By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Strong “Independence Day”
July 5, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Streamed on New Japan World
Ian Riccaboni and Chris Charlton provided commentary. It appears to be packed again for the second consecutive day.
1. Master Wato, Boltin Oleg, and Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Dragon Libre, Takahiro Katori, and Rekka at 11:45. Wato carried his BoSJ trophy to ringside. Taguchi has Katori’s stuffed rabbit, which he stole the night before. Yes, this is all very silly, but Katori is livid. My first time seeing Rekka; he has long orange hair but half of his head is shaved. Rekka and Taguchi opened. The massive Oleg (think Lars Sullivan) entered at 2:30 to face Katori, and he taunted Katori by holding the stuffed rabbit. The crowd played along with all this lowbrow comedy over who has possession of a stuffed toy.
Katori was able to grab the rabbit at 6:30 and he hit an enzuigiri on Taguchi. Dragon Libre (think Laredo Kid) finally tagged in and hit some quick offense. Rekka hit a running kick in the corner on Wato at 10:00, then a missile dropkick for a nearfall. Wato fired back with a leg lariat, then he mousetrapped the arms for a double-arm slam and a nearfall. Wato then hit a German Suplex with a high bridge to pin Rekka. Silliness aside, the action was solid.
1. Satoshi Kojima defeated Oskar Leube at 5:21. Kojima was a surpise replacement for JR Kratos, who bled significantly on Tuesday from what I presume was a hardway cut. The crowd was thrilled to see Kojima, and Ian talked about his match against CM Punk at Forbidden Door. Leube hit a powerslam for a nearfall at 4:30. Kojima hit a stunner then a clothesline for the pin. Solid.
2. “United Empire” TJP and Francesco Akira defeated Homicide and Ryohei Oiwa at 12:08. Ian talked about the devastating loss for UE on Tuesday, losing their junior tag titles. Homicide and TJP opened with some good mat reversals. Akira and Oiwa entered at 2:30, and he tied Oiwa in a knot on the mat. Homicide was angry while standing on the ring apron, and he shook a can of energy drink, with the fluid spraying across the ring. Funny. Homicide made the hot tag at 6:00 and he hit repeated shoulder tackles into TJP’s ribs in the corner.
Homicide hit a T-Bone suplex on TJP and the Three Amigos rolling suplexes, finishing with the ‘Eddie hip swivel.’ Oiwa snuck in and hit a double dropkick. TJP hit a tornado DDT on Homicide at 9:30. Akira tagged in and battled Oiwa. Oiwa hit a gutwrench suplex for a nearfall. Homicide tied TJP in an STF. Ian noted that Homicide is bleeding through a bandage on his forehead. The UE hit their team X-Factor facplant move on Oiwa for a nearfall. They then hit their front-and-back kneestrikes, with TJP pinning Oiwa. Good action.
3. “The Bullet Club” Drilla Moloney and Clark Connors defeated Yoh and Rocky Romero to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles at 12:09. The BC wore their newly-won Junior tag title belts, but this was *initially* not a title match. Romero got on the mic and congratulated the BC on their win, and he asked that this match be a tag title match. The heels initially said no but then agreed, and they attacked at the bell. All four brawled to the floor. In the ring, Yoh and Romero hit a team suplex. The heels began working over Yoh.
Yoh hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip on Drilla at 5:30, then a dropkick on Connors and he finally made the hot tag. Romero entered and hit a huracamrana on each heel. The faces hit simultaneous kneestrikes on Drilla. Romero hit a Lungblower, and Yoh hit a Falcon Arrow at 8:00, and he was fired up. Connors and Moloney hit a high-low spear move on Romero for a believable nearfall, but Yoh made the save. Romero hit an assisted top-rope Sliced Bread for a nearfall. Clark speared Yoh, and Moloney hit a doublestomp on Romero’s chest.
