By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed April 9, 2021 on New Japan World
1. Clark Connors vs. Lio Rush in a New Japan Cup USA tournament first round match. Connors took control with a head-lock. Rush hit a dropkick, but Connors hit a knee to take control. Connors then hit a shoulder-block. Connors then hit a series of strikes. Rush came back in control with a head-scissors and a kick to get a one-count.
Rush hit Connors with a series of kicks, but Connors fired up and fought back. Still, Rush, landed a kick to the back of Connors’ head and got a one-count. Rush then worked over Connors with punches and while he tried to take control, Connors hit Rush with a speak and followed up with a series of chops.
Connors followed up with a shoulder-block into the corner and eventually went for a spear, but Rush hit a spinning kick to take control. Rush then clotheslined Connors to the outside. Rush then hit a moonsault. Rush then hit a cross-body for a two-count.
Rush went for a cutter, but Connors caught him. Connors then went for a spear, but missed. Connors eventually hit a spear for a good near-fall. Connors then went for a Boston Crab, but Rush went to counter and Connors took control, going for a suplex.
Rush then caught Connors for a cutter to get the pinfall victory.
Lio Rush defeated Clark Connors via pinfall in 9:57 to advance to the semifinals.
McGuire’s Musings: This was a very good match. Clark Connors continues to look good as he evolves and Lio Rush is coming out of his WWE run in a way that makes him look almost invincible. I can’t complain about any of this. There was a moment where I wondered if, in fact, Rush would win, but ultimately, I should have known better. Both guys came out of this looking awfully good.
2. Tom Lawlor vs. Ren Narita in a New Japan Cup USA tournament first round match. The two sized each other up, but before long, Lawlor tried to take control with a front face-lock. Narita hit a chop and tried to work Lawlor’s neck, but Lawlor worked an arm-lock and before long, the two were back on their feet. Narita tried to take control with a leg-lock but Lawlor worked his way out.
The two traded blows, but Lawlor hit a hell of a chop. Narita then took control with a rear-chin-lock. Lawlor worked a leg lock, but Narita made it to the ropes for a break. In the corner, Lawlor hit a series of chops and strikes. Lawlor hit a suplex and landed a two-count. On their feet, Narita hit a series of chops, but Lawlor hit an Exploder.
Lawlor went for a kick, but Narita countered into a a Boston Crab, but Lawlor turned that into a Triangle Choke. Lawlor re-gained control with a submission of his own, but Narita locked in the Narita Special. Lawlor countered into a figure-four. Lawlor pulled Narita into the middle of the ring, but Narita slapped Lawlor a handful of times.
Meanwhile, Narita tried to get to the ropes and eventually got there. Lawlor worked a front-choke, but Narita countered into a series of suplexes. Before long, Narita worked a rear naked choke, which turned into an arm-bar, but Lawlor made it to the ropes. Lawlor went for an arm-drag, but Narita rolled through and went for a choke-hold.
Lawlor turned it into a suplex. The two then traded choke-holds, but Lawlor hit a running knee and a rear-naked-choke. Narita, who was bleeding from the nose, looked lifeless. The referee called it.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor defeated Ren Narita via submission in 13:19 to advance to the semifinals.
McGuire’s Musings: I’m a big fan of Filthy Tom’s antics, wrestling and approach toward fighting. That said, this was a surprise to me. It felt like NJPW was building Narita to be something special with his wins in recent weeks, and in a lot of ways, he looked invincible. So I’m happy to see Lawlor give him the loss here, but at the same time, I’m wondering where they go with Narita from here. Of the two matches thus far, this was clearly the best so far. And man. Filthy Tom is good.
3. Fred Rosser vs. Hikuleo in a New Japan Cup USA tournament first round match. Hikuleo attacked Rosser before the bell rang. The two then fought outside. Hikuleo then tossed Rosser over the fake-crowd rail. Into the fake-crowd area, Hikuleo worked over Rosser. Outside the ring, Hikuleo landed an echoing chop on Rosser. Hikuleo then dropped Rosser throat-first on the rail. Hikuleo then choked Rosser.
Back in the ring, Hikuleo tried to cover Rosser, but the ref said the match had not started yet. Hikuleo landed a running powerslam, but Rosser kicked out. Hikuleo then worked a series of elbows before going for a strike that knocked Rosser down. Hikuleo then hit a big chop to take Rosser down. Hikuleo sunk in a choke hold in the corner before hitting a suplex.
Outside the ring, Hikuleo worked over Rosser. Eventually, Rosser hit a back-suplex on the apron. Back in the ring, Rosser took control, but Hikuleo hit a snap-powerslam and hit a slam for the win.
Hikuleo defeated Fred Rosser via pinfall in 6:22 to advance to the semifinals.
McGuire’s Musings: Again. I will continue to write this. Hikuleo is a star. Just like I said Ciampa/Walter would be the best match of the week, I’m telling you that Hikuleo is a star. My only hope is that Hikuleo makes it so far that you believe me. I would have loved to see Fred Rosser go further, but this is all we got.
4. Brody King vs. Chris Dickinson in a New Japan Cup USA tournament first round match. Dickinson tried to take King down, but Kind fought back with a chop. King went for another chop, but Dickinson ducked. Even so, King fought back with a slam and a Senton for a two-count. King then hit a hard chop and went for a splash, but Dickinson landed a wheelbarrow, which turned into a single-leg crab.
Dickinson kept control with kicks in the corner. Dickinson then locked in a figure-four. King eventually made it to the ropes for a break. Dickinson worked over King with kicks in the corner until King fought back, but before long, Dickinson hit a dragon-screw to take King down. In the corner, Dickinson hit a chop and a kick.
After trying to capitalize, King took control with a cannonball to get a two-count. King landed a pile-driver for a two-count. Dickinson landed a DDT off the top-rope for a two-count. Dickinson then worked an STF, but King didn’t submit. King made it to the ropes for a break and Dickinson started screaming.
Dickinson hit a German suplex, but only got a two-count. On their feet, the two traded blows. King hit a German suplex and Dickinson went for a running strike, but King hit Dickinson with a lariat for the win.
Brody King defeated Chris Dickinson via pinfall in 10:42.
McGuire’s Musings: Main event worthy. My hope was that Dickinson would go over because, well, I’m a big fan of Chris Dickinson. But Brody King makes a lot of sense here, if only because he’s earned it and he continues to be a force to be reckoned with. No real complaints from this first round. I’m excited to see where they go now. With Ren Narita out, the winner is anybody’s guess. My weekly audio reviews of NJPW Strong are available every Saturday for Dot Net Members.