Fred Rosser looks to keep hold of the Strong Openweight title as NJPW Strong prepared for next month’s Battle in the Valley.
Blake Christian pinned Keita in 7:17 (***)
Mistico submitted Misterioso in 12:08 (***)
Fred Rosser submitted Peter Avalon in 12:08 to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship (***¼)
This is it… the New Japan Strong the Final. With no more New Japan Strong shows in the can, nor tapings on the books, this is it for the show that began all the way back in the height of the pandemic in August 2020, with the New Japan Cup USA… and with pretty much everything back in business, New Japan looks to be pivoting back to the old model of pay-per-view specials in the US, rather than the “weekly TV” that didn’t seem to make too much of a dent in everyone’s wrestling diets.
Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov are on the call from the Vermont Hollywood, and there’s no chatter about the magnitude of this episode. Instead, they chat about whether Fred Rosser is looking ahead to his title defence against KENTA – and could be taking Peter Avalon too lightly.
Keita vs. Blake Christian
Keita’s yet to win a singles match on Strong – can he go out on a high here?
Both men start up with lock-ups into the ropes, leading to Christian grabbing a side headlock before things quickly broke down into kicks, only for Keita to get tripped and dropkicked to the outside. Christian follows him with a low-pe into the guard rails, then another, before a shotgun dropkick kept up Keita’s acquaintance with the barriers. Christian breaks the count-out so he could stay on Keita with a suplex, before a springboard forearm back into the ring earned Blake a two-count. Keita tries to fire back with chops, but is overwhelmed by Christian’s before he took a Tiger feint kick into the corner. A second springboard forearm from Christian’s caught and turned into a uranage, as Keita began to return the earlier low-pes.
Back inside, a flying clothesline and some thrust kicks have Christian rocked, ahead of a Keita The City tornado suplex out of the corner that earned a near-fall. Christian comes back with a suplex into the corner pads though, then a sunset bomb back into the same corner, then a V-Trigger-like knee into the ropes. From there, a brainbuster plants Keita for a near-fall, before more kicks and a step-up curb stomp proved to be enough. A decent opener, although this seemed to fall in that oft-used bucket on Strong of a match that likely wasn’t going to lead to much. ***
Misterioso vs. Mistico
Rather than go through the details… yes, this is the Mistico that was Sin Cara a decade ago in WWE.
It’s a pacey start with Misterioso and Mistico trading armdrags and headscissors, leading to the obligatory stand-off. Mistico’s spun to the mat as he ran into a shoulder tackle, before dualling handsprings led to a pop-up tijeras from Mistico, taking Misterioso to the outside for a plancha. It’s caught, with Misterioso posting Mistico instead. Chops from Misterioso keep Mistico on the back foot, before he kicked Mistico’s leg out of his leg by the guard rails. Misterioso trolls the crowd by clearing them… only to throw Mistico back inside for a senton atomico that picked up a couple of pinning attempts. Mistico’s springboard back elbow forced a way back in, while a flying ‘rana took Misterioso back outside for another delayed dive – this time from a slingshot headscissors.
Mistico hits the ring again for a flying body press off the top to the outside, before a springboard sunset flip back inside was thwarted by Misterioso. A thrust kick gets Misterioso another couple of two-counts from lateral presses, before a wheelbarrow roll-up stopped Misterioso’s tardy attempt at a charge into the corner. Misterioso’s taken back outside yet again, but this time he yanks Mistico off the apron mid-Asai moonsault, then charged back at Mistico with a flip senton from the ring to the outside. Back inside again, Mistico wakes up, only to get elbow down ahead of a Quebrada that nearly puts him away. A trip up top from Misterioso gets cut off as Mistico charges in with a gamengiri, then brought him down with a Spanish Fly that nearly won it.
Mistico crotches Misterioso in the ropes for a springboard ‘rana… which still isn’t enough, before Mistico hit the ropes and brought down Misterioso for la Mistica, which proved to be enough to force a submission. This was fine, but I wish I’d not noticed how Mistico ran into the ropes before doing his slingshots to the outside… ***
We get a video package of Fred Rosser outlasting JR Kratos in his last title defence, before Peter Avalon talked his way into a title shot. This’ll be Rosser’s 7th defence, which would see him tie Tom Lawlor’s record of defences…
NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: Peter Avalon vs. Fred Rosser (c)
The curse of taped shows… this placed Rosser midway between looks, if you’ve seen his new style on AEW Dark/Elevation as of late…
Avalon interrupted Rosser’s entrance to mock his Prime Time past, prompting Rosser to hit the ring and throw him to the outside… so he could finish posing. Wrestling! When we got going, Rosser took Avalon into the corner before he scored with a shoulder tackle… only for Avalon to armdrag his way back into contention. A scissored armbar from Avalon has Rosser in trouble momentarily, before a shoulder tackle and a seated splash put Rosser right back in it.
Rosser adds a second seated splash to the mix, before a third was countered into a roll-up, only for Avalon to take a discus forearm that sent him onto the apron. Avalon blocks a back suplex onto the edge of the ring, returning with a thrust kick as he shoved Rosser backwards into the ring post. Staying on the outside, Avalon pulls Rosser down and charged him between the apron, the ring barrers… and then threw him into the barriers. Back inside, a Tequila Sunrise trapped Avalon in the middle of the ring, before Avalon changed tack and took Rosser into the ropes as a back elbow earned a two-count. An overhead armbar’s next for Rosser, who punched his way free before he got on a chicken wing… albeit between the ropes. A front kick from Avalon from the apron, then a swinging DDT back into the ring turns it back in his favour.
Chops from Avalon see him keep Rosser on the mat, as the pair returned to the apron to exchange some shots… ending with a blow to the champion’s ribs. Avalon charges on the apron, but gets caught with a spinning back suplex onto the side of the ring. Back inside, more chops from Rosser led to him Biel’ing Avalon corner-to-corner, before a clothesline spun Avalon to the mat for another two-count. Rosser’s met with another strike to the ribs as Avalon proceeded to roll him down for a half crab. They’re right by the ropes though, so Rosser’s able to force a break, only for Avalon to sneak in some stomps before doing so. A second one’s kicked away as Rosser ran through some chops to begin a comeback, landing a Gut Check on the third attempt before a sit-out side slam left Avalon laying on the mat, building to a STF chicken wing for the stoppage. A good main event to close out Strong’s run – although Avalon coming into a title match in his third Strong outing made him feel very “contender of the month,” and that’s without looking at his role in AEW these days. ***¼
Post-match, Rosser calls out KENTA to the ring… KENTA obliges only to be told that Rosser would whip his rear end when they meet, as the obligatory staredown closed out the show.
A somewhat low-key ending to Strong, with New Japan promising a formal announcement in the coming days that may well confirm what some suspect – that the “brand” will move to monthly shows. However, the presence of a double-header in April could suggest that this hiatus is more like the one ROH’s TV is having now, rather than what ended up happening to Nitro.