New Japan Pro Wrestling
Destruction in Fukushima
September 10, 2017
Azuma Gymnasium

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

  • John Carroll: John has founded not one, but two podcasts here at Voices of Wrestling (@openvoicegate & @wrestleomakase). You would think that sounds like a lot of work, but given Open the Voice Gate’s rather lax recording schedule it really isn’t. Follow them @toshanshuinla if you want to hear all about My Hero Academia, their current obsession, and more specifically why Todoroki is a much cuter rival than Bakugou.
  • Taylor Maimbourg: Taylor is one of the newer writers at Voices of Wrestling, writing about EVOLVE and New Japan, and appearing on podcasts whenever anyone is foolish enough to let him.  You can follow him on Twitter @tamaimbo for random tweets about a potpourri of wrestling subjects.
  • Matt McEwen: One of the quieter voices of wrestling, you can follow Matt @shining_wiz13 for random outrages, or find him on Untappd for a disturbingly extensive beer list.

Hirai Kawato and Yuji Nagata vs. Manabu Nakanishi and Shota Umino

John Carroll: I’m not even lying when I say this is like my second or third most anticipated match on this card. Granted, this card is kind of garbage, but still, I’m pumped. It’s got a Nagata-Nakanishi confrontation (those always rule) plus two really great young lions who seem to be making strides forward every single day. On a card where I’m gonna be asking “who cares?” a lot, at least I can answer “I do” for this opener. Prediction: Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato

Taylor Maimbourg: This match has Hirai Kawato in it, so it’s almost guaranteed I’ll enjoy it. Kitamura and Oka have become the big names amongst this group of young lions, but Kawato has carved a great niche for himself as the never say die, in over his head rookie. He’s teaming with Yuji Nagata, returning to the opening ranks of the card after a spectacular G1. Between Kawato’s usual fire and Nagata still riding the emotional wave from G1 Finals, it’s hard to see Nakanishi and Umino pulling it off. Prediction: Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato

Matt McEwen: Well, this will be a fun opener. Going with age before beauty, Nagata and Nakanishi seem to take a special little bit of pride and joy in battling each other, and it makes unimportant openers like this more interesting as a result. And then you have Kawato – the most exciting of an exciting bunch of Young Lions – and Umino – an impressive youth in his own right. You know what you’re going to get here, and if you like watching the development of the YL’s, then you’ll enjoy this (probably a lot). The only question is which Dad gets the pin…..Prediction: Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato

Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Katsuya Kitamura and Tomoyuki Oka

John Carroll: Hirooki Goto in CHAOS has been a complete disaster, let’s be real. He was a solid upper-midcard guy pre-CHAOS (he beat Shinsuke Nakamura for the IC title barely two years ago, but that may as well have been in another lifetime now, for both guys) but after about a year and a half as Okada’s lackey, you need a searchlight to find him on a lot of tours. Other than a brief, mostly heatless reign as NEVER champion he’s done jack nothing in 2017, and that includes a G1 where you’d be forgiven for forgetting he was around at all. Here on the Destruction tour he’ll be doing a whole lot more nothing, starting with this young lion tag. I have a serious question for you: what is Goto’s actual ranking in CHAOS? Is he even number two? Would you put him over Tomohiro Ishii, a guy who has pinfall victories over Kenny Omega & Tetsuya Naito this year? I sure wouldn’t! Prediction: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

Taylor Maimbourg: Is this my most anticipated match on the card? Possibly! I’m sure I’m not alone in this opinion, but I love Katsuya Kitamura. He’s has a very unique presence about him, and if he develops into even a B-/C+ in-ring wrestler, he’ll be a mega star. I also love watching all young lions team facing off against some veterans. It isn’t the most ideal of spots for someone like Hirooki Goto, but as this roster seemingly becomes more and more stacked by the day, not everyone is going to get the big spot every time.  Prediction: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

Matt McEwen: More fun YL tag action to kick the show off. Nothing wrong with that. Goto & YOSHI-HASHI are obviously treading water here (and in general?) but they’ll have fun putting the two big young lads through their paces. As for Kitamura & Oka – at this point it’s fair to say that the early hype wasn’t totally misplaced. Both are good, especially considering their experience level, and have connected with the crowd. But Kitamura has put himself on another level than the rest of this YL class with the personality he has shown, and the fact that there aren’t too many gassed up musclemen in NJ right now, so he has his own niche. That, and those chops. Goddamn.  Prediction: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Beretta & Jado