Romero avoided a Connors’ spear and he got a backslide for a nearfall. Connors hit a powerslam. Romero hit a mid-ring Sliced Bread. Yoh and Romero hit a modified FTR lungblower for a believable nearfall at 11:00. Yoh accidentally superkicked Romero! Connors nailed his No Chaser high DDT on Yoh. Drilla hit a sit-out piledriver on Romero, then he held Romero upside down, and Connors hit a spear on Rocky for the pin. Really good match.
4. Alex Zayne and Lance Archer defeated “The Mighty Don’t Kneel” Bad Dude Tito and Kosei Fujita at 9:30. The crowd once again went nuts for Archer. Zayne must have a short memory and forgot how Archer picked him up and used him as a weapon a day ago. Tito demanded to start against Archer, and he slapped Lance, which just ticked Lance off. Tito tried some shoulder tackles that had no effect. Fujjita hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Zayne at 3:00. Tito got back in and turned Zayne’s chest red with a series of chops.
Tito hit a German Suplex on Zayne for a nearfall at 6:00. Archer made the hot tag and he hit running back elbows in the corner on each TMDK. Archer again grabbed Zayne by the throat, helping (?) him do a moonsault. Zayne and Fujita fought in the corner, and Zayne hit his leaping huracanrana out of the corner. Archer hit a Black Hole Slam on Tito for a nearfall at 9:00. Zayne hit his forward roll kick to the back of Fujita’s neck, and Archer immediately hit a decapitating clothesline to pin Fujita. Fun match.
* Archer got on the mic and said today, he celebrates his 23rd year as a professional wrestler. He dubbed their team “Murder Sauce,” and he vowed they will be back. I can’t say enough how much the Japanese crowd loves Archer.
5. The DKC, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated “Team Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Jorel Nelson, and Royce Isaacs (w/JR Kratos) at 13:10. Kratos does have a giant bandage over his forehead, and he joined Ian and Charlton on commentary. Team Filthy all wore over-the-top USA-themed gear. Just a month ago, Ishii refused to team with Tanahashi, so we’ll see if that storyline carries over here; right on cue, Charlton talked about their uneasy alliance. Tanahashi and Jorel opened. Ishii and Lawlor traded stiff forearms, and Tom switched to spin kicks to the thigh. Ishii hit a shoulder tackle.
DKC entered at 2:00 and hit some chops on Lawlor, and he applied an anklelock. Lawlor applied a Triangle Choke. Royce held DKC upside down on the floor, and he walked entirely around the ring before slamming him to the ground at 4:30. Impressive. In the ring, Team Filthy worked over DKC. Jorel hit a Pounce at 6:30. Lawlor hit a Yes Kick that dropped DKC. Ishii finally made the hot tag at 9:00 and he traded shoulder tackles with Royce. Royce hit a second-rope flying shoulder tackle and a roaring forearm that dropped Ishii.
Isaacs hit a German Suplex but Ishii popped up and hit his own; Isaacs popped up and they hit clotheslines and both collapsed. Awesome. Tanahashi tagged in at 11:00 and hit a Dragon Screw Legwhip on each opponent. Jorel hit a dive to the floor. In the ring, Lawlor hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall. Royce hit a German Suplex on Tanahashi and a running knee for a believable nearfall. This has been really good. We had an awkward exchange that ended with Tanahashi getting a small package rollup on Isaacs for the pin. A real head-turning performance for Isaacs here, who has somehow added even more upper body mass.
* We had an on-screen graphic noting that Wrestle Kingdom is again on January 4.
6. Giulia defeated Willow Nightingale to win the New Japan Strong Women’s Title at 13:35. Giulia, with Japanese and Italian heritage, just exudes star power. Charlton talked about the auora she presents, and she immediately hit some forearm shots on Willow. She went for a armdrag but Willow blocked it. Giulia tried grounding her with a headlock. Willow hit a Spinebuster for a nearfall at 2:00. Giulia tried a bodyslam but we had the Hogan-Andre spot, with Giula’s legs buckling and Willow getting a nearfall. Willow hit a fisherman’s suplex for a nearfall at 3:30.
