NJPW’s Mania Weekend 2023

The Mania weekend for New Japan kicked off a day earlier than everybody else, and in the Midwest of all places, with Omega finally defending his United States title. What good timing New Japan has, waiting until all the buzz and hype had dissipated from the Wrestle Kingdom title change before having Omega’s first defense.

1 - Omega vs Cobb

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega vs. Jeff Cobb

AEW Dynamite #182 – St. Louis, MO – 3.29.2023

Omega has been champion since 1.4.2023 and this is his first defense. These two met for the only time in a tag team match at “New Year Dash”, the day after Omega won the title. Cobb made it known he wanted the title, and would say that Omega was ducking him in post-match interviews, and finally took matters into his own hands by coming to the U.S. to finally challenge for the title. Omega’s left rib cage is taped up. Even in pain, Omega is able to score early with a tope con hilo and a Kotaro Krusher. When Omega tries a slam, the weight is too much and Cobb falls onto Omega. Cobb immediately follows up with a running vertical suplex and several kicks to the ribs. Out on the floor, Cobb rams Omega spine-first into the ring post. During the commercial break, Cobb sends Omega back first into the barricades and attacks his windpipe. Omega fights out of a waistlock coming out of the break, and takes down Cobb with a follow through clothesline. Cobb responds with the Spin Cycle. Omega lands on his feet out of a German suplex and backslides Cobb into a pumping knee strike. Cobb avoids the V-Trigger, but is taken down by a pair of Dragon suplexes. Cobb takes a pumpkin knee strike and a third dragon suplex, but fires back with a lariat before collapsing. Back on their feet, Cobb strikes Omega in the ribs and uppercuts him into the corner. Cobb delivers a delayed vertical superplex, but he takes too long to go for a pin and Omega kicks out at two. Cobb utilizes his own V-Trigger and looks for the One-Winged Angel. Omega slips out. He also escapes the Tour of the Islands and nails Cobb with a ripcord V-Trigger. The V-Trigger to the back of the head leads to Omega fighting through the pain to lift up Cobb and drop him with the One-Winged Angel for the pin at 14:00. This had a solid story and a great reaction from the crowd. I had a tough time buying Omega coming back and winning so quickly after being dominated by Cobb, and the fact that the focal point of the match was other AEW storylines, but it ultimately was a very good first defense for Omega. Hopefully it isn’t another three months until he defends it again. ***½

4 - Uemura vs Tito

Yuya Uemura vs. Bad Dude Tito
GCW “Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 9” – Los Angeles, CA – 3.30.2023

Shout out to commentary for mentioning that Uemura (and Christopher Daniels) defeated Tito’s TMDK partners in the STRONG Openweight Tag Title tournament, framing this match as Tito getting revenge on behalf of Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls. Tito powers Uemura to the edge of the ring and purposefully shoves him to the floor. Uemura double leg takedowns TIto to show he will not be pushed around. Uemura is focused on Tito’s leg, and Tito maneuvers his way around to make it so Uemura can’t get a firm grasp of a hold. Uemura ends up slapping Tito on his lower back before inviting him back to the mat. Uemura takes him down with a belly-to-belly suplex, dropkicks him to the floor, and follows with a low crossbody! Uemura German suplexes Tito. When he tries for a second, Tito counters into a kneebar and then an ankle lock. He grapevines the leg, and Uemura taps out at 5:08. Uemura went for Tito’s leg and it didn’t work, so he decided to take a more conventional approach to an unconventional match. Tito ended up sticking to the spirit of Bloodsport and successfully pulled off a leg submission. I love that kind of story. Very enjoyable match, and nice to see Big Teets get a big win. ***

3 - Moxley vs Coughlin

Alex Coughlin vs. Jon Moxley
GCW “Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 9” – Los Angeles, CA – 3.30.2023

