By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped February 17, 2022, in Los Angeles, California at The Vermont Hollywood
Streamed March 26, 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 final week of the Rivals tour, so pour one out…
1. Daniel Garcia vs. Yuya Uemura. Uemura took down Garcia to start and the two engaged in some chain wrestling. Garcia responded by mocking Uemura by clapping at him for getting the best of the exchange. They locked up and Uemura worked a side head-lock. Uemura took Garcia down and landed a hip-toss for a quick count. The two went back to exchanging quick moves before getting back to their feet and staring each other down.
Uemura took back control with a hip-toss and an arm-bar. Garcia made it to the ropes and used the ropes to get out of the hold before kicking Uemura to the outside. Uemura rolled back into the ring and Garcia stomped on him. Garcia rubbed his elbow across Uemura’s face. Garcia grabbed Uemura’s nose and punched him in the face. Garcia bit Uemura’s face, inciting the very chant you think it did.
Garcia toyed with Uemura before hitting a wildly gruesome chop. Even so, Uemura almost immediately ran out of a corner and hit a dropkick to even things out. Uemura landed a shoulder-block and a running dropkick before hitting a slam and an elbow. Garcia elbowed the back of Uemura’s head repeatedly. Uemura responded with a chop and a back suplex for a two-count. Uemura went for the Fujiwara arm-bar. Garcia got out of it, but Uemura came right back with a hell of a German Suplex for a two count.
Uemura grabbed Garcia, but Garcia head-butted his way out of it. The two traded elbows. Garcia went for a piledriver and sharpshooter, but Uemura worked his way out of it. After exchanging a few moves, Garcia actually hit the piledriver, but Uemura kicked out. Garcia sank in a sharpshooter and it looked like Uemura was going to get to the ropes for a break, but he ultimately tapped out.
Daniel Garcia defeated Yuya Uemura via submission in 10:40.
After the match, Garcia went for a fist-bump, but Uemura pushed him away. Uemura then threw somewhat of a fit in the ring, seemingly disappointed in himself…
McGuire’s Musings: A good, intense match to kick off Strong. It was hard to think Uemura would come away with the victory, but that final near-fall had me wondering for a second. Garcia showed good fire, as was expected, but Uemura felt like he was on the cusp of breaking through during the entirety of the match. I’m interested to see where he goes from here because we don’t see him as often as I’d think we would, but when we do see him, he always leaves a strong impression. Garcia, meanwhile, fits in perfectly on Strong and of all the AEW people that come over every so often, I’d love to see him turn up more.
2. Rocky Romero vs. Black Tiger. Black Tiger jump-started the match, but Romero fought back with a kick to the head and a shotgun dropkick onto a Tiger that was draped over the middle rope. The action moved outside and Romero chopped Back Tiger. Tiger threw Romero into the barricade and clotheslined him over it into the crowd. Back in the ring, Romero took back control with a shotgun dropkick.
Romero hit a knee-drop onto Tiger’s arm. Romero landed a chop and went for a Sliced Bread, but Tiger countered and hit a swinging neck-breaker for a two-count. Tiger landed a chop and hit an elbow to take Romero down before posing. Tiger covered Romero for a two. Tiger sank in a chin-lock. Romero fired up and the two traded forearms. Romero hit a kick to Tiger’s back. Romero went in on some back-rakes.
Romero did his famous Forever Clotheslines, but Tiger moved on the third attempt, which led to Romero hitting a tornado DDT. Romero went back to the Forever Clotheslines, but Tiger moved again and took control with a suplex. Tiger lifted Rocky for a Tombstone, but Romero landed a rewind kick. Tiger went for his finisher, but Romero countered and went for an arm-bar. Tiger blocked it, though, and lifted Romero for a slam.
Back on their feet, the two traded punches and strikes. Tiger hit a strong punch, but Romero came back with strikes of his own. Romero went to take off Tiger’s mask, but ht was unsuccessful, so Romero hit a splash and his finisher, but Tiger kicked out. Tiger then hit a tombstone after countering out of another finisher attempt. Tiger went for his finisher, but Romero rolled through for a two-count. Romero ran at Tiger, but Tiger clotheslined him and hit the Tiger Driver for the win.
Black Tiger defeated Rocky Romero via pinfall in 11 minutes.
After the match, Black Tiger grabbed a kendo stick, but Romero stopped him and sank in the arm-bar while Tiger tapped repeatedly. New Japan staff ran out to break things up and Black Tiger walked out.
