Strong finally debuts in front of fans, and we’ve a loaded line-up to kick off the Fighting Spirit Unleashed strand of shows!
Tomohiro Ishii pinned Alex Coughlin in 9:13 (***½)
Karl Fredericks, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Clark Connors pinned Barrett Brown, Bateman & Misterioso in 13:33 (***)
Hikuleo defeated Juice Robinson in a Tables match in 9:57 (**½)
We’re back over the hour mark for this – and we’ve new opening titles with a longer version of the Strong theme. Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov are live at Thunder Beach Studios as they’re live-in-person for the first time in what feels like forever, running down the card before we get the traditional clip reel to lead us into the show…
Alex Coughlin vs. Tomohiro Ishii
The Alex Coughlin Challenge Series continues, and it feels great to hear a crowd on these shows…
We open with a lock-up as Ishii took Coughlin into the ropes, only to get caught with some elbows. Coughlin likes tempting fate, and threw some more before he got charged down… but he’s right back up for more. He gets more, in the form of chops, before he fired a series of forearms at Ishii that seemed to have no effect.
Chops take Coughlin to the mat, but Coughlin keeps firing back as… wait a minute. Masato Tanaka isn’t dead. That’s quite a gaffe… anyway, overlooking Koslov’s slip-up, Coughlin’s back out of the corner with a dropkick then a flying shoulder tackle, before a gutwrench suplex took Ishii down with ease.
Ishii returns with chops and forearms as he wore down Coughlin in the corner, ahead of a Saito suplex that took Coughlin out of it for a two-count. A clothesline kept Coughlin down, but he sits right back up, and demands kicks from Ishii before he dropped him with a clothesline. Coughlin picks Ishii back up for a bridging fallaway slam, which almost got the win, as the pair resorted back to elbows…
A spear from Coughlin drops Ishii for another two-count, before a German suplex and a lariat from Ishii pushed him even closer… in the end, it’s the sheer drop brainbuster that’s needed to put away Coughlin, in a cracker of an opener as Coughlin looks to be inching closer to graduation. ***½
Stray Dog Army (Bateman, Misterioso & Barrett Brown) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Karl Fredericks & Clark Connors
Something tells me that the stray dogs might be getting thrown to the wolves here…
Misterioso and Fredericks get us going with wristlocks and escapes, but it’s Misterioso who edges ahead as Fredericks was taken into the corner. In comes Bateman and Brown, as Fredericks gets isolated, but he’s able to tag out to Connors, who resists Brown’s charges before scoring a takedown of his own.
A snap suplex drops Brown, as Misterioso and Bateman came in and were chased away. That leads to some triple-teaming on Brown, before Misterioso kicks Connors in the ropes… Bateman gets involved too, as the distraction gives Brown an opening to suplex Connors into the buckles as the Stray Dogs took over on Connors.
Misterioso’s basement dropkick in the corner nearly puts Connors away. The Stray Dogs isolate Connors in their corner, leading to a suplex for a two-count, while Bateman grounded Connors in a chinlock. Connors gets free, but Tanahashi and Fredericks are pulled off the apron before he could make a tag out, so Clark’s gotta last a little longer before making the tag out to Tanahashi.
Forearms from Tanahashi take down Bateman, as Brown and Misterioso came in to get slammed. A double elbow drop takes care of them, as Bateman’s spun down with a Dragon screw, before he blocked a Slingblade. Instead, Bateman knees Tanahashi in the back of the head, then brought Brown in to try and push things over the line…
Tanahashi gets free and tagged out to Fredericks, who traded strikes with Brown… only to get caught with a Complete Shot for a near-fall out of nowhere. Some triple-teaming keeps Fredericks on the back foot as he’s splashed in the corner, before the customary Parade of Moves broke out… that leads to a Fredericks spinebuster for a near-fall, before Brown’s spiked with Manifest Destiny for the win. Your typical trios match, with Tanahashi and perhaps the aces of the LA Dojo standing tall at the end. ***
After the match, Fredericks hung around and took the mic to call out Will Ospreay – and they’ll be facing off on the upcoming Texas tapings for a future episode of Strong. Except Fredericks is interrupted by Will Ospreay on his way to the back, and those two spark a brawl that quickly ended via a Hidden Blade from Ospreay.
We’re keeping the interval. On a taped show. In front of fans. Add thyme.
Tables Match: Hikuleo vs. Juice Robinson
They make a point on commentary of saying that you need to be put through a table by your opponent to win – accidentally running into one doesn’t count.
Juice jumps Hikuleo to get us going, before he bit away a powerbomb and punted Hikuleo low. Heading outside into the badly-lit ringside area, Juice gets dropped onto the barriers, as Hikuleo then set up a table… but Juice posts Hikuleo, knocking him onto a table, before a cannonball took Hikuleo onto the floor – as he’d stepped away from the table in time.
They stay on the floor as Juice hung around that table, teasing a suplex that Hikuleo blocked and looked to counter, before Juice tries for a piledriver… only to get back body dropped onto the floor.
Hikuleo rolls Juice into the ring as several tables follow, but Juice dropkicks a table into Hikuleo to keep him on the floor. They take a while to recover, as Juice climbs the top rope but gets press slammed onto the back of an unfolded table, which looked like it sucked badly. Hikuleo sets one up, placing Juice on it in the corner, but Juice sidesteps as Hikuleo crashes through it.
The match continues since Hikuleo sent himself through the wood… Juice sets up a table as he looked to have problems with his right arm, but that Left Hand of God surely hit. Hikuleo’s rolled onto the table, as Juice then went back up top to go for a back senton… but Hikuleo rolls away and that table doesn’t budge one bit. Cue Metallica riff to go with the sickening thud.
Hikuleo looks to finish the job from there, pulling up Juice for a Tongan Driller, and that’s enough to get the win as the table broke for Juice on the second attempt. Both men went through the wars as they somehow found a way to import a Japanese table to the States, but in the end it’s Hikuleo who stands tall. **½
Next week: Fred Rosser vs. Ren Narita, and Jay White vs. Wheeler Yuta.
We’ve waited so long for this – New Japan Strong in front of fans, and it was like night and day from those empty arena shows. In more ways than one, but we’ll not harp on about the poorly lit ringside/crowd areas!