IMPACT x NJPW
Multiverse United: Only the STRONG Survive
March 30, 2023
Globe Theater
Los Angeles, California

Watch: FITE

For their 2023 Mania weekend show, Impact Wrestling teamed up with New Japan Pro Wrestling to present Multiverse United: Only the STRONG Survive.

The show had some hard luck with injuries, losing Will Ospreay, Josh Alexander and Mickie James in the previous week, but still offered some promise on paper. In the main event, Hiroshi Tanahashi faced Mike Bailey in a first-time match. Commentary came from Tom Hannifan, Matthew Rehwoldt and Ian Riccaboni.

Countdown to Multiverse United

Yuya Uemura def. Gabriel Kidd

I loved the intensity of the early exchanges between these two, even if it was mostly just trading headlocks and running the ropes, as they really captured that intense young lion energy.

The closing stretch threw me off a bit, although I get the story they were trying to tell. Having severely weakened Uemura with a Guillotine Choke in the corner, Kidd opted not to finish him off but instead posed and interacted with the crowd. That lapse in concentration cost him, with Uemura coming back to win with a couple of snappy arm drags and top rope crossbody. **3/4

Multiverse United

Impact Wrestling X-Division Championship: Trey Miguel (C) def. Rocky Romero, Clark Connors, Kevin Knight, Frankie Kazarian and Rich Swann

Lasting barely seven minutes, this match was very rushed and ultimately amounted to little more than just a collection of spots.

Kevin Knight stood out as always with his boundless athleticism, Frankie Kazarian hit some springboard leg drops and Clark Connors managed to spear seemingly everybody.

Connors was the standout for me but he had the win stolen from him, Trey Miguel chucking him out of the ring to pin Knight and retain his title. **

Alex Coughlin, PCO, Sami Callihan & Fred Rosser def. Eddie Edwards, Joe Hendry, Tom Lawlor and JR Kratos

Why this random eight-man tag got almost twice as much time as the title match opener, I’ll never know.

There was some good stuff in this. By playing off a number of established feuds, it gave the exchanges a lot more heat than they perhaps would have had otherwise. PCO looked less washed than he has done in recent months and by virtue of this being a tag match, a lot of his worst excesses were kept to a minimum.

However, there was also a lot that wasn’t good. You had JR Kratos knocking the wrong person off the apron and Drama King Matt telling the viewer that the referee couldn’t see Sami Callihan grabbing Alex Coughlin by the balls despite the fact the official was stood right in front of them. Oh, and you also had Coughlin, who was otherwise impressive, jumping into a double fallaway slam from Joe Hendry. A very dumb spot indeed. **1/2

Jeff Cobb def. Moose

Solid but underwhelming is probably the best description I could give to this match.

On paper, this had the potential to be a great hoss fight. In the end it was fine but nothing particularly special. It can’t have helped that Moose is ice cold at the moment and this was Cobb’s third match of the day.

Their strike exchanges lacked a bit of oomph but the rest of the work was solid and they ran through all the hits for the live crowd. Cobb yanking Moose up for the Tour of the Islands was a cool way to finish. ***1/4

Deonna Purrazzo def. Miyu Yamashita, Gisele Shaw and Masha Slamovich

I like all four of those women. I’d go as far as to say I’d like any combination of singles matches between them. Did having all four of them in the ring together work? No, it did not.

They tried to work around the four-way limitations for the most part but there were some really clunky exchanges. Indeed, Deonna Purrazzo might have won as expected but a lot of her more athletic spots like the standing Moonsault and the Hurricanrana looked dreadful. There was also an exchange where her and Miyu Yamashita got an Irish Whip into the corner wrong several times and seemed to have about nine left feet between them.

