Fred Rosser defeated Jordan Clearwater
First up was “Mr. No Days Off” Fred Rosser—formerly Darren Young of WWE—taking on Karl Anderson trainee Jordan Clearwater. These two complemented each other well, two solid heavyweights with a slight size disparity and similar styles in the ring; good old fashioned American heavyweight wrestling. Not much flash or martial arts influence.
Both impressed here. Clearwater landed a big neckbreaker to the floor on Rosser, but “Mr. No Days Off” later put the rookie away after a basement dropkick into Clearwater’s face, putting him down for the count.
Rosser cut a good promo afterwards, explaining that even though he can’t say much in Japanese, he’ll be able to say a lot more in the ring. Good opener.
Chase Owens defeated Danny Limelight
Limelight landed a diving frankensteiner, then a slingshot flatliner, shocking Owens and forcing him down to the floor to gather himself. Limelight kept up the pace and launched himself like a character in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater over the top rope to the floor with a corkscrew Fosbury flop.
Owens recovered quickly and went on offense from here. There was a spot they did where Owens yanked Limelight through the ropes to the floor and they landed at the same time. It looked really cool, or much cooler than my explanation.
Limelight came back at one point with a wild tight-rope walk to springboard flying double knees. Holy smokes. He used a lot of springboard action in this, taking Owens out with aerial offense and an array of kicks. In the end, Owens blocked a springboard attack from Limelight, then spiked him with the cradle piledriver for the win. Short, action-packed second match.
Owens cut a promo backstage afterwards and declared that since he’s now back in the W column, the rest of NJPW is on notice, and he specifically mentioned both Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito before throwing up a “too sweet” gesture and exiting.
JR Kratos and Rust Taylor defeated Rocky Romero and Jeff Cobb
Romero and the returning Rust Taylor faced off first. They went at it for about five minutes on the mat. Taylor looked excellent. After a few minutes, Romero tagged out to Cobb. Rocky teased body slamming his partner onto Taylor, but while he struggled, Taylor rolled away and tagged out to the debuting JR Kratos.
For those who haven’t seen him before, Kratos is a wrestler from Sacramento, who has wrestled for a variety of promotions up and down the West Coast, as well as taking part in the first two of Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport events.
Cobb and Kratos had a staredown that fans would have eaten up if there were any in attendance. Kratos actually made Cobb look kind of small in comparison. Kratos got the better of their initial exchanges, which led to him and Taylor working over Cobb for the next part of the match. Taylor continued working Cobb’s arm, while Kratos periodically came in to keep his team with the advantage in the match.
Kratos, who did a short tour with AJPW earlier this year before the pandemic, looked like a monster here. As he should have. He threw a giant running lariat at Cobb in the corner and he bellowed like Colossus in the X-Men arcade game while doing it. After launching Cobb with a vertical suplex and squashing him back in the corner with a Stinger Splash, Taylor tagged back in and went back after the arm.
Cobb rallied back 10 minutes into the match with a massive German suplex, rocketing Taylor across the ring. He then tagged out to Romero, who went after Taylor, though Rust laid Romero out eventually with more technical arm-centric offense at one point. He landed something I’d call a “armcracker,” where he basically did a backcracker while Rocky was in a top wristlock.
Taylor eventually tagged out to Kratos again, immediately knocking Cobb off the apron, then walked over and planted Romero with another big vertical suplex for two.
The finish saw Romero throw a last-minute flurry of strikes, then attempted Sliced Bread, but Kratos blocked it and reversed into a sitout Death Valley Driver, the same one Shinsuke Nakamura does. He then put Romero away in emphatic style with a wheelbarrow suplex that launched Romero backwards into the air. Big win for both Taylor and Kratos, the latter in his debut, nonetheless.
Kratos and Cobb jawjacked with each other in the ring afterwards. Taylor then attacked Romero, locking on a wristlock, while Kratos beat down Cobb before the show ended.
Backstage, Cobb talked about how he used to know Kratos, how they had travelled 700-800 miles up and down the road together, but now that Kratos, the former “God of War” as he was called on the West Coast indies has arrived, Cobb is now “ready for war.”
Kevin Kelly said on commentary that though some may see this as an upset, he believes we have just begun to scratch the surface with Kratos in NJPW.
”Road to Showdown” turned out to be one of the best episodes of NJPW Strong to date, with the tag team main event being a must-watch match this weekend. Next week’s episode features Fred Rosser vs “Filthy“ Tom Lawlor, Juice Robinson, Brody King & Karl Fredericks vs. Bullet Club (Jay White, Tonga Loa & Chase Owens) and PJ Black vs. Tama Tonga.