Port Hueneme, CA – 9.3.2021
Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.
Josh Alexander vs. Daniel Garcia
Garcia wants Alexander’s leg, but Alexander won’t let him get hold of it. Alexander grabs hold of a headlock to stop Garcia’s pin attempts, and Garcia dropkicks Alexander’s knee out when he gets the chance. Finally Garcia gets hold of Alexander’s ankle and uppercuts the bend of Alexander’s left leg. Alexander responds with a German suplex and a back breaker. Alexander lands a belly-to-belly suplex. Garcia grabs a front facelock when Alexander floats over, but Alexander escapes and stomps on Garcia’s chest. Garcia ducks when he suspects a chop, so Alexander clubs him on his back and then chops him down. Garcia kicks Alexander’s knee out and gets him back in a front facelock. He transitions to a sleeper when Alexander gets to his feet. Garcia sunset flips Alexander into a figure four leg lock and Alexander gets the ropes to escape. Garcia trips Alexander into a crossface. He Saito suplexes Alexander across the ring. Alexander catches Garcia’s running boot and scoops him up into a back breaker. He muscles Garcia up into a powerbomb onto his knee, and then hits a Tiger Driver called Divine Intervention for the pin at 10:38. Unsurprisingly, this match kicked ass. Garcia was keenly focused on Alexander’s leg, but that focus was shifted as he continuously found himself desperately fighting to maintain control, and Alexander’s power prevailed. One of the best STRONG openers for sure. ***½
TJP vs. Rey Horus
This is Horus’ first match since February, and that month he defeated TJP in the main event of STRONG #26. He is able to stay one step ahead of TJP until TJP catches him with a slingshot dropkick through the middle and top rope. Horus is able to escape a face scrape, but TJP rolls him down into a figure seven leg lock, and then snaps both of Horus’ arms. TJP pulls off his boot scrapes, but Horus drop toe holds him down. He enzuigiri’s TJP to the floor and lands a somersault senton over the ring post. TJP escapes from a top turnbuckle situation and face wash kicks Horus. Horus escapes a Detonation Kick with a crucifix pin. TJP kicks out, but Horus takes him down with a Spanish Fly for two. Horus misses a high crossbody, and TJP puts him in an Octopus Hold. Horus falls into the ropes to escape. TJP hits the Detonation Kick and the Mamba Splash for the pin at 11:06. They make sure to get across that they’re now 1-1 in singles matches, so presumably a threematch is coming down the line. This was good, albeit a bit repetitive, especially since these two kinda do the same stuff in their matches. **¾
Matt Morris vs. Hikuleo
Morris is a friend of Robinson’s, and he is seeking revenge for Hikuleo’s attack on Robinson last week. Hikuleo chokes Morris against the ropes. On the floor, he drives Morris back first into the ring post and the ring apron. After being worn down for a while in the ring, Morris moves out of the way of a running knee drop. Morris low bridges the top rope to send Hikuleo to the floor and follows with a somersault senton off the apron. In the ring he knocks down Hikuleo with a Sick Kick and gets a two count with a Swanton Bomb. Hikuleo blocks a hip attack in the corner and lays out Morris with a big boot. Morris uses a sleeper hold to escape a Tongan Driller. Hikuleo snap slams Morris as Morris comes charging, and then lays him out with the Tongan Driller for the pin at 9:44. Morris is quite good at making spirited comeback, and that helped make the latter portion of this much better than most of Hikuleo’s other extended squashes. Still, there’s definitely a ceiling on most of Hikuleo’s matches. **¼
Hikuleo brings a table into the ring. He’s about ready to Morris through it when Juice Robinson makes the save. He is about to put Hikuleo through the table, but Hikuleo slips away. I just hope Eddie Munster doesn’t make any of the tables filthy.
The following day, Hiroshi Tanahashi would make his first defense of the IWGP U.S. Title:
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi
NJPW “Wrestle Grand Slam in MetLife Dome Night 1” – Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan – 9.4.2021
Tanahashi has been champion since 8.14.2021 and this is his first defense. Tanahashi and Ibushi are also tag partners, known as “Golden Ace”, and are former IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions/ This is Ibushi’s first match back in two months after being sidelined with aspiration pneumonia, and he gets emotional at the beginning of the match. Tanahashi gets frustrated that he can’t keep Ibushi down on the mat, so he attacks Ibushi’s left leg. Ibushi guts through the pain to land a dropkick and send Tanahashi outside with a Frankensteiner. Ibushi lands the Golden Triangle. Back in the ring, however, Tanahashi shuts him down with a dragonscrew leg whip. They end up in a forearm strike exchange which Ibushi dominates. He sets up Tanahashi for Kamigoye, which Tanahashi halts with Twist and Shout. He follows that up with Slingblade. Ibushi gets his knees up to block the High Fly Flow. He holds onto Tanahashi’s wrist and rolls back, hitting Tanahashi with Kamigoye, but unable to capitalize with a pin. Ibushi ends up hitting Boma Ye and then sets up Tanahashi for a second Kamigoye. Tanahashi twists Ibushi’s wrist to block Kamigoye. He pulls himself up and drops Ibushi with a Slingblade for one. He then gets a very close nearfall with a Dragon suplex. Aces High and the High Fly Flow get Tanahashi the pin at 17:47. Ibushi tends to drop his leg selling in many matches, but I think in the context of Ibushi’s overall resolve in returning from a very scary medical situation it was less frustrating to watch. He and Tanahashi have good chemistry, and while this is definitely their weakest singles match, the emotion shared between them at the match’s conclusion made it a memorable first defense for Tanahashi. ***¼