Originally published at IMPACT x NJPW Multiverse United: Tanahashi vs. Speedball
IMPACT Wrestling and New Japan Pro-Wrestling teamed up over the last few years to help bring some great continuity between NJPW, NJPW STRONG, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor and All Elite Wrestling as a result of the global pandemic. The story arcs and matches in NJPW STRONG helped introduce many new faces which have not only become popular company talents, but also help prime casual fans in the annual wild As the wrestling world slowly re-opened, these companies continued working together, having opened multiple Forbidden Doors, so it’s now more of a Forbidden Hallway or a Scooby-Doo movie with wrestlers passing through one door and running out another one elsewhere.
The commentary team of Ian Riccaboni, Matthew Rehwoldt, and Tom Hannifan helped weave together all the ongoings of both promotions, the histories of all the competitors, and make a concerted effort to make the program further accessible by including discussions about pre-AEW acquisition ROH and the extended multiverse with AEW and the international wrestling scene. Mickie James tagged in for the IMPACT Knockouts 4-Way, providing further context to the last minute card changes with regards to the status of the IMPACT Knockouts Championship.
News: “Card Subject to Change”
- Will Ospreay Drops Out! As mentioned previously, Ospreay dropped out of the 2023 New Japan Cup after injuring his shoulder during his outstanding match against Mark Davis. Unfortunately, that meant arguably one of the most anticipated matches on the card: Ospreay vs. Speedball Mikey Bailey — a match-up that has happened a handful of times in the UK as well as PWG (back in 2015 in the semi-finals of Battle of Los Angeles). Due to the visa situation that greatly impacted Bailey’s ability to perform in the US previously, this was to be their first singles match in the US in almost eight years. Hiroshi Tanahashi volunteered to take up the mantle for Ospreay, allowing Bailey to have his first match against the Ace. Ever.
- Mickie James Not Medically Cleared?! Prior to Sacrifice in Canada, IMPACT announced that Mickie James vs. Jordynne Grace for the Knockouts Championship due to injury. The indicated that James would address the situation at SACRIFICE and the potential ramifications of the scheduled 4-Way match at Multiverse United. James confirmed that she had a broken rib and would not be able to defend against Grace and would not be medically cleared for Los Angeles a week later. It was decided that Grace would meet the winner of the Knockouts match at Multiverse United between Deonna Purrazzo, Gisele Shaw and Miyu Yamashita at Rebellion. Should James be medically cleared in time, that match would become a three-way title defense. If she isn’t cleared, she will surrender the title to the winner of the match.
- Josh Alexander Vacates IMPACT World Championship! On Friday, March 24th, IMPACT announced that Alexander needed to vacate the championship due to a tricep tear. As a result, the championship match was moved to IMPACT’s PPV Rebellion on April 16th with KUSHIDA and Steve Maclin. However, at the end of the SACRIFICE PPV broadcast, no definitive opponent for KUSHIDA was presented. Later on, it was announced that Lio Rush would fill the card vacancy left by Alexander.
…and this was all within the last weeks leading up to the highly anticipated co-branded show at WrestleCon. Despite the multiple unexpected “card subject to change” situations, as a fan, I am grateful that the health and well-being of the competitors was made a priority. Did it bum me out that if affected a third of the card, including three high-profile matches? Sure, but I certainly wouldn’t hold it against them. The flexibility exhibited by the competitors, especially those who volunteered to step in like Rush, Tanahashi and Slamovich, really helped to right the ship.
Pre-Multiverse Verdict: I went into the show cautiously optimistic, even with the multiple last minute changes. While the IMPACT shows leading up to Multiverse did tie-into the overall presentation of the event, Multiverse United presented itself as an easy launching point for new fans as well.
