1/8 NJPW Strong results: McGuire’s review of Eddie Kingston vs. Gabriel Kidd, Keita Murray and Jordan Clearwater vs Chris Bey and Hikuleo, and The DKC vs. TJP

By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)

NJPW Strong
Taped December 9, 2021 in Los Angeles, California at The Vermont Hollywood
Streamed January 8, 2022 on New Japan World

The opening video aired before the broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Kozlov checked in to run down the card. We are on the Nemesis tour, which will eventually end with Jay White vs. Christopher Daniels. We did not get the second opening video this week…

1. The DKC vs. TJP. Once the bell rang, the DKC ran across the ring and hit a  dropkick. The DKC threw TJP into the ropes, but TJP rolled outside the ring. The DKC followed and kicked TJP into the guardrail before rolling TJP back into the ring. The DKC hit a body-slam for a one-count. TJP gained control, however, by stretching the DKC’s back.

The DKC took back control with a suplex and an attempted pin. The DKC went for a dropkick, but TJP stopped and the DKC missed. TJP stomped on the DKC in a corner and then executed his boot wash spot. TJP hit a springboard senton for a two-count. TJP sunk in a chin lock. The DKC tried to punch his way out, but TJP cut him off. The DKC went for a drop-toe-hold, but TJP blocked it and sunk in a figure-four leg lock. The DKC made it to the ropes for a break.

TJP ran the ropes, but The DKC hit a dropkick. The DKC landed his signature karate chops. The DKC landed the DK Fire, which is essentially just another series of chops. All of it amounted to a two-count for the DKC. The DKC lifted TJP, but TJP rolled him up for a two count. The DKC landed a kick and it led a two-count. The DKC went for a chop, but TJP rolled the DKC up for a two-count before hitting a sort of Taz-plex.

Back on their feet, the DKC rolled TJP up for a two-count. The DKC went to the middle rope and jumped at TJP, but TJP countered with a dropkick. As a result, TJP went to the top and hit the Mamba Splash for the win.

TJP defeated The DKC via pinfall in 8:33.

McGuire’s Musings: The Battle Of The Letters was never really in doubt. TJP was the more experienced competitor, obviously, and the DKC is still representing the LA Dojo. So, while none of this was surprising, I will say that the DKC has come a long way since his earlier days in NJPW (which is also something I find myself saying each week he’s on the show). His intensity has always been fun, but now he’s getting some of those karate chops to look kind of/sort of brutal. TJP, meanwhile, keeps shining as the arrogant heel and his cockiness has become sneaky assured through the weeks and months. While a basic opener, this was also entertaining.

2. Hikuleo and Chris Bey vs. Keita Murray and Jordan Clearwater
. Before the match, the Bullet Club members did their “Too Sweet” gesture while Murray and Clearwater countered with a pumped up handshake. Bey and Murray began the match and locked up. There was a clunky moment when Murray tried to take Bey down, but Bey didn’t really go down smoothly. Murray rebounded nicely, though, and eventually tagged in Clearwater, who landed a leg-drop for a one-count.

Bey grabbed Clearwater’s nose and tagged in Hikuleo. Clearwater and Hikuleo traded blows. Clearwater ran at Hikuleo, but Hikuleo hit a shoulder tackle to take Clearwater down. The Bullet Club worked in tandem to illegally double-team Clearwater. Hikuleo covered Clearwater a zillion times and got a zillion one-counts. Bey tagged in, hit a couple kicks and tagged Hikuleo back in, and Hikuleo landed a sidewalk slam for a two-count.

Hikuleo hit a series of loud chops. Bey tagged in and worked a head-lock on Clearwater. Before long, Clearwater fired up, but Bey cut him off with an eye-gauge. Hikuleo tagged in and hit a splash for a two-count. Hikuleo worked a head-lock and eventually picked Clearwater up, but Clearwater wiggled out and got the hot tag to Murray. Murray fired up against Hikuleo, including a pair of dropkicks. Bey tagged in, but Murray kept control with a series of slams, which yielded Murray a two-count.

