Thursday, May 16, 2019

Revisiting Pro Wrestling NOAH Destiny 2005!

It’s long been considered one of the best pro wrestling shows of the 2000s, if not one of the best of all-time. But almost 15 years later, does the universally acclaimed puro card still hold up?

By: JimboX

When I use the phrases “Tokyo Dome” and “wrestling,” odds are, your mind wanders instinctually to New Japan’s annual Jan. 4 show. However, the 30-year-old ‘rasslin mecca has been a haven for faked fisticuffin’ since the late 1980s, with virtually every truly international promotion worth a hoot having run at least one or two or 30 shows at the Big Egg over the last three decades.

The WWF, WCW, UWF, SWS and even the friggin’ PWFG have all held at least one major event underneath Tokyo’s most iconic sporting structure, which makes it all the more bamboozling that All Japan Pro Wrestling — during what is widely regarded as the single best decade-run by any promotion ever — only held two Tokyo Dome shows in the 1990s, and even then they waited until 1998 to do so.

Granted, the hollowed out husk of All Japan would run a couple of more Tokyo Dome events in the early 2000s — complete with the likes of Joe “I was Random Task in Austin Powers, lost my only UFC fight by testicle poundage and later got sent down the river for gang rape and literally KILLED my cell mate in the pokey” Son coming yay close to legitimate main event stature — but Pro Wrestling NOAH (essentially, the core pieces of the “real” AJPW that left the promotion en masse in 2000) waited until 2004 to host their first ever Tokyo Dome show. And judging by the estimated 58,000 attendance metric, it proved to be more than a rousing success, making a follow-up show a year later a foregone conclusion.

Which brings us to Destiny 2005, held July 18, 2005. With an estimated attendance figure of 62,000 — papered, unpapered, legit, inflated, whatever — it HAS to be the single biggest show the company has ever produced, if not the promotion’s metaphorical high water mark. Simply put, NOAH was as never as star-studded, popular and lucrative as it was at this specific point in time, and considering the company hasn’t had another show inside the Dome since (and have indeed found themselves regularly running shows in front of hundreds of people), I think it’s safe to say this particular event represents NOAH at its absolute apex — culturally, financially and in terms of in-ring product.

Back then it was celebrated as the Card of the Year by virtually everybody with two working brain cells, even besting the super-beloved “One Night Stand” ECW PPV for Davey Meltzer’s highly-coveted “Show of the Year” honors. Alas, almost a decade a half down the road, does the universally adored puro powerhouse stand the test of time and still deliver all the head-dropping, face-kneeing, vertebrae-crushing grandeur we remember?

Oh, I think you know the drill here. How about we fire up this FOUR AND A HALF HOUR long, four DVD-RW set and party like the housing bubble ain’t ever gonna’ bust and New Orleans is still above water, why don’t we?

Man, do I LOVE those flashy onscreen Japanese pro-wrestling graphics. Rather fittingly, the seats inside the Dome itself are nearly the same hue as the Pro Wrestling NOAH logo, which is a cool visual, if nothing else. There’s this weird ring set up where there’s this long-ass ramp leading to the squared circle and there’s this 20-row-or so deep diamond encircling it. Then there’s a ton of open stadium space betwixt them and the fans in the grandstands. To NOAH’s credit, the Dome does look fairly full … you know, except for that one portion with LITERALLY nobody in it for 500 or so seats directly in front of the hard camera set-up. In hindsight, yeah, they probably could’ve found a better way to make it look like people actually paid money to watch this shit, I suppose.

Jerking the proverbial curtain on this thing is Takashi Sugiura, SUWA and Masaji Aoyagi vs. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Mitsuo Momota and Katsuhiko Nakajima. The latter, of course, are representing Kensuke Office, while the former — who come out to “Fell in Love With A Girl” by The White Stripes, of all things — are dyed-in-the-wool NOAH loyalists. Looks like it’s going to be SUWA (in the long black and red pants) taking on Nakajima to begin. SUWA blows some boogers on him and Nakajima starts head kicking like he was Cro-Cop. Now Kikuchi is the legal man. Takashi gets tagged in and he and Kikuchi start feeding each other forearm shots by the bushel. Now Momota’s old ass is tagged in and he starts chest slapping Takashi good. Mimosa lands the oldest, fattest, saggiest DDT of all time and Nakajima is tagged back in. Time for Takashi to eat a TON of kicks. Nakajima lands a German, but Takashi kicks out at two. Now Aoyagi is tagged in, and boy, if there was ever a weak link for any trios match in history, it’d be this guy. Still, he’s got some nice looking kicks, I’ll give him that. And hey, his Mongolian thrusts ain’t too shabby, either. SUWA is tagged back in and Nakajima eats a flying shoulder charge. Takashi is tagged back in and he kicks Nakajima in the face. Hard. LOL at SUWA hitting an elbow drop RIGHT on Nakajima’s testicles, and LOL even more when Aoyagi gives him a swift punt to the twig and berries on the follow-through. Aoyagi floors Nakajima with a chest punt, but Katsuhiko kicks out and connects on a spinning kick of his own. Momota, who looks WAY too much like The Miz’s dad for it to be a coincidence, is briefly tagged in, and then Kikuchi re-enters the fray. SUWA is back in, and Kikuchi Germans him good. Kikuchi connects on a one-handed power bomb, but Aoyagi kicks out. Then everybody gets their shots in, culminating with SUWA dropping Katsuhiko FACE first in an aborted flapjack. Then SUWA makes good with a lariat on Kikuchi and a DEMONIC Tiger Driver to secure the three-count. Well, that was, rather short, wasn’t it? Nothing offensive, to be sure, but it didn’t have anywhere enough time to build into anything truly worthwhile. Let’s give it a basic [** ½] and keep chugging along, why don’t we?