Multiverse United Quick Picks
- Bullet Club ©IMPACT vs. Motor City Machine Guns ©NJPW STRONG vs. TMDK vs. Aussie Open
- KUSHIDA vs. Lio Rush
- KENTA vs. Minoru Suzuki
- NJPW Excursion Kick Off Match: LA Dojo vs. Noge Dojo – Worth a Watch
- X-Division Scramble Match: Chaotic 6-Man Scramble– Recommended
- 8-Man Tag Match: A Rogues’ Gallery of STRONG & IMPACT – Worth a Watch
- Singles Match: Super Heavyweight Face-Off – Recommended
- IMPACT Knockouts Contender 4-Way: The Winner Heads to Rebellion – Recommended
- IMPACT Tag Team Championship 4-Way: Tag Team Wrestling Fan’s Delight – Highly Recommended
- Special Singles Match: The Bad Child prepares to derail The Time Splitter’s Momentum – Highly Recommended
- NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship: Over 15-years of history – Highly Recommended
- Singles Match: Speedball vs. Ace. First Time Ever – Highly Recommended
The Excursion Kick-Off Match between Uemura and Kidd was streamed for free as the Countdown program to the PPV over on FITE TV.
NJPW Excursion Kick Off Match (1/TL): Yuya Uemura (LA Dojo) defeated Gabriel Kidd (Noge Dojo) (7:52) – Flying Crossbody/Pin
There was a time when Yuya Uemura and Gabriel Kidd were in the Noge Dojo together. When Uemura went onto LA Dojo for his international excursion, Kidd remained in Japan during the core of the global pandemic. Once travel reopened, he returned to England to compete and graduated from the Noge Dojo. While Kidd returned to Japan last fall to tag with Alex Coughlin in World Tag League, Uemura has remained grounded in the US working around the country.
During their time together in Japan, they had multiple Young Lion singles matches, but their last singles meeting was May 1, 2021, prior to Wrestling Dontaku and Uemura’s departure for the United States.
With the recent ‘Coming Soon’ trailer at the NJC Finals, both Yuya Uemura and Gabriel Kidd could and should be in the conversation about potential wrestlers slated for a Japan return, especially with Best of the Super Juniors returning in mid-May.
X-Division Scramble Match: Trey Miguel © defeated Frankie Kazarian, Rich Swann, Kevin Knight, Clark Connors, and Rocky Romero (7:11) – Miguel pinned Knight to retain the X-Division Championship
IMPACT’s X-Division Championship is known for the chaos that ensues whenever the championship is involved, especially when there are multiple participants in the match. Although the match was equal parts IMPACT (Miguel, Kazarian & Swann) and NJPW (Romero, Connors & Knight), it was every man for himself and the enemy of my enemy is still… also my enemy!
There were plenty of fun sequences, like everyone gets an arm drag and let’s all dropkick one another together. Naturally, things quickly devolved into a hungry battle for the championship, with Miguel skating out by the hairs of his chin.
- Trey Miguel is currently heading to Rebellion as the X-Division Champion. Curious to see who challenges him next. Would love to see Kazarian call next, or he can go after KUSHIDA after mid-April.
- Curious to see if Romero, Connors and Knight will get berths in the BOSJ30.
8-Man Tag Match: PCO, Sami Callihan, Alex Coughlin & Fred Rosser defeated Joe Hendry, Eddie Edwards, Tom Lawlor & JR Kratos (12:24) – PCO Sault/Pin Combo
This was a massive vortex of IMPACT and NJPW STRONG. Was it fun? Yes. Was it crazy? Yes. Did I expect daredevil moves from some of the larger participants? I should have. It’s Mania Season. Does this match any particular ramifications in either future IMPACT or NJPW STRONG storylines, not likely, but if your new to either promotion, it’s a great sampler of the variety of characters and talents available across the board.
Singles Match (1/TL): Jeff Cobb (NJPW) defeated Moose (Impact) (11:51) – Tour of the Islands/Pin Combo
If you love beefy, super heavyweight matches, have I got a treat for you. If you enjoy watching said super heavyweights defy physics with feats of strength and agility to the point where it’s almost criminal, look no further. While they both are typically kept apart due to separate promotions and often by the Pacific Ocean.
