By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped December 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California at The Vermont
Streamed January 21, 2023 on New Japan World
The broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov ran things down and we went to the ring. We are on the Nemesis tour, and perhaps, if Hiroshi Tanahashi is to be believed, this is the final Strong tour, but even so, this is the third week of it. Kelly noted that Kenta will face the winner of Fred Rosser vs. Peter Avalon (a match that will happen next week) at Battle In The Valley for the Strong Openweight Championship.
1. “West Coast Wrecking Crew” Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs vs. “C4” Cody Chhun and Guillermo Rosas. Rosas and Isaacs began the match and the crowd started dueling chants. Isaacs worked a wrist-lock. Rosas then took Isaacs down and rolled into a head-lock. Eventually, Rosas landed some chops and a suplex for a one-count. Chhun tagged in and knee’d Isaacs for a two-count. Chhun then chopped Isaacs a lot. Isaacs regained control by slamming Chhun.
Nelson tagged in, but Chhun landed a bunch of dropkicks until he missed one. From there, all four wrestlers were in the ring and C4 cleaned house. Rosas tagged in and clotheslined Nelson. After a handful of exchanges, Nelson shoulder-blocked Rosas and Isaacs suplexed Chhun on the outside. WCWC then posed in the middle of the ring. Isaacs tagged in and hit a gut-wrench on Rosas inside the ring for a two-count before working a side head-lock.
Isaacs hit a lariat and Nelson tagged in, kicking Rosas. Rosas tried to fight his way out of the bad part of the ring, but Nelson cut him off and tagged in Isaacs. The tag didn’t matter, though, because Rosas got the hot tag to Chhun, who came in and landed a series of dropkicks. Chhun hit a DDT on Isaacs and led the crowd in a C4 chant. C4 went for a double-team move, but WCWC broke it up and ultimately, Nelson hit a powerslam for a two-count on Chhun.
Chhun fought back and tagged in Rosas and C4 landed a double-team power-bomb before Rosas fired up. Chhun hit a cutter and Rosas went for a pinfall. But Nelson kicked out at 2.5. Chhun tagged in and C4 went for another double-team move, but Isaacs broke it up and Nelson then hit a fisherman’s buster on Chhun. Isaacs tagged in and WCWC went for something that didn’t quite turn out and perhaps Nelson came out of the sequence hurt. Still, none of it mattered after Nelson hit an elbow from the top for the win.
West Coast Wrecking Crew defeated C4 via pinfall in 10:35.
McGuire’s Musings: I’m not quite sure what happened toward the end with Nelson, but I hope he’s OK. On the other side of things, Cody Chhun sure does know how to lead a crowd chanting “C4” and truth be told, it helped make his team leave more of a mark. I don’t think anyone expected C4 to win, but it’d be hard to argue that more people don’t know who they are after a match like that. It’s hard to point toward the future with anything on these episodes, considering how I think (maybe?) that next week’s Strong could very well be the last, but I’ll be interested to see what happens with Chhun and Rosas after this stint. As for the match on an overall level … it was goodly fine or finely good. Nothing to remember.
2. KENTA vs. QT Marshall. The two played with the crowd before the bell rang. The two locked up and Marshall backed KENTA into a corner before posing. KENTA then backed Marshall into a corner and slapped him. Marshall ran at KENTA, but that led to Marshall running the ropes and then heading to the outside, where KENTA chased him back into the ring. KENTA chopped the hell out of Marshall. Marshall cut KENTA off with a knee, but KENTA came back with yet another chop and some forearms.
Marshall went outside and KENTA knee’d Marshall in the chest on the outside. Back inside the ring, Marshall had control after running KENTA’s back into the ring post on the outside. Marshall landed a backbreaker for a two-count. Marshall teased the Diamond Cutter, but that changed into a GTS tease. Marshall lifted KENTA for the GTS, but KENTA fought out and landed a DDT. KENTA hit a series of kicks and face-washed Marshall.
KENTA slapped Marshall’s face and went for a draping DDT, but Marshall countered and hit a pop-up punch to the face for a two-count. Marshall went for a Diamond Cutter, but KENTA countered and landed the Green Killer. KENTA hit a dropkick to Marshall’s head and went to the top, where he hit a double-stomp for a near-fall. KENTA lifted Marshall for a GTS, but Marshall worked out of it and then the ref took a bump.
Marshall went under the ring to grab a chair while the referee was down. Marshall ran at KENTA with the chair, but KENTA kicked Marshall and picked up the chair himself to hit Marshall in the back a bunch of times until Marshall got in a low blow. Marshall went for a power-bomb on the chair, but that turned into KENTA hitting a DDT on the chair. KENTA resuscitated the ref and hit the GTS for the win.
