NJPW STRONG #52 – Road to Summer Struggle USA 2021 Part 1

Port Hueneme, CA – 8.6.2021

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

Alexander James vs. Kevin Knight

James is best known these days as a competitor in wXw, but has also been in a few of Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport events and competes for Beyond Wrestling. This is his NJPW debut. James sneaks in strikes when he backs Knight to the ropes or corner. An angry Knight takes him down with a big hop toss and stomps on his left shoulder. Alexander attacks Knight’s left arm. Even when he catches Knight’s legs to avoid a dropkick, Alexander ignores his legs and applies a short-arm scissors and then a Fujiwara armbar. Knight comes back with his dropkick, low shoulder tackle, and standing Mad Splash combination. He puts Alexander in the Boston Crab but his arm is too weak to keep it applied. Alexander takes him down with a clothesline. He follows that up with a diving headbutt and gutwrench powerbomb for the pin at 8:03. As a James fan I am glad to see him pop up here on STRONG. On paper he and Knight are capable of putting on a great match, but on this show, it was Knight’s job to do his routine offense and eventually lose. I know these two can do better, and I hope they choose James to stick around. **

Fred Rosser & Rocky Romero vs. Ren Narita & Alex Coughlin

Narita and Roose reach a stalemate in their intense opening exchange. Romero has confidence as he stays in control of Coughlin, but a suplex out of the corner from Coughlin puts the match firmly in the DOJO students corner. Rosser even is compelled to break a grapevine ankle lock from Narita to save the match for his team. Narita keeps focused on doing damage to Romero’s arm, and in the process Romero nails him with a back kick to the face. Rosser pummels Nartia with chops and clotheslines in the corner. Narita uses both boots to kick Rosser in the jaw and then takes him down with a spinwheel kick. Coughlin is able to toss Rosser with a gutwrench suplex, but Rosser is wisely able to stop his shoulder tackle by kneeing Coughlin in mid-air. Romero wastes no time attacking Coughlin’s shoulder, but Coughlin is able to use Romero’s momentum to shift a Shiranui into a gutbuster. Rosser breaks up Coughlin’s fallaway slam bridge, and an angry Narita takes Rosser to the floor where they continue to fight. In the ring, Romero uses a Frankensteiner to get Coughlin down. When Coughlin muscles up Romero, Rosser hits a flying shoulder tackle to help get Coughlin into the Diablo Armbar. Rosser adds a seated splash as Romero adds more pressure, and Coughlin finally taps out at 11:09. This is how you showcase your DOJO students. Coughlin and Narita were intense, focused, and more than capable of hanging with their two veterans. It took a lot of positioning and saving for the non DOJO team to get the job done, and with Narita refusing to shake Rosser’s hand, we have a badass singles match on the way. I expected a solid but unspectacular showcase, and this ended up over delivering. ***¼

The West Coast Wrecking Crew (Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs) vs. Team Filthy (JR Kratos & Danny Limelight)

We get to see more of WCWC’s team prowess as they get Limelight trapped in their corner early on. Limelight rakes Isaacs’ eyes to escape a powerslam. He stumbles to the wrong corner where Kratos elbows him in the face. Limelight drops Isaacs with a Complete Shot before tagging Kratos. Kratos and Limelight beat down Isaacs in their half of the ring, with some focus on his midsection. Isaacs gets an adrenaline rush as Kratos lays in some forearm strikes and manages to take over Kratos with a vertical suplex! Limelight fails to stop Nelson from tagging in. Nelson puts the boots to Kratos, taking out his left knee before delivering a knee strike to the side of Kratos’ head. Nelson knee strikes Limelight into a wheelbarrow suplex from Isaacs. Isaacs then suplexes Kratos into a powerbomb from Nelson. Isaacs calls for Movie On The Roof. Limelight stops them and Kratos pulls Nelson off the top turnbuckle with a suplex. Nelson kicks out of a top rope double stomp from Limelight. He is able to send Kratos to the floor with a Fankensetiner and follow him out with a suicide dive. Isaacs drops Limelight with a modified Side Effect and Nelson lands a super elbow drop. Kratos pulls Nelson out of the ring to stop a pin. He muscles Isaacs up into a powerslam inside the ring. Nelson comes back in and is popped up by Kratos. When he gets up off the mat, Limelight hits the Symbiote DDT on Nelson for the pin at 13:19. I was wondering how two teams who are normally programmed as Rudos would work together, and fortunately it worked out great. WCWC were the more experienced team, but Team Filthy were the more ruthless, and that dynamic kept this match interesting and engaging. I am happy to see Limelight FINALLY get a win after a long period of losses, and hopefully he’ll become more than just a side character in other people’s stories again soon. I find myself enjoying Nelson and Isaacs more every time I see them. ***

The two teams get into a shoving match with one another after the match. Tom Lawlor slides into the ring and breaks them up. Lawlor has a side conversation with Kratos and Limelight, bringing up the fact that their numbers are a bit on the light side with Tyler Rust and Chris Dickinson gone. Lawlor then turns to Isaacs and Nelson, tells them he’s been impressed with what he has seen, and offers them spots in Team Filthy. Isaacs and Nelson accept. They shake hands with Lawlor, Kratos, and Limelight, and all five men raise their arms to signify their newfound union. Great move.

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