By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
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NJPW Strong TV Taping
May 15, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 2300 Arena
And so here we are, the third of a three-day trek (MLW on Friday, NJPW on Saturday) at the NJPW Strong tapings. The house was pretty full – more so than the MLW tapings that took place here on Friday. There were also more seats made available to sell, for whatever that’s worth. It was a hot crowd who knew and loved their New Japan. It wasn’t as electric as Saturday’s D.C. show but how could it be? Anyway, let’s get into the show.
1. JR Kratos, Jorel Nelson, and Royce Isaacs defeated The DKC, Kevin Knight, and Alex Coughlin via pinfall. The WCW got the win while Kratos and Coughlin brawled outside. Those two were the story of the match – and well deserved. There was a crazy spot where Coughlin caught Kratos out of the air and ended up suplexing him. Those two also brawled after the match ended, and, of course, Kratos continues to have mega heat in Philadelphia. The forgotten spot of the match will be Kevin Knight hitting the best dropkick on the world on someone perched on another person’s shoulders. Wow, that guy can jump.
2. Ariya Daivari defeated Delirious via pinfall. Lots and lots of shouting here between the two. I was a little surprised at the outcome because the story on Strong has been that Daivari keeps losing, but this was a good, solid match that should fit nicely on a Strong episode as the second match of the program. I’m not sure when Daivari picked up the yelling thing, but I’ll go with it. Meanwhile, I wonder if this is a one-off for Delirious or if he’ll be sticking around in weeks to come. I sort of hope he does.
3. Karl Fredericks defeated QT Marshall via pinfall. This was pretty good and had some very solid near-falls. QT took a lot of the match, which surprised me for some reason because I guess it shouldn’t have. After the match, the two teased a handshake, but the Nightmare Factory ran in for the attack. Then a masked man came in for the save and that masked man was…Christopher Daniels. The crowd loved it and Daniels and Fredericks left the ring together. To this point, it was the loudest the crowd got.
4. David Finlay defeated Danny Limelight via pinfall. This match has the least amount of heat to this point. It never grabbed the crowd even though the crowd was ready to be grabbed. It’s a lesson in how much of a difference 48 hours can make because Limelight was in here Friday night and got nuclear heat with a long, profanity-laced promo. He tried again before the match and this crowd just didn’t care. There was also a Limelight botch, which didn’t help. It’s too bad because these guys are good workers. This just wasn’t their day.
5. Great-O-Khan, Kyle Fletcher, Mark Davis, and Aaron Henare defeated Jonah, Bad Dude Tito, Shane Haste, and Mikey Nicholls via pinfall. After the match, Khan cut a promo that nobody really understood, but all seemed to enjoy. Considering how these tapings were labeled United Empire Rising … well, this result sort of wrote itself. The match was good and was nothing short of a typical eight-man tag on Strong. Things broke down and there was no coming back. But there were some innovate team moves and very strong strikes along the way. Best of all, the crowd woke itself back up by the time this was done.
6. Jeff Cobb defeated Willie Mack via pinfall. As I wrote on Twitter at the time, two big dudes doing big dude things. The crowd was up for this match but as I said for the last match, remember, this is the United Empire Rising edition. Mack got a ton of offense here and they had the crowd really believing that Mack could pull out the upset. In fact, as Mack walked to try e back afterwards, the crowd chanted “Willie!” All around, this was awfully good.
7. Will Ospreay defeated Homicide via pinfall. Oh, wow. This was a “good luck to Rosser and Lawlor when it comes to following this up later” moment. It went more than 20 minutes and was clunky as hell at times. The clash of styles didn’t always work, but the passion was there and the false finishes at the end had every single person in the arena on their feet. Eddie Kingston accompanied Homicide to the ring, so perhaps this sets up Kingston vs. Ospreay somewhere down the line even though they didn’t tussle after the match. In all, this was a fantastic mess.
8. Killer Kross defeated Yuya Uemura via ref stoppage. Yeah, Kross just started pounding Yuya and the red had to pull him off. Before that, Yuya actually had a bit more offense than I expected. But the outcome was never in doubt. This came after the night’s intermission so a good portion of seats were empty, which was unfortunate for Kross, who is in restart mode. Also, for those wondering, there was no Scarlett.
9. Brody King defeated Jake Something via pinfall. Something looked great and the match was good. These two kind of didn’t have the crowd behind them, which was a shame. It could have been due to the unexpectedly quick intermission that hurt the Kross match or, after eight matches, people just grow a little tired. Still, I don’t know why some company hasn’t thrown a rocket ship onto Something yet. Impact had a diamond, and I’m not so sure they knew it.
10. Minoru Suzuki defeated Tony Deppen via pinfall. This went longer than it should have been but I really, really, really liked it. In fact, it’s one of my favorite Suzuki matches I’ve seen him have during this latest American run over the last year or so. Deppen is always a blast and Suzuki is just so damn good at being the smart/smart-ass technician that could kill anyone he wants to kill. He played the hits here and it was a lot of fun.
11. Fred Rosser defeated Tom Lawlor via submission to win the New Japan Strong Openweight Championship. Incredible. It started off wonky and slow but that crowd knew this story from top to bottom and they lost their minds the minute Lawlor tapped. Rosser got color and it did not stop until the final minutes. Just great stuff from top to bottom. After the match, Rosser cut a promo talking about his history in WWE and said there is no better place to be than under the New Japan lights. Rosser pointed out his family in the crowd and got a “Thank you, grandpa” chant going. Rosser and a lot of people in the crowd were emotional. It’s one of those things you won’t forget as a wrestling fan if you’re familiar with the product and were in the building.
12. Hikuleo, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Juiced Robinson, and Jay White defeated Tomohiro Ishii, Chuck Taylor, Rocky Romero, Ren Narita, and Mascara Dorada via pinfall. Hikuleo got the pin over Romero. Why? Because Hikuleo is a star. This broke down early and never recovered. Chuck Taylor received the biggest reaction of them all, but was hardly used. After the match, the heels beat down the babyfaces a little more before White got the microphone and teased cutting a promo but dropped the mic and left. The spot of the match was Ishii suplexing Gallows, which was impressive as hell.
13. Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Chris Dickinson via pinfall. This was pretty standard, but of course Tanahashi had to go on last and the crowd, what was left, loved it. Tanahashi grabbed a mic after the match while the crowd chanted his name. He said, “Finally, Tanahashi has come here!” He then thanked Dickinson and everyone else. He apologized for his broken English, which was funny. He played air guitar and that was kind of the end of the night.
Final Thoughts: This was a great set of New Japan tapings. I’d like to be glib or annoying because I’m both glib and annoying, but when you distill it down, these batch of Strong episodes should be among the best. They outshined the tapings from the same arena last year and we got the first-ever title change in Strong Openweight history. I’m wildly curious to see how these look on tape. For now … it’s going to be odd to wake up tomorrow and not have to cover live wrestling after the last three days. For now, Kaze Ni Nare.