By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed January 15, 2021 on New Japan World
The broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov checked in to run down the card, reminding everyone that it is the Road To Lion’s Break Contender. The same video that aired last week, spotlighting the Strong wrestlers aired.
1. Misterioso vs. Barrett Brown. As Brown made his way to the thing, Kelly told everyone that Brown is working to make 2021 his year. At about the minute-and-a-half mark, Brown landed a rough-looking huracanrana to send Misterioso outside. When Brown attempted to follow up, Misterioso caught Brown and laid him out.
Back in the ring, Misterioso went for the cover and got a two-count. Misterioso slammed Brown and landed a Senton for a two-count. In the corner, Misterioso hit running knees on Brown for a pair of more two-counts. After being kicked, Brown fired up and hit a series of forearms, but Misterioso put an end to that with a big boot to the face.
As Misterioso ran toward Brown in the corner, Brown countered and hit a hip-toss on Misterioso, throwing him into the corner. Leaping off the top rope, Misterioso caught Brown again, but Brown rolled him up for a two-count. Brown went back to the top rope, but Misterioso got his knees up and both wrestlers were down before Misterioso pinned Brown for a near-fall.
Misterioso hit a superkick, but Brown fired up and hit a reverse huracanrana for a super close near-fall. Brown went back to the top rope, but Misterioso climbed up and hit a reverse super-plex from the top for the pin.
Misterioso defeated Barrett Brown via pinfall in 7:55.
After the match, Misterioso cut a promo on the backstage set saying 2021 is his year. Kevin Kelly checked back in for a split-screen interview with Fred Rosser. Kelly asked Rosser how he was feeling, and Rosser explained that he felt great and he was smiling ear to ear before adding that he feels Kelly is part of all the stories, making Rosser look like a million bucks. Kelly asked Rosser how he plans to turn his career into the next gear and Rosser said he steals from his favorites and tries to be as gritty as possible. Rosser then noted how wrestling isn’t ballet. Rosser said that he wrestles because he loves it and ended the segment by saying “Block the hate, salute the great.”
McGuire’s Musings: I couldn’t tell if Misterioso was overly confident in a way that makes me say, “Yeah, man! Get it!” Or, if he was overly confident in a way that makes me wonder if he even wanted to be there in the first place. Either way, the match was really good, and Brown showed some real nice fire. There were some wobbly high spots that could have been cleaned up, but they had me genuinely questioning who was going to win. As for the Rosser interview … I don’t know, man. I understand NJPW’s attempt to fill out the show with a talking segment or two to add layers to the wrestlers, but the interactions are awkward at best and forced at worst. I thought that perhaps Bateman’s segment last week was just a tough first go at this, but Rosser’s interview wasn’t much better. Kelly and the wrestlers just lack chemistry when they can’t be beside one another. It’s so much harder than it looks to pull off an intriguing split-screen interview, so maybe the talent shouldn’t be blamed. But perhaps we can figure out a way to make this work in a more natural, believable way?
2. TJP vs. Adrian Quest. Koslov noted how TJP debuted in NJPW almost 20 years ago. Wow, how time flies. Before long, Quest hit a huracanrana and took control by working TJP’s arm. He then went for a cover and got a one-count. Quest eventually went to the top, but TJP countered and hit a sliding dropkick to the face.
On the offensive, TJP sunk in a chin-lock with his knee to the back of Quest. After a series of moves, TJP hit another dropkick for a two-count and went back to working Quest’s arm. Eventually, TJP worked an impressive-looking submission that tangled his body up with a ton of imagination. TJP then hit a back-breaker and a Senton for a two-count.
TJP lifted Quest for a stretch submission that turned into a pin for a series of one-counts. Quest then worked his way out and landed a spinning kick and a moonsault to take control. Quest hit an elbow and a running shooting-star press for a two-count. Quest tried to lift TJP, but TJP hit a knee and went for a spinning DDT that didn’t work. Quest ultimately rolled TJP up, but TJP kicked out.
