NJPW Capital Collision 2023

Aussie Open has been grinding since late February with very few breaks, including Mark Davis impressively making it to the semi-finals of the New Japan Cup in March. Despite keeping a schedule that would ground most wrestlers into a fine paste, their biggest win to date came on April 8th when they defeated Bishamon at Sakura Genesis to become the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. Even with two PPV main events in front of them, including a chance to win back the STRONG Tag Team titles, Aussie Open accepted a challenge from the Best Friends to put their IWGP Tag Titles on the line the night before Capital Collision on Rampage.


IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent Berretta)

AEW Rampage #90 – Milwaukee, WI – 4.14.2023

Aussie Open have been champions since 4.8.2023 and this is their first defense. Beretta stopped Aussie Open’s opening onslaught with an assisted DDT, and Taylor wiped them out with a tope con hilo. Back in the ring, Taylor belly-to-belly suplexes Fletcher onto Davis and Beretta pins Fletcher with a high crossbody for two. Aussie Open takes the Best Friends to the floor where they slam them back first onto the ring apron and then into each other. They beat down Beretta during the commercial break. Back from break, and Taylor breaks up a pin attempt after Beretta succumbs to Dental Plan and the Aussie Arrow. Davis takes him to the floor, but Taylor ends up sending him into the ring steps. Taylor then helps Beretta pull off a superplex on Fletcher. After double chokeslamming Davis, Best Friends wipe out Fletcher with a Doomsday Busaiku Knee for two. Fletcher escapes a Strong Zero attempt, and Davis enzuigiri’s Taylor into a tombstone piledriver from Fletcher. Fletcher then superkicks Beretta into Close Your Eyes and Count To F*ck from Davis. With Beretta out of the picture, Aussie Open clobber Taylor with double forearm smashes and drop him with Coriolis for the pin at 9:24. With Forbidden Door II announced and the possibility of Aussie Open vs. FTR II being on that card, it was a good idea to feature them in a match where they defeated a beloved team while they were Stateside. Best Friends are still a dope team, and I wouldn’t mind them mixing it up with Aussie Open again one day. ***

Washington, D.C. – 4.15.2023

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni, Alex Koslov & Veda Scott.

Kickoff Match
TMDK (Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito) vs. The West Coast Wrecking Crew (Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson)

TMDK were firmly in control until Nelson caught Haste with a Hot Shot and Isaacs suplexed him onto the ring apron. From there, the WCWC focused their attack on Haste’s back and neck. Haste dropkicks Isaacs and tags in Tito, who plants Isaacs with a Blue Thunder Bomb after a superkick/enzuigiri combo. Tito then takes out Nelson with a Blockbuster for a two count. Tito blocks a jumping knee strike from Nelson. Isaacs blind tags in when Tito has Nelson on his shoulders, and Tito is surprised by a double spinebuster. Movies on the Roof connects, but Haste jumps back in to break up the pin attempt. Haste evades the Dominator/Ace Crusher combo. Tito lariats Nelson into a release Dragon suplex from Haste. Tito spears Isaacs and drops him with Ride The Lightning (an F-5) for the pin at 8:31. Tito had been relegated to TMDK’s fall guy, so I’m glad he was the one to pick up a victory. The crowd was still filing in so it was missing an atmosphere, but it was a perfectly cromulent kickoff match. **¾

CHAOS (Chuck Taylor, Lio Rush & Rocky Romero), Clark Connors & The DKC vs. Jet Setters (KUSHIDA & Kevin Knight), Gabriel Kidd, Mike Bailey & Volador Jr.

Volador and Romero have been at odds with CMLL, and last month, Volador took Romero’s hair in a Lucha de Apuesta match. Things break down fairly early on, with DKC finding himself isolated in the opposing teams corner. He is able to escape by taking down the Jet Setters with a double dropkick. He tags in D.C. native, who with his agility is able to wipe out the Jet Setters and Kidd. Volador buys Knight some time when Rush comes to the top rope, with Knight taking out Rush with a Jon Woo dropkick after evading an attack. Rush is assaulted by Bailey’s kicks, halting him with a modified Michinoku Driver. Taylor cracks KUSHIDA with the Brodie Knee before taking him down with Sole Food. Volador and Romero finally meet face-to-face, and Volador takes out Romero with a suicide dive. This begins a series of dives to the outside, ending with a Doomsday Dropkick to DKC off of KUSHIDA’s shoulders onto everybody on the floor. KUSHIDA helps launch Knight off of the second rope into a flying crossbody press. KUSHIDA then Tanaka punches Romero into a lung blower from Volador, and Volador pins Romero at 10:18. As the “real” show opener this was perfect, in that it was high energy and a ton of fun. The Jet Setters had a chance to show off their skills as a tandem and get momentum heading into their Jr. Tag title match, Lio Rush got to go wild in front of his hometown fans, and Volador now has a case to make to get a rematch for the Welterweight title Romero won from him. Good stuff all around. ***

