Here comes Big Mike!
Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of Strong Style, a regular look at New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Settling into the new digs, we kick off being in a new home with some big time action tonight!
Tonight’s action takes us back to September 25, 2016, and the “Destruction in Kobe” event. This event was the third “Destruction” show for New Japan Pro Wrestling as they also did shows in Tokyo and Hiroshima in the week or so before this featuring some big action. Tonight’s event takes place at the World Hall in Kobe and drew a respectable 5,432 people. We are seeing the main event match here so let’s get to the action with Jim Ross and Josh Barnett as our English announce team.
We start the show off with a greeting from Naito.
Since we only have one match tonight we get some studio words from Tetsuya Naito as well. He reiterates that he beat Elgin during the G1. Elgin laid down the challenge but he really doesn’t care about the belt. He feels that Elgin and Kenny Omega still have a presence over the belt from their match. He is confident that he will win.
IWGP Intercontinental Title: “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito
To make a simple introduction of both guys, Elgin in a hoss of a man best describe by Jim Ross as having “A face that belongs on a can of beef stew”. The Canadian used to wrestle in the states for Ring of Honor before leaving them on some less than pleasant terms and went to New Japan full time a few years ago. He won the IC title he is defending here only a few months prior by defeating Kenny Omega in NJPW’s first ever ladder match. His opponent tonight is Naito. He is a former junior heavyweight who moved up to wrestle the big boys a number of years ago but didn’t really get over with the fans as a top guy. He took a trip to Mexico and came back a changed man. He was cocky and brash while spouting on about”Tranquilo”. He turned into a bad guy and formed the “Los Ingobernables de Japon” stable with EVIL, the masked Bushi (who became the Junior heavyweight champion a few days before this), and Sanada. Naito lost the IWGP title earlier in the year but earned this shot by beating Elgin during the G1 tournament.
Naito comes out first as the challenger. He is wearing a white disco suit as well as his kabuki skeleton mask. None of the other LIJ members are with him at this point which is unusual for him. But they are around I’m sure. Elgin makes his way to the ring next with his usual look of death. Not a look I want glaring at me. Naito takes his time taking off his gear which is his deal as we get full introductions for both men since this is the only match shown for tonight. I’m surprised as they show Naito removing his gear in full, since most times that part is cut.
We come back from our first commercial as the bell rings and Naito is getting the crowd cheers. Jim Ross immediately mentions Naito’s merchandise sales and complains. This coming from the guy who is constantly shilling Bar-B-Que sauce with his face on it. Elgin goes for the lock up but Naito decides to screw around and won’t lock up. Elgin is ready to go and Naito goes right for the leg and Elgin muscles him around. Naito spits on Elgin and goofs around some more. Naito lays in a kick and some shots before a headlock. He gets sent into the ropes and a shoulder block doesn’t work. He tries it again and lands a kick. Naito bails outside and Elgin mocks him by faking a dive through the ropes and laying down in the Naito’ “Tranquilo” pose.
Naito slips into the ring and goes right back out. Naito climbs up to the apron and Elgin goes for him. Naito tries a strike but Elgin blocks it and kicks him in the head. Elgin picks Naito up for the suplex and holds him in the air to think about it for a while before dropping him. He covers only for a 2 count. Elgin scoops Naito up for a fireman’s carry but Naito elbows out and drives a shoulder to Elgin’s taped knee. Elgin rolls outside and Naito goes after him and lays in some kicks to the sore knee before sending Elgin to the metal barrier. He ties Elgin’s knee into the barrier and dropkicks the knee! Doesn’t take long to see Naito’s game plan here.
Elgin rolls in at 17. Jim Ross not only mentions the 20 count in Japan but also that a title can change hands on a DQ or count-out in New Japan, although it never actually happens. Naito walks over and kicks the knee a few times before locking in an inside toehold. Elgin hits some forearms but they aren’t doing any good before Elgin gets into the rope to break the hold. Naito lays in some more kicks before Elgin smashes Naito with a forearm. Elgin sends Naito back into the corner and catches Naito as he tried a leap. Elgin sits him on the top rope and goes up for a superplex but Naito breaks that up. He tries a sunset flip but Elgin blocks it. Naito counters with a kick right to the knee sending Elgin down in pain. As they get up, Naito lays in some kicks but he tries to whip Elgin into the ropes and bends down for a body drop, but Elgin catches him and nearly gets a powerbomb. Naito counters but Elgin counters and tosses Naito around like nothing in a suplex.
