The first of three events this year, New Japan’s Destruction PPV series kicked off in Fukushima on Sunday, with a disappointing NEVER title main event.

New Japan’s split pay-per-views always look watered down, and it was no different here, with plenty of matches on this nine-match card that’d not look out of place on those “Road to…” shows.

Manabu Nakanishi & Shota Umino vs. Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato
The New Japan Dads have swapped out their kids for today, but again they start out trading elbows, before tagging in their young ‘uns. Umino’s looking to end a string of draws against Young Lions, but you’d wager that he’s probably not going to break that duck against an ever-plucky Kawato.

Nagata tags back in as the veteran takes his time splitting kicks between Umino and Nakanishi, before we finally get a tag out as Kawato has a much bigger fish to fry. He doesn’t back down, to his credit, at least until he’s swatted away, so we go back to the dads… with Nagata getting swiped down after some slaps.

The Argentine backbreaker followed, but Nagata slipped out, only to get more chops as Kawato hits a springboard missile dropkick. Umino’s back in for a run of offence on Nagata, before Nagata snapped back into the Nagata Lock II (the crossface kind) for the flash submission. That felt very out-of-nowhere, but also not out of place either. After the match Nagata and Nakanishi exchanged words, which I’d like to think were “you need to pick your kids better”… **¼

Monster Rage (Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka) vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
Poor Goto – from the G1 final last year, to random tag matches with Young Lions on PPV.

Kitamura demands to start against YOSHI-HASHI, and the opening shoulder blocks are actually pretty even, with Kitamura drawing first blood ahead of a gutwrench suplex for an early two-count. After being taken outside, Kitamura’s on the defensive for a spell, as the CHAOS tandem worked through their respective playbooks.

The hung-in-the-ropes dropkick’s good for a two-count, before Kitamura powers up and reverses a Goto suplex as Oka finally gets his tag in. He and Goto trade right hands in the corner, before Oka edged ahead with an avalanche as the team dubbing themselves Monster Rage started to double-team Goto.

A spear and an elbow gets a two-count as Kitamura and YOSHI-HASHI fight on the outside, but things quickly turn around as Goto takes Oka into the corner for a spinning heel kick. Goto’s Boston crab nearly forces a submission as we see Kitamura fall over the guard railings in the background, whilst Oka grabs the ropes to break free, before a simple kick to the chest gets Goto the win. These young lions aren’t quite at the level where they need to take the big boy’s finishers just yet! Oka and Kitamura’ll probably not get a single win if they enter the World Tag League, but their matches will be fun… **½

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Beretta & Jado
Beretta still has the Roppongi Vice video and music. I guess until their final match later in the tour it’s fine, but I’m not so sure…

Beretta and Yujiro have a brief shove before the match, but it’s Owens who wants to start… only to fall for the oldest trick in the book – misdirection and a slap – from Jado. He works towards a dive off the middle rope, but lands on Owens’ boot, before taking the world’s longest Flair flop.

Yujiro gets the tag, but initially does nothing more than shove Beretta off the apron as Owens returns to keep things going, as Beretta finally had his chance to take a shot at Yujiro… which happened to be with a clothesline that sent him outside with Owens for a tope con hilo. After his crash-and-burn earlier this year, I always get nervous when I see Beretta doing that.

Beretta gets sent into the corner and takes the old Shawn Michaels bump up to the top rope, before Yujiro greets him with a reverse legsweep after coming back down. A tornado DDT gets the former Trent back in it, as superkicks and clotheslines nearly get the win… The ring clears to see Jado take a Fisherman’s buster for a near-fall as Yujiro looked to be headed towards victory, and once he’d hit the Pimp Juice, that win was assured. Another decent, yet unspectacular tag… and although I’m not worried for the Beretta/Yujiro feud, this isn’t going to be any great shakes. **½

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Leo Tonga) vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
The two biggest men in New Japan are in the same team today – and yes, Leo is taller…

