Gabriel Kidd returns to action on NJPW Strong as he main events against Eddie Kingston in a tantalising match-up.

Quick Results
TJP pinned The DKC in 8:31 (**¾)
Chris Bey & Hikuleo pinned Keita Murray & Jordan Clearwater in 9:12 (***)
Eddie Kingston pinned Gabriel Kidd in 12:37 (****)

We’re live-on-tape from the Vermont in Hollywood, California for the start of a new year of NJPW Strong… and it’s just 48 minutes long this week. Quality over quantity!

Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov run down this week’s show – hyping up the future “US of Jay” challenge match between Jay White and Christopher Daniels.

The DKC vs. TJP
DKC’s got a new LA Dojo headband, as the wide view of this place reminds me a bit of the Shinjuku FACE building that the old Lion’s Gate Project shows used to be held in.

DKC shot out of the gates, forcing TJP to powder outside… where he’s met with a dropkick into the barriers. A bodyslam back inside gets DKC a one-count, then another, before TJP snuck out and snapped back on an armbar. An attempted fightback from DKC sees him get nothing but thin air on a dropkick as TJP slipped outside…

TJP tries to restrain DKC, rolling him down into a chinlock, before a blocked drop toe hold saw TJP use a Figure Four to trap DKC in the middle of the ring. The ropes eventually save DKC, as he then returned with dropkicks and a drop toe hold, before a bulldog left TJP laying. Chops to TJP follow, before he hit a sunset flip for a two-count.

The pair go back-and-forth, with a DKC roll-up and a head kick nearly winning it, before TJP retaliated with a teardrop suplex. An inside cradle keeps DKC’s hopes alive, but he leaps into a TJP dropkick as the Mamba Splash ended up finishing things off. A solid opener with the young lion DKC coming close, but in the end that rookie mistake off the top rope put paid to him. **¾

Jordan Clearwater & Keita Murray vs. Bullet Club (Hikuleo & Chris Bey)
It’s a debut for Keita, who was subbing for an isolating Clark Connors…

Keita and Bey start us off with some slick pinning attempts, with Murray trying for a Stroke into a Mouse Trap-like pinning predicament as the Bullet Club began on the defensive. Clearwater’s in, but Bey grabbed him by the nose as he snuck out to tag in Hikuleo.

Clearwater and Hikuleo trade forearms before a series of shoulder tackles from Clearwater ended with him just getting charged down. Bey sneaks in some cheapshots from the floor as Hikuleo distracted the ref, before a sidewalk slam landed for a two-count. Chops from Hikuleo wear down Clearwater some more as Bey returns, but his sunset flips’ blocked… only for Bey to hit a dropkick for a near-fall.

Hikuleo returned to wear down Clearwater some more, but Jordan gets free to bring Murray back in… only for Keita to have to hit a jawbreaker to escape Hikuleo’s clutches. A trip takes the big man into the corner as Murray hits a missile dropkick, but Bey tagged in on that and ran into an inside-out gutwrench. Keita keeps going with a knee strike, then a Complete Shot for a near-fall. Clearwater tries to help out, but ends up having to fight out of a double chokeslam with Murray, before Hikuleo booted him to the outside. Bey’s still legal, and caught Keita by surprise with a head kick, as a CB Knee (ripcord leaping knee) gets the win. A decent tag match, but with Strong lacking any tag titles, these matches don’t seem to do much more than pad out cards right now. ***

I miss the adverts where the LA Dojo lads teleported around the place for a cleaning cloth…

Gabriel Kidd vs. Eddie Kingston
Kidd was last on Strong last month as he came up short in a grounded outing to Jonathan Gresham… while Kingston’s last outing came in November when he and Jon Moxley lost to Suzuki-gun.

The California crowd’s pro Kingston here, and we nearly had an early lights out as Eddie swung with a backfist in the ropes. Chops and forearms follow as Kidd was taking a pounding early on, but a boot kicks Eddie into the corner, only for Kidd to take some short headbutts as Kingston was making this more of a fight than anything else.

Elbows offered a response, but Kingston’s running knees shut down Kidd some more ahead of a kick to the back. Kidd sits up a la Shibata asking for more, and got it, in the form of palm strikes that left Kidd laying. Kingston clubs away at Kidd’s neck before we go back to the chops, as a Dragon sleeper forces Kidd into the ropes. More blistering chops keep Kidd in the corner, before he finally found a way back… only for Kingston’s Machine Gun chops to provide an answer. A European uppercut from Kidd takes Kingston down, as we go back to the chops, with neither man budging amid the plumes of sweat that fly from each strike. A poke to the eye stops Kidd in his tracks, but he’s quickly back on it with more chops. Lariats from Kingston staggered Kidd, but Gabe’s back with a Saito suplex for a near-fall, before the pair trade Exploders.

Kingston’s dropped with lariats, before a brainbuster planted Eddie… but Kidd couldn’t go for the pin! Kidd tries to follow up with a butterfly suplex, but Kingston blocked it and after some palm strikes nailed a DDT, before some knees to Kidd softened him up for a sit-out powerbomb. It’s good for a near-fall, before Kidd shrugged off a backfist… then ducked another to hit a German suplex as Kingston looked to land hard on his shoulder. A Saito suplex from Kingston got him back in it, along with a half-and-half suplex, before another goddamned backfist finally put Kidd away. This was absolutely fantastic – one worthy of your proverbial notebooks. The talk going into this match was about how both men were going to bring a fight, and you’re damned right they did – hopefully this is a match they can go back to, because had this happened on a big time show, there’d be buzz for days about it. ****

Announced for next week: JONAH vs. David Finlay…

I’d hesitate to call this a one match show, but if you don’t watch Strong regularly, you owe it to yourself to check in for the main event here. Eddie Kingston’s reputation precedes him, while Gabriel Kidd showed some great versatility, adding a slugfest to his ground game as he takes those first post-Young Lion steps.