Tonight, it’s the 100th episode of New Japan Strong! And we’ll cover the week in G-1 where, for one match in particular, I will use an overwhelming amount of profanity! You’ve been warned!
With that in mind, let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Tonight on Strong in our main event, the Strong Tag title tournament continues as The Mighty Don’t Kneel face off against Christopher Daniels and Karl Fredericks…..no, wait, Karl is in the G-1, so…..no, that’s not right either. Karl graduated the Dojo and apparently went on his excursion to Mars or something, so it’ll be Daniels and Yuya Uemura facing TMDK with a spot in the finals at stake!
Your hosts are Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov. Also tonight, a 6-man tag match with Rocky Romero, David Finlay, and Mascara Dorada taking on NEGRO CASAS, Adrian Quest, and Lucas Riley! Hold crap, Negro? That could be fun!
But starting off our night, we’ve got a New Japan Strong debut as Jordan Cruz, who has appeared on AEW Dark, will take on….JR Kratos!
Oh, poor Jordan.
Jordan Cruz vs JR Kratos
Cruz poses a bit to start, so Kratos runs right at him and splats him in the corner! That was AWESOME. Jesse Ventura would most certainly approve of JR’s punishment for showboating. Kratos beats the hell out of him a bit more and puts on a chinlock. Jordan fights out because he hasn’t LEARNED yet, and Kratos boots him down to continue this painful lesson. Kratos misses a few elbows and Cruz somehow thinks this will get him back into things or something, but Kratos takes a few shots, likely for the fun of it, then wipes him out with a huge boot. Kratos plays a bit more with his food for the fun of it, destroying him with a lariat, then a Black Hole slam for the pin. (JR Kratos over Jordan Cruz, pinfall, 4:01)
THOUGHTS: *1/2. Just a squash here, I didn’t really get a sense of what Jordan could do one way or the other. This was just there to put Kratos over.
Post-match, Kratos has the STICK~! He goes back and forth with the crowd a bit, then challenges Alex Coughlin to a Last Man Standing match as they’ve gotten some real mileage from what could have been just a simple upset. Well done on that front.
Negro Casas, Lucas Riley, and Adrian Quest vs Rocky Romero, David Finlay, and Mascara Dorada
Man, I’m a bit weirded out, I think I’ve maybe seen like 4 Casas matches in my lifetime? I wasn’t and still am not a very big Lucha guy.
Finlay and Negro start off, with David taking him to the mat quickly. Dorada and Quest are in next and they do a bit, and now we get Riley and Romero next. Riley and Romero actually have a fun sequence, then it’s Negro back in against Romero and the strike it out, with Casas regaining an advantage in the corner and hitting the corner dropkick! Casas can still go!
Riley comes back in and this kid is fast as hell, he just needs to get a lot of ring time to get the intangibles down. He can do the moves and he’s speedy, he’ll be fine if he puts the rest together. Romero is trapped in the heel corner and they cut the ring in half on him mercilessly and beat him down. Triple team as the rudos are ruling the ring.
Rocky finally breaks free and drops Negro, hot tag to Dorada! ‘Rana from Mascara and he walks the ropes into a dropkick on Negro. Casas cuts him off with a dropkick to the knee, tag to Quest and tag to Finlay. Adrian grabs the advantage, but comes off the top and gets caught by Finlay with the Irish Curse, then a Strong Zero from Finlay and Rocky for two.
Match breaks down now after Riley hits a Swanton on Rocky, with Finlay making the save. Dorada does a tope to send Negro to the barricade and Finlay takes out Quest. That leaves Rocky alone with Riley, and that doesn’t go well for the kid as Romero quickly his a neckbreaker and pins him. (Rocky Romero, Mascara Dorada, and David Finlay over Negro Casas, Lucas Riley, and Adrian Quest, pinfall, 11:02)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. A typically fun New Japan 6-man, nothing offensive here. Riley especially interests me, as he has such speed and snap on his moves but also shows all the bad habits of an indy wrestler who hasn’t quite figured out how to make a match naturally flow; but with all the physical gifts he has, he’s likely worth keeping an eye on. Romero will never truly get the credit he deserves for how good he really is.
