NJPW STRONG
New Beginning USA 2022
February 12, 2022
Washington Hall
Seattle, Washington

Watch: NJPW World & FITE

Episode 2 of NJPW Strong: New Beginning USA will showcase several names who are either debuting for NJPW or have worked a handful of dates for the promotion. Hikuleo, Jonah and Fin Juice seem to be the showcase talent for this episode. I am personally looking forward to seeing Cody Chuun and Bad Dude Tito tonight. Here we go!

Hikuleo def. Cody Chunn

This week’s show opens once again with Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov reviewing the action we are about to see this hour. We open with the introduction of Cody Chunn, a regular on Seattle’s own Defy Wrestling. Hikuleo enters the ring with a particularly cocky presence. No Bullet Club entourage or t-shirt for Hikukleo this week. I think I will file that away for a later date. The hometown crowd is clearly hot for Cody this week. Ian makes a reference about Hikuleo that I believe is on point when he says, “Early in Hikuleo’s career, he was like a puppy with big paws.” This is an excellent way to describe how I saw Hikuleo’s work until recently. Something has clicked with him and this former puppy has grown into his paws. The first part of the match is more fifty-fifty than I would have expected. Chunn gives strikes as well as he takes them. Hikuleo throws Chunn shoulder firtst into the corner with disregard and the match spills to the floor and is now the one-sided affair I expected from the opening bell. Cody mounts a nice babyface comeback ending with a poorly executed knee strike and shoulder block combination that culminates with a big body slam by our hometown hero. An unsuccessful pinning attempt which allowed Hikuleo to mount the offense we expect from him. Our match ends with a signature chokeslam and Mr. Chunn is dispensed of, but not as easily as expected. I hope this is a debut for Cody Chunn resulting in more appearances in the future. Hikuleo did his job and is certainly improving with each appearance. I can’t help but feel that big things are coming for him in 2022/2023. ***1/4

Josh Barnett def. Ren Narita

We get our monthly (give or take) appearance by NJPW star and former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Josh Barnett. I look forward to his appearances because they seem to be symbolic as a seal of approval for excellence in a certain style of pro wrestling. Barnett’s style isn’t for everyone and I would bet it isn’t for the majority of pro wrestling fans, but there should always be place at the table for mat-based grappling or as it is known in some circle, grapplefuck. Ren Narita is another of the Young Lions who is preparing for graduation from the LA DOJO. Ren is coming off his match with Katsuyori Shibata at Wrestle Kingdom. That sentence alone tells me he is very close to the next level and beyond. Don’t take my word for it; watch his mat work and judge for yourself. Crisp strikes and snug grappling are on showcase here. I love the complicated leg and submission work of Barnett here coupled with Narita’s competent selling. There is a brief section of this match where Narita lands 3 or 4 kicks to Barnett’s inner thigh that ring through the arena. These guys are tougher than trying to remember which Oasis brother is the asshole, and I am here for it! Ren transitions this match back to vertical where he shows off his hard-hitting style and combination suplexes. I may be on an island here, but Ren has star written all over him. Barnett hits a devastating exploder suplex and escapes from an arm bar attempt by a standing powerbomb. In the end, Josh overpowered Ren with a mount to elbow strike combo ending with an armbar submission. Barnett won the match, but Ren Narita looked like the star. Barnett puts Ren over with an arm raise post-match. We will see where each of these competitors go from here. This match gets a strong recommendation from me. ****1/4

Fin Juice (David Finlay and Juice Robinson) def. Jonah and Bad Dude Tito

It is time for our main event. Jonah and Bad Dude Tito make their ring entrances and I am reminded about how much I like Bad Dude Tito’s look. What I have seen of Jonah on this run shows me he is thriving as a free agent. The babyface team of FinJuice make their entrances next and I am reminded of how much I cannot stand Juice Robinson. This review may be short or at the very least one-sided. Tito and Juice open the match. Juice quickly tags in Finlay, which is nice. Tito is a wrestler I expect is on the cusp of a breakout. He will probably be busy Mania weekend and deservedly so. Jonah is back to his pre-NXT form. He is truly a bull in a china shop type worker. This statement is best illustrated by how hard Jonah sends Finlay into the corner from a body press position. Finlay’s shoulder appears to be in the same condition Cody Chunn’s was earlier in the evening. An attempted comeback by Finlay is easily countered by Jonah into the corner where my man Tito is tagged in. Tito shows us his paintbrush-style chops that had to wreck David’s chest cavity. Tito does the lord’s work of keeping Juice out of the match by sending him from the apron to the floor. This keeps Finlay in the familiar position of taking a beating and trying to mount a comeback. Which he does, where he manages to tag in Juice. Lo and behold the referee missed the tag and I am still immersed in this match. Finlay’s second comeback attempt succeeds with an ILLEGAL strike to Jonah BEHIND THE REF’S BACK and a surprise roll up pin by Finlay to Tito. I am in total agreement with Alex Koslov in that we cannot call this a definitive win by FinJuice due to Juice’s interference primarily because Juice Robinson sucks. Overall, a good main event for what it was. Remember the name, Bad Dude Tito. Can we all forget the name Juice Robinson? ***1/2

Final Thoughts

This was not a show with the typical ring work I have become accustomed to, but I did enjoy the new faces. And the Barnett vs. Narita match is top-notch stuff in my opinion. Next week Jay White continues his ‘U.S. of Jay Challenge’ vs. ???. One of my favorite performers is ???.

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