After an awful trip to Beppu, the Destruction tour wrapped up as Hiroshi Tanahashi takes on Kazuchika Okada one more time – with a spot at the WrestleKingdom main event on the line – but would end up being overshadowed by its very aftermath.

Kevin Kelly and Marc Warzecha remain on commentary, which may or may not be your thing given the prior Destruction shows…

Yuya Uemura vs. Yota Tsuji
Ooh, I bet this is a draw!

We start with a lot of grappling as Tsuji eventually scrambled free, before he grabbed a hold of a headlock. That’s quickly escaped as Uemura grapevines the legs, before the pair swapped wristlocks. It’s basic stuff, but they’re making this stuff matter – a headlock’s more than a nonchalant thing they do before shoulder tackles, for instance.

Yeah, they go to the shoulder tackles, but Uemura counters with a hiptoss and an armbar, before Tsuji got free and began to trade bombs with his counterpart. Christ, Uemura’s got quite a chop on him, but he’s made to pay for that as a leg grapevine keeps Uemura down, ahead of a single leg crab attempt. Woah, are you allowed to do that, Yota? They pass the five minute mark, with Uemura making the ropes before he fought back with a back elbow. Uemura’s crashes into Tsuji with a leaping back elbow in the corner before he set up for a regular Boston crab, but Tsuji squirmed to the ropes before he was even turned over. Tsuji cracks Uemura with more chops and a leaping forearm into the corner as he started to get comfortable in the match’s dying moments, preparing for a Boston crab of his own… but again there’s a rope break.

More chops are exchanged, and the crowd appreciate the cracks and the thuds they hear. Uemura cuts off a barrage of chops with a dropkick for a near-fall as we hit the final minute, with Tsuji having to kick out of a jack-knife cover as Uemura was going for another Boston crab. Tsuji hits back with a dropkick for another two count, before going back to that Boston crab, eventually rolling over Uemura… who held on for the final ten seconds as we had another draw. Close, but no cigar Yota – another typical Young Lion’s opener, but we’re still no nearer these two getting a win over the other! **¾

Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
Rocky’s not on the card, but he’s not commentating (yet) as he’s got to ring-lead… meanwhile, I’m getting flashbacks to Rev Pro Week.

It’s Ren Narita who starts off against SHO, and they’re pretty even in the early going – with Narita scoring an early shoulder tackle before he and Umino hit some double-teams en route to a two-count. SHO rebounds from that with a back elbow and a thudding kick that could well have shifted a vertebrae or two, before YOH tags in and hits a Mr. Perfect neck flip… to Narita’s leg.

A wishbone leg splitter’s next before SHO ties up Narita and just sweeps him down to the mat. Narita tries to chop his way back in, but he’s quickly decked… then picked up for a gutwrench that gets quickly reversed! In comes Umino, who’s full of back elbows for Roppongi 3K as he fought them off single-handedly, almost getting the win with a missile dropkick. More forearms from Umino eventually lead to him taking a knee to the gut, but another dropkick puts the brakes on YOH’s offence. Narita tags back in as Roppongi 3K are caught in duelling Boston crabs, but YOH gets to the ropes and quickly hits back with a backbreaker/neckbreaker, before rolling Narita into a Boston crab of his own.

Another rope break comes, as Shota Umino comes in – and is quickly sent packing with a pair of leaping knees – before Narita almost shocks YOH with some flash pin attempts, only to run into a superkick and a Falcon arrow as YOH avoided the upset. A terrific performance from these Young Lions, who made the former junior tag champions look extremely vulnerable, but eventually took the loss. ***

Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
This is a non-title affair, not that it mattered to the Kobe crowd, as they belted out Liger’s theme.

Liger and Tiger Mask were jumped in the aisle as Desperado and Kanemaru sprinted out after them, and we’ve a beatdown before they even get to the ring. The bell rings as Desperado chokes out Liger with some cable, while Kanemaru tried in vain to unmask Tiger Mask.

