Aussie Open face the Stray Dog Army in the remaining semi-final of the New Japan Strong tag title tournament.
Jeff Cobb pinned Jordan Clearwater in 4:27 (**¼)
Fred Yehi submitted Bateman in 7:30 (**½)
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis pinned Barrett Brown & Misterioso in 7:27 (***)
Hikuleo, Jay White & Chase Owens pinned Kevin Knight, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Fred Rosser in 15:41 (***¼)
We’re back at the Vermont Hollywood in Los Angeles for this one, with Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov on commentary.
Jordan Clearwater vs. Jeff Cobb
It’s been a long while since Clearwater’s been on Strong – over six months, in fact…
Clearwater jumped Cobb to start, sending him outside with an enziguiri… before Cobb was sent into the ring post. Back inside, Clearwater gets just a one-count before Cobb charged him into the corner ahead of a takedown. A suplex from Clearwater’s countered as Cobb threw him down with ease for a couple of pin attempts. Cobb throws a clothesline, but misses a standing moonsault seconds later… he has more luck catching Clearwater’s crossbody, only to eat a leaping knee and a neckbreaker as Clearwater threatened the upset. Clearwater looks for the Midas Touch running boot, but Cobb sidesteps, taking him into the corner ahead of a running back suplex for just a one-count.
A standing moonsault makes it a two-count for Cobb, before Clearwater got a two of his own from a roll-up. Another leaping knee’s countered into a German suplex from Cobb, who then quickly slammed the door shut with a Tour of the Islands. **¼
Bateman vs. Fred Yehi
We’ve at least got some history as Yehi and Bateman have opposed each other in trios matches previously.
Yehi takes down Bateman early on, only for Bateman to knock him into the corner. A whip across the ring leads to a pancake slam and a knee drop, before Yehi tried to chop his way back in. A Dragon screw keeps Bateman down for some stomps, before he picked him up and yanked the arm over his shoulder. A Kimura attempt from Bateman ends in the ropes before it could get going, allowing Yehi to chop Bateman into the corner as some headscissors kept the big man down. Yehi tries for a cover, but Bateman keeps rolling his right shoulder up… so Yehi stomps on it instead.
Bateman’s back with chops of his own, taking Yehi into the corner before the fight back saw Yehi knock down Bateman with a forearm. More arm work allowed Yehi to chop Bateman down again, but he can’t follow up with a slam… so instead he goes for a rear naked choke, only to get backed into the corner. A brainbuster dumps Yehi, but he comes back out of the corner with a backfist before a Koji clutch and some hammer fists scored the submission. I liked the flash finish, but a lot of this felt flat. **½
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Final: Stray Dog Army (Misterioso & Barrett Brown) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
The winners face Christopher Daniels & Yuya Uemura in the finals…
Fletcher and Brown start us off, as Brown instantly took Fletcher into the ropes… following with a superkick and a low dropkick before Misterioso came in to help take care of an onrushing Mark Davis. Dunkzilla’s cornered for some running double knees as Misterioso then scored a hiptoss and a Quebrada to Fletcher. Misterioso continues with a Finlay roll into the corner, but his follow-up moonsault’s superkicked away as Davis ran in for some double-teaming. The Aussies stay on Misterioso, wrapping his arm around the ropes before Davis broke off to boot Brown off the apron, returning to drop Misterioso with a slam for nary a one-count.
Fletcher’s back to boot Misterioso in the corner, following up with a slam and a chinlock as things were kept on the ground. Brown broke it up, only to get chucked outside by Davis, who dumped him with a back suplex onto the edge of the ring as quick tags kept the Aussies fresh. Misterioso tries to fight back, blocking the double team Go 2 Sleep before hitting a handspring double back elbow. Brown gets the tag in from there, ducking a Davis boot before booting his charge away… a missile dropkick took the Aussies down, as did a flip senton to the outside. Back inside, Brown shoves Fletcher into a Misterioso superkick and back cracker, before a Busaiku knee nearly got the upset. Davis breaks up the cover, then took care of Misterioso as they clobbered Brown into the corner.
