Tonight in Tampa, the third episode of last month’s Strong Style Evolved 2022 tapings was screened.
Big Damo defeated John Skyler
Among ROH and other independent promotions, Skyler is best known for his time with Impact as part of their X Division. Big Damo, “The Beast From Belfast”, was called Killian Dane in WWE NXT until recently, where he was part of the Sanity squad. He had really long brown hair in NXT but has since cut it off upon his return to the non-WWE world.
After the bell rang, Skyler kicked Big Damo in the face and shouted that he didn’t care how big Damo was or where he was from, nor did he care about the NJPW audience. For this he was booed. He jabbed Damo in the chest. As Damo turned his head, Skyler grabbed his beard and repositioned his head. This was a poor move by Skylar as Damo lunged at Skyler and threw him across the ring by the neck. Skyler was able to escape to the ring apron and impale Damo on the floor from it.
In the ring, Skyler later threw a few hard punches, although Damo apparently didn’t feel them as he just stared straight at Skyler after each one. Skyler knocked the tall man backwards with hard forearms. He tripped him with a neckbreaker and hit with a short rocket dropkick off the second rope. He decided not to nail Damo and instead let the crowd know how cute he was. This didn’t work too well, as Damo recovered fairly quickly and rear-dropped Skyler before lassoing him down.
After two running avalanches in the corner, Damo took Skyler down with a pop up spinebuster followed by an elbow drop for two. While Skyler was standing on the apron, Damo charged at him but Skyler ducked and threw the ropes and speared Damo Johnny Gargano style.
Skyler went to the top rope but Damo used a second Rope Fisherman’s Buster to set it back down. Skyler responded with a couple of short lassos and Damo brought him down with a cross body block.
In the finish, Damo set Skyler down for the count after a fireman’s carry slam, followed by a senton and a Vader Bomb, leading Damo to victory in his NJPW debut. That was not bad.
SW3RVE (Swerve Strickland) def. Blake Christian
The Tampa crowd dug out SW3RVE and sang to him early in the game. They fought early and SW3RVE mostly got the upper hand, but Christian stayed around and didn’t let the more experienced SW3RVE defeat him. They went back and forth from chain wrestling to rope running teases, nip-ups and a series of standing waistlock switch counters.
Eventually, Christian moonsaulted off the apron and landed on his feet, but SW3RVE was right behind him and did a handspring flip of his own to the ground. It was the same kind of superhero spot that Kota Ibushi and Will Ospreay did, where Ibushi went looking for a super Frankensteiner, but Ospreay landed on his feet, which then resulted in a dramatic (slightly campy) stare. SW3RVE and Christian made their own version of it. They liked it but ended up singing for SW3RVE again.
Christian landed a basement dropkick and locked it in an inverted guard lock (scissor hold). Later, SW3RVE bypassed Christian’s pin attempt, shoved him out of the ring, and pumped Christian to the face while still on the apron. The referee started the count but SW3RVE had Christian in the ring at six. The audience continued to sing for SW3RVE.
Christian returned fire and earned a two count after a standing frog splash and a standing moonsault. They effectively traded martial arts kicks before Christian caught SW3RVE off the ropes with a Spanish fly for a very close two. The crowd had come alive by this point and began to chant the “That’s great!” Singing.
Christian hit the floor with a Fosbury flop, but instead of taking out SW3RVE with it, he grabbed SW3RVE’s head and dropped it with an inverted DDT. In pro-wrestling logic, this was redundant and almost confusing. Why would anyone go to all this trouble just to make an inverted DDT or some other move like this? Again, in pro wrestling logic, is it necessary to throw yourself into another move, or is it purely showmanship that shouldn’t be questioned? I don’t have a good answer.
Back in the ring, Christian connected with a 450 Splash and earned another count of two. I should mention that SW3RVE was centered on the ring on the Lion Mark logo, which is far for a 450 splash, but Christian made it look easy. The crowd did the “Both these guys!” sing next, now accepting Christian after saying “Who’s house?” SW3RVE’s house!” for most of the game.
SW3RVE hit Christian with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker followed by a tilt-a-whirl powerslam before goading him with a brainbuster. He won the match after hitting Christian in the head with his signature sidekick while Christian was in a seated position. SW3RVE feels like a bigger deal every time he’s on NJPW Strong.
Buddy Matthews defeated Yuya Uemura
Matthews wore his House of Black gear, the stable he’s a part of alongside NJPW Strong regulars Brody King and Malaki Black at AEW.
Built like a Greek statue, Matthews resembles an American football linebacker every time he’s on the field. While Ren Narita improved his game during a trip to the States, Uemura not only improved his wrestling skills but also almost completely changed the appearance of his body. He’s not as tall as Matthews, but the height wasn’t much different. At first glance, Uemura looked like he could “realistically” match Matthews.
Uemura and Matthews immediately went into intense lockup. They traded holds on the mat, but the more experienced Matthews got the upper hand, keeping Uemura neutral in the center of the ring. Uemura would counter once and lock Matthews with a headscissors. Matthews kept tearing at Uemura’s fingers, which is technically an illegal joint lock. Matthews resorted to the same behavior again as the two stood on the ring apron and Matthews grabbed Uemura’s fingers and arm and slammed him shoulder-first into the apron.
In the ring, Matthews closed a double wrist lock from a high S guard before Uemura edged out of him. Uemura squeezed his arm in pain as he fired into the far corner, but ate Matthew’s boot instead of landing an offense. As Matthews went into his own running attack after a bounce off the ropes, Uemura caught him with a perfect dropkick. We’re talking at the Okada level here, and that’s no exaggeration. For someone his size, it was really impressive.
They exchanged forearms as they both got to their feet. Uemura caught Matthews with a beautiful flying forearm and a running back elbow. He punched Matthews and dropped a couple of elbows on him for two.
Coming back from Uemura’s late rally, Matthews began dropping 12-6 elbows on Uemura à la Bryan Danielson or Jon Moxley. When referee Jeremy Marcus checked Uemura’s status, Matthews pushed Marcus away. The crowd booed. When Matthews went for a kamigoe, Uemura grabbed Matthews by the knee and got up, only to knock him down later with a bridging German suplex for two.
Uemura went for a flying attack on the top rope. Matthews jumped to the top as well, but Uemura threw him back off the ropes. Uemura came off the lead with a beautiful diving crossbody block, but Matthews stepped out of the way, causing Uemura to belly-flop onto the azure blue.
Matthews used a curb stomper and went for a pin, but pulled Uemura up on two, which was booed by the crowd. Eventually he put Uemura down with Murphy’s Law (Matthews’ Law?) for the finish. He gave the KO’d Uemura a patronizing handshake before leaving.
This was a good but somewhat forgettable episode of NJPW Strong. The main event was very good and worth seeing.
Next week there will be more matches from Strong Style Evolved 2022, with Jay Lethal vs. Ren Narita, Mascara Dorada vs. TJP and Kevin Knight vs. DKC.