By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed April 23, 2021 on New Japan World
1. Clark Connors and TJP vs. Chris Dickinson and JR Kratos. Connors came out of the curtain running to the ring like the Young Lion he is. Kratos and Connors started the match with a lockup. Kratos threw Connors to the corner. The two then locked up again, but Kratos threw Connors across the ring again. TJP then tagged in.
TJP landed a head-lock. Kratos tried to throw him off, but TJP held on. Kratos got out of it with a cartwheel and it was impressive. TJP then hit a knee and went for a submission, but Dickinson came in for the save and TJP hit a submission on both guys. Connors then tagged in and chopped Kratos. Connors went for a hip-toss, but Kratos countered for one of his own.
TJP came into the ring to land a double hip-toss on Kratos for a one-count. Dickinson then tagged in and tried a series of submissions, but Connors took control with a strike. Connors and TJP tried a double-team move that was either a botch or a very awkward moment of storytelling. Kratos eventually tagged in and hit a suplex on Connors.
Dickinson tagged in and worked over Connors with a back suplex and a pin for a two-count. Kratos then tagged in and hit Connors with a boot to the face and a one-count. Kratos got aggressive with knees to the face and landed a two-count. After hitting a knee, Dickinson tagged in and worked a foot choke in the coroner on Connors.
Connors tried to fight back with elbows, but Dickinson stopped him with a kick and an attempted suplex, which Connors rolled out of to hit the hot tag to TJP, who landed a series of kicks and then the Tree Of Woe. That was good enough for a two-count on Dickinson. TJP landed a blind tag to Connors, but Dickinson hit a series of chops on Connors. After some back and forth, Connors hit a snap powerslam for a two count.
Connors hit a Boston Crab on Dickinson, but Kratos broke it up. While the two heels tried to attack Connors, Connors hit a series of chops. TJP ran into the ring, eventually to pick Kratos up and in the meantime, Connors hit a spear on Kratos. Dickinson then came in to hit an enzuigiri and a brain-buster for a near-fall on Connors. Dickinson then hit a Death Valley Driver, but Kratos came in and Connors rolled him up for a near-fall.
Connors went for a Boston Crab on Kratos, but Kratos powered his way out. Kratos then hit a flying kick. Kratos then hit a Wheel-Barrow German Suplex for the pinfall win.
JR Kratos and Chris Dickinson defeated TJP and Clark Connors via pinfall in 11:06.
McGuire’s Musings: A very well-worked match. I am a fan of all these guys’ work. There were a few very close near-falls that made me wonder who would come out on top, but it always felt like Team Filthy would be victorious, despite the miscommunication between members of both teams. Dickinson continues to look great while Kratos is very good at being the muscle. Meanwhile, I’m interested to see where TJP and Clark Connors go from here, because there were a few times that may or may not have suggested a feud between them somewhere down the line.
2. Rocky Romero vs. Wheeler Yuta. Yuta came to the ring in some type of Mortal Combat gear, which feels timely. The match began as the two wrestlers felt each other out. The two traded takedowns, but Yuta rolled his way out for a leg submission. Yuta went for a surfboard, but Romero got to the ropes for a break.
In the middle of the ring, Romero gained control while working Yuta’s arm. Yuta fought back and took control by working Romero’s legs. Romero took control with a takedown and then worked Yuta’s arm until Yuta got to the ropes. Back in the middle, Romero went after Yuta and hit a series of shoulder-blocks. Eventually, Yuta hit a dropkick for a two-count.
Yuta hit a chop in the corner and then a knee in the center of the ring for a two-count. Yuta then worked a chin-lock. Romero worked his way out and took control with a chop. Yuta then came back with a kick and an elbow. Yuta went for a cross-body-block, but Romero moved and the two ultimately ended up back in the middle of the ring.
Romero hit a knee to the arm of Yuta. Romero then worked Yuta’s arm. Before long, Yuta hit a springboard cross-body-block for a two count. Yuta then hit a cross-body-block from the top for another two-count. The two then traded elbows in the middle of the ring. Yuta caught Romero with a slam for two-count. Yuta then worked an Indian Death Lock that turned into a crossface, but Romero got the ropes for a break.
Romero went to the apron and hit an arm-breaker over the top rope on Yuta. Romero then landed a dropkick from the top for a two-count. Eventually, Romero hit a Rewind Kick, but Yuta worked his way out and hit a German Suplex for a two count. Romero hit a Falcon Arrow into an arm-bar, but Yuta countered for a two-count. After a series of near-falls, Romero went for an arm-bar, and Yuta ultimately tapped out.
Rocky Romero defeated Wheeler Yuta via submission in 12:41.
McGuire’s Musings: This was actually a little surprising to me. This was the first time we saw Wheeler Yuta on NJPW Strong and I kind of thought he’d hit the ground running. Even so, these two worked great together and I wouldn’t mind seeing them run this back somewhere down the line when the stakes are higher. Yuta clearly wants to work a more mat-based style while Romero is simply out there to win. On this day, the veteran won. On the next day? We’ll have to see.