Up next, it’s Go Shiozaki and Tamon Honda vs. Muhammad Yone and Takeshi Morishima. BTW, I’m pretty sure Yone is the ONLY Japanese Muslim with an Afro in the history of humanity. And while Morishima isn’t peak fat here, he’s definitely got some lard on him. Ironically enough, Go Pearl Harbors his opponents before the bell, and then he hits Morishima with a plancha to the outside. Then Morishima botches a clothesline, but at least he partially redeems himself with the slow-as-molasses judo toss on the follow-through. Then he locks in an abdominal stretch, and it indeed locks abominable. Yone is tagged in and he clotheslines Honda, rocking his good red tracksuit. You know, when Muhammad Yone is only the SECOND goofiest-dressed person in a match, you’re DEFINITELY dealing with some triple-A kitsch, buddy. Yone works a head squeeze on Go, then he converts it into this weird head scissors sub. OK, Morishima is back in. I like the backwards K bandaid on his back, for some odd reason. Go with a back body suplex on Morishima, with Honda going for a double STO, I think. He hits Takeshi with a back body drop, then Yone eats an even better looking one. Honda briefly locks Morishima in sleeper hold, then he hits the fattest German suplex of all time before Go drop kicks his blubbery arse for the two count. Go lands a yakuza kick and a HUGE German, but Morishima kicks out of that, too. Go with a textbook body slam, but he can’t make good on the ensuing moonsault. Yone with a running knee in the corner, then he goes up top. He lands the leg drop on Go, but Go kicks out. Go locks in a spinning cradle (yeah, it’s goofy as all hell) and Yone kicks out. Go with a body slam and he goes for the moonsault again. This time, he lands it, but Morishima breaks up the pin attempt. Morishima murder death kills Go with a spinning uranage, and Yone hits a follow-up clothesline. Go kicks out. Morishima hoists Go on his shoulders and Yone hits a spinning kick. Go kicks out. Then Yone lands a spinning muscle buster, and yep, that’s putting Go down for good. OK, now that was fun, and about as good as a barely eight minute-long match could’ve been — it’s no classic, but give them credit for achieving so much with what little they were granted to work with. I’d consider it a respectable [** ¾] outing, personally. And the tape, it doth continue.

Well, the next time someone tells you NOAH in its prime was devoid of absurd bullshit ...

Alright, now it’s time for the requisite eight-man tag all-star cluster schmaz, with Akitoshi Saito, Kishin Kawabata, Masao Inoue and Shiro Koshinaka vs Akira Taue, Haruka Eigen, Jun Izumida and Takuma Sano. And all I can say is man, do I feel bad for Taue here — I know there’s only so much space for a show with 30 people on the roster, but shit, don’t you think he’s done enough for a slightly better slot on a show of this caliber? Folks, I’m not even going to pretend that I’m able to tell any of the Dark Agents apart, so I’m warning you in advance that the play-by-play on this one is going to be very lacking. Anyway, Taue is obviously the biggest dude in the match, but Haruka Eigen is definitely stealing the spotlight with his neon pink undies. So it’s Taue and Saito to begin, and it doesn’t take long for Taue to start hitting his patented butt bomb in the corner. Then Saito starts bonking Taue with HIS booty and then Masao Inoue starts going for butt bonks and the announcer acts like he’s having an epileptic seizure over just how exciting all of this mess is. So Eigen gets tagged in and Saito eats kicks galore in the corner. Then Sano gets the tag and he engages in fisticuffs with Inoue then Saito hits a stalling vertical brainbuster on Izumida that takes like a minute to land and then Eigen is tagged back in and he starts headbutting and chopping’ everybody and Taue gets tagged in he slaps the LOVE out of miscellaneous people’s mouths and I’m not really sure if this is supposed to be a “comedy” match or a straight-up one anymore.Well, if it’s a comedy match, it’s the one with the STIFFEST kicks in Japanese ‘rasslin history, that’s for sure. Taue lands a running boot and a quick lariat, but Kawabata kicks out. Time for more butt bompin. What is this, a Nintendo platform or something? So Saito lands a spinning kick and Koshinaka gets tagged in. Holy hell, this match HAS to have the all-time record for most booty-bashes in it and it’s not even close. So Taue wrecks everybody and there’s so more tomfoolery and then finally, Inoue rolls Izumida into a small packaged and yep, that’s what gives us the three count. In the post match, the Dark Agents hold up a placard for what appears to be an advertisement for a meat product of some kind. Well, that, or an ad for penile reconstructive surgery. Needless to say, that was the worst thing about the show, a totally needless squandering of 10 minutes that only served to give all those old fogies something to do because they’d cry about it to the Yakuza otherwise. The best I can afford something so hokey and uneventful is a ho-hum [**] — so who did Taue piss off at the NOAH executive offices to land him in that mess?

