Tonight, it’s a 4 match show on New Japan Strong as we get our next finalists in the Strong tag title tournament with Aussie Open meeting the Stray Dog Army! Also, it’s a big 6-man main event as the Ace comes to Strong! And, of course, we’ll take a (much less profane than last week) look at the G-1 as the tournament rounds the halfway point!
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Your hosts are Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov. Along with the semifinals and our 6-man main event with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Fred Rosser, and Kevin Knight taking on Bullet Club’s Hikuleo, Chase Owens, and the IWGP World Champion Jay White, we’re getting Fred Yehi (Yay!) vs Tyler Bateman!
But up first, Jeff Cobb is going to murder someone.
Jeff Cobb vs Jordan Clearwater
We’re told that while he’s not wrestling, Jordan is, in fact, a stockbroker. And after this match, I suspect that he will have a lot less time to be a stockbroker. Because Jeff is going to murder him. Dead. He also won’t be wrestling anymore, you see. Because, you know. He’ll be dead. Murdered by Jeff Cobb. Deceased. This match is going to be a evidence in a trial. A snuff film. Since it will result in a dead person. And Clearwater will be that dead person. Put six feet under by Jeff Cobb.
Jordan does a little hip swivel and attacks Cobb before the bell, then hits an enzuigiri to send Cobb out. He sends Cobb to the post on the floor now and gets a two-count back in. I sense that Cobb’s amusement has faded here, as he tosses Clearwater around a bit in response and levels him with a forearm and tosses him with a suplex. Clearwater has the TEMERITY to kick out instead of just accepting his defeat, so Cobb hits him in the face. Jordan tries a comeback now and hits a high knee and a neckbreaker for two. And that will about do it for the Clearwater offense, as Jeff kicks his ass and hits his standing moonsault for two, then finishes a few moves later with the Tour of the Islands. (Jeff Cobb over Jordan Clearwater, pinfall, 4:27)
THOUGHTS: **. Just a squash for Cobb, there was zero doubt here. Jeff was kind enough to give Clearwater a bit, but c’mon.
Tyler Bateman vs Fred Yehi
As is my wont whenever I see Yehi, I once again fail to understand why he’s not signed to one of the big boys. He’s just so insanely talented. And Bateman isn’t bad in his own right at all, so let’s see what we end up with here.
I love to watch Yehi work as he takes Bateman down with a headlock, and you can just see how he grinds his arm in and in general actually makes it a HOLD, really taking what is normally a lazy bit and putting some torque on it. Bateman responds by chopping the shit out of him. I approve. Slam by Bateman and he drops a knee on the hand, deciding a target. Yehi comes back with some arm snaps, so Bateman hits him in the face. Effective.
Bateman bends back the fingers of Yehi into a double wristlock, then a stomp on the hand. Yehi fires back and goes for jumping knees into the corner. Suplex and Fred works the mat, getting a few two counts. Bateman back up and he fires rights, Fred fires back and both guys go down. Fred tries a choke, Bateman escapes that and gets a snap suplex. Yehi is backed into a corner, but he lures Bateman in and then comes out hitting a spinning backfist, then slaps on the Koji Clutch with hammerfists to the head to get the tapout. (Fred Yehi over Tyler Bateman, submission, 7:31)
THOUGHTS: ***. Some rock solid stuff here by two vets, this was a really entertaining match. Nothing to set the world on fire, but if you need to make a hard decision about whether or not to watch this or the Matt Hardy/Christian match from Dynamite this week, you should watch this. Really nice professional wrestling in there.
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Up next, we’ve got to get Christopher Daniels and Yuya Uemura some opponents for the Finals! The Stray Dog Army is out first, soon to be followed by Aussie Open. Let’s do it.
Stray Dog Army (Barrett Brown/Misterioso) vs Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher/Mark Davis) – New Japan Strong Tag Team title tournament Semi-Final
I feel like tonight could be a rough one overall for the Stray Dogs. Brown takes on Fletcher to start and does pretty well for himself. Misterioso does the same and hits a Lionsault for one. Kyle’s having a rough one in there. Misterioso gets caught with a kick by Fletcher off a moonsault to give Aussie control of the match.
Davis comes in and Misterioso tries some chops, but Davis just slams him as the Open cut the ring in half and mercilessly destroy Misterioso while continually knocking Brown off the apron. Brown comes into the ring to break up a chinlock and immediately regrets it as Davis runs over and annihilates him for his insolence.
Misterioso finally slows the carnage with a double handspring elbow that frankly looked like it could have gone MUCH better, but Aussie Open was kind enough to sell it anyway and it’s HOTTISH tag to Brown, who’s actually on the apron for once. Brown runs wild on both Open guys and hits a double dropkick. He goes for a tope next and thank God Aussie Open were in position or he may have sailed about 3 rows deep into the crowd.
Barrett back in with Fletcher now and the Stray Dogs double-team Kyle for two, with Davis making the save. Mark takes out Misterioso and they kick the hell out of Brown, hitting nasty double-teams in the corner before hitting the Corealis to put the Aussies in the Final. (Aussie Open over Stray Dog Army, pinfall, 7:27)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. Really wanted a bit more here, as the Aussies looked like a dominant team as opposed to this being a competitive semi-final match. I was unspoiled going in and while I expected Open to win it, they were so much stronger in every aspect of the match I was almost caught off-guard. There was zero doubt who the better team was and I suspect that they held back a bit and will be given the chance to really let loose in the Final. Either way, they deserve to be there, so now it’s up to New Japan to either go with the dominant heels or the feel good story of the veteran/Young Lion combo pulling it off. And no, I’m not spoiled on this, so I don’t know who wins.
Post-match, the Open cut a promo and say that they’ve held tag gold wherever they’ve gone, and in the Finals, they and the United Empire are going to run the world.
Main event time! Bullet Club is out first, as Jay leads his stable to the ring. I’d like to once again take this time in a recap that Scott does not read to point out that Jay White is the best wrestler in the world. Also, Hikuleo is most assuredly NOT the best wrestler in the world. And here comes Tanahashi, who makes his way to the ring with Kevin Knight and the New Japan Strong Champion, Fred Rosser! This could, you know, rule.
Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens, Hikuleo) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Fred Rosser, and Kevin Knight
You know, I will say this – I know that Tanahashi is near the end and I’m fine with that to a certain extent. His career has been incredible. But I, and I know that Talbot has brought this up as well, would not mind him getting one last run as the top dog, and getting his name as part of the lineage of the IWGP World title. Yes, he’s an 8-time champion already when it comes to the IWGP Heavyweight title, but I think there’s a bit of lovely story if his first reign with the IWGP World title happened to be his last. I’m just saying, there’s something there.
Tanahashi and White have a pose-off, and Jay WINS it, which causes Tana to be very sad, so the crowd chants for him and he’s all good. Like the dickhead he is, Jay gets mad that Tana got cheered and throws a tantrum because he’s the champ, so he gets ready to face Hiroshi to start things off…..and tags out to Chase. I’m sorry, but I never get tired of that bit, mostly because Jay sells it so goddamn well.
Chase yanks the hair of Tanahashi to start. You bastard. Tanahashi yanks back. Brilliant! Oh yeah, I’m BIASED and make no bones about it. In comes Rosser and they double-team Owens to the mat and Tana allows Fred the DOUBLE AIR GUITAR. Christ, that’s more prestigious than winning the Strong title. Energized by the power of the Ace’s duet, Rosser beats the hell out of Chase.
Tag to Knight, who comes in against Owens, then puts White into a Boston Crab when the champ comes in. So Hikuleo kind of slowly wanders into the ring, chops Knight off of Jay, then wanders back to the apron. BEST USE OF HIKULEO EVER. I’m ready to give this thing ****+ if he doesn’t appear in the ring again.
Tag to Jay from Chase and the Bullet Club goes to work on Kevin, chopping him down and allowing Jay to give us the air BANJO. Jay tags in Hikuleo to a heel reaction (from my living room) and the Tongan Gigante goes to work on Kevin, chopping him and tossing him into the corner, tag back to Owens. Chase keeps the beatings up as Knight’s morale has not noticeably improved.
Finally Knight drops Owens with an enzuigiri, Owens manages to cut that tag off, but can’t stop a HUGE dropkick by Knight and it’s HOT TAG Tanahashi, and White waits for him in the ring as the crowd is READY for this. Tana with the early advantage and the somersault senton for two. White grabs the hair and hits a dragon screw legwhip to drop Tanahashi, and now it’s Switchblade time.
Dueling chants and Jay goes for the Sleeper suplex, Tana counters with his own dragon screw and a Twist and Shout after avoiding the Blade Runner. Jay tags out to Hikuleo, who continues to NOT annoy me too much in the match by simply throwing forearms and not trying any, you know, wrestling. He does get his leg dropkicked so he has to sell for moment, even moreso when Rosser gets a tag and Fred and Tana double suplex Hikuleo. White and Owens run back in and get their asses kicked, but Hikuleo drops Rosser and Tana with a double clothesline.
Hikuleo takes a dragon screw from Rosser, but the fool tags in Kevin Knight. Fred! He’s the Young Lion! That’s the NJPW version of a red shirt in this type of tag match! So now it’s Knight versus Hikuleo, and Knight gets a bit of offense before Tana and Rosser come in to help him drop the big man, Boston Crab by Kevin! Rest of Bullet Club runs in and Tana puts Chase in the cloverleaf as Rosser puts White in the chickenwing, but all the heels escape and Hikuleo hits a snap powerslam and chokeslams Knight for the pin. (Bullet Club over Tanahashi, Rosser, and Knight, pinfall, 15:40)
THOUGHTS: ***1/2. Really fun tag here across the board, as we are very clearly heading towards Hikuleo challenging Rosser. Joy. But hey, I’ll be fair and give the devil his due – the big Tongan looked fine in there tonight. Tana was Tana and Jay was Jay and that’s really all you need to have a good wrestling match, no matter who else is in there.
Post-match, Jay grabs the mic and says that him holding the World title proves that New Japan Strong has been a success, because Jay took the time to invest in Strong last year since he saw the potential and hunger in the back. He puts over Rosser, Narita, Uemura, Lawlor, Connors, and Coughlin….and then he turns on the fans and tells him that he never needed them and would always be champion. And they should be thanking him! And then they DO, even after he basically told them to fuck off. What a glorious professional wrestler this man is. And, he says, without him, New Japan Strong wouldn’t even be a thing, and no one would have heard of the guys in the back he just mentioned if it weren’t for him! He proceeds to go on more egomanical rants and self-glorifying nicknames before dropping the mic. And with that, Ian sends us off for the week.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A bit rushed on the unders this week and while I really enjoyed the main event tag here, it wasn’t noticeably better than what you normally get on the New Japan undercard. I think it was good to give Rosser a bit of the rub working with Tanahashi and the match was really fun, but part of me wonders if it would have been better to give that time to the Aussies or some of the other undercard matches. But who am I kidding – it’s Tanahashi. Any time you can get him in the main event, you likely should, and you know you’ll get a good match. Can’t fault ’em for that.
And now, it can only be time for:
THIS WEEK IN THE G-1:
This week we had nights 8, 9, 10 and 11 as of this writing.
NIGHT 8 (July 30th, 2022): A tiny bit of Bullet Club dissension on the undercard as Jay accidentally clobbered Chase Owens on the night before they are set to face off in the tournament. It’s been heavily hinted that Owens would lay down for him, but some seeds were planted here.
Tournament matches were:
David Finlay over Shingo Takagi
JONAH over Filthy Tom Lawlor
SANADA over The Great O-Khan
Hiroshi Tanahashi over Zack Sabre Jr
Finlay and Shingo put on an absolute dandy, a ***3/4 match as David has proven over the course of this thing that when you put him in there with good workers, he’s going to give you a good performance. I can say that the Yujiro match certainly wasn’t his fault. JONAH over Lawlor was fine, although I probably have seen a bit too much of dominant Tom on Strong that there’s a real disconnect to seeing him in the monster block getting tossed around and fighting up. This was a better than the match he had with Archer as JONAH is certainly out to prove something in this tournament. I had it at ***. SANADA/GOK was actually a grapple fight, something I did not expect and it was a better SANADA match as a result. GOK can work on the mat and really brings something extra to it when he does, and it enlivened this match a lot into ***1/4. My well known anti-SANADA tendencies did not rear their head here. And can we just have Tanahashi and ZSJ wrestle each other forever or something? They are so perfectly suited to wrestle each other that I would gladly watch them 1,000 times in a row, and that’s only barely hyperbole. This one was a very nice **** match with a surprise ending as the Ace stole it from ZSJ, which sets up some very interesting scenarios down the stretch. This was a very fine show with some really solid wrestling across the board.
NIGHT 9 (July 31st, 2022): As of this show, we started having 5 tournament matches instead of 4 on each show.
Tournament matches were:
Jeff Cobb over Lance Archer
YOSHI-HASHI over Juice Robinson
Jay White over Chase Owens
Kazuchika Okada over Bad Luck Fale
Tetsuya Naito over EVIL
I may have inflated my expectations for Cobb and Archer, who started their tilt a little slow, but they more than made up for it with a really nice ending sequence befitting of a hoss fight. I called it *** or so and was happy there. Juice and YOSHI did a good professional wrestling match but it didn’t add up to much more than that, albeit with YOSHI picking up a surprising win. I liked it enough but only barely thought it was a G-1 style match. I came in at **3/4 for it. As for White/Owens, remember how much I hated all the nonsense from the EVIL/KENTA debacle? Well, call me a hypocrite because I loved this, as Chase refused to lay down for Jay but not for a noble reason – he wouldn’t lay down because Jay tried to stiff him on the money. And then, and this is key, they went out and had a pretty good match on top of that, with White selling his ass off before the inevitable Blade Runner put Owens away. This was a goodish wrestling match but it was great professional wrestling (GEDO just screaming “No, no, no, no!” on the outside is always worth at least *), and I put it at ****. On the other end of the scale, a barely mobile Bad Luck Fale gave Okada what will surely be his worst match of the tournament, although he did allow the Rainmaker to finally win a match with the damned Money Clip, as they went **1/4. Fale should not be out there. And finally, Naito overcame everything that HoT threw at him to pick up the win over EVIL, including an absolutely terrifying spot with a table that gave me a start. I gave it ***1/2 and was hopeful that EVIL’s tournament would soon be coming to an end.
NIGHT 10 (August 2nd, 2022): Found something out here – putting Jay and Juice on the same team will produce a copious amount of F-bombs amongst other things.
Tournament matches were:
The Great O-Khan over Tomohiro Ishii
Filthy Tom Lawlor over Toru Yano
Tama Tonga over SANADA
KENTA over Hirooki Goto
David Finlay over Will Ospreay
GOK/Ishii = ****1/4, as you would expect. Nice to see GOK get on the board, even though it means yet another middling G-1 for Ishii, points-wise. Match quality-wise, he’s been pretty much the best so far as he usually is. Lawlor over Yano was absolute silliness involving multiple Sister Act DVDs and a wig. So, a Yano match. Call it **1/2, it delivered exactly what you would expect and didn’t hold back. Tama and SANADA had a very solid wrestling match with two babyface, and Tama picking up the win to keep the standings as bunched as possible in the Block. I was thinking this was *** and I’m pretty sure that’s right. KENTA, after the absolute trash with EVIL, busted out some stiff stuff in a ***1/2 match with Goto where they absolutely nailed each other. And Finlay pulled off the huge upset over Will to be the first in his Block to 3 wins.
NIGHT 11: August 5th, 2022: Of note in the undercard was Tom Lawlor getting absolutely walloped by an errant Will Ospreay kick, to the point where he sounded more than a bit loopy in spots doing commentary during the tournament matches. Hoping he’s alright, the footage seemed to show it was a total accident.
Tournament matches were:
Yujiro Takahashi over Juice Robinson
Taichi over Chase Owens
Tetsuya Naito over Aaron Henare
JONAH over Jeff Cobb
Hiroshi Tanahashi over EVIL
Juice and Takahashi were having a fairly boring, mediocre match that decided to kick things into high gear on the complete bullshit side with a total House of Torture ending featuring multiple interference spots, AKA the usual. One of the worst in this year’s G-1 at *3/4. Taichi and Chase wasn’t a ton better as Owens went full-on slimy heel towards Miho Abe on the outside and while I know this isn’t a big deal in Japan, having a guy named in Speaking Out threaten a woman’s kayfabe partner with violence unless she kisses him was a truly uncomfortable moment, at least for me, and the match wasn’t enough to overcome it. At least the right person won this **1/4 match. And then, we hit the accelerator on the night. First up, Naito and Henare put on an absolute dandy for MOTN as Naito gave Henare everything, letting Aaron control the entire match and selling for him before hitting a Destino out of nowhere to win. This was a clinic in putting a guy over in defeat as Naito won because of his veteran savvy through reversals but looked like the luckiest bastard on earth in doing it, making Henare look like an absolute killer that Naito was barely able to get past. I had it at ****1/4 and stand by it. Up next, we had an actual HOSS FIGHT in the hoss block as JONAH and Cobb threw each other around and made each guy look better and better through feats of tremendous strength. I loved this and thought it was an easy **** match with a surprising ending to boot, as I expected Cobb to win. And the main event was Hiroshi Tanahashi at the height of his babyface powers, as he played conquering hero against the House of Torture’s EVIL. As a wrestling match, this was really kind of slightly above average at best, mostly due to the fact that the EVIL gimmick overwhelms what he does in the ring. But the key to the entire thing is that this was very much a straightforward hero vs villain match, where the hero overcame it all and won. Add into that some very entertaining shenanigans with the refs finally banding together against the continued House of Torture abuse, and you get a really fun pathos play with a wrestling match as the structural underpinning. I’m hesitant to rate it as a match, especially considering more than a few groan-inducing spots in the middle, but the overall narrative, the right ending, and the brilliance that is Tanahashi totally and completely understanding his role and how to play it pushed this to ***3/4, just a shade off 4*, and I don’t know that I would object strenuously to going higher, although I kind of consider 4 a bit of a barrier for matches to pass. Regardless, don’t take my rating to heart as ringwork but rather an assessment of the entire spectacle.