John Carroll: This is, uh, quite the way to welcome Beretta to the heavyweight ranks here. He’s teaming up with a junior heavyweight failed NOAH booker to face Yujiro ‘I’m not as bad as they say I am, but I’m still pretty friggin’ bad’ Takahashi and Chase ‘Apparently I’m a heavyweight now, sorry for not telling literally anyone’ Owens. Sure, why not? I guess you may as well give Beretta the pin here because god knows we’re not doing anything with Chase or Yujiro anytime soon, but this is definitely not the most auspicious start to his heavyweight career. Prediction: Beretta & Jado

Taylor Maimbourg: Well, welcome to the heavyweight division, Beretta. When Beretta first announced he was moving up to heavyweight, I was a bit concerned as to where he would fit in. He’s obviously massively talented, but in a division that is already jam packed, I struggle to see exactly how many opportunities he’ll get. His first match certainly doesn’t do much to calm my fears. Yes, it’s just one match, but teaming him with Jado again the Bullet Club doesn’t bode well. The good news is that half of this match should be a lot of fun. Chase Owens has impressed me in a largely thankless role this year, and seeing him go up against a newly motivated Beretta should be a lot of fun. If only this was a singles match and not a tag. Oh well! Prediction: Beretta & Jado

Matt McEwen: I’m not going to lie and say this is a match I’m looking forward to, but there are a few things of interest in this one. First, Chase Owens is the most easily forgettable good wrestler on the roster, and he has quietly moved himself up to the heavyweight division. The world needs prelim guys, and Owens has carved a niche as a very good one. Yujiro and Jado are….well, we know what they are, and neither is worth chatting about. The real interest here is Beretta – this is his big match return to Japan after Rocky retired RPG Vice and booted Beretta up to the heavyweight division. It will be interesting to see where the NJ brass sees him slotting in with the bigger boys. Prediction: Beretta & Jado

Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi) & Togi Makabe vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, Taka Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

John Carroll: This is one weirdly constructed ten-man tag here, from a team composition standpoint. You’ve got two heavyweights on the Taguchi Japan/GBH alliance side, and they’re both legends to boot. On the other hand, the Suzukigun team features just one heavyweight….and it’s Takashi Iizuka. On paper that kind of mismatch should really be an easy win for the faces, but I suspect it won’t work out that way. We’ve got two junior title matches to heat up, both taking place at the next Destruction show in Hiroshima (am I the only one who kinda quietly cringes every time they hear that name? yes? okay), so I suspect one of the three Suzukigun challengers are getting the pinfall here. I’m excited for some Desperado-KUSHIDA exchanges as their upcoming title match is one of my most anticipated matches of the entire tour. The rest of this match, uh, well. It’ll be cool to see if TAKA comes out with his new All Asia tag title belt or not, I guess. Prediction: Suzukigun

Taylor Maimbourg: I know some have gotten tired of the antics, but I still love Taguchi Japan, and I love these big ten man tags where chaos usually reigns by the end of the match. If you would have asked me two weeks ago about this match, I probably would have said I was dreading it, as I dismissed Suzuki-gun completely many months ago for being a waste of space on this very talented New Japan roster. But then Taichi went to All Japan and had a great match with Yuma Aoyagi, and now I’m right back on board! Looking forward to seeing some fun KUSHIDA and El Desperado interaction, and excited for the spot where someone tries to pull Tanahashi’s hair before realizing he cut it all off in an insane decision that still makes no sense to me. Other than that, it should be pretty standard fare, but I’m looking forward to it. Prediction: Suzuki-gun

Matt McEwen: I am not anywhere near as into Taguchi Japan as some others are, but it is some harmless midcard fun giving a few people a bit of purpose, so it serves a purpose. I guess you could say the same generally for Suzuki-gun, but my god they are about 5 years past their sell by date as a group. And Iizuka is about 15 years past his sell by date, period. Anyhow, expect some cheating, some comedy, probably some iron fingers to the ass, and nothing you will remember by the end of the next match. Also, as a fun game, time how quickly Makabe gets the hell out of dodge to “brawl” away from the ring. Prediction: Suzuki-gun

IWGP Tag Team Championship
War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) (c) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa)

