NJPW Battle In The Valley

San Jose, CA – 11.13.2021

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

Josh Alexander vs. Yuya Uemura

Uemura plays heavy defense in this match, attempting to keep Alexander trapped in a side headlock, and throwing strikes to try and create distance. Meanwhile, Alexander twists on Uemura’s left ankle and attacks his neck. Uemura surprises Alexander with an IED dropkick in the corner, bringing both men down to the mat. Uemura scoop slams Alexander into an elbow drop, then back suplexes him for a two count. Alexander clasps his hands together to avoid a cross armbreaker attempt. Uemura reverses a waistlock and German suplexes Alexander for two. Alexander escapes a suplex and a dropkick and grabs an ankle lock. When Uemura begins to fight free, Alexander transitions into a sharpshooter. Although Uemura escapes, Alexander drives his knee into the back of Uemura’s leg and applies an ankle lock. Uemura rolls Alexander into the cross armbreaker. Alexander rolls Uemura on his shoulders. Uemura counters a ripcord forearm with a pair of dropkicks. Alexander trips Uemura back into the ankle lock while also kicking at his lower back until Uemura taps out at 11:44. This was a great establishing match for Uemura to an audience who may have not had a chance to see him. They got into him quickly which is a good sign. He and Alexander had good chemistry, matching each other’s intensity the whole time. This was a really good way to start the show. ***¼

VLNCE UNLTD (Brody King & Chris Dickinson) vs. Stray Dog Army (Bateman & Misterioso)

The SDA attacked VLNCE UNLTD from behind before the bell. They beat down King and Dickinson on the floor and end up isolating King in their corner when they get back inside. King escapes a This Is A Kill attempt from Bateman and shoves him into Misterioso and finally tags Dickinson. He wipes out both of the SDA with a top rope dropkick. BAteman chokes Dickinson from the apron to shut down his offensive stride on Misterioso. Dickinson also escapes the SDA by escaping a This Is A Kill attempt. A refreshed King lariats and cannonball sentons Bateman in the corner, and then belly-to-belly suplexes a charging Misterioso onto him. Dickinson dropkicks Bateman into an enzuigiri from King. King senton splashes on Bateman, and Dickinson follows with a frog splash off the top. After Misterioso breaks up the pin, King Cactus clotheslines him to the outside. Misterioso wipes out King with an Asai moonsault and Bateman pins Dickinson at 10:08. We have no idea how Bateman did this, as the cameras didn’t pick it up, and neither did commentary. It appears Dickinson got hurt, as he was taken out on a stretcher. This was going along pretty good until then. **

Fred Rosser, Rocky Romero, David Finlay, Alex Zayne & Alex Coughlin vs. Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, Danny Limelight, JR Kratos, Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson)

On the latest episode of STRONG, Rosser pinned STRONG Openweight Champion Lawlor in a tag team match. After the match, Team Filthy attacked Rosser and cut his hair, and also left his partner Rocky Romero lying. Rosser has shaved the rest of his hair and is now bald. They fight to start, but when their brawl spills to the floor, Team Filthy attacks Rosser. Rosser gives Lawlor a backbreaker on the apron on the opposite side of the ring, and now Rosser’s team attacks Lawlor. Rosser dragonscrew leg whips Lawlor in the ring. Finlay takes down Limelight with a spinning suplex and dropkicks Nelson. Finlay places Limelight on the ropes for Romero to deliver a dropkick to the side of the head. Limelight escapes the Forever clotheslines and Nelson blindsides Romero with a clothesline of his own. Team Filthy are only able to keep Romero sequestered for a few moments before he enzuigiri’d Limelight and tagged Zayne. Zayne used Nelson to pull off a front flip super Frankensteiner on Limelight for two. Nelson though tripped Zayne from the floor. Coughlin gets tagged when Kratos is tagged. They also were at odds on STRONG two weeks ago. Kratos wipes out Coughlin and Finlay to the floor, but Zayne derails whatever his dive plan was. This leads to a series of dives onto everyone from Zayne, Limelight, Romero, and finally Kratos. Back in the ring, Couglhin nails Kratos with a grounded Western lariat and impressively deadlifts him into a gutwrench suplex. The West Coast Wrecking Crew double team Rosser, and Limelight frog splashes him for two thanks Rosser’s partners jumping in to save him. Rosser ends up alone with Isaacs who he gives an Emerald Flowsion for the pin at 15:12. This made me want to see Rosser vs. Lawlor for the title, and REALLY made me want to see Kratos vs. Coughlin, so was a success. It did feel like a lot of the participants didn’t have much of a chance to contribute, though. Still, I’m not mad about a fun match that builds up two big singles matches. ***

Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks vs. The United Empire (Jeff Cobb & TJP)

