Rocky Romero defeated AJZ
AJZ debuted tonight, an ex-freestyle skier and powerlifter who wears a giant bun. He faced off against resident Strong gatekeeper Rocky Romero, who usually wrestles new faces when they come to the show. Take Lio Rush and Wheeler Yuta, for example. AJZ was given lots of offense in his debut. He used a running power slam a la Davey Boy Smith Jr. for a two-count. The match got more heated towards the end when Romero caught AJZ in an armlock. AJZ bit his way out of the hold, literally, taking a bite from under Romero’s knee. This forced Romero to release the hold, which allowed for AJZ to use a standing gourdbuster for two. AJZ attempted another move, but Romero countered it into a backslide for the win in just over ten minutes.
Fred Rosser & Lio Rush defeated Bullet Club (Hikuleo & El Phantasmo)
Bullet Club neophytes Hikuleo and El Phantasmo took on the ex-WWE duo of Rosser and Lio Rush. El Phantasmo hasn’t been on Strong for a while, though he’s been moonlighting with IMPACT most recently.
ELP and Rosser got into it early on. They took the action outside the ring almost immediately, with Rosser attempting to back suplex Phantasmo onto the apron. Hikuleo ran to the floor and dragged Rosser to the floor, but Rush came off the ropes with a handspring double kick to knock ELP off the apron. He then flew over the top rope to the floor onto Bullet Club with a tope con giro before bringing the action back inside the ring.
Rosser and El Phantasmo wrestle with entirely different approaches, which actually made for an interesting match-up. Rosser came off as town sheriff whose job it was to slap some sense into a wily ELP.
Hikuleo threw himself into the match when ELP was in trouble, and after some short two-on-one in the Bullet Club corner, Hikuleo would then continue to punish Rosser, his rival this year on NJPW Strong. They’ve had two singles matches already this year, the most recent being in the New Japan Cup USA 2021. On commentary, Kevin Kelly pushed their rivalry and built up Hikuleo as a beast out for revenge.
When Hikuleo accidentally chopped El Phantasmo in the corner, Rosser rolled out of the blue corner to tag in partner Lio Rush, who would then clean house. Rosser lifted partner Rush into a fireman’s carry hold, then launched him onto Phantsmo. Hikuleo ran in to break up the count, then had fisticuffs with Rosser. ELP went for CR2 but Rush reversed it into a frankensteiner for two. ELP raked Rush’s eyes. Rosser and Hikuleo took their fight to the floor and onto the entrance rampway. Rush was able to hit his springboard cutter—it’s basically an Oscutter off the bottom rope—and pin El Phantasmo clean inside the ring. Hikuleo and Rosser continued to fight outside after the match. Rosser even hit Hikuleo with the ring bell. Kelly pushed an upcoming match between the two soon.
Backstage, Rosser said despite being in the business for so long, he wasn’t ever so disgusted in his life, talking about Hikuleo their recent feud. He said he loved Hikuleo’s family but was fed up with what was going down between the two in NJPW Strong. He said that no matter the stipulation of their next match that Hikuleo’s ass belongs to him, then banged his head into a steel chair a few times while Rush cut his promo.
Rush asked rhetorically, “What more do I have to prove?” Rush said that despite the fact that he lost to El Phantasmo twice in the past, tonight proved that ELP was a fluke. He pointed out how he pinned ELP clean tonight, and that come the next time the two square off, when the stakes are at their highest, he would be ready.
Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, JR Kratos, Chris Dickinson & Danny Limelight) defeated Brody King, Clark Connors, Karl Fredericks & TJP in an Elimination Match
Chris Dickinson didn’t come out with his Team Filthy teammates tonight, as he’ll face off against Lawlor for his Strong Openweight championship in the near future.
Karl Fredericks’ official billing is now “Alpha Wolf” Karl Fredericks. Clark Connors has graduated from Young Liondom as well and debuted his new look as “White Rhino” Clark Connors.
