We’re in the home stretch to Forbidden Door this week. We had two matches on Dynamite to build up two title matches on the PPV:
Orange Cassidy & Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)
AEW Dynamite #142 – Milwaukee, WI – 6.22.2022
Davis fell victim to a Cassidy shotgun dropkick and some Forever Clotheslines from Romero. Ospreay took a backdrop when he came in, but when Romero and Cassidy attempted tandem dives, they were caught by Aussie Open and rammed into Beretta. All three CHAOS members were dropped on the ring apron, and Beretta was beaten down by the Empire during the picture in picture. Once that ended, Beretta spiked Fletcher on his head with a half-nelson suplex and tagged in Cassidy. After the lazy kicks he picked up the pace with a Frankensteiner and tornado DDT on Aussie Open. Romero took out Ospreay with a flying Frankensteiner, and with Beretta and Cassidy pulled off triple dives to the floor successfully. Ospreay blocked a tornado DDT from Cassidy, but Cassidy did pull off the Stun Dog Millionaire. A series of offenses ended with Vice dropping Fletcher with a double jumping knee strike. Ospreay kicked Beretta to stop Strong Zero on Beretta. Davis then pinned Beretta with Close Your Eyes And Count To F*ck but Cassidy broke up the pin. Romero surprised Ospreay on the floor with a dive off the top. Beretta escaped Corealis from Aussie Open, kicked Davis to the floor, and Cassidy then pinned Fletcher with the Orange Punch at 11:37. That was exactly what it needed to be – a fun,exciting match to hype up two matches on Sunday. The team with all the challengers won too, which probably means they’ll lose at the PPV, but it’s a good way to get them momentum in the story. ***½
Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb came out after the match with the IWGP Tag Team titles to commiserate with their fellow United Empire members. Just when it looked like they were about to attack, FTR came out to even the odds.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jon Moxley vs. Chris Jericho & Lance Archer
AEW Dynamite #142 – Milwaukee, WI – 6.22.2022
Tanahashi and Moxley are opponents on Sunday, so now AEW is in the “can they co-exist?!” storytelling game. Sammy Guevara grabbed Moxley behind the back, enabling Jericho to nail him with a springboard dropkick to the floor. Moxley was beat down by Jericho and Archer, eventually getting his knees up to block the lionsault. Tanahashi cradled Jericho to escape the Walls of Jericho, but succumbed to the Code Breaker. Moxley saved Tanahashi from being pinned and wiped out Archer with a suicide dive. Tanahashi ducked the Molasses Elbow and tried Aces High, but Jericho rolled Tanahashi into the Walls of Jericho. Moxley aided Tanahashi again by dropping Jericho with an Ace Crusher, and Tanahashi took down Archer with a Sling Blade. Moxley escapes Archer’s Black Out and drops him with the Paradigm Shift. Tanahashi then lands a frog splash for the pin at 12:12. A totally solid match and main event, but it didn’t get many any more juiced for the main event. Archer and Moxley have great chemistry. ***
Moxley and Tanahashi stare each other down after the match. They’re interrupted by Eddie Kingston and Wheeler YUTA who attack Jericho and Guevara. Minoru Suzuki then ambles to the ring with a smile on his face and joins the fray, with Shota Umino coming in behind him. 2.0, Jake Hager, Daniel Garcia and Proud-N-Powerful are added to the mix, all the while Tanahashi and Moxley continue to stare down in the ring until the show goes off the air. This was chaotic, and not really in a good way.
Last week, Hook challenged a member of New Japan’s LA DOJO to face him on this week’s Rampage:
The DKC vs. Hook
AEW Rampage #47 – Milwaukee, WI – 6.24.2022
DKC got a jobber entrance, so the writing was already on the wall. In all fairness, Hook should still be gobbling up the opposition. After throwing punches to DKC’s mid-section and throwing him across the ring, Hook threw crossfaces before locking in Redrum (I guess that’s what he calls the Tazmission) for the submission at 1:40. I like DKC, but this was absolutely the right way for this match to have played out.
