Impact WrestlingxNJPW Multiverse United: Only The STRONG Survive

Los Angeles, CA – 3.30.2023

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni, Matt Rehwoldt & Tom Hannifan.

Yuya Uemura vs. Gabriel Kidd

Kidd aggressively keeps Uemura in a side headlock. Uemura has to get the ropes to escape, but is able to escape a headscissors on his own. Kidd shoves Uemura to the corner to break and shoulder lock and then shoves a seated Uemura off of the top turnbuckle and to the floor. Kidd bodyslams Uemura twice when he comes back into the ring for a two count. Kidd bad mouths some fans as he chops Uemura in the corner. Uemura chops and forearms his way out of the corner, only to be shut down with a headbutt and open hand strike. Uemura strings together a flying forearm and a bulldog for two. Ueura Judo throws Kidd and dropkicks his arm before applying a key lock. Kidd gets the ropes to escape, and moments later has Uemura in a guillotine choke while sitting on the top turnbuckle. When Kidd releases he waits for Uemura to get up. It costs him the match, as Uemura blocks his rebound lariat with an armdrag and then pins him with a high crossbody at 7:52. This was a perfect kickoff match, as them beating the heck out of each other got the crowd juiced, and you came away knowing the personalities and styles of two relative newcomers. **¾

Impact X-Division Champion
Trey Miguel vs. Clark Connors vs. Frankie Kazarian vs. Kevin Knight vs. Rich Swann vs. Rocky Romero

Miguel has been champion since 11.18.2022 and this is his sixth defense. The champion makes no attempt to endear himself to the challengers, which results in everyone attacking him and sending him outside. To Miguel’s credit, he picks his spot to come back in and take out everyone, but finds himself sent back to the floor via a five way dropkick. Everybody tries to pin Kazarian after Knight blasts him with a dropkick out of mid-air. Miguel slips in to be the bottom of a Tower of Doom out of a corner, and from another corner Swann lands a frog splash onto Connors. Romero’s Forever Clothesline took out several opponents. The Wild Rhino cleans house with Gores on Romero, Miguel, Kazarian, and then Swann to counter a back handspring maneuver. Knight evades a Gore at first, but Connors cuts him off in mid-air with one. Miguel quickly throws Connors to the floor and pins Knight at 7:11 to retain the title. That was creative, action-packed, and a ton of fun. I think they did a really good job giving everyone a moment to shine, and Miguel played the role of opportunistic champion perfectly. ***¼

Alex Coughlin, Callihan, Fred Rosser & PCO vs. Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor & JR Kratos), Eddie Edwards & Joe Hendry

Of the multiple opening exchanges, the most noteworthy was Lawlor and Rosser meeting for the first time since Rosser took the STRONG Openweight title from Lawlor. Rosser threw Lawlor forcefully to the outside, but Lawlor choked Rosser in his corner where Joe Hendry took over for him. Coughlin and Kratos also went face to face for the first time since Battle in the Valley after Hendry dropped Coughlin face first onto the canvas. Coughlin took that exchange with a belly-to-belly suplex. PCO wiped out everyone on the floor with a moonsault. Lawlor prevents Rosser from putting Edwards in a chicken-wing. Coughlin wows the crowd with a tandem back suplex onto both Edwards and Lawlor. Not to be outdone, Hendry fallaway slams Coughlin and Rosser at the same time. Rosser was able to hit the Gut Check on Lawlor upon recovering, but moments later was taken out with a Blue Thunder Bomb by Edwards. Kratos muscles up Rosser from the apron into a vertical suplex. Rosser tags out to PCO, who after dropping Kratos with an inverted DDT is able to hit the PCOsault to win the match for his team at 12:24. This was messy and uncoordinated. The moments where Coughlin and Hendry wrestled one another and Rosser and Lawlor wrestled each other were great, but it felt like a complete hodge podge of talent otherwise. **¼

Jeff Cobb vs. Moose

Moose pulls off an impressive dropkick, only for Cobb to toss him across the ring. They chop each other in the corner until Cobb pulls off his own dropkick, capitalizing with a standing moonsault after the fact. Cobb humiliates Moose by “surfing on his back.” Moose makes him pay with a corner dropkick and a hesitation dropkick. Moose then pulls Cobb off of the middle rope into a Rydeen Bomb for two. Cobb avoids a spear, sending Moose shoulder first into the middle turnbuckle. Cobb impressively deadlifts Moose in from the apron and into a superplex for two. During a strike exchange, Moose rolls up Cobb for a two count. Each of them headbutt one another in the chin, clothesline one another simultaneously, then pop up to their feet. Another simultaneous clothesline sends them tumbling to the floor. Back in the ring, Moose scores with a superplex. Cobb side steps another spear. Moose this time is able to stop himself and pulls off a pump kick. His twisting crossbody gets a two count, but Cobb pulls him off of the mat and back to his feet. Cobb ducks a rolling forearm and hits the Tour of the Islands for the pin at 11:51. This took a little time to get going, but the ending stretch was enjoyable. Just two big dudes showing off their strength and agility. What’s curious is that commentary was giving Cobb the out of having wrestled Kenny Omega just 24 hours earlier, while Moose had been well rested, and then Cobb wins anyways. What’s that say about Moose? ***

