Headlined by two championship matches, September 15’s Destruction in Beppu event is set to be an unmissable night of action.
Main event- British Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Junior
Overall singles record: 4-3 Tanahashi
Of which British Heavyweight Championship matches: 1-1
Out of seven singles matches between British Heavyweight Champion Zack Sabre Junior and Hiroshi Tanahashi, four have been in 2019. It’s as if the first two years of their Anglo-Japanese rivalry was but an appetizer to the main course of Tanahashi/ZSJ 2019, a main course where the Ace has dominated the palette.
3-1 is the score in Tanahashi’s favour this year. Before Royal Quest, ZSJ could claim that Tanahashi had merely gotten lucky, caught a break in the action to score a pin on the Submission Master. After all, a Japanese Leg Roll Clutch in the New Japan Cup, and a quick roll up during the G1 may have put a circle in the W column, but hardly as emphatically as ZSJ’s win over Tanahashi in Madison Square Garden.
There, Hurrah, Another Year… put Tanahashi on the shelf for the rest of the spring, as effective a victory as Sabre could ask for. Two flash pins are one thing, having the Ace of New Japan verbally submit because he had no functioning hands to tap out is quite another.
Then, London. ZSJ’s supposed triumphant return to his homeland saw him lose the British heavyweight Championship, and this time not to quick thinking and a quick pin, but to an emphatic, glorious High Fly Flow. Tanahashi is now the British Heavyweight Champion, the first title he has earned outside of Japan in six years. Tanahashi is committed to his role, suggesting he may be able to head to the UK on a once per month basis to defend his title. First though, he has to get past an immediate rematch against Sabre. Can Tanahashi finally put ZSJ in his rear view mirror, or will it be Sabre, free of thoughts of the British political scene, that has redoubled focus?
8th Match- IWGP Tag Team Championships: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
Direct tag record: 1-0 GoD
Two weeks is a long time in professional wrestling. In two weeks, Tomohiro Ishii has gone from NEVER Openweight Champion heading into a singles bout in London with KENTA to now being a number one tag team contender with YOSHI-HASHI.
That turn of events came about when the Guerrillas of Destiny dashed to the ring in London. Tama Tonga had recruited KENTA to BULLET CLUB earlier in the month of August, and when Ishii had his new best friend on the back foot, Tonga and his brother elected to get involved. For a time Ishii fought off three men in the Copper Box, but the numbers game was always going to catch up to him eventually. Go2Sleep delivered, KENTA secured his first championship in NJPW, while Ishii sought revenge.
As KENTA moved on to challenge Kota Ibushi in Kagoshima for his Right to Challenge contract, Ishii decided to shift his sights to the intervening GoD. With YOSHI-HASHI as his partner, they quickly made a statement, coming out on top of a six man tag in Korakuen and laying out Tonga, Loa and Jado immediately afterward. That made what would have been a non-title match in Beppu a championship affair, the first for Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI since 2016.
Three years in professional wrestling is an eternity. Back in 2016, Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI fell to Guerrilla Warfare, but the two have shown smoother teamwork over the course of the Road to Destruction tour. In 2016, though, GoD were only starting their tag team journey, and in the last three years have risen to become the franchise team of New Japan, racking up five IWGP Tag Team Championship reigns, and this year proving extra dominant under the tutelage (and kendo stick) of Jado. The smart money is on GoD in Beppu, but one can never doubt the tenacity of their challengers Sunday night.
7th Match: Los Ingobernables De Japon (EVIL & Tetsuya Naito) vs BULLET CLUB (Jay White & Chase Owens)
While Jay White has remained cool on the surface, the first week of the Road to Destruction tour appeared to be a major test of whether the Switchblade could remain tranquilo. LIJ win after win seemed to frustrate White, to the point where on night three, the BULLET CLUB leader would assault Naito post match and steal the IWGP Intercontinental Championship belt.
Naito has confessed that he enjoys pushing Jay White’s buttons, and for his part, White has at least claimed he’s enjoying the fight. He’s likely enjoying the situation a lot more after this past week on the road, when White finally pulled a win over an LIJ team of Naito and BUSHI. With their title match a little over a week away, will the cool exterior begin to fade for one of these title contenders?
