New Japan Pro Wrestling
Destruction In Hiroshima
September 16th, 2017
Hiroshima Sun Plaza Hall
Hiroshima, Japan

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, & Jado) def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, & Tiger Mask

Kevin Kelly is flying solo on commentary for this first portion of the show, as Don Callis was helping Kenny Omega heal up in preparation for his big title defense in Kobe against Juice Robinson. This opening matchup featured a number of New Japan stalwarts, and when the dust settled, it ended up being your typical undercard multi-man tag. It wasn’t good, but it was by no means bad. There was some decent action throughout, but it wasn’t that energetic (though to be fair, we shouldn’t expect this kind of match to have much energy). It seems that the two people that worked the hardest here were Liger (not surprising) and Tiger Mask (a little surprising). Liger managed to hit a big superplex on Goto at one point, which looked very good, while Tiger Mask got a nice nearfall after hitting YOSHI-HASHI with a Tiger Driver.

Now you would think that with Jado in this match, the CHAOS trio would surely lose. However, that wasn’t the case, as they managed to pick up the win after YOSHI-HASHI got Tiger Mask to tap out to that stupid Butterfly Lock. I guess it’s good that he finally managed to win a match with it, but I still believe that it’s one of the worst submission holds in pro-wrestling today. **1/2

Juice Robinson & David Finlay def. The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Leo Tonga)

This is my first time seeing Leo Tonga in action, and boy is he big!! I saw the picture that was floated around months ago of him towering over Bad Luck Fale, but it’s still amazing to see just how tall this guy is. As for the match itself, it was basic tag team affair, which shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. While Leo Tonga was (obviously) green as grass here, I didn’t find him to be inoffensive in any way. The rudimentary stuff he did seemed to solid enough, for someone who doesn’t have much experience at all. We shouldn’t expect the matches that he’s involved in to be any good, I’m very intrigued to see how he progresses over time. I certainly think that he’s much better off in the New Japan dojo/young lion system than a place like the WWE Performance Center. Juice Robinson got the win for his team after hitting Leo Tonga with the Pulp Friction. Kevin Kelly teased that this Juice Robinson/David Finlay team could be in the World Tag League later this year, which I wouldn’t mind. **

Roppongi Vice def. The Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi)

While the end of the team was announced back at the G1 Specials in Long Beach, California, this was the official last match for Roppongi Vice as a tag team. There was also some backstory to this one coming in, as throughout the tour, Beretta has been having a mini-feud with Yujiro Takahashi (Beretta’s first program as a heavyweight). I find it a little odd that this ended up being the last tag team bout for Roppongi Vice. They seemingly went out with a bang in their match against The Young Bucks during the aforementioned G1 Specials, This particular Bullet Club duo of Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi is definitely less exciting, but it does make sense with regards to the story they’re telling with Beretta, as he encounters some initial struggles after making the move up to the heavyweight division. The match itself turned out to be a relatively good one. Even though Roppongi Vice didn’t even last three years, you could always count on them to deliver, regardless of their position on the card, and this was a perfect example of that. There aren’t a lot of boring or subpar Roppongi Vice matches to speak of. At the same time, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi were pretty solid here as well. Again, I wasn’t excited to see them, but they showed some good teamwork, and were perfectly proficient here as a mid-card heel tag team. Roppongi Vice, in the end, were able to go out with a win after hitting Chase Owens with the Strong Zero. ***1/4

After the match, Yujiro took the mic and cut a promo on Beretta. He said that the heavyweight division is too hard for Beretta, and told him to go back to the juniors division. Yujiro then issued a challenge for a singles match against Beretta, which I’m guessing will happen either at King Of Pro Wrestling or at some point during the Power Struggle Tour. As others have mentioned previously, it’s nice to see New Japan setting up some singles matches that don’t involve any titles. I don’t think anyone is expecting a Beretta/Yujiro Takahashi encounter to set the world on fire, but it is a nice step in Beretta’s progression into the heavyweight division.

Kota Ibushi, “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin, & Togi Makabe def. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku, & Takashi Iizuka)

So I went on this morning to mainly check out the match times for this show, and I found this funny little error that seemed to suggest that clones of Kota Ibushi & Togi Makabe joined Suzuki-gun. Speaking of Kota Ibushi, this was his first appearance on this entire tour, and it comes in six-man tag team action against a Suzuki-gun trio. In a move that should come as a shock to absolutely nobody, Suzuki and his cohorts attacked their opponents before the bell, and we got a big brawl on the outside to start. Suzuki-gun’s shenanigans have become very tiresome, but at least these particular members were relegated to an undercard tag. I didn’t find this match to be that interesting, but thankfully, the team of Ibushi, Elgin, & Makabe managed to do enough to keep my attention.

