NJPW Strong – Joy to the (wrestling) World…
Strong has been excellent all year and phenomenal for much of it too. They are the best wrestling promotion around. Why is that? Their roster has stand-out stars and great up-and-comers. The guests from the main roster are well handled. They are constantly adding new arrivals, the majority of who really worked. There’s no fear about giving us great matches on weekly programmes. The wrestling is just so good and it always means something.
With or without, NJPW Strong has succeeded. Without, the work seemed more precise, but still so good to see. With a crowd though, in a smaller building, not an 80’s WWE arena, the atmosphere is febrile. The sweaty, shouting, showy crowd makes NJPW Strong look vital, underground, really important. And it is.
So Why Was This Week’s Episode So Good?
Sweet appetizer. Excellent starter. Phenomenal main course.
The DKC & Kevin Knight v Jordan Clearwater & Brogan Finlay
I’m not really high on any of these participants, so didn’t expect much. I was wrong. When you’ve got a series of huge Knight uppercuts and standing frogsplash which looks better than it sounds, a big Clearwater backdrop suplex, the DKC chops over the knee and a just about delivered Finlay crucifix bomb, things are rather fine. That crucifix bomb? The DKC was having none of it, grabbed the leg and made Finlay tap.
That whetted the appetite, NJPW Strong.
JR Kratos/Black Tiger/Royce Isaacs v Rocky Romero/FinnJuice
This could have been a mess. It was. A hot mess. And Romero has previous with the new Black Tiger, or Underground Black Tiger, as they seem to be calling him, who attacked Rocky last week on NJPW Strong and of course he has previous with that mask. Tasty. Rocky wants that Black Tiger and eventually gets him.
Brilliant wrestling ensues, including a Rocky armlock reversed to a leglock and a Black Tiger powerbomb and tiger driver (of course) for the pin.
Elsewhere in that ring? A great series of moves where David Finlay bodyslams Rocky onto Black Tiger, Juice does the same with Finlay and then Rocky just about gets Juice up to do the same thing. Royce Issacs showed his quality and strength too in a one-armed slam to Rocky; he really is overlooked and shouldn’t be.
This was breathless, never took a rest and had some JR Kratos power moves too. And none of the action was crowded. It takes quality to do that. They all have it.
Tom Lawlor v Fred Rosser
For the Openweight Title. A title upon which Team Filthy is ‘predicated’, according to wonderful Kevin Kelly – ooh, Get you!
And this had a really good lead in too, NJPW Strong created something simple but absolutely correct.
Rosser beat Lawlor, the first time this has apparently happened on NJPW Strong. Filthy Tom didn’t take kindly to that and shaved Fred’s head. Very nastily. This wasn’t a skinfade or Flock Of Seagulls, this was down to the scalp and so Fred now sports a shaved dome and a bad attitude. Rosser really had a stand out year on NJPW Strong in 2020. This year has been quieter. He was about to turn the volume up.
This match was dirty, sweaty, real. From the moment Rosser slapped Lawlor and Tom tried to grapple with Fred styling slippery, it was on. Fred choked Tom with tape. Lawlor kicked with his new tinsel tesselled boots, then hit a sliding lariat to back and front and countered a GTS with a double leg dragon screw.
No time to catch your breath, despite constant smacks to the apron, Tom wouldn’t let do a reverse octopus, Rosser couldn’t make the gutbuster count as Lawlor grabbed the foot on the kick, the Rosser running death valley bomb was a thing of beauty and he almost win when he synched his opponent up over his shoulder and hit a powerslam.
Of course Lawlor tried the rear-naked choke, did you need to ask? Tried it loads of times actually, so many near falls, but Rosser got a wrinkle in it when a cross face chicken wing bothered Tim mightily. In fact he almost tapped, twice, Kelly and Kozlov were at the edge of their voices, Lawlor went to the ropes, couldn’t make it, made slow, slow progress and finally got there. And then Fred made some big moves. And big mistakes.
He dived off the top onto a prone Lawlor, overshot and found himself in a rear-naked. He broke out and made for the safety of the ring, which helped Lawlor’s confidence, who almost dived between the ropes, hit another rear naked and Fred faded out. What a match. A close run thing with so much at stake, more than just the belt and real feeling. Classic NJPW Strong. Plus no high spots, just well-thought-out moves, and carefully plotted hatred.
Was That It?
Nope. Call him Rust Taylor or Tyler Rust, the former ROH wrestler was a previous Team Filthy member and was welcomed like a prodigal son.
He was left alone with the champ. And would t stop asking who was going to challenge Tom Lawlor.
You know what comes next. A kick. A twisting neckbreaker. And a proclamation that he was going to challenge Tom Lawlor. On paper it’s not exciting. Now they’ve announced it this way, I wanna see it.
NJPW Stronger And Stronger
Looks that way. That’s what happens when you concentrate on wrestling. Good, eh?