New Japan Pro Wrestling
Destruction in Kobe 2017
September 24, 2017
Kobe World Kinen Hall

Watch: NJPW World

Meet our previewers:

John Carroll: John just finished marathoning more of My Hero Academia season 2 and is still pumped up just thinking about it. The graps are good, but there’s no babyface in wrestling right now as likabe as Deku-kun. Follow their awful Twitter @toshanshuinla.

Taylor Maimbourg: If you don’t know him by now, you will never never never know him.  That’s right, Taylor is back again to review an exciting Destruction show.  It’s only been a week, so not much has changed.  Follow him on Twitter @tamaimbo as he tweets whatever nonsense pops into his mind at any given moment.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato vs. Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura

John Carroll: Old guy & young lion vs. two young lions is a little different, actually, and I guess provides the tiniest bit of intrigue on who will win for once, since either Oka or Kitamura is very capable of pinning Kawato. With a veteran in there you’d think he’s still getting the pin and the win, but at least you could actually see how the other team would even theoretically win for oncel. These young lions are good, Tenzan will be over, match should be fun. Prediction: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato

Taylor Maimbourg: The stakes are pretty low for this match, but I like seeing Oka and Kitamura tagging again.  My hope is that they get a chance in the upcoming World Tag League, as I think the fans would really get behind them and they could probably learn a lot tagging against a variety of opponents.  They most likely would go winless, but New Japan has shown they aren’t afraid of winless teams in the World Tag League, as both Henare/Nakanishi and Bone Soldier/Bad Luck Fale had 0 points last year.   If the goal with Oka and/or Kitamura is to move them up the card quickly, they need some bigger chances, and the World Tag League is a nice opportunity that doesn’t immediately throw them in the deep end like a G1 or a New Japan Cup would.  Prediction: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato

Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi, Ricochet, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask IV vs. Suzukigun (Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku)

John Carroll: Taichi is having a career renaissance: two good matches! Yes, for him, that’s a record. He’s coming off a great performance against All Japan youngster Yuma Aoyagi at their big Sumo Hall show a few weeks back, and then he was part of a legitimately awesome junior tag team title match at the last Destruction show in Hiroshima. People like to bag on Taichi, and honestly rightfully so most of the time, but when was the last time WWE Champion Jinder Mahal was in a **** match (or even a ***½ one)? That’s what I thought. But anyway, this match is whatever. Suzukigun 10-man tags are generally the worst variation of New Japan multi-mans out there, so there’s little reason to expect this one to be any different. Prediction: Suzukigun

Taylor Maimbourg: Hot on the heels of a superb Junior Tag Title match, Taguchi Japan and Suzukigun square off once again in a ten-man tag.  I’ll fully admit, I love these Taguchi Japan multi-man matches.  How can you not love it when Ryusuke Taguchi attempts to escape a beating by pretending to see his friend across the ring?  Yes, a lot of the matches are similar, but I feel like each iteration of Taguchi Japan is different enough to provide some excitement.  This time out, it’s the addition of Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask.  Imagining grumpy veteran Tiger Mask alongside wild man Ryusuke Taguchi already has me excited.  At the end of the day, the match won’t amount to much in the long run, but it will be fun anyways.  Prediction: Taguchi Japan

Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens

John Carroll: Wrapping up a tour to forget for Goto (and YOSHI-HASHI for that matter), it’s a heatless third match of the card across from Fale & Owens of the BC. Yawn. Remember when Goto actually mattered? What a complete waste of a supremely talented wrestler. Prediction: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

Taylor Maimbourg: Have New Japan made up their minds on Hirooki Goto as an upper card worker?  Matches like this just makes it seem that they’ve made the decision to just give up on him and that he’ll officially be another YOSHI-HASHI: at or near the bottom rung of CHAOS, with the occasionally title shot (and loss) when they need some filler.  It’s a shame, and it’s a rare time I’m a bit bummed that switching promotions in Japan is so uncommon.  If New Japan isn’t interested in Goto as an upper tier guy, wouldn’t it be fun to see him mix it up in All Japan or Big Japan?  It won’t happen, but I can dream.  Prediction: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI

Beretta vs. Yujiro Takahashi

John Carroll: I don’t know who was the first one to say this, I think maybe it was VOW Flagship podcast co-host Joe Lanza, but Yujiro Takahashi has been crapped on for so long and by so many people that we’ve gone full circle with him: he’s now underrated. He’s not any great shakes in the ring and his “Tokyo Pimp” gimmick is still pretty cringeworthy, but anyone who was trying to argue he belonged in the conversation with Yoshitatsu (who I hear is off to a good start in his AJPW career, and good for him!) and BONE SOLDIER as a truly awful wrestler taking up space on the New Japan roster was always out to lunch. He’s a below-average wrestler with some charisma, a guy whose singles match ceiling is ***, but hey: apparently being a *** ceiling guy with a little charisma is enough to make you ROH World Champion material these days! Anyway, this little feud with Beretta has been fun just to see Yujiro actually have something to do for really the first time since his real push ended (remember when he was getting wins over Tetsuya Naito, challenging Naito for his Tokyo Dome title shot contract at KOPW, and even briefly holding the NEVER title? me neither). As I discussed in the last preview, it makes perfect sense for Beretta’s first feud, too, in a “start your way at the bottom, ex-junior punk” kind of way. I really enjoyed Yujiro’s promo on Beretta in Hiroshima, where he totally came off as a cocky prick and got a better reaction for basically just saying “hey you used to fight people who weigh less than me!” than any race-baiting Jinder Mahal promo has ever gotten. Yes, today is dunk on Jinder day, deal with it. Anyway this could either go with a Beretta win to blow things off or a Yujiro win to extend it to at least King of Pro Wrestling next week, and selfishly I’m gonna go with the extension because I’m legitimately enjoying this silly little undercard feud! Prediction: Yujiro Takahashi

