The Dark Order takes on Aussie Open in the pick of this week’s New Japan Strong tag title tournament outings.
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: Barrett Brown & Misterioso pinned Eddie Pearl & Ricky Gibson in 8:31 (**¼)
Tom Lawlor pinned Bad Dude Tito in 12:09 (***¼)
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis pinned Alan Angels & Evil Uno in 12:44 (***½)
We’re back at the Vermont Hollywood in Los Angeles for this one, with Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov on commentary.
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: Midnight Heat (Eddie Pearl & Ricky Gibson) vs. Stray Dog Army (Barrett Brown & Misterioso)
The first of our two tournament matches today, as we start with Gibson and Misterioso…
Gibson trips Misterioso, but the masked man recovers with a wristlock and an arm wringer. Gibson breaks free as Brown and Pearl tagged in. Brown lands armdrags, but misses on elbow drops before both men tagged out… Brown kicks Gibson in the ropes before Misterioso charged Pearl off the apron… then sent him into the railings as the Stray Dog Army took over. A drop toe hold and a low dropkick helps Brown get a two-count as Gibson gets thrown into the buckles, leading to assisted running uppercuts from Brown, and running knees from Misterioso for a near-fall.
A quick tag brings Brown back in as he hits a low dropkick while Misterioso’s Giant Swing had Gibson in trouble. Pearl breaks up the pin and gets thrown outside for it, before a trip in the ropes from Pearl caught Brown ahead of a DDT from Gibson for a near-fall. Pearl tags in as the Midnight Heat enjoyed a brief run on top, with Pearl’s senton atomico getting a near-fall, but an attempted double-team in the corner’s thwarted when Brown sent Gibson into Pearl’s knee. Pearl’s able to tag back in to prevent that mistake from biting them in the rear, as the Midnight Heat continued to wear Brown down with a front facelock. Brown knees out of a double-team suplex, but couldn’t make the tag out as he’s swept onto Gibson’s knees for a near-fall. Misterioso hooks the ropes as Gibson charged his way… Gibson’s sent outside for an Asai moonsault that saw Misterioso take a lot of the railings on the way down.
Meanwhile, in the ring, Pearl’s caught with a roll-up for a near-fall, before a Misterioso superkick and back cracker allowed Brown to dive in with a Busaiku knee for the win. This took a while to get going as the crowd didn’t seem to want to buy into what was on offer here. **¼
Bad Dude Tito vs. Tom Lawlor
This was Lawlor’s first singles match since losing the Strong Openweight title…
The opening lock-up ends with both men in the ropes as Tito breaks… then took Lawlor between the ropes as commentary pondered where the former champion’s mind was at. Right hands from Tito land, before Lawlor chopped Tito into the corner… then went for a takedown as a leglock ended with Tito rolling free. A quick cradle gets Lawlor a near-fall as he then broke free and looked to start anew. Lawlor pulls Tito down for a chinlock, then hammerlock’d an arm as he then snapped back on Tito’s arm. Tito fights out of the corner, but is met with an uppercut before Lawlor leapt in for a mounted Kimura… which Tito slammed his way out of. A triangle choke followed from Lawlor, who tried to roll it into a cross armbar, only for Tito to counter with an ankle lock before he wheelbarrowed Lawlor back into the ankle lock.
Tito can’t keep the hold on as Lawlor got to the ropes, but he’s able to return with chops as he then stood on Tito in the corner. Cravat knees follow, before Lawlor ran into a clothesline… then returned with a leaping enziguiri as Tito was proving more problematic than expected. Another thrust kick and enziguiri has Tito ahead, as did a rolling elbow, as Lawlor almost fell to the upset. A camel clutch from Tito, then an Exploder keeps Lawlor on the back foot, before Lawlor’s attempt at an Exploder saw him met with a T-bone suplex. That fires him up as Lawlor went for a tornado DDT, switching it into a mounted guillotine instead, before a scooped tombstone almost won it for the former champion.
