Impact Wrestling x New Japan Pro Wrestling
Multiverse United 2: For Whom the Bell Tolls
August 20, 2023
2300 Arena
Philadelphia, PA

Watch: Fite

Impact Wrestling and New Japan Pro-Wrestling held their second co-promotional show of 2023, Multiverse United 2: For Whom The Bell Tolls, at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia this past Sunday (August 20th). In the main event, Alex Shelley defended the Impact Wrestling World Championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi. Your commentators for the evening were Impact’s regular duo of Tom Hannifan and Matthew Rehwoldt alongside Veda Scott. 

Countdown to Multiverse United 2

Yuya Uemura, Joe Hendry & Heath def. Rocky Romero, Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi

Yuya Uemura impersonating aspects of Joe Hendry’s gimmick is such good entertainment. It’s nice to see him showing a bit more personality and I think their pairing and a potential singles match at the end is a nice use of him before his excursion ends. 

As for the match, it was a basic six-man that didn’t quite hit the heights of Wato and Taguchi’s outing against the Mogul Embassy at Death Before Dishonor but was still pretty decent for what it was. As expected, Uemura picked up the win over Taguchi with a Diving Crossbody. **3/4

Impact Wrestling Digital Media Championship
Kenny King © def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Unfortunately, Scott D’Amore and co didn’t have the gumption to belt up Kanemaru. Sad.

The action we got here was decent but the match didn’t go long enough to ever evolve into anything particularly meaningful. Surprisingly, there were no Sheldon Jean shenanigans in the finish, with King instead winning with the Royal Flush after Kanemaru had missed his attempt at using the Whisky Mist. **1/2

Multiverse United 2

Chris Sabin def. Yoh, BUSHI, El Desperado, Frankie Kazarian, Kevin Knight, Rich Swann & Mao

As you would expect, this was eight minutes of stuff happening and people hitting moves on each other as we got a rotating cast of two people in the ring at once.

The work in these matches is typically always good but it’s impossible to recap and quite hard to get enthusiastic about. You know, there’s only so many Tower of Doom spots you can see before the novelty starts to wear off. 

For what it was, it was fine. **¾

Post-match, BUSHI offered Chris Sabin the LIJ first bump before misting him in the face, just like he did with Shun Skywalker at the All Star Junior Festival the previous night. 

Eddie Edwards & Moose def. TMDK (Zack Sabre Jr. & Shane Haste)

I hadn’t noticed it as much in the previous matches but I was really irritated here by the fact that one of the cameras hadn’t been white balanced properly, meaning that there was a real colour contrast every time they cut from the dodgy one to the others at ringside. 

Production snafus aside, though, this was quite a lot of fun and the first thing on the show that gave you something more meaningful to sink your teeth into. Sabre Jr. wasn’t super involved but his interactions with Moose and Edwards were great and the crowd were massively into him which helped.

The result was somewhat surprising, though. I had thought that this was a logical spot for New Japan to pick up a win but instead they were on the losing end, with Moose pinning Haste after a Spear. ***1/4

NJPW Strong Women’s Championship
Giulia © def. Gisele Shaw, Deonna Purrazzo & Momo Kohgo

Making her debut on American soil, Giulia looked and acted like a star from the moment she walked through the curtain. When it came down to it, she delivered in the ring and the crowd were big fans of hers by the end of proceedings. 

As four-way matches go, this was pretty good. I’ve seen a few people go quite high with their ratings but I personally can’t go much above three stars because of Momo Kohgo’s showing. There were a couple of sequences where her offence slowed right down and she was looking around, almost as if she was waiting for her cue or had forgotten what came next. For me, it jarred and reduced my suspension of disbelief.

That aside, I liked this. Gisele Shaw didn’t look out of place and hopefully Giulia kicking out of the Queen’s Gambit sets up a singles match with Deonna Purrazzo down the line. ***1/4

South Philly Street Fight
Sami Callihan def. DOUKI

I said this a little while ago but Sami Callihan doesn’t have it as a singles guy anymore and hasn’t really since he broke his ankle in 2021. In tag and/or hardcore matches he’s fine though because the bells and whistles give you more to work with. 

With that in mind, I don’t see why they couldn’t have announced this as a hardcore match in advance of the show but I guess doing it live did give Callihan the chance to do the rah-rah ECW Philly promo. 

