By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “The Night before Rumble on 44th Street”
October 27, 2022 in New York City, N.Y. at Palladium Times Square
Replay available on FITE.TV
Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwold provided commentary from ringside, and they were both dressed in Halloween costumes as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. They stressed that “every wrestler on the poster is here” but they have no idea who else is on the show.
I would say the set-up looks no different than any other recent NJPW Strong or Impact taping. So, hard to tell the size of the crowd, if we’re at 200 or 1,000 with this setup. Lighting is sub-par — not terrible, but we’ve seen better.
* The show opened with a video montage and a “Night before Christmas”-themed poem, making clear we don’t know who is on the show and what the matches will be. Backstage, we see Rocky Romero lying on a therapist’s couch and talking his issues… this is a fun skit with Alex Koslov.
1. The DKC and Kevin Knight defeated “Forever Hooligans” Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero at 16:01. The commentators talked about how long it has been since Koslov and Romero have teamed up, and they teased fighting each other before the match even began! Funny. Koslov and Knight started, and Alex is in great shape. Romero entered at 3:00 to face DKC. Knight hit some European Uppercuts and a dropkick on Romero. Koslov hit a brainbuster on Knight for a nearfall at 7:30.
The Hooligans quickly tagged in and out, and Rehwoldt said they haven’t missed a beat despite eight years since last teaming. Right on cue, they accidentally hit each other with a funny exchange. DKC made the hot tag and beat up both of them, right at the 10:00 time call. DKC hit a Doomsday leg lariat. Knight hit his fantastic dropkick on Rocky. Knight hit a top-rope superplex for a nearfall at 12:30 on Rocky, then he applied a Boston Crab.
Koslov made the save and hit a DDT on Knight. Koslov put on his Russian hat and kicked Knight several times. Rocky hit a double stomp to Knight’s back. Romero hit a kneedrop on Knight’s face as Knight was on Koslov’s shoulders for a nearfall. However, Knight got an inside cradle on Koslov to score the pin out of nowhere. Fun opener.
2. Fred Rosser defeated Crowbar at 14:44. Riccaboni said New Japan Strong is probably the only promotion Crowbar hadn’t competed in before. I have noted this earlier this year, but Crowbar is a bit thicker — not really heavy — but almost unrecognizable from the WCW era. Rosser clotheslined him to the floor and Crowbar stalled. In the ring, Crowbar tied him up on the mat. They fought on the ring apron, and Rosser slammed him on his back on the apron at 4:30.
They fought on the floor, and Crowbar hit him over the head with a chair. They traded chops in front of the fans. Crowbar hit a running clothesline off the apron to the floor as Rosser sat on a chair. It is too dark on the floor and hard to see the action. In the ring, Crowbar hit a Frankensteiner out of the corner at 9:00 and got a huge pop, as it looked really good. They traded blows while on their knees, then from the standing position. Rosser hit a rolling Death Valley Driver. Rosser hit a lung blower to the chest, then his sidewinder slam for the pin. Good match.
* Rosser got on the mic and asked “who’s next?” (Goldberg??) Jonathan Gresham came out to a nice pop. Gresham wore a nice-looking suit. He said their match on Friday will be for the Strong championship. He called himself the best Pure Wrestler in the world. They shook hands, and Gresham left. Gresham came across as confident with bravado but not crossing over into being heelish.
3. “Aussie Open” Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis defeated “The SAT” Jose Maximo and Joel Maximo at 7:46. Fletcher and Davis are the NJPW Strong tag team champions, but the belts were NOT on the line here. The SAT have competed several times this year in Game Changer Wrestling. They brawled to the floor early on. Aussie Open hit a team legdrop move. One Maximo dove through the ropes onto Fletcher at 5:30. In the ring, the SAT hit a team faceplant move. The SAT hit their team Spanish Fly on Fletcher for a nearfall. In the ring, AO hit their team spinning faceplant, with Fletcher covering for the pin. Solid, crowd-pleasing match.
4. Mike Bailey defeated Mascara Dorado, Mighty Monte, and Smiley in a four-way at 9:37. I have seen the masked luchador Monte on some House of Glory shows from New York in recent months, and the in-ring announcer acknowledged he is representing HOG. I don’t know Smiley, who wore a yellow mask and has long black hair coming out the back; he is bit heavier. (This is NOT Norman Smiley!) Bailey came out last and got nice a nice pop; he didn’t come out to his “Brass Monkey” song he usually uses. The commentators talked about Bailey wrestling nine matches over the three days of WrestleMania weekend. (I think I saw six of them!)
The match started and each guy hit a huracanrana; they all went for dropkicks and were at a stalemate. Dorada hit a missile dropkick on Smiley. Smiley hit a brainbuster on Monte, then a Finlay Roll. Bailey hit his speedball kicks to Smiley’s ribs at 4:30, then a corkscrew senton on Monte. Bailey nailed his Triangle Moonsault to the floor and got a nice pop. Smiley dove off the nearby stage and did a forward roll onto everyone.
In a neat spot, Bailey hit his moonsault double kneedrop on two guys stacked on top of each other. Monte hit a Swanton Bomb for a nearfall at 7:30. Smiley hit an enzuigiri. Monte nailed a dive through the ropes. Bailey nailed a top-rope Ultimo Weapon moonsault kneedrop on Monte for the pin. A fun match. The two locals did fine on easily the biggest stage of their careers.