- Jeff Cobb is always a busy bee when Mania Week rolls around. I’m hoping we’re not going to have to wait until the G1 for another monster run from Our Ambassador of Aloha.
- Moose will regain traction in IMPACT despite the loss.
IMPACT Knockouts contender 4-Way: Deonna Purrazzo vs. Gisele Shaw vs. Miyu Yamashita (TJPW) vs. Masha Slamovich (9:20) – with Deonna pinning Gisele after The Queen’s Gambit
Despite being unable to compete in the match, Mickie James was able to hop onto commentary, swapping seats with Ian Riccaboni. Having her on the call during the Knockouts match, made up for the lack of Knockouts representation on commentary. I loved that Masha Slamovich was able to be slotted in as the replacement for James because she’s quickly become one of the names with lots of buzz surrounding it.
Purrazzo and Shaw carried over their feud, but the real unknown in the match was TJPW’s Miyu Yamashita. The Pink Striker made her IMPACT debut at the post-Sacrifice TV tapings in a singles match against Killer Kelly. Had Yamashita not been previously booked elsewhere for the date of Rebellion, I would have easily write her in as a lock to be fast-tracked toward the Knockouts Championship. Shaw’s corkscrew tornillo was as beautiful as an ice skater’s triple axel.
In this modern era of the Knockouts Division, Purrazzo is one of the pillars, so her winning and advancing felt like a smart, albeit a safe move. Does she need a third run as Knockouts Champion? Not really, but she has helped hold the division together since her joining the company full time in recent years.
- Deonna Purrazzo advances to Rebellion to face Jordynne Grace for the Knockout Championship. Mickie James may or may not participate in the match if she is cleared in time.
- Miyu Yamashita has a packed schedule between now and June, full of dates around the US.
- Gisele Shaw & Masha Slamovich may be down, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet, especially if Deonna walks out of Rebellion as champion.
IMPACT Tag Team Championship 4-Way: Bullet Club (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) © defeated Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher), TMDK (Shane Haste & Big Dude Tito), and MCMG (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley) (13:22) – Bey pinned Tito after THE FOLD
The ringside area felt almost too intimate for all the action that spilled to the outside in this match. With four of the top tag teams in the world all gunning for one another, there was plenty of chaos to be had as they all jockeyed for supremacy and perhaps some bragging rights. With the absolute immeasurable amount of combined talent and experience in the ring, it wasn’t a matter of who is the best, but who’s timing is the best because seizing the opportune moment quickly became the name of the game in this match.
Again, if you love top tier tag team wrestling, look no further. Should NJPW STRONG or IMPACT have stand alone tag tournaments, they would feel almost incomplete without all four teams being included.
- Although the next challengers for Bullet Club’s IMPACT Tag Championships, it would seem that Ace Austin and Chris Bey had a little off-air meeting and greeting at an undisclosed location with FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler).
- Aussie Open head back to Japan to challenge Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) at Sakura Genesis (4/8) for the IWGP Tag Team Championships. I am certain that TMDK (Shane Haste & Big Dude Tito &/or Mikey Nicholls) could be watching that match closely to call next.
- Better yet, MCMG stop Hiroshi Tanahashi back stage asking if he and Kazuchika Okada would be interested in a STRONG Tag Championship Match. Aussie Open, as the former STRONG Champs interrupt and Alex Shelley suggests making it a triple threat match! Details forthcoming!
