NJPW STRONG #88 – Strong Style Evolved 2022 Part 4

Tampa, FL – 4.30.2022

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Matt Rehwold.

Kevin Knight vs. The DKC

This is a sporting threematch between tag team partners. DKC defeated Knight at STRONG #26 and Knight defeated DKC at STRONG #57. After trading holds on the mat, DKC went for a front facelock, which Knight countered into an overhead suplex. Knight sends DKC back first hard into the buckles, seemingly having chosen DKC’s back as his focal point. DKC knows to avoid Knight’s dropkick, holding onto the ropes when he sees it coming, and lights up his partner with his patented karate chops. After DK Fire, he landed a falling chop for a two count. DKC escaped another suplex attempt, but Knight landed his diving shoulder tackle. DKC fights out of a Boston Crab attempt, but is caught by Knight’s dropkick. DKC kicked out from that and landed a flying karate kick. DKC countered a clothesline with a crucifix driver and then pulled Knight into a reverse double armbar until Knight tapped out at 7:45. Not much to this, but I will say I do think DKC needed a win to keep his name in the conversation with the other LA DOJO students, and his offense looks more crisp than it had in the past. **½

Mascara Dorada vs. TJP

Dorada confronted TJP after TJP claimed to be the best junior heavyweight alive at STRONG #81. Dorada may feel he has something to prove, as TJP defeated him in the finals of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. This started at a quick pace, with Dorada mostly outmaneuvering TJP. TJP shut him down in mid-air with a dropkick to the back, and then hyperextended Dorada’s arm and leg out of a hammerlock surfboard. TJP celebrated on the floor after a facewash kick, and that wasted time enabled Dorada to recover and snap off a Frankensteiner to TJP when he got back onto the apron, sending him back to the floor. Dorada then scores a rope walk elbow back inside the ring, as well as a reverse Sling Blade. TJP swiped away a springboard dropkick, but as he looked for an STF, Dorada went underneath his legs and rolled TJP into a pin attempt for two. TJP missed the Mamba Splash, but wasted no time getting momentum for a crucifix buster. Dorada, however, countered the Detonation Kick into a DDT, and spun TJP down into the Dorada Screwdriver for the pin at 10:50. It’s great seeing Dorada back in New Japan, and earning redemption from one of his biggest career losses was a great way to reintegrate him into the picture. TJP attacked Dorada after the bell and stole his mask, so this rivalry isn’t over, and I am OK with that. ***

Ren Narita vs. Jay Lethal

Tiger Hattori joins commentary for this bout. Narita doesn’t give a hot fuck about Lethal’s Ric Flair impression. Narita also had counters for both the Lethal Injection and figure four leg lock, which seems to change Lethal’s attitude towards him. Lethal gives him a pair of backbreakers, but Narita side steps a dropkick off of the apron. He places Lethal in a sleeper hold, but Lethal pulls him over the top rope and into the Tower of London. Narita catches Hail to the King and gets a nearfall, and overhead suplexes Lethal right after Lethal kicks out. He locks Lethal in the Narita Special #3 and Lethal has to grab the ropes to escape. Narita turns up the intensity with kicks and knees, so Lethal shuts him down with the Lethal Combination. Lethal muscles Narita into a brainbuster and nails Hail to the King. Lethal is wise to hold onto the ankle, as Narita does get his shoulders up, and he was able to swiftly lock on the figure four. When Narita breaks the hold, Lethal goes for the Lethal Injection again. Narita catches him in a sleeper and quickly transitions into the Cobra Twist. Blood covers Narita’s face and arm, as well as Lethal’s leg, as the blood from his busted nose pours out while he keeps the hold applied. Narita transitions to an O’Connor Roll. Lethal reverses, bounces forward out of it, and drops Narita with the Lethal Injection for the pin at 12:17. That was a really great story, with Lethal realizing quickly how he couldn’t take Narita for granted and how hard he had to fight for his offense. I love how it took a unique situation for Lethal to land his finisher since Narita had him so well scouted, and Narita’s bloody nose added to the drama of the bout. This felt like another big moment for Narita’s career and was a great way to end the episode. ***½

Jay Lethal was also part of this week’s XTRA match against Jay White, who returned to Japan at “Wrestling Dontaku” and will challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship next month.

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