The first of three “Destruction” specials this year ended with a surprise in the main event, as BUSHI and KUSHIDA contested the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title.

#TLDR: A largely skippable show in Tokyo as the first Destruction special was memorable only for a pair of title matches, and a fun-yet-unexpected mid-card match involving Juice Robinson.

The Full Review: With New Japan spreading out their “Destruction” events over three cards, there’s already a danger that these events will merely be “Road to…” style house shows but with better main events… Sadly, that’s what we got here

“DESTRUCTION makes the FUTURE” is the tagline for these shows. Let’s see, shall we?

Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. David Finlay & Henare
Well, the downside of New Japan potentially merging their two tag divisions means that guys like Roppongi Vice will have little to fight for.

Henare and Beretta started in the battle of the one-name guys, with a headlock from Beretta seeing him concede a one count. Beretta clings onto the headlock, but after some rope running he takes a hiptoss for a near-fall. A headlock from Henare sees him go into the wrong corner, but he fights free and tags in Finlay, who’s still persisting with those leopard print trunks that look like Hugh Hefner’s rejects.

Romero elbows out of a waistlock, then delivers some forearms to Finlay, before a hurricanrana sends him into the corner for some Forever Lariats. Finlay recovers with a series of uppercuts, then a diving uppercut for a near-fall, before he hooks away at Romero on the mat.

Henare gets a two-count from an elbow drop on Romero, before applying a rear chinlock. Romero fights free, and levels Henare with a leaping knee-strike. Beretta tags in and clears house on Henare, chopping him into the corner before Finlay broke it up. That went badly for the German/Irishman, as Henare ended up getting taken down again, before a tornado DDT out of the corner sets up Beretta for the Dudebuster for the win. Basic opening match stuff, but nothing offensive. **¼

Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata
After the last New Japan World show, Yoshitatsu plugged a poll on his Twitter where he asked fans to vote whether he should kick out or keep Captain New Japan in the “Hunter Club”. As of showtime, there was a massive majority to get rid of the masked man…

Yoshitatsu and Nagata start off, as Nagata reverses out of an early armwringer, before the usual headlock/headscissor reversal leads to a stand-off. Yoshitatsu takes Nagata to the ropes, and doesn’t break cleanly, so Nagata grabs a headlock and then slaps away. A knee to the midsection takes down Yuji, as he then receives some kicks before Captain New Japan tags in and helps take down Nagata.

Of course, Captain gets overwhelmed as Nagata tags in Nakanishi, but he actually gets a near-fall from a clumsy crossbody. Manabu recovers to knock down Captain and Yoshitatsu, and then gets a lariat for a near-fall. Captain gets caught briefly in an Argentine backbreaker, before he fights out… and gets a slam to the mat.

Nakanishi misses a kneedrop, before Yoshitatsu comes in with a spinning heel kick to Nagata. Kicks and forearms from Tatsu lead to him taking a Mountain Bomb. Captain tags in and drops Nagata with a shoulder tackle, before he sets up for the swandive headbutt, and of course he misses. Nagata kicks out of a roll-up, before Nakanishi’s forced to break up a second pinfall attempt.

Manabu reverses a double-team suplex, as he sends the Hunter Club down, and that left the Captain in the corner for a knee-strike, before an enziguiri/brain chop combo set up for an Exploder suplex for the win. No Backdrop Hold? Perfectly acceptable grappling, but by God, Yoshitatsu and Captain New Japan are a waste of roster spots in this form. **

“Did You Know” – eight years ago, Yoshitatsu signed a WWE developmental deal. I’d have to check to see if that wasn’t really a regressional deal…

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma & Tiger Mask
After the G1, Tenzan’s been really shoved onto the back burner, and truth be told, this was a throwaway six-man tag. Kojima and Honma started off by trading chops, before a bodyslam from Honma led to a Kokeshi that actually connected. That’s how you know this is throwaway!

In comes Tiger Mask, who lands a dropkick to Kojima, who then catches a kick and tags in Liger. Kojima holds Tiger in place outside the ring for a baseball slide into the crowd barriers, before Tiger Mask takes a tiltawhirl backbreaker and a Romero Special inside the ring from Liger.

Tenzan comes in to add some chops and gets a diving headbutt of his own, before tagging back out to Kojima. Rapid-fire chops to Tiger Mask in the corner are actually followed by a top rope elbow drop for a near-fall. Tiger Mask outsmarts Kojima and Tenzan, before tagging out to Makabe, who goes straight into the corner for some mounted punches on Tenzan.

Tenzan makes a comeback with some Mongolian chops, before a series of lariats puts him down. Honma and Liger tag in, with Liger capitalising on a misses Kokeshi with a Shotei palm strike and a Liger bomb for a near-fall. Another Shotei gets a near-fall, before the ring filled up for a while. Honma got a near-fall with a leaping Kokeshi, before he took the win with a top rope Kokeshi on Liger. Decent enough match, but utter, utter filler. **¾

With cards like this, why are we having three “Destruction in…” shows again?

Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens vs. Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo
Remember how during the G1, the rib on Tama Tonga was that he’d forgotten his ring gear? Well, this time, the Guerrillas of Destiny seemed to only have enough paint to do half of Tanga Loa’s face.

Goto starts by taking Owens to the ropes, and Chase quickly rakes away at Hirooki’s eyes. Gedo tags in and gets hit in the midsection by Tonga, before a poke to the eyes leads Gedo into the briefest of comebacks. Loa tries to rush in, but he takes down Gedo with a shoulder tackle which allows Tonga to get on him with a blatant choke.

Gedo slowly finds himself isolated in the Bullet Club corner, although to be fair, Hirooki Goto spending time on the floor didn’t really help in terms of being available to tag in! The Guerrillas of Destiny shared frequent tags as they wore down Gedo, before they dropped Ishii with the Samoan Drop/flipping neckbreaker combo.

Chase Owens came in and lost Gedo as he tagged out to Goto, but the GOD overwhelmed the G1 finalist, before a couple of lariats took them to the mat. Tonga elbowed out of an ushigoroshi attempt, before his wacky rope running led to a Roll the Dice on Goto. Ishii and Loa come in for some fast-paced big lads stuff, featuring a running Samoan drop on Ishii for a near-fall.

Loa rocks Ishii with a forearm, but he quickly reverses an Irish whip into the corner, only to eat a trio of strikes before landing a corner lariat. Owens superkicks Ishii as he tried for a powerbomb, leading to some triple-team stuff on Ishii in the corner for a near-fall. Gedo comes in to cut-off an assisted swinging suplex, but Owens takes him down as we start off a parade of moves. Goto blocks a Gun Stun and retaliates with the ushogoroshi, before Loa ends up pinging between forearms from Ishii and Goto. Seconds later, Ishii lands a brainbuster and takes the win. File this under decent, but forgettable – Tanga Loa seemed to wake up the crowd when he was in, but the Guerrillas of Destiny are crowd killers. **½

Juice Robinson vs. Kyle O’Reilly
The feeling out process started here with O’Reilly and Robinson trying to grapple their way to victory, but after an early stalemate, their gameplans rapidly changed. Robinson chopped O’Reilly to the mat in the corner, before O’Reilly countered a sunset flip attempt by sitting down into a cross armbreaker.

Robinson countered another armbreaker attempt with a roll-up, but that angered Kyle into kicking him. A lot. Another armbreaker was followed by O’Reilly taking down Juice with a hammerlock, before switching it up into an armbar. Juice fought to his feet and eventually punches free, but Kyle just kicked and kneed him around before a legsweep sent Robinson back to the mat.

A back suplex doesn’t get followed up with a cover, as O’Reilly went for a kneebar. Robinson invited more and more kicks from O’Reilly, almost like a North American Ishii vs. Shibata, before be popped up and elbowed Kyle… and then followed up with a spinebuster. They went back to the forearms, until Robinson’s leg lariat took Kyle to the outside. Robinson went flying with a plancha, before nailing a pair of corner lariats and then a cannonball dive which seemed to go just a touch too high!

Robinson went for an Unprettier, but O’Reilly countered with a rear naked choke and some stiff strikes, ending with a knee to the head. O’Reilly gets elbowed out of a Regal-plex attempt, before he catches Robinson off the rope with a head-and-arm choke that immediately sees the pair go down to the mat. That’s turned into an Exploder as O’Reilly gets a near-fall, but Juice comes back with a boot to the face for another brief comeback.

