Strong Style Evolved starts here! We open the show with video messages from Bateman and Brody King ahead of their main event qualifying match. Bateman says this is an incredible, life-changing opportunity. He’s known Brody since his first day in the business, and while he can’t promise victory, he can promise something real physical. King says this year he’s a new, angrier Brody King, and is coming to win the tournament and then the title. Let the violence begin.
New Japan Strong | Saturday 20th March 2021 | 03:00 (UK) | NJPW L.A. Dojo.
MATCH ONE: Alex Coughlin Vs Jeff Cobb
The newest member of The United Empire, Jeff Cobb, returns to NJPW Strong for his first show of 2021. Alex Coughlin has his first singles match since returning from injury.
Coughlin tries to out-wrestle Cobb in the early going, but Cobb doesn’t look impressed and gets away easily. Alex strikes first with kicks to the stomach, but neither men move from a trio of shoulder tackles before Cobb explodes back with one of his own. Cobb meets Coughlin with a back elbow for a pair of two-counts. Coughlin lands three stiff chops, but Cobb eats them and takes Coughlin off his feet with a chop of his own. Cobb locks in the bear hug but Coughlin escapes with a series of elbows. Cobb swats Coughlin aside as he goes for a flying shoulder tackle. Coughlin avoids a lariat with a standing dropkick, then lands the flying shoulder tackle the second time. Coughlin gets a near fall from a body slam, and Cobb avoids the Boston Crab with a series of kicks. Cobb hits Spin Cycle for a two count. Cobb hits a right jab and a Yukon lariat and follows up with Tour of the Islands for the win.
Match Time: 5m 58s
WINNER: Jeff Cobb via Tour of the Islands
I said in the preview that Cobb would be too much for Coughlin, and he proved it tonight. The time of the match says it all – despite Alex’s best efforts, Jeff Cobb made light work of The Captain. Sure, he was rocked a little by the dropkick, but all that seemed to do was annoy him to step up.
Prediction Result: 1-0
After the match, we get a video interview with Misterioso. Kevin Kelly asks Misterioso what will happen against Narita. Misterioso says the opportunity means everything to him, and this is why he came to NJPW. Misterioso says he will show everyone why he belongs here.
MATCH TWO: NJOA New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifying Match: Ren Narita Vs Misterioso
We’re reminded in the intros that Narita is coming off the back of two upset victories over Bateman and Chris Dickinson.
The match starts slowly with both men respecting the others’ ability when attempting to engage. Misterioso gets Narita to the mat with a single leg takeover and gets a two-count with a shift of leverage. Misterioso trips Narita while holding a knuckle lock, and gets a series of near falls. Narita bridges out and takes Misterioso over with a monkey flip. Narita counters a backdrop with a Sunset Flip, which Misterioso reverses – both men getting only a one-count. Narita staggers Misterioso with a few kicks, backing Big Papi Pump into the corner and going on the attack. Narita gets a near fall with a bridging suplex. Narita goes for a backdrop but Misterioso rolls over him and returns with a clothesline. Misterioso sends Narita outside and springs off the inside second rope with a moonsault to the floor – unfortunately not getting all of it, landing with his knees hitting the apron at the same time as hitting Narita. Misterioso rolls Narita back in and lands a kneeling springboard senton for a near fall. Misterioso lays in a trio of hard kicks followed by a slap to the face. Narita rolls out of the way of a springboard moonsault, but Misterioso lands on his feet and flips straight into a standing version. Misterioso plants Narita with a second rope Gordbuster, but only gets a two-count. Narita counters a lariat with a hammerlock, and transitions into a rear-naked choke, and then into a Cobra Twist – but Misterioso gets to the ropes to break. Narita gets a near fall from a bridging German suplex. Misterioso blocks a Boston Crab attempt, but Narita rolls through with the Narita Special into the Scorpion Deathlock to tap out Misterioso.
Match Time: 11m 12s
WINNER: Ren Narita via submission (Narita Special)
The opening of this was a nice touch, with Narita showing he can wrestle some Lucha styles – albeit at a slightly slower pace than you will see in Lucha libre. The inside-out moonsault looked nasty, and I hope Misterioso’s knees come out of it unscathed. This became a hard-hitting affair, but ultimately Narita’s submission game came out on top. Alex Koslov on commentary mentioned that Narita reminds him of a young Shinsuke Nakamura – which is a hell of a compliment.
Prediction Result: 2-0
MATCH THREE: NJOA New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifying Match: Brody King Vs Bateman
The Riegel Twins accompany Brody King to the ring.
Brody grabs a knuckle lock instantly, but Bateman kicks his hand away immediately. Bateman grabs the wrist, but King simply picks him up and drops him on the mat. King backs Bateman into the ropes with a collar-and-elbow tie-up and rubs his face as an insult. Bateman responds with a boot to the chest but takes a slap to the face in return. They start trading elbows, but Bateman takes advantage with an eye rake. Bateman follows a few strikes with a dropkick to the knee but is flattened by a shoulder tackle. Bateman trips Brody with a dropdown. King counters an incoming Bateman by dropping him face-first on the mat and follows with a senton. King locks in a seated version of an abdominal stretch and clubs Bateman in the chest with forearms. Brody tries lifting Bateman for a gut-wrench, but Bateman attacks the knee to block and then drops King with a forearm. Bateman dives on a downed King with a forearm and then goes back to the eyes. King fires back with a pair of chops, with Bateman ducking the third and landing a straight right hand, followed by a single-leg dropkick.
King reverses an Irish Whip and lands a clothesline in the corner. King goes for a second, but Bateman avoids and lands a headbutt. Bateman goes for his own clothesline, but King catches him coming in and throws him upside-down into the corner with an Exploder suplex. King follows up with a cannonball senton, but as King goes for the cover, the referee notices Bateman’s hand is under the ropes and stops the pinfall.
Both men trade forearms and King follows up with a pair of chops. Bateman fakes out King with a strike to the face and instead goes back on the attack to the knee. Bateman drops King to a knee with a rolling elbow. King avoids a strike from Bateman and lands a single-arm spinebuster for a near fall. Bateman evades King in the corner and throws him with a German suplex into the bottom rope. Bateman follows up with a running knee to the face for a near fall. Bateman avoids a Gonzo Bomb by attacking the knee and lands a Fisherman’s Buster for a two-count. King counters a tombstone attempt into a German suplex. King flattens Bateman with a lariat and then lands the Gonzo Bomb for the victory.
Match Time: 13m 25s
WINNER: Brody King via Gonzo Bomb
This match did not disappoint. Both men legitimately looked like they were trying to take the other’s head off with their strikes. Bateman used every crafty trick he could think of, but still couldn’t hold his former partner down. King’s need to avenge not only last year’s New Japan Cup USA exit but the defeat to KENTA for the challenge briefcase, has seen him through.
Backstage, The Riegel Twins are hyping up King as the “best big man in the game”, but King stops them. He says “if anyone knows me better than Bateman, I don’t want to know… he hits like a truck.” King says he came up short last year in the New Japan Cup USA, but this year he’s “taking the whole thing.”
Prediction Result: 3-0
Another clean sweep! I thought this would be another week where I came out wrong, but I haven’t been let down by the guys in-ring. Next week, I’ll throw down my predictions for the final two qualifiers. The first sees Blake Christian against “The Dirty Daddy” Chris Dickinson, and Clark Connors taking on TJP.
I’ll be back during the week with a preview of these, and any other announced matches, as part of TWM’s coverage of New Japan Strong here.