By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “Destruction in Kobe”
September 24, 2023 in Kobe, Japan at Kobe World Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
This is the first big NJPW show since the conclusion of the G1 Climax tournament a month ago. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided remote commentary. Yes, that means Kelly was up in the middle of the night after doing AEW Collision just hours earlier. (Charlton sounds like he’s in a tunnel, while Kelly’s home system is so great, you’d have no idea he’s on the other side of the planet from the ring.) Kelly said this is “one of the best arenas in all of Japan.”
1. “The Bullet Club” Dan Moloney and Clark Connors defeated Tiger Mask and Kevin Knight at 7:04. The heels came out second; Tiger and Knight attacked them as they walked to ringside. They brawled on the floor early. In the ring, the BC worked over Knight. Knight hit a double Pele Kick at 4:00. “He’s an absolute athletic freak,” Kelly said. Tiger Mask entered and he hit a butterfly suplex on Moloney, then a top-rope armdrag at 6:00. Moloney held Tiger Mask upside down, and Clark hit a second-rope flying spear on TM’s exposed midsection for the pin. Solid opener.
* Chris Charlton talked about witnessing the injury of Yoshinobu Kanemaru’s knee injury a couple weeks ago. There still is no word on how long he’s going to be out. I
2. “Just 5 Guys” Sanada, Taka Michinoku, and Douki defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Dick Togo, and Yujiro Takahashi at 8:35. Obviously, this is building to the eventual Sanada-EVIL title match in a few weeks. Douki and Yujiro started in the ring. Meanwhile, EVIL and Sanada brawled up the long red ramp. The HoT began working over Douki in the ring. Douki hit an enzuigiri on EVIL at 4:30 and they were both down. Sanada tagged in and hit a basement dropkick on EVIL’s knee. Sanada tied Yujiro in the Paradise Lock, then he hit a dropkick on EVIL. Kelly pointed out that Sanada has recovered from a partially-torn bicep, and he’s no longer wearing any wrap on his arm.
Taka tagged in at 6:30 and he battled Togo, with Taka hitting a Mafia Kick. Kelly reminded us that these two were on WWF RAW together 26 years ago. EVIL hit a fisherman’s suplex on Taka, with Togo making the cover for a nearfall. Togo got his wire and he choked Taka, getting loudly booed. Douki and Sanada hit stereo planchas to the floor. Meanwhile, Taka hit the Michinoku Driver to pin Togo! “When is the last time Taka pinned anybody?” Charlton asked. EVIL scampered away with “his” NJPW title belt.
3. El Phantasmo, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Hikuleo, and Jado defeated “The Bullet Club” David Finlay, Chase Owens, Gabe Kidd, Alex Coughlin, and Gedo at 10:30. The babyfaces came out first. The heels charged into the ring and all 10 brawled. The HoT began working over Jado in their corner. Finlay hit a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall at 3:00. Each member took a turn beating Gedo down with basic offense. Tama finally made the hot tag and hit a flying back elbow on Finlay at 7:30. Tama fired up and peeled off his vest. Hikuleo grabbed Coughlin and Kidd by the throats and shoved them over the top rope to the floor. ELP hit a top-rope moonsault onto the heels on the floor at 9:00. Meanwhile in the ring, Tama nailed the Tongan Twist faceplant on Finlay, and he set up for the Gun Stun, but Finlay blocked it and hit a backbreaker over his knee. Gedo tagged in, and Tama immediately hit a Gun Stun on Gedo for the pin.
4. Lio Rush and Yoh defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi at 9:13. Hiromu and Lio started and they immediately traded stiff forearm shots. Lio did his quick misdirection moves, keeping Hiromu from being able to land a blow. Lio and Yoh hit snap suplexes. Bushi tied up Yoh on the mat, then he hit a standing neckbreaker for a nearfall at 3:00. HIromu hit a basement dropkick on Yoh, and he applied a leglock around Yoh’s head. Yoh hit a swinging neckbreaker on Hiromu. Lio hit a huracanrana on Hiromu. Lio barreled through the ropes onto Hiromu on the floor at 5:30.
