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OCT.8.2023

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Destruction in Ryogoku (October 9) full preview

Ryogoku sees six title matches in massive lineup

 

After a grueling month of battles in front of packed houses across Japan, the Destruction tour comes to a close on October 9. Ryogoku Sumo Hall will play host to six championship matches on a night that looks set to be full of surprises and drama, as well as bumps in the long road to Wrestle Kingdom 18.

Watch live in English on NJPW World (outside Japan)!

Main event: IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Lumberjack Match- SANADA vs EVIL 

Singles record: 4-3 EVIL

It’s been a very difficult two months for SANADA. 

Amid claims, even acknowledged by the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion himself that his first reign with the top title in professional wrestling, always a difficult period for any wrestler, had been harmed by a lack of demanding defences (against smaller competition in Hiromu Takahashi and Jack Perry, and the hugely talented but only freshly returned from excursion Yota Tsuji), SANADA headed into his first G1 as the world champion. There his competition, all younger, and for the most part brasher and more inexperienced, fell one by one in the group phase where SANADA earned a perfect record. Yet a partial bicep tear would make him easy pickings for EVIL in the quarter finals. 

Then the final night of the tour saw EVIL steal SANADA’s belt, eroding the champion’s visual connection with the top prize and position on top of the mountain in NJPW. EVIL managed to play keep away with the title throughout the Road to Destruction, a road filled with shortcuts by the HOUSE OF TORTURE. A frustrated SANADA requested a lumberjack match at Ryogoku, so the sides between Just Five Guys and H.O.T would be even for a change. EVIL held off on his reply.

He did so, of course because he knew a further tightening of the screws was in mind. EVIL coaxed over Yoshinobu Kanemaru to the fold, and the promise of a seemingly surefire big payday at this stage of his career and with the title almost a lock to change hands in his mind, likely made the conversation an easy one for an experienced mercenary like the Heel Master. As a bonus for EVIL and company, Taichi was emotionally shook to the core at the loss of his best friend in the business in Kanemaru, and took a leave of absence, putting the sides at 5-3 in HOUSE OF TORTURE’s favour in Ryogoku. 

Then, a twist in the tale. Taichi roared back into action in a surprise appearance in Korakuen Hall and the next night SANADA would state that there will indeed be a full complement of Just Five Guys heading into Sumo Hall. Amid a flurry of rumour and speculation, we’ll know for sure who the fifth man is in Ryogoku. Yet while hopes are high that even sides will see justice prevail, the burden of responsibility is on SANADA himself to right all that’s wrong here. Can he turn the corner and fire back hard enough at the heart of darkness to retrieve what is rightfully his in the IWGP World Heavyweight title? 

9th Match: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Three Way Match: Hiromu Takahashi vs YOH vs Mike Bailey

Hiromu Takahashi’s current, fifth reign of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship began on January 4 at the Tokyo Dome in a four way match, with outgoing champion Taiji Ishimori not involved in the decision. Hiromu then, knows full well just how at risk his title is in this three way environment tonight. An unpredictable three way has had an unpredictable build- Hiromu grew frustrated that Mike Bailey was absent from the tour, arriving to Japan right before this match without the benefit of preview tags. Then Lio Rush fell ill partway through the tour, withdrawing from action. Asd Hiromu wondered aloud just what would happen in Ryogoku, YOH stepped in. An elimination match before his home Miyagi crowd saw YOH pin Hiromu Takahashi, and riding that momentum, YOH has demanded a title shot. Might this sudden wave of momentum see YOH to the junior heavyweight gold?

8th Match: NEVER Openweight Championship: Tama Tonga vs David Finlay

Singles record: 3-1 Finlay

On what could become a huge night for BULLET CLUB in Ryogoku, leader David Finlay defends the NEVER Openweight Championship against Tama Tonga. A win for Finlay over Tonga in the New Japan Cup would lead to the Rebel taking the NEVER gold from Tama in dominant form at Dontaku earlier this May; a decisive point in Finlay’s new ‘bring gold, bring bodies’ era of BULLET CLUB. 

In the G1 however, a Tama Tonga hungry for revenge would put an end to a win streak for Finlay, and a wild fight through Korakuen Hall would end with the Guerrilla of Destiny’s hand raised. Having scored his first ever singles win over Finlay, Tama now heads to his second championship match in two years in Sumo Hall. After a defeat at the hands of Switchblade Jay White in 2022, will 2023 see him crowned NEVER Champion once again?

7th Match: NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Team Championships: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito & Kazuchika Okada vs Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin & Josh Alexander

28th NEVER Openweight 6 Man Champions Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tomohiro Ishii take on a surprise trio from IMPACT in the form of Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin and Josh Alexander. After the champions logged their second defence of the gold in Korakuen against the veteran team of Tger Mask, Togi Makabe and Hiroyoshi tenzan to start off the Road to Destruction, Tanahashi made an appeal to a team from IMPACT. Sore at a loss to IMPACT World Champion Alex Shelley at Multiverse United 2 in the summer, the Ace wanted to bounce back, and Shelley was happy to oblige.

Along with the world champ will be IMPACT’s current X Division Champion Chris Sabin, both the motor City Machineguns having been supportive figures for Tanahashi and Okada during their respective times in the former TNA way back when. Meanwhile Josh Alexander will have some snug exchanges in store for Tomohiro Ishii without doubt, as this is sure to be a blinding encounter. In recent weeks on IMPACT, Alexander and Shelley have butted heads as both are weeks away from a title showdown at the Bound For Glory pay per view. Will personal issues take precedence over teamwork tonight? 