Now there’s this one gangly Japanese twink who looks like an NPC from the Persona games talking about who-knows-what, and there’s a whole bunch of shots of little kids in the crowd chewing on plastic masks. Remember: the Japanese INVENTED autism. Anyhoo, that’s our cue for the next match-up, as the JapaTwink escorts Mushiking Terry (who is LITERALLY the Green Power Ranger wearing a Rey Mysterio mask and a green sock over his face) to the ring. Then some dude in a black robe wearing plastic spikes on his shoulders starts screaming on the microphone, and that’s our cue for BLACK MASK to amble his way to ringside. Of course, this being Japan, he’s dressed the exact same as Mushiking, except his costume is periwinkle instead of green. Oh, and Black Mask’s actual mask is more purple than black, but hey, that’s what two bombs will do to your collective psyche 70 years later. Man, it sure does make my heart sick watching all these Japanese fathers bonding with their kids; I wish my dad would’ve taken me to see real-life anime characters punch each other in the face. That, and/or pay child support. For those of you wondering, that’s Kotaro Suzuki portraying Mushiking and Ricky Marvin portraying Black Mask, who is also called Mushiking Joker, depending on which website you consult. Oh, by the way: both of these characters are derived from a Sega Pokemon ripoff arcade game about insectoid combat to the death. So, long story short: don’t even ATTEMPT to make sense of any of this shit. Terry with tilt-a-whirl headscissors early and an arm drag. Black Mask gets tossed to the outside and Terry lands a flying plancha to the outside. The kids are LOVING this stuff right here. But then again, they probably enjoy eating crayons, too, so why should we allow THEM to be gaugers of anything? Black Mask lands a Rocker Dropper over the top rope, but Terry kicks out. Man, you HAVE to dig Black Mask’s fine black mesh shirt.  Black Mask with a flying senton off the top rope, but Terry gets his shoulders off the mat at two. Black Mask works a modified face lock and then an octopus hold. Mask with a Russian leg sweep and Terry lands another flying head scissors. Terry with an arm drag and a flash hurricanrana that almost breaks Black Mask’s neck. Now Black Mask is working a Crippler Crossface. Of course, Terry safely makes it to the ropes to break up the hold. Black Mask with a jumping back kick and Terry rolls to the outside. Now they’re both perched atop the top rope, resulting in Black Mask landing a BOSS super swinging neck breaker. Shit, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one before, actually. Black Mask follows suit with a BEAUTIFUL diving headbutt, but Terry kicks out. Black Mask with a Michinoku Driver, but Terry kicks out of that, too. Terry with a flipping victory roll for a near fall, then he connects on a missile dropkick. Terry with a 619 to Black Mask’s ribs and then he makes good on a bridging dragon suplex for the three-count. Well … that was certainly sudden and shit. To be fair, the two competitors didn’t really have much to work with here, but for what it was — and wasn’t — I suppose it wasn’t that bad. Let’s give the two Mushikings a solid [** ¾] for effort, and also lament the fact that NOAH never partnered with Nintendo and gave us a fuckin’ Pikmin themed match starring Minoru Suzuki as Captain Olimar.

Alright, things are going to pick up considerably as we shift into our first championship bout of the evening, KENTA vs. Yoshinobu Kanemura for the GHC Junior Heavyweight strap. Of course, KENTA comes out to “Art and Life” by Twista, which has to be one of the low-key greatest entrance themes in pro wrestling history. Meanwhile, Kanemaru comes out swinging the GHC Junior strap like a helicopter, looking like an autistic Japanese Bobby Hill and shit. KENTA gets right in his goddamn face as soon as he enters the ring and it's fucking great. Not gonna lie, KENTA kinda' reminds me of Booger from "Revenge of the Nerds" — trust me, once you see it, you can't UNSEE it. KENTA hits a running knee strike as soon as the bell rings, and both motherfuckers are just WHALING on each either with slaps and stiff kicks and it's a thing of beauty. We have a brief standstill following the opening melee and we have a more traditional collar and elbow tie-up. KENTA whiffs on the high kick and Kanemaru works a hammerlock. There's some flipping and flopping around on the mat and that's our cue for another standstill. Now KENTA is working a side headlock, and the camera catches all of those empty seats in the stands. Whew, they need them some tarps for this shit BAD. KENTA stomps on Kanemaru some more and he throws his carcass over the ropes. Kanemaru eats ringpost and KENTA goes right back to kickin'. Back in the ring and KENTA applies a half hammerlock of his own. KENTA with a beautiful hurricanrana and an even more beautiful hip toss into a side headlock. Kanemaru takes some more stiff kicks and all I can focus on are all of the beer girls walking up and down the aisle carrying backpacks that make them look like pastel-hued Ghostbusters. KENTA works a straight armbar and Kanemaru makes it to the ropes. KENTA fuckin' punts Kanemaru into the corner and lifts him up for a superplex, but he can't stick it. Instead, Kanemaru counters it into an AWESOME leaping DDT off the top rope, which I don't think I've ever seen in a pro wrestling match before. KENTA rolls to the outside and Kanemaru jumps off the apron so he can hit his foe with ANOTHER leaping DDT, because he's COOOOLD-BLOODED. Back in the ring and Kanemaru hits a snapmare and makes KENTA smell his balls until he can make the rope break. Time for some more brawling on the outside, complete, with Kanemaru stomping on KENTA's head while he's dangling off the guardrail like a goomba in Super Mario World. KENTA beats the 20-count and Kanemaru locks in another sleeperhold. Then he racks KENTA up in the Tree of Woe for a sliding dropkick right to the goddamn face. But it's only good enough for a two-count. Kanemaru applies a modified Camel Clutch in the middle of the ring, but KENTA powers out and manages to land a back body drop. Kanemaru with an attempted axehandle smash off the top rope and KENTA kicks him in the gut and hits a powerslam. Then KENTA kicks the shit out of Kanemaru, concluding his foot-fest with a springboard dropkick to the back of the head. KENTA goes up top for a hurricanrana, but Kanemaru counters it into a botched powerbomb for a two-count. He follows suit with a frog splash, but KENTA likewise kicks out of that. So he lands ANOTHER leaping DDT off the top rope and KENTA kicks out of that, too. He goes for a moonsault, but KENTA rolls out of the way and hits a Fisherman Brainbuster, but he's too winded to make a pin attempt. He waits a few seconds and lands a German suplex, but Kanemaru kicks out of that at 2 and a half. KENTA climbs the top turnbuckle, but Kanemaru jacks his jaw. There is a PHENOMENAL counter-fest with KENTa ultimately landing a Tiger Driver and Kanemaru hitting a fucking BOSS brainbuster, only for KENTA to kick out at 2.9999. Kanemaru hits the moonsault, but KENTA kicks out of that shit, too. The brainbuster? Yeah, KENTA kicks out of that, as well. So the camera pans around and shows a different angle of the Dome and, this time, the fucker looks filled to super no vacancy. Weird, huh? Kanemaru puts KENTA on the top rope and threatens a superplex, but KENTA counters it into a twisting, small package fisherman's neckbreaker. Shit, that was all cool-looking and stuff. KENTA powerbombs Kanemaru into the corner and then gives him a sitout powerbomb. Time for more kicks, motherfucker! Kanemaru gets a 2.999 on a cheap roll-up, but KENTA fires back with double running knees to the face and then it's time to GO 2 SLEEP ... but Kanemaru KICKS OUT! KENTA with a ton of high kicks and another running knee to the face, and THAT gives us the three-count, buckaroos. Well, not that you really need me to tell you this, but holy shit, that was a fuckin' awesome match right there, with the kind of hard-hitting intensity you sadly just don't see a whole lot of in Japanese 'rasslin these days. I'd feel rather comfortable giving that one a stellar [**** ¼] rating, meaning it's DEFINITELY one worth going out of your way to check out, if for some stupid-ass reason you've never seen it before.

