By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped February 17, 2022, in Los Angeles, California at The Vermont Hollywood
Streamed March 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 the third week of the Rivals tour. Riccaboni noted how this episode was aimed at spotlighting future talent.
1. Fred Yehi, The DKC, and Keita vs. “Stray Dog Army” Misterioso, Barrett Brown, and Bateman. Brown and Keita began the match and Keita hit a pair of shoulder-blocks, taking Brown down. Brown eventually went for a clothesline, but Keita caught him and hit a side-effect. Brown kicked out of a pin attempt and tagged in Batema, who hit some strikes on Keita, but Keita fought back with some forearms. Bateman cut that off with a stiff forearm of his own.
Keita hit a jaw-breaker to tag in Yehi, who immediately took control, but Brown came in for the save. Misterioso tagged in and landed a series of moves, except for what appeared to be a miscommunication, and earned a two-count. Yehi fired up and tagged in DKC and DKC worked a head-lock. The DKC went for a springboard move, but Misterioso caught DKC and slammed him. Bateman then tagged in.
The Stray Dog Army members took turns beating up DKC. The DKC went for a comeback with a strong back-fist (complete with a great look that Koslov gave Riccaboni in response), but the rest of the heels cut DKC off. Ultimately, DKC hit a dropkick on Misterioso and tagged in Yehi. Yehi landed an echoing chop on Brown. Bateman came in, but Yehi took care of him. Yehi went for a slam, but Misterioso kicked Yehi off. Things broke down and all the wrestlers were in the ring.
Yehi took out Bateman’s knee. Misterioso threw DKC and Keita outside the ring and landed a springboard moonsault to the outside on both. Inside the ring, Brown accidentally hit Bateman and Yehi took advantage by sinking in a fisherman’s suplex on Brown for the win.
Fred Yehi, The DKC, Keita defeated “Stray Dog Army” Misterioso, Barrett Brown, and Bateman via pinfall in 10:06.
After the match, Yehi and Bateman had themselves a stare-down in the middle of the ring.
McGuire’s Musings: A pretty standard New Japan Strong six-man opener. I’m happy to see the creative forces appear to have something for Bateman (and for that matter, Yehi), moving forward. That should be a fun singles match and while my guess is Bateman puts Yehi over, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the opposite of that happen, too, making for an intriguing matchup. As for the rest of those involved, Keita had a strong outing for his New Japan Strong debut, so I hope we see more of him. The DKC, meanwhile, has just come so far, even if that karate chop gimmick is starting to get on my nerves. Does the finish forecast an end to the Stray Dog Army? As far as this viewer is concerned, I hope so. At this point, it feels like all three could do better things on their own.
2. Chris Bey vs. Blake Christian. The two locked up to begin the match. Bey sunk in a side head-lock. Christian mocked Bey with the “Too Sweet” gesture and ultimately hit a handspring spiral kick to take control. Christian landed a dropkick and Bey rolled to the outside. Christian followed him and tried for a splash, but Bey moved and landed a shotgun dropkick, taking control.
Back in the ring, Bey hit a series of kicks, but Christian fought back with chops. Bey stopped Christian’s comeback with a tilt-a-whirl back-breaker. Bey sunk in a surfboard. Christian punched his way out, and went for a frog-splash, but Bey got his knees up to keep control. Bey lifted Christian, but Christian flipped out and hit a vicious knee/kick. Bey came back with a kick of his own.
Christian went for a wheelbarrow and a tilt-a-whirl slam before landing that standing frog-splash for a two-count. Christian set up Bey, but Bey rolled Christian up for a two-count. Bey threw Christian onto the apron and hit a bunch of strikes before connecting with the BDE elbow and the Finn-ex for a good near-fall. Christian landed a snap German Suplex, but Bey hit a superkick. Christian got in another snap German. Christian hit a Spanish Fly into a springboard 450 splash for another hell of a near fall. Christian went for another 450, but Bey caught him for a two-count. Christian went for a moonsault, but Bey countered in the Art of Finesse for the win.
Chris Bey defeated Blake Christian via pinfall in 10:23.
After the match, a vignette on Clark Connors aired. Connors called out Filthy Tom Lawlor and said he’s ready to end Lawlor at Strong Style Evolved.
McGuire’s Musings: It’s been a minute since we’ve seen Blake Christian on the New Japan Strong airwaves and suffice to say, it was well worth the wait. This was a very good match, right down to the fantastic false-finishes at the end. Bey has really come into his own since joining the Bullet Club and Christian, for his part, has rebounded nicely from that start/stop stint in WWE. The action here was fast and they kept you guessing until the final minute or so. The finish even had Riccaboni a little confused as it looked like Christian was the one who landed the offensive blow. No matter. This one’s worth going out of your way to see.
3. Ren Narita vs. Buddy Matthews. Matthews was wearing Rivals-inspired gear, which, with its florescent colors, it turned out, was a stark contrast from his House of Black get-up. The two felt each other out to begin the match, trading wrist-locks. The two then traded head-locks and head-scissors. Narita got the best of the opening sequence and extended a hand to help Matthews up. Matthews accepted and the two traded standing switches and side head-locks.
Narita kind of taunted Matthews by patting him on the back. Matthews got to his feet and did the same. The two pushed each other. Matthews dumped Narita onto the apron, which led to Matthews hitting a draping DDT. The action spilled to the outside and Matthews ran Narita into the guardrail. Matthews rolled Narita back into the ring for a two-count and Matthews threw Narita back outside. Matthews mocked Shibata with his post, which fired Narita up, but Matthews kept control with a kick to Narita’s back.
Matthews went back for more kicks to Narita’s back. Narita stood up and the two went forehead to forehead. Narita slapped Matthews a few times and worked over Matthews in a corner with kicks. Matthews tried to cut Narita off, but Narita caught him with a suplex and a back elbow. The two wrestlers then fought on the apron, with Narita going for a sleeper, but Matthews countering, only for Narita to fire up and hit a suplex for a two-count.
Narita sank in a cobra twist, but Matthews hip-tossed his way out. Almost immediately, Narita sank in a single-leg crab. Narita then worked a figure-four. Matthews made it to the ropes for a break. Matthews ran at Narita and hit a vicious kick to Narita’s face. Matthews went to the top, but Narita cut him off. Matthews went for a sunset flip, but Narita blocked it, so Matthews kicked Narita’s head a couple times before hitting two power-bombs and a stomp, but Narita kicked out.
Matthews took down his elbow pad and hit a bunch of elbows as the crowd chanted “This is awesome.” Matthews pushed the referee away, condescendingly patted Narita on the shoulder in a call back to earlier in the match and hit Murphy’s law for the win.
Buddy Matthews defeated Ren Narita via pinfall in 15:32.
Narita was helped to the back to close the show…
McGuire’s Musings: There are LA Dojo Young Lions and then there’s Ren Narita. He’s stood out from the rest for a while now, but after not seeing him on Strong for a bit, this match served as a great reminder as to why his star shines so much brighter than his contemporaries. And to anyone who wants to claim that Buddy Matthews isn’t one of the low-key best in the world right now needs to watch this match and take notes on how one guy can make another guy in the New Japan world. Narita has had some great matches with some great names on Strong, but Matthews was a general here and Narita was perfect in response. We didn’t get 25 forehead clashes (though we did get a few), and while Narita can be a fan favorite, his cockiness gives him just the right amount of edge to know he’s dangerous. Narita is never a smiling babyface or a brooding heel; he’s just a badass and it fits him perfectly.
All told, these last two matches are reason enough to fire up New Japan World this week and catch this episode of Strong. And even if the opener wasn’t on the final two matches’ levels, it did move a story forward between Fred Yehi and Bateman, not to mention the possibility of a much overdue Stray Dog Army breakup. This hour might be forgotten by the end of the year, but it shouldn’t be. There’s some great stuff here. I’ll have more to say with my Dot Net Members’ exclusive audio review.