KENTA defeated QT Marshall via pinfall in 12:34.
McGuire’s Musings: It was odd to see KENTA work as such a babyface in this scenario because you know gosh darn well he ain’t working as a babyface against Strong’s ultimate babyface, Fred Rosser next month in San Jose. But, hey. KENTA is beloved by the New Japan crowd (and rightfully so), and this is kind of his pseudo return to singles action on the Strong show outside of winning that No. 1 contender spot a couple weeks back. Meanwhile, the match here went about three minutes too long for my taste, but that’s just me. QT is always going to stall, no matter what he does, who he’s working or where he is, but the stalling felt a tad gratuitous here. KENTA getting use out of the chair, perhaps, was supposed to remind everyone that he’s a dirty player, but he came across more like a cult hero here, completely with Kevin Kelly even forgiving KENTA for using the chair for reasons that probably won’t exist the next time he does. But, such is wrestling. The match was inoffensive; nothing special.
3. “Motor City Machine Guns” Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin vs. “Roppongi Vice” Trent Beretta and Rocky Romero for the NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles. Sabin and Beretta began the match, trading the edge. Sabin asked for a hug, but Beretta backed off. The two hugged for a second, but Sabin turned it into a rollup for a one-count before hugging Shelley, who tagged in. Romero then tagged in. Shelley and Romero went back and forth for a little. Shelley danced and Romero attacked him, eventually sinking in a head-lock.
With both MCMG in the ring, Romero worked the Forever Clotheslines on both. Beretta tagged in and Vice hit a double-team move on Shelley. Beretta chopped Shelley to the ground. Shelley tried to chop his way out of the predicament but Romero cut them off and Beretta ran Romero into Shelley. Romero worked a chin-lock. Things turned around when Sabin and Shelley hit two separate dragon-screw leg-whips on Romero.
MCMG had control by working over Romero’s leg some more. Shelley was the legal man and played to the crowd, who booed him. Romero tried to fight back with a chop, but Shelley stopped that with a chop of his own. Shelley sank in a figure-four leg-lock. Sabin did the same on Beretta. Romero got to the ropes to break everything up. Shelley tried for it again, but Romero fought out of it and hit a tornado DDT. Beretta got the hot tag while Sabin tagged in as well.
Beretta hit a half-and-half on Sabin and worked him over with chops. Beretta ran at Sabin, but Shelley broke things up. Even so, Beretta landed a piledriver on Sabin for a good near-fall. Beretta toyed with Sabin, but Sabin body-dropped Beretta on the apron. Inside the ring, Shelley and Romero battled by trading forearms. Romero eventually landed a rewind kick to take control.
Shelley threw Romero to the outside, where both MCMG members kicked Romero. Sabin ran the ropes, but Vice cut him off and hit Strong Zero for a good near-fall. Beretta lifted Sabin, but Sabin worked out of it and landed a Destroyer for another good near-fall. Sabin came up and kicked Beretta in the face. MCMG went for their finisher, but Romero broke it up and Vice hit the MCMG signature move for a two-count.
Romero officially tagged in and Vice went for a double super-plex on Sabin, but Sabin worked out and landed a double cross-body. Beretta accidentally super-kicked Romero after Sabin moved. Sabin landed a cutter on Romero. MCMG hit the Vice finisher and it looked like it was going to end the match, but Beretta broke up the pin. From there, MCMG hit a series of moves on Beretta before landing their finisher on Romero for the win.
Motor City Machine Guns defeated Roppongi Vice via pinfall in 18:10 to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles
After the match, the teams shook hands and then hugged.
McGuire’s Musings: Eighteen minutes of very good tag-team wrestling. It felt like there was another gear these two teams could have kicked into, but I could also be either impatient, grumpy or both. Perhaps my only flaw with the match was the reality that it just didn’t seem like MCMG were (or are) about to drop those Strong Openweight titles, and maybe that’s also because the future of Strong is up in the air. Either way, these four guys were really, really hard and the result was the match of the night. While those first two bouts could be taken or left, this was something worth your time. It’s crazy to think about how long these two teams have worked together and yet only now do they seem to be getting at least a portion of the flowers they’ve deserved. Good for all involved.
Overall, this wasn’t an imperative episode of Strong, but one to watch if you think you’re going to miss it once it (allegedly) goes away. It’s always good to see KENTA wrestle, “C4!” chants continue to echo throughout my head and that final match was a pretty-to-very-good New Japan Strong style tag-team match. Put all of it together and you get something more substantial than just OK. I’ll have more to say in my weekly NJPW Strong audio review for Dot Net Members (including our Patreon patrons).