Giulia hit a DDT; she applied an STF but Willow was right in front of the ropes and grabbed it. Giulia hit a top-rope missile dropkick for a nearfall. Willow nailed the Pounce at 6:00 and was fired up. She hit a rolling cannonball in the corner and a Death Valley Driver for a nearfall. Giulia blocked the Dr. Bomb attempt. Willow hit a Buckle Bomb for a nearfall, but she missed a top-rope moonsault. Giulia applied a Rings of Saturn-style double armbar, but WIllow reached the ropes at 8:30. Giula hit a hammerlock DDT. They began trading open-hand slaps, with Giulia getting the better of the exchange.
Willow hit a clothesline but Giulia popped back up; Willow hit a second clothesline for a nearfall. Giulia got a Code Red for a nearfall at 11:00, then a Saito Suplex for a nearfall. Willow hit a kick to the jaw. Giulia nailed a top-rope butterfly suplex for a believable nearfall at 13:00, then a kneestrike to the collarbone, then a bodyslam for the pin. That was awesome.
7. “Bishamon” Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto defeated “Bullet Club War Dogs” Alex Coughlin and Gabe Kidd to retain the IWGP Tag Titles at 12:24. Coughlin and Kidd won the Strong Tag Titles on Tuesday, and this immediate rematch is for the IWGP title belts. All four immediately brawled on the floor before getting in the ring; they got in the ring and the bell sounded at about 1:00 to officially begin the match. Goto whipped Coughlin into the guardrail. In the ring, Coughlin hit a loud chop on Goto; these new BC members sure love their expletives.
Coughlin hit a pair of gut-wrench suplexes on Goto for a nearfall at 4:30. Goto hit a spinning clothesline. Yoshi-Hashi made the hot tag at 6:00 and battled Kidd, hitting a basement dropkick as Gabe was tied upside down in the ropes. The BC hit a team Musclebuster on Yoshi-Hashi for a nearfall at 8:30, and they argued with the referee. Gabe set up for a piledriver, but Yoshi-Hashi broke free. They traded clotheslines, and Gabe bit Yoshi-Hashi’s forehead at 11:30, drawing boos. Goto hit a neckbreaaker over his knee, and they hit the Shoto team slam to pin Kidd. Good match, but the finish seeingly came out of nowhere. Again, the *official time* will be closer to 11:30, but I start my stopwatch at first contact or the bell, whichever is first.
8. Eddie Kingston defeated Kenta to win the New Japan Strong Openweight Championship at 13:29. Kenta hit a slap to the face early on, and immediately ran to the floor. In the ring, Eddie hit a suplex and a chop that sent Kenta again to the floor. Eddie followed and he accidentally chopped the ring post at 3:00. Kenta immediately tied Kingston’s right arm in the guardrail. In the ring, Eddie hit some back suplexes but was selling the pain in his right arm. The ref got bumped; Kenta got his title belt, but Eddie cut him off at 8:00. Eddie handed the belt to an attendant at ringside. Kenta grabbed a DIFFERENT title belt and clocked Eddie with it!
Kenta hit a top-rope doublestomp to the chest for a nearfall. Kingston applied a Stretch Plum submission hold, but Kenta reached the ropes at 10:00. Kenta blocked a spinning back fist, and he hit his own spinning back fist, then some open-hand slaps to the face. Kenta hit a Shining Wizard for a nearfall. Kingston fired back with an enzuigiri and a spinning back fist, then a second one for a believable nearfall at 12:00.
Eddie hit a third spinning back fist and a hard clothesline for a nearfall, then some kicks to the face. Eddie nailed a fourth spinning back fist and a brainbuster for the pin! New champion! “Kingston has done it!” Ian shouted. “A 21-year journey, all the ups and down, and by all rights, shouldn’t be here, but he is here!” Charlton added.
* Homicide ran to ringside and hugged Eddie Kingston as they bounced up and down in pure joy. Eddie was fighting back tears as they walked to the back. An emotional moment. Scripted fighting or not… you know this moment meant a lot to Kingston.
