New Japan Pro Wrestling
Destruction In Beppu 2018
September 17, 2018
Beppu B-Con Plaza
Beppu, Oita, Japan
Watch: NJPW World
YUJI NAGATA, MANABU NAKANISHI, & YUYA UEMURA DEF. HIROYOSHI TENZAN, SATOSHI KOJIMA, & YOTA TSUJI
This features two of the more functional dads (Kojima & Nagata), and two of the less functional dads (Nakanishi & Tenzan), teaming up with the newer Young Lions. The structure of this match worked really well for the participants involved. Tenzan and Nakanishi’s involvements were kept to a minimum, while Kojima and Nagata steered the ship with the Young Lions.
I love Tsuji’s voice-cracking scream as he fires up for just about anything. He’s the biggest Young Lion we’ve seen since Kitamura, but he still possesses a wealth of underdog charisma. Uemura is good as well, with his wiry build and the way that he slowly stalks around the ring like a literal young lion. These two had some harsh chop exchanges. As Kojima is in position to end the match, Tsuji pleads for a tag, and Kojima complies. He hits a few moves to Nagata before being submitted with the Nagata lock. This was a fun, thoroughly enjoyable opener. **3/4
DAVID FINLAY & REN NARITA DEF. TOA HENARE & SHOTA UMINO
Kevin Kelly is so damn proud of coming up with the C-Block Tournament/Trophy that I don’t think we will ever stop hearing about it. Finlay makes sure to come to the ring displaying his itty bitty C-Block championship that he received for being the most successful non-G1 competitor in G1 undercard matches.
At some point, Umino gets his nose busted. He takes a beating for awhile before getting to Henare, who comes in with the hot tag. Umino connects with a couple of missile dropkicks throughout the match, which has become one of his calling cards. He kicks out of a uranage backbreaker from Finlay, but then gets pinned after a stunner. Umino and Narita have had much more intense and interesting matches and interactions in the past. This was fine, but not much more than that. **1/2
TAKASHI IIZUKA DEF. AYATO YOSHIDA
Yoshida makes it approximately ten feet out before Iizuka pounces on him and promptly strikes him with a chair. Iizuka then goes after a terrified Kevin Kelly, who, for some reason, undoes his muzzle. Freed from the confines of his muzzle, Iizuka does the only thing he knows how to do, he gnaws at the flesh of Yoshida. First he bites his foot, then he bites his head. He caps it off by biting his arm.
Yoshida gets in some offense in the form of a clothesline, forearms in the corner, and a pair of penalty kicks to front and back of Iizuka. This match met the quota for wrestling moves in an Iizuka match, however, so the deranged Suzuki-Gun granddad attempted to choke Yoshida with some sort of shoelace. When that was thwarted he said to hell with this, and struck him with the iron glove, giving Yoshida the victory by disqualification. **
I must confess I don’t understand the hype of Yoshida. He has yet to impress me in the ring. His movements seem slow and clunky, and his charisma is less than that of a Young Lion (which I have quickly learned he is not).
I also think Iizuka’s biting shtick is just ridiculous, although I did chuckle when Kevin Kelly said that he felt bad for Iizuka and stated, “I feel like he’s in a lot of pain.”
KUSHIDA, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER & TIGER MASK IV Def. CHAOS (WILL OSPREAY, ROPPONGI 3K & ROCKY ROMERO)
Taguchi comes out with a rugby hat, shirt, and ball, because why not? The first half of this match was wacky comedy. Taguchi directs his team as they attack YOH in the corner before cutting them off and throwing a hip attack of his own. As he lines up on the turnbuckle for YOH to be driven into his rear end, Yoh counters via two fingers jammed up Taguchi’s Funky Weapon.
Rocky assumes coaching duties and CHAOS run a train of their own against Taguchi. When Rocky cuts them off and does forever clotheslines, him and Will start shoving each other. CHAOS bicker amongst themselves before having a group hug, which Taguchi joins. He was swiftly beat up.
This was around the time where the match shifted from comedy to, you know, actual wrestling. Ospreay and KUSHIDA had some exciting exchanges, teasing what we could potentially see in the final of the upcoming junior heavyweight tournament to crown a new champion. Rocky gets in with TMIV and surprisingly kicks out of a Tiger Driver. I was not expecting to see that sort of near fall in this match. TMIV follows it with a tombstone piledriver, though, and Rocky does not kick out of that. This was a mostly fun match, although I could see the comedy driving some people crazy. The tone shift and finish ended things on a high note. **3/4
KILLER ELITE SQUAD (LANCE ARCHER & DAVEY BOY SMITH JR.) DEF. BEST FRIENDS (CHUCKIE T & BERETTA)
As heartwarming as it is to see Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta getting to have this role in NJPW, it makes it all the more saddening when the crowd is dead silent for them. The two do their hug spot early on, and it is met with crickets in the audience.