Ibushi would get the victory after hitting his Kamigoye knee strike on Iizuka. There was some decent exchanges between Makabe and Suzuki during the match itself, and a post-match confrontation seemed to suggest that we’re getting a Suzuki/Makabe feud over the NEVER Title, which will probably be either at King Of Pro Wrestling or Power Struggle (I would guess the latter). As for this six-man tag, it was ok, but not very memorable. **1/4

I should mention that Kevin Kelly brought up on commentary that Kota Ibushi was back full time with New Japan. Obviously Ibushi wasn’t on this entire tour, but if he’s in New Japan on a more consistent basis, even if he’s a semi-regular, I think all of us will be happy with that.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles – Funky Future (Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi) def. Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

Rocky Romero came out to join Kevin Kelly on English Commentary for the rest of the night, which was pretty good. I think we can all agree that Romero’s done an excellent job with his contributions to the English Commentary Team at the G1 Climax Finals the last two years, so it’s nice to see that he’s getting the chance to do more. This was the first title defense for the team of Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi, who captured the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles from The Young Bucks at the G1 Climax 27 Finals last month. They’re defending against the Suzuki-gun team of Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, who’ve sort of become the perennial title challengers during these tours that separate the big New Japan events on the calendar. As a whole, this was a very good tag team encounter. Unfortunately, we did get some Suzuki-gun shenanigans at a few points, mainly involving foreign objects. At one point, Taichi got the ring bell hammer and blocked a Taguchi hip attack by….shoving it up Taguchi’s asshole (I wish I was making that up). Later, Taichi poured whiskey down Taguchi’s throat, and attacked both members of Funky Future with his mic stand. Despite all of those negatives, they still managed to have an exciting tag team title bout. A lot of the credit has to go to Ricochet, who is such an incredible performer. Whenever he was on the offensive, the match just kicked into another gear. Ricochet adds so much energy and exciting in every match he’s in, and that just speaks to how awesome he is.

Additionally, both Taguchi and Kanemaru put forth a ton of effort as well. Of course, we all know that Taguchi can deliver when the situation calls for it, while Kanemaru was really solid throughout. The final few minutes of this match were particularly exciting, with a number of nearfalls and entertaining action. Eventually, Kanemaru got put in the ankle lock by Taguchi, and after getting hit with a 450 Splash from Ricochet while in the submission hold, Kanemaru was forced to tap. This was easily the best match on the card, up to this point. Funky Future is a very fun team to watch, and the Suzuki-gun team (despite the various shenanigans) did a fine job in their role as the heel challengers. ***½

After the match, Rocky Romero left the English Commentary Table, took the mic, and got up on the apron. He said that tonight, Roppongi Vice died, but the next generation of Roppongi was coming. Romero announces that he’s bringing a team to New Japan that is bigger, stronger, faster, and 3000 times better…..Roppongi 3K. Ricochet accepts the challenge on behalf of Funky Future, noting that they’ll be champions “forever”. It’ll be interesting to see who this team ends up being, and based on commentary later on in the night, this Funky Future/Roppongi 3K bout will potentially take place at King Of Pro Wrestling. With Roppongi Vice coming to an end, CHAOS is lacking a regular junior heavyweight tag team, and this new team looks to be filling that void, with Rocky Romero potentially being a manager (as it sounded like it’s a whole new team, not just one guy coming in to team with Romero).

Before the next match, we got another weird vignette involving the so-called “switchblade man”.

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles – Three-Way Match – War Machine def. The Guerrillas of Destiny & The Killer Elite Squad

How ridiculous is it that we’re seeing the exact same three-way tag team title bout three times on the same tour? Anyway, this is the second of the three IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title bouts on this tour, but before diving into the match itself, what’s up with attire on KES? Did they lose their regular gear or something? Davey Boy Smith Jr. looks like he’s paying tribute to his father’s WWF run in 1999 with those jeans, so I guess in that case, there’s a connection, but still, it’s very odd to see both guys wrestling in (essentially) street clothes. Meanwhile, Tanga Loa came out wearing this weird….body suit….thing. Some questionable attire choices in this one, for sure.

