Los Angeles, CA – 5.21.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.
Fred Yehi, Kevin Knight & The DKC vs. Stray Dog Army (Bateman, Barrett Brown & Misterioso)
The last time NJPW was in this building, Yehi and DKC defeated the SDA in a six man tag with Keita. Yehi and Bateman had a stare down after that match, and here, they were so anxious to fight, they went at it on the floor and had to be separated by their partners. This caused problems for Yehi’s team, as they had the better of SDA until either Knight or DKC had to calm Yehi. SDA were able to take over, keeping Knight trapped in their corner. Misterioso was able to avoid Knight’s dropkick the first go, and even land a lionsault onto Knight’s back, but Knight’s second dropkick was on the money. Yehi and Bateman finally met legally in the ring, and Yehi used Brown to take out Bateman’s knee. Bateman retreated when Misterioso saved him from being pummeled by Yehi. Yehi tagged in DKC and went after Bateman, who sent Yehi into the barricades. Brown and Misterioso end up taking out DKC with a PK and flying leg drop to get the win at 10:06. I’d say this was on par from their Trios match on STRONG 83. I like them continuing the story with Yehi and Bateman, but it’s hard to become invested when it’s literally months between them interacting. I think the SDA would progress into something more meaningful if we saw them more frequently. I’d also like to see Yehi more frequently as well. ***
Big Damo is backstage. He remembers when he wrestled and defeated Tomohiro Ishii back in 2015 at Rev Pro. Ishii came into England with a lot of fanfare, and Damo defeated him. Now, Ishii is the gatekeeper of New Japan, and Damo wants to face him again. He says he will put down Ishii all over again. That match will happen next week.
David Finlay vs. Blake Christian
I remember thinking it was suspicious that Finlay was on this show and Juice Robinson wasn’t, but then Wrestling Dontaku happened. Both of these guys are solid strikers, and Finlay did what he could to nullify Christian’s speed advantage. Christian managed to cut Finlay off with a clothesline and wheelbarrowed him into a standing frog splash. Finlay wisely knocked him off the apron right away and gave him a backbreaker on the edge of the ring. Finlay considers using the shillelagh, but he’s a good boy so he ultimately does not. That time of consideration enabled Christian to crack him with a gamengiri and land a 450 Splash to Finlay’s back as Finlay lay across the top rope. Finlay catches Christian mid-air with Prima Nocta, following up with Trash Panda for the pin at 10:07. It’s possible that my view of this match is tainted by future events, but this felt like a trial run for Finlay rejoining the singles ranks. Finlay brought the steak, Christian brought the sizzle, and it was quite the treat. Whether he’s with Brogan or on his own, I look forward to Finlay’s next chapter. ***
Backstage, Finlay says Christian reminds him of a very young Will Ospreay. Although he thinks Christian has a bright future, he was the better man. Finlay says his own future is looking for his first singles gold in New Japan. Hey, my instincts were right!
TMDK (JONAH & Shane Haste) & Bad Dude Tito vs. United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
This was the first meeting between TMDK/Tito and UE, but the third to air. It’s also Davis and Fletcher’s first NJPW USA match, but their third to air. Great-O-Khan, Aaron Henare and TJP are in the United Empire’s corner. They know the meeting everyone wants to see is JONAH and Cobb, so they teased it and took it away. JONAH overpowered Fletcher, but then Cobb overpowered an arrogant Haste who also felt the wrath of Fletcher and Davis’ tag team offense. JONAH grabbed Fletcher’s foot as he hit the ropes, and he turned around into a dropkick from Haste. After a cannonball from Haste, Tito tagged in for the first time and stomped Fletcher silly. JONAH did not learn from Haste’s arrogance early, making a very casual cover to Fletcher after a back senton and only earning a two count. Fletcher reverses the momentum of a brainbuster from Haste, delivers one himself, and uses the time to tag Davis. David fights off Tto and Haste, though Haste manages to take him down with a flying Blockbuster. Fletcher blind tags in and they take down Tito with a lawn dart into an Ace Crusher for two. Haste and JONAH save Tito from being pinned after a standing moonsault from Cobb. JONAH and Cobb finally come to blows as all of their teammates are left laying, and end up wiping each other out in mid-air with stereo crossbody attempts. Haste saves Tito from Coriolis but is wiped out with a superkick/big boot combo. Aussie Open assaulted Tito in the corner before attempting Coriolis once again, this time successfully and for the pin at 14:39. Like the UE six man last week, this felt very fresh with two new faces and new people for Cobb and JONAH to be paired against. It was fun, fast-paced, and Aussie Open got to show everyone just how great of a tandem they are. Back-to-back trios wins for UE makes me think they have a bright future in STRONG. ***½
Great-O-Khan gets on the microphone, and says David as Fletcher and the UE’s newest assets, and that they show the power of the United Empire.
This week’s XTRA featured Alex Zayne vs. Ariya Daivari from STRONG 76, presumably to highlight Zayne who is currently part of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament.