It seems like only yesterday we were Unleashing our Fighting Spirit, and already STRONG is back, so we're going to be taking a look at Lonestar Shootout. It's an eclectic card, with five title matches, and New Japan making good use of their partnerships as stars from AEW, Impact, CMLL and Stardom are in action.
Once again, for English commentary you'll need to head over to Fite.tv and part with $19.99 of your hard earned American dollars, or you can go to the recently refreshed NJPWWorld to watch in Japanese as part of your regular subscription (if you do that and it's your first time on the site since the refresh, you might need to get there a bit early, I logged in for the first time since the change this morning and needed to faff around with confirmation codes and new passwords and the like).
Lonestar Shootout starts at 7:30 EST/4:30 PST/12:30 GMT - bit late for me to watch live, so I'll be catching up later. Anyway, enough waffling, here's the card:
Kickoff 1: STRONG Survivor match
Matt Vandagriff v Barrett Brown
Vandagriff was successful at FSU in the first STRONG survivor match. Brown is a Texas indie stalwart, and used to compete regularly for STRONG, this is his first match for the promotion in a year.
Kickoff 2: Fred Rosser v "Filthy" Tom Lawlor
Lawlor was the inaugural STRONG champion, and the whole time he was champ Rosser was the dogged babyface chasing the title. Rosser lost the title to KENTA back in February, and since then neither man has really accomplished much of note – worse, both are coming off losses at FSU. This is a chance for both men to get back on the winning track, and lay the groundwork for a more successful 2024. And a chance to do so at the expense of their greatest rival, no less.
Match 1: Mascara Dorada, Tiger Mask & Atlantis v Hechicero, Rocky Romero & Ultimo Guerrero
After Rocky decided to be a bit of a bell end and spoil Atlantis' 40th anniversary celebration, the lucha legend decided to recruit old friend Tiger Mask and Mascara Dorada (not the original, also known as Metalik or WWE star Gran Metalik, a hugely talented guy. This is the second Mascara Dorada, who I'm sure is good too). Rocky, for his part, has recruited a couple of former world champs to round out his trio of rudos in Hechicero and Ultimo Guerrero. Expect good lucha things. Well, good middle-aged lucha things.
Match 2: Toru Yano v Joey Janela
At FSU we saw a video package from Janela, throwing darts at a picture of Toru Yano. Challenge duly accepted. I would suggest not expecting a serious match here – this is more likely to be silly fun.
Match 3: Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Kevin Knight & KUSHIDA v Bullet Club (Alex Coughlin, Gabe Kidd, Clark Connors & Chase Owens
Guerillas of Destiny – this time the original duo of Tama and Tanga – once again team with the Intergalactic Jet Setters. They're taking on three talented young up and coming stars from Bullet Club, former STRONG tag champs Coughlin and Kidd, and reigning jr tag champ Conners. Chase Owens is also part of the match. Kidd's a bit of a glutton for punishment at the moment – he's issued a challenge to the winner of Kingston-Kojima, and will be facing Will Ospreay in December, at RevPro's Uprising show in Crystal Palace.
Match 4: STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship
Guerillas of Destiny (El Phantasmo & Hikuleo) (c) v West Coast Wrecking Crew (Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs)
Another GoD duo in action, the champs are defending against STRONG mainstays Nelson and Isaacs. WCWC have had some tag success in the indies, in promotions like DEFY and FSW, but their two challenges at the STRONG tag titles have been unsuccessful. Now's probably not their time, but this is a good opportunity for them to show how close they're getting.
Match 5: Mistico v TJP
I suppose as it's a singles match I should say a bit more about Mistico than just "he was on Rampage recently". This is the original Mistico, who also wrestled as Sin Cara (original, WWE), Myzteziz (AAA), and Caristico (CMLL, before the replacement Mistico left and he was able to reclaim the name). He's been a big name in Mexico for a while, he's the reigning NWA World Historic Middleweight Champion, a former CMLL World Welterweight Champion, a five time former CMLL World Tag Team Champion, a former IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion, he's won a bunch of tournaments, and he's won 12 luchas de apuestas (matches where competitors wager something, typically mask or hair), costing 8 men their masks and five their hair (one was a tag team match). Like I say, he's a big name in Mexico. Also, he won a match on Rampage recently.
