Destruction is a long old tour that generally delivers a shitload of mediocrity elevated by the occasional great match, and that is exactly what we’ve received in 2019. The final night is in Kobe and let’s hope we finish up with more of the great than the mediocre.
Yuji Nagata, Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura defeated Manabu Nakanishi, Alex Coughlin and Michael Richards
We kicked off with a Dad Fight as Nakanishi and Nagata rolled back the year. They’re slower than they used to be, but class is permanent, and even in these small flurries that is hard to deny. The Dads continue to be fired up by the rookies and Nakanishi has been moving better than he has in a fair while. He not only took another slam (Uemura this time) but an Exploder from Nagata too. He seems to have enjoyed Destruction more than most.
As for the cubs, they looked good. Tsuji and Coughlin had a fierce chop exchange, the sound echoing around the building before Tsuji got the win with a Giant Swing into the Crab. It was a fun opener.
Verdict: Three Stars
Clark Connors (4-3) defeated Ren Narita (5-2)
Narita and Connors have both been earmarked as Juniors (competing in the Super Juniors and Super J Cup respectively), so we could be seeing this match a lot in the future. Judging by this performance, that is no bad thing.
These two essentially engaged in a game of one-upmanship. Grappling on the mat, exchanging chops and even taking it in turns to slam each other. You got the impression they were on an equal footing, and it was going to be the one who came up with something different that got the win.
In the end, a Connors’ Spear was that something different. It set him up for the Crab, and while Narita would twice crawl towards the ropes, Connors had enough left to drag him back to the middle of the ring. It gave Ren no choice but to tap out.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Karl Fredericks (6-1) defeated Shota Umino (5-2) to win the Young Lion Cup
Talking of matches we might be seeing for a long time, Fredericks vs Umino feels like one of those. These two are the top dogs in their respective dojos, and with the benefit of hindsight, it was always going to come down to them.
You can also see that they’ve been allowed to expand their movesets, Umino going after Fredericks’ shoulder with an Armbar and Karl using those high Shibata kicks in the corner. These two had a very natural chemistry, seemingly clicking quickly and looking good out there.
Sadly, they didn’t get enough time for this to reach great. Umino managed to hit a German Suplex, but Fredericks blocked the Fisherman before slamming down with a Spinebuster to set-up the Single Leg Crab. Umino would try to escape, but some stamps to the head made that impossible, and we’ve got what has to go down as an upset winner.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
The Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi and Bad Luck Fale) defeated GBH (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) and Toa Henare
Moving from the thrill of the Young Lion Cup to a random six-man tag with zero consequences was a bit of a let-down. Kevin Kelly tried to talk about it building momentum for World Tag League, but as no one gives a shit about the World Tag League, that was hard to get enthusiastic about.
Henare and Chase are two of my favourite undercard wrestlers on the planet, so I’m always happy to see them, and I enjoyed Makabe beating on Fale, but I still couldn’t care about this match. It meant nothing.
Post-match Chase Owens did challenge the Rock and Roll Express, so I guess that was something.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, DOUKI and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Jushin Thunder Liger, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Rocky Romero and Tiger Mask by Disqualification
Liger attacked Suzuki during his entrance which was brilliant but also really dumb since he was by himself and the rest of Suzuki-gun were there. Thankfully, his teammates caught on quickly and made their way down to prevent that being a suicide mission. Although, attacking Suzuki from behind would be a suicide mission if there were twenty of you, so let’s not pretend it was smart.
That caused this match to breakdown before it had even started, with Suzuki beating Liger with a chair (including a shot to the head) before going after his mask. Liger would end up doing that job for him, ripping his mask off to reveal a sight we haven’t seen in a long time, Kishin Liger. The mist followed before Kishin tried to murder Suzuki with a spike. As the ref called for a DQ, we saw the rare sight of Suzuki taking flight, racing to the back while Kishin followed, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
One suspects that’s not going to be the last time we see Kishin Liger.
Verdict: There wasn’t a match, but I loved the angle
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, SHO, YOH, Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI) defeated The Bullet Club (KENTA, Taiji Ishimori, El Phantasmo, Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa)
Well, these ten men had a tough act to follow, didn’t they? A task mask made all the harder by the fact that GOD and YOSHI-HASHI were a big part of the match, who all suck.
Things improved when Ospreay got in there with ELP and Ishimori, picking up the pace. He had a fun run that ended with Phantasmo hitting an awesome Poison Rana. I also quite enjoyed SHO and YOH working together to take out GOD, giving me hope that they might be the team to get something decent out of the Guerrillas.
