NJPW Destruction in Kobe
September 23 2018
Yota Tsuji vs. Yuya Uemera
They both sprint to the ring and Tsuji is faster! He’s also bigger and Kevin Kelly calls him a “fully fledged heavyweight”. Or he will be, should I say. There’s a lot of young boy effort here. Lots of fighting spirit. Both these guys have clearly been working hard in the dojo. Tsuji has gained size since I last saw him and Uemera looks cut. Both of them pull out incredible dropkicks out of nowhere but as per usual it goes to a ten minute time limit. Tsuji comes very close to winning with the Boston crab as time expires. Solid stuff.
Final Rating: **3/4
Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Roppongi 3K
Rocky Romero doesn’t have his Ghostbusters gimmickry. The Young Lion team are almost a mirror image of Roppongi 3K a few years ago. Teaming together and also competing for top spot in the dojo class. SHO & YOH were those guys when they topped the Young Lions here, before the CMLL trip. The match is all about the Young Lions getting exciting near falls before eating defeat. YOH putting Narita down with the Falcon Arrow. He did the deal.
Final Rating: ***
Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado
Suzuki-gun, in the standard show of disrespect, attack the veterans on the ramp from behind. I start out thinking this is total bullshit but Liger vs. Despy is something I’m genuinely into. It’s just a pity Kanemaru and TM have to be out here too. Take the ‘hot tag’ sequences in this. Liger’s is fiery good! Tiger Mask’s is very not. IV rolls up Kanemaru for the sneaky upset win over the current junior tag champs.
Final Rating: ***
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Ryusuke Taguchi & Ayato Yoshida vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
The New Japan Dads are taking on a hodgepodge team of Great Bash Heel, a guy from K-Dojo and Big Gooch. I’m sad that it’s not Taguchi Japan, although Honma does sport the Taguchi rugby shirt.
This is the first match of the night to seem entirely unimportant. It’s fun but disposable. Yoshida looks the most motivated.
Especially when taking it to Nagata. Backdrop Hold puts Yoshida away.
Final Rating: **3/4
Beretta & Chuck Taylor vs. Killer Elite Squad
KES usually dominate these midcard tags but the Best Friends catch them by surprise in the early going. Business as usual follows and my attention span is revealed. I cannot abide drawn out Killer Elite Squad matches. Both men have strengths but it’s the weaknesses I have issues with. Davey looks hopeless trying to take moves. Archer has gaps in his offence. His stomps are nothing short of dreadful. And yet some of their power offence is great. I can totally get anyone who likes them but I can’t get past the issues. It’s quite a long match too, with it drifting in and out of issues. The finish is the worst part. KES hit their Killer Bomb finish and Beretta rolls Archer up out of the pin for the win. DOGSHIT FINISH.
Final Rating: *1/2
Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Toa Henare vs. Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay
Jay White is still shit-stirring in CHAOS. He has a history with the boys across the ring here too. Especially Finlay. YOSHI-HASHI is the focal point of the main event later (unless Tanahashi was joking) so he takes up a focal point of this match. Team Juice wrestle a lot like Taguchi Japan, having missed out on that comedy earlier in the night it’s a nice switch. Ospreay tagging in here creates a buzz and he’s effortlessly outstanding. He pinballs around the ring and nobody can touch him. His change of pace is startling when you compare it to normal pro wrestlers. There are some very tidy sequences outside of Ospreay but he is so superior. Jay and Tacos miscue in the storyline development but Blade Runner finishes Henare. This was the first really good match on this show.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA vs. Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr & TAKA Michinoku
Suzuki is still looking to tear down Naito and his beliefs.
What a thing to happen during Zack Sabre Time! The big LIJ storyline is that Naito has hinted at a new member. Rocky Romero tells us a little Karl Anderson story here. Apparently MiSu kicked him so hard in the spine that he lost all feeling in his legs for a few seconds. That’s actually terrifying. Naito seems to have upset Suzuki with his general behaviour as is evidenced by MiSu trying to forearm Naito’s face off. Sabre showing EVIL some new holds is a fun secondary battle but TAKA vs. SANADA? That’s not an ideal pairing for Suzuki-gun. EVIL puts TAKA away while I’m questioning why you would tag TAKA in from a kayfabe perspective? He’s clearly outsized by everyone on the other team. Why even turn up for a trios match with a guy who’s that small to face three heavys?