Luckily, the early silence is the only negative of this match. For all of his cynicism online, Chuckie T is taking this opportunity serious by working his ass off. His goofy persona was tucked away as he was doing high spots and letting out spirited shouts, trying to raise the energy of the building. KES weren’t being slouches, either. In an impressive feat of strength, DBS Jr. broke up a pin fall attempt by deadlift German suplexing Trent off of Archer. This was only KES’s third two-on-two tag match in NJPW in more than four months, so they feel somewhat fresh.
Best Friends go for stereo dives, and while Chuckie T connects, Trent is caught by Archer, and choke slammed onto the apron. The crowd really starts to get behind Best Friends at this point, which makes up for the early lack of noise.
Trent gets in the ring and goes for a flying knee, but is somehow caught by DBS Jr. and becomes the recipient of the Killer Bomb as KES pick up the victory. This was a really good match. Best Friends are going to become beloved if they keep up with performances like this. For now, though, it looks like KES are going to set their sights on the Young Bucks and the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. ***1/2
SUZUKIGUN (ZACK SABRE JR, EL DESPERADO & YOSHINOBU KANEMARU) DEF. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPÓN (EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI)
These sorts of matches are perfect for new fans. The wrestling is usually really good, and you can get a glimpse of the different characters within a faction. The majority of this match progresses as one would expect, with everyone getting an opportunity to come in and get their stuff in.
Everything gets a bit more interesting when ZSJ and EVIL face off. They have some good back and forth. At one point, EVIL gets a rope break from an octopus hold by biting the top rope. He goes for Everything is Evil, but ZSJ counters it with a bridging pin for the three-count. Afterwards, EVIL sits still as a statue in the ring as ZSJ saunters to the back with a cocky smirk on his face. EVIL looks completely defeated, and doesn’t exit the ring for a long time. I’m not sure where this is going, but it adds a layer of intrigue to an otherwise standard six-man match. ***
HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JUICE ROBINSON, TOGI MAKABE & TOMOAKI HONMA DEF. CHAOS (KAZUCHIKA OKADA, JAY WHITE, TORU YANO & YOSHI-HASHI)
The big story going into this match is the unrest within the ranks of CHAOS. That unrest was perpetuated throughout this match as Jay White did things such as blind tag in, disrupting Okada vs Tanahashi. In another uncooperative moment, Okada had Tanahashi’s arms held back, beckoning for White to strike the Ace, but he looked at Okada, and turned away and rolled into the ring instead.
As if Jay White seemingly having a vendetta against Okada isn’t enough, Tanahashi’s offer to have Yoshi Hashi leave CHAOS should Okada lose his match at Kobe contributed to the inner-faction drama.
In the midst of all of this teased dissension, Honma got a big reaction from the crowd. He missed a few kokeshis before finally hitting one on Yano. Late into the match Juice makes his first tag in. Yoshi Hashi stops a Pulp Friction, and has Juice in a full nelson when White accidentally strikes Yoshi Hashi instead of Juice. Juice takes advantage of this and hit his left hand of God and Pulp Friction for the win.
Tana is knelt beside Yoshi Hashi when Okada comes to his aid and shoos him away. Yoshi Hashi, once again, wants nothing to do with Okada. This match was interesting due to all of the storyline elements woven into it. I believe that this CHAOS situation is going to ultimately play into Okada losing to Tanahashi one week from now. ***
NEVER OPENWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
TAICHI DEF. HIROOKI GOTO
To emphasize the importance of this match, Taichi’s entrance took three hours. Once the match begins, Taichi immediately dips out to the floor. Goto sits cross-legged, like his pal Shibata, and awaits Taichi to enter. Instead, Taichi uses his muse, Miho Abe, to distract the ref so that he can jump Goto and roll him out to Kanemaru. This is the beginning of a LOT of Suzuki Gun bullshit.
After some crowd brawling, they get back in the ring and start exchanging strikes. I’m thinking this could be the real start to the match, where they have hot back-and-forth sequences that suck you in. Between Goto’s aggression, and Taichi’s sneakily good wrestling talent (and his face that exudes punch-ability), I was prepared for this match to kick it into the next gear.
Things were progressing fine until Goto attempts a GTR. As Goto prepares to drive his elbow into Taichi’s head, Taichi grabs Red Shoes, and somehow in this exchange the trusty NJPW ref becomes incapacitated for an inordinate amount of time.
The NJPW ref bump has become the Achilles heel in many New Japan matches. Potentially great matches are hampered by officials getting breathed on too heavily, and then being out of commission for just the right length of time for the bad guys to cheat, and swing momentum in their favor. A few years ago it was the Bullet Club specialty to ruin every match via ref bumps and run-ins, and now that honor has been bestowed upon Suzuki Gun, The Tongans, and Jay White. While it’s an easy way to get a crowd to boo the heel, it often damages the quality of a big match.