Juice tries to circle around Fale at the start, but he ends up backing into Tonga, who drags him down by the dreadlocks as the Bullet Club big men took it in turns to pull off slams. Then avalanches, and finally whips into the guard railings. It’s quite the slow-burn squash, which almost gets a count-out as Finlay and Juice hadn’t even gotten a move in until Juice slipped out of a choke and went for some Dusty punches…

…and then Fale clubbed him from behind. A missed kick from Tonga helps turn things around after he took down Fale, who was then clotheslines to the outside by Juice and Finlay… before Juice squishes Leo with a cannonball. Tonga returns with a big boot for a near-fall, before lifting up Juice for a chokeslam… but Finlay breaks that up and hits a Stunner before the Pulp Friction gets the win. A solid match, but since Kenny Omega dropped out injured, these warm-up tags have hardly been inspiring – or momentum building! **¼

Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi & Ricochet
Taguchi is an idiot – why on God’s name would you do a “team talk” against a squad that is known for their jump starts? They shook it off anyway, as Iizuka’s quickly cornered for the merry-go-round of offence… except Taguchi always ran into the boot.

Iizuka adds to his pain with a spot of ass biting as he was whipped towards the Funky Weapon, and now we get the Suzuki-gun shenanigans we’re used to. KUSHIDA gets a blind tag in and drops Desperado onto Taguchi’s rear, before working towards the Hoverboard lock… that is again switched out into a Stretch Muffler as KUSHIDA really needs to stop using that move.

TAKA tries to come in, but just gets shoved into Despy as KUSHIDA rebounded, before we went to Ricochet and Kanemaru for a brief spell. Yeah, Taichi gets involved, but a 619 and a diving uppercut puts paid to him, before Tanahashi comes in and instantly gets tripped by Takashi Iizuka.

Oh joy, Taichi’s got the bell hammer and is polite enough to tag in before using it on Tanahashi… with “shoving the bell up his nose” being the latest gimmick here. Suzuki-gun targets the bicep once more, with Iizuka snacking away on it, before breaking free and tagging in Makabe who goes straight after Iizuka with the mounted corner punches.

After blocking a Northern Lights, Iizuka falls to a lariat as we get more tags out… which lead to Taguchi missing a hip attack on TAKA, before getting a taste of his own medicine with a brief merry-go-round of offence. Taguchi swaps things around by redirecting an eye poke from TAKA into the face of Kanemaru, as a roll-up gets a flash pin for the junior tag champ. In spots this was fun, but so far we’re keeping in line with treading-water motif from the Road shows… ***

After interval, we get the switchblade promo again, but we’re still no nearer knowing who it is…

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) (c)
The first of three triple-threats for the heavyweight tag titles on these PPVs – so conceivably, we could have a merry-go-round of title changes!

We start with Archer clubbing away on Hanson, who returned with a leaping shoulder tackle as War Machine and the Killer Elite Squad ended up taking each other to the outside for our usual charges into the guard railings. Everyone ends up in the aisles briefly, before Hanson mounts a brief fightback back inside – booting the Squad and taking them to task with the corner-to-corner lariats.

Instead, Hanson ends up grounded again as the Bulldog drops elbows as the KES looked to keep Hanson and the Guerrillas at bay, before Hanson eventually gets off a whoopee cushion in the corner before bringing in Rowe. Rowe and Tanga Loa trade Exploders before Tanga eats the knee lift for a near-fall.

Hanson tries for the clothesline-assisted German, but ends up springing into a Gun Stun as the Guerrillas edged ahead, dropping Rowe with a double-team Cross Rhodes. A double-team elevated DDT follows, but the Bulldog comes in to make the save, before countering a Gun Stun into a reverse DDT.

