Jay White’s reign as NEVER champion was on the line as he took on Tomohiro Ishii in the Battle in the Valley.
Josh Alexander submitted Yuya Uemura in 11:44 (***¼)
Bateman & Misterioso pinned Chris Dickinson & Brody King in 10:08 (***)
Fred Rosser, Rocky Romero, Alex Coughlin, Alex Zayne & David Finlay pinned Royce Isaacs, Jorel Nelson, Tom Lawlor, JR Kratos & Danny Limelight in 15:12 (***¼)
Karl Fredericks & Clark Connors pinned TJP & Jeff Cobb & TJP in 10:00 (***)
Will Ospreay pinned Ren Narita in 15:43 (***¾)
Moose pinned Juice Robinson in 14:51 (***½)
Kazuchika Okada pinned Buddy Matthews in 16:23 (***¾)
Tomohiro Ishii pinned Jay White in 28:40 to win the NEVER Openweight Championship (***½)
We’re in the San Jose Civic Centre in San Jose, California for this one, with English commentary coming from Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov, once we get past the bombastic opening video…
Yuya Uemura vs. Josh Alexander
Lord knows what’s up with the video they’ve put up on NJPW World, but it feels like their feed is skipping a few frames…
Alexander went to the ankle of Uemura early on, before he traded elbows with the on-excursion Young Lion. A charge into the ropes leads to a Northern Lights for a two-count for Alexander, who then followed up by going back to the toe hold on Uemura.
Uemura’s attempt to chop free just left him open for some forearms from above as Alexander was just controlling things. Chops from Uemura offer some response, as did a dropkick in the corner, before Uemura managed to haul up Alexander for a back suplex. The former Impact champion kicks out, but is instantly caught in a cross armbar… he slips free and returned with a rolling German suplexes, only for Uemura to hit another one of those for a near-fall.
Uemura telegraphs a dropkick, missing it, as Alexander came back with the ankle lock… it’s kicked away, so he switches it into a Sharpshooter. The ropes save Uemura, but Alexander stays on him with chops, before another ankle lock was countered back into a cross armbar. Alexander rolled up Uemura for a two-count to break the hold, before he was met with more dropkicks, as Uemura then went for a Kanuki suplex…
…only for Alexander to pull him back down into an ankle lock for the submission. A good fight with Uemura hanging on, but as you’d expect, he was outclassed by Alexander here. ***¼
Stray Dog Army (Bateman & Misterioso) vs. VLNCE UNLTD (Brody King & Chris Dickinson)
We have a jump start as Bateman and Misterioso took things to the outside, and the commentary dies a death almost instantly as folks get thrown into the guard rails.
Brody’s isolated back in the ring, taking a gamengiri from Misteriso, then a side suplex from Bateman as commentary crept back in. A double-team suplex drops Brody for just a one-count, before Brody fought out of the corner… taking a barrage of strikes as he finally tagged in Dickinson.
Dickinson flies in with a missile double dropkick, then nailed Bateman with a Judo throw. Misterioso’s thrown with a suplex for a two-count, which segued into a cross armbar. Bateman breaks it up as Misterioso began to wear Dickinson down, cracking into him in the corner with running double knees for a near-fall.
Again Dickinson fights back, but gets swarmed by Misterioso again before he rolled free to bring Brody back in for the turnaround. Bateman’s squashed with a cannonball, then had Misterioso thrown into him for a near-fall. Dickinson’s back in to help with some double-teams, before he went up top and hit a frog splash… I’d guess as a tribute to Eddie Guerrero, given the date? Dickinson landed twisted and awkwardly, staying down after the impact, which didn’t look good for him…
Dickinson manages to get up and cover Bateman for a two-count… Misterioso breaks it up and gets met with a Cactus clothesline to the outside by Brody, as those two fight it out, while Bateman snatched the pin after Misterioso’s Asai moonsault wiped out King. An odd finish until you realise the severity of Dickinson’s injury – a dislocation of the leg and a fracture of the socket – which’ll keep him on the shelf for a lot of 2022. Heal up soon, Chris. ***
Trainers tend to Dickinson after the match as commentary pondered the severity of the injury. He ended up being stretchered to the back…
Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, Danny Limelight, Jorel Nelson, JR Kratos & Royce Isaacs) vs. Fred Rosser, Alex Coughlin, Alex Zayne, David Finlay & Rocky Romero
On the episode of Strong preceding these, Fred Rosser handed Lawlor his first-ever loss in New Japan… and you’d assume sets the two up for a future title defence, specially since Lawlor’s made a necklace out of the hair he cut off of Rosser afterwards. Rosser’s now shaved bald as he leads his troops into this ten man tag…
It’s a very tetchy start as Rosser went after Lawlor in the corner with chops and clotheslines before the fight literally spilled to the outside, where all hell broke loose. Rosser’s able to dump Lawlor with a back suplex onto the edge of the ring that leads to the white balancing blowing out like a nuke had gone off.