YOH would roll up Loa for the win after SHO kicked him away as GOD went for Magic Killer giving Roppongi 3K their second victory over the tag champs and all but confirming that title shot is coming sooner rather than later. It certainly pissed GOD off enough that they weren’t done, attacking SHO and YOH with a cane post-match.
This started boring before picking up as it went along. By the end, it was a lot of fun.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, EVIL and BUSHI) defeated Kazuchika Okada, Kota Ibushi and Robbie Eagles
We started with some dick-measuring between Okada and Sanada as they milked the crowd reaction. Red Shoes even got involved, declaring it even. The feud between those two is quite strange as it’s delivered some incredible matches without ever feeling heated. It’s an entirely competitive rivalry.
The bulk of this match was your standard LIJ vs CHAOS shenanigans. We got some nice teases of EVIL vs Kota while Eagles was a new addition to proceedings and probably had a better exchange with SANADA than Okada did, but we’ve seen this a million times. It’s always good, but it’s hard to get enthused about it.
There was a slightly embarrassing moment for Okada towards the end as he was supposed to Dropkick SANADA to save Eagles from the Skull End only to mistime it, missing by a good foot. Thankfully, SANADA didn’t bump, and Okada popped up to hit it properly. Not that it made a difference, SANADA would tap Eagles out seconds later.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
SANADA and Okada played off that slight botch by having Okada go for a bunch of Dropkicks after the match only for SANADA to slip out of the way of every single one. Meanwhile, EVIL and Kota got stiff in the background, the big goth slapping Ibushi to fire him up.
Hirooki Goto defeated Shingo Takagi
You can shove all your fancy grappling and high flying up your arse, Goto and Shingo were out here to dish out a beating. It was two thick and grunty men running into each other to find out who would fall over first.
It led to a match where every move looked like it hurt. Lariats, elbows, punches and kicks, they were all delivered with a bit of spice and plenty of follow-through. These two don’t wrestle, they fight, and when they got up to full-speed, it was like two freight trains running into each other, except entertaining and not a horrifying bloodbath.
By the end, they were just beating the shit out of each other. Two absolute warriors, throwing everything they had as Pumping Bombers looked likely to remove heads and kicks were delivered with a satisfying thud. They were battling to see who could hit their finisher first, Shingo managing to hit a Rope-Assisted GTR of his own, only for Goto to return with an amazing looking Shouten Kai.
It came down to them driving their heads into each other, exchanging headbutts in a display of what might have been defiance but could equally be called stupidity. Shingo would kick out of the Super GTR, but a normal one followed seconds later and got the job done.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Jay White defeated Tetsuya Naito to win the IWGP Intercontinental Title
Naito and White are both massive dickheads. They are different kinds of dickheads, though. White is the arrogant one, desperate to show off his intelligence and prove that he’s better than everyone else. Naito, meanwhile, is an old rogue. The kind of person who will fuck with those who deserve it, but never crosses the line to evil.
Which set-up the dynamic for this match quite nicely. White was going to cut every corner to try and get the win while Naito became the defiant babyface. Key, though, was that babyface or heel, the mind games never ended. As they wrestled, they were talking to each other, mocking and prodding, trying desperately to get under the other’s skin as they did whatever they could to get an advantage.
It’s impossible to get past the biggest story of this match, which is that Jay White has Naito’s number. Time after time Naito would build a head of steam only for White to cut him off, sucking away that steam to take the action back into his control. That’s not the worst part either, that comes from the massive smirk on his face while he does it.
It was a truly brilliant heel performance from White, and while I don’t think the match quite matched it, it wasn’t too far behind. Naito flopped around for Jay, making him look like a beast as he Powerbombed him on the apron and while Gedo snuck in for one chair shot, he was generally anonymous, leaving White to do this by himself. He had an answer to every Destino attempt and even when Naito hit the running version, it was halted halfway, forcing Naito to wriggle round to it and making the kick out feel inevitable.
Eventually, White would drop into the perfect position for the Bladerunner, and no-one kicks out of that. It once again appears that Naito has been screwed out of his dream of holding both titles by the end of January 5th, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Old Tetsuya is in place for a redemption story, so I would keep that belt warm for him, Jay.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Jay White would go on to cut a fantastic post-match promo. He mocked Naito speaking in Spanish, asked him to smile and then pulled out a Bullet Club roll call (I was impressed that he remembered them all, even throwing Pieter in there). What a wanker. Thankfully, Goto came out to shut him up with a punch to the face before making his challenge.
That show wasn’t just better than the other two Destruction attempts, but lapped them on its way to victory, even stopping to jog backwards for a while to ask them how they were doing. Not only did we get two fantastic main events, but the return of Kishin Liger, the end of the Young Lion Cup and a couple of enjoyable undercard-matches too. It was a good show, and it’s worth watching it all.
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