By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed August 13, 2021 on New Japan World
The broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov checked in remotely to run down the card. We are on The Road To Summer Struggle…
1. Wheeler Yuta vs. Barrett Brown. Brown made his entrance with Bateman and Misterioso, who wore the Scott Steiner head get-up. The two locked up to begin the match and Yuta got Brown to the mat. Yuta worked a wrist-lock, but Brown broke it, slid to the corner and consulted Bateman. Yuta sunk in a bow-and-arrow before Brown rolled to the outside.
After a series of reversals, Yuta hit a dropkick for a one-count. Back on their feet, Brown tripped Yuta and landed a double thrust into Yuta’s throat before going for the ground-and-pound. The two traded chops and Brown got the better of the exchange, ultimately sinking in a chin-lock, which turned into him grabbing Yuta by his beard.
Brown hit a dropkick with Yuta sitting on the ground for a two-count. Koslov said when Misterioso cuts onions, onions cry, which was funny. Brown kept on Yuta’s arm with an arm-bar. Yuta hit a tilt-a-whirl back-breaker to try and take control, but Brown caught him for a suplex into the corner for a two-count. Brown hit a running kick for a two-count.
Brown went for a Swanton dive, but missed, and Yuta rolled Brown up for a near-fall. Yuta landed a German suplex for a two-count. Yuta worked a submission, but Bateman distracted the ref and Misterioso ran in to hit a Codebreaker on Yuta. Brown then crawled over to lay on Yuta and pinned him for the win.
Barrett Brown defeated Wheeler Yuta via pinfall in 7:29.
McGuire’s Musings: This was one of the better opening matches on Strong in recent memory. The outcome was sort of a surprise as Wheeler Yuta’s star seems to be rising in multiple places and to saddle him with a loss on the opening match on an episode of Strong seems to be counterintuitive to that. But then again, maybe this is the beginning of a long program between Yuta and those three. And hell, maybe this means Yuta will be joined by some Best Friends on an episode of Strong in the future. Either way, I liked this a lot. I liked the mildly surprising outcome and I thought these two worked really well together. I’m interested in seeing what becomes of Brown and his faction.
2. Fred Yehi vs. Hikuleo. Hikuleo threw Yehi to the ground to begin. Yehi grabbed Hikuleo’s throat, but Hikuleo absorbed some shots and smiled. Hikuleo pounded Yehi to the ground. Hikuleo hit a bodyslam and celebrated before going for a splash, but I’m not sure if Yehi was supposed to move or get the knees up because both things kind of happened. Either way, Yehi hit a couple chops, but Hikuleo kept control.
Hikuleo sunk in a knee on Yehi as Yehi sat in the corner. Yehi went for Hikuleo’s leg, but Hikuleo put the boots to him. Hikuleo went for a suplex, but Yehi rolled away. Hikuleo landed a clothesline and then got his suplex in for a two-count. Hikuleo kept control. Every time Yehi tried to work his way out of anything, Hikuleo just used force to stay on the upper-hand.
Yehi finally got a few seconds of offense with some chops and bicycle kicks. Yehi went for the legs and landed a German suplex for a near-fall. Yehi went back to his submission, but Hikuleo rolled out, after it almost looked like he tapped out. Yehi sunk in a head-scissors. Hikuleo hit his snap-powerslam for a two-count. He then landed a big boot. After that, Hikuleo hit the Tongan Driver Slam for the pin.
Hikuleo defeated Fred Yehi via pinfall in 9:31.
After the match, Hikuleo’s chest looked all types of cut up. Hikuleo called for a microphone. He yelled for NJPW to give him someone worthy, someone good. He then said this is too easy. As a result, Juice Robinson came out. Robinson got a microphone and said he’s 220 pounds of challenge. Robinson said he came here for competition, too, and lobbed a bunch of funny insults his way. Koslov suggested they fight at Resurgence.