John Carroll: Hey, friend! Are you excited for this IWGP Tag Team title match, but don’t want to bother even fast forwarding through the rest of this honestly quite crap show? I have good news for you: the exact same match is going to be taking place at the next two Destruction shows! Hurray for lazy booking! Yeah, I have no idea what there is even left to say about this heavyweight tag title division. It’s awful? It fucking sucks? It’s the worst booked division in all of professional wrestling? I’d rather watch the old Smackdown junior division than this? Prediction: I rolled a virtual die and got a 3, so Killer Elite Squad

Taylor Maimbourg: This division stinks. Who could possibly care about this when the result won’t matter in just a few days when they run this match again, and then a few days after that when they run the match again. New Japan clearly doesn’t care about this division, should why should I? I’m just glad that there’s at least one change with the addition of KES instead of them just running War Machine vs. GOD again, but it still does not excite me at all to watch this match three times this month. Sigh. Prediction: Guerillas of Destiny

Matt McEwen: Watch it now before you get tired of it! In yet another inspired stroke of tag division genius, this match will show up on all three Destructions. I have a sneaking suspicion that all three teams are going to win one, so the real question is who comes out of the series with the title. Well, that’s a question if you care to ask it. It’s a shame that so many probably don’t, because the talent in this one is actually really good, particularly if you like big strong guys who hit hard and move fast. KES should add a little freshness here, and I think they get the first win. Prediction: And NEW champions, Killer Elite Squad

Bad Luck Fale and Leo Tonga vs. David Finlay and Juice Robinson

John Carroll: I wasn’t excited for this match when Kenny Omega was supposed to be in it, but now I’ll admit to being curious about this Leo Tonga fellow. It’s added some intrigue to what was previously a nothing undercard tag. The fact that he’s legitimately taller than Fale is interesting too, given that Fale already towers over practically everyone else in New Japan. Anyway, have fun getting pinned as usual, David Finlay. Prediction: Bad Luck Fale & Leo Tonga

Taylor Maimbourg: This was a last minute decision based on Kenny Omega’s injury, but it’s possible that Leo Tonga may be slotting into the Bullet Club young boy spot vacated long ago by Cody Hall. From all accounts, New Japan feels they have something with Leo, and joining him up with his brothers in the Bullet Club may prove that. I’m interested to see how he does in this match. He’s obviously very tall, but I have no idea how he is in the ring. I really love watching young guys just starting out, and if Leo Tonga lives up to the potential he supposedly has, this match could be one we look back on in years to come as the place it all began. Prediction: David Finlay and Juice Robinson

Matt McEwen: Rumor is that Leo Tonga might be something special. We know he’s huge, and has a great pedigree, but rumblings are that he’s good to boot. Going in with Finlay and Robinson is great way to make a first impression, as there probably isn’t two better guys on the roster to make him look like a million bucks right off the bat. All my interest here is because of Tonga, but he’s still a Young Lion, and Juice has a title shot (in theory) coming up. Prediction: David Finlay and Juice Robinson

Tomohiro Ishii and Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito

John Carroll: This is one of those NJPW tag team matches that looks super good on paper until you realize everyone will have it in half-gear. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a ****½ classic here, because you’re just not. And I’m not trying to criticize anyone for not going all out in a random tag match on a B-show either, just stating facts. But with that said, given that these are three really fantastic wrestlers and one guy who can at least keep up with them (and do some pretty flips), even half-gear is gonna be pretty good. Just keep your expectation levels at like ***½ instead of ****½ and be pleasantly surprised if they go higher, that’s all. Anyway, I’ll take Ishii pinning Hiromu here as we continue building toward Naito-Ishii for the briefcase at King of Pro Wrestling (now THERE’S a match you can go crazy looking forward to, folks) Prediction: Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay

Taylor Maimbourg: This match looks great. I know it probably won’t reach classic levels, but it involves four guys I love as they build to two singles matches that probably will be classics. I do wish that Hiromu was still the junior champ, but I will not look a gift horse in the mouth as we finally get some non-title junior singles action. Will’s and Hiromu’s interactions on Twitter have been fun, and I hope that energy will spill over into this match. Not only that, but their respectives partners are two of the best wrestlers in the world, how can you not be excited for this match? Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito

Matt McEwen: A rarity in New Japan, Hiromu and Will are about to kick off a little program leading to an important match that does not involve the junior title. About damned time. On top of that – it’s HIROMU vs OSPREAY! That is going to be some fun shit, folks. Now, add in Naito and Ishii circling each other until Ishii gets his shot at Naito’s briefcase, and this is going to be a very fun little tag. Prediction: Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA) (c) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Rocky Romero and Toru Yano)

John Carroll: This is the kind of match that makes me love these six-man titles. In a promotion like New Japan where you have so many well-defined units, you can throw together all sorts of wacky combinations with little build and get something really interesting. In this case, we stick the IWGP Heavyweight Champion with two of the wackiest guys in CHAOS and get what looks like a really fun semi-main. Okada has his lighter side too and I expect Yano & Rocky to bring it out of him here. On the other side of the ring you’ve got three guys who kind of excel at playing the “straight men”, so to speak. You know what I mean here: the CHAOS team will do some wacky stuff and then the LIJ trio will suddenly shut it down and start beating the crap out of them, and the crowd heat should be enormous (as it almost always is in Yano matches, and often Romero matches too). Obviously building toward EVIL’s title shot against Okada at KOPW is the main goal here, but that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun along the way. Prediction: LIJ

Taylor Maimbourg: I love these 6-man titles for the unpredictable and wild teams they always bring to the table. Can you imagine Okada as a double champ in New Japan? I know I’m seemingly the last remaining Okada fan in the world, but I think that would be fun, especially teaming with two guys who have the potential to get really wacky. I’m also intrigued to see how Rocky Romero navigates his post-RPG world. There were rumors he was moving into a full-time training position, but he debunked those, so where does he goes from here? Is he just a body for BOSJ and a spot show title challenger? Or do they see something more for him? Only time will tell. Things seem to lean towards LIJ retaining, but these are the 6-man titles, and I’m getting CRAZY. Prediction: CHAOS

Matt McEwen: Is the 6-man title meaningless? Yeah, pretty much. Are they fun? Yes, and it’s because of matches like this. I have to admit that BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA are essentially the perfect trio for these titles, and the CHAOS trio is bit random (even by the admittedly lax standards of these belts), so I think the winners are pretty clear. That being said, the real story here is EVIL vs Okada. EVIL gets his first IWGP title shot next month at King of Pro Wrestling, and comes in off a huge G1 win over the previously nearly unbeatable Okada. I don’t think he pins Okada here, but I think EVIL gets the best of him in their exchanges before pinning Romero. Prediction: LIJ

NEVER Openweight Championship
Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Michael Elgin

John Carroll: Your main event of the evening is for the NEVER title, a belt that, in the most technical sense of the word, still exists. Yeah, I get what its purpose is- to headline nothing B- or even C-level shows like this- but with the IWGP US Title now around and doing the same exact thing, I think we’re starting to hit a point of diminishing returns here. Suzuki with the belt does feel kind of right in a weird way (certainly more than Goto with it ever did), and I’m not sure what the title really does for Michael Elgin other than remind people he’s being used way below his talent level. So let’s say Suzuki retains in a pretty good (but not great) match filled with your usual Suzukigun interference crap. Yippie. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

Taylor Maimbourg: I am alone on an island. I think I’m the only person on Earth who doesn’t care for Minoru Suzuki. He’s obviously talented, but his presentation has soured on me and I glaze over whenever he is in the ring. It just seems like the same thing every time. On the other side, you have Michael Elgin, who is in New Japan holding pattern purgatory as the end of his contract draws near. Am I invested at all in this match? No. Will it be good? Probably. But the NEVER title seems to go through phases: either it’s used well for distinct and interesting storylines (see Shibata, Katsuyori) or it’s stuck on some guy who has a few random matches with it until he loses it (see Suzuki, Minoru). Unfortunately, I think Suzuki probably will get a few more random matches with the title before he loses it. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

Matt McEwen: Somehow, this match sounds both great and uninteresting. Big Mike got the win over Suzuki in the G1, but that’s a match that is buried under the memories of the plethora of great matches that followed it in August. Suzuki is the oddest NEVER champion I can remember, and often neglected to bring the title with him to the ring during the G1. Mix those two together, put them in the main event, and you have the makings for what I hope is a surprisingly good match. Elgin almost never fails to deliver in these spots, and the crowd will surely be into this, so that will help. If there was more certainty about Elgin’s contractual future, I would feel better picking a winner, but it doesn’t feel like the right time for Suzuki to drop the title just yet….. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki