Philadelphia, PA. – 4.16.2023
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni, Alex Koslov & Veda Scott.
El Desperado & Volador Jr. vs. Delirious & Kevin Kight
There was confusion from all parties when Delirious challenged Volador to tag in, but then tagged in Knight as soon as Volador approached him. Knight was game to take on the veteran, and kept with the pace of the Lucha legend. Desperado surprised Knight with a shoulder tackle after blind tagging himself into the match. Delirious surprises Desperado right back by tripping him when he hits the ropes. Knight follows that up with a dropkick to the temple. Delirious also drop toe holds Desperado into a standing Mad Splash from Knight to his lower back for two. Desperado slides out of a suplex from Knight and pulls him into his own belly-to-back suplex. Volador wipes out Knight with a pair of superkicks and a backbreaker. Delirious prevents Knight from being pinned and directs him to get back to fighting with Volador. Knight ends their exchange with his sky high dropkick. Desperado and Delirious throw strikes at one another, with Knight aiding Delirious with a double shoulder block to Desperado. Knight takes down Desperado with a super Frankensteiner, right into Shadows Over Hell from Delirious, with Volador needing to jump into the match to interrupt the pin. He takes out Knight before giving Delirious a superkick and backbreaker. Desperado then drops Delirious with Pinche Loco for the pin at 10:17. These unusual pairings had me curious how this match would go, and to my surprise, Delirious and Knight were shockingly symbiotic. They also had very good chemistry with Volador and Desperado. These teams had a fun and enjoyable match to get the crowd going. **¾
ROH Pure Rules Match
Alex Coughlin vs. Tracy Williams
Coughlin challenged his trainer Katsuyori Shibata to a Pure Title match on the latest ROH TV, so this match is to help him become accustomed to the rule set before challenging for the title. The Pure Rules are as follows:
The competitors are to obey the “Code of Honor”, shaking one another’s hand before and after the match.
Each wrestler has 3 rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls. After a wrestler has used all 3 of their rope breaks, submission and pin attempts on or under the ropes by the opponent are considered legal.
Closed-fist punches to the face are not permitted. Punches to other parts of the body are permitted, excluding low blows. The first use of a closed fist results in a warning, a second will be a disqualification.
They do not mention the typical time limit, judges, or interference rules here.
This was so different from most Pure matches and I loved it. Typically, when someone escapes a hold, it’s either through a reversal into another hold,a forced break by the referee. Here, Williams had to constantly adjust for Coughlin’s incredible strength, but how successful is that when every part of your opponent’s body is strong? Coughlin showed that his neck, legs, and upper body were all strong. I was most impressed with him escaping Williams’ guillotine choke by popping him up into a powerbomb, and the 2300 Arena was wowed by him moving from a seated position with Williams in a delayed vertical position to a standing position where he dropped Williams successfully. There were also no rope breaks, not even a tease for one. While it’s Williams’ pride that often keeps him from using the ropes, Coughlin’s power advantage put him in a position where he never even needed to consider a rope break. After an intense forearm strike exchange, Coughlin ducked a rolling clothesline and German suplexed Williams into a bridge for the pin at 12:49. This was awesome, and I am really interested in Coughlin and Shibata’s Pure title match. Put this on ROH TV, you cowards. ***½
BULLET CLUB members David Finlay and Clark Connors make their way to the ring. Finlay says that last week BULLET CLUB got rid of a disrespectful piece of crap named El Phantasmo. Last night, they upgraded to a loyal, hungry killer in Clark Connors. Finlay says Connors spent years trying to break through, but it only took a matter of seconds to change his life forever. He says Connors was overlooked and underappreciated for far too long, just like he was. The reason he is making all of these changes is so he can be the first BULLET CLUB leader to get the BULLET CLUB before they get him. If someone isn’t loyal, or he senses that they are eyeing his spot, or aren’t a killer, they’re gone. BULLET CLUB is for killers and savages only, and he calls out the DKC so Connors can finish what he started yesterday.