Deonna Purrazzo vs. Gisele Shaw vs. Masha Slamovich vs. Miyu Yamashita

The winner of this match will face Jordynne Grace at Impact Wrestling’s “Rebellion” event to challenge for the Impact Knockouts Championship. Mickie James, the current champion, currently injured, joins commentary for this bout. Yamashita ruled the ring, sending the Impact regulars to the floor with her hard kicks. The Knockouts take over for a bit, but Yamashita takes out Slamovich and Shaw back in the ring. Purazzo breaks up a pin on Shaw. From there, all four women end up wiping each other out with kicks to the head and clotheslines. Purrazzo and Slamovich big boot Shaw and Yamashita. Purrazzo then headscissors Slamovich into the Fujiwara armbar. Slamovich rolls Purrazzo onto her shoulders to escape, and Yamashita wipes out Purrazzo with a Sankakugeri. Shaw superkicks Yamashita before she can capitalize and uppercuts Slamovich. Slamovich takes out Shaw with a Russian Destroyer. Purrazzo German suplexes Slamovich twice. Slamovich counters the Queen’s Gambit with an Air Raid Crash into the corner. Yamashita skull kicks Slamovich, Shaw wipes out Yamashita with the Denouement, and Purrazzo powerbombs Shaw. The Queen’s Gambit on Shaw then gets Purrazzo the pin at 9:20. The crowd was into the action and the match came off as a hard fought win for Purrazzo. They definitely made the best of a bad situation with Mickie’s injury changing this to a contenders match, and I look forward to Purrazzo vs. Grace (vs. James, possibly) down the line. ***¼

Impact World Tag Team Championship
BULLET CLUB (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) vs. TMDK (Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito)

BULLET CLUB have been champions since 3.2.2023 and this is their second defense. The Guns sent all of their opposition to the outside and wiped out TMDK and Aussie Open with stereo pescados. Haste prevents the Guns from taking him out with Skull and Bones and turns Sabin inside out with a suplex. Tito muscles Shelley to the corner for Haste to land an uppercut and cannonball senton. Shelley escapes TMDK’s beatdown by rolling through a frog splash attempt by Tito and sending Haste into the middle turnbuckle with a Complete Shot. Shelley tags Bey as Sabin was knocked off of the apron. He takes down Haste with a Yoshi Tonic. Fletcher blind tags himself in on Haste, and Aussie Open surprises Bey with tandem offense. They pummel Bey in their corner until Bey ducks a double forearm smash, resulting in Aussie Open clobbering each other. Austin gets the tag and takes out Davis with a tornado enzuigiri. Austin knees both members of TMDK in the side of the head from the apron and roundhouse kicks Fletcher. The Guns pulls Austin to the outside and Sabin high crossbody’s onto Fletcher and Bey at the same time. Fletcher fights out of a Cradle Shock but gets ditched to the floor. The Guns then double dropkick Davis to the outside and Sabin suicide dives onto TMDK and Aussie Open. Bey then tope con hilo’s onto all three teams. Davis powerbombs BULLET CLUB off of the middle ropes to save Fletcher from a superplex, and then with Fletcher hits a one man Ragnarok on Bey for a two count. Austin saves him from Coriolis. The Guns quickly wipe out Fletcher with a Dream Sequence, but Davis mows them down with a double clothesline, as well as the BULLET CLUB. Fletcher superkicks Haste into the Dental Plan. Tito saves him from the Aussie Arrow. Haste wipes out Davis with a dive as Tito F-5’s Bey. Austin breaks up the pin and with Bey nails double roundhouse kicks on Haste. Tito succumbs to the Art of Finesse and The Fold for the pin at 13:22. That was the chaotic spectacle I was hoping for. It isn’t terribly surprising that Tito was once again the fall guy, as he was at Sacrifice, and I hope that means Aussie Open vs. BULLET CLUB is something we could see down the line. ***½

KUSHIDA vs. Lio Rush

Rush replaces the injured Josh Alexander. KUSHIDA will face Steve Maclin at Impact Wrestling’s “Rebellion” event to determine the new Impact World Champion. KUSHIDA makes it very clear that the Hoverboard Lock is his aim for the match, as he applies it early and wrenches on Rush’s arm when Rush gets the ropes to break free. Rush ducks the Tanaka Punch and enzuigiri’s KUSHIDA to the corner. KUSHIDA clobbers Rush with a rolling double heel kick to send him outside, following up with a baseball slide dropkick. Rush evades a knee strike off of the apron. He then uses the apron for a headscissors takedown and then springboards off of the bottom rope with a crossbody. KUSHIDA punts Rush’s left arm back inside of the ring and goes back to wearing down his shoulder. When Rush looks to make a comeback with a handspring, KUSHIDA punts his shoulder again. Rush mi paso’s KUSHIDA to the apron, knocking him down with a double heel kick and sending him into the barricades with a suicide dive. KUSHIDA tries to stop Rush on the top turnbuckle, but Rush shoves him down. He misses the Rush Hour, and after trying a tornado DDT gets stuck in a standing Hoverboard Lock. KUSHIDA pele kicks Rush when Rush fights free. Rush roundhouse kicks KUSHIDA, but KUSHIDA ends up hooking him into a small package driver for two. Rush avoids a PK to the shoulder. He smashes KUSHIDA with a reverse Frankensteiner and hits the Come Up. KUSHIDA is close enough to the ropes to break the pin, and Rush immediately goes to the top turnbuckle. Rush tries the Rush Hour, but out of mid-air, KUSHIDA pulls Rush into the Hoverboard Lock and Rush taps out at 12:42. KUSHIDA made his intentions known right from the start with the Hoverboard Lock, and while Rush did everything he could to fight against the current, he unintentionally swam right into the jaws of defeat. It was a heck of a win to get KUSHIDA momentum heading into Rebellion, and felt like more than a worthy replacement bout for what would have been KUSHIDA vs. Josh Alexander. ****

NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
KENTA vs. Minoru Suzuki

KENTA has been champion since 2.18.2023 and this is his first defense. Things heated up between Suzuki and KENTA on the March 18th New Japan Cup event during a six man tag involving KENTA’S BULLET CLUB and Suzuki’s Strong Style faction. Suzuki gets KENTA in an armbar in the ropes, which results in the two of them tumbling to the floor. KENTA kicks Suzuki’s chest against the guardrails and rakesh is eyes before bringing him back inside of the ring. KENTA goes to his eyes again when Suzuki starts fighting back. KENTA angers Suzuki when he swipes Suzuki in the back of the head after “wiping” his feet. Suzuki fires up and rises to his feet as KENTA throws kicks to his chest. A corner boot and a PK get Suzuki a two count, in part due to his single-footed cover. Suzuki damages KENTA’s knee with a submission and stomps. KENTA halts his attack with a chinbreaker and a DDT. He gives Suzuki a taste of his own medicine by applying a figure four leg lock. When Suzuki uses the ropes to escape, the two of them trade forearm strikes. Suzuki gets the better of that exchange, but KENTA gets the better of the running boot exchange that follows. KENTA’s knee is too weak to pull off the Go 2 Sleep, and Suzuki slips on a sleeper hold when KENTA’s knee buckles. KENTA turns the referee out of sight so he can low blow Suzuki after escaping. He then rolls up Suzuki and puts his feet on the ropes to pin him at 15:27. That ending was unfortunately expected as that has been KENTA’s forte in BULLET CLUB, and more unfortunately, I think card placement hurt the crowd’s reaction to the match at large. I actually liked the story they were telling and the pace they were keeping, but to end the way it did as abruptly as it did was a bummer. **¾

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Mike Bailey

Tanahashi replaces the injured Will Ospreay. He uncharacteristically sneaks in a body shot to Bailey after backing him to the corner. Bailey’s rapid fire kicks to the shoulders send the Ace to the floor. Bailey ends up knocking down Tanahashi with a running single leg dropkick to the chest. In the ring, Bailey charges at Tanahashi after missing a top rope maneuver, and Tanahashi dropkicks his left knee out from under him. Bailey uses the momentum of a kick upside the head to stop a corner attack from Tanahashi to pull off a second rope missile dropkick. Tanahashi kicks out of a standing shooting star press. He ducks a roundhouse kick, and when Bailey shoots him to the ropes, Tanahashi comes back with a flying forearm smash. After Tanahashi’s somersault senton doesn’t get him the pin, he signals for the High Fly Flow. Bailey stops his ascension, but Tanahashi manages to dragonscrew leg whip Bailey in the ropes twice. Bailey hops to the middle rope as Tanahashi charges, and ends up taking him out with an Asai moonsault. In the ring, Bailey gets in multiple kicks on Tanahashi’s shoulder, as well as a PK and Kneecolepsy. A hard kick upside the head only gets Bailey a two count. Tanahashi counters the tornado kick with the Sling Blade. Bailey hobbles up to his feet when he sees Tanahashi ascending the ropes again. Tanahashi almost lets Bailey climb the ropes and then forearms him down into a tree of woe position. Bailey sits up in defiance as Tanahashi kicks away at his chest and face, making it back up to the top rope for a huracanrana. He digs deep for a high kick and superkick, and then even deeper to pull off the tornado kick. Bailey misses Ultima Weapon. Tanahashi blocks a cradle and drops Bailey with three Twist and Shouts. A sling blade follows, leading to the High Fly Flow and the pin at 15:16. Bailey gave everything he had and won over the crowd by gutting through his injured knee to take the Ace to the limit. Tanahashi had to unload a heavy amount of offense on Bailey to keep him down for the High Fly Flow, on top of everything he did to injure his knee throughout the contest. It is a shame Ospreay was injured, but Tanahashi more than made up for absence with this excellent main event. ***¾

I have a hunch that if you take this out of the heightened expectations that come with WrestleMania weekend and have the crowd noise properly attuned, this would’ve come off much better. As it is, it’s a very good show that unfortunately did not have the atmosphere it could or should have.

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