New Japan Pro Wrestling
Collision in Philadelphia
April 16, 2023
2300 Arena
Philadelphia, PA

Watch: FITE

One day after an enjoyable Capital Collision in Washington, D.C. which saw new STRONG Openweight Tag Team Champions crowned, New Japan hit the legendary 2300 Arena for Collision Card Subject to Change in Philadelphia. Yes, there was more shuffling on this card than a Las Vegas poker table. Hiroshi Tanahashi and TJP were out of the main event because of a broken rib injury and travel issues respectively; Orange Cassidy replaced Eddie Kingston in his match against Gabriel Kidd because of hernia surgery; Fred Rosser took Juice Robinson’s place against Lance Archer because of Juice’s storyline suspension for attacking Rosser on the D.C. show; Homicide took Rosser’s place as Rocky Romero’s tag partner; and Kazuchika Okada… well, he wasn’t on this show to begin with because he never seems to work Philly. Regardless, we will soldier on with this review with the usual vim and vigor.

A quick word on the production of the show before we begin. It’s no secret that NJPW USA shows have not always gone swimmingly when it comes to streaming on FITE, as evidenced by Battle in the Valley 2023 needing a 45-minute delay because the feed wasn’t working. Thankfully, both this show and Capital Collision streamed on time with nary a video hiccup. Audio-wise, the commentary trio of Ian Riccaboni, Veda Scott, and Alex Koslov was crystal clear. There was still the issue of the crowd not sounding as loud in the mix as it should, but you could still hear them well enough, particularly more on this show than the D.C. show since they were a rather hot crowd. It’s not ideal that “The show started on time, the video feed didn’t screw up, and the audio was good enough” is considered the bar for NJPW USA production in 2023, but you take as many wins as you can get.

El Desperado & Volador Jr. def. Delirious & Kevin Knight

Desperado and Volador teamed together on the Fantasticamania tour and on the All Star Jr. Festival show. Kevin Knight’s Jet Setters tag partner KUSHIDA was booked for Impact’s Rebellion PPV, so he teamed with Delirious here. This was a good little opener that saw Delirious and Knight work over Desperado, who was put through the ringer the night before against Ishii. Volador got the hot tag and hit some tijeras, thrust kicks, and quebradas as he is wont to do. He didn’t do much else, mind you, but oh well. There was a cool double team where Knight did a standing hurricanrana to Desperado who was sitting on the top rope, which put Despy in perfect position for Delirious to hit Shadows over Hell. For a second I thought they botched the finish because the ref counted three at the same time Volador broke up the pin, but they kept going. Desperado pinned Delirious with Pinche Loco. ***

Pure Rules Match: Alex Coughlin def. Tracy Williams

It’s nice to see Tracy Williams settle into a gig with ROH and NJPW. While not a standout character, he’s a solid pro who can give you a good performance every time out, a la Tony Nese. This, however, was The Alex Coughlin Show. The LA Dojo graduate was very over with the Philadelphia crowd, especially when he showed off his freakish strength. That was the story here, with Williams having the advantage over Coughlin on the mat until Coughlin used his power to get out of trouble. He powered out of a guillotine choke and hoisted Williams up into a powerbomb. Coughlin also did his trademark deadlift into a suplex from a seated position, which to me is genuinely one of the most impressive spots in wrestling today. The crowd got really into this match and I did too. Coughlin pulled out the win with a Bridging German Suplex. Given he recently challenged Katsuyori Shibata for the ROH Pure Title, he was the natural winner. This was my favorite match of the night until the main event. ****

Clark Connors (w/ David Finlay) def. The DKC

If you didn’t see Capital Collision, Connors attacked The DKC after they lost in the opening 10-man tag, then later on David Finlay announced that Connors was El Phantasmo’s replacement in Bullet Club.

Connors came out wearing black leather pants because he’s a bad guy now. Before the match, Finlay cut a promo saying he wanted only killers and savages in Bullet Club, and he was going to keep his spot as the group’s leader by cutting out anyone disloyal like ELP before they had a chance to turn on him. Outside of a few “What” chants, Finlay got a good amount of heat. There were even some “Jay White” chants during the match. Much like SANADA it’s going to be difficult for some people to accept Finlay in such a prominent spot because he was a supporting guy for so long, but I think he has taken to this new character like a duck to water.

As for Connors, I don’t see him having any difficulty being a vicious asskicker heel. An angered DKC got a flurry of offense at the start, but Connors turned the tide with a powerslam and destroyed DKC with four consecutive Spears for the win. While I’m sure many hear the phrase “new Bullet Club member” and groan, I think this role is much a better fit for him than wearing a cowboy hat and being Ryusuke Taguchi’s tag partner in Super Jr. Tag League. **

Team Filthy (“Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Royce Isaacs, & Jorel Nelson) def. TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr., Shane Haste, & Bad Dude Tito)

A lot of people were over on this show, but the pop that TMDK and especially Zack Sabre Jr. got during their entrance was the loudest of the night at this point. Before the bell rang, Zack told the referee to check Team Filthy for weapons. He found a carabiner in Jorel Nelson’s trunks, super glue in Royce Isaacs’ elbow pad, and a toothbrush in Tom Lawlor’s kickpad. I guess you can’t blame them for being prepared for any scenario.

