Almost a month on from the G1 Climax finals, we’re back with a stellar main event – and it’s right back to Korakuen Hall as the Road to Destruction begins!
After Wednesday’s tour opener in Aichi, we’ve three back-to-back nights on NJPW World, with Friday and Saturday in Korakuen Hall, then Sunday in Chiba – a card headlined by the return of Satoshi Kojima. Anyway, we’re in Korakuen, and there’s no English commentary on the live feed since Kevin Kelly and Rocky Romero haven’t found a way to be in London and Tokyo at the same time.
Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Bullet Club Elite (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi)
The Elite pair have swanky new jackets, which will probably pop up on PWTees at some point down the line. You’d probably need to get a second mortgage to get one shipped to the UK after customs charges though!
Narita and Yujiro start us off, trading wristlocks as Yujiro looked to get the early advantage, taking down Narita with a shoulder tackle for our first two-count. A dropkick from Narita turns it around though, as the two Young Lions started to double team Yujiro… ah, isn’t it nice to see them back in the groove of getting their hopes built up and dashed? Elbows from Narita have Yujiro rocked, but not enough as a hotshot dumped the Young Lion in the ropes, and now all four are on the outside. Heck, Narita’s even slammed into the crowd, as someone got a little too close to the action, and the trajectory stays the same as Narita had to ensure a backbreaker from Chase Owens. To be fair, Ren does try to strike back, but he remained isolated, with Yujiro pretty much putting a boot through him before holding back to avoid a dropkick.
Finally Narita hits a dropkick as he was able to tag out to Umino, who was the proverbial house of fire, taking down Chase with back elbows and a missile dropkick. It’s only enough for a two-count though, and he’s quickly put back in his place with a spin-out neckbreaker from Owens. Regardless, Umino’s able to land a dropkick of his own, before doing the dumb thing and tagging in a barely-rested but still-enthusiastic Narita, who manages to deadlift Owens into a gutwrench Saito-style suplex for a near-fall!
A Boston crab’s next, but quickly escaped as the Bullet Club pair nearly took the win with the backdrop suplex/neckbreaker style of the 3D. Narita tries to nick it with a jack-knife cover, then a roll-up, but he’s quickly superkicked and flattened with a package piledriver as Chase took another win. Ah, undercard Young Lions tags, I’ve missed you. Enjoyable, even if the end result is the biggest lock in wrestling. **¾
Bullet Club OG (Bad Luck Fale, Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, David Finlay & Ayato Yoshida
Well, they stunk up the G1. Let’s see what the OG has changed in the past month. Apart from Tama Tonga trying to dry hump the camera…
Holy crap, David Finlay’s still got his C block trophy! Elgin and Tama start us off… eventually, as Tama realises his wacky rope running and shoulder blocks aren’t going to have an effect. His ‘rana does, but Elgin’s right back up and barges through him, which leads to a Benny Hill chase and another ‘rana attempt… which Elgin blocks as a Gorilla Press slam takes down Tama instead.
Tags bring in Fale and Finlay… and poor David has no help as everyone else drops off the apron to watch him struggle. That exchange goes about as well as you expect, with some (unneeded?) help from Ishimori and Tanga Loa as the referee was being distracted by Fale… and it’s one-way traffic here as Fale stretches Finlay in the ropes. Ishimori and Tama tag in as everyone has their go on Finlay, who had to stay resilient since his partners were offering bugger all help.
Ishimori’s springboard seated senton doesn’t look pretty, but does the job on Finlay for a near-fall, but Finlay’s finally able to rebound with a dropkick before bringing in Juice Robinson. There’s a spinebuster to Tanga Loa, then a clothesline to Tama Tonga before he baited in Fale… and low bridged him to the outside. In comes Yoshida next as the Kaientai Dojo trainee tries to chop his way through Tanga… before succeeding with a clothesline and a PK. That’s good for a near-fall, but Yoshida struggled a bit more against Ishimori as a Parade of Moves suddenly broke out. We calm down as Yoshida tries to sneak a win on Tanga with a roll-up, but from the kick-out he runs into Apeshit as the OGs take the win. This was fun, even if Finlay’s spell in the middle started to drag… **¾
Toa Henare vs. Beretta
Having been on the shelf since February, Beretta’s back in New Japan for his first singles match since he graduated to a heavyweight on last year’s Destruction tour. Yes, Heavyweight Greg is back!