Believe it or not, kids, at one point Hideo Itami was actually pretty fuckin' awesome.

Alright, time for our next bout on the card, Minoru Suzuki and Naomichi Marufuji vs. Jun Akiyama and Makoto Hashi for the GHC Tag Team Championship. Hashi comes out wearing what appears to be a jock strap on his head, while Akiyama comes out looking like the kind of guy that fucks everybody in a Showtime movie that comes on at 2 in the morning on a Tuesday. For whatever reason, Marufuji comes out wearing a robe made out of aluminum foil and a lucha libre crow mask, which, uh, isn't all that intimidating, to be honest with you, fam. And Suzuki, of course, comes out to "Kaze Ni Nare," which BETTER be played at my funeral. Fuck, Suzuki ALMOST looks young here — I mean, he's not exactly what I would call handsome, but at least his visage won't make you flinch at first glance look he does now. Since all these guys are pretty awesome, they all get the streamer treatment, except for Minoru, who would probably steal it for toilet paper or something. Looks like it's going to be Hashi and Marufuji to begin. Well, it doesn't take long for Hashi to lariat-o his ass off the apron and follow suit with a SATANIC diving headbutt to the outside, no? Jun gets the tag and I think he's distracted by Maru's shiny aluminum foil britches so he makes him tag in Suzuki. There's some grappling against the ropes and Jun gives Suzuki a clean break. Then Minoru bitch slaps Jun, because that's just the kind of guy he is, I suppose. We've got some more scuffling against the ropes and Maru gets tagged in. He punts Jun good in the corner and feeds him a few chops for good measure. Then Akiyama gets pissed and fucking big boots that Japanigga and tags in Hashi, who proceeds to chop Fuji like a motherfucker in the corner. Fuji tries to mount a comeback, then Suzuki drags Hashi to the outside. Maru goes for a sunset flip powerbomb, but he can't quite land it until Minoru gives Hashi a quick boot to the noggin. Now all four men are brawling on the ramp and Suzuki locks Jun in a guillotine choke before planting him on the metal grating with a DDT. Hashi just beats the 20-count and Suzuki and Marufuji immediately double team him like to fat people on a bag of mini-Snickers. Suzuki locks Hashi in a Camel Clutch and rips that jockstrap-looking bandage off his skull and Marufuji dropkicks him right in the teeth. Then Hashi and Suzuki get into a palm strike-a-thon with Minoru ultimately dropping Hashi with a knee to the solar plexus. Marufuji is tagged in and he and Suzuki take turns kicking the fuck outta' Hashi. Marufuji works a side anaconda choke (kinda') and Suzuki gets the tag. Time for Hashi to eat more boot leather. There's another mini slap-off and Suzuki hits a dropkick in the corner. Now Hashi's in the Tree of Woe. Fuji does some sort of funky dropkick on him and then he climbs the top turnbuckle. He connects on the frog splash, but Hashi nonetheless kicks out at two. Hashi hits a Fisherman's Brainbuster and Jun gets the hot tag. Fuji gets flipped out of the ring onto Suzuki on the arena floor and Marufuji hits back to back sliding dropkicks before tagging in Minoru. SLAP FEST 2005 TIME, MOTHERFUCKERS. Hashi gets tagged in and he chops Minoru some more, getting in a few spleen kicks when the opportunity arises. Suzuki locks in the Octopus Hold, then Jun runs in and breaks up the hold. Hashi hits an enzuigiri and tags Jun back in. Maru gets the tag and he immediately gets backbody-dropped and powerbombed good. Alas Fuji kicks out, only to get caught in a NASTY guillotine choke, which Suzuki breaks up. Hashi hits Suzuki with an inverted DDT on the apron and Akiyama shucks Marufuji off the top rope on a Frankensteiner attempt. There's a billion counters and Jun finally hits the Exploder. Hashi gets the tag and hits the diving headbutt, but the ref won't count the pinfall 'cause Hashi ain't the legal man. So Jun tags in Hashi and he hits another diving headbutt, except this time, Fuji kicks out at two. Suzuki breaks up another nearfall and Hashi MURDER DEATH KILLS Fuji with a lariat and fisherman's buster ... only for Marufuji to kick out at two! Hashi sets Fuji on the top rope, but Maru escapes and lands a Pele kick. That's our cue for Sliced Bread No. 2 (or whatever the fuck they call that in Japan), but he's too tired to make the automatic cover. With Suzuki and Jun both splayed out on the stadium floor, Maru sets Hashi on the top rope for ... something. Then Jun German suplexes Marufuji OFF THE TOP ROPE, only for Suzuki to break the pin attempt at 2.9999! Marufuji lands Slice Bread No.2 on Hashi (using Suzuki as an impromptu ringpost) then Suzuki gives Hashi a Gotch piledriver. Maru lands a missile dropkick to Hashi's head, but Jun breaks up the pin. Now Hashi's juicing a little bit. Suzuki puts him on the top rope and Marufuji climbs over him. With Suzuki locking Jun in the adjacent ring ropes, Marufuji hits a BEAUTIFUL Shiranui off the top rope for the 1, 2 and 3. Well, not that we really expected anything less with such a star-studded lineup, but I can safely assure you folks that bout was FUCKIN' ACE and you ought to see it. That's an easy [**** ¼] caliber match for me, and holy shit, will it have you Jonesing to see Marufuji and Suzuki start taggin' again, for sure.