Fredericks wipes out Cobb with a somersault senton to the floor. This leaves TJP to be beaten down by the two men he betrayed last month in Texas. TJP gets Connors in a Guillotine in the ropes, then tags Cobb as Connors recovers. TJP also kicks Connors in the back as he hits the ropes, enabling Cobb to easily knock him down with a back elbow. After a short beatdown, Connors German suplexes TJP and tags in Fredericks. Fredericks takes down Cobb with a spinebuster. Cobb blocks Manifest Destiny and pulls Fredericks up into the Spin Cycle. Connors powerslams TJP for two. Cobb aids TJP with a tornado DDT, then lands a standing moonsault onto Connors himself. Connors escapes the Detonation Kick. He pounces TJP into Cobb’s arms and then spears Cobb. Fredericks goes for Manifest Destiny. Cobb throws Connors into both of them to bring it to a halt. TJP sprays water into Fredericks’ eyes as Cobb distracts the referee. He small packages Fredericks, but Connors reverses the package and the referee counts TJP’s shoulders down at 10:00. I liked seeing Fredericks and Cobb together again, harkening back to the very beginning of this era of NJPW USA. Also nice to see the TJP and Connors issue continue, and for the DOJO grads to pick up a big win, which I think is important in keeping this rivalry interesting. Good stuff all around. ***¼

Ren Narita vs. Will Ospreay

Ospreay has the referee hold up his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship title, trying to assert that this is a title match. Narita interrupts with a big boot to Ospreay which sends him to the floor. Narita sends Ospreay into the barricades and follows him in with another boot. In the ring, Ospreay crotches Narita on the top rope and sends him back to the floor with his own running boot. Ospreay then back suplexes Narita onto the metal barricade! Ospreay of course focuses his attack on Narita’s back going forward, mocking his Shibata pose and generally acting like a dickhead in the process. Narita tosses Ospreay across the ring out of a belly-to-belly suplex, then gives Ospreay a bridging suplex for two. Ospreay sends Narita back to the floor with a back handspring kick. Narita avoids a pescado and belly-to-belly Ospreay onto the floor. Back in the ring, Narita twists Ospreay’s ankle in a heel hook. Ospreay pulls Narita up into a German suplex. Narita slips out of a Stormbreaker attempt and puts Ospreay in a Cobra Twist. When Ospreay frees himself, Narita German suplexes him for two. Ospreay counters a suplex into a stunner and gets a two count with a powerbomb. Narita fights hard for a cloverleaf and successfully gets it applied. Ospreay struggles his way to the ropes. Narita open hand strikes Ospreay silly, but Ospreay cuts him off with a hook kick. Narita ducks the Hidden Blade and maneuvers his way into a Guillotine choke. Ospreay slips out, forearms Narita in the back of the head, and drops him with the OsCutter. Narita shocks the crowd with a kick out, but the Hidden Blade does him in at 15:43. This was a really excellent showing for Narita, putting doubt in a former Heavyweight champion that he would be able to win, and winning over the crowd in a loss. He seemingly gets better with every appearance and Ospreay was a really good opponent for him to showcase his abilities against. Ospreay forces the ring announcer to announce him as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion after the match. ***¾

Juice Robinson vs. Moose

Moose is the current IMPACT Wrestling World Champion. Robinson called out Moose last week for this event. Robinson takes down Moose on the outside with a cannonball senton off the apron. Even though Moose accidentally chops a ringpost, he reverses an Irish whip which sends Robinson crashing into the guardrails. Back in the ring, Robinson catches Moose on the top turnbuckle with the Left Hand of God. Robinson then delivers a frog splash for two. Moose escapes Pulp Friction and nails Robinson with a dropkick. He then gives Robinson a release powerbomb for two. When Moose tries a crossbody, Robinson pops him in mid-air with another Left Hand of God, then hits Pulp Friction for two. Robinson also gets two after a lariat. Moose runs up the ropes when Robinson and brings him down with a superplex for two. Robinson leapfrogs over a spear and schoolboys Moose for two. He blasts Moose with a Left Hand of God, but when he hits the ropes, Moose side steps him and comes off the ropes himself with the Lights Out Spear for the pin at 14:51. It is hard to get too invested when it seems like Moose is only on these “PPV” NJPW USA events and nothing else. In a vacuum though? This was really good. The fans dug the back and forth pinfalls and the build up to the spear was done well. ***½

After the match, music and a video plays announcing the arrival of JONAH, who appears to the roar of the crowd. He is the former Bronson Reed, and competed in NJPW as part of an Australian tour in 2018 as Jonah Rock. JONAH goes face to face with Moose, but then turns his attention to the laid out Robinson on the mat. Moose backs away and heads backstage with his championship. JONAH then lands a senton onto Robinson! He pummels Robinson until Robinson’s partner David Finlay comes to his rescue. JONAH wipes out Finlay with a body block and also crushes him with a senton. JONAH tells the crowd that he is now the top dog in New Japan.

