New Japan Pro-Wrestling comes to Kagoshima for the second of three major stops on the 2019 Destruction Tour. The main event features Kota Ibushi defending his G1 Climax briefcase against KENTA and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships are on the line as the team of Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles challenge the champions, Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo.
Yuya Uemura def. Clark Connors via submission @ 9:31 with a Boston Crab
The match begins with some nice grapple work by both men; good quickness and urgency and so much fluidity on the part of both guys which is not unlike their previous Young Lions Cup matches. Very back and forth match with lots of great reversals and some stiff chops and strikes. Uemura looks impressive powering through a Boston Crab and getting to the ropes and then Connors starts antagonizing him which devolves into the two *viciously* trading strikes and then Uemura gets a *beautiful* sequence, catching Connors with a deep armdrag and following it up with a double underhook belly-to-belly (prefaced by Uemura screaming in Connors’s face!) and then tapping him out with a Boston Crab. Nice to see Uemura finally pick up a win here, he definitely deserves at least one or two more before the YLC is in the books.
Ren Narita def. Michael Richards via pinfall @ 7:18 with Narita Special #4
Wow, Narita already has a pretty nasty looking cauliflower ear. Nice—and also, gross. This match also starts with some nice grappling, albeit a bit more methodical and less fluid than the previous match and definitely less back and forth as Narita stays very much in control in the early stages. Narita does such a great job of really cinching in those side headlocks and reverse chinlocks and they never really feel like rest holds because of it. Richards finally finds an opening and quickens the pace to take control of the match which is interesting since Narita is probably the quicker of the two while Richards is the more powerful and submission-oriented. Narita has definitely shown a lot of surprising power, though, and he uses it to turn the match around in a heartbeat, hitting Narita Special #4 for the win.
Manabu Nakanishi, Toa Henare, Karl Fredericks, & Alex Coughlin def. Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Taguchi, Shota Umino, & Yota Tsuji via pinfall @ 9:45 with a Henare TOA Bottom on Tsuji
Tsuji and Coughlin start off the match and Tsuji *explodes* out of the bell with a big dropkick on Coughlin and clears the apron. The intensity between the two is palpable, as always with the Lions set to face each other. Coughlin is able to get to the corner and tag in Fredericks which makes Shooter want in—both the announcers as well as the NJPW preview made very pointed mention of the fact that these two will meet in the last match of the YLC and it’s hard to imagine that match won’t be for all the marbles—and the two of them have a very impressive exchange. Eventually the team is able to isolate Shooter for a while.
Finally Shooter finds an opening for a big dropkick and gets a hot tag to Taguchi who hip attacks the field. Nagata and Nakanishi get a nice crowd-pleasing sequence together but to me both guys are definitely showing their age which isn’t something you can really say about very many NJPW guys, even the older veterans. The two still do some great work here. Tsuji gets a GREAT spot where he has Henare in a Boston Crab and absorbs two brutal chops from Coughlin without breaking the hold before catching Coughlin in a spear when he hits the ropes. Tsuji ultimately gets caught in TOA Bottom and pinned but once again looks great out there. Definitely can’t wait to see what this young man can do going forward.
Tomohiro Ishii, Yoshi-Hashi, SHO & YOH def. Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale, & Chase Owens via pinfall @ 6:51 with a YOH small package on Tama Tonga
Very interesting start here with Ishii’s team being the ones to launch a pre-match attack but Bullet Club quickly takes control of the match and isolates SHO. Finally SHO finds an opening and gets the hot tag to Yoshi-Hashi who cleans house. Ishii and Yoshi get a nice sequence with GoD before Fale takes them out, which brings in SHO and YOH for some sweet tandem moves. GoD hits back and is about to hit Magic Killer on YOH but SHO breaks it up and YOH rolls up Tama Tonga for the pin, putting Roppongi 3k in prime position for a shot at the tag belts (especially considering both teams’ post-match comments). After the match, GoD beat down YOH and hit Magic Killer while Chase keeps SHO at bay. Great to see R3k back in the title picture and I can’t wait to see them face GoD, that will be a killer match.
Jyushin Thunder Liger, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, & Tomoaki Honma def. Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre, Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemura, & DOUKI via disqualification @ 9:22 when Suzuki assaulted Liger with a chair and removed his mask
Pre-match attack by Suzuki-gun. Shocker. Suzuki immediately goes after Liger, of course. That’s not to say that just because something is predictable, that makes it bad. I think it’s also interesting that Tana and ZSJ are back to facing each other the night after their RevPro title match. I really hope they’re not planning *another* match between those two. That feud has more than run its course. After Suzuki drags Liger on the outside a while, Liger is so incensed that he nearly attacks Suzuki with a chair which is pretty cool to see. You have to think this is what Suzuki has been trying to bring out of Liger and the two really brutalize each other outside the ring throughout the match.