IMPACT World Championship: KUSHIDA defeated Lio Rush (12:42) – via Submission (with the Hoverboard Lock)
When IMPACT Sacrifice went off the air last week, we were all wondering who KUSHIDA would face at Multiverse United as his IMPACT World Championship match was moved to Rebellion. It felt like The Time Splitter was suddenly suspended in time without an opponent or any semblance of clear direction for MU. However, it would be later announced that Lio Rush would step in for a special singles match. They met previously in last year’s NJPW Super Junior Tag Tournament, and before that… the last time they shared a ring was in Ring of Honor’s 6-Man Tag Tournament in 2016 teaming together with Jay White.
Personally, this was my match of the night because both KUSHIDA and Lio threw the throttles wide open and just showed the world why they are two outstanding wrestlers. This may not have been the heated championship match that many hoped for, it was certainly a nail-biting speed yet full of grappling teases. KUSHIDA forced Rush to choose between a victory or his elbow and shoulder with multiple Hoverboard locks throughout the match.
- KUSHIDA will meet Steve Maclin at Rebellion in Toronto for the vacant IMPACT World Championship. I hope that along with that Hoverboard Lock, he’s got a very special Back To The Future to serve up as well.
- Lio Rush will have a homecoming in Washington DC when NJPW STRONG returns for Capital Collision on April 15th. He’ll be in a 10-man tag match which could be a precursor to BOSJ30. (see below)
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship (1/30): KENTA © defeated Minoru Suzuki (15:27) – questionable assistance to get a pinfall
With KENTA being based in the US and Minoru Suzuki regularly scheduling longer tours when he visits the US, this singles match feels quite natural, especially in the NJPW STRONG Realm. Both KENTA and Suzuki have had multiple appearances on NJPW STRONG since its establishment and both are wildly popular with the international fans. Their history together goes back to NOAH in 2005, including their first singles match, in which Suzuki defeated KENTA. They wouldn’t meet in singles competition again until the New Japan Cup 2021, and now two years later, they meet once more.
The Bullet Club incarnation of KENTA seems to irritate Suzuki more than any previous version of him. Throughout the New Japan Cup 2023 tag matches, KENTA and Suzuki actively went after one another, after KENTA was eliminated. Suzuki did not participate in the NJC23, but acquired a new protege in Ren Narita, leading to the formation of a new trio with El Desperado. Although Suzuki didn’t participate in the tournament, he scored a pin over the STRONG Openweight Champion during a tag match, which led to increased stakes for this match. Striking. Grappling. Even a little bit of comedy. Come see the softer-side of Suzuki.
The BC Era KENTA tends to play dirtier and cheats a fair bit, but in this inaugural championship defense, he dialed down the comedy a fair bit… largely due to who was standing in the opposite corner from him. There might have been some questionable, illegal shenanigans which led to KENTA managing to successfully retain the championship, however I feel terrible for the individuals who have to explain to Suzuki that there might not be a rematch with a potential cleaner fight any time soon.
- KENTA won’t have much time to rest as another Ghost of KENTA in NOAH’s Past appeared as IMPACT’s Eddie Edwards decided to tempt fate (and KENTA’s NXT Era of bad luck with unsafe parking lots) to present himself as the next challenger. It’s been many years since he was a Young Boy, so maybe it’s finally time to show the champion how far he can fall.
- Minoru Suzuki will defend the NEVER 6-Man Championships with STRONG STYLE (Ren Narita & El Desperado) against House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi and SHO).
Singles Match (1/TL): Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW) defeated Speedball Mike Bailey (Impact) (15:16) – High Fly Flow/Pin
When Will Ospreay was forced to drop out of the New Japan Cup after an outstanding match with Mark Davis, Tanahashi volunteered to fill the vacancy in the show card. This would allow for Speedball Mike Bailey, arguably one of the busiest wrestlers all weekend long, to check off The Ace of New Japan from his bucket list. This was a simple match, where the typical roles of hero and anti-hero/villain, in this match it was vague as to which roles Tanahashi and Bailey each played, which was somewhat refreshing. I do enjoy balance in a match, even if it quickly becomes unclear who is supposed to wear the white hat and which is supposed to wear the black hat.
