By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “Road to Destruction”
September 9, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
Chris Charlton provided solo commentary. Friday’s show was a sellout and it appears the same here.
* Chris Charlton talked about Boltin Oleg missing Friday’s show due to illness and being replaced by Ryohei Oiwa in a singles match against Zack Sabre Jr. Apparently ZSJr, who has now successfully defended the TV Title 13 times this year, has vowed to reach 20 defenses in a single year. He challenged Satoshi Kojima to a match! (It means Kojima’s singles match against Young Lion Oskar Leube is canceled.)
1. Ryusuke Taguchi and Yoh defeated “Just 5 Guys” Douki and Taka Michinoku at 7:41. Taguchi and Taka started with basic action while Charlton talked about Super Junior Tag League coming soon. Taguchi hit a mid-ring buttbump on Douki at 4:30. Yoh made the hot tag and hit a huracanrana, then a plancha. Taka hit a Mafia Kick on Yoh for a nearfall, then a Superkick for a nearfall, and he cranked back on Yoh’s neck. Yoh and Taguchi hit team buttbumps on Taka. Yoh hit a team Lungblower move to pin Taka. Solid opener.
2. Master Wato, Tomoaki Honma, Yuji Nagata, and Shota Umino defeated Yuto Nakashima and “Strong Style” Minoru Suzuki, Ren Narita, and El Desperado at 12:05. Honma teamed with Strong Style a day ago, now he’s on the opposite team. All eight brawled at the bell, with Desperado and Wato staying in the ring while the others fought on the floor. Honma hit some chops on Desperado, but he missed the Kokeshi falling headbutt. Wato held Desperado in place, allowing Honma to hit the Kokeshi. Funny. Nagata entered at 5:00 and hit a stiff kick to Desperado’s spine for a nearfall. Suzuki tagged in and the crowd popped, and he hit some forearm shots and a Helluva Kick on Nagata, then a penalty kick to the chest for a nearfall. Charlton said these two have each won six of 12 singles matches against each other; I would have thought it was more than that.
They traded Mafia Kicks and Yuji hit an Exploder Suplex and they were both down at 7:30. Ren and Umino entered and they traded forearm shots. (I really like how NJPW has established the idea that these two are going to be fighting for the next 20 years, just like Nagata and Suzuki.) Narita hit a Northern Lights Suplex with a bridge for a believable nearfall. Yuto tagged in for the first time at 9:30 and he hit some moves on Shota. Desperado hit a Spinebuster on Shota. Yuto hit a Bulldog Powerslam for a believable nearfall on Shota. Shota fired back with a dropkick and a flying back elbow for a nearfall, then the Death Rider double-arm DDT for the pin on Yuto. The official time is a few seconds shorter because I start the clock at first contact.
* Suzuki and Nagata will be starting a seven-match series on Sunday!
3. Toru Yano and “Bishamon” Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Bad Dude Tito, Shane Haste, and Mikey Nicholls at 10:02. Charlton reiterated that this match has changed due to Boltin Oleg having an infection after a cut on his wrist and he’s out of action. Goto and Haste started. Nicholls slammed Yoshi-Hashi’s chest on the ring apron at 2:00 and tossed him back into the ring,, where Tito got a nearfall. Tito hit a short-arm clothesline, and TMDK kept Y-H in their corner. Tito hit a delayed vertical suplex at 4:30, then he applied a Camel Clutch. Yoshi-Hashi hit a basement dropkickk on Nicholl’s knee. Yano made the hot tag at 6:00 and he immediately removed a corner pad. TMDK got on some quick offense, so Goto tagged in at 7:30, but he couldn’t hit a double bulldog. Tito hit a deadlift German Suplelx on Goto for a nearfall. Goto hit a neckbreaker over his knee. Bishamon hit the Shoto team slam on Tito for the pin.
4. “House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, and Yujiro Takahashi (w/Dick Togo) defeated “Just 5 Guys” Sanada, Taichi, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru at 11:44. EVIL has the NJPW title that he stole from Sanada a day ago. Kanemaru charged in the ring and slipped and it appears he legitimately blew out his knee. The whole match came to a stop just 30 seconds in; this is not a storyline. I rewound and watched from the beginning; he just ran in and collapsed and grabbed his knee in pain. As soon as Kanemaru was helped out of the ring, the three HoT guys began stomping on Sanada and Taichi. EVIL got on the mic; Charlton said EVIL told Sanada “he should beg for forgiveness.” Douki ran into the ring at 2:30, and he’s apparently taken Kanemaru’s spot. If this truly is a legit injury, they have quickly rebounded. The bell sounded at 3:30 to officially begin this match.
