By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed February 12, 2021 on New Japan World
Alex Koslov and Kevin Kelly checked in on commentary to run down the card and remind everyone that we are on the road to New Beginning. They also noted that Kenta would be appearing…
1. Jordan Clearwater vs. JR Kratos. The bell rang and Kratos shoulder-blocked Clearwater across the ring. Kratos then worked over Clearwater, corner to corner. Kratos landed a big boot and went for a punch, but Clearwater moved and started to put the boots to Kratos. Clearwater worked out Kratos in a corner. Clearwater then chopped Kratos, but that angered Kratos, and Kratos pushed Clearwater to the ground.
In an impressive show of strength, Kratos picked Clearwater up for a suplex. Kratos then hit a few strikes and a release suplex that went for the length of the ring. Kratos covered Clearwater for a two-count and then worked a head-lock. Kratos then got Clearwater to his feet with a front face-lock. Clearwater eventually fought out with a series of punches. Kratos hit the ropes, but Clearwater landed a knee strike.
After Kratos missed a punch, Clearwater hit a jumping neck-breaker for a two-count. Clearwater then started to work Kratos’s leg, working an ankle lock. Kratos started to work his way out, but Clearwater pounced on Kratos and punched him a bunch.
Kratos took control with a series of strikes and got Clearwater into an arm submission, but Clearwater got the rope break. Back on their feet, Kratos hit a hard-looking boot to Clearwater’s face. Kratos then hit a fisherman’s suplex and got the win.
JR Kratos defeated Jordan Clearwater via pinfall in 6:20.
After the match, they cut to a split-screen between Kelly and Kenta. “I have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” Kenta said regarding Jon Moxley attacking him two weeks ago. Kelly reminded Kenta that Moxley heard everything Kenta had been saying for months. “I’m going to beat him up, kick his ass,” Kenta said. “I’ve been defending that briefcase for six months.” Kelly asked Kenta if he was victorious, what it would mean to Kenta. Kenta said he’s the best person to represent NJPW to the world. He said he deserves to be the first-ever IWGP U.S. champion. Kenta then spoke in Japanese, saying Mox has been letting the title rot for all this time.
McGuire’s Musings: A good showcase win for Kratos, who needed a bounce back after his loss a couple weeks ago to Brody King. Clearwater showed good fire, though, and these two actually worked pretty well together. Kratos looked like a monster and Clearwater looked like the over-confident … something, so mission accomplished. It’s not that I don’t like both guys; it’s just that I didn’t expect this match to turn out as well as it did. As for the Kenta interview, it did what it needed to do. His broken English kept the piece short, which was good (because as I’ve said for weeks, these split-screen interviews just aren’t that good). When he spoke in Japanese, however, the intensity picked up, which added a nice touch. This match sells itself anyway, so the promos aren’t as vital as they might be in other situations.
2. Clark Connors vs. Bateman. The two began by feeling each other out. Eventually, the two did the whole “I’ll let you slap me” thing. The wrestlers then traded chops that sounded and looked painful before Connors took control. Then, Connors sat down to allow Bateman to kick him. Connors got to his feet and hit an elbow, but Bateman fought back.
Bateman took control with a body-slam for a two-count. Eventually, Connors hit a spear on Bateman, and Bateman sold head pain. The ref tried to stop Connors, but Connors fought out and hit another hard spear. After Connors went for the Boston Crab, Bateman kicked his way out of it while selling shoulder pain. Bateman went for a tombstone, but Connors worked his way out and landed a snap body-slam. Connors then went for the Boston Crab, but Bateman kicked out.
Connors went for a spear from the middle rope, but Bateman countered, Bateman tried to pick Connors up, but couldn’t get him up because it looks like Bateman might have been hurt. From there, Bateman got Connors up for the tombstone and the pin.
Bateman defeated Clark Connors via pinfall in 8:40.
