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  • Connor Ewens

Let's Review: NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2023

We are in the in-between stage of the New Japan calendar. Following Tetsuya Naito's big victory at the G1 Climax finals, we are on the road to the huge January 4th Tokyo Dome event, Wrestle Kingdom. We have embarked on the Road to Destruction tour, with the final destination being in Ryogoku in October. We are halfway through the tour and we have a significant pitstop here in Kobe. Today's event is headlined by a big title defence for Will Ospreay, who faces the literally gigantic task of taking down Yota Tsuji. Our other main event quality match sees Naito defend his Wrestle Kingdom championship opportunity against 'Hawaiian Juggernaut' Jeff Cobb. Plenty of potential on the card for a good night of action. Let's kick it Kansai-style in Kobe. Let's Review.

24th September 2023- NJPW Destruction in Kobe

-After the usual New Japan 10 minute intro hype package, we are joined by Kevin Kelly & Chris Charlton on commentary.

Kevin Knight & Tiger Mask vs Bullet Club War Dogs (Clark Connors & Drilla Maloney)

Tiger Mask isn't Knight's usual tag partners, but he's filling in for KUSHIDA today to take on the current IWGP Jr Heavyweight champions. Intergalactic Jet Setters (Knight & KUSHIDA) will be challenging them for the gold in Ryogoku after they picked up singles victories against both Connors & Maloney. The new era of Bullet Club has been gaining momentum under their new leader David Finlay, trying to recapture their former glory and notoriety. Knight has been putting on great matches across various promotions worldwide, most notably Impact Wrestling and CMLL.

Your standard New Japan tag opener. Knight takes the fight to the BC before the bell with a huge dive. He has come out aggressively but it's not long until the War Dogs gain control and grind down The Jet. Eventually, Knight finds an opening to tag in the seasoned veteran Tiger Mask. He goes on a hot run dishing out his signature offence, but I think we all know the outcome here. Connors & Maloney get Tiger Mask up for the Full Clip finish and a victory. Solid action to kick things off.

Bullet Club War Dogs win via pinfall (6:57)


-post match attack by the BCWD's, dirty heels being dirty bastards.

House of Torture (Dick Togo, EVIL & Yujiro Takahashi) vs Just 5 Guys (SANADA, DOUKI, TAKA Michinoku)

Imagine having your world champion in the second match of the night? They clearly undervalue SANADA's pull as World Champion, which might be fair considering how lacklustre his reign has felt so far. This is built around the upcoming EVIL vs SANADA match in Ryogoku. EVIL, arguably the most overrated wrestler in Japan, beat SANADA during the G1 Climax tournament. Recently, the House of Torture ambushed SANADA then EVIL stole his world championship. EVIL is calling himself the world champion. They're both former Los Ingobernables de Japon members, so the feud is natural, but I'm not excited about their match up at all. The HoT have put Yoshinobu Kanemaru on the bench from an assault too, so extra heat between the factions. Kelly & Charlton spend their time talking about anything other than the HoT during their entrance, because they hate them as much as we do.

Another match starting with a pre-match attack as the two factions brawl. Once the HoT gain control, it is a slow (and I mean slow) dissection of these 3 Guys. DOUKI is worked over for a long time by all 3 of the Torture Boys. DOUKI manages a tag to SANADA who comes head to head with EVIL, the crowd manage to make a little noise for their world champion. He is over, but none of them care for the House of Torture. They continue to wrestle back and forth, giving us a little teaser to what we can expect from their match in 2 weeks time. I'm still not excited for it. TAKA & Togo in now in a clash of legends. It's not long until all of the HoT take turns beating down on the swift technician. Big dives from the Guys wipe out EVIL & Yujiro, allowing Michinoku to put down Togo with his patented Driver. I didn't care for this, the action was fine but it was rather dull unless SANADA was in the ring. House of Torture continue to be regularly featured because they're good at getting heat...because they suck. It's go away heat.

Just 5 Guys win via pinfall (8:32)


Guerillas of Destiny (El Phantasmo, Hikuleo, Jado, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs Bullet Club (Alex Coughlin, Chase Owens, David Finlay, Gabe Kidd & Gedo)

The feud that never ends between the GoD and the BC. Having formerly being a part of the group, Tonga & Loa were ousted from the group by the BC when Jay White was in charge. The GOD would become a stable as their fellow relative Hikuleo joins the fight as does former Bullet Club manager Jado. El Phantasmo was recently booted out of the Club by new leader David Finlay as he aims to rebuild Bullet Club in his new image. This has been going on for over a year and a half, which I wouldn't really mind but it hasn't produced many great matches. A series of matches are planned for the rest of the tour ahead of 3 BC vs GoD matches at Destruction in Ryogoku.

