NJPW STRONG #73 – Nemesis 2021 Part 1

Los Angeles, CA – 1.8.2022

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

Three days before this episode aired, KENTA made his first defense of the IWGP U.S. Championship at Wrestle Kingdom:


IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship – No Disqualification
KENTA vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

NJPW “Wrestle Kingdom 2022 Night 2” – Tokyo, Japan – 1.5.2022

KENTA has been champion since 11.6.2021 and this is his first defense. KENTA fills the ring with plunder after beating down Tanahashi with a kendo stick. He sends Tanahashi back first into a ladder. When KENTA tries to use a trash can, Tanahashi dropkicks KENTA’s knee out, and KENTA lands face first into the trash can. Tanahashi places the can onto KENTA’s head and smashes a chair into it. Tanahashi busts a guitar onto KENTA’s head – a real one, not an air one, maybe left there by BULLET CLUB member Jeff Jarrett. KENTA smashes Tanahashi with his old IWGP U.S. challenger’s briefcase to block a figure four leg lock.Tanahashi lands Slingblade onto a big pile of chairs. Tanahashi misses High Fly Flow and crashes onto those same chairs. When KENTA hoists him up for the Go 2 Sleep, Tanahashi counters with two Twist and Shouts with the second landing onto the chairs. Tanahashi sets up a table in the ring, but KENTA ends up putting him through it with a super Falcon Arrow. KENTA sets up a large ladder and a table next to it. Tanahashi shakes the ladder to stop KENTA from diving off of it, and KENTA falls off landing face first onto a trash can! Tanahashi places KENTA on the table and climbs up the ladder. He hits the High Fly Flow through the table! KENTA’s blood from his face is smeared on the table as Tanahashi pins him to win the title at 22:40. That final moment was incredible. This was another memorable Wrestle Kingdom match from Tanahashi, and unlike any other Wrestle Kingdom match he has had before. They made the most of the stipulation with no BULLET CLUB interference which is admirable, and aside from taking too much time in between some of the bigger moments, I don’t have any complaints. It is a little odd that KENTA lost the title on his first defense, but I liked what we got out of Tanahashi’s short first reign, so hopefully we’ll see him more in the U.S. in 2022. He did promise to face Archer in AEW after all. ****

Now onto this week’s episode!

The DKC vs. TJP

DKC starts off with a flurry of attacks to start, but TJP snaps his left arm to stop his onslaught. DKC stops a backdrop attempt with a suplex. TJP swings through the ropes, causing DKC to crash against the mat when he tries a dropkick. TJP lands a slingshot senton for two. TJP also blocks a drop toe hold attempt and puts DKC in a figure four leg lock. Once DKC gets under the ropes to escape, he cuts off TJP with a leg lariat. He channels Ness with a “DK FIRE” shout before karate chopping TJP repeatedly. TJP sunset flips his way out of a throw, but DKC kicks him upside the head for a two count. TJP catches a rolling chop with a backslide and suplexes DKC onto his neck. DKC tornados TJP into a small package. TJP dropkicks DKC out of mid-air when DKC comes off the top rope. The Mamba Splash then gets TJP the pin at 8:31. Good, basic match. DKC is much more smooth than he was at the beginning of STRONG. **½

Jordan Clearwater & Keita Murray vs. BULLET CLUB (Chris Bey & Hikuleo)

This is Murray’s NJPW debut, and he replaces the originally announced Clark Connors. Clearwater has a beautiful Flair style robe. He and Murray double team Bey, but Hikuleo asserts his size to turn things into the BC’s favor, mowing down Clearwater with a shoulder block and knocking Murray off the apron. Bey helps keep Clearwater isolated in their corner. Clearwater is able to slip off of Hikuleo’s shoulders and shove him to the corner, giving him a moment to tag in Murray. Murray knocks Bey off the apron, then baits Hikuleo into a double boot from the apron and a leg trip face first into the corner. Murray spins Bey into a facebuster and knee strikes him in the side of the head. An awesome jumping Complete Shot gets Murray a two count. Hikuleo ends a double team attempt by backdropping Clearwater to the floor. Bey roundhouse kicks Murray before knocking out with the CB Knee for the pin at 9:12. Hikuleo is a lot more palatable in a team with Bey, and the dynamic they have together works really well. Murray did great in his debut, and I hope he comes back either with Clearwater or on his own. **¾

Eddie Kingston vs. Gabriel Kidd

Kingston backs Kidd to the ropes, and Kidd ducks a Backfist to the Future. Kidd attacks Kingston with a running boot. Kingston comes back with a flurry of chops which Kidd absorbs. He takes down Kingston with a boot, sending the War King to the corner. Kingston pokes Kidd in the eyes and throws several headbutts at Kidd before biting his forehead. Kidd snapmares Kingston into two back kicks, and an angry Kingston slaps Kidd twice, resulting in Kidd falling to the mat. He does it again and pummels Kidd’s neck as well. After a short Stretch Plum. Kingston lights up Kidd with chops in the corner. Kidd responds with his own chops and a European uppercut. Another eye poke from Kingston shows his desperation, but even with this, Kidd pulls off a backdrop driver for two. After they each give one another exploder suplexes, Kidd clotheslines Kingston and drops him with a brainbuster. Kingston shuts him down with a DDT. Some repeated knees allows for Kingston to pull off a sit-out powerbomb for two. Kidd ducks another Backfist attempt and German suplexes Kingston. However, Kingston catches Kidd with a Backfist when Kidd comes running to him in the corner. He then Saito suplexes Kidd for two. Kingston half-nelson suplexes Kidd and nails the Backfist to the Future for the pin at 12:37. As commentary noted, this had a lot of DNA from New Japan battles of the 90s baked into it, and the intensity brought by both men made this incredibly engaging. They beat the hell out of each other, but in the process also built Kingston’s Backfist as a match ender, and once Kingston hit the move flush the match indeed did end. Kingston had to use a couple dirty tactics in the process to defeat someone eleven years his inferior, which helps in showing how far along Kidd is at this point in his career, and just how damn tough he is. This was an awesome way to kick off the year. ***¾


Kevin Knight & The DKC vs. BULLET CLUB (Chris Bey & Hikuleo)
NJPW XTRA #10 – San Jose, CA – 1.9.2022

This was a dark match for “Battle In The Valley.” The opening exchange ends with Knight bodyslamming Bey. He and DKC double hip toss Bey out of their corner. Bey goes under an Irish Whip from DKC and back elbows him down. Hikuleo gets himself stuck on the top rope when he misses a corner boot. DKC throws some kicks at his untrapped leg before tagging in Knight. Knight Stinger Splashes Hikuleo, but Hikuleo catches Knight coming off the ropes with a big clothesline. Knight escapes the BC corner with his dropsault to Hikuleo. DKC karate chops Bey and takes him down with a bulldog. More karate chops leads to a karate chop drop for two. Hikuleo accidentally splashes Bey in the corner. Knight shoulder tackles Hikuleo into a sunset flip from DKC for two. Bey roundhouse kicks Knight and gamengiri’s DKC into a chokeslam from Hikuleo for the pin at 8:35. Totally solid XTRA match, and as I said before, the dynamic Bey and Hikuleo have together works quite well. **½

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