The New Japan Strong Tag Team Championship tournament kicks off this week, with two first-round matches!
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: Christopher Daniels & Yuya Uemura pinned Aaron Solo & Nick Comoroto in 9:17 (***)
JONAH pinned Taylor Rust in 12:50 (***¼)
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls pinned Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs in 10:21 (***½)
We open with Ian Riccaboni backstage with Christopher Daniels. Daniels had been scheduled to team with Karl Fredericks in the Strong tag title tournament… but Fredericks is suddenly unable to compete, and with Daniels’ raison d’etre gone, is he going to continue… or is he going to give the slot to another team? Nope, Daniels is staying, and he brings in Yuya Uemura to tag alongside him.
We’re back at The Vermont Hollywood in Los Angeles for this round of tapings, and Alex Koslov’s back in the booth alongside Ian Riccaboni, who’s settled into the commentary seat extremely well in 2022. If that part surprises you, then there’s a lot of later-day ROH you’ll not have seen, clearly!
We see the brackets for the tournament, and today we’re getting the “block A” first round:
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: The Factory (Aaron Solo & Nick Comoroto) vs. Christopher Daniels & Yuya Uemura
So, after the late change in tag partner, the Fallen Angel goes up against the Factory here… which took away a big chunk of the story going into this one.
Daniels and Solo start, with Daniels taking a shoulder tackle before he returned with armdrags. Uemura’s in to slam Solo for barely a one-count, following up with a headlock takedown as Solo tried to sneak a pin from the defensive position. He breaks free and tags in Comoroto, who resisted shoulder tackles before he bulled down Uemura. Uemura returns with dropkicks before he charged Comoroto down… then tagged in Daniels who flew in with a missile dropkick. Solo’s back to chop Daniels down, but a single leg lariat has Solo on the mat as this remained even. Solo’s whipped into the corner, then accidentally knocked Comoroto off the apron before the big man pulled Daniels to the outside for a clothesline.
The referee’s kept distracted as Comoroto chokes Daniels in the corner. Comoroto tags in to slam Daniels, then brought Solo back in to help on a dropkick-assisted suplex that gets a near-fall. Daniels elbows out of a chinlock, but is instantly smothered in the ropes before he spiked Solo with a death valley driver… buying him enough time to tag Uemura back in. Uemura clears Comoroto off the apron ahead of a leaping forearm to Solo. A bulldog’s next out of the corner, while a Saito suplex nearly won it as Comoroto dove in at the last second to keep the match alive. Comoroto stayed in to hit an ushigoroshi, while a flying stomp from Solo nearly won it, before Uemura tagged out…
Daniels clears house with a roll-through enziguiri, then hung Comoroto on the ropes… but Solo’s back with right hands. A back body drop’s countered with a STO by Daniels, before Comoroto ran in to hit a clothesline as the Factory looked to stay in this. Uemura tries for a save as he trades rights with Comoroto, only for Comoroto to clothesline both opponents. Comoroto charges again, but gets low bridged to the outside ahead of a plancha from Uemura… meanwhile, Solo nearly nicks a win with a roll-up on Daniels. Returning fire, Daniels hits a uranage… then heads up top for the Best Moonsault Ever, and that’s your lot. ***
Taylor Rust vs. JONAH
This was Rust’s first singles match on Strong since he came up short against Tom Lawlor earlier in the year…
Rust tries to sting JONAH with kicks early on, going for the hamstring before he got thrown into the corner. Shrugging it off, Rust’s waistlock’s easily thrown aside, before he scored with a trip as he posed on a downed JONAH. That might be a bad idea… JONAH charges back, but Rust starts going back for that left leg with kicks, only to get obliterated with a GODDAMN body attack. Punches from above follow, but Rust slips out to grab a half crab, before he chopped JONAH into the corner. Staying on that left leg, Rust throws uppercuts to the knee, only for JONAH to power out and powerbomb him into the corner.
