New Japan Strong – February 20th, 2022

New Japan Strong

Howdy!

Tonight, the New Beginning Tour continues with another installment of the US of Jay challenge, as Jay White will face a mystery opponent in the main event and beat the hell out of said opponent as though it’s Scott Keith himself!

Man, I can’t wait until I win my Bladie. Assuming Scott doesn’t yank my posting privileges. 

Eh, who am I kidding? He doesn’t read this anyway. 

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Your hosts are once again Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov. Also tonight, we’ve got the Gabriel Kidd taking on Fred Rosser, and I’ve got a few things to say when we get there. 

But up first, we’ve got the DKC and Kevin Knight making their way to the ring, as they’ll be taking on a debuting Strong team in Midnight Heat! We’re informed that they are, in fact, the longest reigning tag champs in Defy Wrestling. 

And here comes Midnight Heat, and I fall in love immediately. They’ve got satin jackets and funky 80s entrance music and lime green tights and it’s like watching a Midnight Express tribute band. Even Ian picks up on it! Goddamn, I hope these guys can work. 

The DKC/Kevin Knight vs Midnight Heat (Eddie Pearl/Ricky Gibson)

Midnight Heat hugs before the match and then Pearl runs to the ropes like a coward after a chop from the DKC. Oh, yeah. I can already tell that this is gonna rule. Nice little grapple sequence and Pearl grabs the ropes and begs off. Quick tag and the babyfaces unload as Gibson comes in and gets sent out as Knight takes over. 

DKC back in and he calls for the karate, but misses a chop and ends up in the heel corner as Midnight Heat gets a bitching double team, a Side Russian Legsweep into a lungblower to take over. They cut the ring in half on DKC and go to work old-school style, raking the eyes and double-teaming. This is some old-school tag s--- and I’m HERE FOR IT. Gibson with an armbar and Pearl goes up for a double axehandle as  I squeal with joy, but DKC moves and Gibson takes the devastating maneuver. But before a potential hot tag, Eddie nails Knight to knock him to the floor. GOOD. 

Pearl off the ropes, but he runs into a leg lariat from DKC! Crawl, crawl, hot tag Knight! Tag to Gibson! Knight cleans house, big Stinger Splash in the corner! Standing splash, Pearl tries to break it up, but he elbows Gibson instead! Gibson in there with Knight now, reversal of the whip to the corner, Knight tries a sunset flip, Gibson sits down on it and grabs the ropes! 1, 2, 3! Midnight Heat wins! (Midnight Heat over the DKC and Kevin Knight, pinfall, 9:18)

THOUGHTS: **3/4. Oh, this was such fun. If you love some good old tag wrestling, this is right up your alley. Midnight Heat looked like stars in the making and they worked this thing exactly like an 80s tag match down to the barest of the formula. Kevin Knight looks like he’s got all the raw talent in the world, though. He might make it. This took me back to watching a Clash of the Champions or something back in the day and it was right up my alley.

Gabriel Kidd vs Fred Rosser

Hey, can I be serious for a second here?

That’s kind of weird to ask, right? I’ve always written my stuff here with an air of lightness to it, outside of a few times I’ve ventured into a slightly more sober realm. After all, this site is a place for all of us to talk about fake fighting and escape from the realities that can sometimes really envelop our lives, and I’m pretty sure that’s what most of us want from our posts. A bit of well meant jocularity from us writers can hopefully go a bit towards making the day a bit easier to swallow sometimes.

But still. Can I?

These days, my life is pretty much everything I wanted it to be to a certain extent. No, I didn’t end up a famous novelist like I planned in college, but when I met my wife 15 years ago, a few things started to click into place. When I go home each night from the business that I own and am greeted by my dog at my house, I sometimes swallow a bit thickly and think about times that weren’t so good. Before my wife and child, before things started to become something resembling a life that I actually desired. 

Sorry, I swear. I’ll wrap this up reasonably quickly, but I promise I have a point.

The funny chemicals your brain can shoot out lie a lot, you know? I know they lied to me for a lot of years, about the idea that things would turn out okay, that people may have tolerated my company but never truly cared for it, etc. And while I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole, the trick seems to be that there’s a shadow that outlines both the good and bad times, and it can envelop you when you’re not looking, or, even worse, when you ARE looking for it but can’t stop it. 