Clark Connors surprises everyone by viciously attacking The DKC as they’re heading backstage! He pummels DKC mid-ring and takes him down with a Gore. He heads to the back as DKC is taken care of by staff members.

AR Fox vs. David Finlay

Since we last saw Finlay attacking Jay White at Battle In The Valley, he was chosen by Gedo as the new leader of BULLET CLUB. Finlay made it to the finals of the New Japan Cup where he lost to SANADA. El Phantasmo was vocal about not being fully behind Finlay as the BULLET CLUB leader or the way they went about attacking White, and this resulted in Phantasmo being kicked out BULLET CLUB at Sakura Genesis. This is Fox’s NJPW debut. He adjusts to Finlay quite quickly, and takes down the BULLET CLUB leader with a pull-up seated dropkick and a kick-flip moonsault on the floor. Finlay crotches Fox on top rope and knocks him to the floor. He drives Fox back first into the barricades, leading to him going after Fox’s back and neck inside of the ring. Fox surprises Finlay with a spring back Ace Crusher. Finlay kicks out after being rolled up into a second Ace Crusher, and gets his knees up to block Air Fox. Finlay gets two with a Blue Thunder Bomb, visibly angry when Fox kicks out. Fox surprises Finlay again, this time with a brainbuster, and lands Air Fox successfully, but only for a two count. The Lo Mein Pain and 450 Splash together also only render a two count. Finlay backslides Fox into a front facelock. Fox boots him away and hooks him for the FoxCatcher. Finlay counters that into Prima Nocta. After a lariat, Finlay pulls Fox up into Trash Panda for the pin at 10:28. Fox really impressed me here. He’s just as good as he was a decade ago, and really had the crowd believing he could unseat the new leader of the BULLET CLUB. At the same time, Finlay fought through Fox’s big offense and his work on Fox’s neck paid off in the end. It was a good way for Finlay to reestablish himself in front of the Western audience, and I hope in Fox’s instance this earned him future New Japan bookings. ***¼

David Finlay then calls out Clark Connors. He tells Connors that his trainer, Katsuyori Shibata can’t see what he’s capable of, but he can. He says BULLET CLUB has lost its way, that they became more interested in bringing in “cool people” and selling t-shirts. Finlay is looking for savages. He says Connors has been overlooked and under-appreciated, but that ends tonight. He holds up the Too Sweet, and Connors reciprocates. Finlay welcomes the audience to his BULLET CLUB, as Connors officially joins the group. I’ve really enjoyed what Connors has been doing since graduating, so this change is disquieting. I’ll give it a chance, but this feels like bad casting.

NJPW World Television Championship
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tom Lawlor