Things turn up a notch as Hanson hits a cannonball off the top before a tope wipes out folks on the floor, as Tanga Loa eats Fall Out to secure a successful title defence. This… wasn’t good. I don’t know if it was the crowd, or the fact we’re getting this twice more this month, but I struggled to click with this match. From the ponderous pace to the feeling that this was like an early fall in an iron man match. Good for confidence, but ultimately means nada. **¾

Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi)
Yes, Will still thinks he’s a cat. Despite his t-shirts protesting otherwise…

Ospreay and Takahashi shot out of the blocks, proverbially clawing away on each other as Will hits a pop up ‘rana early on, before a brief game of cat and mouse leads to a ‘rana from Hiromu… that Ospreay cartwheeled out of, only to get double teamed.

Ishii makes the save and throws Naito out into some guard railings… then stares a hole through him as a receipt was attempted. Yeah, to be fair, I’d probably not want to come within a hundred yards of Ishii if it were in any kind of combat environment. He’s still got his knee taped up though, so the Ingobernables have an easy target, at least until Ospreay got back in and took out Takahashi with a springboard overhead kick.

Will turned up the tempo into a diving dropkick to a stacked-up Hiromu and Naito, before a standing shooting star got Ospreay a near-fall. He’s instantly replied to with an overhead belly-to-belly though, which brings Ishii in to level Naito with chops and forearms in the corners. A scoop slam’s good for a two-count, but Naito’s straight back to work on that taped-up knee until a rope break’s forced.

Again, Naito keeps up on the knee, then spits out at the Stone Pitbull… and that prompts a fightback with a big lariat after shrugging off more shots to the knee. Hiromu tries to get involved, but gets sent outside by Ospreay, who then tags himself in against the G1 winner… a springboard forearm gets some success, but again Ospreay’s double-teamed. He avoids a Destino, before rattling Hiromu with an enziguiri… only to get popped up into a low blow as a second Destino dumps him high on his shoulders for the win. This was fun in parts – they’re really making you think that Ishii is going to be worn down by the time he and Naito face off, whilst Ospreay and Hiromu should be all kinds of fun when that finally happens. ***¼

NEVER Six-Man Championships: Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & Rocky Romero vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) (c)
For once, it was the Ingobernables who were jumped as the challengers took the match to the outside straight away…

EVIL became an early target as Okada and Yano took him into the corner, only for him to shove Rocky to the floor as a springboard was teased. There’s the cue for the Ingobernables to get some payback, with EVIL shoving Okada into the guard rails as BUSHI clawed over Romero back inside… at least until Romero landed a leaping back elbow, only for EVIL to stop him from making that tag out. Eventually Rocky flips out of a suplex and brings in Okada, who swiftly drops EVIL with a back elbow, before BUSHI broke up a STF attempt. EVIL regains the advantage there with a release Fisherman’s suplex for a two-count, before SANADA gets the tag and ends up falling into a neckbreaker slam.

It’s back-and-forth stuff… and that just picks up when Yano comes in to remove the turnbuckle pad so SANADA can try and hit him with it. Once he’s disarmed, Yano’s dizzied with an endless series of roll-ups that get a near-fall, before SANADA tries to tie him in a Paradise Lock… except the ropes came to Yano’s aid.

We get the comedy of Red Shoes using a chop to break some hair-pulling spots, before BUSHI came in with a missile dropkick to keep Yano on the mat. Romero gets tagged in, and cockily goes into the ropes… and gets dropkicked to the outside for his troubles, before recovering with a pop-up dropkick onto EVIL. Forever clotheslines follow to BUSHI, before we started a Parade of Moves with the Ingobernables coming out worse – finishing with an Okada dropkick to BUSHI.

Sliced Bread from Rocky’s good for a two-count, but a missed Shining Wizard opens him up for triple-teaming as the Ingobernables got back in. The MX nearly secured the defence, but we’re back to another brief Parade as Yano crotches BUSHI, only to get tied up in the ropes… SANADA’s taken care of by Okada, only for EVIL to come in and finally land the EVIL STO! All that’s left is for Rocky to take a Skull End into the MX, and the Ingobernables retain the trios titles! A fun match, and whilst it’s entertaining seeing the Ingobernables continue to wear down Okada, this may lose steam by the time we get to WrestleKingdom, I fear… ***¼

Lumberjack Death Match for NEVER Openweight Championship: Michael Elgin vs. Minoru Suzuki (c)
Big Mike’s got Taguchi Japan with him as lumberjacks: Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Ricochet and Taguchi; Suzuki’s wheeled out TAKA, Taichi, Desperado and Kanemaru – presumably because he didn’t want to risk an errant shot from Iizuka’s funky oven glove?

