The second major event in the Destruction tour! Will Kota Ibushi be the first person to lose the Wrestle Kingdom contract?
Minoru Suzuki and Jyushin Thunder Liger get another chance at one another. With no payoff date in sight, this is still building to a blood feud.
Aside from the obvious about the main event, the semi-main has probably the largest build. Going all the way back to the Southern Showdown tour when Eagles left Bullet Club, ELP has been a polarizing figure. Pushing Eagles out of Bullet Club, beating them both on the way to winning the Super J Cup, and his pointed comments about Ospreay add a lot of heat.
Can the Birds of Prey unseat the Bullet Club?
Let’s find out!
- Young Lion Cup: Clark Connors vs Yuya Uemura: Uemura wins via Boston Crab @9:30 – ***
- Young Lion Cup: Michael Richards vs Ren Narita: Narita wins via Belly to Belly Suplex Hold @7:20 – ** 1/4
- Alex Coughlin, Karl Fredericks, Manobu Nakanishi & Toa Henare vs Shota Umino, Yota Tsuji, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yuji Nagata: Henare wins via Toa Bottom @9:45 – ** 1/2
- Tomoshiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, YOH & SHO vs Guerrillas of Destiny, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale: YOH wins via Small Package @6:50 – ** 1/4
- Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI vs Jyushin Thunder Liger, Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi: Liger’s team wins via DQ @9:20 – ***
- SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI vs Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada & Rocky Romero: Okada wins via Rainmaker @10:10 – *** 1/4
- Jay White & Yujiro Takahashi vs Tetsuya Naito & EVIL: EVIL wins via Everything is Evil @11:50 – ** 1/2
- IWGP Juinor Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & ELP) (c) vs Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles): Bullet Club retains via Bloody Cross/CR2 Combo @23:10 – **** 1/2
- Wrestle Kingdom Contract Rights: Kota Ibushi (c) vs KENTA – Ibushi retains via Kamigoye @21:25 – *** 3/4
Young Lion Cup: Clark Connors vs Yuya Uemura – Uemura came into this match winless, and Clark seemed to have this air of arrogance. Between his trunks being a different color and generally more mouthy during the match, it was hard not to root for Yuya. As with most Young Lion matches, they do have a certain mold since they are only allowed to do so many moves. But Yuya showed great heart and Clark showed off a lot of skill…but also a lot of heel potential. Really good basic match.
Young Lion Cup: Michael Richards vs Ren Narita – This match lacked the intensity of the previous match, but it was still the usual kind of Young Lion match. Richards really doesn’t seem to be on the same level as the rest of the competitors. Aside from looking awkward in the ring, he’s got an odd body composition so it just paints a weird picture. Narita won, which keeps a three way tie at the top. But yeah…heavily unimpressed with Richards.
Alex Coughlin, Karl Fredericks, Manobu Nakanishi & Toa Henare vs Shota Umino, Yota Tsuji, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yuji Nagata – Much better than the Beppu match. Tsuji and Alex seem to have a budding rivalry, Shota and Karl seem to be positioning for Alpha. They’re tied at the top of the Young Lion Cup with Narita, and you can see that they have bright futures. Solid enough match, but the Young Lions really shined. Also it was amusing to see Taguchi realize Nakanishi was going to counter the Funky Weapon with a Polish Hammer, so he faked and then threw the move. It was an amusing enough wrinkle.
Tomoshiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, YOH & SHO vs Guerrillas of Destiny, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale – Oddly paced match. Started with the usual outside brawl and Bullet Club advantage, but this match was to set up a few things. Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI looked to be more on the same page as a team, so they helped the CHAOS team come back into the match. YOH looked like he was about to get sacrificed to the Magic Killer, but SHO spears Loa and YOH gets the Small Package for a surprise win! A Junior tag team member got the pinfall over one half of the Heavyweight tag champs. Well now…interesting.
Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI vs Jyushin Thunder Liger, Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi – We road a small undercurrent with Sabre and Tanahashi still having some ill will towards one another, but the focus for this was Liger and Suzuki. Liger begged for tags when Suzuki was in the ring and they went back and forth with great fervor and implied hatred. Suzuki however was a little surprising going for the obvious DQ when he hit referee Marty Asami with the chair and then beat down Liger with it. The Young Lions ran in to try and get Suzuki off of Liger, but Suzuki managed to take the mask off. In a show of respect that you don’t see in Western wrestling, nearly all of the Young Lions tore their shirts off to hide Liger’s identity. So a pissed off Liger, with shirts over his head grabs the microphone and vows to get Suzuki back.
– This could be one last return of Kishin Liger. Muta brought out the dark side in Liger a long time ago, and Suzuki is following a similar path. If Liger is retiring at this coming Wrestle Kingdom, I think we should get one more Kishin revival.
