By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped February 17, 2022, in Los Angeles, California at The Vermont Hollywood
Streamed March 5, 2022 on New Japan World
The opening video aired before Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov checked in on commentary to run down the card. This is the beginning of the Rivals tour…
1. Brogan Finlay vs. TJP. The two began by trading holds aimed at each other’s arms. Finlay worked a chin-lock while grabbing TJP’s arm. TJP landed a dropkick before long and things reset. The two went back to trading work on each other’s arms before TJP took Finlay down with a head-scissors. Finlay came back with a head-scissors of his own. Ultimately, Finlay hit a pair of back-slides for two-counts before grabbing a side head-lock.
TJP fought his way out, but Finlay made it to the ropes. TJP fought back with some kicks and TJP ran Finlay into a corner after doing a headstand in a corner. TJP did his face-wash spot. TJP stepped on Finlay’s face and then landed a senton from the outside. TJP hit a double wrist-lock takeover and sunk in a chin-lock. TJP yanked on Finlay’s arm and Koslov said the move is illegal in the Philippines. Funny.
TJP went for a splash, but Finlay moved and fired up with clotheslines and a fireman’s cary slam for a two-count. Finlay went for a suplex, but TJP hit a knee to the head and followed that up with a kick. Finlay came back with a stiff clothesline. The two traded blows, but TJP hit a kick to Finlay’s leg to take control. Finlay hit a chop and a big boot. Finlay lifted TJP, but TJP grabbed the hair and dropkicked Finlay’s leg. TJP went to the top and hit the Mamba Splash before sinking in an STF for the win.
TJP defeated Brogan Finlay via submission in 9:06.
Afterwards, TJP took a mic and said everyone there is a “Silver Lake Five” while he is a 10. TJP said a statement had to be made tonight. That statement, he said, is that the United Empire can make short work out of anybody. TJP said the UE is made of absolute GOATS. TJP said pretty soon he’ll be the most decorated Junior Heavyweight in history and announced his intention to go after the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title. Mascara Dorada’s music hit and he came out to confront TJP. Dorada cleared the ring of TJP.
McGuire’s Musings: TJP is on the best run of his career and you can’t convince me otherwise. Brogan, meanwhile, has a fabulously bright future in front of him, so as you might be able to guess, this was a very good opening match. TJP made Brogan shine at times all while keeping the feeling that he had control of everything at all times. The right guy went over, of course, but I am curious to see when they start to put some steam behind Brogan. He’s only 19, so it’ll probably be some years, but he continues to look very good in defeat. The post-match was fun with the former Gran Metalik making an appearance to shut TJP up. Whenever that match happens, something tells me it’ll be at least five million times better than it would have been (or maybe even was?) on 205 Live.
2. Karl Fredericks vs. Christopher Daniels. The two had a stare down that concluded with Daniels extending his hand for a handshake, but Fredericks walked away. The two locked up and Daniels worked Fredericks’ arm, but Fredericks fought back before Daniels kept a hold of a front face-lock. The two got to the ropes for a break. Daniels tried to take Fredericks down, but there might have been some miscommunication and Fredericks just kind of fell. Eventually, Daniels worked a chin-lock.
Daniels grabbed a head-lock, but before long Daniels ran the ropes and Fredericks landed a splash. Fredericks then sunk in an arm-lock. Fredericks went for an arm-bar, but Daniels blocked it. Fredericks worked a short-arm scissor. Daniels got to his feet and Fredericks hit a chop. Daniels came back with a flap-jack and a dropkick to the ribs of Fredericks. Daniels landed a knee, which was good enough for a two-count. Daniels landed some form of a suplex gut-buster for a two-count. Daniels hit a chop, but that just fired Fredericks up.
Daniels came back with more chops and Fredericks fired up again. The two traded forearms in the center of the ring. Fredericks sent Daniels into a corner, but Daniels responded by landing a spear. Daniels hit another flap-jack for a two-count. Daniels grabbed Fredericks from behind and sunk in a bear hug. Fredericks worked his way out with elbows, and hit a bicycle kick. Fredericks landed a pair of clotheslines and a back-body drop. Fredericks hit a splash in the corner.