Davis’ sliding punch keeps Brown at bay as Misterioso’s latest save was thwarted… allowing the Aussies to soften up Brown for the Coriolis for the win. A little shorter than I’d have liked to have seen, but it’s setting up for an interesting final on the next set of tapings. ***
After the match, Fletcher said that Aussie Open had held tag team gold everywhere they’d been – and New Japan was going to be no different.
Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Hikuleo & Jay White) vs. Fred Rosser, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kevin Knight
Ignore what the New Japan website’s saying – this wasn’t a double-dose of Yehi, as they mixed their Freds up… on Rosser’s first outing since he won the Strong title. Oops.
White and Tanahashi start the match, but White tagged out to Chase Owens before they touched. Tanahashi looked crestfallen…
A tie-up sees Tanahashi grab a side headlock, but Chase pulled the hair, then had his pulled as they went into the corner. Tanahashi uppercuts Chase, then hit a springboard crossbody out of the corner, before Rosser tagged in to charge down Chase… and play a little air guitar. Chops take Owens into the corner, as did clotheslines ahead of a hairmare out of the corner. A couple of sit-down splashes from Rosser get a one-count, before Kevin Knight tagged in to drop Chase with a bodyslam. Owens returns with a shoulder tackle off the ropes, before Knight blocked an O’Connor roll and turned a leapfrog into a Boston crab. Jay White runs in and earned himself a Boston crab too, which Hikuleo just broke up with a chop.
White tagged back in and stayed on Knight with chops, while Hikuleo did more of the same in the corner. Knight’s thrown into the corner pad by Hikuleo, with Knight bouncing out of the corner in an ugly manner as Rosser broke up the cover. Owens returns for a back rake to Knight, then homed in on Knight’s neck as the Bullet Club looked in control. Chase adds a neckbreaker to the mix as he continued to taunt Tanahashi, allowing Knight time to recover. Knight throws some uppercuts, only to get blasted with a slap… he returns the favour, before Chase backslid him for a package piledriver, only for Knight to counter out for an enziguiri.
Knight tries to leap over Chase for a tag out, but had to score with a nice dropkick to Owens… then pushed away White as Tanahashi got the tag in. Tanahashi clears the apron before he took to the ropes for a forearm, knocking White down, as right hands took White into the corner ahead of a slam and a flip senton. Going for the hair, White pulls Tanahashi down with a Dragon screw, following in with a Blade Buster for a near-fall. A Dragon screw from Tanahashi stopped that offensive, before he came out of a Blade Runner to hit a Twist and Shout. Hikuleo gets the tag in to stay on Tanahashi, but eats a low dropkick as Fred Rosser returned to reignite that old flame with Hikuleo.
A double-team suplex bounces Hikuleo before White and Owens ran in for double Dragon screws. It bought Hikuleo enough time to come up and clothesline Tanahashi and Rosser, with the latter adding another Dragon screw before he tagged in Kevin Knight. There’s a splash to Hikuleo in the corner, but Hikuleo pushes free for a chokeslam… which Knight rolled his way out of for a near-fall. From the kick-out, Knight tries for a Boston crab, only to get struck down as Knight began a Parade of Moves with a dropkick. Tanahashi adds a Slingblade, Rosser a sit-down splash, then Knight’s leaping frog splash looked to send him onto the home straight… before he rolled Hikuleo into a Boston crab. Eventually Hikuleo powers out, then grabbed Knight’s throat… a scoop slam has the Young Lion down, before a chokeslam dropped him into the middle of the ring for the match-winning three-count. ***¼
The Bullet Club celebrate – eventually to Hikuleo’s music, and not the Guerrillas of Destiny’s theme – as Jay White claimed that him holding the IWGP World Heavyweight title was was proof that NJPW Strong was a success. Of course him putting over everyone led to a 180 as White claimed that “Strong needs me,” as he wrapped up with his usual array of tag lines – throwing in a new claim that he “single-handedly” sold out the United Center for extra trolling.
A so-so culmination to the tour, as the table’s been set for the tag title tournament finals. Curiously, there was little mention of the Music City Mayhem show that preceded this (live, at least), which is part of the reason why I’ve stopped following those US PPVs, as Strong doesn’t seem to weave into those too often.