RADICAN’S TAKE: NJPW wins over Korakuen Hall faithful with death match wrestling

By Sean Radican, PWTorch columnist (Twitter: @SR_Torch)


NJPW isn’t known for hardcore matches or death matches, so it was a surprise to see that the debut of the U.S. arm of the promotion in Japan running PPVs on back-to-back nights would be fe headlined by AEW star Jon Moxley in death matches against his rival El Desperado. The NJPW Independence Day PPVs on July 4 and July 5 ended up being a success with NJPW trying something different at the top of the card on both nights.

I’m not a fan of death matches in general. I don’t mind a good hardcore match, but there’s a certain line that gets crossed when I watch death matches where I say to myself, yeah I’ve had enough of this.

Moxley teamed with Homicide on NJPW to take on Japanese death match legend Jun Kasai & El Desperado in a wild affair that saw the crowd in Korakuen Hall go crazy for just about everything Kasai did in his NJPW debut. The electric atmosphere clearly impacted all the wrestlers involved as you could tell by Kasai’s post match comments to Desperado where he told him he wanted another “hit” of the Korakuen Hall atmosphere.

Desperado and Kasai were victorious on night 1 and that match went right up to the edge of my tolerance for death matches without going over the line. It was a hell of a brawl that went all over Korakuen Hall. The most amazing thing was how accepting the NJPW fans were of the action in the ring. NJPW doesn’t normally have matches like this on their shows, but going outside the box worked for them because of the rivalry Moxley and Desperado had developed over the last year that was just recently rekindled by Desperado after he challenged Moxley to a match following a date he had with American independent promotion GCW. Moxley had previously beaten Desperado in a No DQ match at Music City Mayhem on July 30, 2022.

The Final Death match between Moxley and Desperado that concluded NJPW Strong independence Day Night 2 was one hell of a war with a defiant Desperado, who had a reputation as being one of the best cruiserweights in NJPW, tried to prove himself in the ring in the death match environment against Jon Moxley. To use a sports phrase, Moxley nearly blew Desperado out of the building during the early stages of the match.

The fans were red hot for the action, but after Desperado had taken so much punishment, the heat went to another level when Desperado mounted a comeback. I was buying Desperado’s near falls down the stretch. Desperado seemed to be on the verge of completing an unthinkable comeback in a crazy match that saw him put through a barbed wire board, multiple tables that would not break, and Moxley even plastered him over the head with his own guitar. For good measure, Moxley also assaulted Desperado with a fork.

Desperado’s mask covered the visual of him bleeding. On the previous night, Desperado exposed his forehead by wearing a torn mask, but he did not do that for this match. Moxley also bled from the head during the match, but this match was less about blood and more about violent brutality.

Moxley and Desperado escalated the violence and it made sense that they were attacking each other with weapons and other plunder unlike other death matches where wrestlers seem to bleed all over the place and trade big moves with no storyline to match the action inside the ring.

I’ve never been a fan of the skewers to the head spot, but when Desperado took out a bag full of skewers and handed a bunch to Moxley, I bought into it because it played off a spot on the previous night where Moxley had a bunch of skewers driven into his head.

The fans went nuts for what eventually happened as Moxley and Desperado both put the skewers in the top of each other’s heads as they were trading blows. Moxley eventually put Desperado away with a Death Rider, but Desperado proved himself a worthy adversary that gave Moxley everything he could handle during the second half of the match.

I don’t expect NJPW to feature matches like this on a regular basis in the future, but if the right scenario presented itself, they’d be lucky to have a pair of crowds as good as the two that attended both nights of NJPW Strong Independence Day and supported two main event death matches in spectacular fashion.

Sean Radican has written for Pro Wrestling Torch for 20 years specializing in his coverage of independent wrestling, ROH, and NJPW. Contact him at pwtorchsean@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @SR_Torch

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