New Japan Strong debuted tonight on the NJPW World streaming service. The first episode centered on the New Japan Cup USA 2020, a single-elimination tournament where the winner will earn a shot at Jon Moxley’s IWGP United States championship.
Each of tonight’s participants cut short promos talking up the Cup. Tama Tonga mentioned we would see a side of him that we’ve never seen before. KENTA mentioned he’s “also known as Little K,” which I wasn’t aware of.
KENTA defeated Karl Fredericks
Really good. KENTA got into Karl Fredericks’ face before the bell, so Fredericks laid him out with an elbow shot. KENTA fired back minutes into the match with rough kicks. KENTA was in full-on heel mode and was really strong here. He’s much smaller than Fredericks, but because of his in-ring style and bully personality, it’s easy to buy into.
KENTA landed a powerslam on Fredericks at about five minutes into the match. He dominated pretty much all of this match, and he did a good job at getting Fredericks over as a serious contender in the wider NJPW context.
Fredericks used a high-angle half-crab and KENTA sold it like he was in pure agony until he grabbed the ropes.
KENTA took Fredericks out with a huge lariat, and after another minute or so of a struggle, he finally put Fredericks away with Go to Sleep.
Jeff Cobb defeated Tonga Loa
Things picked up a few minutes in, when Cobb started taking Tonga Loa out with a couple flying shoulder tackles. When Cobb missed a jumping elbow into the corner, he countered with a back body drop. Loa still wrestled like a crowd was there and pandered a lot, which came off awkward. Cobb landed a pump-handle suplex with a bridge for two, and later put Loa with Tour of the Islands to advance to the semi-finals.
David Finlay defeated Chase Owens
Nice match. Both looked good considering how long they’ve been away. On commentary, Kevin Kelly mentioned Owens has been training in 110-degree weather most days and has definitely transformed his body since earlier this year.
Owens floated from hold to hold working over Finlay over much of the match. Finlay came back with a big back elbow out of the corner. Owens responded later with a cool slingshot Billy Robinson backbreaker. When Owens went for his package piledriver finish, Finlay countered out of it and eventually put Owens away with an acid drop to win.
Tama Tonga defeated Brody King
Fast action right at the top. King launched Tama Tonga high into the air with a flapjack, which was wild-looking, as Tonga is not a small wrestler.
King blasted Tonga a double-chop off the ropes. These two laid their strikes into each other all throughout this. Tonga rallied back and threw some mean facewash kicks at King; King responded with a huge overhead suplex into the turnbuckle.
In the end, Tonga was able to return the barrage of attacks from King and put him away with the Gun Stun. Really good match that deserves a longer rematch.
Solid debut. It was essentially the same format as Lion’s Break Collision, it’s just that now the stakes are higher. Matches didn’t go much longer than ten minutes, and they were all mostly easy to watch.
King vs. Tonga was best followed by KENTA vs. Fredericks. The weak points tonight were Alex Koslov's commentary, who sounded like he'd never done it before, and the Jeff Cobb vs. Tonga Loa match, which felt rudimentary compared with the rest of the card and what viewers are used to from New Japan.
Next week: Jeff Cobb vs. KENTA, Tama Tonga vs. David Finlay