The DKC vs. Clark Connors
This match was added to the card after Connors attacked DKC yesterday and joined the BULLET CLUB. David Finlay is in Connors’ corner. DKC runs right into the ring and blasts Connors with a karate kick to the chest. DKC does some damage to him on the mat, but Connors shuts him down with a powerslam. Connors shoulder blocks him repeatedly in the corner. The fans chant “Jay White” which Finlay has said does not count as BULLET CLUB. It’s enough of a distraction that it enables DKC to get a crucifix driver on Connors. DKC superkicks Connors when Connors breaks out of his modified Rings of Saturn. Connors takes him out with a spear. He waits for DKC to stand up and spears him again. Finlay tells Connors one more, so he waits for DKC to get up before delivering a third spear. It takes DKC a long time to get up again, and Connors nails him with a fourth spear for the pin at 6:24. Not much of a match, but a definitive win to solidify Connors’ new trajectory. I’m still not sure I like him in BULLET CLUB, but time will tell. **
TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr., Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito) vs. Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson)
TMDK swept Team Filthy yesterday, with Sabre defeating Lawlor to retain the NJPW TV title, and Haste and Tito defeating the West Coast Wrecking Crew in the Kickoff match. TMDK were also firmly in control of the match until Nelson caught Haste out of mid-air with a backbreaker. Nelson and Lawlor clobbered Haste with a gamengiri/enzuigiri combo. Nelson walked around the ring with Sabre in a delayed vertical position, ultimately dropping him on the floor, with Nelson and Lawlor also double suplexing Tito. All of Team Filthy mock TMDK by taking a seat on the ring apron. They beat down Haste until Haste surprises Nelson with a superplex and Sabre gets the tag. He puts WCWC in an abdominal stretch/deathlock combo. Nelson breaks out of the submission and belly-to-belly suplexes Sabre. Lawlor lays in chest kicks and knees to the face. Sabre captures a PK and twists up Lawlor’s leg. Sabre also blocks an enzuigiri and gets Lawlor in an ankle lock. They end up knocking each other down with running boots to the face. Their partners (Tito and Isaacs, and Haste and Nelson) also fight til both men crumble, bringing us back to Lawlor and Sabre fighting it out. Lawlor ends it with a knee strike, but when he signals for NKOTB, Sabre pulls him in a guillotine, converting that into a Cobra Twist. Haste and Tito put the WCWC in submissions as well, but Lawlor dumps Sabre onto Tito and then kicks Haste in the head to free his partners. We get a three man version of Movies on the Roof unleashed on Sabre, with Haste jumping in to break up the subsequent pin. Sabre Pele kicks Lawlor’s shoulder after weaving out of a sleeper hold. Big Teets cleans house on all three members of Team Filthy, wiping out Lawlor with a suicide dive into the barricades and landing a double spear on the WCWC. WCWC also broke up Tito’s pin on Lawlor after a Blue Thunder Bomb. Tito and Nelson end up in the ring with one another. Tito drops Nelson with Ride The Lightning, which won them the match last night. Lawlor surprises him with a PK right away, and follows up with the NKOTB for the pin at 16:32. Team Filthy once again sit on the apron like TMDK to celebrate. I like that the issue between these two teams will seemingly continue, and it makes sense to me that Team Filthy would win this battle. This is the first time Tito and Sabre have ever teamed, while Lawlor has tons of experience teaming with Nelson and Isaacs, making them the more experienced trio. It was a very fun and engaging match, and the sixteen minutes flew by. ***½
Just 5 Guys (SANADA & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Homicide & Rocky Romero
