By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed February 19, 2021 on New Japan World
Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov checked in on commentary and said we are on the New Beginning USA tour. Kelly ran down the card and hyped next week’s match between Jon Moxley and Kenta for the IWGP U.S. Championship…
1. Aiden Quest, Misterioso, and Rocky Romero vs. Barrett Brown, Rey Horus, and The DKC. Kelly noted before the match started that Brown’s time in NJPW might be coming to an end if he doesn’t get some wins. Interesting. Romero’s team made its way to the ring to Romero’s theme song. Brown and Quest began the match by tying up. Brown took control with a wrist lock.
The two traded moves, but Brown hit a hell of a clothesline for a two-count. The DKC tagged in and the two shoulder-blocked Quest. Misterioso eventually tagged in and Misterioso and The DKC traded stiff strikes. The DKC hit his chop after yelling “DKC!” The DKC then took control, but missed a splash in the corner. Misterioso landed a slam for a two-count. Romero then tagged in and worked over The DKC with some punches and a drop-kick.
Quest then tagged in and worked some forearms before Misterioso tagged back in. Though The DKC tried to power his way out, Misterioso hit a springboard into a moonsault for a two-count. Romero tagged back in and landed a body-slam. Romero then hooked a single-leg crab, but Brown came in to break it up. Romero hit an arm-breaker to send Brown out and hit The DKC with a loud chop.
Romero went for the forever clotheslines, but The DKC hit a dropkick to change momentum and Horus tagged in. Horus fired up and worked over Quest with kicks and a leg-drop that warranted a two-count. After a very impressive lucha sequence, Horus stopped Quest with a cross-body from the top for a two-count.
Quest took control with a slam and then tagged in Romero. Romero hit a hard clothesline for a two-count. Horus hit a hard kick on Romero and Brown tagged in to hit a back elbow and a dropkick on Romero for a two-count. Brown landed a body-slam for a two-count. Eventually, Brown hit a snap German suplex on Romero. The babyface team hit a series of kicks on Romero for a two count. Misterioso ultimately hit a splash, leaving Brown and Romero alone in the ring. Romero landed an arm-bar submission on Brown and Brown submitted.
Aiden Quest, Misterioso, and Rocky Romero defeated Barrett Brown, Rey Horus, and The DKC via submission in 10:13.
After the match, the babyfaces cut a promo backstage. Brown yelled about how much NJPW meant to him. He said he wasn’t a part of the Super J-Cup and ended it by saying something has to change.
McGuire’s Musings: A hot tag opener that felt like it went by in a flash. The obvious story they are telling comes in the form of Brown not getting a win and feeling the urgency to break through, and, frankly, they are doing a good job telling that story. All six men worked hard, and I find myself more and more intrigued with The DKC working his newly found Young Lion style, rushing to the ring, ready to fight. I take him more seriously now, and it might be the best repackaging NJPW Strong has going for it currently. A lot of fast-action, a lot of fun moves here. This was – and don’t excuse the pun – a strong opening bout.
2. Fred Rosser vs. Hikuleo. The bell rang and the two stared each other down. Hikuleo threw Rosser, but Rosser fought back before Hikuleo took Rosser down and worked him over with a series of punches. Hikuleo choked Rosser and then went for a clothesline, but Rosser jumped on Hikuleo’s back and went for a sleeper hold and a cross-face chicken wing. Hikuleo ultimately worked his way out, but Rosser landed blows to Hikuleo’s chest. Hikuleo landed a boot, taking Rosser to the outside.
Outside the ring, Hikuleo worked over Rosser with kicks and punches and before long, Hikuleo hit a running power slam, stopping the ref’s count. Hikuleo bent Rosser over the ring post on the outside, forcing the referee to stop the count. Hikuleo continued to stretch Rosser’s back over the post and both wrestlers returned to the ring. Back in the ring, Hikuleo worked Rosser’s back.
Hikuleo hit some kicks before hitting a clothesline and body-slam in the middle of the ring. Hikuleo then hit a leg drop for a two-count. Hikuleo toyed with Rosser, slapping him on the back of the head. Hikuleo got in a cobra twist as Rosser yelled. Rosser fought back with punches and a couple slaps, but Hikuleo picked Rosser up for a belly-to-back for a series of two-counts.
