New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) travels to Dallas, Texas, as part of Wrestlemania Weekend, as it presents Lonestar Shootout, where the “Dirty Daddy” Chris Dickinson faces Tomohiro Ishii in the main event. The “U.S. of Jay” open challenge will once again take place, as Jay White faces the man who accepted his challenge, “Speedball” Mike Bailey, and Minoru Suzuki will go one on one with Killer Kross, making his NJPW debut. The show will also see a huge eight-man tag, as FinJuice (David Finaly & Juice Robinson) team up with LA Dojo’s trainee Kevin Knight and All Elite Wrestling’s Daniel Garcia to face the less cohesive foursome of LA Dojo graduates Clark Connors and Karl Fredericks, young lion Yuya Uemura and the returning luchador legend Mascara Dorada (formerly WWE’s Gran Metalik). Finally, kicking off the show will be long time veteran Rocky Romero against the rapidly progressing young lion, protégé of Katsuyori Shibata himself, Ren Narita.
+ Tomohiro Ishii vs Chris Dickinson: the chop battles were stiff, the lariats were done at blistering speeds and the slams looked devastating – basically, all you would ever want in an Ishii match, especially once against Dickinson. It’s an interesting choice to have Dickinson be the main event guy for NJPW Strong, but I guess when he can put on matches like this with Ishii it all pays off. A slight post-match moment did take away a bit from the match itself, but not enough to warrant this as anything other than a good match
+ “Speedball” Mike Bailey vs Jay White: Speedball has probably been the MVP of this Wrestlemania weekend, and Jay White is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now, so of course this was just fantastic. The action was fast and both looked and sounded great, and the match seemed like it could genuinely go either way. Gosh I worry about Bailey’s knees after his string of matches. This was probably the best match on the show
+ Clark Connors, Karl Fredericks, Mascara Dorada & Yuya Uemura vs FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson), Daniel Garcia & Kevin Knight: big fan of Garcia, Uemura and Dorada, and the rest were all more than fine. This match was let down mostly by the camera work, simply because there were often too many moving parts for one hard-cam, and one or two handhelds to. Uemura is getting so big (physically, literally) I can’t wait to see him tear it up with the NJPW heavyweights. This was good, but too difficult to determine if it was great
+ Rocky Romero vs Ren Narita: this was a very hard hitting test for young Narita against one of the most widely respected veterans in Romero. Narita is becoming more and more like Shibata himself every day, and I can’t wait. This was good
– Minoru Suzuki vs Killer Kross: this is my first time seeing Kross post-WWE, and I think the shaved beard/regrown hair was a bad visual choice. That said, I think the live crowd was unfairly harsh against Kross, even if I didn’t think the match was particularly good. Suzuki was having the time of his life here (see below) and Kross was trying, but something about him never quite gelled with Suzuki’s style. I won’t write him off completely, but for now it was a miss
> I get the feeling that Minoru Suzuki knows and appreciates working English-speaking crowds more than most, because he seems to get a real kick out of the way they react to his ‘physical comedy’ spots
Should you watch this event: At just over 90 minutes, this was a very brisk show to watch and I am thankful for that. Some slight audio issues didn’t hamper an overall very good show, on which Speedball is once again proving himself a breakout star in the USA in 2022.