6th Match: CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & Rocky Romero) vs Los Ingobernables De Japon (SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)
Kobe is foremost in the minds of two of the six men in this tag; Goto is on a collision course with Shingo Takagi on September 22, a match that Takagi is taking seriously as not only his first singles match as a heavyweight, but also a potential stepping stone to his first singles championship in NJPW. Okada and SANADA meanwhile are looking further ahead, to October’s King of Pro Wrestling in Ryogoku Sumo Hall.
Right from the start of the Road to Destruction tour in Korakuen Hall, CHAOS and Los Ingobernables De Japon have been trading victories, SANADA and Okada have been trading holds, and Shingo and Goto have been trading bombs. As time ticks down to these big singles matches, everybody will be looking to make a mark.
5th Match: Kota Ibushi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles vs BULLET CLUB (KENTA, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo)
A ten man tag in the third match of the evening sees the Birds of Prey continue their ongoing issues with Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo ahead of their IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship match in Kagoshima Monday.
We also see Kota Ibushi and KENTA on their first matches of the tour. After KENTA’s war over the NEVER Openweight Champion Ishii in London, new champion KENTA immediately stepped forth to challenge Ibushi for the Tokyo Dome Right to Challenge contract he earned for winning the G1. KENTA then took the first part of the tour off to recuperate from his title bout, leaving Ibushi without an opponent.
Both men will now be in peak physical shape, but without having had the opportunity to touch before Monday’s big contract match. With eight other wrestlers involved in this affair, will Ibushi and KENTA hang back, keeping their tactics a secret, or will they charge right at one another?
4th Match: Jyushin Thunder Liger, SHO & YOH vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
After their issues seemed to cool for a few months, Minoru Suzuki fanned the flames of war with Jyushin Thunder Liger last week in Korakuen Hall. While Liger was delivering guest commentary, Suzuki stormed ringside before his match, dragged Liger into the ring, and delivered a brutal Gotch Style Piledriver onto a chair.
Liger responded with a vitriolic tirade on Suzuki after wrestling in the main event in Togane on Sunday September 9. Since then Liger and Suzuki have been opposite one another in live events, and have been tearing into one another. Suzuki has promised fireworks, and now his issues with Liger have turned into a nigh uncontrollable blaze. One has to pity the official assigned to keep this tag match in order.
3rd Match: Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Taguchi, Yuya Uemura & Ren Narita vs Manabu Nakanishi, Toa Henare, Clark Connors & Michael Richards
The Young Lion Cup continues to heat up, and Beppu should be set for a heated eight man tag team war. After starting the Destruction tour teaming with Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan, the winners of the 1993 and 1994 Young Lion Cups, it’s now the winner of the 1995 YLC, Manabu Nakanishi leading one team, and the man he beat in the final, Yuji Nagata leading the other. On Nagata’s side, Taguchi’s effective coaching may well come into play for the Japanese Young Lions as they look to take down LA Dojo’s Clark Connors, and Michael Richards of the Fale Dojo.
2nd Match- Young Lion Cup: Shota Umino (3-1) vs Alex Coughlin (2-2)
As the Young Lion Cup enters its second half, early leader Alex Coughlin now has to recover from a two match losing streak against Shota Umino. Helping Coughlin, however, is the match schedule; while his last league match was on Thursday, giving a three day break, Umino will have to turn right around from a singles bout on Saturday to wrestle the next night. Umino’s furious pace may mean stamina is the key for Coughlin here.
1st Match- Young Lion Cup: Yota Tsuji (1-3) vs Karl Fredericks (3-1)
The opening match of the evening sees the Young Lion Cup action continue as Yota Tsuji faces Karl Fredericks. While Fredericks has strung together a three match win streak, Tsuji has been dealt repeated losses, but his last league match against Clark Connors saw Tsuji change aspects of his gameplan, incorporating a few lucha movements to his ring style that belie his size and power. If he adds a few more moves to his arsenal, he could cut off Fredericks’ streak at three.