Oh look, another match starting with a brawl before the match can start properly! Some creative booking their guys. This continues as a brawl for the start, we see former long-term tag partners Jado and Gedo go at it which didn't look good but it was good for the story. Jado is dominated by the Club for large portions of this. None of it was too interesting until Coughlin came in, who is so technically sound and powerful. Kidd comes in who continues to punish Jado whilst doing some good heeling. The tag finally comes to Tama and Finlay is in too for an exchange we've seen a 100 times I feel at this point. At least the action picks up the pace. A bad looking spear by Tonga Loa. Coughlin & Kidd take him oui, Hikuleo takes them out and launches ELP on them. Back with Tama & Finlay, a Gun Stun reversed into an Irish curse was good. Gedo tags in and eats a Gun Stun to lose. Another match that didn't interest me, it picked up in the closing minutes but not by much.

Guerillas of Destiny win via pinfall (10:12)


-Another post match attack, a brawl that the Guerillas get the better of and run off the Club. They celebrate in the ring and pose for the crowd

-promotion for the upcoming AEW show WrestleDream, which will honour the memory of Antonio Inoki and feature a dream match between Zack Sabre Jr and Bryan Danielson.

CHAOS (Lio Rush & YOH) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)

Lio Rush will challenge Hiromu for his IWGP Jr Heavyweight championship, also featuring Mike Bailey. Very rare we see triple threat matches in New Japan so they often feel like a spectacle. Hiromu beat Lio in the New Japan Cup, but Lio won in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. At Impact's Multiverse United, Lio Rush & Trey Miguel defeat Mike Bailey & Hiromu Takahashi. Lio & YOH are also setting their sights on the upcoming Jr Tag League too.

The fans are solidly behind Hiromu in this one. Some nice tandem offence from CHAOS early on but LiJ isolates YOH from his partner. Hiromu baits YOH in for a strike exchange but it backfires as YOH creates space after a superkick. Lio Rush gets a tag, he's so damn quick holy shit. BUSHI tries to ambush him but Rush knocks him back. Speedy suicide dive from Rush to Hiromu. Lio goes for Rush Hour but its reversed. A back and forth ends up with a big pop-up powerbomb by Takahashi. BUSHI is in and now isolates Lio Rush, dropkick after dropkick. BUSHI sunset flips Hiromu holding Rush for an assisted german suplex, cool spot. YOH is finally back in the match to wipe out Hiromu so Lio focuses on BUSHI. Lio hits a sloppy looking rush hour, followed by final hour for the win. Another pretty average tag match, but the best one so far. Rush & YOH work well together and I do see them being contenders in the upcoming Jr Tag League. This was a pretty safe match, BUSHI eating the pin obviously made sense.

CHAOS win via pinfall (9:14)


CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) vs TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr & Bad Dude Tito)

I honestly don't know any reason for this match except to put them on the card. Commentary talk a lot about Danielson, Forbidden Door & WrestleDream so I guess the main reason is to promote that? Okada & Ishii are 2/3s of the NEVER Openweight 6-man champions alongside Hiroshi Tanahashi. ZSJ is current Television champion and is arguably on the run of a life time currently with victories galore. Tito has been clashing with Okada throughout the tour so I imagine a feud between the champs and TMDK is around the corner.

Tito looks to prove he is stronger and better than Okada, which he is until a drop toe hold. Ishii is now in for a tough guy standoff. Tito wins it and tags in ZSJ. Ishii is worked over by TMDK, Tito is a loud mouth heel who is quite entertaining but it doesn't hide how average he is in the ring currently. He works over Ishii with a barrage of strikes but he powers back with a suplex. Okada gets a hot tag and begins to wear down Tito. Tito holds his own though, firing back with a snap german. Okada with a pair of big boots. hot tags for both teams, Ishii & ZSJ trade strikes and holds, Ishii wins with a big shoulder block. The submission offence begins, wearing down the arm. Always good to see an octopus stretch. Okada is in for germans for both TMDK members, but Tito stays up and fires back with his own suplexes. A big sky high into a PK for a close near fall, double arm trap transition was buttery smooth. Okada is in to help Ishii regain control. An exchange of pin attempts and drivcr attempts but ZSJ traps Ishii in a bridge pin to win.

