2/12 NJPW Strong results: McGuire’s review of Jonah and Bad Dude Tito vs. Juice Robinson and David Finlay, Ren Narita vs. Josh Barnett, Cody Chhun vs. Hikuleo

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

NJPW Strong
Taped January 15, 2022, in Seattle, Washington, at Washington Hall
Streamed February 12, 2022 on New Japan World

The opening video aired before Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov checked in to run down the card. This is week two of The New Beginning USA Tour.

1. Cody Chhun vs. Hikuleo. Chhun came out to a hell of an ovation. The bell rang and Chhun played to the crowd. The two wrestlers bodied up in the middle of the ring. Chhun pushed Hikuleo and Hikuleo went for a clothesline, but Chhun ducked and landed a series of chops. Eventually, Hikuleo caught Chhun to slow down his momentum, but Chhun wiggled out and hit some dropkicks. Chhun made the mistake of trying to lift Hikuleo and that ended up with Hikuleo hitting a hell of a lariat.

Hikuleo threw Chhun into the corner and Chhun spilled outside. Hikuleo went outside the ring and hit a loud chop. Hikuleo did it again and it was brutal. Hikuleo climbed back into the ring before Chhun rolled back inside. Hikuleo covered Chhun with his boot for a two-count. Hikuleo ran at Chhun, but Chhun got up a boot and tried to slam Hikuleo, but Chhun couldn’t hold him and Hikuleo landed on Chhun as Chhun collapsed.

Hikuleo threw Chhun across the ring, ala Keith Lee and Isaiah Kassidy in AEW this past week. Chhun tried to fight back, but Hikuleo sunk in a chin lock. Chhun fought his way out, but ran into a shoulder block. Hikuleo went for a chokeslam, but Chhun wiggled out of it. Eventually, Chhun actually landed a body-slam to a huge pop. Chhun got a two-count out of it.

Chhun went for a suplex, but Hikuleo blocked it. Chhun still hit a super-kick and landed a springboard cutter for a close near-fall. Chhun fired up the crowd and ran at Hikuleo, but Hikuleo caught him and ultimately landed his snap powerslam. Hikuleo hit his chokeslam for the win.

Hikuleo defeated Cody Chhun via pinfall in 7:37.

McGuire’s Musings: Goodness, this was eons better than I anticipated it would be. Chhun was crazy over with the Seattle crowd and hats off to Hikuleo, who gave Chhun more shine than a sun could on a cloudless day. Good on him for it, too. Chhun took the moment and ran with it, proving he’s worthy of the opportunity. All in all, this was a fantastic opening match and it even showed another side of Hikuleo that’s been largely missing from his arsenal (a vulnerable one). It’s always fun to settle in for a match where the outcome seems inevitable, but the wrestlers still win both your attention and affection. Kudos to both guys.

2. Ren Narita vs. Josh Barnett. The two felt each other out to begin. Narita landed a soft kick and Barnett tied him up. Barnett went for a leg submission, but Narita countered it into one of his own. Barnett rolled through, but Narita worked a headlock before Narita went back to Barnett’s leg. On their feet, Narita backed away and the two sized each other up again.

Barnett took Narita down and sunk in a side headlock. Narita countered with a leg-scissors. Barnett took back control and went bak to Narita’s leg, but Narita rolled to the ropes to stop the action. With the two on their feet, Barnett took Narita down again and worked a side headlock. Narita made it to the ropes to break the hold and the two got back to their feet.

Narita landed a series of kicks, but Barnett stopped that with a belly-to-belly for a two-count. Barnett sunk in another headlock. Eventually, Barnett lifted Narita for a bodyslam and that warranted a two-count. Barnett went for an arm-bar, but Narita blocked it before making it to the ropes for a break. The two again got back to their feet.

Barnett took Narita down again, trying for an arm-bar, but Narita countered. Before long, Narita landed a wicked belly-to=belly suplex on Barnett, who seemed to barely make the rotation. Narita landed a bridging suplex for a two-count. Narita went for a vertical suplex, but Barnett blocked him and caught a waist-lock. Narita countered by slipping behind Barnett and landed a German suplex.

Narita hit a series of strikes, including kicks and forearms. Barnett caught him, though, and hit an Exploder for a near-fall. Narita quickly went for an arm-bar, but Barnett lifted Narita and threw him with one arm. The two traded boots and strikes. That ended with a suplex from Barnett. Barnett hit another suplex before finally grabbing hold of the arm-bar, which got him the win.

