Tonight was the third installment of the NJPW Strong: Rivals tapings from Hollywood.
Fred Yehi, Keita & the DKC defeated Stray Dog Army (Bateman, Misterioso & Barrett Brown)
So a few of the audience members down in front thought Barrett Brown looked like Shawn Michaels and started chanting “H-B-K!” at him. Brown did the HBK pose for them and got a nice ovation for it. Barrett Brown is a man of the people.
Stray Dog Army started to double and triple team DKC halfway through the match. Respect to DKC here, as this was his second match of the night at the tapings. He was eventually able to tag out to partner Fred Yehi, who’d launch Brown with a release German suplex. Misterioso ran into the ring and Yehi gave him an exploder suplex.
Brown was back in moments later and caught Keita with a half-and-half suplex. The DKC then caught Brown with a diving crescent kick off the top rope. Yehi clipped Bateman’s knee. Misterioso landed an Asai moonsault to the floor, which the crowd followed up with a “holy shit!” chant.
Back in the ring, Yehi connected with a spinning back palm strike and a fisherman’s suplex on Brown for the pin. Bateman and Yehi clashed afterwards and had a staredown in the middle of the ring. They started jaw-jacking, then Yehi posed for the crowd and went to the back. I imagine we’ll see these two face off sometime in the near future.
Chris Bey defeated Blake Christian
Bey was pretty over with the Hollywood crowd. Christian missed a cannonball to the floor but landed on his feet. Bey dropkicked Christian into the guardrail.
Blake Christian got booed at points in the match. When Bey held him in a submission hold, they chanted at Christian to tap.
They exchanged a lot of quick combinations. Christian connected with a tilt-a-whirl gutbuster and a splash for two. Bey landed a diving elbow drop across the back of Christian, who was draped over the middle rope. Bey hit Finnex, his torture rack-to-neckbreaker, but Christian kicked out at two.
Christian used a ripcord Spanish Fly and springboard 450 splash to the center of the ring but only earned a two-count for his troubles. Christian attempted another 450 splash but landed on his feet when he saw Bey move. Bey then caught Christian with an inside cradle for another nearfall.
The finish saw Christian go for a moonsault but Bey connected with the Art of Finesse, or a cutter, for the win. I was confused at first because it sort of looked like Christian connected with a moonsault. But yes, Bey is your winner.
A Clark Connors promo aired next where he said he was going to take out STRONG Openweight Champion “Filthy” Tom Lawlor at Strong Style Evolved in Tampa, FL.
Buddy Matthews defeated Ren Narita
This was an excellent main event.
There were a couple of pockets of fans in the crowd chanting for Matthews while he was on his way to the ring. He and Ren Narita went hold for hold on the mat, which really had a cat-and-mouse dynamic, with Matthews initiating holds and Narita escaping out of them. More fans chanted “BUD-DY! BUD-DY!” as he held Narita in control in the middle of the ring.
At one point, Narita closed in on Matthews with a low kick that could have taken Matthews’ head off, but Matthews dodged it. Narita then offered his hand to Matthews, an offer to help him up. Matthews took him up on the offer, but he didn’t let go of Narita’s hand once they were up. They talked a bit of trash and got into each other’s faces until Matthews pulled Narita’s wrist in for a go-behind grab. They went through a number of standing switches. When Narita again escaped Matthews’ hold, he gave him a stiff, patronizing pat on the shoulder. Gutsy move, as Jesse Ventura would say.
Matthews approached Narita as he stood on the apron. Narita leaned over and tried headbutting Mathews in the stomach, but Matthews caught him with a front facelock and drilled him into the mat with a DDT. He stared Narita down in a patronizing pose of his own, cross-legged and arms folded, just like Narita’s mentor, Katsuyori Shibata. This looked to have fired Narita up. Matthews punted him in the back with a penalty kick. Narita insisted on another. Matthews gave him four, but Narita wouldn’t budge. Matthews smacked Narita in the back of the head. Narita responded by standing up. Matthews chopped him and stomped on his toe. Narita unloaded a combo of strikes and kicks in the corner. He caught Matthews off the ropes and threw him with an overhead suplex. Narita earned a two-count after a running elbow and single-arm suplex.
They traded forearms on the apron. Matthews lifted Narita in a fireman’s carry, but Narita slipped out the back and slapped on a sleeperhold from inside the ring; Matthews was still stuck on the apron. Narita released the hold, then blasted Matthews in the chest with hard kicks.
Matthews bounced off the ropes and went for another PK but Narita held onto Matthews’ leg and rolled through into a single-leg crab. Matthews tried kicking Narita off, but Narita held on and put him in a figure-four leglock until Matthews grabbed the bottom rope for a break. The match had just gone past the ten-minute mark by this point.
Matthews laid Narita out with a running front kick. When Matthews climbed to the top rope, Narita had already gotten up and threw elbows at Matthews, who was perched on the turnbuckle. Narita went for a superplex but Matthews escaped and landed three Cheeky Nandos kicks to a prone Narita before Matthews power bombed Narita twice for two separate nearfalls. Matthews hit a curb stomp to Narita for a very close two that the crowd gasped at, then started cheering for. They started chanting “holy shit!” and “this is awesome!”
After Matthews began laying in repeated elbow strikes, referee Jeremy Marcus stepped in to make sure Narita was all right and was able to continue the match. Before Marcus was finished checking on Narita, Matthews shoved the ref out of the way and went after Narita, who clawed at Matthews feet. The fifteen-minute call sounded. Matthews repaid Narita with a patronizing pat on the shoulder followed by a knee to the face. He then hit Murphy’s Law for the emphatic win. Great match.
Go out of your way to see the main event, if possible. Narita is advanced beyond his years. Matthews looks massive and moves like he’s Narita’s size. This was physical but also told a clear story. In the end, Narita bit off a little more than he could chew, but Matthews might have gotten a little more than he bargained for.