I also have to really appreciate how Suzuki seems to sell more for Liger than anyone else which you have to love. Except now he’s in there with Makabe who is *really* taking it to him and the crowd is hyped—and then Liger wants in and the crowd goes WILD. Suzuki and Liger finally face off in the ring and the intensity is off the charts. Really great stuff. I also really like ZSJ’s new headbutt to the gut (gutbutt? headgut?) he’s been using. The match ends beautifully with Suzuki getting his team disqualified by attacking Liger with a chair and then FULLY UNMASKING Liger (his face, of course, being hidden by a towel) and HOLDING IT IN HIS DAMN TEETH LIKE A MANIAC.
After the match, Liger vows revenge on Suzuki. Backstage, Suzuki…I mean how do I even describe this? Maybe I should just give you an abridged version of the whole thing: Suzuki comes in *still* with Liger’s mask between his teeth. “Your soul is masked with this?” he says. “You’re just using this to hide that you’re actually soulless. You’re a phony. I’m getting rid of this for you after 30 years of pretending.” Suzuki STOMPS ON LIGER’S MASK and says “I’m doing this for you.” He tells Liger to “get down on the ground…grovel before me…tell me, ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong.’ Kneel down and beg for forgiveness.” (This in reference to a time years ago when Liger said he would face Suzuki but told Suzuki to give him two years and then never faced him) As he’s leaving, Suzuki picks up Liger’s mask again. “This thing? Maybe it’ll make a good broth….or maybe it’s not worth a damn, not even for soup, now that he’s quitting.”
We quite simply do not deserve this man.
Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, & Rocky Romero def. SANADA, Shingo Takagi, & BUSHI via pinfall @ 10:08 with an Okada Rainmaker on BUSHI
Another white hot start from Goto and Shingo here. These two have been doing an amazing job of putting over how badly they want to murder each other and their match is going to absolutely tear the house down in Kobe. I especially love when Shingo is in the ring with Rocky and has him in position for a sliding lariat but instead just runs straight at Goto and throws him full speed into the barricade. Some great stuff between Okada and SANADA also, as usual. Both these pairings have been killing it this whole tour and definitely making the most of the time they’ve gotten in the ring together to give people a worthy preview of their respective upcoming matches. And, really, it’s a lot of the same stuff they’re doing in each of these matches but somehow it feels fresh and compelling every time which just goes to show how great all four of these guys are. Backstage, Rocky Romero FINALLY accepts Taguchi’s offer to become a tag team together and Shingo reveals that his “Takagi GTR” is not yet complete and he will reveal the full version in Kobe.
Tetsuya Naito & EVIL def. Jay White & Yujiro Takahashi via pinfall @ 11:50 with EVIL’s Everything is EVIL on Takahashi
More mind games between White and Naito pre-match, of course. Kevin Kelly is also planting some rather interesting seeds here concerning EVIL perhaps wanting to challenge SANADA for the IWGP title if he wins or even maybe wanting to beat him before then to put himself in line for a title shot of his own. White and Takahashi try a pre-match attack but Naito and EVIL anticipate it. Naito is about to hit Combinación Cabrón but Gedo grabs his leg and then Jay White yanks the back of his neck over the ropes and sends him crashing into the railing followed by a “tranquilo” pose with a “too sweet” instead of a fist. What a delightfully terrible person this guy is; I really don’t understand why he doesn’t get more love because he is *so* good at this. He also does the “trying to force Naito’s eye open” spot again later on which I love.
EVIL gets a great sequence off a hot tag that definitely shows some flashes of brilliance from him but eventually Bullet Club takes control. Naito makes a *beautiful* last second save after some tandem stuff by BC on EVIL. There are also a couple magnificent sequences of Naito and White trading reversals that give us a nice preview of what’s to come, including one after the match the ends with Jay White looking for an LIJ salute only to bait Naito into a low blow. Great final image of the gamesmanship between the two (which Kevin Kelly expertly points out): Jay White blocking Destino and then taking the advantage in the mind games. Backstage, Jay White says he “drops clues” about what he’s going to do and people don’t even notice. Very interesting. EVIL says he’s about to make his move…
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori (c) def. Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles via pinfall @ 23:10 with a Taiji Ishimori Bloody Cross and an El-P CR2 on Eagles
Ospreay starts the match and says he wants El-P, who tags in and immediately goes after Eagles but Birds of Prey quickly turn things around with some excellent tandem offense. The chemistry Ospreay and Eagles have as a tag team has been off the charts this whole tour and never more so than in this match. Eventually Bullet Club takes over and isolates Eagles for a while. Eagles eventually gets the hot tag to Ospreay though it feels like it loses some effectiveness when he was hitting the ropes at 100mph seconds before crawling slowly to tag Ospreay but Will Ospreay hot tags are always pretty entertaining. Very impressive sequence of reversals between El-P and Ospreay and some equally impressive back-and-forth tandem offense by both teams. The pace seemed a little off for a minute but they’ve built it up really well since then and the crowd is hot! So many great spots it would be pointless to recount them all but hot DAMN that Eagles hurricanrana on Ishimori out of the electric chair was NUTS.
