NJPW x Impact Wrestling: Only the STRONG Survive
March 30, 2023
This started at 4am in the UK and I’m not sure I would have made that, unless I’d got to sleep all day. Spoiler: I had to go into work, it was the worst. This show takes place at the Globe Theatre. It looks like it comes in under 3 hours, which is delightful. Ian Riccaboni, Matthew Rehwoldt & “facefucker” Tom Hannifan on commentary.
Yuyu Uemura vs. Gabriel Kidd
Big Gabe at Mania weekend. Where’s Andy Ogden when you need him? This was technically on the pre-show. The Young Lions getting 10 minutes to warm the crowd up.
The venue looks superb. It’s a shame you can’t see more of it on camera. This is your typical Young Lions business. Technically solid, good mat work and some tasty chops. Kidd is working on looking like Hiroyoshi Tenzan, with his hair, and that’s a “look”. The story of the match is that Kidd is an asshole but isn’t sensible enough to put Yuyu away. This results in a big babyface comeback and Yuyu picking up the duke. This was fine.
Impact X Division Championship
Trey Miguel (c) vs. Rich Swann vs. Kevin Knight vs. Frankie Kazarian vs. Clark Connors vs. Rocky Romero
Oh goody, a scramble match. While this isn’t my favourite type of match, I’m prepared to cut it some slack because this is a good field.
Connors gets lost on the first headlock chain spot. That doesn’t bode well. Having inexperienced guys in these big multi-person matches isn’t smart. Kevin Knight fares better. The slingshot into a Kaz cutter is nicely done. The match suffers horribly from multi-person nonsense though and Connors gets his shine, spearing everyone, but Miguel throws him out of the ring and pins Knight. This was certainly a way to get a bunch of wrestlers on the show. Crowd seemed to enjoy it.
Eddie Edwards, Tom Lawlor, JR Kratos & Joe Hendry vs. PCO, Callihan, Fred Rosser & Alex Coughlin
This is a whole bunch of people. One of which has a history of doing horrible things to women. I’m not comfortable watching him, so I’m skipping ahead.
Moose vs. Jeff Cobb
Moose has me blocked on Twitter after I asked him why he was hanging around with pedophiles. The correct approach should have been to not hang around with pedophiles. As a result of his general ignorance, I’ve found his matches quite hard to watch. It doesn’t help that I thought he was mediocre before that. This match is bordering on bad. The effort is minimal. Moose looks gassed after about 2 minutes. The match is designed as a series of big spots. Some of them land, some of them don’t.
They do a strike duel with elbows at one point and it’s very, very poor. On a NJPW show surely you can’t do that. Is Jeff trying to get himself fired? If Antonio Inoki was still alive, he’d be charging out during this to kick these assholes out of the ring. Moose tries to salvage something by running the ropes and Cobb does a good job of powering Moose up for the Tour of the Islands but two spots near the end doesn’t compensate for everything that preceded it.
Masha Slamovich vs. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Gisele Shaw vs. Miyu Yamashita
Mickie James is on commentary as she’s the champion and whoever wins this is her next challenger. This is another excuse to get a bunch of people on the card. I get it. Would a singles match involving Yamashita have been better? Very probably. Purrazzo would be my choice as she has a little star power. I’m still confused that she washed out of WWE. Although, I like Shaw and Slamovich too. Having so many moving parts, the match is very sluggish and only lands when two of them pair off. There’s a sequence where Purrazzo has to move to allow Shaw to accidentally get hit by Masha and everyone is in the wrong place for it. All these wrestlers are good but multi-person matches are hard to construct.
Queen’s Gambit puts Gisele Shaw away. Shaw took the best bumps in this one so it’s not a surprise that she ate the finish. It’s a shame Impact couldn’t line up Mickie James vs. Miyu Yamashita, I’d probably tune in to see that! As with the earlier multi-person match, some of this worked and some of it didn’t. Too much of it missed for it to be considered good.
