Garland, TX – 10.9.2021
Commentary is provided by Alex Koslov and Matt Rehwoldt. Kevin Kelly was in Japan covering the G1 Climax during this tour.
Fred Rosser vs. Minoru Suzuki
This is Suzuki’s first U.S.NJPW appearance since the Showdown 2019 tour. When Rosser was announced as an opponent for Suzuki, a lot of people scoffed at New Japan for the decision. I have my doubts that any of those people actually watch STRONG, as he has proven on multiple occasions he has the capability of having the quality of match many want from a Suzuki bout. Rosser set the tone by forearming Suzuki in the face the moment Suzuki stepped through the ropes. Suzuki’s anger came out on the floor where he attacked Rosser’s arm and threw a chair at his head. One thing I liked is that when Suzuki blocked the Gut Check with a half crab attempt, Rosser kicked him away and still hit his follow up running boot to the side of the head. Rosser got too caught up in a forearm battle with Suzuki which seemed clear he wasn’t going to win. His stubbornness cost him, as his not changing course arguably gave Suzuki a pathway to get him in the sleeper hold and then pin him with the GSP at 11:34. This was exactly what I anticipated – a high level presentation of what became Suzuki’s formula. Before this match, a video with Rosser aired emphasizing how much he wants to be the STRONG Openweight Champion, and admittedly I am interested to see how Rosser recovers after the setback of losing to Suzuki and Narita. ***¼
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Tom Lawlor vs. Ren Narita
Lawlor has been champion since 4.23.2021 and this is his fifth defense. Narita more or less called Lawlor’s punk card last week and got this title match because of it. Natira now has facial hair and a tan, and it is insane how much he looks like Shibata. Narita frustrates the champion and remains steadfast with a heel hook. Lawlor is able to get Narita to the floor and whip him into the steel barricades, shifting the match into the champion’s favor. Incredibly, Narita absorbs spinal kicks from Lawlor and goes back to the heel hook. Out of the corner, however, Lawlor uses the ropes for leverage to get under Narita to pick him up and slam him down.When Lawlor picks him up after a second slam, Narita rolls Lawlor forward back into the heel hook! Lawlor turns the hold over and pulls Narita into a sharpshooter. Narita uses the ropes sto escape. Lawlor crushes him in the corner with a clothesline and suplexes him over his shoulder for two. Lawlor and Narita fight for a rear-naked choke hold, with Narita instead locking in a standing Cobra Twist. Larwlor turns around and puts Narita in a Guillotine Choke. Narita reverses that into a bridging Northern Lights suplex. Lawlor pulls Narita by his wrists in the hopes of getting a cross armbreaker, but instead Narita puts Lawlor through a series of different submissions. Lawlor cradles Narita when he goes for a second figure four leg lock. He ties up all of Narita’s body into the St. Andrews Cross, and with no way to escape, Narita verbally submits at 20:14. Back when Lawlor defeated Narita in the opening round of the New Japan Cup, it would’ve been tough to imagine half a year later that Narita would give him his best title defense yet. It was long which helped give them time to tell a story, but they filled that time in a compelling manner while making Narita look like a star in the process. If this entire STRONG project is to propel Narita into the NJPW main event scene, it will have been worth it, because he is so good no matter who he wrestles. I think this is the best STRONG match to date. ****
Robbie Eagles vs. Jay White
This is Eagles’ first match in the U.S. since the 2019 Super-J Cup tournament. He is also the current IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion. White is the current NEVER Openweight Champion. This “champion versus champion” bout received main event billing over the STRONG title defense, and I don’t know that I agree with that choice. Eagles also abandoned the BULLET CLUB back in 2019, so he and White have some built in tension. Eagles scores early with a Frankensteiner and a dropkick to the side of the head. White gets both of his boots up into Eagles’ face when he charges at White in the corner. White chokes Eagles and violently sends him back first into the corner. Eagles takes down White with a series of chest kicks. White evades a tiger feint kick to the legs and stuns Eagles with a DDT. Eagles sends White out to the floor with a running elbow to the back of the head and tope con hilos out after him. Back in the ring, Eagles delivers repeated elbows to the side of White’s head. White picks up Eagles and lays him out with a simple lariat. He also spikes Eagles on his face with a Complete Shot. White German suplexes Eagles before dropping him with a uranage for two. Eagles smacks White to escape the Blade Runner and dropkicks his leg out from under him. Eagles tiger feint kicks his legs out and then hits a springboard dropkick to the left knee. He locks White in the Ron Miller Special and White gets the ropes to escape. The Pulse and Turbo Backpack only get him a two count. White kicks Eagles to escape a second Ron Miller Special, so Eagles instead superkicks him and gives his left leg a 450 splash! However, when he goes for the Ron Miller Special once more, White rolls Eagles up into a sleeper suplex. He gives Eagles a brainbuster, possibly to get Tomohiro Ishii’s attention, and then the Blade Runner for the pin at 18:07. The crowd seemed gassed after the title match and it took them a long time to get into this match. However, Eagles’ late comeback got a great reaction and it enhanced the match quite a bit. With White sticking around the U.S. it makes more sense for him to have won, but Eagles would be a fun addition to the STRONG roster on occasion for sure. ***½
Jay White notes how some suspect decisions are being made in the BULLET CLUB while he isn’t around, such as EVIL and SHO being brought in. He thinks sometimes the group forgets who the real leader of BULLET CLUB is. He indicates that it is still his Era before leaving with his NEVER Openweight title.