Rust rolls outside, where he’s chopped around the guard rails, then choked with a boot as JONAH was having his way here. An attempt to go for the legs saw Rust mount something in return, but things head back to the ring as a back elbow downed Rust again. JONAH goes for Rust’s nose and eyes, then headbutted him in the back of the head, following up with a grounded waistlock as JONAH kept the pace slow and deliberate.
JONAH breaks the hold to go for a big splash, but Rust rolls away… then avoided a charge into the corner before mounting a comeback with elbows and forearms. A rear spin kick and a scissors kick had JONAH down to a knee, only for the Aussie to come back with a superkick as Rust came out of the corner. A Fireman’s carry throw has Rust down as JONAH was hobbling into the corner… climbing up the ropes for something, only for Rust to catch him and bring him down with a Samoan drop. Rust gets a near-fall out of that, then from a double stomp, before a thrust kick and a roll-up almost put JONAH away. A trip up top sees Rust land a senton bomb for a near-fall, before he clubbed on JONAH in an abdominal stretch.
Rust walked around JONAH as he looked for a double armbar, but the big man’s able to get a foot to the rope to keep the match alive. A slap paintbrushed JONAH, who swiped back before he swatted down Rust with forearms amid a strike exchange. Rust boots back in, but runs into a clothesline and a back senton for a near-fall, before a running spear and a Tsunami splash put Rust away. A decent TV match, with JONAH having a few problems overcoming the former title challenger – and perhaps putting his name on the list for Fred Rosser later in the year? ***¼
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: West Coast Wrecking Crew (Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs) vs. TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste)
If Cagematch is accurate, this is the first time Haste and Nicholls have teamed (in a two-on-two tag) since they were TM61 in NXT… that was the best part of four years ago.
Jorel Nelson borrowed a TMDK shirt before the bell, as we started with Jorel and Mikey Nicholls… they lock up into the corner, before they traded holds… ending with Nicholls’ attempts at shoulder tackles earning him an elbow in the ropes. He eventually charges Nelson down though as Haste tagged in for a double back elbow, then his half of a standing moonsault/fist drop that drew a one-count. Haste nails a standing ‘rana, only to get charged into the corner as Isaacs and Nelson swarmed him, leading to a Dragon screw and a stomp as the match spilled outside. Nelson’s tope wipes out Haste, who was quickly thrown back inside for a long stalling suplex. Isaacs boots Haste into the corner, where Nelson got in some choking as the referee as being distracted by Nicholls in the other corner. The WCWC exchange quick tags as Haste ended up taking a Nelson backbreaker for a two-count…
Mounted punches from Nelson have Haste covering up… his attempted comeback ends with a leaping knee from Nelson… before Haste rushed up top to bring Jorel down with a superplex. Both men tag out as Nicholls looked to clear house, shoving the WCWC into each other ahead of a double clothesline… Isaacs eats clotheslines in the corner before a falling clothesline nearly won it. Nelson tags in to hit a slingshot spear to Nicholls though, before a Michinoku Driver/Powerbomb attempt drew Haste into break up the cover. Haste’s chucked outside, but manages to get the tag in after Nicholls’ snap DDT to Nelson… Haste charges in with an uppercut before drawing the WCWC back into each other in the corner.
Nicholls’ slam leaves Isaacs down as Haste cannonballed into Nelson… before a double team Big Ending – the Tagbuster – almost got the win. Isaacs breaks up the pin and gets thrown outside again, before Nelson escaped a double-team. Isaacs and Nelson combine to spike Nicholls with a double-team Dominator, while Isaacs’ avalanche slam and Nelson’s top rope elbow drop almost won it again. From there, the WCWC go for a double-team suplex, but Nicholls drags Nelson to the outside before the Thunder Valley – a double-team press slam – proved to be enough to put away Isaacs. A fantastic tag match to close this out, with TMDK getting the win in a shade over ten minutes – their first win in New Japan to boot! ***½
Solid, if not spectacular as the Strong Openweight tag title tournament got going – in spite of the one big stories of the first round falling by the wayside.