More brawling around ringside followed as commentary again takes a bath. I’m starting to think that being so close to the action isn’t a good thing! Back in the ring, Lawlor’s baited into kicking Rosser, only for it to be countered into a Dragon screw as Rosser eventually gets free to tag in David Finlay. Danny Limelight’s in in his dungarees, and eats a spinning side suplex before a Rocky Romero dropkick left Danny down.
Chops follow from Rocky, as did some Forever clotheslines, only for Danny to drop him in the ropes as Team Filthy proceeded to swarm Rocky in their corner. An effortless suplex from Kratos is next, before Rosser charged in to interrupt some posing from Team Filthy. Rocky recovers with a tijeras to Nelson, but Limelight’s back to stop the tag… only to get slapped away as Rocky manages to roll through to bring in Alex Zayne.
Zayne clears house, then propelled off of Nelson’s back to ‘rana Limelight off the top rope for a near-fall. A trip followed from Nelson to Zayne as he went for the flipping legdrop, which leads to Kratos coming back in… only to lose Zayne as Alex Coughlin came in to try and haul up the big man, who replies with a POUNCE.
Kratos’ leaping forearm squishes Coughlin in the corner ahead of a gutwrench suplex as a Parade of Moves threatened to start. Finlay leaps in, but gets tossed outside as Zayne proceeds to cut off whatever aerial maneuvers Kratos had planned… then threw in one of his own in the form of the inside-out springboard Asai moonsault. Rocky followed with a body press into the pile, while Kratos actually hits his pescado!
After all that excitement, Kratos goes back for Coughlin’s moustache, only for Alex to return with a clothesline to the back as he proceeded to deadlift Kratos into a gutwrench suplex. Tags bring us to Rosser and Isaacs, with Rosser’s Kitchen Sink knee helping him pull ahead, before Team Filthy double-teamed Rosser… who took a frog splash from Limelight for a near-fall.
The ring fills and empties to break up the pin, which left Rosser open to hit a sit-out side slam on Isaacs for the out-of-nowhere win. A decent tag match that’ll build up for that Strong title match whenever it happens. ***¼
United Empire (Jeff Cobb & TJP) vs. Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks
It’s the first time Cobb’s teamed with the newest addition to the United Empire, as they continue their beefs with the LA Dojo lads.
Cobb and Fredericks start us off, as Connors was getting stomped on by TJP in the corner. Fredericks low bridges Cobb to the outside as Karl followed with a tope con giro, which TJP wasn’t able to stop in time. Back inside, Connors took over on TJP with chops and mounted punches, before TJP drew Connors into the ropes for a guillotine choke.
Cobb’s back in as he shrugged off shoulder tackles from Connors, then charged him down after a kick in the ropes. Chop/clothesline combos keep Connors in the corner, while TJP followed with a senton atomico for a one-count. Cobb charges Connors between the corners as the LA dojo lads were struggling to get going, at least until Connors nailed a German suplex to stop TJP from booting him in the corner.
Fredericks gets the tag in and trades forearms with Cobb, but ends up getting pulled into a Spin Cycle. Tags bring us back to TJP and Connors, with TJP again taking the upper hand before he took a powerslam as Cobb needed to save the day. A satellite DDT from TJP, then a standing moonsault from Cobb adds another near-fall, before a Detonation kick from TJP was escaped.
Connors POUNCES TJP into Cobb, then hit a spear as the Dojo lads proceeded to isolate TJP… leading to a back elbow off the top from Connors for a near-fall. Cobb throws Connors into Fredericks to break up a Manifest Destiny attempt, before TJP spat water at Fredericks… an inside cradle followed, but Connors reverses it as the ref turned around to count the three as the United Empire stumbled to a defeat. ***
Ren Narita vs. Will Ospreay
Narita called out Ospreay on Strong recently… and was responded to with Ospreay labelling him “diet Shibata” in promos.
Ospreay insists that the ref hold up his IWGP title belt… so Narita just jumped Ospreay with kicks, taking him outside and into the crowd to start. Back inside, Ospreay’s met with a back body drop, then a kick to the back, before Ospreay booted Narita off the ropes to the outside.
