New Japan Strong – February 13th, 2022
By Rick Poehling on 18th February 2022
Tonight, the New Beginning tour continues as we’ve got BAD DUDE TITO in our main event, teaming with JONAH to make victims out of FinJuice!
In light of the horrific words written about one Jay White from our esteemed blogmaster (Scott’s opinion on this matter is, dare I say it, the NXT 2.0 of opinions), I feel the need to assure you that none of that scurrilous nonsense will be contained herein.
In fact, I’m making an announcement right here and now: I want to win next year’s Doomies. And not in the ‘other writers’ category, because we all know that Tommy Hall is winning that; no, no. I want to defeat the slanderous Scott Keith, and when I do, I shall rechristen them the ‘Bladies’.
So you heard it here first, people – the 2022 Doomies are mine in the name of Jay White. Breathe with the switchblade!
What the hell was I talking about before? Of course! Wrestling! On the wrestling blog!
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Also tonight, fresh off a stunningly good match with Katsuyori Shibata of all people at Wrestle Kingdom, Ren Narita is back to take on Bloodsport’s Josh Barnett!
Your hosts are Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov.
Up first, though, we’ve got the debuting Cody Chhun taking on Hikuleo!
Alright, never mind all that stuff I said. I quit. Hikuleo matches aren’t worth this.
I kid, I kid. About the quitting part. Hikuleo still blows.
Cody Chhun vs Hikuleo
Crowd chants for Cody, as it’s his hometown. And Hikuleo sucks. He wears Hikuleo out with chops and hits a few dropkicks, before trying a slam and running right into a lariat from Hikuleo. Whoops. Hikuleo tosses him to the floor, then chops him down. Sllloooooowwwly. Back in and a few blind charges hit boot for Hikuleo, but Cody tries for the slam again and Hikuleo the Giant falls on top for two, then uses the Greco-Roman choke on the mat before hitting a Biel halfway across the ring. Koslov calls this “methodical, he takes his time.”
Yeah. So Hikuleo grabs a chinlock to rest up from Chhun literally bumping off him the entire time, since standing there can certainly wear a man down. Cody avoids the chokeslam tries a few shoulders before slamming Hikuleo for two. He did it! He tries for a suplex, Hikuleo escapes, Cody gets a cutter! 1, 2, no! Cody tries to come off the ropes, but Hikuleo hits the only good move he does in the entire match with a snap powerslam, then finishes with a chokeslam. He sucks. (Hikuleo over Cody Chhun, pinfall, 7:34)
THOUGHTS: *3/4. Hikuleo sucks. He’s the answer to the age-old question of “What if Kevin Nash had 1/100 of his natural charisma and happened to be the son of Haku?”. It’s been five years with this dude and he still is as bland and boring as he was at the beginning of his career. This entire match was him basically standing there while Chhun just bumped off him and did all the work. Cody looked fine to me, but who can really tell when you’re in there with a store mannequin in wrestling gear?
Ren Narita vs Josh Barnett
I’mma go out on a limb here and say that I expect this match to be better than the opener. Goddamn, everytime I see him, Barnett looks more and more like one of my old Philosophy professors in college. Except that he’s way more ripped, of course. Hey remember when Barnett was calling the San Francisco G-1 show with Jim Ross and Jay White was drawing such nuclear heat that when he accidentally knocked over JR at the desk, Barnett was ready to shoot on him in the ring after he got up from commentary? You know, Jay White, best heel in the business, that guy?
Anyway, this starts awesome, as they get their hands up and Barnett grabs the waist and they WRESTLE. Hold, rollover, counterhold, leg lock – I can’t keep up easily as they just do some beautiful grappling on the mat. Reversals abound as Ian has something to work with in talking about how Narita is countering holds and blocking with the leg and the only thing that I’m even mildly perturbed by is that they could have just cancelled that Hikuleo abortion we witnessed and instead given us 7 more minutes of THIS.
Barnett with a side headlock on the mat, Ren with a headscissors in response. Back to their feet, and Josh shoots on the leg and goes back to the headlock. Back up and it’s Narita with kicks and Barnett finally throws a belly-to-belly for our first suplex of the match, then to a cravat. Suplex from a front facelock, but Ren is in the ropes. Josh takes him back over into a keylock, but Narita has the fingers locked to prevent his arm from straightening out.
Barnett off the ropes, but Narita hits a belly-to-belly that looked like it landed Josh on his head. Goodness. I don’t have anything snarky to say here, this is just excellent professional wrestling. Bridging suplex out of the corner by Narita gets two. German suplex by Narita for two. He takes too much time following up, though, and Barnett gets an Exploder. Narita tries a double wristlock, but Barnett just picks him up and hits an overhead slam on Ren, then knocks him silly with forearms and a gutwrench suplex. Saito suplex and a cross-armbreaker finish for Josh. (Josh Barnett over Ren Narita, submission, 10:16)
THOUGHTS: ***3/4. See now, and I’m going to heavily paraphrase Herb Kunze here, this is a match worthy of our respect, because it not only highlighted both guys, it demonstrated a style that required both men to have extensive training to even have the match in the first place. Wrestlers who can go out there and work grappling matches like this with a few big moves and make it compelling enough to keep the audience are few and far between to say the least – most backyard workers are not capable of doing it. Barnett as the vet was leading the match, but Narita with his Shibata training (seriously, watch some of Narita’s Young Lion matches in Japan and then watch him now. The difference is startling.) kept up with him in every facet that was necessary. This was an excellent professional wrestling match and I’m happy I watched it. You should too.
Post-match, Barnett, brings Narita back in and shakes his hand as Nairta gives him a bow. Magnificent.
Ads! Buy some NJPW merch, everyone!
Main event time! You know what that means!
BAD DUDE TITO/JONAH vs FinJuice (David Finlay/Juice Robinson)
Juice points up in the air on his entrance, I assume because he knows that he’s about to be killed by Bad Dude Tito and will be heading to the Pearly Gates quite soon. Finlay wants JONAH to start, which I understand, because once Bad Dude Tito gets in there, we all know it’s over.
Regardless, we start with Juice and Tito. Juice immediately tags in Finlay after an arm-wringer like a coward. Finlay and Tito trade hammerlocks and now Finlay runs to the ropes to escape the wrath of Bad Dude Tito, then uses the ropes to reverse like the cheater he is before hitting an armdrag after a cheap shot on Tito. Bad Dude Tito is gonna fuck this dude up.
Finlay hits a dropkick on Tito and tags in Juice for a senton. Tito allows this because it’s not like that nonsense is going to beat someone like Bad Dude Tito, so he lets Finlay and Juice amuse themselves for a bit by illegally double-teaming him (which is, of course, the only way that they could EVER get an ‘advantage’ over BAD DUDE TITO).
Illegal closed fists by Juice and JONAH finally objects, so Juice turns around and says something, I think he was insulting JONAH’s mother or something. Either way, he turns around and Bad Dude Tito absolutely LEVELS him with a forearm, sending Juice’s head somewhere into the 3rd row. Once the head is reattached, Tito and JONAH work over Juice in their corner, trying to teach the young man some respect, damnit.
Juice with a dropkick to the back of JONAH’s head, and it’s tags on both sides. Finlay catches Tito by surprise with uppercuts and goes up, flying uppercut by Finlay! Backbreaker by Finlay, two count on Tito! Blind tag by JONAH and Finlay doesn’t realize it, allowing JONAH to level him down to take over. JONAH presses Finlay into the turnbuckles, and Tito is sporting enough to help David back into the ring, where JONAH slaps on a waistlock.
JONAH with an overhead suplex and tag to Tito, who demonstrates proper chop/forearm technique on Finlay so David can watch the match back later and learn something. Finlay gets free and looks to tag, but he’s underestimated the ring IQ of Bad Dude Tito, who yanks Juice off the apron to the floor to prevent the tag. Tito always cares enough to teach, it’s really quite touching. JONAH squashes Finlay in the corner.
Tag to Tito and Finlay slaps at him, so Bad Dude Tito decides enough is enough and hits a huge spinning Blue Thunder Bomb. Finlay tries for the tag, but JONAH is informing the ref that Juice throws illegal closed fists and to be on the lookout for them, so the ref misses the tag. Just an innocent mistake. Could happen to any ref. JONAH puts Finlay on the top rope, but Finlay fights him off and hits a crossbody off the top. He goes for the tag…..but JONAH nails Juice to stop that.
JONAH and Bad Dude Tito look to finally end this with a double suplex, but Juice ILLEGALLY enters the ring and tackles JONAH. Tito, who is worried that his partner could be seriously injured due to the illegal tactics of Juice Robinson, is then rolled up for the pin by Finlay, who probably planned out the entire thing. Shameful. (FinJuice over Bad Dude Tito/JONAH, pinfall, 11:51)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. A fine tag match here, although I’m not sure I’m as sold on JONAH these days. He’s fine, maybe more than that, but he hasn’t really done much in the matches I’ve seen since he left WWE that makes me think he’s the answer as a big man. As for FinJuice, they’ve got some real decisions to make in the future. On the one hand, they will probably have jobs for years to come if NJPW continues their American expansion efforts with things like Strong…..but I doubt those jobs are going to take them to the top of the cards. I think that they’ve kind of hit their ceiling in NJPW for the time being, and it’s really up to them what they want. I can see them staying, I can see only Juice staying, I really don’t know. It all depends on what they think is out there for them that’s realistic in North America.
Ian and Alex wrap it up by telling us that next week, our main event is another Jay White US of Jay open challenge! Yay!
FINAL THOUGHTS: Kind of a sub-par outing this week, the opener was bleh, the main was very solid, and the treasure was in the middle, as Barnett and Narita put on a show out there with some absolute quality grappling. They were the can’t-miss of this show, with the rest being somewhat skippable to a degree.
Next week, the Switchblade returns! As do I!
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected] for email