The United Empire debut on New Japan Strong as they took on the trio of Brody King, Mascara Dorada and Taylor Rust.
Chris Dickinson vs. Ren Narita went to a time-limit draw in 15:00 (***¼)
Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks pinned Aaron Solow & Nick Comoroto in 8:21 (***)
Aaron Henare, Great O-Khan & TJP pinned Taylor Rust, Brody King & Mascara Dorada in 14:04 (***¼)
We’re back to a Saturday night slot, as we’re live on tape from the Vermont Hollywood in Los Angeles… Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov are on the call.
Ren Narita vs. Chris Dickinson
This was a rematch from February 2021, where Narita got an upset win. Dickinson’s got new music, which sounds a little inspired by the old PRIDE Fighting Championships music…
We’ve a tentative start as Narita took things to the mat, but wasn’t able to progress… so Dickinson tried his luck, only to scramble to the ropes when Narita went for a double wristlock. Dickinson pushed on, taking Narita into the corner for an overhand strike, which Narita returned as they upped the ante, leading to a snap suplex from Dickinson from a two-count. Dickinson looked for a cross armbreaker straight after that, but Narita blocked it as the pair looked to grab a hold… but a leg lock from Dickinson quickly ended in the ropes. Palm strikes and a belly-to-belly keep Dickinson ahead, but Narita finds his target, grabbing a leg lock on Dickinson, but Dickinson escaped and manages to tie up Narita in another cross armbar… but Narita squirmed into the ropes.
A chop sends Narita back into the ropes, while a back elbow took him to the mat as another crack at the double wristlock followed. When it’s applied, Narita again gets to the ropes, then fired back with some kicks, only for Dickinson to light him up with chops before he rolled Narita down for another armbar, but yep… the ropes. We’re back to chops and forearms as Narita carved a way back in, following with a Narita Special #4 that nearly got the pin. Stomps follow ahead of a Figure Four, but Dickinson rolls the hold over, only for Narita to roll back as Dickinson’s hip issues prevented him from making a full escape. Chops tried to force another escape, but in the end the pair rolled into the ropes. More kicks from Narita keep Dickinson on the back foot, but eventually Narita threw one too many as Dickinson caught it… then muscled back in with a deadlift release German suplex.
We hit the two-minute warning as Dickinson threw some clotheslines in the corner and a brainbuster out of it, before trapping Narita in a STF. Narita makes it to the ropes, and after taking some chops grabbed a rear naked choke, then a Cobra twist, which Dickinson hiptossed out of, following with a PK to the back and some more kicks as we whiled away the final seconds, ending with an Octopus hold that ended on the mat as the bell went. This one perhaps could have done with a bit more urgency around it, particularly in the final minutes, but for Strong’s first-ever draw, this was pretty good. ***¼
The Factory (Aaron Solow & Nick Comoroto) vs. Clark Connors & Karl Fredericks
This one’s been playing out on Strong, the New Japan US shows, and AEW’s YouTube shows. Gotta love the cross-pollination.
Solow slaps Fredericks to start, then got a receipt as an eye rake followed from the Factory member. A leapfrog and and crossbody from Fredericks puts him ahead as Connors tagged in for a double back elbow, before Nick Comoroto came in and tried to manhandle the Wild Rhino. Shoulder tackles from Connors had little effect, but eventually took the big man down for just a one-count. Clark runs into an elbow as he went for a Trophy Kill, then got slammed down as more elbows awaited Connors in the corner. QT Marshall gets involved, striking Connors behind the ref’s back, before Solow came in for a dropkick to aid Comoroto’s suplex for a two-count. Stomps keep Connors in the corner, as Comoroto chokes him, then tagged in for a slingshot elbow drop from the apron for a two-count.