Clearwater came in, but Hikuleo caught him. Murray came off the top, but Hikuleo caught him, too. The babyfaces hit a bunch of chops on Hikuleo before Hikuleo threw Clearwater outside. Murray ran at Hikuleo, but Bey caught Murray with a roundhouse kick and a knee to the head, which was enough to get the victory.

Hikuleo and Chris Bey defeated Keita Murray and Jordan Clearwater via pinfall in 9:13.

McGuire’s Musings: Murray was known as Dane Bryant in WWE for a hot minute and even was part of a team that beat The Miz and Shane McMahon on a SmackDown. He wasn’t as lucky here, but he did show some promise despite a few clunky moments. Clearwater took the bulk of the match, which was expected, so Murray’s job was to show as much potential as he could during whatever time they gave him. It wasn’t much, but I think his outing was enough to warrant another chance. Anyway, the match was fine. I continue to wonder what NJPW is doing with Clearwater because he seems to come and go in spurts and whenever he’s around, he never wins. Meanwhile, the Bullet Club team of Bey and Hikuleo is really starting to click and, of course, this is my weekly reminder that Hikuleo will one day be a mega star.

3. Eddie Kingston vs. Gabriel Kidd
. Kidd tried to engage in a wrestling match and Kingston mocked him for it. The two locked up a few times. Kingston went for a spinning back fist and Kidd moved out of the way. Kidd landed some kicks, but Kingston countered with vicious chops. Kidd chopped Kingston, but Kingston poked Kidd’s eyes. Kingston bit Kidd. Kidd kicked Kingston’s back, but Kingston popped up and slapped Kidd to the ground.

Kingston asked Kidd to elbow him, Kidd did, and then Kingston hit Kidd with a bunch of open fists until Kidd fell to the ground. Kingston hit some echoing fists and chops. Kingston worked a stretch plumb. Kidd made it to the ropes for a break. Kingston went back to the chops, but Kidd snuck in a European Uppercut to take control. Kidd jawed at Kingston and toyed with him. The two traded chops. That devolved into slaps. Both struggled to stay on their feet. Kidd eventually hit a backdrop suplex for a two-count.

The two traded Exploders and both guys popped up immediately both times. Kidd landed a brain-buster and the two stayed down. Kidd went for a butterfly suplex, but Kingston powered out and hit a DDT. Kingston was bleeding from the mouth. Kingston landed a sit-out power-bomb for a two-count. Kingston connected with a back-fist and went for another one, but Kidd caught him and hit a German Suplex. Kidd ran at Kingston, but Kingston hit a back-fist and a suplex for a good near-fall. On their feet, Kid hit a ton of slaps, but Kingston countered with a half-and-half suplex and a brutal back-fist for the win.

Eddie Kingston defeated Gabriel Kidd via pinfall in 12:38.

The show ended with Kidd walking to the back while being iced down by the crew…

McGuire’s Musings: Hey, there. Holy wow. They worked a very specific style of match and if you’re familiar with New Japan at all, you know that style. But my God, did they set the bar for what strong should mean on Strong in 2022. Some of those chops were outright disturbing. Kelly said Kidd was bleeding early on, but I didn’t see it (though I wouldn’t be surprised if his chest looks like raw hamburger even now, a month after the taping). And Kingston’s great. I mean, he just is. You know you aren’t going to get a Jonathan Gresham mat classic, but you also know you’re going to be entertained as hell and the violence will be prevalent. This is worth going out of your way to see. It’s nearly 13 minutes of beatdown.

In all, this was a good episode of NJPW Strong. All respect to the guys involved, but the first two matches were forgettable. Not only were they predictable, but the in-ring work didn’t quite push either match to must-see status. Or even must-sit-through status, for that matter. That main event, though? Wow. If your thing is hard-hitting, attitudinal, gritty wrestling, that’s the one for you, my friend. Kudos to both guys for the match – and also for being two very outspoken advocates for mental health awareness. I’ll have more to say in my weekly Dot Net Members’ exclusive audio review shortly.

SPECIAL EPISODE

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