Tiger Mask finally mounts a comeback with a leg sweep and a boot to the gut, but Desperado stops Tiger from taking Kanemaru off the top rope as we instead get a slam as Liger’s again knocked off the apron. We’re back to the mask as Tiger’s hood is just a covering at this point, but he’s able to fight free again, catching Desperado with a tiltawhirl backbreaker before bringing Liger into play.

The crowd roared for Liger, who uncorks some Shotei into Desperado in the corner, ahead of a top rope ‘rana – not bad for a guy in his 50s! Kanemaru stops Liger though, before getting lifted onto the apron… as a miscue from Despy sees Kanemaru knocked off as a tiltawhirl drops Despy… who rebounded with a spinebuster to Tiger Mask. Tiger’s right back in on Kanemaru with a double armbar, but Desperado stomps it away after taking Liger into the guard rails.

A dropkick-assisted back suplex puts Tiger down, as Kanemaru adds to it with a moonsault for a near-fall, before a reverse DDT almost put Tiger away. Kanemaru heads up top for the Deep Impact DDT, but Tiger kicks it away and nails the upset with a crucifix as the junior tag champions take the fall! With the junior tag team tournament at Power Struggle coming up, that’s a confidence-damaging loss – and all of a sudden the Suzuki-gun pair are vulnerable! **¾

Post-match there’s a promo from Liger, which I swear he called the champions donkeys by the fact he made the “ee-aw” sound. Apparently it was a challenge for the titles, which I wouldn’t mind – especially if this were to be Liger and Tiger’s swansong.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi & Ayato Yoshida
Time for some of the New Japan Dads now, as Kaientai Dojo’s Ayato Yoshida is surely out to take a fall…

Honma and Kojima start us off, trading shoulder charges before Honma’s taken into the corner for some Machine Gun chops. There’s some chops from Honma, then a slam before he… misses a Kokeshi. Of course.

Tags bring in Taguchi and Nakanishi, and there’s no respect among former NEVER six-man tag champions, as Nakanishi pushes down Taguchi in a test of strength, before the latest iteration of Taguchi Japan took Nakanishi into the corner for a barrage of avalanche attacks. Nakanishi’s able to push away a hip attack and bring in Nagata, who was in no mood for any of this, as the pair charge through Taguchi with ease.

Nagata kicks Taguchi in the arse like he were Bishop Brennan, before Tenzan comes in and squashes Taguchi in the corner with hip attacks. Taguchi gets free and brings in Makabe, who just goes for Tenzan and Kojima in the corners, taking them both down with a double clothesline. That’s the cue for Honma to sneak in with a Kokeshi before Makabe dishes out some mounted punches to Tenzan. A suplex from Tenzan almost puts away Makabe, before Honma comes in again with a leaping Kokeshi to Tenzan. There’s a mountain bomb for Makabe as Tenzan tagged out to Nagata, who just whales on Makabe with kicks… only to get met with a scoop slam off the ropes as Yoshida begged, and got tagged in.

Yoshida manages to take down Nagata with a clothesline, then a kick to the back, before a PK gets a near-fall… but Nagata’s quickly back with a Shirome armbar, which gets stomped apart. Not to worry, the damage was done though as Nagata almost put Yoshida away with a kick to the chest, before a knee into the corner led to the Backdrop Hold as Yoshida’s put down for the pin. Decent stuff, with Yoshida looking okay for his brief spell in the ring. **¾

Rocky Romero joins the commentary team – he was missed.

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. Best Friends (Chuckie T & Beretta)
A rematch from what I had down as the match of the night in Beppu – and this is another warm-up for World Tag League, you’d have to think.

The KES are baying for the referee to start the match, and of course the match instantly heads outside as the Best Friends taste the guard railings early. This time around, Beretta learned to avoid an apron choke slam, as he manages to recover and catch Smith with a flying stomp off of the guard rails.

