New Japan Pro Wrestling
August 14, 2021
The Torch at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California

Watch: NJPW World & FITE

Alex Coughlin Challenge Match Series
Karl Fredericks def. Alex Coughlin

It was noted by the commentary team that Alex Coughlin has never defeated Karl Fredericks in singles competition. He’s lost to Fredericks three times now, while another encounter ended in a draw. Unfortunately for Coughlin, he wasn’t able to avenge those previous losses, as Fredericks put him away with the Manifest Destiny (basically a version of the Edgecution) in just over ten minutes. In terms of the match itself, it was a very solid opening contest. It looked as though we would get a feeling out process early, but they threw that idea to the side almost immediately, and went into a strike exchange. From there, we saw some hard-hitting back-and-forth action, with Coughlin really taking the fight to Fredericks on a few occasions. Coughlin really looks like someone who stepped out a time machine from the turn of the 20th Century with that awesome mustache. He comes off like an absolute beast, even though Fredericks was technically the larger man in this bout. I’m excited to see what both of these men do in the coming months, and I’m even more excited to see them get back to Japan when the COVID situation improves and we get away from the clap crowds. ***1/2

TJP, Clark Connors & Ren Narita def. Fred Rosser, Rocky Romero & Wheeler Yuta

For those who haven’t been following New Japan Strong in recent months, Clark Connors has graduated from young lion status. He’s gained the nickname of “The Wild Rhino”, and every time I see him, I’m always reminded that he looks like he could be a distant relative of Woody Harrelson. This was a very solid six-man tag, with lots of solid action throughout. There was a nice technical exchange in the opening minutes between TJP and Yuta, but then the trio of Rosser, Romero, and Yuta began to work on/isolate TJP, and later Connors, until Narita got the chance to tag in. The match (and commentary) focused on the ongoing issues between Narita and Rosser, and they went at it before the match broke down, with everyone getting the chance to hit their signature move. Eventually, Clark Connors would pin Rocky Romero to win the match for his side after TJP hit Romero with the Mamba Splash. Again, this was just a super solid six-man tag from start to finish, which served to not only continue the issues between Narita and Rosser, but also helped set up the TJP-led LA Dojo team for what was to come later in the show. ***1/2

Adrian Quest, Chris Dickinson, Fred Yehi, Lio Rush, & Yuya Uemura def. Team Filthy (NJPW STRONG Openweight Champion “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, Danny Limelight, Jorel Nelson, JR Kratos, & Royce Isaacs)

In the leadup to Resurgence, Team Filthy managed to gain two new members in the form of Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs, also known as the West Coast Wrecking Crew. Meanwhile, Lio Rush (who, as far as I’m aware, has unretired from wrestling yet again) is the #1 Contender to the STRONG Openweight Title, and will be getting his title shot at the Strong Tapings happening this week (as I type this). Lawlor piggybacking on Kratos during their team’s entrance was absolutely hilarious, but their tone changed quickly, as Lawlor let a jump attack of the babyface side to kick this match off.

This was thirteen minutes of hectic, nonstop action, and I absolutely loved it. There were bodies flying all over the ring, and all ten competitors got opportunities to shine. We saw everyone from displays of power, to high-flying attacks, to hard-hitting strike battles, and much more. While this bout did a very good job of continuing the issues between Tom Lawlor and his various opponents (his ongoing feud with Chris Dickinson, his upcoming title defense against Lio Rush), it was Yuya Uemura who got the spotlight when it came to the finish. He managed to stop a JR Kratos dive to the floor when he powerbombed him back into the ring. Shortly thereafter, he managed to score the winning fall after hitting Danny Limelight with his signature Deadbolt Suplex. A great win for Uemura in the first match of his excursion, and as a whole, an incredibly entertaining multi-person tag. ***3/4

Afterwards, Yuya Uemura grabbed the mic, and spoke to the crowd in English! “Nice To Meet You, USA! I’m Yuya Uemura! I want to get stronger in LA Dojo!” This brought out the head trainer of the LA Dojo, Katsuyori Shibata. He took the mic, said “Come with me!”, shook Uemura’s hand, and had him put on a LA Dojo T-Shirt. Quick segment, but a very fun one for sure. Uemura is now under the tutelage of Shibata, which is something that should excite anyone who is a fan of New Japan (myself included). There’s no question Uemura has a bright future, and I’m sure it’ll be even brighter once he learns everything there is to know from Shibata.

