By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed April 2, 2021 on New Japan World
Alex Koslov and Kevin Kelly checked in on commentary to run down the card and remind everyone that the New Japan Cup USA tournament matches begin next week. There was then a presentation of the Strong Open-weight Championship. Kelly explained that the winner of the tournament will be the first-ever Strong Open-weight champ.
McGuire’s Musings: The belt looked good. I like it. I also like raising the stakes for the New Japan Cup USA tournament.
1. Rocky Romero vs. Kevin Knight. Knight made his entrance first as the Young Lion he is. Koslov said it was the “old lion” versus the “young lion.” Knight took control with a knee-lock, but Romero got on top of Knight and after a series of counters the two got back to their feet and squared off. The two traded blows.
Knight went for a dropkick and missed, so Romero took control with a series of arm strikes and an arm-lock. Knight landed a hard chop, but Romero hit a series of kicks to stay in control. Romero continued to work Knight’s arm, but Knight hit an uppercut to take control. Romero then hit a chop to send Knight to the ground.
Knight fired up with a series of uppercuts and the two traded blows in the middle of the ring. Eventually Knight worked a series of uppercuts on Romero in the corner and landed a hip-toss for a two-count. Knight went for a Boston Crab, but Romero kicked his way out. Still, Knight took back control with an Irish Whip and a body-slam for a two-count.
Knight went for a suplex, but Romero countered. Eventually, Romero worked a wrist-lock and an arm-bar, but Knight rolled Romero up for a two-count. Romero then landed a series of Forever Clotheslines, but Knight hit a dropkick and shoulder-tackle for a near-fall. Knight then sunk in a Boston Crab, but Romero crawled to the ropes for a break.
Knight went for a suplex, but Romero countered and the two struggled. Romero eventually got Knight into an arm-bar, but Knight got to the ropes for a break. Romero landed a series of kicks and a German Suplex. Romero hit a knee and a brain-buster into an arm-bar. Knight tapped out.
Rocky Romero defeated Kevin Knight via submission in approximately 8:29.
McGuire’s Musings: It was clear they wanted to give Knight as much as they could, and they did, and it worked. I think he gained something in defeat while Romero maybe begins his journey back toward a title in some fashion. This was a good match. Knight showed a lot of fire, and Romero showed why he’s the wry veteran. The right guy went over, though I do think Jordan has a lot of great things in front of him if he sticks with it.
2. Alex Coughlin and TJP vs. Misterioso and Jordan Clearwater. Clearwater and Coughlin began the match and Coughlin took control early on. The two made it back to their feet and Coughlin took control with a wrist-lock. After a few counter attempts, Coughlin got Clearwater to the mat with a head-lock. Clearwater worked his way out with a head-scissors, but Coughlin took control by going back into a head-lock.
TJP tagged in and Misterioso did the same. The two felt each other out, but TJP won the battle, and locked in a head-scissors for a one-count. The two then made it back to their feet and locked up. Misterioso worked a wrist-lock. After trading a series of moves, TJP hit the ropes and worked a choke. TJP rolled Misterioso up for a two-count.
Misterioso went for some sort of head-lock, but TJP rolled outside the ring. Coughlin then made his way outside. Misterioso went for a high-risk maneuver, but was tackled by Coughlin. Coughlin then worked over Misterioso with a whop to the corner, but Misterioso flipped over the top, rolled back into the ring and landed the tag to Clearwater.
In the ring, Clearwater stomped a mud-hole in Couglin. Before long, Coughlin took control with an elbow and a cover for a two-count. Coughlin then tagged out to TJP, who worked over Clearwater with a leg-drop and cover and then an arm-bar. TJP then hit a rough-looking snap-leg hold. Coughlin eventually tagged in and got a two-count on Clearwater. Coughlin then sunk in a chin lock.
Coughlin lifted Clearwater and walked him around the ring for an impressive suplex. TJP tagged in and got a two-count. Clearwater worked his way out of the heel corner, but TJP hit a sitting dropkick. TJP went for a submission, but Clearwater struck his way out and hit a cutter. Clearwater got the tag to Misterioso, who fired up against Coughlin, who tagged himself in. Misterioso landed an inside cradle for a two-count.