Post-match, Rocky makes the peace and leaves the ring for Negro to take a bow in front of the crowd. Rocky, you class act.
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Time for the main event! Let’s see who makes it to the Finals!
The Mighty Don’t Kneel (Mikey Nicholls/Shane Haste) vs Christopher Daniels and Yuya Uemura – New Japan Strong Tag team title tournament Semi-Final
TMDK attack before the bell and toss Daniels to concentrate on Yuya. Daniels quickly gets back in and Yuya flapjacks him on top of Haste. Yuya and Daniels control for a bit now, with a dropkick/legsweep combo getting two for Uemura. Mikey trips up Yuya from the outside and Shane dropkicks him as the heels get control now.
Uemura has a bloody nose now as Nicholls works him over. Double-team from TMDK with a moonsault and fistdrop as Yuya gasps for air. Uemura tries to fight out, but Shane hits a GORGEOUS dropkick, seriously at least a 0.7 Okada, to keep TMDK on the offense. More beatings seem to indicate that the morale has not improved, but Yuya finally manages to fight back long enough and it’s hot tag to Daniels.
The Fallen Angel is in and he runs wild, albeit with a bit of miscommunication and one of the single worst STOs I’ve seen in quite some time. Daniels wants Angel’s Wings, but runs right into a spinebuster from Mikey for two as we get a shot of Yuya, on the floor and bleeding as TMDK hits a Tankbuster on Daniels….for two. Wowsers, I think that’s their finish. Ian confirms this as Daniels escapes a beating in the corner and manages to tag Uemura, who has appeared on the apron again!
Yuya goes nuts on the heels, destroying both guys with forearms and a dropkick to Nicholls, then a double-underhook suplex on Shane for two. Yuya goes up, but TMDK hits a springboard superplex that was cool as fuck. That gets two as the crowd chants Yuya’s name. Daniels back in as all 4 guys battle it out. TMDK hits Daniels with a double press slam, but Yuya gets behind them and sends Shane crashing into Mikey, which puts Nicholls on the floor. Shane turns right into a Frankensteiner from Yuya, who holds the rollup! 1, 2, 3! Daniels and Uemura are going to the Final! (Yuya Uemura/Christopher Daniels over The Mighty Don’t Kneel, pinfall, 10:02)
THOUGHTS: ***. Really fun little tag match here, with Yuya shining strongly. TMDK didn’t really show what they can do during their non-descript NXT run and I’m happy they’re able to now. A really fun match with a suprising winner is always a good time and it was here.
TMDK are furious as Daniels and Uemura celebrate while Ian sends us home.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Not the greatest episode but not bad by any stretch. Outside of the Kratos squash, both tag matches were fun with very decent wrestling. Even though there wasn’t anything blowaway here, it was a solid hour of wrestling, which is pretty much what I ask for from Strong and what it frequently delivers.
And now, it’s time for everyone’s favorite part of this recap since last week:
THIS WEEK IN THE G-1:
Action this week included Nights 4, 5, 6 & 7.
Night 4 (July 23rd, 2022): Nothing huge on the undercard tags except for a very entertaining Tom Lawlor/Royce Isaacs against Bad Dude Tito/JONAH tilt, which was tremendous fun with it looking more and more like Lawlor is getting over in Japan, plus Isaacs has had a really fun tour so far, as they’ve chosen well on who to bring from Strong. Even though I still don’t get whose dog Karl Fredericks ran over.
