By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed January 8, 2021 on New Japan World
The show began with “Filthy” Tom Lawlor cutting a promo saying Rust Taylor couldn’t cut the mustard. He also said the sponsors want him gone and told him to take a hike and go on vacation to Florida. Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov then checked in to run down the card.
McGuire’s Musings: I like it. A good way to send Rust Taylor off to NXT (where he is known as Tyler Rust), and it builds intrigue to who the mystery partner will be in the main event.
1. Clark Connors vs. Kevin Knight. Before the match, a video package aired touting new talent coming to Strong, including Lio Rush. Kelly, meanwhile, talked about how they are on the Road To Lion’s Break Contender. He then went on to explain how Knight and Connors come from the same wrestling tree. The wrestlers locked up and worked each other on the mat before Knight ended up on top of Connors.
Back on their feet, the two locked up again and Connors went for a wrist-lock, but Knight countered with a wrist-lock of his own. Before long, Connors got Knight into a leg submission. Knight took control with a roll-up and focused on Connors’ left arm. Kelly noted how Knight was taking pages from Shibata’s book.
Connors regained control with a few blows to Knight’s midsection and a series of chops in the corner. Coming out of the corner, Knight hit some uppercuts and took control with a few kicks and strikes. After a two-count, Knight went to lift Connors for a body slam, but Connors countered and worked Knight to the ground with elbows.
At the five-minute mark, Connors landed a snap suplex for a two-count and then worked a chin lock. Connors went for a body slam, but Knight countered for one of his own and got a two-count. Knight then worked a head-lock. A shoulder-tackle didn’t knock Connors down, but eventually Connors got Knight down before Connors yelled “Get your ass up!”. Eventually, Knight hit a very good-looking dropkick and went for a Boston Crab, but Connors got to the ropes for a break.
One of Knight’s boots came untied and Connors landed a good spear to transition into a Boston Crab of his own. Knight eventually tapped out.
Clark Connors defeated Kevin Knight via submission in 7:37.
After the match, Connors went for a handshake, but Knight shrugged him off and left the ring. Connors then cut a promo backstage saying only “Welcome to Dojo.”
McGuire’s Musings: Both Connors and Knight looked really, really good here. For being a new face, Knight made a very nice impression, and considering the post-match handshake rejection, I’m intrigued to see how he looks as a heel. For two young wrestlers still feeling their way through the business, this was a great way to start 2021. Connors is destined for more while Knight showed a ton of promise as a young lion.
2. Rocky Romero vs. The DKC. As Romero made his way to the ring, Kelly wondered if this would be the year Romero wins the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship, so remember that if you believe in foreshadowing. The DKC went for Romero’s legs to begin the match, but Romero countered and handled The DKC with a chin-lock as the two hit the canvas.
Romero put The DKC in a bow-and-arrow, but The DKC countered and worked on Romero’s leg. After Romero countered, The DKC made it to the ropes to break a submission. The two then locked up again in the center of the ring. The DKC hit a belly-to-belly for a two-count and then went to an arm-bar. Romero hit the ropes, however, for the break.
Romero sold being dizzy from the belly-to-belly while The DKC took control. Before long, the two traded kicks and strikes. Eventually, Romero hit a knee drop onto The DKC’s arm from the top rope. Romero continued to work The DKC’s arm before backing him into the corner. The DKC worked his way out with a series of elbows and the two traded shots. Eventually, The DKC hit a clothesline and suplex for a two-count.
After The DKC went for a Northern Lights Suplex, Romero countered and went back to The DKC’s arm. The DKC tried to fight his way out, eventually hitting that Northern Light Suplex for a two-count. The DKC then fired up and went for a submission, but Romero got to the bottom rope for the break. The DKC hit three bodyslams for a two-count. Koslov reminded everyone not to take the bodyslam for granted.
Romero, before long, landed an arm bar and hit a few knees to keep control and The DKC tapped out.
Rocky Romero defeated The DKC via submission in 8:32.
After the match, The DKC asked for the microphone in the ring. He apologized to New Japan fans for his mistake, saying he needs to get stronger and focus. He said he’s learned from the guidance from the New Japan Dojo. He then asked Katsuyori Shibata if he could join the New Japan Dojo. Shibata made his way to the ring and told The DKC to come with him. Kelly said he had goosebumps.