A back suplex drops Narita across the guard rails next, before chops back in the ring wore Narita down some more. Ospreay mocks the Shibata sit-down pose, as Narita came back with back elbows and suplexes to turn things around. The handspring enziguiri puts Ospreay back in it, before things went outside as Ospreay leapt into an overhead belly-to-belly suplex.
Ospreay beats the count-out, but got pulled into a leg lock from Narita almost immediately as commentary then disappeared. This time without anyone running into the rails! Ospreay edges ahead with strikes, only to get caught with a Cobra Twist from Narita… it’s eventually escaped, but Narita comes right back with a German suplex before a Stundog caught Narita off guard.
Kicks from Ospreay wear down Narita from there, but an OsCutter’s blocked as Narita looked for a Narita special suplex. Instead, Ospreay lands a powerbomb as both men were looking for the big finish, before Ospreay jarred his knee as he aborted a 450 splash. Narita pounces immediately, locking in the Narita Special #3 leg lace, which almost forced Ospreay to tap.
Eventually Ospreay gets to the ropes and manages to land a hook kick to buy himself some more time. Narita avoids a Hidden Blade and nearly nicks it with an inside cradle, before he countered a Storm Breaker into a guillotine choke. Breaking the hold, Ospreay tees up for an OsCutter, planting Narita for a near-fall, before the Hidden Blade finished things off. A good showing for Narita, even if few believed he’d get the win, as he made Ospreay well and truly fight for the pin here. ***¾
Just three matches left, and we’re only halfway through the VOD? Uh-oh…
Moose vs. Juice Robinson
This was set up on the recent episodes of Strong – but Moose arrives having recently won the Impact World title, and came to the ring with it. The title’s not on the line, but a win for Juice could throw Impact’s storylines in the air.
Moose flipped off Juice to start, and gets the swear fingers back in return as Juice looked to take down the Impact champion with a side headlock. Misdirection in the ropes worked out better for Moose as he hits a shoulder tackle, taking Juice outside, before a series of chops saw Juice pull ahead.
Heading outside, Juice cannonballs off the apron, then sidestepped a chop as Moose hit the ring post… before he reversed an Irish whip as Juice ended up in the barriers. Back inside, Moose hits a uranage to avoid some Dusty punches, before more chops just seemed to fire up Juice in the corner. Elbows in return weaken Moose, as did some lariats, before a Left Hand of God caught Moose out on the top rope.
Juice ‘rana’s Moose off the top rope next, then met him with another cannonball in the corner as a frog splash followed for a near-fall. Moose pushes out of Pulp Friction as he returned with a dropkick, then a ring-shaking powerbomb for a near-fall, as Juice looked to be on his last legs… he finds a second wind, booting away Moose ahead of another Left Hand of God, before Pulp Friction finally landed.
Moose manages to kick out at two, then got dropped on his head with a lariat as Juice came close again. Juice takes too long following up off the top rope and gets met with a superplex, before Moose looked for a spear. It’s leapt over, but the roll-ups following only get two-counts for Juice, who nails one more Left Hand of God before a spear put him away. An enjoyable outing, with Juice coming pretty close – but Moose looked comfortable here, as he largely ha done on these New Japan US PPVs. ***½
We’re not done… because after the match we’ve got the debut of JONAH – the former Bronson Reed. The Aussie stomps his way down to the ring as his bass-heavy music rocked (ahem) the speakers, with JONAH having eyes for Moose. Hell yes, this is a great landing spot for him – especially once borders open up. Moose and JONAH have a staredown, and while Moose exited stage left, JONAH clubbered away on Juice… then David Finlay, whose attempts to save things ended rudely. Thanks for coming lads!
Buddy Matthews vs. Kazuchika Okada
It’s a New Japan debut for the former Buddy Murphy, who called his shot and got his wish here.
We’ve a tentative start as Okada took Matthews into the corner for the mocking-clean break, which Matthews returned the favour on, before we had headlocks and headscissors to take us into the stand-off. Things spill outside as Okada ends up getting dropped onto the apron, leading to a count-out tease as Matthews began to target Okada’s lower back.
Okada manages to fight back with forearms, leading to a flapjack and a DDT that spiked Matthews for a two-count. A Money Clip’s blocked by Matthews, who took things back outside for a tope con giro. Okada avoids a leap off the top back inside, then caught Matthews out of the corner with a neckbreaker slam for a near-fall, before we get the slam, elbow drop and the Rainmaker zoom out.
