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  • Connor Ewens

Let's Review: NJPW Destruction in Ryogoku

About 2 weeks ago we looked at New Japan's Destruction pitstop in Kobe. We had some big time match ups, including Tetsuya Naito defeating Jeff Cobb as well as another 5 star classic from Will Ospreay, who retained his UK title against Yota Tsuji. The Destruction tour reaches it's final destination tonight, the final New Japan show before the beginning of the Jr. Super Tag League AND before Royal Quest III in London. Our show is headlined by EVIL (ugh) challenging SANADA for the World title. We'll see how it plays out. Let's bear witness to final destruction. Let's review.


9th October 2023 - NJPW Destruction in Ryogoku 2023 @ Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan.


-Kevin Kelly & Chris Charlton are on commentary


-There was a pre-show 'Frontier Zone' match, a new concept to put upcoming talent against established names. Jun Masaoka, Kazuma Sumi, Kengo, Takahiro Katori & Takeshi Masada vs Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, Oskar Leube, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask. I was only half watching, whilst I was making notes for this blog. They all seemed to work hard, but I don't include pre-show matches into my ratings anyway so. From Cagematch reviews, it seemed like a basic, forgettable opener.


House of Torture (SHO, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Yujiro Takahashi w/Dick Togo) vs Just 5 Guys (DOUKI, Taichi, ??? w/TAKA Michinoku)

Kanemaru betrayed J5G to join the House of Torture at Destruction in Kobe, leaving them a man down for the scheduled 6-man here tonight. Just 4 Guys say they have a 5th man who they will reveal here tonight.


The 5th guy is revealed to be Yuya Uemura, who is coming back from a very successful excursion most notably in Impact Wrestling. This was a pretty meh match, short and no complaints from me. This was mainly to bring back Uemura and put him over strong. He put in a great showing and immediately established himself as a key member of the faction. He has an incredibly bright future. This was average for a HoT match. Uemura gets the win for his team with a Kanuki suplex.


Just Five Guys win via pinfall (7:57)

*1/2


Tanga Loa w/Jado vs Chase Owens

One of three matches tonight that will be Bullet Club vs Guerillas of Destiny. This stinks of 'I guess we should include them since we're including the rest of them'. Two matches in, both matches begin with an attack before the bell. We saw A LOT of them in Kobe, let us keep count tonight. Another weak match match, bad even. Sloppy and awkward at times and I cared so little about this match. Tanga seems to be off his game whilst Chase has always been average at best. Commentary sell that Tanga is hurt so he will struggle to help Tama Tonga against the odds later on. Tonga traps Owens in a cross-face for the submission victory.


Tonga Loa wins via submission (8:05)

*


Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito & Yota Tsuji) vs United Empire (Callum Newman, Great-O-Khan, HENARE & Jeff Cobb)

Naito beat Cobb 2 weeks ago in Kobe, Ospreay beat Tsuji and Takagi defeated O-Khan so there is tension between these two factions. Newman is a new addition to the UE and is new to NJPW, but he has history with Ospreay back in RevPro.


Callum is VERY quick, I've never seen someone run the ropes with such velocity. Unfortunately, but predictably, he is the one to take the pinfall. This match is another short one but it's far more exciting than the two matches we've seen so far. I was impressed by Callum, everyone else did their usual good work especially Takagi & Cobb. Post-match we seen Tsuji and O-Khan get in each others face. Kevin Kelly talks about some sort of weird hair rivalry between the two. It's stupid. Naito plants Newman with a Destino to win.


LiJ win via pinfall (7:44)

**1/2


Bullet Club War Dogs (Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney) (c) vs Intergalactic Jet Setters (Kevin Knight & KUSHIDA), IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships

This is only the second title defence for the champions here tonight, the first not on a New Japan STRONG show.


UK youngster Leon Slater was mentioned on commentary which is amazing. He is 19 years old and he really is the future of the business. He has IT. This was a much needed boost of quality. Kevin Knight is especially on form tonight, he fucks up a rana at one point but outside of that he is on fire. This kept a fast pace like Jr Heavyweight matches should. The Drilla Killa by Moloney looks absolutely brutal, KUSHIDA sold it amazingly. The full clip gets the win for the BCWD.


War Dogs retain via pinfall (13:28)

***1/4


Master Wato, Shota Umino & Yuji Nagata vs Strong Style (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & Ren Narita), Best of Seven Series match #7

This comes off the back of an intense feud between Umino & Narita, which worsened in an 8-man tag at the G1 Climax finals when Nagata & Suzuki got into it after the match. The first match went to a 30 minute time limit draw. They have went back and forth with victories, currently Strong Style lead 3-2 so they can either win by two, hold a draw to win by one or draw if they lose. Charlton does a good job selling that Shota's hatred for Narita is the reason they no longer can win the series.