BoP go for Red Wing but El-P back-rakes them and sunset flips them both and they both…well, okay, Ospreay lands on his feet but Kevin Kelly seems to think Eagles did too. BoP attack Ishimori’s knee and Eagles puts him in the Ron Miller Special which is just about the most ineffective looking submission I’ve ever seen. Still great drama as El-P tries to break it up and Ospreay tries but ultimately fails to stop him. The emotional climax of the match sees El-P taunt Eagles by telling him he’s not good enough for Bullet Club—or even for Chaos—followed by Eagles having a tantrum and stomping on him like a five-year-old? Sure. El-P turns things around for a second—mostly with some insane attacks on Ospreay on the outside but gets caught when Eagles gets his knees up on a splash. Eagles hits a 450 on El-P’s leg but Ishimori hits Eagles with the belt and El-P rolls him up—and he kicks out at two! They try to put him away with a knee to the head and a spinning TKO neckbreaker but Ospreay *barely* makes it in time to save Eagles and eats an assisted Bloody Cross which allows BC to hit Eagles with a Bloody Cross and a CR2 for the win.
Gotta say, I definitely was expecting Birds of Prey to take this one because these two are pure magic as a tag team but I kinda like the decision not to give them the titles right away. They’ll have them soon enough and they clearly don’t need them to get over because they couldn’t be a whole lot more over than they already are. Backstage, Ospreay says “we’ve got a tournament to enter” (referring, of course, to Super Jr. Tag League in October).
Wrestle Kingdom Contract
Kota Ibushi (c) def. KENTA via pinfall @ 26:23 with Kamigoye (★★★★★)
KENTA gets things started in style by kicking Ibushi’s head in and hitting him with the briefcase as he’s entering the ring and then destroying the briefcase and saying it belongs to him now and he’s going to make a new Bullet Club version. The medical staff examines Ibushi a bit but Ibushi screams at them to start the match and as soon as the bell rings KENTA hits him with a Busaiku knee for a *very* long two-count. KENTA takes Ibushi to the outside and just flat out murders him for a while. Ibushi is selling his ass off and looks like he’s in *rough* shape as he crawls back to the ring for a 16-count. KENTA immediately throws him back outside and abuses him some more, hitting a *nasty* looking DDT in the aisle. KENTA’s heel work is great, too, taunting the crowd and Ibushi and just generally looking ruthless and unscrupulous as hell.
The match almost turns when KENTA starts toying with Ibushi and Ibushi powers up and starts going to that violent, sadistic place but KENTA quickly puts him back down and maintains control. The psychology here is textbook with the ruthless, dishonorable heel keeping the pure babyface down and disrespecting him. KENTA starts toying with Ibushi again and this time the match does turn in Ibushi’s favor as he explodes with some fast-paced offense. KENTA tries to cut him off with a PK to the back but Ibushi powers up and hits one of his own, which KENTA then shrugs off and the two meet in the center of the ring for a strike battle—forearms, kicks, dueling slaps, and dueling head kicks and both men are down. This is getting good…
Ibushi throws KENTA to the outside with a head-scissor and goes for the triangle moonsault but KENTA catches him and launches a brutal, relentless assault on Ibushi’s previously-injured leg, taunting him as he does it. KENTA is seriously so good here as he refuses to let up on the leg and looks like every bit the vicious, violent KENTA the world has known and loved for so many years. Ibushi gets some great hope spots, especially when he hits the Shibata Kick but KENTA grabs the leg and goes right back to work. Also HUGE props to KENTA for actually understanding that the figure four is supposed to hyperextend the *straight* leg. BIG comeback by Ibushi with the huge lariat and the Last Ride but KENTA *barely* kicks out. Ibushi wants Bomaye but KENTA grabs Red Shoes and GoD come down—only to eat a double backflip kick. Ibushi hits Bomaye and goes for the pin but GoD pulls Red Shoes out of the ring and hits Magic Killer on Ibushi. They go for the super powerbomb but Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi take them out!! (Ishii running up the aisle with Tanga Loa in a headlock is hilarious and beautiful)
KENTA and Ibushi get to their knees to trade forearms and then to their feet. KENTA hits that vicious right palm strike and a PK for a looong two-count and then follows it up with a freaking Kamigoye (according to Ibushi’s backstage comments, the Kamigoye was actually *born* in Kagoshima so this is *extra* insulting) for another *very* long two. KENTA hits GTS and Ibushi BARELY kicks out. Ibushi hits Kamigoye and KENTA BARELY KICKS OUT. SH*T JUST GOT REAL. The crowd is LOSING THEIR MINDS. However, Ibushi quickly (and very wisely) hits ANOTHER Kamigoye and pins KENTA for the 1-2-3. Wow. Unbelievable match. Five stars. Definitely a match of the year candidate.
After the match, EVIL appears at the top of the ramp to make it known that he wants the next shot at the briefcase—a shot he earned by defeating Ibushi in the G1.
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