With AEW’s “Double or Nothing” PPV behind them, it’s full steam ahead to the AEW/NJPW “Forbidden Door” PPV on June 26th. We’ll be getting appearances from NJPW talent in AEW over the course of the month to promote that show. Hiroshi Tanahashi showed up on the June 1st episode of Dynamite to challenge newly crowned AEW World Champion CM Punk to a title match at the show. Plans would change, and we’ll chat about that next week.
Also on this show, somewhat strangely, was Hikuleo being inserted into a ten man tag team match:
Hikuleo & The Undisputed Elite (Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson) vs. Christian Cage, Darby Allin, Matt Hardy & Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus)
AEW Dynamite #139 – Los Angeles, CA – 6.1.2022 12:00
Hikuleo’s involvement is explained as Cole calling in a favor with Jay White to get Hikuleo to fill in for him in this match since he is injured. The Young Bucks get a HYOOGE pop as hometown boys. During the period where his team had Christian isolated, Hikuleo splashed him in the corner and threw him face first into the middle turnbuckle. Christian tagged in Luchasaurus after ducking a double superkick from the Bucks and dropping them both with a tandem reverse DDT. Hikuleo broke up Luchasaurus’ pin after he landed a standing moonsault onto Nick Jackson. The two big men took each other out with stereo clotheslines. Hikuleo almost killed himself being low bridged to the floor. He was okay though, catching Allin’s Coffin Drop on the floor and feeding him to reDRagon for Chasing The Dragon. In the ring, Christian dropkicked Hikuelo into a Twist of Fate from Hardy, and then Christian landed a spear off of the apron to Hikuleo on the floor. The Bucks ended up pinning Jungle Boy a few moments later with the Meltzer Driver at 12:00. Hikuleo’s inclusion was nominal, but if it’s a seed planting thing for Undisputed Elite vs. BULLET CLUB, I get it. The match itself was a lot of fun, and clearly sets up the Bucks challenging Jurassic Express for the tag titles. ***½
Los Angeles, CA – 6.4.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.
Keita & Yuya Uemura vs. Kevin Blackwood & Lucas Riley
Uemura is the only regular here, with everyone else exclusively featured on LA shows only, at least for now.. Riley halted a Frankensteiner attempt from Keita, and Blackwood came in with a dropkick to Keita while he was being held upside down. Riley knocked Uemura off the apron, but unfortunately for him, that extra moment enabled Keita to get his feet up to block a corner charge. After elbowing Blackwood off the apron, Keita gave Riley a lungblower and double boot blast from the apron, and made the tag to Uemura. Uemura gets in some offense before being taken down by Riley and Blackwood. Blackwood successfully assists Riley with a senton on Uemura, but when he tries it on Keita, Keita gets his knees up and sends Blackwood outside with a clothesline. Uemura takes down Riley with an overhead suplex. When Blackwood comes back in, Keita takes him out with a modified facebuster and Complete Shot. Riley takes out Keita with a Shining Wizard. When he comes off the ropes after dizzying Uemura with an enzuigiri, Uemura cuts him off with a huracanrana for the pin at 8:33. I love that Riley’s team cut off Keita when he went for a Frankensteiner, and then Uemura won the match with ostensibly the same move. This was a rock solid showcase for everyone. **¾
Backstage, Lucas Riley says he and Blackwood will come back stronger as a team next time. When he asks Blackwood for some confirmation, Blackwood tells Riley flat out “no.” He says since Riley took the fall, he is still technically undefeated. We’ll see if this leads to anything.
Alex Zayne & Christopher Daniels vs. BULLET CLUB (El Phantasmo & Chris Bey)
Daniels appears to be another “LA only” STRONG wrestler, and this is his first tag team match for NJPW U.S. since 2018. It is really impressive how well he is able to thwart Phantasmo and Bey’s attempts at double team offense. It took Bey kneeing him in the back and tripping him from the floor for Phantasmo to get in a dropkick. Bey clocks him with a Superman forearm on the floor before sending him back into the ring. BULLET CLUB back rake and front rake Daniels in the process of wearing him down. Daniels seems set to escape after an STO to Bey, but Phantasmo grabs Daniels by the leg. Daniels flips out of his back suplex attempt, rolls under a clothesline, and tags in Zayne successfully. Zayne plants Phantasmo’s face into the apron with a front flip leg drop. Daniels Cactus clotheslines Bey to the floor. Zayne tries the Crunchwrap Supreme and Phantasmo totally whiffs a mid-air suplex. Zayne rolls under it, and Phantasmo drops him with the CRII. Zayne kicks out, but Sudden Death does the trick, getting Phantasmo the pin at 9:58. If they went home at the CRII, that would’ve been ugly. Fortunately they were wise enough to go a few moments more and end it on a more palatable and realistic note. It’s crazy to me how good Daniels still is, and how well he and Zayne were their first time as a team. Zayne got a big popularity boost during his BOSJ run, so I am curious if that changes how he will be featured in STRONG going forward. ***
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Big Damo
As Damo mentioned last week, he defeated Ishii in RevPro back in 2015. I wanted to watch that before this, but alas, it is not on YouTube on NJPW World. Despite having that win, and a size advantage over Ishii, Damo knew better than to be overconfident. He struck early, reversed whatever he could from Ishii, and took Ishii off his feet where possible. Ishii showed incredible resilience, taking everything Damo had, including a superplex, and failed to keep him down for a pin. Ishii’s stick and move offense was also quickly shut down time after time. Damo missed the Damo Bomb, and although he held Ishiis arm to get in some short arm clotheslines, a headbutt from Ishii broke the connection and enabled him to known down Damo with a lariat. Damo blocked the brainbuster, so Ishii took him down with an enzuigiri and a sliding lariat. With Damo further damaged, Ishii successfully pulled off the vertical drop brainbuster for the pin at 13:02. Damo had another really impressive outing, and basically pulled the weight of the entire contest. To me, it was a match to solidify Damo as a capable STRONG main eventer, but the frequency in which we will see him featured going forward is to be determined. ***¼
NJPW tapes one entire month of STRONG episodes at a time. Some months are well balanced with every episode having something to sink your teeth into, others save the best for last. This month ended on an episode featuring sold matches, but little bearing on ongoing stories. It makes for a pretty skippable episode.