHI. Elbows from Rocky soften up BUSHI some more for Okada to take over, with BUSHI taking a consistent beating. BUSHI forces his way through as SANADA got the tag in to take down Okada with a low dropkick. The apron gets cleared as SANADA tripped Okada on the way to a Paradise Lock… but Okada pushes away, only to get locked in the hold seconds later. A low dropkick frees Okada and gets a near-fall, only for Okada to reply with a DDT for a near-fall. Shingo breaks it up, but gets thrown outside by Goto as Okada went back to formula with a slam… but SANADA’s up to avoid the elbow, instead running into a flapjack as Okada regained the lead.

Rocky’s in with Forever lariats, ahead of a rewind enziguiri for a near-fall, before Rocky’s swarmed as LIJ looked to turn the tables. That led to a Skull End, but it just sparks a Parade of Moves with Shingo and Goto battering each other with clotheslines ahead of an ushigoroshi from Goto. More movez as the ring fills and clears, before Rocky’s Sliced Bread was caught by SANADA, who switched it into a Skull End, swinging Rocky around the ring for the submission. We’ve got another month until King of Pro Wrestling for SANADA’s shot, so I hope you like this… I’d not be against them switching up the teams though, especially since they did this exact trios match on two of the Road shows that streamed last week! ***

Bullet Club (Jay White & Chase Owens) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & EVIL)
This choice of partners sure suggests a result, eh? Jay White’s challenging for Naito’s Intercontinental title in Kobe next Sunday, as everyone’s conjecture about the Tokyo Dome continued to centre around the idea of a champions’ challenge tournament of sorts.

We have a jump start as EVIL and Naito did their fist bump, with the Bullet Club pair looking to isolate EVIL early on, but that backfires pretty much instantly as Owens got isolated. Naito traps Owens in headscissors, dragging him to the corner so EVIL could come in, but Jay White gets involved, dragging EVIL outside and holding him so Owens could dropkick him through the ropes. Guard rail spots follow, before Chase threw EVIL into a wall at the back of the arena. It led to a count-out tease that EVIL beats, but he’s kept isolated as Owens and White mocked Naito who (for a change) was on the apron looking for a tag. An eye rake stops EVIL a little longer, before he caught a kick and handed it to the ref… but Owens blocks the thrust kick as a struggle over a suplex led to EVIL landing the Fisherman buster.

White and Naito tag in, but they’re in no rush to get in. When they did, White offers a fist bump, but instead just charges Naito to the outside, then into the guard rails. Naito recovers to spit at White, following up with ‘ranas as the Knife Pervert ends up getting thrown into the railings himself, before Naito began to offer the fist bump like someone knocking on an imaginary door. Naito keeps up the pressure with a Combinacion Cabron that Chase Owens tried in vain to stop, following up with a neckbreaker for a near-fall. White responds with a spiking DDT, then with a Blade Buster as a running knee from Owens nearly puts Naito away… but of course it was not to be as Chase instead looked for a package piledriver before he fumbled into a Jewel Heist for a near-fall. Another package piledriver looked to follow, but EVIL breaks it up as the Parade of Moves broke out, leading to Naito almost pinning Chase after an EVIL lariat. Instead, it’s a simple Destino that gets the win, as Naito leaves Beppu with the win – I’m starting to dig the fake-friendly rivalry here, but I still have concerns over what their match is going to be like given their history. ***¼

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c)
Having beaten Aussie Open a fortnight ago, the Guerrillas’ challenge here comes from their interference as Ishii lost his NEVER title in London.

Ishii and Tama Tonga get us going in the ropes, with Tama trying for his wacky misdirection before an early Gun Stun was blocked. Tanga Loa and YOSHI-HASHI throw in kicks in the ropes as all four men ended in the ring, but a doe-see-doe from the champions help them stay a step ahead as dropkicks took Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI outside. Cue the obligatory guard rail spots, as Ishii was already looking the worse for wear as he got slammed and met with an elbow drop for a two-count. Double-team elbows keep Ishii on the back foot, as the Guerrillas slowed the pace and looked to keep Ishii isolated… but he fights back out of the corner… only to get trapped again.

Tanga Loa keeps Ishii grounded with a modified stranglehold, but Ishii gets a foot to the rope as a slam by the rope set up for slingshots from both of the Guerrillas, as a British Bulldog-esque running powerslam almost got Tanga Loa the W. Finally Ishii finds a way through, knocking down the Guerrillas before he tagged out to YOSHI-HASHI, who clearly found the tape Karl Fredericks had used earlier… A clothesline from YOSHI-HASHI set up for him to hang Tanga Loa in the ropes, before lifting Tama there too as a dropkick sent both of the champions flying. Tanga blocks an O’Connor roll, but can’t avoid a Head Hunter as YOSHI-HASHI picked up a near-fall, before Ishii came back in and helped take down Tanga with a double-team back suplex.

Tanga’s right back up to knock the challengers down with a clothesline though, before he and Ishii trade forearms back and forth, until more double-teaming had the Guerrillas back on top. A Ligerbomb from Tanga Loa nearly put Ishii away, before YOSHI-HASHI tried his luck… eventually landing a lungblower to Tanga Loa ahead of Ishii’s German suplex. Ishii’s still legal, and takes his time to meet Tanga with a lariat for a two-count, before Tanga blocked a brainbuster. A second attempt was almost countered, before Ishii’s slam was instantly no-sold by Tanga, who pops up with a clothesline as tags get us back to YOSHI-HASHI and Tama Tonga. Misdirection from Tama led to YOSHI making a meal of a Gun Stun, before headscissors take Tama down. We’ve another Parade of Moves as Tama Tonga busts out a Veleno for another near-fall.

