KUSHIDA debuts on Strong as he teams up with Ren Narita to take on JD Drake and Anthony Henry in this week’s main event.

Quick Results
The DKC & Kevin Knight pinned Matt Sigmon & Elliot Russell in 9:55 (**¾)
QT Marshall pinned Parker Li in 2:56 (**)
TJP pinned Mascara Dorada in 11:55 (***¼)
KUSHIDA & Ren Narita pinned Anthony Henry & JD Drake in 11:18 (***¼)

We’re back at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte, NC for another episode that’s going over the hour-mark. Ian Riccaboni and Alex Kozlov are back on commentary.

The DKC & Kevin Knight vs. Heatseekers (Matt Sigmon & Elliot Russell)
This was a show debut for Sigmon and Russell, who’ve made a name for themselves in the Carolinas, having teamed for the best part of a decade.

Sigmon and Knight start us off, with Knight taking things to the corner before the pair went back-and-forth on a wristlock. Knight took Sigmon down, but had to escape some headscissors before he got charged down. An armdrag put Knight back ahead, but Sigmon backs him into the ropes before he got caught with a slam and a twisting standing frog splash for a near-fall. The DKC tags in for a double-team hiptoss to Sigmon for a two-count, as Elliot Russell came in and found himself on the defensive, taking a double back elbow and a DKC chop. Sigmon’s thrown into Russell on the outside ahead of a Knight plancha. Knight headed up top, but gets crotched in the buckles by Sigmon, before a shoulder tackle from Russell connected for a two-count.

Russell and Sigmon double-team Knight as the referee was distracted by DKC, while forearms from above wore down Knight for a near-fall. A bridging German suplex from Sigmon gets a near-fall, before Sigmon came off the middle rope and landed on Knight’s foot. Knight manages to escape both Heatseekers as Sigmon hit the corner, while a dropkick took down Russell and allowed DKC to tag in. The hot tag allowed DKC to chop Russell and Sigmon, before a trip up top ended in a flying single leg kick for just a one-count. A backbreaker from Russell stopped DKC in his tracks, as an Oklahoma Stampede from Russell and a swandive headbutt from Sigmon ended with Knight getting DKC’s foot on the rope to save the match.

Sigmon puts the boots to DKC from there, then went for a suplex… but DKC countered with an inside cradle. Russell comes in to reverse the cradle, but the ref refuses to count… Kevin Knight slides in to reverse the cradle, and that sucker must have been on super tight because Sigmon couldn’t kick out, as the LA Dojo lads sneak a win. **¾

QT Marshall’s out next in his gear and (eventually) gets a live mic. He takes credit for Forbidden Door, and gets What’d out of the building. He dubbed Charlotte a “C-market,” and went to introduce a mystery opponent for today, Parker Li.

QT Marshall vs. Parker Li
Li had no entrance music or video, but did have the state of Oregon tattoo’d on him.

Marshall’s right in with a headlock takedown, before Parker got free and hit a dropkick. A second one misses as QT came back in with a thunderous clothesline, before elbow drops left Parker laying. Parker goes for flash pins, scoring two counts from an inside cradle and a backslide, before a pop-up dropkick stunned QT. Li’s lifted over the top rope but came back in with a springboard… and got forearm’d down. QT calls for a Diamond Cutter, and planted Parker for the win. Expected squash is expected. **

Post-match, QT took the mic and said that he was ready for another match now he’s warmed up. There’s nobody who can take him to his limit, he reckons, and of course QT’s answered by someone from the back… it’s Shota Umino, who gets a pretty good reaction. Of course, QT bails after he called out the referee, heading to the back after riling up Shota… and I guess that’ll be a match for down the line.

Mascara Dorada vs. TJP
TJP came out holding one of Dorada’s masks, having unmasked him earlier in the year…

We’ve a measured start as TJP came in with a side headlock, then a wristlock, before Dorada’s armdrag got himself free. The pair go to ground as TJP held in a hammerlock, but Dorada snapmares free before he blocked a monkey flip and chopped TJP. A springboard crossbody from TJP turns it around, only for Dorada to land a springboard armdrag that drew scattered applause. A Slingblade facebuster and a springboard dropkick takes TJP down for a two-count. An eye rake from TJP’s answered as Dorada dropkicked him out through the ropes, but Dorada couldn’t follow up as he’s pulled off the apron, then charged into the railings. Back inside, TJP hits a leaping knee drop for a two-count, before some face-washing boots caught Mascara Dorada in the corner.