Tanahashi focused on the key to a lot of Speedball’s offense, his legs and knees with the goal keeping him grounded as much and for as long as possible. The Ace was a little more aggressive than usual, which was likely a nod to Ospreay who couldn’t participate in the match. After a bunch of Dragon Screws, Tanahashi managed to slow down Bailey enough to get the High Fly Flow. To Mike Bailey’s credit, earlier in the day, he did compete at Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport in the return match with Kota Ibushi (which I would highly recommend if you haven’t yet seen it) AND Shigehiro Irie at The Hitchcock Memorial Super Show. Despite all that, he still had enough in the tank to main event this show with Tanahashi. Bailey is one of those names, that when it comes to Mania Week, you can see them on multiple shows and each and every time you watch them, you experience something a little different.
- Hiroshi Tanahashi had a match against Daniel Garcia at Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor. MCMG and Aussie Open are also interesting in seeing what the NJPW Dream Team of The Ace and The Rainmaker could bring to the NJPW Strong Tag Scene.
- I can’t wait to see where Mike Bailey crops up next. With it being Mania Week, he probably has multiple bookings and a wide-variety of opponents.
The partnership forged between NJPW and IMPACT during the pandemic has been one of my favorites. In the last few years, it has felt like both companies have made a concentrated effort to showcase talents in a balanced, reciprocal manner, where no one company is constantly and consistently squashing the other’s talent. When the talents are exchanged, they are presented consistently as attractions. Wins and loses are often traded between the companies as well, where it feels like they are working together to elevate both companies concurrently.
I love that the trio of Riccaboni, Rehwoldt and Hannafin were able to work seamlessly, each contributing their various perspectives, and linking their own multiverse experiences outside of the realms of New Japan and IMPACT to help paint a broader picture of the matches presented and more in-depth histories of the wrestlers involved. The NJPW talent featureed are largely from the US-based NJPW STRONG brand, including international favorites like Tanahashi, Suzuki, Cobb, Aussie Open, TMDK and KENTA helped the show feel part of the mainland Japan NJPW continuity as well. KENTA and Suzuki building their match during the New Japan Cup series and dragging it across the Pacific for a big match feel was a nice touch.
While this show was a bridge between IMPACT PPVs with Sacrifice last week and Rebellion on April 16th, it didn’t feel like it was designed purely to push storylines toward Rebellion in a few weeks’ time. The injuries which resulted in the cancellation of both the IMPACT Knockouts and World Championships were creatively and quickly remedied. Honestly, I preferred this instead of hastily throwing together replacement championship matches with zero build-up for the sake of having them. I do hope that Multiverse becomes an annual showcase between the companies as they continue their developing partnership. Talent from IMPACT have also been featured on NJPW STRONG and in Japan, so the consistency is a great way to bring new fans to both companies.
If you’d like a sample of what this inter-promotional showcase had to offer, check out the highlights. If you new to or curious about New Japan and/or IMPACT, this show is an accessible gateway into both promotions.
What’s Next for NJPW?
Scheduled Championship Defenses on Road to Sakura Genesis
- KOPW 2023 (4/2) Shingo Takagi © vs. Aaron Henare – Ultimate Triad Match (1 Pin + 1 Submission + 1 Countout KO)
- NEVER 6-Man (4/3) STRONG STYLE (Ren Narita, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki) vs. House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO)
- NJPW STRONG Championship (TBA) KENTA© vs. Eddie Edwards (IMPACT)
Just prior to the opening day of STARDOM’s Cinderella Tournament, Mercedes Moné finally gave her long awaited response to Hazuki’s proposal for a three-way match at Sakura Genesis. Hazuki and AZM will meet one another in the first round of the Cinderella Tournament on Sunday, and with the ten-minute time limit, this match could easily become a high speed frenzy that goes down to the wire. I have a feeling the champion will be watching this match rather closely and taking notes.