Now it’s time for Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Takeshi Rikio for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Tanahashi — looking way skinnier and with far shorter and darker hair than you modern-day Nu-Japanlets probably envision him — comes out wearing a cape with the New Japan logo on it, because that’s employer loyalty right there, Holmes. Meanwhile, Rikio is a kind of fat dude whose head makes up approximately two-thirds of his entire body weight. They show Yoshihiro Takayama doing color commentary duties and everybody in the Dome collectively flips their wigs. Well, I for one had no idea he was THAT popular in his native land. Rikio, obviously the larger man, works the arm early, but Tanahashi is hitting some decent-looking counters and reversals. Then Rikio throat thrusts Hiroshi in the corner, but he whiffs on the big Mongolian chop shortly thereafter. Hiroshi, really looking like a young Ricky Steamboat, almost capitalizes on a quick pin attempt, but Rikio kicks out. Tanahashi denies Rikio the clean break, and then Rikio wrenches in a mean headlock. Rikio bullies Hiroshi into the corner and feeds him a ton of chops, then he tries to bearhug him into unconsciousness. Tanahashi escapes, but Rikio hits him with a shoulder charge almost immediately. Time for some outside brawling. Hiroshi dropkicks Rikio off the the apron, then he lands a couple of standing elbow drops and a rolling sexton back in the ring for a two-count. Now he’s going for a rear naked choke. He briefly segues into a reverse dragon sleeper, then Rikio grabs the ropes to break the hold. Rikio with a back body drop  and another shoulder charge. He sinks in his own sleeper hold and transitions to a reverse dragon sleeper. Hiroshi escapes, only to get hit by back to back avalanche clotheslines in the corner. Then Rikio goes up top for a flying crossbody. Yep, just a two-count. Rikio follows suit with a stalling brain buster. Just a two there, as well. Hiroshi gets powerbombed back first into the corner and the ref checks on him to make sure he isn’t paralyzed and stuff. Rikio gives no damns, though, and immediately perches his foe back on the top rope. Oh hell, he’s going for a super back body drop. Never mind, Hiroshi throws him off and lands a funky looking moonsault instead. Then he goes for a suicide dive to the outside, but it looks like he sailed completely over Rikio’s head and conked his own noggin on the guardrail. OUCH. Of course, Tanahashi refuses to acknowledge the botch, so he decides to go for two decidedly less screwed-up topes back to back to make up for it. Back in the ring and Hiroshi hits a top rope missile dropkick and Germans the defending GHC champ a couple of times. It’s shades of Chris Benoit, except without the whole killing your entire family thing, really. Then he locks Rikio in a reverse dragon sleeper, because apparently that’s what all the kids were doing in Japan back in 2005. Rikio, however, butt scooches all the way to the other side of the ring to get a boot on the rope and break up the hold. Tanahashi goes for a roll-up, but Rikio is too fat to go down. TANAHASHI WITH THE SLING BLADE! Of course, Rikio kicks out. Then he clobbers Tanahashi with a lariat out of nowhere. Hiroshi, however kicks out. That’s our cue for a mean slap fight, which culminates with Rikio going for a NASTY sitout powerbomb … which Tanahashi kicks out of. Hiroshi goes for a quick roll-up, but he only gets a two. Rikio tackles Hiroshi in the corner and chops him some more. Hiroshi kicks out of another lariat and then he MURDER DEATH KILLS Hiroshi with his patented MUSO finisher, which is basically the most Satanic looking shoot Rock Bottom you could ever imagine an obese Japanese man using on another human being. Anyway, Tanahashi ain’t kick out of that, and such allows Rikio to make the facile three-count. Well, it was certainly an entertaining match, but a noticeable step down in quality from the last two matches. I’d still give it a respectable [*** ¾] rating, though … although you can DEFINITELY find better bouts featuring both men from the same epoch.