A singles match was also presented to build towards the ROH/IWGP Tag Title Winner Take All bout:
Jeff Cobb vs. Cash Wheeler
AEW Rampage #47 – Milwaukee, WI – 6.24.2022
Caprice Coleman was on commentary for the bout. Wheeler wisely dropkicked Cobb’s left knee which was taped up. Cobb blocked an attack with a Hot Shot, and then threw Wheeler out of the Spin Cycle. Cobb beat him down ringside and tossed him across the ring. Cobb has him in an over-the-shoulder backbreaker when they return from break, which Wheeler reverses into a sleeper hold. Wheeler chop blocks Cobb’s knee before knocking him to the floor with a running uppercut, following that with a pescado. In the ring, Wheeler pulls off a powerbomb thanks to Cobb being positioned on the second rope. Cobb tosses Wheeler off to stop a tornado DDT, but Wheeler riddles Cobb to block the Tour of the Islands. Wheeler goes back to Cobb’s leg to try a piledriver and ends up being backdropped and German suplexed. Tour of the Islands then gets Cobb the pin at 10:55. I liked the story of Wheeler going after Cobb’s knee a lot, and that Cobb was able to maneuver around these attacks and pull off his finisher anyhow. It’s Dax who gets the singles love from FTR, but this proves Wheeler is also excellent. ***¼
Great-O-Khan comes out after the match to celebrate, and is blindsided from behind with an attack by Dax Harwood. United Empire members Will Ospreay and Aussie Open come out and attack, leading to CHAOS members Orange Cassidy and Roppongi Vice to come out to get involved. Eddie Kingston then attacks Chris Jericho at the commentary table and tries to stab Jericho with a pen. Okay, so both go-home shows end with big brawls. Seems like the best way to build a bunch of rushed matches, I suppose.
They also added two more matches to the Buy-In: Keith Lee & Shane Strickland vs. El Desperado and Yoshonbu Kanemaru, and The Factory vs Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI. That second match is the equivalent of AEW sending the Young Bucks to Japan and New Japan putting them against two yet-to-graduate dojo kids.
Forbidden Door will get a full review from me later this week, but for now, let’s get into one of the most significant episodes of STRONG in a while:
Philadelphia, PA – 6.25.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Matt Rehwoldt.
David Finlay vs. Danny Limelight
Limelight picked up the win for Team Filthy at “Capital Collision”, and Finlay was on the opposing team. Limelight did a lot of trash talking on the microphone before the bell, but then makes sure to keep his distance when the match begins. Finlay is able to connect with a dropkick, but Limelight traps Finlay’s leg in the rope and gives it a dropkick. Limelight attacks the leg after that, until Finlay cuts him off with a backdrop. After a diving uppercut, he drops Limelight with a Blue Thunder Bomb. A uranage backbreaker and lariat leads to Trash Panda and the pin for Finlay at 6:30. I got excited to see Limelight in a singles match, figuring maybe after the win in D.C. this was a fresh start for the Radioactive Papi. No, it was semi-squash in disguise, and sadly the fans weren’t feeling it. Then again, Finlay has his own fresh start as a singles competitor he is undergoing, which includes him competing in the G1, so the result was the right choice. Perhaps a different opponent would have sufficed. **
The Great-O-Khan and Will Ospreay tell us the United Empire is taking over next week’s episode of STRONG. I appreciate a good theme night like that now and again, we haven’t had one since the Port Hueneme days.
Minoru Suzuki vs. Tony Deppen
A battle between former ROH TV Champions! This is Deppen’s NJPW debut. His former VLNCE UNLTD partner, Brody King, defeated Suzuki at “Capital Collision” – would that be a harbinger of things to come? It would not. Deppen staggered Suzuki to the ropes with a pump kick, but that only put Suzuk in position to do his rope capture armbrar. Suzuki ran down the entrance aisle to hit a PK on the floor. Deppen fought out of a GSP back in the ring and crashed into him with double knees in the corner. Suzuki reversed an Irish whip, yakuza kicked Deppen in the corner, and followed up with another PK. Deppen ends a strike exchange with a pump knee and a Death Valley Driver for two. He clobbers Suzuki with a forearm in the back of the head after blowing snot on him, and Suzuki sits up at the count of one with stoic rage in his eyes. Suzuki wastes no time putting Deppen in a sleeper, blasting him with a forearm, and then hitting a delayed GSP for the pin at 10:30. That moment of death in Suzuki’s eyes was tremendous; everything else was from Suzuki’s standard U.S. match template. **½
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Tom Lawlor vs. Fred Rosser
Lawlor has been champion since 4.23.2021 and this is his tenth defense. Lawlor and Rosser’s history is significant. They faced off for the first time back at STRONG #15 in an intense match, unlike any other Rosser match I had seen. Lawlor tied up all of Rosser’s limbs and got the verbal submission victory. Lawlor would go on to become the inaugural STRONG Openweight Champion on STRONG #37. His incredible undefeated streak in New Japan would come to an end at STRONG #66, with Rosser pushing Lawlor onto his shoulders while in a rear-naked choke, pinning him in a tag team match. Rosser would be attacked after the match and be embarrassed with a post-match haircut. This pin, however, earned Rosser a shot at the STRONG Openweight Championship on STRONG #71. Rosser would pass out in Lawlor’s rear-naked choke. Rosser and Lawlor would face off in a few multi-man matches, and at STRONG #85 and STRONG #89, Rosser made it known he wanted another title shot. Lawlor said if Rosser could beat the West Coast Wrecking Crew in a handicap match on STRONG #90, he could have another title match. Rosser lost, but Lawlor then told him after the match to shave his head if he wanted another title match. Rosser did, but Lawlor needed a stipulation needed to be added to the match as well – if Rosser were to lose the title rematch, he would be done with New Japan STRONG for good. Rosser accepted the terms, and that brings us to today. The last time Rosser and Lawlor were in Philadelphia was when Rosser pinned Lawlor, giving him, at least mentally, a home court advantage. Tiger Hattori presents the title before the match and joins commentary for the bout.