Coughlin shows no fear during the front facelock exchange, swiping at Moxley’s face when he gets the opening to do so. Moxley ends up shoving Coughlin to the floor, and then from the inside of the ring pulls him into a triangle choke. Coughlin muscles him up and drops Moxley shoulder blades first onto the ring frame! Coughlin gutwrench suplexes Moxley twice before locking him in a grounded wishbone stretch. He transitions to a calf crusher. Moxley pulls him into a front facelock and adds a bodyscissors. Coughlin muscles Moxley up into a powerbomb! After a few headbutts, Moxley slips on a rear-naked choke. He then pulls Coughlin into the Death Rider. Coughlin fights back up and throws open hand shots with Moxley. Moxley ends it with a knee trembler. He hammers Coughlin in the neck with forearm shots and pulls him into the Bulldog Choke. Coughlin pulls Moxley up onto his shoulders, but Moxley pulls him down into a front facelock and knees him in the forehead. Coughlin eventually passes out in the facelock at 6:31. What a showing for Coughlin, who overpowered one of wrestling’s top names and fought through his finisher in the process. Moxley was the winner of the match, but it was Coughlin’s performance that made this match as good as it was. ***¼

2 - United Empire vs Time Machine

Time Machine (Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin & KUSHIDA) vs. United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis
Mark Hitchcock Memorial Supershow 2023 – Los Angeles, CA – 3.30.2023

Time Machine’s plan is to wear down Fletcher’s left arm, but once Fletcher sees the writing on the wall, he slams Shelley and tags in Davis. While Davis also succumbs to some triple team offense, he manages to slam Sabin into a senton splash. Sabin’s agility allows him to avoid a punch from Cobb, so Cobb attacks his lower back to slow him down. Sabin ducks a corner attack, sending Fletcher shoulder first into Davis’ mid-section. Shelley comes in as the legal participant, knocking down Fletcher with an exploding running clothesline. KUSHIDA helps Shelley take down both of Aussie Open with a Complete Shot/DDT combo. After some corner switching, Aussie Open drives the Guns spine first into one another. Aussie Open beat down Shelley until he evades a senton from Davis and tags in KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA strikes Davis with a Pele kick and hip tosses Fletcher into a cartwheel dropkick. KUSHIDA DDT’s Davis into a Hoverboard Lock, and the Guns tie up Davis’ partners in the hopes of preventing them from breaking up the submission. Cobb ends up freeing up himself and his partners. Aussie Open takes out Shelley with the Dental Plan and Sabin with the Aussie Arrow. Cobb drops Shelley with the Spin Cycle for two. Time Machine comes back with a Dream Sequence on Fletcher. After a series of offenses takes everyone down, some unfortunate timing with Sabin almost running into the referee allows for Fletcher to surprise him with a half-nelson suplex. The Coriolis then pins Sabin at 16:35. This was a good match, but it was pretty much both teams playing the hits. The win does give Aussie Open momentum for their STRONG Openweight challenge at Capital Collision, though, which is solid. ***¼

In the same venue later that evening, Impact and New Japan presented their Multiverse United card. You can read my review of that entire event here.

5 - Kevin Knight vs Myron Reed vs Man Like Dereiss

Black Wrestlers Matter Championship
Myron Reed vs. Kevin Knight vs. Man Like Dereiss

GCW “For The Culture 2023” – Los Angeles, CA – 3.30.2023

Reed has been champion since 3.25.2023 and this is his first defense. Knight sneak attacks Dereiss before the bell and takes out Reed with a pescado. Reed catches Knight in the ropes and hits him with a superkick and slingshot leg drop. Knight takes down Reed with a Frankensteiner off of the top turnbuckle, sending him tumbling into Dereiss. Knight then lands a leaping Mad Splash on Dereiss for two. Dereiss holds onto the ropes to avoid a dropkick from Knight, but he takes a guillotine leg drop from Reed. Reed then plants Knight with a top rope assisted Complete Shot. Dereiss takes down both Reed and Knight simultaneously with a flying Blockbuster. Dereiss takes down Knight with a Cutter, Reed takes down Dereiss with a Cutter, and then Knight dropkicks Reed out of mid-air to block a spring back cutter for two. Reed wipes out Knight with a dive over the top rope. In the ring, Knight plants Reed with delayed DDT, and Dereiss lands on both of them with a 450 Splash to break Knight’s pin attempt. Dereiss misses a 450 Splash on Reed. Knight tries a Mad Splash of his own, and Reed cuts him off mid-air with An Ace Crusher onto Dereiss. He then drops Knight on Dereiss with an Air Raid Crash and pins Knight at 10:23 to retain the title. This was more or less everybody flying around for 10 minutes. It was fun, but nothing memorable. **¾