It seemed the Best Friends had KES’ number – or at least, were smart to their shortcuts – but as soon as the KES were back in the ring, it was business as usual. Beretta’s left a little wobbly after a clothesline, not helped by some covert stomps by Archer on the apron. Smith puts his fist through Beretta’s jaw, before a Northern Lights suplex and a pop-up double-team powerslam nearly gets the KES the win.

Davey Boy keeps up on Beretta with German suplexes, but finally Chuckie T gets tagged in as he blasts Smith with a missile dropkick. A clothesline into the corner followed, but he literally telegraphs a brainbuster as Smith fought free with a series of kicks, only to get caught with a reverse STO as Chuckie nearly took the win. A blind tag from Archer saw the KES go for a Hart Attack, but Archer whiffs as the Best Friends tried to take over… only to plancha their way into some strikes.

Chuckie and Beretta avoid being lawn-darted into each other, before Chuckie nails a tope con giro into the KES. He misses a top rope moonsault, as does Archer, before a double stomp onto Lance almost gets the win. There’s some double-teaming on Archer, who tries to block a springboard sunset flip only to fall to a double-team suplex. In the end though, Archer pounces through Beretta as we crossed the ten minute mark, but there’s another turnaround as Archer’s thrown into a knee from Beretta, before a flying DDT only gets a one-count as Smith’s back in to break it up. The KES connect with a Hart Attack at the second time of asking, before Smith launches Chuckie into the guard-rails off camera…

Beretta’s left alone as the KES looked to finish him off, and despite a brave fightback, he’s taken down with a back suplex and a chokeslam before the Killer Bomb hits… but Beretta kicks out at two and crucifixes Archer for the upset! This wasn’t quite on the same level as their outing in Beppu, but the banana peel finish perhaps shows that the KES aren’t quite ready to mount a title challenge just yet. ***

After the match, Archer chokeslams Shota Umino as the ever-brave Best Friends walked away from the ring.

We’re five matches deep and the show’s not even 80 minutes old. Something tells me that main event is going LONG…

Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Toa Henare
The, erm, chaos in CHAOS was the backstory here as Jay White continued his bid to topple the faction from within.

Finlay and YOSHI-HASHI get us going, with YOSHI nailing an early Head Hunter flipping neckbreaker before chopping on Finlay in the corner. With a little help from Ospreay, Finlay’s tied up in the ropes, as was Juice, ahead of the dropkick that sent Fin-Juice sailing to the outside. CHAOS looked comfortable in the opening stages, and that’s the cue for the turnaround as YOSHI ran into some dropkicks as Juice tagged in to take over.

A double-team bulldog nearly puts YOSHI away, as Juice and Finlay did their nearest approximations of the haka while dropping onto YOSHI’s arm. Henare manages to show them the error of their ways as he does the Haka and a falling chop for a near-fall, before he eventually hauled up YOSHI for a suplex for a near-fall. YOSHI instantly hits back with a Bunker Buster neckbreaker, before he brings in Ospreay to help clear house. Finlay’s waffled with a handspring overhead kick, then an over-the-top 619 before Ospreay decided to leap onto Robinson and Henare with a cannonball off the top. There’s a similar leap into Finlay as a springboard forearm puts him down for a two-count, only for Finlay to bring that to a shuddering halt with a clothesline.

Juice gets the tag in as he finally locks horns again with Jay White, taking him down with a clothesline before the rest of CHAOS flew in. A double-team flapjack takes down White as Henare flies off the top with a shoulder again, before a spear-like takedown nearly ends things for Switchblade. Henare’s pop-up Samoan drop comes a little closer, before interference from Juice and Finlay backfires as they leap into some kicks on the outside… leaving Henare on his own as YOSHI-HASHI runs in and… takes a flying forearm while trying to hold Henare.

