By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed May 28, 2021 on New Japan World
1. Clark Connors vs. AJZ. Kelly said he wished they had a camera on him while Connors made his entrance, but … I don’t know. Anyway, Koslov played up the fact that AJZ knows how to ski. Connors eventually worked a double arm-bar and got a two count.
Back in the middle of the ring, the two locked up. AJZ was eventually thrown over the top rope. Connors went to the outside and the two traded blows, including Connors running AJZ into the ring post. AJZ, back in the ring, hit a slingshot DDT before taking control with a series of punches.
AJZ then worked a head-lock. Connors and AJZ traded moves, but then AJZ caught Connors with a strong left-hand punch. Conors then got up and hit a pair of snap-suplexes for a one-count. Connors went for another suplex, but AJZ stomped on his feet to ultimately get a suplex of his own. AJZ then worked over Connors with elbows.
Connors then hit his signature spear and hit a series of chops. Connors hit another spear in the corner and got a two-count. AJZ eventually hit a springboard double-knees on Connors for a two-count. AJZ lifted Connors, but Connors got out, hit a powerslam and a spear before hitting another slam for the win.
Clark Connors defeated AJZ via pinfall in 9:38.
McGuire’s Musings: Connors looks better every week. AJZ still finds himself in this weird, “what is he supposed to be?” position. Maybe I’m wrong, but every time I see him, I feel like he has no direction. Anyway. Connors looked great, which I think was the point. This was well worked by both wrestlers. I really want to know what’s next for the recent Dojo graduate.
2. El Phantasmo vs. Wheeler Yuta. Phantasmo made his entrance, which was obnoxious as ever. Which is why he’s great. ELP tired to get the cheers going, and it was funny. Yuta took control with a wrist lock to start, but ELP worked Yuta over with a head-scissors. The two then locked up in the middle of the ring, and the Yuta worked an elbow-lock.
ELP took control with a headlock, and kept it going, even when he had to use a head of hair to make sure he was in control. After a series of leg-sweeps, Yuta landed a roll up for a two-count. Yuta eventually hit a dropkick that took ELP to the outside.
ELP kept rolling in and out to play the count. At 19, ELP rolled inside the ring and asked for a test of strength. ELP took Yuta down and worked Yuta’s arm, hand and fingers. ELP then stomped on Yuta’s hand. ELP then did his walk the ropes thing and eventually came down with a double axe-handle. ELP worked Yuta’s nipples. Yes. I wrote that.
ELP hit a springboard moonsault and got a two-count, but the ref counted to three. I guess we’ll ignore that. ELP then worked a headlock. Before long, Yuta hit an Olympic Slam for a two-count. In the middle of the ring, ELP went for a back suplex, but Yuta countered for a two-count. Yuta ten hit a splash for a near-fall.
Yuta hit some elbows, but ELP hit a spinning neck-breaker for a two-count. On the ropes, ELP bit Yuta’s diners and eventually hit a Thunderkiss 86 for a two-count. Yuta hit a German Suplex for a two-count. Yuta then worked a cross-face, but ELP bit his fingers for a break. ELP then hit a superkick for the win.
El Phantasmo defeated Wheeler Yuta via pinfall in 14:06.
McGuire’s Musings: Yuta got a lot more offense than I thought he would, and I’m not complaining. It got to the point where I actually thought ELP might lose. I love that they got almost 15 minutes because they deserved it and they made the most of it. I’m a big fan of ELP, but Yuta held his own. This was a very good match. Both guys worked nearly perfect together. I’d love to see this run back with a belt in mind.
3. Tom Lawlor vs. Chris Dickinson for the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship. Lawlor went for some kicks, but Dickinson fought back with a take-down. After a head-lock, the ref broke it up and the two felt each other out in the middle of the ring. Lawlor took control with a head-scissors. Dickinson then worked an ankle lock.
Lawlor eventually got up and sunk in a sharp-shooter before Dickinson made it to the ropes. Dickinson then came at Lawlor with palm strikes and the two traded kicks. Lawlor eventually worked a tight head-lock, but Dickinson worked his way out. Lawlor then went for an arm-bar. Lawlor then went for the legs, but Dickinson rolled his way out and the two worked each other back on their feel in the middle of the ring.
After a test of strength, Dickinson hit Lawlor with some kicks and Dickson worked Lawlor’s leg. Outside the ring, Dickinson continued to work Lawlor’s leg. On the apron, Dickinson hit a pair of outrageously loud and hard chops. Lawlor took control, however, when he hit a neck-breaker on the apron. Lawlor then worked over Dickinson in the corner with a series of strikes.
Dickinson took a series of chops in the corner. Dickinson fired up and countered with a clothesline, but Lawlor fought back to take Dickinson, getting a two-count. Lawlor then worked an ankle lock before going into a figure-four. Dickinson reversed it, but Lawlor made it to the ropes for a break.
Dickinson hit a series of chops, but Lawlor slipped behind for a choke. Dickinson got losse and hit a chop before going for a super-plex, which he hit. Dickinson then fired up and hit a series of clotheslines, the last of which took Lawlor down. Dickinson hit a Death Valley Driver, but the rest of Team Filthy hopped onto the apron. Brody King then came out to even the score. Dickinson then hit a Brian-buster for a close near-fall.
Dickinson went for a slam, but Lawlor countered. Eventually, Lawlor hit a spinning enzuigiri. Dickinson then sunk in an STF. Lawlor made it to the rope for the break. Dickinson lifted Lawlor for a German Suplex. Dickinson went for another, but Lawlor grabbed his arm for a submission. Still, Lawlor lifted Dickinson for a possible tombstone, and he got a two-count.
The two traded slaps and chops in the middle of the ring. Before long, Lawlor hit an Exploder and an Olympic Slam, before trying to choke Dickinson out. Dickinson made it to the ropes for a break. Dickinson then went for kicks and strikes, but Lawlor went for the choke. Dickinson eventually fought out and got a suplex. Dickinson went for a clothesline, but Lawloe caught him and slammed for the in.
Tom Lawlor defeated Chris Dickinson via pinfall in 21:16 to retain the New Japan Strong Openweight Championship.
McGuire’s Musings: If you asked me to book a dream match on NJPW Strong, it would be this match. This was great. I really, really, really hope this isn’t the end of Chris Dickinson competing in significant ways. I guess I’ll just say it one more time: This was great. Danny Limelight was very good in the post-match backstage promo, but Lawlor deserves more credit than he gets. He’s such a good worker. This was set up to have both guys shine, and in a rarity, it actually happened. At this point, I can’t even imagine anyone else being the NJPW Strong Openweight Champion. I’m very, very excited to see where they go from here.
In all, this was a very good episode of Strong. You should watch it, not just because of the great in-ring work, but also because it moves a lot forward. And if NJPW and WWE actually go to have a working relationship, I pray to all that’s good in the world that Strong stays what it is. This might be the best pure pro wrestling show on the planet.