It’s all United Empire on this week’s episode of Strong, as Will Ospreay’s crew took over the card.
Aaron Henare, Great-O-Khan, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis pinned Bad Dude Tito, JONAH, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste in 11:35 (***)
Jeff Cobb pinned Willie Mack in 13:13 (***¼)
Will Ospreay pinned Homicide in 20:47 (***¾)
We’re back at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia for this, with Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwoldt on the call.
TMDK (Bad Dude Tito, JONAH, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) vs. United Empire (Aaron Henare, Great-O-Khan, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)
It’s been a while since I’ve seen “Mad” Mikey Nicholls…
The United Empire are swarmed at the bell, but they take things outside as Nicholls and Henare stay in the ring. A springboard knee out of the corner dumps Haste early, before Great O-Khan tagged in to hit some Mongolian chops to the back of Haste in the corner… then used Shane for a seat.
Davis tags in to drop Haste with a chop, before Fletcher came in to hit some quick double-teams for a two-count. Kyle dumps Haste with slams, before Mikey Nicholls tripped Fletcher in the ropes, dragging him to the outside as JONAH proceeded to chuck Kyle into the rails. Back inside, Nicholls hits a back suplex, then began to hook at Fletcher’s mouth, following with a knee drop as things went into the corner.
JONAH’s next as he distracted the Empire while Fletcher was getting choked in the corner. A sunset flip from Kyle ended with him getting sat on by JONAH for a near-fall, before Fletcher was held in a Tree of Woe in the TMDK corner. Kicks from Haste riled up Fletcher, before Haste’s dropkick cut-off Fletcher.
Nicholls tags back in to chop Fletcher… Kyle gives as good as he gets, then walloped Nicholls with a superkick. Finally, Davis gets the hot tag in, but the three-on-one provided something of a speed bump before he game face-to-face with JONAH. A leaping enziguiri takes JONAH down as Henare returned alongside Bad Dude Tito to trade strikes.
O-Khan slips in to charge Tito into the corner as the Empire began to swarm, leading to a sit-out powerbomb from Henare for a near-fall. More swarming from TMDK led to JONAH squashing Fletcher into the corner, before TMDK’s Tagbuster and a Tito frog splash led to another near-fall in the opposite direction.
TMDK and Aussie Open stay in the ring, but Fletcher dropkicks TMDK off the apron before topes from Davis and Fletcher cleared the way. O-Khan stays in the ring, but ate a Blockbuster from Tito, who then traded strikes with Henare. A gut shot stops Tito, who then fell to the Streets of Rage as the Empire left with the win. A fun multi-man tag, with the Empire – of course – winning on their own show. ***
Post-match, O-Khan cuts a promo, demanding the crowd bow down as he said that Cobb and Ospreay would dominate the US… while TMDK backstage pushed for a straight-up 2-on-2 tag with Aussie Open.
Willie Mack vs. Jeff Cobb
This was a New Japan debut for Mack, who recently left Impact…
Mack backs Cobb into the corner to start… then had the favour returned before he grabbed a side headlock. Mack gyrates with it, only to get pushed off ahead of some big lad lucha and an armdrag from Mack. A ‘rana followed, before Mack twisted Cobb’s nipples in the ropes. I think El Phantasmo might have something to day…
Leaping shoulder tackles from Mack lead to a slam, before he mixed Cena and Hogan with a hand signal and a legdrop. Cobb’s knocked off the apron to the outside, as a tope con giro followed from Mack, who was leaving nothing behind here. The lights go out as the pair were on the outside… quickly resuming as Mack chopped Cobb by the railings.
Mack realises he’s got a 20-count as he was looking to stay on the outside, but Cobb capitalises on the confusion, and almost took the count-out win himself as Mack narrowly beats the count. Cobb stays on Mack, “surfing” on his back by the ropes, but Mack fought back, hitting a diving high kick off the ropes, following up with forearms and kicks as Cobb was kept cornered.
Mack lands on his feet after cannonballing into Cobb in the corner, getting a near-fall, but Cobb’s back with a clothesline… only to miss a standing moonsault. A Samoan drop from Mack sees him capitalise, as a kip-up and a standing moonsault crushed Cobb for a near-fall.
Cobb tries to shoot Mack into the ropes for a Tour of the Islands, but Mack put on the brakes, returning with a rebound German suplex and a T-Bone suplex. It’s good for another near-fall, as Mack then got caught on the top rope, with Cobb bringing him down with a big ol’ superplex. Mack gets a shoulder up at two, then avoided a ripcord clothesline, returning with a Sky High for a near-fall.
