New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road to Destruction: Day Eight
September 15th 2014
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo

Before we get into the meat of this review it would be remiss of this site to not mention this: between the televised show from the Korakuen on the 5th, NJPW have televised two events from the Destruction tour. Neither show had any particular bearing on storyline but are at least worthy of a recap.

Road to Destruction: Day Two (Blue Justice V)

Togane Arena, Togane, 7th September 2014

  • Sho Tanaka beat Yohei Komatsu in a Young Lions opener.
  • Taichi defeated Maximo after hitting him with his mic stand and rolling him up.
  • Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV and Ryusuke Taguchi bested BUSHI and Time Splitters (KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley). Taguchi continued to show submission smarts, tapping BUSHI with an ankle lock. Taguchi and KUSHIDA got into a shoving match after the decision.
  • Toru Yano and Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero) beat Suzuki-gun (TAKA, El Desperado and Takashi Iizuka) by DQ. Iizuka used a chair in front of the referee.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma downed Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito and Captain New Japan. Makabe got the pin on Captain. Goto and Makabe went at each other after the bell and had to be separated.
  • Bullet Club (Karl Anderson, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, Doc Gallows and Tama Tonga) beat CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI and Gedo). Anderson over Gedo with a Gun Stun.
  • Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi beat TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) in the main event. The show was a charity event ‘produced’ by Yuji Nagata in his home town of Togane, so Nagata took the win with a Backdrop Hold on Kojima to send the fans home happy. Post-match, TenCozy reminded us that when it comes to Destruction, they will not lose again with the NWA Tag Titles on the line.

Road to Destruction: Day Seven

Kuki City Gymnasium, Kuki, 13th September 2014.

  • Yohei Komatsu got his win back on Sho Tanaka via submission.
  • Suzuki-gun (TAKA, Taichi and El Desperado) beat Alex Shelley, BUSHI and Maximo. Maximo has it won when TAKA scoops the ref. Taichi attacks Maximo with the mic stand and El Desperado hits his Taichi-assisted Guitarra finisher.
  • Jushin Liger and TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) got the win over Tiger Mask IV, Yuji Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi. Tiger got isolated and Tenzan tapped him.
  • Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka) beat CHAOS (Toru Yano and Alex Koslov). A wild brawl ended when Suzuki Gotch-styled the hell out of Koslov.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe defeat Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito, Ryusuke Taguchi and Captain New Japan. TOMOAKI HONMA HITS THE TOP ROPE KOKESHI. EVERYTHING ELSE IS A FOOTNOTE. (Makabe pins CNJ with King Kong Knee).
  • CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI and Gedo) are victorious over Bullet Club (Karl Anderson, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, Doc Gallows and Tama Tonga). Nakamura Boma-Yes the head clean off Tonga’s shoulders. YOSHI-HASHI and Okada booked strongly and perform some tag team manoeuvres ahead of their IWGP Tag Team shot.

Both shows are entertaining if inessential viewing. The latter has no commentary either, which some people might want to take as an opportunity to practice dubbing over and submitting to New Japan if they’re as serious as they sound about finding English-speaking commentators. You never know…

Anyway. Back to the Korakuen – and the final televised outing before the two Destruction supercard shows. Today in Japan is Respect for the Aged Day (Keirō no Hi – thanks to @Strigga for that info). For some reason that means that every promotion in the country is running a show of some importance. Presumably the aged in Japan really like to enjoy a day of additional respect by watching people pretending to beat each other up. And who could blame them?

Kota Ibushi, who rarely performs on tour shows, and Katsuyori Shibata, who almost never performs on tour shows, have also been coaxed out to lend their support to the respecting of all aged persons. They’d better rattle through the show quickly though – All Japan are running a show straight afterward in the same hall.

Maximo and Yohei Komatsu vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Taichi)

A fun comedy opener pitting the newest Mexican temp and the Young Lion against the newest Jr. Heavyweight Tag challengers. Taichi’s introduction is getting funnier each time I see it, walking to the ring miming a song really terribly (not to mention that the song’s vocal is multi-tracked) as El Desperado mimes guitar to the mostly organ-driven ballad.

