The culmination of the Young Lion Cup. The return of the next evolution of the Beast God… and the destiny of the Intercontinental championship was decided as Destruction in Kobe sure was newsworthy…

Kobe World Hall plays host to the final stop on this tour, with English commentary courtesy of Kevin Kelly, Gino Gambino and Chris Charlton as we’ve got a three-man, alliterating booth.

Manabu Nakanishi, Alex Coughlin & Michael Richards vs. Yuji Nagata, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura
Kevin Kelly drops the bomb that it’s really pronounced closer to “Cocklin” than “Coughlin”… we start with Nagata and Nakanishi as the Dads open the evening.

The pair trade wristlocks early, before they just pelt each other with forearms as Nagata faked out Nakanishi with a low dropkick… only to run into a shoulder tackle. Nagata frees himself as Michael Richards tags in, as the Kiwi comes in and gets caught in a headlock from Uemura. Richards gets free and clears the apron, before bringing Coughlin in to chop through Uemura ahead of a hiptoss for a near-fall. Nakanishi’s back in to wear through Uemura, but he misses a knee drop and ends up getting slammed as Uemura pulled one out! Nagata’s back in from there, kicking through Nakanishi as commentary went all Art Donovan on us, while chops from Nakanishi took down Nagata, as did a spear! A head chop knocks Tsuji off the apron as Nakanishi prepared for a clothesline… getting a near-fall as the annoyed Tsuji broke it up.

Not to worry… Nagata slips out of an Argentine backbreaker as Tsuji again had a brief sojourn in the ring. An Exploder from Nagata leaves Nakanishi down as Tsuji finally tags in, but Coughlin’s back too to put a beating on Tsuji, before they trade shoulder tackles for fun. A chop from Coughlin rang around Kobe, before he rolled Tsuji into a Boston crab, but Tsuji got to the rope anyway. Tsuji stops Coughlin with a spear before a powerslam nearly got the win as the ring filled… then cleared… as Tsuji looked for a Boston crab, but instead picked up Coughlin for a Giant Swing! The Boston crab’s next, with Coughlin being pulled away from the ropes, before he was forced to tap after Tsuji sunk it in deep. Some good stuff here from the Young Lions, and a cracking start to proceedings. ***

Young Lion Cup: Clark Connors vs. Ren Narita
Clark can play spoiler with a win here, but Narita opens by taking Connors to the mat with a toe-hold.

A struggle over a wristlock follows, but Connors takes Narita down as the pair switch between headlocks and headscissor escapes. Narita hooks the ropes as the referee’s needed to force a break… which just led to a cheapshot from Connors. Narita responds in kind, before Connors went back to the arm, then looked to go to the legs.

Narita’s back to the toe-hold, then wraps the legs in a deathlock, but Connors gets free as this breaks down into back-and-forth chops, ending with a Narita dropkick. The overhead belly-to-belly throw follows as Narita looked for the Narita Special #4, only for Connors to return with a spear before he rolled Narita into a Boston crab. With his hopes of winning the Young Lion Cup fading away, Narita’s dragged away from the ropes repeatedly… and Connors forces the submission. The anguish on Ren’s face just before he tapped was heart breaking to see, as he came so close… but in the end, was so far away. ***

Young Lion Cup: Karl Fredericks vs. Shota Umino
It’s winner take all now, as we have a sprightly start with snap headlock takedowns, escapes and all sorts of wackiness that was showing both men wanted to end this earlyish.

Shoulder tackles off the ropes saw Umino take down Fredericks, before he choked away on the American in the corner, looking to aggravate the taped-up shoulder. Stomps keep Fredericks grounded, before he responded with some chips that stung Umino, who ends up running into a leapfrog/crossbody combo. Fredericks looked to build momentum from there, charging Umino into the corner for some boots and a Stinger splash. Karl gives Umino another kicking, but Umino caught him with a surprise roll through into an armbar, forcing Fredericks to the ropes for a break. Umino quickly heads up top and lands a missile dropkick for a two-count, before another crack at the armbar ends in the ropes.

A bridging German suplex plants Fredericks as Umino’s game plan was more than evident here. Slaps annoy Fredericks so much that he pulled Umino into a Regalplex, following up with a spinebuster as the impactful landings followed, ahead of a single leg crab, eventually forcing Umino to tap! That’s gotta go down as an upset considering he’s an outsider, but a deserved win nonetheless as Karl gets the generic, PES-like VICTORY trophy for his spoils. ***¼

Young Lion Cup Final Standings
Karl Fredericks (6-1; 12pts)
Ren Narita, Shota Umino (5-2; 10pts)
Clark Connors, Alex Coughlin (4-3; 8pts)
Yota Tsuji (2-5; 4pts)
Michael Richards, Yuya Uemura (1-6; 2pts)

Umino stayed back afterwards in the ring, throwing a tantrum not unlike Jon Moxley’s in the G1. Hopefully he doesn’t go on a losing run now…

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare
This one just screams “filler” as commentary talks about World Tag League. Yeah, these are threatened pairings, right?