Tournament matches were:
Zack Sabre Jr over Aaron Henare
Shingo Takagi over YOSHI-HASHI
Kazuchika Okada over Toru Yano
Jay White over Tomohiro Ishii
The tournament matches here were maybe the best overall night so far. ZSJ had a nice one with Henare, I had it slightly above his Tanahashi match at ***1/2. Henare has opened with two good ones against two good workers, so good on him. Shingo/YOSHI was FANTASTIC, with the crowd absolutely pulling for YOSHI the whole time. The comebacks were great as they built and built to a big babyface win, and even though Shingo beat him you got the sense that he barely survived it. I was at **** for it all; the reinvigoration of YOSHI’s career has been an absolute delight over the last year and half or so. Okada and Yano was really interesting, actually, as Yano dispensed with all of his usual trickery and nonsense and wrestled a straightforward, aggressive match against the Rainmaker; I went *** for it and could see higher. And Jay vs Ishii was as expected, a ****1/2 affair that will stand with the best of the tournament when all is said and done.
Night 5 (July 24th, 2022): Bad Dude Tito and JONAH strike again on the undercard, with a really fun tag against Shingo and BUSHI.
Tournament matches were:
El Phantasmo over Yujiro Takahashi
SANADA over Taichi
Jeff Cobb over Bad Luck Fale
Hiroshi Tanahashi over Tetsuya Naito
ELP did what he could with Yujiro, and it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been, but I didn’t really see a lot to get excited about either. Also, and while this no doubt exposes me for the crying snowflake we all know I am, could we maybe put a moratorium on using women as trophies/barter in matches? I mean, if there’s a personal issue and angle, that’s one thing, but Yujiro’s character is a pimp and him offering Pieter as a product to win a match seems relatively unseemly in this day and age. I dunno, I’m probably taking it too seriously, but whatever. It was a *** match, which is MOTY territory for Takahashi. SANADA and Taichi was really excellent professional wrestling, a shade off or just at 4, I had it at ***3/4 and wouldn’t argue too strenuously with 4. And while I’m complaining about things, will someone PLEASE tell SANADA when he has a guy in the Dragon Sleeper that he can just keep the hold on until the dude passes out? He doesn’t need to hit the moonsault to win the damn match. Cobb carried Fale on his back, in somewhat literal fashion, over the halfway mark for **3/4, almost entirely due to Jeff doing the work. And Tanahashi vs Naito was the usual from both, a match that took a bit to get going but turned absolutely tremendous in the second half to get to ****1/4, with a surprise ending to boot. While I still have myself talked into Naito as the guy who will make the big comeback to win the Block assuming that ZSJ doesn’t run away with it, this was still a way to put him all the way behind the 8-ball, so to speak.
Night 6 (July 26th, 2022): I’m just too mad to talk about much else here, so let’s get the other matches out of the way first.
Tournament matches were:
Chase Owens over the Great O-Khan
Lance Archer over Filthy Tom Lawlor
David Finlay over Juice Robinson
Chase/GOK had the wrong guy go over. One of the arguments I’ve seen against the long story booking strategy that GEDO employs is that it doesn’t allow for guys to get super hot and then rocket up the card; instead, they play out the story and wait their turn until it’s time, sometimes to their detriment. I don’t know if I totally agree with this, as there’s almost certainly value to mapping things out and showing wrestlers that you’ll live up to those promises, plus I think that New Japan booking has shown that it can pivot when it needs to, most notably this year with whatever the plan was for Ibushi (although I think he was likely to be in the Naito spot, where he lost and lost but will overcome). The point, of course, is that the Great O-Khan is a literal NATIONAL HERO in Japan, and likely should have been at least in the NEVER title picture or somewhere near that, but instead got another short run with the tag belts before losing his first G-1 match this year. Doesn’t mean he’s buried or anything, just that he may be waiting a bit to see if he goes up the card. Oh, yeah, and the match was ***, as it wasn’t bad but didn’t set the world on fire. I should have known I was in for it on this show when GOK lost, shouldn’t I? Lawlor and Archer did a weird one, as Lawlor has kind of gotten over a bit on this tour and I guess I expected a more competitive match from these two, but Lance never felt like he was in any danger whatsoever in this one. I’m starting to wonder if Lawlor is going to end up winning ANY matches in this Block based on how this one went; it felt like Archer just tossed him around for awhile, resisted a few comebacks here and there, then pinned him in a *** match, mostly for Lawlor’s selling and his incorporated chain wrestling, which was really fun. And it was incumbent then on Finlay and Juice to save the show and boy did they deliver, a ****1/4 affair with two guys who know each other inside and out. Finlay was absolutely the star here as he sold a hurt shoulder like crazy and worked from the sympathetic babyface position incredibly well. Juice seemed a bit more comfortable here as a merciless heel, torturing his former best friend’s limb, and his mannerisms were certainly stronger than in his opener. I know that based on this one, I would hire David Finlay in a heartbeat. Only thing I didn’t like about this was the ending with all it’s foolishness, but it didn’t undo what came before it.
