So it’s no real surprise to anyone who’s read the first few, that Strong has not left a very…STRONG…impression on me. This has a little more potential since it’s main evented by Jay White and Flip Gordon, so that should be at least a good match. Hikuleo sees his first NJPW action since his 2018 injury against Brody King. Plus we get to see if Karl Fredericks can get off the schneid and start winning since graduating from Young Lion. Also the artist formerly known as Darren Young makes his New Japan debut!
Given all this, MAYBE, just maybe this show might start picking up a little. Still feels very much like ROH & Friends, but I’ll temper my disdain for now.
Let’s find out!
- Fred Rosser & Alex Zayne vs Clark Connors & The DKC: Rosser wins via Gut Check @7:37 – ** 1/4
- Karl Fredericks vs Misterioso: Fredericks wins via Manifest Destiny @6:47 – ** 1/2
- Hikuleo vs Brody King: Hikuleo wins via Lifting Flatliner @7:35 – ***
- Jay White vs Flip Gordon: White wins via Blade Runner @10:22 – *** 1/2
Fred Rosser & Alex Zayne vs Clark Connors & The DKC
So there’s a few takeaways here. Rosser and Connors had a decent bit of time together, and it was a slower paced style, but definitely helped to show the angle of portraying Rosser as a power based vet. Koslov’s commentary turned everything Alex Zayne did into Taco Bell references, so now I’m not going to be able to unhear that. But seriously, Zayne is pretty damn good.
The downside here, is the same as the previous match, The DKC is a DWEEB. His bad karate poses, over the top attacks for bad looking lariats and chops, then he screams his name like a Pokemon with ADD. He’s just awful, nothing he does looks good. I’ve seen more believable karate inspired attacks on Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad. Yes I’m old, so that’s a bit of a dated reference, but hot damn is this kid the absolute worst.
Thankfully, there is a God and DorKC eats the pin after a Gut Check. You know it’s bad when Yoshitatsu and YOSHI-HASHI could have a baby, and it would be more tolerable than this loser.
Karl Fredericks vs Misterioso
This has an interesting rhythm to it. Karl tries to come out hot, but Misterioso slows him down almost immediately and starts working on Karl’s core to slow him down. Lots of tackles, Sentons and just stuff to steal Karl’s wind and make him work a slower style. Karl manages to grab the ropes to stop Misterioso’s Backstabber finish, and that swings the match exactly how he needed.
An awesome Overhead Kick, followed by a splash, then he sets him against the bottom turnbuckle for a gorgeous Stalling Dropkick. We get another shade of Shibata when Karl hits a PK on the seated Misterioso, he hits Manifest Destiny (implant DDT) and finally gets a decent win for his official wrestling career.
Not a flashy match, but a solid building block match.
Hikuleo vs Brody King
Big boy monster fight. Brody and Hikuleo go at each other pretty hard. Things spill out of the ring and we see hands and heads bounce off the ring post and guardrails. They roll in and keep beating the hell out of each other, that when the 5 minute call is made, both guys are sprawled out in recovery mode.
Hikuleo sets up the finish early in the match when he removes the turnbuckle pad, but each time he tries to send Brody into the exposed buckle, Brody blocks. We even get a great spot where Brody catches Hikuleo and tries the Blackhole Slam, but it turns into more of a delayed Sidewalk Slam. It wasn’t sloppy like a botch, it seemed like it was to prove that he’s to blown up to get the torque needed to hit the move fully.
As we get to the end, Brody has the advantage, Hikuleo is in the corner with the exposed buckles, so…well you know what happens. Brody charges, Hikuleo moves to send Brody into the buckles; Hikuleo hits his modified Flatliner finish, and picks up a damn solid win, given where he was when we last saw him and Brody’s general reputation throughout the indies.
Jay White vs Flip Gordon
Now this was the first decent length match that I’ve paid attention to with Flip trying to adjust his style. You could see Jay took Flip a bit lightly early on, and it allowed Flip to really shine. A lot less high flying, but still plenty of athletic moments. Standing Moonsault, Jump Up Thrust Kick, Matrix Dodge, and quite a few near falls.
Jay had to use the human referee shield on a few occasions to gain some space to find an opening. Part of the fun of the ending sequence is you get reminded how quickly Jay can turn someone’s offense into a Blade Runner attempt. A quick spin out counter or misstep and Jay had a few shots. But we get a nice final sequence with all the Jay White fixins, and a Blade Runner to keep King Switch on top.
Jay grabs the microphone afterward, acknowledging that fans are curious what the Gedo and EVIL pairing in Japan means, “who’s the leader”; Jay promptly tells everyone they deserve to know nothing. Well nothing except, he’s the Last Rock N Roller and we’re still in HIS New Era. So calm down, take some deep breaths and breathe, with the Switchblade.
Overall Score: 6.75/10
Well we get the best episode of Strong so far, but that’s not a very high bar. Some tangible story telling made this much easier to watch, but that DKC dork still ruins things a bit for me. He sticks out like a sore thumb, and it’s like if Elmo was randomly a main character in Reservoir Dogs.
But aside from that imbecile, this was a really solid show. Karl getting a win to validate some of his ego is great, since it opens a nice angle for him to get humbled by a New Japan regular. Hikuleo coming out pretty solid, looking like a solid big man, and not being nearly as green as his initial run, is just fantastic. Plus, Jay White is always great to watch. Some may not like his methodical style since it’s not in vogue, but I get a kick out of it.
Next week is a little shakey on the card quality, save for the main event; but this show did help to quell some of my trepidation.