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NJPW: Destruction Preview & Predictions

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Coming hot off the G1 Climax, New Japan is now headed towards Destruction. The tour is highlighted by some huge matches, including an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match as well as a G1 Briefcase challenge. Other key elements are two wrestlers returning from injury, the beginning of a junior heavyweight tournament and someone from K-DOJO looking to make a name for himself. On top of that, you have the losers of the G1 Climax who are now scrambling to put the pieces back together. There will be six shows in total on NJPW World during this tour, starting September 7th and ending on September 23rd.

What I’m most looking forward to is seeing the return of both Satoshi Kojima and Beretta. Both wrestlers were injured in the early months of the year and couldn’t have come at a worse time. At the age of 47, and turning 48 during this tour, Kojima doesn’t have many years left. A modern day legend in professional wrestling, you can’t help but to feel bad for Kojima. As the New Japan roster gets younger and expands westward, the time for Kojima to have his last hurrah is dwindling. Nobody wants this injury to be their last memory of Kojima so here’s to hoping his closes out the year strong.

It was announced last July that Beretta would be making the move from the junior ranks to heavyweight division. Although he didn’t receive a spot in last year’s G1, he did receive a US title opportunity against Kenny Omega. All arrows seemed to be trending upwards for Beretta before his injury. He was set up to be a participant in this year’s New Japan Cup but was unable to perform and was replaced by his tag team partner, Chuck Taylor. Still in his early 30s, there is plenty of time for Beretta to make his mark in the division and as a big fan, I’m excited for his return.

Satoshi Kojima’s Schedule
September 9: Kojima, Tenzan, Nagata, Nakanishi vs Makabe, Honma, Juice, Finlay
September 17: Kojima, Tenzan, Tsuji vs Nagata, Nakanishi, Uemura
September 23: Kojima, Tenzan, Nagata, Nakanishi vs Makabe, Honma, Taguchi, Yoshida

The multi-man matches are the exact position Kojima would have been in before the injury so he’s picking up right where he left off. I’m especially excited to see him mix it up with the young guys, Uemura and Yoshida.

Beretta’s Schedule
September 7: Beretta vs Henare
September 8: Beretta & Okada vs Tanahashi & Juice
September 9: Beretta, Ishii, Yano, Ospreay vs Omega, Ibushi, Yujiro, Owens
September 15: Beretta, Chuckie T, Ospreay vs Ibushi, Yujiro, Owens
September 17: Beretta & Chuckie T vs Killer Elite Squad
September 23: Beretta & Chuckie T vs Killer Elite Squad

Full tour for Beretta. He returns with a singles match followed by a Korakuen Hall main event alongside Okada. His tour closes with two matches against K.E.S. so it looks like he’ll continue to be featured which is a positive sign.

New Blood
Making his main roster debut on the G1 Finals, K-DOJO’s Ayato Yoshida finds himself heavily featured on the Destruction Tour. Yoshida has been a regular fixture of the Lion’s Gate Project shows since its inception. Age 25, Yoshida comes from TAKA Michinoku’s promotion, K-DOJO, where he’s challenged for the top title and is a multi-time tag team champion. If you haven’t seen him before, he’s a great striker with good size. Look for him in the undercard tag matches throughout the tour.

The Juniors
Because of the neck injury Hiromu Takahashi sustained in early July, he’s been forced to vacate the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. NJPW have decided to put the last four junior champions (Ospreay, Scurll, KUSHIDA & BUSHI) in a single-elimination tournament to determine the next champion. The first match of the junior tournament will be between KUSHIDA and BUSHI, a rivalry dominated by KUSHIDA but during the 2016 Destruction tour, BUSHI defeated KUSHIDA for the junior title. Will Ospreay makes his first appearance since G1 Special in San Francisco and will face Marty Scurll on the next US show, Fighting Spirit Unleashed. These two haven’t met in a singles match since their legendary encounter at this year’s Sakura Genesis. A lot can be said about the lack of depth in the junior division but the history between these four will make for some interesting stories.

