By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped in Long Beach, California at Thunder Studios
Streamed June 25, 2021 on New Japan World
The broadcast team of Kevin Kelly and Alex Kozlov checked in to run down the card, focusing on the main event and the story between Lawlor and Fredericks…
1. Fred Yehi and Wheeler Yuta vs. The DKC and Kevin Knight. Knight and The DKC, the Young Lions, made their way to the ring quickly. Yehi and Knight, meanwhile, looked a lot like a real team. The DKC and Knight began the match. Yehi eventually picked The DKC up by his throat and slammed him something impressive before worked an arm-lock.
Knight tagged in and the two Young Lions worked over Yehi with punches, kicks and a slam that resulted in a one-count. Knight then worked a head-lock. The Young Lions tagged in and out to keep the pressure on Yehi, eventually hitting a double shoulder-block. The DKC then worked a side head-lock, but Yehi countered and eventually went for a choke, but Knight broke it up.
Yehi tagged in Yuta and Yuta hit a coffin drop and some kicks for a one-count. Yuta worked Knight’s arm and eventually went to a surfboard. Yehi then tagged in and hit chops and knees. Yuta tagged in and hit Knight with an elbow and a knee drop for a two-count. Yuta then worked a chin-lock on Knight, who eventually tried to fight out, and hit his amazing-looking dropkick.
The DKC and Yehi tagged in and the two went after each other, the DKC hitting a kick and a chop before going for an arm submission. Yehi tried to roll The DKC up, but The DKC sunk in a submission. Yeah made it to the ropes for a break. The DKC continued to go wild and tagged in Knight. The two hit a splash/kick on Yehi and they went for a pin, but Yuta broke it up.
Yuta then hit a slam and tagged in to face off with Knight. The two traded roll ups, but Knight went for a splash and Yuta moved to get the roll up for the win…
Fred Yehi and Wheeler Yuta defeated The DKC and Kevin Knight via pinfall in 7:47.
McGuire’s Musings: This was a really good match and the Young Lions looked great. I’m still not a fan of the already-known outcome, considering how they are Young Lions, but The DKC and Knight looked really, really good together. Maybe give Strong some tag titles somewhere down the line? Just a thought. Either way, they had me believing the upset might just go down, so kudos to them. I’d love to see more from The DKC and Knight as a solid unit.
2. Rocky Romero vs. Clark Connors. The two felt each other out before Connors took Romero down with a leg sweep. Connors then worked Romero’s arm, but Romero flipped Connors and the two fought to the corner. The two grappled a bit and Romero took control with a headlock. After another exchange, the two met again in the middle of the ring.
Romero landed a kick to Connors’s leg. Connors asked for another one and got it. Romero kept kicking, but Connors fired up and started chopping Romero in the corner. Romero fought back with a hard chop, but then he missed a dropkick and Connors hit a shoulder-block. Connors then hit chops, uppercuts and a suplex for a two-count. Connors then went into a chin-lock.
Connors went to the second rope and hit a double axe-handle. Romero fought back with kicks, but Connors caught him and hit a back elbow. Connors went for another tackle, but Romero hit a clothesline and both wrestlers laid on the canvas. Romero hit a chop and whipped Connors into the corner, but Connors countered. Eventually, Romero draped Connors over the second rope and hit a dropkick from the top rope for a two count.
Romero hit a springboard spinning DDT for a two-count. Romero went to the second rope and hit a knee to Connors’s elbow. Romero then hit a series of kicks. Connors went for a powerslam, but Romero stopped and used a head-scissors to take Connors to the outside. Back in the ring, Romero landed a slam for a two-count.
Romero went for the arm-bar, but Connors made it to the ropes. Romero went for Falcon Arrow, but Connors countered and then Romero countered and rolled Connors up for a two-count. The two both went for a backslide and Romero got a near fall. The two traded chops and blows back on their feet. Romero hit some kicks, but then was speared by Connors. Connors fired up and hit his powerslam to another slam and got the win.