Wato is the one who has to keep his team cool-headed, which is a theme throughout the series. This was a good match which highlighted the little rivalries within the match. Umino & Narita are getting better and better each time I see them. I like the story of Narita & Umino wanting to beat each other so much they refuse to tag even though they're worn down. Nagata and Suzuki locking horns is always cool to see. Umino uses a nice wrestling transition to set up a Death Rider to pin Narita, ending the series as a 3-3-1. The rivals all exchange begrudging handshakes with their adversaries. I don't think we've seen the end of Narita vs Umino, maybe for now. Nagata & Suzuki slap and shake each other because they're badass grandads.


Team Umino win via pinfall (14:10)

***


Bullet Club War Dogs (Alex Coughlin & Gabe Kidd) (c) vs Guerillas of Destiny (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo w/Jado), NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championships

Our second BC v GOD clash tonight, this time with some actual stakes. Same stats as the IWGP Jr tag titles because they were both won by the BC on the same night.


Another pre-bell attack, third of the night. Kidd & Coughlin continue to be my favourite part of the BC with their great work rate and entertaining expressions/selling. Coughlin is such a powerhouse but also a great technician. Hikuleo performs best in tags so his weaknesses can be hidden, ELP has been mildly hindered as of late but he got a great showing here tonight. A competitive match, ending with a big springboard splash by ELP who gets the win for his team. Quite a surprising title change to me, I thought they were building up this new Bullet Club as an unstoppable force. A shame, I would have liked to see Kidd & Coughlin hold those titles for a lot longer, but I see them winning the titles back in the near future. Hopefully the BCWD will have a good showing in the tag league.


GOD win the titles via pinfall (13:12)

***


CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) & Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) & Josh Alexander, NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships

The first match tonight I am very hyped for, honestly it's the only match I'm very hyped for. Sabin is the current X-Division champion and Shelley is the current Impact World champion. Josh Alexander recently returned from injury and set his sights on the World title that he was forced to vacate. Alexander will face Shelley at Bound For Glory later in the month. We will see how they get on as friends tonight, they're on good terms but when the world title is in the discussion, it's hard for that to stick around. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe this is Alexander's first match in Japan, he's worked for New Japan a couple times but never in the country.


Damn I want an Okada vs Alexander match in my VEINS. The challengers put up a hell of a fight, dominating the majority of the first half of the match.The strategy being Alexander isolates a member whilst the MCMG keep the partners at bay. Ishii clotheslines Alexander so hard his head gear flies off. Once Tanahashi comes in the champs begin the turn the tide more and more. Plenty of awesome sequences, counters and strikes as we enter the final third. Alexander accidentally hits Shelley. A high-fly flow by the Ace Tanahashi secures the victory for his team, pinning the Impact World Champion in the process. Possibly teasing a future match between the two? This was an excellent match, as I hoped. The in-ring action was awesome, the storytelling within the match was good too. Not just between the Impact guys, but within the champs too and also Okada still holding hatred for Impact/TNA.


Team Tanahashi retain via pinfall (15:40)

****


David Finlay (c) vs Tama Tonga, NEVER Openweight Championship

Our third and final BC v GOD match, a match that I have watched a million times it feels. Hopefully Tama just wins and they can go off and do other things, but I highly doubt that will be the case.


Guess what? Finlay attacks before the bell! Fourth of the night. Referee is distracred whilst Finlay murders Tama with a chair then YEETS it towards the crowd. There was an attempted reverse DDT by Tama on Finlay that looked really sloppy. This is a fight that the referee struggles to control, which makes sense it terms of the story being told. Tama goes threw a table though which is a rarity in New Japan. A mid-air gun-stun reversal by Tonga was good I'll admit. It's slow for the first 15 minutes but the last 5 minutes are pretty good. After a gun stun kick out, Tama hits a Styles Clash followed by his double underhook piledriver for the win.

I think Tama is another wrestler who is great in tag wrestling but is not strong as a singles. I really like Finlay too, but I feel like a lot of his matches have been weaker in ring since his heel turn. This goes nearly 20 minutes too, which I think makes this worse than it really is. It dragged on for me a lot. The intensity of the feud was sold well I'll admit. Slow and boring to start but it finished really well. Interesting booking decision. the GOD do a sweep of the BC, so I guess we aren't building up the BC as unstoppable now? We'll see, but they were building a lot of momentum which has been killed now.