Tomohiro Ishii tries to make a save, but he eats a double-team Tongan Twist before YOSHI-HASHI takes a Magic Killer for a near-fall. From there, the Guerrillas called for the Super Powerbomb, after catching YOSHI-HASHI with a Stinger splash, but Ishii knocked them down as Tama Tonga ends up getting caught in a Butterfly lock, while Tanga Loa’s attempt to make a save led to Ishii choking him out… only got Tama to pull down the referee. In comes Jado with a Kendo stick, but YOSHI-HASHI disarms him and uses the stick on him before YOSHI threw… superkicks at Tanga? Throwing him into an Ishii headbutt was more effective, before he caught a Gun Stun and handed him off to an Ishii powerbomb as the challengers came closer… leading to YOSHI-HASHI almost snatching the win with a brainbuster/Jackhammer.  Out comes KENTA as the crowd sensed shenanigans, and of course YOSHI-HASHI gets distracted like a geek. He swings and misses, allowing Tama Tonga to roll up YOSHI-HASHI with a handful of tights… and YOSHI-HASHI still doesn’t have his first title in New Japan. Ah well. This was good in parts, but man, YOSHI blew hot and cold during this one. Still the best thing on the show so far… ***½

After the match, KENTA went after YOSHI-HASHI, before he had to deal with Ishii as KENTA just ended up backing away. Meanwhile, Ishii barked at the referee at ringside, as I fear… KENTA/YOSHI-HASHI for the NEVER title?

RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c)
Their fifth meeting of the year (in singles action) is our main event, as Sabre looks to regain his Rev Pro title… and he starts by scrambling with Tanahashi on the mat.

The opening skirmishes continue to lead to stalemates, before Sabre finally found a way ahead, using a standing surfboard stretch that Tanahashi somehow managed to reverse as we passed the five minutes with little of note having happened. Sabre counters out into a stranglehold, but again Tanahashi reverses it, before Sabre got himself free, again looking frustrated with himself. Sabre looked to push the issue, taking Tanahashi into the corner for a sneaky uppercut at the break, only for Tanahashi to return with a springboard crossbody before he chopped Sabre’s knee out from under him. Tanahashi pulls a page out of the LA Dojo training book with a leg spreader, threatening to bridge back before Sabre grabbed the rope, powdering outside for respite.

Yuya Uemura’s’ called on to disarm Sabre as he went to grab a chair… earning the poor Young Lion an armbar as Tanahashi had to make the save as Sabre really couldn’t get into any sort of gear. The commentator’s curse comes in as Sabre leapt on Tanahashi’s arm with a cross armbreaker, holding on despite the rope break as the Beppu crowd began to boo. Like they’re meant to. Sabre starts to go after Tanahashi’s repaired left arm next, pinning the arm behind his back as a modified crossface forces Tanahashi into the ropes. Eventually Tanahashi forced his way back in with a leaping forearm, following up with a nasty-looking Dragon screw before a slam and a flip senton drew a near-fall. Tanahashi apes Sabre with an Octopus stretch, completing the mannerisms by rolling the hold to the mat as Sabre was able to get a foot onto the rope to force a break.

Sabre flips around, catching Tanahashi’s baseball slide to the outside with a hanging knee bar as a Suzuki-like armbar on the apron had Sabre test the referee’s patience a little more. Tanahashi’s given too long to recover, as he catches Sabre getting back into the ring with a hattrick of Dragon screws, only to get caught in a cross armbar as Sabre made sure he left an opening for himself. Tanahashi manages to counter out as the pair looked for each other’s arms, as this became more of a war of attrition than anything else, with Sabre stretching Tanahashi in the middle of the ring with an arm and leg bar… Tanahashi gets free and looked to throw some uppercuts, but his arms are clearly compromised. He’s able to land a Slingblade though, then a reverse one that was more like a bulldog, before Tanahashi landed a High Fly Flow to the back… then looked to tie up Sabre in a modified Cloverleaf, trapping an arm for good measure. Sabre’s able to get to the rope though… and he’s quickly in with a mounted guillotine on Tanahashi, who counters free with a Twist and Shout!

A second one follows, before the hattrick was interrupted by Sabre countering back with a Zack Driver! Sabre looks to go to the striking game from there, but Tanahashi responds in kind on a bloodied Sabre, who begged off before landing an overhead kick to the arm. Tanahashi blocks a PK and countered with more Dragon screws, before a strait-jacket German almost put away Sabre. Another scramble on the mat saw Sabre’s bid for a Euro clutch countered as the near-falls came thick and fast, before the pair fought for a Cobra twist, with Sabre rolling Tanahashi back down to the mat for the flash pin. So that’s two titles this year that Hiroshi Tanahashi has lost on his first defence, as we’re left saddened at how we never did see Tanahashi at the Cockpit. Or indeed, get in a token defence in the UK… A really good main event if you enjoyed their prior outings, but I’m hoping this is the last time we get these two for a while as the juice has now been thoroughly squeezed with Sabre’s definitive, albeit flash pin. That also makes Tanahashi by far the shortest-reigning Rev Pro champion, falling way short of Tomohiro Ishii’s previous record of 82 days. ****

After the match, Sabre threw his name into the hat to become New Japan’s first triple crown champion, as it certainly seems that the Tokyo Dome is going to be in for a lot of champion v. champion matches in 2020…

So, perhaps not the strongest of shows, with the line-up befitting a strong Korakuen show rather than a “pay-per-view” level show… but we’re used to this with New Japan’s tours. I’m a little sad that the Rev Pro title went straight back to Sabre, but if they couldn’t get Tanahashi on for any York Hall shows for UK defences, then I guess it’s for the best. Destruction rolls into Kagoshima tomorrow – on a public holiday in Japan – headlining with KENTA challenging Kota Ibushi for the latter’s IWGP title shot at WrestleKingdom.