Clark Connors defeated Rocky Romero via pinfall in 12:04.
McGuire’s Musings: This was a very good match and these two work very well together. Kelly tried to play up that it was an upset, and I can agree with that. Connors showed great fire and Romero did a great job keeping the pace where it needed to be. I was happy to see Connors go over, as this would signify that people in NJPW have faith in him, and I think he deserves that faith. Romero seems to be the gatekeeper on Strong and he’s very good at it.
3. Tom Lawlor vs. Karl Fredericks for the New Japan Strong Openweight Championship. Fredericks backed Lawlor into the corner to begin. In the middle of the ring, the two went for a series of counters and ultimately, the two made it back to their feet and squared up again. Fredericks worked an arm-bar and continued to work over Lawlor’s arm.
To gain composure, Lawlor rolled outside. Lawlor consulted JR Kratos on the outside. Back in the ring, Lawlor landed a knee to Fredericks’s midsection to take control. Fredericks then hit a shoulder-block and a reverse splash, but Lawlor rolled to the corner. Fredericks went for a splash in the corner, but Lawlor back-body-dropped Fredericks over the top rope to the floor. Outside the ring, Lawlor choked Fredericks with a boot and hit some forearms. At 15, Lawlor rolled inside the ring to break the count and then ran back outside to clothesline Fredericks over the barrier.
Back in the ring, Lawlor hit some boots on Fredericks. On their feet, the two traded forearms, but Lawlor got the best of the exchange. Lawlor then landed chops and kicks. Lawlor got Fredericks to his knees and rolled him over for a pin and got a two-count. Lawlor then hit a series of hard kicks to Fredericks’s back. Lawlor went for a knee, but Fredericks caught him and fired up. Fredericks went for a spine-buster, but Lawlor sunk in a choke. Fredericks made it to the ropes for a break.
Lawlor went for another choke, but Fredericks fought back, so Lawlor lifted Fredericks and threw him across the ring. Lawlor hit chops and forearms in the corner, but Fredericks fired up again and tried to come back, but Lawlor hit a flying elbow to land a two-count and re-take control. Lawlor then worked Fredericks’s leg and ankle. Fredericks fought his way out and hit a Pele kick to even things up.
Fredericks hit a splash in the corner and went for a series of forearms. Fredericks then landed a dropkick on Lawlor in the corner for a two-count. The two traded blows in the middle of the ring. Fredericks landed an STF and it looked like Lawlor had no way out, but Lawlor pulled the hair to reverse it and go into a cross-face. Fredericks worked his way out and hit the Manifest Destiny, but Lawlor got his foot on the rope at the last second.
Lawlor drove Fredericks to the corner, placed him on the top rope and hit a chop before going for a super-plex. Fredericks fought out, but Lawlor climbed to the second rope and hit what looked to be a botched DDT from the second rope. Lawlor then hit the PK for the win.
Tom Lawlor defeated Karl Fredericks via pinfall in 18:04 to retain the New Japan Strong Openweight Championship.
After the match, Kratos and Lawlor celebrated in the ring. Lawlor picked Fredericks up, indicating he had respect for Fredericks. Fredericks rejected the help at first, but relented, only to have Kratos and Lawlor attack Fredericks to close the show before Kojima made the save. Kojima then said he’s the next challenger for Lawlor’s title.
McGuire’s Musings: If this was designed to give Karl Fredericks a whole heap of credibility, mission accomplished. Lawlor is a very credible champion and while I didn’t have high hopes for a match like this, these guys over-delivered in a big way. Lawlor played the heel perfectly and Fredericks actually had me believing there was a chance or two that he could win the title. Good stuff all around.
In all, this was a worthwhile episode of Strong. The main event was much better than expected and Clark Connors getting a win in that second match moves a lot of things in a very interesting/good direction. It’s the last weekend of June. If you have an hour and a subscription, sit with this episode. It won’t disappoint. My weekly audio review of NJPW Strong will be available for Dot Net Members on Saturday.