Destruction rolls into Beppu with, at least on paper, the weakest main event of the tour. The last time Suzuki and Naito faced off, it wasn’t great, but two guys that talented can’t muck it up again, can they?
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi and Yuya Uemura defeated Tencozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) and Yota Tsuji
It’s lovely to have Kojima back, and while this wasn’t the most strenuous test of his fitness post-injury, he looked good. It didn’t appear that his torn ACL has slowed him down much.
Unless you’re new to NJPW, you’ll know what to expect here. The New Japan Dad’s made sure to get their spot ins with Nagata and Kojima looking good while Nakanishi and Tenzan did well to get in and out of the ring without stumbling. Meanwhile, the Young Lions were taken to school by their mentors before getting some time to work with each other. Tsuji and Uemura’s career are already intertwined, and while both are early in their training, they’ve got those basics down.
This was slightly elevated by seeing Koji back in the ring. However, you’d have to be generous to say it was anything more than alright. It did what it was supposed to do, with the only shock being that Kojima wasn’t given the win on his return to the big stage.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
David Finlay and Ren Narita defeated Toa Henare and Shota Umino
Shota Umino and Ren Narita already look like guys who are moving towards excursion. I’ve been honking the horn for Umino for a long time, but Narita isn’t that far behind him. They’re another pairing who have been linked together by coming through at the same time and facing each other on a regular basis. Ren even ended up bloodying Umino in this one, as there’s a decent chance his nose is broken.
Likewise, Henare and Finlay are two guys that I have a lot of time for, and their interactions here did nothing to change that. They’re fantastic workers who need to find the right character or attitude to take them to the next level. To be more precise, I think Finlay lacks the attitude while Henare’s gimmick is too generic to make him anything more than just a guy.
Finlay ended up putting Umino away with the stunner while Kevin Kelly waved the C Block trophy in the air in celebration. Can we get Lovely Dave over to the UK for a show or two? He never had an excursion, and I think he’d benefit from a chance to stretch his legs.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Ayato Yoshida defeated Takashi Iizuka by disqualification
Morbid curiosity had me looking forward to this one. While Ayato Yoshida is officially a member of the Kaientai Dojo, he has been featured quite prominently on New Japan cards recently, so it seems likely he’s going to make the swap to NJPW. He’s already being positioned as being slightly above the Young Lions as he was even granted entrance music.
All of which makes me wonder why the hell they would send the poor bastard out there to deal with Iizuka. I can only assume it’s a test for the young man, as he had to deal with the usual bitey shenanigans that an Iizuka match brings. Although he wasn’t the only one, poor Kevin Kelly was dragged into the action at one point, as he was forced to remove the lunatic’s mask.
Look, this lad could be the second coming of Misawa, and he’d still struggle to get something credible out of Iizuka. However, as Iizuka matches go, this wasn’t bad. Yoshida worked hard bumping for this silliness and even, technically, got the win as Iizuka used the iron claw and got disqualified. If this was a test, I think he passed.
Verdict: Two Stars
KUSHIDA, Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask defeated CHAOS (Will Ospreay, Rocky Romero, SHO and YOH)
This is the opener from Hiroshima on steroids as we add Will Ospreay and Ryusuke Taguchi to the fun. We also upped the silliness as there was everything from YOH shoving his fingers up Taguchi’s arse to KUSHIDA nearly hip-tossing the ref because he’d got carried away.
Thankfully, there was some fantastic action thrown in there too as KUSHIDA and Ospreay came face to face. Those two have incredible chemistry, and I’d be more than happy to watch them go at it again in the final of the Junior Heavyweight Tournament.
The only other point of interest was that Tiger Mask picked up his second victory in two shows, pinning Rocky Romero with a Tombstone Piledriver – a move we don’t see him pull out that often. With Junior Tag League around the corner, I can only assume we’re heating him up to team with Liger.
It was a fun match, though. You can tell these men have worked a million of these undercard tags. They know how to go out there, take it relatively easy and still do enough to make sure that everyone has fun. That’s a skill in its own right.
