By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
NJPW “Road to Destruction”
October 9, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall)
Streamed on New Japan World
This is a large arena, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the crowd is 5,000 or more. Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton provided live ringside commentary. The big news entering the show is that Lio Rush has been sick for several days, and he is out of tonight’s show. He was slated to face Hiromu Takahashi and Mike Bailey in a three-way. However, at a show on Saturday, Yoh scored a pin on Hiromu in an elimination match, and Yoh is taking Lio Rush’s spot in the match.
1. Tiger Mask and Ryusuke Taguchi and Toru Yano and Yoshi-Hashi and Oskar Leube defeated Takeshi Masada and Takahiro Katori and Kengo and Jun Masaoka and Kazuma Sumi at 8:19. I don’t know Masada’s team, as Kelly and Charlton explained they are basically all Young Lions for other promotions in Japan. Kengo has pink hair. Leube entered at 2:00 and dropped a tiny guy with one chop. Charlton noted that fans are seeing most of these five for the very first time. The action is quick, with all the kids taking turns beating up Taguchi. There was some comedy with a stuffed bunny. Taguchi applied an ankle lock on the guy who brought the stuffed bunny into the ring, and he tapped out. Fun opener. Masada has essentially a 24/7 title, and Yano kept trying to roll him up after the bell.
* We’ve been promised a new member of Just 5 Guys. We’ll find out who it is right now! It is “Heat Storm” Yuya Uemura! That’s a great selection, and he was most definitely ready to return from excursion.
1. Douki, Taichi, and Yuya Uemura (w/Taka Michinoku) defeated “House of Torture” defeated Yujiro Takahashi, Sho, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru (w/Dick Togo) at 8:08. The HoT attacked at the bell and all six fought on the floor. In the ring, Taichi and Kanemaru fought, as Charlton noted they were faction teammates for seven years before Kanemaru’s betrayal. The HoT began working over Douki, with Togo bodyslamming Douki on the bare floor at 3:00. Uemura made the hot tag at 5:00 to a big pop and he hit some armdrags and chops, then a flying crossbody block for a nearfall. Yujiro hit a brainbuster on Uemura. Yujiro got his walking stick but Douki stopped him. Douki hit an Asai Moonsault to the floor. Uemura hit a top-rope crossbody block, then a double-under hook suplex with a bridge for the pin. That was good stuff, and Uemura is a welcome addition to both Just 5 Guys and the NJPW roster.
2. Tanga Loa (w/Jado) defeated Chase Owens at 8:28. They brawled at the bell. Loa hit a swinging sideslam for a nearfall at 1:00. Chase worked over Loa’s leg. Loa hit a top-rope missile dropkick at 4:30, then a 619, then a slingshot senton for a nearfall. Chase came off the ropes, but Loa caught him and hit a German Suplex. Chase hit the Jewel Heist/short-arm clothesline on the floor at 6:00, sending Loa into the guardrail. In the ring, Loa hit an enzuigiri. Chase hit a jumping knee to the collarbone, and he set up for the package piledriver, but Loa escaped. Loa applied a crossface, and Owens tapped out. Solid.
3. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Bushi, Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, and Yota Tsuji defeated “United Empire” Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, Callum Newman, and Henare at 7:44. Charlton again compared Callum to a young Finn Balor. O-Khan and Tsuji started. The UE began working over Bushi in their corner. Cobb hit his standing moonsault for a nearfall at 3:00. Bushi hit a huracanrana on Cobb. Shingo made the hot tag and battled Cobb, with Shingo hitting a suplex. Callum entered at 5:30 and he hit a running kick on Naito, then a top-rope flying clothesline for a nearfall. Tsuji came up well short on a kick that Newman sold. Bushi hit a dive through the ropes. Naito nailed a Destino flipping faceplant on Newman for the pin. Good, quick, energetic match.
