FinJuice look to get their hands on JONAH this week on Strong, as we’ve a tag team main event…
Hikuleo pinned Cody Chhun in 7:34 (**¾)
Josh Barnett submitted Ren Narita in 10:15 (***¼)
David Finlay & Juice Robinson pinned Bad Dude Tito & JONAH in 11:51 (***½)
We’re coming from Washington Hall in Seattle… with Ian Riccaboni and Alex Kozlov on this shorter-than-usual episode. Once again at time of writing, both of the New Japan websites haven’t even listed this, which is making me ponder what the deal is here.
Cody Chhun vs. Hikuleo
The ref gets in the way of Chhun on his entrance, as the Buddy Wayne-trainee was making his New Japan debut here.
Chhun’s the big favourite in Seattle, but Hikuleo towers over him. Not that it mattered as Cody threw some early chops as he ended up getting caught while going for a crossbody. Single-leg dropkicks got him free, but a bodyslam’s easily thwarted as Chhun ended up eating a clothesline instead. Hikuleo responds by throwing Chhun into the corner pad and to the outside as he then proceeded to blister up Chhun with chops. Back inside, Chhun kicks Hikuleo away from the corner, but lost a slam as he fell backwards for a near-fall, before Hikuleo Biel’d him across the ring.
A sleeperhold followed, but Chhun elbows free before getting charged down, before receipts eventually weakened Hikuleo for a bodyslam that nearly won it. Cody’s superkick keeps him ahead, as a springboard cutter out of the corner nearly nicks the win, before a scoop slam from Hikuleo led to him shutting the door, as a chokeslam led to the win. An entertaining opener with Chhun having some moments, but when Hikuleo decided it was time, the end came in violent fashion. **¾
Ren Narita vs. Josh Barnett
This was Ren’s first match since he was the mystery surprise at WrestleKingdom… and it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for this young man!
Narita swings with kicks early on, but it’s Barnett who took the initiative, going for a takedown as he rolled Narita down into a leg lock attempt. It’s blocked as Narita’s able to grab a waistlock, but it ends with a cravat from Barnett that headed into the ropes for a break. Barnett takes it back to the mat, but Narita’s headscissors get him free, only for Barnett to lock in a heel hook… but it’s by the ropes as we’ve a break. Barnett grabs Narita again, this time in a side headlock on the mat, before Narita returned from a rope break and found luck with some kicks. Except an overhead belly-to-belly from Barnett dumps him back to the mat, while a Capture suplex had Narita by the ropes to prevent a pin. Barnett moves it back to the middle as a bodyslam drew a two-count, before a double wristlock ended with Narita rolling to the ropes.
Forearms from Barnett keep Narita at bay, but Ren returns with an overhead belly-to-belly out of nowhere that nearly dumped Josh on his head. Kicks from Narita keep him ahead before a half-hatch suplex bridged for a near-fall, before a struggle led to a snap German suplex for another two-count for Narita.
More kicks from Narita eventually got caught as Barnett countered it into an Exploder for a near-fall, then a double wristlock, but Narita rolled and countered into a cross armbreaker, which Barnett wheelbarrow suplexed his way free of. Narita popped up though as the pair trade big boots, before a swift gutwrench slung Narita across the ring. From there, Barnett pulls Narita up for a Saito suplex, before a cross armbreaker forced the stoppage. An enjoyable match which did take its time to get going, but Narita was edged out here by the larger and more experienced Barnett. ***¼
Post-match, Barnett offered a handshake to Narita, who seemingly would rather have bowed…
JONAH & Bad Dude Tito vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay
JONAH’s tagging with Bad Dude Tito after he helped out a few weeks back in a sneak attack… so we’ve got ourselves a tag main event!
Juice starts with Tito, as JONAH wanted to make him wait, but an early armwringer’s broken up as Finlay gets the tag in. Tito’s wristlock’s escaped as he and Finlay then trade hammerlocks, leading to Finlay hammerlocking Tito through the ropes. An armdrag and a roll-up followed for a two-count, before Tito just charged Finlay down… while Finlay replied with a dropkick for good measure. Juice returns to squish Tito with a back senton, before headbutts pinned Tito into the corner. Finlay returns to stomp a mudhole in him, before Tito’s taken back to the corner for a cannonball. A kick in the ropes from JONAH changes the course though, and it’s not long before the Aussie tagged in to charge Juice into the corner, before Tito choked Juice behind the ref’s back.
JONAH ragdolls Juice with a gutwrench, but Juice escaped and teased Pulp Friction before he hit a dropkick. Tags bring in Tito and Finlay, with Finlay clearing house with forearms and uppercuts, leading to a uranage backbreaker for a near-fall. A tag brings JONAH back in to run through Finlay, before he press slammed him from the ring to the apron. Finlay’s bounced to the floor by Tito from there, before a waistlock back inside looked to wear Finlay down some more. It leads to a standing back suplex from JONAH, while Tito returned to take his shots at Finlay in the corner. Eventually Finlay evades JONAH and Tito… but Tito pulls Juice off the apron to prevent a tag, as JONAH picked apart Finlay with a launching press slam into the corner.
Tito’s back as Finlay begins his comeback, but a Blue Thunder Bomb nearly wins it for Tito as Juice dove in for the save. Finlay again goes for a tag, but JONAH distracts the ref as the bad guys continued to frustrate, before Finlay scored with a crossbody. JONAH charges Juice off the apron before he tagged in Tito, but that just annoyed Juice as he charged JONAH out of the ring to save a double suplex… allowing Finlay to steal one with an inside cradle on Tito! A bit of the proverbial banana peel finish as JONAH poked the FinJuice bear a little too much – but this issue is far from settled as JONAH and Tito dominated for large portions. ***½
This was a solid episode of NJPW Strong this week – even if there was something lacking in the line-up. That’s clearly the format though – and it seems to be working for the live crowds, going by the ticket sales and what have you.