REVIEW: New Japan Pro Wrestling Strong – Detonation (2021)

A NJPW Strong Pay-Per-View Event split into 3 episodes

I have a love/hate relationship with my many attempts to watch NJPW over the years. Most of this will sound petty, but a lot of it stems from either not having English commentary or insanely bad attempts at it. I don’t honestly care too much if I can’t understand what’s happening, but with pro wrestling it somewhat hurts the product. I would consider just doing what I do with Lucha Libre and watch it raw, however with that I know a small amount of Spanish and literally no Japanese. But what if there was NO sound? That would be horrendous right? I mean LITERALLY no sound for like half the show!

I recall seeing some events posted free on YouTube (or maybe their own stream? it’s been over a decade ago) over the years, created “for the English Market”. I got excited, only to find out that they had hardly any commentary (Japanese English or otherwise) due to constant muting of music and other sounds that I’m assuming some Yakuza talent agency refuses to let play outside of Japan. It was a train wreck, and somewhat soured me on trying to watch the show. I assumed the stream was broken, but nope it was intentional. I still have no idea how they expected any fans to be created through such a fumbled product!

I found out later on that there was a NJPW show on AXS TV, which was good, but was somewhat of a recap show of events that happened the previous year. Mauro Ranallo was awesome as always on commentary and I was surprised that former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett had so much passion for the show. Sadly, I dropped cable not long after I realized this was on. Later on, there were big shows with English commentary, but they had the legendary Jim Ross, who didn’t know who anyone was, and Yoshi Tatsu, who seemed to no longer remember English. It was rough. I sort of just kept up with it through news websites after that….but that was until today.

I decided to use some FITE credits and get the latest edition of NJPW strong, for like six dollars US, I was granted three episodes of a TV show ostensibly, but at full PPV length if watched all at once. It was a hell of a deal, and with the likes of Lio Rush, Tom Lawlor, Jonathan Gresham, and Brody King on the card, I knew I had to see it. On commentary is the very underrated Kevin Kelly and Alex Kozlov who seem to know their stuff. My first impression is pretty good, and I plan to get more shows like this if I have some credits sitting around!

For anyone wanting to watch this, I would recommend Fite.TV. you can get some FITE credits (10 dollars I believe) with the following code: “6m6lyyn”. I’m sure there are other ways to watch it, but FITE has a solid interface and has been worth it so far. I actually learned you can also use Google Play points to by shows through this app, which was great to find out!

The Card:

Week 1 (December 4)

  • 1 Lio Rush and Adrian Quest defeated Stray Dog Army (Bateman and Misterioso) Tag team match 10:57
  • 2 Josh Barnett defeated Alex Coughlin by submission Singles match 11:47
  • 3 Jonah defeated Lucas Riley Singles match 6:01
  • 4 Hikuleo and Jay White defeated Yuya Uemura and Alex Zayne Tag team match 10:32

Week 2 (December 11)

  • 1 Jonathan Gresham defeated Gabriel Kidd Singles match 13:47
  • 2 United Empire (Will Ospreay, TJP, and Jeff Cobb) defeated Karl Fredericks, Clark Connors, and Ren Narita Six-man tag team match 13:24
  • 3 Tomohiro Ishii defeated Brody King Singles match 13:37

Week 3 (December 18)

  • 1 Kevin Knight and The DKC defeated Jordan Clearwater and Brogan Finlay Tag team match 8:08
  • 2 Team Filthy (JR Kratos, Royce Isaacs, and Black Tiger) defeated Rocky Romero and FinJuice (Juice Robinson and David Finlay) Six-man tag team match 14:05
  • 3 Tom Lawlor (c) defeated Fred Rosser by submission Singles match for the Strong Openweight Championship 24:28

My Thoughts:

As I’ve stated before, my methodology for this is to avoid giving arbitrary star ratings or anything. I usually go through the show and pull a half-dozen or so things that I thought were significant or that I liked. You might think some of my choices are dumb and that’s okay – we all like different things!