Hey, who’s game for a veteran legend versus brash, cocky up and comer showcase? Well, we’re getting precisely that in our next match with Genichiro Tenryu vs. Yoshinari Ogawa. In case you were wondering, Tenryu was a spry 55 years old at the time of this bout, and boy, does his mug show every hour of it. We get your standard collar and elbow tie-up to begin, and Ogawa gives his elder a clean break. Tenryu returns the favor, but when he goes to shake Ogawa’s hand he sneaks in a quick gut kick. Of course, this leads to Tenryu chopping THE SHIT out of Ogawa, whom wisely rolls to the outside for a breather. Back in the ring and Ogawa works an arm wrench. Tenryu clocks Ogawa right in the face to break the hold, then he drops him with a shoulder charge. Say what you will, but Tenryu could bump surprisingly well for a man his age. Ogawa slams his foe’s leg across the outside metal ring post and then he does the old Bret Hart Figure Four special for good measure. Ogawa continues to work the leg in the corner, only for Tenryu to grab him and start chopping him down like he was firewood or something. Then Ogawa slams Tenryu’s skull into the turnbuckles a couple of times and hits a flash DDT. He goes for a double wing submission (it’s pretty basic looking, but shoot-wise, it probably hurts like hell), but Tenryu gets to the ropes. He lands an enzuigiri on Ogawa and applies his OWN double wing submission hold. Ogawa gets to the ropes, but Tenryu refuses to break the hold. He finally lets go and boots Ogawa in the head a couple of times for good measure. Now he’s going back to spamming the double wing. Ogawa with an eye poke and he uses head scissors to flip Tenryu to the outside. Ogawa grabs one of those skinny ass Japanese buffet tables and sets it up against the apron. He threatens to back body drop Tenryu through it, but Genichiro just grabs him and clangs his head against it before rolling him back into the ring. Tenryu hits a lariat, but Ogawa kicks out. He kicks out of the follow-up brainbuster, too. Ogawa lands an enzuigiri and clobbers Tenryu’s head against the turnbuckle some more. Then he lands a back body drop and kicks Tenryu while he’s down, that no-good cretin. We have ourselves a good old fashioned chop-off and Tenryu momentarily drops Ogawa with back-to-back lariats. Tenryu then hits his snap brainbuster finisher, but Ogawa kicks out of that, too. So he lands one more lariat, and that’s all she wrote, fellas. Eh, it was better than it probably had any right to be, but I still really wouldn’t consider it anything worth going out of your way to see. Let’s give it a respectable [** ¾] rating and keep chugging along, why don’t we?

Just so you know, you will never see anything this manly in your life ever again.

Alright folks. Unplug the TV, shut off your phone and feed the dog Benadryl if you have to, it’s time for KENSUKE SASAKI vs. KENTA KOBASHI. Of course, this is universally considered one of the best matches of the 2000s — with some even considering it to be THE match of the decade — but no spoilers in advance for all of you Johnny-Come-Latelies. Sasaki arises from the metal grating, Pride FC-style, with sparklers going off in the background a’la Goldberg’s entrance. Then “Grand Sword” starts playing and the dude on commentary starts FREAKING OUT legit and Kobashi slowly arises from the Terminator 2 elevator while pretty much everybody in the Dome is screaming “KO-BASH-I” at the top of their lungs. Man, it’s hard to find a wrestler that can truly be described as universally beloved, but I’ll be goddamned to heck if Kenta isn’t close enough to precisely that. Meanwhile, Sasaki is just standing there in the ring, with absolutely ZERO emotions in his face and it’s fuckin’ fantastic in every conceivable way. This match hasn’t even gotten to the introductions part and it’s already more epic than 99 percent of the stuff you see in modern day ‘rasslin. Sasaki gets a pretty good reaction, but I was kinda’ surprised by how few streamers Kobashi received on his intro. Maybe there was a shortage of party supplies in Tokyo that year? The bell rings and the fans ERUPT. Man, I’m getting a LEGIT adrenaline rush just watching these two dudes circle each other. Sasaki grabs Kobashi and lands the stiffest back body drop you’ll ever see and starts stomping on Kenta’s neck. But then Kobashi gets right back up like a big, burly Japanese T-800 and he hits Sasaki with a back body drop of his own. Of course, Kensuke’s got a neck like a cinder block so he no sells it and clobbers Kobashi with a lariat. Both men roll to the outside for a respite. Then there’s this great moment where they just MEAN MUG one another from opposite sides of the ring and it’s so manly it could turn Elton John into a puss-crusher. Then they get back in the ring and have a good, old fashioned test-of-strength and they yell in each other’s faces and Sasaki hits bridging suplex and Kobashi no sells it and Kenta knees Sasaki a couple of times and then he karate chops Kensuke on the chest and then Kobashi hits a jumping chop to his Adam’s apple and Kensuke kicks out so Kobashi has to lock in a face-wrench instead. Kobashi drags him to the outside and then he lands back to back jumping karate chops to the sternum, then he DDTs Sasaki on the (padded) Dome floor. Kobashi does a flying flop to the outside and it just looks MANLY AF. See kids, you don’t need to do none of that twisting, flipping shit to make a rasslin match feel INTENSE. Back in the ring and Kobashi locks in a guillotine check. The ref makes him break the hold and Sasaki lands a top rope Frankensteiner. Then he goes up top again for a flying lariat, but he doesn’t connect on all of it. Kobashi kicks out at two and rolls to the outside. Sasaki climbs the adjacent turnbuckle and hits a crossbody, although really, it looks more like he just fell off the thing and landed on Kobashi, which let’s face it, still probably hurt like all shades of hell. Sasaki slings Kobashi back into the ring Kobashi slowly rises to his feet like some sort of zombie that’s really good at throwing people directly on the top of their heads without somehow killing them in the process. That’s our cue for Sasaki to lands a running bulldog, but Kobashi kicks out of that shit at one. Sasaki kicks Kenta a couple of times, and then, THE CHOPPENING OF ALL CHOPPENINGS DOTH BEGIN. Without hyperbole, these two Asiatic assholes proceed to spend the next FIVE MINUTES of the match doing nothing but karate chopping each other’s nipples off, until their entire upper bodies are grotesquely swollen cadaver-purple and half the people in the first row have been drowned in titty sweat. In the grand pantheon of all-time Puroresu moments, this has to be one of the top five greatest sequences ever in the history of Japanese professional wrestling, and if you’re not marking out by the time Kobashi FINALLY drops Sasaki after pectoral chop No. 498, you sir, are a no good piece of shit and I hate you. So yeah, like I was saying, Kobashi drops Sasaki after five minutes of uninterrupted chest clobbering, but both men are exhausted. Kobashi lunges at Sasaki and gets power slammed for his efforts. He climbs the top rope and Kenta pursues. Kobashi lands a top rope brainbuster, but Sasaki no sells it. So Kobashi says “no, eff you” in Japan and hits a BRUTAL half-nelson suplex that turns Sasaki’s spine into an accordion. And for good measure, he hits ANOTHER ONE, because apparently, Japan doesn’t have any kind of worker safety measures whatsoever. Kobashi starts slapping Sasaki again, and then Kensuke just yanks him off the mat and hits him with a package brainbuster on the Dome floor. I’m not sure if that Sasaki’s wife or Kobashi’s wife they show on the Jumbo Screen, but she looks totally disgusted and it’s a magnificent visual. Kobashi rolls back into the ring at the 19-count and Kensuke just stares at him, like a vulture not sure what it’s going to do to its prey. Sasaki hits a Tiger Suplex, but Kobashi kicks out at two. He follows that up with a lariat that would constitute attempted murder in most legal jurisdictions, but Kobashi kicks out of that, too. Sasaki goes for a one-legged power bomb, but Kobashi pops right back up and lariats Sasaki for his troubles. Oh, and he got him RIGHT IN THE FACE on that one. Sasaki somehow manages to Japanese arm drag Kobashi on the very top of his head, and from there he starts working on a step-over hammerlock. Kobashi gets a foot on the bottom rope and breaks the hold. Then they take turns no-selling each other’s brainbusters and they wipe each other out with simultaneous clotheslines. There are LITERALLY women in the crowd watching this stuff with cloths over their mouths like they were gawping at Rodan and Jet Jaguar going at it in the city streets and it is MARVELOUS. Sasaki goes for another clothesline, but Kobashi catches him and puts him in a SLEEPER HOLD SUPLEX. obashi nearly decapitates Sasaki on a lariat, but he kicks out at two. Kobashi with a bodyslam and a picture perfect moonsault, but Sasaki kicks out of that noise, too. Kenta lands sextuple karate chops to the next and one final lariat-o, and THAT’s what gives us our three-count, kiddos. In the post-bout festivities, the two men shake hands and raise each other’s arms up in victory and the crowd ROARS with approval, because some people STILL admire masculinity instead of persecute it. Then Sasaki grabs the mic and says some things in Japanese, probably about how much they hate the Chinese, because let’s face it, they really do.