SANADA, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI vs Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada & Rocky Romero – Everyone has a rival in this match, this is a great set up for a 6 man. Goto and Shingo are the two bulls jockeying for position, SANADA is trying to prove the G1 win wasn’t a fluke and Rocky just hates BUSHI. Shingo and Goto were the main two to watch during most of the match, because they just kept hitting each other and wouldn’t stop. Okada isn’t one to be shown up though, so he had to make a statement to SANADA. SANADA stared down Okada in Beppu, so Okada returned the favor when he knocked BUSHI’s head off and stared SANADA down during the three count. Very good build.
Jay White & Yujiro Takahashi vs Tetsuya Naito & EVIL – Yujiro and EVIL are along for the ride in this match, but that doesn’t make it uninteresting. Naito and Jay are great together, plus we get the old story of Yujiro and Naito’s old tag team. No Limit was a solid tag team before Naito’s knee injury. But the focus is the upcoming Intercontinental Title match. Naito probably should’ve been counted out at some point, especially after a rough bump on the apron, but still a fun match. Not a ton to breakdown, just a fun match.
IWGP Juinor Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & ELP) (c) vs Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles): Words do tend to fail a little bit to encapsulate what happened in this match. The main thread was that Ospreay and Eagles both have issues mainly with ELP. ELP instigated things beautifully and of course there were a ton of high flying spots, but damn it did tell a great story.
Eagles left Bullet Club, so BC wanted to prove it was the wrong call. Birds of Prey pulled off a tandem flip out of the powerbomb, they followed it up with a tandem Tope con Hilos and just a lot good work. Eagles still maintained his Sniper gimmick by focusing on Taiji’s leg as set up for the Ron Miller Special. But ELP managed to break up the hold and throw caution to the wind by hitting a Top Rope Moonsault over the first barricade and into the first row of fans just to try and take Ospreay out of the equation. This really was the Phantasmo show, not to say Taiji didn’t hold his own and isn’t still one of the best Juniors in wrestling today…but the story was all ELP. Phantasmo did just enough to wipe out Ospreay and a combination of finishers from Taiji and ELP kept the belts in Bullet Club’s possession. A damn crazy match.
Wrestle Kingdom Contract Rights: Kota Ibushi (c) vs KENTA – KENTA hits a sudden Yakuza Kick as Ibushi is entering the ring, and then KENTA proceeds to beat Ibushi with the briefcase. Small pause for the doctor to check Ibushi, but the heat KENTA got was amazing. More poignantly since Kagoshima is effectively Ibushi’s hometown. So KENTA is getting multiple layers of heat.
Ibushi says he’s good to go, and KENTA hits the Busaiku Knee for a near fall and then the beatings continued. KENTA took Ibushi to task on the outside, jawed with the fans to big boos, mocked their rallying cries for Ibushi and did fantastic heel work. Grinning and instigating the entire time. Ibushi slid in, and KENTA kicked him out immediately to continue to punishment.
It wasn’t until KENTA started toying with Ibushi in the ring, that we saw that ‘second life bar’ kick in, and Kota tapped into his more sadistic side. This is when the real match started, and it was stiff strikes with crazy exchanges. Slaps, kicks and then a Double Head Kick gave them both a small reprieve. KENTA focused Ibushi’s knee, slapped on a Figure Four and kept his focus true. Ibushi powered through, hit the Stalling Dropkick that KENTA innovated but Shibata made famous, and KENTA was a little insulted. You could tell since he immediately got Ibushi into a situation to show him how to do the Stalling Dropkick correctly.
We also get a great callback to Beppu since G.o.D. comes out to try and help KENTA win, but Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI make the save for Ibushi. Which we all know is more of a way to screw Bullet Club than save Ibushi. KENTA tried to be cheeky and use the Kamigoye for the win, but Kota kicked out. Blocking the Go 2 Sleep, Ibushi hits a Kamigoye with and without the knee pad, to keep his contract.
-After the match EVIL makes his way to the ring to remind everyone that he’s next to try and take the contract.
Overall Score: 8/10
This was a great show. We got to see some of the Young Lion Cup leaders position for superiority, Uemura finally got himself a win and a Junior pinning a Heavyweight. That’s also not mentioning Liger/Suzuki building nicely, Naito/White being great mind games and the last two matches being solid entries.
Junior Tag Team match had so much intensity and general disdain it was great, and the Main Event was damn good. Some people may complain the main event was too much sizzle and not enough steak, but it’s deeper than that. When Ibushi won the G1 someone asked him about the difference between Jay having all of the Bullet Club and he didn’t have Kenny. Ibushi responded with the statement of “I’ve always been alone”.
So the story around KENTA’s turn, is the Bullet Club works as a group. G.o.D. helped KENTA, KENTA returned the favor, G.o.D. tried to interfere again today, but Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI were around to even out the numbers. Ibushi’s next challenger is EVIL, and we all know that L.I.J. is the closest thing in New Japan to a family.
In summation, if you look past the ‘WWE style’ of getting heat and prioritizing character work, there are other threads being pulled that make it something special. Sure, the main event wasn’t extended stiff strikes like Suzuki or Ishii, or workrate, but professional wrestling is made up of many layers.