TJP has faced Mistico in tag team action a couple of times, but has yet to beat him. He's hoping to have more luck in their first singles match. However, despite coming out on top in the Super Jr Tag League recently, it was not without cost – the neck problems he's been having will put him at a disadvantage against the Mexican superstar.
Match 6: STRONG Openweight Championship
Eddie Kingston (c) v Satoshi Kojima
On the one hand you've got the Mad King, on the best run of his career, fresh off a hard-hitting victory over HENARE. On the other, you've got the leader of the Bread Club, a puro legend, and a crazy old bastard. Kojima's best days might be behind him, but don't count him out, he can still bring a fight when it counts. Expect these two to batter the hell out of each other.
Match 7: Jon Moxley & Wheeler Yuta v David Finlay & KENTA
David Finlay might have a death wish. He decided to pick a fight against Jon Moxley and Will Ospreay at Power Struggle. Well, Willy might be prepared to wait for Wrestle Kingdom, but not Moxley. He's bringing his Blackpool Combat Club stablemate Yuta – a talented young guy who gets beaten a lot. Finlay's bringing KENTA, a slimy, cheating prick – sort of like a one man House of Torture, except actually good. Don't expect a technical classic, do expect blood for the blood god.
Match 8: NJPW World TV Championship
Zack Sabre Jr (c) v Mike Bailey
Zack Sabre Jr is a man on a mission. At a time when the Wrestle Kingdom card is starting to take shape and most champions have either made or are about to make their last defence before the Tokyo Dome, Sabre wants to get to 20 defences by the end of the year. He's got 15 under his belt, and the next challenger is a good one: Speedball Mike Bailey.
Bailey is a 17 year veteran, but in the last year or so he's really been putting it together and delivering tremendous matches. Unfortunately, that quality hasn't always brought with it victory, and he's come up short in several big matches this year – most recently, a loss to Will Ospreay at Bound for Glory. He's got all the tools to be a breakout star in 2024, but beating Sabre is no mean feat, especially within the TV title's 15-minute time limit. Whether or not Speedball has what it takes to get things done at this show, expect a great match, and expect big things from both guys in 2024.
Match 9: IWGP Women's Championship
Mayu Iwatani (c) v Stephanie Vaquer
Oh hey, it's a defence of the IWGP Women's title. This is Mayu's second defence of the title she won in April, the first since August. In all fairness, she's wrestled a bunch of matches this year so she's not been sitting idle, but it's still been a little disappointing to see this title so little used. Iwatani is a popular and acclaimed performer in Stardom, where she's won basically everything, and most things more than once (she's one of two Grand Slam winners recognised by the promotion, the other being Io Shirai), and has also won ROH's Women of Honor title. She's a pretty big deal, is what I'm saying.
Stephanie Vaquer is the reigning CMLL World Women's Champion, and one half of the reigning (and inaugural) CMLL World Women's Tag Team Champions. Not quite as drowning in title reigns as Mayu, but not too shabby. This would be big feather in the cap of the young Chilean if she can pull off the win.
Match 10: NEVER Openweight Championship
Shingo Takagi (c) v Trent Beretta
After Takagi regained the NEVER belt at FSU, he threw out an open challenge, and AEW star Trent was prepared with a video package. Beretta's greatest success so far is the four jr tag titles he picked up with Rocky Romero in 2015-17, and the closest he's come to singles gold in New Japan is two failed challenges for the soon-to-be-replaced IWGP US title. He might be a little out of his depth against the Dragon, who has racked up a string of singles belts, including four Open the Dream Gate titles, three NEVER titles, two KOPW titles and an IWGP World title. Well, best of luck. While I might doubt Beretta's ability to win, I do not doubt his ability to entertain in defeat, at least.
And there we have it. Does it look worth checking out to you? Are you expecting any further challenges to set up WK matches? At this point I'd just like to mention that on the 17th there's a New Japan Road show - no full preview, as there's not really enough to the card to merit it, but it features the return to action of Hirooki Goto, and the main event is a KOPW title match, pitting SHO against the man he beat for the title, Taichi. Taichi fans - I hope your boy gets his belt back. And don't forget, World Tag League is right around the corner, so I'll be breaking down the field for that - keep your eyes peeled.
Images via New Japan's website