One of the delicious things to come out of NJPW Strong last week was Gabriel Kidd calling out Jonathan Gresham and Jonathan Gresham coming out. And then Gabriel Kidd asked to fight him and Jonathan Gresham said he would. And they will fight. Here and now. Main event material.
Except this is NJPW Strong. They don’t do it like others.
Jonathan Gresham v Gabriel Kidd
First? Do you put it on first? It’s the main event, isn’t it?
Certainly played out like one. Gresham was happy, to begin with, happy with the competition, waving at the crowd. That didn’t last long. Kelly and Koslov, the best 2 K’s in wrestling today, started to ramp up the thoughts of Gresham’s frustration and questioned when either man would throw a punch. It really added to the atmosphere.
And after some Kidd wrist control, escape from Gresham, and straight back to wrist control, Kidd was poked in the eye. By mistake. But it was heating up. And then when Kidd tightened a leglock, Gresham turned it but it had to be unlocked by the ref; this was tightening up all right.
They traded forearms, Kidd hit a slam, Gresham dropkicked him off the apron. And then they traded falls. Many fast falls. And they rolled. The NJPW Strong crowd applauded. Kevin Kelly had been saying earlier that Kidd had to watch the leg scissors pin – oh, too late. That will be the pin then.
It was tight. Concise. And thoroughly decent. But the commentary played against that. And that was the piece that made this main event quality match so special. The sandwich filling for this NJPW Strong episode had to be good.
Fredericks/Connors/Narita v Ospreay/Cobb/TJP
These all have previous. Connors and TJP are apparently at odds about his defection to the United Empire team he’s representing tonight. Ospreay and Narita battled at NJPW Strong Battle In The Valley. Cobb and Fredericks just love to fight people.
Loads of action here. And yet it was never a mess. It was a delight. Why not when;
TJP transitioned from a Fredericks fireman’s carry to an octopus. Karl had to get to the tag.
Cobb got a round of applause for putting Narita in a vertical suplex and squatting.
What an interchange; Narita suplex throw to Ospreay, Connors pounce to Ospreay. Ospreay high springboard kick. Just great.
TJP wasn’t content with a sharpshooter to Narita, he immediately handed Connors a back suplex.
And then Fredericks got Cobb up for a spinebuster. Yes, they’re the biggest 2 men in the fight, but there’s a big size difference. Connors’ knee gave out on a spear attempt and so it was a shock when he broke up the Cobb pin from a spin cycle. Unfortunately, Connors fell to a TJP Boston crab and without disturbance, a tour of the islands slam from Cobb to Fredericks gave the United Empire the pin.
Great, frenetic work with real intention. Ah, that’s why the Gresham and Kidd match was on first.
Ishii v King
Tomohiro. Brody. Tough men who will give no quarter. And this was just amazing. When the match started with a King head crank and elbow smashes, you knew there’s something special here.
And then Ishii got King up in a suplex. He got him up. Oh yes. And even when King hit his tough cannonball and rushed straight to a piledriver, he only chalked up a 2 count. In fact, he was knocked down by a double ax handle, a double ax handle mind you, to the chin.
King had enough about him to hold the arm when Ishii tried his low lariat but couldn’t avoid a high one. He certainly came back with a black hole slam and death valley driver for a long 2 count. Ishii would have to get King up in his vertical drop brainbuster. He did it once earlier, but could he do it again?
Oh yes. And that devastating move led to the pin. Worthy of an NJPW Strong main event, that match. Oh, it was.
Two Main Events? Ooh, Get Them!
Well, they can do it. And they do it with excellence.
The crowd works to ramp up the atmosphere, they have the roster, they don’t mind putting them together. That takes real backbone, to give us what we want. Sounds easy, but do the WWE do that week after week? NJPW Strong has an embarrassment of riches. And we get to see them