Not any more.
With the ROH ‘pivot’ to use their words and the non renewal of contracts, NJPW are now pre- eminent for wrestling. Not sports entertainment, you’ll note.
And you know what? I reckon Strong is more entertaining as a programme than some parts of the NJPW main events.
It has a real atmosphere, a belief, an impetus which has only broadened out with fans added.
There’s usually 3 matches in an hour long programme, 2 usually excellent and 1 pretty damn good.
This week? 3 for 3. Here we go…
Fred Rosser & Rocky Romero v JR Kratos & Danny Limelight
Fred Rosser is ‘Mr No Days Off’. So Alex Koslov, who has a worked enmity with Rocky, calls him ‘Mr One Day On’ which causes his co-host Matt Rehwoldt, to genuinely chuckle.
Just as a side issue, I may be missing Kevin Kelly’s commentary, but if putting Matt on duty for Strong means less of Matt Morris ‘The Drama King’, I’m all for it.
This match was splendid. One thing jumped out. Kratos is having a good time with fans in the room. At one point he even danced and his facials to them were wonderful to see.
Early on though it was Romero and Limelight enjoying their work together, until Danny got a smack to the back of his head.
Then something amazing; Fred Rosser handled Kratos. I thought almost no one could do that. When he tried to suplex him on the apron though, no dice.
And when Kratos gained the upper hand, he threw up his partner who came down with a double stomp on Rosser’s abs.
By this time Fred was in trouble. So much so that Kratos had himself a little dance – swing those hips, boy!
Rocky’s forever clothesline and a sweet lariat spoiled the party and his spot where comes off the top with the knee to the bicep looked even more brutal here.
Rosser’s face as he tasted a Kratos boot was a picture, the big man then hit a superman punch and a knee, all when Rocky was on the top buckle. He then topped it with a sweet falcon arrow.
But Rosser got the pin on Limelight with his stiff flapjack type finisher.
What a match to start.
Lio Rush v Taiji Ishimori
This might top it. Short odds on it. And as this was their first time together in the ring, they may not have meshed.
As if. The speed of their early counters was blurring, Ishimori took it to the outside, bent Rush’s arm through the guardrail and kicked, then low dropkicked it when Lio tried a handstand.
A problem for Rush early on.
He grimaced through the pain to deliver a falcon arrow, always remembering to favour that arm and bridged out of a pin after a pinpoint accurate shoulderbreaker.
Taiji just went for an amazing tilt a whirl, swinging armbreaker straight into a crossface, just like that. And it wasn’t even the end.
No, that came after a Rush piledriver attempt with knees to the face, Rush setting up the end with a whipsmart spinning kick and frog splash.
What a parade of brilliant wrestling. And what a set up for a main event which wouldn’t be about grappling.
Tom Lawlor & Royce Isaacs v Suzuki and Lance Archer
You’re over when one name suffices. And with the Murderhawk Monster by his side, Team Filthy had it all to do.
So they set about upsetting their opponents and Lawlor succeeded in angering Suzuki with punches, but then nullified both tough guys by working well together.
That ended when Archer entered and hammered Lawlor, capping it off with a blackout.
But Isaacs, who has more power and wrestling skill than many credit him with, hit a go to sleep on Suzuki and then a suplex for a long 2. So close!
Of course Mr S hit the brainbuster finisher for the pin and afterwards? Oh, he had words with an angry-over-nothing Chris Dickinson.
Sweetest moment? When Archer asked us if we were having fun and Rehwoldt shouted ‘yes!’
I agree. 3 quality, differently exciting matches with amazing grapplers. And NJPW Strong does this as standard.