About time we got a good match, which I wouldn't expect less from these 4. I criticised Tito earlier but he was good here, he just needs time to improve. The other 3 were spectacular as always, consistently on their game. A good win for the TV champ

TMDK win via pinfall (12:15)


-promo package for the next match plays

Taichi (c) vs SHO for the NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling championship

A substory in the ongoing House of Torture vs Just 5 Guys feud. The KOPW title is a strange championship. Taichi is actually just the provisional champion, only one champion is declared per year and it is whoever holds the title by year end. Also, the rules for the match are proposed by each challenger and then voted on by the fans. Here, the chosen stipulation is "no time limits, seconds handcuffed". So all of the other members will be handcuffed together. SANADA to EVIL, Togo to Michinoku and DOUKI to Yujiro. 2 helpings of all these men, hooray. Taichi took the belt away from last years champion |Shingo Takagi in April. SHO has done the exact same as EVIL, stealing the KOPW championship away from Taichi without actually winning it and calling himself a champion.

After a lifetime getting everyone to be handcuffed together and the heels complaining, we finally start. SHO runs away and tries to break these handcuffs, looking for anyway to cheat. Taichi attacks him on the outside and brings him in. Taichi takes his time punishing SHO, who fights back with cheap tactics. The HoT guys try to attack Taichi but their new cuff buddies prevent that happening. SHO takes Taichi out near the crowd and chokes him with chairs. He tries to win by count out but Taichi is back at ringside easy enough. The referee keeps counting even when he can visibly see HoT guys holding Taichi away from the ring which makes zero sense. This is pretty bad so far. SHO taunts Taichi who fires back with strikes, more cheating by SHO. Taichi continues to regain control by actually wrestling. a mean enziguiri. A distraction by the House leads to a low blow, SHO tries to use a wrench but Kanemaru return with a whiskey bottle. He takes a shot and he spits it in the face of Taichi! Bottle to the head, Kanemaru has joined the House of Torture, it was all a set-up. Oh dear, A piledriver by SHO earns him the title as provisional KOPW champion.

Well Just 5 Guys is back to being Just 4 Guys. This was pretty crap until the final moments. Taichi pulled out some good offence but not enough to save this. I get that this was all primarily story driven wrestling, but the story isn't compelling so the weaker match quality is really damaging. The worst thing on the show.

SHO wins via pinfall (13:01)


-House of Torture are free and the Guys are handcuffed to the rope and are too busy selling their injuries they're not watching the HoT destroy Taichi. SHO mocks them as does EVIL, who agrees to make the match between him and SANADA a lumberjack match. (SANADA has previously said in a promo it should be a lumberjack match to make their match fair.) Well, not only do we have to watch EVIL vs SANADA but now it's in one of the most overrated match stipulations. Seriously, they're all so formulaic. I haven't watched a NJPW one though so maybe it'll be different, but I don't have high hopes.

Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) (c) vs TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) for the IWGP Tag Team Championships

TMDK made their intentions known at the G1 climax finale to challenge Bishamon, when they defeated them in an 8-man tag. If United Empire are the hottest faction in New Japan right now, then TMDK are a close second. Nicholls & Haste have been involved in many good matches, but have failed to capture the IWGP tag gold on a couple of occasions this year, including against Bishamon. An Aussie Open reign was cut short via injury, leading to Bishamon to be recrowned as the tag champs at Dominion. These two veterans have been one of the best tag teams in New Japan for 3 years now.

A feeling out process between Hashi and Nicholls. Haste comes in and it seems TMDK may take the advantage but in comes Goto to put the champions in control. A trip up by Nicholls swings the tide, now TMDK begin to isolate Goto and wear him down. A brutal PK by Haste to Goto's arm. Goto fights out of a double team but Y-H ain't available for the tag. Goto holds his own with a double spinning heel kick and a double bulldog. Hashi finally in for the hot tag. Nice OTT senton to TMDK. Blockbuster for a nearfall. Haste escapes a double team, reverse powerslam to Goto and a Saito suplex to Hashi. Neither man have a partner to tag so they continue to fight. A tower of doom superplex for a nearfall and all 4 are down. Hashi avoids a double team with a double dropkick to TMDK ankles. They prevent a hot tag though and nail Yoshi with a high-low. Mikey bomb and a spinebuster to Goto puts him out. TMDK hit their big finish |Highway to Hell for a nearfall. Goto prevents another big finish by holding Haste in the corner, Yoshi-Hashi hits a crucifix bomb to Nicholls to win.

