Saturday, September 16, 2017
NJPW Destruction in Hiroshima Review
The second of three “Destruction” events is the poorly titled “Destruction in Hiroshima.” The Jr. Tag Titles are on the line in an uninteresting match and the heavyweight Tag Titles are a repeat from the last show. The two major singles titles matches (KUSHIDA/Desperado and Tanahashi/Sabre) are both rematches from tournaments (BOTSJ and G1), but sound much more fun.
The Dads vs. CHAOS. This was basically what you’d expect from an NJPW opener. Not the top effort from everyone, but solid. Jado and CHAOS acted like heels, which they don’t do often. Liger took the heat until he caught Goto with a superplex. Tenzan got the hot tag and hit his stuff, before Tiger Mask eventually came in. Though he hit a Tiger Bomb for a near fall, he was forced to tap out to HASHI’s Butterfly Lock at 7:20. Standard opener, with less energy. Matches like this are why it’s hard for me to give NJPW shows a 9/10 or higher. Even when the last few matches deliver, the stuff early can sometimes feel pointless and redundant, like this one. Other than giving YOSHI a rare win, it was just there to get guys on the card.
Things like this show why they should probably run two Destruction shows instead of three. This same exact match went down in Fukushima. Juice and Finlay attacked quickly, leading to a brawl outside, which happened in their first match. Juice ended up taking the heat and eventually fought back after some help from Finlay. Finlay nailed a stunner and Juice hit Pulp Friction on Tonga to score the win in 4:32. I didn’t write a lot, because not a lot happened. It served the purpose of getting Juice another win ahead of his match with Kenny Omega on the 24th.
It’s the last match for Roppongi Vice before Baretta goes on to get lost in the heavyweight shuffle. I’ll miss that theme. Yujiro brought Mao to the ring with him. If he keeps doing that, I’m all in on Yujiro for G1 28 winner. The Bullet Club attacked before the bell, allowing Baretta to take the heat segment. The Yujiro/Baretta rivalry continued, but it was Owens who allowed Baretta to make the eventual hot tag. He did his FOREVER clotheslines but got cut off. The heels had control for a short while, until RPG Vice rallied. They put down Owens with Strong Zero in 6:55. This was decent, but I was hoping for something more from RPG Vice’s last match. It felt like nothing special and was just used to further Baretta/Yujiro.
Post-match, Yujiro told Baretta to go back to being a junior and challenged him to a singles match.
You gotta love the sometimes random appearances of Kota Ibushi. This felt like one, but based off the G1 Climax, his reason for being on this show would be clear later. The real question, was whether or not he could make Suzuki-Gun fun for a night. As usual, they jumped their opponents before the bell and we got their usual antics out there. Ibushi took a short heat, before Makabe came in hot. He and Minoru had some nice hard hitting exchanges and I won’t ever get upset watching Kota and Minoru trade shots. After things broke down, Ibushi became the legal man with Iizuka. Elgin saved him from the IRON CLAW OF DEATH, opening the door for Ibushi to beat Iizuka with the knee strike that took out Tanahashi in the G1 after 8:09. They cut back on the Suzuki-Gun shenanigans a bit, which helped. I thought Ibushi and Makabe (surprisingly) brought some fire to this.
This Suzuki-Gun pairing has produced some truly bad matches this year. Their match with Jado and Gedo at Sakura Genesis was the third lowest rated NJPW match from me in 2017. Instead of the usual Suzuki-Gun attack, it was only teased. The champs ran wild with corner attacks until they had a miscue and the tide turned. Taguchi got worked over until tagging in Ricochet, who continued to be one of the best hot tag guys in all of wrestling. He went for the SSP, but Taichi got the knees up to stay alive. He nearly won after Ricochet was misted and he used a Gedo clutch. Taguchi took over, but then Suzuki-Gun nonsense reared its ugly head. Taichi used the microphone stand and then poured tequila down Taguchi’s throat. He kicked out of a powerbomb/moonsault combo, which gave Ricochet time to return. He nailed a super rana and took Taichi out with one of the best looking suicide dives you’ll see. Taguchi had Dodon countered into a pin, but he kicked out and applied the ankle lock. Kanemaru submitted after also taking a springboard 450 while in the hold at 15:41. The best part of the show so far, but still nothing special. There were a few too many Suzuki-Gun shenanigans for my taste, but the finishing stretch was fun and it had a hot crowd. Ricochet and Taguchi are very fun and probably my favorite champions since reDRagon. Hopefully, BUSHI and Hiromu face them.
Post-match, Rocky Romero got in the ring and said he’s bringing in a team that is stronger, faster and better. “Roppongi3K” and they’re coming for the Jr. Titles. I’m intrigued.
It’s crazy to think how little thought goes into this division. This is part two of this series of three matches, all booked for these events. This is the entire division (sans TenKoji), by the way. Hanson had the battle of the big lads with Archer early on. I love me some BIG LADS WRESTLING. Things broke down quickly, with everyone brawling. As I said in their previous match, that’s what these guys do best. Hanson became the face in peril. I know it’s tag formula, and I can’t fault them for using it, but when there are so many tag matches on a show in a row, it can get tiring. Hanson used a handspring back elbow to open the door for the hot tag. Rowe did his thing until KES nailed their Hart Attack variation. GOD got their stuff in and hit Guerrilla Warfare, but weren’t legal so the referee didn’t count. Archer took them out, but Smith fell to Fallout at 11:05. I appreciate this being different from their first match. However, it didn’t do much to change the quality. The brawling was fine, as was the story of GOD nearly winning again, it just wasn’t all that interesting.