Henare and Yujiro start us off, with the Kiwi Henare charging through Yujiro, before Honma tagged in and scored with a bulldog and a Kokeshi. My God, the pace not on show here. Fale comes in as the match spills outside, with Honma and Makabe taking the barriers chest first. Back inside, a low dropkick gets Yujiro a two-count, before Owens feigned a hair pull so he could punch Honma in the face. Owens and Fale stand on Honma in the ropes as the pace continues to be non-existent. When Fale did break into a sprint, he ends up charging into the turnbuckles as Togi Makabe came in to charge into Fale some more, trading clotheslines until Makabe knocked Fale off his feet. Mounted punches follow in the corner, before Makabe resisted some clotheslines… then eventually bumped off one!

Henare’s in, but he misses a leaping tackle on Owens, whose knee strike gets caught as a superkick follows. Yujiro rushes in, but he ends up taking some Forever clotheslines with Chase, following up with a chop for a near-fall. All three men gang up on Fale until a Makabe clothesline sent him outside, but in the end Chase ends up catching Henare with a Jewel Heist for a near-fall, before a quick knee and a package piledriver got the win. Lethargic until the finish, I dread that this really was a preview of World Tag League… **

After the match, Chase Owens challenged the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express to a match on the upcoming US tour. In 2019. If we’re lucky, those shows will hit VOD before the end of the year.

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jushin Thunder Liger, Rocky Romero & Tiger Mask
Jushin Thunder Liger jump starts Suzuki in the aisle as we go nuts from the off. He’s got a different mask, by the way…

Suzuki grabs a table and chair from under the ring. Suzuki pops a chair over Liger’s head, before he looked to unmask him again… and with Suzuki-gun stopping anyone looking to help, Liger has to save himself. Liger unmasks himself, revealing KISHIN LIGER as he sprayed Suzuki… then went outside for a spike. Yeah, this is probably a no-contest (well, we get a graphic showing Suzuki-gun won, for those keeping score), as Liger charges the spike at Suzuki, but ends up impaling the table as Suzuki’s on the run! Even if you’re a newer fan, you can tell Kishin Liger is a big deal because Suzuki’s literally running from him!

Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, Will Ospreay & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Bullet Club (KENTA, El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa))
This one takes on a new twist as Roppongi 3K could well be the next challengers for the Guerrilas of Destiny.

Ishii and Tanga Loa start as YOH was springing on the apron for fun… my feed drops out as YOSHI-HASHI gets whipped onto the Japanese commentary table, while KENTA began to pepper him with kicks for fun. Back in the ring, YOSHI-HASHI’s left open for back rakes from ELP and Ishimori, as all the rest of the Bullet Club joined in for fun. More kicks rock YOSHI-HASHI, who eventually hits back with a suplex before Will Ospreay came in to turn it up against ELP, sending him outside with headscissors before Ishimori came in and ran into a handspring enziguiri. ELP tries to suplex Ospreay, but took a Stundog Millionaire instead, before a Robinson special left Phantasmo laying… for like a split second as he’s right back in with a reverse ‘rana. Tanga Loa tags in, as does YOH, but Roppongi 3K are quickly flattened with clotheslines before a Dragon screw took care of Tama.

Tanga Loa offers more resistance before he ran into double knees, sparking a Parade of Moves that ended with Ishimori taking an Ishii German suplex. Ospreay keeps going with a corkscrew moonsault onto ELP off of Ishii’s back, as a Sasuke special made sure Phantasmo was never too far away from him. SHO saves YOH from a Magic Killer, but ends up taking a right hand before YOH snuck in and rolled up Tanga Loa again… and lightning has struck twice for Roppongi 3K! This was good in flashes with a heck of a finish, but again, this felt way too slow for too long, like they were trying to cool down the crowd after the Liger revelation. **½

After the match, YOH ate Apeshit while Tama Tonga went wild on SHO with a Kendo stick… we cut to ELP being thrown off the stage on the way to the back, then return as Tama Tonga cracked YOH in the midsection with the Kendo stick.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi & Robbie Eagles
BUSHI mask time! Kota Ibushi’s having to carry his G1 contract in it’s posh leather folder, since KENTA wrecked his briefcase last week. It’s gonna get lost, isn’t it, Kota?

