By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed January 22, 2021 on New Japan World
Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov checked in on commentary to run down the card. The new video showcasing the show’s wrestlers aired again, so apparently that’s a regular thing…
1. Kevin Knight and Jordan Clearwater vs. Logan Riegel and Sterling Riegel. Knight and Logan began with some quick moves before Clearwater tagged in and eventually, the twins landed a double suplex. Clearwater countered a double-team move to tag in Knight who fired up and landed a hip-toss for a two-count.
Knight hit a very good-looking dropkick for a two-count as Kelly explained that Knight played college football. Clearwater tagged in and the two knocked one of the twins to the ground. Clearwater hit a suplex and got a near-fall. Kelly played up Clearwater’s ego before he landed a back suplex and went for a pin, but Logan made the save.
Clearwater then went for a splash in the corner, but Logan ducked and tagged in Sterling, who hit both opponents with a series of strikes. On the apron, Sterling hit Clearwater with a switchblade. Back in the ring, Knight worked over Sterling with a series of uppercuts, but before long, the twins took control and hit their finisher for the pin.
Logan Riegel and Sterling Riegel defeated Kevin Knight and Jordan Clearwater via pinfall in 6:12.
After the match, they cut to a split-screen interview between Kevin Kelly and Brody King. Kelly asked King why he thinks Kratos picked him out. King said Kratos picked the biggest person he saw. The interview then ended abruptly after King said Kratos picked a fight with the wrong guy…
McGuire’s Musings: I’ve been covering Strong for this website for almost three months now and if you blindly asked me to name which Riegel twin is doing what, I’d probably fail you. Either way, this was a good outing for the twins, and my condolences go out to the one that took those nasty chops a few weeks ago because his chest here was still awfully beat up. I like that NJPW is establishing these two as a premiere tag team on Strong. Their work is very solid and that finishing variation of a spike DDT looked great. As for the Brody King interview … well, at least New Japan cut this week’s interview by about 75 percent, and I’m not complaining. Very short. Very to the point. My expectations are high for this next match.
2. Brody King vs. JR Kratos. Kratos made his entrance first and took his time getting into the ring. Brody King continued to look like a guy someone should never want to fight as he walked down the aisle. “Let the violence begin,” Kevin Kelly said. Once the bell rang, the two traded stiff forearms.
Before long, King hit a chop that looked nasty. Kratos eventually struck back with a chop of his own. The two traded a couple more chops before Kratos caught King and draped him over the top rope. Kratos then worked some kicks and elbows. Kratos whipped King into the corner and King fell to the ground. Kratos then slapped King across the face, which inspired King to hit back with a forearm.
Kratos took back control with a series of forearms in the corner. After King attempted to take back control, Kratos hit a stiff kick to the face and got a two-count. In the corner, King tried a boot to the face, but Kratos caught him, knocked King to the ground and hit a kick to the face. Back on his feet, Kratos landed a chop to King’s chest.
King took control after a few counters and hit a side-slam for a two-count. As the two got back to their feet, Kratos’s chest looked beet-red. Kratos hit the ropes, but King caught him with a punch to the face. Kratos responded by hitting a clothesline that took both men to the canvas. After both go to their feet, the two traded chops and strikes.
King screamed at Kratos and Kratos slapped him across the face. King responded by landing a double chop to Kratos’s chest. Before long, Kratos got on the offensive with some strikes, but King blocked one of them and threw Kratos over his shoulders into the corner and Kratos almost landed on his head. King then hit a cannonball for a two-count.
Back on their feet, King hit a chop, but Kratos caught King in midair and slammed him after King hit the ropes. Kratos then hit a suplex for a very close near-fall. Kratos went to pick King up, but King hit some kicks and landed a German suplex. King then landed an echoing lariat for a super close two-count.
King took a knee to the face, but Kratos caught an elbow and a couple clotheslines. King then hit one more clothesline and Kratos went down. King covered him and got the win.
Brody King defeated JR Kratos via pinfall in 10:09.
