By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped March 20, 2022 in Tampa, Florida at St. Petersburg Coliseum
Streamed April 9, 2022 on New Japan World
A new opening video aired before Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwoldt checked in to run down the card. This is the second week of Strong Style Evolved.
1. Andy Brown vs. Hikuleo. Tiger Hattori sat in on commentary. A fan tried to give Hikuleo a “Too Sweet” on the way to the ring and Hikuleo stared him down without giving him one back. It was funny yet awkward. The two locked up a couple times and Hikuleo got the best of these exchanges. Hikuleo threw Brown into some corners. Action spilled to the outside and Brown tried to throw Hikuleo into a barricade, but Hikuleo countered by throwing Brown into it.
Hikuleo hit a couple loud chops and rolled Brown back into the ring. Hikuleo ran at Brown, but Brown moved and hit a couple forearms and a double-knees. Brown landed a Senton for a two-count. Brown ran at Hikuleo and ultimately hit a big knee and a leaping punch for a one-count. Hikuleo took back control with a pop-up punch and his snap-powerslam. Hikuleo hit a choke-slam and that was it.
Hikuleo defeated Andy Brown via pinfall in 4:36.
McGuire’s Musings: Every bit the match it should have been, and on top of that, let’s just say again that NJPW Strong has done a great job booking Hikuleo as a monster. You don’t see a lot of sub-five-minute-matches on Strong, but if they are going to allow it for one wrestler, Hikuleo is probably that guy. I was even kind of surprised to see how much offense he gave Brown, considering Hikuleo’s dominant status. Not much to see with this match, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t do its job.
2. Karl Fredericks vs. Josh Alexander. The two locked up and Fredericks was backed into the ropes. The two traded wrist-locks and head-locks. Fredericks eventually hit a cross-body-block and a knee before landing a flip onto Alexander, who was on the outside. Back in the ring, Fredericks got a one-count. Fredericks hit some chops, but Alexander fired up and landed a big boot to take control.
Alexander hit a bridging suplex for a two-count and then sunk in an arm-lock. Fredericks got to the rope for a break. Alexander landed a loud chop and a pair of elbows. Fredericks tried to fire up, but Alexander came back with forearms and chops of his own. Fredericks tried to go for the Manifest Destiny, but Alexander caught him with a front suplex. Alexander got in some loud chops. Fredericks sat like Shibata and asked for more.
Fredericks got to his feet and landed some strikes on Alexander. Fredericks hit a series of elbows and face-washed Alexander with his boot in a corner. Fredericks hit a dropkick, hip-toss and scissor elbow for a two-count. Fredericks landed a spine-buster and sunk in an STF, but Alexander made it to the ropes for a break. Alexander’s mouth was bleeding. Alexander went for a suplex onto the outside, but Fredericks blocked it and went for a boot, but Alexander moved and hit a stiff blow.
Alexander landed a front slam on the apron and then hit a flying low cross-body onto Fredericks, who fell to the outside. Alexander rolled Fredericks back into the ring and hit a headbutt from the top rope for a two-count. Alexander then sunk in the ankle lock, but Fredericks kicked his way out of it. Alexander responded by slapping the hell out of Fredericks. Frederick came back with a chest chop of his own. The two then traded chops. The chops turned into forearms.
Fredericks fired up and hit some European Uppercuts. Fredericks went for a thrust kick, but Alexander caught him and tried to the ankle lock. Fredericks countered immediately and put Alexander on the apron. Fredericks landed a springboard dropkick/double stomp onto a draping Alexander. Fredericks went for a sunset flip and only got a two-count. Fredericks went for the Manifest Destiny, but Alexander caught him, hit a German Suplex and a C-4 Spike for the win.
Josh Alexander defeated Karl Fredericks via pinfall in 14:11.