9. Jon Moxley defeated El Desperado in a hardcore match at 20:32. Barbed-wire boards were set up in the corners of the ring. Moxley again hits the ring to his guitar solo, not “Wild Thing.” Basic brawling to start, and Moxley dove through the ropes at 1:00. Desperado hit him over the head with trash can lids. They brawled up into the crowd, in corners of Korakuen I doubt I’ve seen. Moxley tossed Desperado off a short stage onto a table on the floor at 4:00, but the table didn’t break. Moxley put Desperado onto the table and jumped on him, but it again didn’t break! Funny. Ian speculated that Desperado may have just broken a rib.
They continued to brawl on the floor, and Moxley hit a bodyslam across open chairs at 6:00. He put Desperado’s ankle in a folded chair and jumped off the apron onto it, with Ian using the phrase “he Pillmanized the ankle!” They got in the ring, where Moxley repeatedly stabbed Desperado with a fork! He whipped Desperado into the barbed-wire board at 8:00; this has been completely one-sided so far, and the fans chanted “holy shit!” Moxley hit a piledriver for a nearfall. They went to the floor, where Moxley pulled out his best Jarrett impersonation and slammed Desperado over the head with a guitar at 10:00.
Desperado whipped Moxley into a different barbed wire board. He got a chair and he slammed it against the board, still lying against Moxley’s back. Desperado hit a top-rope frogsplash for a nearfall at 14:00. Desperado grabbed a bouquet of roses, but he had a cheese grater hidden inside, and he used it across Moxley’s forehead. Gross. Desperado set up a table on the floor and put the barbed wire board on it. They fought on the ring apron and both crashed backward onto the table, with it breaking at 16:00, and the crowd again chanting, “holy shit” then “this is awesome.” Surreal to hear Japanese fans chanting in English.
Desperado wrapped barbed wire around his fist; Moxley did the same. They got on their knees and traded punches in the center of the ring. Moxley is now bleeding from the forehead. Desperado pulled out a bag of skewers; he handed half of them to Moxley! They simultaneously planted the skewers on the top of each of their heads! They traded forearm shots and Moxley hit a stunner for a nearfall at 18:00. Moxley switched to the elbow strikes to the side of the head. He switched to cranking back on Desperado’s head.
Desperado blocked the Death Rider, and he hit the Angel’s Wings double-arm faceplant for a nearfall. Desperado nailed a Jay Driller; he went for another Angel’s Wings, but Moxley blocked it, and Moxley nailed the Death Rider double arm DDT for a believable nearfall at 20:00 and the crowd went nuts for the kickout! Ian said you can name the people on one hand who have kicked out of it. Moxley hit the Rollins-style Stomp to the head, but Desperado popped to his feet! Moxley immediately hit a second Death Rider double arm DDT for the pin.
* Moxley got on the mic and said “when I’m in Japan I’m the king of NJPW.” He asked the crowd if they realize what a special thing they have here, and he called Korakuen Hall “the heartbeat of professional wrestling,” and everyone around the world knows it. He said he was baptized in fire at Korakuen Hall a couple years ago. “A piece of my heart will always be here in Tokyo.”
Final Thoughts: I hate death matches, but this was just exhilarating. What a fight. I was breathless watching the end of it. Quite simply one of my favorite death matches I’ve ever seen. So often, death matches feel ‘phony’ to me because someone is standing around waiting to be hit; they might be holding onto a glass pane or holding a weapon in place. Not here… this was just a war.
I’ll give Willow-Giulia second best, and Kingston-Kenta a distant third. Giulia’s overall presentation and skill is just fantastic, and her title win wasn’t entirely unexpected. I was sad to see Willow’s reign end, as she’s had a remarkable and unexpected push in 2023. All that said, Giulia versus a healthy Mercedes Mone is a huge money match to come. Top to bottom, these two shows at Korakuen Hall really delivered.