The show opened with Rosser addressing his opponent for tonight, JR Kratos. He explained that this match was not about him, but about Rosser.
Kratos said that “the best, top-tier, no bullsh*t” wrestlers are in NJPW. He said he respects Rosser’s wrestling and what he stands for, but since Rosser called him out, now Kratos has a reason to disrespect him. Rosser said you can’t manufacture passion and that he wants the New Japan Cup USA 2021 more than anything else. Kratos said he'd show Rosser and the New Japan world that there is a "legit no-bullsh*t wrestler" in their midst.
Strong promos from both at the top of the show.
The Rigel Twins (Logan & Sterling Riegel) defeated Adrian Quest and Barrett Brown
Before the match, the announcers brought up Brown’s recent losing streak and general depression with his current standing in NJPW USA right now. They showed a video from a few weeks back when he, the DKC and Rey Horus lost their match, with Brown losing his cool while explaining his recent drought.
The Riegel Twins came out wearing compression gear with tattoo designs and ski masks, like Brody King. The two come off more confident than they have in the past, and showcased that throughout the match with their unique double-team offense in the ring.
Though Quest was in first for his team, Barrett Brown was on the receiving end of much of the Twins’ attack. For much of the first half, both Riegels wore Brown out on their side of the ring. Brown put one of the brothers down with a half-and-half suplex out of nowhere before tagging out to Quest, who cleared the ring, putting Logan Riegel down with a backdrop suplex for two. Brown landed a single-leg basement dropkick to Riegel.
At around the ten-minute mark, the Riegel brothers were back in control and used a double fall-away slam on Quest—something I don’t think I’d ever seen before—before Brown took out both Riegels, using a Japanese arm drag into the turnbuckle on Logan, then a snap suplex on Sterling into the corner on top of his prone twin.
The brothers both slipped under the ropes to the floor to avoid more power attacks from Brown, who squared up and hit the ropes as though he was about to do a suicide dive onto both Riegels. Adrian Quest sprung out of the corner off the top rope, however, landing on both with a plancha of his own, effectively halting Brown.
Brown began yelling at Quest in the ring. After Brown finished, he turned around and suddenly found himself inside a Logan Riegel small package cradle for the three-count.
Hikuleo defeated Jordan Clearwater to qualify for New Japan Cup USA 2021
Earlier in the show, the NJPW announcers set this up as if Clearwater were to win, it’d be a big upset. “The Golden Boy” Clearwater has been slightly repackaged for the show, with updated tights, ring jacket, and even a new hairdo that Kevin Kelly referred to as Jackie Fulton-esque.
Hikuleo took this one to the floor almost immediately, dishing out pain right from the bell. Clearwater dodged out of the way when Hikuleo charged at him against the ring post.
When they stood nose to nose back in the ring, we could see that even though Clearwater is actually quite tall, he still stood a few inches under Hikuleo. These two actually complemented each other well tonight, and a rivalry between them felt almost imminent. Since Clearwater is one of the bigger fellows on the roster, it was interesting to see a monster like Hikuleo dominate him in the ring, and it was great to see the underdog side of Clearwater, something we haven’t had a proper chance to watch yet.
Towards the end of the match, Hikuleo challenged Clearwater to chop him. Clearwater laid in a good four or five solid chops, but Hikuleo absorbed them, then put Clearwater on the mat twice with two front-handed chops.
Clearwater came back with a Hail Mary running neckbreaker on Hikuleo for two. He threw a lariat at the monster, who dropped to a knee but wouldn’t go down. When Clearwater went for a running big boot, Hikuleo dodged it, then planted Clearwater with his sit-out Death Valley Bomb for the win.
Fred Rosser defeated JR Kratos to qualify for New Japan Cup USA 2021
I didn’t expect this to be one of the best matches in the short history of NJPW Strong, but we have to give credit where it’s due. This was a damn fine professional wrestling match!
Like Kevin Kelly mentioned at one point in the commentary, this really did feel like a title match that you could place on any modern wrestling show and it’d work, and even more so with a live audience.
Once the bell sounded, Rosser immediately rolled to the floor. Total Jay White move, but from a white-meat babyface. Kratos was aggressive, but he couldn’t lay his hands on Rosser, who’d slip in and out of the ring to maintain this psychological advantage. Kratos was shut down once he chased Rosser to the floor, eventually laying him out with a rough shoulder block that sent Rosser hard against the floor.
Back in the ring, Kratos launched Rosser across the ring with a vertical suplex. Leave it to Kratos to freshen up something as fundamental as a suplex. At around five minutes in, Kratos hip tossed Rosser three-quarters across the ring. Later, from a seated position, Kratos used a deadlift vertical suplex to Rosser, who is definitely not a junior heavyweight. Jeez.
Rosser threw haymakers at Kratos, then charged at him, tackling him through the ropes to the floor. He then dove off the apron twice, splatting onto Kratos with two Earthquake splashes, which Kratos sold as though someone had dropped an anvil on his chest.
When Rosser went high-risk and climbed to the top rope, Kratos knocked him off with a high enzuigiri kick that’d make Antonio Inoki proud, then suplexed Rosser back into the ring. Rosser later snuck out of Kratos’ grip while they were in the blue corner, and Rosser got Kratos into a fireman’s carry on his shoulders and landed what looked to be a picture-perfect gutbuster, but just for two.
The final moments saw Rosser attempt planting Kratos onto the apron with a backdrop suplex, but Kratos fought it off with a jumping knee strike. I think Kratos’ “special” meter must have been flashing at this point. Kratos looked to be going in for the kill when, suddenly, Rosser rolled him into a small package for three. Rosser digs in and gets the W here in just about 14 minutes.
Rosser didn’t have much time to celebrate afterwards, though: Hikuleo appeared at the entrance to “congratulate” Rosser with a beating. He threw Rosser back into the ring for Kratos, who laid Rosser out with a rolling lariat before heading to the back. Hikuleo then jumped into the ring and put Rosser down with a chokeslam and called him out, saying he wants Rosser next in the New Japan USA Cup.
Tonight’s episode of NJPW Strong was arguably its best in terms of storytelling and character development. The opening tag was no less in quality than matches prior, but the special focus on Barrett Brown’s story made me more interested in what they have in store for him down the road. He’s a great wrestler, but because this show hasn’t been on for more than a year yet, there just hasn’t been time or place until now.
Hikuleo vs. Jordan Clearwater was much better than it probably had any right to be, and that’s no knock against the wrestlers themselves, as it was nice to see more sides to Clearwater in the ring; he could end up a new version of Barry Windham. Hikuleo continues to solidify himself as “house monster heel” on Strong and a legitimate threat to an undercard title IWGP US Heavyweight championship.
The main event, however, stole the show. Ironically, this was one of the best pure “American style” wrestling matches I have seen in a very long time, truly. For someone who either watches each week or for someone who doesn’t watch wrestling, I think either viewer would enjoy this a lot. The story and sub-stories within the match were clear, nothing felt convoluted or out of step with the match, it built on the quick promos both cut at the top of the show, and both wrestlers came off feeling more important than before the show. I’d to see a rematch in front of a live audience, which would have no doubt enhanced this bout’s intensity.
Next week sees Brody King take on Bateman and Ren Narita against Misterioso. Both matches are qualifiers for the New Japan Cup USA 2021 tournament.