By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped August 21, 2022 in Los Angeles, California at The Vermont Hollywood
Streamed September 17, 2022 on New Japan World
Ian Riccaboni checked in with Alex Koslov on commentary to run down the card. We are on the Fighting Spirit Unleashed Tour and this is the second week of it.
1. Adrian Quest vs. Peter Avalon. The two locked up and traded control for a few moments. Avalon worked a head-lock, but Quest came back with a flurry of moves, including a corkscrew elbow. Things slowed down when Quest sunk in a head-lock of his own. Quest moved to Avalon’s arm. Both wrestlers landed chops before Avalon began work on Quest’s knee.
Avalon threw Quest to the outside and posed. Avalon hit a chop and rolled Quest back into the ring. Once inside, Quest landed a couple chops, but Avalon cut him off by going back to Quest’s leg and then hitting a back suplex for a two-count. Avalon put Quest on the top rope and tried to lift him, but Quest worked his way out to avoid more damage to his knee.
Quest and Avalon traded elbows in the middle of the ring. The elbows ended when Avalon dropkicked Quest’s knee, but Quest fired up and landed a standing shooting-star press for a two-count. Avalon rolled to the outside, where Quest landed a springboard dive onto Avalon. Back inside the ring, Avalon sunk in his Golden Arch while posing, but Quest made it to the ropes for a break. Avalon fired up and hit a series of kicks before going to the second rope and attempting a swinging DDT. Avalon countered, however, and hit the Martini Knees for the win.
Peter Avalon defeated Adrian Quest via pinfall in 8:52.
McGuire’s Musings: This was a solid match and the best I’ve seen both wrestlers work in quite some time. I’ve been of the belief that Avalon has deserved more in AEW than Dark matches and BTE skits and he proved that hypothesis correct. Quest, meanwhile, hasn’t shown this much fire on Strong … ever, really. Not knowing who would most likely come out of it the winner helped things, too, as Quest sold his comebacks with so much fervor, I almost had to believe he would pull it out. Alas, it was not to be, and that’s OK because both guys came out of the match looking better than they did going into it. A very nice outing for all involved.
2. Jordan Cruz and Cody Chun vs. “Filthy” Tom Lawlor and JR Kratos. Lawlor and Chun began the match and they traded quick moves before Chun posed a little. Lawlor came back to work an ankle lock and then a Grapevine until Chun made it to the ropes for a break. Kratos tagged in and punched Chun. Kratos stomped on Chun’s chest repeatedly.
All four men ended up in the ring and Kratos slammed both opponents at the same time in an impressive spot. Lawlor and Kratos posed. Lawlor tagged in and kicked Chun’s back. The fans chanted “one more time,” and Lawlor obliged. Chun fired up and landed a couple chops, but Lawlor cut him off with a forearm. Still, Chun and Cruz hit chops on Lawlor and it led to Cruz tagging into the match for the first time.
Cruz kept momentum and went for a splash in a corner, but Lawlor caught Cruz and slammed him. Lawlor kind of toyed with Cruz, but Cruz came back with a series of elbows and uppercuts. Cruz and Chun double-teamed Lawlor. Cruz and Chun hit an inverted 3D and got a two-count out of it. Cruz tried a suplex, but Lawlor countered into a front face-lock. Cruz collapsed before Lawlor hit a half Gotch piledriver.
Kratos and Chun tagged in and Kratos got the best of Chun at first, but Chun came back. The comeback didn’t last long because Kratos threw Chun across the ring and then shoulder-tackled him to oblivion. Kratos then landed a Straitjacket for the win.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor and JR Kratos defeated Cody Chun and Jordan Cruz via pinfall in 9:54.
McGuire’s Musings: This was a lot of fun and Cruz and Chun looked so much better than they looked when they’ve appeared on Strong in the past. Even Riccaboni mentioned their history near the beginning of the match and their history wasn’t much to write home about. But here, even though they spent a lot of time on the unfortunate end of various beatings, they looked formidable and like a tag-team that could stay as a tag-team if they want to make a run at the Strong tag titles. As for Team Filthy … what’s not to love? Lawlor is NJPW Strong’s face, its bonafide star, and he has so much fun with that status each time he comes to the ring. I’m interested to see if Team Filthy eventually makes a run at the tag titles because between Lawlor and Kratos and the West Coast Wrecking Crew, there’s no reason they can’t be players in that division.