Okada and SANADA get us going after a popularity contest, with both men teasing Paradise Locks before SANADA flipped in and out of the ring for the hell of it. Tags get us to BUSHI and Eagles, with Robbie easily taking down the masked man before some headscissors and a spinning heel kick left BUSHI laying. A low dropkick from BUSHI – along with some help – gets him ahead, as BUSHI proceeded to take the eyes of Eagles while referee Red Shoes seemed distracted. EVIL’s in to stomp away on Eagles, before BUSHI returned to land a missile dropkick out of the corner. SANADA’s next, trapping Eagles in a Paradise Lock, unlocking him momentarily with a low dropkick.

EVIL tags in to charge Eagles in the corner, but a follow-up Fisherman buster’s blocked as Eagles got free to tag in Ibushi. A diving kick knocks EVIL down, but the rest of LIJ swarm the ring as Ibushi had to kick his way free, peppering EVIL with more kicks ahead of a standing moonsault for a near-fall. EVIL pushes back with a Bronco buster in the corner, but Ibushi ends up having to fight out of Darkness Falls before clocking EVIL with a head kick. Okada and SANADA tag back in from there, with Okada’s sliding back elbow taking down SANADA quickly. SANADA tries to springboard back in, but ends up taking a shotgun dropkick as Eagles and BUSHI went at it on the floor. A tombstone from Okada proves to be a struggle as SANADA slips free into an O’Connor roll that turned into a Skull End… that BUSHI quickly stomps away.

EVIL turfs out Ibushi before SANADA ran into a neckbreaker slam. Eagles is back to kick away at SANADA, before he began to focus on SANADA’s leg, taking out the knee with a 619 in the corner. Running knees trap SANADA for a near-fall, before EVIL came in to dump Eagles with a German suplex. That opens the door for a Skull End, but Eagles counters with a small package, before a Turbo Backpack was turned into another Skull End. SANADA swings Eagles around, but gets caught with an Okada dropkick at the second time before he got baited outside for a BUSHI tope. It’s back to Eagles now, with SANADA pulling the Aussie down… and there’s the quick submission to the Skull End. A fun trios match, as they continue to build to King of Pro Wrestling next month. ***½

After the match, Okada tries to cheapshot SANADA, but the dropkicks don’t work as EVIL just slaps the taste out of Ibushi’s mouth. That breaks down into forearms as the pair butt heads, before Ibushi calmed down and left with his menu… I mean G1 winner’s certificate.

Shingo Takagi vs. Hirooki Goto
Shingo beat Goto during the G1, which has led to this rematch as Shingo continues to establish himself as a heavyweight.

We open with a tie-up as Shingo took Goto into the corner… but his cheapshot was caught as Goto kicked back, following in with back-and-forth forearms as they then looked to tease finishers ahead of a stand-off. The pair go for a Test of Strength, but it’s Goto who pushes on there, eventually taking Shingo into the ropes for a shoulder tackle. More shoulder tackles give Shingo a chance to hit back, first with a shoulder tackle then with a sneaky right-hand. Goto rolled outside, as Shingo stayed on him by throwing him into the ring post, then into the barriers, before he caught a rebound to DDT Goto on the floor. Back in the ring, some Danielson elbows keep Goto down, but Goto begins a fightback, throwing chops before a double sledge took Goto right back down.

Shingo begins to toy with Goto, but some boots get caught as a discus lariat decks Shingo with ease. Goto tries for an ushigoroshi, but it’s blocked as Goto instead comes back in with a sleeperhold, only for Shingo to back bump his way free as he quickly raced into a Noshigami for a near-fall. A pair of lariats trap Goto in the corner ahead of a superplex attempt, which comes off nicely… as Goto just pops right back up and retaliated with a German suplex… before a Saito suplex left Goto laying. Duelling, clubbering clotheslines follow as the pair continue to batter each other, but it’s Goto who edges ahead next, decking Shingo with a lariat for a near-fall as the two big lads continued to knock lumps out of each other. An ushigoroshi looked to be next, but Shingo caught it and countered with made In Japan for another close-call. A Pumping Bomber got Shingo right back in the fight, only to get caught with an ushigoroshi, then with a reverse GTR as Goto piled on those near-falls.