I’m going to fucking swear a fuckton starting right fucking now and reason for that is that the match I skipped in the above was one of the stupidest goddamn piece of shit “matches” I’ve ever seen in the fucking G-1. It is so soul-crushingly awful, such a Cleveland Steamer on the metaphorical chest of the fucking audience that all it deserves is some fucking vulgarity. And I’m gonna recap the fucking match! I’m not afraid of this shit! No two fucking sentences here, you’re getting some shit on this one. So let’s go, I’m burning this shit to the GROUND. Tommy Hall ain’t got SHIT ON ME. Scott may throw me off the blog, I don’t give a fuck. The new blog overlords can bring it the fuck on.
EVIL (w/Dick Togo and no sense of shame) vs KENTA (w/memories of being treated with respect as a wrestler)
So, technically, they’re both Bullet Club guys, right? So we can expect a fair fucking match between two stablemates? Ha, what the fuck were you thinking, reader? So they try to fuck each other with finishers off a handshake and a two sweet, then KENTA bails and goes under the ring to get…..a book? Is this fucker going to try to use an offensive text for outside interference? I hope it’s Atlas Shrugged, then, because Ayn fucking Rand is the worst, and at least in this case her book would be used for something useful as opposed to being used for reading, since it’s useless shit on that front. But no, no! KENTA has written his own autobiography, and he wants EVIL to read it! Yes! Read it in the ring! WRESTLING!
So EVIL throws the book in the air and tosses KENTA to the floor. KENTA regains the advantage and hits EVIL with the book, then grabs the ring hammer, but EVIL blocks it with the ringbell. I have a brief moment of sunlight and grace because I think the bell ringing ends the match, but this shit WILL CONTINUE, baby. Timekeeper gets wiped out, as per all EVIL matches, and he chokes KENTA with the mic cord. Of course.
They get back in the ring and EVIL tosses KENTA to the corner, because Togo has removed the buckles, ala Toru Yano. Hey, KENTA had a fucking ****+ match against ZSJ like 4 DAYS AGO. Now he’s in there fucking around with this garbage. KENTA back up and he fires kicks, but EVIL catches one and wipes out the fucking ref, as we’re six minutes into the goddamn match and clearly out of ideas. Togo runs in while the ref is still falling over and they hit Magic Killer on KENTA for two. They do some quick reversal bullshit and the ref gets bumped again, one minute or so after being bumped the first fucking time.
The G-1 Climax is the most prestigious pro wrestling tournament in the world.
So KENTA DDTs EVIL and goes out again, under the ring for a crutch. Sure. Why not have a fucking crutch under the ring? He brings it in, but Togo runs in again and tries to take it, then Togo nails KENTA with it, but now the ref is up and sees it and fucking fuckity fuck this is STUPID. So while EVIL and Togo and the ref argue over it, KENTA runs EVIL into Togo and rolls him up for a few two counts. I was begging for it to the be the finish when I watched this show. I bet none of y’all missed me on this fucking livewatch.
