This is the third televised show from NJPW’s Road to Destruction this year, and the first with a static camera. The show comes to us from Aichi Toyohashi City Gymnasium; an airy, high ceilinged gym, with a tastefully painted lime-green balcony, and, I’m afraid to say: visible basketball hoops. It’s a sweltering evening in Toyohashi, the crowd a flutter of paper fans. The large balcony windows frame the sunset as the night goes on.
Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu vs Beretta and Rocky Romero
The openers on this tour have been a highlight so far, and I was especially eager to see this match. However, I probably ought to have predicted that RPG Vice aren’t at their most motivated here, and sadly, this isn’t a performance anywhere close to equaling their IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Title matches earlier in the year. Conversely, Komatsu and Tanaka are industrious and engaged as always, working overtime to make this entertaining. Komatsu is a shining star, powering out of grounded bridges, dropping his unfeasibly beautiful hurricanrana, and generally showing Beretta and Romero up something chronic.
A new viewer with no context to this match would find this a weirdly imbalanced match-up: Tanaka and Komatsu dominate the ring right up until the finish. On a variation to the Boston Crab/German Suplex spot that the Lions pulled on reDRragon in their last couple of clashes, at one point here, Tanaka has Beretta in a deep crab, and Rocky tries half-heartedly to kick him off and free his partner. Tanaka stays resolute until the kicks become too much of a distracting annoyance, and then slowly stands up, proceeding to floor Romero with a single forearm which knocks him to the ground.
All of these dramatic power displays from the Lion team made the predictable ending feel disjointed and disappointing. RPG hit Tanaka with the Strong Zero for the win. **½
Good stuff from Shohei #njdest #njpwworld pic.twitter.com/OEHIWufDPQ
— Roy (@narukiroy) September 20, 2015
Tiger Mask, Jushin Thunder Liger, and Yuji Nagata vs Jay White, David Finlay, and Manabu Nakanishi
Finlay and White exuberantly leaping to the ring, pumped up and raring to go, followed by a slowly ambling, expressionless Nakanishi, is a hilarious image: but also, sort of a reflection for this whole match in general.
Crowd-pleasingly, the big men start this one off, but after they’ve got their grunting chops and initial staredown out of the way, the match becomes more animated. There’s still bad blood between the big cats and the Young Lions, but Liger is more playful than grumpy today, adding theatrics to his moves and wrestling like a man unburdened by animosity.
I’m always fascinated by the role of Nakanishi in these sorts of matches. He lumbers around, throwing gentle chops that barely connect, and everyone sells them like they’re agonising. The hopelessly diminutive referee throws his entire body weight into holding Nakanishi’s leg to try to prevent him stomping in and interfering with the other match, selling Nakanishi’s size and ferocity. Yet, Nakanishi barely makes any concessions to selling himself. As much as it pains me to admit, as over as he is, and despite all the allowances the other wrestlers grant him, he is a severe weak point here, and probably drags the match down almost an entire star.
This plays out a lot more like the dynamic you expect from Young Lion tag-matches: youthful enthusiasm vs battle-tested experience. Jay White’s hubris causes him to get swept into an armbar by Tiger Mask, and finally, get superplexed for the win. **¼
Tiger hypes his NWA match on the 23rd again after the bell, reiterating that he believes it will outshine the other title matches on the card.
Mascara Dorada and Tomoaki Honma vs Gedo and Tomohiro Ishii
Dorada’s flips are almost always impressive, but his style doesn’t click for me, and I feel that it’s particularly jarring here. When the match highlights are Ishii and Honma crashing lariats into each other until one man finally collapses exhausted, Dorada wobbly navigating the top rope and bouncing off things doesn’t really fit or feel at all threatening.
The tension between feuding partners on this show as a whole doesn’t seem nearly as electric as the two Korakuen Hall shows previous, and I think partially it’s because the feuds have been distributed much more sparsely. Any kind of interest between Ishii and Honma here is instantly negated by the uninteresting spots between Gedo and Dorada.
There’s a teased count-out spot here, with Honma rolling in at 19, but the fixed camera reduced the drama of that somewhat, because you couldn’t see where Honma was, or the state of him. For all I know, he could have been sat comfortably at ringside; or gasping, nearly dead.
Honma pins Gedo with a top rope Kokeshi which falls about six inches off target. *¾
Double missile Kokeshi! #njdest #njpwworld pic.twitter.com/QIqHGhBD56
— Roy (@narukiroy) September 20, 2015
Ryusuke Taguchi and Katsuyori Shibata vs Juice Robinson and Tetsuya Naito
I really wanted to give him a chance, but I’ve made up my mind: I find Juice Robinson an embarrassing figure of a man. He enters the ring here doing exaggerated double-handed waves to each side of the ring. He has multi-coloured handkerchiefs attached to the back of his kneepads, like a Morris dancer. While waiting for Naito to join him the ring, he kills time by blowing kisses at the crowd.
