Nashville, TN – 7.30.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Matt Rehwoldt.
Yuya Uemura, Shota Umino & Fred Yehi vs. Ren Narita, Kevin Knight & The DKC
Uemura got the upper hand on Narita in the opening exchange with armdrags, but Narita stomped him down in their corner. Knight knocked Yehi and Umino off of the apron so he and DKC could assist in beating down Uemura uninterrupted. Uemura cut off DKC with a dropkick and tagged in Yehi, who assaulted Knight with repeated, aggressive knee strikes to the chest in the corner. He also knocked down DKC with a single forearm shot, only for Knight to take down Yehi with a dropkick. Umino and Narita traded their own forearm strikes when they came face-to-face. Narita ends up taking Umino over with a release belly-to-belly suplex. DKC takes Umino down with a flying calf kick. Yehi breaks up the pin and the match breaks down into a melee. Umino almost has DKC pinned with a fisherman’s suplex when Knight jumps in to break it up just in time. Uemura and Narita fight for a double underhook overhead suplex, which Uemura pulls off successfully. Umino hip tosses DKC into a knee strike to the face, then drops him with a reverse DDT. Umino polishes off DKC with a Moxley style double underhook DDT at 13:12. This was a fun match for everyone to strut their stuff. Umino was for sure the most popular person in the match, so him getting the pinfall made sense. ***¼
MLW National Openweight Championship
Davey Richards vs. Rocky Romero
Richards has been champion since 6.23.2022 and this is his first defense. This is also Richards’ first match with NJPW since March of 2012. Romero is replacing the injured Clark Connors. As a tandem, Richards and Romero are two time IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions. Richards damaged Romero’s leg, and Romero fought through that pain as best as he could to take down the champion. Even though he went for the Diablo Armbar early in the match, it wasn’t until deeper into the match he went back to the tactic of attacking Richard’s left arm. Romero almost had him pinned with a running Shiranui, but transitioned right into the Diablo Armbar when Richards got his shoulder up. Unfortunately for Romero, Richards countered into an ankle lock. When Romero kicks Richards away, Richards comes back with a PK and a brainbuster, and then goes right back to the ankle lock. Romero counters that with a victory roll, but Richards rolls back and pins Romero at 11:29. A very simple, but effective story, and they engaged the crowd more than I expected. It was also fun to see these two share a ring again. ***
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Fred Rosser vs. Big Damo
Rosser has been champion since 6.25.2022 and this is his first defense. Tiger Hattori presents the title before the match and joins commentary for the bout. Rosser’s attempt to charge right at the bell backfired as Damo simply knocked him down with a standing body block. Damo damaged Rosser’s back and midsection outside of the ring after blocking Rosser’s apron back suplex, and then brought him back into the ring to continue his onslaught. Rosser desperately surprises Damo by choking him with a camera cord from the floor. Rosser pummels Damo in the chest and back with forearm shots, chops him down in the corner, and drives his hip into Damo’s shoulder and face multiple times. Damo plays dirty himself when he bites Rosser’s hand to escape an STF. A gassed Rosser knocks down Damo with a forearm smash. Damo escapes a slam attempt and drops Rosser with a spinebuster, right into a jumping elbow smash. Rosser blocks the Damo Bomb, and even though Damo grabs at Rosser’s nose, Rosser is able to pull Damo down from the top turnbuckle and deliver the Emerald Flowsion for the pin at 13:01. This match felt unfortunately ordinary. I say that because I think Roser and Damo have enough stock built with the STRONG crowd that holding this match in one of their strongholds in front of one of their crowds would have made for a better atmosphere. I’m impressed with the effort and think both guys did really well, but I can’t help but feel this came off a little flat. ***
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Blake Christian
The fast paced opening exchange sees Christian land a rolling frog splash and then a tope con hilo when Takahashi retreats to the floor. Takahashi shoves Christian face first into a ring post and suplexes him onto the floor to turn the tide in his favor. Christian surprises Takahashi with a kick to the face, and delivers a back handspring kick right after. Takahashi rolls forward to try and escape a half-dragon suplex, but Christian gets a half-dragon German suplex when they get back to their feet anyways. He also Fosbury flops into a reverse DDT on Takahashi on the floor. Takahashi gets his knees up to block another rolling frog splash and cradles him for a two count. Christian takes down Takahashi with a lionsault press, and Takahashi and Christian take each other down with back-to-back clotheslines. After a rolling Death Valley Driver, Christian lands a springboard 450 splash for two. Takahashi rolls out of the way of another 450 splash and belly-to-belly suplexes Christian into the corner. Christian and Takahashi crack one another with kicks. Christian pulls Takahashi down into a modified Mouse Trap. Takahashi kicks out and drops Christian with an elevated Complete Shot for two. After a running clothesline, Takahashi drops Christian with Time Bomb II for the pin at 13:59. I was disappointed in their triple threat match with Desperado, but this was much better balanced. They didn’t waste time with nonsense at the beginning and the action was fluid and consistent. You also had fans who were WAY into Takahashi – I was stunned by the amount of Daryl’s in the crowd. This was good fun, and another really good performance by Christian. ***½
The injured Tanga Loa joins commentary for the remainder of the show.
FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) & Alex Zayne vs. United Empire (TJP, Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
Harwood’s left shoulder has been an issue for him of late, and that was the case in this match as well. Commentary tells us he was actually diagnosed with a labrum tear, so it’s nice to have an actual injury associated with the shoulder tape. This setback enabled United Empire to take over the match thanks to Davis kneeing him in the back from the apron after Fletcher took him down with a shoulder block to the injured side of his body. Wheeler helped out his partner with a kene to Davis’ back from the apron when the big man hit the ropes. Davis moved Wheeler to the apron to avoid a corner attack. Davis then clotheslined Wheeler to the floor where Fletcher release suplexed him back first onto the ring apron, leading to a donnybrook between the two trios. The dust settles with United Empire in control of Wheeler. Wheeler finally escapes their corner with a big clothesline to TJP, getting his knees up to block a senton from Davis, and a backdrop to Fletcher. Harwood lays out UE with jabs, uppercuts, and chops. FTR and Zayne take em out with triple German suplexes, and Harwood gets a two count on Fletcher with a brainbuster. Zayne lands the Cinnamon Twist on Fletcher, but Davis and TJP interrupt his pin and pitch FTR to the floor. United Empire assault Zayne in the corner, leading to Aussie Open dropping Zayne with an assisted spinebuster for a two count. Aussie Open look for a super Coriolis on Zayne, but Zayne escapes and uses TJP as a launching pad for a double Frankensteiner on Aussie Open. FTR takes Davis and TJP to the floor as Zayne drops Fletcher with a powerbomb for two. Davis comes back in, takes out Harwood and with Fletcher drops Zayne with Coriolis for the pin at 14:30. A nice win for the STRONG tag champions in a match where the IWGP Tag champions were also present. It felt like TJP and Zayne were background characters in their story, but if this does build to a two versus two match, which was intimated after the bell, it will have been worth it. The crowd’s love of FTR helped enhance this match’s energy. ***½
KUSHIDA vs. Alex Shelley
KUSHIDA issued this challenge to his former tag team partner. They’re both wearing the attire they did when they first teamed with each other. This match saw Shelley fight for the Border City Stretch as KUSHIDA fought for the Hoverboard Lock. KUSHIDA busted out the Cradle Shock, which is of course the finisher of Shelley’s other tag team partner Chris Sabin, around the fifteen minute mark. Shelley countered a Hoverboard Lock with a super atomic drop and then an Air Raid Crash, turning KUSHIDA right into the Border City Stretch when KUSHIDA got his shoulder up from the pin. KUSHIDA got to the ropes as the eighteen minute mark is noted by the timekeeper. KUSHIDA actually fought for the Border City Stretch himself as Shelley looked for it himself. Shelley settled for the Shell Shock, but KUSHIDA attempted to turn his pin into the Hoverboard Lock, and the 20:00 time limit expired just as Shelley was reaching for the ropes. This isn’t something New Japan does often, so this result did not bother me at all. It was a fun match to watch with a clear story, and they didn’t get too cute at any point, which some partner vs partner matches can be guilty of. If nothing else, it felt like a good way to reingratiate KUSHIDA into New Japan USA, and hopefully Shelley can join in the fun now and again as well. ***¾
No Disqualification Match
Jon Moxley vs. El Desperado
Desperado felt bold after wrestling Jun Kasai at a Just Tap Out show in May and decided to call out Jon Moxley for a match because “he makes his opponents bleed and that looks fun.” Moxley accepted the challenge for tonight. Moxley has a history with Desperado’s Suzuki-gun mates so it works for me. There are barbed wire boards in two corners of the ring, and Desperado brings a guitar and roses to the ring. After teasing someone going through a board, Desperado attacks Moxley’s knee and digs skewers into his forehead. Desperado then digs Moxley’s forehead into the barbed wire board. When Desperado tries a suicide dive, Moxley blasts him in the head with the same guitar he brought with him. Back in the ring, Moxley rips open Desperado’s mask around the eye sockets and digs a piece of guitar into it. Desperado escapes a slam attempt and spears Moxley through a barbed wire board! Moxley returns the favor with a shotgun dropkick, sending Desperado through the board in the opposite corner. Desperado is also shoved off the top turnbuckle and through a table on the floor he set up. Maybe worst of all, Desperado is slammed onto a board that has cut in half soda cans placed all over it. Desperado attacks Moxley’s leg from the ground, giving him a dragonscrew leg whip before cranking his leg while applying a Stretch Muffler. Moxley escapes into a cross armbreaker, which Desperado turns into stomping Moxley’s head in. Desperado backslides Moxley into Pinche Loco. He goes for it a second time and Moxley weaves out and into a lariat. The Death Rider leads to the Bulldog Choke and Desperado passing out at 17:20. That was more substantial than your usual garbage brawls, and fun to see Desperado do something different. I don’t want or need all of Moxley’s NJPW matches to be like this, but once in a while I think they’re a nice palette swap on a card full of traditional wrestling matches. ***¼
This card was very good – to not have a single match go below three stars is quite the achievement. It was almost exactly what I expected, which is to say a show that was above your average STRONG episode, but below a tried and true standalone NJPW USA PPV. Shows attached to conventions, for whatever reason, have never been truly great or special. That said, this was much better than their last convention card, Lonestar Shootout.