6th Match: STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championships: Guerrillas of Destiny (Hikuleo & El Phantasmo) vs BULLET CLUB War Dogs (Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin)

For the first time since they brute forced their way through Bishamon and to the STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championships in Korakuen Hall this July, gabe Kidd and Alex Coughlin put the titles on the line against Hikuleo and El Phantasmo. When Hikuleo and ELP were both a part of BULLET CLUB, and Hikuleo was on excursion to the UK as the group’s ‘Young Gun’, the two formed a bond, broken a year ago as Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa were expelled from the group, and Hikuleo elected to join them in Hontai. 

After Phantasmo took issue with David Finlay’s leadership in the club, and an attempted coup d’état fell through, resulting in his own expulsion, Phantasmo was a man without an island until  G.o.D extended an olive branch during the G1 Climax. Now, can this revived friendship bring gold away from an intimidating pair of powerful brawlers?

5th Match: Best of Seven Series: Shota Umino, Master Wato & Yuji Nagata vs Strong Style (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Ren Narita)

Bo7 Series Scores: 2-2-1 (as of October 2)

A wild, hard fought Best of Seven series has unfurled throughout Japan during the Road to Destruction. Starting in Togane Chiba with an intense 30 minute draw, the series continued with the teams trading wins heading into its final week. After the teams’ next encounter in Miyagi on October 7, Ryogoku sees the final showdown- which team will claim superiority, and what will that mean for its members?

4th Match: IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag team Championships: Intergalactic Jet Setters (Kevin Knight & KUSHIDA) vs BULLET CLUB War Dogs (Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney)

Less than one year ago, Kevin Knight and KUSHIDA were a complete non entity as a tag team. When they debuted together during Super Junior Tag league, it was as a veteran combining with a Young Lion, not expected to score many points, if any at all. Yet Knight grew under KUSHIDA’s guidance, taking the unprecedented step of a Young Lion graduation in the middle of the tour, and as the two finished strong together, they set a oath for a championship challenge in the spring of 2023. 

Few gave the challengers a chance against an incredible run by TJP and Francesco Akira, Catch 2/2. Yet successful they were, ending a dominant reign for their own brief spell. It was brief indeed though, Catch 2.2 taking the gold back in June at Dominion, only for their cornerman Drilla Moloney to stab United Empire in the back and stake a claim with new partner Clark Connors.  

That led to Connors and Moloney challenging and beating Catch 2/2 to claim the junior tag gold in impressive form July 4, and log their first defence the next night over Rocky Romero and YOH. Separated by the oceans over the summer, the singles track record of Connors and Moloney took hits, most notably when Knight pinned Connors during All Star Junior Festival. That’s led to this tag team showdown- could Knight and KUSHIDA capture lightning in a bottle twice?

3rd Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, Yota Tsuji & BUSHI) vs United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Great-O-Khan, HENARE & Callum Newman)

United Empire and Los Ingobernables De Japon have battled all the way through the Destruction series, and tonight’s tour closer will see the teams face off once more. With Shingo takagi and Yota Tsuji both getting set for big singles matchups at Royal Quest III to come, will they head into London next week with hands raised? 

2nd Match: Tanga Loa vs Chase Owens

The BULLET CLUB and Guerrillas of Destiny war continues into the singles realm when Tanga Loa takes on Chase Owens. Both men having mid table finishes in the recent G1 Climax, will this singles match be key for their singles careers in 2024? Certainly Owens has been dead set on making a stement at Loa’s expense. Having baited the Silverback intop an arm wrestling contest in Korakuen Hall, Owens primed the trap for a beatdfown by BULLET CLUB’s War Dogs, one that led to a vicious elimination from that night’s main event tag and has raised questions about Loa’s status heading into Sumo Hall. Can Loa survive Chase tonight, and could this match change the complexion for the rest of the Guerrillas of Destiny on the night? 

Just Five Guys (Taichi, DOUKI & X) vs HOUSE OF TORTURE (SHO, Yujiro Takahashi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

Taichi will make the reveal of just who the fifth man will be for Just Five Guys before the Lumberjack match itself. Six man tag team action will see the Holy Emperor go toe to toe with his great betrayer Kanemaru, while the fresh blood of J5G makes their first mark in our opening bout.

Kickoff Frontier Zone Match: YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano, Oskar Leube, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask vs Takeshi Masada, Kazumi Sumi, Kengo, Jyun Masaoka & Takahiro Katori

A special kickoff match at Ryogoku on Monday 9 will see guests from outside NJPW given a big opportunity in what’s being dubbed the ‘Frontier Zone’. 

Presenting matchups one might not usually see at a NJPW event, the Frontier Zone debuts with YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano, YOH, Tiger Mask and Ryusuke Taguchi facing Eagle Pro’s Takahiro Katori, independents Jyun Masaoka and Kengo and DDT Pro representatives Takeshi Masada and Kazuma Sumi. 

Katori and Kengo may be familiar to fans who watched the NJPW STRONG Independence Day events as the two prospects made their debut in the cerulean, and intrigued with some unique sensibilities. Katori has been a rival of Masaoka’s in the FREEDOMS promotion, but the two have to be on the same page as one another and their DDT comrades tonight. Masada and Sumi are both young and gradually rising stars within the DDT system, and will have much to show in Ryogoku. 

 

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