Kobe World Hall sees busy 10 match lineup
The first of two big stops on the Destruction series, our annual trip to the always electric Kobe World Hall will see ten matchups, three titles on the line, and a lot of pride at stake for United Empire and LIJ as well.
Main event: IWGP US (UK) Championship: WIll Ospreay vs Yota Tsuji
Will Ospreay’s legendary summer saw him pick up wins over Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Shingo Takagi and Chris Jericho in a two month span. After putting himself on the clock on January 4 to put himself at the top of the wrestling world within the year, it could be argued that he’s not only achieved his goal, but lapped the field in well under the time allotted. In Ospreay’s mind, the top wrestler in the world should be crowned with an internationally minded championship, but in lieu of the defunt IWGP Intercontitnental title, he refuses to ‘bear a flag that isn’t mine’.
That led Ospreay to create the IWGP United Kingdom Championship, a title he defends for the first time against one of two blips on an otherwise stunning summer. Ospreay had designs on revealing the UK title center ring after beating Tetsuya Naito to advance to the G1 final, but that was not the case, and El Ingobernable would go on to win the G1 trophy. The next night, bearing the wounds of a physically and mentally grueling several weeks, Tsuji would surprise Ospreay with a massive Spear, and pinned the champion.
‘IWGP UK, US, it doesn’t matter,’ Tsuji would comment after their tag bout ‘what I want is your head.’ For many wrestlers around the world, Ospreay has become the prize over and above any championship that’s at stake, but for Tsuji, nothing could be truer. Five months removed from his impactful return that saw him rocketed to the top of the card, Tsuji has done everything right-but get a result when the chips are down in big singles matchups. After a loss to IWGP World Heavyweight Champuion SANADA and a mixed G1, he wants to put all those pieces together in Kobe against Ospreay- after getting off to an impressive start with a huge Curb Stomp from apron to floor in Korakuen September 9, can he shock the best in the world and lift the red leather and gold at Destruction?
9th Match: Jeff Cobb vs Tetsuya Naito
Singles record: 3-1 Naito
Tetsuya Naito’s victory over Kazuchika Okada August 13 to lift his third G1 Climax trophy has brought him a significant step closer to his goal of the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 18. Yet Naito’s opening match loss to Jeff Cobb is something both men keenly remember. Cobb was fast to challenge Naito to a singles match for Kobe as soon as Naito’s G1 win was official, and despite the absence of a Tokyo Dome right to challenge briefcase ever since Kazuchika Okada’s win last year, has every intention of taking Naito’s dream spot with a win.
For Naito’s part, professional pride has seen him willing to raise the stakes. In lieu of an official contract or briefcase, Naito has promised to defend his own ‘contract’ (written in marker on a sheet of A4) through to January 4. Having teased that he would be willing to lie down and take an easy L in five seconds in Kobe with nothing on the line, Naito has instead, in his own ‘unique’ way accepted Cobb’s point- that a win for the Imperial Unit would call Naito’s Wrestle Kingdom number one contendership into severe question. The question is, having finally broken a duck against Naito at the G1, can Cobb do it again, and punch his own ticket to the Tokyo Dome?
8th Match: Shingo Takagi vs Great-O-Khan
Singles record: 2-0 Takagi
Back in January, Great-O-Khan challenged then KOPW 2023 Champion Shingo Takagi to a Martial Arts Rules match. It seemed as if the Dominator would have a cake walk to his first singles championship in NJPW, contested against difficult competition certainly, but in O-Khan’s wheelhouse with O-Khan’s choice of rules. The match didn’t pan out the way he had envisaged though, and for O-Khan it started a torrid three quarters of 2023. New Japan Cup elimination, weak G1 results, and even the end of his epic undefeated streak in the UK, dropping the RevPro British Championship to Michael Oku, has fueled a rage within that needs to be satisfied.
O-Khan has certainly garnered much satisfaction from forcing Shingo Takagi to kiss his feet, and now seeks to assert his superiority over the Dragon. A win for O-Khan will set him in strong stead for the road to Wrestle Kingdom, but despite an impressive set of showings on the road to Kobe thus far, victory is far from assured.
7th Match: IWGP Tag Team Championships- Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs TMDK (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls)
Tag record: 2-0 Bishamon
After defeats to Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI in the World Tag League, and at New Beginning in Sapporo, Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste seek third time lucky against IWGP Tag team Champions Bishamon. One of only two non-Japanese duos to ever win Tokyo Sports’ Tag Team of the Year award back in 2013, and having only built their resumes further worldwide since, the TMDK duo stand as one of, if not arguably the greatest tag team to never have held IWGP gold. That could change tonight, but Bishamon have their own stunning record to boast of in a relatively shorter span, able to lay claim to wins against Aussie Open, FTR and the Dream Team of Okada and Tanahashi. Will they complete a hattrick against Nicholls and Haste in Kobe?