Things weren’t always good. They can go bad again and we all know it to a certain degree. No matter how balanced your life or you are, no matter how much any outsider looks at it and talks about how much they want your life, it’s just beyond impossible to truly understand what each person you see is warding off each day, no matter what their station in life is. Walking a mile in someone’s shoes is a popular expression, yes, but what about the fact that if we’re brutally honest about it, we know that it’s almost impossible to really do so?

Gabriel Kidd is having some issues right now and we all know it. And I don’t want to recount them here, just wanted to say a few things about being human before I review a match from someone whose talent I admire greatly and is very much in the middle of being human in some of the toughest ways possible. I really hope that he comes out the other side of this and manages to ward off the lies that his brain is telling him.

Okay, that’s about it. Thanks for indulging me in a bit of what was admittedly rambling. I don’t know if I hit right, or really at all, but I had to give it a shot.

Back to wrasslin’.

Let’s just start this match over. 

Gabriel Kidd vs Fred Rosser

Hard lockup to start. They work it to the ropes and Kidd takes a shot on the break. Kidd shoots Fred off, but we get no movement off a shoulderblock, A few more times, but nothing doing on either side. Rosser finally drops him, Kidd responds with a Saito suplex, Fred with a lariat and both guys roll out to take a breather.

Back in and they trade forearms as it gradually turns intense. They just fire away at each other, trading forearms and headbutts as the sweat just literally flies off each guy. Now a chop battle and Kidd puts his hands behind his back to dare Fred to bring it on, then goes to a chop exchange as both guys can barely stand. A double-handed chop by Rosser finally drops Kidd in the corner, and they trade the advantage in the corner off that. I cannot do justice to these guys as they’re just wearing each other out.

Kidd sits in the middle of the ring cross-legged, so Rosser meets him there and they just hit each other with open palm strikes from there, then back to their feet for even more open-handed palm strikes. Kidd drops Rosser to one knee and fires more slaps, but Rosser finally hits a wrestling move with the double knees to buy some time as both guys are absolutely spent. 

Now it’s time for each guy to clothesline each other, Fred gets the advantage and hits him to the back of the head with a lariat, but Kidd bounces off the ropes and drops him with a huge one of his own, then hits a brainbuster for two. Kidd with a slam and he goes up, moonsault by Gabriel misses! Rosser with a lariat for two! Running Death Valley Driver by Rosser for two! Finally, Rosser is down dicking around and hits an Emerald Frosion for the pin. (Fred Rosser over Gabriel Kidd, pinfall, 14:53)

THOUGHTS: ***1/2. This was really good, but a lot of that depends on how much you like seeing two guys just hit each other for the better part of 15 minutes. Most of the match was a lot of posturing and hard-hitting shots and that can lead to somewhat of a one-note match in a lot of ways. Regardless, an absolute A for the effort here as they absolutely beat the s--- out of each other. I still don’t see Rosser at the level they clearly do, but he’s not bad or anything. 

Rosser shows respect after the match, pulling Kidd to a seated position. Kidd cuts a promo after the match putting over NJPW and thanks the crowd for being there, thanks DEFY for letting them be there, and bows to the crowd.

Get well, Gabriel. Wrestling is better with you in it.

Commercials. Buy some stuff!

Main event time! Jay White swaggers to the ring, full of the confidence that only the best heel in wrestling can have. Justin Credible, Scott? As noted wrestling analyst Booker T has been quoted as saying, ‘come on, man!’ And now for his mystery opponent who is…..Jay Lethal! The former ROH World champion and current AEW Dark superstar makes his way down for the main event. 

Jay White vs Jay Lethal

Crowd gives Lethal a ‘wooo’, so he gives them a strut, then we lockup. White with a few headlock takeovers as we head to the mat for a bit, where Lethal reverses. Crowd chants “Let’s go Jay!”, which…..I suppose chanting “Let’s go White!” may end up looking bad if taken out of context. Lethal with the hiptoss and cartwheel dropkick, then a dropkick sends White to the floor. Lethal looks for a tope, but Hikuleo stands in-between Lethal and White, so we may have found the fabled one thing that Hikuleo is actually good for.