We start with Henare getting taken into the corner before the pair begin to trade elbows, only for a clothesline to send the pair to the outside, with Henare getting the worst of it. A plancha quickly followed from Beretta, who keeps up on Henare by throwing him into the guard railings, before draping him across the rails ahead of a double stomp from the apron.
Back inside, there’s a slingshot elbow drop for a near-fall, before a series of chops had Henare back on the mat… but the New Zealander’s able to mount a comeback, dropping Beretta with a shoulder tackle before whipping him into the corners, as the old Shawn Michaels sell took Beretta out and into a Samoan drop for a near-fall. A suplex is good for another two count before Beretta dropkicks away a flying Henare. We’re back to the elbows, with Henare edging out… but he ends up running into some knees as his search for a spear went awry, giving Beretta another door back in, as the Dudebuster quickly finished it off. A tidy return to singles action for Beretta – not explosive or blow-away, but a nice way to shake off the proverbial ring rust. ***
Suzuki-gun (Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Hirooki Goto & Gedo
We’ve got this to build towards the Taichi/Goto NEVER title match later in the tour, and true to Suzuki-gun form, we have a jumpstart as Taichi chokes out Goto with the mic stand before the bell.
Things quickly turn around though as Gedo and Goto double-team Taichi en route to the sushi pose, but we’re taken outside as we have to have the ringside brawling that pervades literally every Suzuki-gun match, with Taichi taking Goto into the crowd for good measure. Christ, Taichi drills a chair through Goto’s chin, which means Gedo’s left on his own as TAKA just grinds his fist into his forehead back in the ring.
A side headlock gives TAKA more chances to wear down Goto… while Taichi tags in and rakes away at Gedo’s face as the ref’s distracted. Taichi tries for an extremely lax cover, but of course it doesn’t work as Gedo kicks out, then begins a fightback… which quickly ends with some eye raking. Finally Gedo decks Taichi with a palm strike, then makes a tag out to Goto, who quickly drops Taichi with a clothesline before suplexing TAKA onto him. There’s a spinning heel kick into the corner from Goto for a near-fall, but Taichi fights back… ripping off his trousers in the process as he measured up Goto for a roundhouse kick. Instead of landing that though, an Axe bomber connects as my feed stutters. Yay buffering! It returns as Taichi whips TAKA into a cornered Goto, with a PK from TAKA almost putting away the NEVER champion, before TAKA traps Gedo in a crossface. Not the legal man, Taichi goes for the Last Ride, but Goto escapes and counters with an ushigoroshi, before giving one out to TAKA, as the GTR gets the champion the win. This took a long while to get going, but the finishing stretch didn’t quite save it. Typical undercard fare. **¾
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI)
I heard you liked Suzuki-gun undercard tags. Lucky you, you’re getting two back-to-back!
This is building up to the Naito/Suzuki singles match later on in the Destruction tour, and Naito’s got himself a shiny new baseball jersey. Yeah, we’ve a jump start as Suzuki pulls Naito by the hair and throws him to the outside, where the match start, as all eight men brawled around ringside.
Suzuki’s thrown chest-first into the guard railings by Naito, while Desperado hit the ring and eats some headscissors from BUSHI. A similar fate awaited Kanemaru, as BUSHI did all the (junior) heavy lifting for LIJ, before Naito came in and used a seated surfboard on Desperado, using the tassels on Despy’s mask for extra leverage. Naito continued to wear down on Desperado, until he got too close into the ropes and caught by a hanging armbar by Suzuki, who gives him a receipt for earlier, throwing Naito into the railings, then into the announcer’s table. Luckily, Naito ducks a chair, but can’t avoid a second shot as the mayhem continued into the front row, where Naito had to fight to beat the count… even if it meant diving into the path of a four-on-one beating.