Juice Robinson def. Hikuleo

This was a relatively late addition to the card. Juice Robinson has spent most of his spring and summer in Impact Wrestling. Meanwhile, Hikuleo is coming off his unsuccessful bid to capture the IWGP United States Heavyweight Title from Lance Archer on AEW Dynamite a few weeks back. These two had a pretty average bout that was easily the worst match on the card, up to this point. It was by no means bad, but it wasn’t very interesting. Juice struggled to take Hikuleo down early on (loudly calling him a bitch in the opening minutes), and the giant younger brother of the Guerrillas Of Destiny did damage to Juice both in the ring and on the floor. However, Juice managed to fight back, and there was decent action down the stretch. At one point, Hikuleo went to hit his finisher, but Juice managed to counter with a very sloppy rollup to pick up the win in around nine minutes. Hikuleo then attacked Juice after the bell, and destroyed him with a big chokeslam. Again, this was decent at best. There was part of me that thought Hikuleo would get the win here (especially with the speculation regarding the future of both Juice and his tag team partner David Finlay), but in the end, Juice barely escaped with the victory. **1/2

Before the next bout, we got a video package highlighting all of the upcoming New Japan events in the United States, mainly revolving around New Japan Strong. The upcoming Strong Tapings in Garland, Texas in September (the same venue AEW has used for Dynamite) and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in October (in the 2300 Arena) were mentioned, though those were shows we already knew about. We did get news on two new events happening in November. Riverside, California would see a Strong Taping on November 15th, while the next big New Japan in America event (on the same level as this show, presumably) will be on November 13th in San Jose, California. The show will be called “Battle In The Valley”, and among the announced names were Jon Moxley, Tomohiro Ishii, Jay White, and FinJuice. Certainly an exciting time for New Japan fans in the United States, and we would get even more interesting developments a little later in this show.

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champion Tomohiro Ishii def. Moose

I’m sure a number of you didn’t know this going into this card, but this wasn’t the first time that Ishii has wrestled Moose in a singles match. They actually faced off on a ROH/New Japan War Of The Worlds event in Dearborn, Michigan back in May of 2016. Ishii won that bout in just over eight minutes on the same show that (in a fun little trivia note) saw Adam Page join The Bullet Club! Moose had the chance to avenge that loss here at Resurgence, but when the dust settled, he ultimately lost to Ishii once again. This went a little over sixteen minutes, and it was absolutely incredible!! The action, of course, was fantastic. You can always count on Ishii to deliver in a singles match, but Moose more than held up his end of things as well.

What I liked so much about this particular bout is that it showcased that Ishii can play the role of the underdog so incredibly well, which just shows off his versatility as a performer. In most cases, he’s the aggressor in a match, but for the most part, Ishii was on the defensive for the majority of this match. He tried to shoulder tackle Moose multiple times, but to no avail. Moose really dominated Ishii at points, meanwhile Ishii would have these spurts of offense as he tried to fight back. Eventually, it became a more even affair, and not only was Ishii able to take the fight to Moose, but he managed to lift the massive former NFL player up, and nail the Vertical Drop Brainbuster for the win. An awesome match from start to finish, with great action, and a very good story, as Ishii overcame the odds to get the victory over his much larger opponent. ****1/4

Before we could go to the next match, we got the surprise appearance of the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay, and boy did he have a lot of things on his mind. Ospreay announced that he’s medically cleared to complete, and teases the fact that there’s a pretty big tournament coming up in New Japan which, of course, is the G1 Climax. He teased that he was going to announce his participation, but not only does he say he’s not going to be in the G1, he’s not going back to Japan at all. Ospreay then brought up that when he broke his neck and back for New Japan trying to make the product watchable (which….is sort of true) and that when he asked for four months off, he was stripped of the IWGP World Heavyweight Title (apparently there is a six month grace period that a wrestler in New Japan has to defend a title before being stripped, as mentioned on commentary). He then brought up how Jon Moxley held the IWGP United States Heavyweight Title for over a year without defending it once (due to the pandemic), and he wasn’t stripped. Again, he’s not wrong there.