After the match, Alexander waited for Fredericks to get to his feet and the two shook hands. Alexander left and QT Marshall made his entrance with The Factory. Marshall said Fredericks knows who they are, but he doesn’t know why they’re there (RIP Scott Hall). Marshall said Fredericks will need more than effort to get to the next level. Marshall said Fredericks’s problems began with him being associated with the LA Dojo. Marshall made fun of Shibata. Marshall offered Fredericks an opportunity to join The Factory. Fredericks teased putting on a Factory shirt, but threw it onto Marshall’s face and attacked The Factory, but Nick Comoroto cut him off and The Factory beat Fredericks down. Clark Connors and Yuya Uemura ran down to even the odds and The Factory retreated. Fredericks grabbed a mic and said he has a lot of interest in fighting The Factory. Fredericks asked for a match between The Factory and the LA Dojo at the Windy City Riot and it looks like we’re going to get it.
McGuire’s Musings: Oh, wow. Hey there. Whoa. Josh Alexander and Karl Fredericks done went and had themselves a wrestling match. Second matches on Strong episodes don’t necessarily go almost 15 minutes, but here we are, and this thing most certainly deserved it. I’d love to see more of Alexander on Strong and can someone please explain to me why he’s not the face of Impact Wrestling. Or at least the champ? Fredericks can offer some edge when it’s asked of him, too, and he brought all of that here. Good stuff all around. The post-match stuff was fun, and even though The Factory is pretty much a joke in AEW, I actually think this is going to elevate the LA Dojo team by the end of it. This actually gives Marshall, Solo and Comoroto something of meaning to do, too, so I think all around, everyone wins. Plus, say what you want, but Marshall actually felt like a bigger deal here, showing up on Strong, than he has in any moment in AEW. So let’s see how it goes.
3. Eddie Kingston and Fred Rosser vs. Fred Yehi and Daniel Garcia. Kingston got a hell of a pop during his entrance. Rosser had to pull Kingston off Garcia in order for the match to start. Yehi and Rosser began the match and Yehi took control early. Rosser came back with a shoulder-block and a neck-breaker. Kingston tagged in and with Rosser hit a shoulder-block before going to attack Garcia immediately. Yehi came to the save on the outside and rolled Kingston back into the ring.
Kingston landed an STO on Yehi in the ring and tagged in Rosser. Rosser landed a leg drop for a one-count. Rosser hit his split drop for a one-count. Garcia started to yell at Garcia, so wouldn’t you know it, Kingston ran over to his side of the ring and the two brawled on the outside. Kingston bit Garcia. In the ring, Yehi took control over Rosser with a series of double-knees. Garcia tagged in and stomped on Rosser. Garcia worked Rosser’s leg and tagged in Yehi.
Yehi and Garcia went for a double suplex, but Rosser fought his way out and hit a double clothesline. Kingston tagged in and worked over Garcia and Yehi with chops, but the heels got the best of Kingston with some stomps. Garcia tagged in and taunted Rosser. Garcia punched and bit Kingston. Kingston then hit an eye poke and went for his machine gun chops. Yehi ran in to cut Kingston off and Garcia took advantage of it. Yehi tagged in and worked a front face-lock, but Garcia tagged in and worked Kingston over with forearms.
Kingston fired up and landed a butterfly suplex. Kingston tagged in Rosser and Rosser cleaned house. Yehi tried to stop it, but Rosser lifted Yehi for a running powerslam. Kingston ran in and suplexed Garcia, but Yehi suplexed Kingston. Yehi chopped Rosser. Garcia ran in and attacked Rosser, but Kingston hit back-fists on everybody. Rosser then slammed Yehi and pinned him for the win.
Eddie Kingston and Fred Rosser defeated Fred Yehi and Daniel Garcia via pinfall in 9:26.
After the match, Kingston tried to attack Garcia some more, but Rosser pulled Kingston off Garcia. And that was about the end of that.
McGuire’s Musings: Kingston’s seeming blood feud with Garcia was a lot of fun here. That’s only because Kingston is just so, so good at doing that. I might have missed something, but I guess Garcia must have set Kingston’s house ablaze and stolen all his pets? I don’t know, but the fire Kingston showed was exceptional. I say this every few weeks, but if Strong introduced tag-team titles, I really think it could do the brand some good. There are so many interesting pairings that could make the division pretty much all types of fascinating, and Fred Rosser and Eddie Kingston is one of them. The match here was a lot of chaos, but also a lot of fun. I’d love to see Rosser and Kingston become a thing for good. It’s so odd, it works.
4. Jay White vs. Chris Sabin. The two locked up and White chopped the absolute nonsense out of Sabin. It happened again. Sabin’s chest was bleeding and Sabin dipped his finger in the blood and licked it. Sabin took control with an arm-lock. Eventually, White rolled out of the ring to show things down. White taunted Sabin from the outside of the ring, but then Sabin ran through the ropes for a splash and that nonsense ended.
Sabin kicked White, still on the outside, and Sabin hit some chops of his own. Sabin ran off the apron to hit a cannonball to White, who was on the outside. Sabin threw White over the top of the barricade. Sabin then Russian Leg Sweep-ed White into the guardrail. Back in the ring, Sabin landed a cross-body from the top for a two-count. Sabin then stretched White with a double wrist-lock. Sabin worked over White in the corner and threw him to the center of the ring, but White crotched Sabin after Sabin climbed to the top.
White chopped Sabin off the top rope to the outside. On the outside, White hit a bunch of chops. Back in the ring, after White suplexed Sabin on the outside, White got a two-count. White started jawing at the ref, which opened the door for Sabin, but White came right back with an elbow. White hit a back-breaker for a two-count. White sunk in a chin-lock. Sabin worked his way out of it and hit a kick to the back of White’s head to even things out.
Sabin ultimately took control with elbows to White’s back, along with a kick to White’s chest. Sabin went to the top and hit a dropkick from the top rope. Sabin landed a flying Shining Wizard for a two-count. Sabin hit a headbutt and a DDT, but White came back with an identical DDT of his own. Sabin landed a tornado DDT for a good near-fall. Sabin lifted White, but White got out of it and ultimately hit a snap Saito suplex. White hit a running European Uppercut and landed a twisting suplex for a two-count.
White went for the Bladerunner, but Sabin fought out of it. That resulted in White hitting a Flatliner and a snap German Suplex, which led to a two-count. White signaled for a half-and-half, but Sabin fought his way out and hit some knees to White’s face. The two traded finisher attempts, but Sabin landed a boot to the head of White. The two traded uppercuts. White fired up and went back to chops. White pushed the ref away when the ref tried to stop him, so Sabin took advantage of that with a hell of a lariat. Sabin hit another lariat and went for his finisher, but White countered with the Bladerunner and that was it.
Jay White defeated Chris Sabin via pinfall in 18:08.
After the match, White grabbed a microphone and said that he has a fair bit of business to talk about. White said he was referring to Bullet Club business. White said Bullet Club has been cutting the dead weight. White said everyone will see where everyone lies and then some music hit. That music, of course, was Hikuleo’s. Hikuleo walked to the ring in street clothes. Hikuleo walked toward White with purpose and White backed up.
White said Hikuleo’s time with the Bullet Club has not expired. White asked Hikuleo who he’d like to be standing with. White said Hikuleo is the future of the Bullet Club. White asked Hikuleo to trust him. White threw up the Too Sweet, but Hikuleo took the microphone away from White. Hikuleo said he’s right, Hikuleo is the future of Bullet Club. Hikuleo asked why the future can’t start right here, right now. White backed away and grabbed the mic and told Hikuleo to take it easy.
White said there are levels to this. White said if Hikuleo thinks he has what it takes to lead and dominate the wrestling world, then maybe White would have to teach him it’s not quite his era. White said the future is Hikuleo’s, but right now is still White’s era. White backed his way up the entrance while jawing at Hikuleo to end the show.
McGuire’s Musings: The match was very good. Very, very good. And poor Chris Sabin, who didn’t even last a minute and a half before his chest was chopped so stiffly that he was bleeding. The finish here was what stood out to me, because at this point, in all of wrestling, I’m getting very tired of seeing people kick out of other people’s finishes. So White only needing one Bladerunner to win makes me smile. Jay White is on fire. Let’s not kid ourselves. This U.S. of Jay challenge is about as intriguing as the Strong Openweight Championship picture. Who’s going to finally beat him? Will it be Hikuleo next week? It should because if you’ve been reading this at all for the last year or so, I’ve been obnoxiously vocal about how much I think Hikuleo is a star. If he beats White in Chicago, that path to stardom will finally kick into gear.