EVIL sends KENTA to the buckles and goes for a Scorpion on KENTA, and we get an actual 6 and half seconds of wrestling, as KENTA reverses that to the crossface and then the LIGHTS FUCKING GO OUT, BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DO. Jesus CHRIST, this sucks SO BAD. Lights back on and EVIL is choking KENTA with the shirt and Togo has disappeared. EVIL to the outside and he gets a chair, now KENTA has one of his own and they slam the chairs together and KENTA fucks him up a bit with the chair before choking him against the barricade.
And THEN….and THEN….
We get the FINISH. You want to know the finish? The fucking finish to this match? Can you feel the palpable tension from this recap as we get to the act of sheer fucking genius they came up with? Well, let me tell you! They’re fighting down the aisle and they make their way back to the ring and they take turns attempting to get back into the fucking ring as each guy keeps yanking the other one out just before they get all the way in. And the counts going on, 14, 15, 16, EVIL tosses KENTA to the barricade and rolls in, but no worry KENTA fans, count is at 18 and KENTA gets ready to hop back in…..and DICK FUCKING TOGO grabs his legs from underneath the ring, preventing him from getting in. So this is in full view of the fucking ref, as you can see KENTA trying to get back in and not being able to…..and KENTA gets counted the fuck OUT. And then, after all this bullshit, SHO comes down to the ring and admits he was the one who turned out the lights to let Togo get under the ring, but don’t worry! Togo shills the book and they all apologize and KENTA two sweets them because hey, it’s all good, it’s only one of the few matches KENTA gets in the BIGGEST AND MOST IMPORTANT FUCKING TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR, WHO REALLY GIVES A SHIT? (EVIL over KENTA, countout, 10:14)
THOUGHTS: DUD. DID YOU READ THE ABOVE? This was, hands down, the biggest waste of time and the worst garbage we will see in the G-1 this year. I was actively angry by the end of this match, to the point where I almost stood up and paced my living room. This match was actually UNHEALTHY for me. Or healthy, if I needed the fucking walk, I dunno. Either way, what an insulting piece of absolute shite that every single participant should be embarrassed by. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Yujiro matches are bad because he’s bad. Fale matches are bad because he can barely move. Both KENTA and even EVIL are capable of decent to great matches and there is NO excuse for what this was.
Ahem. That’s out of my system now. Let us continue.
Night 7 (July 27th, 2022): Not one but two really fun undercard tags here, with Jeff Cobb/Great O-Khan beating JONAH/Bad Dude Tito in a really fun scrap, and then an excellent 8-man between Bullet Club and CHAOS, where even GEDO was amusing the hell out of me.
Tournament matches were:
Will Ospreay over Yujiro Takahashi
Bad Luck Fale over Toru Yano
Hirooki Goto over Aaron Henare
Tomohiro Ishii over Tama Tonga
Meltzer said that the Yujiro/Ospreay match was the best match Yujiro is capable of having, and I can believe it. Fale and Yano was the shits, mostly comedy and one of the worst worked matches of the tournament. Fale can barely move and it almost feels unfair to have him out there for this tournament, seriously – he won with a run into the post and a rollup, stealing it from Yano, so that was fine. Still a bad match pretty much around at *1/2. And just when I was worried, Goto and Henare went out and beat the HELL out of each other, just stiff shots the entire way. Henare’s tournament has been really fun to watch as he’s looking like he’s been wanting to get out there and really let loose for a good long while and it’s showing, as these two went to ***3/4 in this one. And Ishii finally got on the board against Tonga in a **** match, which makes me think that the best prop bet at this point is ‘Will Ishii have a match under **** in this tournament at this point?’, and to that question I would seriously consider answering ‘no’. He’s on such a roll right now, it’s insane.
Next week, I’ll start including standings and other such minutiae, as things start to come into clearer focus approaching the halfway point of the tournament.
And that’s this week…..in the G-1.
And that’ll do it for me this week. No matter how much you might be curious, don’t watch that KENTA/EVIL match. Don’t do it to yourself. Do something useful, like feed the poor at a local soup kitchen or bang your head continuously into a wall.
See you all next week for more Strong and G-1.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter