REVIEW: New Japan Pro Wrestling Strong – Rivals Episode 1 (2022)

A Pay-Per-View Event by NJPW

In my honest opinion, since WWE NXT has basically collapsed under a myriad of bafflingly bad business decisions, NJPW Strong has slowly taken it’s place as the playground for up-and-coming indy talent to hit the big stage. GCW is somewhat in a similar position, but I feel like it’s more like a new ECW, a counter-culture alternative. Not every NJPW Strong match is amazing, by any means, but I get the same feelings I had with NXT in and around 2012-13 – watching “new guys” build up and become main eventers. As of this moment, New Japan Pro Wrestling Strong – Rivals is the newest series of tour episodes, and promises to be a solid series. As with any of these, I always recommend purchasing the show from Fite.TV since they have a bundle you can get which contains all three episodes for the price of one. It’s a hell of a deal considering this one was only $7.99 USD for all three!

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.

The Card:

1 TJP defeated Brogan Finlay by submission Singles match 9:06
2 Christopher Daniels defeated Karl Fredericks Singles match 11:40
3 Jonah and Bad Dude Tito defeated FinJuice (David Finlay and Juice Robinson) Tag team match 8:16

My Thoughts:

As I’ve stated before, my methodology for this is to avoid giving arbitrary star ratings or anything resembling the typical ratings people give in wrestling reviews. I usually go through the show and pull a few 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!

Finlay, The Younger:

While David Finlay is a fixture in NJPW, his younger brother Brogan Finlay is just getting started, and seems to perhaps be the youngest wrestler to go through the LA Dojo to date (19 years old). Having a match against such a solid veteran as TJP secured a pretty decent match for this Young Lion, it will be great to see where he ends up!

The Master of the Ropes:

After the match, TJP got on the stick and started calling out all of the Junior Heavyweights in the company and basically vowed he would get the belt very soon. Next thing you know, a familiar face comes out – Mascara Dorada! The man formerly known as Gran Metalik got in TJP’s face and started a rivalry that I’m sure will be amazing.

The Living Legend:

Christopher Daniels is at that stage in his career where he is not only STILL cranking out quality matches despite his age, but helping the next wave of young talent. Having somebody as good as Daniels means that this is easily the best Karl Fredericks match I’ve seen, and Daniels REALLY put him over in the end when he cut a promo promising a rematch at some point. Overall solid match, and great stuff from Daniels. This is how you build up new stars, even when losing a match.

Love these guys:

The more I see this pairing of Bad Dude Tito and Jonah, I’m really convinced that these guys should get some sort of tag belts, or win a tournament at some point. If you like deceptively athletic big guys that just “hoss around” the whole time and look like total badasses, look no further.

Shane Haste:

FREEDOM! One of the many casualties of WWE’s idiotic idea to capitalize on the Black Lives Matter Protests of 2020 with what was originally some stupid take on ANTIFA, Haste (Formerly Shane Thorne, and Slapjack) got pretty much screwed by his former employer. I can’t wait to see what he does here, especially with these two at his side!

Conclusion:

This was one of the more surprising episodes of NJPW Strong, considering all of the new blood coming in via numerous free agencies. Shane Haste and Mascara Dorada will do a solid job, and I seriously can’t wait to see their future matches. This didn’t really have a BIG “main event” quality match, but with this being the first three matches of what was ostensibly a live pay-per-view styled show, I’m not surprised. Next week promises to be BIG as Swerve Strickland is scheduled to wrestle Jay White.

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