NJPW Strong: Ignition – Episode 1
July 9, 2022
The Vermont Hollywood
Los Angeles, California

Watch: NJPW World & FITE.TV

After a not-so-brief hiatus, I am back to review NJPW Strong. Earlier in the summer, New Japan announced the formation of a tag-team tournament to crown the first NJPW: Strong Tag-Team Champions. Your mileage may vary on whether another set of championship belts are needed in an already bloated title picture when you include mainland NJPW. I have no issue with adding the Titles. It has been something that has added to my rekindled interest in the promotion in recent weeks (A stellar Forbidden Door PPV more than cracked the door for me to walk back in). Week 1 of the tournament features two opening-round matches with a singles match sandwiched between. I have tempered my expectations for this episode, but the main event has a chance to be excellent.

Christopher Daniels and Yuya Uemura def. The Factory (Aaron Solo and Nick Comoroto)

The show opened with Christopher Daniels explaining to Ian Ricaboni who he has chosen to replace the currently exiled Karl Fredericks. Daniels says after a trip to the LA Dojo, he found the perfect replacement in Yuya Uemura. Uemura is having a pretty successful from what I have seen. His match with Brody King from February and a recent battle with Daniel Garcia have been standout performances for the Young Lion in my book.

Aaron Solo is a wrestler I have watched for several years. He was a regular on some of the independent I follow on IWTV. Nick Comoroto, on the other hand, is someone I have watched a handful of times, primarily on AEW TV. I like the Factory’s in-ring chemistry and the size difference between the Solo and Comorato made for some interesting offensive sequences. The team of Daniels and Uemura work very well together. I can see why Uemura was chosen to replace Fredericks. Yuya’s hybrid style seems to tick many boxes for the type of wrestler I like to watch. Christopher Daniels has looked great on Strong this year and this match adds to that streak. We get the usual offensive sequences from and ring-generalship from Daniels with the added no-nonsense athleticism of Uemura. Combine these with the growing experience of the Factory and suddenly, this match is a breezy opener to watch, bordering on a notebook match for me. The closing moments had me completely immersed in the story they were telling. Ultimately the right team wins as Daniels hit Solo with a BME after Yuya hits Comorato with a tope through the ropes onto the floor. Next up for Daniels and Uemura will be the winner of our main event featuring The West Coast Wrecking Crew vs. TMDK. ***3/4

JONAH def. Tyler Rust

I feel like the air has been let out of the balloon when it comes to JONAH. His time in NXT did not do him any favors in the ring. I have watched several televised matches in NJPW and on the independents since his return. His matches are very formulaic and way too plodding for my taste. And, I have no room to speak of someone’s body composition, but JONAH seems to be growing in, um, stature which may be effecting his ability to perform at his pre-NXT level. Tyler Rust is a wrestler who I just recently realized was a Fightin’ Taylor Boy in PWG. I have a whole bunch of DVD’s with his matches on them in my basement, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about any match I have ever seen him in. Putting these men in a match against each other is akin to a concert promoter putting a bill together featuring Candlebox opening for Dave Matthews Band, just because you can doesn’t mean you should or that anyone will care. I looked from my phone long enough to see JONAH cover Rust for the win. I am sure it was plodding and forgettable. N/A

TMDK def. The West Coast Wrecking Crew

Earlier in the show, Ricaboni commented that this match would have been his pick for the finals of this tournament. Considering the teams, outside of Aussie Open, I agree with Ian. TMDK are having a resurgent year in 2022. Haste and Nicholls are natural tag-team wrestlers.  Their opponents tonight, are one of the top tag-teams in the United States in my opinion. Earlier today, I was catching up on matches I have missed in recent weeks and the last match of the day was last night’s West Coast Pro main event pitting the WCWC against the legendary Motor City Machine Guns. Just shy of being an instant classic, but worthy of your time, their match against Saban and Shelley further cement Isaacs and Nelson as stalwarts in the art of tag team wrestling. NJPW are fortunate to have these two teams on their roster for Strong and NJPW proper as borders continue to open up. This match was as great as I expected, but I believe they left a lot out of this match for later dates. TMDK use their innovative offensive style while WCWC use their mix of power spots and their heelish double team moves. In the end, TMDK win with a double team move I was unable to catch the name of. After the match, the two teams continue jawing at one another, hopefully the seeds of a continuing feud being planted. These four performers are certainly talented enough to take this newly featured division to new heights. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

What an enjoyable way to end this episode! I am personally excited to see where this tournament goes from here. Next week is the other half of the bracket featuring Midnight Heat vs. Stray Dog Army and The Dark Order vs. Aussie Open (!!). In the words of Ian Riccaboni, “Happy wrestling, everybody.”