As White berates YOSHI, Henare tries to steal the win with a roll-up, but that’s kicked out of as White puts away Henare with a Blade Runner. A decent trios match, but the CHAOS story continues to bubble away as Will Ospreay tried to calm down YOSHI and White after the match. ***½

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA)
Well, at least they’re replaying the “right” Suzuki-gun story from Beppu… and since there’s been teases of a new member of LIJ, could we get that tonight?

Yeah, we have a jump start, because Suzuki-gun. Naito and Suzuki picked up where they left off on Monday, throwing each other into the guard rails while Sabre and EVIL paired off. That left TAKA and SANADA in the ring, with TAKA quickly getting rolled into a Paradise Lock ahead of a low dropkick to free him.

EVIL’s in next to chop through TAKA, before Naito completes the set, taking him into the corner for a slingshot dropkick. My feed stutters, but picks up just as Naito’s whipped damn-near through the guard rails as Suzuki’s back in to throw him into some chairs (and Young Lions). There’s chair shots too, before Naito’s returned to the ring so the mugging can continue, this time with Sabre going after his arms.

Suzuki’s back for a snapmare and a PK on Naito, who’s then wrapped up with a knee bar as Sabre restrains EVIL from the outside. Naito gets free, but he’s got a dodgy wheel as the pair trade forearms, which led to Suzuki just clonking him with elbows that rang throughout Kobe World Hall. Eventually both men tag out as we get EVIL vs. Sabre, with the latter taking a shoulder tackle before TAKA runs in… and eats a side slam. Zack takes a back senton for a near-fall, but he’s back with a Cobra twist to EVIL… who somehow reverses it before Zack slps out and into an Ocotpus hold. EVIL counters that as he looks for Darkness Falls, but Sabre stops it and works into a triangle armbar that ends as EVIL gets a foot to the ropes. Not to worry, Suzuki-gun rush the ring and hit him with some three-on-one offence, with a PK from Sabre and a superkick from TAKA getting a near-fall. TAKA can’t quite get EVIL going for a Michinoku driver, and the LIJ turnaround resumes there as TAKA almost takes a Magic Killer – only for Suzuki to break it up.

A Parade of Strikes breaks out, as things eventually calmed down with TAKA trying to beat EVIL with a roll-up, before he ends up falling to Everything is EVIL. Well, that went as planned – the focus of this feud’s now shifted to EVIL and Sabre, which is for the best I feel. ***¼

Post-match, the Young Lions have to try and haul Suzuki to the back… but he’s got a chair and you know how that usually ends. Yep, poor Uemura and Tsuji take the shots, before the chair’s thrown aside and into some of the arena security guys.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Tournament – Semi-Final: BUSHI vs. KUSHIDA
With Hiromu Takahashi out of action with a broken neck, New Japan were forced to strip him of the Junior Heavyweight title – and call a four-man tournament to crown a new holder for “Belto-san”.

BUSHI and KUSHIDA start out by trading forearms at a not-too-leisurely pace… a handstand kick from KUSHIDA nails BUSHI, taking him outside where a kick to the arm takes him to the floor, but more crucially, gives KUSHIDA a body part to work on. Back in the ring, we get a modified hammerlock on BUSHI, with a neck bridge back adding extra torque, as KUSHIDA used his body to tie BUSHI in knots.

The pair end up on the apron, where BUSHI hit back with a surprise back cracker, and they remain on the outside as KUSHIDA’s thrown into the guard rails. Some head scissors in the ring force KUSHIDA to roll into the ropes for a break, which doesn’t come quickly, and it means that KUSHIDA still can’t get away as a crossface from BUSHI continued to keep him on the mat.

Leaping knees into the corner and a dropkick out of it has BUSHI on top, before KUSHIDA’s bid to come back was delayed as BUSHI tried to choke him with his t-shirt. That’s quickly escaped though as KUSHIDA’s able to slip through it, before rolling through a sunset flip as a head kick took BUSHI down for a two-count. The overhead kick in the ropes looked to put BUSHI back in the game, but a handspring kick from KUSHIDA clocks him once more as a set-up for a superplex that looked to be rolled through into Back to the Future, except BUSHI neckbreakers his way free.