In the ring, Lio hit a top-rope crossbody block on Hiromu, then a tornado DDT for a nearfall. They hit simultaneous clotheslines, and Hiromu hit a pop-up powerbomb. Bushi hit a basement dropkick on Lio’s knee at 7:30. Hiromu hit a German Suplex on Lio, with Bushi making the cover for a nearfall. Lio hit a stunner on Hiromu. Yoh hit a plancha to the floor on Hiromu. Lio hit the Rush Hour stunner out of the ropes on Bushi, then the Final Hour frogsplash, going more than halfway across the ring to pin Bushi. That was entertaining.
5. “The MIghty Don’t Kneel” Zack Sabre Jr. and Bad Dude Tito defeated Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii at 12:15. Tito and Okada started; Okada hit shoulder tackles that had no effect. Sabre entered and hit some European Uppercuts on Ishii, and he snapped Ishii’s neck between ZSJ’s ankles. Tito re-entered and chopped Ishii in the corner, and TMDK worked over Ishii. Ishii hit a delayed vertical suplex on Tito at 5:00. Okada tagged in and hit a DDT on Tito for a nearfall. Tito hit a second-rope Blockbuster on Okada. Tito hit a German Suplex for a nearfall on Okada at 7:00. Okada hit a Mafia Kick and they were both down.
Ishii and Sabre both re-entered and they avoided each other’s signature offenses in a fun, quick exchange. “Have they sped up the film?” Kelly asked. Funny. Sabre stomped on Ishii’s elbow, and he immediately began working the left wrist. Sabre applied an Octopus. Ishii hit a German Suplex. Tito hit an enzuigiri and a Death Valley Driver on Okada, then an Exploder Suplex on Ishii at 10:00. Tito hit a sky-high powerbomb on Ishii. Sabre applied an armbar on Ishii, but Okada made the save. Okada hit a flapjack on Sabre, then a dropkick on Tito. Okada hit a neckbreaker over his knee on Sabre. Sabre and Ishii traded more quick offense, when Sabre suddenly got an O’Connor Roll, leaned back for leverage, and scored the pin. Yes, these four are great, but this was tremendously good for what is essentially an undercard match.
* It appears Sabre & Tito made a challenge for the NEVER Openweight six-man title belts. Ishii and Okada’s parner, Hiroshi Tanahashi, was seated on Japanese commentary and he was shown on screen, apparently acknowledging the challenge.
6. Sho defeated Taichi to win the KOPW Title at 12:59. Sanada and EVIL were handcuffed together, as were Togo and Taka, as were Douki and Yujiro. This just took forever to get going as the heels stalled and didn’t want to be handcuffed. So, the three handcuffed pairs were seated on chairs on the floor in different corners. At the bell, Sho rolled to the floor and wanted to free his teammates but he couldn’t. In the ring, Taichi hit a stiff kick to the back at 2:00. Sho hit a spear. They went to the floor and into the crowd. Back in the ring, Sho was in charge. This has been so lethargic in comparison to the prior match that was soooo good. Taichi hit a clothesline and they were both down at 7:00.
Taichi hit a Helluva Kick, then a hard spin kick to the jaw. He hit a Saito Suplex at 8:30, then another enzuigiri for a visual pin, but EVIL was distracting the referee. Taichi set up for a move but a weapon was tossed into the ring. Sho pushed Taichi into the ref, and the ref was down. Sho immediately hit a low blow on Taichi. Sho pulled out a wrench, but suddenly Yoshinobu Kanemaru ran to the ring at 11:00! However, instead of making the save, he sprayed alcohol into Taichi’s face! Kanemaru hit a brainbuster on Taichi! He peeled off his shirt, revealing a House of Torture T-shirt! Sho hit the Shock Arrow cross-arm piledriver for the pin. New champion! Kelly and Charlton agreed that Kanemaru never hurt his knee and the “fix was in” long ago!
* EVIL got on the mic and said that, now that HoT has five members and Just 5 Guys has only four members, they accept a challenge to a lumberjack match.
