Sunday, July 31, 2016

New Japan Pro-Wrestling - Destruction in Okayama 2015 Review

Togi Makabe defends the NEVER Openweight Title against Kota Ibushi!

NJPW Destruction in Okayama 2015
Okayama, Japan 9/23/15

1.) Eight-Man Tag - Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka vs. Tetsuya Naito, Manabu Nakanishi, David Finlay & Jay White: **3/4

We start off the show with an Eight-Man Tag. What’s interesting here is that Naito, who is clearly a heel now, is the only heel in a match with all babyfaces. Additionally, we had all four young lions in this match. I thought this was a relatively solid opening match. We saw Naito continuing the evolution of his heel persona, as he refused to tag in when Jay White wanted him to, which led to White getting pinned by Nagata.

After the match, Naito spit in Shibata’s face, and Shibata went right after him. The two needed to separated. This is building towards their match in Kobe.

2.) Non-Title Match - IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions reDRagon vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Mascara Dorada: ***1/4

While reDRagon are facing a team comprised of two juniors, the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles aren’t on the line here. I enjoyed this match. Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish are always fun to watch, and seeing them interact here with Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Mascara Dorada was pretty cool. A fun little match that reDRagon eventually won.

3.) NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title - Steve Anthony (with Bruce Tharpe) vs. Tiger Mask: **½

Anthony, representing the N.W.A., won this title from Jushin “Thunder” Liger earlier this year, and now, he’s defending the title against one of Liger’s semi-regular tag team partner Tiger Mask. This was an ok match. Both guys are getting up there in age, but Liger is still much better than Tiger Mask, when it comes to singles matches. Bruce Tharpe, of course, was as entertaining as he always is. In the end, Tiger Mask picked up the win to capture the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title.

4.) The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Matt Sydal: ***1/4

I’m not sure if this is the first time that Matt Sydal has wrestled in New Japan. If he has, it hasn’t been for a long time. He’s teaming here with Hiroshi Tanahashi, the winner of the 25th G1 Climax, to take on The Bullet Club. I thought this was a pretty solid tag team match. Sydal got showcased, while we got some build towards Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi in Kobe a few days later (where Tanahashi would be defending his title shot he earned by winning the G1 Climax). A Shooting Star Press, following by a High Fly Flow (both on Tama Tonga) gave the victory to Hiroshi Tanahashi & Matt Sydal.

5.) IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - The Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima: ***1/2

It’s been awhile since TenKoji (or Tencozy, whichever you prefer) has challenged for these titles. For the most part, I really enjoyed this match. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but I thought both teams did a very good job here. This was certain a nice change of pace from a few months prior during the horrible feud between The Bullet Club & The Kingdom. Despite the best efforts of Tenzan & Kojima, Anderson & Gallows eventually got the win to retain their IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles.

6.) Ten-Man Tag - CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, Roppongi Vice, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hirooki Goto, Tomoaki Honma, Alex Shelley, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Captain New Japan: ***¼

The purpose of this match is to help build up the IWGP Intercontinental Title Match between Hirooki Goto (the champion) & Shinsuke Nakamura (the challenger) in Kobe. Another pretty solid multi-man tag. These matches always seem to blend together, but the majority of them are usually relatively good, as was the case with this show. Completely fine for what it was, but forgettable as a whole. Of course, as you would expect, Captain New Japan got pinned, and the CHAOS team got the win.

7.) The Bullet Club (“The Phenomenal” AJ Styles & Cody Hall) vs. CHAOS (IWGP Heavyweight Champion “Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano): ***

Styles is getting his rematch with Okada form the IWGP Heavyweight Title at King of Pro-Wrestling 2015 in October, so this match is basically building towards that confrontation. While this wasn’t quite as good as the multi-man tag that came before it, this was still a fine tag team match. Cody Hall & Toru Yano were alright here, and seeing Okada & Styles go at it is always fun. In the end, Yano won the match for his team with a rollup on Cody Hall.

8.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title - KUSHIDA vs. Kenny Omega: ***1/2

KUSHIDA won the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title from Kenny Omega back at Dominion in June. While this was a very good match, it wasn’t nearly as great as their previous match. The reason for this was the fact that there was a ton of interference from The Bullet Club. Even though there was still a ton of good action throughout the match, the sheer amount of interference brought the match down for me. Alex Shelley also came out at one point to try and help his tag team partner KUSHIDA. In a result that I think was a surprise to everyone, Omega regained the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title after hitting the One Winged Angel on KUSHIDA, who had just been hit with a Gun Stun from Karl Anderson. I don’t think anyone expected Omega to get the title back.

After the match, Matt Sydal (who pinned KUSHIDA in a singles match on a ROH show about a month prior) challenged Omega to an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match, which would later be set for King of Pro-Wrestling 2015.

9.) NEVER Openweight Title - Togi Makabe vs. Kota Ibushi: ****

Ibushi earned this title shot after scoring a victory over Makabe in last week or so of the G1 Climax. This was easily the best match on the show. Ibushi was as great as he always is, and while Makabe seems to be falling out of favor with North American New Japan fans (myself included), he definitely put on a really good performance here in a main event spot, and it resulted in a great match. There was some really solid action throughout, and the crowd seemed to be into it. Eventually, Makabe scored the win to retain his NEVER Openweight Title, and cut a promo to close the show.

Overall: 7.0/10

I think it’s fair to say that this was probably one of the weakest “major shows” of the year for New Japan. It was honestly a one-match show, with Makabe & Ibushi delivering a great Main Event. The other important highlights included Kenny Omega recapturing the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title from KUSHIDA after a ton of interference from The Bullet Club, and Tiger Mask winning the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title. Other than than, the rest of the show was just a bunch of tag matches building to bigger matches.

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