By Anish Vishwakoti, ProWrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed October 2, 2020 on New Japan World
The show kicked off with the broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov looking at the continuation of the Lion’s Break Crown tournament on Strong this week. We also saw that there would be two tag team matches featuring some of the other Lion’s Break competitors along with more of the Strong roster…
1. Clark Connors vs. Logan Riegel in a semifinal match. The two started very tentatively, each trying to ground the other to start the match. Riegel got a headlock takeover initially, followed by a roll up but couldn’t keep Connors down. Connors was able to muscle out of Riegel’s hold attempts, clearly defining the separation between their strength and highlighting Riegel’s need to be technically more efficient.
They traded pin attempts before slowly re-engaging again, this time Riegel pushed Connors to the ropes and tried to switch strategy with some strikes, but Connors simply shot him off with a shoulder block. Connors then chopped Riegel in the corner and hit him with a snapmare back chop combo before stomping on him and using a chin lock. Riegel was able to work to his feet at one point, but Connors hit him with a snap suplex to get him back to the ground.
Connors continued to stomp Riegel and kept the pressure on until trying for a corner clothesline, however Riegel caught him with a German Suplex running in and bought some space. Riegel quickly tossed Connors to the outside for a quick Slingshot cross body and rolled him back into the ring for a Slingblade and a two count. Riegel attempted a standing Sunset Flip right after, but Connors tossed him to the ground and tried for the Boston Crab.
Riegel quickly got to the ropes and broke the hold, with Connors slightly fatigued, Riegel attempted a neckbreaker but was blocked and got hit with a powerslam for a two count. Connors waited for Riegel to get up and surprised him with a Spear before locking in the Boston Crab and getting the immediate submission victory.
Clark Connors defeated Logan Riegel to advance to the tournament finals.
Anish’s Thoughts: If you have an hour-long wrestling show, that was as good an opening match as you can ask for. Riegel and Connors kept it clean and stuck to the basics but they executed it really well. I really loved Connors threatening the Boston Crab the whole match and then finally being able to get the victory almost immediately when he locked it in, that’s how you build a finisher.
Blake Christian delivered a promo and said that he wasn’t fazed by the fact that Connors has been so dominant. He added that despite the fact that he is having ‘breathing problems’ due to his match last week, he feels confident in winning this tournament.
2. Blake Christian vs. Danny Limelight in a semifinal match. The two locked up and without much hesitation, Limelight grounded Christian and hit him with a foot stomp to the chest before more in the corner to clearly target his mid-section. Limelight ran at Christian in the corner and at first got caught with a strike allowing Christian to try for a Springboard maneuver, but Limelight knocked him off the ropes and hit a Torture Rack followed by a twisting Samoan Drop for a two count.
Limelight laid into Christian’s gut and back with knees and elbows and when Christian attempted to build space with a running attack, Limelight hit him with a leg kick to ground him once more. The two traded strikes once more followed by a running exchange in which Christian caught Limelight with an STO. After another more even and hard-hitting striking exchange, Christian now hit Limelight with chest kicks before following up with a strong Dropkick to the head for a surprisingly tasty near fall.
Christian again tried to hit Limelight with a chest kick, but Limelight caught him and hit a powerbomb backbreaker for a two count. Limelight now a little fatigued tried for a package suplex, but Christian reversed with a release belly-to-back suplex for a two count of his own. Christian then attempted a Springboard 450 but Limelight got out of dodge and tried for one of his own. Christian hung Limelight up on the ropes much like Limelight had done to him early in the match and hit a rope hung Springboard 450 for a very labored two count.
With both men down on the ground, Christian got up to the top rope first, but Limelight kipped up suddenly and hit an Avalanche Suplex before rolling through to the Suplex Small Package to get the pinfall victory.
Danny Limelight defeated Blake Christian to advance to the tournament finals.
Anish’s Thoughts: Another very solid match in the Lion’s Break cup tournament, that was also completely different from the first one. The match made no qualms about what it was with Christian declaring his breathing problems in the pre-match interview and then Limelight immediately targeting his mid-section. There were a lot of very unique moves in this match, keeping me guessing with the great dropkick by Christian and that kip up to the finishing sequence by Limelight. Fun stuff all round, making both men look good and really allowing Limelight to show off his personality in that win, almost like that was what got him over the line against a game Christian.
3. Karl Fredericks and TJP vs. Brody King and Flip Gordon. TJP and Gordon started the match. They exchanged wrist locks and head scissors takedowns to start the match before they traded running strikes. Flip then tried for a handstand Head Scissors, but TJP caught his leg in a knee bar for a quick second before being forced to break. The two men traded chops in the corner before entering a running exchange again in which TJP came out on top, locking in a Cloverleaf and Chancery for a second before Flip got to the ropes and tagged in King, prompting TJP to make the tag as well.
Fredericks tried for underhooks on King but wasn’t able to clasp the hands, allowing King to toss him into the corner. The two bigger men then stood I the middle of the ring trading forearms before entering a running exchange of their own. Fredericks was able to hit a cross body at on point and goad King into missing a Senton. This didn’t faze King however who got right back up and put Fredericks on the ground with a gut punch.
