This week's NJPW Strong: Nemesis was the fourth and final installment from their tapings from Hollywood, California.
Alex Zayne defeated Ariya Daivari
This was a tighter and better version of the first match they had last year at New Japan Showdown in Philadelphia. When Daivari lost in Philly, he explained after the match that he wanted to stop cheating in his matches (he was a regular heel on 205 Live before he started working in Strong) and changed his overall approach to his game. He wants to be a good guy.
Kevin Kelly made sure to prep us on the storyline before the match got underway. he said that Daivari’s mom was in attendance to watch.
Once the match started, a fan shouted at Zayne: “You look like a can of Monster Energy" which got a pretty loud reaction, actually.
Daivari tried keeping Zayne on the mat. Toward the finish, a number of fans were chanting for Daivari.
Daivari earned a two count after putting Zayne down with a hammerlock DDT. Later, he laid Zayne out with a hard hammerlock lariat. He then connected with the Magic Carpet Ride where he breaks out an actual rug and hits a to rope splash. The crowd loved it, but it only earned another two.
Since Daivari couldn’t seal the deal, he went to the floor, grabbed the ring bell, and brought it into the ring. The reformed heel was tempted to knock Zayne out with the bell until his conscience got the better of him. Maybe his mom being in attendance influenced him, too.
Zayne used that indecisiveness and came back quickly, putting Daivari away with the Taco Driver moments later. This was Zayne’s second win over Daivari in New Japan.
Alex Coughlin Challenge Series: Alex Coughlin defeated JR Kratos
Kratos intensely eyeballed his hecklers as he walked to the ring.
Coughlin and Kratos immediately went hold for hold on the mat as the crowd got really quiet and paid close attention to the hosses inside the ring. Neither wrestler seemed to gain the upper hand as this came off like a realistic grappling bout between two evenly matched competitors.
Coughlin and Kratos faced off a number of times last year in both the NJPW ring as well as Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport. In addition to being Coughlin’s “graduation match,” this could also be looked at as the blow off to a long rivalry that Kratos had gotten the better of.
Coughlin tried suplexing Kratos early, but no dice. Kratos got lots of “good” heat from the crowd. NJPW fans obviously don’t hate him, but they respect him so much that many went out of their way to play along and boo the hell out of him. The atmosphere made this match all the more exciting.
The match spilled out onto the floor. Kratos blasted Coughlin with a hard chop against the guardrail and got back into the ring after laying Coughlin out on the floor as the referee began the count. The crowd got behind Coughlin and cheered him on to get back into the ring which he finally did at the count of 19.
Kratos used a big snap powerslam on Coughlin back in the ring. The crowd was super behind Coughlin at this point.
Coughlin later caught Kratos mid-air and teased suplexing him. The crowd bit. He teased using his signature deadlift gutwrench suplex to Kratos -- the same one he did in San Jose in the ten-man tag team match both were in. He couldn’t swing it on the first try, but the second time was the charm and Coughlin suplexed the larger Kratos, driving him into the mat. The crowd chanted “holy sh*t!”
Coughlin took Kratos down with a running shoulderblock. He tried a second time, but Kratos caught Coughlin mid-air and slapped on a Fujiwara armbar. Coughlin slipped out, got behind Kratos and slammed him once more against the mat with a bridging deadlift German suplex to get the sudden three count. The audience erupted as Coughlin looked a bit stunned before dashing to the back almost immediately.
Since Coughlin won his Challenge Series match, NJPW will now graduate him from Young Lion rookie status to the NJPW main roster. He’ll have new ring gear soon, too, as per the tradition and will join his LA Dojo classmates Karl Fredericks and Carl Connors as regular roster members.
Jay White defeated Christopher Daniels
This was Daniels’ first time back in a NJPW ring in three years. He is going by his old “Fallen Angel” moniker and had his own custom titantron entrance video when he came out -- a video just like the main roster wrestlers have.
These two are by the books technical, both very smooth and crisp with great match pace. Daniels really knows how to connect with the audience on the spot. He and White were so effective in engaging the live fans that most actually reacted when they shoulderblocked each other.
White trash talked Daniels outside of the ring early, claiming he was teaching Daniels a lesson. White was pretty over with the live crowd, but the character he’s playing complicates the situation a bit; White never deviates from his role and function and never panders as a “cool heel” type and even still, many fans like him anyway.
“Lesson five!” White shouted before planting Daniels with a Saito suplex. He argued with referee Jeremy Marcus a few times over the course of the match. White later would get in between Marcus and Daniels while Daniels sold on the ground as White wanted to send a message.
Later, Daniels would return the attack and go on the offensive. He responded with a death valley bomb followed by a Koji clutch submission.
White used a stun gun over the ropes onto the apron and actually lost a clump of his hair in the ropes. Daniels fired up of that and was able to come back and hit an Iconoclast, CIMA’s signature flipping slam off the top.
Daniels went for Angel’s Wings, but White slipped away and onto the floor. Daniels chased after him and did a tope suicida through the ropes. He tried to peel back the ringside mats in an attempt at payback, but White back body dropped Daniels onto the exposed floor.
In the ring, White earned a near fall after hitting a Blade Buster. Daniels later used Angel’s Wings for his own close two count. Toward the end of the match, the live crowd was split 50/50 between both men.
White went for a Blade Runner, but couldn’t swing it. Daniels stuck a perfect double jump moonsault, but White got his knees up last second to block it. From there, White hit the Blade Runner to finally put Daniels away for the win.
Afterward, White complained about both AEW and Daniels and that he wants an opponent who is “truly elite.” He said it was still “his era” before leaving the ring and heading to the back.
Go out of your way to watch Coughlin vs. Kratos and White vs. Daniels. The former is more of a hard hitting strong style type of match with a terrific finish, while the main event was a masterclass on what many would call perfect modern pro wrestling.
The timing and crispness from both Daniels and "Switchblade" and their ability to play off the crowd and build drama was on display in this relatively short match. It wasn’t the best match ever, but it doesn’t get much more solid than what they did in the ring at Nemesis.