3. Kushida, Trent Beretta, Rocky Romero, Taylor Rust vs. Jay White, Juice Robinson, Hikuleo and Chase Owens. Rust and Owens began the match. Owens face-palmed Rust and told him to suck it. Rust responded by taking Owens down and ultimately landing a dropkick. Beretta and White tagged in. They locked up and White stomped a mud hole in Beretta. The two traded blows. Beretta hit a snap-dragon suplex, but White came back with a loud chop. Romero came in and the babyfaces cleared the ring of the Bullet Club.
All four good guys hit splashes on the Bullet Club members, who were on the outside of the ring. Back in the ring, Beretta hit a splash and a tornado DDT for a two-count. The rest of the Bullet Club came in and cleared the ring of the babyfaces. Robinson tagged in and hit a series of shoulder-blocks into Trent’s midsection. Hikuleo tagged in and whipped Beretta into a corner, where Beretta flipped over the top rope and landed on the outside.
Back inside the ring, Hikuleo grabbed Trent, but Owens tagged in and hit a back-breaker for a two-count. Robinson tagged in and punched Beretta. Juice landed a suplex and a Senton. Robinson worked a sleeper hold. Beretta worked his way out, but Robinson dropped Trent onto the top turnbuckle. Beretta came back with a running knee and got the hot tag to Kushida, who came in with a series of kicks and a cross-body.
Owens ran in, but Kushida kicked him, too. Kushida briefly worked over Robinson’s arm and before long, the Bullet Club was cleared from the ring again. Robinson was draped along the rope and Kushida hit a Strong Zero before Beretta landed a Shining Wizard for a two-count. Romero had control and landed the Forever Clotheslines on everyone. Hikuleo put an end to that and everyone in the Bullet Club beat the hell out of Romero.
Things continued to break down and Kushida punched Robinson before the rest of his team hit a series of moves on Juice, but White broke up the pin attempt. Hikuleo and Trent had a stare down and Trent chopped Hikuleo, but Hikuleo responded with a clothesline. Rust tagged in and went for a bunch of chops on Hikuleo. Things got even more chaotic. Hikuleo went to chop Rust, but Rust moved and Hikuleo nearly hit White. From there, Hikuleo landed his snap power-slam, but before he could land the choke-slam, White interrupted things, demanded to be tagged in, hit the Blade Runner and got the pin.
Jay White, Juice Robinson, Hikuleo and Chase Owens defeated Kushida, Trent Beretta, Rocky Romero, Taylor Rust via pinfall in 14:49.
After the match, there was tension between White and Hikuleo, but that faded when a brawl broke out. The Bullet Club got the upper hand and White took the microphone to welcome Kushida to New Japan Strong. White said the G1 didn’t go as the Bullet Club planned. White said he had to clean up messes for people because they couldn’t get the job done. White said people need to remember who the leader of the Bullet Club is. White said he had no problem reminding Tama Tonga who he is. White said he’s the No. 1 asset in all of pro wrestling. He called himself the real belt collector. He said he’s the catalyst of pro wrestling. He closed by saying it’s the Switchblade Era.
McGuire’s Musings: I’m beyond willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to working the New Japan style. But come on, guys. The last quarter of this match didn’t even try to have a legal man involved. It was just move after move after move from wrestler after wrestler after wrestler. My mind can only allow so much nonsense before it starts to get a little suspect. But I digress. The match was fun for what it was, even if they went a little overboard.
Funny enough, as the wrestlers were making their entrances, I thought to myself, “Whatever happened to that Jay White and Hikuleo story they teased a little while ago?” And now I know. I do wonder where they’ll go with that because while I continue to argue until I’m blue in the face that Hikuleo is a star, splitting him from the Bullet Club to see if he can swim in deep waters at this point in his young career could be quite the task. It feels like they’re leaning toward Hikuleo one day picking his real family over his Bullet Club family, but hopefully by the time that comes, the angle can have just a little more heat on it.
In all, this was a good episode of Strong, save for the final five minutes of the final match. White continues to be one of the best promos in the game, so his post-match stuff, while predictable, was fun. The first two matches exceeded expectations while that main event asked too much of this viewer to fully buy into the finish. That in mind, I’ll have more to say in my weekly audio review of NJPW Strong for Dot Net Members (including our Patreon patrons).