Coughlin took control with a series of chops, but Misterioso landed a double back elbow for a two-count. Misterioso then toyed with Coughlin, but Coughlin hit a stiff shoulder-block and hit a back-breaker and a bridge suplex for a two-count. Clearwater broke it up. Clearwater tagged in and stomped on Coughlin. Clearwater hit a super kick and got a really close near-fall. Misterioso and TJP fought outside the ring. Clearwater went for the Midas Touch, but Coughlin caught him. TJP tagged in and hit a frogsplash for the win.
Alex Coughlin and TJP defeated Misterioso and Jordan Clearwater via pinfall in 13:56.
JR Kratos, Chris Dickinson, and Tom Lawlor talked to Kevin Kelly via split-screen. Kelly asked Dickinson about the New Japan Cup, but Dickinson said he wouldn’t give away his secrets. Lawlor said when it comes down to fighting, money goes a long way. Dickinson said this is the most competitive wrestling company in the world. Kelly asked Lawlor if he was overlooking Ren Narita in the New Japan Cup USA and Lawlor questioned what an excursion is.
McGuire’s Musings: The match was fine, but my God, this is the second week in a row that a tag team match felt like it overstayed its welcome. Shave five minutes off that and you have a very good match. In this case, though, there were too many questionable spots, too many needless exchanges. I’m a fan of the wrestlers involved, but this was too much. As for the split-screen … well, my goodness. Finally, a solid split-screen interview goes down on NJPW Strong. It’s no surprise it involved Tom Lawlor and Chris Dickinson, but even so, that was entertaining.
3. Brody King, Logan Riegel, and Sterling Riegel vs. JR Kratos, Chris Dickinson, and Tom Lawlor. The heels made their entrance first. Dickinson and Logan began the match. Dickinson took control with a shoulder-block. Dickinson went for a charge, but Logan hit a Blockbuster. Sterling tagged in and landed a leg-sweep/splash combination for a two-count. The twins went for a double clothesline, but Dickinson hit a double dropkick.
One of the twins hit a dropkick and the other hit a moonsault for a two-count. King tagged in, but Dickinson kept control with a dropkick to King’s knee. Kratos tagged in and the two monsters traded elbows. King caught Kratos with a bicycle kick, knocking Kratos to the ground. King then tagged in one of the twins, who left outside and missed a splash. Kratos then hit the twin on the outside of the ring.
Back in the ring, Sterling was worked over by Kratos. Lawlor tagged in and worked over Sterling with a series of strikes. Lawlor then hit a suplex for a two-count before Logan came in to break it up. Lawlor kept control by working over Sterling’s arm. Kratos tagged in and Sterling tried to fight out, but Kratos hit a series of arm strikes.
Dickinson tagged in and kept working over Sterling’s arm. Dickinson then landed a sick-looking wrist/arm lock. Dickinson ultimately got a two-count. Sterling tried to fire up, but Dickinson traded blows with authority. Sterling landed some elbows and went to run the ropes, but Dickinson grabbed him and eventually hit a suplex, but Sterling fired up and hit a slam of his own.
King got the hot tag and Lawlor tagged in, going for a guillotine. King countered with a splash and a two-count. Kratos then tagged in, but King kept control and hit a cannonball. Sterling went for a splash, but Kratos caught him and speared him outside. Kratos then hit a powerbomb. Kratos tagged in Dickinson, who went for a splash, but the twin hit an elbow and the two traded shots. Dickinson hit an elbow and it knocked the twin out.
JR Kratos, Chris Dickinson, and Tom Lawlor defeated Brody King, Logan Riegel, and Sterling Riegel via knockout in 10:52.
After the match, Team Filthy got together in the ring to close the show…
McGuire’s Musings: This was the best match of the night and it wasn’t close. Kratos looked like a monster. King looked like a monster. The twins actually gained something in defeat and Chris Dickinson continues to look great. Nothing wrong with this match at all (removing myself from my Chris Dickinson fandom). I like New Japan establishing Team Filthy as a force to be reckoned with, and I like Team Filthy stepping up to be worth the hype.
In all, this is was still a missable episode. The tag team match went too long and this felt, more than anything, like filler before the New Japan Cup USA tournament begins next week. That’s fine. But that also makes this a stop-gap. Not too good. Not too bad. My NJPW Strong audio reviews are available for Dot Net Members every Saturday.