The Charlotte crowd are deathly silent for large parts of this, making some noise as TJP went for the mask, then grabbed a chinlock. Dorada elbows out, but his springboard lands in a cross armbar from TJP, before a Muta Lock ended in the ropes. TJP misses a slingshot senton back in as Dorada bulldogged him to the outside… then followed up with a tope into the aisle. Back inside, a rope-walk into a senton bomb gets Dorada a two-count, before TJP countered out of a powerbomb into a DDT. Dorada returns with a roll-up for a near-fall, before a rope-walk springboard was met with a superkick… he adds one of his own, before the pair jockey over a suplex, ending with TJP dumping Dorada in the ropes.

Dorada’s unable to escape a Mamba Splash as TJP flew off the top, sending both men to the outside… TJP rolls him back inside to pick up a two-count, before another Mamba Splash was aborted, with Dorada countering into a Samoan driver for a near-fall. A moonsault off the top’s almost blocked, but Dorada catches the counter by turning it into a knee bar, forcing TJP into some dastardly acts, as he pulled off Dorada’s mask. Dorada’s forced to let go of the hold, and with Dorada putting the mask back on, TJP heads up top and crushed him with a Mamba Splash for the win. The Charlotte crowd really wasn’t interested in a lot of this, but this was a well-worked outing with a neat finish. ***¼

Workhorsemen (JD Drake & Anthony Henry) vs. Ren Narita & KUSHIDA
Hey, New Japan got the Workhorsemen’s old EVOLVE theme! Which, I just learned, was a Mikey Rukus piece. Speaking of music, KUSHIDA’s theme is always associated with this tweet in my mind. You’re welcome.

Narita and Henry start us off, but (go go) APH wants KUSHIDA… and gets him. They trade wristlocks and snapmares as Henry ended up backing off into the ropes. JD Drake tags in and traded chops with KUSHIDA, who then tried for a slam. Not wise, that…

A clothesline downs KUSHIDA, as Henry returned to hit a low dropkick, while Drake’s back senton got him a two-count. Drake’s back as KUSHIDA’s double-teamed amid a series of quick tags in and out. Eventually, KUSHIDA snuck in with a handspring back elbow to both of the Workhorsemen, then made the tag out to Narita, who charged at Henry with a front kick. Narita’s half-hatch suplex out of the corner’s good for a two-count, while a side Russian legsweep dropped Henry ahead of a Deathlock that Henry cradled his way out of. Henry gets his boot up to stop Narita, as Drake threw Ren into the ropes ahead of a dropkick for a two-count. Drake’s chops took Narita back into the corner, before Ren tried to fight back, only to run into a clothesline.

A standing splash got Drake a one-count as KUSHIDA broke up the pin, before Narita rolled down Henry for a Shibata-ish PK to the back. That pissed off Drake, who slammed and hit a falling headbutt on Narita before he tagged back in, as it was time to kick the Young Lion in the back. A lot. Narita escapes a slam and shoved Henry into Drake…KUSHIDA gets the hot tag in and charges into Henry, but a punt to the arm misses. Narita’s back for a release overhead belly-to-belly on Henry, while a bell clapper from Drake saved him from a similar fate. Instead, Narita’s hoisted up into an airplane spin cutter from Henry, while Drake’s Shining Wizard left him in the corner for running double knees and a cannonball.

Henry heads up top for a stomp, while Drake added a moonsault for a near-fall. KUSHIDA’s back in to slam the big guy Drake, before Henry ate a flying chop off the top rope. Baba-ish?! KUSHIDA goes more conventional with a cartwheel dropkick and a hammerlock suplex… bridging Henry on the landing for the win. I could have done with a few more minutes of this, truth be told, as the Workhorsemen more than shined up KUSHIDA and Narita here. This’d better not be a one-and-done for Drake and Henry here! ***¼

This was a somewhat odd episode of Strong with the crowd veering between silent and hot (for their size).