New Japan Strong – January 9th, 2022

Howdy!

Screw it, I miss Jay White. And I already watch this show every week anyway. 

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Depending on the week, (or time of day, how drunk I am, whether or not there’s some other smark in the immediate vicinity I feel the irrational need to impress, that type of thing), I maintain this is the best weekly wrestling show currently going. It’s just good wrestling, damnit, and that’s what I like to watch. You’ll see folks from indies all over the country show up here, including guys from AEW and TNA. 

But more to the point, it FEELS like Puro in North America to a certain extent. Arguably moreso than NJPW does on their main shows, the mix of established talent and Dojo Lions under the tutelage of one Katsuyori Shibata really put forth the idea that you’re watching the best wrestlers in the world work and hone their craft. It’s a lot of the aspects of New Japan that I truly enjoy without a lot that I don’t (Man, FUCK THE HOUSE OF TORTURE), so since I was considering returning to recapping anyway, this felt like a natural fit for the blog. I’ll also be back to my EVE reviews soon as well, assuming things at work stay calm.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to the Nemesis tour!

Your hosts are Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov. Kelly puts over the United States of Jay challenge which will give us Jay White vs Christopher Daniels in a match soon, but tonight in our main event, it’s Gabriel Kidd vs one Eddie Kingston! We’ll also see Chis Bey and Hikuleo take on Keita Murray and Jordan Clearwater. 

But up first, it’s the DKC taking on TJ Perkins. Aw, man, that’s gotta be a bad omen, starting off my recaps of this show with a TJP match.

The DKC vs TJP – Oh, and TJP has turned his back on the LA Dojo and joined the United Empire, which is just a marvelous get for them. TJP and Ospreay in the same faction? Joy. What stimulating conversations that locker room must have. DKC dropkicks him to start off and chops away, so TJP bails to the floor. Back in and DKC keeps on him, but TJP snaps the arm and goes to work. He rakes the eyes with his boots in the corner, slingshot senton gets two. Super slick reversal as TJP blocks a drop-toehold into a figure-four. DKC makes the comeback with some goofy karate chops and a bulldog. Big kick to the head gets two on TJP. TJP dropkicks him in mid-air as DKC comes off the top and finishes with a splash. Fine. (TJP over The DKC, pinfall, 8:30)

THOUGHTS: **. This was alright. TJP is an asswipe of a human but a good worker, and the story was that DKC hung with him far longer than anyone thought he would before making a mistake and getting put away. Nothing to see here overall.

Jordan Clearwater/Keita Murray vs Bullet Club (Chris Bey/Hikuleo) – This is Murray’s debut, so we’ll see what he’s got. Clearwater’s alright. Bey is from Impact and was brought into Bullet Club by Jay White; he’s actually pretty good. Hikuleo is a coat rack in a Bullet Club shirt. 

Bey and Murray start off and do some nice chain work to start. Hikuleo plays heel by threatening to tag in. Clearwater in with a legdrop on Bey for two. Hikuleo in now and he shrugs off some offense from Clearwater before bowling him over with a shoulder and then choking him against the ropes. They cut the ring in half and beat on Clearwater, Hikuleo getting a side slam for two. Bey with a huge leaping kick for two. Jordan finally makes the tag to Murray, who runs wild on Hikuleo a bit, tag to Bey. Murray and Bey do a delightful bit together, but everyone comes in and Hikuleo dumps Clearwater to the floor as Bey hits a jumping knee to finish off Murray. (Bullet Club over Clearwater/Murray, pinfall, 9:12)

THOUGHTS: **1/4. For the life of me, I can’t understand how Hikuleo is as bad as he is considering how long he’s been doing this shit. Regardless, Bey’s got something and I hope he gets a shot. Murray did a bit in there but I’d want to see more, and Clearwater is as solid as they come. Overall, no complaints. 

Commercials. Buy some New Japan stuff!

Main event next. Gabriel Kidd, who is really great (had a killer match with ZSJ in NJPW last year), is out first. Good to see him, as he had confessed to feeling deep depression over the last several months. I always like to see folks battle the demons and win. Eddie is out next as Koslov pontificates on Kidd having told him that if Kingston is determined to bring the King’s Road style, Gabriel will be showing what Shibata has taught them. I’m all for this. Crowd chants for Eddie, who is out in an old-school LAX shirt. 

Gabriel Kidd vs Eddie Kingston – Kidd tries to draw him into some wrestling, which Kingston laughs off at first before locking up. They continue that charade for a moment or two before just laying the fuck into each other. Kidd with forearms, Kingston with chops. More of the same as they exchange some stiff shots before Eddie just drops him with a slap to the face. The match is messy and nasty, giving it a sharp contrast to the other stuff we watched earlier. Kingston dares Kidd to come at him before dropping him again with a giant slap as the crowd chants his name. 

Kingston with the Stretch Plum now. Kingston makes the ropes and they do an INCREDIBLE chop exchange, leaving chests raw and bloody. Kidd talks some trash, and now Kingston is up and we do another goddamn chop exchange that just leads to both guys throwing open-handed strikes. Kidd with a Saito suplex for two. These two are out of their minds. Exploder, but Eddie no-sells that and hits one of his own, Kidd responds the same way and drops him with lariats and a jumping brainbuster. 

Butterfly suplex attempt is countered into a DDT from Kingston. Kingston is bleeding from the mouth and works toward finally hitting a Ligerbomb for two. Crowd thinks this is awesome, which it most certainly is. Spinning backfist by Kingston, he tries a second and Kidd ducks it into a German sup9lex for two. Kingston catches a charging Kidd with a backfist, then a Saito suplex for two. Half-and-half by Eddie drops Gabriel on his head, and another spinning backfist knocks Kidd the fuck OUT and gets the pin. (Eddie Kingston over Gabriel Kidd, pinfall, 12:36)

THOUGHTS: ****. Tremendous. They beat the shit out of each other. That was the whole match. Chops, forearms, slaps, – they wailed on each other with each guy getting strong style spots and selling for the other to get it over. This isn’t a match where there was a lot of wrestling moves/holds, instead being more about the intensity of the strikes accelerating throughout the fight. And the match was almost a perfect length for what was needed, something that NJPW arguably gets wrong more than they should. Overall, this ruled the earth and should be watched.  

Kelly and Koslov wrap it up, as next week it will be Jonah vs David Finlay! 

FINAL THOUGHTS: An excellent main event with a solid but unspectacular undercard, that’s almost a Strong formula in a lot of ways. It’s a decent episode to start off with, mostly due to Eddie Kingston bringing a bit of star power to things for those that don’t normally watch the show. Considering Kidd’s experience and how good he is, I have high hopes for his future. 

I honestly think that overall, for those of us who do want NJPW to return closer to the company that we fell in love with in the first place, that Strong is a good harbinger of the future. With Shibata talking in interviews openly about flaws that he sees in the current company direction (which, while kayfabed are also likely just a bit of a shoot on his part), I have hopes that putting the LA Dojo in his hands bodes well for the company.

Let’s see what happens, folks. Good to be back.

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected] for email