We’ve got the first of the tag title tournament semis on this week’s Strong, as the show celebrated its 100th episode.
JR Kratos pinned Jordan Cruz in 4:01 (**)
Rocky Romero, David Finlay & Mascara Dorada pinned Lucas Riley, Adrian Quest & Negro Casas in 11:03 (**¾)
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Yuya Uemura & Christopher Daniels pinned Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls in 10:02 (***¼)
We’re back at the Vermont Hollywood in Los Angeles for this one, with Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov on commentary.
Jordan Cruz vs. JR Kratos
Commentary had hyped up Cruz’s appearances in AEW… which lasted under three minutes. Combined.
Cruz just stands and waited for Kratos to POUNCE him into the buckles at the bell, before a suplex throw chucked Jordan across the ring. Elbows keep Cruz sandwiched in the corner, but he kicked out at one, before he elbowed out of a side headlock. A slap from Cruz earned him a big boot in return, then a deadlift suplex as Cruz this time kicked out at two. Kratos misses a couple of elbow drops as Cruz fought back with dropkicks and a flying uppercut off the top… but Kratos doesn’t go down. The big man takes a ‘rana but still doesn’t go down as Cruz then ran into a diving kick from Kratos, before a corner clothesline and a leaping lariat, before Kratos popped him up into a swinging side slam for the win. Thanks for coming, Jordan. **
After the match, Kratos flipped off the crowd as he battled a heckler while calling out Alex Coughlin for a Last Man Standing match.
Adrian Quest, Lucas Riley & Negro Casas vs. David Finlay, Mascara Dorada & Rocky Romero
Negro Casas has been wrestling for longer than I’ve been alive, but hasn’t appeared for New Japan since before the pandemic, as those Fantasticamania tours have been put on ice.
Finlay starts out with Casas, taking him to the corner early on before he took Casas down for an armbar. Finlay rolls him over for a two-count before tagging in to Mascara Dorada… Adrian Quest tags in to trade shoulder tackles before Quest scored with a springboard tornillo. Dorada’s dragged into the corner as Riley came in, only to get booted and met with a reverse Slingblade for a one-count. Rocky Romero tags in and stays on Riley with a snapmare and a low dropkick. A turnaround brings Casas in to trade palm strikes with Rocky, only to get taken into the corner for some Forever clotheslines. Casas ducks one and returned with some mudhole stomping, then a running low dropkick before Riley tagged back in.
A snapmare and a running shooting star press gets a two-count for Riley, who followed with a senton atomico as the up and comers alongside Casas were making a mark. Casas is in for a cross armbar to force Rocky into the ropes, following with some stomps as Riley and Quest came in to get them some too. Eventually Rocky gets free and tagged in Mascara Dorada… who handsprings past Casas ahead of a ‘rana. Dorada spins on the ropes and takes down Casas with a dropkick for a near-fall, before tags bring us to Quest and Finlay. A tiltawhirl from Finlay ended with him getting pushed away as Quest ends up springboarding into a uranage backbreaker.
Rocky’s back to stomp on Quest in the ropes with a Strong Zero, before a head kick from Quest took Rocky back down. Riley tags in to clear house as Rocky’s triple-teamed, taking a Codebreaker and a senton bomb for a near-fall. The ring clears with dives as we cross the ten minute mark, but Rocky stays in the ring to clothesline Riley as a running Shiranui gets the win. This was alright, but felt like it was missing something. **¾
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: TMDK (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls) vs. Christopher Daniels & Yuya Uemura
Daniels and Uemura overcame the Factory in the first round, while TMDK got past the West Coast Wrecking Crew in their opener.
TMDK jump their opponents before the bell, throwing Daniels out of the ring as they looked to isolate Uemura. Daniels pulls Uemura into the ropes to slow things down as the match started… with Shane Haste getting double-teamed, taking a double hiptoss. Uemura flapjacks Daniels onto Haste, then hit a slam as Daniels tagged in to land a slingshot elbow drop for a two-count. Haste’s chopped down from there, while Uemura flew in with a dropkick to aid a side-Russian legsweep for a near-fall. Elbow drops help get Uemura a near-fall, before Mikey Nicholls tripped Uemura, allowing TMDK to double-team him. Nicholls tagged in to hit a knee drop to the back of Uemura’s head, then a rather-less-legal eye gouge as Uemura came up with a bloodied nose from that knee drop.
Seeing red, Uemura fires back, only to get chopped down ahead of a standing moonsault and a fist drop combo that crashed into Uemura. A dropkick from Haste stops Uemura’s thoughts of a comeback, and nearly ended the match too, before Nicholls came in for a double-team Air Raid Crash for another near-fall. Uemura gets back into it with a suplex on Nicholls, who couldn’t recover in time to stop Daniels from tagging in. Clotheslines from Daniels drew in Haste… who took a back body drop before Nicholls tried to block a STO, only to go down anyway. Nicholls gets thrown outside anyway as Haste ate a Blue Thunder bomb… Nicholls is back in to take Angels Wings, but he back body drops free, then scored a spinebuster.
Daniels takes a low clothesline for a two-count, before TMDK combined for the Tagbuster – Big Ending DDT combo… only for Daniels to kick out at two. Breaking free, Daniels tags Uemura back in, with the still-bloodied Yuya running wild, eventually taking down Nicholls with a dropkick before a Kanuki suplex took down Haste for a near-fall. Heading up top, Uemura’s caught by TMDK as they went for a Tower of Doom that just as much damage to them as to Uemura…
Nicholls drags Haste onto Uemura for a near-fall, before Daniels came in and took a double-team press slam. Uemura runs back in to dropkick Haste into Nicholls, sending Mikey to the outside, before a ‘rana snatched the win for Yuya! Uemura and Daniels head to the finals to take on either Aussie Open or the Stray Dog Army. ***¼
Another solid episode of Strong, but the largely quiet LA crowd dragged this down a little at times.