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Pantoja’s NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2023 Review

September 25, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2024 Image Credit: NJPW
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Pantoja’s NJPW Destruction in Kobe 2023 Review  

NJPW Destruction in Kobe

September 24th, 2023 | Kobe World Hall in Kobe, Hyogo | Attendance: 4,212

My plan was to review the STARDOM Dream Tag Festival but given a busy weekend, I’ve fallen behind a few Grand Prix shows, some weekly TV, and then this happened. So I figured I’d drop that initial review and cover this. With me having a busy week also lined up, some of these match reviews will be shorter.

I’m in an interesting place with New Japan. I haven’t loved 2023 but I do commend them for trying new things even if the results are mixed. Then the G1 came and that was kind of a hot mess so I’m not sure what to think about this card.

Clark Connors and Drilla Moloney vs. Kevin Knight and Tiger Mask IV

We’ve got our new Bullet Club junior team against Kevin Knight and the junior heavyweight dad. Interestingly, it was the faces who jumped the heels during their entrances. Connors and Moloney didn’t stay in trouble for long, playing up the “aggressive” style that David Finlay wants for the stable these days. They kept the pressure on Knight for a while before Tiger Mask got the mild tag. He really posed no threat and was handily taken care of, falling to a powerslam/diving Spear combo in 6:57. A basic opener with the expected result. [**]

Dick Togo, EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi vs. DOUKI, SANADA and TAKA Michinoku

SANADA in match #2 like the midcard champion he is. This was basically every match between House of Torture and Just 5 Guys. It was pretty bland and nothing of real note happened. At no point did it make me more interested in the SANADA/EVIL title match coming up. That said, it wasn’t awful or anything like that. It was just a match that happened. The real high point was getting to see TAKA out there. Not only that but the man managed to score a RARE pin by hitting Togo with the Michinoku Driver in 8:32. TAKA is 10/10. Rest of the match was like 3/10. Post-match, EVIL stole the title again because that’s an angle that is ALWAYS good in wrestling. /endsarcasm. [**]

Alex Coughlin, Chase Owens, David Finlay, Gabe Kidd & Gedo vs. El Phantasmo, The Guerrillas of Destiny, Hikuleo & Jado

Pretty sure we got this match on a show a while back. I just checked and I was almost right. It had KENTA instead of Gedo. Anyway, like the last match, you just knew what to expect coming into this. The Bullet Club played up the aggressive boys angle and the face team attempted to bring fire though they lacked it. I’ve praised babyface Tama but he didn’t seem on it tonight, his brothers were their usual selves, but even ELP kind of seemed to not be totally into this. Maybe they’re waiting for matches with actual stakes. Jado took the heat before Tama got going. Wait, Tama’s 40? I thought he was like 33. He beat Gedo with the Gun Stun in 10:12 before a brawl ensued with everyone for reasons. [**¼]

BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi vs. Lio Rush and YOH

Now we’re cooking. I will say, I’m not totally sure what they’re doing with the Jr. Title since Hiromu beat YOH and Lio already. They worked this at the fast pace you’ve come to expect from everyone involved. Though BUSHI and Hiromu have teamed a fair bit, Lio and YOH are far ahead of them in terms of chemistry. Their stuff just clicks and comes off so smoothly. YOH was our guy in peril, allowing Lio to get the hot tag and trade some quick stuff with Hiromu, highlighted by a tope suicida. After their back and forth, BUSHI got the tag meaning the finish was imminent. Lio bested him with the Final Hour in 9:14. Not as great as it could’ve been but a very good tag and the first thing that felt like it had energy on the show. [***½]


Bad Dude Tito and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii

ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS! Tito was kind of just there but as expected, the other three guys were on it. Even Okada looked motivated which you rarely get unless it’s a big match. ZSJ and Ishii always have great exchanges so they were the highlight in this one. They’re one of those pairings that I could just watch forever. Okada spammed his DDT again. It didn’t make for a great G1 run but whatever floats the man’s boat. This was entertaining throughout and ended after a classic Ishii/ZSJ exchange that saw ZSJ get the pin with the European Clutch in 12:15. Good stuff here and a surprising result as I thought Tito would eat the pin. [***]

NJPW KOPW Championship: Taichi [c] vs. SHO

Our first match with actual stakes and guess what? It was the usual House of Torture BS we’ve grown accustomed to. I’ve explained before that there’s only so much I can say about these so this will certainly be one kept short. SANADA and EVIL were handcuffed together outside, as were Togo and TAKA, and DOUKI and Yujiro. There were distractions and shenanigans galore, all leading to Yoshinobu Kanemaru turning on Just 5 Guys to join House of Torture. He sprayed alcohol in Taichi’s face and then hit a Brainbuster. SHO got the pin and title gimmick with Shock Arrow in 13:01. That sucked, the House of Torture is the worst, and nobody cares about that turn because Kanemaru means nothing. [*½]

