By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed March 12, 2021 on New Japan World
The show opened with Fred Rosser cutting a promo on JR Kratos and their qualifying match for the New Japan Cup USA. JR Kratos then popped up on the screen and said he’s the most feared. Kratos said he respects Rosser. Rosser then cut back in and said you can’t manufacture passion. The camera then cut back to Kratos, who said there is a legit, no bullshit wrestler in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The opening then aired…
McGuire’s Musings: I liked that. Much better than a split-screen. Much better than a stagnant back-and-forth. More of this, please.
Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov checked in on commentary to remind everyone that we are on the road to Strong Style Evolved and ran down the card. They highlighted Barrett Brown’s recent string of losses, questioning if his time in NJPW is coming to an end, and threw it to a video recap. After the recap, a promo video for the New Japan Cup USA aired…
1. Barrett Brown and Adrian Quest vs. Logan Riegel and Sterling Riegel. The Riegel twins came out with masks and shirts that looked like they were both tatted up. The commentary team said it was in reference to Brody King. Quest and Sterling began the match and Quest worked over Sterling’s arm. Eventually, Sterling countered and landed a side-headlock takeover.
Quest regained control with an arm-drag and a roll-up for a two-count. Back on their feet, Sterling complained about Quest pulling his hair. Logan and Brown then tagged in and the twin took control with a dropkick. Tagging his brother in, the twins landed a very good looking combination leg-sweep and kick. Before long, Sterling tagged in and the two lifted Brown up for a long-standing double suplex.
The twins landed a double-team clothesline and elbow drop for a two-count. Brown eventually countered a clothesline and got the hot tag to Quest, who hit a series of suplexes for a two-count. Quest worked a crossface before hitting an elbow. Brown tagged back in and the two hit a double back-elbow for a two-count. Brown landed a series of loud chops and a good-looking dropkick for a two-count.
Quest tagged in and continued to work over Sterling with a crossface. Brown tagged himself in, but Logan tagged in and Brown was hit with a tough clothesline and an uppercut. Brown rolled outside and Logan hit a suicide dive. Back in the ring, Logan hit a hell of a DDT for a close near-fall. All four wrestlers were in the ring and Quest went for a splash, but the twins caught him and double-slammed him.
The twins went for Brown, but Brown landed an arm-drag and suplex on both twins in the corner. Brown went for a splash, but Quest beat him to it as the twins were outside the ring. Brown then bickered with Quest and went to pick up a twin for a suplex, but the twin hit an inside cradle for the pinfall victory.
Logan Riegel and Sterling Riegel defeated Barrett Brown and Adrian Quest via pinfall in 11:33.
McGuire’s Musings: It’s a story as old as time. A wrestler can’t get a win. The company makes a story out of it. The wrestler eventually gets a win. Just not tonight. My only worry is that by going this route, New Japan is defining Barrett Brown down, and he’s better than that. Either way, this was a very good tag-team match, and I can’t say enough good things about the Riegel Twins. Watching them grow through the months has been some of my favorite Strong stuff. I could do without the tattoo shirts, but the edge they show and the fire they’ve gained has taken them to another level. Everything worked here, from the continuation of Brown’s hard-luck story, to the Riegel Twins developing into a very good heel-ish team.
2. Jordan Clearwater vs. Hikuleo in a New Japan Cup USA qualifier. “Did he go to the barber and say ‘Give me the Jackie Fargo?'” Kelly asked as Clearwater made his entrance and that’s funny. Hikuleo took control right away with kicks, throwing Clearwater outside. Hikuleo tried to throw Clearwater into a post, but Clearwater stopped and threw Hikuleo into it instead. Clearwater then rolled Hikuleo back into the ring and got a one-count.
Clearwater worked Hikuleo’s arm with punches and submissions. Clearwater went for a clothesline, but it didn’t really matter to Hikuleo. Clearwater then went back to work on the left arm. Clearwater went for a kick, but Hikuleo moved and slammed Clearwater. Hikuleo claimed Clearwater pulled his hair and then hit a series of back elbows. Clearwater eventually tried to lift Hikuleo up, but he collapsed and Hikuleo worked a series of elbows to the face. Hikuleo then choked Clearwater.
Hikuleo challenged Clearwater to chop him, and so he did. None of the chops affected Hikuleo and Hikuleo then landed a couple vicious chops of his own for a two-count. Hikuleo landed a slam and a leg-drop for a two-count. Hikuleo picked Clearwater up, but Clearwater fought his way out and the two traded blows. Clearwater went for a bulldog, but Hikuleo shoved him out. Even so, Clearwater came back with a jumping neck-breaker for a very close near-fall.
Clearwater went for a boot to the face, but Hikuleo caught him and went for a choke-slam. Clearwater tried to pick Hikuleo up, to no avail and hit a rolling clothesline. Clearwater went for the boot again but Hikuleo caught him with a good-looking powerslam. Hikuleo then hit a modified Death Valley Driver for the 1-2-3.
Hikuleo defeated Jordan Clearwater via pinfall in 7:57 to qualify for the New Japan Cup USA tournament.
McGuire’s Musings: Just my weekly reminder that Hikuleo is a star in the making. Man, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for that guy. Anyway, this was good, and Clearwater got in more offense than I expected him to get in. Actually, come to think of it, Clearwater really gained something here in defeat, especially with the amount of times he tried to pick Hikuleo up and almost got there. The preppy dude hung with the monster dude, and it worked. If I’m a betting man – and make no mistake that I am very honestly a degenerate – I’ll say Hikuleo is my pick to win the New Japan Cup USA. Who’s up for winning some money?
3. Fred Rosser vs. JR Kratos in a New Japan Cup USA qualifier. Rosser rolled to the outside of the ring to start, yelling that it’s going to happen on his time. Rosser rolled into the ring and hit a series of punches and kicks before Kratos grabbed him and tossed him into the corner. Rosser went for some shoulder-tackles, but Kratos didn’t move. Rosser went for a rolling elbow, but Kratos stopped and knocked Rosser to the ground.
Kratos went on the offensive with a series of strikes and a release suplex that almost threw Rosser across the ring. The wrestlers found themselves outside and Kratos and Rosser had a staredown after Rosser got back in the ring. Kratos, after a minute, dragged Rosser to the outside. Kratos tore the padding up on the outside. Kratos went for a power bomb on the exposed floor, but Rosser countered and the two rolled inside.
Kratos kept control, solidified with a hard chop. The two eventually traded blows and while Rosser thought he was gaining control, Kratos took control back with a chop. Kratos then lifted Rosser up from the mat for an impressive suplex. After trading blows, Rosser speared Kratos through the ropes, out to the floor, where Rosser hit a leg-drop off the apron. Rosser then landed another leg-drop off the apron and rolled into the ring. Kratos barely got back into the ring before the 20-count.
Rosser continued to work over Kratos with knees and kicks. Rosser hit a clothesline that took Kratos down for a two-count. Rosser hit a headbutt and a series of chops. Rosser then went to the second rope, but Krtaos jumped up for an enziguri and oh my God. Kratos went for a pin and got a two-count. Back on their feet, Kratos slapped the hell out of Rosser in the corner. Kratos lifted Rosser onto the top turnbuckle, but Rosser slipped out to pick Kratos up and hit the double-knees for a two-count.
Rosser kept control with an elbow while rolling him to the apron. Rosser tried to pick up Kratos, but Kratos hit an elbow and a knee and a clothesline to get the action back into the ring from the apron. Kratos went for the wheelbarrow side suplex, but Rosser rolled him up for the pin.
Fred Rosser defeated JR Kratos via pinfall in 14:16 to qualify for the New Japan Cup USA tournament.
After the match, Hikuleo attacked Rosser from behind and rolled him into the ring, where Kratos was waiting. Kratos hit his spinning clothesline on Rosser as Hikuleo looked on. Kratos left the ring, but Hikuleo picked Rosser up and hit his choke-slam on Rosser. Hikuleo then yelled “I want you” as Rosser looked to be out of it..
Kelly and Koslov checked back in to run down next week’s card and close the show, which will feature Brody King vs. Bateman…
McGuire’s Musings: Definitely main event worthy. This might be the best I’ve seen JR Kratos look in my limited history covering Strong. The outcome was up in the air entirely, and if I’m honest, I’ll say that Rosser going over was a mild surprise for me. The story between him and Hikuleo looks to be fun, even if it’s based only on the idea that Rosser pulled Hikuleo’s hair. But, as you can probably tell, anything with Hikuleo is good enough for me. There were spots in this match that went beyond impressive, from both Kratos and Rosser, and that enziguri from Kratos will be the most impressive thing you see in wrestling all week. If you watch one match from this episode, this is the one you should consider.
Overall, this was a very good episode of Strong. I really like where the Riegel Twins are and I am very much enjoying their evolution from week to week. Hikuleo advancing to the New Japan Cup USA is the right move and Fred Rosser and JR Kratos put on a hell of a show. This is one of the better episodes of 2021. My weekly audio reviews of NJPW Strong are available for Dot Net Members on Saturday.