6 - LA Dojo vs C420

Clark Connors, Kevin Knight & Yuya Uemura vs. C4 (Cody Chhun & Guillermo Rosas) & Sonico
Prestige Wrestling “Nervous Breakdown” – Los Angeles, CA – 3.31.2023

Connors surprises Rosas with a Pounce, knocking his feet out from under him, leading to him being isolated in the LA DOJO corner. After several minutes of being beaten down in their corner, Rosas ducked Knight’s signature dropkick and tagged in Chhun. Chhun fights off all three opponents on his own, and gets a nearfall on Knight with a DDT. C4 tried to launch Sonico into an Ace Crusher on Knight, only for Knight to counter with his own Ace Crusher in mid-air. Knight also cuts off a spring back cutter from Chhun with his dropkick. Connors takes down Rosas with a Gore. He tosses Sonico to Uemura for a belly-to-belly suplex. C4 drags Knight and Connors to the floor, while Sonico surprises Uemura with green mist to the eyes. A high-low from C4 on Uemura and the AMF from Sonico (a cradle DDT) gets their team the win at 10:54. This was the fun, energetic kind of match you want to kick off a show. I don’t think anyone in particular stood out, perhaps Chhun, but everyone did a really good job overall. ***

7 - Time Splitters & Ultimo vs Team Filthy

Time Splitters (Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA) & Ultimo Dragon vs. Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson)
Prestige Wrestling “Nervous Breakdown” – Los Angeles, CA – 3.31.2023

Isaacs shows off his impressive physique to Dragon. Not to be deterred, Dragon attempts multiple running shoulder block attempts, and finally is successful in taking him off of his feet after multiple attempts. Nelson makes a statement with a hard dropkick to Shelley, but the Time Splitters quickly take him out with a drop toe hold into a dropkick and a punt to the shoulder. The Time Splitters then take out Isaacs and Lawlor and work over Nelson’s shoulder. Isaacs yanks Shelley off of the apron when he is poised for offense. Lawlor nails him with a PK then chokes Dragon. Isaacs carries Shelley in a vertical position around the ring while Nelson holds KUSHIDA in the same position inside of the ring. Isaacs suplexes Shelley onto the ring apron, and Nelson follows with a suplex to KUSHIDA. Shelley is beat down by Team Filthy, but escapes when he rolls out of the way of a double stomp from Isaacs. Dragon takes out all of Team Filthy, leaving Nelson to take a flying Baba Chop from KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA kicks Nelson’s shoulder multiple times before taking him out with a running crossbody and delivering a Pele kick. Nelson attempts a sunset flip, and KUSHIDA sits down into a hoverboard lock. Lawlor pulls KUSHIDA off of Nelson, but is taken out with a Pele kick. Isaacs counters KUSHIDA’s back handspring with a German suplex. After a top rope elbow from Nelson and a top rope headbutt from Lawlor, Isaacs locks KUSHIDA in an STF. Shelley takes out Lawlor and Nelson before saving KUSHIDA. Dragon takes down Isaacs with a dragonscrew leg whip and twists him into a reverse figure four. Nelson stomps Dragon to break the hold. Shelley sends Nelson into the middle turnbuckle with a Complete Shot. Lawlor tackles Shelley and takes him down with a uranage tackle. Lawlor blocks the Tanaka Punch with a guillotine hammerlock, which KUSHIDA escapes. The Time Splitters take out Isaacs with a variation of the Dream Sequence. Dragon then pins him with a Magistral cradle at 19:43. This went a little long, but the crowd was into it and were especially jazzed to see Ultimo. The action was good too, and I especially think Nelson and Isaacs played their roles excellently. ***½

Later that evening, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Katsuyori Shibata were victorious at ROH’s “Supercard of Honor” event. You can read my review of that entire event here.

Some good matches from the New Japan folks this weekend, but nothing crazy or worth going out of your way to see. In my opinion, KUSHIDA vs. Lio Rush from “Multiverse United” was the best of the whole bunch.

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