7. “Bishamon” Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls (w/Zack Sabre Jr.) to retain the IWGP Tag Team Titles at 13:46. Charlton argued that Bishamon are the best tag team in the world. Nicholls and Yoshi-Hashi opened. Mikey whipped Goto into a guardrail at 3:00, and TMDK began working over Goto. Nicholls hit a deafening chop at 6:00 that popped the crowd. Goto hit a double clothesline and a double bulldog. Yoshi-Hashi made the hot tag, and he flipped Nicholls to the floor onto Haste. He then hit a flip dive to the floor on both of them at 8:00.
Y-H hit a second-rope Headhunter neckbreaker. Haste hit a reverse suplex, dropping Goto stomach-first to the mat. TMDK did a tower spot out of the corner on Yoshi-Hashi for a nearfall. TMDK hit a team faceplant move on Goto at 12:00. TMDK hit a team suplex on Yoshi-Hashi for a nearfall. Yoshi-Hashi hit a Crucifix Driver on Nicholls out of nowhere for the pin! I didn’t see that finish coming at all and I’m disappointed we didn’t have a title change here.
8. Shingo Takagi defeated Great-O-Khan at 12:57. O-Khan tackled Shingo and choked him with a shirt. The bell sounded 30 seconds later to begin. They immediately brawled on the floor, with O-Khan hitting him over the back with a chair. In the ring, he applied a Koji Clutch on the mat, but Shingo reached the ropes at 2:30. They traded chops. Shingo hit a Death Valley Driver, then a short-arm clothesline, then a brainbuster for a nearfall. O-Khan hit his Mongolian Chops at 5:30. Shingo hit a Saito Suplex but O-Khan hopped up and hit a Mafia Kick. Shingo nailed the Made in Japan flipping powerbomb for a nearfall.
O-Khan nailed a head-caputure suplex and they were both down. O-Khan hit an STO neckbreaker for a nearfall at 8:30, then a hard clothesline and he was in charge. O-Khan applied the Claw to the forehead and hit a chokeslam-type move for a nearfall at 10:00. Shingo hit a DDT. They traded stiff forearm shots, then simultaneously applied claws! Shingo hit a half nelson suplex and a diving forearm but O-Khan kicked out at one at 12:30. Shingo hit a Pumping Bomber clothesline and was fired up. Shingo nailed the Last of the Dragon flipping powerbomb for the clean pin. That was good stuff. (The official time is closer to 12:30 as the ref didn’t call for the bell when O-Khan attacked to open.)
9. Tetsuya Naito defeated Jeff Cobb at 14:17. Naito carried a flimsy bag that holds a paper stating he won a world title match at Wrestle Kingdom. Kelly and Charlton said we’re so used to wrestlers having an attractive briefcase to store that. An intense lockup. Naito hit a baseball slide dropkick to the floor, and they brawled at ringside. In the ring, Cobb hit a belly-to-belly suplex at 2:30. Cobb hit a rapid-fire series of clotheslines in the corner, then he did Naito’s slingshot dropkick move in the corner onto Naito! He applied a bearhug but Naito powered out at 5:00. Cobb missed a standing moonsault, and Naito immediately hit a basement dropkick on the knee.
Naito hit a standing neckbreaker for a nearfall at 7:00. Cobb hit a dropkick and they were both down. Cobb nailed a second-rope superplex for a nearfall at 9:00, then he hit the standing moonsault. Naito nailed a Frankensteiner, then a flipping neckbreaker out of the ropes. Cobb hit the Spin Cycle. He put Naito on his shoulders and spun him to the mat. Naito nailed a Reverse Rana at 12:30. He set up for Destino but Cobb blocked it. Naito went for the springboard DDT but Cobb blocked that, too. Cobb hit a release German Suplex, then a decapitating clothesline. Cobb set up for a Tour of the Islands, but Naito turned it into a Destino! Naito nailed a second Destino flipping faceplant for the clean pin. Good match.
