We’re kicking off the New Year with a look back at the old with this best of 2022 for NJPW Strong.
From August 2022 – Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher pinned Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson in 11:38 to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship (****)
From January 2022 – Clark Connors pinned TJP in 17:57 (***¾)
From April 2022 – Jay White pinned Hikuleo in 18:33 (***¾)
Happy New Year, everyone! It’s the third “best of” for NJPW Strong – and this year the show’s being hosted by Ian Riccaboni (who looks to have sneezed since that thumbnail), alongside Alex Koslov and Jay White… who leans super heavy on the “I sold out MSG” shtick with Riccaboni trying to at least smooth it out.
We’ve got three matches, and we start with Alex’s choice – the first NJPW Strong tag title defence… on Strong, from back in episode 106 in August.
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. Watching this back in January 2023, boy, that part felt super alien…
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. ****
Back with the lads now, and it’s Ian Riccaboni’s turn to wax lyrical as he tried to compare the United Empire to the Bullet Club… with the expected rebuttals from Jay White. They talk about Alex Koslov’s return to the ring on The Night Before Rumble On 44th Street PPV in the US… before Ian pitched his choice, from back in February.
TJP vs. Clark Connors
Connors’ homecoming started with him getting taken to the mat as TJP was quickly on the defensive, which led to him taking Connors down in a Deathlock… but Connors grabbed a side headlock to escape before some misdirection jarred his own knee.
A whip into the ropes sees TJP hook himself in the ropes, before Connors charged him into the corner, having faked out a knee injury. Chops lit up TJP as he went all Machine Gun on him in the corner, while a lofty German suplex dumped TJP. Things head outside as TJP tried to calm things down, but he just ends up getting POUNCED over the ring barrier and into the timekeeper’s table!
Back in the ring, mounted punches keep TJP in the corner, before TJP fought back with a single-arm DDT onto the edge of the ring. Connors suddenly has to play defence as he’s lifted into a back suplex for a two-count. A senton atomico follows for a two-count, then a snapping hammerlock’d armbar, before Connors was taken into the corner for a face-washing boot… only to return with an exploding POUNCE. Clark keeps pushing, bouncing TJP into the corners ahead of a back body drop, but another POUNCE misses as TJP returned with a springboard into a single arm DDT. TJP followed with a cross armbreaker, but Connors rolls through into a full nelson’d camel clutch, which ends in the ropes. Another spear from Connors knocks TJP off the apron, before TJP blocked a suplex back into the ring.
TJP counters with a hanging armbar in the ropes, before a flying knee caught the lower back of Connors. Back inside, a Mamba splash followed for a two-count, before he followed through with a Magistral Driver for just a one-count. A Detonation kick is instantly kicked out of as Connors blitzed back, only to get caught in a leg lace… before Connors cradled him for a near-fall.
A double clothesline leaves both men down, but TJP’s attempt to renew his offence with a tornado DDT’s pushed off as Connors tries to go up top. He’s caught as TJP tried his luck with a superplex, only to get shoved down as Connors lands his own version of a Mamba Splash, then a folding powerbomb for a near-fall… before the Trophy Kill finally got Connors the win. This was a hell of a blow-off to the feud, with Connors putting on an impressive showing as the LA Dojo grad looked to push on in 2022. ***¾
We’re back with the trio as Jay White picks his match of the year – his outing against Hikuleo from back in May, when Hikuleo was part of Bullet Club…
Hikuleo vs. Jay White
Of course, White rolls outside at the bell as commentary wondered what Hikuleo’s future was regardless of the result.
White continues to frustrate Hikuleo by sitting in the ropes to force a break as the big man loomed. Another trip outside has Hikuleo giving chase, before he caught a baseball slide attempt as White eventually found a way through, jumping on Hikuleo as he got back inside. A shoulder tackle has White down, as did some clubbing blows, before another trip outside led to White getting dumped across the guard rails. Back inside, Hikuleo continued to control the pace, Biel’ing White across the ring as another clubbing blow led to White powdering again. This time, White baits Hikuleo into chopping the ring post, then shoved him into it before an attempted suplex back inside was blocked. Hikuleo misses a running boot into the corner as White pounced with a chop block… and there’s the vulnerability!
White focuses on the knee, repeatedly wrapping Hikuleo’s leg around the ring post… but while Hikuleo was able to push White into the barriers, Jay rips off the ring apron and tried to suffocate him with it, as a draping neckbreaker took things back to the floor. Hikuleo returns to the ring, but White stays on the leg with a Dragon screw and some kicks to the knee, ahead of an attempted half crab… which White turned back into a grounded Dragon screw. Hikuleo gets back into it with some chops, only to have his knee dropkicked out before he launched White into the corner pad. A stalling suplex followed from Hikuleo, then a bodyslam and a standing splash for a two-count, before White elbowed out of a Fireman’s carry, then scored with a DDT after kicking the knee again.
White keeps going with uppercuts in the corner, before a sliding Flatliner planted Hikuleo in the middle of the ring. Pulling up the big man leads to a Saito suplex as everyone thought White was going for a Blade Runner, before a Blade Buster landed for a near-fall. A sleeperhold followed as White pulled up Hikuleo… but the sleeper suplex is elbowed away as White rebounds with a chop block. Another crack at the sleeper suplex is escaped as White instead meets Hikuleo in the ropes with a clothesline, before he targeted the leg with a Dragon screw. Hikuleo’s leg gets wrapped around the ropes as White laid in with mounted punches… only for the big man to counter out with a powerbomb! White rolls outside to avoid a pinning attempt, then got back into the ring to catch Hikuleo with another Dragon screw in the ropes.
A draping DDT brings the big man back in for a near-fall, before a Blade Runner was countered as Hikuleo goozled the former champion. Chops follow, as Hikuleo returned with a short-arm clothesline. More chops have White crumbling into the corner ahead of a powerslam for a near-fall, before White went back to the knee… only to run into another powerslam! The finish comes out of nowhere as Hikuleo pulls up White for a chokeslam, but ends up getting deftly switched into a Blade Runner as I leapt out of my chair for that. An excellent finish that caught everyone unawares as White was in his first real peril. ***¾
Ian, Alex and Jay wrap things up with some chatter about WrestleKingdom, which they’d scattered through these links. Alex Koslov’s given a ticket to Allentown so the two can watch WrestleKingdom together, while Alex gives Ian the gift of a training session with Chris Jericho. Too soon, Alex. Riccaboni walks off, and that’s our show for the week/year.
These best-ofs can be throwaway shows, but at least they showed full matches rather than rapid-fire clips like we got for the anniversary show earlier in the year. Three really good matches that are absolutely worth your time if you’ve not been paying close attention to Strong week-in, week-out…