Aussie Open defend their New Japan Strong tag team titles against the West Coast Wrecking Crew as a new tour begins.
Mascara Dorada pinned Misterioso in 9:41 (***)
Robbie Eagles submitted Kevin Blackwood in 11:32 (***½)
Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher pinned Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson in 11:38 to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship (****)
We’re back at the Vermont Hollywood in Los Angeles – a venue that I feel New Japan may be overdoing… Ian Riccaboni and Alex Kozlov are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their suit games.
Misterioso vs. Mascara Dorada
Ian’s calling this a dream match… Riccaboni, that is, who also noted that Misterioso has mostly been a tag guy on Strong in the last 18 months.
Dorada’s taken down with a waistlock to start, but kipped back up for an armdrag as he and Misterioso went back-and-forth in the opening stretch. Misterioso trips Dorada to the mat for some pinning attempts, but Dorada’s monkey flip takes Misterioso down as we get duelling two-counts, then a roll back up as Dorada floated out of a monkey flip. Some rope-walking led to a springboard ‘rana to take Misterioso to the outside, with Misterioso catching a tope con giro before he swung Dorada into the rails. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen someone do that! Back inside, Misterioso went up top but rolled through a senton… then rolled through a Dorado ‘rana for a near-fall as things went to the corner for some running knees.
Misterioso gets some two-counts out of that, before a Fireman’s carry slam left Dorada down… a senton atomico misses, with Dorada then lifting Misterioso to the outside for a rope-walk flip senton off the top rope. Back inside again, a springboard senton nearly wins it for Dorada, before a shotgun dropkick off the top got Misterioso back in it. Another dive sees Misterioso crush Dorada with a tope con giro, which nearly got us a double count-out as both men landed in the railings. Back inside, Misterioso shrugged things off for a dropkick, before the pair traded right hands. Dorada’s lifted to the apron, but came back with a gamengiri that knocked Misterioso down briefly… he’s back with a gamengiri of his own as the pair climb the buckles, leading to a top rope ‘rana from Misterioso.
Misterioso keeps the pressure up with an electric chair into a German suplex – almost a Croyt’s Wrath – but Misterioso couldn’t get a good cover on it. After kicking out, Dorada tries a C4, but couldn’t get it as he instead spiked Misterioso on a German suplex, then a satellite DDT, before a spinning death valley driver got the win. This was better than I expected going in, given Misterioso’s mostly been a tag guy, but Dorada’s been looking good in his New Japan return on Strong. ***
Kevin Blackwood vs. Robbie Eagles
It’s a return to Strong for the former junior heavyweight champion Robbie Eagles, after a year away…
The pair go from wristlock to waistlock in the early stages, before Blackwood teased a Sharpshooter, forcing Eagles to scurry into the ropes. A shoulder tackle drops Blackwood next, before leapfrogs and dropdowns led to Blackwood again tripping Eagles for a Cloverleaf attempt that was pushed off. Eagles hooks the ropes, but gets chopped by Blackwood, before a springboard armdrag and a ‘rana took Blackwood down. A spinning heel kick from Eagles keeps him ahead, as did a low dropkick, but Blackwood’s up at one and returned with a back elbow. Palm strikes and kicks wear down Eagles, who ends up getting tripped and stomped on after another exchange. Blackwood follows with some choking by the ropes, then a back suplex for a two-count, before some Danielson elbows took us past the five-minute mark.
Eagles elbows out of an abdominal stretch, then took out Blackwood’s knee ahead of a clothesline to the back of the head. Kicks take Blackwood to the corner for some running double knees, before a 619 to the back of the knees led to a low dropkick that Blackwood blocked out of the corner. Blackwood keeps going with forearms and elbows, before his Exploder suplex was blocked… while dualling front kicks knocked both men down to their knees. We’re back to forearms from there, before a head kick from Eagles, then a superkick led to him missing an enziguiri as Blackwood’s knee strike and discus forearm looked to have him back in it. A delayed cover from an Asai DDT – or a Pulse Drop, as they called it here – nearly wins it for Eagles, who adds a springboard dropkick to the knee, before his Ron Miller Special was pushed away.
