By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed December 18, 2020 on New Japan World
The show began with the broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov checking in. Kelly reminded everybody that it’s the “culmination of Detonation.” Is it odd to anyone else that Danny Limelight and Rust Taylor are currently on WWE and AEW television in one way or another at this point? No? OK.
1. Rocky Romero vs. Danny Limelight. Romero jumped Limelight to start the match. After things settled down, Romero landed one Forever Clothesline before Limelight rolled outside and pulled Romero out with him. Outside, Limelight ran Romero’s shoulder into the ring post. When the count reached nine, Limelight rolled Romero back into the ring, but continued to work Romeo’s left arm.
Back on their feet, Romero landed a chop, but Limelight went back to Romero’s left shoulder and arm. While Limelight had a submission in, Romero rolled him up for a two, but Limelight quickly got back on the offensive. Before long. Romero tried getting back at Limelight with a chop, but Limelight hit a dropkick to take Romero back down.
Limelight hit two Forever Clotheslines of his own, but Romero came out of the corner and hit a strong clothesline as both wrestlers went down. Back on their feet, Romero hit a series of chops, but Limelight slapped Romero, firing him up and eventually hitting a springboard dropkick for a two-count.
The wrestlers traded kicks as they got to their feet before Romero landed a slap. Limelight countered Romero’s offense into a half-and-half suplex. After trading a couple moves, Limelight got in a submission on Romero’s left arm, but Romero made his way to the bottom rope for a break. Limelight taunted Romero with a few kicks.
Limelight, before long, hit a spinning kick for a good near-fall. Limelight went for his finisher, but Romero countered with a dropkick. Romero then hit somewhat of a cutter for another good near-fall. Limelight rolled up Romero and held the tights for a two-count, but Romero got out and hit a running knee. Romero then hit a Falcon Arrow into an arm-bar and got the submission.
Rocky Romero defeated Danny Limelight via submission in 9:18.
As Limelight left the ring, Romero was handed an ice pack to help his left arm.
McGuire’s Musings: This was the best opening match on Strong in some time and if it’s setting the tone for the rest of the show, color me intrigued. The wrestlers got more time than expected, and you have to wonder, with Limelight showing up on AEW Dark and Romero going over, if this is the last we’ll see of Limelight on Strong. If so, it was a good way to go out, as Limelight took most of the match, with Romero selling his ass off before ultimately landing the win. Both wrestlers came away from this looking better than they did going in, and that’s a testament to two guys who work awfully well together.
2. Jeff Cobb vs. Rust Taylor. Rust Taylor made his entrance first and Kevin Kelly said it could be “an hour of retribution here,” and even if he meant nothing by it, the serendipity of it all made me laugh out loud. To begin, Taylor backed Cobb into the ropes, but backed up before long. After trading standing holds, Taylor stopped to pose.
Eventually, Taylor started working Cobb’s arm, at one point lifting him up. Cobb countered, though, and slammed Taylor before going for a standing moonsault that was countered into a submission from Taylor onto Cobb’s arm. Taylor kept working Cobb’s arm and backed him into a corner. Cobb fought his way out with a series of elbows, but Taylor took control back with some chops.
Taylor turned his attention to Cobb’s other arm and hit a few kicks on Cobb as he was on the canvass. Taylor kept working Cobb’s arm, sprinkling in some kicks. Cobb eventually fired up and hit Taylor with punches and an echoing European Uppercut. Cobb threw Taylor into the ropes, but Taylor hit a kick to Cobb’s face. Cobb landed a spin-cycle and a standing moonsault for two near-falls.
Back in control, Cobb went for a German Suplex, but Taylor countered with a series of kicks for a two-count. Taylor then went right back to the arm, but Cobb bridged out of it to pin Taylor, who kicked out. Taylor then hit an ankle lock, but Cobb kicked his way out of it. Back on their feet, Cobb hit a chop, but Taylor hit back. The two then traded blows.
Taylor eventually took control by kicking Cobb’s arm. Cobb eventually ducked one of the strikes, hit a German Suplex and then landed the Tour Of The Islands for the pinfall victory.
Jeff Cobb defeated Rust Taylor via pinfall in 8:07
McGuire’s Musings: Weirdly, again, the wrestler currently appearing on another company’s television show (Tyler Rust in NXT) gets in the most offense before ultimately losing. I’m not complaining. With as much domination that Taylor received, they had me wondering if Cobb might take the loss, but alas, Cobb’s Tour Of The Islands strikes again. These two work really well together, but take that with a grain of salt because I’ve been a fan of Jeff Cobb’s work for quite some time now. Taylor looked really good, though, especially with his obnoxious attitude and convincing offense. Still, can somebody please tell me why Cobb didn’t stick around AEW however many months ago that was when he had his cup of coffee there? He’d be a perfect fit for, at the very least, Vice-President of Team Taz.
3. PJ Black and Fred Rosser vs. Tom Lawlor and JR Kratos. Kratos and Lawlor made their entrance first with Lawlor riding through the curtain on Kratos’s back. As Black and Rosser made their way to the ring, Koslov noted how they were in Nexus together and can we please stop talking about WWE? I still can’t get the taste of Monday’s Raw out of my mouth.
Rosser and Kratos began with Rosser sinking in a side head-lock. Kratos threw him off and Rosser landed outside. Back inside the ring, Rosser tagged in Black, but Kratos hit a suplex and tagged in Lawlor. After long, Lawlor sunk in a headlock, but Black worked his way out before getting hit by a back spinning heel kick from Lawlor. Lawlor then landed a suplex and an elbow for a one-count.