A series of kicks looked to put KUSHIDA ahead, but BUSHI avoids another shot to the arm before catching an onrushing KUSHIDA with a lungblower… taking him outside for a suicide dive that somehow KUSHIDA holds onto, rolling BUSHI into an armbar on the floor! NICE! Back inside, a rewind kick clocks KUSHIDA in the mouth, before a Destroyer nearly put KUSHIDA down for the count.

BUSHI tries to finish with the MX, but KUSHIDA again catches him and turns into a Hoverboard lock as the throwback to BUSHI’s title win from KUSHIDA backfires… BUSHI manages to roll the move and wipe out the referee – which unsights him as the black mist blinds KUSHIDA… but he can’t quite get the win with a roll-up. Somehow with his eyes shut (because mist), KUSHIDA was able to stop a lungblower, before nailing Back to the Future twice in a row for win. KUSHIDA’s in the title tournament final – and we’ll either have him vs. Ospreay or vs. Scurll. A solid match that had its moments, but it was far from the spectacular outing many were expecting. ***¾

Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
With the G1 Climax winner’s briefcase on the line, could we see Tanahashi lose his spot at WrestleKingdom’s main event? We’ve had 12 prior meetings between these two one-on-one, with Tanahashi winning three, drawing three and losing the other six. As far as times go, they’ve not gone longer than 36 minutes – which would make you think they’re not going to trouble the sixty-minute time limit too much here…

They may have wrestled just six weeks earlier, but this has an epic feel to it before we even got to the entrances.

The match starts off slowly, with Okada looking to work the wrist, but Tanahashi reverses and looks for a chinlock as the overly-familiar pair continued to feel each other out. A tie-up takes Tanahashi into the ropes, but Okada’s not breaking quickly as he sneaks in a forearm… and that sparks a flurry of forearms between the two before Tanahashi stopped the tide with a hiptoss. Tanahashi tries to keep Okada on the outside, dropkicking him off the apron before scoring with a plancha, but Tanahashi clutches his knee after landing, and there’s an instant target for Okada. Rolling back into the ring, Tanahashi gets to his feet… and is sent right back down after a low dropkick from Okada found the knee, before he followed up by just driving the knee into the mat.

The crowd boos Okada as he ground his boot onto the knee… and it almost felt like a crossbody out of the corner from Tanahashi was a last ditch effort, despite the match not even being ten minutes old. Okada goes right back to the leg with a grapevine, but Tanahashi got to the ropes as he looked to mount a comeback, landing back elbows and a back senton. Forearms follow as Okada’s sent into the corner, where a flip senton followed for a near-fall. Okada’s right back with a back elbow of his own though, as Tanahashi’s knee continues to cause issues as he staggered into the corner. A spiking DDT has Tanahashi upside down for a while, before a neckbreaker slam attempt is fought out of as Tanahashi instead looked for the Twist and Shout.

A low dropkick scores from Tanahashi, but a charge into the corner’s caught as the neckbreaker slam’s pulled off, but Okada too is having knee issues… not that it stopped him from unleashing a shotgun dropkick to Tanahashi. Another dropkick had Tanahashi hanging off the top turnbuckle, giving Okada another chance to pound away on the knee – which drew more boos from Kobe. The Young Lions were called to help pull Tanahashi up, but Okada stays on top with a knee breaker and a Figure Four as he continued to chip away on Tanahashi.

Tanahashi tries to roll out, but Okada stops it before he rolled into the ropes right as Tanahashi managed to turn the hold over. They end up on the floor where Tanahashi’s on his hands and (what’s left of) his knees, but he’s able to surprise Okada by scooping him up and dropping him with a tombstone!