Man, I feel like I could write an entire doctoral thesis on how awesome that match is, but then again, a doctoral thesis is far too pansy a way to pay tribute to the intrinsic greatness of the bout. That’s the kind of heavyweight throwdown you just don’t get in pro ‘rasslin anymore, a match where you could just FEEL the ungodly power of both men as they tried to turn one another’s chest cavities into basketball-sized hollows and reduce each other’s spinal cords into a fine powder. This was pretty much the last gasp of true King’s Road, All-Japan ‘90s awesomeness, and it is DEFINITELY worth going out of your way to experience. It might not be as good as some of the best Misawa/Kawada or Misawa/Kobashi matches, but it’s definitely a high water mark for the 2000s, no matter how you slice it. This is an easy [**** ½] MOTY caliber bout, and yes, by God, you need to fuckin’ see it.

Alright, time for the main event. We get an OUTSTANDING video package giving the Johnny-Come-Latelies the key facts of the legendary Misawa/Kawada rivalry, and HERE COMES KAWADA. By this point, nightfall has occurred and the Tokyo Dome looks all shadowy and ominous and shit and it's definitely a cool aesthetic. You know, like at WrestleMania 3, when it was all light and stuff for Little Beaver and Sky Low Low but dark and mysterious and serious and shit for Hulk and Andre. Misawa, as always, comes out to "Spartan X" and Kawada is just standing there in the middle of the ring, just breathing and shit all casual-like. Kawada gets the yellow streamers and Misawa gets the green confetti. The bell sounds and we get a classic collar and elbow tie-up to begin. Kawada allows Misawa the clean break. There's another tie-up and Misawa panomimes elbowing Kawada right in the face, but he pulls back at the last second. Kawada with a gut kick and Misawa threatens another elbow smash. This time Kawada chops Misawa on the ropes, and then, it's time for an elbow smash/yakuza kick contest and it's goddamn glorious. Kawada locks in a single leg crab, all the while stomping Misawa's head like a bag of flaming dookie. Kawada converts the hold, into of all things, a bow and arrow submission. Misawa won't tap, so he breaks the hold. Kawada with more sternum kicks and Misawa responds with more elbow smashes. Misawa hits the Tiger Driver, but Kawada kicks out at two. Misawa goes up top and connects on the frog splash, but Kawada kicks out of that, too. Mitsuharu locks in a face wrench, then he and Kawada get into an elbow and knee-off. Kawada stomps the shit out of Misawa and he rolls to the outside for a breather. Kawada rolls back the mat and exposes the hard concrete floor beneath. Kawada does those gay little head kicks and Misawa responds by hitting him with a TIGA DRIVUH right there on the concrete. Misawa rolls back into the ring and a trainer feeds Kawada a bottle of water on the outside. Misawa goes for a quick pin attempt as soon as he re-enters the ring, and follows that with a diving missile dropkick to Kawada's noggin. Misawa locks in a sleeperhold, but Kawada rolls around until he's able to get a foot on the bottom rope. Misawa Irish whips Kawada into the corner, but he face plants halfway there. Kawada with two boots in the corner, but Misawa no sells the shit. Kawada has considerably more success with the jumping side kick, which drops Misawa like an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Too soon? Kawada with another running boot in the corner and more gay boots to the head. Kawada's pants read "Arting," so naturally, I really want to draw an "F" in front of it. They start scuffling on the edge of the ring apron and Misawa threatens another Tiger Driver. He can't get it so he just elbow smashes Kawada off the ring. He goes for a diving splash, but this time Kawada catches him with an elbow smash of his own. Now they're brawling up the ramp. Kawada tries for a power bomb, then he falls Misawa with another jumping side kick. THEN he fucking DESTROYS Misawa with the ramp-assisted power bomb, then he starts gingerly walking back to the ring awaiting Misawa's "inevitable" countout loss. But Kawada decides he don't want to take the easy way out after all and throws Mitsuharu back into the ring. Kawada with a jumping knee smash, but Misawa kicks out at two. Kawada spams the leg kicks and drops Misawa with another roundhouse to the noggin. The follow-up lariat only gets a two-count. We have a fabulous elbow strike exchange that culminates in Kawada landing a cheap kick to the belly. Kawada hits a brainbuster and locks for a seated — well, technically, squatting — Octopus hold. He lets go for a pin attempt, but Misawa, of course, kicks out. Kawada hits two SICK release German Suplexes, only for Misawa to no sell them until he gets jumping head kicked again. We get more elbows and boots, and Kawada LITERALLY fucking front face kicks Misawa in the goddamn face for real like in The Karate Kid. He hits a DEADLY looking brainbuster, but Misawa kicks