Fredericks planted a dropkick onto Daniels, who was on the ground in the corner. Fredericks hit a back suplex and a scissor elbow for a two-count. Fredericks went for a suplex, but Daniels countered with a Blue Thunder. Eventually, the two traded roll-ups, but nobody came out on top. The two then traded chops. Daniels slapped Fredericks and went for Angel’s Wings, but Fredericks countered with a suplex for a two-count. Fredericks hit a spin-kick and went for a corner splash, but Daniels moved. Daniels hit the Best Moonsault Ever and that was enough for the win.
Christopher Daniels defeated Karl Fredericks via pinfall in 11:40.
After the match, Daniels grabbed a microphone and pointed out how the crowd chanted “SCU!” The crowd responded by chanting it again. Daniels said he didn’t know much about Fredericks before the match, but now he knows that Fredericks is one tough son of a bitch. Daniels said Fredericks is an example of what’s happening in the LA Dojo, then pro wrestling is alive and well in 2022. Daniels said Fredericks took him to the limit and made New Japan and Shabata proud. Daniels said if Fredericks wants to ever run it back, he would be proud to do so. He called Fredericks the future of the business and the two shook hands before Daniels raised Fredericks’ hand.
McGuire’s Musings: This was actually kind of surprising. Fredericks has been on somewhat of a role and Daniels didn’t look particularly great the last time we saw him in a NJPW Strong ring. My guess is, especially after that post-match promo, that we’ll get a rematch someday and my guess, again, is that Fredericks gets a win. But again. That’s just a guess. Anyway, this was a good match and even if Daniels can’t move as quick as he once could, he can still go, and he more than held his own here. That said, I thought Fredericks did a lot of good for Daniels here and it showed how far Fredericks really has come. This turned out better than I thought it would, and that’s not a slight at all.
3. “FinJuice” David Finlay and Juice Robinson vs. Jonah and Bad Dude Tito. FinJuice ran into the ring and the four brawled before the bell rang. After the bell rang, Jonah and Tito had control over David Finlay. Jonah drove his shoulder into Finlay about a million times. Finlay tried to fight back, but Jonah instilled his power and tagged Tito, who landed a senton. Jonah tagged in and the two kept the ring cut in half. Jonah and Tito landed a double shoulder-block. Jonah sunk in a chin-lock.
Finlay tried to fight his way out, but Jonah responded with an elbow that took Finlay down. Jonah lifted Finlay, but Finlay countered into a DDT. Robinson and Tito tagged in and the two met each other with forearms. Tito hit an elbow, but Robinson came back with a spine-buster. Robinson hit a cannonball in a corner. Robinson leapt at Jonah, but Jonah caught him and rammed him into a pole.
Robinson tagged out and the two hit a combo on Tito in the ring for a two-count. Finlay went to run the ropes, but Jonah pulled him to the outside. Inside the ring, Tito hit a rough forearm on Robinson. Tito and Jonah hit a double-team suplex, but Finlay ran in for the save. Tito and Jonah hit a series of double-team moves on Finlay and Robinson, including a blockbuster that warranted a two-count. Jonah lifted Robinson, but Robinson countered and Finlay and Robinson hit a double flap-jack. Juice and Finlay got in a bunch of double-team moves, but eventually, Jonah broke up a double-team move and while the ref was distracted someone came in and attacked Juice. That led to Tito hitting a splash and getting the pinfall victory.
Jonah and Big Dude Tito defeated “FinJuice” David Finlay and Juice Robinson via pinfall in 8:16.
After the match, Shane Haste re-appeared and the three took out FinJuice. Brogan Finlay came out to try and save the day, but it didn’t quite work. Jonah squashed Brogan. The trio of Jonah, Tito and Haste celebrated in the ring to close the show.
McGuire’s Musings: Whoa there. I guess we thought better of enforcing any tag-team rules in this match as this seemed like a tornado match from the jump. I’m not really complaining because there was good action here and a lot of really neat, innovative offense from both teams. Jonah and Tito are really good together and of all the teams that appear on NJPW Strong, I’d say that they make the best case to introduce tag titles – they’re just that good together. The post-match suggests we’re going to get a six-man next, perhaps with Brogan getting a little shine (which, as I said after the first match review, I’d be in favor of), so I’m excited to see what happens next. It’s really one of the best feuds going on Strong.
All told, this was a good episode of Strong — one that I’d even say you should go out of your way to see. The vibe of the Vermont Hollywood might be the best of all the places Strong visits and in my mind, the energy is just more fun. My guess is that all the episodes of the Rivals tour will be worthwhile just because of that, but again, that’s just an early guess. I’ll have more to say in my audio review for Dot Net Members on Sunday.
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