New Japan Pro Wrestling
Road to Destruction – Night 6
September 11, 2015

Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

The second event to be broadcast in the series of hype-building small shows preceeding the two Destruction events later this month: this week’s “Road to Destruction” comes to us once again from Korakuen Hall.

Yohei Komatsu vs David Finlay

Finlay gets another singles opener, and it starts out very similarly to last week’s bout against Jay White: tense, serious, and technical. The crowd are firmly behind Komatsu as he escapes from Finlay’s submission maneuvers with flashy kip-ups and dazzling quickness. Early on, though, a sequence fumbles a little, with Finlay failing to grasp Komatsu properly on to his shoulders after rebounding on the ropes, and then Komatsu missing a dropkick by a few inches immediately after. The crowd titter awkwardly, as it’s obvious that exchange was supposed to be far smoother. The crowd (and I) really want this to be okay though, so as the pair get back into the swing of things, and start trading elbows, chops, and heavier blows, rapturous applause greets every exchange. Finlay tries the stretch muffler that finished off White, twisting and contorting Komatsu into unhealthy looking shapes, but he manages to escape the situation by niftily climbing up Finlay and sliding down him for a roll up attempt. Komatsu ends up getting the win with a half crab. I enjoyed this match, although it didn’t feel as polished as Finlay vs White did, and suffered from some occasional clumsiness. **

Tiger Mask and Jushin Thunder Liger vs Jay White and Sho Tanaka

The exciting wildcard variable of the undercard is always how they’re going to distribute the Young Lions into tag matches. There’s the tried and trusty veteran/Lion combo team, as seen last week: but then occasionally they’ll go for all-veteran team vs all-Lion team, and I like that even better.

There’s some beef here before Team TigerLiger even make it to the ring, Tanaka climbing the ringpost and glaring at his opponents, and then Liger having to be held back from getting all up in the face of the Young Lions. Lots of big cats in this match. Liger appears utterly furious at Tanaka, audibly growling at him, and Tanaka even holds a poised closed fist above him at one point, before thinking better of it and switching to a chop after serious glares from referee Tiger Hattori (ANOTHER BIG CAT). White and Tiger Mask have a much more civilised segment in the ring, but when Jay knocks Liger off the apron, Liger climbs into the ring physically fuming, grumbling and vibrating with anger. It’s weird how it’s obvious when he’s scowling under the mask — I think it’s something in the way he holds eye contact — but his bad mood transcends masks (and language barrier) here.

This whole match has a real intensity to it uncharacteristic of early-card tags, and I particularly enjoy the way that White positions himself as the strategist of his team, constantly watching for interruptions to Tanaka’s offence, positioning himself always where he’s most useful for his teammate. Tanaka is more reckless, and it’s this which eventually gets him superplexed by Tiger Mask and into a submission for a tapout loss.

Afterwards, reluctant handshakes are shared, and Liger cuts a brief promo indicating his support for Tiger Mask’s upcoming title match against NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion Steve Anthony, and amicably expressing his desire to compete for the title when Tiger Mask wins it. ***1/4

Juice Robinson, Mascara Dorada, Ryusuke Taguchi, Manabu Nakanishi, and Yuji Nagata vs Beretta, Rocky Romero, Gedo, YOSHI-HASHI, and Toru Yano

CHAOS come out to the Yano-composed theme song from the latest CHAOS DVD, and the man himself can’t help but sing along as he leads the team to the ring. It’s a pretty funky tune, and even Rocky Romero doesn’t look too sad about being robbed of his usual spotlight RPG Vice theme performance.

The show becomes a lot more light-hearted in this match, with Beretta looking petrified facing the emotionless monolith of Nakanishi. Romero and Dorada race each other round the ring in an impossibly fast sequence culminating in a Dorada backbreaker, and Romero scuttling back to hug Gedo for safety. While Taguchi throwing a seemingly endless succession of butt-butts does cause my interest to drop off dramatically, this match continues to be fast paced and a lot of fun, with CHAOS in particular on fine form. Eventually CHAOS manage to corner Taguchi and end his reign of butt-based terror, and YOSHI-HASHI holds him position while Gedo lays down a series of kicks to his most deadly weapon.

A mid-match miscommunication causes a fourway CHAOS faceoff where it looks for a second like tensions are beginning to fray between the team! Luckily, Romero resolves things and they all hug it out, presumably having gained excellent teamwork skills while bathing nude together during the filming of CHAOS Campus.