As for the match itself, it was relatively solid, but by no means outstanding. There was good action throughout, and all three teams had chances to shine, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. We always complain about these multi-team matches for both sets of tag team titles, but they almost always end up being better than we expected. That wasn’t the case with this particular bout, which is strange, because one would think these three teams are perfect for a three-way, given that they all wrestle a similar style. To be fair, they seem to work well together, but the issue is the matches fall short of what they could be. That point aside, this was still solid, as I already mentioned. War Machine got the win after hitting Fallout on Davey Boy Smith Jr., which was a slightly different result from the three-way in Fukushima (War Machine pinned Tanga Loa to retain in that one). This result does add a bit of intrigue to the third encounter between these teams in Kobe, as War Machine has now pinned both of their challengers. One would think that a title change is coming, but time will ultimately tell. ***1/4

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL, & SANADA) def. CHAOS (“Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Will Ospreay, & Gedo)

So this Ten-Man Tag is helping to build up to a number of matches that are coming up at King Of Pro Wrestling in October (Okada vs. EVIL, Naito vs. Ishii, and potentially Hiromu vs. Ospreay). From start to finish, this was a highly entertaining contest that served its purpose perfectly. This featured some very good action throughout, and a number of entertaining exchanges involving the feuds that I already mentioned. Even those who weren’t really involved in a specific program got chances to shine here as well. Yano was (once again) trapped in the Paradise Lock by SANADA, while BUSHI and Gedo battled each other in the final few minutes as the two legal men. The formula for this one was every Ten-Man Tag you’ve seen in New Japan, but there was enough action in here to make a blast to watch. Towards the end, EVIL hit the STO on Okada, and stood tall over the IWGP Heavyweight Champion as BUSHI got the pin on Gedo.

After the match ended, we got a number of post-match attacks by the LIJ contingent. EVIL hit Okada with Darkness Falls onto a pile of chairs in the center of the ring, while Naito relentlessly went after the injured knee of Ishii, locking him in a figure four at one point. Once again, this match and the post-match angles did a fantastic job to build up the two big matches at King Of Pro Wrestling. EVIL looked incredibly strong here (and the English Commentary really helped to put him over as a major threat), while Ishii appears to now be in an underdog position with an injured knee going into his match with Naito. LIJ looked stronger than ever coming out of this one. ***1/2

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title – KUSHIDA def. El Desperado

El Desperado was looking a little like Pentagon Jr. here with the black and white face paint under his mask. This title bout was set up before G1 Climax started, when El Desperado hit KUSHIDA with a vicious guitar shot following a title defense in Korakuen Hall back in June. On the English Commentary, Kevin Kelly brought up that KUSHIDA, for the last three years, has lost the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title in the month of September, to Ryusuke Taguchi, Kenny Omega, & BUSHI respectively (I believe he credited Chris Charlton for bringing that to his attention). That actually added a unique wrinkle to this one, as KUSHIDA (evidently) has horrible luck in the month of September, which is sort of similar to how the Dallas Cowboys have a reputation of falling apart during the month of December.

Fortunately, KUSHIDA managed to overcome that bad history by retaining the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title here against El Desperado after hitting him with Back To The Future. This was similar to the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title bout earlier in the night, in that the match had to overcome a bunch of Suzuki-gun shenanigans, though this one didn’t turn out quite as well as that match did. While there was some very solid wrestling throughout, El Desperado tried to used a variety of different shortcuts to get to the title. This included using Takashi Iizuka’s leash to whip KUSHIDA, wedging a chair into one of the corners, and even an attempt at a phantom DQ when he took his mask off and threw it to KUSHIDA. There were a couple of good exchanges between the two, and the wrestling throughout was solid, but again, the shenanigans definitely hurt this one, as it wasn’t quite able to overcome them as well as the aforementioned IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title bout did earlier in the night. ***1/4