Sabre has been champion since 1.4.2023 and this is his fifth defense. Sabre called out Lawlor after he successfully defended his title against Shota Umino at Sakura Genesis. They met twice in tag team matches during the G1 2022 tour, splitting the matches at one win a piece. At the STARDOM Crossover event, Sabre and Giulia defeated Lawlor and Syuri. They’re also at odds over who is better – Boy George (Lawlor), or George Michael (Sabre). All Television title matches have a 15 minute time limit. Both bring an equal intensity when going for a submission on the mat in the early going, with Lawlor going for Sabre’s ankle. Lawlor chops down Sabre in the corner but misses a shoulder tackle. Sabre immediately attacks Lawlor’s shoulder after it collides into the turnbuckle. Sabe taunts Lawlor, leading to Lawlor almost knocking out Sabre with an open hand strike to the face. Lawlor successfully lands a corner tackle after taking down Sabre with an exploder suplex. Sabre rolls his way up and PK’s Lawlor, possibly rolling his ankle in the process. Lawlor catches a Pele kick and grabs an ankle lock, which Sabre quickly transitions into a Cobra Twist. Lawlor counters that back into the ankle lock. Sabre maneuvers Lawlor into his own submission, resulting in Lawlor rolling into the ropes. Lawlor converts Sabre’s European Clutch into a sleeper hold with a bodyscissors, and Sabre gets the ropes to escape. Lawlor puts on a guillotine choke. Sabre powers Lawlor into a Michinoku Driver, which is how he defeated Ishii in his first title defense, but Sabre is too worn out to capitalize. Lawlor takes out Sabre with a PK of his own. Lawlor fights through an attempted kimura lock for a kneeling Michinoku Driver. Sabre escapes the NKOTB, with him and Lawlor then fighting for a pin. Sabre cuts back on a Magistral cradle.He then rolls Lawlor into a Skayde Special for the pin at 13:12. Ever since their first tag team meeting in the G1 tour, I wanted to see this singles match, and they delivered. Lawlor’s submission prowess and power advantage kept him in step with the champion all match long, but Sabre’s shoulder attack diminished that power advantage, and the time limit made Lawlor act hastily. Few can match Sabre’s pin and cradle game, and that’s where Sabre was able to catch the challenger off guard. This feels like another chapter in a longer rivalry, and I hope it is, because these two are so good together. ***¾

El Desperado vs. Tomohiro Ishii

This is a rematch from the 2020 New Japan Cup, the very first event New Japan ran after taking a hiatus at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and received critical acclaim. Ishii makes Desperado pay for taking him off of his feet with a shoulder tackle by chopping him around the ring. Desperado uses Ishii’s momentum to swing him up into a side slam. Desperado then attacks Ishii’s left knee. Ishii cuts off Desperado with a Saito suplex and beats him down in the corner. Desperado counters a brainbuster with a suplex. Ishii comes back quickly with a powerslam and powerbomb. Desperado plants him with a spinebuster. Ishii German suplexes Desperado, and then both men crash from the cumulative wear and exertion. After Desperado recovers from a superplex, Ishii goes for a Sliding D. Desperado ducks the attack and rolls Ishii into a dragonscrew leg whip. Desperado dropkicks his knee and then gives Ishii a spinning chop block. Desperado looks for Numero Dos, but when Ishii resists, he pulls Ishii up into a Blue Thunder Bomb and then successfully applies the hold. Ishii escapes, but Desperado dropkicks his leg out from under him. Ishii is woven around twice before Desperado attempts Pinche Loco. Ishii still manages to backdrop his way free, and then surprises Desperado with a headbutt to the chin. Desperado kicks out of a lariat. He also blocks a brainbuster and rolls Ishii into Pinche Loco! Desperado celebrates pulling off the move before pulling him up to attempt the move a second time. Ishii escapes and lands a Sliding D. Desperado turns that into a crucifix pin, but Ishii rolls to his feet and headbutts Desperado again. Desperado charges at Ishii once he recovers and is turned inside out with a lariat. Ishii polishes him off with a brainbuster at 16:40. I don’t mean for this to sound like a negative, but this was the usual really good singles match Ishii we’ve seen for years now. That kind of match is all that was asked of him and Desperado, as there was no reasoning behind this match other than “the first one was good.” It is tough to get into a match with no other rationale for it happening. That said, it was the first time most of this crowd had seen an Ishii match (at least in person) in almost a year, so it worked. Again, it was really good, but you’ve probably seen this before. ***½

Fred Rosser vs. Juice Robinson

This is a grudge match, as Robinson cost Rosser the STRONG Openweight Championship against KENTA back at Battle In The Valley. Rosser also paid for a front row ticket so that Juice’s wife, Toni Storm, could be there in person to see him beat the hell out of her husband. We’re shown the reserved seat before Rosser makes his entrance. Robinson blindsides Rosser during his entrance, pummeling him on the entrance before choking him with his shirt, whipping him with his belt, and suplexing him on the floor. Referee Stephon Smith tries to calm Robinson and ends up eating a haymaker for his trouble. Robinson then wallops Rosser inside of the ring with the chair that was reserved for Toni. Robinson pulls a handful of quarters out of his pocket and nails Rosser with a Left Hand of God using the loaded hand. Robinson yells on the microphone to Rosser to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth and then flips him off before going backstage. The official match result is a No Contest. I thought this was a great angle, and definitely adds much more interest and intrigue for this match whenever it actually happens.

