Saturday's episode was the second installment in the New Japan Showdown series from Philadelphia at the 2300 Arena.
Alex Zayne defeated Ariya Daivari
For the first time since last year, Zayne returned to NJPW after a cup of coffee in the WWE system. This was Daivari's NJPW debut after a couple years on WWE 205 Live.
Zayne’s offense was creative with the announcers putting over how innovative he was during the match. He did a springboard double knee drop and standing corkscrew moonsault early. Daivari answered with a low dropkick to Zayne’s head and later, a guiltillione legdrop to Zayne while he was draped across the middle rope. The crowd was pretty into Zayne. He did a turnaround springboard moonsault from the inside of the ring to the floor onto Daivari, followed by a somersault headscissors to Daivari while he was seated on the top rope.
Later, Daivari, who had brought a Persian rug with him to the ring, went for the Magic Carpet Ride (basically a top rope splash while holding the carpet), but he missed. Zayne put Daivari away with the Taco Driver for the win. Afterward, Daivari reluctantly shook hands with Zayne which the crowd liked.
Daivari cut an interesting promo backstage afterward. He said that his NJPW debut didn’t go as well as it wanted it to, but Zayne earned his respect. He went on to explain that the NJPW roster backstage gave him a weird impression because he came from “over there” (meaning WWE), implying that he wasn’t trustworthy and might be a guy who’d use underhanded tactics in the NJPW ring.
He explained that the reason he would win matches using illegal chair shots in the past was because he was a product of his surroundings and that his past playing field was more like the wild west, so he did what he had to do to survive. He wants to change and admitted that even though it may not happen overnight, him being in NJPW might elicit that change in him. Basically, he wants to be a more ethical or upstanding wrestler more so than during his time in WWE.
Rocky Romero and Fred Rosser defeated Team Filthy (New Japan Strong Openweight Champion Tom Lawlor and Danny Limelight)
Limelight and former mentor Romero kicked things off, but “Filthy” Tom found his way into the match not so long after. He and Limelight double teamed Romero for a while in their corner. Rosser stormed into the ring to try and cut off Team Filthy’s relentless double team effort even though he wasn’t the legal man. Lawlor and Limelight made him pay and began double teaming him, too, before getting him out of the ring, rolling him to the floor.
Lawlor worked over Romero’s legs and slapped on an achilles lock variation before Rosser again stormed the ring to break up the submission. He pancaked Lawlor with an earthquake splash and went back to his corner to wait for Romero to tag him in. Rosser’s fire is infectious. Romero finally tagged him in and Rosser cleaned house. At around the ten minute mark, Rosser went for a crucifix bomb but Limelight countered into a sunset flip for a close two count.
Toward the end, Rosser tried hitting the gutbuster on both Limelight and Lawlor but he couldn’t quite swing it. Romero came into the ring to make the save, taking Limelight out with Sliced Bread and then a dive to the floor. Rosser finally hit the gutbuster on Lawlor and then caught him with a single leg dropkick for a close count of two.
On their feet, Lawlor was able to counter Rosser’s momentum by dropping him neck first across the top rope with a stun gun. He then locked Rosser in a sleeper, but Rosser used his momentum and weight to fall backward and pin Lawlor, who still hadn’t let go of the sleeper. Lawlor’s shoulders were down and the ref counted three, giving Rosser the win for his team and a pin on the Strong Openweight champion to boot.
Lawlor complained to the ref about the finish and then he and Limelight attacked Rosser despite the match being over. The decision was final.
The rest of Team Filthy (West Coast Wrecking Crew and JR Kratos) came out and continued putting the boots to both Rosser and Romero. Limelight grabbed a pair of scissors from a toolbox that was under the ring and he and Lawlor proceeded to cut Rosser’s hair as a way of humiliating him after the win. Lawlor lived up to his nickname and chewed some of Rosser’s hair as he taunted the crowd. Filthy, indeed. Despite winning, Rosser looked defeated when he was finally able to walk to the back.
NEVER Openweight Champion Jay White defeated Fred Yehi in a non-title match
The recently retired Tiger Hattori joined Matt Rehwoldt and Alex Koslov on English commentary for this match. Hattori is a NJPW legend who spent decades refereeing big matches for New Japan and other Japanese wrestling companies.