Josh Barnett defeated Ren Narita via submission in 10:16.

After the match, Barnett called Narita back into the ring. Barnett shook Narita’s hand and the crowd gave both wrestlers an ovation.

McGuire’s Musings: This was what was expected, and I don’t say that in a negative way. Barnett’s matches at this point in his career, and especially on Strong, are heavy on the grappling and heavy on the arm-bar tease. That’s OK, though, because Narita continues to grow into one of the best performers on Strong week in and week out, and The Young Lion vs. The Master story never gets old in New Japan for this viewer. I do wonder what they are building Alexander for, though, if anything. Is he supposed to come and hang with some of the younger guys, be a gatekeeper type of figure and not do much outside of that? Or are they leading to something more substantial down the line, perhaps a showdown with Filthy Tom for the Strong Openweight Championship? Only time will tell. For now, his work continues to impress, even if it does cater to a very specific fan.

3. Jonah and Bad Dude Tito vs. Juice Robinson and David Finlay. Robinson and Tito began the match. They locked up and exchanged wrist-locks. Finlay tagged in and squared up with Tito. Finlay and Tito locked up and also exchanged wrist-locks. After a series of reversals, Finlay tied Tito up in the ropes and then hit an arm-drag. Finlay’s momentum stopped when Tito hit a shoulder-block. Finlay ultimately countered with a high dropkick and bodyslam.

Robinson tagged in and hit a splash. Finlay tagged in and the two worked over Tito in their corner. Finlay and Robinson hit a bunch of splashes on Tito in the corner before Robinson ended it with a cannonball. Robinson hit some jabs and a chop. Robinson tried to attack Jonah, but Tito took Robinson down. Jonah tagged in and went to work on Robinson’s midsection. Jonah lifted Robinson, but Robinson got out of it and tried to set up for Pulp Friction, but Jonah blocked it. Finlay and Tito then tagged in.

Finlay landed a twisting European uppercut. Finlay hit one from the second rope. Finlay lifted Tito, but Tito worked out of it and tagged in Jonah, who ran into Finlay and took him to the mat. Jonah lifted Finlay and threw him onto a top turnbuckle. Jonah hit an elbow and worked over Finlay’s back. Jonah threw Finlay. Tito tagged in and Tito hit Finlay with a flurry of strikes that included chops, kicks and punches. Jonah tagged in and went for a splash, but Finlay moved and went for the hot tag, but Tito pulled Robinson off the apron. Jonah then landed a splash and a throw on Finlay.

Tito tagged in and hit some slaps. Finlay fought back, but Tito hit a spinning Blue Thunder for a two-count. Finlay fired up and hit some forearms before getting the hot tag, but the referee was distracted and didn’t see it. With the tag not legal, Jonah worked over Finlay in a corner. Jonah threw Finlay into the opposite corner. Jonah went to the middle rop and tried for a super-plex, but Finlay fought his way out, landed a cross-body from the top rope and went for the hot tag again, but Jonah hit Robinson off the apron. Jonah and Tito lifted Finlay, but Robinson had enough and speared Jonah, which allowed Finlay to roll up Tito for the pin.

Juice Robinson and David Finlay defeated Jonah and Bad Dude Tito via pinfall in 11:52.

The show ended with Riccaboni running down next week’s card, which will include the next U.S. of Jay challenge.

McGuire’s Musings: I enjoyed the creativity of the finish. One bad part of watching programs like this is you know when the show is supposed to end because there’s a timestamp. There was something like 45 seconds left in the entire episode and Finlay was still being worked over, so I couldn’t help but obsess over how this match was going to end as we came up on the time running out. Still, the finish delivered. In all, it was a fine tag-team match. I still struggle to get into a groove with some of Strong’s tag matches because it’s not the traditional babyface/heel/babyface formula that seems to be ingrained in my head. This sets up the need for more from these four, though, and that could pay dividends.

All told, this was a good episode of Strong. The opening bout actually ended up being my favorite match of the night. Narita vs. Alexander was good, but I had admittedly unfairly high expectations. That main event then furthered the story between those two teams, which was good, but I’m not so sure that it was main event worthy. But that’s just me. I’ll have more to say on my Dot Net Members’ exclusive audio review.


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