New Japan Pro Wrestling
Capital Collision 2023
April 15, 2023
Entertainment & Sports Arena
Gabriel Kidd, Jet Setters (Kevin Knight & KUSHIDA), Mike Bailey, & Volador Jr. def. CHAOS (Chuck Taylor, Lio Rush, Rocky Romero), Clark Connors, & The DKC
There were some added stakes coming into this one, as Volador Jr. would get a shot at Rocky Romero’s NWA World Historic Welterweight Title if he managed to win this match (the two have been feuding in CMLL since January, when Volador Jr. lost the title to Romero). I wasn’t sure whether Volador Jr. had to specifically pin Rocky to get his title shot, or if his side just had to win the match, regardless of who was involved in the deciding fall. Fortunately, the finish made things very clear, as Volador Jr. did score the winning fall over Rocky. Thus, they will be meeting again in CMLL. As for the match itself, it was about what you would expect from an opener like this. Fun action throughout, with all ten wrestlers getting moments to shine at various points. By far the coolest spot of the match saw KUSHIDA lift up The DKC in the Electric Chair position on the apron before Kevin Knight dropkicked him off KUSHIDA’s shoulders, sending him flying onto the pile of guys on the floor. Entertaining while it lasted. ***1/4
Following the match, Clark Connors and The DKC were the last two wrestlers to leave the ring, and as The DKC was trying to console Connors after the loss, Connors snapped, and attacked his fellow LA Dojo graduate! Connors tossed him into the post before sending him into the ring, where the beatdown continued. The heel turn here by Connors would play out more in the aftermath of the next match, so I’ll lump my general thoughts into that post-match discussion.
David Finlay def. AR Fox
It’s been awesome to see the career resurgence that AR Fox has been over the last several months. He’s been having fun matches in both AEW and ROH, and now he’s wrestling on his first New Japan show. Unfortunately, he had a super tough draw in the form of David Finlay, who’s become a more prominent player in New Japan since he turned heel, joined Bullet Club, and picked up Gedo as his new manager. AR Fox put up a valiant effort, but when the dust settled, Finlay would emerge victorious after hitting the Trash Panda. This bout went about ten minutes or so, and it was a pretty enjoyable contest. Fox got a lot of offense in and did come close to winning on a few occasions. A solid win for Finlay, and as far as AR Fox goes, I hope this isn’t the last we see of him on these New Japan shows in the United States. He could be a good candidate for that All-Star Junior Festival show on August 19th in Philadelphia that just got announced. ***1/2
Much like the opener, the post-match was the important thing to make note of. After his victory, David Finlay took the mic and proclaimed that Washington D.C. sucked before calling out Clark Connors. Finlay told Connors that he hasn’t gotten the opportunities he’s deserved, while his trainer Katsuyori Shibata has come out of retirement and won a championship in ROH. He declared that Bullet Club had lost its way over the last several years, and that he’s looking for savages to fill his Bullet Club….savages that can go out and win titles. He said Connors has been overlooked, and offered the Too Sweet….which Connors accepted!
So Clark Connors is now the newest member of Bullet Club. As far as the heel turn goes, I’m cool with it. I’ve enjoyed Connors a lot since his graduation from the LA Dojo (his performance at Forbidden Door last year still sticks out to me as one of his best outings to date), but this heel turn was perfectly timed. With the benefit of hindsight, he did seem like a guy who had stagnated a bit in his current babyface role in recent months, so going heel really freshens things up for him going forward. It was really a turn that I didn’t know I needed until it happened. As for the Bullet Club side of the story, I think him joining David Finlay’s Bullet Club is a great move. I love the idea of Finlay, KENTA, Ishimori, and Connors as a unit, and it just adds further intrigue to this whole ongoing Bullet Club story and its various tentacles. Where does House Of Torture stand in all this? What does El Phantasmo do from here? How will Bullet Club Gold become involved, especially with the partnership between AEW and New Japan? As a whole, the Bullet Club is the most interesting it’s been in a long time, and I can’t wait to see what Connors can do as part of it.