While looking like a standard six-man tag on paper, this played out as a really fun, energetic match with an equally energized crowd. TMDK acted as the de facto babyfaces, though the fans ate up pretty much everything both teams did. Zack got the hot tag after Team Filthy worked over Haste, and I loved the sequences with him and Lawlor that called back to their great NJPW TV Title match the night before. Bad Dude Tito made the most of his minutes with big lariats, slams, and a tope to the outside that looked like a fridge flying through the ropes. VOW’s Jon Hernandez, in attendance, said this match made him a “Bad Dude Tito Diehard.” He’s definitely someone who I want to see back in Japan. Tito hit Nelson with the F5, but Lawlor surprised him with the NKOTB (Nasty Knee on the Brain) and scored the victory for Team Filthy. Everyone worked hard here, this way overdelivered. ***3/4

Just 5 Guys (SANADA & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) def. Rocky Romero & Homicide

This was the first time Rocky and Homicide teamed together in a 2 vs. 2 match since ROH Joe vs. Punk II on October 16, 2004. Somewhere Julius Smokes was screaming “ROTTWEILERS!!!!” SANADA and Kanemaru got a pretty good pop coming out and “Just 5 Guys” chants at the start of the match. Homicide went face to face with SANADA, which got a long, sustained cheer from the crowd. I don’t know if it was the standoff itself or, perhaps more likely, ROH legend Homicide in Philadelphia that elicited such a reaction. The match itself was more of a perfunctory “Road To” type of match than the more frenzied six-man tag before it. Rocky and Homicide tapped into their Rottweilers past as the heels. SANADA, both here and in D.C., busted out the Paradise Lock, the first time he did that move since joining J5G. I would’ve thought he’d left it behind, but both the D.C. and Philly crowds ate it up. Homicide went for the Cop Killa, but SANADA got out of it and pinned him with the O’Connor Roll. This wasn’t exactly a showcase weekend for the new IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, but I thought the American fans reacted to him strongly enough. ***1/4

AEW International Championship: Orange Cassidy © def. Gabriel Kidd

Bushiroad is a large company, but apparently they don’t have enough in the piggy bank to spring for “Jane,” so Orange came out to the Best Friends theme instead. For a guy who became famous for having a lazy gimmick, he has been an absolute workhorse since winning the AEW International Title last year. He’s wrestled almost every week on AEW Dynamite or Rampage, and when Eddie Kingston bowed out of this show due to injury, he stepped right in to fill the hole. He’s also been one of the most consistent wrestlers this year in terms of match quality. Orange doesn’t peak super high, but he’ll have one of the better matches on the show more often than not. I mean he got a good match out of Dralistico a few weeks ago at Battle of the Belts; if that doesn’t make you put some respect on his name, I don’t know what would.

This match with Gabriel Kidd reminded me of his match with Will Ospreay at Forbidden Door last year. It wasn’t as great as the Ospreay match, but Kidd played a very similar role as the aggressive British jock dude bro (dude bruv?) who bullies the smaller Cassidy. Kidd did just that, roughing him up and even calling out Shibata at one point. A few times the camera showed Finlay and Connors watching the match from the balcony, perhaps planting seeds for Kidd joining Bullet Club. Orange fought back, but as the match went on, his injured hand kept giving him trouble. Kidd hit a big brainbuster for 2, then Cassidy hit the Beach Break for 2. There was a cool visual of Kidd sitting on the top rope and lifting Orange up multiple times with a guillotine choke as Cassidy frantically kicked his legs. After kicking out of a Tombstone Piledriver, Cassidy nailed the Orange Punch, but Kidd no sold it and hit a rebound lariat for a close 2-count. Kidd went for a kimura, but much like in his match against Buddy Matthews on Dynamite, Orange rolled Kidd into the Mousetrap and squeaked out the win. Get it? Squeaked? Never mind. This was a really good match and Orange’s 19th successful defense of the International Title. ***3/4

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi) def. Bullet Club (KENTA & Chase Owens)

Hold on to your hats, folks, but I think this Tetsuya Naito fellow is quite popular. The fans went nuts for him as soon as his music hit. Yes, this was t-shirt Naito, and no, this match wasn’t anything special or one you need to watch, but the fans were still really excited to see him. As you can imagine, in a match with Naito, Hiromu, KENTA, and Chase Owens involved, there was a fair bit of hijinks in the early going. Things settled down into another “Road To” kind of match, which is what Naito and Hiromu had with Just 5 Guys on Capital Collision. The difference between that match and this one is A) Naito and Hiromu won, and B) Naito hit the Destino on Owens to win, which means Naito must’ve been in a great mood that day. ***

Afterwards, Rocky Romero came out. Naito did a funny bit where he pretended to be a referee who was about to start a match between Rocky and Hiromu. Rocky assured Hiromu that he wasn’t there to challenge for the Jr. Title. Instead, he announced that Hiromu’s promise for an All Star Jr. Festival in the United States was coming to fruition. The event would be held in the 2300 Arena on August 21. The crowd reacted huge to the announcement, cheering as loudly and wildly as they did for any of the wrestlers. Based on that reaction, I expect that show to sell out. That same night, Impact announced that there would be another Multiverse United crossover show with New Japan the day before, also at the 2300 Arena.

IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Championship #1 Contendership Tournament Semi-Final – Philadelphia Street Fight: Lance Archer def. Fred Rosser

Rosser came out bandaged up like he was about to con SpongeBob and Patrick out of their money. Archer got on the mic and said that since the last time he wrestled Juice Robinson was in a No DQ match, and this used to be the ECW Arena, then he and Rosser should have a Philadelphia Street Fight. The crowd naturally chanted “E-C-Dub!” Archer brought in two kendo sticks and he and Rosser wailed on each other to start the match. A lot of this match was a ho-hum plunder walk and brawl with the kendo sticks and some chairs. Archer and Rosser fought around the arena, at one point going out of the hard cam’s range so we couldn’t see what was going on. A few people chanted “We can’t see you.” Eventually they fought back to the ring, with Rosser’s bandages askew and blood on his head. I did laugh at Archer randomly hitting ring attendants with the kendo stick. Towards the end, Rosser went kendo stick crazy on a downed Archer and locked in the Stepover Toehold Chickenwing, but Juice ran in and attacked Rosser. Perfectly legal, Cole. Juice hit Rosser with the quarters-loaded Left Hand of God yet again and ran out of the building as security chased after him. Archer picked Rosser up, hit a huge lariat, and pinned him to advance to the tournament finals at Dominion in Osaka. Archer cut another promo afterwards, saying that it didn’t matter if he faced Ospreay or Tanahashi in the finals, he was going to beat them at Dominion, then beat Kenny Omega for the US Title at Forbidden Door. I wasn’t super into this, but Rosser did a good job trying to overcome the monster with all of his injuries, and I’m happy that Archer is getting something to do after months of nothing in AEW. ***

NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship: Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) © def. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Lio Rush)

The loss of Tanahashi and TJP turned out to be a happy accident because the new main event kicked a lot of ass. Aussie Open have made a strong case for tag team of the year so far with a slew of great matches in NJPW, AEW, and ROH, including possibly the tag team match of the year against Bishamon at Sakura Genesis where they won the IWGP Tag Team Titles. Lio Rush has also been stellar in New Japan this year with the Jr. Tag Title match at Wrestle Kingdom 17, the Hiromu Jr. Title match at the New Japan Cup finals, and the match against KUSHIDA at Multiverse United during WrestleMania weekend. And Tomohiro Ishii is Tomohiro Ishii, still having great matches at the drop of a hat like he did against Desperado in D.C. Stick these four guys together in a main event and you’re gonna get something great.

Aussie Open tried to be the heels in the match, but they were so over with the fans that they got cheered anyway. All four guys got cheered, but that’s not exactly a surprise. I noticed that there was a similar dynamic between the two teams; both have the thick bruiser and the smaller, faster partner. Of course, smaller is relative when it comes to Kyle Fletcher because he still towered over Ishii and Rush. Aussie Open worked over Rush, then Davis threw him into the CHAOS corner and demanded Ishii tag in. Ishii actually refused the tag and yelled at Lio to power up and fight back. When Big Tom yells at you to do something, you damn well do it. Ishii eventually got the hot tag and from there things broke down into spirited mayhem for the rest of the match. There was a funny moment where Fletcher attempted a moonsault to the outside, which had the fans and Davis trying to dissuade him for the sake of his health. Ishii and Lio, despite being the make-shift duo, had a few unique double teams. Lio hit a tijeras on Fletcher which sent him into an Ishii headbutt. When the hell do you see that happen in a match? Then Lio leapt into Ishii’s arms like a lover before Ishii slammed him down on top of Fletcher. This was just go-go-go, too many spots and sequences to write down. Near the 20-minute call, Aussie Open destroyed Lio’s face with a double boot, then Fletcher took out Ishii with the Grimstone. They finally hit Corealis to pin Rush and make their first successful defense of the STRONG Tag Titles. This was an awesome match, arguably the best of the two weekend shows. Again, no surprise given the four men involved. Fletcher gave the show-closing promo, which included another shot at FTR. That rematch is coming sooner rather than later. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

Like Capital Collision, this was not a blowaway show, but it was still an enjoyable watch with a few great matches to sprinkle into the notebook. The fans being hot all night long helped a lot too. If you’re pressed for time, watch the main event and the Pure Rules match, but if you want to spend a few hours watching some easily digestible pro wrestling, you can’t go wrong with this show.