Quest then went to the top, but TJP pushed him off. With both wrestlers on the top, Quest elbowed TJP down before running back up again, only for Quest to toss him to the mat. Quest went for a 450 splash, but missed. TJP took advantage by climbing to the top himself and landing a splash for the win.
TJP defeated Adrian Quest via pinfall in 8:43.
Backstage, TJP cut a promo about how Quest was close to winning. He said that Quest might even be better than him, but today wasn’t his day. For right now, TJP said, Quest isn’t quite there yet.
McGuire’s Musings: Say what you want about TJP’s WWE run, but he continues to look so much more confident since leaving the mothership, no matter where he shows up. The moves here were crisp, and it’s clear these two know how to get some very good things out of each other. Some of the submissions TJP worked were beyond my comprehension, but they sure were pretty-looking. I’d like to see them run it back on a bigger stage with five more minutes.
3. Kenta, El Phantasmo, and Hikuleo vs. Fred Rosser, ACH, and Blake Christian. The Bullet Club faction was the first group out. Hikuleo and ACH began the match, but Phantasmo tagged himself in to actually start the match. Phantasmo taunted ACH and the two locked up. After trading a series of moves, ACH hit a dropkick on Phantasmo and Kenta. Hikuleo then came in and hit a mean-looking boot to the face. The other four wrestlers began fighting outside.
After things settled down, Phantasmo gained control over ACH back in the ring and tagged in Kenta. Kenta rolled ACH over and hit a hard kick to ACH’s back before taunting the rest of the babyfaces. Hikuleo then tagged in and landed a loud chop that sent ACH to the ground. Hikuleo tossed ACH to the corner, ACH hit the corner hard and Hikuleo covered him for a two-count.
Phantasmo tagged in and worked a back-scratch before tagging in Kenta. Kenta followed up with another back-scratch. Hikuleo finally tagged in and made it a trifecta of back-scratches. Hikuleo went for a suplex, but ACH escaped and tagged in Rosser. After a little bit, Rosser started working Hikuleo’s leg. In the middle of the ring, Rosser applied an STF on Hikuleo, but Hikuleo fought his way out.
As both men got to their feet, Hikuleo landed a hard forearm. Hikuleo then went for a choke-slam, but he countered to tag in Christian who immediately almost missed a springboard moonsault. Christian landed a DDT and got a two-count. Kenta pulled Rosser out, but Phantasmo pushed Christian into a choke-slam from Hikuleo. Rosser returned to the ring and tried to pick up Hikuleo, but failed. Kenta tossed Rosser to the outside, and inevitably, ACH got involved with everyone else outside.
Phantasmo hit a splash from nearly the length of the ring for a two-count on Christian. After some ref shenanigans, Phantasmo hit a superkick on Christian for the 1-2-3.
Kenta, El Phantasmo, and Hikuleo defeated Fred Rosser, ACH, and Blake Christian via pinfall in 10:29.
After the match, Phantasmo talked backstage about Lio Rush coming in, saying he’ll make his debut on Strong. “Why are we supposed to cut a promo saying we are scared of Lio Rush?” Phantasmo asked and then called wherever they tape Strong a “bum-hick town by the ocean.” Kelly and Koslov checked back in, saying the tournament begins next week. Kelly then previewed next week, which includes Bateman in the main event.
McGuire’s Musings: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a thousand more times: Hikuleo is a star. Somewhere, somehow, someday, that guy is going to be huge. Anyway, I kind of like the Bullet Club getting these by-hook-or-by-crook wins each week. Kenta is solid, you just heard what I think of Hikuleo, and Phantasmo is a lightning bolt of obnoxious. I say that in a good way, of course. It was odd to see ACH take so much of the match and then lay at ringside after he tagged out before that final stretch, where everyone was involved. I hope everything is OK.
This was a very good episode of Strong. It wasn’t the best, but it also wasn’t in the mid-tier, either. Three very solid matches and the new faces give a boost of freshness to the show as a whole. Plus, when you have a faction like the Bullet Club continue to thrive over babyfaces who can’t ever seem to catch a break, it makes for good (internet) television. Bateman’s up next week and Lio rush is coming. There’s a lot to be said for the “bum-hick town by the ocean” on Friday nights.