Los Angeles, CA – 3.19.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.
Fred Yehi, Keita & The DKC vs. vs. Stray Dog Army (Bateman, Barrett Brown & Misterioso)
Keita takes down Brown with a Side Effect, but a hard rolling forearm and pump-handle slam from BATEMAN takes down the Scranton native. Keita blasts Bateman with double boots from the mat and tags in Yehi, who quickly brings down BATEMAN into a Koji Clutch. Brown saves his partner. Misterioso takes down Yehi with a powerslam and gets a one count with a DDT. Yehi gets his knees up to block a slingshot senton and pulls Misterioso to the corner to tag the DKC. lays in some chops before taking down Misterioso with a flying Frankesnteiner. Misterioso catches a springboard and slams DKC into a slingshot kneeling senton. The SDA maul DKC until DKC cuts off Misterioso with a dropkick. Yehi chops Brown silly and takes him down with a German suplex. Yehi Judo throws Misterioso before chopping and kneeing Brown in the corner. A series of offenses leaves all six men laying. Brown accidentally cracks BATEMAN with the .50 Caliber kick. A spinning chop and fisherman’s suplex from Yehi pins Brown at 10:05. This was a one-man show for Fred Yehi, who was a ball of energy and intensity. We got a staredown between Yehi and BATEMAN after the bell, so this issue isn’t over. I am glad, as Yehi is someone I am really hoping becomes a cornerstone of STRONG. Keita also seems like a potential regular which I am in favor of. The action was hot and never slowed down, providing the perfect energy an opening match should. ***
Blake Christian vs. Chris Bey
This is Christian’s first match back since being released from WWE, and just one week short of being exactly a year since his last NJPW match aired. Bey tries to keep Christian trapped in a side headlock, but Christian takes him down with a back handspring kick. A shotgun dropkick sends Bey to the floor. On the floor, however, Bey shotgun dropkicks Christian back first into the barricades. The back attacks continue in the ring with a back breaker, a diving European uppercut to the lower back, and a grounded surfboard stretch with Bey digging his knee into Christian’s spine. Christian weaves under Bey and looks for a wheelbarrow into a frog splash, but Bey is able to get his knees up. Christian dropkicks Bey onto the middle rope and lands a tiger feint kick. Christian blasts Bey with a pumping knee strike after avoiding another backbreaker. He successfully wheelbarrows Bey into a gutbuster, and then lands the wheelbarrow frog splash for two. Bey is able to trap Christian in the ropes and land a BDE elbow to the back of his neck. Christian comes back with a pair of snap German suplexes. He ripcords Bey into a Spanish Fly and then lands a springboard 450 Splash for a two count. Christian attempts a springboard cutter. In mid-air, Bey catches him with the Art of Finesse (Ace Crusher), which earns him the pin at 10:24. This was a perfect amalgam of exciting, innovative wrestling and storytelling. Bey’s back work led to neck work, softening up Christian for the Art of Finesse, which Christian fell to despite having just found an offensive stride because of all the damage done earlier. It’s so great to see Christian back in NJPW, and Bey’s rise has been super enjoyable to watch. ***½
Clark Connors says the STRONG champion needs to be somebody who understands the NJPW culture and has put in the work to be worthy of a champion, and he is that person. Next week, there will be an elimination match between Team Filthy and a team captained by Fred Rosser, in which Connors will take part. Despite there being ten people in the match, Connors says his focus will be entirely on Lawlor. He is ready to fight Lawlor next week, and will be ready to take away his title next month during the Strong Style Evolved tour.
Ren Narita vs. Buddy Matthews
The opening exchange ends with Matthews ducking a high kick from Narita and retreating to the ropes in a seated position. Narita offers Matthews a hand, which Matthews takes to get back to his feet. Matthews escapes two headlocks from Narita, and Narita jumps up to avoid a leg sweep. Narita pats Matthews on the back a few times, which is certainly more patronizing then offering a hand. As the pace picks up, Matthews dumps Narita to the apron by the back of his head. Narita cracks Matthews with a boot, but when he tries a headbutt to the stomach, Matthews catches him with a Green Killer DDT. Matthews returns the patronizing behavior with a Shibata sit mid-ring. Matthews gives Narita a couple of kicks to the shoulder/upper back, but Narita surprisingly encourages more. A smile crawls across his face as Matthews keeps up with the kicks. He keeps the smile on his face once he gets to his feet and Matthews throws forearms to the face. Narita rocks Matthews with open hand strikes. Nairta overhead suplexes Matthews to the corner. Narita gets Matthews in a sleeper while Matthews is on the apron. Matthews sends Narita face first into the top turnbuckle. Narita pulls Matthews back into the ring and delivers a suplex for two. Matthews goes for a knee strike and Narita rolls him into a half crab. He converts into a figure four, which Matthews uses the ropes to escape. Narita attempts a superplex. Matthews looks to counter with a super sunset flip, but has to hit three Cheeky Nando’s Kicks in order to bring him down with a powerbomb. He muscles up Narita into another powerbomb and then stomps his face into the canvas. Incredibly narita kicks out from his pin attempt! Matthews blasts Narita with elbows to the side of the head. The referee makes Matthews stop so he can check to see if Narita is still conscious. Matthews pushes the referee out of the way. Narita looks to get his way up, using Matthews’ belt to help get to his knees. Matthews pats Narita on the shoulder before pulling him into a knee strike. Murphy’s Law then gets Matthews the pin at 15:32. Matthews shakes Narita’s hand as he lay on the mat. The wrestling was excellent, but it’s their demeanor towards one another that really made everything click. Narita is like Coughlin was during his challenge series – just one key win away from moving to the next level and graduating. Matthews works so well in this environment and made Narita look like an equal. Seek this one out, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Narita. ****
Chris Charlton and Kevin Kelly are still coming to us from the NJPWism exhibit in Japan for XTRA. The match shown this week is a six man tag between Fred Rosser, Rocky Romero & Taylor Rust and Team Filthy from STRONG 75.