Las Vegas, NV – 10.29.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.
Kevin Knight vs. Ari Daivari
Before the match, Daivari discusses openly recruiting for the Trustbusters and just might invite Knight into the fold if he is successful. Don’t make me root for Knight to lose. Daivari picks up the heat after escaping Knight’s Boston Crab. He sends Knight crashing down to the mat shoulder first out of a wristlock, and focuses his attack on the shoulder going forward. It helps Daivari escape the Boston Crab two other times Knight attempts locking it in. Knight ducks Daivari’s hammerlock clothesline and nails him with his signature dropkick. A leaping leg lariat leads to another Boston Crab attempt. Daivari escapes and attempts to come off the top rope with something, but is caught and the Boston Crab is successfully applied. Daivari escapes and brings in the ring bell. The referee gets rid of it, and as he’s away, Knight gets a visible pin on Daivari with a roll-up. The referee is too late in making the count. Daivari low blows Knight and schoolboys him for the pin at 8:19. I am not sure what good comes of Daivari defeating one of New Japan’s top prospects. That said, the match was really good. I liked the story, the crowd got thoroughly behind Knight, and Daivari played his role well. **¾
Alex Zayne & Mistico vs. Blake Christian & Mascara Dorada
This is exactly what you’d expect – Mistico and Dorada doing Lucha shit at each other, and Christian and Zayne doing their flippy shit at each other. The good news is, those guys are very good at those things. Zayne and Mistico were the more aggressive tandem and seemed to work together more effectively. Christian got a two count on Zayne with a springboard 450 splash. Zayne took out Dorada with the Baja Blast, but Christian surprised him with a cutter after. Mistico blind tagged himself in, so after Christian took him out with an airplane spin into a death valley driver, Mistico surprised him with a Spanish Fly off the top to get the pin at 10:09. This was all sizzle and no steak. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but if you’re used to what these guys do, the action can feel banal if you don’t have something more to sink your teeth into. Your mileage may vary with this one. **½
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tom Lawlor
Lawlor isn’t as successful on the mat as he may have hoped, so he instead decides to engage in a forearm strike with the Stone Pitbull. He kicks at Ishii’s hamstring in the process, and ends up taking him down with a side Russian leg sweep. Ishii gets the ropes to escape an ankle lock. Ishii gets some adrenaline when Lawlor begins kicking at his back, and he uses that to pull off a vertical suplex. Lawlor blocks Ishii’s clothesline, but Ishii then ducks Lawlor’s clothesline and drops him with a Saito suplex. Lawlor ends up taking down Ishii in the corner with chops and jabs, and then stands on the back of his neck. Lawlor runs to the opposite end of the ring to pick up momentum for corner clotheslines. Ishii follows Lawlor into the corner to hit one of his own and takes down Lawlor with a running shoulder block. Lawlor is able to fight out of a superlex and places Ishii in an ankle lock from the apron as Ishii lay across the top turnbuckle. Lawlor then pulls down Ishii into a waitlock slam. Ishii blocks a tornado DDT and places Lawlor back on the top turnbuckle. Thanks to a headbutt, Ishii is able to successfully execute the superplex this time around. Lawlor knocks an enzuigiri attempt from Lawlor out of mid-air. He goes for the sliding lariat, which Lawlor avoids. He puts Ishii in a Stretch Muffler, transitioning into a rear-naked choke and then a kneeling Michinoku Driver for two. Ishii evades a PK but takes an enzuigiri. Ishii ducks a Kamigoye and Tiger suplexes Lawlor. Lawlor tries a running knee strike in the corner. Ishii ducks and instead brings Lawlor out of the corner with a powerbomb. Lawlor ducks a lariat and t-bone suplexes Ishii. Ishii fires up and lariats Lawlor for the pin at 15:31. That was a bit of an abrupt ending to an excellent match, but I kind of liked it. They beat each other down to the point where just about anything could knock them off. Even though Lawlor had a lengthy reign as STRONG champion, showing him as a crafty and component opponent for Ishii I think is the best portrayal of him on the show so far. It’s probably not a coincidence that this came after his G1 run either – proving himself in Japan may have earned him more confidence to be placed against guys like Ishii in STRONG going forward. This also felt different for an Ishii match, which is appreciated, as his role in matches never really changes. Very good stuff. ***¾