Tito catches a PK from Lawlor and went back to the ankle lock, before he ducked an attempted enziguiri to escape and hit a German suplex. A running uppercut from Tito caught Lawlor in the corner, before a Blockbuster of all things gave Lawlor another scare as he was forced to kick out at two. A wrist-clutch suplex from Tito’s escaped as Lawlor grabbed a rear naked choke, only for it to be countered into a Blue Thunder Bomb. Tito’s still ahead, but misses a frog splash as Lawlor came right back in with a PK for a near-fall… Kamigoye-like knees follow as Lawlor then tied up Tito for a NKOTB (Nasty Knee On The Brain), before a rear naked choke took Tito into the corner.
Another rear naked choke ends with Tito trying to go for the Blue Thunder Bomb again, but Lawlor instead countered with a headlock driver… and that’s the win for the former champion. A tougher test than imagined, but perhaps a win in defeat for Tito as he showed a lot here. ***¼
NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round: Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) vs. Dark Order (Alan Angels & Evil Uno)
It’s Strong debuts for Uno and Angels as they complete the first round of the Strong tag title tournament…
Angels and Fletcher start us off, but it’s Kyle whose headlock takedown gets first blood here, before he charged Angels to the mat. A missed dropkick allows Fletcher to stay ahead, before he’s wheelbarrowed by Angels for a near-fall… while a leaping dropkick knocked Kyle into the Dark Order corner. Tags bring in Davis and Uno as they trade shoulder tackles… Uno’s knocked down before he came back with some headscissors, only for Davis to dump Uno with a slam. Fletcher’s back to charge Angels off the apron as the Aussies pulled ahead with back elbows and a back senton to Uno, before they slung Angels into an uppercut.
Uno’s trapped in the corner as Davis tagged in to hit some elbows, then a swift bodyslam as he cut off Uno’s attempted fightback. Kyle’s back as they wound up the arms, only to catch each other with forearms before Uno used the referee to help him come back in with a neckbreaker. A tag brings Angels in with a crossbody off the top, before he trapped Fletcher with mounted punches… then moonsaulted over Davis before taking the big man down with a tornado DDT. Fletcher runs into Angel’s Spanish Fly for a near-fall, before Uno’s blind tag in allowed him to hit a German suplex. The cameras miss something with Angels and Fletcher, as Uno then got hold of Kyle for a swinging Flatliner for a near-fall. A chop from Angels takes Fletcher into the ropes, with another one in the corner following for good measure.
Uno tags in so he could join in with the chops, following up with forearms before Fletcher struck back in with a suplex. Tags bring us to Davis and Angels, with the latter getting charged into the corner, then Biel’d out of it. Another Biel keeps Angels in the air, before he baited Davis to the outside for a tope. Fletcher runs in for a save, but eats a dropkick as Angels returned to the ring and… was chopped away in mid-air. Fletcher tags back in as Angels fights off a double-team, only to leap into the clutches of Davis as the double-team Go 2 Sleep and an assisted Aussie Arrow 1-2 punch nearly ended things. A ‘rana from Angels sends Davis outside, where Uno cannonballed into Dunkzilla… Uno tags in as it’s Fletcher’s turn to get double-teamed, leading to a superkick-aided Gourdbuster for a near-fall.
Uno stings Davis with chops, but a single one in return has Uno down… off comes the jacket as the pair up the ante some more. Uno peppers Davis, only to get met with an enziguiri… sparking a Parade of Moves as Angels tried to make a difference, before Uno went up top and got superplexed down. A frog splash from Angels keeps Davis down as all four men were laying… but it’s the Dark Order who looked to pull ahead, only for a cartwheel clothesline from Davis to take them both down. Fletcher returns as Angels gets dumped ahead of a sliding punch to Uno… and with Uno on the outside, it’s a little elementary as the Aussies wind up the arms for the Coriolis… and that’s enough to book their spot in the semis against the Stray Dog Army. A hell of an impression on their tag debut on Strong – but not a surprise for those who’ve been watching them in the UK for the last few years… ***½
Next week: Christopher Daniels & Yuya Uemura vs. Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls in a tag title tournament semi-final…
A solid, not spectacular, edition of Strong as the tag title tournament ticked on.