Koslov said Brody King just established himself as the king of the monsters. Kratos sold neck pain at ringside…
McGuire’s Musings: Umpf. It felt like this went maybe three minutes too long and both guys looked gassed at about the seven-minute mark. But you didn’t hear that from me, because if I saw either guy in a dark alley, I’d scream like a child and run the other way. This was hard-hitting, as expected, and Kratos actually got in more offense than I thought he would. That said, he looked good in defeat – so much so that I almost come away from this feeling like Kratos is the more dominant big man moving forward. There were some awfully close near-falls here and I’d love to see them run this back someday.
3. Ren Narita vs. Bateman. The two began by feeling each other out. Bateman eventually took control with a wrist-lock. Narita countered with a wrist-lock of his own, but Bateman got out of it and the two stood toe-to-toe again before locking up. Narita backed Bateman into the corner, but broke the hold and the two got back to the middle of the ring.
Narita worked a head-lock. Bateman tried to escape, but each time he tried, Narita kept it locked in. Bateman eventually countered into a head-scissors, but Narita executed a head-stand and went back to the head-lock. Before long, Narita got Bateman into a head-scissors and Bateman’s head looked like a tomato.
Eventually, Bateman took control with a snap-knee and a blindside forearm for a two-count. Bateman landed a forearm and a loud chop. Narita asked for a harder elbow and got one. Bateman then asked and he got one, too. That resulted in Narita taking control with a series of kicks. Bateman took back control with a double-thrust to the throat and an elbow for a two-count. Bateman continued to work Narita over with punches and got a two-count.
Back on their feet, Narita kept asking Bateman to hit him and Bateman landed a very loud chop before pulling back on Narita’s face. Bateman then yelled at Narita, who challenged Bateman to chop him, so Bateman did. Narita eventually began hitting back, taking Bateman to the canvas. Bateman took back control by hanging Narita over the top rope and then choking him.
Bateman hit a slam for a two-count. Bateman pulled Narita up and hit a forearm, backing Narita to the ropes, where Bateman landed another loud chop. Narita then fired up and hit a great-looking belly-to-belly suplex. Eventually, Narita hit a Russian leg-sweep and sank in a leg submission on Bateman, but Bateman made it to the ropes for a break.
After a few more strikes to Bateman’s leg, Bateman took control with a boot to the face. Bateman then hit a few more slams and a kick to the face for a two-count. Bateman took off his vest/jacket. Bateman picked up Narita, but Narita worked his way out. Bateman then hit a tough clothesline for a two-count. Bateman hit another variation of a slam and got another close near-fall. Bateman then took off his elbow pads.
Bateman hit Narita with a series of loud elbows. Narita eventually fought back, and Bateman couldn’t take Narita down. Narita went for a Cobra Twist but Bateman made it to the ropes. Narita then hit a German suplex for a two-count. Narita rolled Bateman into a cloverleaf and eventually, Bateman tapped.
Ren Narita defeated Bateman via submission in 14:53.
After the match, Bateman stared Narita down as he left the ring. Kelly called it a huge upset. Backstage, Narita cut a promo saying he won, but he’s still not satisfied. Kelly and Koslov checked back in and talked about the card next week, reminding everyone it’s the Road to Lion’s Break Contender…
McGuire’s Musings: A very, very good match. A slow, methodical, very, very good match. It might not be for everybody, but I love this style. Bateman took a lot of it, and rightfully so, but I was happy he put over Narita, for whom it seems like NJPW has high hopes. I could have done without one of the too-many “hit me as hard as you can” spots, but outside of that, I can’t ask for much more. Narita looked great and Bateman wasn’t far behind, with his unorthodox style. I could be mistaken, but this is the most time I’ve ever seen two wrestlers get in my time covering Strong.
In all, go out of your way to watch this episode. It began with a solid Riegel Twins win, only to be followed by a hard-hitting battle between two giants, and then it was topped off with an excellent pro wrestling match. To make matters even better, the odd split-screen interview segment wasn’t nearly as painful as it’s been the last two weeks. Truth be told, this is the best NJPW Strong of 2021. OK, so it’s only been three weeks, but it’s still definitely worth your time.