Batemen defeated Alex Coughlin
This was a solid opening match between the returning Batemen and Young Lion Alex Coughlin. We last saw Batemen in March in the New Japan Cup USA tournament, where he was eliminated by Brody King.
This was a trudge of a match, slow and hard-hitting, and in a good way. Coughlin has gotten ridiculously jacked since returning from a neck injury that kept him out for most of 2020. He had the better of the match early on until Batemen used an illegal fish hook to break one of Coughlin's holds. Batemen feels like a throwback heel with his intentionally un-flashy bully style in the ring.
Coughlin launched himself off the ropes and crashed into Batemen with a flying shoulder tackle, it was more of a human slingshot than anything. Coughlin had Batemen locked in a Fujiwara armbar late, but Batemen came back and put the rookie away with a tombstone piledriver for the win.
Karl Fredericks and Brody King defeated Team Filthy (Danny Limelight and JR Kratos)
Team Filthy bushwhacked Fredericks and King before the bell. This was a fast-paced match, and that's double-impressive considering how big three of the guys in this match are. Once the bell rang and the match was underway, Limelight worked over Fredericks for a bit, then JR Kratos came in to bring the pain. He threw hard knees at a downed Fredericks. When Limelight was back in, he scraped the edge of his forearm and elbow across Fredericks' face, a cheap shot behind the ref's back.
The "Alpha Wolf'' eventually escaped Team Filthy's corner and tagged out to Brody King, who was out for blood upon stepping inside the ring. He delivered a Death Valley Bomb to Limelight into the bottom of the corner post and directly onto a prone Kratos. King then pressed slammed Limelight to the floor. King followed and took the fight to Kratos ringside. Limelight at one point landed double knees for a close two-count.
Fredericks mounted a final comeback in the end, putting Limelight on the mat with Shibata's patented choke sleeper, then spiking him with Manifest Destiny to pick up the win for his team. Get the "Alpha Wolf'' back over to Japan ASAP, I say.
Fredericks cut a short but sweet promo on Team Filthy, explaining that all he had needed was a second to take them out, and tonight he did just that.
Fred Rosser defeated Hikuleo in a no-disqualification match
I can say with confidence that this was the most unique match in NJPW Strong's short history. Rosser and Hikuleo had a fight, straight up. No flash necessary: This was a rugged, sloppy brawl. I mean that in a positive way, too.
"Mr. No Days Off '' Fred Rosser dove onto Hikuleo before the bell. He came dressed in appropriate brawling attire, which means taped fists and some sort of shirt you don't normally wear. The match spilled out onto the floor early. As the match got more violent, announcer Alex Koslov claimed that this was "technically a street fight." Wasn't it technically a no-disqualification match?
Tonight's show was a nice change in pace from the high-speed action we usually see on NJPW Strong. Each match is worth going out of your way to see, but tonight's main event between Rosser and Hikuleo was a barnburner of a brawl, no doubt about it. It's a good example of how two can push the violence without getting gory or over-the-top. For those of us who grew up on Crockett-flavored free-for-alls, this felt like a nod to those days. Rosser was angry, and so was Hikuleo, and they wrestled that way. Rosser wrestled like he was settling a score.
Most of this felt spontaneous, too, which can be exciting. Hats off to both fellows here, as this was probably the best singles bout in either of their careers.