Verdict: Three Stars
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr and Lance Archer) defeated The Best Friends (Beretta and Chuckie T)
New Japan didn’t explicitly set this up as a number one contender’s match. However, it’s rare to get straight-up tags between two established teams and no-one is going to be surprised if this earns Killer Elite Squad the chance to take on the winner of The Bucks vs G.O.D.
Archer and Smith have been upping the aggression recently, as Lance didn’t even bother spraying the crowd during their entrance. It’s a change that suits them. They’re two bigs guys that work a simple style and the more they play into that, the better.
It suited The Best Friends too as they were able to work from underneath, a skill that Greg, in particular, excels at. Beretta’s selling was pivotal to that fantastic feud between Roppongi Vice and The Young Bucks, and nothing has changed since then. K.E.S. came out of working him over looking like badasses as Best Friends were forced to rely on their smarts to get any hold in this match.
Sadly, smarts aren’t always enough. Eventually, the relentless flurry of power moves would prove too much as Beretta fell to a Killer Bomb. To be honest, I’d have rather seen The Best Friends get the win. I’m an unashamedly big fan of those guys, and a challenge from those two would feel a lot fresher than Archer and Smith going after the belts again. Let’s just pray The Bucks are the ones holding them, no-one needs to see K.E.S. vs G.O.D. again.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada, EVIL and BUSHI)
These are two very different gangs. Our Ingobernables are a pack of wolves, each an individual but able to pool together when they need too. Suzuki’s unruly children are closer to hyenas, ganging up to pick on the weakest prey they can find. I should point out that I know nothing about zoology, so those images may well be total bollocks.
It’s a contrast in styles that, ironically, blend together nicely. LIJ are able to play the babyfaces in peril, battling against the odds. Sanada did it nicely early on, as it’s a role that his tag-team with EVIL has allowed him to perfect. It suits his explosive burst of offence as they are ideal for hope spots.
We also saw the continuation of the burgeoning ZSJ vs EVIL feud. I’m not sure where NJPW are going with it (singles feuds for the sake of it aren’t really their style), but I’m intrigued to watch. Zack has had a standout year while EVIL seems to be going backwards which was perhaps best summed up by Sabre catching him in one of those intricate roll-ups for the win even with pinnable juniors appearing on both sides.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson and Great Bash Heel (Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe) defeated CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Jay White, Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI)
Jay White is still up to his antics. It’s the little things that he nails so perfectly. Before the bell, Switchblade was standing at the back of the group with Okada at the front. That was until he slowly made his way around the side to stand next to Kazu, positioning himself as equal to the CHAOS leader.
To be honest, those games are the main reason to watch this stuff. That and the brief flurry we got from Tanahashi and Okada (because that’s always good). Everyone else came in, did their thing and got out of there. I genuinely forgot that Juice was involved at one point.
The mind games would play into the finish as YOSHI held Juice and White came barrelling in with a forearm. Unfortunately, Robinson had ducked meaning the poor Headhunter took the brunt of the attack, something that Switchblade was quick to blame him for. Juice then dumped White out the ring and hit Pulp Friction for the win.
White and YOSHI’s story is becoming reminiscent of an abusive relationship. Switchblade builds up his useless pal, only to tear him down whenever he does something slightly wrong. It’s a fascinating dynamic to bring to the table, as it seems to be pushing YOSHI away from CHAOS and towards Tanahashi. It’s certainly making these tags worth watching.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Taichi defeated Hirooki Goto to win the NEVER Openweight Title
Fucking hell, they’ve put a belt on Taichi. It’s a new low for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
It will be no surprise to anyone to hear that Taichi was an utter doughnut at the start of this. He refused to get in the ring, before sending Miho Abe in to distract Goto, attacking from behind and feeding Hirooki to Kanemaru. In other words, we were in Taichi bullshit mode, and it was disappointing.
Because I believe that Taichi probably can be decent. He’s shown in the few singles matches he’s had that he’s capable of it. However, this lazy bullshit will continually hold him back. I don’t know if it’s the man behind the gimmick that wants to wrestle this way or if it’s something he’s told to do, but it’s not what I want from New Japan.
