NJPW STRONG #126 – Nemesis 2023 Part 4

It’s been a minute since I’ve reviewed an Impact Wrestling match. While Yuya Uemura still wrestles for them, his current status with NJPW is unclear. However, KUSHIDA returned to Impact Wrestling this past week, bringing Kevin Knight with them. The two of them began teaming in the Super Jr. Tag League at the end of 2022, with Knight adopting a new look that fits KUSHIDA’s Back to the Future motif. The team is affectionately and unofficially known as Knight Time:


KUSHIDA & Kevin Knight vs. The Good Hands (Jason Hotch & John Skylar)
IMPACT Wrestling #963 – Atlanta, GA – 1.26.2023

I like Hotch and Skylar but hate hate hate their team name. It’s just too inside baseball for my personal taste. KUSHIDA and Knight twisted the ish out of Skylar’s arms before dropping double knees onto them. A blind tag to Hotch allows him to attack KUSHIDA from behind. Hotch Chaos Theory’s KUSHIDA into a jackknife pin from Skylar after Skylar knocks Knight off of the apron, but KUSHIDA kicks out on his own. KUSHIDA knocks down both Good Hands with a back handspring elbow and tags in the recovered Knight, who splashes both opponents in the corner. Knight blasts Hotch with his signature dropkick. KUSHIDA hip tosses Skylar into a dropkick. Knight then dropkicks Hotch off of KUSHIDA’s shoulders. Knight pescado’s Skylar while KUSHIDA locks Hotch in the Hoverboard Lock to earn the submission victory at 4:01. I am thrilled KUSHIDA and Knight have remained a team after Tag League. KUSHIDA felt a bit stale going back into New Japan on his own with the same character he left with, and having Knight by his side does bring out a fresh side of him. It’s a good way to get Knight credibility as well. Hotch and Skylar were good opponents for them to showcase themselves against, and I hope to see more of Knight Time in Impact. **¼

Los Angeles, CA – 1.28.2023

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

Blake Christian vs. Keita

An aggressive opening sees Christian send Keita into the barricades with two elbow suicidas, an Irish whip, and a shotgun dropkick. Christian tiger feint kicks Keita in the corner, but Keita catches him coming off the top rope with a backbreaker. Keita then gives Christian a taste of his own medicine with a Heat-Seeking Missile. A chin breaker and double kick from the apron lead to Keita taking down Christian with a tornado suplex. Christian suplexes him into the turnbuckles, and then sends him into the turnbuckles again with a sunset flip. Christian follows up the damage to the back of the head with a knee to the back of the head and a brainbuster. A Black Mass and curb stomp then get Christian the pin at 7:17. The headhunting approach Christian took was unique and provided more substance than some of his matches have when there isn’t a story behind them. I hope both he and Keita stick around in the new era of STRONG. **½

Místico vs. Misterioso

After an even start, Misterioso catches Místico’s pescado attempt and drives him back first into the ring post. Back in the ring he lands a kneeling rope-assisted somersault senton for two. After knocking him down with a springboard back elbow, Místico sends Misterioso out to the floor with a flying headscissors. He then follows him out with a slingshot headscissors on the floor and then a crossbody off the top turnbuckle into the guardrails.Back in the ring, Misterioso rolls through a springboard sunset flip and dropkicks Místico for his own two count. He also gets two with a superkick. Místico wheelbarrows Misterioso to avoid a charge from Misterioso into the corner. Místico sends Misterioso out to the floor with a twisting wrist clutch drag, but Misterioso pulls Místico off the apron and face first into the ring apron. Misterioso then knocks him down with a tope con hilo. Misterioso gets a close nearfall with a lionsault back in the ring. Místico halts Misterioso on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a Spanish Fly for two. Místico follows that up with a super Frankensteiner and only gets two again. Místico fires up and headscissors Misterioso into La Mística for the submission at 12:08. This was exactly like Místico’s other STRONG appearance, in which the match was all sizzle and no steak. He and Misterioso did some impressive looking Lucha until it was time to end the match. It was fun to watch, but hollow and ultimately inconsequential. **¾

NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Fred Rosser vs. Peter Avalon

Rosser has been champion since 6.25.2022 and this is his seventh defense. Avalon challenged Rosser after Rosser successfully defended the title against JR Kratos. I guess a 2-0 record and a challenge is all it takes to get a title match. Avalon mocks Rosser’s Prime Time Players chant before the bell and gets tossed over the top rope. The PTP were great, so I wouldn’t take that as an insult. Avalon prevents a chicken wing attempt early on, though Rosser takes him down with two seated sentons. When he tries his third, Avalon counters into a sunset flip pin, though Rosser kicks out and knocks him to the apron with a rolling forearm smash. Avalon shoves Rosser back first into the ring post to stop a backbreaker. Avalon then sends him back first into the ring apron and barricades. Avalon goes to the ropes when Rosser stops him working over his back with a crossface attempt, and then takes down the champion with a tornado DDT. The fight to the apron where Avalon strikes Rosser in the rib cage. Despite this, Rosser is able to scoop him up into a backbreaker. Rosser batters Avalon with chops and clotheslines in opposite corners, hair maring him from one corner to another while doing so. Avalon kicks Rosser in the ribs and puts him in a heel hook. Rosser gets the ropes to escape. He drops Avalon with the Gut Feeling and drops him with the Emerald Flowsion. He locks on the STF chicken wing until Avalon taps out at 12:02. I think it’s a little bizarre that Avalon had no consistent finisher amongst his three matches, which I note because he switched from working over Rosser’s back to working over his ribs for no discernable reason. This was a totally solid match and fine enough to pad Rosser’s defense record, but a pretty lame way to conclude STRONG’s original iteration. ***

Rosser then tells the #1 Contender to his title, KENTA, to get his ass to the ring, and KENTA obliges. Rosser tells KENTA that he will leave San Jose on February 18th with three boots on – two on his feet, and one is his ass. Rosser says KENTA is an OG, and that he knows he’s ready to face him, and that it will be time to go to work at Battle In The Valley. That match could be great.

And that’s a wrap on this iteration of STRONG. The new version of STRONG will see them break-up the U.S. PPV’s into weekly installments available on NJPW World a month or two after the PPV itself. With that said, I will be reviewing the PPV’s going forward and not the STRONG digest episodes of those PPVs. These digest episodes begin in March with “Battle In The Valley”, which so far looks very promising on paper. I’m excited to check it out in a few weeks.

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