Matthews fights out of a Rainmaker attempt, taking things into the corner as he boots Okada away, before a sunset flip out of the corner saw the Aussie continue to roll through into a buckle bomb. He goes back to Okada’s back before Danielson elbows had the G1 winner on the deck, forcing the referee to separate the two – but not at the cost of calling off the match. Okada gets to his hands and knees as he’s met with a curb stomp, but Matthews can’t quite get the win there, as he opted to mock the Rainmaker pose after the kick-out.
We don’t get the zoom out, as Matthews went for the move… but Okada ducks it and hits a spinning Rainmaker in return. A tombstone looks to follow, but Matthews goes to the back again, only for Okada to nail an elbow strike and a dropkick to turn it back around. The spinning tombstone followed from Okada, but Matthews pulls himself to the ropes to try and avoid a Rainmaker…
Kicks from Matthews can only delay the Rainmaker, as Okada eats a knee before he scooped up Matthews for the Landslide Tombstone… then a Rainmaker for the win. A really good showing from Matthews in his debut – more than holding his end of the bargain here – and hopefully he’ll be able to build from this on New Japan shows, rather than this be a one-off, right? ***¾
Okada’s celebrations are interrupted by Will Ospreay, who seemed to want Okada to challenge him for his version of the IWGP World Heavyweight title. Okada refused, and instead told Ospreay to challenge him instead. Ospreay played the “I’m the real world heavyweight champion” card, and then said that he’d face on January 5… whoever won what he dubbed the “interim” title between Shingo and Okada.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Jay White (c)
Ishii’s 2-1 in their prior singles meetings, but White did win their last meeting, back at Castle Attack in Osaka in February of this year… having taken umbrage at how Ishii beat him at New Year Dash to start that whole “Jay quitting” storyline that really went nowhere.
We’ve a tentative start as Ishii ends up getting TKO’d across the ropes, before trips to the guard rails had Ishii in a spot of bother. Taking things back inside, White’s only able to get a couple of two-counts, before a series of chops kept Ishii in the corner. A neckbreaker from White adds another two-count, before a half crab forced Ishii to crawl towards the ropes.
More chops from White keep Ishii on his knees, which were then met with a knee breaker before Ishii charged back to knock down the NEVER champion. The pair fight over a suplex, as a scoop slam from Ishii leaves White down, ahead of some retaliatory chops and forearms from Ishii in the corner.
White gets back in with a snap DDT, planting Ishii on his head, before a death valley driver retained the focus as we passed the ten minute marker. Ishii sinks White into the corner with some more chops, only for White to return with a sleeper suplex into the corner as both men clearly hated the other having a neck. A Blade Buster keeps White ahead, as he then took Ishii into the corner for some very familiar chops and forearms as the challenger was left laying.
Eventually Ishii began to wake up and walk through those forearms, eventually blasting the Kiwi into the corner with a retaliatory strike. White teems off on Ishii with elbows to try and prevent a superplex, but Ishii just absorbs them and hits the superplex anyway. A powerbomb’s next, but White punches out and returned with a uranage to create some space.
We’re back with the back-and-forth elbows, which sees Ishii pull ahead once more… before he bounced up from a back suplex and took White down with one of his own. White responds by hauling Ishii over the top to the floor, before following up with a Kiwi Krusher for a near-fall.
Ishii blocks a sleeper suplex attempt and returned with another German suplex, only for White to hit it anyway. A lariat stops White in his tracks as commentary’s laid out again, but White hits one of his own before hitting Ishii with a brainbuster. And a swear, to boot! Ishii popped up at one out of defiance, but White’s still standing tall… at least until he’s cracked with a headbutt… only for White to counter a clothesline into a Complete Shot.
Another sleeper suplex bounces Ishii, but a Blade Runner’s countered out of with a clothesline as a sliding lariat nearly wins the title. They do the doe-see-doe counters around the Blade Runner until Ishii hits a Dragon suplex, then a lariat, before the sheer-drop brainbuster led to the pin. Tomohiro Ishii wins the NEVER Openweight title for a record sixth time, in a match that I was weirdly cold to. Maybe it was the crowd seeming tired, but this match just didn’t click as well as it could have done, as New Japan at least get the NEVER title back on their home turf. ***½
Battle in the Valley was a good show, but one that perhaps was lacking a certain spark – both going in and coming out of it. I’ve said it in my reviews of Strong, but New Japan serving masters in two continents at the same time is always going to be tough, even more so when you’re dealing with covid-enforced travel restrictions. Running weekly episodes of Strong building up quarterly specials isn’t a bad business model – but certainly there needs to be something happening from within to create that buzz, as you’ll only be able to get away with flying in big names from Japan for so long, even when restrictions go.