Tonight saw the third installment of the Strong Style Evolved 2022 tapings in Tampa from last month.
Big Damo defeated John Skyler
Among ROH and other independent promotions, Skyler is most known for his time in Impact as part of their X-Division. Big Damo, “The Beast From Belfast,” was called Killian Dane in WWE NXT up until fairly recently where he was a part of the Sanity group. He had really long, brown hair in NXT but has since chopped it off upon returning to the non-WWE world.
After the bell sounded, Skyler got into Big Damo’s face and shouted that he didn’t care how big Damo was or where he was from, nor did he care for the NJPW audience. He got booed for that one. He poked Damo in the chest. When Damo turned his head, Skyler grabbed him by the beard, re-centering his head. This was a bad move on Skylar’s part as Damo went to town on Skyler, launching him across the ring by his neck. Skyler was able to escape to the ring apron and spear Damo off of it to the floor.
In the ring, Skyler later threw a few hard chops though Damo seemed not to have felt them as he just stared right at Skyler after each one. Skyler chopped the big man down with hard forearms to the back. He took him down with a neckbreaker and connected with a short missile dropkick off the second rope. He decided not to pin Damo and instead let the crowd know how sweet he was. That didn’t work out to well as Damo recovered somewhat quickly, back body dropping Skyler before laying him out with a lariat.
After two running avalanches in the corner, Damo put Skyler down with a pop-up spinebuster followed by an elbow drop for two. While Skyler was standing on the apron, Damo charged at him, but Skyler ducked and launched himself threw the ropes, spearing Damo Johnny Gargano-style.
Skyler went to the top rope, but Damo used a second rope fisherman’s buster to take lay him out again. Skyler answered with a few short lariats and Damo took him down with a cross body block.
The finish saw Damo put Skyler down for the count after a fireman’s carry slam followed by a senton and a Vader Bomb, making Damo victorious in his NJPW debut. This wasn’t bad.
SW3RVE (Swerve Strickland) defeated Blake Christian
The Tampa crowd was digging SW3RVE and chanting for him at the beginning of the match. They grappled early on and SW3RVE mostly got the better of the exchange, but Christian hung around and wouldn’t let the more experienced SW3RVE get the better of him. They went back and forth from chain wrestling to rope running teases, nip-ups and a number of standing waistlock switch counters.
At one point, Christian moonsaulted off the apron and landed on his feet, but SW3RVE was right behind him and did a handspring flip of his own to the floor. It was the same type of superhero spot that Kota Ibushi and Will Ospreay did where Ibushi went for a super Frankensteiner but Ospreay landed on his feet which then led to a dramatic (mildly campy) staredown. SW3RVE and Christian did their own version of that. They liked it, but ultimately began chanting for SW3RVE again.
Christian landed a basement dropkick and locked him in a inverted guard lock (scissor hold). Later, SW3RVE bridged out of Christian’s pin attempt, pushed him out of the ring and caught Christian in the face with a pump kick while still on the apron. The referee started the count but SW3RVE had Christian in the ring by six. The audience kept chanting for SW3RVE.
Christian returned fire and earned a two count after a standing frog splash and standing moonsault. They exchanged quasi-martial arts kicks before Christian caught SW3RVE with a spanish fly off the ropes for a very close two. The crowd had come to life by this point and started doing the “This is awesome!” chant.
Christian did a Fosbury Flop to the floor, but instead of taking SW3RVE out with it, he held on to SW3RVE’s head and dropped him with an inverted DDT. In pro wrestling logic, this was superfluous and almost confusing. Why would someone go to all that trouble just to stick an inverted DDT or other move like that? Again, in pro wrestling logic, is moonsaulting yourself into another move necessary or is it pure showmanship that shouldn't be scrutinized? I don’t have a good answer.
Back in the ring, Christian connected with a 450 splash and earned another count of two. I should mention that SW3RVE was lying in the center of the ring on the Lion Mark logo, which is far for a 450 splash, but Christian made it look easy. The crowd did the “Both these guys!” chant next as they now accepted Christian after chanting “Who’s house? SW3RVE’s house!” for a lot of the match.
SW3RVE planted Christian with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker followed by a tilt-a-whirl powerslam before spiking him with a brainbuster. He won the match after taking Christian out with his signature sidekick to the head while Christian was in a seated position. SW3RVE feels like a bigger deal each time he’s on NJPW Strong.
Buddy Matthews defeated Yuya Uemura
Matthews was wearing his House of Black gear, the stable he’s a part of in AEW alongside NJPW Strong regular Brody King and Malaki Black.
Matthews is built like a Greek statue, resembling a linebacker in American football each time he’s on. Whereas Ren Narita improved on his game while on excursion in the States, Uemura has not just improved his wrestling skill but has changed the look of his body almost completely. He’s not the same height as Matthews, but the size wasn’t much different. Just by the first look of things, Uemura looked like he could “realistically” hang in there with Matthews.
Uemura and Matthews got into an intense lockup right off the bat. They exchanged holds on the mat, but the more experienced Matthews got the better of it, keeping Uemura neutralized in the middle of the ring. Uemura would counter once and lock Matthews in a headscissors. Matthews continually wrenched on Uemura’s fingers, which, technically speaking, is an illegal joint lock. Matthews resorted to the same behavior again when the two stood on the ring apron and Matthews yanked Uemura by the fingers and arm, smashing him shoulder first into the apron.
In the ring, Matthews locked a double wrist lock from a high S-guard before Uemura muscled out of it. Uemura was squeezing his arm in pain as he darted to the opposite corner but ate Matthews' boot instead of landing any offense. When Matthews went for his own running attack after bouncing off the ropes, Uemura caught him with a picture perfect dropkick. We’re talking Okada-level and that’s not an exaggeration. For someone of his size, it was really impressive.
They traded forearms when they both got back to their feet. Uemura caught Matthews with a beautiful flying forearm and a running back elbow. He slammed Matthews and dropped a few elbows onto him for two.
When Matthews came back from Uemura’s late rally, he began dropping 12–6 elbows onto Uemura à la Bryan Danielson or Jon Moxley. When referee Jeremy Marcus checked on Uemura’s status, Matthews shoved Marcus away. The crowd booed. When Matthews went for a kamigoe, Uemura caught Matthews’ knee and stood up, later putting him down with a bridging German suplex for two.
Uemura went to the top rope for a flying attack. Matthews jumped on top too, but Uemura knocked him back off the ropes. Uemura came off the top with a beautiful diving crossbody block, but Matthews sidestepped out of the way causing Uemura to belly flop onto the cerulean blue.
Matthews used a curb stomp and went for a pin but pulled Uemura up at the count of two which got boos from the crowd. He finally laid Uemura with Murphy’s Law (Matthews’ Law?) for the finish. He gave the KO'd Uemura a patronizing handshake before exiting.
This was a good but somewhat forgettable episode of NJPW Strong. The main event was very good and is worth a watch.
Next week will feature more bouts from Strong Style Evolved 2022, with Jay Lethal vs. Ren Narita, Mascara Dorada vs. TJP, and Kevin Knight vs. the DKC.