From there, Suzuki drags Naito into a rear naked choke, before letting go as Desperado tried to take the easy win. It doesn’t work, so the mugging continues, with Iizuka nibbling away on Naito (oh, and BUSHI too), before Suzuki came in to keep up on the worn-down Ingobernable. A sleeperhold drags Naito back down to the mat as the rest of LIJ were kept at bay at ringside… but he’s able to escape the Gotch piledriver as the comeback finally started in earnest. A leaping forearm finally takes down Suzuki as Naito bring in SANADA… who has to overcome Desperado and Kanemaru. There’s an attempted Paradise lock to Despy, but his partner saves him… only to get tied up himself! Desperado gets him free, only for a dropkick to take down the junior tag champions, as EVIL gets the tag in. He goes straight for Kanemaru with a clothesline, but he can’t get Darkness Falls… and we’re back to shenanigans as Iizuka hits him in the ropes with a chair as the referee was otherwise distracted.
EVIL’s thrown to the proverbial wolves, with Iizuka choking him with a rope ahead of a PK from Suzuki for a near-fall, and now we’ve got Iizuka’s funky oven glove… which LIJ block as everyone scrambles for a spell. There’s more biting from Iizuka, but in the end it’s overcome as the Magic Killer from EVIL and SANADA puts down Suzuki-gun’s teething grappler for the win. Beyond the usual Suzuki-gun tropes, this was quite fun helped by the strong thread of Suzuki/Naito that ran through it… as long as their singles match isn’t a damp squib, this should be fun. ***½
Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
This was Honma’s first match in Korakuen Hall for over eighteen months, as his comeback from injury continued.
However, the big focus on this match was between Okada and Tanahashi, as those two prepared for their latest showdown, with Kobe playing host to a “preliminary match” with Tanahashi’s G1 Climax-won title shot on the line. There’s not much in their initial forays, as both men quickly tagged out to give us a shot with Honma and YOSHI-HASHI. Those two traded chops like they were going out of style, but Honma just decks him with a shoulder tackle before we get a slam and… Yano dragging him to the outside to avoid a Kokeshi.
Everyone else ends up on the outside as Yano’s removed a turnbuckle pad, and while Tanahashi’s thrown into a table, YOSHI-HASHI’s seemingly forgotten how to do anything else but chops. We’re quickly back inside as YOSHI-HASHI whips Honma into the exposed corner… as does Toru Yano. Ah, the days of fair play are over, as Yano whips all three opponents into the exposed corner, weakening Honma some more as Okada came in and hit a slingshot senton off the apron.
Honma mounts a comeback, but he misses a Kokeshi… as does Okada, and you got the sense someone’s more used to that than the other! YOSHI-HASHI’s back to try and take advantage, but Honma’s got some chop, only to get cornered and squashed with a lariat for a near-fall. That clothesline looked to have done some damage, as Honma was slow in getting back to his feet, but he was able to block a Bunker Buster attempt and counter with a suplex. Tags bring us back to Okada and Tanahashi, with the latter succeeding on a Slingblade and a standing senton for a near-fall. Okada retaliates with a flapjack, only to get caught with the Shake, Rattle and Roll neckbreaker, then another Slingblade as both men were left flat on the mat. Makabe gets the tag in and goes right for Yano with the mounted punches, before a clothesline puts him down for a near-fall.
Honma’s back as Yano’s triple-teamed, taking back elbows, dropkicks and lariats in the corner… and Honma’s itching for a Kokeshi, which he eventually delivers for a near-fall as Okada and YOSHI-HASHI broke up the cover. From there, Makabe and Honma sandwich Yano with lariats, before Honma’s attempt at the Kokeshi Otoshi sit-out piledriver backfired, with Yano eventually snatching the win with his typical low blow and roll-up. A fun tag, but with Honma nowhere near 100% you’ve got to figure he’s going to be taking a lot of falls for a little while. ***½
Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay vs. Golden☆Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi)
Having beaten Kenny Omega in the G1, Ishii’s taking his title shot in Hiroshima next weekend… so you know the drill here. As for Ospreay and Ibushi… well, why not?
