Los Angeles, CA – 1.29.2022
Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.
Alex Zayne vs. Ariya Daivari
This is a rematch from STRONG 66. Zayne’s speed gave him the upper hand early on, and Daivari used knee shots to the mid-section to slow him down. Zayne took down Daivari with a rolling clothesline around the five minute mark to bring the match to a stalemate. He does some damage to Daivari’s own midsection with the Baja Blast for two. A neckbreaker and hammerlock DDT gets Daviari a two count of his own. Zayne escapes the Pepsi Twist twice but eats a superkick.With Zayne rocked, the third attempt connects, but Zayne gets his shoulder up just before the three. A frustrated Daivari hits the Magic Carpet Splash right after. Zayne reverses his pin for two. Still frustrated, Daivari grabs the ring bell, but decides he isn’t going to use it. Zayne intercepts a charging Daivari. He ducks Daivari’s high kick and drops him with the Taco Driver for the pin at 10:07. Daivari being a recovering cheater is an interesting story, and if he fully “relapses” I wonder where that will place him in the STRONG universe. Given this had a stronger story, I’d say this was just a step above their first encounter. **¾
Alex Coughlin Challenge Series – Match #9
Alex Coughlin vs. JR Kratos
Coughlin and Kratos had to be separated after their six man tag team match on STRONG 65, and they would come to blows again during a ten men tag team match at Battle in The Valley. I said after both of those matches that I was really looking forward to them finally meeting in a singles contest. Kratos got the better of Coughlin in a forearm strike exchange. On the floor, Kratos sent Coughlin back first into the metal guardrails. Coughlin makes it inside the ring on his own, and Kratos sends him back first into the corner. Impressively, Coughlin catches Kratos’ Stinger Splash attempt, but Kratos throws him into the opposite corner and throws a few strikes. He then suplexes Coughlin all the way across the hypotenuse of the ring. Coughlin slides out of a second suplex and attempts a gutwrench suplex. It takes a few shots to the neck and back, but Coughlin pulls it off. Kratos catches a diving clothesline and looks for a Fujiwara armbar. Coughlin rolls through and gives Kratos a high-tension German suplex for the pin at 9:22! The way the fight was laid out and how the crowd reacted made this win come off as a huge deal for Coughlin. The entire Challenge series and encouraging words from Josh Barnett helped give Coughlin the strength and tenacity to overcome the largest man on the STRONG roster. It was a true feel good moment, and a perfect way to end Coughlins’ Challenge Series. ***¼
After the match on Twitter, Coughlin announced he was no longer a young lion and even showed off his new gear. I wish that commentary had not told us this was the final Challenge Series match and that he was graduating before the bout – him defeating Kratos being the moment Shibata decided he was ready to graduate would’ve been a much neater story. The way it was presented more or less spoiled the match result.
“US of Jay” Open Challenge #1
Christopher Daniels vs. Jay White
This is Daniels first NJPW match since 2018, and his first NJPW singles match since 2008, answering the challenge of Jay White from STRONG 69. White defeated Daniels in both of their singles matches in ROH in 2016. White baits Daniels into chasing him around the ring by slapping him in the face. It backfires, as Daniels pulls off a pair of armdrags and slaps White in the face back inside the ring. White ends up countering a corner attack by back dropping Daniels over the ring post and to the floor. White drives Daniels back first into the ring post multiple times before bringing him back inside of the ring and doing more damage to his back and midsection. White then takes out his left knee when Daniels manages a few strikes. Daniels takes down White with a Death Valley Driver out of desperation to catch his breath. He manages to get onto White for a weak pin attempt, but then is able to pull White into the Koji Clutch. White uses the ropes to escape, then snaps Daniels neck onto the top rope and drops him with a DDT. Daniels ducks a clothesline and lands a Blue Thunder Bomb. After an Iconoclasm he calls for the Angel’s Wings. White’s roll to the floor to avoid the move, and Daniels follows with a suicide dive. White ends up giving Daniels a Gourd Buster on the ring apron. In the ring, Daniels rolls out of a uranage and drops White with one of his own. White halts the BME by grabbing Daniels’ leg and they switch positions on the mat. Daniels pulls White up into the Angel’s Wings successfully for two. White drives Daniels to the corner to avoid a second Angel’s Wings and lands a uranage slam. The sleeper suplex and Kiwi Crusher earn White a very close nearfall. Daniels uses a Complete Shot to block the Blade Runner. After a uranage he goes for the BME. White gets his knees up to block the impact, then pulls Daniels up into the Blade Runner for the pin at 19:07. At first I was a bit concerned Daniels was playing the hits, but he wove those hits into a compelling narrative and I very much appreciated that. That story was well told and the crowd was behind Daniels any time one of his big moves paid off. Maybe this would’ve been a bit better if it was a little shorter, but it was still a worthwhile watch and a nice way to end the “tour.” ***½
Jay White grabs the microphone after the match. He says he opened the door for any and all challengers, and All Elite Wrestling sent him a broken-down rookie in Christopher Daniels. He believes sending Daniels was a tactical move so that other Elite wrestlers could avoid him. He wants AEW to send him someone truly Elite and ends his speech by stating: “Bay Bay, it’s still my era.” We have another “U.S. of Jay” Open Challenge next month, so we’ll see if another AEW talent answers the call.
This week’s XTRA match that fans voted for during the Best Of 2021 poll was the IWGP United States Championship match between Jon Moxley and KENTA from STRONG 29.