Friday, August 21, 2015

NJPW on AXS - Destruction in Kobe 2014 Part 1 Review - August 14th, 2015

I'm playing catch up this week. While I did catch part of last week's NJPW on AXS, I didn't see the entire show. Thankfully, it replays just before this week's episode so I'm able to catch it in full and give my thoughts on it for your viewing pleasure.

After covering the entire 24th Annual G1 Climax, the folks at NJPW on AXS are continuing by moving onto the next event of the 2014 calendar year, Destruction in Kobe. It's the signature event for New Japan which follows up the insanity that is the G1 Climax.

On this episode, we see the first of what will be three weeks of coverage of this big event. The main event of this hour is the Junior Heavyweight Title Match with KUSHIDA defending against Ryusuke Taguchi. But first....

1) Minoru Suzuki & Toru Yano vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & Takashi Iizuka
We start off coverage of last year's Destruction in Kobe event with highlights from these tag team match that is truly a mixed bag. You have shooters like Suzuki & Sakuraba and guys who have become known as clowns, pretty much, thanks to their antics in the form of Yano & Iizuka. This match was one of those which was clipped due to time constraints and I can't say that I mind because while I'm a huge Suzuki mark, this was nothing more than a throwaway contest on the undercard. They covered all the parts in the match that were worth seeing and gave us a good overview of all that took place in this 11 minute contest, though. Chairs were brought into play several times and in the end, Iizuka brought in the iron glove only to be rolled up by Yano with a half nelson cradle for the victory at 11:34.

Match rating - **

2) AJ Styles & Tama Tonga vs. Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito

It's time for more tag team action as The Bullet Club, represented by AJ Styles & Tama Tonga, battles Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito. To my knowledge, this was the first time Styles & Ibushi which I can imagine was really cool to see at the time. It was still cool to see here as well. In fact, they started the match off with a several minute exchange that went from feeling out to strikes fairly quickly. They stood off in the center of the ring in a battle that Ibushi would ultimately win and tag in his partner, Naito, allowing them to do some double team manuevers. Just like the opening contest of this hour, this match was clipped, but once again we got all the best parts of the contest including the high impact final few minutes. Ibushi ends it with a phoenix splash at shy of the 13 minute mark.

Match rating - ***

3) KUSHIDA (c) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match
KUSHIDA is a double crown champion here as he holds the junior heavyweight singles AND tag team titles. I guess you could call him Mr Junior Heavyweight Divsion! Or is that a bad pun? Yes, most likely. None the less, we march onward. Taguchi is clearly the veteran here which makes this sort of a proving ground for KUSHIDA who has just began his rise at this point. That didn't become the overarching story of this match like I suspected however we were in for something unique in it's own right as we got a match different than most Jr Heavyweight style bouts these days. Instead of focusing on high flying and spots, KUSHIDA & Taguchi delivered a match based on injured body parts. KUSHIDA's leg being the target of Taguchi and Taguchi's arm being the target of KUSHIDA. They did a phenomenal job of establishing this early on and continued going back to it throughout the match. I was honestly surprised that this match was as good as it was. The limb work, the counters, the selling, and even a few striking exchanges were the highlights for me and also what made this match so great. It was essentially the ankle lock against the hoverboard lock - a battle that was very satisfying to watch unfold. And while I was surprised by the quality of the contest, I was even more shocked at the outcome as Taguchi tapped out KUSHIDA to the ankle lock after much persistence at 14:55 to become the 69th IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Great match here.

Match rating - ****

After the match, KUSHIDA slaps Taguchi in the face only to shake his hand soon after. Just as things looked to have a happy ending, members of the Suzuki Army, El Desperado came down to the ring to attack both men. Alex Shelley ran down to try and save his partner only to recieve a beatdown as well.

Post match interviews see Taguchi say that KUSHIDA brought out the best in him and that Suzuki-gun is "bad, bad, bad."

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