Hikuleo and Jay White headline the start of a new “tour” on Strong as they take on Yuya Uemura and Alex Zayne.
Adrian Quest & Lio Rush pinned Misterioso & Bateman in 10:57 (**¾)
Josh Barnett submitted Alex Coughlin in 11:47 (***)
JONAH pinned Lucas Riley in 6:01 (**½)
Hikuleo & Jay White pinned Alex Zayne & Yuya Uemura in 10:32 (***)
We’re at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium in Riverside, California for these tapings, and we’ve got Kevin Kelly back on the call! They run down the card for tonight’s show, and then it’s off to ringside…
Stray Dog Army (Bateman & Misterioso) vs. Adrian Quest & Lio Rush
Last time we saw the Stray Dog Army, they beat Brody King and Chris Dickinson in rather unusual circumstances at Battle in the Valley.
Bateman throws down Quest early on, before Quest baited in Bateman (ahem) for a springboard armdrag as a head kick and a corkscrew crossbody out of the corner had Quest ahead.
Misterioso comes in but gets taken outside as Quest and Rush combined with a pair of topes. That gets a one count back in as Misterioso’s isolated and sandwiched with kicks for a two-count, before a springboard rana from Quest led to him getting pancaked and clotheslines.
Bateman’s in to hit an elbow drop on Quest for a two-count, before a crossbody out of the corner was turned into a slam. Misterioso has the ref distracted so Bateman can choke on Quest in the corner, ahead of a springboard senton that doesn’t get Bateman a one-count as Lio Rush ran in to break up the cover.
Quest gets his boots up to block a quebrada from Misterioso, returning with a springboard reverse ‘rana before tags bring in Rush and Bateman. Misdirection catches out Bateman ahead of a springboard back elbow, while Misterioso ran into an enziguiri for his troubles. Bateman blocked a suplex but couldn’t avoid a Falcon arrow for a near-fall, before Rush rolled through a frog splash.
Bateman’s back with a brainbuster for a two-count, as tags bring us to Quest and Misterioso, with a roll-up nearly ending things, before Misterioso came back with a Finlay roll. His follow-up moonsault nearly gets the win, as Rush wiped out Misterioso with a rear spin kick, then the Rush Hour, before Quest made sure of the win with a Phoenix splash. This took a while to click, but Rush and Quest looked good in their roles. **¾
How long before Strong figure out how to properly light their venues? I shouldn’t need to be ramping up the brightness on my TV…
Alex Coughlin vs. Josh Barnett
It’s another outing in Coughlin’s challenge series, and a massive test for the LA Dojo lad…
As you’d guess, Barnett was all into his flippy-dos here… of course he wasn’t, this one started on the mat, much like you’d expect from the guy who’s got his name all over the Bloodsport shows. Coughlin makes Barnett bridge from a knuckle lock, taking him down for a side headlock for an ankle lock from Barnett ended in the ropes.
Coughlin responds with a takedown, but Barnett rolls free and had to block a leg lock attempt as the pair went for heel hooks and ankle locks at the same time. Coughlin’s forced to the ropes first, before a rebound belly-to-belly had Barnett ahead again, following with a side headlock on the mat.
Headscissors from Coughlin get him free, as he manages to apply a brief deathlock to Barnett, who rolled into the guard, then back out into a cross armbreaker. Coughlin gets free, but his leglock ends in the ropes as Barnett comes right back with a front facelock suplex, only for Coughlin to respond with a half crab.
Barnett pulls himself free as the pair end in the ropes, before he rained down blows on Coughlin ahead of a battle of gutwrenches. Coughlin wins out with his gutwrench suplex, and held on for a deadlift follow-up, with a clothesline afterwards almost winning it… Barnett’s back with a bridging German suplex for a near-fall, before a cross heel hook forced the stoppage. If you like Bloodsport, you’ll love this match – but if you don’t, you’ll probably think the match came across bone-dry, particularly with the commentary. ***
Post-match, Barnett told Coughlin he came back to New Japan to test him… then put him over as you’d have to think Coughlin’s time as a Young Lion has to be coming towards its end?
Lucas Riley vs. JONAH
This one might not go well for young Lucas… especially as this was JONAH’s singles debut for New Japan. Get the spatula ready…
JONAH offered Riley a head start, but a single leg takedown attempt was turned into a goddamn powerbomb as Riley was just dumped effortlessly. Riley tries to stick and move, but a leapfrog’s just swatted away as JONAH followed up with a stalling suplex… that ended with him just throwing Riley down.
Riley offered some hope, vaulting over JONAH before he was cut down with a big ol’ lariat. All that’s left from there is a Saito suplex to fold Riley in half, but JONAH pulls him up at two before a back senton led to… another pull-up, as JONAH then headed up top and splashed Riley to smithereeens for the win. New Japan don’t do squashes much, which makes this match leap off the page. A little too long, but it more than served its purpose. **½
Post-match, David Finlay ran in to attack JONAH, dropkicking him to the outside for revenge… and to set up a match for down the line.
Alex Zayne & Yuya Uemura vs. Bullet Club (Hikuleo & Jay White)
Uemura becomes Riverside’s most hated as he stopped a too-sweet before the bell, as he manages to open with Jay White, who pulled him into the corner by the hair.
White stays on the hair as Uemura took control with armdrags, before a leaping forearm had White down. More armdrags keeps White on the mat, before an eye rake has Uemura into the corner, right as Hikuleo tagged in. Uemura’s thrown face-first to the mat, then into the corner as the Bullet Club tandem began to isolate the Young Lion.
Uemura repeatedly kicks out as White spammed cover attempts, before a Boston crab was blocked by Uemura, who pushes free, then hit a dropkick as Alex Zayne was waiting to tag in. a swivelling clothesline from Zayne has White down, leading to a leaping rolling legdrop before White blocked a Taco Driver attempt.
Zayne can’t quite hit a Baja Blast either as White went back to the hair, before Zayne rolled out to tag in Uemura… who then got blindsided by Hikuleo. Uemura recovers with an elbow drop for a two-count, before White flipped out of a back suplex and pulled Uemura down by the hair again.
Tags bring us back to Zayne and Hikuleo, with the former landing a series of strikes and an enziguiri, only to get spun out with a clothesline. A Tongan Driller’s stopped by Uemura, who lands a back suplex before a Blade Runner from White took care of him. Zayne keeps the Parade of Moves going with a flip ‘rana out of the corner to White, before he flipped out of a Hikuleo chokeslam, only to take it seconds later. The Tongan Driller follows, and that’s the win for Bullet Club. ***
After the match, White took the mic and told us his plan for an open challenge for the NEVER Openweight title was out the window… because he’s no longer the champion. White tells us he’s bigger than any *muted* championship as he wants to keep the open challenges going, then took a dig at Chris Sabin and some other “young kids,” like Chris Jericho, before he called out Christopher Daniels.
For a while, New Japan Strong was the most interesting show out of New Japan… but since they moved away from the studio tapings, that feeling has long since gone. Changing venues, inconsistent production values and matches largely just existing doesn’t help matters as Strong may as well just be televised house shows on delay.