Minoru Suzuki returns to New Japan Strong, facing Fred Yehi in the main event.
Kenny King pinned Che Cabrera in 8:06 (**¾)
Danny Limelight & JR Kratos pinned Jordan Cruz & Adrian Quest in 8:20 (***)
Minoru Suzuki pinned Fred Yehi in 16:27 (***¼)
We’re back at the Vermont Hollywood, in Los Angeles… Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov once again host, and this week they’ve got their Twitter handles in their lower thirds. Great timing on that one, fellas…
This week’s promo interruption comes from Tom Lawlor, who hypes up Team Filthy’s tag match against “two tomato cans”, alongside a plug for Lawlor’s match next week against Homicide, as he vowed to show up Homicide as an “untrained street thug.”
Che Cabrera vs. Kenny King
This was King’s Strong debut, being billed as an international star, while Ian Riccaboni brought up how he eliminated Great Muta and Jushin Thunder Liger on that ROH/New Japan Supercard of Honor years ago…
Kenny actually got a reaction out of this crowd, which is at times akin to being able to walk on water. Che Cabrera did too, so I’m wondering if this was early in the tapings (yes, it was). King attacks Cabrera as he was playing to the crowd, but Che’s able to hit a clothesline and a hiptoss, before he caught a crossbody before he clotheslined King to the outside. Back inside, King uses the referee to shield a cheapshot on Cabrera as King pulled ahead… sweeping the leg as a kick drew just a one-count. Cabrera reverses a whip into the corner, but King vaults over and rolled through in for a spinebuster for a two-count. A camel clutch keeps Cabrera down, only for King to miss a springboard legdrop off the bottom rope.
Cabrera’s able to capitalise with a scoop slam out of the corner, then with a tiltawhirl backbreaker and a belly-to-belly. King rolls outside, but wandered into the path of a plancha, only for King to score a Dragon suplex back inside. A Tiger driver’s next for a near-fall for King… who got caught with an Anarchy Suplex (a Magic Screw) for a near-fall from Cabrera in return. King’s able to force his way back in though, but misses a Blockbuster attempt as Cabrera shot back with an Alabama Slam… but King’s up at two, then caught Cabrera with an enziguiri on the top rope as he brought him down with a Royal Flush (Fireman’s carry spun into a uranage) for the win. This was fine, since New Japan doesn’t tend to do blowaway debuts… **¾
Team Filthy (Danny Limelight & JR Kratos) vs. Adrian Quest & Jordan Cruz
Having been called “tomato cans” by Tom Lawlor at the top of the show, Cruz and Quest have a daunting task on their hands.
Limelight and Quest start up, firing up old rivalries as a shoulder tackle from Limelight earned him an armdrag and a flying ‘rana from Quest. A roll-up gets Quest a two-count, before Jordan Cruz came in to gutwrench suplex Limelight for a two-count. Chops and forearms leave Limelight in the ropes, but Limelight’s able to get the tag out as Kratos looked to turn the tables. Cruz gets launched into the turnbuckle by Kratos, then suplex-thrown out of it as Kratos was predictably dominating things. Limelight kicks Cruz in the back as he was thrown into the corner… then got propelled into Quest as a pop-up stomp from Limelight squished Cruz for a near-fall.
Limelight’s back to kick Cruz in the back, then jump on him with a side chinlock, but Cruz broke free… and ran into a dropkick. Oof. A clothesline into the corner from Limelight leads to a senton atomico back into the ring before Kratos tagged back in to charge a knee into Cruz. Kratos runs for a clothesline, but Cruz kicks it away, only to unwisely go for a suplex. Kratos did get picked up for a Fireman’s carry, but he escaped… only to miss a splash as a clothesline to the back of the head left the big man laying. Limelight and Quest tag back in, with Quest’s head kicks knocking Limelight loopy… leading to a spinning Code Red for a near-fall. Kratos has had enough of this as he tagged in to POUNCE Quest away, before a leaping knee and superplex out of the corner bounced Cruz for a near-fall.
Limelight tags back in as Cruz is almost frozen, allowing Limelight to hit a springboard Boricuas Destroyer… and that’s the win. ***
We’ve got a backstage black-and-white Bullet Club promo with Chris Bey, Juice Robinson and El Phantasmo… we’ve got “the Bey-FFs” vs. Blake Christian, “Dorito” (Mascara Dorada)… plus Juice Robinson vs. Jake Something in the coming weeks. All I could think of was how godawful this new Bullet Club theme is when it’s nagging away at you in the background…
Fred Yehi vs. Minoru Suzuki
It’s a first-time meeting to close this one out… and given that Yehi’s not exactly been a Strong regular, this one might be telegraphed.
The early scrambles end with Yehi rolling-up Suzuki for a two-count, prompting Suzuki to try and get into things with a hammerlock and a side headlock. The ropes break it up as Suzuki then went for Yehi’s ears, before things broke into strikes. An overhand chop from Suzuki stings, but Yehi fakes a chop and instead shot for a takedown as he refused to be baited into the Greatest Hits stuff so early. Suzuki pulls it back into his playbook with a hanging armbar in the ropes, before Yehi nibbled him outside and went to throw Suzuki into the rails. It’s kicked away though, as Suzuki then grabbed a chair and threw it into the ring. Yehi grabs the chair as a three-way tug of war with the referee ended with the chair getting neutralised… while Suzuki went outside and grabbed a second chair so he could use it as the referee took an inordinately long amount of time to get rid of the first one.
Suzuki then pulled an Eddie Guerrero just as the referee turned back around… and now it’s back outside with Suzuki taking Yehi into the unlit railings. The timekeeper’s table was lit better, with Yehi dragged onto it before he was thrown back into the rails. Eventually returning to the ring, Suzuki stays on Yehi with a chinlock, then a hammerlock armbar with some extra torque as Yehi got a foot to the ropes for a break.
Yehi’s peppered with elbows after that, but he fires back, taking Suzuki into the corner for some stomps before a neckbreaker drew a two-count. A Koji Clutch quickly ends in the ropes as Yehi looked for a finish… instead, Suzuki’s back with a PK for a two-count, before Yehi’s attempts at chops ended with a Fujiwara armbar by the ropes. They trade elbows, leading to the Suzuki CLONKER… a second one’s countered with a drop toe hold as Yehi tried another Koji Clutch, which Suzuki had to bite his way out of before getting to the ropes. An elbow from Yehi stuns Suzuki, but a quick switcheroo allowed Suzuki in with a rear naked choke, before the Gotch style piledriver closed the door on this outing of the Greatest Hits. ***¼
Next week: Keita vs. Peter Avalon… Chris Bey & El Phantasmo vs. Blake Christian & Mascara Dorada… Tom Lawlor vs. Homicide.
Well, we’re back to Strong being somewhat unfocused… I really don’t want to say “it’s feeling like NXT UK used to,” but the way these tapings get transformed into a TV product are having a lot of similarities. You get one or two really hot matches in every block of shows, and an awful lot of chaff as well – I don’t know how you can get around that, other than filming more frequently to avoid the malaise, and perhaps force you to build something show to show.