Mack went for a Number One Stunner, but Cobb pushes away… Mack tries for another Samoan drop, but Cobb slips out for a roll-up, and that’s your lot! An out-of-nowhere finish as Cobb snuck out a win over an impressive Mack. ***¼
Next week – on the Ignition tapings – the NJPW Strong tag-team championship tournament kicks off. For first-round matches, we’ve got Christopher Daniels & Yuya Uemura vs. The Factory’s Aaron Solo & Nick Comoroto, TMDK’s Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls vs. the West Coast Wrecking Crew of Royce Isaacs and Jorel Nelson, the Stray Dog Army of Barrett Brown & Misterioso vs. Midnight Heat (Eddie Pearl & Ricky Gibson), and Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. the Dark Order’s Evil Uno & Alan Angels.
Homicide vs. Will Ospreay
Come on, we all expected this match would happen someday, right? This was eleven years to the day (tapings-wise) since Homicide last appeared in a New Japan ring, as he was accompanied here by Eddie Kingston, who jumped onto the same broken headset Tiger Hattori had last week in… a Team Taz shirt.
We open with a tie-up into the corner from Ospreay, who then worked a wristlock as the crowd were solidly behind Homicide. Homicide reverses it, but Ospreay breaks free, then grabbed a side headlock that’s pushed off. The shoulder tackle from Ospreay was ineffective, so Homicide slapped him, then charged him down before a throat thrust took Ospreay into the corner.
A running monkey flip from Homicide’s styled out as Ospreay comes back with a crossbody out of the corner… as it’s then back to the arm, rolling Homicide down into a Kimura. Homicide gets free and brings Ospreay down with a drop toe hold before a STF ended in the ropes… Ospreay’s lifted to the outside as Homicide went to follow up with a dive, but Ospreay switches around and scored with a plancha.
Staying outside, Ospreay chops Homicide by the railings, then went for the eyes as Homicide fought back. Ospreay got distracted by Eddie Kingston at ringside, and gets caught out as a chair’s slid into his knees ahead of a suplex onto the ramp. Ospreay blocked a second one on the stage, only to take a neckbreaker before Homicide nibbled on his fingers.
Heading back towards the ring, Homicide stopped to kick Ospreay’s hand in the railings, before Homicide was quickly knocked out of the ring again. Ospreay tries to suplex Homicide back in, but ends up getting caught in the ropes as Homicide then pulled a bag from under the padding… in which he’d smuggled a fork.
Kyle Fletcher threatened to towel whip Homicide as Ospreay bit and kicked his way free… then threw the fork aside. A suplex takes Homicide out of the corner for barely a two-count, before things started to amp up with headbutts between the two. Going to the eyes allowed Ospreay to take Homicide to the corner, following up with a grounded abdominal stretch before Ospreay baited Eddie Kingston towards the ring.
Kingston stayed at ringside to cheer on Homicide, who jacked Ospreay’s foot to send him to the outside for a tope con giro. Returning to the ring, Homicide scored with an Exploder, but couldn’t bridge it for the pin… nor could he follow up with a Tiger Driver as Ospreay ‘rana’d free. Ospreay’s top rope ‘rana’s blocked as a tornado DDT ends up taking him down instead for a near-fall, before Homicide teased a Cop Killa… but Ospreay elbowed free.
A handspring enziguiri takes Homicide down next, as did a springboard forearm, before Homicide clung on to block a potential Storm Breaker. Some Kawada-ish kicks break that grip, before a wall-run enziguiri took Homicide to the corner… where he quickly came back with an overhead belly-to-belly to throw Ospreay into the buckles.
The pair go for cutters, but instead Ospreay finds a way through with a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall… then an OsCutter for a near-fall. Homicide slumped as a Hidden Blade was being called for… so Ospreay mouths off, as the pair then traded strikes… but it’s Homicide who gets a second wind, and a nibble of the ear to boot.
From there, a hook kick sunk Homicide to his knees, before he snuck back in with a cutter for a near-fall. Ospreay floats out of a Cop Killa, but couldn’t avoid it any more as Homicide finally hit it, albeit for a near-fall. Exasperated, Homicide looked in the turnbuckle cover for the fork (as a second camera angle really should have been picked when assistance came…)
Homicide snapmares Ospreay down, but the ref snatches the fork, allowing Ospreay to hit a hook kick and a Hidden Blade for a near-fall… before a Storm Breaker finally got the win. ***¾
After the match, Eddie Kingston got in the face of Ospreay and Aussie Open, but they don’t come to blows as Ospreay celebrated to close out the show.
A solid episode of Strong that easily could have been a standalone show – but instead ended up setting up two potential matches for the future, with Ospreay/Kingston and TMDK vs. Aussie Open sewing seeds here.