NJPW STRONG #81 – Rivals 2022 Part 1

Los Angeles, CA – 3.5.2022

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.

Brogan Finlay vs. TJP

Finlay kept in step with TJP for several minutes. He attempted to counter TJP’s headscissors into a Death Valley Driver, but TJP slipped off of his shoulders and aggressively sent him shoulder first into the corner. TJP snaps his shoulder back before attempting the Mamba Splash, but Finlay moves out of the way and gives TJP a backdrop and corner uppercut. After aggressively sending TJP back first into the opposite corner, he pulled off a Finlay Roll for two. Finlay ducks a clothesline and pulls TJP by his wrist into his own clothesline.TJP pulls Finlay’s hair to avoid a second Finlay Roll. He dropkicks Finlay’s knee out, hits the Mamba Splash onto his back, and then locks him in the Pinoy Stretch to get the submission at 9:06. Finlay gains some experience against a veteran, and TJP gets some momentum back after losing to Clark Connors – both good things. I do wonder if Finlay will join his brother and Robinson in earnest at some point. This was quite enjoyable. **¾

TJP says he made a statement tonight, showing the United Empire could make short work of anyone. He then calls himself the greatest junior heavyweight alive. He claims that will be the most decorated junior in history, as he’s been Impact X-Division and WWE Cruiserweight champion, and he will be the first person to hold both of those titles, and the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight champion. Someone show him that photo of Ultimo Dragon with all those belts. Mascara Dorada then makes a surprise appearance. A shoving match with TJP ends with him sending TJP to the floor with a headscissors. TJP bails when it looks like Dorada is about to dive. These two will meet next month in Tampa during the Strong Style Evolved tour. Awesome to see Dorada back in the NJPW fold.

Karl Fredericks vs. Christopher Daniels

Fredericks denies Daniels’ pre-match handshake. Fredericks catches Daniels coming off the ropes with a leaping crossbody. Daniels takes a hard chop in the corner, but is able to slide through Fredericks’ legs and take him down with a flapjack and dropkick him in the ribs. Daniels knees Fredericks in the stomach and takes him down with a spear to do damage to the midsection. Fredericks armdrags his way out of a uranage attempt and enzuigiri’s Daniels. He follows up with a Shibata dropkick. Daniels blocks a Manifest Destiny attempt with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Daniels also sits down on a sunset flip attempt leading to a series of pinfall reversals. Daneils avoids a corner elbow attack. He drops Fredericks with a uranage and lands the Best Moonsault Ever for the pin at 11:40. Daniels winning was a bit of a surprise, but if he is going to be a repeat guest it helps if he wins at least once, especially against someone who was a last minute replacement. Fredericks did a great job against the veteran, and Daniels’ back work paying off was a simple but really effective story. I didn’t really have expectations for this match and ended up enjoying it very much. ***¼

FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) vs. JONAH & Bad Dude Tito

This is a rematch from STRONG 78, which FinJuice won via smallackage from Finlay to Tito. The teams brawl before the bell, with Tito and JONAH having Finlay isolated once the dust settles. JONAH has Finlay poised to be tossed into the corner when Finlay escapes with a DDT. Robinson gets the tag and drops the also legal Tito with a spinebuster. Robinson decides to turn his attention to JONAH on the floor, attempting a pescado. JONAH catches Robinson and drives him back first into the ring post. Robinson is able to back his way to the corner to tag Finlay, who aids Robinson with a Demolition Decapitation on Tito. JONAH drags Finlay to the floor and sends him back first into the guardrails. Tito back elbows Robinson and boots him into a suplex from JONAH. Robinson jumps in at the last second to save Robinson from being pinned. JONAH then pounces Finlay into a Blue Thunder Bomb from Tito! Tito gets a nearfall on Robinson with a Blockbuster. Robinson and Finlay double team JONAH which gets him out of the ring. They have Tito in position for a Doomsday Device. JONAH crotches Finlay on the top turnbuckle. As the referee is dealing with JONAH, Shane Haste sneaks in and delivers a double underhook German suplex to Robinson! Tito hits a frog splash on Robinson for the pin at 8:16. You could see JONAH and Tito had learned from the first match against FinJuice and worked more cohesively as a tandem. Now you have Haste in the picture reuniting with his TMDK which definitely makes things more interesting. Brogan Finlay tried to even the odds at the end, so that answers my question from earlier. It did not work out, as Haste and Tito made David watch as JONAH squashed Brogan with a Tsunami Splash. That was a pretty sweet final segment, I’m pumped to see these guys in a trios match. **¾

This week’s XTRA featured the main event of STRONG 76, Jay White vs. Christopher Daniels.

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