Hikuleo went for a boot, but Rosser moved and hit Hikuleo with a kick. Rosser tried to pick Hikuleo up, but Hikuleo countered into a choke-slam for a two-count. Kelly noted how much heart Rosser has. Hikuleo picked Rosser up, but Rosser countered and went for a back-slide, while holding the hair, to actually get the win.
Fred Rosser defeated Hikuleo via pinfall in 10:40.
After the match, Hikuleo started beating up the ringside attendants, one of whom received a choke-slam. Backstage, Hikuleo said Rosser pulled his hair and he was a god-d*** cheater. He kept saying “son of a bitch” before leaving.
McGuire’s Musings: I will die on this hill, and if this is a hill you will make me die on, so be it: Hikuleo is a star. That said, this result surprised the hell out of me. Rosser made Hikuleo look like a million bucks and it felt for nearly the entire 10 minutes that Hikuleo had to go over. Will this set up a rematch? Hikuleo’s post-match promo suggests so, but even so, this was absolutely fantastic for what it was. Rosser knew exactly how to make Hikuleo look like the dominant heel, and Hikuleo, for as young as he is, knew exactly how to look like the monster. I have no problem with them running this back. I can’t say enough good things about everything that happened here.
3. El Phantasmo vs. Lio Rush. “Why do you have on so many god*** clothes,” Rush yelled at Phantasmo before the bell. Funny. Phantasmo extended his hand for a handshake, but Rush kicked it away. Phantasmo looked into the camera and told people to go to Pro Wrestling Tees for his shirt. Again, funny. Rush tried a couple head-scissors, but the two ultimately made their ways back to their feet.
After a test of strength, Phantasmo worked a rear chin-lock. Trading a few moves, Phantasmo went for a surfboard and the two traded one-counts. There was a series of throws, kicks and the like and both ended up on their feet with a stare down. Rush got some offense after hitting a kick and getting a two-count. Phantasmo found himself outside and called for a timeout. Back in the ring, Rush hit some hard chops and kicks for a two-count.
Rush went for a rear-naked choke, but Phantasmo flipped Rush and hit a spike DDT for a two-count. In a corner, Phantasmo hit a chop and forearm, seeing Rush to his knees. Phantasmo then choked him on the middle rope. Phantasmo worked Rush over the ropes, and eventually worked a back-rake, which Rush sold well. Phantasmo threw Rush chest-first into the corner. Phantasmo then mocked Koslov in the middle of the ring before he landed kicks and chops that echoed loudly.
Rush went for a cutter, but Phantasmo countered, only to have Rush hit a DDT for a two-count. Rush landed some punches, but Phantasmo countered. Still Rush hit a few loud chops. After the two traded some moves, Rush hit the springboard cutter for a good near-fall. Rush tried to climb to the top, but Rush punched his way out. Phantasmo went for the low blow again, but Rush countered and rolled him up and got the closest near-fall of the night. Rush then shouted at Phantasmo and Phantasmo shoved Rush into the ref before landing a superkick. That was good enough for the win.
El Phantasmo defeated Lio Rush via pinfall in 14:05.
After the match, Phantasmo cut a promo saying he beat Lio Rush again. Phantasmo said Rush is very good at everything he does “besides his music.” Phantasmo said he’s the ace of the junior division, then shouted out Rick and Morty. Kelly and Koslov checked in to hype next week’s show…
McGuire’s Musings: I dare you to name me three better heels in all of wrestling than MJF, Roman Reigns, and El Phantasmo. You can’t. If you do, you’re lying. This match was great on paper and it was great as it came to life, too. Lio Rush is so good. El Phantasmo is so good. The promo afterward was gold. The callback to the Super J Cup was fantastic. This might have been the match of the week, and if you haven’t seen it, go out of your way to do so. It’ll be worth every second of your time.
As for the entire episode, all of the matches were very good – some of the best of 2021 on Strong so far. My only problem? I thought for sure we’d get a face-to-face with Kenta and Moxley for next week. Granted, I’m thankful they didn’t try another awkward split-screen, but this has to be the biggest match in NJPW Strong’s history, right? So, why not give us a little bit more? Why not sell us? A hot angle coming out of this would have been ideal, but perhaps Kenta and Mox will deliver enough next week to shut me up. Either way, this was a very, very good show. All the matches were better than expected, and the main event delivered in a big way. So, see you next week? My audio reviews of NJPW Strong are available for Dot Net Members on Saturdays.