6th Match: KOPW 2023- Taichi vs SHO
The annual September series marks two years since SHO officially joined EVIL, DIck Togo and Yujiro Takahashi in the HOUSE OF TORTURE, and two years since SHO apparently had any grasp on reality. Since then, the delusional Murder Machine ahs been insistent that his interference and weapon laden matches are actually the only ‘clean’ matches in New Japan Pro-Wrestling and that vociferous hate from the audience is directed to his opponents rather than himself.
SHO has also had to make some logical leaps when it comes to defending his in ring record of late as well, but taking measures into his own hands August 13 in Ryogoku saw him create some opportunities for himself at last, albeit in contemptible form. With a low blow, a wrench shot and then an attack with the now stolen KOPW title belt, SHO issued his challenge to Taichi, and made away with the KOPW title in the process.
Now SHO and Taichi will both bring stipulations to the fan vote table. As SHO’s rules appeal to his perverted sense of justice, a ’10 minute guaranteed decision match’ would see him the winner if ten minutes elapses, while Taichi cannot use Black Mephisto, and even more rules could be added on top of that. Taichi is well served by doing all he can to prevent H.O.T intervention, and has chosen a ‘seconds handcuffed match’ where members of HOUSE OF TORTURE will be handcuffed to members of Just 5 Guys. Will SHO be able to convince enough of the public, or will he find his ambitions handcuffed September 24?
5th Match: CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) vs TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr. & Bad Dude Tito)
A star laden tag team match pits Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii against Zack Sabre Jr. and Bad Dude Tito. As ZSJ continues to rack up NJPW World TV Championship defences en route to his target of 20 within the year, he’s also managed to pin one third of the NEVER Six Man Champions in Ishii of late. That could mean busy times to come for TMDK, but before then Sabre has Bryan Danielson ahead of him at AEW’s Wrestle Dream card October 1. Perhaps Kazuchika Okada will be able to relay to Zack just how difficult an opponent a Danielson in 2023 really is, but Sabre will be looking to keep winning- especially as he’s talked about a plan to be unveiled tonight concerning Royal Quest III on October 14…
4th Match: CHAOS (Lio Rush & YOH) vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
A junior heavyweight tag bout with a lot of intrigue for Ryogoku and beyond sees Lio Rush back in Japan alongside YOH, facing Hiromu Takahashi and BUSHI. On October 9, Hiromu defends his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in a three way bout with Mike Bailey and IMPACT’s X Division Champion Rush. What should be a dream match for pure fans of junior heavyweight wrestling though is somewhat tempered by Rush’s attitude of late- one that’s seen him keep hold of his own championship gold as well as ‘earn’ the right to challenge others through eye rakes and low blows. One wonders how Rush’s 2022 Super Jr. tag League winning partner YOH feels about Rush’s ‘any means necessary’ approach- will we get an answer to that question tonight?
3rd Match: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Hikuleo, El Phantasmo & Jado) vs BULLET CLUB (David Finlay, Chase Owens, Alex Coughlin, Gabe Kidd & Gedo)
Ten man tag team action sees BULLET CLUB and the Guerrillas of Destiny collide for the first time since the G1 Climax finals, ahead of big matches in Ryogoku on October 9. There, Tanga Loa and Chase Owens will go one on one, while Hikuleo and El Phantasmo face Gabe Kidd and Alex Coughlin for the STRONG Tag titles, and David Finlay meets Tama Tonga for the NEVER Openweight Championship gold. Who willmake a key pre-Sumo Hall statement in Kobe?
2nd Match: Just Five Guys (TAKA Michinoku, SANADA & DOUKI) vs HOUSE OF TORTURE (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo)
The second match of the evening serves as a preview for SANADA and EVIL’s IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match on October 9, but we can be sure that this isn’t the one and only time we’ll see these six men tonight. With all likely to be involved in the KOPW 2023 bout between Taichi and SHO later this evening, can Just Five Guys help make sure there’s minimal H.O.T influence in SHO’s challenge?
1st Match: Kevin Knight & Tiger Mask vs BULLET CLUB War Dogs (Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney)
Kicking off the evening, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Clark Connors and Drilla Moloney of BULLET CLUB’s War Dogs will face Kevin Knight and Tiger Mask. On October 9, Knight will team with KUSHIDA to challenge the War Dogs as a result of the Jet pinning Connors back at All Star Jr. Festival. The champions will be looking to make a statement at the expense of Knight and his veteran partner tonight, however.