Ospreay then proclaimed that he’s willing to negotiate, and turns his attention to Shingo Takagi, calling him a pussy (which leads to Ospreay telling Kevin Kelly to shut up). He said that Shingo has, and is defending, a “fake” World Title over there in Japan, and he should really be viewed as an interim champion. Ospreay once again says he’s the real, undefeated, and unbeaten IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, as he pulls out his version of the belt from a bag that he brought out with him. Ospreay announces that he’ll defend the real IWGP World Heavyweight Title against anyone, anywhere…..not just in New Japan, but even against the wrestlers who “hide behind their doors, claiming to be the best”, and added that he might just walk right through those doors. He then said that, in the meantime, he would be making his home on New Japan Strong, because everyone knows the show needs a genuine star, and those “LA Dojo losers”, the show “might as well be flushed down the toilet”. Again….he’s not entirely wrong (have you seen some of the ticket sales for these New Japan Strong tapings outside of California?)!

This brings out Karl Fredericks and Clark Connors, and Ospreay talks more trash. TJP then comes out, and Ospreay puts him over as training in the same class as the likes of Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson, before calling him a babysitter for Katsuyori Shibata’s “bitch boys”. TJP confronts Ospreay, and he pretends to back down, only to throw a water bottle at TJP before running off into the night. I know there will be some that disagree, but I think I speak for the majority when I say this was a very hot angle. The prospect of having Ospreay defend this version of the IWGP World Heavyweight Title, against a whole new set of opponents on New Japan Strong as well as in other promotions is so exciting. Obviously, this is going to be leading to a HUGE title unification match with Shingo Takagi (or whoever the champion is in Japan) at some point down the road, and when it happens, it’s going to be a big deal. Part of what made this particular promo so compelling is that there were a number of things that Ospreay said that I actually agreed with. He’s the heel….but he’s making fair and perfectly legitimate points. We’ve also set up at least one, if not more, matches for Ospreay coming out of this. Certainly against TJP, but potentially Connors and Fredericks as well. A very compelling segment that set up a ton of possible directions for the future of Strong, while also having a major impact on things going on in Japan.

Impact World Tag Team Champions The Good Brothers (Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson) def. Jon Moxley & Yuji Nagata

So the mystery partner that Jon Moxley had been teasing ended up being Yuji Nagata, which was an awesome surprise. The place went nuts when he came out. Moxley even did the Nagata pose in the ring with Nagata, which was pretty cool too. As for the match itself, it was relatively fine, but by no means spectacular. Part of the issue was that, a few minutes into the match, fireworks started to go off in the actual coliseum behind him. Now I have no idea what those fireworks were connected to, but we did later see a tweet of Will Ospreay posing with his title for a picture as the fireworks going off, followed by him claiming that he set them off, so take that for what it’s worth, I suppose. The Good Brothers eventually managed to take out Moxley on the floor with a Magic Killer on a chair. This left Nagata alone in the right, and while he did his best to fight back, he would end up getting pinned after a Gun Stun and a Magic Killer. Again, the match was perfectly solid, but not memorable in any real way, aside from the fireworks going off in the middle. ***1/4

Afterwards, The Good Brothers were cutting a promo (well, Gallows did…..Anderson’s was cut off about halfway through his promo when the mic cut out) when The Guerrillas of Destiny came out to confront them. They had a brief standoff, but they didn’t come to blows, as Anderson and Gallows backed off. Now while the idea of The Good Brothers vs. The Guerrillas of Destiny isn’t something that excites New Japan fans who might read this review, or are in our general circle of the fandom, it’s absolutely a match that excites the type of fan who’s been following the Bullet Club for a long time, or is what some might call a “casual hardcore” fan (not sure if I’m giving the best description, but you know the kind of fans I’m talking about). It will definitely be a big matchup for that section of the New Japan fandom, and who knows…..maybe that eventual tag team encounter will be for the Impact World Tag Team Titles. I could easily see that taking place at Bound For Glory, for example.

NEVER Openweight Title
Jay White (c) def. David Finlay

Of course, everyone knows the backstory behind this matchup. Until this year, David Finlay had only managed to get one victory over Jay White during their young lion days. The rest of their encounters (both before and after White’s excursion) had been won by White, but that changed in this year’s New Japan Cup, when Finlay defeated White in the quarterfinals. That loss proved to be the setup for this bout, as shortly after winning the NEVER Openweight Title, White issued a challenge to Finlay to avenge that loss.