Great First Impressions!

I know I’ve done myself a disservice not watching any matches by Josh Barnett up until today, but wow was he great in this match. I’m usually weary of former MMA guys in wrestling, as some are definitely better than others. Barnett has a style different from your Ken Shamrocks and Tom Lawlors of the day, its more submission-based and relied on strong power moves. Solid combination all around. I also have not ever watched anything with Alex Coughlin (who appears to be new) and he was also very good. For a very straight old-school grappling match with some MMA and strong-styled flavor, this was incredible. It’s the sort of match I love seeing from the ROH Pure Championship, when that is at it’s best.

What Was WWE Thinking?

When you have a guy like Jonah (FKA Bronson Reed) who is a huge mountain of a man, comprised of equal parts Vader and Samoa Joe, how could you let him go? The New Zealander has every quality that makes a big man such as himself a huge star, but they dropped him? What an absolute waste – glad he’s somewhere where he can thrive. I recall watching him in 2019 at a live NXT show and thinking he was going to be huge in the future, glad he’s on his way to that goal!

Gresham Will Always Be One Of My Highlights

If anyone follows these, you know I’m a big Jonathan Gresham mark – perhaps my favorite wrestler on ROH aside from Danhausen. This match with Gabriel Kidd was awesome, and proves you don’t have to be 9 foot 7 to put on a solid wrestling match. The British “catch as catch can” style that Kidd has reminds me guys like Fit Finlay and Gresham is like a modern Dean Malenko – I was loving this match! This is the sort of wrestling you don’t see much on big TV brands, and would have stolen the show years ago. Remember when Dean Malenko won the PWI 500? It’s that kind of quality.

Hail to the King!

I absolutely can’t wait for Brody King to pop up in AEW in these next few weeks, but until then I am enjoying him going out and having a huge “hoss fight” with Tomohiro Ishii. Just seeing this on the card made me realize these guys would be kicking the ever-loving crap out of each other, and I was completely right.

Battle of the Black Tigers:

I don’t think anyone is sure who the new Black Tiger is that debuted with Team Filthy recently, but it’s a little known fact that one of the previous holders of the gimmick was actually Rocky Romero himself. I loved seeing the two gravitate to each other, definitely the highlight of a large multi-man tag match.

Dat Main Event:

Honestly, one of the reasons I started watching Major League Wrestling (MLW) after their Covid-related hiatus was how much I enjoyed the obnoxious heel antics of “Filthy” Tom Lawlor. The dude is great at getting heat, and carries his matches very well. Fred Rosser is always one of those guys that seemed to get the short end of the proverbial stick when it came to his life in pro wrestling in the past. FKA Darren Young in WWE, he was unceremoniously fired after being outed as being homosexual, which they will likely deny a connection, but it seemed as if he vaporized into obscurity after the revelation. Rosser was great in MLW, and was also very good here. I hope he gets to have an incredible career in NJPW. This was a solid match, and both wrestlers did very well.

Conclusion:

It looks like NJPW has finally got its act together with their foray into the US market! Great matches, solid commentary, plenty of guys I’ve never seen before, and impressive match quality for all the above. I don’t have the money to get the NJPW streaming service, but a few bucks here and there for a series of shows every month is a solid price. I will likely get the next one as well, assuming the quality keeps up. My biggest takeaway is – I can’t wait to see if The Bullet Club’s “Switchblade” Jay White’s open challenges to both Chris Jericho and Christopher Daniels end up being answered, both would be incredible matches!

My only real issue was a slight audio sync issue that was only noticeable when the commentators were talking backstage – I have no idea if its a NJPW issue, a Fite.TV issue, or one with my TV, but it was a bit distracting. If you are new to NJPW, a show like these NJPW Strong events might just be a good introduction. It’s a perfect mix of recognizable faces, new talent and Japanese legends all on a showcase here. None of the matches feel like filler, and everything seems PPV worthy, not something I can say about other “weekly” shows.

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