I’d gotten used to it. The empty studio. Those echoes. I sort of resented it when fans were back in. This is mine, goddammit! This NJPW Strong is for the stuck at home crowd, don’t show me people having a good time! But I have to say that NJPW Strong on the road is something special. It’s almost as if the bright colors are more muted, the lighting is lower, and you can almost feel the heat. And the crowd are really adding some grit and excitement here. Can I use the word febrile? I just did.
The West Coast Wrecking Crew & JR Kratos v Alex Couglin/David Finlay/Eumara
Fast-paced, tough, energetic, this pleased muchly. Particularly the Danny Limelight commentary bigging up his Team Filthy mates. Don’t wake the beast, Alex! If you do, Kratos might muscle you off the mat into a suplex…too late. Another feature of this match? The Wrecking Crew are fabulous together, even if Jorel Nelson had a bad shoulder. Here, Royce Isaacs hit a full Nelson suplex and his partner finished off with a reverse cutter off the top. That deserved a pin. And it got one.
But that wasn’t the real story here. Oh no. That was Alex Coughlin lifting and slamming monster JR Kratos. They have to meet soon one on one.
And Kratos came back to give double middle digits to the ‘f*ck you, Kratos’ chants. Lovely. NJPW Strong style.
El Phantasmo v Juice Robinson
This is going to be good. Both can go. Both have egos. Both have good personas. And…entertain me!.. They did! I’ve never been a great fan of Juice, I understand why people are, but it always seems to me that he’s saying ‘look at my big personality! I’m in colorful clothing!’ You shouldn’t have to show us if you are one. The exception to that rule? Randy Savage. And actually, Juice is starting to look a bit like him, sadly in the hair department too. Here he pleases, after a strange spot where his leg buckles and the ref shows concern, which is then forgotten for two old skool atomic drops.
ELP is having none of that, so let the back raking commence:
1. Jewels shot into a scratch.
2. Double cartwheels into a scratch.
3. An elaborate ring walking into a scratch.
And it was one of the best shots of the show.
Apart from Juice having to forearm his way out of a nipple twist, that is. Or a Frankensteiner to a lovely hanging time splash for an ELP long 2 count, that is. And a Styles Clash for another. He’s special, ain’t he? Even the ref bump didn’t seem egregious, it seemed part of the action, but it allowed another Phantasmo twig & berries shot. And this is when the match shifted.
Phantasmo went for his kick, it was oddly swatted away by Juice, who then hit the Pulp Friction (it’s a Killswitch really, isn’t it?) and when that didn’t work, he turned ElP inside out with a lariat and broke out what he calls the HHB. It’s a sort of package power slam. It was a thing of beauty. It deserved the pin. Two big beasts in NJPW, coming to NJPW Strong and turning in something excellent for great fans. And Juice Robinson impressed me. There, I’ve said it.
Buddy Murphy/Matthews, that’s who! He’ll be at Battle In The Valley and I can’t wait.
Clark Conners & Ren Narita v Will Ospreay & TJP
Will and T of the United Empire are winning this easily, aren’t they? Oh no, this is NJPW Strong.
The young lions here were at it, Narita reversing a head scissors when TJP had the temerity to celebrate his, but when he tussled with Ospreay on the outside, he found himself lawn darted into the ring post. Opsreay took a huge pounce from Connors though and TJP tasted an overhead throw, half Nelson suplex and brainbuster, all from Narita, all sequential, all lovely. But Ospreay soon reminded us of the quality he possesses with a handspring tilt-a-whirl kick and a nasty-looking punch to the back of the head. And then a neck breaker/knees combo from UE which seemed to move things to the end.
Narita caught Ospreay on the apron more by luck than good judgment, Connors hit a spear on TJP and Narita picked up the pin with the fisherman suplex. Just a minute. TJP took the pin, but the young lions were given the win. And Narita got it. This is a big pat on the back. And more.
Afterward, Will wanted afters, but Narita handled him and even took the belt, throwing it back to him and telling him he didn’t need the fake belt; he needed a win over him. That’s big news. Ospreay helping to bring Ren Narita on. A program between them is a possibility. Just like that, Narita is a contender. And NJPW prepares the way for two young wrestlers to breakout. Narita v Ospreay. Coughlin v Kratos.