When the dust settled, Jay White was ultimately successful in retaining his NEVER Openweight Title, putting David Finlay away with the Blade Runner in almost twenty-three minutes, making it the longest match on the card by a decent margin. The bout itself was really good from start to finish, though I would stop shy of calling it great. I have almost no complaints about the actual wrestling. There was very solid action throughout, both guys worked hard (it’s very hard for these two to have a bad match, given how many times they’ve faced off in the past), and there weren’t many shenanigans to speak of. We did get one spot where the referee being shoved away allowed White to hit a low blow, but Finlay returned the favor shortly thereafter with a low blow of his own, so I felt like that spot worked. The crowd definitely didn’t seem to react much to Finlay, and after this loss, I’m curious to see what his future holds. He’s announced for these Strong Tapings coming up over the next few months, but based on his recent comments on Wrestling Observer Live, he might not be in New Japan for much longer. We might’ve just seen the final David Finlay/Jay White match for the foreseeable future, but time will tell. ***3/4

Following the match, Tomohiro Ishii came out to confront Jay White, seemingly setting up a future bout between the two for the NEVER Openweight Title (I’m guessing on the Battle In The Valley show in November). White then cuts a promo running down Ishii, saying that wrestling is about wins and championships, before listing off all the titles in New Japan that Ishii never won, but he ended up winning all of them. He then closed by saying that he’s the real belt collector, and that you never know who he’s going to challenge next, specifically name dropping AEW and Impact along with New Japan.

IWGP United States Heavyweight Title
Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Lance Archer (c)

Lance Archer won the IWGP United States Heavyweight Title for the second time after defeating Jon Moxley (who he lost the title to all the way back in January 2020) in a Texas Death Match on the July 21 edition of AEW Dynamite. He then went on to have a title defense against Hikuleo on Dynamite the very next week, and on that same show, Tanahashi was revealed as the next challenger. It’s been pretty wild to see a New Japan title appearing all over AEW television this year, but that’s the beauty of the Forbidden Door being kicked down!

Hiroshi Tanahashi came into this match looking to not only win the IWGP United States Heavyweight Title for the first time, but also to become the second person to reach the status of being a Grand Slam Champion (the first, of course, being Jay White). He ultimately emerged victorious in just under twenty minutes after hitting Lance Archer with two straight High Fly Flows (one to the back, and then one to the front). This didn’t unseat Ishii/Moose for match of the night honors, but it was still a very strong bout that delivered as a main event. Speaking of Ishii/Moose, this bout actually told a very similar story. Tanahashi was able to get in some Dragon Screws early, but for the most part, Archer dominated Tanahashi. He unloaded everything in his arsenal…..the Pounce, a chokeslam on the apron, the rope-walk moonsault, the Blackout, and much more. Through all of that, Tanahashi was able to survive, and kept fighting back. A chair did get introduced at one point, and that led to a spot where Tanahashi nearly got the win after missing an Archer charge, which led to the champion colliding with the chair wedged in the corner (I guess it wasn’t a DQ since it wasn’t actually used as a weapon). A short time later, the two battled on the turnbuckle, and that would end up leading to the finish that I mentioned earlier. A great match to close out the show. ****

Following the match, Lance Archer takes the mic. He mentions their previous wars (including their previous encounters in the G1 Climax), and puts him over as the Ace of New Japan. Archer said he’s always respected Tanahashi, and that while he’s glad that he came to Los Angeles, he wants Tanahashi to come to AEW. He tells him that when he comes to AEW, he wants to be his first opponent, and he wants a rematch for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Title. Archer then hands off the mic to Tanahashi, who cuts a brief promo before going into his typical end-of-show celebration with the air guitar.

Final Thoughts

I was very interested to see how this show would turn out, and when the dust settled, there’s no question that it delivered. New Japan Resurgence proved to be an excellent one-two punch, as it not only provided great in-ring action up and down the card, but also a number of newsworthy items in the aftermath. The biggest news was obviously the surprise appearance of Will Ospreay, and the kickoff of this new storyline with Ospreay claiming to be the legitimate IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. You also had some other nice surprises/moments with Yuji Nagata showing up and Hiroshi Tanahashi winning the IWGP United States Heavyweight Title. As for the matches themselves, Hikuleo vs. Juice Robinson is really the only match that I would say is worth skipping if you’re short on time. Everything else on the card ranged from good, to very good, to excellent. The undercard bouts all delivered, while Ishii and Moose had the match of the night. You also had a very unique atmosphere to show, given that it was outdoors, and given that it was in front of the archways and the giant torch at the LA Coliseum (I fully advocate wrestling shows happening in more unique locations like this). While ticket sales for the shows in Dallas and Philadelphia aren’t exactly hot right now, it’s very clear that New Japan in America is really providing life to a promotion that doesn’t really have a ton of it right now in Japan.