A lariat takes down O’Reilly, before Juice goes for a powerbomb and gets a near-fall, as O’Reilly kicks out into a triangle choke, then a guillotine. O’Reilly gets a near-fall with a brainbuster, before he segues into an armbreaker whilst trapping the leg of Robinson, and that forces the tap-out. This was the best thing on the card so far, with Robinson performing way above the level he’d been booked at so far this year. ***¾

In lieu of graphics, they actually hold up a piece of card with the rest of the card… that was, erm, interesting? We see another Time Bomb video – yep, it’s still November 5th…

Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay
Takahashi’s still reborn as the Japanese Godfather, but at least they didn’t use his horrid new song. Bad Luck Fale rips out the cord from the microphone as the ring announcer introduces him… if he hates his name so much, change it!

Your usual jump start from the Bullet Club sees Kenny Omega parade around with Okada’s IWGP title as the champ takes a 3-on-1 beating in the corner, before he overcomes it all and makes a beeline for Fale – ahead of their singles match on Thursday in Hiroshima. Fale backdrops Okada and takes him to the outside, where he takes an Irish whip into the crowd barriers, before they wander into the crowd. A fan’s scarf is used to choke Okada, as the CHAOS team is left laying outside the ring.

Back inside, Takahashi does his best Rick Rude neckbreaker for a near-fall, before Fale returned and whipped Okada hard into the corner. Omega tags in and rams Okada into the turnbuckles, before an elbow drop gets him a near-fall. An attempt at a tombstone piledriver from Okada was decidedly ill-advised, as he falls back as Fale gets an inadvertant crossbody for a near-fall.

Fale peppers Okada with shots to the midsection, before a dropkick counters a Grenade attempt, as Okada finally gets a bodyslam on the big guy. Omega tags in but takes a flapjack, before Ospreay makes the tag in and goes to work on Omega with a flying forearm.

Omega rolls away from a standing corkscrew moonsault, and then chops Will down to the mat. Ospreay avoids a powerbomb and fires back, but easily gets tripped by Takahashi in the ropes… and he gets wiped out with a Sasuke special. Ospreay makes a comeback with a Cheeky Nandos to Omega, then a standing corkscrew star press for a near-fall on the G1 winner.

Omega blocks an OsCutter and drills Will with a Dragon suplex, but he takes too long to follow up and gets a standing Spanish Fly for his efforts. YOSHI-HASHI gets a tag in and hits a flipping diving neckbreaker, before Omega elbows out of a Bunker Buster. A hurricanrana from YOSHI-HASHI gets countered into a powerbomb, as Takahashi comes in to pick apart the pieces.

YOSHI-HASHI gets squashed by three avalanches in the corner, before a reverse leg lariat from Omega and a Fisherman’s buster gets a near-fall – thanks to Okada breaking up the cover. Takahashi lands the Stroke on YOSHI-HASHI for a near-fall, before Okada’s dropkick breaks up a short DDT. Eager to capitalise, YOSHI-HASHI tried for a pumphandle driver, but he loses it and drops Omega with a back cracker, before Takahashi eats a lariat, then a pumphandle driver for the win. Perfectly fine action, but it was yet another “typical undercard tag match” that built up future matches. ***

Afterwards, Fale tried to send Okada into the commentary table with a Bad Luck Fall, only for the Young Lions at ringside to make the save.

Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & EVIL vs. Michael Elgin, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi
The mystery member of Los Ingobernables de Japon didn’t appear here… someone who did, though, was Ryusuke Taguchi, who came out with a plastic baseball bat and a skull mask to mock SANADA. Okay, I popped for that.

SANADA and Tanahashi started off, exchanging headlock takedowns as both men ended up in a bit of a stalemate. Michael Elgin tagged in, but Big Mike wanted Naito… and eventually got him. And a bit of EVIL too, as he was attacked from behind before Elgin took down EVIL with a pump kick.

Elgin took down both Naito and EVIL with a double powerslam, before a press slam got SANADA out of the equation. Taguchi comes in and blasts Naito with his arse, and then brings in Tanahashi to do a hip attack of his own. Elgin came in and completed the hattrick, before he drilled Naito with an enziguiri on the apron. A dropkick from SANADA ended Elgin’s wishes for a superplex, and after being tagged in, he continued to work away at the left leg of the Intercontinental champion.

