By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “Road to Destruction”
September 8, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
After a lengthy break since the conclusion of the G1 Climax tournament, New Japan Pro Wrestling returned to action. The building appeared to be packed. Chris Charlton, provided live commentary, later acknowledged it was a sellout.
1. “Just 5 Guys” Douki and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Yoh and Ryusuke Taguchi at 11:18. Yoh and Douki opened with mat reversals. Taguchi did his usual cartoonish antics, making Kanemaru run the ropes over and over. Douki shoved a stick toward Taguchi’s butt at 4:00 and I’m not enjoying the humor. Douki hit a suplex on Taguchi and J5G remained in charge. Douki hit an enzuigiri on Yoh and they were both down at 8:00. Taguchi applied an anklelock on Kanemaru. However, Kanemaru got a rollup on Taguchi for the clean pin. Okay opener.
2. Tomoaki Honma and “Strong Style” Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, and Ren Narita defeated Shota Umino, Yuji Nagata, Master Wato, and Oskar Leube at 13:08. Shota still has his own Moxley-style entrance through the crowd. These teams feel even more random than usual, but the point here is that Minoru and Nagata are renewing their decades-old feud, and they shoved each other in the chest before the bell. Likewise, Shota and Ren renewed their rivalry before the bell. The bell sounded and Nagata and Minoru immediately traded chops and slaps to the face. Desperado and Wato entered at 1:30, with Wato hitting some Danelson-style Yes Kicks. Honma entered and hit a shoulder tackle on Wato, but he missed a Kokeshi falling headbutt.
Umino’s team began working Honma over in their corner. Minoru and Nagata again started fighting on the floor while Honma was still getting worked over in the ring. Narita finally made the hot tag at 7:30 and he hit a Northern Lights Suplex on Shota for a nearfall, and those two traded stiff forearm shots. The other six began brawling on the floor, so the ref has completely lost control. Shota nailed an Exploder Suplex at 10:00.
Leube tagged in and hit some shoulder tackles on Narita and a mid-ring Mafia Kick and a bodyslam for a nearfall. Leube applied a Boston Crab but Suzuki made the save. Wato hit a leg lariat on Desperado. Leube nailed a running bodyslam on Narita for a nearfall at 12:00 but he missed his Hogan Legdrop. Narita hit a Northern Lights Suplex for a believable nearfall. Ren applied a sleeper, then applied the Cobra Twist/mid-ring Octopus stretch, and Leube tapped out. Good action. Shota and Narita kept brawling after the bell.
3. “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Bad Dude Tito, Mikey Nicholls, and Shane Haste defeated Toru Yano and “Bishamon” Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto at 13:52. Nicholls and Haste are coming for Bishamon’s tag team titles. Good to see Tito back in Japan. Nicholls and Yoshi-Hashi started. Tito entered and hit a shoulder tackle on Goto at 3:00. Haste and Nicholls hit some team moves on Goto and worked him over. Yoshi-Hashi finally made the hot tag at 8:30 and he traded forearm shots with Nicholls. Y-H hit a Rude Awakening standing neckbreaker. Mikey hit a spinebuster. Haste tagged in and dropkicked Yoshi-Hashi.
Haste nailed a hard rolling cannonball in the corner on Yoshi-Hashi, then a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 11:00. Yoshi-Hashi hit a basement dropkick on Haste’s knee. Yano tagged in for the first time and he got a schoolboy rollup for a nearfall on Haste. TMDK hit clotheslines in the corner on Yano. Yoshi-Hashi hit a superkick on Haste. Nicholls and Haste hit a modified team suplex, with Haste scoring the pin on Yano. Okay match.
4. Yuto Nakashima, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tiger Mask, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Togi Makabe ended in a double disqualification at 14:20. The combined age of Kojima’s team has to be close to 200. All eight brawled at the bell, with Ishii and Tenzan squaring off in the ring, and Tenzan hitting his Mongolian Chops. Tanahashi entered and traded offense with Tiger Mask. Togi entered at 4:00 and faced Okada, and they traded forearm shots, and Okada hit a DDT. Yuto entered and battled Kojima. Ishii and Tiger Mask traded stiff forearm shots at 9:00. Kojima hit his series of rapid-fire chops on Okada.
Okada hit a neckbreaker over his knee on Kojima and applied a Money Clip submission hold at 12:00. Tenzan hit a uranage on Ishii. Everyone brawled in the ring again. The ref got shoved to the ground. The ref got up and tried to separate Tenzan and Ishii but he was shoved down again, and this time, he called for the bell. For as much as I love Ishii and Okada… this was a highly underwhleming match that stayed safely in second gear. Ishii and Tenzan kept brawling after the bell with everyone else trying to separate them.