4. “Bullet Club War Dogs” Dan Moloney and Clark Connors defeated Kushida and Kevin Knight to retain the IWGP Junior Tag Titles at 13:48. Kushida and Knight worked over Moloney early on, with Knight hitting his leaping splash and his sliding clothesline. Kushida entered and tied Moloney in a surfboard at 3:00. Connors hit a Pounce on Kushida. Moloney entered and hit some hard chops on Kushida. Connors yanked Knight off the ring apron so Kushida couldn’t tag out. Knight made the hot tag at 7:30 and hit a dropkick on Connors, then a double Pele Kick. Knight hit a dropkick on Connors, who was seated on Kushida’s shoulders, for a nearfall.
Moloney nailed a superkick on Knight. Connors and Moloney hit their high-and-low blows on Knight. Moloney hit a doublestomp to the chest. Connors hit a powerslam on Kushida. Knight and Connors traded forearm shots. Knight hit the D’Lo Sky High powerslam on Connors at 10:30. Kushida tagged in and he traded blows with Moloney. Kushida hit a Pele Kick and a basement dropkick. Knight hit a Poison Rana, then a jump-up Frankensteiner, then his leaping DDT, and suddenly everyone was down.
Moloney hit a piledriver on Kushida at 13:00. Moloney flipped Knight in the air, and Connors drilled Knight with a spear as he came down. Cool. Moloney held Kushida upside down, and Connors nailed the second-rope spear on Kushida’s exposed ribs, with Moloney scoring the pin on Kushida. Good match and a decisive win for the Bullet Club War Dogs.
* The next match is the final match in a “best-of-seven” series, with Strong Style currently ahead 3-2-1, as the opening match was a 30-minute time-limit draw.
5. Yuji Nagata, Shota Umino, and Master Wato defeated “Strong Style” Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, and Ren Narita at 14:10. Desperado and Wato started with some basic reversals. Yuji and Suzuki entered at 2:00 and they immediately traded forearm shots, and they brawled to the floor and traded blows in front of the fans. They got back in the ring and traded kicks to the spine and chest. Shota and Narita entered at 4:30 with Narita applying a Cobra Twist. They brawled to the floor, where Narita kicked Shota and sent Umino over the guardrail and into the front row. Narita and Shota re-entered the rin, and Strong Style began working over Shota in their corner. Shota hit a double dropkick at 8:30, then a fisherman’s suplex for a nearfall on Ren.
Narita again applied the Cobra Twist in the middle of the ring. and he turned it into a German Suplex for a nearfall at 10:30. Shota fired back with a running swinging faceplant, then a Tornado DDT. Suzuki and Nagata hopped back in and traded more blows, with Minoru applying a sleeper. Nagata hit an Exploder Suplex. Wato and Desperado hopped back in, with Desperado hitting a spinebuster and a back suplex. Wato hit a release German Suplex, and suddenly all six were down at 13:00. Shota and Narita got up and traded more blows. Shota nailed the Death Rider double-arm DDT for the pin! The series concludes in a tie!
* Shota offered his hand to Narita, and Ren shook it. The crowd popped. So, Wato offered a hand to Desperado, who also relucantly shook it. Then, Suzuki and Nagata stood across from each other. They traded a couple slaps to the face… but then they too shook each others hands and concluded with a fist bump. Fun post-match segment.
6. El Phantasmo and Hikuleo (w/Jado) defeated “Bullet Club War Dogs” Alex Coughlin and Gabe Kidd to win the New Japan Strong Tag Titles at 13:27. Charlton revealed that Hikuleo also has been sick, endangering this match, but he just got better. Coughlin walked down the ramp by himself, as Kidd jumped in the ring from behind and attacked. They immediately attacked Hikuleo’s left knee and kept Hikuleo grounded. ELP made the tag at 3:00 and he hit a springboard crossbody block, then a plancha to the floor on Kidd, then a Lionsault into the ring on Coughlin. Coughlin picked up ELP and threw him over the top rope to the floor.