Neither Suzuki-gun man wants to take on Maximo owing to gayness apparently being contractable within the confines of a wrestling ring. Komatsu takes over, allowing the match to start. In his infinite heelishness, Taichi offers the rookie a handicap start like a freestyle wrestling match, getting down on all fours. Well, you wouldn’t guess who tags in to take advantage of this homoerotic scene? The laughs!

I’m being a little uncharitable actually; Taichi and Maximo have a history that spans more than just this tour and it shows in their chemistry. They anchor a fine outing that never lulls or drags. The heels win with the Team Guitarra move, though they flirt with disqualification throughout, at one memorable moment leading the referee to go steaming in with boots to break up the cheating. **3/4

Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Tiger Mask IV and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA) and BUSHITeam Liger & co. work subtly heel in this encounter to expose the important dynamics in play going into next week’s Destruction events; Taguchi potentially matching KUSHIDA as a grappler, and Shelley being beaten from pillar to post by heels who targeting his weak shoulder. Liger even wields a chair at one point.

And whilst it’s all expertly done, spot of the match goes to someone for whom the shows in Kobe and Okayama will be spent in effectively throwaway matches such as these: BUSHI. Halfway through the match, Liger is caught up against the railings, so BUSHI sprints across the ring and suicide dives to the outside, pinning Liger hard. So far, so standard. Except BUSHI gets up, rolls back into the ring, and then does it again.

The match largely exceeded expectations, with everyone coming away having impressed anyone who isn’t completely jaded. KUSHIDA got temporary revenge after being forced to tap by Taguchi by taking the win after a complex roll-up sequence. However, roll-up wins in Japan are generally thought of as technical, rather than moral, victories, so Taguchi still has an edge going into the Kobe show on the 21st. ***

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi and Tama Tonga) vs. CHAOS (Gedo and Tomohiro Ishii) The best news here is that Tomohiro Ishii is back to something like full fitness after hurting his shoulder during the G1 in the course of being an absolute hero/a candidate for the insane asylum. Last week he looked to be moving gingerly but here he roars and bashes and works to his injured side and generally appears to be an absolute boss.

Ishii has only light duties at the Destruction events, so this match serves to fuel the ongoing Bullet Club vs. CHAOS war (score: 3755-3652, in favour of whom I can’t remember) and give Yujiro a moment to look pretty good ahead of his NEVER Openweight defence against CHAOS-ite YOSHI-HASHI.

Whilst a bit more rugged and hard-hitting than the openers (pro), it doesn’t quite click to the same degree (con). Of all wrestlers in NJPW, Tama Tonga has impressed the least and Yujiro has annoyed the most. The latter continues to do so, dispatching Ishii with a Buckle Bomb and then hitting Tokyo Pimps on Gedo. At the 2 count, Yujiro totally Scott Steiners Gedo, pulling his shoulders from the mat and hooking him into his other finisher – Miami Shine – for a dominant-looking win. **1/2

Toru Yano and Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku and Takashi Iizuka)

What is the name of the soap that a newly-handsome Moe Szyslak gets hired for? Ah yes: It Never Ends. Also starring Toru Yano, Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka. I invite VOW readers to comment beneath with an over/under on when this feud will end. I think the blow-off will come at Wrestle Kingdom 9.

To be fair this is a serviceable match that features the more mobile members of the match (all the ones not listed in the previous paragraph) to a greater degree. Imagine being a fantasy Vince McMahon for a moment and watching this match as TAKA whips around the ring at 100mph and blurting out “hey, who is that kid with the fringe, I like him!” and then being told that that was someone you signed nearly 20 years ago.

Referee Hattori has a mild blip, not ending the match even though Yano has failed to beat a 20 count. The real ending comes when, after taking a train of lariats and slaps from everyone in the Suzuki-gun unit (including Taichi and El Desperado), Yano hits his technical masterpiece finisher of a slug to the nuts and a roll-up. **1/4

TenCozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan), Tetsuya Naito and Tomoaki Honma vs. Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanshi, Kota Ibushi and Captain New Japan

Going into this match it appears plain as day that the central tension that will be hyped is between Nagata/Nakanishi and TenCozy ahead of their NWA Tag Title match. That element is certainly there, but the in ring action starts to subtly tell other stories too.