A video package aired to hype the New Japan Cup USA 2021 final.
3. Filthy Tom Lawlor vs. Brody King in the New Japan Cup USA tournament final to become the first New Japan Strong Openweight Champion. The match received in-ring introductions for both wrestlers. Lawlor extended a hand, but pulled it back in a very subliminal way to open the match. King took control with a strike to Lawlor’s midsection. King then hit a series of elbows.
The two worked a series of counters on the mat, but King made his way to the ropes for a break. In the corner, King hit a chop that you could hear in China. The next chop, you could hear in Brazil. Lawlor rolled outside. Lawlor rolled back in and hit a series of shots to King’s gut, but King hit a series of chops and boots to keep control.
After working King’s eyes, Lawlor rolled outside. Lawlor ran outside and rolled back into the middle of the ring. Lawlor went for a leg-dive, but King kept control with a head-lock and some elbows. King then landed a chop and a splash in the corner. King went for a cannonball, but Lawlor rolled out of the ring and pulled King’s knees off the ring-post. Back in the ring, Lawlor worked King’s knee, which forced King outside the ring.
Lawlor followed King outside and tried to work King’s knee. King fought back and went for a chop on Lawlor, but Lawlor moved and King hit his wrist on the ring-post. Lawlor then worked over King’s hand and wrist. Still outside the ring, the two traded elbows, but Lawlor took control. Lawlor eventually threw King into the barricades at ringside.
Lawlor rolled back into the ring to start the count on King. At 13, King rolled back into the ring, and hit Lawlor with an elbow, but Lawlor came back with a forearm of his own. After Lawlor hit a chop, King hit a very strong, very loud chop. Lawlor then hit a series of knees and a series of forearms. Lawlor hit a clothesline, but King came back and hit a senton. King went for a pin, but only got a one-count.
Back in the center of the ring, Lawlor and King traded tough chops. King eventually put Lawlor down with a series of lariats. King then hit an Exploder into the corner. King then hit a cannonball in the corner for a two-count. Lawlor eventually landed a guillotine, but King pushed him to the corner for a break.
Both wrestlers made their way to the top and King hit a super-plex from the second rope for a two-count. King tried to lift Lawlor up, but his leg wouldn’t have it. Lawlor then applied an ankle-lock but King countered, stood up, and hit a piledriver for a very close near-fall. King started slapping Lawlor. Lawlor fought back with a series of chops and elbows.
Lawlor caught King for a uranage for a one-count, but Lawlor hit a dropkick to the knee and a knee-strike to the face for a two-count. Lawlor hit a series of elbows and kicks, but King caught Lawlor with a German Suplex. King then hit a lariat for a very close two-count. King went for a Gonzo Bomb, but Lawlor countered and worked King into a submission. Lawlor then sunk in a crossface. Lawlor then landed a kick to the back, but King caught the next kick.
Lawlor worked his way out and landed a rear-naked choke on King, Lawlor then hit a hell of a knee into the choke-out, and King passed out.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor defeated Brody King in 20:05 to win the New Japan Cup USA 2021 tournament and to become the first-ever New Japan Strong Openweight Champion.
After the match, the members of Team Filthy came out to celebrate with the winner. Lawlor was then presented with the trophy and the belt. Lawlor then cut a promo asking if there was any doubt about who would come out the victor. This has been a long time coming, he said. He knows how this works, he said, and this is part where on a NJPW show, someone will come out and make a challenge. He then invited the next challenger. Nobody came through the curtain, so Lawlor said nobody has the guts.
As the team spoke to each other, Chris Dickinson stepped up and said he was the one to step up and be his first challenger. Dickinson said Lawlor hadn’t fought him and he wants his shot at Lawlor’s title. Lawlor asked “What about the shirt?” (it was very funny because Dickinson was wearing a Team Filthy shirt). Lawlor closed out the show by celebrating with his trophy and belt.
McGuire’s Musings: It’s very rare that professional wrestling gets things right. Tonight? Tonight, NJPW got things right. Not only was Lawlor winning a bit of a surprise, but pairing him with Chris Dickinson is like an angel is reading my reviews and said, “OK, I’ll give you this.” It’s only the end of April, but when it comes down to it, count me among those who will lobby for Lawlor vs. King as a match of the year candidate. The near falls were tremendous, the ability for King to never die was perfect, and at the end of the night, this was the best-worked match I’ve seen in this short year.
This match wasn’t about who won or lost. This match was about putting over a brand new title that desperately needed to mean something in a company where there are more titles than there are Ember Moon hairstyles. And if that was the goal, they accomplished that and more. The NJPW Strong Openweight belt means more than so many other titles in the States right now and I can’t tell you how excited I am for that. These guys put on a perfect showcase for all that title means. It only now starts to get fun. And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to grab their trash bag full of cynicism and look the other way. My New Japan Strong audio reviews are available for Dot Net Members every Saturday.