These two didn’t do anything particularly new or innovative but the match was fine enough and I thought DOUKI gave a good account of himself. The finish came when Callihan hit a Cactus Driver 97 onto a structure of chairs. ***

Catch 2/2 (Francesco Akira & TJP) def. TMDK (Kosei Fujita & Robbie Eagles)

A Super Junior Tag League offer match if you will, this had arguably the best energy and most polish of anything on the show.

I noted this in my preview but Akira and TJP are just so good as a team and they led the dance here, with Eagles and his rookie partner feeling like they were always playing catch up throughout. 

My favourite spot was Akira reversing Eagles’ Turbo Backpack attempt into a Poison Rana, and the match ended with the stereo running knees on Fujita. ***1/2

Bullet Club (David Finlay, KENTA, Ace Austin, Chris Bey, Alex Coughlin & Clark Connors) def. The World (Josh Alexander, The DKC, El Phantasmo, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga & PCO)

With 12 people involved and roughly 12 minutes of ring time to work with, this match was understandably largely just a lot of stuff happening. 

It was effectively your standard New Japan undercard tag, with the odd big spot like Coughlin hitting a lovely Gutwrench Suplex on PCO, Josh Alexander throwing a bunch of suplexes and looking like he was almost back to 100% and PCO landing one of several big dives to the outside. Also notable was the fact that Tanga Loa’s involvement was limited and he didn’t look atrocious. 

The finish was different but I liked it. With everyone’s attention focused on the big dive sequence to the outside, the cameras panned back to the ring where David Finlay hit The DKC with a Powerbomb and stacked him up for three. Although the finish out of nowhere felt a bit odd, I like Finlay beating someone pretty low on the totem pole with a secondary move. ***

Trey Miguel & Lio Rush def. Hiromu Takahashi & Mike Bailey

Maybe this is just me but the way they did the entrances for this match was very troublesome. I get that they wanted to spotlight everyone but they brought the four guys out in what essentially amounted to rank order, starting with Miguel, then Bailey, Rush and finishing with Takahashi. Surely they could have played their music individually but at least grouped them in team order?

From an in-ring point of view, this was the match of the night. In a big spot, Miguel proved that he belonged. He was just as slick as the other three and was involved in the two best spots of the match, namely Bailey hitting Ultima Weapon on Miguel while Takahashi had him in a Fireman’s Carry, and Miguel hitting a leaping Meteora on the outside. 

The finish and the subsequent angle were the only thing that bothered me. After reversing the Time Bomb, Rush hit Takahashi with a low blow and rolled him up for three, before subsequently calling for another shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title. New Japan have since announced that Bailey and Rush will get their shots together in October. Give this a clean finish and it probably cracks the notebook. ***3/4

Impact Wrestling World Championship
Alex Shelley © def. Hiroshi Tanahashi 

2023 has been a moment for the entire wrestling community to recognise that after decades of greatness, Hiroshi Tanahashi is no longer what he once was. I’m not sure anyone needed any further evidence for his hastening physical decline but this match provided some. 

That came when Tanahashi was unable to stand up when he put Alex Shelley in the Cloverleaf, instead repeatedly stumbling and eventually falling into the ropes. The commentary team did a great job of selling it, focusing on how Shelley’s limb work had worn Tanahashi down and impaired him from locking in the submission properly, but it was tough viewing.

Don’t let that disappointing aspect make you think this wasn’t a good match though because it was. It had a good aura from the opening bell and actually felt significant, making the title and both men fighting for it seem important.

I had said in my preview that I thought Shelley’s style was perfect to get maximum returns from this Tanahashi and that was ultimately what transpired. It began at a slower pace with a lot of limb work before gradually building to a decent closing stretch. The finish was great and brilliantly decisive, with Shelley ending some battling on the top rope with an Avalanche Air Raid Crash before finally putting Tanahashi away with a Shell Shock. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

Multiverse United 2 was a good wrestling show. There’s nothing great or must-watch but at just under three hours it was an entertaining and easy watch. 

I think it was probably on a par with or slightly better than the previous Multiverse United show during Mania weekend, with the strongest matches this time round being the co-main event tag and the main event. 

With New Japan’s top brass making it quite clear that their attitude to the American market is changing, I think Impact remains a good partner for them and these sorts of shows should become an annual tradition. Impact are able to give better exposure to some of the old Strong talents than AEW (or whatever ROH is) can and I think that the two shows this year have built a platform for them to do more of the same in 2024.