Ospreay congratulates KUSHIDA on another successful title defense. He brings up how he fell short in the Best Of The Super Junior Finals as well as the WCPW World Cup Finals. Ospreay doesn’t want to be defined as the man who can’t beat KUSHIDA. He says that no matter how many times he gets beat, he gets right back up. Ospreay wants to change the junior heavyweight division and New Japan, but he can’t do that until he beats KUSHIDA. Hiromu Takahashi then comes out and goes to speak, but Ospreay immediately knocks him out with a hard right hand. KUSHIDA has a staredown with Ospreay before the two depart, and then Hiromu throws a temper tantrum in the ring. This was very interesting segment, in terms of how it was handled. It seems like the Ospreay/Hiromu match that’s been speculated about for weeks will be a  No. 1 Contender’s Match, but at the same time, Hiromu looked like a complete punk in the segment when Ospreay just knocked him out with a single punch. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with that No. 1 Contender’s bout, should it happen. Honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if we get some sort of draw in that one, leading to a Triple Threat Match at Wrestle Kingdom with KUSHIDA, Ospreay & Hiromu all involved. It wouldn’t be the first time that IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title has been defended in a Triple Threat in the Tokyo Dome.

IWGP Intercontinental Title – Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Zack Sabre Jr.

I know it’s been a few weeks, but I still can’t believe that Hiroshi Tanahashi actually cut his famous hair. It was for a movie, and it seemed like here that it’s on its way to being back to normal, but still, he looks so different. Of course, this match came about after Zack Sabre Jr. made Tanahashi tap out twice during the G1 Climax (once in their actual tournament match on the opening night, and again at the G1 Climax Finals during a Six-Man Tag). While we, once again, saw Suzuki-gun shenanigans in a title bout on this card, it was still the match of the night. There were some great back and forth technical exchanges in the first ten minutes, before Zack Sabre Jr. finally decided to target the injured arm of Tanahashi. In response, Tanahashi went after one of Zack Sabre Jr.’s legs, meaning that the contest would potentially come down to which body part would give out first.

While this did clock it at around thirty minutes or so, it was paced pretty well. Things started slow, but as the match progressed, the pace quickened, and the action intensified. The English Commentary also did a very good job throughout this main event. Kevin Kelly & Don Callis are a great team on their own, but when Rocky Romero is on the call as well, he adds so much to the matches, including this one. I know people aren’t that big on a three man commentary booth (especially after WWE’s done it for years), but I believe the combination of Kelly, Callis, & Romero might be the best three person commentary team right now.

Anyway, back to the match itself, this definitely had the potential to equal their bout from the G1, but unfortunately, those hopes were dashed when Minoru Suzuki ran out and attacked Tanahashi in the ring. Michael Elgin eventually ran out and fought with Suzuki up the ramp and too the back, but still, this interference by Suzuki was so egregious.

Perhaps we can give it a pass in undercard title matches, but this kind of shit has no place in a New Japan main event. If there was any silver lining, it’s that Suzuki’s involvement didn’t directly lead to the finish. We saw a few more minutes of exchanges between Tanahashi & Zack Sabre Jr., but eventually, Tanahashi was finally able to secure the victory with a High Fly Flow. Again, the interference definitely hurt the match, but the action from start to finish was so great that it was able to overcome the interference. It obviously could’ve been better, but as we’ve all seen over the course of the year, Suzuki-gun interference is bound to happen when one of their members is in a big match. ****

After the match, Tanahashi cut his usual end-of-the-show promo, but not before calling out Kota Ibushi, who defeated him during the G1 Climax. This brought out Ibushi, who respectfully accepted the challenge from Tanahashi. Since King Of Pro Wrestling already has two high profile matches scheduled (Okada vs. EVIL & Naito vs. Ishii), I would guess that this will be the main event for Power Struggle in November. Their encounter in the G1 Climax was fantastic, and I’m sure this upcoming title bout will be no different.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been dealing with a bad head cold over the last few days, so I was hoping that watching this show would lift my spirits up a bit. For the most part, I think it managed to do just that. The 2017 edition of Destruction In Hiroshima was a return to form for New Japan after the abysmal event that took place in Fukushima several days earlier. Even though there weren’t any amazing matches on this card, the main event of Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. was great despite the interference, and a majority of the undercard bouts were pretty solid, with a lot of them ranging in that ***1/4-***1/2 range. The card also featured a lot of buildup towards King Of Pro Wrestling and (potentially) Power Struggle. Finally, I should mention that Kevin Kelly & Rocky Romero did a fantastic job with the English Commentary, and I hope we see Romero on commentary more often in the future. Destruction In Hiroshima was far from New Japan’s best show of 2017, but it was light years ahead of the disaster of a card known as Destruction In Fukushima.