DESTRUCTION ‘07, 11/11/07
review by Mike Campbell
So begins what now seems to be my yearly attempt to review something somewhat recent from the other side of the pacific. I’m not off to too bad a start, since this show is only about six months old. New Japan and TNA go to war! Shinsuke Nakamura and Wataru Inoue return from long layoffs, and Hirooki Goto guns for the IWGP Title.
Togi Makabe... found his role as a Brody knock off, let’s hope he doesn’t take that too much to heart
KOJI KANEMOTO/WATARU INOUE vs. RYUSUKE TAGUCHI/YUJIRO
Aside from being an apparent Inoue love fest, there isn’t a whole lot to this. Wataru looks like a juggernaut, and makes the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion into his bitch. He starts off strong with a fisherman’s buster and twice locks him into the Triangle Lancer for an extended period of time. It’s annoying to see him whip out finishing hold so quickly (but not surprising given his tag partner), it makes sense as far as trying to wear down Taguchi quickly, but there are plenty of holds he can do that with that aren’t his finishing hold. Koji earns his pay by doing a couple of kicks, a rana, and a double suplex with Wataru. Yujiro takes some token young boy abuse, but the big picture is between Wataru and Taguchi. Wataru beats on him left and right and makes the champion tap out with a third Triangle Lancer in about seven minutes. There isn’t much here that anyone other than a diehard Inoue fan should go out of their way to see, but the message is loud and clear.
MILANO COLLECTION AT vs. TOGI MAKABE
I really need to see more of Milano in New Japan, even the little bit that he does here is enough to show that he’s no different from SUWA and Kondo. They all left Dragon Gate and joined NOAH, All Japan, and New Japan respectively and they’ve all really benefited from the change of scenery and new opponents. Most of the good stuff here is from Milano, the bullfighting stuff at the beginning was funny and he had a few tricks up his sleeve to stay alive longer than he probably should have. Faking the low kick by Makabe was priceless, right out the Los Guerreros play book, and his escape to the floor when Makabe whipped him into the ropes was very nice. Makabe isn’t bad here, but he’s not nearly as dynamic as Milano (which doesn’t say a lot because very few are). His brawling style works well with his character (apparently a modern day Bruiser Brody), but it gets tiresome after a bit, and doesn’t mesh well with the stuff Milano likes to do. The shenanigans with the chair also could have been done without, Makabe is ranked high enough that he shouldn’t need to use a chair to get Milano in place for his finisher, a knee drop off the top (a favorite of Brody, although not off the top). It’d be one thing if Milano had been able to get in a lot more offense, but Milano’s work was mostly stall tactics to hold off the inevitable.
BONO TIGER/TIGER MASK vs. TOMOHIRO ISHII/TOMOAKI HONMA
As I was watching Akebono kill Honma, the only thing I could think of was Rodney Dangerfield, poor Honma also gets no respect. Anytime the match starts to break down with all four going at it, Honma is always paired off with Bono and the result is the same. Honma tries to stand up for himself a bit when he tries to slap the orange off of Bono’s mask, and he chokes Bono for a bit, but nothing he does has any effect at all. Ishii and Tiger Mask aren’t in very much, and the focus of the match is basically watching Bono squash Honma. There is one nice part where Tiger whips out a Tiger Feint Kick and tells Bono to do something. Bono “charges” (which is about 1/3 of the speed of a normal person charging) and hits the rope. Lots of slapping, lots of no-selling, and Tiger piggybacks Bono to splash and pin Honma, as if he had a hope of kicking out otherwise.
CHRISTOPHER DANIELS/SENSHI vs. MINORU TANAKA/PRINCE DEVITT
The image of Christopher Daniels wiping his feet on the big New Japan logo in the middle of the ring should have been more than enough indication as to how this was going to go. It eventually did, but they took a bit of time warming up first. In some ways, it’s typical of New Japan juniors, most of the early stuff is filler until it’s time to crank it up. This is no different but with a few exceptions. The big one is the crowd heat for team TNA working over Devitt. They don’t do anything especially heelish, it’s kept clean and they don’t even try to shark in on a body part. It’s just standard stuff, but the crowd is surprisingly hot and rooting for Devitt. The other exception is a few heelish touches from Daniels to Tanaka. After they take their turns wiping their feet on each other’s company logos, they start wrestling. Daniels and Senshi do a good job in scouting Tanaka’s dropkicks, but Senshi winds up getting hit with one. After a few more exchanges, Daniels claps his hands and offers Tanaka a handshake. Tanaka stupidly accepts it and pays the price. For someone who was a surprisingly good heel during the NJ/NOAH stuff in 2002, and then again in 2004 and onward with CTU, you’d think he’d know better.