This was here to build Ishii/Naito and EVIL/Okada at KOPW. The positive response for Naito was overwhelming. Hiromu and Ospreay opened this with a ridiculously quick exchange. Their recent feud has been wacky in the best possible way. We were treated to Yano antics and SANADA trapping him in the Paradise Lock, which was how SANADA beat him in the G1. That was followed by the usual high quality exchange between Naito and Ishii. We’ve seen it a ton, but I can’t help but look forward to their KOPW match. It all built to the Okada/EVIL battle, previewing their upcoming title bout. Their stuff has been very intense, with EVIL bringing a hard hitting style and Okada giving his all to atone for the G1 loss. It came down to BUSHI and Gedo and it was clear why Gedo was in this match. He ate a slew of moves from LIDJ and took the pin after being hit with MX at 12:17. In an added moment of awesome, EVIL planted Okada with the STO and pinned him at the same time, giving himself another visual win over the champion. It’s CHAOS vs. LIDJ. They physically can’t have bad matches, it seems. This had a lot of action and did wonders to build KOPW.
After the match, Naito hit a sliding dropkick to Ishii’s knee. He also checked with the crowd if he was safe, a nod to the new LIDJ shirt, which is baseball themed. EVIL hit Okada with Darkness Falls on a pile of chairs.
I enjoyed their BOTSJ match (***), which Desperado won. I don’t know Japanese, but the video package seemed to note that Desperado failed in prior title shots and watched as the focus was put on international guys like Ospreay and Ricochet. Commentary noted that KUSHIDA has lost the title in three straight Septembers (to Taguchi, Omega and BUSHI). After a slow exchange to start, Desperado picked things up with a suicide dive that might’ve looked better than the Ricochet one I raved about earlier. That led to a fight through the crowd, with KUSHIDA’s leg being targeted. That became the theme of the match, as Desperado went after that, while KUSHIDA looked to set up the Hoverboard Lock. Desperado managed a few counters into a Stretch Muffler for close calls. When he got in serious trouble, Desperado removed his own mask and made it look like KUSHIDA took it from him. That caused a stoppage and he delivered a low blow for another near fall. He came close a few more times, before having a super Pinche Loco countered into the Hoverboard Lock. When Desperado didn’t tap, KUSHIDA rolled into Back to the Future to retain in 16:56. This was good, with Desperado’s shortcuts making sense as he was trying anything he could to win the title. I enjoyed the leg and arm work, as well as some of the later exchanges. What kept this from going over the top was the crowd, who never seemed to believed Desperado had a change.
Post-match, Will Ospreay came out to challenge KUSHIDA for October 9th. Hiromu Takahashi tried interrupting but was taken out by Ospreay.
This is the kind of booking I don’t like. Why would Ospreay get a title shot? He’s 0-3 against KUSHIDA and if he finally beats him here, it would feel kind of anti-climactic. Like, he wouldn’t really overcome anything. Plus, he’s been doing a lot of nothing lately besides dressing like a cat. Meanwhile, if he loses, he just remains KUSHIDA’s bitch. Lastly, it’s a match that will be very good (that seems to be their floor), but I’m tired of it. Give it a break for a while.
Their G1 match ruled (****¼) and was Sabre’s first ever G1 match. Tanahashi’s new hair should knock at least half a star off any match. A deliberately slow start to this one, as Tanahashi was tentative to fully lock up. He knew Sabre’s strength and that his arm had a giant bullseye on it. Tanahashi retaliated by going after the leg to set up the Texas Cloverleaf. His ability to use his veteran know to combat Sabre, frustrated the challenger. We got more of aggressive Sabre as he stomped on Tanahashi’s arm outside. Tanahashi survived a vicious octopus hold and hit High Fly Flow to the outside. He nailed one inside to a standing Sabre, but Minoru Suzuki ran out as TAKA distracted the referee. There was a ref bump, leading to Michael Elgin making the save and taking Suzuki to the back. During all this, Sabre got a good near fall on a PK. He got his knees up on another High Fly Flow attempt and moved into a submission. Tanahashi got free and nearly lost to the European clutch, which is probably the best pinning combo in wrestling right now. Tanahashi fought free with a bunch of neckbreakers and retained after finally hitting another High Fly Flow at 30:13. A high quality main event, but it fell short of their G1 outing. The lengthy mat stuff won’t be for everyone and the dueling limb work could be seen as too similar to the Jr. Title match, which is understandable. I didn’t see the point of the Minoru run-in. The SG shortcuts made sense in the Jr. Title match, but added nothing to this one. They told a fine story of Tanahashi being outmatched due to Sabre’s technical acumen and his bad arm, but he overcame the odds.
Being the fighting champion that he is, Tanahashi called out Kota Ibushi after the match. Based on post-G1 booking, Tanahashi challenged the other man who beat him in the tournament (not counting Naito who has bigger fish to fry) and we’re most likely getting that match at Power Struggle.
Overall: If you just look at the last three matches, you’d think this show deserved a better score. Those were the only three matches I’d say you should seek out and even then, there’s a better Tanahashi/Sabre match in the G1 and other CHAOS/LIDJ tags that were better. Everything before those three matches are skippable, though the show did well to set the next batch of programs up for the most part.