Tama Tonga wins via pinfall (19:39)

**3/4

Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs YOH vs Mike Bailey, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Mike Bailey defeated Takahashi during the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Lio Rush was originally scheduled to be a part of this match but he is dealing with a fever and is unable to compete. YOH is his replacement, which I guess they've done because he & Takahashi had a classic together back at New Beginning in February. A real shame, but hopefully this one will still be exciting.


This is instantly hard to keep up with. A "demolition derby" as Charlton calls it, which is a great way to put it. A constant stream of wrestling. One thing I like about New Japan three-ways compared to western triple threats is they have a lot more offence involving all three of them. A traditional triple threat usually is a 1-on-1 whilst a third man is out recovering. We see a lot more tandem moves and interactions here than I'm conditioned to seeing. Bailey's kicking ability is so good. The major downside to this was that it was very predictable . YOH was a replacement so his chances were miniscule, I don't see Bailey holding the Jr Heavyweight title ahead of his clash with Will Ospreay. Takahashi puts YOH down following a timebomb and a timebomb II. Hiromu is halfway to his goal of record title defences.


Hiromu Takahashi retains via pinfall (17:53)

***1/2


-Post-match Bailey is angrily shouting for another opportunity. The lights go out, Taiji Ishimori has returned! He attacks Hiromu, who put him on the shelf during the BOSJ, their match was cut short due to a neck injury. He says he is back to take the title, the Timebomb's time is up.


-Keiji Mutoh gets a grand entrance as he joins Japanese commentary. A true legend.


SANADA (c) vs EVIL Lumberjack match, IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

Oh god. I have the fear for this match. This could be the worst major New Japan main event in a long time. EVIL is not a good singles wrestler, he hasn't been since they tried a few years back now. A lumberjack match is up there with one of my least favourite match types. Not including the extremely shit match types we've seen, but the ones that have been a somewhat regular feature in wrestling for some time. They're often always the same and often hinder more than help the match.


EVIL enters holding with the title because he stole it a few weeks back. SHO announces him as the World champion. SANADA comes out, not even looking bothered about the antics. He gets to hold his championship again before the bell. House of Torture & Just Five Guys members surround the ring. Like I predicted, this is possibly the weakest major main event in a long time for New Japan. It's not necessarily bad, but it's far from good. Nearly 30 minutes for this match should be a punishable crime. Your usual bollocks from the House of Torture being heels and dicking around and it's not very fun. J5G barely attempt to try help their guy out as the HoT break the rules. A ref bump turns this into a 5-on-1 for a time, whilst the guys just stand outside and watch it happen. SANADA turns the tide when we get a new referee, so the wrestling quality improves a bit. More cheating and ref bumps, this time finally the Guys actually get involved physically. Red Shoes Unno is brought back out after being taken out to make the pinfall but he gives EVIL and the HOT a double middle finger! Hilarious. SANADA turns the tide and finishes him off with the Deadfall.


Every HoT/EVIL match just feels like New Japan trying to replicate the WWE style of sports entertainment, but kinda like when WCW replicated the ECW hardcore style. It looks like what it wants to be, but it's far from the same. Far too much unwarranted overbooking for me. You could argue that it's part of the HOT gimmick, which is true but at what cost? Is all of the drama and heel work worth it when it makes the match look shitty? This match has seemingly divided opinion, I really didn't like this. What wrestling we did se was fine, SANADA was good when he had a chance to work but a solid 20 minutes of this match was EVIL and the House being dicks.


SANADA retains via pinfall (28:01)

*3/4


-Post match, Mutoh presents the championship to SANADA which is a cool moment. It is confirmed we are going to see Naito vs SANADA in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom. Naito comes out for a little exchange of words. I am very excited for this match, it should be a great match.


-Post show comments from Yuya Uemura mention his condition for joining J5G is he wants to face all of the members of the faction in singles, I guess to prove himself since coming back. He says if SANADA is still the champion post Wrestle Kingdom, he wants a match for it and SANADA says sure. Very interesting. I doubt they'd hot shot the title on to Uemura, it didn't work for recently returned stars in the past but it'll be a great position for him.


Overall- 52.5%

Definitely one of the weaker New Japan shows I've watched. Only one match stood out on the card, which was the excellent 6-man tag. There was other good matches around that in the middle, but the opening two matches and the main event were really weak. All we can hope for is the horrible House of Torture stuff will come to an end soon.


MOTN- Okada, Ishii & Tanahashi vs MCMG's & Alexander


Thank you for giving my review of NJPW Destruction a read! If you liked what you read tune in to my socials posted below where I post promptly when a new blog post is released. Tune in friday for part 3 of my WCW series, I should have another New Japan review sunday as long as Royal Quest III is streaming on NJPWorld. Until next time my friends, see ya!







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