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

Watch: NJPW World

There wasn’t a ton of buzz for NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2017. Likely a result of being on the backs of two of NJPW’s weaker outings in recent memory. This show also finds itself wedged in a big weekend for wrestling in general with WWE No Mercy, ROH Death Before Dishonor and a newsworthy week on the American independents. The lineup is not awe inspiring but it has a main event worth getting excited for, let’s dive in.

Hirai Kawato and Hiroyoshi Tenzan def. Monster Rage (Katsuya Kitamura and Tomoyuki Oka)

Monster Rage, huh? I dig that. Wouldn’t mind seeing them in tag league. I know it’s not the hottest of takes but these are a good crop of young lions. I’m struck by how natural Oka and Kawato feel in the ring already, and the idea of Oka being pushed as a future Ace against Okada excites me. Though Kitamura is the one Vince McMahon would push, he still feels like he’s thinking in there a bit.

This was going along well until Tenzan went for a Samoan Drop on Oka and it got botched. I don’t know who was at fault for that but it disrupted the flow of the match. Tenzan hit a Kokeshi, which was a nice Honma tribute. Kawato springboarding in with a missile dropkick got the crowd back and Tenzan submitted Oka with the Anaconda Vice. **1/2

Jushin Thunder Liger, Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, and Togi Makabe def. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, Taka Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

“Yeah, big shock. Fast start from Suzuki-Gun”, says Don Callis dryly and really, who could dispute the man. You’d think these babyfaces would learn by now. Kelly and Callis might legitimately be my favorite announce team out there now. They do a good job and I feel are an underrated commodity for NJPW to have, especially Callis.

Taguchi Japan is a lot of fun; I don’t care what anyone says. The babyfaces go into the “round the bases” spot with Taguchi waving them into Iizuka in the corner and it’s delightful. Taguchi and company are thwarted when they go to whip Iizuka into Taguchi’s readied ass in the far corner and Iizuka counters by biting it while his teammates jump the other faces from behind. Has that play ever worked, Taguchi? Why keep trying it, it’s got a lower success rate than the Kokeshi.

Heat on Taguchi. Usual Suzuki-Gun shenanigans ensue. Whips, eye poke, bell hammer…wait, what’s he doing with that hammer? Oh, well. My word, Taichi goosed him with it. Turnabout is fair play though as Taguchi returns the hammer goosing in kind and tags in Ricochet. Ricochet might have the best hot tag in wrestling. He’s just incredible. After taking out all of Suzuki-Gun with crisp, smooth offense he caps it off with an effortless running shooting star on Kanemaru.

Down the stretch Iizuka’s use of the metal glove is thwarted by Taguchi’s hip attack. After a great dive from Ricochet Makabe gets the pin on Taka with the King Kong Knee Drop. **3/4

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

The fact that a talent like Goto is in matches like these isn’t really a slight to him as much as it is a testament to the depth of the NJPW roster. He will move up the card again but for now he’s in these prelims, working the likes of Chase Owens, who looked good here. Chase got in some solid offense, including a nice strike combination on Goto. YOSHI-HASHI picks up the win with Karma. **1/4

Beretta def. Yujiro Takahashi

I was really looking forward to this. This match was really good and the best thing on the card up to this point. More than that, it was the best Yujiro match in recent memory. Yujiro hit all of his big moves on Beretta, but Beretta just wouldn’t stay down and wouldn’t quit. Beretta’s selling was absolutely tremendous here. This was a great struggle and really gets me invested in Beretta’s character moving forward. Beretta eventually won with the Dudebuster in a very good match. ***1/2

IWGP Tag Team Title Tornado Rules Match
Killer Elite Squad def. War Machine (c) & Guerrillas of Destiny

Definitely the best of the three straight tag matches matches. I was really hoping War Machine would retain to position them as dominant champs and put both of these teams in the rearview. This match was good though as all three teams worked with much more urgency here than in their previous two encounters. Ray Rowe was the 4th biggest guy in this match, which is nuts to think about.

Down the stretch Archer ate Guerrilla Warfare on the stage and Ray Rowe body slammed Hanson onto Davey Boy through a table. That left War Machine and G.O.D. to face off as K.E.S. looks toast. They traded near falls before War Machine hit Fallout. They nearly had the win until Davey Boy pulled the ref out of the ring. “Anything goes” Don Callis reminds us.

Archer knocked Hanson off the apron through a table on the outside. Tonga’s Gun Stun was  countered into a one-armed powerbomb by Archer. Rowe tries to survive K.E.S. as long as he can but he was all alone and succumbed to the Killer Bomb. Another good match. ***3/4

Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin def. David Finlay and Kota Ibushi

The chemistry between Ibushi and Tanahashi is mouthwatering while Elgin and Finlay both had their working shoes on. Finlay is so good, it’s such a shame he has no direction in this company. He needs to go on excursion if they won’t push him. I could also easily see him being a trios champ or something, just give the man something to do. Elgin and Ibushi had some cool sequences as well that made me want to see a match between them someday.

Down the stretch Elgin turned Ibushi inside out with a lariat. Then Elgin caught Finlay in midair while he was coming off the second rope with a European uppercut, right into a German suplex with a bridge. Elgin pressed Tanahashi over the top rope onto Ibushi. He hit Finlay with a vicious discus lariat before finishing him off with the Buckle Bomb/Elgin Bomb combination. ***¼

Rocky Romero, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano def. BUSHI, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito

Ishii is such a badass. I would argue he’s been the best wrestler of the Okada era. He no sold BUSHI and immediately went after Naito, chucking him into the guardrails with malice in his eyes.

