By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “Road to Destruction”
September 30, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
Of course, with Will Ospreay, Zack Sabre Jr., and others in TMDK in the U.S. for “Wrestle Dream,” those guys aren’t here, and Hirooki Goto is out with a legit injury, while Taichi has a kayfabe injury. Chris Charlton is solo on commentary as the show begins; Henare would join after his match. The ring announcer tells us that Yoh has a fever and will be replaced tonight by Goto’s partner, Yoshi-Hashi. Charlton said it’s a sellout.
1. Henare defeated Oskar Leube at 8:57. Henare dominated early and hit a senton at 3:00 and made a cocky cover for a nearfall. Leube hit a bodyslam at 5:00. Henare hit a Samoan Drop for a nearfall. Leube hit a powerslam for a nearfall at 7:30, but he missed the Hogan Legdrop. Henare hit his Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. He hit a spinning back fist, then the Rampage football tackle for the pin. Charlton said the spinning back fist was a message to Eddie Kingston.
2. Tomohiro Ishii, Hiroshi Tanahashi, nad Yoshi-Hashi defeated Tiger Mask, Boltin Oleg, and Yuto Nakashima at 9:29. Again, Yoshi-Hashi replaced an ill Yoh. Yuto and Tanahashi opened, with Yuto hitting a hard chop. Tiger Mask entered and hit a butterfly suplex on Yoshi-Hashi at 2:00. Tanahashi re-entered. hit an elbow drop on Tiger Mask, and played air guitar. Ishii entered for the first time at 3:30 and he dropped TM with a stiff forearm shot. The massive Oleg entered and he began suplexing all three opponents. I always compare Oleg to Lars Sullivan in size; he’s just massive. He hit a running splash for a nearfall on Ishii at 5:30.
Ishii hit a German Suplex, and he made the hot tag to Hiroshi. Yuto entered and hit a hard back elbow on Tanahashi and a bodyslam for a nearfall, then he applied a Boston Crab, but Hiroshi reached the ropes at 8:00. Hiroshi hit a Sling Blade clothesline. He applied a Texas Cloverleaf, sat down on the neck for pressure, and Yuto tapped out. I write this all the time, but I like watching the Young Lions mix it up with the upper echelon of the roster.
* A pre-taped promo aired with Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley and Josh Alexander talking about their upcoming match. We went back to the ring, where Tanahashi grabbed the mic to respond to the Impact trio. He said he wants to be the one to get the win for his team. That match takes place Oct. 9.
* Henare joined commentary here.
3. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Bushi, Yota Tsuji, and Shingo Takagi defeated “United Empire” Callum Newman, Great-O-Khan, and Jeff Cobb at 12:29. Tsuji and O-Khan opened. Newman beat up Bushi on the floor at 3:00, then tossed him back into the ring, where GOK kept Bushi grounded. Cobb entered and held Bushi upside down, before lightly dropping him and making a cocky cover at 5:00. Cobb hit a standing backflip for a nearfall. Shingo hit a gutwrench suplex on Cobb for a nearfall at 7:00. Shingo hit a suplex and they were both down. Newman and Yota made the hot tags; the crowd just pops when Newman races while running the ropes.
Newman hit a spin kick to the head at 9:30 and Charlton compared Newman to a young Finn Balor, which seems pretty apt this early on. Yota hit a kneestrike to Newman’s chest, then his modified Electric Chair drop on Newman for a nearfall. Bushi dove through the ropes onto Cobb. Newman got some rollups on Yota for nearfalls. Yota applied a Boston Crab, pulled Newman back to the center of the ring and sat down. Yota began to turn it into a pendulum swing and Newman tapped out. “There is nothing but upside for Callum Nemwan. He has poise and a presence,” Charlton said.
4. Kushida, Kevin Knight, Hikuleo, El Phantasmo defeated “Bullet Club” Alex Coughlin, Gabe Kidd, Dan Moloney, and Clark Connors at 11:33. All eight brawled before the bell. In the ring, ELP and Kidd opened with good offense, and ELP hit an enzuigiri. Knight and Coughlin entered at 2:30, with Alex hitting a gutwrench suplex. Moloney hit a vertical suplex on Knight, and the BC kept Knight in their corner. Hikuleo finally made the hot tag at 6:30 and he did a snake-eyes drop on Coughlin on the top rope, then a double clothesline.
ELP and Hikuleo hit some nice team moves, with ELP hitting a modified F5 slam. Coughlin hit a German Suplex on Hikuleo at 9:00 and they were both down. Kushida entered for the first time and hit some quick kicks on Connors, then a handspirng-back-elbow, then a missile dropkick to Moloney’s face. Knight hit a springboard crossbody block. Coughlin hit a double suplex, showing some impressive strength. ELP hit a superkick on Kidd, sending Gabe to the floor. Kevin hit his jump-up Frankensteiner at 11:00. Kevin launched off Kushida’s back and dove onto several heels on the floor. Meanwhile, Kushida got an inside cradle in the ring to pin Moloney! That was a sprint, especially after Hikuleo tagged in at the 6:30 mark.
5. Jado and “Guerrillas of Destiny” Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa defeated “Bullet Club” David Finlay, Chase Owens, and Gedo at 13:14. All six brawled immediately. The GoD began working over Owens. Finlay bit Jado on the forehead at 4:00, and the BC began working over Jado. Tama made the hot tag at 7:00 and he traded punches with Finlay, then Tama hit a bodyslam and he peeled off his vest. He hit some gut punches and a Stinger Splash. Finlay fired back with a backbreaker over his knee for a nearfall. Finlay hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall at 9:30.
