This week's New Japan Strong was from their Detonation show in Riverside, CA, and had a different look in terms of production. The camera setup was similar to what they did for Battle in the Valley last month. While the crowd was relatively small, the hard cam’s angled downshot made them look bigger on screen. I thought it looked good.
Lio Rush and Adrian Quest defeated Stray Dog Army (Bateman and Misterioso)
Bateman and Quest went at it first and the crowd really responded to Quest’s offense. It’s amazing how much having a live audience alters the vibe.
Rush and Quest did tandem tope suicidas to the floor. Misterioso later turned Quest inside out with a lariat. Stray Dog Army began taking control of the match from there with Misteriso and Bateman double-teaming Quest for a few minutes.
When Misteriso went for a Lionsault, Quest got his knees up just in time to take out “Big Papi Pump." He then used an impressive reverse frankensteiner and tagged out to Rush, who was also super over with this crowd. He made Bateman chase him around the ring and then caught him with a springboard elbow. He earned a two count after hitting Bateman with a falcon arrow.
Rush took Misterioso out with his patented springboard cutter and then Bateman on the floor with an Asai moonsault from the bottom rope. Back in the ring, Quest landed a Phoenix splash for the win. The crowd sounded like they loved this, especially Rush and Quest for whom it may have been his best match in the show’s history.
Alex Coughlin Challenge Match Series: Josh Barnett defeated Alex Coughlin via submission
If you’re not familiar with “The Warmaster," he is a former UFC heavyweight champion and former Pancrase openweight champion. He headlined the Tokyo Dome with Yuji Nagata in 2004, was on the NJPW commentary team when the company aired on AXS TV, and that’s not really even scratching the surface of his accomplishments.
After 17 years away, the modern-day Karl Gotch returned to a NJPW ring to take part in Coughlin’s Challenge Match series. Barnett has actually been training Coughlin which gave this bout a teacher vs. pupil-themed backdrop.
This was a UWF-style match that was more submission-centric and less filled with strikes. The pace was more fluid and more in common with grappling or catch wrestling.
Barnett focused on Coughlin’s leg early, catching him in a single leg crab, but Coughlin escaped via rope break and slid out to the floor for a breather. Back in the ring, Barnett launched Coughlin with a front suplex, later locking him in a scarfhold -- the same move he used to tap out Dean Lister at Metamoris.
Barnett went for an an armlock from the mount, but Coughlin blocked it. He was able to escape and apply a kneebar of his own until Barnett used a rope break himself.
Barnett later launched Coughlin with a single arm suplex and then a guillotine choke suplex. He transitioned to the armlock again, but Coughlin escaped and applied a single leg crab. Barnett rolled out of it and tried using a leglock, but the ref broke them up when they got tangled in the ropes.
They traded elbow shots. Barnett won out and then kicked Coughlin in the chest when he was on the ground. Coughlin powered up at the ten-minute mark and hit rolling deadlift gutwrench suplexes on Barnett. He went for the single leg crab again, but Barnett blocked, escaped, stood up and suplexed him. He picked Coughlin up and put him down with a cradle suplex, tapping him out with a heel hook. This was great.
Barnett grabbed the microphone and told Coughlin to stand up. He said that when he was asked by NJPW to help test Coughlin, he was honored. Coughlin got emotional. Barnett said he was impressed with Katsuyori Shibata’s training of Coughlin and that in the past two years Coughlin had been training with Barnett, Coughlin proved he had what it takes to take on anyone in the world and believed that Coughlin was now the real deal.
The crowd chanted Coughlin’s name and Barnett told him to soak it in. He said he better see him in the gym the next day so that they could make him even an “even meaner, badder MF’er” than before. They two shook hands and hugged before exiting. This was a really good segment.
Jonah defeated Lucas Riley
This was Jonah’s first official match in a NJPW ring. The former Bronson Reed in NXT and Jonah Rock took on Riley -- a younger wrestler who came from the Santino Bros. wrestling school.
Riley tried waistlocking Jonah but the much, much larger Jonah threw him off like it was nothing. He then powerbombed Riley onto his neck like a ragdoll and flexed his muscles. Welcome to New Japan. He’s a regular Scott Norton. He chopped Riley across the chest and it sounded like a pistol firing. He launched Riley with a delayed vertical suplex.
Riley fired back with a brief flurry, but Jonah shut it down quickly. He drilled him with a backdrop driver reminiscent of Dr. Death Steve Williams. Jonah pinned Riley, but pulled him up at the count of two. He squashed Riley with a senton, pinned him and pulled him up at two again. He finally put Riley out of his misery after a massive top rope splash. Kevin Kelly shouted “God damn!" on commentary which was absolutely the right call after that spot. This was basically an old WWF Wrestling Challenge squash as Jonah came off like a beast.
Afterward, Dave Finlay hit the ring and went after Jonah, who had laid Finlay and Juice Robinson out at Battle in the Valley in San Jose last month. Finlay was fired up and called Jonah out. Jonah flipped him off and left ringside, ignoring Finlay.
Bullet Club (Jay White & Hikuleo) defeated Alex Zayne & Yuya Uemura
White went to do the “Too Sweet” gesture before the match, but Uemura turned him around and ordered him to start the match. Since Ueumura isn’t a Young Lion anymore, he’s demanding more respect from White. The two jaw jacked before the bell and had an even exchange early on.
Ueumura does arm drags just like Ricky Steamboat did. He tried using one on Hikuleo, but the much taller man wouldn’t budge. He mauled Ueumura and tagged White in. White tried tiring Ueumura out with a succession of lateral press pin attempts, but Ueumura was able to tag out after dropkicking White.
Zayne did a standing Harlem Hangover to White and Ueumura used running dropkicks on both Hikuleo and White. Late in the match, Ueumura was able to use a backdrop suplex on on the larger Hikuleo, but when he went to celebrate, White was standing behind him, waiting to take him out with a Blade Runner.
Zayne used a running frankensteiner to White, who was sitting on the top rope. When Zayne went for a flying knee, Hikuleo parried and then dropped him with a massive chokeslam. He went on to pin Zayne with a Tongan Driver to pick up the win for Bullet Club.
Afterward, White got on the mic and explained how his original plan was to come to NJPW Strong to host a NEVER Openweight championship open challenge series, but that wasn’t possible anymore because he lost the title to Tomohiro Ishii at Battle in the Valley last month.
Instead, he now has an open invitation to any wrestler in any company to take him on inside a NJPW Strong ring. He went on to call out Chris Sabin, Chris Jericho and finally Christopher Daniels, who he referred to as “local Los Angeles talent." He offered to take Daniels on at the upcoming Nemesis show in Los Angeles next week before leaving the ring with Hikuleo.
This was a solid episode of Strong that offered quite a bit of variety compared with most weeks. The crowd was lively, which had an impact on the tone of the show. Their energy really came across on screen.
The opening tag match was fun. Coughlin’s second challenge match was an awesome UWF-style affair that also looked to be a great real life moment for him. Jonah’s debut couldn’t have gone any better. It was a textbook monster wrestler debut where Jonah looked like a behemoth and came off like an interesting threat to the current mix the show has.
The main event was good. What was most apparent by the end of the match was how over Jay White is in the US. He doesn’t deviate from the heel persona but even still, crowds are into him and he feels like a big deal when he shows up on a lower-stakes show like Strong. Also, does White have something against guys named Chris or something? He called out three of them tonight.
The second half of Detonation will air next week with Tomohiro Ishii vs. Brody King as the main event.