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NJPW Strong results: El Phantasmo vs. Lio Rush

Misterioso, Adrian Quest & Rocky Romero defeated Barrett Brown, Rey Horus & The DKC

Barrett Brown and Adrian Quest were in together first. Brown with a big lariat. The DKC is still sporting the traditional Young Lion look with the black trunks and boots. He and Misterioso got into it next, but Rocky Romero’s team quickly isolated DKC on their side of the ring and worked him over for a few minutes. At five minutes in, Romero had DKC locked in a single-leg crab before he landed his patented Forever Clotheslines in the corner. DKC rallied back with a high jumping roundhouse kick. DKC then escaped and tagged out to Rey Horus, who looked good in the couple minutes he was in the ring.

Quest, Horus, and DKC continued their momentum, later triple-teaming their opponents. At one point, Quest and Horus did a double dive to the floor, which left Brown and Romero together in the ring. The veteran Romero scored the submission win when he tapped Brown following a suplex into an armlock. Good opener.

Afterward, an exasperated Brown explained how important it was to make it in NJPW to his teammates. He said he hadn’t picked up a win yet this year, plus he wasn’t even in the Super J Cup nor did he make it past the first round of Lion’s Gate Crown. His partners consoled him, but Brown was still unsatisfied with his performance.

Fred Rosser defeated Hikuleo

On paper, this felt like a natural monster heel vs. experienced but smaller babyface. This was at a much slower pace than the first match, a nice switch in tone. 

Rosser jumped on Hikuleo’s back and attempted a sleeper hold, but it was just that—an attempt. The two were soon brawling outside the ring on the floor. Hikuleo snapped Rosser over with a power slam at one point, then picked him up and bent him back-first against the ring post. Hikuleo feels like more and more of a threat each time he does a single match. On commentary, Kevin Kelly said that there’s no one like Hikuleo in the US or Japan. I think that’s fair to say. Much of this had a fundamental old-school American wrestling feel.

Hikuleo had Rosser locked in a king cobra twist, which looked pretty impressive, before later landing the chokeslam on Rosser, however, Rosser was able to kick out. Rosser’s function in this match was to be a Ricky Morton-type, basically getting mauled but hanging in there because he’s double-tough.

After Rosser kicked out of the chokeslam, which no one had done on the show up until this point, he fought for a backslide on the much larger Hikuleo and ended up scoring the upset win. Nice finish that will surely lead to a rematch in the next few weeks.

Hikuleo complained in his post-match promo afterward claiming that he, in fact, was the bad guy, he’s the one who’s supposed to be pulling hair, and that Rosser had pulled on his “beautiful” hair in the finish which is why he is now demanding a rematch. He screamed that Rosser cheated and the ref was slow and that a rematch was in order.

El Phantasmo defeated Lio Rush

These two had a match at the Super J Cup 2020 show which El Phantasmo won. Tonight’s main event had a slow build at the beginning as the two sporadically jaw-jacked at each other. These two guys are among the best talkers in NJPW, so despite the empty venue, it never came off awkward or out of place.

After about four minutes of back-and-forth grappling on the mat, the pace quickened a bit and we saw some ropework from the two. After they came to another stalemate, Rush talked more trash at ELP, which added to the atmosphere. The NJPW neophyte Rush took control on offense as the match got faster. This led to El Phantasmo rolling to the floor and calling a time-out for himself. Before the ref counted him out, he rolled in and out of the ring again, breaking the count and extending ELP’s initial breather.

El Phantasmo eventually made his way back into the ring and took control of the match. He spiked Rush with a DDT, and later on in the bout he started using the dreaded back-scratch attack, scraping Rush from the top of his back all the way down. ELP took some time during the match to take shots at announcer Alex Koslov, mocking him while he had Rush in the corner. 

After ten minutes passed, Rush slid out of El Phantasmo’s grasp and finagled his way into a swinging DDT coming off the ropes, planting ELP skull-first on the mat. Rush took control of the match, but Phantasmo kept throwing attacks at Rush, once even landing a springboard cross body-block for two. Rush responded with his own springboard offense, bouncing from the bottom rope into ELP to wrench him down with a stunner.

In the last moments of the match, El Phantasmo went for a low blow, but Rush blocked it by catching ELP’s arm and cradling him into a la magistral pin for a very close two-count. When they were back on their feet, Phantsmo shoved Rush and referee Jeremy Marcus, giving Phantasmo a chance to “load up” a superkick for Rush as he turned back around. ELP connected, knocking out Rush to score the pinfall. Really good match.

In his promo afterward, El Phantasmo bragged about his win and continued insulting Rush, claiming if he ever wanted to make it in the junior heavyweight division he’d eventually have to go through ELP himself. He mentioned the annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament that’s coming up soon, which gives us reason to believe we’ll be seeing both Phantasmo and Rush in the round-robin this spring.

Final thoughts:

This week’s edition of NJPW Strong was an easy watch, and I think it’s because all three of this week’s matches were so different in flavor. The opening six-man was no better or worse than any of the other good matches we’ve seen from all those involved tonight (sans Rey Horus), while Hikuleo vs Fred Rosser provided a simple and well-executed David vs Goliath type of match. The main event junior match was very good, though it was well-tempered because I’m sure these two will have yet another bout or two with each other later this year.

Next week’s episode has IWGP US Heavyweight champion Jon Moxley defending his title against KENTA.