Predictions

September 15: NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
Tama, Tanga, Ishimori (c) vs Juice, Finlay, Taguchi
This is an easy one to predict. The Firing Squad just won the titles at the G1 Climax from their former allies and now they face the goofy team of Taguchi Japan. Expect the Firing Squad to continue their winning ways.
Prediction: The Firing Squad

September 15: IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs Tomohiro Ishii
Another easy one to see coming, even if it’s not what my heart wants. Ishii continued his G1 ways of winning over every fan, becoming the ultimate babyface. Fans will rally behind Ishii every step of the way but a title change is not in the cards. A fun note is that although the IWGP Heavyweight Championship rarely changes hands between G1 and Wrestle Kingdom, The Bullet Club’s former leader, AJ Styles, did lose it in 2014 to Tanahashi before Wrestle Kingdom 9. Kenny Omega being able to defend and walk into Wrestle Kingdom as champion will be a feat the former leader was unable to accomplish.
Prediction: Kenny Omega

September 17: NEVER Openweight Championship
Hirooki Goto (c) vs Taichi
One of the more puzzling developments of the G1 Climax was the amount of losses Hirooki Goto took as NEVER Openweight Champion. He suffered six losses yet his first post-G1 defense will be again Taichi, who wasn’t in the tournament. More than that, Taichi was pinned by Michael Elgin in a three-way for the title back in June. This really makes no sense unless it’s setting up Goto next being challenged by Sabre, someone who did defeat Goto during the G1 and is Taichi’s stablemate. That’s the only possible way this scenario makes sense and even then it’s not very logical.
Prediction: Hirooki Goto

September 17: Special Singles Match
Tetsuya Naito vs Minoru Suzuki
A rematch of May’s Hinokuni match for the IC title and a more fitting match at that. The match at Hinokuni was one of the more puzzling decisions of the year. Naito didn’t care about the title, he just wanted to take it from Suzuki who only had it because he wanted to take it from Tanahashi. This will be a better, more fitting match. Naito failed to make it to the G1 finals by way of defeat to Sabre, Suzuki’s stablemate. We’ll see a really passionate match this time around without a title to muddy the waters. Naito has taken a lot of losses this year but he has been able to defeat Suzuki. It’ll be interesting to see if he slides even more or if Suzuki takes another loss. This is a complete toss up to me.
Prediction: Minoru Suzuki

September 23: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Tournament
KUSHIDA vs BUSHI
Before Hiromu Takahashi’s return from excursion, BUSHI was the junior representative for LIJ. September 2016 he defeated KUSHIDA for the junior title but he failed to beat KUSHIDA in the rematch in October and then Hiromu burst onto the scene, defeating KUSHIDA in January. The title has been vacated because of Hiromu’s injury which makes BUSHI the next man up in LIJ. Since LIJ is the most beloved faction in all of Japan right now, I see BUSHI being the clear favorite to become the next champion. Him holding down the division while everyone waits for Hiromu’s return feels like the right call and KUSHIDA doesn’t need to take a clean loss thanks to the mist.
Prediction: BUSHI

September 23: G1 Climax Briefcase Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Kazuchika Okada
The rule is that whoever wins the G1 Climax must avenge any losses sustained along the way. Tanahashi was only defeated once and that was by Jay White. Still, since they went to a draw, Tanahashi feels the need to defend against Okada. Tanahashi hasn’t been able to beat Okada for years now. In fact, the last time Tanahashi beat Okada was January 4th, 2015 at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Since then, their record has been 2-0-2 in favor of Okada. The rivalry between these two has been intense and now the story revolves around the question of whether or not the aging Tanahashi has what it takes to beat Okada anymore. We’re seeing a new side of Okada as well. He’s gone through a transformation since losing the title to Kenny Omega back in June. This is Tanahashi’s time to strike, if he can’t beat Okada now then his time in the IWGP Heavyweight Championship picture has all but come to an end. There is a flicker of hope for the Ace, it’s up to him on whether he takes advantage of the situation. This is really tough to call. How these two continue to make their matches so unpredictable is beyond me.
Prediction: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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