Strong Style Evolved was a professional wrestling event promoted by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). The two shows took place on March 25, 2018, in Long Beach, California, United States at The Walter Pyramid. This was the second NJPW show that the promotion produced independently in the U.S. The event's name refers to the Japanese strong style.
Before they had made a two nights event in July 2017 in the United States that was called G1 Special in USA which was a success, with tickets and meet-and-greets selling out in 2 hours after being available for purchase. On November 5, 2017, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) during Power Struggle announced their second American Show named Strong Style Evolved following the success of their first show. The show marked the second time NJPW presented shows in the United States independently, as opposed to partnering up with an American promotion. On January 4, 2018, during Wrestle Kingdom 12 in Tokyo Dome, NJPW officially announced the show for March 25, 2018, taking place at the Walter Pyramid. NJPW had previously partnered with Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW) for the NJPW Invasion Tour 2011 and since 2014 they have been partnered with Ring of Honor (ROH), co-producing shows annually in North America. On January 30 it was reported by Pro Wrestling Insider reported that NJPW had filled a trademark in the United States over Strong Style, King of Sports, and Strong Style Evolved.
After announcing the G1 Special in USA shows, NJPW went public with their plan of an American expansion, which included establishing a subsidiary and running extended tours in the United States with California as the base, while also establishing a dojo for training Americans in Los Angeles, run by Rocky Romero. The full-scale running of the American market was set to launch in 2018. On January 29, 5000 tickets went on sale with individual tickets for the first four rows costing $200, the 5th to 12th rows costing $150 and the bleacher seats costing $50-$100. The building was up for 5,300 fans and the tickets immediately sold out in less than twenty minutes with the site crashing and leaving people who were in the process of ordering tickets shut down and having to reload from the start, costing them tickets they thought they had bought, despite NJPW having not announced any matches for the show, with the situation being similar to their first Long Beach show. It was also reported that it was the first time in the same market that a promotion would sell out tickets before WWE's Wrestlemania. Because of this, only primary tickets would be available to members of the "Team NJPW" fan club, which led NJPW to put additional seats for the show on sale. Afterwards, it was announced by Wrestling Observer Newsletter journalist Dave Meltzer that the show would broadcast on air on the AXS TV network in the United States, with also being announced by AXS TV commentators Jim Ross and Josh Barnett on the AXS TV Youtube channel announced that the show would air live on AXS TV and that they would be providing commentary for the show, like in the G1 Special in USA event. The show was also broadcasted internationally through NJPW's internet streaming site, NJPW World.
It was also expected that Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) would be taking part of the event. NJPW later confirmed that Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Jay White, Jushin Thunder Liger, Rey Mysterio and Ring of Honor wrestlers The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) and Hangman Page to take part of the event. To coincide with the event, NJPW holded "Strong Style Saturday" on March 24 at the newly-opened NJPW LA Dojo, with Katsuyori Shibata serving as head trainer and ROH wrestler Scorpio Sky serving as assistant trainer. The event was a fan festival featuring autograph sessions with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Katsuyori Shibata, Juice Robinson, Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi and KUSHIDA, a contract signing for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship title defense, and in-ring matches. It was also announced the opening of the NJPW Dojo in USA and would also feature three matches featuring NJPW wrestlers and it would also be Strong Style Evolved's pre-show. On March 12, NJPW confirmed that all the tickets for the event were sold out.
Strong Style Evolved featured professional wrestling matches that involved different wrestlers from pre-existing scripted feuds and storylines. Wrestlers portray villains, heroes, or less distinguishable characters in the scripted events that build tension and culminate in a wrestling match or series of matches.
The Strong Style Evolved was main evented by Golden☆Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) against The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson). On January 28 at The New Beginning in Sapporo Kenny Omega lost the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship to Jay White. After the match, Omega's Bullet Club stablemate Hangman Page assert himself as the next challenger, after taking White's belt away from him. Omega took the belt from Page and gave it back to the White, leading to an argument between Omega and Page. This led Cody, The Young Bucks and Marty Scurll coming to the ring to calm things, but this ended up in an argument between Omega and Cody. This led Omega acidently shoving Matt Jackson, which led The Young Bucks walking out of the ring. Apparently, when things calmed down, Cody turned on Omega and when Page went to assist Cody to further attack Omega, Kota Ibushi returned to the ring to save his former tag team partner. Omega and Ibushi then embraced in the ring, reuniting the Golden☆Lovers and leaving the status of Bullet Club in question.