The other issue was that this match exacerbated a lot of the show’s production issues. The crowd mics were not set up properly, the lighting was awful and the commentary was so loud. Mickie James came out to join them for this one but she just joined in with Rehwoldt and Hannifan’s tendencies to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ a lot without saying anything of substance. At least Ian Riccaboni did a good job. **

Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championship: A-B-C (Ace Austin & Chris Bey) (C) def. TMDK (Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito), Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) and The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin)

Now this is the sort of action I wanted to see from this show.

There was no real structure to this match, so your average tag rope purist might be a little sad, but this was just absolute chaos, balls to the wall wrestling from bell to bell and I loved it.

Ace Austin and Chris Bey brought real intensity, TMDK showed up and showed out once again and Kyle Fletcher looked enormous when he was in the ring with Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin.

I’m probably overplaying this but there were what I felt were some nods to an eventual Machine Guns/Bullet Club rematch here as well, first when the Guns cut off Austin and Bey’s first pop up cutter attempt and then when Austin held them out of the ring as Bey got the pin. ***3/4

Kushida def. Lio Rush

I took it that KUSHIDA, as he’s challenging for the Impact World title in a couple of weeks, was the Impact guy here. I’m cool with that, as I feel his Impact work has really galvanised him and my interest in him over the last few months, although his Hardcore Holly-esque orange pants were not a winner.

KUSHIDA’s arm work throughout this match was vicious and opportunistic. Whether it was because he ducked a spin kick or because he saw Lio Rush going for a handspring, he kicked Rush’s arm whenever he got the chance.

Lio Rush is also so good and I’m not just saying that because he got his way out of some bad bookings and into this good one. He’s so fast and so dynamic and his selling of the arm was sensational. Take the handspring kick, for instance. After getting cut off the first time, the second time he went for it, he just hurled himself at the ropes without using his arms. It was risky but it paid off because it knocked KUSHIDA to the outside. That risk versus reward style eventually caught Rush out though, with KUSHIDA catching the Hoverboard Lock off a Frog Splash and forcing the tap.

The lack of a post-match angle with Steve Maclin was dropping the ball big time but don’t let that take away from this match, because it rocked. ****1/4

NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: KENTA (C) def. Minoru Suzuki

By and large, this match was structured in a way that covered most of their respective limitation. There was brawling on the outside, competitive submission holds and healthy strike exchanges.

The problem was, it felt like a lot of the same thing. You had a slap exchange and then a few moments later you got a forearm exchange. If that wasn’t enough, there was also a no-sell big boot exchange too in the closing minutes. That made this quite dull and, I’ll be honest, them switching camera angle for every forearm genuinely gave me motion sickness for the first time in about 10 years.

This was levelling out for a solid three but then they had to run shenanigans at the end, working a ref bump that allowed KENTA to low blow Suzuki and get a leverage pin. Suzuki was at least mad about it at the end but this wasn’t great. **1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Mike Bailey

I’ve mentioned this in the VOW Discord before but I do feel that I’m very much at the point of over-exposure with Mike Bailey. He still has matches that I like – see him vs Gresham at Sacrifice or him vs Chris Sabin at Prestige’s Hybrid Moments – but his bag of tricks feels increasingly repetitive and my minor gripes with his matches feel more and more pronounced.

With that in mind, I was hugely intrigued by the late change in opponent here that saw Hiroshi Tanahashi replace the injured Will Ospreay. Tanahashi offered a totally different dynamic and that meant you’d get a very different looking match.

In the end, it was a match that I really enjoyed. Tanahashi looked tired early on and was visibly blowing up but he kept going and this ended up being a lot of fun. Bailey’s leg selling is what it is, I won’t moan about it here, but he matched up well before falling victim to a High Fly Flow. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

Multiverse United was a middling show from Impact and New Japan. KUSHIDA against Lio Rush was genuinely very good and the clear match of the night, with the tag title match and the main event also worth your time.

The production was poor though and the first half of the main show left a lot to be desired. On a weekend where both promotions were hoping for some more positive exposure, I’m not sure either really put their best foot forward.