After each going for their submissions early (crossface chicken wing from Rosser, rear naked choke from Lawlor), Lawlor sends Rosser to the floor with a spinwheel kick. He lands a dive off the top onto Rosser and antagonizes Rosser’s mother in the crowd. Rosser jacks Lawlor with an apron backbreaker, with Lawlor hitting the ropes on the way down. When he tries it again a little later on, Lawlor blocks it, but Rosser lands a seated press to the chest on the apron, and then another one off the apron and to the floor. Earlier, Rosser had his shoulder sent into the ring post, and Lawlor overhead threw Rosser by that arm. He then sent Rosser into the corner shoulder first, with a force that sent Rosser tumbling over the top rope and to the floor. Lawlor drags Rosser backstage in a rear-naked choke and we hear some commotion. Lawlor then runs to the ring with the referee in the hopes of getting a count-out victory. A now bloodied Rosser crawls out from backstage and is met by JR Kratos and The West Coast Wrecking Crew in the aisle, blocking his path to the ring. David Finlay, Alex Coughlin, and Rocky Romero clear them out, allowing Rosser to climb back in the ring just before the twenty count. Rosser’s wound is cleaned up by the commission but he is still able to compete.
Lawlor rubs Rosser’s blood on his chest and stomach, but Rosser catches his PK attempt. He attacks Lawlor’s shoulder as he does his best to keep conscious. Rosser impressively turns Lawlor’s guillotine choke into a Death Valley Driver. Lawlor blocks a strike with an overhead suplex. He then throws Rosser multiple ways, but can’t keep Rosser down for a pin. Rosser cuts off Lawlor mid-dive with a clothesline and lands the Gut Check. Lawlor halts the follow up basement kick the first time, but Rosser hits it the second time for two. He gives Lawlor another apron backbreaker, but when Lawlor lands, he jolts into a choke hold on Rosser. Rosser muscles Lawlor into a tombstone piledriver on the exposed floor! The Emerald Flowsion only gets Rosser a nearfall. Lawlor intercepts another strike, pulling Rosser into a front face lock. The crowd rallies behind Rosser as Lawlor scoops Rosser up into a kneeling Michinoku Driver. Rosser also kicks out of a wrist-clutch suplex. Lawlor spits in Rosser’s mother’s direction before nailing the reverse Kamigoye, and once again, Rosser kicks out. Lawlor kisses Rosser’s bloody forehead before putting on another rear-naked choke. Rosser climbs to the ropes where he almost fades, but purposefully falls back so he and Lawlor crash into the mat and the hold is released. Rosser gets on his own choke hold, and when Lawlor goes for the ropes, Rosser uses his leg to pull the arm back and turn it into a crossface chicken wing. Lawlor pulls Lawlor down, nailing him in the head repeatedly before putting on a Chicken Wing STF. Lawlor taps out at 24:17, and Rosser is the NEW STRONG Openweight Champion.
These title matches can be tough – you’re the last or second to last match of a four hour taping, and you’re in front of a mixed crowd, some who may not be STRONG devotees. The 2300 crowd also has been terrible in terms of making noise for a few years now. It hurt the match for a while, but thankfully, the fans got with the match in time for Rosser’s victory to feel like something special. The story also lost some of its consistency, likely due to them extending the match time to try and force an epic, but again, it all came together in the end. Rosser had to bust out a new variation of the chickenwing to finally beat Lawlor, and had to use all the knowledge he learned from their previous encounters to have him scouted the whole time to win the bout. As a consistent STRONG viewer, I think Rosser was the best choice to unseat Lawlor, and the destination was sweeter because of the journey. ****
This week’s XTRA featured the main event trios match from STRONG #91, with the United Empire taking on Brody King, Mascara Dorada, and Taylor Rust, presumably as a preview to next week’s United Empire centric STRONG episode.