White got a babyface reception despite being marketed as one of NJPW’s top heels. He too sweeted a number of fans on his way to the ring. Even Hattori got one.
Earlier this year on NJPW Strong, White scored a win over Yehi’s tag team partner, Wheeler Yuta, so the story was that Yehi tried avenging Yuta’s loss here. He locked on his Koji clutch finisher submission early. White rolled to the floor to collect himself and slid back into the ring and started stomping away at Yehi, catching him off guard. They traded hard chops. When Yehi looked like he might be getting the upper hand, White resorted to cheap shot kicks and eye gouging to keep the proverbial ball in his court.
Yehi started working over White’s arm, but White put the kibosh on that quickly and threw him to the floor. Yehi made another comeback later, this time with the crowd squarely behind him, launching White with an overhead suplex and then chopping him up in the corner. He locked White in an abdominal stretch, but White eye gouged his way out of the hold, dropping Yehi with a DDT.
White scored a two count after a Blade Buster, but Yehi answered back with a German suplex and brain buster before again locking in the Koji clutch, but White made it to the ropes for a break. Soon after, White spiked Yehi with a sleeper suplex and the Blade Runner to put Yehi away. This was really good.
Afterward, White got on the microphone and talked about the success of his recent “U.S. of Jay” tour where he appeared on Impact and wrestled people from AEW and ROH. He mentioned Yuta, Daniel Garcia and now Yehi. He said when people get in the ring with him, their star level goes up. White then laid out an open challenge to anyone from any company to face him, but before he could do that, the NEVER Openweight Champion explained he would have to first take care of Tomohiro Ishii in San Jose at Battle in the Valley.
Minoru Suzuki defeated Chris Dickinson
The crowd was amped up for this. These two had an excellent bout at Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport in Los Angeles last month, available to stream on NJPW World now. The main difference between tonight’s match and their Bloodsport bout was the intensity or build from the beginning to the end. The Bloodsport match was more brutal from the get-go while this one was violent but also more fan-friendly with the ref spots and brawling around the ring.
Dickinson worked on Suzuki’s legs early on. Suzuki countered with ease and began working over Dickinson’s legs next. When they were on their feet, they traded hard chops. The younger Dickinson got the better of the exchange, chopping him into the corner, but Suzuki trapped him in the corner by locking him in a hanging cross armbreaker over the ropes.
The fight spilled to the floor next. Suzuki found a chair under the ring, but referee Jeremy Marcus took it away. The began crowd started chanting “F*ck you, ref!” Suzuki attempted taking his anger out on Rehwoldt and kicked the commentary booth. Rehwoldt said it was the scariest moment of his life.
In the ring, Suzuki teased chopping Marcus in the corner for taking the chair away, but then he smiled and backed off. The crowd was all in on Marcus getting decimated by Suzuki. Dickinson tried working Suzuki’s legs over again, but Suzuki was able to counter into another armbar. Suzuki used a number of penalty kicks on Dickinson, who was seated. Dickinson ate all of them and even laughed at some. He caught Suzuki’s last PK and stood up.
They were trading even more chops when the 15-minute call sounded. Dickinson stuck Suzuki with a brain buster for two. Suzuki was able to power up and lock Dickinson in a sleeperhold. Dickinson powered out and connected with an enzuigiri kick. Suzuki answered back with elbows and, finally, his patented Gotch-style piledriver for the win in an excellent match.
“Jon Moxley. Eddie Kingston. F*CK YOU!,” Suzuki called out after the match. He said Lance Archer would be in the building tomorrow for their Philly street fight rematch and then said “Suzuki-gun, ICHIBAN!” before leaving the ring. He went after Hattori at ringside before exiting.
This felt like a big episode of NJPW Strong. Maybe the biggest. It also may have been the longest episode in the show’s short history, too, clocking in at 1:40 minutes in total. All of tonight’s matches tied into what would happen at Battle in the Valley in San Jose which aired on FITE and NJPW World.
White and Yehi’s match is worth checking out as it was probably Yehi’s best match on the show so far. Suzuki and Dickinson also had a fun match that was a good complement to their Bloodsport fight last month. They are great rivals. Hopefully, these two will have another chance to square off once more and, hopefully, it will be in Japan when it does.