A very good match this, the best so far. TMDK did well to stay on top and keep the odds against Bishamon, but ultimately Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi are too good right now to be beaten this way. Great action.

Bishamon win via pinfall (12:29)


Shingo Takagi vs Great O-Khan

O-Khan has been unstoppable recently, but he has been on a loss of form in recent times. He lost to Shingo Takagi in an MMA rules match at New Beginning in Nagoya, which seemed to have begun his downfall. A lack of singles victories and also losing his RevPro British Heavyweight title to Michael Oku, ending is 204 day reign. O-Khan has never beaten Takagi in singles action. Since losing the KOPW title to Taichi, Shingo has been directionless single-wise, though he has been aiding LiJ in their battles against Just 5 Guys and the United Empire.

Great O-Khan attacks Takagi before the bell, WOW WHAT A SURPRISE. The booking creativity is just ooooverflowing. The fight spills to the outside, O-Khan is the more powerful one but Takagi hangs in there. Chair shot by O-Khan. Back inside, O-Khan applies an anaconda vice but Shingo gets to the ropes. Shingo fires back with strikes but the Great O no sells it, returning the favour but Shingo pulls out a Spicolli Driver. Big elbow and lariat by Shingo. Takagi's Made in Japan is dodged, strikes and chops traded. O-Khan no sells a Saito, Takagi no sells a big boot and they go back to lariats. O-Khan kicks out of a Made in Japan. More stiff-ass lariats, a torture rack into a Hercules cutter by O-Khan looked sweet. An absolute whallop of a lariat by Khan. An Eliminator by O-Khan gets a close near fall. A second attempt is reversed into a sweet DDT. Headbutts exchanged, forearms exchanged, then chops, then forearms again, then claws, a big punch by O-Khan to end the exchange. Eliminator reversed and Takagi takes O-Khan who kicks out at 1! wow. A bomber lariat by Takagi the a Last of the Dragon gets a victory for Shingo. A great match by these two, it was a constant back and forth with a lot of stiffness and power moves. I'm not usually too impressed by O-Khan matches but he put in a great effort. Takagi continues to be one of the greatest wrestlers in Japan.

Shingo Takagi wins via pinfall (11:27)


Tetsuya Naito vs Jeff Cobb for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match contract

I previously mentioned that Naito won the G1 Climax, but he was defeated in his block by Jeff Cobb. Prior to that, Cobb had failed to beat Naito in 3 meetings. Cobb feels that since he beat him in the tournament, he deserves an opportunity to take the Wrestle Kingdom main event spot. Can you remember how awesome some of the past G1 briefcases used to be. This year, Naito is carrying a canvas tote bad which has a contract inside it. I can't tell if this sad, wholesome, hilarious or whatever. It's peculiar. It's definitely on brand for Naito.

Reluctance to lock up by Naito, who sends Cobb outside with a dropkick. He sends Cobb back in and goes for a float over DDT early but fails. Big belly-to-belly suplex by Cobb. Stiff clubberin' by Jeff Cobb. A slick as frick combo in the corner by the agile Jeff Cobb, the man can move for a 280 pounder. Naito gets back in and hits his own corner combination but it only gets a 1 count. A cravat lock into a neckbreaker. Cobb reverses Gloria for a big dropkick. Naito reverses and apron german, but Cobb hits an impressive deadlift suplex from the top rope. Naito fights back in and hits a huge top rope frankensteiner into an esperanza. Cobb with an insane looking F-5000, spinning Naito like helicopter blades. A tour of the islands is blocked, Naito hits strikes but he's caught but he lands a poison rana. A great reversal sequence between a Destino & a Tour of the Islands. pinfall attempts with callbacks to the G1. Cobb hits a big lariat and goes for the tour but it's reversed into a Destino! One more for good luck and Naito is still the number one contender.

A predictable outcome, but what an impressive match. Similar to the previous match, these two gave their all with very little time to relax in between moves. Naito vs SANADA is almost guaranteed to main event the Tokyo Dome, it's all perfectly laid out. Cobb is amazing and I hope he is elevated to the main event scene soon. I want a long, dominant run by Cobb as a singles champion in Japan.