Tanahashi wouldn’t take the count-out, and instead scales the ropes for a High Fly Flow to the floor – which almost saw his knee crash into the guard rails on impact. Ow. He rolls Okada back inside as he wanted to take the win via pinfall… but an attempt to score with a Slingblade has to be changed as the Twist and Shout neckbreaker counters a Rainmaker attempt. The Slingblade’s next for a near-fall, as Tanahashi heads up top once more, but he High Fly Flows into the knees of Okada, as that brief burst came to an abrupt end.

Okada looks for the tombstone, but Tanahashi tries to counter with one of his own as neither man prevailed, so it’s back to the elbows and uppercuts as cocky Okada tried to make another appearance. It prompted another fightback, but a low dropkick stops Tanahashi again, as the G1 winner just collapsed as he was thrown into the ropes. An Okada dropkick’s next, but Tanahashi Slingblades his way out of a death valley driver, before he ran into a tombstone… which he tries to reverse, before he had to slap away a Rainmaker attempt. Yep, it’s back to the knee as Okada’s relentless… but so was Tanahashi’s Slingblade attempts, as Okada’s felled ahead of another High Fly Flow, which connects… but Tanahashi jammed his knee and can’t make the cover when he had the match won!

When Tanahashi’s able to make the cover, Okada’s up at two, and we’ve crossed the 30 minute mark as Tanahashi goes back for a High Fly Flow, echoing their G1 draw from six weeks prior… but this time Tanahashi ends up leaping into an Okada dropkick as the tables turned yet again! A tombstone’s next from Okada, as his knee troubles him again, before a series of counters culminates in a discus Rainmaker… only for Okada to have issues pulling Tanahashi up off the mat.

Another Rainmaker’s ducked and turned into a Dragon suplex… which looked to draw a three count but it was just so so close in reality!
Tanahashi scales the ropes one more time for the High Fly Flow, but Okada dropkicks him away, and looked to make the exclamation mark with an avalanche tombstone. That’s blocked as a gutwrench is attempted, with Tanahashi fighting free, slapping Okada away before pushing Okada back from a superplex, and making sure he falls down onto him with another High Fly Flow! The timing!

Right back up goes Tanahashi for another High Fly Flow, taking down Okada as he was up on a knee, before a Highest Flying Flow crushes Okada… and Tanahashi has done it! He has slain the mental demon that was his recent inability to beat Okada… and Hiroshi Tanahashi has assured himself of a spot in the Tokyo Dome main event, while condemning Okada to a loss that could well set him back in his “search to again be the Rainmaker”. Even as someone who hasn’t been here for all of their storied rivalry, this was exquisite stuff from two of this generation’s best. *****

Post-match Jay White rushes out and dumps Tanahashi with a Bladerunner. We forgot about him – he’s the only guy Tanahashi lost to in the G1, and White continues his tear by laying into Okada too. Young Lions rush in, with predictable results, before White heads to the commentary table and snatches Rocky’s chair.

YOSHI-HASHI rushes out for the save, but manages to earn himself an instant spot on Botchamania by slipping and smashing his head into the ring… he comes up with a crimson mask as White makes the most of a gimme by throwing a chair at him. Gedo’s next to come out, and he disarms White (after not falling into the ring)… only to turn on Okada by cracking him in the back with a chair.

Okada ditched Gedo just weeks ago… and now he’s made to pay for that as the implosion of CHAOS continued. Gedo and Switchblade are a pairing now – and that completely overshadowed the classic we all just saw. The translated promo from Gedo saw him put over Jay White, since “both you guys lost to him”, and after Gedo promised that “New Era… Coming Soon”, I think we have an apt main event for Power Struggle?

So, a shocking end to things in Kobe, and it seems it’s not just the Bullet Club that’s fighting from within. The main event and its fallout will be the only thing that, rightfully, is talked about in the days afterwards, as the landscape in New Japan – at least on top – looks to be changing.