By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped January 15, 2022, in Seattle, Washington, at Washington Hall
Streamed February 19, 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 three of The New Beginning USA Tour.
1. Kevin Knight and The DKC vs. “Midnight Heat” Ricky Gibson and Eddie Pearl. For those who may not know, Gibson and Pearl are the Devy tag-team champions. Gibson and Knight began the match, but after a quick lockup, Pearl tagged in and pointed to The DKC, so The DKC tagged in. The DKC fired up and chopped Pearl to the mat. Pearl retreated to stall.
The DKC worked a side head-lock. Pearl and The DCK grappled a bit. Knight tagged in and Knight and The DKC hit a double-shoulder-block before landing a double-hip-toss. Knight tagged out and The DKC stomped Pearl. The DKC did his signature karate chops on Pearl. Eventually, Pearl forced The DKC into his corner and Pearl tagged out to Gibson. Pearl and Gibson hit what they call a Back Sabbath for a two-count.
The heels worked over The DKC’s arm. Pearl tagged in and kept on The DKC’s arm before tagging back out to Gibson, who went back to The DKC’s arm. Pearl tagged in and went for a pin, but Knight broke it up. Pearl went for an elbow drop, but The DKC moved. Even so, Pearl tagged in Gibson and Gibson kept control, whipping The DKC into a corner. Gibson went back to the arm-bar. Pearl tagged in and leapt off the top rope, but accidentally hit Gibson instead. Just when it looked like The DKC might get a break, though, Gibson knocked Knight off the apron.
Pearl ran at The DKC, but The DKC hit a leg lariat and got the hot tag to Knight. Gibson tagged in, too. Knight landed a corner splash, body-slam and a standing frog-splash for a two-count. Knight hit that best dropkick in the business of his and then hit a shoulder-tackle on Gibson for a two-count. Knight landed a chop and went for a splash, but a very sloppy finish led to Gibson grabbing the ropes to get the pinfall victory.
“Midnight Heat” Ricky Gibson and Eddie Pearl defeated Kevin Knight and The DKC via pinfall in 9:10.
McGuire’s Musings: Well, that was fun, save for the wildly bad finish. It almost looked like referee Benjamin Roberts helped Gibson hold the ropes so his team could get the win. Then, when Roberts’s hand went from two to three, he kind of/sort of hesitated to go all the way down on three. A very unfortunate end to a fun opening match. Gibson and Pearl are a lot of fun and if FTR wasn’t already out there paying homage to the teams of their past, something tells me those guys would be getting a lot more notoriety. FTR focuses more on the wrestling, but Midnight Heat sure does a good job of getting the presentation part down. Also, here’s my weekly PSA that Kevin Knight has the best dropkick in all of wrestling.
2. Fred Rosser vs. Gabriel Kidd. Both guys were pretty fired up when they locked up. The collar-and-elbow took up the first 50 seconds of the match. Rosser grabbed a side head-lock. Rosser went for some shoulder-tackles, but Rosser no-sold them. Ultimately, Rosser hit a shoulder-tackle, but Kidd responded with a Saito Suplex. Both guys rolled to the outside. The two then got back into the ring and met in the middle.
Kidd jawed a lot and the wrestlers traded forearms. Kidd slapped Rosser a couple times. Rosser responded with forearms and a headbutt. Kidd landed a punch under Rosser’s jaw. The two traded forearms again until chops from Kidd woke Rosser up. It became a chop fest. The wrestlers were wobbly, but they kept chopping each other. That turned to clotheslines and punches in a corner. Rosser fell to the ground and Kidd sat in the middle of the ring, paying tribute to Shibata. Rosser found his way over to sit across from him.
Kidd slapped Rosser. Rosser slapped Kidd. That continued until the two got to their feet and traded open-handed strikes. Kidd attacked Rosser and Rosser got his hands up, but Kidd kept going back to the open-handed strikes. All that ended when Rosser lifted Kidd and hit his finisher, but he couldn’t capitalize on the moment. Back on their feet, the two landed clotheslines on each other simultaneously. Rosser landed a bunch of lariats, but Kidd came back with one of his for a one-count. Kidd hit a brain-buster for a two-count.
Kidd went for a suplex, but settled for a body-slam and climbed to the top for a moonsault. Rosser moved and landed a dropkick to the side of Kidd’s head. Rosser hit a lariat for a two-count. Rosser hit a running Death-Valley-Driver for a two-count. Rosser lifted Kidd for a slam, got it and that was enough for the win.
Fred Rosser defeated Gabriel Kidd via pinfall in 14:08.
After the match, Rosser checked on Kidd in the middle of the ring and tried to pull Kidd up, but Kidd pulled Rosser down to him, and they talked on the mat. Rosser walked to the back and Kidd cut a promo. Kidd said the most important thing in the world is the logo in the middle of the ring. Kidd thanked everyone for coming out. Kidd said NJPW is the best professional wrestling company on the planet.