Naito tagged in and took down Elgin with the outside-in dropkick, before aiming some spit in the direction of Milano Collection AT on commentary. I’m still saddened by how that long-term story never really had a pay-off… Back inside, EVIL gets a near-fall on Elgin from a spinning neckbreaker, but a back body drop from Elgin gets him some breathing space. Naito and EVIL get floored by a double-team clothesline, and Elgin finally tags out to Tanahashi after an age in there.

Tanahashi drops EVIL with a back elbow, before SANADA and Naito team-up. That goes awry as EVIL and Naito take separate Dragon screws from Tanahashi, who followed up with a senton flip off the middle rope for a near-fall on EVIL. Tanahashi levels SANADA with uppercuts, before the double leapfrog and dropkick takes him down. SANADA loses a TKO attempt, and sees a Dragon sleeper countered into the Roll the Dice.

Elgin comes in and pivots Tanahashi from an Electric Chair into a splash – only for SANADA to get the knees up with plenty of time to spare. Taguchi comes in for more hip attacks, then an armbar on SANADA as he mocks Yuji Nagata’s motions. EVIL and Naito break that up and clear the ring, leaving Taguchi alone against all three members of Los Ingobernables de Japon.

SANADA drops Taguchi with a TKO for a near-fall, before a Dragon sleeper attempt is slipped out of and turned into a roll-up for another two-count. Taguchi goes for one hip attack too many though, and he’s caught into a Dragon sleeper for the quick tap-out, as Naito continues to attack Elgin’s knee on the outside. Add this to the list of decent multi-man matches, but nothing you really need to see… ***¼

Post-match, Naito traps Elgin in that reverse figure-four knee bar he’s been using as of late, weakening him ahead of next Sunday’s Destruction in Kobe event.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Bobby Fish vs. Katsuyoru Shibata (c)
Now business is picking up – Shibata’s participation here was at risk after he was forced to sit out some house shows with “an unspecified spinal injury”. Not something that ever sounds good… especially when you hear the commentary team say “no pain, no gain”.

The pair went toe-to-toe at the start, and had a quite tentative opening as both men teased kicks. They finally go to the mat after Shibata scores a leg trip, but that leaves Fish with a chance to go for a headlock and target the champion’s neck… and they end up in the ropes for a clean break.

Shibata keeps Fish grounded with a figure four, which gets rolled back and forth until Fish ultimately grabs the ropes. Undeterred, Shibata grabs a leg grapevine, and gets one back from Fish on the mat. Fish ended up rolling to the outside, where he swept Shibata’s leg and smashed it into the apron.

Back inside, it wasn’t much better for Shibata, as he took an Exploder suplex and rolled to the outside holding his neck. Fish follows him and grinds the neck into the crowd barriers, before he’s whipped hard into the crowd barriers. Oh, they’re really making a point of Fish working on that neck injury, as he was briefly held in a submission before Fish went back inside.

Fish kept up the attack on Shibata after he rolled back in, before a slingshot senton from the apron got him a near-fall. A back suplex adds to Shibata’s neck pain, as does a suplex that seemed to intentionally dump Shibata on his head. Think “that hiptoss Perry Saturn took before he killed a jobber”. Shibata’s caught in a front facelock, almost like a guillotine, before he’s charged into the corner by Fish.

Shibata invites some kicks from Fish, before he hulks up and drops Fish with a forearm. A diving boot into the corner is replied to by a forearm smash, but Shibata recovers and connects with a diving dropkick, then lands a single underhook suplex for a near-fall. Fish gets caught in an abdominal stretch with some added trash talking, but Fish staggers to the ropes and gets a kick for his troubles. Another guillotine from Shibata takes Fish down, but he counters with a kneebar, which Shibata easily breaks via the ropes.

Shibata no-sells an Exploder off the ropes, popping back to his feet to drill Fish with a German suplex, and then a PK, before Shibata lays into him with more forearms. Fish catches a second PK and grabs a knee-bar, only for another rope break to end it. A massive headbutt from Shibata countered a brainbuster attempt, before he choked Fish to the mat for a PK to retain the title. Fun match, with a lot of action focussed on Shibata’s neck. These guys have done better, but given the injury reports going in, this was excellent stuff ***¾

Post-match, Kyle O’Reilly grabbed the mic and kicked at Shibata… there’s your next NEVER title match, assuming Shibata’s spine holds up.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title: BUSHI vs. KUSHIDA (c)
BUSHI is out with the newest, unidentified member of Los Ingobernables de Japon that we saw last time out.