Just 5 Guys (SANADA & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi)

SANADA defected from LIJ and joined Just 5 Guys after defeating Tetsuya Naito in the quarter-finals of the New Japan Cup. SANADA would go on to win the tournament and rhwn defeat Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis to become the new IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. After the match, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, and SANADA’s former LIJ stablemate, Hiromu Takahashi, challenged SANADA for a World Heavyweight title match at Wrestling Dontaku on May 3rd. SANADA agreed on one condition – that Takahashi first defend his Junior title against Yoshinobu Kanemaru on April 27th in Hiroshima. This tag match serves as a preview for both of these upcoming title matches.

Takahashi puts a hurting on Kanemaru, with some assistance from Naito. Takahashi knocks SANADA off the apron in the process, and even sends him crashing into the barricades. SANADA finally interjects, dragging Takahashi to the floor when he hits the ropes, and throwing him into the barricades. At the same time, Kanemaru dropkicks Naito in the knee as he enters the ring. J5G both get a chance to beat down the man they both will face in championship encounters in the coming weeks. Takahashi flips out of a back suplex from SANADA and catches a boot, taking down the IWGP champion with a dragonscrew leg whip. Naito gets rid of an interfering Kanemaru before delivering the Combinación Cabrón to SANADA. He uses his legs for a modified full nelson on SANADA, which Kanemaru breaks by stomping on Naito. SANADA dropkicks a charging Naito and uses the ropes for Total Anarchy. Naito takes down Kanemaru with a neckbreaker of his own. Takahashi pulls off the dropkick he went for earlier when SANADA pulled him out of the ring on Kanemaru, then sends SANADA into the barricades again. An angry SANADA comes into the ring and attacks Takahashi from behind, and Kanemaru drops him with a reverse DDT for two. SANADA and Naito fight outside of the ring as Takahashi picks up Kanemaru for a Time Bomb attempt. Kanemaru initially escapes, but ends up taking a Falcon Arrow from Takahashi for two. Kanemaru rolls through another Time Bomb attempt. He prawn holds Takahashi, holding the legs in a figure seven for the pin at 16:40. There was a bit of a stutter from the referee on the three count which put a slight blemish on the ending, but this was otherwise a good way to give Kanemaru some momentum and reintroduce SANADA to the U.S. audience. The crowd was very into him, which is a good sign, and something I was curious about. Naito was going through the motions, possibly due to both his knees being taped up, but it was everybody else who needed to be the focus for the story of the match and they made up for his inactivity. ***¼

NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
KENTA vs. Eddie Edwards

KENTA has been champion since 2.18.2023 and this is his second defense. Edwards confronted KENTA during his post-match promo after his title defense against Minoru Suzuki at “Multiverse United” and challenged him for the title. They faced each other in four previous singles matches in Pro Wrestling NOAH, with KENTA winning 3 of those 4 matches. That fourth match which Edwards won, however, is the most recent, defeating KENTA in the 2013 Global League tournament. The crowd turns on Edwards during the match. He chokes KENTA against the bottom rope to show he does not care about their opinion. KENTA retaliates with a powerslam and flying clothesline off of the top turnbuckle, and Edwards shuts him down with the Boston Bayonet and a Blue Thunder Bomb for two, and gets another two count after the Chin Checker. He teases giving KENTA his own Go 2 Sleep, but KENTA rakes his eyes to cut him off. KENTA takes him out with the Green Killer and a top rope double stomp for two. KENTA throws numerous open hand shots to Edwards’ ear until he’s down on the mat and follows with a Busaiku Knee for two. Edwards counters a Go 2 Sleep attempt, but KENTA headscissors him onto the second rope and drives his knee into his neck. Edwards lariats KENTA, following that up with a Buckle Bomb and a Tiger Driver for two. Edwards’ Shining Wizard leads to Die Hard for another two count. KENTA shoves Edwards into the referee when he tries to hook him for another Tiger Driver and drops Edwards with a DDT. While the referee is down, he tries to sneak attack him with the belt. Edwards stops him with a superkick, to the fans dismay. When Edwards tries to use the title belt himself, KENTA delivers a low blow. He clobbers Edwards with the title and slaps the referee awake. KENTA finally hits the Go 2 Sleep for the pin at 18:42. I like that Edwards played to the crowd’s jeers for a little while and they adjusted the match somewhat, but because of that adjustment, the way the match ended didn’t really work out. The fans were perfectly content with KENTA cheating to beat Edwards because they really didn’t want Edwards to win. The wrestling was fine, but it’s clear that their best matches together are in the past. There was also no reason this needed to be 19 minutes. I had low expectations for this, and this match struck just above that low threshold. ***

Hikuleo appears on the screen after the match and challenges KENTA to a STRONG Openweight Title match at Wrestling Dontaku on May 3rd. KENTA accepts. That will be the first STRONG title match in Japan!

STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship
The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada

The MCMG have been champions since 10.28.2022 and this is their fourth defense. MCMG challenged Tanahashi and Okada to a title match back at “Multiverse United.” Aussie Open, who lost the titles in a triple threat match where they weren’t planned, claimed to be next in line for a title match. MCMG decided to make it a triple threat title defense with both teams involved. Okada and Tanahashi slowed the pace of the match and wore down Davis, who cartwheeled his way through a double clothesline and took down the Mega Powers with a double clothesline of his own. Fletcher then found himself isolated by the champions. Davis blind tagged himself in, and Aussie Open surprised Shelley with a big boot/superkick combo. Okada interjected with boot scrapes to the back of Davis’ head as he was attacking Shelley, but Davis turned right around and chopped Okada out of the ring. Once Shelley managed to send Fletcher face first into the turnbuckle with a Complete Shot and knock Davis off of the ring apron, Sabin tagged in and took out both teams. Davis has taken out the Guns when Fletcher kicks out of their missile dropkick/Complete Shot combo, so he decides to tag in Okada. Okada gets a nearfall on Sabin with an Air Raid Crash across his thigh. Sabin tags in Davis after taking Okada with a gamengiri, and Okada tags in Tanahashi as well. Okada puts Fletcher in the Money Clip when he tries to free Davis from a sharpshooter, but the Guns sneak in and put Tanahashi and Okada in the Border City Stretch and a Hammerlock Stretch. Aussie Open break the submissions and smash the Guns spines into one another. They do the same to Tanahashi and Okada after giving them back suplexes on the ring apron. Okada saves Tanahashi from the Coriolis, but Tanahashi may have hurt himself with a Twist and Shout on Fletcher. Okada drops a top rope elbow onto Davis. Davis gets his knees up to block Tanahashi’s High Fly Flow, but unbeknownst to him, Sabin had blind tagged himself in on Tanahashi. The Guns get Okada and Davis on one side of the ring. Fletcher looks to wipe them all out with a moonsault, and ends up landing partially onto the guardrail. Unbelievably, he is capable of making his way back into the ring on his own accord. Sabin fights off Aussie Open, and with Shelley the champions get an incredibly close nearfall with the Dirt Bomb on Fletcher. Okada and Tanahashi enter the ring, and the Guns get rid of both of them, leaving themselves alone once again with Fletcher. Davis assists, putting Sabin away with Close Your Eyes and Count To F*ck after Fletcher tombstones Shelley. Aussie Open knocks Okada and Tanahashi off of the apron as they try to come back into the ring, and pin Sabin with Coriolis at 25:13 to win the STRONG Openweight Tag Titles for the second time. This was a lot of fun. Aussie Open were the tandem both of the other teams targeted at the start of the match, and they fought through those odds and what could’ve been a disastrous injury for Fletcher to solidify themselves as THE top tag team in New Japan. The fact that New Japan’s version of the Mega Powers and the incumbent champions seemed to view them as the biggest threat in the match is very telling as to how they’re perceived. Aussie Open are two of my favorites to watch and I am thrilled New Japan is fully behind them. This was a great way to end the show. ****¼

Aussie Open close the show, with Fletcher stating that they defeated two of the greatest wrestlers of all time, as well as the greatest tag team of a generation in the same match. With the two sets of gold they hold, there is no doubt that they are the best tag team in the world. Fletcher calls bullshit on the fans who heckle them with “FTR” chants, and reiterates that they’re the greatest tag team in the world and that they run the world.

As I was leaving the building, I thought this event was better than last year’s event. After watching it back, I think that’s debatable, but I do believe this is the more consistent show of the two. I also appreciated that it had more New Japan star power, as last year seemed very reliant on AEW names more than it did New Japan. Neither is bad, per se, but I prefer the former. The production was also a big time step-up from last year which is appreciated. This is a long way of saying this show was really good.

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