McGuire’s Musings: Holy mother of open-handed slaps, these two beat the absolute wild hell out of each other. And just seeing Rosser favor his left ear after one of those strikes from Kidd made me lose a little bit of hearing in my own. I don’t know if he was just selling the hell out of it after the match or if Kidd actually got one in on his ear-drum. Ouch. Gabriel Kidd is a true believer, man, and his fire in that ring, sometimes, is scary. It wasn’t just because of his post-match promo that I say this, either. From the second he steps through the curtain until the second he steps back through it the other way, that guy is willing to go fight. Kudos to Rosser for hanging with him, too. There isn’t much technically to talk about, but if you like 15 minutes of watching two dudes beat the living daylights out of each other, devoid of flips, suplexes and submissions, fire this one up.
3. Jay White vs. Jay Lethal. White made his entrance with Hikuleo behind him. When Jay Leathal’s music hit, the crowd went nuts. The two let the moment sink in before locking up. White took control with a side-head-lock. Lethal reversed it. Eventually, Lethal hit a hip-toss, cartwheel dropkick. White found himself on the outside of the ring and Lethal went for a splash, but Hikuleo stopped him by standing in front of White. Lethal rolled out of the ring and eventually rolled White back into the ring.
White took moderate control with a DDT. White worked some kicks and chops. After trading switches, White hit a standing suplex. White kind of toyed with Lethal. White went for a DDT, but Lethal countered with a back-drop. Lethal planted White with a clothesline. With White on the apron, Lethal hit an elbow to knock White off. Lethal dove through the ropes onto White. Lethal rolled White into the ring and climbed to the top. Lethal went for Hail To The King, but White got his foot up. Lethal inevitably lifted White into a Torture Rack and went back to the top to hit Hail To The King. White kicked out at two.
The two traded suplex attempts before White planted Lethal, face-first. White dead-lifted Lethal for a German Suplex. Both wrestlers crawled to opposite corners. White hit a twisting suplex for a two-count. Lethal landed a pump-kick into an enziguri, knocking White to the outside. Lethal hit a stiff chop on the outside and rolled White back into the ring. White set up for a Bladerunner, but Lethal got out of it and rolled outside. White followed him, but Lethal rolled back inside. Lethal landed some chops, but the story became White working over Lethal’s leg.
White slammed Lethal’s knee. White walked toward Lethal and Lethal snuck in a desperation super-kick, bringing things to a halt. Before long, Lethal tripped White and sunk in a figure-four. White made it to the ropes for a break. Back on their feet, the two traded chops. White kicked Lethal’s leg. Lethal kicked White’s leg. The two traded forearms in the middle of the ring. The exchange ended when Lethal hit a cutter. Lethal went for the Lethal Injection, but his injured leg wouldn’t let him do it. After a couple roll-ups, White chop-blocked Lethal and hit a Cobra-Clutch Suplex. White hit the Bladerunner and that was enough for the win.
Jay White defeated Jay Lethal via pinfall in 19:24.
After the match, White got a microphone from Hikuleo. White spoke to Lethal and said that they each had a win over each other now. White said if Lethal wants a rubber match, he could pop up in AEW to give him one. White said Lethal will never be ready. White said he’s looking to the future on New Japan Strong. In the future of NJPW Strong, White said the U.S. of Jay open challenge will stay open. White said he hears there are a lot of free agents these days because they aren’t as good as him — because White can keep a job. White ran down his accolades before ending the promo by saying it’s still his era. The show closed as White and Hikuleo did their too-sweet hand gesture.
McGurie’s Musings: I don’t know where things get twisted because I go bell to bell with my timer, but the ring-keeper announced this actually went more than 20 minutes. Nineteen, twenty — it doesn’t matter. This was worth every second. Given time, these two proved they can make some type of special magic together and they did that here. The stories of the legs were fantastic, as I didn’t see Lethal ultimately using White’s own medicine against him. This was by far the best wrestling match of the night, and it even took a little bit of the brutality of the Kidd vs. Rosser match and upped the ante with good, old-fashioned pro wrestling storytelling, which, of course, can never go wrong. I love the open challenge idea and I love White constantly speaking to AEW in his NJPW promos. Now that he’s already had one match on AEW television, I have to wonder if things are going to very quickly start to kick into gear between the two promotions.
All told, this was a very good episode of Strong, even if the first match had a wonky finish. That second match was pure brutality and the main event deserved every bit of the main event spot that it received. Hell, if you can close your eyes for five seconds toward the end of the opening tag, you could probably say this was one of the best episodes of the show in quite some time. But … so it goes. I’ll have more to say in my members’ only audio review.