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

Watch: NJPW World

Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato def Manabu Nakanishi & Shota Umino

The one thing I wanted from this match is Kawato to show no fear against the much larger Nakanishi. We didn’t really get much of that. We didn’t really get much of anything. Nakanishi was slower than normal. Kawato slipped off the top rope doing a springboard. No one had any fire. Nagata tapped Umino with the Nagata Lock. Not a great start to the show. *3/4

Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI def Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka

Watching YOSHI-HASHI try to bully the much larger Kitamura was pretty funny. YOSHI has spent so much time on the receiving end of these slaps and shoulder blocks, and now that he has a chance to treat some Young Lions the way he has been treated, they’re twice his size. Kitamura shows off his strength by winning a suplex struggle with Goto. YOSHI and Kitamura brawl around ringside, and Goto pins Oka with a kick to the chest. Poor Oka didn’t even rate a real finisher apparently. Goto and YOSHI didn’t do a lot to justify their continued existence as a tag team. **1/4

Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens def Beretta & Jado

Beretta and Jado come out to RPG Vice theme music and video, which you may recall has Rocky Romero on vocals and his name in the video. Awkward. Beretta, get your own music dude. The story here is Beretta having to prove himself as a heavyweight against low card scrubs like Yujiro, but presentation matters almost as much as wins and losses. Chase Owens interrupts a pin by jumping on the referee when he easily could have landed on the wrestlers, which was such a heel move. Yujiro pinned Jado with the Pimp Juice DDT, and I assume Beretta and Yujiro are going to keep doing this the rest of the Destruction tour. **1/2

Juice Robinson & David Finlay def Bad Luck Fale & Leo Tonga

This is my first look at Leo Tonga. He certainly is tall. Fale is a great coach. He makes sure Leo is watching before he does a move, then makes Leo do the same move. This could be a really great dynamic going forward. Fale gets knocked out of the ring and Leo eats a Stunner from Finlay and Pulp Friction from Juice. **1/2

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

Desperado trying to lead a crazed Iizuka through the crowd is always funny, I don’t care what the haters say. Unfortunately it means we don’t get Taichi’s entrance, which is the high point of nearly every Taichi match. Iizuka gets caught in the corner, Taguchi Japan runs into him, over and over, but every time Taguchi himself tries he gets kicked. Despy and KUSHIDA preview their title match later in the tour, and based on the few minutes they spend together here, it should be pretty good. Ricochet does some great Ricochet things, no doubt high off his BOLA win. This is also my first time seeing Tanahashi’s mid-life crisis haircut. I hate it. Taguchi countered the dreaded double eye poke from Taka with a redirection into Kanemaru, then back to Taka, then rolls him up for the win. This had some genuinely funny moments that made me laugh out loud. ***1/4

A brief switchblade vignette airs. Still hoping it’s Jay White.

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

Our previewers spent enough time burying the concept of having this same exact match on three different shows, so I can just gloss over it. My thought would be to add another team like TenCozy and have a little tournament. But wouldn’t literally anything have been better than doing the same match three times? There are a lot of big people in this match. And Tama Tonga. These guys are doing stuff, and it’s fairly entertaining, but the fact that this is going to happen two more times, probably exactly the same, hampers my enjoyment. Hanson and Rowe pin Tanga Loa with a guillotine leg drop, and at this point I would just have War Machine win the next two matches too. ***

Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi def Tomohiro Ishii and Will Ospreay

Really hoping these last three matches can turn this show around. Even early on, this match has an explosiveness that the show has lacked. Will is moving at full speed here, which is such a relief on a show where everyone else is half-assing it. Ishii’s knee is taped up, which provides a convenient target for Hiromu and Naito. Ishii and Naito spend a fair amount of time together, and I wish they didn’t. We’ve seen them have some great matches this year already, we don’t need a preview of their upcoming match. In a show struggling for energy, we don’t need stuff we’ve seen a dozen times before. The interactions between the other guys is a lot of fun though. Naito counters a flip by kicking Ospreay straight in the balls and nailing Destino for the win. ***1/4

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

The VOW previewers already explained how weird this CHAOS team is. But the real point of this match isn’t the NEVER Openweight 6-Man titles, it’s EVIL vs Okada. Even with his big win in the G1 Climax and his destruction of Okada in the subsequent weeks, EVIL still feels like an odd challenger for one of the biggest shows of the year. Anything to keep elevating him is good in my book. Okada teases the Red Ink, his rarely used submission, and I think it would be hilarious if their match was a submission match. While I didn’t need any more preview of Ishii/Naito in the last match, the preview here, especially with EVIL looking strong, is exactly what was needed.

SANADA has added a rolling clutch to his repertoire, which along with the Paradise Lock, gives him the goofiest moveset in wrestling. They’re telling a good story where EVIL is the only one who can stand up to Okada, and Okada is the only one on his team that can stand up to EVIL. The two dominate their time in the ring. SANADA ties Yano in the ropes with the Paradise Lock, EVIL counters the Rainmaker with EVIL, and BUSHI pins Rocky after the MX. EVIL stands tall over a fallen Okada. A really good match that keeps the story between EVIL and Okada strong. ***1/2

NEVER Openweight Championship
Minoru Suzuki © def. Michael Elgin

I gave Suzuki/Elgin ***1/2 at the G1, and remember absolutely nothing about it. That doesn’t bode super well, nor does making it a Lumberjack match. It’s no secret I think Elgin needs to be used better in New Japan. I’m not sure the NEVER title is the right place for him, but at least it’s something. Elgin has Taguchi Japan as his lumberjacks, while Suzuki of course has Suzuki-gun. Taichi teases taking Suzuki’s spot, and now I hope Elgin murders him with a powerbomb before this match ends. Elgin flips off Suzuki-gun while holding a delayed suplex, and the SKG lumberjacks sure are doing a bad job of getting Suzuki back into the ring. Instead, they brawl with Taguchi Japan while Suzuki and Elgin brawl into the crowd. Worse. Lumberjacks. Ever.

If you have a Lumberjack match, you have to at least pretend to follow the tropes of the match. Otherwise, you just have a bunch of people fighting outside the ring for no reason. The match itself is mostly forearms. Suzuki wails on Elgin with a chair, and an angry Elgin no sells it. Elgin gets a big pop by refusing to hit Suzuki with the chair and throwing it aside. Suzuki-gun gets in the ring while the ref is “distracted” and Taguchi Japan just watches like dopes. Finally Tanahashi and company get in the ring to help out. Elgin clears the ring and lands the Elgin bomb but SKG pulls the ref out. KES and War Machine come down and get involved. Elgin lays into Suzuki and goes for the Burning Hammer, but Suzuki wiggles out into a sleeper, Iizuka chops Elgin with the iron hand, and the Gotch Piledriver puts Elgin away for the three count. This started out weak, got better with a hot nearfall off the Elgin Bomb, but sank quickly at the end. **

Final Thoughts: 

This felt like a house show. Guys weren’t trying very hard. There were no match cards or name placards on the screen. A quiet crowd that didn’t even pop for the usual spots like Suzuki’s theme song. This show is a victim of dividing up the Destruction card into three shows. If the final two matches here had been matches five and six on a bigger card, I wouldn’t complain but headlining a supposedly big show, they fell badly short. The only match I can recommend is the six-man tag, both for the ringwork and for the continuing story of EVIL and Okada.