Kevin Kelly interviewed Bateman, who Kelly said would make his NJPW Strong debut in a couple weeks. Kelly noted how fans would know him from Ring Of Honor, and asked Bateman if he had regrets. Bateman said he had no regrets. After being asked about his goals, Bateman talked about how he is different, as well as a special and a cruel man. Kelly asked him if he was a scientific wrestler, but Bateman said if he wanted to hurt someone, he would go out and hurt them. If that means digging his fingers in their ears, that’s what he’ll do. Bateman then said he wants people to suffer and added that he’s familiar with a lot of the NJPW Strong wrestlers, but they are lambs going to slaughter for someone like him and noted that it’s going to be messy. Kelly brought up how Bateman was thrown out of the Dojo, but Bateman mentioned something about violence before saying that everyone needs to “keep their eyes open.”
McGuire’s Musings: The DKC needed something to kick him into the next gear and the post-match alliance with Shibata is just the thing to do it. He’s got a lot of talent, but it felt like his wheels had been spinning over the last couple months. The next time we see him, I hope it comes with a little more edge. The match was good, and with Romero winning and Kelly foreshadowing, you have to think Romero is due for a title run sometime in 2021. I’m not complaining. The interview with Bateman had its moments, but for the most part was awkward. It took a couple questions for Bateman to settle in, and once he did, him and Kelly accidentally started to talk over one another. Still, the addition of Bateman to the Strong oeuvre is intriguing and here’s hoping they allow him to be the ruthless character he’s been in ROH, if only because he does it so well.
3. Brody King, Logan Riegel, and Sterling Riegel vs. Danny Limelight, JR Kratos, and Chris Dickinson. Koslov noted how Dickinson trained with Josh Barnett and said he’s a powerhouse while Kelly said he’s a true student of the game. Dickinson and King began, but Limelight tagged himself in to get knocked down by King. King then tagged in Logan, who eventually hit a shoulder-block.
After going back and forth, Limelight slapped Logan and said “Let me get the better twin.” Logan went back on offense and Sterling tagged in for a moonsault and a two-count. The twins traded tags but Limelight reversed a series of moves before hitting a lariat and tagging in Dickinson. Dickinson hit a suplex for a one-count and landed one of the loudest chops I’ve ever heard on a professional wrestling television show, empty venue or not.
Kratos tagged in to continue working over Sterling Riegel, whose chest was actually bleeding from Dickinson’s chop. Limelight tagged in and kept striking Sterling in the chest with kicks and chops. Limelight worked a head-lock for a while. Eventually Dickinson tagged in and taunted King, who distracted the referee while the three heels worked over Riegel. Dickinson hit another two chops and the latter echoed loud again.
Sterling tried to come off the middle rope, but Dickinson caught him with a bear hug. Sterling ultimately countered and hit a neck-breaker to get the hot tag to King, who hit the ring and took out Limelight and Dickinson. Dickinson and King traded chops and not a single one of them looked fun. Dickinson took control with some kicks, but King came back with a gut-wrench powerbomb.
King tagged in Sterling, but Kratos took control before Limelight hit both twins outside with a 360 cross-body. Inside the ring, King and Kratos exchanged blows. Kratos got the best of King by clotheslining him over the top. Dickinson landed a lariat on one of the twins in the ring and hit a death-valley driver for the pin.
Danny Limelight, JR Kratos, and Chris Dickinson defeated Brody King, Logan Riegel, and Sterling Riegel via pinfall in 9:41.
After the match, King attacked Kratos and the teams brawled. Kratos then cut a promo backstage, bringing in Dickinson, who talked about how this has been his life’s goal. He called NJPW the greatest professional wrestling company in the world. He finished by saying the Dirty Daddy has arrived.
McGuire’s Musings: Oh boy, Chris Dickinson is a monster. They made him out to be unstoppable and goodness, he didn’t hold back. This was a great showcase for him, and if you go out of your way to see one thing, just look up that initial chop from him on one of the twins. I love the Riegel Twins because they seem to be among the workhorses of Strong and you always know you’re going to get good work out of them, but holy moly, did I feel bad for them taking the beating they took. Between Bateman and Dickinson, this episode set the stage for a different NJPW Strong moving forward and I’m very much looking to what’s next. The difference the arrival of a few wrestlers can make for a weekly professional wrestling television show. Who knew? My NJPW Strong audio reviews are available for Dot Net Members every Saturday.