NJPW Strong #21 – Best of STRONG 2020

Port Hueneme, CA – 12.25.2020

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

This week is a special Best of episode, where each of the four hosts chose one of their favorite matches from the 20 episodes of STRONG that aired in 2020 to feature. The four hosts are Kevin Kelly, Alex Koslov, Rocky Romero, and Fred Rosser.

Kevin Kelly’s Pick
Fred Rosser vs. Clark Connors

STRONG Episode 12 – “NEVER 2020 Part 2” – 10.23.2020

Rosser targets Connors’ neck with strikes and submissions. Connors sweeps Rosser’s legs as Rosser is pulling him up by his hair, and Connors takes him down with a spear. Rosser overhand chops Connors from the ground to stop his stomps, but Connors reverses a whip and takes Rosser down with a dropkick. Rosser grabs Connors’ hair for leverage and strikes him in the face with knees from the mat. He follows that with a belly-to-belly suplex and a seated splash. Connors catches Rosser coming off the ropes with a snap slam and attempts a Boston Crab. He’s able to turn over Rosser successfully, but Rosser gets the ropes. Connors looks for a spear off the second rope. Rosser stops him with a knee to the face and hits the Gut Check for the pin at 6:00. This was all action and really enjoyable to watch, one of the best bell-to-bell outings I’ve seen from Rosser. **¾

Rocky Romero’s Pick
Lion’s Break Crown Tournament Final Round Match
Clark Connors vs. Danny Limelight

STRONG Episode 10 – “Lion’s Break: Crown Part 3” – 10.9.2020

After Connors went for an armbar early, Limelight landed a high kick to Connor’s upper shoulder and neck. That’s where Limelight’s attack focused, and he went for the Symbiote DDT early. Connors blocked that in mid-air with a powerslam and decided from there he would wear down Limelight’s back and midsection. Naturally this meant Connors would be going for his signature Boston Crab. Limelight used his legs to throw Connors throat first to the middle rope and kick him in the neck and shoulder. Limelight goes for a Muta Lock after landing double knees, converting to a neckbreaker when Connors resists. After avoiding a spear, Limelight drops Connors with a fisherman’s buster for a close nearfall. Connors avoids the Symbiote DDT, but Limelight kicks him in the stomach and brings him to the top turnbuckle. Connors knocks Limelight to the mat. He then comes off the second rope with a spear and applies the Boston Crab for the submission at 12:36, winning the match and tournament. As much as I was pulling for Limelight, Connors as a Dojo representative winning this tournament makes sense. I really like that both of them played into their earlier victories, and that Connors won all of his tournament matches with THE Dojo hold, the Boston Crab. This was a very impressive outing for Limelight too, who I continue to be most excited to see compete on a weekly basis. ***½

Alex Koslov’s Pick
Fred Rosser vs. Tom Lawlor

STRONG Episode 15 – “Showdown 2020 Part 1” – 11.13.2020

This is Lawlor’s first first appearance since the Lion’s Break Collision series. He is flanked by Rust Taylor and JR Kratos who are carrying the Team Filthy banner behind him. Lawlor was persistent in attacking Rosser’s arms and exhausting him with chops. Rosser matched Lawlor’s aggression in strikes, and also had tremendous instincts in terms of getting ropes to get submissions, and even reversing a choke into an apron suplex. Rosser mustered the strength to hit the Gut Check to block a rear-naked choke, but when he went for the follow up sliding kick to the side of the head, Lawlor brought him down to the campus and applied a full-body submission until Rosser verbally submitted at 11:13. The fact that Lawlor is such an accomplished mat wrestler and submission expert and still had to make sure all of Rosser’s limbs were tied up to finally get him to submit shows just how tenacious Rosser is. This brought an intensity no other STRONG match has to date and should get more love than it does. This is a match I would seriously consider checking out, especially if the idea of Rosser being in NJPW makes you raise an eyebrow. ***¾

Fred Rosser’s Pick
Rocky Romero vs. Jay White

STRONG Episode 12 – “NEVER 2020 Part 2” – 10.23.2020

This match was made due to Romero eliminating White first two weeks ago in a 12 man elimination tag team match. An embarrassed White attacked Romero after the elimination. Romero shows White no fear right away with a slap to the face and a schoolboy for two. White however cuts off Romero’s forever clotheslines with an atomic drop and DDT. He focuses his attack on Romero’s back and midsection going forward. Romero fights back with a series of forearm shots and chops, nursing his back in the process. He is even able to send White to the floor with a tornado DDT. Romero dropkicks White in the side of the head as White lays on the middle rope, and then attacks White’s left shoulder. White pushes Romero away when Romero goes for another tornado DDT and shuts down Romero with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Romero attacks the arm again and connects with the tornado DDT on his next try. Romero’s back is too worn down for a brainbuster, so he rolls White into a cross armbreaker. White blocks a running Shiranui at first. Romero attacks the hand and goes for it again. White counters and goes for Blade Runner, which Romero counters with a backslide for two. A knee strike and slap lead to Romero successfully hitting a running Shiranui for two. Romero goes for Sliced Bread and mid-move is stopped with a backbreaker. White then hits the Blade Runner for the pin at 14:12.. He and White told a great story with each of them focusing their offense on a different body part, and convincing us Romero was capable of beating the former IWGP Champion. The commentary, the way the match started, and just how smartly Romero worked the match aided in getting me excited for Romero to prove him eliminating White was no fluke. This was a great match, and the best STRONG match as of this point. ***¾

This featured the two best bouts from STRONG to date, a really great one from the Finals, and one that holds some personal significance to Kevin Kelly, making for a rock solid Best Of episode. This was the first episode of STRONG I watched and convinced me to give the series a whirl.

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