This really is just a lumberjack match so they can do the Suzuki-gun run-ins without it leading to a second DQ of the year for the company. Things looked promising when they started with wristlocks, before Suzuki’s attempt to flee from a cheapshot saw him thrown straight back in.

Chops from Elgin barely elicited a murmur, as did a slingshot splash which drew a near-fall, ahead of a stalling suplex that Elgin was able to do whilst flipping off Taichi. Good. There’s a stand-off outside as all the lumberjacks stare, before Elgin’s low bridged to the outside – and now the lumberjacks go at it so Suzuki can do what he wants… which means taking Elgin into the crowd and throwing him into some chairs.

Elgin fights back though, only to get dropped with a forearm back in the ring. There’s more lumber-brawling, and heck, “lumber” seems an appropriate term for the pace of this match so far, picking up when Elgin takes a rope-hung armbar before his own singlet was used against him for choking. A ref bump allows the Suzuki-gun crew to mug Elgin as he was sent outside, but Red Shoes still isn’t back to his feet in time to make a count when Suzuki tries to pin Elgin.

Suzuki gets a chair and whacks Elgin with it as Desperado has the ref tied up… but of course he disappears as Elgin threatens to use it. This time, Big Mike’s smart to it, and just lays in with chops instead, then an elbow after TAKA’s weak attempt to trip him in the ropes. After trapping Suzuki in the ropes, Elgin hits an enziguiri then slingshots in with a Blockbuster-ish neckbreaker and a big German suplex.

Big clotheslines from Elgin rock Suzuki, but they’re eventually blocked and met with slaps ahead of a PK that nearly keeps the belt on Minoru. There’s more interference as Desperado ties up the ref, allowing TAKA, Taichi and Kanemaru to hit the ring, but Elgin’s even to it, dumping Taichi and Kanemaru with a fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo. A Falcon arrow’s good for a near-fall on Suzuki once the ring had cleared, but with Elgin’s lumberjacks barely doing anything, you got the feeling that this was rather one sided.

When we get a ref bump and another flood of Suzuki-gun lumberjacks, they FINALLY do something – TAKA and Kanemaru ate a double Dragon screw from Tanahashi, before Big Mike press slammed TAKA to the floor! Ricochet’s Space Flying Tiger Drop wipes out the pile, and de-shoes Kanemaru, just in time for Big Mike to land a buckle bomb…

…but Suzuki slips out of an Elgin Bomb and grabs a rear naked choke, only to take a spinning back fist. The Elgin Bomb succeeds on the second attempt, but Taichi pulls out the ref, and now we’ve the Killer Elite Squad to make things a little more uneven. War Machine make the save for all of you who love this trope, and now out wanders Iizuka. He’s wearing the funky oven glove, looking like a confused older man, and slides into the ring to jab Elgin ahead of a Gotch piledriver for the win. Well, this was the mess everyone worried about. So many run-ins, so much junk… and it wasn’t even in the context of a decent match, unfortunately. Easily the most disappointing New Japan main event in memory. **

This was a bit of a bust as a pay-per-view, it has to be said. I don’t know whether the “G1 injuries” that news sites were talking about are starting to bite, but the usual critical acclaim that accompanies New Japan shows was absent – and that’s entirely down to the line-up presented. Only a third of the nine-match card would have had a shot at being on a “normal” New Japan PPV card – but it’s not like this is unchartered waters either. If you didn’t watch this live… pick and choose if you have to, as not everything on here is worth your time.