Homicide replaces Fred Rosser, who was moved to the semi-main event (more on that later). Homicide is shaken by SANADA attempting to put him in a Paradise Lock. Romero is stuck in a side headlock from Kanemaru until he manages to finally back suplex his way free. Kanemaru gets Homicide in a figure four when he enters the ring, but Romero kicks him in the ribs and knocks SANADA off of the ring apron. Kanemaru low bridges the ropes to send Romero out, but he is blind sided by a back elbow from Homicide. Homicide sends Kanemaru into the barricades as Romero clobbers SANADA with a haymaker and chops. The reunited Rottweilers manhandle Kanemaru as SANADA recoups, including biting his hand in the process. By the time Kanemaru is able to halt Romero’s Forever clotheslines with a tornado DDT, SANADA is recovered and able to tag in. SANADA dropkicks Homicide to the floor and puts Romero in the Paradise Lock and dropkicks him while he’s tied up. Homicide and Romero double team the World Champion, with Kanemaru shoving Romero onto Homicide when he has SANADA pinned after an exploder suplex. Romero takes Kanemaru to the floor as Homicide looks for a butterfly suplex on SANADA. SANADA however pops him up and then pulls him down into the Skull End. Romero makes it back into the ring to break up the hold. He takes out Kanemaru with a tope con hilo into the barricades, and Homicide scores a nearfall on SANADA with an Ace Crusher. SANADA slips out of the Cop Killa and O’Connor rolls him into a bridge for the pin at 14:26. This was a solid, pedestrian tag team match. What really helped it out was the crowd ROARING for SANADA, especially when he was in the ring with Homicide. If this weekend was a litmus test to see how the Western audience would take to SANADA as a top guy, I think he passed with high marks. ***
AEW International Championship
Orange Cassidy vs. Gabriel Kidd
Cassidy has been champion since 10.12.2022 and this is his nineteenth defense. The former All-Atlantic Title was renamed the International Title on Cassidy’s fifteenth defense against Jeff Jarrett in Canada. Cassidy is replacing the injured Eddie Kingston. He scores early with a suicide dive, but Kidd’s heavy chops ground the champion. We see David Finlay and Clark Connors watching the match from the VIP balcony, as Kidd knocks down Cassidy with a haymaker and lands a senton splash. A snap brainbuster gets Kidd a nearfall. Cassidy’s weak overhand chops successfully lull Kidd into being superkicked. Cassidy stomps down Kidd in the corner and spikes him with a satellite DDT for two. Kidd blocks the Orange Punch, but Cassidy counters his brainbuster attempt into Stun Dog Millionaire. Kidd pulls off a brainbuster by catching Cassidy coming off of the top turnbuckle for two. He snaps Cassidy’s fingers before attempting a piledriver. Cassidy counters into the Beach Break for two. Kidd from the second turnbuckle pulls Cassidy off of his feet and into a Guillotine Choke. He releases, hoping for a knockout victory, but decides to try for a moonsault when it appears that won’t happen. He misses, but is able to stop Cassidy’s back roll into a tombstone piledriver for two. Cassidy connects with an Orange Punch, but Kidd rebounds into a rolling lariat for two. Kidd grabs Cassidy’s taped up hand, looking for a kimura lock, only for Cassidy to pull Kidd down into a Mouse Trap to get the pin at 11:52. Between getting some microphone time yesterday and shining in a singles contest against Cassidy today, it seems like New Japan is going full bore with Kidd, of which I approve. He has all the talent and the fans are really into him – he just needs to be featured more consistently. Cassidy deserves a ton of credit for giving Kidd so much, especially given that he was a replacement opponent. I hope this match makes it onto an AEW broadcast (likely a Dark show) so more fans can be exposed to Kidd. By this time next year, he could and should be a top person on these NJPW US cards. ***¾
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. BULLET CLUB (KENTA & Chase Owens)
They’ve been on the Tecnico side of the equation for so long that sometimes we forget LIJ is capable of being underhanded. This is what Naito and Takahashi needed to do to get the upper hand over BULLET CLUB, who were attempting to play dirty as per usual. When Naito posed mid-ring, KENTA surprised him with a sneak attack, and Owens gave Takashi a backdrop onto the ring apron. The BULLET CLUB beat down Naito with pleasure and swagger, until Naito finally caught KENTA with a neckbreaker. Takahashi clotheslined both Owens and KENTA in the corner, rolling KENTA into a basement dropkick afterwards for two. KENTA escapes a Time Bomb attempt but succumbs