Final Rating: ***1/4
KUSHIDA vs. BUSHI
BUSHI has a killer look; silver suit, black shirt, cross, mask, Indian head dress. He still wrestles in a t-shirt, which is a less good look. KUSHIDA doesn’t seem bothered by going on second top and just goes about his business; taking the arm and working from there. I’ve definitely lost interest in KUSHIDA during this calendar year. He looks like he’s going through the motions at times. The early going in this match is not thrilling. BUSHI is the one who pushes the pace with his aerial work and from there they get into it with the strikes and business picks up. There is a sensational spot where KUSHIDA catches a BUSHI tope and transitions right into an armbar. Nice!
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) September 23, 2018
KUSHIDA is at it again moments later, countering the MX into the kimura in mid-move. Not quite as stunning as the tope spot but good stuff. The idea being that they’re familiar with each others work so it’ll take something exceptional to win.
The evil Black Mist almost gives BUSHI the win but KUSHIDA grabs a hold of BUSHI and hits Back to the Future to advance to the final. The trouble with this tournament is you can either have a great match or a fresh match and dumping BUSHI means we’re probably getting the great match at KOPW.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada
Tanahashi’s matches tend to be a throwback to olden days. He starts slow. He controls the pace. Okada makes him think from the get go and refuses the clean break he usually gives. This swiftly becomes a battle of bad knees. Okada struggling because Tanahashi works the knees relentlessly. Tanahashi because he’s old and his knees are fucked. Tana looks legitimately hurt, mainly because his knees are shot. This leads to the crowd turning on dickhead Okada for targeting the Ace’s knee. Another switch up comes from Tanahashi not being knocked to the floor on Okada’s top rope dropkick but Okada sees it and wails on that knee. Son of a bitch.
It’s amazing to me how my feeling on wrestling change. A few years back when Okada was constantly coming up short I was cheering him on to finally beat Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom. Now I want the veteran Tanahashi to come through one last time. Pulling counters out of his ass. Tombstone on the floor. HIGH FLY FLOW TO THE FLOOR!! Tanahashi’s desire to beat Okada in the ring is a delight. He doesn’t want a cheap count out win. He wants to pin Okada and prove he belongs in the main event at WK. The story here is very simple; Tanahashi’s desire/mind/heart vs. the rest of his body. Can he overcome his aging bones one more time?
Another wrinkle; Tanahashi countering Heavy Rain into a neckbreaker in mid-move. Little counters that show the familiarity between the two. Drawing me into a long, intertwined story. Tanahashi’s knees hurt too much off a High Fly Flow to get a pin and this is his internal struggle. He can’t hit his finish without hurting himself. They go past 30 minutes here, suggesting in G1 this would be another draw. Okada again switches up his offence to get a Rainmaker in. Tanahashi not yet used to that Discus Rainmaker. His normal one constantly dodged. Okada gets to thinking to another level; wanting a Tombstone off the top. He feels he needs something bigger to get the job done.
Likewise with Tanahashi. They hit a spot where Okada is shoved off on a superplex and Tana follows in mid-move with the High Fly Flow. Oh my fucking god that was great. Tanahashi’s selling as his knee collapses under him going up top but he makes it. High Fly Flow! Tanahashi is going to Wrestle Kingdom still!
Final Rating: ****3/4
Jay White comes out and attacks both guys. YOSHI-HASHI attempts to save but falls on his face and busts himself open! HAHAHAHA. But then Gedo turns up and turns on Okada! Holy shit.
You can skip pretty much everything until the main event but the match and storyline that followed was outstanding pro wrestling. Weaving history into the match and then turning that history on its head afterwards. Plus the YOSHI-HASHI run-in botch is such a YOSHI-HASHI thing to happen. Hilarious! Great finish to a middling show.