New Japan took the scenic route to their first Destruction show, but they’ve finally rocked up in Beppu with a solid card. There are a lot of tags on here, but the Young Lion Cup and a brace of title matches make sure that proceedings shouldn’t be too dragged down by the splitting of this tour into multiple dates. Any show with Tanahashi vs Sabre is alright by me.
Karl Fredericks (4-1) defeated Yota Tsuji (1-4)
Fredericks’ injured shoulder has sculpted his story in the Young Lion Cup, and Tsuji was happy to continue that tale. He went to work, driving his own shoulder into it and using every opening he could to wrench on the aching arm.
It was a beautiful Dropkick that turned the match in Fredericks’ direction, giving him the opening he needed to take control. From there, he almost found it too easy, running through a couple of moves before locking on the Single Leg Boston Crab for the three.
This match was slightly lopsided as I felt Fredericks’ comeback was a bit short after an extended control period from Tsuji, but they still told a solid story with some good action. It also means that any chance Tsuji had of winning this thing is officially gone.
Verdict: Three Stars
Shota Umino (4-1) defeated Alex Coughlin (2-3)
Umino and Coughlin had no issues with slapping each other around. There were some stiff sounding strikes in this match as they worked at a hell of a pace. By the time we hit the five-minute mark, Umino was already coming off the top with his Missile Dropkick only for Coughlin to comeback with a Gutwrench Suplex.
It would eventually lead to these two slugging it out in the centre of the ring, exchanging blows in a quest to see who could take more. Umino would win that war, connecting with a second Dropkick before hitting his Fisherman Suplex for a three.
We all know Umino is good, but Coughlin has been my real surprise package of this tournament. I came in knowing nothing about him and hearing no hype, but he’s impressed with every match, and this was another strong performance to add to his resume.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Taguchi, Ren Narita and Yuya Uemura defeated Manabu Nakanishi, Toa Henare, Clark Connors and Michael Richards
Clark Connors has upgraded to navy blue trunks which is not something you generally see Young Lions doing. When the rookies start showing bits of personality like that you know those in the back are happy with how they’re doing, they’ve earned the right not to look like everyone else.
Nakanishi was in coach mode in this one, bossing his partners around in a very enjoyable manner. Him miming out that he wanted Connors to put his boot up so he could drive Uemura into it was a moment of the year contender. The Dads have been talking about these youngsters inspiring them, and old Manabu certainly seemed fired-up.
He was so fired-up that he let Narita slam him in what was a genuinely awesome moment. Nakanishi barely bumps these days, never mind letting a rookie throw him about. It was indicative of a match where everyone seemed to be having a great time and working their arses off in an attempt to impress. Taguchi would eventually tap out Richards, but the war was far from over as both Connors and Richards wanted the fight to continue.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Jushin Thunder Liger and Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and DOUKI)
Having had a bit of a break from beating the shit out of each other, we’re back to MiSu and Liger not getting along. One has to assume that if Liger vs Suzuki isn’t booked for King Of Pro Wrestling, it will be Liger’s last match, and I would be happy with either option.
Suzuki and Liger would dominate this as Murder Grandpa’s determination to, well, murder the Thunder God made it hard to focus on anything else. Although DOUKI was wandering around with that damn pipe, so you probably wouldn’t have turned your back on him either. It was all very Suzuki-gun.
Eventually, SHO would get into the ring with DOUKI reminding everyone that Roppongi 3K were here. They’d go on to have a surprisingly good back and forth until YOH popped in to hit the 3K and get the win. Not that Liger and Suzuki cared, they were still beating each other up with Suzuki desperate to rip that mask off. One suspects that when he does, he might not like what he sees underneath.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
After the match, Liger challenged Suzuki to do this right here, right now. This is MiSu, though. He might have spent the last fifteen minutes desperately trying to kill Jushin, but the second Liger came up with the idea, he decided he’d wait for another day, making his way to the back with an evil grin on his face.
The Bullet Club (KENTA, Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo, Yujiro Takahashi and Bad Luck Fale) defeated Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma and The Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles)
KENTA has new music and has dyed his hair blonde. It looks good. Ibushi, meanwhile, got a briefcase for his contract. Fifty quid says he loses that at some point. Not in a match, he’ll leave it in an airport.
We were building to the Junior tag match and KENTA vs Kota in this one, so the focus was on those interactions. Although we also got a bit of Fale vs Makabe which marked the first time Makabe has looked like a pacey wrestler in a long old time.
On the whole, this was fine. The tease of KENTA vs Ibushi was good, Honma looked slower than Fale and the Birds of Prey felt a bit overly-choreographed. KENTA eventually pinned Honma with a Go To Sleep and having ten people in a match is a guaranteed way to make sure no-one stands out.