10. Will Ospreay defeated Yota Tsuji to retain the UK Title at 27:50. Kelly reminded us that Yota scored a pinfall over Ospreay in a multi-man match at the end of the G1 Climax tournament. Standing switches to open. Yota hit a shoulder tackle at 2:30 but Ospreay immediately popped to his feet. Kelly noted that Ospreay is headed to AEW Wrestle Dream. Yota did a monkeyflip, but Ospreay again landed on his feet. Yota nailed a dive through the ropes onto Ospreay. In the ring, Yota applied a leglock around Ospreay’s waist, but Ospreay reached the ropes at 5:00. Ospreay nailed a plancha onto Yota on the floor, and they brawled at ringside. Ospreay leapt off the guardrail and hit a flying forearm at 7:00.
In the ring, Ospreay was in charge. He hit a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall at 8:30. They traded forearms and chops. Yota hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over his knee, and they were both down at 10:00. Yota nailed a Fosbury Flop to the floor! That’s a big man to do that move! In the ring, Yota hit a modified Gory Special for a nearfall. Ospreay fired back with the handspring-back-spin kick, and they were both down at 12:30. Ospreay nailed the springboard flying forearm for a nearfall. Ospreay nailed a Helluva Kick at 15:00, then a top-rope diving forearm to the back of the neck, and Kelly said “the end is near.” Yota ducked the Hidden Blade, and he hit a flipping powerbomb for a nearfall. Yota hit a jumping knee.
Ospreay hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly for a believable nearfall. They traded forearm shots while on their knees, then while standing, and Ospreay seemed fresher. However, Yota finally hit one that dropped Ospreay at 19:00. They fought on the ring apron, where Yota hit a superkick. Ospreay leapt off the second rope and hit an Oscutter on the floor, and they were both down on the thin mats. Yota barely climbed back in at the 19-count, but Ospreay hit a coast-to-coast dropkick on him as he got in. Yota nailed the Rollins-style Stomp to the skull, and they were both down at 22:00, and this crowd was hot. They fought on the top rope, where Ospreay hit a Spanish Fly to the mat.
Ospreay hit a powerbomb for a believable nearfall at 23:30, then the Oscutter for a nearfall. He set up for Stormbreaker, but Yota turned it into a stunner! Yota nailed a spear for a believable nearfall, but Ospreay got his foot on the ropes at 25:00. Tsuji hit a top-rope doublestomp, then he hit his own Stormbreaker on Ospreay for a believable nearfall! Yota charged at Ospreay, but Will caught him with a back elbow. Ospreay hit a spear but got a one-count. Ospreay nailed the Storm Driver powerbomb for a believable nearfall. Yota stumbled to his feet but was still smiling. Ospreay hit a Hidden Blade to the jaw, then the Stormbreaker for the pin. That was stellar.
* Ospreay got on the mic and said a few words in Japanese. “Tsuji, you are amazing.” He added, “the future is in good hands,” getting a nice applause. Out of the back came Zack Sabre Jr.! They kept speaking to each other in Japanese. “I wasn’t expecting to have to translate so much, Kevin,” Charlton said. Sabre made clear he wants a shot at the UK title. They agreed to it at Royal Quest III. Some light hearted moments, but then Ospreay charged at Sabre, but Zack avoided it. Sabre left. Ospreay again addressed the crowd, saying in Japanese that he’s the best in the world. “My name is Will Ospreay and I’m on another level,” he shouted, as the show came to a close. The confetti cannons went off to cover him in streamers.
Final Thoughts: I can’t say anything new about Will Ospreay that hasn’t already been said. One match after another, he delivers. Just a fantastic match with some great nearfalls that had me believing Yota was going to win. I liked the Okada/Ishii tag match so much, I’m awarding that second best of the night, ahead of Cobb-Naito, with Shingo-GOK for honorable mention.
Well, the Kanemaru injury angle was perfectly done. While I left the door open to the possibility his injury was a work, I fully thought he blew out his knee a few weeks ago. So, I really liked how the angle played out with Kanemaru turning on Taichi. Plus, Kanemaru is a natural heel and seems better suited to be in the House of Torture. All that said, that match was really flat until Kanemaru came out. I loved Sho as a junior, but he just never gets a chance to deliver a memorable match as a member of HoT.