NJPW STRONG #82 – Rivals 2022 Part 2

Los Angeles, CA – 3.12.2022

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.

Kevin Knight vs. Hikuleo

This is a rematch from XTRA #7 which Hikuleo won. Hikuleo also has defeated Knight twice in tag team action, including Knight’s NJPW debut. Knight explodes with a huge dropkick right at the bell, and gives Hikuleo no breathing room by taking him to the floor and following with a pescado. Unfortunately, back inside of the ring, Hikuleo pops Knight up into a forearm smash. He tosses Knight across the ring and bodyslams him for two. Knight cracks Hikuleo with an enzuigiri and splashes him in the corner. Knight blasts Hikuleo with his signature dropkick, taking the big man down for a nearfall. Knight flips out of the Tongan Driller and lands a shoulder tackle. A running Mad Splash earns him another nearfall, and he looks for the Boston Crab. Hikuleo fights free and overhand chops Knight from his knees. Back on his feet, Hikuleo chokeslams Knight for the pin at 8:13. That was maybe the most exciting Hikuleo singles match I’ve ever seen. More of this style of match from him, please! Oh yeah, and Kevin Knight still rules. It’s gonna be awesome when he graduates. This was a major improvement over their first encounter. **¾

Kevin Blackwood vs. Ariya Daivari

This is Blackwood’s NJPW debut. Originally from Upstate New York, Blackwood (along with Daniel Garcia) recently relocated to California, and has surfaced in PWG and other local promotions. He scores with a pump-handle suplex after kneeing Daivari in his lower back. Daivari takes him down with a Side Russian leg sweep. Blackwood catches him coming off of the ropes with a chest kick. Daivari kicks Blackwood to the floor in order to avoid a sharpshooter, and then shoulder tackles Blackwood into the barricades. Daivari gets a two count with a hammerlock DDT. Blackwood ducks a hammerlock clothesline and staggers him with jabs to the stomach. Blackwood German suplexes Daivari thrice. He tags Daivari with a rolling forearm. Daivari avoids a double stomp but succumbs to a Death Valley Driver for two. Daivari halts another rolling forearm and drops Blackwood with a uranage. The hammerlock clothesline gets Daivari a very close nearfall. Frustrated, Daivari brings a chair into the ring, but stops himself from using it. He puts Blackwood in a front facelock, which Blackwood turns into a small package, getting the pin at 8:51. Daivari attacks Blackwood from behind and stomps him down. He then lays out Blackwood with the hammerlock clothesline and lands his Carpet Ride splash. This was a good debut for Blackwood who got plenty of opportunities to showcase his style throughout the contest. I’ll be thrilled if he becomes a mainstay. Daivari was a solid foil, but I am curious if his storyline going to capture the STRONG audience. **½

“US of Jay” Open Challenge #3
Jay White vs. SW3RVE

SW3RVE is Shane Strickland, the former Isaiah Scott from WWE, and this is his NJPW debut. Timing was kind to this match, as this week SW3RVE signed with and debuted for AEW. White seems to offer SW3RVE a spot in the BULLET CLUB before the bell, but SW3RVE turns down the offer with a pump kick. SW3RVE kicks White in the head and headscissors him from the apron, so White rolls outside to avoid a double stomp. SW3RVE however stomps on White’s hands and lands a backsplash. White catches a front flip into the Blade Runner, and although SW3RVE escapes that, White drops him with a DDT. White then repeatedly drives SW3RVE’s back into the ring apron and the barricades. SW3RVE stops White’s continued offense inside the ring by ending a chip battle with a forearm that sends White outside. White avoids the Ego Slide but takes a tilt-a-whirl slam and a deadlift brainbuster for two. White ducks a back elbow and drops SW3RVE with a Saito suplex. After a Complete Shot, White muscles SW3RVE up into a release German suplex. Another strike exchange leads to White planting SW3RVE with a uranage. SW3RVE lands on his feet out of a sleeper suplex. He lands the Ego Slide and superkicks White off of the ring apron. White finds himself trapped hanging halfway off of the apron, and SW3RVE double stomps White to the floor! In the ring, SW3RVE hits the Swerve Stomp for two, much to SW3RVE’s disbelief. SW3RVE maneuvers White into a position where he stomps White’s left arm behind his own back, possibly out of its socket. SW3RVE hooks him for the JML Driver. White shoves SW3RVE into the referee to break free, and low blows him while the referee is getting their bearings. A sleeper suplex and the Blade Runner get White the pin at 17:15. SW3RVE had a heck of a debut, providing White his toughest open challenge yet, with White having to resort to dirty tactics in order to remain undefeated. The crowd was stoked to see SW3RVE and I think he will fit in perfectly on STRONG, and I would be down to see these two go at it again. ***¾

Jay White says whoever answers the challenge next better bring their best, because they’re getting the ring with the best. He says whoever faces him in Tampa on March 20th better breathe with the Switchblade, because it is still his era. The night before this episode aired, his challenge for Tampa was answered by someone he’s been at odds with recently in Impact Wrestling.

This week’s XTRA emanated from Japan with Chris Charlton and Kevin Kelly at the NJPWism exhibit. The match shown is a six man tag between Clark Connors, Karl Fredericks, and Ren Narita and The United Empire from STRONG 70.

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