By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed March 26, 2021 on New Japan World
1. Clark Connors vs. TJP in a New Japan Cup USA tournament qualifier. Connors hit a spear to begin the match. Connors kept working over TJP with chops and a high arm-drag. Connors eventually hit a high hip-toss for a one-count. Connors kept TJP in a headlock, but TJP countered into an Octopus for a two-count.
Before long, Connors was outside the ring and TJP hit a splash to begin the count. Back inside the ring, TJP hit a splash for a one-count. TJP then worked an Indian Death Lock, but Connors wouldn’t quit. Eventually, TJP hit a series of kicks for a two-count, and then TJP worked Connors’ ankle. Connors tried to gain control by raking TJP’s face and then hit a roll-up for a two-count.
TJP landed a dropkick to the face of Connors. TJP then hit a knee-sweep, but Connors hit TJP with a snap-powerslam to take control. Connors hit a series of boots to TJP in the corner. Connors then hit a shoulder-block for a two-count. Connors tried to attack TJP, but TJp moved. After a missed splash, TJP worked a knee-bar, but Connors made it to the ropes for a break.
Connors hit a series of chops and a slam before sinking in the Boston Crab. TJP eventually made it to the ropes for a break. Connors went for a splash from the second rope but TJP caught him. Connors, meanwhile, rolled TJP through and got the pinfall victory.
Clark Connors defeated TJP via pinfall in 9:27 to qualify for the New Japan Cup USA tournament.
After the match, the two wrestlers attempted a handshake, but it didn’t quite work out.
McGuire’s Musings: This was good and it’s not out of line to say that Connors going over was an upset. I’m not complaining, as TJP already has a name and will be just fine working for whomever he wants to work for, and that includes NJPW. I’m interested to see how far they take Connors, as he’s developed quite well through the months on Strong. It’d be great to see him get a solid run in the New Japan Cup USA, if only because his ceiling is a lot higher than some of his peers’ ceilings.
2. Blake Christian vs. Chris Dickinson. Christian immediately hit a dropkick, and Christian took control with a dropkick. Dickinson hit a dropkick as Christian went for a splash. Dickinson then worked a figure-four before Christian made it to the ropes for a break. Dickinson went on the offensive with a leg-lock.
Christian worked his way to his feet, but Dickinson hit a chop to send Christian to the ground. Dickinson then worked a leg-lock over the ropes until the ref broke it. In the middle of the ring, the two traded slaps and forearms. Dickinson went for a clothesline, but Christian countered into a back-slide for a one-count.
Dickinson went for a running elbow, but Christian knocked Dickinson to the outside. Christian then hit a Senton on the outside. Back in the ring, Christian went for a 450, but Dickinson countered, ran the ropes and hit a knee that got him a two-count. Christian hit a hand-spring and rolled Dickinson up for a two-count.
The traded near-falls before Dickinson hit a power-bomb for a two-count. Christian worked a submission, but Dickinson drove Christian to the corner and sunk in a leg-lock. Christian made it to the ropes for a break. Dickinson eventually hit a dragon-screw leg-whip. Dickinson hit a snap-German-suplex. Dickinson then worked a leg-lock into a pile-driver that got him the pin.
Chris Dickinson defeated Blake Christian via pinfall in 8:53.
McGuire’s Musings: Well, this sets the field, and God knows what happens from here. I will say that I’m a huge fan of Chris Dickinson’s work and I’m also a huge fan of Hikuleo’s work. So, I can’t complain about how this tournament has been booked. This was a good match. I actually wasn’t sure who might go over here, but I’m happy with Dickinson moving forward. Maybe he gets a big push from here? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean how great I think he is in the ring. No matter what, this sets the stage for a fun New Japan Cup USA.
3. Karl Fredericks and David Finlay vs. Danny Limelight and Tom Lawlor. Team Filthy made their entrance first. Meanwhile … where the hell is Juice Robinson? Oh, wait. Kevin Kelly explained it away for the Finlay/Fredericks team. So, God bless them. FinJuice for life.
Anyway, Lawlor and Finlay started the match by feeling each other out. Lawlor and Finlay traded offense, but Lawlor took control with a wrist-lock. Fredericks tagged in while Limelight did the same. Fredericks landed a waist-lock takedown and eventually Limelight rolled to the outside. Back in the middle of the ring, Fredericks worked a head-lock.
Fredericks eventually hit a series of chops that sounded large. Fredericks maintained control with a series of shoulder-blocks. Finlay tagged himself in and the Fredericks and Finlay hit a double elbow. Fredericks eventually tagged in and worked over Limelight. Limelight eventually dragged Fredericks outside of the ring and the heels took control.
Lawlor tagged in and hit a series of hard chops on Fredericks. Eventually, Fredericks hit a series of chops to take control. Before long, Lawlor sunk in a series of submissions, but Fredericks worked his way out and Limelight tagged in. Limelight continued to work over Fredericks.
Limelight hit a DDT for a two-count. Lawlor then tagged in and went for a series of kicks. Lawlor tagged in Limelight, who hit a knee-strike to the side of Frdericks’s head. Lawlor then tagged in and went for a leg-lock that had Fredericks squirming. Lawlor turned that into an ankle-lock, but Finlay got the hot tag from Fredericks and hit a European uppercut.
Finlay hit a good looking dropkick and eventually hit a European Uppercut off the second rope for a two-count. Lawlor hit an Exploder on Finlay for a two-count. Finlay went for a cutter but Lawlor sunk in a rear-naked choke. Finlay eventually hit a back-breaker. Both men tagged out to Limelight and Fredericks. Fredericks hit a hard chop, and eventually a kick in the corner.
Fredericks hit a dropkick in the corner for a two-count. Fredericks went for a Falcon Arrow, but Limelight turned it into a Cutter for a two-count. Fredericks landed a spine-buster for a two-count. Lawlor tagged in and worked over Fredericks. Lawlor and Fredericks traded blows and Lawlor hit an Exploder.
Lawlor hit a German Suplex for a two-count. Finlay tagged in and hit a one-legged dropkick on Limelight for a two-count. Finlay then hit a stunner, but Limelight went for a kick and missed. Finlay hit a clothesline and hit the Last Shot for the victory.
Karl Fredericks and David Finlay defeated Danny Limelight and Tom Lawlor via pinfall in 17:27.
After the match, the winners cup a promo backstage. Finlay said he was impressed by Team Filthy. Finlay then asked for a match against Tom Lawlor. Kelly and Koslov then checked in to say that the New Japan Cup USA is set to begin in two weeks.
McGuire’s Musings: That overstayed its welcome, if we’re being honest. To see a tag-team match go nearly 20 minutes between teams that aren’t really teams was a little bit grating. Still, this was good for what it was. It’s clear New Japan thinks a lot of David Finlay, and rightfully so. Why his champion partner wasn’t with him tonight, only the higher-ups know. Even so, this was a very good match that had some very good near falls.
In all, though, this was probably a miss-able episode of NJPW Strong. The wrestling was good, and you can’t find a bigger fan of Chris Dickinson than I, but in the end, there wasn’t a lot that moved forward other than the expected New Japan Cup USA qualifiers. At nearly an hour, it’s just a little too long for what these matches were. Perhaps next week will be better.