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NJPW Strong results: Openweight Tag Team tournament begins

NJPW Strong: Ignition from Hollywood, California kicked off tonight, which featured two first round matches in the STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship tournament.

Christopher Daniels and announcer Ian Riccaboni appeared at the top of the program to explain Karl Fredericks' absence from the scheduled Openweight Tag Team Tournament. NJPW aired an angle this year which had Fredericks asking Daniels to be his tag partner in the upcoming tournament.

Daniels explained that with such a high level of talent in the tag tournament, he'd be smart to simply step aside and allow a more established unit to take his and Fredericks' spot. He also explained that with his 29-year background in wrestling, he also knew that opportunities like this don't often come by, and that if he's to win the tournament, he'd need a partner who matched his drive and ambition to win.

Daniels then brought out Yuya Uemura. He told Uemura that he had the same fire and heart as he did, and that together they could surprise many teams and become the inaugural tag team champions. Uemura said "Let's go!" and the two shook hands. Daniels is masterful at this sort of thing and did a good job of smoothing over loose ends. Simple, short, and effective.

STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship, Round 1: Christopher Daniels & Yuya Uemura defeated The Factory (Nick Comoroto & Aaron Solo) w/ QT Marshall to advance to the semi-finals

Good opener. The crowd loved Daniels & Uemura and loved to hate The Factory. The heel team were in control early. Daniels took a beating for a bit, but when the five-minute call sounded, he was able to power up and tag out to a fresh Uemura, who re-entered the ring afire with forearms. He has a great-looking flying forearm a la Tito Santana. Uemura landed a running bulldog on Solo, which the crowd loved. He earned a close near-fall after a back suplex, but Comoroto rushed in to break up the pin. He beat on Uemura despite being the illegal man.

Uemura tagged out to Daniels and they double-teamed "The Freak Beast," Comoroto. When Comoroto ran towards the two, Daniels low-bridged him, pulling the top rope down and letting Comoroto spill out onto the floor. The stocky Uemura followed up with a huge pescado out onto Comoroto.

Inside the ring, Daniels caught Solo with a standing uranage and pinned him after a picturesque double-jump moonsault for the win. Daniels & Uemura advance to the semi-finals of the tag tournament.

JONAH defeated Taylor Rust

Rust had trouble with JONAH's size early on. He tried chopping him down with low kicks as they circled each other. Despite JONAH's positioning as heel, the crowd clearly preferred JONAH to Rust, who would crush Rust with a running avalanche a few minutes into this. Rust countered quickly and continued working over JONAH's legs. JONAH answered back with a buckle bomb.

A fan began chanting "N-X-T!" at JONAH, who pointed at the fan and took a few steps. His response is hard to catch on the broadcast, but inside the venue, it was clear as crystal: "That 2.0 s*** sucks." The crowd went wild for the line and began chanting "JO-NAH!" over and over.

JONAH blasted Rust with chops out on the floor. Rust threw a few shots in return, but JONAH stayed in control. Back in the ring, JONAH leveled Rust with a back elbow.

After around five minutes of action, the pace began to slow, with JONAH neutralizing Rust on the mat, squeezing him with a waistlock. JONAH went for a splash but Rust moved. He caught JONAH with a scissor kick. JONAH answered with a fireman's carry throw. Rust would lay JONAH out moments later with a Samoan drop of his own, where he carried JONAH from the corner to the middle of the ring. Rust is damn strong. He followed up with a super-shallow swanton bomb for two.

Rust would ground & pound JONAH with elbows and kicks before locking him in a modified Rings of Saturn submission. JONAH earned a rope break, and both were back to their feet. They traded big strikes. JONAH caught Rust with a lariat, then wrecked him with a spear before squashing him with a splash off the top rope for the win. JONAH remains undefeated in NJPW Strong.

STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship, Round 1: TMDK (Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls) defeated West Coast Wrecking Crew (Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs) to advance to the semi-finals

This was very good. I don't believe Haste & Nicholls have appeared together as a single unit for a long time, maybe since their time together in NXT.

Nelson and Nicholls started things off. Nelson whipped his t-shirt at Haste, who was standing on the apron in the red corner. Since both teams play heel, I liked how Riccaboni described them as having different momentums. They do work different styles, with TMDK falling more on the high octane, high impact side, while WCWC prefers to slowly tenderize their opponents before putting them away with impressive double-team finishes.

Haste landed a nice Japanese-style armdrag. Nelson eventually out-powered Haste and slammed him into the blue corner before tagging Isaacs into the match. Isaacs held Haste in a delayed vertical suplex position for over 20 seconds before dropping him. He and Nelson then flexed for the crowd in celebration.

WCWC trapped Haste in the corner and picked him apart, pounding and stomping away. Isaacs landed a backbreaker and Nelson went in for the pin, but only for two. Later, he caught Haste with a jumping knee, then climbed to the top rope. Before he could dive, a reanimated Shane Haste dashed up to the second rope and launched Nelson with a single-arm suplex.

Isaacs and Nicholls were tagged back into the match after this. They duked it out for a few, but Isaacs would tag Nelson back in, and WCWC then laid Nicholls out with a suplex-power bomb combination for a two-count on Nicholls.

When Jorel Nelson went for a German suplex, Nicholls countered and spiked Nelson with a DDT before tagging Haste back in. Haste landed a pretty dropkick on Nelson before crashing into both members of WCWC with a leg lariat in the corner. Nicholls then powerslammed Isaacs and stayed on top of him so that Haste could launch himself off of Nicholl's back for a cannonball into the corner onto Nelson.

TMDK connected with the Tank Buster on Nelson, but Isaacs rushed in for the save. WCWC took Nicholls out with a double-team Dominator-facebuster combo.

Isaacs caught Haste in the corner and flung him off with a spinning avalanche powerslam. Nelson followed that up with a nice diving elbow drop.

WCWC called for the finish, but when Nelson bounced off the ropes, Nicholls yanked Nelson out of the ring by his ankles, then served him a lariat on the floor. In the ring, Haste blasted Isaacs with a high roundhouse kick. TMDK then put him away with Hell in the Elevator for the win. TMDK advances to the semi-finals.

Final thoughts:

Yet another solid, watchable episode of NJPW Strong that lasted under an hour.

Next week sees Stray Dog Army (Barrett Brown & Misterioso) vs. The Midnight Heat (Eddie Pearl & Ricky Gibson) and The Dark Order (Evil Uno & Alan Angels) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) as the STRONG Openweight Tag Team tournament continues.