The HoT worked over Douki as the match got underway. Sanada hit a springboard dropkick on EVIL at 8:00. Taichi hit a series of clotheslines. Douki hit a top-rope doublestomp on EVIL’s stomach. Douki applied the ‘Douki Chokey’ Triangle Choke on EVIL and the crowd went nuts. Douki turned it into a cover for a nearfall at 11:00. The crowd is loving this. Togo tossed a chair at Douki’s back as he was setting up for Daybreak. That allowed EVIL to hit the Everything is Evil uranage for the pin on Douki. Again, I am fully believing that is a legit injury so they did a great job reworking this match, and this crowd LOVED Douki’s hope spots against EVIL. Again, official time is probably closer to eight minutes.
* Mikey Nicholls joined Chris Charlton on commentary. Charlton marveled at the fact that Zack Sabre Jr. is defending his title in back-to-back nights against an opponent he just bumped into in the locker room after his win. Charlton reiterated Sabre has made a goal of 20 title defenses this year, so if he wins here (which certainly seems likely), he’ll still have six to go.
5. Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Satoshi Kojima to retain the NJPW TV Title at 12:07. Standing switches to open. They brawled to the floor, where Kojima whipped Sabre into the guardrail at 2:00. Sabre stomped on Kojima’s elbow; as they got into the ring, Kojima was clutching at his sore elbow, and Sabre stomped on it again. Kojima fired up and hit his rapid-fire chops in the corner at 5:00. Kojima hit a DDT onto the ring apron, with Sabre rolling to the floor and selling a neck injury. Back in the ring, Satoshi hit another DDT at 7:00. Sabre applied a cross-armbreaker on the mat, but Kojima got a foot on the ropes.
Sabre hit a clothesline but Kojima didn’t go down. Sabre hit two more but Kojima stayed on his feet. Satoshi hit his own clothesline that dropped Sabre. Kojima nailed a brainbuster for a nearfall at 9:30. However, Sabre hit a Zack Driver (Michinoku Driver), and they were both down. Sabre applied a mid-ring Octopus but Kojima fought free, and Satoshi hit another clothesline. This crowd was hot for this match, as Satoshi got a nearfall at 11:00. Sabre hit a back suplex. Kojima hit a side slam for a nearfall. Sabre went nack to the cross-armbreaker, and he turned it into a Fujiwara Armbar, and Kojima tapped out. That was fun.
* A really nice video package for the next match. As someone who is not a long-time NJPW viewer, it was neat to see a younger Tenzan.
6. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Tiger Mask, and Togi Makabe to retain the NEVER Openweight Six-man titles at 17:45. Ishii and Tenzan opened with Tenzan hitting his Mongolian Chops and Ishii hitting stiff chops to the chest. Tiger Mask entered at 2:00 and battled Okada. Tanahashi entered and worked over TM’s knee. Okada hit a standing neckbreaker for a nearfall at 6:30. Tiger Mask fired back with a top-rope armdrag on Okada and they were both down. Makabe made the hot tag and he hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Hiroshi. Ishii re-entered and hit some chops on Togi, then a suplex. Togi hit a powerslam on Ishii at 10:00. Tenzan tagged back in and hit more Mongolian Chops on Ishii, then a brainbuster for a nearfall at 12:00.
Okada hit an assisted faceplant move on Tenzan for a nearfall. Ishii hit a hard clothesline but Tenzan sat up. Ishii hit an enzuigiri, then a clothesline for a nearfall. Togi jumped in the ring and hit a hard clothesline on Tanahashi, while TM hit a backbreaker over his knee on Okada at 14:30. The referee has no interest at this point of keeping just one in from each side. TM hit a Tiger Driver powerbomb on Ishii. Tenzan hit a diving headbutt on Ishii, then a devastating DDT on Ishii for a believable nearfall, but Tanahashi made the save at 16:00. Tenzan hit a uranage for a nearfall. Tenzan went to the top rope. “You can’t! You can’t!” Charlton shouted. Okada grabbed Tenzan and hit a German Suplex. Tenzan hit more Mongolian Chops on all three opponents. Ishii hit a sliding dropkick for a nearfall on Tenzan, then a brainbuster for the pin. That was fun.