Back in the ring, the BCWD worked over ELP in their corner. Kidd pulled Hikuleo off the ring apron so he couldn’t make the hot tag. Hikuleo finally got the tag at 7:00, and he hit a ‘snake eyes’ on Coughlin, then a clothesline. Hikuleo hit a double clothesline. Coughlin hit a back suplex on Hikuleo, then an impressive gutwrench suplex, and applied a half-crab. HIkuleo hit his sudden powerslam at 10:00 and tagged ELP back in. Kidd hit a Doomsday Device clothesline on ELP for a nearfall. BCWD hit a team Muscle Buster on Phantasmo for a believable nearfall. KIdd accidentally clotheslined Coughlin! Hikuleo hit an open-hand smack to the head that dropped Kidd. ELP hit a dive to the floor on Kidd, while Hikuleo hit a chokeslam on Coughlin. ELP immediately hit a springboard frogsplash for the pin! New champions!
7. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Josh Alexander and “Motor City Machine Guns” Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley to retain the NEVER Six-man titles at 15:40. Hirosh and Shelley opened, with Hiroshi hitting a twisting crossbody block. Alexander and Ishii entered and traded forearm strikes at 2:00. Josh applied an anklelock but Ishii quickly escaped. Sabin and Okada entered at 3:00 and traded fast reversals. Sabin hit a top-rope crossbody block for a nearfall. Sabin and Shelley hit stereo kicks to Okada’s head as Kazuchika sat on the ring apron. In the ring, Shelley and Okada traded forearm shots, and team Impact began working over Okada.
Okada hit a neckbreaker over his knee on Alexander at 7:30. Ishii made the hot tag and he hit some shoulder tackles on Josh, and he shoved Shelley into Sabin. Josh hit three German Suplexes on Ishii for a nearfall at 9:30. Josh hit a backbreaker over his knee on Ishii. All six brawled. Alexander got Ishii up for the C4 Spike but Ishii escaped. Ishii hit a headbutt that was so hard, it literally knocked Josh’s headgear off at 11:30. Ishii hit a brainbuster on Sabin and they were both down. Hiroshi entered and hit a flying forearm on Sabin, then his second-rope summersault senton for a nearfall on Sabin. The Guns hit simultaneous kicks in the corner on Tanahashi. Sabin accidentally kicked Shelley! Okada hit a flapjack on Josh.
The champs hit a team slam, dropping Shelley stomach-first for a nearfall at 14:00. Okada hit a Mafia Kick on Josh. The Guns hit their team offense on Okada. Shelley set up for Shellshock on Tanahashi, but he escaped. Alexander accidentally hit Shelley with a forearm! Okada hit a dropkick. Tanahashi hit a Twist and Shout swinging neckbreakerand Slingblade on Shelley. Tanahashi then hit the High Fly Flow frogsplash to pin Shelley. An excellent match, and it furthered the tension between Shelley and Alexander with an accidental strike.
8. Tama Tonga defeated David Finlay (w/Gedo) to win the NEVER Openweight Title at 20:04. Finlay snuck in the ring from behind and he struck Tama with the belt before the bell. He hit a spear for a nearfall. They brawled to the floor, where Finlay hit Tama on the back with a steel chair. He pulled out one of those small ultrasmall Japanese tables that seem impervious to breaking. Tama avoided being powerbombed through it and they kept brawling on the floor. They finally got back into the ring at 5:30, with Tama hitting a snap suplex. Tama hit a plancha to the floor, and he repeatedly whipped Finlay back-first into the guardrail at ringside. Finlay tossed Tama head-first into the ring post at 9:00!
In the ring, Finlay hit a Blue Thunder Bomb for a nearfall. Finlay hit a Dominator faceplant for a nearfall at 11:30. He tossed Tama back to the floor. Tama hit a backbody drop onto the ring apron. He set up for Gun Stun, but Finlay pushed him head-first into the ring post at 14:00. Finaly finally powerbombed Tama through the table on the floor. (Yes, it broke on first attempt!) In the ring, Tama hit a Gun Stun out of nowhere, and they were both down at 16:30. They got up and traded slaps to the face. Tama hit an enzuigiri, but he couldn’t hit the Gun Stun. Finlay hit a headbutt. Tama got a huracanrana, then he nailed the Gun Stun for a believable nearfall at 19:00. Tama nailed a Styles Clash, getting a huge pop. He then nailed the Jay Driller for the clean pin. New champion!
9. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Mike Bailey and Yoh to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title at 17:52. They traded quick reversals at the bell. Hiromu rolled to the floor, thinking the other two would fight. However, Yoh hit a plancha onto Hiromu, and Bailey hit the Triangle Moonsault onto Hiromu. In the ring, Yoh hit a Falcon Arrow on Hiromu for a nearfall at 2:30. Bailey hit a Helluva Kick on Hiromu, then a Vader Bomb-style kneedrop to Hiromu’s chest for a nearfall. Yoh and Bailey argued over who would get the pin, so they threw a beat-up Hiromu to the floor, and those two traded forearm shots. Bailey hit his series of kicks, then a running Shooting Star Press for a nearfall at 4:30.
Bailey hit his Speedball kicks, but Yoh caught a leg and hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip. Hiromu jumped back in and hit a shotgun dropkick on Bailey, then a basement dropkick on Yoh. Hiromu hit a shotgun dropkick from the apron to the floor on Bailey. Hiromu then hit a Sunset Flip Powerbomb on Yoh at 6:30, and Yoh was out on the floor. In the ring, Bailey hit his moonsault kneedrop on Hiromu at 8:00. Hiromu flipped Bailey onto Yoh in the corner, and all three were down. Yoh hit a dropkick on Hiromu. Bailey hit a superkick to Hiromu’s jaw, then the Tornado Kick in the corner on Yoh, then a Tornado Kick in the opposite corner on Hiromu. He set up for Ultima Weapon, but Yoh shook the ropes, causing Bailey to fall and be crotched.
They did a tower spot, with Bailey on top and crashing hardest to the mat; Yoh got a nearfall on Hiromu at 11:00. Yoh hit a short-arm clothesline on Hiromu. Bailey missed the Ultima Weapon on Yoh, and Yoh immediately hit a Dragon Suplex for a nearfall, but Hiromu made the save, and all three were down again. Yoh nailed a Poison Rana on Hiromu at 13:00, then a stunner. Yoh hit a backbreaker over his knee, then he hit a (Lio Rush-style) Final Hour frogsplash on Hiromu for a nearfall. Bailey hit his Green Tea Plunge/modified mid-ring Spanish Fly on Yoh. Bailey set up for the Flamingo Driver but Yoh escaped, and Yoh hit a kneestrike at 15:00.
Yoh nailed the Direct Drive double-arm DDT for a neafall on Bailey, but Hiromu made the save. Yoh hit a superkick on Hiromu and he was fired up, but he couldn’t land the Direct Drive. Hiromu caught him and hit the Time Bomb on Yoh for a believable nearfall at 17:00. Hiromu hit a clothesline on Yoh, then the Time Bomb 2 sideslam for the pin on Yoh. Excellent match. While I would have preferred a healthy Lio Rush, Yoh held up his end of the match. Bailey finally got back in the ring and was upset the match had ended.
* Hiromu celebrated in the ring. The lights went out and the crowd popped. When they came on, Taiji Ishimori was in the ring! He has been out since getting injured at the very end of Best of Super Juniors in the spring! He hit a jumping knee on Hiromu. He stood over him and told him he wanted a title shot. He flipped the title belt back to Hiromu and left the ring.
* Keiji Muto came out, dressed in a suit (no paint on his face) and he joined the Japanese commentary team.
10. Sanada (w/Just 5 Guys) defeated EVIL (w/House of Torture) in a lumberjack match to retain the IWGP World Championship at 27:56. They avoided each other’s big moves early on. EVIL rolled to the floor and was immediately pushed back in. Sanada tied EVIL in the Paradise Lock in the bottom rope at 2:30 then kicked him free. EVIL low-bridged the top rope with Sanada falling to the floor, where the House of Torture attacked Sanada at 4:00. EVIL got on the mic and told Sanada to give up. In the ring, Sanada hit some overhand chops, then a back suplex at 7:30.