* Shane Haste joined Chris Charlton on commentary.
5. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Yota Tsuji, Hiromu Takahashi, and Shingo Takagi defeated “United Empire” Jeff Cobb, Callum Newman, Henare, and Great-O-Khan at 13:06. Newman is thin and lanky and just joined United Empire at a UK show. Shingo and O-Khan started. O-Khan and Hiromu brawled up into the bleachers at 3:00. Back in the ring, Henare hit some spin kicks to Hiromu’s chest. Cobb entered and brawled with Naito. Cobb hit a crossbody block on Tsuji at 10:00. Newman tagged in and hit a huracanrana on Shingo.
Tsuji hit a running kick on Cobb, then a huracanrana. Newman got an inside cradle for a believable nearfall on Tsuji, then a spin kick to his jaw for a nearfall at 12:30. However, Tsuji hit a devastating spear on Newman for the pin. Easily best match of the show so far. Cobb and Naito continued to argue after the match. Shingo and O-Khan also stood across from each other and argued some more.
6. Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Ryohei Oiwa (w/Kaito Kiyomiya) to retain the NJPW TV Title at 11:34. Oiwa has a noticeably different haircut since we last saw him, and Charlton said Oiwa is officially on loan to Pro Wrestling NOAH. Oiwa also wore silver and white pants; it’s the first time I’ve seen him in anything other than the Young Lion black trunks. Sabre has had 12 successful title defenses since winning the newly-created belt in January, Charlton added. Sabre hit a running penalty kick on the ring apron at 4:00. They brawled to the floor, with Sabre working over the left arm. In the ring, he stayed focused on damaging the left arm.
Oiwa hit a pair of gutwrench suplexes for a nearfall at 7:00, then a German Suplex for a nearfall. Sabre went back to working over the left arm and he tied Oiwa in a knot on the mat, but Oiwa got a foot on the ropes. Sabre hit a German Suplex, but Oiwa popped up and applied a Figure Four Leglock. Oiwa hit a back suplex for a nearfall at 10:30. Sabre avoided a Dragonscrew Legwhip and he applied a cross-armbreaker. He switched to a Fujiwara Armbar, then the modified Rings of Saturn double-armbar, and Oiwa submitted. That was fun. It’s amazing what a different haircut and nice ring gear does for Oiwa; he was already the best of the Young Lions but he looked really good here. Kaito got in the ring and stood nose-to-nose with Sabre, and the crowd reacted positively to their heated words.
7. “House of Torture” EVIL and Sho (w/Dick Togo) defeated “Just 5 Guys” Sanada and Taichi (w/Taka Michinoku) at 17:04. Sho’s hair is a light brown today; it’s usually dark black. Sanada was undefeated in A Block action at the G1 before losing to EVIL in the playoffs; those two started here but EVIL quickly tagged out. Sho stalled on the floor and refused to tie up with Taichi, who finally caught Sho on the floor and slammed him into the guardrail at 2:30. In the ring, Sho whipped Taichi into a corner after the pad had been removed. EVIL and Taichi brawled up into the bleachers.
In the ring, Taichi began working over Sho. Sho hit a spear at 9:30 and tagged EVIL back in, and they took turns stomping on Taichi. Sanada tagged in and hit a dropkick on EVIL, then a plancha to the floor. In the ring, EVIL hit a fisherman’s suplex for a nearfall at 12:00. Sanada hit a TKO stunner on EVIL for a nearfall. EVIL hit a sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall. Sanada applied a Skull End on EVIL, while Taichi hopped in and put a Dragon Sleeper on Sho. Sanada put EVIL’s feet on the top rope and he hit a swinging neckbreaker, then a Shining Wizaard. Sanada set up for Deadfall, but EVIL escaped.
Sanada charged into the corner but EVIL pulled the ref and Sanada speared the ref. Togo hit Sanada with a chair. EVIL got a title belt, but Taichi stopped him from using it. EVIL hit a low blow uppercut on Taichi, and Sho hit Taichi with a wrench. EVIL hit Taichi with a title belt to knock him out. EVIL then hit the Everything is Evil uranage on Sanada to pin the champion again! Meanwhile, Sho hit a piledriver on Taichi.
* EVIL got on the mic and was loudly booed, and he had Sanada’s belt. EVIL said “no one thinks of you as the champion.” EVIL said the belt belongs to him. He then posed with Sanada’s NJPW World Title belt.
Final Thoughts: It’s good to have NJPW back after a three-week hiatus. While there were no must-see matches here, we got a nice reminder of some of the big feuds established at the end of the G1 Climax tournament, particularly EVIL vs. Sanada and Nagata vs. Suzuki.