Thankfully, things did improve. Goto’s comeback saw him take out Kanemaru and take this to the ring. He then stood, demanding that Taichi trade strikes with him. Trying to bring the warrior spirit that has come to characterise the NEVER Title out of the singing ballbag.
It seemed to work too. Suddenly, we had a match where Taichi was throwing kicks and dropping Goto on his head with suplexes. Old Hirooki was caught off-guard. He was expecting the bullshit. I don’t think he expected a fight.
Except, that wasn’t really what Taichi was interested in. At least not for long. Things went back to normal when Taichi escaped a choke by causing the dreaded ref bump. That brought around the return of Kanemaru before El Desperado made his way down from the back. Goto managed to fight them off with the help of Roppongi 3K, so Iizuka joined the fun proving enough of a distraction to stop a presumable match winning GTR. That would prove decisive as Taichi took advantage to hit the Last Ride followed by an Air Raid Crash to take home the belt.
Honestly, this was boring. There was a period in the middle where I thought Taichi and Goto had got past the bullshit, yet it would prove short-lived. The interference and the shenanigans left me cold, particularly in a championship match. When it’s followed up by Taichi throwing the belt on the floor, it leaves me worrying for a title that already struggles to garner respect. Give me Goto the warrior over Taichi the ballbag.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Tetsuya Naito defeated Minoru Suzuki
I kind of love the simplicity of this feud. Suzuki wants to murder Naito. Despite that, Naito doesn’t seem too bothered by Suzuki. Unfortunately, the more Naito acts like he doesn’t care, the more Suzuki wants to murder him. It’s a vicious circle which will probably see them killing each other for a long time to come.
Much like the previous match, Naito and Suzuki weren’t following the rules. Unlike that one, Suzuki is good at this shit. I don’t think we give him enough credit because we see it so often, but no-one drags someone around an arena, torturing them and being a horrible old Murder Grandpa like MiSu.
Naito is brilliant in the underdog role too. He flops around for Suzuki, defiantly spitting in his face and yet never finding a foothold in the match. The fans adore him, and as he’s being dangled off the apron while Suzuki chokes him out, you can hear the worry in their shouts. It was only the neckbreaker off the apron through a table that gave you any belief he was in this fight.
And yet, despite all that, I don’t think I can call this good. It was eerily similar to Suzuki and Naito’s last encounter in that it all felt weirdly flat. Perhaps it was because there were no consequences or maybe, they just don’t have great chemistry. The story might work, but the matches don’t and considering these two put on incredible performances with basically everyone, that’s weird.
The final sequence was built around Suzuki going back to his wheelhouse of wrenching on the leg of Naito. He was bending and twisting, while Naito let out yells of agony as he reached desperately for the ropes. Yet, I didn’t care. It went on for too long, so the peril wasn’t there. We’d seen it before. Naito didn’t tap then, and he didn’t tap now.
Then, when it looked like Suzuki was about to spike him on his head, Naito hit Destino and survived. This was notable because MiSu very rarely takes more than one finisher. He’s old school, and if he gets hit with your big move, you win. This time, though, Naito was too beat-up to make the pin, so both men battled to their feet instead. Then, standing wobbly legged in the middle of the ring, they slapped the shit out of each other. It was the one moment where this came alive.
That ended when Naito went for a Gotch Piledriver only for Suzuki to adjust his body turning it into a Powerbomb. Sadly, that was little more than an act of defiance, a refusal to go down to your own move, for seconds later Destino connected, and this was over. (It’s also possible the Gotch was a botch, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, though.)
I don’t know, I’ll be fascinated to see the other reviews of this. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good either. New Japan needs to leave this feud along because it isn’t working and it’s left both men floundering. Let them go do something else, preferably with someone with whom they have can have wonderful matches.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
This was far from New Japan’s best show. In fact, by their high standards, it was a bad one. The best thing about it was Best Friends vs Killer Elite Squad, and it’s not often you’ll say that on an NJPW card with a big-time main event. Most of it was watchable, but this will not go down in New Japan history as anything more than a show that happened.