Dick Togo and Yoshinobu Kanemaru tried to interfere, but Sanada put them both in Paradise Locks. Sanada hit a plancha on Sho, then one on Yujiro Takahashi. Meanwhile, EVIL was racing up the stairs, far from ringside. Sanada ran up the stairs and caught him before he escaped out the doors into the concourse, and they made their way back to ringside at 10:00. Sanada hit a Russian Legsweep for a nearfall. EVIL pulled the ref in the way and Sanada nailed the ref with a rolling elbow at 11:30. EVIL shoved Sanada to the floor, where the HoT stomped on him. The HoT took turns beating up Sanada in the ring. The HoT held Sanada upside down, and Togo hit a knife-edge chop to Sanada’s groin.
A new ref made the count but Sanada kicked out, so EVIL hit that ref on purpose. Sho hit a piledriver on Sanada. EVIL hit a fisherman’s suplex on Sanada for a nearfall at 14:30. Sanada hit a missile dropkick and they were both down. Sanada hit a TKO stunner for a nearfall, as we now have a third referee in the ring. EVIL applied a Sharpshooter, but Sanada eventually reached the ropes at 17:30. EVIL nailed the Darkness Falls swinging powerbomb for a nearfall. EVIL set up for the Everything is Evil but Sanada blocked it. EVIL hit a clothesline and Sanada collapsed and grabbed his collarbone. Sanada put EVIL’s feet on the top rope and he hit a swinging neckbreaker right at the 20:00 call.
Sanada missed a moonsault, but he applied the Skull End dragon sleeper in the center of the ring. The bell rang! Dick Togo rang it, but Sanada didn’t know that. EVIL attacked Sanada from behind. Togo interfered but Douki dove onto Togo. Taka hit a Michinoku Driver on Kanemaru. Uemura hit Takahashi. Uemura hit EVIL with an enzuigiri, and Sanada immediately hit EVIL with a shining wizard, then a moonsault, then a second moonsault at 23:00, but the ref was pulled to the floor. EVIL hit a low blow on Uemura, then one on Sanada. EVIL nailed Sanada with an unprotected chairshot over the head. EVIL and Togo hit the Magic Killer on Sanada.
Togo revived a ref and threw him in the ring, but he gave EVIL the middle finger and refused to count. Sanada got an O’Connor Roll for a nearfall at 25:30. Sanada went for Deadfall, but EVIL escaped and hit a swinging faceplant for a believable nearfall. EVIL set up for Everything is Evil, but instead, Sanada nailed the Everything is Evil uranage. Sanada hit a Shining Wizard to the back of the head, then another one to the forehead. Sanada nailed the Deadfall swinging faceplant for the clean pin. A good match that topped mild expectations.
* Muto presented Sanada with his title belt and they posed for pictures. Tetsuya Naito came to the ring. He told Sanada to get ready for the big challenge on January 4. Naito tipped his baseball cap and left without any punches thrown. Sanada got on the mic and talked about how many years ago, he tried out for New Japan and wasn’t picked, but Naito was. But now, he’s the champion. He pointed out Yuya Uemura and the crowd chanted for him. Sanada vowed he would win January 4, and Just 5 Guys were covered in streamers to close the show.
Final Thoughts: What a show. At more than four hours, it had a little bit of everything. I personally loved the NJPW vs. Impact match for best match, as it was a great back-and-forth with the top stars of each promotion. The three-way juniors match takes second-best, and I’ll take Tama vs. Finlay for third, ahead of the main event. The main event had a nice build and the outside interference kept the action flowing.
Of course, the show is notable for the returns of both Yuya Uemura and Taiji Ishimori. This is why I shouldn’t read Twitter, as over the past week, I wound up reading comments from people who suggested these two were the likely new member of Just 5 Guys, and I hadn’t given either much consideration. Glad to see Ishimori is healthy and back, as I recall he landed quite hard on a Poison Rana attempt that knocked him out of the tournament.