Ospreay and Ibushi get us underway, but their opening tie-up just ends in the ropes with Ibushi doing the Okada-like “mock clean break.” Second time around, Ospreay and Ibushi evade each other’s offence, until a ‘rana took Ospreay into the corner, as the pair continued their high-paced feints until we hit the indy’riffic double dropkick standoff. Not sure why Kenny was patting Kota on the head like a little puppy…
Both men tagged out, as Ishii just charges into Omega, with those two picking up where they left off in the G1 – and it’s Ishii who’s all over the champion with chops and headbutts. Ibushi returns as they double-team Ishii, with a Kotaro Krusher sending the Stone Pitbull to the outside… but he’s back in to charge away Kenny as they went for the Terminator dive. Ospreay and Ishii take over from there, with a corkscrew moonsault off of Ishii’s back almost getting Will the win. Omega tries to fight back with some thunderous chops, before a backdrop suplex put his next challenger on the mat – allowing Ibushi to tag back in. There’s a rear chinlock from Kota to keep Ishii down, as the Golden☆Lovers started to look rather comfortable here.
More chops and elbows from Omega have Ishii on jelly legs, but not enough to stop himself from being scoop slammed, as Ishii gets the tag out to Ospreay, who rared into life, catching Omega with an over-the-top 619 and a standing shooting star press. Omega hit back with a chop, before he ducks an enziguiri and caught Will with a snap Dragon as the Golden☆Lovers hit form once again, taking to the air with the Cross Slash duelling moonsaults to the outside.
Back in the ring, Ospreay flips out of an assisted German suplex as he scored with a handspring overhead kick to both of the Golden☆Lovers, before sending himself outside with a Sasuke special into the pair of them! Ishii returns to help out, as a powerbomb/springboard forearm gets a near-fall, before Ishii took his shots at Omega again, only to get stopped in his tracks by Ibushi, who finally took the bigger man down with some kicks.
Another springboard forearm from Ospreay is caught by Omega, who just tosses him with a standing fallaway slam to the outside… and with Ishii also down on the mat, the Golden☆Lovers teased the Golden Shower. Get your mind out of the gutter… the duelling 450 splashes are stopped though, as Ishii gets up and fought back with the help of Ospreay, with a sliding lariat almost putting away the IWGP champion. A V-Trigger stops another lariat, but Ishii hits it at the second attempt for a near-fall, before he’s sent into the ropes with another Dragon suplex. We’ve more V-Triggers before Ishii’s forced to wriggle out of a One Winged Angel, returning fire with a headbutt before another V-Trigger ensured both men collapsed.
Ibushi and Ospreay return to trade blows, with the pair clonking each other with elbows as if they were heavyweights. Kota ducks a hook kick, before he’s caught with an enziguiri and a Ligerbomb after Ospreay flipped out from a lariat, almost winning the match in the process! The Robinson special’s next for Ospreay, who then called for an OsCutter… but Omega’s back to cut it off… and take a Stundog Millionaire for his troubles.
Ospreay’s got to avoid Kamigoye, only to get caught with a diving uppercut in the ropes as Omega saved Ibushi from an OsCutter. Ishii dives in to break up the pin after a deadlift German suplex took Ospreay in from the apron, but with Ospreay pretty much a dead weight from here, all he can do is grit his teeth and take the Golden Trigger as this fantastic main event came to an end. We expected this tag to be special, even if it was on a “road to” show… and my word, it delivered. We’re getting Omega/Ishii soon… can we add Ospreay/Ibushi to that list too? ****¼
You might be tempted to write this off as “just a road show”, but this is a show you really need to see – if only to cherry pick the main event. The undercard was mostly in line with what you expect, as New Japan resumed business as usual after the G1, building up to the trio of Destruction shows later this month… but I cannot understate this enough. WATCH THE MAIN EVENT.