Tuesday, September 19, 2023

NJPW Destruction 2023 Preview & Predictions

While wrestling tribalists bicker and name-call over who's better between AEW and WWE, we're all forgetting that NJPW has a two-part PPV coming up this weekend and two weeks later called Destruction.  And there's some fine stuff lined up for the initiated fan....

The 9/24 card is roughly half a proper PPV show, with a handful of warmup tag matches before the important stuff, but the 10/9 show is a true main-card lineup, unusual for the Destruction series.  Let's take a look, shall we? 

Night 1 - Kobe

KOPW Championship: Taichi vs. Sho

Alright, so the KOPW Title is stupid and should be discontinued, but Taichi vs. Sho on paper is a pretty good matchup, barring the inevitable overuse of House of Torture interference.  I'm still hoping against hope that stable is disbanded.  I think Sho probably captures the title here and Taichi probably wins it back later.

Pick: Sho

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Bishamon vs. TMDK

This should be a fine tag team battle, as Goto and Yoshi-Hashi have become a damn good team, and TMDK are excellent.  Bishamon have held the titles since early June so a title change could certainly happen here; these belts have jumped around like crazy over the years.

Pick: TMDK

Shingo Takagi vs. Great-O-Khan

Shingo is always awesome, O-Khan has grown into a fierce worker.  This will be a slugfest.  Shingo needs a win here.

Pick: Shingo

Jeff Cobb vs. Tetsuya Naito

These two always put on a banger and this should be no different.  Cobb beat Naito in the G1, which used to mean he'd get to challenge for the G1 briefcase.  Seems like they've done away with that tradition.  Anyway, Naito is obviously getting that win back here.  I'm still hoping for some kind of curveball for WrestleKingdom 18, as Sanada vs. Naito is about as weak a Dome main event as I can remember.

Pick: Naito

IWGP US Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Yota Tsuji

This is the one I'm excited for.  Ospreay has been absolutely on fire in 2023 (which is really no different than any other year for him I guess), and Tsuji has "future main eventer" written all over him.  If all signs didn't point to an Ospreay-Omega rubber match for the Dome I might pick Tsuji to score the upset, but I think Ospreay has to keep the title for a while longer.  That said, get Yota an IWGP Title run - that kid has it.  Yet another MOTY candidate for young Will....

Pick: Ospreay retains 

Night 2 - Ryogoku

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Lio Rush vs. Mike Bailey

This should be a spectacular opener, as Takahashi is amazing, Lio is super fun to watch, and I've heard good things about Bailey.  Hiromu's held this title since January 4th, which is quite a long run.  Do they keep it on him for the full year or do they take it off and have him win it back at WK18?  I guess I'll go with the champ to retain.

Pick: Takahashi retains

Tanga Loa vs. Chase Owens

This here's a skipper for me.  Tanga is ok, but Owens has never done it for me.  I guess Owens wins?

Pick: Owens

IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club War Dogs vs. Intergalactic Jet Setters

I'm enjoying this new version of Bullet Club, young, hungry competitors all, relying more on savagery than outside interference.  Way cooler stable than that House of Torture bullshit.  This should be a fun match.  It's too soon to take belts off any of Finlay's boys.

Pick: BC retain

NEVER Openweight Championship: David Finlay vs. Tama Tonga

The leader of NJPW's hottest heel stable in only the fourth match of the night seems weird.  But this should be solid.  It's a rematch from Wrestling Dontaku, as the former champ tries to redeem himself.  As I said, I think Finlay and friends are retaining their belts here.

Pick: Finlay retains

Best of 7 Final: Master Wato, Shota Umino & Yuji Nagata vs. Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & Ren Narita

No idea the history behind this series or why it was a series, but since Shota Umino is the breakout star they're hoping to make, his team ought to win.

Pick: Shota & friends

Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club War Dogs vs. Hikuleo & El Phantasmo

I'm a big fan of Coughlin and Kidd, both of whom turned in memorable G1 performances.  Phantasmo is always fun to watch, Hikuleo is a pretty good big man.  This should be a real battle.  I'm sticking with BCWD to retain.

Pick: BC retains

IWGP World Championship: Sanada vs. Evil

Alright, this one is just baffling to me.  Sanada went undefeated in the G1 until he ran into his old partner Evil in the quarterfinals.  Of all the guys who could've gotten a win over the champion to set up a title match, they picked fuckin' Evil??  Horseshit.  These two had a decent Dome match a few years ago but having a decent match is an outlier for Evil nowadays.  I don't have much hope for this being a worthy PPV main event; maybe they'll surprise me.  Anyway, Sanada's not losing the title till January.

Pick: Sanada retains

So there's the lineup-and-a-half.  The 9/24 main event is the really compelling one, but the 10/9 show has some good stuff on it too.  WrestleKingdom 18's lineup should start to come into focus beginning with Destruction....

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