This was an elimination match, meaning that if a wrestler is pinned, submitted or thrown over the top rope, they would be eliminated. Kevin Kelly also mentioned in the commentary that if Tom Lawlor, the current Strong Openweight champion, was eliminated during the match, then that wrestler would earn a title shot at Lawlor in the future.
Lawlor and Fredericks got into first, with Lawlor getting the better of Fredericks on the mat early. Fredericks landed a picture-perfect leapfrog and standing crossbody block on Lawlor for two.
Danny Limelight and TJP were in together next. The pace quickened. Danny Limelight hasn’t been wrestling for as long as TJP but he comes off like a peer. Fast action from both fellows here, right up until Team Filthy triple-teamed TJP, each member crashing into him with an avalanche in the corner, the final one from JR Kratos. Kratos and Limelight then landed a doomsday blockbuster . . . for two? Really?
TJP eventually tagged out to Brody King, who took Team Filthy out with a series of lariats. He then had a nice exchange with Kratos, but it was short; Danny Limelight distracted King, getting him to turn his back to Kratos who then eliminated King à la Ric Flair eliminating Hulk Hogan at Royal Rumble ‘92, when Hogan was arguing with Sid Justice
Later, Danny Limelight attempted a double-jump DDT on Karl Fredericks, but Fredericks blocked it, held onto Limelight with a waistlock, then dumped him to the floor, thus eliminating him. With both King and Limelight now gone, it was now a three-on-three match.
Fredericks and Lawlor had another good exchange with each other. Chris Dickinson tried helping out but almost ended up eliminating his teammate with a missed elbow on the apron. As Fredericks and Dickinson traded forearms, Lawlor would charge at Fredericks, who parried, which sent Lawlor over the top rope, eliminating him. This means that Fredericks gets a shot at “Filthy” Tom’s Strong Openweight championship.
Dickinson put Fredericks down with a backdrop suplex. Both threw more forearms at each other next, but when Fredericks was on the apron for a moment, Dickinson distracted the ref and pulled him to the opposite corner of the ring so Danny Limelight, who was eliminated at this point, yanked Fredericks by the ankle and off the apron. When the referee turned around, he saw Fredericks outside the ring and called for the bell to signal Fredericks’ elimination.
Connors and Kratos would go at it next, both trading hard chops before tagging TJP back into the match. He and TJP went for a double-team move from the top, but Kratos ran at both, thus knocking TJP from the top rope to the floor, effectively eliminating him from the match, as he was the legal man.
Connors would next eliminate Kratos from the match, pulling the top rope down low enough for Kratos to fly over it onto the floor as he came running off the ropes. It was now down to Connors and Dickinson, one on one.
They exchanged really hard chops and other strikes before Dickinson spiked Connors with a brainbuster for a close two count. Connors answered back with a snap powerslam. Dickinson caught Connors with a dragon screw leg whip, then transitioned into an STF submission before Connors broke the count after grabbing the bottom rope. Connors caught Dickinson with a spear and Dickinson sold it like he was bleeding from the inside, coughing up blood.
Outside the ring, Tom Lawlor struggled with his elimination from the match.
Connors and Dickinson fought the last part of the match on the apron, trading huge forearm shots before Dickinson was able to blast Connors with a big boot that sent him flying to the floor. Team Filthy wins; but is Chris Dickinson still a part of Team Filthy?
That was answered immediately: Team Filthy came back into the ring to celebrate with Dickinson, but as they all raised their arms in victory, Limelight broke away and hit Dickinson with a low blow from behind.
“Get him!” shouted Lawlor. Team Filthy beat down on the “Dirty Daddy” before Brody King, who happens to be Dickinson’s stablemate in Violence Unlimited, made the save, chasing the rest of Team Filthy away. King and Dickinson shook hands in the ring before the show ended.
This was a good episode of Strong that felt very storyline-driven more than anything else. In the main event, we saw short previews of possible matchups down the road, including Fredericks vs. Lawlor and Connors vs. Dickinson. The second match on the card turned out to be the best, but the main event definitely delivered despite lingering a few minutes too long.