McGuire’s Musings: I’m someone who knows nothing about nothing, but that match felt like it had Rocky Romero’s fingerprints all over it, and it was pretty great because of it. Because Romero went to take off Black Tiger’s mask and was unsuccessful — and because commentary has been teasing a Black Tiger reveal for months, dating back to when Kevin Kelly was regularly commentating on NJPW Strong — and then because Black Tiger won here … yeah, I think Romero ultimately comes out on top and we get a fun unmasking, if you will. But, like I said, I know nothing about nothing. So who knows? I liked that first match; I really liked this second match. This was really, really good work from everyone all around. Romero is such a treasure to the wrestling business. It’s a treat to see him wrestle.
3. Tom Lawlor, Jorel Nelson, Royce Isaacs, JR Kratos and Danny Limelight vs. Fred Rosser, Clark Connors, Taylor Rust, Adrian Quest and The DKC in an Elimination Match. Connors and Limelight began the match. Connors found himself in the Team Filthy corner and all five guys beat him down. Limelight then landed a dropkick and danced. Connors responded by hitting his signature spear and landed a German Suplex. Connors punched Limelight and Quest tagged in.
Quest hit a loud chop. Limelight hit him back. Quest landed a corkscrew cross-body and worked over Limelight for a two-count. Limelight slammed Quest for a two-count. Isaacs tagged in and the WCWC cleared the ring before all of Team Filthy posed over Quest. Limelight tagged back in and slapped Quest and Quest responded by slapping Limelight. Quest hit a poison-rana to even things out.
The DKC tagged in and hit a series of karate chops on everybody. The DKC chopped the hell out of Limelight repeatedly and then landed a crucifix driver. The WCWC then worked over the DKC and threw the DKC over the top rope to eliminate him from the match.
The DKC was eliminated by Team Filthy.
Quest ran in, but the WCWC hit a series of double-team moves before Limelight landed a frog splash, but Quest rolled through and pinned Limelight to eliminate him.
Danny Limelight was eliminated by Adrian Quest.
The WCWC tried to throw Rosser over the top rope, but Rosser fought out. Rosser caught Isaacs and landed a gut-buster and a running kick to pin Royce Isaacs.
Royce Isaacs was eliminated by Fred Rosser.
While the referee was distracted, Lawlor hit a low blow on Fred Rosser and Jorel Nelson threw Rosser over the top for the elimination.
Fred Rosser was eliminated by Jorel Nelson.
Taylor Rust came in and worked over Nelson with a single-leg crab, but Kratos tried to drag Nelson to the ropes, but the referee broke it up and Nelson tapped out.
Jorel Nelson was eliminated by Taylor Rust.
Rust hit a knee to Lawlor after the elimination. Connors then tagged in and Lawlor and Connors faced off. The two traded elbows. Lawlor sank in a head-scissors and went to the middle rope before Connors punched Lawlor, who was almost eliminated via the top rope. Lawlor worked a head-lock on Connors and the two fought on the apron. Connors then speared Lawlor and both guys went to the floor to eliminate each other.
Clark Connors and Tom Lawlor eliminated each other.
Lawlor and Connors fought to the back and we were left with Rust and Kratos. Rust started by hitting a bunch of punches on Kratos, until Kratos blocked him and hit punches of his own. Kratos power-bombed Rust to get the win. But maybe not, because Adrian Quest rolled back into the ring and apparently, he was not eliminated. Surprise. Kratos stopped Quest from firing up with a punch. Kratos slapped Quest repeatedly. Kratos hit a tough-looking clothesline and got the pin to end it all.
Tom Lawlor, Jorel Nelson, Royce Isaacs, JR Kratos and Danny Limelight defeated Fred Rosser, Clark Connors, Taylor Rust, Adrian Quest and The DKC in 16:29.
After the match, Team Filthy celebrated, minus Tom Lawlor, who was presumably still fighting Connors in the back…
McGuire’s Musings: This was the chaos we all thought we would be. The Adrian Quest wrinkle at the end was interesting to me because it makes me wonder if this means Quest is being set up for something. Nothing against Adrian Quest, but we haven’t seen him in a minute on Strong, so if they are bringing him back to do something significant with him, color me intrigued as to what that might be. The Connors/Lawlor brawl/double elimination was absolutely the right way to go and it puts more heat on their upcoming championship encounter. This did its job, but it wasn’t much of a wrestling match.
All considered, this was a fine episode of Strong, but not one of the ones you need to see. That said, there have been a few over the last handful of weeks that I’d argue you should see, especially if you are a fan of the show and New Japan. This one? Maybe not. Still, it sets us up for the next tour, and that should be a fun next step. I’ll have more to say in my audio review for Dot Net Members today, as always, sooner rather than later.