Impact World Tag Team Championship
Bullet Club (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) (c) vs. Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. TMDK (Bad Dude Tito & Shane Haste)
Another mass of humanity. At least here you’ve got various guys who’ve been here, done it before. Like the Machine Guns and Aussie Open. Bullet Club has been a thing for a decade. A DECADE. The match is heavily structured and pre-planned, which is what I would expect from guys like Alex Shelley and Mark Davis. They opt to give it traditional structure too, with TMDK isolating Shelley while everyone else hangs back. Aussie Open do a better job of the same thing on Chris Bey. This ends up being a really fun match and the first one to light the show up. The flow of it feels especially solid as people are always where they are supposed to be. The champs pick off Tito for the double team. I really enjoyed this. Well thought out, organised and far better than the other multi-person matches on the card. ***½
KUSHIDA vs. Lio Rush
KUSHIDA’s WWE run was downright sad. I don’t know why he bothered. Like, he saw how KENTA did there and was like “yeah, give me some of that!” Meanwhile Lio Rush has also followed him to New Japan after his bad WWE run.
As you’d expect this is fast paced. KUSHIDA tries to slow it down, but Lio knows his best chance of winning is to speed it back up. KUSHIDA does some fine work in manipulating Rush’s arms and setting up his long term game; the kimura. KUSHIDA’s striking is so clean and there’s no air in there. Moose and Jeff Cobb should be forced to watch it. Neither of these guys leaves a lot of space in between spots. The idea being that the other guy has no time to recover before being hit by a dive. All the big spot work is done at a belting pace, and they rest in between. They even time a double slap KO perfectly. When both wrestlers are really quick it makes life so much easier. Nobody waiting for the other guy to get into position. KUSHIDA is predictable, going after the arm persistently. Rush is unpredictable, coming at bizarre angles and catching KUSHIDA by surprise. Rush comes off the top, having finally established some distance to escape armbars but lands right into the kimura and has to tap out. This was fantastic. ****
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
KENTA (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki
Two veterans here, aiming to piss each other off until of them gets knocked out. In principle it’s a good idea but the execution is lacking. They quickly resort to a lazy walk and brawl. Suzuki is in his mid 50s now so I understand it but there were ways and means around his limitations. There always have been. My ideal solution would have been lots of striking. Sadly when they go to striking, that’s not great either.
It’s sad but sooner or later the sun sets on every wrestler, regardless of how great they were. They end up trading on leglocks and they just can’t deliver on the anger that’s supposed to be present here.
They even manage to work in a shitty ref bump ahead of a KENTA low blow and he rolls Suzuki up with his feet on the ropes. Yeah, this was not good. Suzuki looks completely finished as a big act and should be in the stage of his career where he’s doing undercard cameos in 6 man tags.
How has Impact never overcome its rivals with this excellent camera work?
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Mike Bailey
Tana is now 46 years old. He’s replacing Will Ospreay, who is injured. It’s given Bailey a more intriguing match. We know he can go toe to toe with Billy but Tanahashi, and covering for Tana’s lack of youthful energy, is another challenge. Tanahashi is quite immobile these days.
Bailey has to do the legwork as a result. Tanahashi makes a point of targeting his leg to cut out Speedball’s kicks and knees. It slows the match right down and it’s a real test of Bailey’s capacity to have this kind of match. They do some clever counters, showing familiarity with each other’s game. Like Bailey countering the dragon screw and Tana hitting a Slingblade to block the tornado kick. The biggest issue the match has is Bailey not wanting to sell the leg that Tanahashi has worked. If he does sell it, he can’t show off and what’s a Mania booking if you don’t show off? Tana hits the Slingblade and the High Fly Flow for the win. I’m sad that Bailey lost the Ospreay match, which could have been awesome. While he got to work Tanahashi instead he got House Show Tanahashi. Bailey’s insistence at eventually selling the leg when the match is over is strange. ***¼.
New Japan’s involvement at Mania weekend varies from year to year. This year they basically just showed up to improve an Impact card. KUSHIDA vs. Lio Rush was really good and the tag match was great fun, but the rest of the card underwhelmed. I have to put this down as both a failure and a missed opportunity to get some eyes on Impact.