McGuire’s Musings: This was a weird match for me. For the first 75 percent, I thought it was the longest, most glorified squash I’d ever seen. But then Yehi took more control than I thought he’d get and they actually had me for a split-second thinking he might win. This is your weekly reminder that Hikuleo is a star, and he looked like one here, though he might need to get his stamina up a little if he wants to go to the next level. The match between Robinson and Hikuleo should be fun on the NJPW pay-per-view Saturday night. After watching Hikuleo take that loss on AEW Dynamite a couple weeks ago, though, I really hope he walks away with a win against Juice.
3. Karl Fredericks and Lio Rush vs. Tom Lawlor and Danny Limelight. Fredericks jump-started the match by attacking Lawlor, but Lawlor fought back and threw Fredericks into a corner. Fredericks came back at him with elbows and a splash. Limelight ran in, but Fredericks threw him outside. Rush landed a splash on Limelight outside while Fredericks and Lawlor traded blows inside the ring. Fredericks then hit a spine-buster for a two-count.
Rush tagged in and the two hit a series of combinations on Lawlor for a two-count. Lawlor hit an elbow and took off his jacket, but Rush landed a kick and tagged in Fredericks, who went after Limelight, which led to the heels taking control in their corner. Lawlor started to wear down Fredericks’ knee before Limelight tagged in and kept focus on that. Lawlor tagged in and hit a dragon-screw leg-whip on Fredericks.
Lawlor rolled into a calf-crusher on Fredericks. Lawlor went for a figure-four leg-lock and eventually got it. Limelight tagged in and stomped on Fredericks’ leg. Limelight hit a running bulldog after Lawlor tagged in and Lawlor went for the pin, but it was broken up by Rush. Lawlor sunk in a front-face-lock before landing some strikes. Fredericks, however, snuck in a suplex and got the hot tag to Rush.
Rush came in to fight Limelight, who also tagged in. Rush dove through the ropes to drive Lawlor into the outside barricade. Rush hit a clothesline, but Lawlor made the save. Lawlor then slammed Rush. Fredericks pulled Lawlor out of the ring, but Lawlor got the best of the encounter. Rush climbed to the top, missed a frogsplash and Limelight hit a power bomb onto his knees for a two-count.
Lawlor hit a German suplex on Rush, but Fredericks broke up the pin. Lawlor and Fredericks traded forearms. Fredericks and Lawlor spilled to the floor again. Rush and Limelight went back and forth in the middle of the ring. Rush ultimately hit the Rush Hour for the pinfall victory.
Lio Rush and Karl Fredericks defeated Tom Lawlor and Danny Limelight via pinfall in 12:18.
After the match, the winners cut a promo backstage. Rush said he’s the man of the hour. He screamed for everyone to look at him. He said what just happened to Danny Limelight is a preview of what Tom Lawlor’s future is going to be. Fredericks then said he’s the king of this dojo as he called out Alexander James.
McGuire’s Musings: By now, we know it will be Lio Rush against Tom Lawlor for the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship at tonight’s Resurgence pay-per-view, and that should be a good match. But, again, I’m sorry. What did I miss? I thought Lio Rush appeared for AEW and then the next day said he was retiring again? Since then, he’s been on Strong a few times and now he’s appearing live for New Japan this weekend? I’m confused.
Anyway, this was good, and Fredericks especially showed a lot of fire. He’s growing on me every week and his exchanges with Lawlor lead me to believe that Lawlor retains this weekend and eventually works with Fredericks for the Strong Openweight Championship. But then again, Fredericks called out James Alexander after the match, so who knows. The match was expectedly chaotic at the end, but the constant brawling between Lawlor and Fredericks was a lot of fun. Fredericks seems to have gained an edge in recent months.
In all, this was a very good edition of Strong, and a good go-home edition for Resurgence. The matches were good, a couple stories developed, and I came away impressed more so than usual by every wrestler on the card. I eagerly await seeing this show will be in front of a live audience because you have to think the energy will take everything up a few notches, no? Either way, it can’t hurt.