The Road to Destruction gets underway on Wednesday September 4 in Korakuen Hall. The Young Lion Cup kicks off a stacked night of action in Tokyo:
Main Event: CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada) vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (Shingo Takagi & SANADA)
The first main event on the Road to Destruction sees Hirooki Goto and Kazuchika Okada face off against LIJ opponents they’ll be taking on in singles action in the coming weeks.
Goto and Takagi had a phenomenal match in their last night of G1 Climax 29 block action on August 11. As Takagi made a point of officially declaring himself a heavyweight after the bout, it seemed only a matter of time before he and Goto would face off again. This they will in Kobe on September 22.
It’s a match built on mutual respect, much akin to the respect Okada seemed to have for SANADA in Fukuoka back in May, when, after Cold Skull’s failed challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the Rainmaker declared him his ‘rival’. To critics, it seemed as if Okada was damning SANADA with faint praise, and the LIJ member took the backhanded compliment as forward moving motivation. In the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on August 3, SANADA finally beat Okada at the seventh time of asking, setting up a future title opportunity in October, and changing the dynamics of this relationship. Does Okada still have friendly respect for SANADA now it’s been proven he can be beaten by him? This tag bout should be a good early gauge.
7th Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (BUSHI, EVIL & Tetsuya Naito) vs BULLET CLUB (Gedo, Bad Luck Fale & Jay White)
On August 11, Jay White pinned Tetsuya Naito and sent the Nippon Budokan in to a furious rage, as fans filed out of the building rather than take in the scene of White advancing to the G1 Climax finals. In the fans’ minds, Naito, much like many in the tournament, had to battle not just White, but Gedo on the outside of the ring for much of the match. While Naito wouldn’t make that excuse, it should be satisfying for a three on three environment to provide a level playing field for Naito and company here.
White has declared it his ‘destino’ to beat Tetsuya Naito in Kobe on September 22, and go on to take Naito’s dream of holding both IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships. After a clear visual pinfall for Naito on White in London, El Ingobernable gave hints at a different destiny; one that involved his head getting kicked in at Kobe World Hall. Where will the hands of fate begin to move their pieces in Korakuen?
6th Match: SHO, YOH, Ryusuke Taguchi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Junior)
Hiroshi Tanahashi claimed the first British Heavyweight Championship of his career at Royal Quest in London. With big plans for the title, the Ace has declared his willingness to be a fighting champion in the UK, but first he has to defend his title in the decidedly not British town of Beppu on September 15.
The former champion ZSJ demanded a rematch against Tanahashi in a town where he wouldn’t be distracted by British politics, and Tanahashi assented. A preview tag here also sees Minoru Suzuki make his first appearance since his failed challenge against kazuchika Okada in London, as well as DOUKI and Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and SHO and YOH. The junior heavyweight tag team division is heating up, and every statement made by a junior heavyweight team counts.
5th Match: CHAOS (Rocky Romero, YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii) vs BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa)
Tomohiro Ishii walks into Korakuen without his NEVER Openweight Championship, becoming the third consecutive holder of the belt, and sixth in the last seven, to lose it on his first defence. This despite a near superhuman effort from the Stone Pitbull; after all, Ishii was fighting off three men at once at one point, as the Guerrillas of Destiny intervened to make sure that KENTA snatched the title away.
Ishii has his chance to get revenge on Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa in Beppu on September 22, when he and YOSHI-HASHI get the chance to take GoD on in straight tag action. Hopefully for CHAOS, a good taste of that vengeance in Korakuen Hall; but with Tonga and Loa joined by their tag team coach Jado, they have a formidable trio to go up against.
4th Match: Toa Henare, Tomoaki Honma, Robbie Eagles & Will Ospreay vs BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi, El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori)
This eight man tag sees the Birds of Prey team of Eagles and Ospreay get another chance at a statement win over IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions in the form of El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori. ELP asserted his superiority over the Birds of Prey in a one on one environment in America, but in London at Royal Quest, Eagles and Ospreay were able to show just how effective they were as a team, and pinned Taiji Ishimori with their spectacular Red Wing finish. ELP and Ishimori will be eager to show just why they hold the tag team gold ahead of their title match on September 16 in Kagoshima.
3rd Match: Yuya Uemura, Ren Narita & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Michael Richards, Karl Fredericks & Satoshi Kojima
In the third match of the evening, the Young Lions not involved in Young Lion Cup action get a warm-up match of sorts. Interesting is the tag team of Kojima and Tenzan each captaining a Young Lion trio in stops through the Destruction tour. These are as legendary rivals as they are friends, and won’t be holding back any.
2nd Match: Yota Tsuji (0-0) vs Alex Coughlin (0-0)
Alex Coughlin may start the Young Lion Cup at a disadvantage. Not joining his LA Dojo partners Karl Fredericks and Clark Connors on the G1 Climax tour may have set him back when it comes to gaining valuable experience in-ring against his opponents in this tournament. Yet when wrestling on the undercard during the Super J-Cup, Coughlin dispelled any concerns or criticism that could be aimed his way. Coughlin scored an impressive victory over Shota Umino in Long Beach that set him up well for his campaign. In the opposite corner, Tsuji has much to prove. A win for him will be key in the rivalry between New Japan and LA Dojo camps, and to beat the man who beat Umino would give a shot of confidence to one of the junior members of the Tokyo Dojo.
1st Match: Shota Umino (0-0) vs Clark Connors (0-0)
In the first match of the Young Lion Cup, Shota Umino meets Clark Connors. His experience in the last Young Lion Cup in 2017 now honed by time in World Tag League, New Japan Cup, and teaming with Jon Moxley during the G1 Climax, Umino is a clear favourite in the tournament. Umino himself has declared he’s ‘not thinking about anything other than victory,’ and while the same could probably be said of everyone in the league, Umino has a particular desire to beat the LA Dojo members, starting with Clark Connors.
Connors impressed during the G1 Climax tour, and is coming off a tremendous learning experience opposite TJP in the first round of the Super J-Cup. he’ll be looking to start strong, and show what he can do in a singles match for the first time on Japanese soil.