We come back from the commercial as both guys are slowly getting up. Elgin gets in some elbows and lands a scissor kick, which for a moose of a man like Elgin is pretty damn impressive. Naito gets sent into the corner and Elgin crashes right into him He sets Naito up for a suplex but Naito hits a knee to the head to counter. Naito goes for a running kick but misses and Elgin military presses him and powerslams him down to the mat. Elgin picks Naito up and clotheslines him back and front a number of times. He goes for the big running kick but Naito catches him. Elgin hits the enziguri again and the German suplex! Poor Naito is gonna be guten tagged in the brain after that. Elgin tries for a powerbomb but Naito counters and gets Elgin in the corner. Naito ties up Elgin’s knee and Naito lands the dropkick right on the knee. Naito lands a legsweep into a dropkick over the top rope. Elgin rolls out to the middle of the ring. Naito goes up and lands a big missile dropkick. Naito locks in a version of a figure four leg lock. Elgin gets to the ropes and the ref breaks the hold eventually as Naito won’t release the hold.
Naito spits on Elgin as he gets up. He tries for a tornado DDT but Elgin blocks it and hits the falcon arrow! Big Mike is an amazing guy to watch when he does stuff like this. Both guys struggle up and Naito lands an elbow as Elgin hits his own. They go back and forth before Naito goes for the knee. He tries for something but Elgin grabs him and lands two suplexes and a throw German Suplex to ring the challenger’s bell.
Back from the commercial as AXS is filling time here. It happens sometimes on this show. Naito is prone as Elgin crawls over and gets up. Elgin sets him up in the corner and Elgin goes up. He tries the superplex again but Naito counters again and sends him down with an eye rake. Naito goes for the missile dropkick but Mike catches him by the ankles and goes for the pin. Only a two count. Elgin slams Naito down but goes to the turnbuckle and climbs up for some reason. He leaps with a knee but Naito moves and Elgin lands right on the bad knee. Naito hits a low dropkick to the knee. Naito comes running in but Elgin lands the spinning back fist. Elgin lands a kick but Naito lands another spinning DDT. The cover attempt gets two.
Naito follows Elgin in the corner and sets him on the buckle. Naito goes for the top rope rana but Elgin blocks it, but Naito gets it anyway and gets him over! Naito grabs hold on Elgin into a short knee scissors to try for the submission, but Elgin is too strong and gets right to the ropes. Naito gets up and lays in more kicks and sends Elgin to the apron. Naito follows him out and attacks the knee some more but Elgin scoops him up on his shoulders and drives him down on the apron of the ring!
Another commercial as we come back to both guys on the floor. The count is on as Elgin rolls in first and Naito is on the ring apron at 17. Elgin grabs Naito on the apron and lifts Naito into a suplex from the apron into a second rope suplex! Naito goes splat in the ring but somehow kicks out of the pin. Elgin goes for the powerbomb but Naito grabs the Ref as he reverses the powerbomb into a rana. With the ref down Bushi and Evil hit the ring and beat Elgin down but Tanahashi and Kushida come out for a fight! Sanada comes out and tips the scales back for LiJ. Tanahashi goes down from Evil and then Kushida gets black mist in the eyes to take Kushida out. Elgin starts swinging and takes down LiJ. He slams Evil and Sanada at the same time(!) and they go to the floor. He picks up the lighter Bushi and throws him outside on top of his buddies. Naito then rolls in and hits his Destino finisher but Elgin gets up. Naito tries for a second one but Elgin counters and goes for the pin. The ref slowly rolls into the ring but Naito kicks out!
Back to normal with the other guys all taken out, Elgin stands up but Naito keeps kicking the knee. Naito bounces off the ropes but Elgin goes for the clothesline. Naito blocks it, only to get run over by the other arm. Elgin looks for the buckle bomb and Elgin scoops him up on the shoulders, but Naito counters into the Destino! Naito lands the second one and goes for the cover and gets the three count and we have a new Intercontinental Champion!
Naito tries to get up as everyone is down around the ring including the ref. The rest of LiJ climb into the ring as Naito is feeling this one. The ring announcer and the others are kind of antsy here since LiJ is known to attack people.
We come back from another commercial with Elgin backstage and he says he doesn’t want to talk. Back in the ring, Naito has the mic. They are loving Naito in Kobe! The belt came to him he says. He asks what is he going to do with it. Tranquillo he says. Relax, don’t rush it. The crowd chants for him! Naito takes the belt and tosses it in the air and just walks out of the ring. Typical Naito.
Backstage Naito says the belt has an eye for finding good people. He says the belt drags him down and he won’t main event the Tokyo Dome show in January, so he’ll just have to elevate the belt. Actually, that’s not bad logic.
Studio words as Naito says that he didn’t care about the belt. He’s not in the main event for WrestleKingdom but he gets this belt since he’s on a roll. It’s a funny belt that way. We then get our so longs for the night.
This match wasn’t bad but seemed to lack just a little something. It didn’t feel quite as dramatic as some of the main events that have been shown lately, but this one wasn’t a stinker either. The side effect of making an hour show out of a 30-minute match is that AVS will put in a lot of commercials to fill the time, but the show itself as a decent, passable show.
Next week Kenny Omega defends his Tokyo Dome Title shot against the Samurai warrior, Hirooki Goto! See you then!