By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “Road to Destruction”
October 1, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
New Japan Pro Wrestling returned to Korakuen Hall for the second consecutive night. Once again, it appeared the venue was sold out. Chris Charlton provided commentary.
* As the show came on the air, EVIL and the House of Torture were beating up Sanada in the crowd! They were up in the bleachers. The HoT ran off as Just 4 Guys came to Sanada’s aid. I really liked this, to shake up the flow of the show and give fans a sense that anything can happen.
1. Tanga Loa defeated Chase Owens in an arm wrestling contest. I’ve generally not enjoyed arm wrestling contests in pro wrestling but I’ll try to keep an open mind here. Loa won it in half a second. Chase complained to the ref that he wasn’t ready. So, we have an immediate rematch. The rematch went slightly longer, and Chase tried using both arms, but Loa still won. Acceptable comedy and it didn’t overstay its welcome. Out of nowhere, all of the Bullet Club attacked Loa from behind! This is a beatdown, and the arm wrestling was an excuse to get him along. They trapped Loa’s arm in a folding chair and ‘Pillmanized’ it by striking it with another chair. Loa clutched at his arm as he left the ring, and it’s hard to (kayfabe) fathom how he’ll be able to wrestle in the main event.
2. Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii defeated Oskar Leube and Boltin Oleg at 7:31. Ishii and the gigantic Leube started. I still compare Leube to Gunther, for his height, body size and pale skin. Ishii hit a shoulder tackle that dropped him. Oleg entered and hit a bodyslam on Yano for a nearfall at 1:30. Ishii and Oleg traded forearm shots. (Oleg is massive; I compare him to Lars Sullivan in size and thickness.) Ishii hit a German Suplex on Leube and he applied a Boston Crab at 5:00, and he sat down for pressure, but Oskar eventually reached the ropes. Oleg re-entered and he hit bodyslams on each opponent. Leube hit a running Bulldog Powerslam, then a Hogan Legdrop, on Ishii for a nearfall but Yano made the save. Ishii hit a leaping headbutt on Leube, then a sliding clothesline for the pin. I liked this. Yano was barely in the ring, which is probably why I liked it so much.
3. “United Empire” Jeff Cobb and Henare defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi and Yuto Nakashima at 8:57. Cobb and Tanahashi opened. Henare and Yuto entered and traded forearm shots at 2:00. Yuto hit some Yes Kicks to the chest. Henare hit a senton. Yuto hit a bodyslam on Jeff at 4:30 and he tagged in Tanahashi. Hiroshi hit his second-rope summersault senton for a nearfall on Cobb. He hit basement dropkicks on each of UE. Yuto put Henare in a Boston Crab. However, Henare hit the Rampage football tackle for the pin on Yuto. Passable.
4. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Shingo Takagi and Yota Tsuji defeated “United Empire” Great-O-Khan and Callum Newman at 7:29. Again, Newman is 21 and I can’t argue with Charlton’s comment that he’s a young Finn Balor. UE attacked from behind to open the show. Newman raced as he runs the ropes while battling Yota, before hitting a running boot. Shingo and O-Khan entered and battled each other. Shingo hit a shoulder tackle that dropped O-Khan at 5:30. Callum hit some spin kicks on Shingo for a nearfall. Shingo hit a clothesline, at the same time Yota hit a spear, on Newman with Shingo making the pin. Good action.
* Cobb joined Charlton on commentary.
5. Shota Umino, Master Wato, and Yuji Nagata defeated “Strong Style” Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, and Ren Narita at 11:57. Minoru’s team is up 2-1-1 in the best-of-seven series. Umino and Narita opened and immediately traded forearm shots. Suddenly everyone was brawling on the floor. Back in the ring, Strong Style took turns working over Shota in their corner. Shota hit a standing neckbreaker on Minoru at 5:00 and he made the hot tag to Yuji. Nagata hit some spin kicks to Minoru’s chest, then a Helluva Kick. Suzuki hit a running penalty kick to the chest, and Yuji told him to do it again, so Suzuki obliged. They got up and traded forearm shots. “These guys are mad men!” Cobb said. Nagata hit a belly-to-belly suplex.
Wato and Desperado entered at 7:30, with Wato hitting a leg lariat. Desperado hit a basement dropkick on Wato’s knee and he went to work on the damaged left leg. Desperado hit a spinebuster and he applied a Stretch Muffler leglock, but Wato reached the ropes. Strong Style now began working over Wato’s leg. Desperado hit an Angle Slam at 10:30. Wato fired back with a German Suplex for a nearfall. Nagata and Suzuki hit simultaneous Mafia Kicks on each other. Wato hit his modified uranage and pinned Desperado out of nowhere! Just like a day ago when Narita pinned Shota, this was treated as a big victory for Wato. The best-of-seven series is now tied at 2-2-1; the series opened with a 30-minute time-limit draw.
* A reminder that Hirooki Goto is out with an injury, and Yoh had a fever yesterday, so we have Yosh-Hashi taking Yoh’s spot in the next match.
6. Kazuchika Okada, Yoshi-Hashi, Lio Rush defeated “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Bushi, Tetsuya Naito, and Hiromu Takahashi at 10:48. This is essentially the same matchup as yesterday but adding Y-H and Bushi to the mix. Hiromu and Lio traded forearm shots at the bell; Lio pinned Hiromu a day ago. Lio dove through the ropes onto Hiromu at 1:30. Okada and Hiromu traded offense, with Hiromu hitting a Dragonscrew Legwhip at 5:00. Naito entered and hit a basement dropkick on Okada’s knee and he applied a leglock on the mat. Okada hit a DDT but he clutched at his sore knee, and they were both down.
Bushi and Yoshi-Hashi entered at 8:00, with Bushi diving onto Y-H on the floor. In the ring, Bushi hit a DDT for a nearfall. Hiromu hit a Shotgun Dropkick on Okada. Yoshi-Hashi hit a standing neckbreaker on Bushi for a nearfall, then he applied a submission hold around the neck and shoulders, and Bushi submitted. Good match. Lio and Hiromu continued to argue after the match, and it’s clear that Lio is “in Hiromu’s head” after Lio got that win on Saturday.
7. “House of Torture” EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi, Sho, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated “Just 4 Guys” Sanada, Taichi, Douki, and Taka Michinoku at 5:53. EVIL got on the mic and told the crowd that Sanada will not be able to wrestle tonight. However, Just 4 Guys ran to the ring, including Sanada, and they attacked the HoT. They brawled all over the floor, with Sanada and EVIL going up into the risers and amongst the fans. The ref finally called for the bell at 2:30 to begin the match. (I always start my clock at the bell or first contact, whatever is first.) Taka and Kanemaru brawled in the ring. Sho choked Taka. Sanada hit a missile dropkick on EVIL at 4:30.
Sanada hit a plancha to the floor on EVIL. Douki barreled through the ropes onto Yujiro. Taka applied a crossface on the mat on Kanemaru, but Sho made the save. Kanemaru hit a low blow kick on Taka, got a rollup, and scored the pin. So, official time is only about three minutes. Sanada got on the mic and said they will be “Just 5 Guys” again soon, making it clear (as Taichi hinted to on Saturday!) that they have a new teammate coming. Intriguing.
* The main event is a six-on-six “Survivor Series”-style elimination match. NJPW rules allow for eliminations by being thrown over the top rop to the floor as well.
8) El Phantasmo, Kushida, Kevin Knight, Tama Tonga, and Hikuleo and Tanga Loa defeated “Bullet Club” David Finlay, Chase Owens, Dan Moloney, Clark Connors, Alex Coughlin, and Gabe Kidd (w/Gedo) in a 12-man elimination match at 27:12. Loa has his left elbow wrapped after the assault at the start of the show. Knight hit a dive to the floor on the Bullet Club, and ELP hit a moonsault to the floor as BC walked to ringside; Charlton pointed out the match hadn’t started so those weren’t eliminations. The match got underway with the BC targeting Loa’s left elbow.
Tama entered at 4:00 and cleared the ring. Chase entered and hit a standing neckbreaker on Tama, and the BC worked Tonga over. Coughlin entered and hit some chops. Hikuleo made the hot tag at 9:00 and he beat up several guys. He did a snake-eyes drop on Kidd on the top turnbuckle, then a clothesline. Hikuleo hit a Hogan Legdrop at the same time ELP hit a Lionsault. However, the BC got Hikuleo against the ropes and flipped him to the floor at 11:02 for our first elimination. Kidd hit a Saito Suplex on Phantasmo for a nearfall. ELP hit a superkick that flipped Kidd over the top rope and eliminated him at 13:08, so we’re at 5-on-5.
In a fun spot, Phantasmo and Coughlin fought on the ring apron, and Coughlin’s feet were dangling, as he held onto the top rope. ELP punched at Coughlin’s hands, but Alex didn’t let go… so Phantasmo twisted Coughlin’s nipple, causing him to let go and drop to the floor at 14:04. Funny because it fits with ELP’s character. ELP was shoved out, but he landed on the guadrail! He tried to get back in but the BC knocked him to the floor at 14:38 to eliminate him too. So, we’re at 4-on-4. Knight got flipped out but he didn’t touch the floor. He was able to leap from the table to the guardrail to the ring apron and got back in at 17:00! Awesome spot. However, Connors and Knight eliminated each other. Moloney hit a doublestomp on Kushida on the ring apron, and they both fell to the floor at 17:33. “Who is left?” Charlton shouted. It is just two-on-two!
Tanga Loa hit a 619 on Chase. Chase snapped damaged Loa’s arm over the top rope. Chase hit the package piledriver on Loa! He applied a crossface, but Loa was out and the ref eliminated Loa at 20:22, so it’s 2-on-1. A medic checked on Loa, but Finlay was cocky in kicking Loa out of the ring. All three fought in the ring, with Chase hitting a running boot as Finlay held Tama in place for a nearfall at 22:30. Finlay hit a clothesline to the back of the head for a nearfall. “This is uncomfortable to watch,” Charlton said, as Finlay mounted Tama and hit a series of punches to his face. Tama hit a dropkick as Chase was on the apron to eliminate Chase at 24:27, so we’re down to just Tama vs. Finlay.
Tama went for Gun Stun, but Finlay blocked it. Tama hit a DDT. Gedo distracted the ref! Kidd hopped in the ring and hit a piledriver on Tama! Finlay immediately hit a Dominator faceplant for a believable nearfall at 25:30; I thought that was it. Tama flipped Finay onto the apron. Tama then hit the Gun Stun across the top rope, which sent Finlay flying to the floor. Tama’s team wins! Finlay ran over and grabbed his belt as he headed to the back. “You are going to have to f–king kill me to take this!” he shouted at Tama as he held the belt above his head.
* Tama got on the mic, saying it has been a very long journey. This crowd has seen his highs and lows, and he loves the crowd very much. “Today, we fought hard. And we fight for you!” ELP got on the mic and got the crowd to chant “G.O.D.”
Final Thoughts: A fun main event, highlighting the feud between Tama Tonga and David Finlay. I’m really enjoying the teamwork between Hikuleo and El Phantasmo as they prepare for a title match against Coughlin and Kidd. We also continue to have a nice build toward the Lio Rush-Hiromu Takahashi-Mike Bailey match (even with Bailey not there!).