NJPW Road To Destruction 2018
September 7, 2018
Korakuen Hall
Toyko, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Today kicked off the first of six (seven if you count the untelevised show from 9/5) road-to shows before we get to our first destination on the NJPW Destruction tour, Destruction in Hiroshima. It also marks the first proper NJPW show in nearly a month. With the annual post-G1 breather, we are ready for an abundance of multi-man tag matches, right? At least there are some nuggets sprinkled in the midst of these tour kickoff shows. Let’s get to it.

Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi Def. Ren Narita & Shota Umino

This is your typical Young Lions-versus-veterans opening match. Owens and Yujiro are kind of grumpy. Narita and Umino are full of fire and spunk. Narita and Umino are rocking one and two knee pads respectively. They are moving up the ranks, or maybe the Dojo just wants to protect the joints of the future of the company.

On the outside, Yujiro throws Narita over the railing, and onto this kind lady in the front row. Despite her apparent glee, Yujiro feels bad about the contact, and takes a few moments to console her. What a…gentleman? Back in the ring, Owens hits his neckbreaker combo, but gets cut off by Umino’s beautiful dropkick. Narita comes in and does an impressive deadlift gutwrench suplex into a Boston crab.

Something special that often happens with Young Lion matches is that the crowd always pops for flash pin near falls. Despite almost never working, the crowd can’t help but get excited at the improbability of an upset. As usual, these attempts failed and Owens hit Narita with a package piledriver for the win in eight minutes. This was a totally fine opening match. Nothing overly exciting, and nothing distractingly bad. Your standard fare for this type of bout. **3/4

Firing Squad (Tanga Loa, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Taiji Ishimori) Def. Ayato Yoshida, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, & David Finlay

This is Ayato Yoshida’s third appearance on a non-Lion’s Gate NJPW card. Trained at Taka Michinoku’s Kaientai Dojo, he seems to now be in the mix as an imported Young Lion.

Firing Squad play rock, paper, scissors to determine who will begin this match. There really isn’t a whole lot that happened here. We get exchanges between Big Mike and Tama Tonga before Finlay comes in and collects heat for awhile. Finlay seems to have slimmed down some, and his pants are definitely the best ring gear he’s had in awhile. (Side note: I think it’d be fascinating to chronicle Finlay’s search for the right in-ring fashion. He’s had his fair share of missteps. Chris Taylor should get on this.)

We eventually get to Yoshida jumping in. I didn’t watch any of his Lion’s Gate work, but he seemed a little clunky here. His strikes are good, but he seems really awkward when he runs the rope. He exchanged some chops with Tanga Loa, hit a penalty kick, went for a rollup, and then ate Ape Shit for the pin. **1/2

Beretta Def. Toa Henare

A singles match on a Road To show always sticks out like a sore thumb, in a good way. Henare has been awarded a handful of singles matches on previous shows. He’s squared off against Bad Luck Fale, Tomohiro Ishii, Yujiro Takahashi, and Beer City Bruiser, and lost them all.

Henare starts the match off with an intimidating islander chant. Beretta works as a prick here. He may be half of the beloved RPG Vice, and returning from injury, but he still has to put Henare in his place via head slaps and kicks to the face. Beretta drapes Henare over the railing, coincidentally right by the previously mentioned kind lady who Yujiro encountered. She gets ushered out of the way this time as Beretta hits a double stomp from the top rope.

After hitting some of their signature spots, this match kicks into the next gear for the closing stretch. Beretta counters a diving shoulder tackle/headbutt with a knee, hits a piledriver for a big two-count, and then puts Henare away with the Dudebuster. Beretta looks as good as he’s ever been, and Henare is showing that he can keep up with whoever he is in the ring with. This was a good, self-contained story. A decent match with an exciting finish. ***1/4

I am interested to see what Beretta’s trajectory looks like going forward. He never got his heavyweight run completely off the ground before he got injured, and one of his first matches back he is playing the heel to Henare’s fiery babyface.

Hirooki Goto & Gedo Def. Taichi & Taka Michinoku

Miho Abe comes out and stands right in front of Harold Meij, who is then flipped off by Taichi. I’m not sure why it was so imperative that he be there for this small interaction.

I love the juxtaposition of Taichi and Goto. Taichi is over-the-top in his presentation. He takes forever to get to the ring, and has a lot of fanfare (lip syncing, scantily clad assistant, mini-cowl, robe, etc.). Goto’s entrance is about a quarter as long as Taichi’s. He comes out ready to fight, and doesn’t want to waste any time.

