NJPW STRONG #115 – Showdown 2022 Part 2

Los Angeles, CA – 11.12.2022

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov. They open the show by interviewing Tom Lawlor. He says Team Filthy of JR Kratos and Danny Limelight were a kangaroo’s hair away from winning the STRONG Openweight Titles, and they will win them the next time they challenge. Tonight, they will defeat their two tomato cans of opponents. Lawlor says next week he faces Homicide, and he will show that Homicide is nothing but an untrained street thug.

Che Cabrera vs. Kenny King

This is King’s STRONG debut. King competed on a number of the ROH/New Japan crossover events in North America and England, most famously winning the Honor Rumble on the G1 Supercard event. Despite King sneak attacking Cabrera, Cabrera gets the upper hand early by clotheslining King to the floor. King pulls Cabrera’s hair to take over on offense, and gets two with a Capoira kick. He sunset flips Cabrera out of the corner into a spinebuster for two. Cabrera avoids a springboard leg drop and powerslams King. After a backbreaker, Cabrera takes down King with a belly-to-belly suplex. Even though Cabrera takes out King with a pescado on the floor, King is able to catch him with a half-nelson suplex and a Tiger Driver for two back inside of the ring. Cabrera blocks a second Tiger Driver and hits Total Anarchy for two. The Eddy Gordo kick shuts Cabrera down once again. Cabreara avoids the flying Blockbuster and delivers an Alabama Slam for two. King halts Cabrera on the top turnbuckle with an enzuigiri and brings him down with the Royal Flush for the pin at 8:07. A totally solid debut for King, who got to showcase all his usual offense while also making it known he is more than OK with cheating as a means to an end. A little more of his personality could have shined through, but for a first appearance this was fairly optimal. I sure hope Cabrera moves beyond his current lot of “fodder for outsiders” soon. **½

Adrian Quest & Jordan Cruz vs. Team Filthy (Danny Limelight & JR Kratos)

Limelight and Kratos are looking to get back on track since failing to capture the STRONG Openweight Tag Titles last month, while Cruz is on his third attempt to defeat JR Kratos, recruiting a new partner to see if he can get the job done. Quest’s Lucha acumen and Cruz’s strength prove to be a winning combination against Limelight. Limelight rakes Cruz’s eyes to escape a back suplex from Cruz and tags Kratos, who nails Cruz with a lariat and knocks Quest to the floor. Limelight enuzigiri’s Cruz into another enzuigiri from Kratos, and Kratos then pops up Limelight into a double stomp onto Cruz. Cruz avoids a running frog splash from Kratos and clobbers him with a clothesline to the back of the head, getting himself the opening to tag Quest. Quest takes down Limelight with numerous strikes before swiveling himself into a Code Red for two. Limelight shoves Quest into Cruz. Kratos Pounces Quest and then superplexes Cruz into the ring, with Quest breaking up his pin just in time. Kratos lines up Cruz for Limelight’s Boricua Destroyer, which gets them the pin at 8:22. This was a lot of fun, with everybody getting an opportunity to shine, and the dynamics between the teams (agility and power versus agility and power) working really well. I kind of hope Quest and Cruz stick together, I think they have something fun to offer the tag division. It also makes me very happy Limelight and Kratos are once again a regular tandem. ***

BULLET CLUB of El Phantasmo, Juice Robinson, and Chris Bey cut a black and white promo. They promote next week’s episode where Phantasmo and Bey will reunite to take on Mascara Dorada and Blake Christian. In two weeks, Juice Robinson has something for Something – he says something painful is coming for Jake Something. It’s too sweet.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Fred Yehi

This is Suzuki’s first match on STRONG since June, and Yehi’s first since failing to capture the STRONG Openweight Championship in August. Yehi outsmarts Suzuki during a chop exchange, as he picks Suzuki’s ankle and stomps on him instead of getting lost in a battle he would surely lose. Yehi gets caught in the ropes with a triangle choke, but bites Suzuki’s ear in the hopes of maintaining control. Suzuki, however, blocks Yehi’s attempt to send him into the barricades, and knocks down Yehi with a boot to the face. Suzuki introduces a chair into the ring, and Yehi grabs it. The referee pulls it away from him, and while he is disposing of that chair, Suzuki clobbers Yehi across the back with another, and then feigns as if he was the one who was struck. Yehi avoids being piledriven through the timekeeper’s table, so Suzuki puts him in a double hammerlock, which Yehi uses the ropes to escape. Suzuki angers Yehi with boot scrapes. Yehi knocks down Suzuki with stomps in the corner and repeatedly drives his hips into Suzuki’s sternum. Yehi then puts him in a Koji Clutch after a neckbreaker, and Suzuki gets his foot on the bottom rope to escape. Suzuki reverses a whip into the corner and follows in with a boot to the face. Suzuki then delivers a PK for two. Yehi gets wrapped up in a strike exchange and gets knocked out with a forearm smash to the chin. He waits for Yehi to get up and goes for another forearm, but when he goes for it, Yehi trips Suzuki down into a waistlock, quickly striking him in the abdomen while trying to get the Koji Clutch back on. Suzuki puts his foot on the bottom rope to escape the hold being put on again. Suzuki follows Yehi as he runs to the ropes and ducks under him so he can put on the sleeper hold. He blasts Yehi with another forearm smash before dropping Yehi with the Gotch-Style Piledriver for the pin at 16:29. I had mixed feelings going into this match. I love Yehi, and was stoked to see him in the main event, but I’ve also watched just about every U.S. match Suzuki has had and they’re all about the same. But then Yehi, being the smart, unorthodox wrestler, finally gave me something different. He subverted my expectations by taking openings where many don’t in Suzuki matches, and when Suzuki did something he does often, like his armbar in the ropes, Yehi’s follow up was unique and brought the match in a different direction. Yehi was able to show a competence many of Suzuki’s opponents do not get the chance to do. This surprised me in all the right ways, and reminded me why I love Fred Yehi. ***½

NJPW XTRA has become an occasional offering now, and the past few have not included matches. The latest installment was posted on Sunday November 13th, previewing the Historic X-Over event on the 20th. The IWGP US Title match between Will Ospreay and Shota Umino on that show will be covered at the end of the month.

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