Riverside, CA – 12.11.2021
Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.
Gabriel Kidd vs. Jonathan Gresham
This match is a result of Kidd challenging Gresham two weeks ago. In addition to being his first match on STRONG, this is Kidd’s first match in the U.S.. Kidd controls Gresham by his arm and makes Gresham get to the ropes to escape a modified crab. Gresham denies Kidd a handshake when they get back to their feet, and they engage in an aggressive collar-and-elbow tie-up. There is some question if Gresham poking Kidd in the eye was intentional or not, and to show he didn’t mean it, Gresham grants Kidd a handshake apology and the time to clear his vision. When on the mat, Gresham gets angry when Kidd sweeps out Gresham’s shoulders in an attempt to escape an Indian Death Lock. An angry Gresham turns it over to apply extra pressure, and Kidd gets the ropes. The intensity continues as they get entangled on the mat, and it almost looks as if Gresham considers a closed-fist strike. Kidd knife edge chops Gresham in opposite corners but Gresham dropkicks him to the floor and kicks Kidd’s left arm out when he slides back into the ring. They end up in a Manami roll looking for a pin. Gresham kicks out Kidd’s arm again after avoiding a dropkick and pins Kidd in a headscissors cradle at 13:47. The intensity between these two really got me engaged in the action. Gresham being a steadfast Pure wrestler for so long makes moments like an eye poke or just threatening a closed-fist mean a lot. This is also my first time seeing Kidd and I was impressed. I really hope this pairing is re-visited. ***½
Ren Narita, Karl Fredericks & Clark Connors vs. The United Empire (Will Ospreay, Jeff Cobb & TJP)
This is Cobb’s first match on STRONG since April. This rivalry now has three distinct pairings – TJP with Connors, Ospreay with Narita, and Cobb with Fredericks. These three pairings brawl with one another at the bell. The DOJO team work together to wipe out Cobb and Ospreay on the floor and pummel TJP in their corner. Narita saves Fredericks when TJP gets him in an Octopus Stretch. Narita gets two on Ospreay with a bridging half-hatch suplex. Cobb trips Narita as he hits the ropes. Ospreay wipes Fredericks and Connors off the apron as Cobb tosses Narita back first into the metal guardrails! This enables the United Empire to beat down Narita in their corner until he catches Ospreay coming off the ropes with a belly-to-belly suplex. A fired up Connors wipes out Ospreay with a Pounce. Ospreay comes back with a back handspring kick. As TJP is about to facewash kick Connors, Connors stops him with a snap slam. He then spears TJP off the apron and to the floor! Ospreay grabs hold of Connor’s leg so TJP can double stomp the back of Connors’ knee. Narita saves Connors from a cloverleaf. Connors clobbers TJP with a strike to the head. Fredricks and Cobb tag in and Fredericks drops Cobb with a spinebuster. He takes down a charging Ospreay with a backbreaker. He back suplexes Cobb into a leaping elbow drop for two. All six men trade offenses, but Connors’ knee gives out when he goes for a Gore. The United Empire triple team Fredericks, ending with a Spin Cycle from Cobb for two, thanks to a one-legged Connors breaking up the pin. TJP stomps on the leg and locks him in the figure seven cloverleaf. Ospreay holds onto Narita as Cobb delivers the Tour of the Islands to Fredericks for the pin at 13:24. Narita tries to avenge his partners by attacking all of the UE himself and gets stomped out quickly. This was a tremendous chapter in this rivalry, with Cobb exercising his power, TJP injuring Connors, and Ospreay playing general dickhead. The UE are once again dominant after their tag loss in San Jose last month, and the LA DOJO have reason to come after them again after licking their wounds. Great stuff. ***¾
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Brody King
King surprisingly scores the first nearfall after a senton splash. King ends a forearm strike exchange with a hard forearm to Ishii’s neck. Ishii locks his arms on the top rope as King unloads with chops, and King’s ferocity defeats Ishii’s toughness for now. Ishii however absorbs a running chop and goes for a suplex. King escapes and knocks Ishii to his knees with a forearm shiver. Ishii evades a corner splash and delivers the suplex he was looking for. King rebounds off the ropes after taking a headbutt, and uses that momentum to take out Ishii with a clothesline. King crushes Ishii in the corner with a somersault senton, following that up with a piledriver for two. Ishii stuns King with multiple elbow strikes. King knocks him down with a forearm shot. Ishii shoves King into the ropes and German suplexes him on the rebound. King blocks a sliding lariat, but Ishii hits a lariat back on his feet for two. When he goes for a second clothesline, King takes him down with a Black Hole Slam. He shouts out the injured Chris Dickinson before hitting a Death Valley Driver. Ishii escapes a Ganso Bomb atempt and stuns King with an enzuigiri. King nails a clothesline, but a lax pin costs him a three count. King goes for it again. Ishii flips onto his feet and quickly hits the Sliding D. King kicks out of his pin, so he executes the vertical drop brainbuster for the pin at 13:37. This is exactly what I wanted – Ishii and King hitting each other hard. King did a really great job giving off just how important this win was for him with how angry he got each time Ishii kicked out. King was very heavily featured on STRONG for a long time, but this felt like his biggest match of the live crowd era, and it was really fun to watch. ***½
Well this week definitely made up for last week’s lackluster showing.
Kevin Knight vs. Hikuleo
NJPW XTRA #7 – Philadelphia, PA – 12.12.2021
Hikuleo chops, chokes, and pounds on Knight. Knight lands a Stinger Splash and takes Hikuleo off his feet with two of his patented dropkicks. He capitalizes with a diving shoulder tackle and a standing Mad Splash for two. Hikuleo snap slams Knight for two. The Tongan Driller gets him the pin at 6:15. This was basically a squash for Hikuleo, which Knight is well past being on the receiving end of by now. Shameful. *