The Strong Style Evolved tour comes to an end, as Ren Narita takes on AEW’s Jay Lethal in this week’s main event.
The DKC submitted Kevin Knight in 7:45 (**¾)
Mascara Dorada pinned TJP in 10:50 (***½)
Jay Lethal pinned Ren Narita in 12:17 (***¾)
We’re back at the St. Petersburg Coliseum in Tampa, with Ian Riccaboni and my word… 48 minutes again? Nice and breezy, let’s hope!
The DKC vs. Kevin Knight
A Young Lion’s battle starts us off… these typically are short or end in draws, but we don’t get a lot of the latter on Strong. Shout-out to the cameraman who must have expected this to have been a tag match…
We’ve some scrambling early as both men looked to grab a body part… DKC grabbed a side headlock, then came back with a crucifix for an early two-count as the pair traded pinning attempts. A Boston crab attempt from Knight ends in the ropes, before the pair broke down with chops, as DKC manages to chain together a series of forearms.
A low dropkick sweeps Knight down, but he returns with a suplex out of a front facelock for a near-fall. Knight bounces DKC into the corner for a two-count, as a side headlock’s then fought out of. Knight knocks DKC down again, but misses with a dropkick as DKC jack-knifed him for a two-count. A wild backfist starts a comeback, as did a bulldog facebuster as more chops wore down Knight. Kicks and knees from DKC keep it going, as he just roughed Knight down for a two-count ahead of a guillotine… but Knight powers out to suplex his way free. A Kitchen Sink and a diving shoulder tackle gets a Knight a two-count, before a Boston crab was countered into a triangle armbar from DKC.
Knight tries to free himself with a powerbomb, but DKC turned it into a hanging armbar over the ropes, before he ran into a dropkick. That’s good for a two-count for Knight, but DKC flies back in with a massive leg lariat off the top rope… then again with a crucifix driver for a near-fall before a reverse double armbar forced Knight to submit. **¾
TJP vs. Mascara Dorada
Taped before WrestleMania weekend, this was Dorada’s first appearance in a New Japan ring since 2016’s Fantasticamania tour… and there’s history here as these two were the finalists in the Cruiserweight Classic. Remember that?!
Dorada took TJP outside with a snapmare early on, before headscissors from the luchador were countered into a bow-and-arrow hold. Escaping, Dorada took TJP into the ropes, but TJP hooked himself… only to baseball slide outside into an Asai moonsault in the aisle. A gamengiri helps Dorada back in as a springboard crossbody lands… before a springboard was dropkicked away by TJP.
TJP stays on Dorada with a backbreaker and a senton atomico for a two-count, before a Sharpshooter trapped Dorada in the middle of the ring. From there, a hammerlock’d backbreaker keeps the focus going… but TJP loses focus, plays to the crowd on the apron and ate a flying ‘rana to the floor for his woes. Back inside, a rope-walk elbow drop gets Dorada a near-fall, before a big boot and a facebuster left TJP down for a springboard dropkick… it misses, so TJP tries to trap Dorada in a cross-legged STF, only to get rolled up for a near-fall. A tornado DDT from TJP gets him right back in it, before the pair resorted to chops and forearms.
A trapped-leg back suplex keeps TJP ahead, before a Mamba splash misses… Dorada tried to respond quickly, but ends up eating an abdominal stretch driver as TJP again looked for the win. Dorada’s massive DDT stops TJP him his tracks, before the Dorada Screwdriver snatched the win. I’d have loved to have seen a warmer crowd for this, but this was some lovely stuff for the ten minutes they had. ***½
Post-match… TJP unmasks Dorada and leaves with the hood…
Ren Narita vs. Jay Lethal
Tiger Hattori’s back out for commentary on this. Is he just looking for a closer look at Narita?
Lethal struts to start, then went in for a side headlock… it’s pushed off as Narita scored a shoulder tackle, then pushed a Figure Four away… before he tried one of his own. Lethal pushes it away, then tried for a Lethal Injection as an inside cradle and another Figure Four attempt kept the breathless start going. Lethal resumes with a headlock takedown, but kicks from Narita got him an opening… only to run into a tiltawhirl backbreaker as Lethal followed up with a back suplex. A chinlock keeps Narita down, before Lethal threw him onto the apron… but a springboard dropkick misses as Ren instead tried to choke Jay out on the apron.
Narita’s dragged back into the ring for a Tower of London, before a Macho elbow off the top was countered with a crucifix for a two-count, before an overhead belly-to-belly took Lethal into the corner. Ren rolls Lethal back inside as a Narita Special #2 nearly won it… before Ren then went back to a toe hold. It morphs into the Narita Special #3 leg lace, but Lethal nearly gets to the ropes… so Narita drags him away and switches into a Figure Four. Lethal manages to get to the ropes as Narita had busted his nose… and that blood fires him up as he chopped away on Lethal. Blood and all. Narita ups the ante with kicks, only to get snapped into a Lethal Combination, just like that. The deadweight of Narita’s powered up as Lethal looks for a suplex, eventually landing the brainbuster ahead of the Macho elbow off the top for a near-fall.
From there, another Figure Four’s applied as Narita’s forced to drag his way to the ropes, almost getting pinned in the proceed before his bloodied self forced the break. Narita counters a Lethal Injection into a sleeperhold, before a Cobra Twist looked to force a stoppage… it’s turned into an Octopus as Lethal almost tapped before he got rolled up for a two-count. An O’Connor roll adds another two-count, before the kick-out saw Lethal come right in with a Lethal Injection for the win. Absolutely lovely stuff this, with Narita’s blood adding to the peril a little as he continued to look for his statement win (which would come over ‘Mania weekend). ***¾
A so-so crowd closed out this week’s Strong, but at least all three of the matches were well worth your time. Make time to see Lethal/Narita – a heck of a sprint to close out this particular series of Strong.