And now that we have more than half the shows in the book, let’s look at the Block Standings; remember that unlike G-1s in years past, this year each competitor only has 6 Block matches and therefore the maximum point total achievable is 12 Points:
Kazuchika Okada – 6 Points (3-0)
JONAH – 4 Points (2-1)
Jeff Cobb – 4 Points (2-2)
Bad Luck Fale – 4 points (2-2)
Lance Archer – 2 points (1-2)
Filthy Tom Lawlor – 2 points (1-2)
Toru Yano – 2 points (1-3)
NOTES ON THE BLOCK: It appears to be Okada’s to win at this point, which is a bit surprising to me. I thought for sure that Cobb would challenge him, but instead Cobb already has two losses and only 2 matches left. I think it’s safe to assume that everyone under Cobb is just pretty much done at this point, regardless of how many matches they have in the can. While JONAH would be a surprising choice, I think he’s all that’s left and I don’t see it. This feels like Okada is possibly going undefeated to win it, frankly.
Jay White – 6 points (3-0)
Tama Tonga – 4 points (2-1)
SANADA – 4 points (2-2)
Taichi – 4 points (2-1)
Chase Owens – 2 points (1-3)
Great-O-Khan – 2 points (1-2)
Tomohiro Ishii – 2 points (1-3)
NOTES ON THE BLOCK: Similarly, I’m kind of surprised but Jay is decently far ahead having only had 3 matches so far. I had Taichi as the dark horse winning this one, although Tama Tonga is set to meet Jay on the last night of Block competition. Could he be in the mix? He did win the NEVER title earlier this year but I had him as mostly a spoiler in this, thinking he would end up beating Jay and opening the door for either Taichi or SANADA to win, which could still be the case. I’d lay stronger odds on Taichi in that case as SANADA can only make 8 points at best now.
The A Block winner will meet the B Block winner to determine one Finalist.
Hiroshi Tanahashi – 6 points (3-1)
Zack Sabre Jr. – 4 points (2-1)
Hirooki Goto – 4 points (2-1)
Tetsuya Naito – 4 points (2-2)
Aaron Henare – 2 points (1-3)
EVIL – 2 points (1-2)
KENTA – 2 points (1-2)
NOTES ON THE BLOCK: The most interesting Block by far here, as 3 names stand out – Tanahashi, ZSJ, and Naito. I had Naito winning the Block (and the entire G-1) before the tournament started, and so he promptly started 0-2. But that having been said, there’s a jumble of names to consider here, and Tanahashi holds the tiebreak on head to head wins over both Zack and Naito, who will meet on the last night of Block competition. I expect that match will decide the Block in some fashion, whether the winner gets the Block or whether Naito is playing spoiler for Tanahashi; with Goto also in the mix, he’ll likely be beating or drawing with Tana when they have their match. Overall, I’m going to stick with Naito winning here, but I can certainly see it going another way.
David Finlay – 6 points (3-1)
Will Ospreay – 4 points (2-1)
Yujiro Takahashi – 4 points (2-2)
El Phantasmo – 2 points (1-1)
YOSHI-HASHI – 2 points (1-1)
Juice Robinson – 2 points (1-3)
Shingo Takagi – 2 points (1-2)
NOTES ON THE BLOCK: A rather shocking leader in Finlay, but I think that the clock is about to strike midnight on him soon. His last matches are very loseable and I expect both Ospreay and Shingo to end up back in the mix after their match on Saturday one way or the other. There are no other legit threats to win the Block unless someone like ELP, who’s been busting his ass in this G-1, ends up getting the nod. With there being a semifinal before the final, GEDO does have the option of throwing in a surprise Block winner if he chooses to do it, and that could come here.
And that’ll do it for this week…..in the G-1.
With that in mind, I’m also done for the week. Take care of yourselves and I’ll see you all very late at night/early in the morning in the BOD G-1 threads. Join us and watch!
Back next week with more Strong and G-1!
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
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