5. Minoru Suzuki defeated Tracy Williams at 13:16. I think I’ve only seen Williams wrestle once in the past year, since the ROH shutdown occurred. Big pop for Suzuki, who came out second. The crowd chanted “Murder Grandpa!” Standing switches to start. They brawled to the floor, where Suzuki shoved Williams shoulder-first into the ring post, and Ian noted that Tracy has a long history of shoulder issues. They traded STIFF overhand chops on the floor at 3:30 with the crowd popping for each one.
In the ring, Minoru tied up the wrist and fingers and applied a Keylock, with Tracy scrambling to reach the ropes. Suzuki hit a Helluva kick in the corner for a nearfall and the crowd chanted “three!” They began trading more stiff, open-hand chops. “Why would you subject yourself to this kind of open-hand warfare?” Ian asked as they traded blows. They switched to forearm shots. with Minoru dropping Williams at 10:30. Tracy hit a DDT onto the top turnbuckle, and he applied a crossface on the mat.
Williams set up for a Gotch-style piledriver, which caused the crowd to “ohhhh” in shock. Suzuki escaped and applied a sleeper. He hit a quick forearm and the Gotch-style piledriver, holding Williams several seconds before dropping him, for the pin.
6. Shingo Takagi defeated Jake Something at 14:17. An intense lockup to start; Jake is slightly larger but not as big of a size difference as I would have expected. Jake hit a bodyslam and mockingly kicked at Shingo, then he nailed a clothesline at 3:00, and he was in charge early. They brawled to the floor. Back in the ring, Jake was still in control. Shingo fired back with his senton at 7:30 and a clothesline in the corner. Jake nailed a chokeslam and a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall.
They began trading punches, and Shingo hit a Death Valley Driver at 10:00. He nailed the Made in Japan pump-handle powerbomb for a believable nearfall. Jake hit a Death Valley Driver, and they were both down. They traded clotheslines while their hands were clasped. Jake hit a hard clothesline for a nearfall. Shingo hit his Pumping Bomber clothesline, and they were both down. They traded more forearms, and Shingo hit a second Pumping Bomber (with a sickening thud sound) for the clean pin. Good brawl.
7. Jon Moxley, Kazuchika Okada, Eddie Kingston, Amazing Red, Homicide, and Yoh (w/Shota Umino) defeated Tom Lawlor, Royce Isaacs, Jorel Nelson, Jay White, El Phantasmo, and Juice Robinson in a 12-man elimination match at 29:15. In New Japan rules, people can be eliminated by being tossed over the top rope and both feet touching the floor. The heels came out first. Ian says this is the first time he’s called a Red match. The commentators went nuts for the Moxley surprise, who came out to a guitar solo, rather than “Wild Thing.” Isaacs, Nelson and Lawlor are wearing “Sister Act” nun costumes and don’t seem to be taking this seriously. I was confused which babyfaces were wrestling, as there are seven of them; it took me a while to realize Shota wasn’t competing.
White and Okada started. Homicide entered to face Isaacs, then Lawlor. All 12 suddenly brawled at 4:30 and it looked like a battle royal, and the ref struggled to keep control. At 7:00, Phantasmo and Red traded some fantastic, quick reversals that ended in a standoff. The heels began working over Yoh. Team Filithy was really playing up the silliness of the nun costumes. They tossed Yoh at 14:40 over the top rope to get a 6-5 advantage. Red hit the Code Red on Jorel to score the pin at 15:21. Isaacs rolled up Red to pin him at 15:30, and Homicide pinned Isaacs at 15:46, to make it four-four remaining. I hate rapid-fire pins that quickly. Homicide was tossed out at 17:05.
White began working over Kingston, as the heels were now up 4-3 in guys remaining. Kingston and White began trading chops. The heels worked over Eddie. (Note: their clock has been on with mine all night, but they are off by 30 seconds in this match as we cross 20:00.) Moxley made the hot tag and he tossed ELP at 21:34. Moxley hit his hammer elbows to Lawlor’s collarbone, then stomps on his chest. Eddie hit an Exploder Suplex on Juice. Moxley hit a piledriver for a nearfall on Lawlor.
Moxley hit the Death Rider double-arm DDT to pin Lawlor at 24:17. Ian points out the babyfaces now have three left to just two for the heels. (The 25:00 call is almost right on.) Okada hit a neckbreaker over his knee on Juice, then a top-rope elbow drop. He set up for the Rainmaker, but White made the save to block it. Okada hit a dropkick on Juice then a Michinoku Driver and the Rainmaker. However, White snuck in and tossed Okada over the top rope at 27:30. Moxley jumped in and pinned Juice at 27:47. We are down to Moxley and Kingston vs. White. White hit some half-nelson suplexes on Moxley and they had a good, quick exchange. (The commentators inaccurately said it was just the two of them remaining.) Kingston hopped in the ring and, with Moxley’s help, they tossed White to the floor. So, Moxley and Kingston were the survivors.
Final Thoughts: I don’t mind seeing the star-studded main event. It gives the show star power while allowing guys to not over-exert because they are able to rest on the apron. And of course, being tossed from the ring protected White and others from taking a pinfall.
I liked all the surprises; outside of Smiley, I’ve seen everyone else compete before, although for many, it was their first New Japan Strong matches. The show clocked in at about three hours.