Flip tried to help King out by tagging in, but just found himself accidentally clotheslined by King, allowing TJP to tag in and hit Flip with a double suplex. TJP then tried for a rolling Senton, but Flip was able to reverse and trip TJP out of the ring, hitting him with a wheelbarrow facebuster to the apron. This along with King hitting Fredericks with a clothesline on the apron allowed King and Flip to take advantage.
Flip and King tagged in and out, continually pressuring TJP. King pressed his knee into TJP’s back at one point, putting him under pressure. At one point however TJP reversed a Slam attempt into a DDT and tagged in Fredericks while King did the same. The two ran at each other with Fredericks getting the better of Flip initially. Flip fought back but Fredericks was able to hit a backbreaker followed by roaring elbows and a corner dropkick for a two count.
Fredericks tried for a DDT to follow up but Flip athletically countered and tried for a Tornado DDT of his own which Fredericks calmly countered into a spinebuster and single leg Boston Crab. King broke the hold up and interjected himself into the action, prompting TJP to tag in and do the same and rushing his opponents. TJP caught Flip with a back suplex at one point, allowing him to try for the Frog Splash, but Flip got the knees up.
A brawl ensued between all four men, ending with King hitting Fredericks with a clothesline and allowing Flip to hit TJP with a Fireman’s Carry cutter for the pinfall victory.
Flip Gordon and Brody King defeated Karl Fredericks and TJP.
Anish’s Thoughts: This was a back and forth match and while Flip and King aren’t a regular tag team, which was obvious given the early miscommunication, I liked the way in which they came together after that and really worked well as a unit to overcome Fredericks and TJP. The losers didn’t come out looking bad either, with both men getting a fair amount of offense in the match and really losing because of how well King and Flip eventually gelled.
4. Rocky Romero, Misterioso, Jeff Cobb, and David Finlay vs. Jay White, KENTA, Chase Owens, and Hikuleo. Rather humorously, Romero started in the ring against Hikuleo who ate a chop from Romero and smacked him straight to the ground. Hikuleo tagged in White who continued with some strikes before starting a stomp train right on Romero with all of his teammates. Eventually KENTA tried for a back suplex, but Romero flipped out and tagged in Cobb.
Cobb caught both KENTA and Jay White running in with Belly to Belly’s on both of them. Cobb got overwhelmed quickly however and couldn’t get going as Hikuleo especially broke up his offense and grounded him, allowing KENTA to stomp on him and make the tag to Owens who targeted his leg with a single leg Boston Crab. KENTA tagged back in and continued to target the leg, and while Cobb was able to put up some resistance, Jay White tagged in again and calmed him back down. Cobb was eventually able to counter on White and hit a suplex, allowing him to tag in Finlay.
Finlay rushed Jay White and rocked him with a number of running attacks in the corner, followed by a diving uppercut for a two count. Finlay didn’t relent and without skipping a beat hit White with a back suplex and although the heels attempted to outnumber him, Romero and Misterioso backed him up to ward off their opponents, before all four men rammed White with a corner stampede.
KENTA and co attempted to outnumber their opponents but the faces were able to catch them coming and toss them all to the outside, allowing Finlay to concentrate on Jay White. Finlay attempted a delayed vertical suplex, but got caught with a DDT, allowing White to tag in Owens, while Misterioso tagged himself in.
Misterioso was able to catch White with a powerslam for a two count. While he couldn’t get the pin he attempted a Death Valley Driver, but KENTA broke it up for a second. Misterioso was able to drive KENTA out of the ring and concentrate on Owens trying for a running knee into the corner. Owens ducked out of the way, allowing White to surprise Misterioso from the back with an Uppercut and a twisting suplex followed by a running knee from Owens. Misterioso was able to kick out at two and when Owens tried for a piledriver, Finlay came running in with a flying kick, prompting a succession of moves from all four men.
Eventually, Owens and Misterioso were back in the ring, with Owens striking his opponent and putting him to the ground. Owens once again tried for a piledriver, but Misterioso struggled and was able to catch Owens with a superkick or a Backstabber. Misterioso couldn’t take advantage however as Hikuleo came in and hit a big Lariat and Flatliner before dragging Owens on top of Misterioso for the victory.
Hikuleo, Jay White, Chase Owens, and KENTA defeated Rocky Romero, David Finlay, Misterioso, and Jeff Cobb.
Anish’s Thoughts: This match was definitely hard to keep track of at times, but despite that I will say it was a pretty entertaining main event. Bullet Club worked together like a unit and that’s what made the difference. This was a prime example of faces looking smart even in defeat as they continually tried to unite to ward off Bullet Club, however Bullet Club like true heels kept using the numbers game to get the victory. I liked how Bullet Club split up their time in this match, with KENTA, White, and Owens each getting a solid amount of time, while Hikuleo had big moments at the start and end of the match to look strong.
Overall, this was a very fun episode of Strong. I really liked the two tournament matches which made everybody look good and more importantly did so in different and entertaining ways. The two tag matches were standard NJPW fare in how they were thrown together but were both fun enough and did enough for their participants, that they are definitely worth a watch. But if you only have limited time, the second round matches in the Lion’s Break Cup were prime examples of good tournament matches.