Owens re-entered and helped Finlay stomp on Tama. Chase set up for the package piledriver, but Tama fought free. Tama nailed the Tongan Twist swinging faceplant on Owens. Loa re-entered and he hit a series of punches on Chase. Gedo re-entered and he kicked Loa in the gut. However, Loa hit a delayed vertical suplex on Gedo. Loa applied a crossface, and Gedo immediately tapped out. Okay action. Finlay and Tama Tonga continued to bark at each other after the bell.
6. “Strong Style” Minoru Suzuki, Ren Narita, and El Desperado defeated Shota Umino, Master Wato, and Yuji Nagata at 10:26. Narita and Suzuki opened with forearms and chops, and they rolled to the floor and kept brawling. Back in the ring, they traded forearm shots, and Yuji hit an Exploder Suplex at 1:30. Desperado entered and hit a suplex on Wato for a nearfall. Wato hit a roundhouse kick to the chest and a leg lariat, and they were both down. Shota tagged in at 4:30, but Desperado hit a back suplex. Ren hit a Dragon Suplex on Shota for a nearfall. Ren hit a Northern Lights Suplex on Shota for a nearfall at 6:30. Ren applied a Cobra Stretch/Octopus on Shota
Ren hit another Northern Lights Suplex for a nearfall on Shota. Shota hit a tornado DDT and a sideslam for a nearfall at 9:00. Shota hit a pop-up European Uppercut for a believable nearfall on Ren. However, as Shota charged at Ren, Narita caught him with another Northern Lights Suplex to pin Shota! That was really, really good and hard-hitting stuff. Strong Style once again has the lead in the best of seven series, but of course it will all come down to the final night on Oct. 9.
* Storyline update: At the NJPW show on Sept. 24, Yoshinobu Kanemaru turned on his teammates and joined the House of Torture. Kanemaru had been out with a knee injury that turned out to be a fake injury. In that beatdown, Taichi was violently beat up and has been out of action all week.
7. “Just 4 Guys” Taka Michinoku, Sanada, and Douki defeated “House of Torture” EVIL, Sho, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (w/Yujiro Takahashi, Dick Togo) at 10:13. All six brawled at the bell, and the HoT beat up Taka in their corner. The HoT held Taka upside down, and Togo hit a knife-edge chop onto Taka’s groin at 4:00. Sanada entered and hit a basement dropkick on EVIL’s knee. Togo tripped Sanada at 6:30, allowing EVIL to get a suplex for a nearfall. Douki entered and hit a running back elbow on Sho, a top-rope doublestomp, and he applied the ‘Douki chokey’ modified Triangle Choke. Sanada hit a planch to the floor on EVIL. Douki hit the Daybreak springboard DDT on Sho for a believable nearfall at 9:00.
Sho shoved the ref into Douki. Togo immediately choked Douki, and Yujiro hit Douki with his cane. Taichi appeared at ringside! Douki rolled up the surprised Sho for the pin. “Sho looks like he’s seen a ghost!” Henare said. Sho charged at Taichi, but Taichi dropped Sho with a clothesline. Taichi got on the mic and said he’s back. “I wasn’t just taking a break this week,” Taichi said (according to Charlton). Chris then asked, “what does that mean?” EVIL also was clearly unnerved by Taichi’s cryptic statement. Does Taichi have a new teammate lined up to replace Kanemaru?
8. Kazuchika Okada and Lio Rush defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito and Hiromu Takahashi at 20:19. Lio and Hiromu traded quick reversals but avoided each others big blows and had a standoff. Okada and Naito entered at 2:00. All four brawled on the floor, with HIromu whipping Lio into a guardrail, while Naito had Okada’s arm tied around a ringpost. In the ring, LIJ kept Lio in their corner. Lio finally hit an axe kick on the back of Naito’s neck at 9:00 and he made the hot tag. Okada hit a running back elbow on Naito and a DDT for a nearfall. Naito flipped Okada’s shoulder across Naito’s knee at 11:30, and Naito immediately applied a leglock submission hold around Okada’s neck.
Naito hit an enzuigiri. Okada hit a flapjack, and they were both down at 13:00. LIo dove through the ropes and barreled onto Hiromu, then he hit a top-rope crossbody block for a nearfall. Hiromu hit a basement dropkick on Lio, then he suplexed Lio into the corner, and they were both down at 15:30. Hiromu hit a Dynamite Plunger/modified DVD for a nearfall, and they were both down again. Lio hit a mid-ring Spanish Fly for a nearfall at 18:30. Okada hit a dropkick on Naito. Lio hit a Falcon Arrow on Hiromu for a nearfall; he went for the Final Hour frogsplash but Hiromu got his knees up.
Lio hit a spin kick to the face, so Hiromu hit a superkick. Lio hit the Rush Hour stunner on Hiromu. Okada hit the Landslide slam on Hiromu, and Lio immediately ht the Final Hour frogsplash to pin HIromu. “What a main event and what a win! What a statement for the man of the hour Lio Rush, who just pinned the junior heavyweight champion!” Charlton exclaimed.
* Lio got on the mic and said, “look who is crying now?” to HIromu. “Korakuen Hall, this is my home turf now.” Cocky and borrdering on heelish from Lio. He said in just a week’s time, he would beat both Mike Bailey and Hiromu Takahashi to become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion. He laughed like a maniac. He said he doesn’t have a home anymore because he left everything behind him to come to Japan for this title.
Final Thoughts: An excellent main event and well worth a watch. The Okada-Naito exchanges were safe and didn’t do much, but the portion of the match with Lio and Hiromu was just red-hot. The semi-main event was strong too, and it was nice to see Ren get a pinfall on Shota, even if it felt like a fluke win out of nowhere. Kushida’s eight-man tag match earns third place.