7. “United Empire” Callum Newman, Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, Henare, and Will Ospreay defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, Bushi, Hiromu Takahashi, and Yota Tsuji in an elimination match at 27:44. If you haven’t seen an NJPW elimination match, they have battle royal rules, so most people are eliminated by being tossed over the top rope to the floor. Yota and Ospreay started; on the final day of the G1 Climax tournament, Yota scored a rare pin over Ospreay in a multi-man match. Here, Yota hit a loud chop at 1:30. They each went for a huracanrana but their opponent did a cartwheel to land on his feet. This crowd was HOT and we’ve just started.
Shingo entered and hit a suplex on Will. Yota slammed teammate Hiromu onto Will for a nearfall at 4:00. Opsreay dropped Hiromu throat-first on the top rope. Several guys brawled to the floor; no one was eliminated. Henare hit a spin kick to Hiromu’s chest for a nearfall at 6:00, and UE worked over Tanahashi. Newman entered for the first time; Charlton said Callum is just 21. Hiromu hit chops on all the UE as they surrounded him. The UE picked him up to toss him at 10:00, but the other LIJ blocked it. Hiromu hit a DDT on Henare. Cobb and Naito entered and traded offense. Naito hit a neckbreaker at 12:00. Cobb missed a standing moonsault.
Cobb hit a belly-to-belly overhead suplex on Shingo. Callum hit a huracanrana on Shingo. Callum hit a springboard clothesline on Shingo, then a spin kick to Shingo’s ear for a nearfall at 14:30. Shingo hit a Pumping Bomber clothesline to pin Calllum at 14:55, so it is 5-on-4 and the match continues without a break. Shingo and O-Khan traded forearm chops. Shingo hit a back suplex. O-Khan hit a punch to the jaw and they were both down at 17:30. O-Khan got Shingo over the top rope, and they fought on the ring apron. O-Khan hit an eliminator and they both rolled to the floor and were eliminated at 18:38.
Bushi traded offense with Henare; I seriously don’t recall seeing Bushi in the ring at all before now. Bushi flipped Henare to the floor at 19:24! Ospreay hit a Hidden Blade and pinned Bushi at 19:47. No way Bushi was in the ring even a minute tonight. Ospreay and Yota traded forearms as we are suddenly 3-on-2. Ospreay hit a sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall. Ospreay and Yota fought on the ring apron. Ospreay hit the heell hook kick. Yota hit a Stomp and they both fell to the floor at 23:48. So, we are down to Cobb vs. Hiromu & Hiromu. Charlton said Ospreay was knocked out by the Stomp and hadn’t moved.
Cobb hit a powerbomb on Hiromu, tossing him over the top rope onto several of his LIJ teammates on the floor at 25:09, so we are down to our final two. Naito hit a springboard DDT for a nearfall. They fought along the ropes with Cobb dangling from the top rope. Naito came over the top rope so they both fought on the ring apron. Cobb got back into the ring, hit a dropkick on Naito who was still on the apron, sending Naito to the floor to end the match.
* Cobb got on the mic and he said the show is sold out because of him. He vowed he would beat Naito when they meet one-on-one. Cobb mockingly did Naito’s ‘tranquilo’ pose in the ring.
Final Thoughts: Based on watching the replay, I would not be surpised at all if Kanemaru tore his ACL. I certainly hope that’s not the case, as that is a nine-month recovery window. That’s truly the biggest news coming out of this show. We’ll see how the lineups are changed coming out of this show; even if the injury is minor, I can’t believe we’ll see Kanemaru the rest of the tour. The injury might mean Sabre can rack up more quick singles victories, too, with re-worked lineups.
The main event was good even though I hate battle royal rules in Survivor Series style elimination matches; it established we are headed to big singles matches of Ospreay vs. Tsuji and Naito vs. Cobb. We also know we are beginning a best-of-7 Suzuki/Nagata series and headed to TMDK/Bishamon as well.