The two had been teasing the Golden☆Lovers reunion at G1 Climax finals after Kenny Omega was being carried out of the arena by Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson, Ibushi appeared to congratulate Omega for his effort at G1 Climax finals, but Omega pushed away Ibushi. Then on January 5, 2018 at New Year Dash, a Bullet Club group led by Cody won a tag team match over a group including Omega's former tag team partner Kota Ibushi, who had defeated Cody at Wrestle Kingdom 12. Cody had teased Ibushi about his history with Omega during the Wrestle Kingdom match and went to attack Ibushi, but was stopped by an enraged Omega. After the Bullet Club split between Cody and Omega, Cody also encouraged them to move up to the heavyweight division. Cody started to intrigue the Young Bucks about Omega by telling them that Kenny had said that they're the greatest "Junior Tag Team in the World". In the Being the Elite Youtube channel (Kenny and Young Bucks Youtube channel), the Golden☆Lovers met with the Young Bucks in a hotel room and made them an offer of peace, in which the Young Bucks accepted. On February 24 at Honor Rising: Japan, the Golden☆Lovers made their tag team return defeating Cody and Marty Scurll. After the match, Omega claimed that the Golden☆Lovers were the "Best Tag Team in the World". This led the Young Bucks coming to the ring and confronting Omega, saying that they had a problem with the Golden☆Lovers due to claiming to be the best tag team in the world and afterwards announced that they're going to move to the Heavyweight division. Omega then in a backstage interview said that he was disappointed with them and that he prefers to talk with them in private and challenged them into a match. Ibushi then said that they would face the Young Bucks at any time. The match was officially announced on February 26.
The semi main event of Strong Style Evolved saw Jay White make his first defense of the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship against Hangman Page. On January 28 at The New Beginning in Sapporo, Jay White defeated Omega to become the second IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion in the title's history. After the match, Omega's Bullet Club stablemate Hangman Page assert himself as the next challenger, after taking White's belt away from him. Omega took the belt from Page and gave it back to the White, leading to an argument between Omega and Page. On February 24 at Honor Rising: Japan, Page teamed with his Bullet Club stablemates and co-holders of the ROH World Six-man Tag Team Championship Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson in a winning effort against White and his CHAOS stablemates Yoshi-Hashi and Chuckie T., with Page pinning White with the Rite of Passage. After the match, Page attacked White and then held up his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship belt. This led the title match being announced on February 26.
The event also included a singles match between Jushin Thunder Liger against reigning IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay, due to Rey Mysterio being injured. On February 10, 2018, at The New Beginning in Osaka, Rey Mysterio appeared in a pre-taped vignette, calling him one of the greatest junior heavyweight wrestlers ever and challenging Jushin Thunder Liger to a match at Strong Style Evolved. Liger who was on commentary immediately accepted the challenged. Therefore, English commentators Kevin Kelly and Don Callis started hyping the match as a dream match. After Mysterio made a surprise appearance in WWE's Royal Rumble, Dave Meltzer noted that Mysterio didn't have a contract with anyone, but he wrote Mysterio has commitments "all over the world". On March 3, Mysterio suffered a bicep injury at a Northeast Wrestling event, leading to Mysterio being replaced by Will Ospreay at Strong Style Evolved.
The full card was announced on March 22. The event also included a predule between Undisputed Britsh Tag Team Champions Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. and Minoru Suzuki) and CHAOS's IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii). The feud between Okada and Sabre started after Sabre won the 2018 New Japan Cup and made his intensions on challenging Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
During the event, the lead announcer Jim Ross pronounced bad Marty Scurll name and a fan in the attendence had to say to Ross the mistake he was doing, which he apologized during the live broadcast. Bleacher Report stated that "storytelling" of the main event was "superb". Dave Meltzer praised the match between Jay White and Hangman Page saying that "[they] did a incredible job [...] [they] risked life and limb to get people into the match". Meltzer also stated that the main event, was "the best tag team match that [he] had seen live" since "a couple of years". He also praised the reaction of the crowd and the "last twenty minutes of the match that were incredible". Meltzer also reported that Matt Jackson had a legitimate injury on his back. Kevin Pantoja in his review of the event for 411Mania praised the main event and calling the main event "arguably the best match NJPW has put on this year." He also claimed that the "problem with the show was the production", criticizing the "bad sound, camera angles and the commentary". Larry Csonka in his review of the event for 411Mania stated that "the production hurt the early portion of the show" and that Jim Ross "commentary was bad [...] and he didnt knew the names of wrestlers, moves and championships". Jim Ross responded the criticism saying that "it wasn't important knowing all wrestlers names".
Following the success of the event, NJPW Chairman Naoki Sugabayashi announced the G1 Special in San Francisco which would take place on July 7 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the follow-up event to Strong Style Evolved. Also, in the following day, NJPW and Revolution Pro Wrestling announced another version of the event, the Strong Style Evolved UK, which would take place in two nights, the first on June 30 at the Milton Keynes Ice Arena in Milton Keynes, England and the second night on July 1 at Altrincham Arena in Manchester, England.
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