Black attempted to tag out, but Lawlor grabbed him and hit a few strikes. After he landed a leg drop, Lawlor went for a cover and landed a two-count. Black showed a second of spirit, but Lawlor took hold of an ankle lock before tagging in Kratos, who tackled Black. Kratos then lifted Black up for a slam and hit a suplex for a two-count. Kratos ran Black from one corner to the other and tagged in Lawlor.
Lawlor kicked Black a few times and then taunted Rosser, who came in, which distracted the referee so Lawlor and Kratos could work over Black. Before long, Black landed a strike and got the hot tag to Rosser, who clotheslined Lawlor over the top rope. Kratos ran over for the save, but Rosser fought him off. Back in the ring, however, Lawlor hit an ankle lock on Rosser.
Back on their feet, Rosser lifted Lawlor, but Lawlor worked his way out for an eventual Exploder. Black and Kratos tagged in and Black landed a series of punches and elbows. Rosser then came in to hit a hi-low for a two-count that was broken up by Lawlor. Rosser threw Lawlor out, but as Rosser and Lawlor fought on the apron, Lawlor accidentally kicked Kratos. Black then hit a springboard 450 on Kratos for the pin.
Fred Rosser and PJ Black defeated Tom Lawlor and JR Kratos via pinfall in 8:09.
McGuire’s Musings: Well, it’s not a great night for Team Lawlor. Three matches, three losses. This one will be interesting, moving forward, as we see how or if Kratos responds to Lawlor accidentally kicking him, which ultimately led to the finish. Following the pattern for the rest of the night, Team Lawlor got in the most offense, only to take the loss in the end. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, because who says NJPW can’t have two dominant factions, one being the Bullet Club with the other being Team Lawlor? But I digress. This was a good match, but the weakest thus far. A main event with a truckload of expectations is next.
4. Kenta vs. Brody King for the right to challenge contract for an IWGP U.S. Championship match. Kenta made his entrance without help from the Bullet Club, which at a base level was ominous. Before King could even make it to Ketna’s side of the ring, Kenta slouched outside. The two then locked up and King threw Kenta to the ground.
Back on their feet, Kenta rolled to the outside and searched under the ring to come up empty. Kenta then got back in the ring and hit a series of kicks to King’s legs. Those leg kicks turned to chest kicks, but King caught one and began beating Kenta down before landing a bodyslam and a senton for a two-count.
Eventually, King worked Kenta’s head with some elbows and a chin lock. He then hit a bunch of elbows on Kenta’s chest for a two-count. Working slow, Kenta got to his feet, only for King to hit a chop that took him back down. King threw Kenta to the ropes, but Kenta rolled outside. King went to chase him, but Kenta rolled back into the ring. Once King got back in, Kenta went back out.
Back in the ring, Kenta hit a series of chop blocks and dropkicks to King’s leg, ultimately taking King down. Kenta then taunted King with kicks and got a leg-lock/knee-bar in. King broke it by getting to the ropes. Kenta kept working over King’s leg as King crawled to the corner. Kenta hit a dragon-screw leg-whip as King sold leg pain on the mat.
While King sat up, Kenta hit a trio of kicks to King’s back, which got King back to his feet. The two traded blows while King limped. Still, King threw Kenta to a corner and hit a clothesline for a two-count. Both wrestlers were down as King sold leg pain and Kenta appeared exhausted. King picked Kenta up, but Kenta hit an eye-rake to get out of it.
Kenta landed another dragon-screw leg-whip and then got a figure-four in on King. King made his way to the ropes to force the break. As King rolled to the apron, Kenta pulled him up, but King fought back and attempted a suplex to the outside. Kenta landed on the apron, however, and got an eye-rake to take control. He then hit a kick to King’s knee to neutralize him.
Kenta hit a Green Killer draping DDT in the ring for a two-count. Kenta went to pick King up for the Go To Sleep, but King worked his way out of it. Still, Kenta landed a bunch of strikes before King countered and hit a Black Hole Slam for a two-count. King then got in a pile-driver for a close near-fall. King went for a Gonzo Bomb, but Kenta pushed King into the ref, which sent the ref to the canvas.
Kenta grabbed his briefcase outside the ring and went to hit King, but King blocked it. Kenta then kicked King and hit King with the briefcase twice before grabbing the ref. Kenta then picked up King and hit the Go To Sleep for the pin.
Kenta defeated Brody King via pinfall in 14:16.
After the match, Kenta called for a microphone. In the ring, Kenta called out Jon Moxley. Kenta said he didn’t want to waste time anymore and that he’s ready to fight anytime, anywhere. He then said he’s coming for Moxley and threw the microphone down.
McGuire’s Musings: Cobb. Finlay. King. Those are the wrestlers Kenta had to beat to keep his contract. Was there ever a doubt? Not really. Still, the matches were good. This bout, against King, was probably the best of the three. Not only was King the biggest opponent, but he also did his best to establish himself as someone who couldn’t lose, if for no other reason than the size advantage. Even so, Kenta gets the cheap win, and I, for one, am more than excited to see him lock up with Moxley somewhere down the road (with Mox losing the AEW title and not showing up on TV since, it’s gotta be Wrestle Kingdom, right?).
From top to bottom, this was the best all-around Strong episode that I’ve seen since taking the reins for this website. They saved the best for last and it worked. Not a single match felt like filler and even though it was hard to believe that Kenta would drop his contract to King, the two still put on a very good match that inspired at least a little bit of doubt at the outcome. NJPW Strong is off for the next two weeks, with best-of episodes airing, so this is probably the last time you’ll hear from me in 2020 (unless you check in on my McGuire’s Mondays pieces, of course). That said, to hell with 2020, and cheers to 2021. Be well.
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