Robbie Eagles makes his NJPW Strong debut as he takes on Jay White in the main event.
Minoru Suzuki pinned Fred Rosser in 11:34 (***¼)
Tom Lawlor submitted Ren Narita in 20:14 to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship (****)
Jay White pinned Robbie Eagles in 18:07 (***¾)
We’re coming from the Curtis Culwell Centre in Garland, Texas for these next few shows… and my word, what a tantalising line-up for this week… which is taking us well over the show’s usual one-hour slot.
The show opens with a vignette from Fred Rosser, who’s eternally grateful – talking about people “throwing away their own dreams so they can do another man’s dreams.” He’s a little down over Ren Narita beating him – then moving on to take on Tom Lawlor… while Rosser takes on Minoru Suzuki in a big test.
Matt Rehwoldt and Alex Koslov are live on hand to do commentary, since Kevin Kelly was in Japan for the G1. They run down the card, and then it’s off to the obligatory clip reel that gets us underway.
Fred Rosser vs. Minoru Suzuki
We at least heard “Kaze Ni Nare”, even if commentary trampled on it, and we get going quickly with Rosser shoving the ref aside to get to Suzuki.
Rosser enjoys the best of the early going, with a sit-down splash getting an early two-count, before some kicks to the back just seemed to piss off Suzuki. The pair end up in the ropes, but Suzuki baits in Rosser with a hanging armbar, before he wrapped Rosser’s arm around the guard rails.
A chairshot to the back of Rosser’s next, then some work around the ring post as bad lighting and camera crews getting in each other’s way made this tricky to watch. Rosser’s snapped, but the ref takes away the chair he threw into the ring, as Suzuki goes back to the arm and wrist.
Suzuki takes Rosser into the corner for some elbows, before he ran into a sit-out side slam that nearly got Rosser the win. A Gut Check’s escaped as Suzuki went for a heel hook, but Rosser escaped to hit a low dropkick for a two-count, before he undid his wrist tape and choked Suzuki out with it.
The pair trade chicken wings, but it’s Rosser who gets it first, as they then headed onto the apron as a back suplex left Suzuki laying. Getting back to his feet, Suzuki absorbs headbutts before he slipped out of a suplex, looking for a rear naked choke, eventually getting it before Rosser back body dropped out of a Gotch piledriver. A flurry of strikes from Rosser just earned him some clonking elbows from Suzuki, who then went for the Gotch piledriver… and that’s your lot. A decent effort from Rosser, but coming in with one game plan didn’t do the job – and got him ribbed on commentary for it. ***¼
Kevin Kelly voices-over a package about Ren Narita’s excursion to date… he’s facing Filthy Tom Lawlor for the Strong Openweight title… next!
NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: Ren Narita vs. Tom Lawlor (c)
Narita lost to Lawlor during the tournament that Tom won to crown the first Strong Openweight champion – and the pre-match package noted that Lawlor’s yet to lose a singles match in New Japan.
We open with Lawlor and Narita grappling, with Lawlor looking for a leg lock, only for Narita to slip free as a crucifix from Narita posed some problems. Ren’s changed his look slightly, growing out a beard that for all the world would make him a cracking tribute act for Katsuyori Shibata. Just watch the headbutts, kid…
A side headlock from Narita keeps Lawlor grounded for a spell, but the champion pushes free, only for Narita to charge him down for a quick one-count. Lawlor charges Narita into the corner to close the distance, as a side headlock followed before Narita took things to the ground again, looking for a leglock. Lawlor can’t break it, as Narita manages to stretch back on the leg, prompting Lawlor to roll him free, only for a double leg takedown from Narita to put him back to square one.
Lawlor manages to get free, and drags Narita onto the apron as a boot took Narita into the dark void of ringside, where an Irish whip took Narita into the guard rails. Back inside, Lawlor puts the boots to Narita, who then did the Shibata sit-down and asked for some more. Eventually, Narita fired up and returned the favour, only to get dumped with a suplex for a near-fall.
Narita returns with an overhead belly-to-belly out of nowhere, following with a brainbuster for a two-count as boots took Lawlor into the corner… only for the champion to return with a takedown. Another uranage-like takedown looked to have Lawlor on easy street… at least until Lawlor was caught with another leg lock as Narita’d rolled them into the middle of the ring.