Another tentative start sees KUSHIDA back BUSHI into the corner, before another tie-up sees them break cleanly in the ropes. BUSHI low bridges KUSHIDA to the outside, and aborts a dive as he poses in the ring for a second time. A low dropkick from KUSHIDA sees him try for a cartwheel, but BUSHI follows him and sends the champion to the outside… and then chest-first into the crowd barriers.

BUSHI sets KUSHIDA onto a chair and then dropkicks it, before a rear chinlock keeps the champion grounded back inside the ring, as do a pair of head-scissors which BUSHI used to hump KUSHIDA’s head into the mat. After a neckbreaker, BUSHI grabs an STF, but KUSHIDA makes the ropes before he takes a missile dropkick off the middle rope.

BUSHI’s t-shirt comes into play as he chokes KUSHIDA with it, but the champion makes a comeback with a back suplex to free himself, before the mystery man on the outside tripped KUSHIDA to keep BUSHI on top of things. A slingshot into a clothesline saw KUSHIDA regain an advantage, before a handspring into a back elbow sent the challenger outside… where mystery man again tripped KUSHIDA as he went for a dive. An attempted double-team went awry as KUSHIDA slipped away, leading to BUSHI attacking his team-mate, before being sent outside for a tope con hilo. Finally, a KUSHIDA dive that went off!

An overhead kick from BUSHI looked to have gotten the Ingobernable back in it, but he took a hiptoss into an armbar in the middle of the ring, and was forced to reach for the ropes. That’s followed up with a pin-point dropkick to the arm, as KUSHIDA looked to soften up his challenger for a Hoverboard lock, but out of nowhere, the referee got pulled into the path of a dropkick. KUSHIDA got sprayed with BUSHI’s black mist, and out came Tetsuya Naito to add to the shenanigans.

Naito nonchalantly picked up KUSHIDA for a tope from BUSHI, before helping his teammate set-up for a dropkick to a rope-hung KUSHIDA as the referee remained down. BUSHI went up top for the MX, but Michael Elgin came down to the ring to get rid of Naito with a big boot, and then catch a crossbody from BUSHI, which got turned into his impressive Samoan drop/fallaway slam combo. All whilst the mystery, masked Ingobernable looked on from ringside emotionless.

Naito and Elgin fought to the back, whilst the masked man was dragged away by some young lions, and the focus finally returned to the ring, where KUSHIDA dropped BUSHI with a German suplex as a recovering referee looked bored. A top rope moonsault gets KUSHIDA a near-fall, before another ref distraction led to BUSHI hitting a mule kick for a near-fall.

KUSHIDA countered an MX with a dropkick, before the pair started trading forearm shots from the ground. BUSHI gets caught in the Hoverboard lock, before he finally counters into a small package for a near-fall. A second attempt at the mist was cut-off with a straight punch to the face, as BUSHI sprayed the mist into the heavens.

Out of nowhere, BUSHI countered a tiltawhirl into a Destroyer for a near-fall, before a rewind enziguiri and a lungblower set him up for an MX. KUSHIDA kicked out at two, but he had no answer to a second MX – which he sold like Scott Hall sold Steve Austin’s Stunner at WrestleMania X8 – and that was all. BUSHI took the win, and gets the title!

As a match, this felt pretty watered down. The raft of interference from Naito, Elgin and Masked Ingobernable took away the importance of the match, and BUSHI’s record as of late wasn’t exactly “threatening challenger”-like. Still, that’s what New Japan’s MO seems to be these days, with BUSHI following Kenny Omega in the “disappear into the background, then run in from nowhere to win the big one” run. ***¼

That’s three years in a row that KUSHIDA has lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title at a Destruction event, with Ryusuke Taguchi in 2014 and Kenny Omega getting it last year. For all the hype, KUSHIDA’s run saw him beat BUSHI, ACH, Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Will Ospreay (twice) – sure, he won the Super J Cup, but BUSHI winning the title doesn’t inspire much confidence in me. Maybe they’ll give him the run like the one Naito would have had with the heavyweight title… had they not ditched all plans and reverted back to Okada?

As a show, this was really flat. Going in, I predicted that this’d be little more than a house show with two or three good matches, and that’s what we got. Hopefully the shows in Kobe and Hiroshima prove me wrong, because otherwise we’re probably going to end up with one decent show lost amongst two cards worth of filler.