NJPW World Television Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. © def. “Filthy” Tom Lawlor
These two had a couple of meetings in tag team matches during the G1 Climax last year that were very comedic (though they weren’t in the same block), and they faced off in a special mixed tag on the New Japan/STARDOM crossover show (with Lawlor teaming with Syuri while Sabre teamed with Giulia). With this being their first-ever one-on-one encounter, and with a title being on the line, they obviously took a much more serious approach to this bout. Once this one got started, we were treated to a great match that featured technical wrestlings, submissions, and hard striking. Lawlor got busted open at one point (not sure if it was his nose or his mouth), but it didn’t slow him down at all. The action got even more frantic as they got closer to the time limit, and both men got entangled in some pin exchanges. With just under two minutes left, Sabre was able to pick up the win after trapping Lawlor in a pin that the New Japan website calls “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (it was basically the Seatbelt pin that Wheeler Yuta uses). An awesome match from start to finish. I loved seeing these two finally go at it in a singles match, and they totally delivered. Sabre continues to excel with this NJPW World Television Title. I know some have started to grow a little tired of Sabre’s reign, but as long as he’s still giving us matches like this, I’ve got no problems with Sabre continuing to hold his title. The only critique I have is that I’d like to see one or two of these title matches to go under ten minutes, or maybe even under five minutes….just to add a little more variety. That’s my only complaint though. If you missed this Capital Collision show, definitely go out of your way to check this match out, especially if you’re a fan of both guys. ****1/4
Tomohiro Ishii def. El Desperado
Matches like this (and the previous bout with Sabre and Lawlor) make me wish I went to this Washington D.C. show. El Desperado vs. Tomohiro Ishii? That just sounded like a super fun matchup on paper, and surprise surprise…..it ended up being pretty great! This is sixteen minutes of incredible back-and-forth. Seeing Desperado mix it up with heavyweights is always cool to watch, and while Ishii has slowed down a little bit, he’s still capable of delivering quality singles matches. We, of course, got a ton of strike exchanges in the form of chops, forearm strikes, and so on. Desperado spent the middle part of the bout working over Ishii’s leg, and did manage to lock on Numero Dos at one point, but to no avail. Towards the end of the bout, Desperado appeared to have the match won, as he connected with one Pinche Loco, and tried to roll through to hit another one, but Ishii countered in a sequence that led to an awesome charging headbutt onto Desperado. I did like the fact that they protected Desperado’s finish there. Ishii didn’t kick out of the Pinche Loco. He only had the chance to counter when Desperado went for a second one to truly finish him off. I was convinced that Deserado was winning when he got Ishii back up for the second Pinche Loco, but that sadly didn’t come to pass. Ishii ultimately put Desperado away with the Vertical Drop Brainbuster a few moments later. Based on this result, it would make sense that Ishii is one of Okada’s partners in the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Title bout at Wrestling Dontaku in a few weeks. We’ll find out soon enough, but as far as this match goes, definitely make sure to check it out if you missed this show. ****1/4
I should add as well that the commentary team (Ian Riccaboni, Veda Scott, and Alex Koslov) were doing a fun little bit all night where Koslov kept alluding to the fact that he might’ve been betting on the matches, which both Ian and Veda were both disgusted by. Veda was a good addition to the booth, and I wouldn’t mind seeing her on these New Japan shows in the United States (alongside Ian) going forward.
Fred Rosser vs. Juice Robinson – No Contest
This bout never got started, as Juice Robinson jumped Fred Rosser from behind during his entrance. Juice had cost Rosser the STRONG Openweight Title back at Battle In The Valley in February, and in the buildup to this, Rosser had responded by bringing up Juice’s wife, Toni Storm. He even had a chair set up at ringside for Toni Storm (presumably so she could watch him defeat her husband). Toni never showed, but Juice was clearly incensed by what Rosser had said. The beatdown included a piledriver on the stage, several shots to Rosser while he was prone on the mat, and a Left Hand From God with a roll of quarters in his fist (Juice also hit the Left Hand From God on one of the referees during the melee). Before leaving, Juice took a page out of the Will Smith playbook and told Rosser to keep his wife’s name out of his fucking mouth.
As a result of this brutal beatdown. Juice Robinson was suspended by New Japan, and Fred Rosser was placed into Juice’s spot against Lance Archer in the #1 Contender’s Tournament the next night in Philadelphia. Interesting that they did this angle right after Jay White announced the formation of Bullet Club Gold on Dynamite this past week. Despite Juice’s suspension, I’m sure this feud is far from over, and I wonder if this leads to Rosser appearing in AEW. With Ricky Starks feuding with Jay White and Juice Robinson, he could use a partner.