The SANADA/Yano feud continued. A feud based around the paradise Lock. Hooray. Rocky and BUSHI are having a cool mini feud as well but Naito and Ishii remained the focus throughout the match.

Ishii conveys hate and Naito conveys flippant aloofness to the same believable degree. Part of what’s cool about Naito’s matches is that the more damage he takes the more the veil of apathy drops and he is forced to try harder to win. It’s the moment when “Tranquilo” becomes “Fuck this, I’m killing you”. You usually only see it in his singles performances but he gives some of that here. He must love working with Ishii.

Ishii grumpily scored the pin on BUSHI but he wasn’t done there. He pulled Naito into the ring, yanked his shirt off of him, and gave him a violence party for a full minute while the bell rang. Then he just turned and walked away. Naito spat in his general direction. I can’t wait for their showdown at King of Pro Wrestling. ***

Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay def. EVIL and Hiromu Takahashi

This was a lot of fun! Ospreay and Okada are some sort of dream team. EVIL continued to work on Okada’s taped up neck, applying a cravate at one point. The sequences between Ospreay and Hiromu were fast and crisp. When Hiromu got offense on Okada it excited me, because I could one day see Hiromu working as a heavyweight main eventer and this match seems like a real possibility. Okada continues to sell the neck very well, even in the little things like not doing a kip up after his signature flapjack.

Down the stretch Ospreay flipped out of the Time Bomb, back flipped off of Hiromu into a step up enzuigiri. That spot is always great. Then he hit Hiromu with the Robinson special but this time in the face while he was standing. Ospreay went for the OsCutter but EVIL saved Hiromu from it, and went to STO Ospreay but Okada came from behind and gave EVIL a Rainmaker. Loved that, and I believe that’s the first time in this feud Okada has gotten the better of EVIL. Ospreay hits the Oscutter on Hiromu to score the pin. Ospreay seemed to get the better of Hiromu at every turn. I don’t know if this booking lends itself towards a three way with KUSHIDA or maybe Ospreay will get his singles match after all. ***1/2

Afterwards Okada cut a promo on EVIL “Hey, EVIL. You said you know how to beat the superman. You must be dreaming. On October 9th, in Ryogoku, I will teach you what it takes to win the IWGP title. Be ready for it.” Oh I’m ready, Okada.

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega © def. Juice Robinson

Kenny Omega is a brilliant man. From the moment he came out through the entirety of this match, I wasn’t sure whether he was concerned that his knee wasn’t ready to go or if he was just selling. This is something people really miss the mark on when it comes to Omega. His usual goofiness doesn’t just let him rest in tag prelims, it also provides a contrast to when he seems concerned or serious.

Early on in this match I was feeling empathy pains in my own knees when Omega would land on his feet from a move or try to run the ropes at his usual speed. Kevin Kelly and Don Callis did an excellent job putting over how recent his surgery was and how superheroic his return in this type of environment is. Juice, ever the babyface, refused to go after Omega’s knee in the early going. Omega played possum and lured Juice in, only to drive him into the guardrail. I wasn’t sure if Omega was conserving his energy for big moments or if his knee was actually 100% and I was being worked.

Juice went for Pulp Friction but Omega countered into a V Trigger. Omega was starting to overwhelm and outclass Juice, hitting a reverse rana early. Another V Trigger and Omega went for One Winged Angel. Juice rolls through into a victory roll for a near fall. As Omega had Juice up for One Winged Angel, Juice slipped out and chop blocked Omega’s knee from behind. Don Callis sold this as a heinous act and even the Japanese crowd seemed to turn on Juice a bit for this, but Juice realized he would have to pull out all the stops to defeat a man of Omega’s caliber.

From there this match was great. Juice worked Omega’s knee with no remorse. A move as simple as a single leg crab pops the Japanese crowd. Juice figure four’d Omega’s knee around the ring post. Omega suplexed Juice from the apron to the floor, a spot reminiscent of the classic Kobashi/Akiyama match from NOAH in 2004. You could hear Juice gasping for air on the floor.

The next sequence saw Omega hitting Juice with multiple snap dragons, a flurry of v-triggers and absolutely insanity from both men. Juice looked like he may have pulled off the upset after hitting a a Pulp Friction in the middle of the ring but Omega kicked out at the last second.

Juice went for a Pulp Friction off the top rope but got caught on Omega’s shoulders leading to a Super One Winged Angel! You could’ve counted to a hundred, Juice was done.

This match started slow but this was the most complete performance of Juice’s career, even more so than his great Naito main event earlier this year or his G1 Climax effort against Okada. Omega barely kicking out of Pulp Friction was great. Shows what you can do when you protect finishes. The storytelling here was excellent. This wasn’t as fast paced and high octane as other Omega matches, but overall, I thought this was great. ****1/4

Afterwards, Omega cuts a promo. “The Cleaner is back.” He praised Juice’s effort. Juice is unmoving on the ground. “Make no mistake, the best in the world, on the planet, is me.” There’s a funny moment where Omega tried to do his signature sign off while holding his title and the mic and it takes him a second to figure that out. The man can do little wrong in my eyes after a performance like that.

In the post-show press conference YOSHI-HASHI came up to challenge Omega.

Final Thoughts:

NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2017 was the best of the three Destruction shows, with arguably the best main event. I found this an easy watch top to bottom, if not exactly a newsworthy show. If you’re low on time I highly recommend catching the main event, and to a lesser extent the tag match and Beretta’s match.