Naito seems quite sympathetic. I would put off teaming with Robinson too.
When Naito finally does arrive, having decided which side of the ring he wants to enter by, forcing Yohei to longsufferingly lower each set of ropes in turn, Robinson blocks Shibata’s entrance from the viewer by having a heated debate with Naito in the middle of the ring. There’s lots of finger-pointing, and I’m struck by how Robinson is acting really quite arrogant and certainly beyond his station of a brand new Junior who’s doing Young Boy duty for main events. Whereas Ibushi and Tanahashi — wrestlers of far higher status than Robinson — handle tagging with Naito with a resigned sort of frustrated dignity, Robinson lets his nasty, impatient, passive-aggressive side shine through immediately.
Shortly into this match, Robinson patronisingly picks up the tag rope and hands it to Naito, and then proceeds to throw his hands up exasperated whenever Naito wanders off from his designated corner, or does anything Naito-ish at all. Robinson even throws Naito’s hat into the crowd, petulantly. If Robinson is supposed to be a babyface, which he is– checking if the referee is okay, etc– why is he behaving like such a disrespectful upstart?
Juice is over-acting this, and it’s spoiling all of the subtlety and nuance of the Naito character. On top of that, his weird wrestling completely distracts from the Shibata/Naito interactions. Just as things ought to be picking up, Juice picks up Taguchi for an aeroplane spin, which goes on and on, and then just flops..? He seems to lose his grip, and Taguchi slides down on to the floor. Robinson follows this up with a clumsy, dizzy cannonball.
The finish nearly redeems this dire match, and spotlights exactly how excellent Naito is, in spite of everything. Shibata has Juice in a chickenwing facelock, and Naito is poised on the top turnbuckle to break it up, but doesn’t: not until Juice has tapped, and the bell has been rung. THEN Naito zooms down from the top rope to dropkick Shibata. The spot illustrates simply, at Robinson’s expense, that match results aren’t important to Naito. Shibata and Naito viciously throw each other into barricades for a post-match brawl which is more enjoyable than the whole bell-to-bell combined.
Naito kicks and whips everyone he bumps into on his exit from the match: casualties include a stunned Komatsu, and the ring announcer, who gets knocked clean out of his seat. *¼
Toru Yano and Kazuchika Okada vs Cody Hall and Doc Gallows
It’s not controversial to say that these are the worst two out of Bullet Club: and possibly the entire roster. CHAOS make the Biz Cliz dregs look like buffoons here, and rightly so. How is Gallows supposed to be a credible monster threat when he has to stop to pull his shorts up every few seconds?
Okada hits the Rainmaker on Hall for the win. *¼
Togi Makabe and Hirooki Goto vs YOSHI-HASHI and Shinsuke Nakamura
Meiyu Tag haven’t seen each other at all this tour, both being embroiled in separate feuds which don’t cross paths. I highlight this because it’s easy to forget that Goto is a good tag team wrestler, when his performances on this tour are more indicative of a frustrated singles wrestler who is bored of makeshift tag-teams.
While totally fine, there is little in the way of fire or drama in this match– even when all the men spill out of the ring and YOSHI-HASHI tries to choke Makabe out with his stick, the crowd aren’t particularly interested.
Makabe gets the pin with a King Kong Knee Drop on YOSHI-HASHI. **½
KUSHIDA, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga, Karl Anderson, and Bad Luck Fale
A very similar main event to to the one that’s had some place on the card throughout this entire tour, but with Gallows traded out for Tonga. As much as I welcome Gallows being pushed out of the main event, it does make Tonga an odd man out in this match, not feuding with anyone on the opposing side.
If you’ve seen this match-up on either of the previous two shows on NJ World, then this isn’t quite as good: it feels toned down, and lacking any big exciting spots. My favourite part is early on, when Omega tags in Fale but KUSHIDA insists on staying in the ring, valiantly attempting to suplex Fale, as if he’s forgotten his own size. Tanahashi’s frustrated waving from the apron is really amusing.
Tanahashi gets the pin on Tama Tonga with a High Fly Flow. **¼
Final Thoughts: This is a diluted card, with weaker tag matches than the previous shows on this tour. No one’s giving 100% as they approach the big Destruction cards of the upcoming week, understandably, and it shows. Ibushi was also sorely missed from this card (and worryingly, was taken off his DDT show from the same night, due to injury). I’m hard-pressed to really recommend any performance here, so this may be a show to skip.