Lawlor manages to roll out and turn it into a modified Sharpshooter, with Narita getting to the ropes before the pair exchanged shots. A clothesline from Lawlor took it to the corner ahead of a back suplex for a two-count, before Lawlor looked for a uranage… it’s escaped as we’ve rear naked chokes and reversals, with Narita edging ahead before he moved into a Cobra Twist as Lawlor almost got to the ropes.
Narita looks for the Narita Special #4 suplex, but Lawlor countered into a guillotine that’s broken in the corner. The Narita Special #4 follows, before he got caught in a triangle choke as Lawlor then switched into a cross armbar as Narita stayed scrappy. Escaping, Narita manages to tie up Lawlor in the Narita Special #3 leg lace, before taking it back to the mat. It morphs into a Figure Four after Lawlor tried in vain to fight free, but they end up in the ropes for a break.
Narita goes for the Narita Special #4 again, but Lawlor headbutts free, only to get rolled into a knee bar from Narita… which turns into a STF, again ending in the ropes. From there, Lawlor rolls up Narita for a two-count, before he tied up Narita’s arms and legs – called the St. Andrew’s Cross – as Narita had to verbally submit. This was absolutely fantastic – a reminder of why so many rated Narita before he went on excursion… he came real close to winning the title, but there’s still work to do, clearly… ****
We clean, we disinfect, we advertise…
Robbie Eagles vs. Jay White
We’ve some bad blood here going back to the time Eagles was in Bullet Club… and this is obviously a non-title match, with neither the IWGP Junior heavyweight nor NEVER Openweight titles on the line.
White wants a too-sweet from his former stablemate, but just slapped him instead as we get going with Eagles getting charged down by White. Eagles finds form with headscissors to take White outside, but the Kiwi moves aside as the Aussie went for a dive… before a charge back in led to Eagles rolling White into the path of a low dropkick.
White gets the boots up as Eagles charged at him in the corner, before an Irish whip bounced Eagles out of the corner. White perhaps got a little ahead of himself, posing too much before going for pins, as Eagles ends up hitting back, taking White into the corner for some running double knees before a Turbo Backpack was blocked.
Eagles stays in it, but White leaps over a 619 in the bottom rope and came in with a DDT to spike the junior champion. Chops from White have Eagles on his knees, but Robbie’s back to trip up White ahead of a sliding clothesline, with a tope con giro taking White into the barriers, while Eagles went into the front row! Back in the ring though, White’s back on top, even though Eagles elbowed out of a Fireman’s carry… but a lariat spun Eagles to the mat hard. White looks to add to it with a cross-legged brainbuster, but Eagles slips free and kicked White down, only to get SPIKED with a Flatliner.
After Eagles’ head was no longer part of the mat, he’s able to flip out of a German suplex, before a second one left him laying. A Kiwi Krusher plants Eagles for another two-count, before White just let Eagles drop to the mat as he tried to elbow out of a sleeper suplex. White tries for it again, but he throws Eagles aside again, as we then hit the exchanging-strikes part of the match.
Eagles kicks out White’s leg, but White swipes him down from there before he deadlift Eagles like he was picking up a child. A Saito suplex leaves Eagles laying, but Robbie counters a Blade Runner with a slap… an enziguiri to the knee keeps White down, as Eagles built up for a springboard dropkick to the knee as the Ron Miller Special (or “a Figure Four variation” as I’m begging these guys to at least learn what the big moves are called).
White manages to claw his way to the ropes, then hit the ropes as he tried to crotch Eagles… it doesn’t work as Eagles returned with a roundhouse kick, leading up to some Sliced Bread and finally the Turbo Backpack for a near-fall. From there, Eagles goes up and hits a 450 splash to the leg as he goes back to the Ron Miller Special… but White rolled out and dumped Eagles on his head with a sleeper suplex, before a Blade Runner gets the win. Eagles put up more of a fight than White expected, but in the end a quick escape and the 1-2 punch of the sleeper suplex and Blade Runner was enough to eke out a win for the Kiwi. ***¾
Post-match, White took the mic and declared that “the G1 needs me” (hey, you’re meant to say that quietly!), before declaring this was the “US of Jay”. White brings up the weirdness that’s going on in the Bullet Club back in Japan, noting that when he was away last year they brought in EVIL… now SHO… and that seemed to annoy the decision-maker White as they closed out the show with catchphrases.
The new commentary pair of Rehwoldt and Koslov needs some work, but that shouldn’t put you off of a trio of good matches on Strong, as the new format looks to guarantee some top-flight matches most weeks. If you’re super pushed for time, carve out 20 minutes for Lawlor/Narita, but everything on this show is worth your time.