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Bishamon [c] vs. TMDK

These teams met earlier this year (***¼) though both had better matches with other teams like FTR and Aussie Open. So if you know these teams then you know how this went and I mean that in a good way this time. These are two hard hitting duos that are no-nonsense. There’s not a lot of personality there but they have some quality, stiff matches and that’s just what this was. TMDK was the more violent duo, throwing the champs around into guardrails and at ringside. Goto took the heat early and YOSHI-HASHI came in with fire to save him though even his run wasn’t sustained as it looked like TMDK had their number. The main idea here was that HASHI has come a long way. With Goto taking a beating, he had to be the guy to carry his team and he did just that. Just when TMDK seemed to be on the verge of a win, HASHI caught Nicholls with a crucifix driver to retain in 12:29. Kind of soulless at points but a very good match nonetheless. [***¼]

The Great-O-Khan vs. Shingo Takagi

Hey, it’s the Big E Special! I haven’t been following the Road to shows and build to this but O-Khan came out like he hated Shingo. That included attacking just before the bell and choking him with a shirt. Due to that, Shingo took a while to get out of the blocks to the point where commentary suggested he might get run out of the building. Once Shingo did get going though, it was a case of two beefy men  waging a war. Think of it like Miro/Hobbs but not quite as good. It made me miss those old NEVER Title matches again. Seeing O-Khan fire up and dare Shingo to hit him harder as they just slugged it out was great and probably my favorite part of the show to this point. O-Khan kicked out of a half nelson suplex at one but took a Pumping Bomber and Last of the Dragon to fall in 11:27. That was just some good old fashioned BIG MEATY MEN SLAPPING MEAT and I’m here for it. [***½]

G1 Climax Briefcase: Tetsuya Naito [c] vs. Jeff Cobb

Obviously this stems from Cobb beating Naito in the G1 (***½). I love that instead of a briefcase, Naito carries a flimsy bag that says he has a title shot in it. Perfect. This told the story it had to with Cobb being the powerhouse that Naito had to overcome. It’s a simple formula but it happens so often because it works. Naito, despite being booked into oblivion, is still popular so the crowd gets behind him when he’s playing the underdog role. He got his ass kicked here but could then bust out something like a tornado DDT or a poison rana to swing the momentum a bit with a hope spot and the crowd was way into it. I actually liked the closing stretch of counters and such here. Naito nearly won with a rollup which is how he beat Cobb in the past. They turned each other’s finishers into their own but then Cobb just leveled him with a lariat to cut all of that. Or so he thought as Naito turned Tour of the Islands into Destino, winning in 14:27. Another brisk match which I really appreciate. About on par with what I expect from this pairing too. [***½]

IWGP United Kingdom Championship: Will Ospreay [c] vs. Yota Tsuji

This has my attention. A guy many people consider the best in the world and the most intriguing of the new rising stars in the company. Tsuji is a STAR and though he hasn’t really had any big wins yet, you just know he’s a big deal. The early goings here were a feeling out process as these aren’t guys who are familiar to one another. Now a lot of this was clearly structured like most big Ospreay matches but in this case, I think that’s okay. Yota isn’t a veteran so this should be Will’s match to lead. What Yota brought to the table was explosiveness, charisma, and great timing. He nailed every spot he had to with wild precision for a guy who I saw a Young Lion only a few years ago. Ospreay kind of dominated this for a lot of the match but Yota would hit something with some snap and turn the tide. Things picked up in a big way when they just traded forearms and chops in the middle of the ring. From there, it was a barrage of big moves like powerbombs, Spanish Flies, Oscutters, and more. My biggest gripe was that they went a bit overboard on the near falls late. I get the idea was that Yota was a tough guy who wouldn’t stay down but having him kick out at one from the Gene Blaster (which didn’t get the pop it should’ve) and then survive several other moves like Stormbreaker and the Tiger Driver all felt like overkill. Another Hidden Blade and Stormbreaker gave Ospreay the win in 27:51. A tremendous pro wrestling match though a few things keep it from being a MOTYC. [****½]

The final score: review Good
The 411
A mostly good show though the usual New Japan problems pop up. Some stuff feels like fluff, some stuff is horribly booked and boring, you get some good hard hitting matches in there, and then a standout match that you’ll likely remember for a while.