Blackwood returns with a high-angle cloverleaf as he looked for the stoppage, but Eagles gets to the ropes as he then snuck in with a roll-up for a two-count. A leg sweep and a head kick keeps Blackwood ahead, as did a deadlift brainbuster, before Blackwood jarred his knee after missing a double stomp. That allowed Eagles in with a Turbo Backpack for a near-fall, before a 450 splash to the knee and a Ron Miller Special forced the tap. I really dug this match, although in the vacuum that is Strong, it’s pretty unlikely this’ll be anything more than “a pretty good match.” ***½
We get a video package focusing on Aussie Open’s NJPW Strong tag title win… and Jorel Nelson’s backstage challenge for them.
NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship: West Coast Wrecking Crew (Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) (c)
This was originally meant to be the first defence of the Strong Openweight tag titles… but ended up being the second, since Aussie Open defeated Connor Mills & Michael Oku 24 hours earlier at Rev Pro’s 10th anniversary show.
Fletcher and Nelson start us off, with Jorel’s fantastically-tassled trunks really catching the eye. Kyle’s standing switch helps take Nelson down, but Jorel’s quickly in with a side headlock before Fletcher shrugged off some shoulder tackles. Kyle kicks Nelson in the midsection, but couldn’t avoid a slingshot spear as he tried to catch out the challenger, who landed a leaping shoulder tackle seconds later, then a leaping double knees into the corner. Isaacs tags in and caught Fletcher in the midsection ahead of a Nelson pounce, but it’s good for just a one-count. Fletcher avoids a knee from Nelson, but couldn’t avoid Isaacs’ Dragon screw as Davis came in to break-up a double-team suplex… only to take it himself seconds later. A gamengiri from Fletcher stops Nelson on the top rope as all four men spilled outside, leading to a pair of back suplexes onto the apron from the Aussies.
Back inside, a Fletcher PK and a Davis back senton led to a lackadaisical two-count on Nelson, who was then grounded with a chinlock. Nelson broke free, but gets slammed… and rolled away from a back senton only for Fletcher to tag in and charge Isaacs off the apron. Chops keep Nelson cornered ahead of a superplex attempt, which Nelson bit away before a big crossbody off the top cleared half the ring to take down Fletcher. Isaacs gets the tag in to trade elbows with Fletcher, with Kyle being taken down with a running clothesline seconds later. A running clothesline takes Fletcher to the corner, forcing Mark Davis in to make a save, but he takes a Superman punch as Isaacs wore down both of the champions with repeated clotheslines in the corner. Fletcher’s forced to kick out from a Jackhammer, as he then returned with a forearm… only to get pulled into a German suplex moments later.
An assisted Dominator from the challengers almost get the win, as Davis dove in to break up the pin, before the Aussies escaped duelling German suplexes and hit back with stereo brainbusters. Nelson ducks out as the Aussies hit each other with forearms, as things began to hit the final stretch, with Davis taking a Dragon screw before a pop-up powerbomb and slingshot death valley driver onto the knees almost ended the Aussies’ tag title reign on their second defence. Fletcher escapes a suplex seconds later, then cracked Nelson with a superkick as Isaacs took a Dental Plan… then an assisted Aussie Arrow for a near-fall, with Nelson breaks up the pin. Jorel’s thrown and dropkicked to the outside as Isaacs is left on his lonesome for some forearms, before a Coriolis got the win. A phenomenal match that I fear won’t get the eyeballs because of the show it’s on, but those who went out of their way for this got a heck of a tag match to main event this week. ****
New Japan Strong has settled into a groove as of late – with a lot of solid (at worst) to good wrestling, as evidenced by this week’s line-up, but not much in the way of sizzle outside of the steak. I get we can’t always have a Lawlor/Rosser-style feud on the go, but it’d be nice for Strong to not be quite so meat-and-potatoes every week.