Kicks to the chest follow from Goto, before Shingo caught a buzzsaw kick and hung Goto into the ropes for an elevated GTR! Another Pumping Bomber spins Goto to the mat for a two-count, as Shingo’s again realising that his usual stuff just isn’t getting the job done against heavyweights. Last of the Dragon was slipped out of by Goto, who hits back with a Shouten Kai before they literally butted heads en route to another ushigoroshi as Shingo just about stayed alive! All that’s left is for Goto to land a GTR, and there’s his win back from the G1. This was perfectly fine until they broke in with the clubbering lariats – and the match continued to kick on from there. Shingo’s got a lot to do as he continues to find his feet among the heavyweights… ***¾

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Jay White vs. Tetsuya Naito (c)
After what could be described as a fake-friendly rivalry throughout the tour, both of these men were looking to claim the Intercontinental title as New Japan seemed to be heading to battle of the champions at the Tokyo Dome next year.

The bell sounds, but neither White nor Naito were rushing into things, as White heads outside to try and annoy Naito. The favour’s returned, before the stalling gave way to Naito flashing in with a variety of pinning attempts before headlocks, headscissors and escapes led to a stand-off. White tries to bail, before he rolled in to some kicks as Naito looked to be the aggressor. An attempt at Combinacion Cabron’s stopped thanks to some interference from Gedo, allowing White to leap outside and drag Naito crotch-first into the post. Chops take Naito around ringside, before he was hurled into the guard rails at point-blank range, then again as Naito hurtled into the crowd.

Naito returns, but is quickly decked as White looked to capitalise on his earlier work, before they went back outside as he reprised the charges into the railings by the English commentary team. Back in the ring, Naito stops that momentum with a neckbreaker, following up with a scooping reverse DDT for a near-fall. Some grounded headscissors keep White in trouble, as almost-a Stretch Muffler forces White to roll into the ropes for freedom. Naito clubs White back into the corner, but can’t avoid a spiking DDT… nor some rolling suplexes as White looked to bust out the Three Amigos. The third one’s blocked as Naito charges White into the corner, before he got sent between the ropes as White lands uppercuts and a hanging DDT in the ropes, as White was starting to really dictate and dominate the flow of proceedings.

Helping Naito up, only to dump him with a Saito suplex led to White running into a dropkick as Naito was looking to be on fumes. Naito followed up with a top rope ‘rana, then with Gloria for a near-fall, before he pulled White up on the apron… then swept the legs for a nice Combinacion Cabron on the other side than he usually does it. They head back to the apron as Naito gets caught with a Flatliner on the edge of the ring, before White teases an apron piledriver… but Naito counters with a nice back body drop instead! White quickly replies by powerbombing Naito onto the apron, before a uranage back in the ring led to a near-fall. A Kiwi Krusher’s next, but Naito countered into almost a Shouten Kai, as the match quickly descended into a slugfest, before a ref distraction allowed Gedo to come in with his annually-bad chairshot. Naito somehow recovers with an enziguiri and a flying forearm, before White dropped to the mat to avoid a Destino.

Another Gedo distraction backfires as he’s pushed off of for a tornado DDT on White, before Destino… was blocked, with Naito pulling Naito into some crucifix elbows on the mat. Naito responds with a German suplex before another Destino was countered, eventually turning into a sleeper suplex from White. A second sleeper suplex follows, before Naito countered a Blade Runner with a Dragon suplex, following through with an eventual Destino for a near-fall. Yet again, White blocks Destino, but he’s caught with a Koppo kick and a slap as he kept looking for a Blade Runner… eventually hitting it after a brainbuster got countered… and just like that, Jay White sneaks out with the title! All it took was one Blade Runner, compared to umpteen Destino, as Jay White’s eternal prophecies continue to ring true. A little slow paced, but very deliberate with everything following through as the Destruction tour came to a close – with a new Destino. ***¾

The show ends with White mocking Naito’s LIJ speech, rattling off every name in Bullet Club (including Hikuleo), before Hirooki Goto came out to shut up White… and seemingly challenge White for the Intercontinental title. Jay dismissed that, but we’ll see what happens for King of Pro Wrestling.  Destruction tours tend to be a bit hit and miss, especially with the New Japan trope of spreading one card across three “PPV shows”. While nothing on this show particularly jumped off the page in terms of bell-to-bell wrestling, it sure as hell was newsworthy, if not for the Young Lion Cup upset, then absolutely for the return of Kishin Liger. That retirement may be a shade over three months away, but Liger sure as hell isn’t going away quietly…

There’s no rest as the New Japan roster head to the States for the Fighting Spirit Unleashed tour – with shows in Lowell this Friday, New York on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday. There’s no cards announced for those shows (yet), before they take another week off for a brief New Japan Road tour ahead of King of Pro Wrestling on October 14 from Sumo Hall.