Taylor Maimbourg: A non-title singles match on a New Japan card!  Wow!  I’m excited for this match, as Beretta has been having a superb year everywhere he goes, and I think this match will over deliver with Beretta out to prove something against Yujiro.  After years of slogging through his matches in the G1, Yujiro has found a perfect spot.  He is the bottom rung of the heavyweight division, and if New Japan chooses to move anyone else into the heavyweight division, he’s a great first challenge.  Am I expecting an all-time classic from this match?  No, but I think this match is a good way for Beretta to get his feet wet in the heavyweight division (and in singles competition) without being thrown in the deep end right off the bat.  Hopefully he picks up the victory and moves onto bigger things in the division.  Prediction: Beretta

IWGP Tag Team Championship 3-Way Match
War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) (c) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)

John Carroll: All I have to say on this one is thank god it’s over. The random dice generator on my phone has gotten it wrong twice in a row, so we’ll hope the third time’s a charm. Other than that, this shit fucking sucks, etc. etc., who fucking cares. Prediction: I got a five again so Guerrillas of Destiny

Taylor Maimbourg: I will admit, if War Machine pulls a clean sweep on these three matches, I may reconsider my initial distaste in booking the same match three times in the span of two weeks.  The matches have not been good from an in-ring perspective, but if the goal at the end is to put War Machine over big and elevate them above the riff raff of this terrible heavyweight tag division, then at least there was a reason for the matches.  Then, if the goal is to put War Machine over big, have them win the World Tag League and choose who they want to face.  That seems fun.  Which, knowing how this division works, won’t happen.  Prediction: War Machine

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin vs. Kota Ibushi & David Finlay

John Carroll: Unless I’m mistaken I believe Kota Ibushi is a late addition to the card, as I seem to recall he was originally only scheduled for the Destruction in Hiroshima show out of the three. But either way, he’ll now be in Kobe as the new Tanahashi-Ibushi IC title program gets started in earnest, likely building to the main event of November’s Power Struggle. I don’t really have a ton to say about this development: it’s a very logical feud, since Kota beat Tana in the G1 and all, but not one that seems to have a lot of juice at the outset at least. I’d like to see Tanahashi maybe show some fire towards Kota for being a part-timer trying to take his belt, a guy who doesn’t wanna work the mundane tour stops and just shows up on the big shows looking for the glory. In a way it would be similar to some of what Naito said about Kota before their match at the G1 opener, but in a different context coming from Tanahashi. The crowd is obviously going to be split here between the two of them, so give them something to really sink their teeth into here and let them decide who they side with. As for this tag match itself, well, three guesses why David Finlay is here, first two don’t count. Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin

Taylor Maimbourg:  The Hiroshi Tanahashi-Kota Ibushi IC title should be great, but first we have to get through the standard fare tags.  I don’t have much to say about this one, as we all know the way this is going: a faceoff between Tanahashi and Ibushi, a pin on Finlay and maybe some back and forth after the match.  I’ll be interested to see if Tanahashi unleashes his heel side that we see from time to time now that he is matched up against the beloved Kota Ibushi.  I’ll also be looking to see if we get any indication of a direction for Michael Elgin after his unsuccessful NEVER title match.  Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Rocky Romero) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI)

John Carroll: Naito’s continued feud with his lumpy roadblock is nearing its crescendo, and here at “Road to King of Pro Wrestling feat. A Random Title Match” we get the last televised hype match. I have mixed feelings about asking Naito, and really anyone else, to defend this briefcase: on one hand, it gives him something to do through KOPW, which is fine. On the other hand, we still haven’t produced a compelling feud for this briefcase where the rights holder actually feels like they have a real shot at losing it. Here’s what we’ve gotten in the last five years of this title shot being on the line at KOPW: Okada vs. Karl Anderson, Naito vs. Yujiro, Okada vs. Naito (at basically his lowest point as a babyface), Tanahashi vs. Naito (before LIJ really ramped up; EVIL debuted that night), and last year Omega vs. Goto. I will grant you that maybe Tana-Naito felt interesting just because early Ingobernables Naito was extremely interesting, but even then I never really gave him much of a shot at beating Tanahashi for the contract. That’s still better than the rest though, where the idea of the contract holder losing felt about as plausible as a Donald Trump presidency at the time (the American electorate turned out to be a very shitty booker indeed). I think in the end they need to do something to make this feel like less of a spinning-their-wheels waste of time. People were predicting that Naito would not win this year’s G1 and instead win the contract at KOPW, which would have been a huge kick in the ass for this whole concept and provided that little seed of “hey, we’ve seen this contract change hands before!” doubt that would linger in future years even when the match was realistically of Okada-Anderson or Omega-Goto level intrigue. But as it is now, god bless Tomohiro Ishii but he feels like little more than a short, squat waster of Naito’s time here. At least we’re likely to get an outstanding match out of it, I guess. In the meantime, this six-man will be fine. Prediction: CHAOS

Taylor Maimbourg: The main focus of this match is obviously going to be Naito and Ishii as they prepare for their upcoming match, but let me discuss something a bit different.  Are Toru Yano and SANADA headed towards a singles match of their own?  Ever since SANADA embarrassed Yano at the G1 with the Paradise Lock, it seems like every match these two have direct and constant interaction.  With SANADA sliding down the LIJ pecking order with the ascension of EVIL, it might be nice to give him a singles match to make him look strong, even though it’s against a goofball like Yano.  I know I’m probably reading far too much into this, but it is an intriguing possibility.  The only other question in this match is whether Rocky introduces Roppongi 3K after this match or during the show at all.  Prediction: LIJ

Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay vs. EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi

John Carroll: Okada & Ospreay is a team that always seems to work on some weird level, possibly because Ospreay’s debut was so tied to Okada. They’ve kind of had a strange big brother/little brother relationship ever since, and in a lot of ways it makes sense: both have a tendency to be much more style than substance sometimes, both are beloved by most of the smark community yet vociferously reviled among a small (but vocal) percentage of them, both have extremely cocky personas, etc. etc. They’re going to need to draw on that chemistry and find a way to deliver big time here, because they’re curiously in the semi-main slot in a fairly large building (6500 seats or more, depending on who you ask), providing little support to a main event that wasn’t exactly top marquee quality to begin with. Still, the Okada-EVIL feud has been really hot all tour long, with the intensity of both off the charts in all of their confrontations, so that should go a long way toward carrying this match. Hiromu and William will do some spots, Okada and EVIL will bring the hate, and this match has a pretty decent chance at being pretty darn good. Prediction: EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi

Taylor Maimbourg: What is going on with the booking of Hiromu Takahashi?  He looked like a world beater earlier in the year, beating people left and right with an insane, daredevil style.  People even wondered whether he would make it through the Best of the Super Juniors undefeated, something that almost never happens.  Well, he didn’t make it through undefeated, and ever since then, he’s been a bit of an afterthought.  He lost the Junior title to KUSHIDA, is now taking pins in multi-man matches, and to top it all off, was knocked out with one punch by Will Ospreay at the last Destruction show.  Maybe it’s all part of a story that involves Hiromu hitting rock bottom, but so far the only thing it’s doing is make him look like a chump.  With a singles match on the horizon between Ospreay and Hiromu for a title shot, now is to the time to start heating Hiromu back up before it’s too late.  Prediction: EVIL & Hiromu Takahashi

IWGP United States Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs. Juice Robinson

John Carroll: Your main event of the evening features a guy who hasn’t been seen all tour because his knee is busted up real bad defending a championship that only came into existence a few months ago (and, it must be said, is ugly as sin) against a guy who was a jobber until earlier this year. Yay? Now, I will grant you that they couldn’t possibly have known Omega was gonna blow his knee out, but even still, this is a strange choice to main event a show with almost literally zero undercard support. Tanahashi-Sabre in Hiroshima was for the Intercontinental title, a belt that means far more, and featured the biggest star New Japan’s had in the past 15 years, and yet that got two junior title matches underneath to support it. This show has nothing, zilch, nada. If they come even close to selling this place out it would be a huge feather in Omega’s cap here, because you can’t really point to a single other thing on this show, besides I guess the NJPW “brand” itself being relatively hot, as a reason for the attendance. Anyway, as for the match itself I expect something reasonably good. Juice is more than capable of holding up his end of the bargain here, that doesn’t worry me; the biggest question when it comes to match quality will of course be whether or not Kenny’s knee can hold up enough to have something at a ****+ level. Guess we’ll have to see. Prediction: Kenny Omega

Taylor Maimbourg: I have probably been on the Juice train longer than anyone, but this is a steep task for him and Kenny Omega.  Like the first Destruction show, this is a fairly strong main event with nothing on the undercard, and look how that turned out.  Add in Kenny’s injury wrinkle and you’ve got a lot of questions going into this match.  Will it draw?  How much will Kenny’s injury affect his performance?  Looking at this match on paper, I think most people would probably say that it has a chance to be pretty good, maybe great.  But on a show with not much else, is pretty good enough?  It’s tough.  I hoping that the match does draw well, and that it is an excellent match, because I really enjoy both guys, but I can’t deny that New Japan has put them in a really tough spot.  Prediction: Kenny Omega