Kazuchika Okada vs. Buddy Matthews

This is Okada’s first U.S. match in over two years, and the last U.S. match of his was in this same venue. He recently won the G1 Climax tournament, and instead of the typical briefcase, he is carrying the fourth generation IWGP Heavyweight Championship with him, not acknowledging the current World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi as the “real” champion. Matthews is the former Buddy Murphy, and this is his NJPW debut. Feeling each other out and playing some head games leads to Okada dropkicking Matthews off the top turnbuckle and to the floor. Matthews drops Okada back first on the ring apron. Matthews does further damage to Okada’s back inside the ring. Okada catches him coming off the second rope and into a flapjack. After a DDT Okada looks for the Money Clip. Matthews armdrags his way free and tosses Okada to the floor, following him out with a tope con hilo. Back in the ring, Okada catches Matthews with a modified Air Raid Crash. Okada calls for the Rainmaker. Matthews ducks and sunset flips Okada into a Buckle Bomb. Matthews elbows Okada’s lower back and clobbers him with repeated elbows to the side of the head before delivering a Curb Stomp for a very close nearfall. Matthews mocks the Rainmaker pose and attempts the move himself. Okada of course ducks and takes down Matthews with a rolling clothesline. Okada lands his picture perfect dropkick and gives Matthews a tombstone piledriver. Matthews blocks the Rainmaker with a kick to the face. It takes multiple kicks to the face and a jumping knee strike for Okada to lose his grasp of Matthews’ wrist. Okada fights his way out of a Murphy’s Law attempt and delivers the Landslide. The Rainmaker follows, getting Okada the win at 16:23. Everyone made comparisons to Matthews and Omega online, and I think Matthews wisely stuck to an arsenal that was different from Omega’s offense to avoid those easy comparisons. Matthews fought like someone with something to prove, and Okada fought like someone refusing to give any quarter to an outsider. It was really fun and the show of respect between Okada and Matthews makes me hopeful we will see more of Matthews in NJPW. ***¾

After the match, Will Ospreay makes his way to the ring with his World Heavyweight Championship. He tells Okada the only reason he won the G1 is because he refused to come back to Japan. That said, the winner does challenge the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, and insists that Okada challenge him, the real champion, to a match. Okada says he will not challenge Ospreay – Ospreay will challenge him. Ospreay says the dead title Okada holds on his shoulder means nothing, and what he holds is the real World championship. Ospreay was going to wait for New Japan to recognize him as the real World Champion, but now he’s taking matters into his own hands. He tells Okada he can face Shingo Takagi on January 4th, and the winner can meet him on January 5th at Night 2 of Wrestle Kingdom. That day, they will find out there is only one champion, and his name is Will Ospreay. Okada says he will make it rain in the Tokyo Dome. We’ll see if Omicron halts this year’s double gold dash from being a reality.

NEVER Openweight Championship
Jay White vs. Tomohiro Ishii

White has been champion since 5.3.2021 and this is his second defense. If Ishii loses, he can never challenge for the NEVER Openweight Championship again. Despite White attacking his knee, Ishii keeps steady enough to shoulder block White to the outside. After snapping Ishii’s neck on the top rope, White throws Ishii sternum first into the guardrails twice. He attacks Ishii’s knee and ankle back in the ring. After White gives Ishii a knee breaker, Ishii shoulder blocks White again to buy some recovery time. White cuts off Ishii’s corner chops with a deep DDT. He follows that with a Death Valley Driver. Ishii elbows White in his windpipe and knocks him down in the corner. White goes to Ishii’s eyes so he can suplex him into the corner. He gets two with a Blade Buster. Ishii wakes up when White chops and forearms him, and one forearm from Ishii knocks White down in the corner. He gives White a stalling superplex for two. White uses Ishii’s momentum against him to land a uranage. Ishii fights out of a Kiwi Crusher attempt and forearms White to the floor. A determined White makes his way back in, but even though he gives Ishii a Saito suplex. Ishii gives him one back. White dumps Ishii over the top rope and to the floor, with Ishii hitting the ring apron on his way down. White brings Ishii back in and successfully hits the Kiwi Crusher for two. Ishii fights out of a sleeper suplex and German suplexes White. White gets Ishii with the sleeper suplex after ducking a diving lariat. Ishii lariats White and both men catch their breath. White is able to hit his own clothesline and give Ishii a brainbuster. A dazed Ishii gets up at the count of one, but he fails to find his footing and crumbles to the mat. White does some trash talking as he picks up Ishii and forearms him in the face. When he picks Ishii up again, Ishii headbutts White and takes him down with an enzuigiri. White cuts off his lariat attempt with a Complete Shot and another sleeper suplex. He calls for the Blade Runner. Ishii pulls White into a headbutt and lariat, then hits the sliding lariat for two. Ishii dumps White with a dragon suplex and gets two with another lariat. Ishii finishes the job with the vertical drop brainbuster, pinning White at 28:40 to regain the championship. This match really worked for me. It felt like the fight between someone who sees himself as the anchor of a division (Ishii) fighting someone who feels he needs to defeat that anchor to validate his title reign. White fought like hell to keep Ishii at bay, but Ishii’s resolve is simply next level. It’s a shame White’s reign wasn’t robust, but Ishii bringing the title back to Japan was the best thing for the championship in the long run. The biggest issue of this match was it’s length, which is not a new problem for New Japan title bouts. Otherwise, this was a hell of a way to end the show. ****

I think if you compared star ratings, this show would be dead even if not ever so slightly above “Resurgence”, but I think “Resurgence” was more closely connected to STRONG and that made me like it just a bit more.

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