Sakura Genesis 2023 (4/8) Ryogoku Kokugikan; Full Card & Match Order TBA; Event Report Scheduled!
- NEW! Shinnichi Champion (NJPW TV) Special Mystery 6-Man Match: Produced by Asahi TV’s Tsumugi Mitani
- IWGP Women’s Championship (1/60): Mercedes Moné © vs. AZM vs. Hazuki – winner will face Mayu Iwatani at STARDOM’s All-Star Grand Queendom (4/23) in Yokohama Arena
- 6-Man Tag Match: Jeff Cobb, Aaron Henare & Francesco Akira vs. EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO
- 6-Man Tag Match: Tama Tonga, Hikuleo & Master Wato vs. KENTA, El Phantasmo & David Finlay
- 6-Man Tag Match: Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi vs. Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI
- NJPW World TV Championship(1/15): Zack Sabre Jr © vs. Shota Umino
- IWGP Tag Team Championship (1/60): Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) © vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
- IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Hiromu Takahashi © (LIJ) vs. Robbie Eagles (TMDK)
- IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (1/60): Kazuchika Okada © vs. SANADA (2023 New Japan Cup Winner)
Capital Collision (4/15) Washington, DC
- Singles Match (1/30): Fred Rosser vs. Juice Robinson
- 10-Man Tag Match (1/20): Tomohiro Ishii, Rocky Romero, Clark Connors, The DKC & Lio Rush vs. KUSHIDA, Volador Jr (CMLL), Mike Bailey (IMPACT), Gabe Kidd & Kevin Knight
- Tag Match (1/20): TMDK (Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito) vs. WCWC (Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson)
- Announced Participants: Kazuchika Okada, El Desperado, Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi
Collision in Philadelphia (4/16) 2300 Arena, Philadelphia, PA
- ROH PURE Rules Match (1/20): Alex Coughlin vs. Tracy Williams
- Singles Match (1/30): Gabriel Kidd vs. Eddie Kingston
What’s Next for IMPACT Wrestling?Photo Courtesy: IMPACT Wrestling
Rebellion (4/16) Rebel Entertainment Complex, Toronto, Canada
- Hardcore War: Team Bully Ray vs. Team Tommy Dreamer
- IMPACT Knockouts Championship: Jordynne Grace vs. Deonna Purrazzo – Should Mickie James be medically cleared in time, the match will become a three-way. If not, she will award the championship to the winner between Grace and Purrazzo.
- IMPACT World Championship: Steve Maclin vs. KUSHIDA – Rescheduled from Multiverse United due to Josh Alexander’s tricep injury, forcing him to vacate the championship.
NJPW’s 2023 Domestic Schedule
- Road to Sakura Genesis 2023 (multiple venues 4/1-7)
- Sakura Genesis 2023 (4/8) Ryogoku Sumo Hall
- Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2023 (multiple venues 4/20-21; 23-27; 4/30-5/1)
- Hirooki Goto’s 20th Anniversary Show (4/22) Sports Center, Mie Prefecture
- Wrestling Satsuma no Kuni (4/29) Kagoshima
- Wrestling Dontaku 2023 (5/3) Fukuoka International Center
- Best of the Super Juniors 30 (multiple venues 5/12-5/28) – Finals on 5/28 at Ota Ward Gymnasium; Participants/Format TBA
- NEW! Dominion (6/4) Osaka-jō (Castle) Hall
2023 NJPW STRONG Live/International Schedule
- Capital Collision (4/15) Entertainment & Sports Arena, Washington, DC
- Collision in Philadelphia (4/16) 2300 Arena, Philadelphia, PA
- NEW! Resurgence (5/21) Walter Pyramid, Long Beach, CA
- NEW! Forbidden Door II (6/25) Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada
We’ll keep you POSTed on all the upcoming ongoings in NJPW and STARDOM! So keep an eye for Dream Slam Monthly and other coverage soon!