out of that, as well. Misawa screams so we can see all those teeth he's missing and Kawada kinda botches a powerbomb that Misawa kicks out of, anyway. Kawada whiffs on a head kick and there's this one guy in the crowd who keeps screaming like a woman. KAWADA WITH THE GANSO BOMB YOU MOTHERFUCKERS! Miswa, despite having his neck turned into saltwater taffy, nonetheless kicks out at two. Kawada goes for another powerbomb, but this time Mitsuharu Frankensteiners his way outta' that shit. Misawa lands a spinning elbow and THE EMERALD FLOWSION or whatever the fuck it's called, but Kawada kicks out of that, too. Misawa lands a rolling kick and a bridging full nelson suplex. And there's another Tiger Driver, which Kawada kicks out of, obviously. Misawa staggers Kawada with a series of hard elbow shots, while Toshiaki keeps working the leg kicks. Misawa finally manages to drop Kawada with a stiff elbow, but he kicks out at two. Then Misawa hits Kawada with like, 30 elbow shots, and Kawada crumbles to the mat like the Fukushima reactor in 2011. One final elbow to the orbital bone drops Kawada, Misawa hops on his carcass and yep, that's what gives us the kinda'-sorta' out-of-nowhere finish, folks. In the post match festivities, Misawa walks to back all sweaty and kind of fat for a press conference. Of course, I can't speak Japanese, so your guess is as good as mine as to what he's saying. But there's a plug for Shiny Navigation '05 coming up in a couple of weeks, which begs the question — just how in the fuck DO these Japanese wrestling companies come up with their names for shit?

Only in Japan can you almost kill a man on accident and then find a way to make it even more dangerous for a PLANNED spot in a subsequent fake fight.

You know, anybody who says Kawada vs. Mitsuharu isn’t the best rivalry in pro wrestling history is literally a retard. These guys literally carried an entire promotion on its back for eight years, and instead of phoning it in for their grand finale, they gave the people a rock-solid, [**** ¼] outing that would probably be the farandaway MOTN on most modern day New Japan or AEW shows. To give you an idea of just how amazing their feud was, this is probably the WORST match the two had one-on-one (not counting that one Triple Crown squash match in ‘97, which is STILL the best squash match in history in my books) and it’s STILL better than 85 percent of the top-tier pro wrestling matches you’ll see nowadays. Of course, for most people Destiny will always be remembered for the Kobashi/Sasaki co-main, and for good reason — to put it bluntly, because it is fuckin’ awesome, that’s why. Just watching two of the manliest, most stoic ass-kickers in the history of fake fighting just throw caution to the wind and go into a full fledged hate-fueled chop and bomb-a-thon is just sheer awesomeness in like seven or eight different categories, and if you’ve never seen it for whatever stupid-ass reason, definitely DO go out of your way to catch this one.

Rounding out the [****+] line-up was a GREAT Kenta/Kanemaru championship tilt (and man, is it sad watching the former just flounder around in the E is Hideo Itami?) and a super-entertaining Marufuji and Suzuki on Akiyama and Hashi tag bout, while the Rikio/Tanahashi came very close to hitting the four snowflakes benchmark, too. So that’s three very, very good to flat out EXCELLENT matches on one show, which yeah, definitely makes this one of the stronger NOAH cards of the 2000s.

Of course, the rest of the stuff on the show was just kind of there. While the remainder of the Destiny equation never really bogged down into true lameness, at least half of the show was just plain meh, especially the first hour of the card. Contrast that with, say, the first One Night Stand PPV, which didn’t have anywhere near as many truly great bouts, but had consistently above average to friggin’ awesome matches from start to finish, plus all of the great nostalgia bits and interviews and sports-entertainment bric-a-brac in-between. So, from a sheer in-ring product perspective, yes, Destiny is easily the best major ‘rasslin spectacle of 2005, but as a holistic event, I’d still have to give the narrow tilt to E-C-Dub reunion from about a month earlier. But hey — that’s just my opinion and shit, and frankly, if you wanted to watch the shows back-to-back over a weekend, you’d be in pure international ‘rasslin bliss. Hell, throw in a couple of bouts of Forza Motorsport on the Xbox and bitching about George W. Bush in between the two and it’s basically reliving 2005 all over again.

So, all that to say? Yes, Destiny ‘05 is an incredible wrestling show, and considering how easy it is to find it on the Internetz, you genuinely have no excuse to not catch at some point in your life. And in case you’re wondering: if you listen real close, you can STILL hear some of Kobashi and Sasaki’s titty slaps reverberating on the eastward prevailing winds.


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