YOSHI-HASHI gets the win with the Loose Explosion senton on Robinson, having been least involved in the more comical spots in the match. ***

Kazushi Sakuraba and Kazuchika Okada vs Cody Hall and Tama Tonga

A variety of different voice pitches of crowd members are calling out in support of Cody Hall here, which is just mindboggling. Okada’s at his most smug and cocky, trying to disconcert Hall just by shooting him a disarming smirk. My favourite parts of this match are when Sakuraba and Tonga end up entangling — sometimes literally — because Tonga is always shocked at Sakuraba’s ability to scoop him into a submission from any position. When Sakuraba succumbs to his inevitable mid-tag-match hobby of disappearing without a trace from the apron, and the Biz Cliz boys gang up on Okada, it’s not quite as interesting, because you know neither men are going to pin the champ. Okada taps out Hall with a pretty half-heartedly applied Red Ink. **

KUSHIDA, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kenny Omega, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Bad Luck Fale

The exact main event of last week’s “Road to Destruction” event is recycled here in this post-interval match.

Further proof for those of us who believe Omega is a poor fit in Bullet Club: he too-sweets an adorable tiny child squeaking “Kennnyyy!!!”, instead of callously denying the youngster a too-sweet like the Bucks would have done. Anderson emerges to this match in a puffy camo hooded vest and no trousers, and it’s frankly one of the most offensive outfits I’ve ever seen.

KUSHIDA and Omega open, and while KUSHIDA has a sincerity even in his playfulness, Omega just doesn’t seem to know when to tone it down. Kenny Omega was one half of my favourite wrestling match of all time, and when he’s at his best, I utterly adore him: but even the most stalwart of Omega apologists have to feel a little bit embarrassed by his performance in NJPW sometimes. Too much gesticulating and exaggerated facials, which make him less empathetic a character rather than more. I feel like these two have the potential for such high quality matches, if only Omega would take it more seriously.

The match quickly descends into a ringside brawl, much like last week’s affair. After threatening Tanahashi with the Bad Luck Fall, Fale finds a chair to drag into the ring and sit on while the face team regroup, which would be a cool badass move if it wasn’t for the fact that he genuinely looks like he needs a rest.

An over-reliance on general Bullet Club shenanigans casts a shadow over the rest of this match, with plentiful choking from Gallows with his signature noose, and Omega unravelling his wrist-tape to choke Tanahashi as well. There are some spots that probably sounded better in theory in practice, like Anderson and Gallows both piling piggy-back style on to Omega for one large clumsy splash on KUSHIDA.

Anderson and Gallows perform the Magic Killer on Kojima for the win, trading back their loss from last week.

Katsuyori Shibata and Togi Makabe vs Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi

I’m smitten with the idea of Shibata being irrationally consumed by hatred for Naito: he goes to bed angry, he wakes up angry, he brushes his teeth angrily, scowling into the mirror and muttering “Naito…”, and ends up angrily spraying toothpaste over himself, etc etc. He’s a man who bears a grudge, and Naito wasting his time and teasing him is a dangerous game.

One thing that gives me a thrill in puro is when a wrestler attempts an offensive approach that clearly isn’t their speciality, just out of pure spite to try to one-up a rival. Kota launches into a series of furious elbows on Makabe at the beginning of this match, and while it’s obvious that Ibushi was never going to come out on top, the fact that he wants to do it, rather than his more standard flippy kicks combos, illustrates where he stands with Makabe at the moment.

The chemistry between all of the participants in this match is electric; between rivals, and even between uneasy tag-partners Naito and Ibushi. At one point Ibushi makes a big show of holding Shibata in a submission where Naito can see, and Naito merely rolls his eyes, unimpressed. They can’t seem to decide whether to work together or not, and their aggressive tag-demanding and glowering betrays a wealth of strain.

Shibata gets a KO victory with a glorious sleeper hold on Naito, and refuses to break it up when the bell rings. Ibushi lashes out at Makabe for more post-match brawl. ****

Tomoaki Honma and Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii and Shinsuke Nakamura

Honma and Ishii have a back-and-forth of chops here which goes on for seemingly hours, ebbing and flowing and becoming more and more improbable that neither man’s chest cavity has just caved in from the pressure. This match has less fire than the previous one, with a much slower pace that seems ill-suited to a tag-team main event.

Goto and Nakamura’s segments of this match are fine — well, good, really — and in a vacuum, are awesome wrestling. It’s just getting a bit tired going through the motions of these two again and again, and I can’t find anything fresh to say about them, which is frustrating. Goto and Ishii are a much more fun pair, in their brief interactions here, and I find myself wishing that the upcoming high-profile match was a rematch of their G1 bout instead.

Towards the end, the nearfalls start getting closer and the crowd throw their favour behind Honma with deafening “KOKESHI” chants. Alas, Ishii gets the pin on Honma with a brainbuster. ***

Final Thoughts: A very watchable show, retreading a lot of ground from last week. If you want fuel for the fire of your favourite Destruction feuds, enjoy the second half or check out the first half for some fun comedy and Young Lions action.