Tetsuya Naito wins via pinfall (14:17)


Will Ospreay (c) vs Yota Tsuji for the IWGP UK Championship

Ospreay is the best wrestler in the world right now and I don't think it's even close. Will commissioned his own UK Championship after defeating the best of the best whilst he was the US champion, including Kenny Omega & Kazuchika Okada. Being left out of the world title picture and not wanting to represent the US anymore, he made the prestigious UK title. "Whoever can take this away from me, can call themselves the best in the world". In a multi-man match at the G1 finals, Tsuji scored a huge pinfall over Ospreay to give his team the win, setting himself up for a title opportunity. Tsuji has been very impressive since his return from excursion. He has such a great skillset, a lot of charisma and that superstar look. He looks like 148,320,000 Yen.

They feel each other out early on, Ospreay weary of Tsuji's power. Back and forth chain wrestling for a while. Ospreay kips up from a shoulder tackle. Awesome series of evasion/reversal sequences followed by a huge suicide dive by Yota. Ospreay tries to wear down Tsuji, one big chop in return drops him. A big chop back by Ospreay sends Yota outside and he lands a big plancha. A big Irish whip sees Ospreay leap over the barrier followed by a diving attack. That was smooth. Tsuji feeling the stings of the chops now. Ospreay is oozing with confidence as he takes Tsuji apart with strikes, targeting the back. Yota grits and powers back, smiling at Will, a swift tilt-a-whirl backbreaker gets him back in the match. An impressive rana by Tsuji, followed by an equally impressive Fosbury flop to the outside. Insane athleticism. Gory special gets a 2 count. Springboard enziguiri then a springboard forearm by Ospreay. a strike exchange, a slick combo leading into a stomp by Tsuji. Another huge stomp in the corner too. Suplex reversed into a stunner was awesome. Everytime Tsuji seems he is taking full control, Ospreay pulls out an impressive move. Running big boot by Ospreay. He sets up a hidden blade, it's dodged. More insane reversal sequences I can't keep up. The work rate and pace is incredible! A standing spanish fly gets a near fall. They kneel before each other, Ospreay talks shit as they exchange blows. The crowd are slowly getting behind Tsuji for his awesome performance. Ospreay is clearly dominating the strikes, but Yota stays up and downs Will. Ospreay gets back in with strikes hitting a huge Oscutter from the apron the the floor. Oscutter reversed, Tsuji with an awesome sequence ending with a brutal knee strike. Yota chants going loud now. Huge top rope Spanish fly by Ospreay for a 2, sit-out bomb for a 2, Oscutter for a 2. This is incredible. Stormbreaker reversed into an amazing stunner, Spear! 1-2-NO!! The crowd really bought that one. Tsuji hits a springboard diving footstomp into his own stormbreaker for a near fall. Ospreay flips him off. A second spear but Ospreay pulls out a hidden blade. A spear by Ospreay, kick out at 1. A star driver gets a near fall and Tsuji looks unstoppable. However, Ospreay manages to plant him with a Stormbreaker to win.

Well, it's another Will Ospreay main event match so yeah this match was FUCKING AWESOME. Ospreay was his usual awesome self but let's talk about Tsuji. He has mountains of potential. He has came back in the last few months and had a great match for the world title, an impressive performance in the G1 but this match is his best so far. He held his own against the best, keeping the pace and delivering some jaw-dropping moves, sequences and reversals. This was an absolute classic.

Will Ospreay retains via pinfall (27:51)


-Will Ospreay calls Tsuji amazing post-match. Out comes Zack Sabre Jr, two Brits speaking Japanese to each other. ZSJ challenges him and Ospreay takes his time, but accepts. The match is set up for Royal Quest III in London!!! I can't go because work, I hope it'll be available to watch online on Fite or NJ World. A quick little teaser as they get into a little scuffle and stand off. Ospreay calls himself the best wrestler, Kobe agrees and he poses with a United Empire flag to close the show.

Overall- 60%

As a overall show, it's not one of New Japan's strongest, though it's still a great night of wrestling. The first 4 matches very much felt like filler to develop future stories, which is fine but a lot of them just felt like the same match. That felt even more prominent when they all started with the same fighting before the match started. Lazy booking early on. Thankfully, we're compensated for it as the show goes on. A good match featuring Okada & ZSJ, though it felt very much like a 15 minute WrestleDream shill. After a weak KOPW match, we progressively got better and better with great action topped off by a stellar main event.

Let me know your thoughts on the show if you watched it. Thank you for reading, let me know of any shows you want me to check out and I will get round to it. I think the next major show is NXT No Mercy next weekend. I'm thinking about choosing smaller shows available on Fite TV and giving them a watch and a review. These smaller promotions get more out of a review than the big players. Until next time folks, see ya!


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