Things pick up quite a bit after Senshi’s diving stomp onto Devitt’s back. There’s no real catalyst, it just appears to be “that time” in the match and it becomes quite the intense and hate filled spotfest. And despite the common criticism of the TNA X Division, there is plenty of selling between spots. There’s a nice dive sequence starting with Devitt onto Senshi. Devitt plays to the crowd and then gets hit with one by Daniels, who spits into the crowd, who then gets hit with a moonsault from Tanaka, who soaks up the adulation. Some of TNA’s love for screw job booking creeps in when Daniels in trapped in the Minoru Special and taps out . . . when Senshi is distracting the ref. Devitt attempts what appears to be some sort of superplex, but Senshi uses his trademark knee to head counter. They’ve got quite the fun and hot finishing sequence, Tanaka gets hit with the Angels Wings and is a total non factor for the last five minutes. Daniels grabs Devitt for their own version of Ode to Bulldogs with Daniels playing Davey Boy, and Senshi doing a diving stomp to Devitt and then springing off onto Tanaka with another stomp. If this is any indication, then this TNA/NJPW war could be a lot of fun.
RHINO vs. TORU YANO
Now this is more like it, it starts out as a hateful brawl and never stops. Much like Daniels wiping his feet, you know how this will be as soon as Yano hits the ring and spits water in Rhino’s face. They brawl in the ring for about a minute and then they hit the floor and go into the stands. The chairs go flying and Rhino (and the unlucky fans in the area) once again get wet when Yano gets another water bottle. Yano also uses chairs, a table, the hammer for the bell, and untying the turnbuckle to use on Rhino. The big question of Spear vs. Gore is answered quickly, when Yano hits an almost Nakanishi-esque spear very early and it has no effect at all. And the finish puts over the Gore as much as possible. Yano was a madman here, bringing out all the plunder he could find, but one single Gore against a table (not through a table but simply sandwiching Yano between Rhino and the table) and Yano was done. So now we’ve got two TNA/NJPW matches and they’ve both been very fun to watch, keep it coming.
CHOSYU, CHONO, LYGER, AKIRA, and SUPER STRONG MACHINE vs. IIZUKA, UWANO, HIRASAWA, NAITO, and ISHIKARI
This would have made a much better opener than the Wataru return match. Eight minutes really isn’t enough time for ten wrestlers, but this is fun enough. It’s fun to watch the Legend team beat on the young boys (and Iizuka). The match isn’t much more than just them doing their spots and getting out for the next guy to do his spots. As expected, Legend cleans house for the most part, including a sweet Kai En Tai five man beat down in the beginning. The only one on the other team who really has much to do is Iizuka, and even that isn’t much more than a few forearm shots and an attempt as the sleeper on AKIRA. After successfully winning a 5 on 5 brawl and forcing Legend to the floor things look up for the young team, but then Uwano dropkicks one of his partners, and gets hit with all five of the Legend team’s finishers culminating in a Devil Windmill Suplex. This could have benefited with more time and giving the young boys team a chance to show off their own stuff, provided they had any to do.
DICK TOGO/TAKA MICHINOKU © vs. JADO/GEDO (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles)
Never underestimate the powers of selling. I was ready to write this off as the usual boring and uninteresting affair with Gedo and Jado, but then they hurt Togo’s midsection and he made me care again. Gedo and Jado were as uninteresting and boring as they’ve ever been, it saddens me in a way to see Gedo like this, since he’s shown how good a worker he can be. When Togo gets hurt, they’re not any better, but Togo’s selling is so good that it suddenly looks like they slow and plodding array of kicks can make a difference after all. Gedo and Jado do finally warm up a bit and put some effort into busting up Togo’s midsection, but it all comes off so well thanks to Togo, I can’t think of another time that Gedo’s Superfly splash or Jado’s Crossface really came off as such deadly offense.
TAKA is pretty good too, he makes a nice hot tag for Togo when he cleans house, and he’s great with his use of the Crossface, when it looks like Jado is about to get the ropes, he quickly rolls over and switches sides and he’s back in control. Unlike the Angle/Benoit reversals, it’s not contrived looking at all, TAKA makes look like one smooth motion. But make no mistake, this is the Dick Togo show. Probably the best part from Jado and Gedo come after Togo takes down Jado with his pedigree, but he’s still hurt. Gedo shoves TAKA aside and comes off the top with his Superfly splash and Jado then hooks on the crossface. They put the hurt on Togo for quite a long time, but between TAKA’s intervention and Togo’s perseverance, they’re able to once again get ahead, and show why they took the titles from Gedo and Jado to begin with. Some people might take issue with Togo using the diving senton on Jado and not selling like he just got a safe dropped onto his ribs, but they make it work just fine. TAKA had already planted Jado with the Michinoku Driver, so Jado wasn’t going anywhere, and Togo took his time climbing and selling on the way up. The look on his face made it clear that he was in pain, but was fighting through it because he knew the senton would put him away. I’ll take no-selling out of obvious blocking out of pain over the Kenta Kobashi Burning Spirit bit any day of the week and twice on Sunday. ***
SHINSUKE NAKAMURA/GIANT BERNARD vs. YUJI NAGATA/MANABU NAKANISHI
When Nagata and Nakanishi were attacking Nakamura’s arm, this was fun, other than that, not so much. The live crowd evidently agreed, seeing as they were also dead until Nakamura’s arm started getting worked over. Nakanishi and Bernard are sketchy on the engrossing work, but really generous with screaming and no-selling. Nagata vs. Nakamura is what the fans want, and they deliver. They clearly had an understanding going into the match. Nagata sharks the arm and Shinsuke sells like mad. Nakamura gets some hope when the bald and tattooed Robert Gibson gives him a small break when he powerbombs Nagata. Nakamura tries to go for the kill with the Landslide, but Nakanishi saves. The finish here is really no different from any of Nakamura’s big wins in his early days. He takes a beating and gets a flash armbar out of nowhere on Nakanishi for the win. It makes sense here because of his injury, but it’s hard to buy Nakamura as “The Supernova” when he can’t get a decisive and convincing win over someone like Nakanishi.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI © vs. HIROOKI GOTO (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
Since he returned from Mexico as a bulked up heavyweight, Goto had been mowing down everyone in his path. Tanahashi’s first IWGP reign was greatly hampered by credibility issues with his size. You’d think going into this match that the champion would be the underdog, but not on this night. The video package before the match features several photos of a young Goto with legends like Antonio Inoki and Shinya Hashimoto, so you already know who the sympathetic one is. Add in that Tanahashi plays up on Goto’s sympathy by being a real cocky dick of a heel champion and things become clear.
