After what seems like an eternity of hot hot heat, summer is finally over and autumn has arrived. But as excited as I am about the prospect of being able to go outside free of butt sweat, I’m even more excited about New Japan Pro Wrestling’s upcoming Destruction series, which is set to take place in Fukushima, Hiroshima and Kobe this month. Nearly every title the company has to offer will be defended during this trio of events, so they’re bound to have a major impact on the NJPW landscape. Without further ado, let’s break down all the title matches…
September 10 – Destruction in Fukushima
IWGP Tag Team Title match
War Machine (c) vs. Guerillas of Destiny vs. Killer Elite Squad
Preview: According the schedule on NJPW’s website, Destruction is set to feature a trilogy of tag team title bouts, one at each event featuring the same three teams. New Japan isn’t really known for playing hot potato with its titles, so it will be interesting to see how many times the straps change hands over the course of the series and who will come out on top after what is sure to be a grueling trio of matches. War Machine and GOD have been feuding over the titles for quite a while now, but both teams were destroyed by the returning Killer Elite Squad last month at the G1 Climax.
Prediction: All three of these teams are beasts in their own right, but I have a feeling that War Machine are going to find a away to gut it out and retain the belts. As a Bullet Club fan I’d love to see GOD win, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen and with Lance Archer only recently returning from an injury, KES don’t have a ton of momentum coming into the matches in spite of beating down the other two teams at the G1.
Random notes: It’s really, really hard to take Lance Archer seriously with that tramp stamp… but I still wouldn’t f**k with him.
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Title match
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi, Evil and Sanada) (c) vs. Chaos (Kazuchika Okada, Rocky Romero and Toru Yano)
Preview: LIJ is the hottest thing in New Japan right now and with both Tetsuya Naito and Evil lining up for heavyweight title matches, it seems unlikely that their forward momentum is going to stop anytime soon. Chaos on the other hand has taken a bit of a back seat to LIJ, Bullet Club and even Suzuki-gun of late; the stable can’t seem to get on track with the exception of Okada. It will be interesting to see if Okada, Romero and Yano can hang with the by now well-oiled machine that is the Evil/Bushi/Sanada trio, who at this point are three time champions. It will also be interesting to see how this match furthers the budding rivalry between Evil and Okada.
Prediction: As stated above, LIJ is on fire and Chaos can’t seem to catch a break. Look for LIJ to retain.
Random notes: I really wish Sanada would go back to his skull mask and baseball bat look. That dragon mask or whatever the hell that thing is he’s been wearing to the ring of late is just goofy looking, whereas before he looked like a total badass.
NEVER Openweight Title match
Michael Elgin vs Minoru Suzuki (c)
Preview: This just might be the match I’m the most excited for. Big Mike colliding with the torturer Suzuki for the NEVER Openweight title, a belt that seems to bring out the beast in whomever competes for it, is bound to be a slugfest for the ages. Indeed, just the idea of these two brutalizing the living hell out of each other for sixty minutes gets me all hot and bothered. Suzuki is fresh off of literally taking IWGP champ Kazuchika Okada to the limit at the G1 Climax, while Elgin scored victories over heavy hitters such as Kenny Omega, Evil and Suzuki himself during the tournament, which gives him some serious momentum going into this match. Expect this one to be a mix of wild brawling, brute strength and nasty-looking submissions (check out their G1 match for a preview).
Prediction: Suzuki will likely retain with help from his henchman, but he’ll leave knowing he’s been in a fight. Suzuki-gun, ichiban.
Random notes: Suzuki’s gonna kill you.
September 16 – Destruction in Hiroshima
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title match
Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Preview: This is an interesting match-up; two of the most entertaining wrestlers in all of NJPW versus the two least entertaining members of Suzuki-gun. It’s a joy to watch Taguchi’s mix of ridiculous antics and world-class wrestling skills whenever he steps in the ring, and Ricochet somehow manages to blow minds every time out, while the most exciting thing about Taichi and Kanemaru is Taichi’s scantily clad valet. I have no doubt that Taguchi and Ricochet can pull an entertaining match out of just about anyone, but I’d much rather be watching them take on the Young Bucks or Roppongi Vice.
Prediction: Look for Taguchi and Ricochet to overcome Suzuki-gun’s underhanded tactics and retain the belts over these two walking excuses to take a bathroom break.
Random notes: I wish I had a cool nickname like the Funky Weapon.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match
Kushida (c) vs El Desperado
Preview: Kushida has made quite the comeback since being utterly destroyed by Hiromu Takahashi in record time at Sakura Genesis; against all odds, he mustered up the fighting spirit to win the Best of the Super Juniors tournament and then went on to retake the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship from Takahashi at Dominion, becoming a five-time champ in the process. His journey of redemption has been one of the most entertaining and heartfelt storylines professional wrestling has to offer in 2017. El Desperado finished last in his block at BOTSJ, but he still managed to rack up victories against Bushi, Taguchi and yes, Kushida. All of his matches were highly competitive, proving that even in defeat El Desperado just might be the most underrated junior heavyweight on the roster.
Prediction: Kushida is known as the ace of the junior heavyweight division for a reason; look for him to retain, but also look for El Desperado to take him to the limit.
Random notes: I hope El Desperado does the half mask / half face-paint thing (as opposed to the full face mask) for this match, because it looks super-cool.
IWGP Intercontinental Title match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Preview: Zack Sabre Jr. defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi on the first night of the G1 was pretty damn impressive; it’s not every day that a guy who’s only been with the company for six months topples the Ace of New Japan in his first ever tournament appearance. Tanahashi has been nursing an injured bicep for quite some time now, which has made him seem unusually vulnerable; just about every match he’s been in has seen his opponents zero in on it. I’m not sure if Tanahashi is incredibly brave or incredibly stupid to work through such an injury (no one seems sure exactly how severe it really is) but you can’t deny that he embodies the tenacity and fighting spirit that New Japan is all about.
Prediction: I hate to say it, but I think ZSJ just might have Tana’s number. I could definitely see him tying up Tanahashi’s injured bicep in some wicked submission hold and walking away with the title.
Random notes: Tanahashi, like John Cena except awesome.
September 24 – Destruction in Kobe
IWGP United States Title match
Kenny Omega (c) vs Juice Robinson
Preview: There are upsets, and then there’s Juice Robinson’s victory over Kenny Omega at the G1 Climax. Never in a million years did I think that the former CJ Parker would go over the leader of Bullet Club, but the beauty of New Japan’s booking is its unpredictability, unlike some other large promotions I could name (*cough* *cough* WWE *cough* *cough*). Robinson has really come into his own this year, scoring pins on the likes of Tetsuya Naito and Hirooki Goto in tag team situations, however he has yet to win the proverbial “big one” in singles competition. Kenny Omega is coming off a loss to Naito in the G1 final, but he also proved during the tournament that he has what it takes to defeat his arch rival Okada, a major victory in its own right that was far more vital than winning the actual tournament. Omega will no doubt have his hands full with Robinson in his first defense of the IWGP United States Title, but after the hard fought battles against Okada and Naito, this one will probably feel like a walk in the park for the best wrestler on the planet.
Prediction: Juice gets better and better every time out, but he’s still no match for The Cleaner. The match will be competitive, but I have no doubt that Omega will retain.
Random notes: Goodbye and goodnight!