Connors fights back with strikes, only to get cut off with a knee and a press slam… which he wriggled out of before avoiding an elbow drop. That buys him enough time to go for a tag, but it’s cut-off before Fredericks eventually got the hot tag in. Solow tries to stop him, only to take a spinebuster as a hiptoss and the leaping elbow drop nearly won it. Comoroto came in but misses a charge into the corner as Fredericks then got distracted by Marshall. Recovering, a roll-up gets Solow a two-count as Marshall blindsides Fredericks on the kick-out… while a spear from Comoroto nearly stole the win as Connors breaks it up in time. Connors low bridges Comoroto to the outside, then tagged in as a powerslam looked to have him on his way.
Marshall pops up again, but Yuya Uemura pulled him off the apron… Fredericks dives into Comoroto, and as Solow misses a spinning kick, Connors came back with a spear and a Trophy Kill for the win. A fun little tag match which keeps things ticking along – and I really need to start paying more attention to Dark… ***
Post-match, Marshall took the mic but got drowned out by the crowd. What happened to patching the mic through to the audio mix? He claimed the LA Dojo lads got a cheap win, then challenged Fredericks to a match at the next set of tapings at the ECW Arena.
United Empire (Great O-Khan, Aaron Henare & TJP) vs. Brody King, Mascara Dorada & Taylor Rust
This was the debut of O-Khan and Henare on Strong, as we’re looking to get a lot more of the United Empire on here over the summer…
We had a staredown between O-Khan and King before the bell, but it’s Henare and Rust that start things off, trading kicks before Henare grabbed a wristlock. Rust responds with a takedown, before a lucha roll-up drew an early one-count. Body shots from Henare have Rust rocked, before Rust fought back with a dropkick. Mascara Dorada tags in and went for TJP, going for a handspring before some headscissors were cartwheeled out of. Things descend to chops and forearms before TJP went for the eyes, only for Dorada to come back with a springboard… which TJP dropkicked out of mid-air. The Empire clear the ring as TJP kept Dorada inside, stamping on his face ahead of a senton atomico as O-Khan came back in.
Mongolian chops take Dorada into the corner as O-Khan took a seat, throwing in some gyrations too. Some boot choking distracts the ref as Henare ran in to clear the apron, then hit a suplex on Dorada for a two-count. TJP’s back for a backbreaker and a knee drop, before he began to tear away at Dorada’s mask as King and Rust inadvertently distracted the ref. A big boot and a Slingblade-like bulldog got Dorada free, before a double dropkick took care of O-Khan and Henare, while a springboard dropkick had TJP down. Brody King gets the tag in as he looked to clear house, charging O-Khan and Henare into the corner ahead of a cannonball, while a Black Hole slam dealt with TJP.
O-Khan kicks out of a pin, then fought back with Mongolian chops… King returned with regular chops, only to run into a Judo-style takedown for a near-fall. Chops from Brody briefly lit up the Empire, as a double clothesline took down Henare and O-Khan as Taylor Rust returned for a running kick to Henare. A scissor kick has Henare down, but O-Khan runs in to keep the Parade of Kicks going, which then morphed into a battle of claws. Henare breaks up Brody’s claw with a body shot, as he and O-Khan then wore down King some more… Dorada tries to make one last save, but Henare knocked him down. Rust recovers with an ankle lock on TJP, who wasn’t legal, then a Rings of Rust on Henare… but TJP breaks it up as Rust tried to force a way back with kicks… only for a returning O-Khan to charge him into the corner. Triple-teaming ensues, leading to a Blue Thunder bomb from Henare and a Mamba splash from TJP for a near-fall.
Dorada and King make the save, but get sent outside as Dorada accidentally tope’s King, allowing O-Khan to hit the Imperial Drop as Henare ended up getting the win. This got a little wild at the end, and continued after the match as the Empire continued to run roughshod to close out the show, unmasking Dorada to boot. ***¼
We close with a subtitled O-Khan promo as next week we’ll have DKC, Kevin Knight & Fred Yehi vs. Bateman, Misterioso & Barrett Brown, David Finlay vs. Blake Christian and Aussie Open & Jeff Cobb vs. Bad Dude Tito, Shane Haste & JONAH.
Strong remained, erm, strong this week with this week’s trio of matches as they looked to set the tone for the next few months of tapings.