Tetsuya Naito will tag with Kota Ibushi in Kobe against AJ Styles and Tama Tonga. Here, however, they take an extended spotlight moment toward the back end of the match where they attempt to one-up the other as opponents and inject some flair into a match generally dominated by strikes and brawling. Perhaps seeds have been sown here…

This was a pretty good and rowdy eight man match mainly featuring all the guys getting their well-known moves in; corner chops, demonic possession armbreaker, Mongolian chops, etc. For the second time in a week a miracle occurs when Tomoaki Honma sets up the win with a successful top-rope Kokeshi, with the icing on the cake provided by Naito’s Stardust Press on Captain New Japan for the three count. ***

Bullet Club (Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows and Bad Luck Fale) vs. CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI)

Another match that plays with multiple tensions ahead of the weekend, with Okada defending his Wrestle Kingdom IWGP Heavyweight shot against Karl Anderson, Nakamura challenging Fale for his IWGP Intercontiental Championship and YOSHI-HASHI teaming with Okada for Gallows and Anderson’s IWGP Tag Team Championship. Arguably these results are all telegraphed to hell (Okada to defend the briefcase, Gallows/Gun to retain the titles, Fale narrow favourite to retain also) given recent results and strong booking for everyone, but it doesn’t stop this match from delivering.

YOSHI-HASHI continues to make progress at the rank above jobber. He gets slapped around for a lot of the match, sure, but he returns fire and generates heat with raised levels of passion and intensity. In many respects the match is to spotlight the NEVER challenger by positing him as a credible lower-card title wearer, but the weak link in a team with Okada. Which is fair enough, given that one won the G1 Climax and the other wasn’t even in it.

The match is good in patches but across the card and tour I’m developing multi-man tag fatigue. Nakamura and Fale rumble inconsequentially in the mid-match drift and Okada takes the win for CHAOS by clobbering Gallows with that sweet finisher of his, teasing the tag victory at the weekend. Aside from Anderson’s out-of-nowhere victory over Okada in the G1, there’s nothing here or elsewhere on this tour to even loosely cement the idea that Anderson can steal the briefcase from a rampant Rainmaker. **3/4

Ace To King (Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe) vs. Meiyu Tag (Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata)

The history here is dense. Shibata and Tanahashi hate each other. Goto and Makabe hate each other. It isn’t recent hate either. These hate-pairs have pretty hated each other for over a year. As teams, they met at Back to the Yokohama Arena for the IWGP Tag Team #1 Contendership, with Ace to King going on to lose their shot after picking up the win in a pretty fierce encounter. It isn’t rivalry like Tanahashi has with Nakamura. It is hate. In all cases it is a hatred of persona, of style, of history and of conduct. In the cauldron of the Korakuen, even on a house show, there’s always the chance of more.

How the feuds play out in ring offer a nice contrast. Makabe pairs with rival Goto for approximately half the match, with Shibata and Tanahashi contesting the remainder. The former rivarly is physical and macho, a freight train full of hay speeding toward a Mack truck full of oil leading to a presumed explosion of both and at the very least two major casualties and no real winner.

The latter has more of a psychological dimension, played out as it has in interviews and the pages of an autobiography. The ring work reflects this turn of events in which Tanahashi characterises Shibata as a one-dimensional basher by having Shibata out-think Tanahashi, getting inside his mind by using his wrenching Dragon Screw. Clearly rattled, Tanahashi performs Shibata’s corner forearms and his own second-turnbuckle Senton with 95% less ceremony than usual.

Whatever the outcome of the match, it makes you care about the singles matches happening between both pairs (both on the relatively stuffed Kobe show). As a bout it is probably on a par with their PPV outing in May, clicking better than that show, but wrestled well within the capabilities of the performers.

Goto takes the win over Makabe with a Shouten Kai delivered after a PK by Shibata. As Makabe sees the lights, Shibata chokes Tanahashi out in a position where he is seated to view the defeat in action, a delicious and devilish touch that rubs salt in the wounds of both men. Crunching and classy. ****

Final Thoughts: 

Compared to other cards through the year, I hadn’t entirely been sold on the potential of Destruction. Indeed, the New Beginning event was split over two cards that contained a lot of boggy filler (particularly the event in Hiroshima) to wade through ahead of the good stuff. This go home show should restore/heighten your faith in the title matches and the upper card at the very least, with no examples of chemistry or heat failure. Are the shows likely to be Show of the Year candidates? Probably not. Do I have reasonable faith they’ll deliver your money’s worth. Yes.