Los Angeles, CA – 12.17.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.
Jakob Austin Young vs. BATEMAN
BATEMAN attacks Young’s shoulder and wrist on the mat. BATEMAN resists an O’Connor Roll and kicks Young in the side of the head. Young pops up after a particular strike and unloads with a barrage of strikes onto BATEMAN, taking him to the corner. He spikes BATEMAN with a tornado DDT and gets a nearfall with a Saito suplex. BATEMAN kicks his knee out from the mat, which drives Young face first into BATEMAN’s knee. Young tries a crucifix submission on a standing BATEMAN, but BATEMAN tosses him off and cracks him with a back elbow. This Is A Kill then gets BATEMAN the pin at 7:49. BATEMAN winning was a good way to set the one for the evening, as his partners are challenging for the tag team titles match in the main event. Young unfortunately didn’t get as much a chance as his partner Greg Sharpe did when he wrestled King last week, but still looked good. Perfectly cromulent opening match. **¼
Bad Dude Tito vs. KENTA
This is KENTA’s first U.S. New Japan match since failing to capture the IWGP United States Championship from Jon Moxley back on STRONG #29. KENTA exhausts himself as he continuously tries but fails to knock down Tito with a running shoulder tackle. KENTA attempts to get Tito to chase him, but fails as Tito knocks him down with a clothesline and drops an elbow on him. KENTA snaps Tito’s neck on the top rope and chop blocks his left leg, and that combo finally enables him to knock down Tito with a shoulder block. KENTA continues to attack Tito’s left leg. Tito catches a chest kick and knocks down KENTA with a clothesline. He takes down KENTA with an exploder suplex. After a sole butt/enzuigiri combo, Tito German suplexes KENTA for a two count. KENTA attempts a tornado DDT out of the corner. Tito catches it, but KENTA is able to slip off his shoulders and take down Tito with a dragonscrew leg whip. A corner kick and a hesitation dropkick to a seated Tito lead to a Go 2 Sleep attempt. Tito however sweeps him into a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. KENTA pulls the referee’s shirt to fight off of Tito’s shoulders. He kicks Tito in the groin and schoolboys him for the pin at 7:53. That finish makes me think “the office” may be interested in “protecting” Tito now that’s been to Japan a couple of times, and perhaps that means more of him in Japan in 2023. A BULLET CLUB/TMDK rivalry would be very interesting. The match was very good, they kept things relatively basic but the crowd was very into it. ***
Backstage, Emily Mae interviews STRONG Openweight Champion Fred Rosser, asking him what his strategy is against JR Kratos next week. Rosser says he plans to empty Kratos’ proverbial gas tank and “go to work.” That’s a more solid answer than the Motor City Machine Guns provided her last week. And speaking of the Guns…
STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship
The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) vs. Stray Dog Army (Barrett Brown & Misterioso)
The MCMG have been champions since 10.28.2022 and this is their first defense. The Stray Dog Army earned this title match by winning a #1 Contendership match last month. Brown clobbers Sabin in the side of the head with a running boot and drops him with a running upturned elbow. Shelley blind tags in, and after Sabin yanks Misterioso off of the apron, the MCMG nail Brown with simultaneous chest and back kicks. Sabin drops Brown face first into the mat, and Shelley follows up with a double stomp off of the middle rope for two. They continue to double team Brown while keeping Misterioso at bay. Brown elbows his way out of a waistlock from Shelley to finally get a tag from Misterioso. Misterioso comes in with a rolling dropkick to Shelley, and gets revenge from earlier in by wiping out Sabin with a tope con hilo. Brown slams Shelley into a kneeling somersault senton from Misterioso for two. The SDA overwhelm Shelley with tandem offense, with Sabin interjecting to break a pin after Misterioso lands a lionsault. Shelley gets his knees up to block another moonsault and plants Brown into the corner with a Complete Shot. Sabin dropkicks Misterioso off of the apron upon tagging in and tornado DDT’s Brown for two. Sabin missile dropkicks Brown into a Complete Shot from Shelley for a two count. A miscommunication from the champions enables the challengers to wipe them out on the floor with a suicide dive and Asai moonsault. Misterioso gives Sabin the MSO. Brown looks for the .50 Caliber Kick but misses and hits Misterioso. MCMG takes out Brown with the Dream Sequence and Shelley passes Misterioso to Sabin for an Ace Crusher. The Guns drop Brown with the Dirt Bomb for the pin at 12:11. I thought I’d have a tough time buying Misterioso and Brown as convincing challengers, but they proved to be just as competent as the champions and showed that they found their groove as a duo. The quick but focused action made it feel like both teams cared about the stakes involved. The little rivalry between Sabin and Misterioso was a super fun wrinkle to the match as the match unfolded too. Maybe 2023 is the year we see the Stray Dog Army grow – Team Filthy and the BULLET CLUB could stand to share the spotlight. ***½
Next week is the final episode of STRONG for 2022 with fresh matches, with Fred Rosser defending the STRONG Openweight Championship in the main event against JR Kratos.