to an arm-capture dragonscrew leg whip. Naito takes out Owens with the Combinación Cabrón for two. Owens has Naito in his crosshairs for the C-Trigger. Naito avoids it, but Owens escapes the Destino and takes out Naito with a hammerlock clothesline for two. KENTA sends Naito into the C-Trigger from Owens, with Takahashi interjecting to break his pin attempt. Naito weaves out of the Package Piledriver and is wiped out with a jumping knee strike. Takahashi superkicks Owens into an enzuigiri from Naito. Naito jackknife pins Owens after a running knee strike from Takahashi. Takahashi knocks KENTA to the floor before assisting Naito with a tornado DDT. Naito then successfully lands Destino on Owens for the pin at 12:31. That was better than I expected, mostly because they got all the chicanery out of the way at the beginning. Like the earlier tag match, it was nothing special, but a nice attraction match for LIJ. It’s interesting, though, that Takahashi, who has an IWGP Title match on the horizon, didn’t pick up the victory. Getting some momentum after yesterday’s loss would have been nice. ***
Rocky Romero comes out to the ring. He addresses Hiromu Takahashi, reminding him that a few months ago, he promised the fans an All Star Jr. Festival in the USA. Romero reveals that he did some work behind the scenes, and that the first ever All Star Jr. Festival USA will take place on Saturday, August 19th, at the 2300 Arena. Takahashi is ecstatic! It was revealed later that night that in the same building the next day, the second NJPW/Impact Multiverse United would take place. That’s going to be one heck of a weekend!
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship #1 Contendership Tournament Match – Philadelphia Street Fight
Fred Rosser vs. Lance Archer
New Japan decided to hold a four person tournament to determine the next challenger for Kenny Omega’s IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. Juice Robinson was the original opponent for Archer, but after his attack on Rosser yesterday, Robinson was suspended and Rosser took his place. Rosser’s head, right rib cage, and right forearm are all heavily bandaged, and he had five stitches in his left ear after the attack. Archer proposes a No Rules match, given that’s the kind of match he and Juice Robinson had back in 2019 when Archer defeated him for the IWGP U.S. Title. Rosser accepted the stipulation after Archer insinuated he would be a bitch for not accepting. Rosser fights through the pain as he chops up Archer in the corner. Archer takes him to the floor and approaches with two kendo sticks, but Rosser throws a chair into his face and chokes him with a production cord. Archer pummels Rosser throughout the building, eventually booting him over the guardrail and back to the ringside area. Archer uses a kendo stick to smash a chair into Rosser’s face and also shoos off some of the staff with it as well. Archer attacks his stitched up ear when Rosser looks to attack him with the ring bell, resulting in Rosser becoming busted open. Archer peacocks to the crowd after sending Rosser head first into a chair he propped up in the corner. Rosser gets an adrenaline rush and batters Archer’s body with a kendo stick. Rosser has Archer in a crossface chickenwing when Juice Robinson slips in from the crowd and pummels him. Rosser grabs Robinson’s crotch to prevent him from being struck with a fistful of quarters again, but Robinson does manage to crack him with the Left Hand of God, with the coins flying out of his hand. Archer then lays out Rosser with a lariat for the pin at 14:22. I liked that ending, and that the issue with Robinson and Rosser continues, and that the stipulation gives Robinson an out for getting involved in the match even though he is suspended. However, these all around the building brawls and hardcore matches are just not very fun to watch at home. I like Archer in New Japan, but I was also hoping this would provide a path for Rosser to finally make it over to Japan. Maybe one day. **½
Lance Archer says it doesn’t matter if Will Ospreay or Hiroshi Tanahashi wins at “Resurgence” in Los Angeles. Come June 4th at “Dominion”, everybody dies. He also tells Tony Khan that there is nothing he can do to protect Kenny Omega at “Forbidden Door II.”
STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship
Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. CHAOS (Lio Rush & Tomohiro Ishii)
Aussie Open have been champions since 4.15.2023 and this is their first. This was originally scheduled to be a six man tag team match, but travel issues kept TJP from the show, and Tanahashi was injured last night. Aussie Open agreed to put the titles on the line just one night after winning them. Rush runs circles around the champions until Davis shuts him down with a chop. He shoves Rush to the corner, insisting a tag to Ishii be made. He hangs with the Stone Pitbull in a strike exchange, but together Ishii and Rush string together some tandem offense to wipe out both Fletcher and Davis. Davis halts a springboard Frankensteiner from Rush with a powerbomb. Fletcher PK’s Rush into a senton from Davis, putting Aussie Open firmly back in control. Davis throws Rush to the corner, inviting a tag from Ishii, but instead Ishii encourages Rush to fight back. The encouragement works, as Rush rolls out of the way of another Davis senton and away from Fletcher’s grasp and makes a tag on his own accord to Ishii. Fletcher accidentally strikes Davis twice during Ishii’s offensive flurry against them. Aussie Open regroup, knock CHAOS to the outside, and run them back first into one another. Davis discourages Fletcher from going for the moonsault to the outside, as that’s how he hurt himself the night before. Rush grabs hold of Fletcher on the top rope while Ishii handles Davis, and Rush brings down Fletcher with a skyscraper Frankensteiner! Rush headscissors Fletcher into a headbutt from Ishii. Ishii then drives Rush on top of Fletcher and gets a two count. Aussie Open stops a kick from Rush and take him down with both Dental Plan and the Aussie Arrow. Ishii pulls Fletcher to the floor to stop the One-Man Ragnarok. Davis and Ishii then exchange clotheslines and chops, with Ishii ultimately dropping Davis with a brainbuster. Rush takes out Fletcher with an Asai moonsault. Davis absorbs multiple lariats from Ishii, but after Rush hits one of his own, Ishii hits one more to take down Davis for a two count. Davis reverses a brainbuster with a suplex and then knocks down Ishii with a big boot. Davis blocks The Come Up from Rush, and Aussie Open takes him out with the One-Man Ragnarok for two. Ishii lariats Davis and Rush lands the Final Hour, but Fletcher shoves Ishii into the pin attempt to break it up just in time. Both teams leave each other laying, with Aussie Open recovering first. Rush throws Fletcher’s boot into Davis’ feet and rolls him up for two. Davis shuts him down with a big boot, and Ishii shuts down their Coriolis attempt. Davis clobbers Ishii with a gamengiri into a tombstone piledriver from Fletcher. Fletcher superkicks Rush into Davis’ Close Your Eyes and Count To F*ck. Coriolis follows, giving Aussie Open the pin at 20:58. This was a near perfect example of the main event style tag team match, with explosive and exciting offensive combos and some really close nearfalls. I thought it was going to be the biggest uphill battle of all time for CHAOS to convince us they had a shot at winning the titles, but by God they did it. I also am surprised at how harmonious Rush and Ishii’s offense was, but perhaps they grew accustomed to each other during their multiman tags in Japan. Suck it, everyone who whines about those. These duos took lemons and made a delicious lemonade. ****
In the show’s closing promo, Fletcher remembers wrestling in the 2300 Arena for the first time last year, and now they’re back one year later as the best team in the world. He thanks the fans, and reminds us that Aussie Open runs the world.
The DC show was better overall, but this show definitely over delivered. The Pure Rules match and two title matches were the highlights, and I give a lot of credit to those who had to adjust with less than 24 hours notice. Overall, a really strong weekend of US New Japan shows. Bring on Resurgence.