Just 5 Guys (SANADA & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi)
SANADA made headlines at Sakura Genesis when he dethroned Kazuchika Okada to become the new IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Now, he’s set to have his first title defense against his former LIJ stablemate Hiromu Takahashi at Wrestling Dontaku. Meanwhile, Hiromu is set to defend his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title against Yoshinobu Kanemaru a little earlier in the tour. Of course, this tag team match serves as a preview of those two title matches, and it was pretty much every “Road To” tag you’ve ever seen. Perfectly solid, but not very memorable on the whole. The only notable moment was Kanemaru getting the pin on Hiromu. I was curious to see what the result of this one would be, since there was no natural pin eater (Kanemaru would be in that role in most cases, but again, he is getting a title shot coming up). I suppose Kanemaru getting the win here makes sense since Hiromu is likely beating him in the title match. The finish was a little awkward, as Kanemaru trapped Hiromu in a pin that looked like the finish, but he had to readjust the pin, and he got it on the second try. The ending was a bit anticlimactic with how it came off, though the match was still relatively fine. ***
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship: KENTA (c) def. Eddie Edwards
Coming into this show, Eddie Edwards and KENTA have faced each other four previous times in singles matches, all of which were in NOAH. The first three were won by KENTA, with Eddie winning their most recent one-on-one meeting during the 2013 Global League. They also met a couple of times in ROH back in 2009 (back when The American Wolves were still a relatively new tag team). This went just under nineteen minutes, and while I would still call it a good match, it was definitely the most disappointing match on the entire card. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting this to be great or anything (both guys are definitely past their peak), but I did think it would be a little better than this. The actual wrestling was perfectly sound throughout, though the match itself just felt….slower. It didn’t help that this nearly nineteen minute match ended with shenanigans. The referee got knocked down, which led to KENTA trying to use the STRONG Openweight Title as a weapon. Eddie took the belt from him and was going to use it himself, but KENTA hit a low blow, and got the win shortly thereafter once the referee had recovered. Again, this was a technically sound bout for the most part, but not worth seeking out if you’re short on time. ***1/4
Following the match, a video promo from Hikuleo aired, in which he challenged KENTA for the STRONG Openweight Title at Wrestling Dontaku in May. KENTA accepted, and it looks like the match is on.
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship: Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) def. The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley) © and Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi
In July of last year, Aussie Open became the inaugural NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champions, but their reign lasted only three months, as The Motor City Machine Guns captured the titles in New York City. They’re facing off once again, though with a twist, as Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi were involved as well. After just over twenty-five minutes, Aussie Open were able to hit the Corealis on Chris Sabin to regain the STRONG Openweight Tag Team Titles! While this wasn’t the Match Of The Night, it was a very entertaining main event from start to finish, with plenty of action throughout. For the second big title match in a row, Kyle Fletcher landed horribly on the barricade (gut first this time) after hitting a big moonsault to the floor. Fortunately, he was able to continue without much issue. The only issue I had with the match is that it seemed like Okada and Tanahashi weren’t really involved as much as I would’ve liked (and that was even before Tanahashi suffered a broken rib, which I’m guessing was on the spot where I believe Mark Davis got his knees up to block the High Fly Flow). It felt more like Aussie Open vs. The Motor City Machine Guns with Okada and Tanahashi making sporadic appearances here and there over a true three-way tag. That minor gripe aside, I still had a ton of fun watching this. Aussie Open being double champions now is super cool. Arguably the best tag team in the world (certainly a top contender in that conversation). We did get a brief staredown afterwards as Okada and Tanahashi faced off with Aussie Open, so maybe that tag team match is in the cards at some point down the line? I sure hope so. ****
Afterwards, Kyle Fletcher cut a promo to close out the show. At one point during the promo, Fletcher said Aussie Open was the best tag team in the world, and that got some FTR chants from the crowd. Fletcher’s response? “That’s some bullshit right there”. It does make you wonder if a rematch between Aussie Open and FTR is potentially in the cards for Forbidden Door….perhaps with all three sets of titles on the line? Time will tell.
Capital Collision was a really solid show from start to finish. I would definitely recommend seeking out Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tom Lawlor and El Desperado vs. Tomohiro, which were easily the two best matches of the night (I can’t decide which was the better of the two). The main event is worth checkout as well, especially with Aussie Open winning back the STRONG Openweight Tag Team Titles. The rest of the card featured good matches (some better than others) and a pair of very noteworthy angles with Clark Connors joining Bullet Club and Juice Robinson’s brutal assault on Fred Rosser. A pretty enjoyable show overall.