Kanemaru and El Desperado take turns jumping in the ring and trying to beat up Goto. The ever resilient warrior that he is, Goto fends them off. By the time all of the interference has subsided and Red Shoes has recovered, my energy level for this match was nearly depleted.
With that said, these two managed to piece together an exciting final couple minutes. Taichi brings in his mic stand, but Goto avoids it, and unleashes a flurry of offense. After an ushigoroshi, shouten kai, head butt, and reverse GTR, Taichi somehow kicks out at two.
This match was starting to heat up, so naturally Iizuka had to waddle to the ring and incorporate some more shenanigans. Goto quickly deals with him, but the distraction allowed Taichi to hit a low blow and a Gedo clutch for a really close near fall. Goto kicked out of a super kick that looked like it took his face off, but when Taichi his Black Mephisto (an air raid crash), there was no escape for Goto. Red Shoes counted to three, and Goto’s NEVER reign was over.
Despite the hot closing stretch, this match was really hurt by all of the interference. Goto’s NEVER reign never quite reached the height that many had hoped for, and I am afraid a Taichi NEVER run is going to be plagued by interference and chicanery. I understand that Taichi’s stalling, and SZKG’s interference are closely tied to their identity, but, I can’t help but be taken out of what could have been a really good match. ***1/4
TETSUYA NAITO DEF. MINORU SUZUKI
Earlier this year Tetsuya Naito and Minoru Suzuki were engaged in a hateful feud over the IWGP Intercontinental Championship (remember that thing?). It built up to the big title match at Wrestling Hi No Kuni on April 29th. What this match produced was a lackluster affair that disappointed many Naito and Suzuki fans. Fast forward a few months, and for some reason these two became locked in each other’s gaze once again. NJPW events are almost never main evented by title-less grudge matches, yet here we are.
Naito has his pants half off when Suzuki jumps him. This is an improvement on Naito’s singles match against Chris Jericho where he never got to fully un-garb. They start brawling, which is mainly what this match consisted of. Suzuki was firmly in control for the majority of this match. Any time Naito would show signs of life, Suzuki would put him down with thudding kicks and forearms.
At this point in the match, the gears are moving pretty slowly. As much as a fast paced start would have excited some, myself included, that is just not the way either of these guys operate.
Outside of the ring, Suzuki grabs the time keeper’s table, and rams it into Naito, leaving a perfect, head-shaped hole. Then, Suzuki hangs Naito above the ground with his sleeper hold. Few things look more gruesome than Suzuki suspending somebody’s lifeless-looking body in mid-air.
In a terrifying moment that I thought might actually happen, Suzuki set the table up and teased a Gotch-style piledriver off of the apron, through the table. Naito won the encounter, instead, sending Suzuki through the table with a neck breaker. As far as table spots go, this was one of the safest I have seen NJPW do lately.
Naito capitalized with a running Destino, which looked pretty sloppy, but Suzuki answered back by targeting Naito’s knee. He locks him in a variety of submissions targeting the knee. Suzuki is great at making submissions look excruciating, and Naito’s facials conveyed absolute agony.
Despite the excellent application and selling of these holds, this went on for entirely too long. If someone doesn’t tap out within a minute or two, my brain automatically assumes they will eventually persevere until they get a rope break, and the hold loses all drama. This has happened in a handful of Naito and Suzuki matches, so it was really inevitable for it to happen here.
Much like the interference exhausted me in the previous match, this segment really took it out of me. They did exchange brutal slaps and strikes, which gave me some joy. Naito hit an abrupt Destino, and then performed a Gotch-style piledriver of his own, except it looked more like a variation of a power bomb. It seemed to me like he overcompensated protecting Suzuki, and the result looked kind of soft. That is a shame, because he followed it with the match-winning Destino, and pinned Suzuki.
This match seemed very long. I can see where they tried to incorporate different elements to make it work, but these two just lack any dynamic chemistry for these sorts of matches. This wasn’t a bad match. There were brief moments that were okay, but it was largely a boring main event that I can’t recommend to anyone, nor would I go out of my way to watch it again. ***
Despite the fun undercard, this was a largely disappointing NJPW show. On the bright side, Best Friends vs KES was a flicker of hope for the heavyweight tag scene. Also, CHAOS and EVIL both had interesting layers added to their stories. The last two matches cannot be overlooked, however. There were moments in both matches that were enjoyable. Unfortunately, those were flickers in the wind. Going into this show I think everyone had mild expectations for Taichi vs Goto and Naito vs Suzuki. Neither match knocked it out of the park, but now we have a new NEVER champion, and maybe we will finally see an end to this Suzuki/Naito feud.