White with a necksnap and now back in with a DDT on Lethal. A few exchanges and White hits a Saito suplex. White wants a Blade Runner to end it early, but goes for kicks instead and Lethal fights out. White ends up on the floor and now Lethal flies out with a tope as Hikuleo forgot the one thing he was good for in less than 5 minutes. Well done, you Great Khali tribute lounge singer of a wrestler.

Back in now and Lethal puts on a torture rack. Lethal to the top, Hail to the King elbow hits for two! Suplex battle ensues and White ends up getting a delayed German to get some room to maneuver. White with the running uppercut in the corner, then the Blade Buster for two as White stays on the neck. White goes for an uranage, but Lethal hits a pump kick and sends White to the floor again. Lethal follows him out and chops him there before tossing White back in.

White almost gets a quick Blade Runner attempt before sending Lethal to the corner and Lethal immediately grabs his knee. Lethal tries to shake it off, but White helpfully dropkicks the knee, then tosses the ref down and continues to stomp on Lethal’s knee. Attaboy. Knee crusher in the corner from White. Someone’s emulating Ric Flair in this match and it isn’t Jay Lethal. 

Lethal gets a desperation kick to buy some time. Lethal wants the Lethal Injection, but White cuts that off so Lethal puts him in a figure-four and drags him back to the middle. He does that a few more times until White finally makes the ropes. Both guys have a bad wheel now and they’re back up and exchanging chops. White goes down, so he gets back up kicks him in the knee, like a dickhead. He dares Lethal to chop him now, so Lethal…..kicks him in the knee. Tremendous. I like babyfaces that aren’t morons.

Slugfest now in the middle of the ring, Lethal with a cutter out of nowhere! Lethal Injection time, but Lethal lands on his knee and can’t finish it. White goes for the Blade Runner, but Lethal reverses that a few times. Lethal tries for the Injection again, but now White chopblocks him in the knee! Ha! Sorry, but I used to cover Ring of Honor for this here site, and I really hate the Lethal Injection. Any counter of it is okay with me. 

White with a sleeper suplex now, then another one, then the Blade Runner. We’re done here. (Jay White over Jay Lethal, pinfall, 20:07)

THOUGHTS: ***3/4. I won’t lie, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Lethal, even back in his ROH World champ days. He’s a fine worker, better than most, but solid is probably the adjective that I would use to describe him. My main criticism of the match is probably that the knee work really didn’t figure into the finish, so that felt like a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. But the selling was good, as was the pacing of the match, and White is just on another level right now when it comes to how perfectly he paces a match. The kid is unreal and when I say I honestly think he might be the best overall wrestler in the world, I’m not being facetious. He just understands the form better than anyone I’ve seen in such a short time period.

Post-match, White has the STICK~!! “Seattle! Hush, I’m talking.” He tells Lethal that now they’ve faced each other twice and they’re 1-1, so he may show up in AEW and beat him there. Lethal should just let him know. But Lethal is old news, let’s get to the future! The US of Jay open challenge will stay open! So, who will step up next? He hears that there’s a lot of free agents out there, since none of them are as good as Jay, since they can’t keep a job! (Crowd oohs at that one.) You don’t like truth? No one can measure up to White! He’s extending an olive branch to all those wrestlers that need that opportunity against the best f------ wrestling in the world! Against the number one asset in all of pro wrestling! Against the man who single-handedly sold out Madison Square Garden, against King Switch, against the REAL belt collector. Step up to your opportunity against Switchblade Jay White, because no matter what company you’re in, it’s still his era!

Did I write that promo? Anyway he throws the mic down as Ian tells us that next week, Filthy Tom Lawlor defends the Strong title against Taylor Rust! And we’re done for the week. 

FINAL THOUGHTS: The usual rock-solid Strong, we had a beautiful variety in our matches today. A throwback paint-by-the-numbers 80s tag match, a strong-style strike fest, and a main event professional wrestling match. One of the things that Strong just does well is that they don’t overload with storylines that can’t be told through the ringwork of the wrestlers, and that helps the show be super-watchable every week. This was no exception. Excellent hour of wrestling.

Until next time, everyone. 

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote, 

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