There was a big fight feel to the new episode of NJPW Strong. Filmed in Dallas in front of a smallish but appreciative crowd, this felt like a Saturday night event with dirt, smoke and spit baked in.
And NJPW leaned into that with some crossovers from the main roster and a show load of great matches.
Remember, I wrote that I’m getting fatigued with the promotion adding multiple matches of multiple men on the cards. They did that here. And it didn’t seem a problem
Matt Rehwoldt repleaces Kevin Kelly this week on NJPW Strong. Is it only this week? It was last week too.
Please don’t let it be permanent. I miss Kevin on NJPW Strong, his work with Alex Kozlov was fun and there’s the Matt Morris question too.
Rehwoldt, the former Aiden English in WWE, has wrestled recently under the Matt Morris name.
He wrestled recently in NJPW under that name. Is his shtick now that he has multiple names all depending on his job? Are we going to set Matt Milton the sous chef? Or Matt Mowbry the toilet cleaner?
I’m confused. It’s a common state for me. So, on with the action:
Taguchi/DKC/Kevin Knight/Alex Coughlin/Ren Narita v David Finlay/Fred Yehi/Wheeler Yuta/Will Allday/Brogan Finlay
This 10 man match could have been crowded. It wasn’t, it showed just what each wrestler could do.
Wheeler Yuta and Kevin Knight had such fast interaction early on that when Allday and Couglin entered, it seemed slow.
Allday showed his cheeky side to Alex, who just chopped him into the middle of next week, then turned him inside out from a tough clothesline.
And in a superb spot, Coughlin doubled down on his muscled up gutwrench suplex by taking both Allday and Yuta for a ride; quite something. And the crowd loved it.
Another moment of less techincal note was Fred Yehi’s nose pull into an exploder suplex on DKC and Taguchi’s extensive posterior power, putting many opponents down; Alex Kozlov called the latter ‘the vicious butt of Taguchi’.
Koslov opined when the ref ignored chop after chop from opponent after opponent to David Finlay, 15 in all. He then saw Narita throw his own teammate into him.
And the match ended with a nice touch, David’s brother Brogan Finlay in the ring with Narita, inching closer to the pin with a fisherman suplex but tasting a Brainbuster and a very leaned back Boston Crab for the tap.
Really well done, an excellent way to set the card up.
El Phantasmo & Chris Bey v Robbie Eagles & Chris Dickinson
How good a move is Chris Bey’s addition to the Bullet Club? Very, very good, he can talk the talk and walk it too. And how good could this matchup be? Phenomenal.
It almost was.
Eagles was able to hang with ElP early on, Koslov even having to shout ‘spare him!’ when he’s subject to double kicks.
Phantasmo is never down for long though and he was soon sliding his feet into Eagles’ meat and two veg and then pulling on the legs for good measure.
When the Phantasmo and Bey team are on top, enjoyment ensues. A series of cartwheels and a handstand before an ElP backrake to Eagles, then Bey danced around before doing the same.
But Dickinson soon asserted his authority with a double suplex and nasty delayed Brainbuster, El Phantasmo replying with a springboard moonsault and Bey and Eagles lighting each other up with kicks.
And Eagles was given the tap on Bey after a 450 on the leg and a leglock.
Close to phenomenal, this. As expected, perhaps.
And after the match, Will Ospreay just wandered into Eagles’ promo, said a cheery hello and ruined the flow of it.
Ospreay & TJP v Karl Fredericks & Clarke Connors
Who would Will Ospreay’s partner be? TJP, who is just great as full heel.
With those 4 combatants, this could be amazing. It was.
Even before the announcement of the teams that is, with the Alpha Wolf over the top on both opponents.
They then used the barricades for some back and forth nonsense before we got the spots we desired.
A TJP bootwash, then his leg crank and bridge to a neck crank, with a modification, a kiss blown to Fredericks in the middle. He finished with a leg snap.
Ospreay was put on his back by a huge Connors pounce and a backcracker but returned with a fantastic looking somersault knee.
And then Clark took a bit of the attention with a spinebuster-release German suplex-spear from the 3nd rope combo, TJP and Will replying with a jawbreaker/backcracker double.
At one point Connors even hit what is called a back elbow on TJP but what looked very like a Coffin Drop.
And the end was sneaky. Oh, those two scallywags! As Ospreay pulled the turnbuckle pad off, TJP launched Connors to the corner and accepted the following rollup.
Afters too, Ospreay wanting to prolong the pain, the LA Dojo emptying to help. Coughlin and Narita clearly given more screen time as the main protagonists. No issue with that at all.
What a great match; set up a more battling main event with good sports entertainment character work and great in ring skill. That is just what we want.
Juice Robinson v Hikuleo
This is the rubber match. This is a bullrope match. This has ‘finisher’ written all over it. Bullrope matches can be brutal. But also limited.
It’s testament to the skill of these two combatants that they didn’t conform to those often tired moves.
We did have the whipping with the rope spot, the rope between the legs crotch spot and pulling you around the building spot – Juice pulled into the guardrail hard from a Hikuleo almost at the back of the crowd.
This match was a cut above other bullrope matches because they avoided the rope. They wrestled. They battled. They used objects.
And so Juice tied his opponent to the ringpost with the rope and smacked him with a tin cookie sheet, he also delivered a senton on that metal and smacked a metal pail with the cowbell to signal the brutality. Roll up, roll up…
The end came when Robinson wrapped the rope around Hikuleo’s neck and pulled. The big man went out. The bell rung. No touching all four corners here, this was tough.
And so was the match. Gritty. Nasty. With a big event feel.
NJPW Strong has been building up to that. The programme seems special.
Now watch it fly…