The best parts of Tanahashi’s heeling come in his attacking Goto’s leg, the fact that it plays into the finish is just a bonus, but even if it didn’t, it’d be worthwhile all the same because of how much it babyfaces Goto. It starts out early and progresses throughout the match, but it never appears to be a real crutch for Tanahashi. He uses it to get ahead when he needs to and when he needs to slow down Goto. The leg work starts when Tanahashi trips Goto and starts posting the leg, the crowd erupted in boos, and Tanahashi just soaks them up and keeps going. He pulls out a sort of ode to Mutoh with a dropkick to the knee, Dragon screw, and figure four. When Goto starts to get the better of him after he lariats him into the ring from the apron, Tanahashi strikes with a Dragon screw through the ropes. And when Tanahashi realizes that his usual array of finishers (High Fly Flow, Dragon suplex, and Sling Blade) aren’t enough, he goes back to the knee with a High Fly Flow to the legs, and puts on a Texas Cloverleaf and winds up getting Goto to tap out. That itself justifies his confidence in a way, Goto who had all the sympathy and gave interviews about how much the title means to him, was forced to tap out and declare Tanahashi the better man. In a way it’s the opposite of the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles match, Goto’s selling of the leg is fine, it’s nothing outstanding, but it’s not bad at all, but it’s the stuff Tanahashi does that makes it work so well.
Tanahashi’s cockiness isn’t just shown in the leg work though, he adds a number of nice touches to the match with it. In the opening moments of the match they lock up and Tanahashi will back Goto into the ropes to force a break and then errantly slap him in the face. After the first stretch of tearing his knee apart, Tanahashi uses flashy looking moves for no other reason than the fact that they look flashy, and he then follows them up with very arrogant and lax covers. There’s also a very nice sequence where they have an extended exchange of first forearms and then slaps. On the surface it’s not unlike Kobashi/Sasaki, but it is, because they give it a deeper meaning than a chest thumping show of manliness. Tanahashi is telling Goto that he’s the IWGP Champion and that Goto is nothing compared to him. Goto is telling Tanahashi that he’s no longer a young lion or Minoru Tanaka’s tag team partner and that Tanahashi will respect him.
The match only has one real drawback, when Goto starts unloading on Tanahashi, he really unloads on him, with it seems like everything but the kitchen sink. It’s just big spot after big spot, and bomb after bomb. Goto also completely forgets about selling his knee, despite that Tanahashi had attempted the High Fly Flow and hit knees. Even worse, he starts off his big run of big moves with the Shouten, his finisher is the first big move he does. He follows that up with a Yoshitonic, which makes sense seeing as that was the move that won him his first title, when he teamed with Tanaka and won the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles. After his piledriver like counter to Tanahashi’s victory roll, he starts to work over the neck area. That’s fine, but again, he uses lots of big bombs instead of simple and effective stuff. And it’s made worse by the fact that they’re all trotted out and wasted because it’s Tanahashi who’s winning. It’d have been just as easy, and more sensible, to target the neck area with an array of simple moves and then pull out one or two bombs. Maybe it’s just Goto’s inexperience or maybe it was done that way to help put over Tanahashi as champion, but it tears down a bit of what they’d built up. But that doesn’t take very much away from the match, there’s still the great storytelling, hot crowd, and the good work. It’s not perfect, but it’s still one of the best IWGP Title matches in recent memory. ***3/4
Conclusion: Wow, this is one of the most fun New Japan shows that I’ve seen in a very long time. Everything was good or fun/enjoyable in its own way. Even the Nagata/Nakanishi tag match had its purpose, huge thumbs up for this show, get it now!
For more of Mike Campbell's reviews, visit his site at http://splashmountain.150m.com