NJPW Strong: Rivals kicked off tonight in Hollywood. Ian Riccaboni is still subbing for regular NJPW Strong announcer Kevin Kelly, who is calling the New Japan Cup overseas this month.
TJP defeated Brogan Finlay via submission
TJP has a new look and vibe now since he joined United Empire. He goes by “The Public Enemy” and has longer hair and updated ring gear.
Newcomer Brogan Finlay, son of Fit and brother of David, got bullied by TJP. TJP gave Finlay a rough Otani-style face wash in the corner. Later in the match, Finlay channeled his father, Fit, and used a fireman’s carry roll on TJP, which earned him a two-count.
Towards the finish, Finlay decked TJP with a lariat, but both were down for the count. The crowd then started a 60–40 chant in favor of TJP. In the end, TJP connected with a Mamba Splash to Finlay’s back before locking in a modified STF. A number of fans were chanting “Tap! Tap!” at Finlay before he tapped out.
Afterwards, TJP got on the mic and called the crowd a bunch of “Silver Lake 5s” before stating that he is the best junior heavyweight alive. He explained how he’d already won the IMPACT X-Division and WWE Cruiserweight championships in the past, and that when he’d win the IWGP junior heavyweight title he’d be the first-ever “Triple Crown” junior heavyweight.
Before he was finished talking, a video flashed across the monitors with the phrase “KING OF THE ROPES” on it, and Mascara Dorada appeared at the ring entrance. He’s formerly known as Gran Metallik from WWE 205 Live and appeared in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic along with TJP. He got in TJP’s face. They got into it for a second, but TJP slipped out to the floor. Mascara Dorada teased diving onto TJP but instead bounced off the ropes and did a backflip onto his feet. It looks like these two will square off sometime this year on NJPW Strong.
Christopher Daniels defeated Karl Fredericks
This kicked ass. Seriously.
Fredericks was filling in for Gabriel Kidd, who was originally scheduled to wrestle Christopher Daniels.
Daniels offered his hand to Fredericks, who declined.
The crowd was pumped for this one. The two had a great exchange on the mat early on, building slowly to bigger and bigger spots. When Fredericks was gaining ground on offense, Daniels cut him off with a flapjack. He then suplexed the larger Fredericks in the air and brought him down gut-first onto his knee.
Daniels lit Fredericks up with chops. The crowd enjoyed his fire. They loved Daniels as well, and many fans kept shouting “SCU!” at him throughout the match. It wasn’t like this when Daniels faced Jay White at the same venue three months ago, there appeared to be different kinds of fans at this taping.
Fredericks landed a Shibata-style low dropkick, but Daniels responded later with a perfect Blue Thunder bomb. I don’t think I’m doing it justice in this write-up, but the smoothness and chemistry these two had with each other was excellent.
Daniels went for Angel’s Wings but Fredericks reversed it. When Fredericks missed a Stinger Splash in the corner, Daniels laid him out with a standing uranage before sticking a picture-perfect double-jump moonsault on the “Alpha Wolf” for the impressive win in just under ten minutes. For a TV match on a one-hour show, it doesn’t get much better than this. Quality stuff, people.
Daniels grabbed the mic and called Fredericks “a tough son of a bitch.” He said Fredericks had made both the LA Dojo and Mr. Shibata proud, and that if he ever wanted to run the match back he gladly would since Daniels thinks he’s “the future of this business.”
The two shook hands and Daniels thanked the crowd before both headed to the back.
JONAH & Bad Dude Tito defeated FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson)
Both teams brawled at the start. We saw a very “no-nonsense” version of FinJuice, or more so than usual, I guess. Juice connected with a big spinebuster that flattened Bad Dude Tito, then crashed into Tito with a running cannonball in the corner.
When Robinson went for a plancha onto the floor, JONAH caught him mid-air, then slammed him back-first against the ring post.
The finish saw FinJuice go for a Doomsday Device on Tito, but JONAH crotched Finlay on the top turnbuckle, then distracted referee Jeremy Marcus to keep him on the opposite side of the ring. With the ref’s back turned, Shane Haste, who is most recently known as Slapjack from WWE, dashed to the ring from out of nowhere to give Robinson a deadlift Tiger-into-backdrop suplex and disappear. Bad Dude Tito then dove off the top ropes with a frog splash that put Robinson away; Tito & JONAH are your winners.
Shane Haste came back to the ring to celebrate with the two. Haste tossed Robinson out of the ring. David Finlay ran back into the ring and started brawling with all three before they cornered him and took him out as well. Little brother Brogan Finlay, who we caught in the first match earlier on the show, arrived to help out but instead got mauled by JONAH, who crushed him with two big splashes off the top rope, as Tito and Haste held David Finlay on the ground, forcing him to watch JONAH destroy his younger brother. They didn’t formally announce it on the show but this faction seems as though it’ll be the latest iteration of TMDK, the group that Mikey Nicholls was also a member of. He’s the long-time tag team partner of Shane Haste and has been working sporadically for NJPW in recent years.
This was a great hour of pro wrestling. I thought Christopher Daniels vs. Karl Fredericks was the stand-out match, but the main event tag team brawl was really good as well and I think myself and many others would like to see more of this FinJuice vs. TMDK feud play out. But Daniels and Fredericks was outstanding, especially for a match that didn’t even go ten minutes.
Next week’s episode features another “U S of Jay'' challenge match, plus Kevin Blackwood in his NJPW Strong debut vs. Ariya Daivari, and Bullet Club’s Hikuleo vs. Young Lion Kevin Knight in the opener.