Verdict: Three Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI) defeated CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto and Rocky Romero)
We’re onto building SANADA vs Okada and Shingo vs Goto. Christ, those are some sexy match-ups, aren’t they? Goto and Shingo kicked us off, and if you weren’t already excited about that, the quick sliver we got should get you in the mood.
We’ve seen LIJ vs CHAOS a million times, and it’s always good. When you throw in those feuds and Rocky’s well-established hatred of BUSHI, you’ve got a recipe for fun. There was a lot of chemistry bubbling away in that ring, ready to explode.
And while it didn’t quite explode, it was still an enjoyable match. When you have that much talent, it’s always going to be the case, and you’d have to be a right grump to complain.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Los Ingobernable de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and EVIL) defeated The Bullet Club (Jay White and Chase Owens)
From what I’ve seen on Twitter, Naito and White are half-building to the Intercontinental Title match, half-building to them fucking. I’m intrigued to see what they can do away from the emotional turmoil of that final B Block match.
It was their interactions and their attempts to get under each other’s skin that made this. They’re desperate to wind each other up, although White does have the issue that winding Naito up is like trying to get emotion out of a break, it’s not going to happen.
Outside of that, this was a pretty standard tag that was neither bad nor particularly great. I’m pretty sure it’s happened multiple times already this tour, so if you’ve seen it feel free to skip forward, I can’t imagine they’re going to show you anything you haven’t seen already.
Verdict: Three Stars
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa) defeated CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI) to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles
Ishii is one of my favourite wrestlers on the planet while Tama and Loa are two of my least, which weirdly left me intrigued by this match. Normally, my brain turns off the second GOD appear on my screen, but I was fascinated to see if Ishii could drag them to something resembling entertaining.
Unfortunately, they made his job hard for him. The structure of this match was all wrong as we not only got a long GOD bore section, but it built to a YOSHI-HASHI hot tag which had all the momentum of a boulder being pushed up a hill. There were moments in this match designed to get a big reaction – Tonga Loa no-selling a couple of moves – but they were greeted with polite applause at best.
Throw in YOSHI-HASHI being, well, YOSHI-HASHI and not even Ishii could save this. This was at its best fine, its norm boring and its worst awful. When you add a screwy finish with KENTA getting involved and going after YOSHI-HASHI (please don’t make that a feud), this is a match I’d rather forget.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Zack Sabre Jr defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the British Heavyweight Title
Zack Sabre Jr and Hiroshi Tanahashi have been tied together over the last year or so. In 2019 alone they’ve done this five times, and Tanahashi has battled his way to a 4-3 record against the twisty English bastard.
And through those matches, Tanahashi has worked out how to deal with Zack. Whereas before ZSJ was able to torture him, now Tana can hold his own on the floor, perhaps not besting Zack, but keeping him at arm’s length. It’s a change in the score that has pissed Sabre off, and you saw him lose his temper a couple of times in this match, snapping on Uemura and arguing with Red Shoes. On both occasions, it gave Tanahashi an opening, suggesting Zack might be his own worst enemy.
However, there was another side to that, and it ended up being Tanahashi’s downfall. It’s no secret that The Ace has a streak of wilful arrogance running through him, and when he hit a High Fly Flow to Sabre’s back, he didn’t follow up with the second. Instead, he went for the Cloverleaf, seemingly determined to tap Sabre out. It was the reprieve Zack needed and when he escaped he was able to hit the Zack Driver to put them back on an equal footing.
Of course, Tanahashi will never go down without a fight, and he still gave Sabre everything he had, but ZSJ seemed determined not to let Tana beat him again. He kicked out of a brace of flash pins and slipped into one of his own, shifting from a Cobra Twist to trap The Ace’s shoulders to the mat and bring his British Heavyweight Title home.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Tanahashi and Zack Sabre Jr are the definition of classy wrestlers. They wander out and put together these intricate matches that tell perfect little stories. It’s true that not everyone loves this feud, and that some were dreading seeing them do it again, but I can’t enough. Their seventh meeting might not have been their best, but it was still pretty damn good.
Verdict: Four Stars
After the match, Zack declared his intention to not only be the British Heavyweight champion, but he fancies a shot at the Intercontinental and IWGP Heavyweight Titles too. If wrestlers keep throwing their name into this shenanigan we’re going to need a week of Dome shows to give them all a shot.
Do you know what I said about there being enough on this show to justify splitting this tour up? I was wrong. It felt like a house show with a big-time main event and a couple of Young Lion Cup matches. While most of it was fine, even good, it was all shit we’ve seen before, and if you’ve been watching the rest of this tour, you’ll have seen it just a few days ago. Watch the cubs and the main event, but don’t waste your time with the rest.
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