After the match, Bateman cut a promo saying he can barely feel his fingertips. He then said he is the captain now.
McGuire’s Musings: I might be wrong, but I think Bateman really got hurt here. It felt like they had to go home early, and when he said he couldn’t feel his fingertips after the match, I don’t think he was exaggerating. Maybe a stinger? I’m not sure. He held his neck and shoulder a bit. Anyway, this is the best Connors has looked in a while, and that type of fire from a Young Lion always goes a long way. The right guy went over, but it really kind of feels like Connors is a star in the making. This was good for what it was. Nothing too special. I just hope Bateman is OK because either he sold an injury awfully well or he actually can’t feel his hands.
3. Ren Narita and TJP vs. Chris Dickinson and Danny Limelight. Narita and Dickinson started out the match with grappling. Narita took control with a wrist-lock, but Dickinson hit a single-leg takedown. Dickinson hit a chop and Narita did the same and both sounded painful. Before long, Dickinson rolled Narita into the corner and he made the tag to TJP.
TJP hit a back-heel trip and went for an arm-bar. Dickinson worked his way out of hit and landed a single-leg crab. After the two traded holds, Dickinson and TJP went for some mat work before Dickinson landed a snap German Suplex. TJP sunk in head-scissors before rolling Dickinson up for a two-count. Narita then tagged in and worked a chin-lock.
Limelight tagged in, but Narita took control. Limelight eventually ripped Narita’s arm over the rope. After a series of moves working the arm, Limelight tagged in Dickinson, who went right to work with a headlock. Dickinson tagged out and Limelight worked Narita over with a series of strikes. Dickinson then tagged in and worked a boot to the face of Narita, whose mouth was bleeding.
Limelight tagged in again, and the two hit a double suplex on on Narita. Limelight worked a head-lock. Dickinson tagged in and worked Narita over with kicks. Before long, Narita fired up and Dickinson and Narita traded stiff blows. Narita hit a German suplex and got the tag to TJP. Dickinson made the tag to Limelight, and TJP hit a series of moves before working a surfboard.
TJP kept control and went for a spinning DDT, but Limelight blocked it. TJP then hit a backdrop before climbing to the top for a Swanton, but Limelight moved. Limelight then hit a fisherman’s suplex. Dickinson tagged in and went for a suplex, but TJP went for a submission. Dickinson hit a dragon-screw leg whip, but TJP eventually worked it into a leg lock. Narita went for a submission on Limelight, and the two worked their oppnents, but Dickinson made it to the ropes for a break.
Back on their feet, Dickinson hit a series of chops on Narita, but Narita worked out and TJP hit a splash for a very close two-count. Before long, Dickinson sank in an STF on TJP (and that’s a lot of acronyms), and TJP tapped out.
Chris Dickinson and Danny Limelight defeated Ren Narita and TJP via submission in 15:04.
After the match, the two teams brawled, but Dickinson and Limelight got the better of the babyfaces. Dickinson and Limelight then cut a promo backstage. Kelly and Koslov checked back in to hype next week and recap the results of the night.
McGuire’s Musings: Boy, do I love Chris Dickinson’s work. This went so much longer than I could have ever anticipated and I’m not complaining. The workhorses here were Narita and Dickinson and if somebody wants to give them 18 minutes and a bunch of freedom, you can count me among those who would tune into that. It seems like it’s not over, and that’s good, because I could stand to see any of these four wrestlers have at it again. Maybe I’ll get my Narita vs. Dickinson bout? Maybe? Please?
Anyway, this was a fine episode of NJPW Strong. It was good, not great. All the matches here are worth your time, but none make me want to say you have to stop everything you’re doing to look any of this up. The Kenta promo did what it needed to do, and it didn’t need to do a lot. In all, you can probably miss this, but if you’re looking to be entertained, check out that main event. Some of those blows were stiff with a capital “iff.” Everything is secondary, however, the Kenta and Moxley in two weeks.