Taichi knocked over the steps to enter the ring, which was a hilariously evil thing to do. As for the match itself, I can’t break apart too much that happened. It was a somewhat boring affair. Taichi and Goto’s characters contrast in the best way, but their in-ring chemistry hasn’t fully taken off for me. There’s a lot of brawling, eye gouging, and largely uninteresting components of this match. Goto slips out of a last ride powerbomb attempt, gives Taichi an Ushigoroshi, then pins Taka after giving him his own Ushigoroshi and GTR. **3/4

LIJ (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) Def. Suzuki Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)

Naito gets cut on the head, courtesy of Minoru Suzuki, while brawling in the crowd. Their storyline is a strange one. It is a rare singles feud not centered around a title. While their first match was less than stellar, they always seem to have this intense chemistry together. It’s an animosity you can feel radiating through the screen. Naito barely beats a 20-count to get back in the ring after being decimated by chairs in the crowd. He is greeted in the ring by a Suzuki Gun stomp-party. I had a brain lapse, and wondered why Iizuka had a Bane mask on. As I realized it was his muzzle, he proceeded to take it off and bite everyone in sight.

At this point SANADA and EVIL had yet to even step foot in the ring. They eventually get in and hit Iizuka (who thankfully missed with his deadly Iron Finger strike) with Magic Killer for the three count.

This was somewhat of a cold finish, and there was entirely too much Iizuka running around, attempting to gnaw on any and all human flesh. I’ve got faith Suzuki and Naito can redeem themselves and have a great match in Beppu, but this didn’t actively contribute to that hype. **1/2

Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI Def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma

Okada is back with orange hair and balloons. It seems like he’s really having an identity crisis with his Rainmaker character. One moment he is THE Rainmaker, and the next he’s Broken Kazu.

Okada and Tanahashi start off to a big reaction from the crowd. It really is amazing how many times these guys have wrestled, and yet they always make it interesting to watch. Okada does his clean break spot, but eats a meaty forearm from Tanahashi. Tana has evolved into this guy who is still the babyface ace of the company, but he isn’t going to put up with anyone’s shit, and I love it. Another note, it’s been awhile since I’ve noticed Okada do his kip up after he hits his DDT. I don’t know if he is actively avoiding it, waiting until he regains full confidence before doing it, or if it’s some far less-meta reason.

This is Honma’s big return to Korakuen Hall since his injury, and I honestly expected the crowd to be more electric for his return. They were chanting his name, and cheering on his multiple Kokeshi attempts, but not to the extent that I was anticipating. It felt good to see some Great Bash Heel action again. Makabe and Honma may not be what they were a few years ago, but they are right for each other, and seem to have fun in the ring.

Honma misses two Kokeshis before connecting with one on Yano. He follows up with a diving Kokeshi, but takes a low blow and is pinned by Yano. This match had more energy than the LIJ/SZKG multi-man, but was ultimately lackluster. **3/4

Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) Def. Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay

The moment we’ve all been waiting for.

On these Road To shows you really have to take whatever cool matchups you see with a grain of salt. A lot of times guys will hold back and rely on shtick, and save the big stuff for a more important show. That is not what happened here.

The match begins with Ospreay and Ibushi. It took about ten seconds for me to determine we NEED an Ospreay vs Ibushi singles match. After a crazy flurry of flips, kip ups, and dodges Ospreay and Ibushi face off, and then tag out to their partners. Ishii rushed right after Kenny and hit him with a quick brainbuster. Ospreay comes in and does a ridiculous, corkscrew flip off of Ishii’s back.

This wasn’t Kenny (with Ibushi by his side) versus Ishii (with Ospreay by his side). This was the Golden Lovers taking on the tag team of Ishii and Ospreay. This was a four-man show, with each person gunning to put on an excellent performance. To try and break down all of the awesome moments that occurred would be entirely too difficult. This is a must watch match.

Ospreay and Ibushi continue to face off with feats of athleticism, then Kenny and Ishii take over with a load of chops, lariats, and V-Triggers. After Kenny catches Ospreay attempting a cross body, and throws him out of the ring, he and Kota setup for the GOLDEN SHOWER. They haven’t hit this move since their DDT days, and I will pop up every single time they attempt it until they finally succeed. It isn’t this time, though.

After a few more high octane exchanges by everyone involved The Golden Lovers connect with the Golden Trigger on Ospreay for the win.

After a pretty mediocre Road To show, this blew me out of the water. I was tepid when this match was announced, because you never know what you’re going to get on these types of shows. Boy, were my expectations exceeded. These are four of the absolute best wrestlers on the planet who all clicked together in a random Road to Destruction show. This was amazing. ****1/2

Final Thoughts

This was a show with inoffensive, yet bland, multi-man matches (which is about the status quo for these sort of events), but the singles match and main event took this Road to Destruction show to another level. Destruction in Hiroshima boasts Omega vs Ishii, and this more than continued to pour gasoline on their hot feud. However, after this main event I need to see Ibushi vs Ospreay. I don’t know how or why we would get that, but they caught me hook, line, and sinker. Watch the main event, and if you have time check out Henare vs Beretta. Then, buckle your seatbelts because we have a week full of road-to shows.