Josh Alexander defeated Alex Coughlin
IMPACT’s Josh Alexander made his NJPW Strong debut tonight in a great opener with Young Lion Alex Coughlin.
Alexander went for a single-leg takedown early. The two grappled in the middle of the ring for the first few minutes. Coughlin had Alexander in a tight headlock but Alexander was able to maneuver his way out of it and whip Coughlin into the ropes. He chopped Coughlin as he was coming off the ropes, but the Young Lion wasn’t phased at all. He continued to run the ropes, then shoulder blocked Alexander out of the ring. Alexander returned fire later, nailing Coughlin with a low running cross-body block that knocked him off the apron and back to the floor.
The five-minute call was made as the two were exchanging brutal chops in the red corner. Coughlin sold his own arm after unloading about a dozen chops on Alexander, but while he had his back turned, Alexander kept Couglin’s leg and took him on the mat with an ankle lock. Coughlin escaped, then used a very high-angle German suplex that put Alexander down head-and-shoulder first.
When both were back to their feet, they exchanged elbows. Coughlin put Alexander down with a flying shoulder tackle off the ropes. He then used a series of impressive gutwrench suplexes, but on the last one, Alexander was able to break his fall and slide back into the ankle lock submission he had on Coughlin moments earlier. Coughlin escaped using a variation of a De La Riva sweep that he turned into a single-leg crab.
Alexander came close to winning with a German suplex of his own, earning a close nearfall with that one. Coughlin answered with a hard double-chop and a bridging fall-away slam for a nearfall of his own.
IMPACT’s “Walking Weapon” was able to sink in the ankle lock again. Ten minutes had elapsed by this point. Coughlin tried to wheelbarrow suplex himself out of danger, but Alexander blocked and put him back into the ankle hold, but it wasn’t quite enough to tap Coughlin. Alexander went for his double-underhook piledriver (aka Jaydriller) finish, but Coughlin powered out and reversed it into a bridging suplex hold for two. Alexander then hoisted Coughlin into the double-underhook piledriver and spiked him for the pin. Very good stuff.
Bateman and Barrett Brown defeated Fred Rosser and Adrian Quest
This was a solid tag team match. Brown recently joined up with Bateman. He had Bateman in his corner in his match against Adrian Quest recently, where he won with a bit of help from Bateman. After the match, Fred Rosser offered Adrian Quest a hand if he ever needed help dealing with either Brown or Bateman, and tonight was the pay-off to that mini-storyline they’d built.
Quest used a springboard dropkick on Bateman before tagging out to “Mr. No-Days-Off” Fred Rosser, who laid in a few headbutts upon entrance. Rosser announced that he had officially signed with NJPW this week.
Rosser punched Bateman while he was on the apron. When Rosser went to suplex Brown on the apron, Bateman grabbed Rosser’s ankle which allowed Brown to escape. He’d tag out to Bateman who continued working over Rosser. I imagine these two will have an interesting singles match down the road, as these are two regulars on Strong who bring a distinctly American style of wrestling to the show.
When Quest finally got his hands on Brown, he got right on top of him and tried beating him down like he was in a schoolyard fight. When Quest went to springboard off the ropes next, Brown caught him with a right hook. When he went to suplex Quest on the apron, Rosser appeared and dropped Brown on the apron with a backdrop suplex of his own. Rosser has become this kind of babyface who can bend or break rules and it never comes off as heelish; it feels like genuine retaliation against something and he’s looking for revenge.
Quest scored a nearfall after a standing shooting star press on Brown but Bateman made the save. A minute or so later, when Quest went to the top rope to put Brown away, Bateman yanked on the ropes, which caused Quest to lose his balance. Bateman then scooped Quest up into a tombstone and spiked him for the win in just under ten minutes.
Afterward, Brown celebrated the win outside the ring where it looked like he was doing snow angels. A fiery Rosser and Bateman got into it in the ring. They traded fists before Rosser tried lifting Bateman into a fireman’s carry for his signature gutbuster, but Bateman slipped away before heading to the back.
Backstage, Brown said that the entire NJPW Strong roster was on notice since he and Bateman are now a team. Bateman didn’t like that Rosser had recently called him a bully, but he did enjoy how angry Rosser looked tonight after the match. He said that pain is a teacher and a motivator and that he and Rosser have a lot to teach each other down the road.
Satoshi Kojima defeated JR Kratos
Satoshi Kojima has been surprisingly busy this year, especially as someone celebrating his 30th year in the business. He recently lost to Joe Doering at IMPACT’s Against All Odds pay-per-view, but picked up a win over Rhino on the company’s recent television.
Tonight was Kojima’s second appearance on Strong where took on JR Kratos. According to Kevin Kelly, Kojima has not won a singles match without using a lariat since 2008. That meant that if he were to hit Kratos with a lariat, there’d be a very good chance Kratos would be down for the count.
Kojima tried his best to take Kratos off his feet early. He went after Kratos with shoulder blocks, hard kicks, and some elbows to the head, but Kratos absorbed everything, then knocked Kojima to the floor with a jumping shoulder tackle, similar to what we saw Alex Coughlin do earlier in the night, just from someone twice his size.
Back in the ring, Kratos dropped a big elbow onto Kojima, and later threw him with a gutwrench suplex. Kojima sold as though he’d been hit by a car. Kratos used a vertical suplex that quite literally launched Kojima from one corner of the ring to the other.
Kojima fired off his patented machine-gun chops in the corner, but these didn’t do anything to him. Kratos flipped Kojima into the corner next, then came down hard on Kojima with a huge-double chop, then a series of knife-edged chops and five minutes, not too unlike Genichiro Tenryu. Kojima answered with his own variation of chops and punches. It was only five minutes into the match at this point, too.
Kratos teased suplexing Kojima off the apron to the floor, but Kojima was able to reverse and drop Kratos with a DDT onto the apron. Back in the ring, he came off the top rope with an elbow drop into Kratos’ mid-section. Kratos put Kojima back down with an impressive sit-out chokeslam-powerbomb, then a hanging vertical suplex, but in both instances, he received only two counts. Kojima used a DDT in response, but Kratos got up from it, smiling at Kojima. Kojima DDT’d him again, and again, Kratos was up and smiling back at COZY. After a third DDT, Kojima seemed like he didn’t know what else to do. Kratos then laid him out with a lariat. Both were out for a few moments.
Kojima landed a Koji Cutter at around the ten-minute mark. He struggled but was eventually able to put Kratos down with a big brainbuster, but for two. When Kojima went for his running lariat, Kratos caught Kojima with a jumping knee. Kojima missed on his second lariat attempt, but he caught Kratos flush with the third one, which laid Kratos out completely. Kojima wins, but only by a hair.
Tonight’s episode was great. I can’t think of another episode that felt as evolved or as established as tonight’s show, and I say that because everyone who appeared on the show stuck out in one way or another.
Tonight’s opener between Alex Coughlin and IMPACT’s Josh Alexander was excellent, so hopefully either NJPW or IMPACT runs this back soon.
The tag match did a good job at building on the new Bateman/Barrett Brown connection, and it also made for a nice springboard for Fred Rosser’s apparent upcoming match against Bateman. These two in particular have helped give NJPW Strong a much deeper flavor, as both are bringing non-traditional styles into the mix.
The main event delivered as expected, though I didn’t expect Kratos to come off as much of a monster as he did. This match with Kojima tonight really had him feeling like a monster and a legitimate threat to those on the NJPW roster.
Next week sees Karl Fredericks take on “Filthy” Tom Lawlor for the NJPW STRONG Openweight title.