By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Taped March 20, 2022, at the St. Petersburg Coliseum in Tampa, Florida
Streamed April 2, 2022 on New Japan World
A new opening video aired before Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwoldt checked in on commentary to run down the card. This is the debut week of Strong Style Evolved…
1. Rocky Romero and Wheeler Yuta vs. JR Kratos and Black Tiger. The heels jump-started the match and brawled on the outside. In the ring, Romero and Black Tiger fought with Romero taking control with a series of dropkicks. Yuta tagged in and worked over Tiger with a sequence that ended with a dropkick and a two-count. Yuta confronted Kratos.
Kratos tagged in and ultimately hit a powerslam for a two-count. Kratos threw Yuta into a corner and hit a release vertical suplex. Tiger tagged in and raked Yuta’s eyes. Yuta eventually landed a jaw-breaker, but Tiger came back with an elbow and tagged in Kratos. Kratos and Yuta hit some chops, but Kratos gained control with a clothesline. Tiger hit a back elbow for a one-count. Yuta rolled Tiger up for a two-count, but Tiger hit a clothesline and tagged in Kratos.
Yuta fought Kratos, but Kratos lifted Yuta a million feet in the air to throw him. Yuta slapped Kratos and landed a dropkick from the middle rope before tagging in Romero. Tiger tagged in, too, and Romero hit a rewind kick and Sliced Bread for a two-count. Tiger ran at Romero, but Romero moved and hit his Forever Clotheslines until Kratos ran in and bodied Romero across the ring. Tiger hit a brain-buster for a two-count.
Kratos and Tiger worked over Yuta, but Yuta hit a dive onto Tiger, who was on the outside. In the ring, Romero hit a knee and a forearm and a tornado DDT on Kratos for a two-count. Romero ran and Kratos, but Kratos caught him for a spinning side-slam and that was enough for the win.
JR Kratos and Black Tiger defeated Rocky Romero and Wheeler Yuta via pinfall in 9:59.
After the match, JR Kratos took the mic while Black Tiger left the ring. Kratos called out Alex Coughlin, saying he reminds him of “some pussy named Tom Brady.” And that was about it because Kratos dropped the microphone, but Coughlin’s music hit and Coughlin appeared, walking to the ring. The two went forehead to forehead and started to hit each other with forearms in the ring. Coughlin eventually caught Kratos and belly-to-belly-suplexed him. Kratos responded with a lariat. The two got tied up and NJPW staff tried to separate them. Coughlin threw one of the staff at Kratos in a fun spot.
McGuire’s Musings: The finish felt a little out of nowhere, but the bigger issue for me is that Romero keeps piling up losses. My guess is that’s not much of an issue because Romero trains a lot of these guys, from what I understand, but at some point, it’d be great to see Romero get a win here or there. And, at this point, especially against Black Tiger. You have to think the blow off will feature Romero getting his first and lone win against Tiger, but they might want to get there soon. I’m all for programs on Strong – a show that doesn’t necessarily have a ton of long-form, deep storytelling – but it kind of feels like perhaps this pairing has almost run its course. As for the post-match, I’m all for Alex Coughlin getting some shine. The Florida crowd, however, seemed confused by what they were watching.
2. Juice Robinson and David Finlay vs. Jonah and Shane Haste. For the second-straight match, the teams brawled in the aisle to start the match. This time, the action spilled into the crowd. Eventually, the bell rang and Finlay and Haste started in the ring. Haste had control with a dropkick and a suplex. Jonah then tagged in and hit a chop and kept control with a knee to the back of Finlay.
Haste tagged in and landed a series of kicks on Finlay, who rolled to the outside. Back in the ring, Haste covered Finlay for a two-count. Jonah tagged in and bodied Finlay before hitting a turning cannonball for a two-count. Jonah landed an elbow, taking Finlay down. Jonah lifted Finlay for a vertical suplex and held him forever before putting him down. Haste tagged in and continued working over Finlay with boots. Finlay and Haste traded blows, but Finlay hit a tornado DDT and got the hot tag to Robinson.
Jonah tagged in and Robinson hit a bunch of jabs. Robinson climbed onto Jonah and punched him a bunch. Robinson bit Jonah and hit a cannonball. Haste ran in, but Robinson landed a spine-buster. Finlay and Robinson hit a double flapjack, but Haste grabbed a chair and ran into the ring to hit Robinson with it. The match ended in a DQ.
Juice Robinson and David Finlay defeated Jonah and Shane Haste via disqualification in 6:33.
After the match officially ended, FinJuice had the upper-hand with weapons of their own. Robinson cut a promo saying he wants to “end this in Chicago.” Robinson said they don’t want any rules. He said they don’t want any DQ’s and they want a street fight. Robinson said to bring Tito and FinJuice will find a partner.
McGuire’s Musings: This thing was all over the place. Even if it officially went six-and-a-half minutes, it felt like it was at least 15 minutes. And I’m not sure if say that in a good way or a bad way. Either way, I like that we’re going to get the (supposed) conclusion in Chicago. This program has worked well for everyone involved, but it’s time. You don’t see a lot of cheap finishes on NJPW Strong, but we got one here and I’m not so sure it worked. Still, everyone worked hard and the brawling in the crowd was fun, even if it exposed a lackluster crowd. When can we go back to the Vermont Hollywood again?
3. “Filthy” Tom Lawlor vs. Clark Connors for the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship. Connors came out in weird new pink jean-shorts. That said, Connors took the pink ones off to reveal white jean-shorts, mocking Lawlor. Lawlor started to strut, but Connors speared him for a two-count. Connors ultimately hit a splash on Black Tiger, who was on the outside and then went face to face with JR Kratos. Connors then took off his white jean-shorts to reveal his regular tights.
Connors speared Lawlor into the guardrail. When things got back into the ring, Lawlor worked a choke. Lawlor slammed Connors for a two-count. Lawlor landed a series of kicks. Lawlor worked an Eastern Stretch. The two traded chops and Lawlor went for a splash, but Connors moved and lifted Lawlor, but Lawlor countered with a front face-lock. Lawlor sank in a modified STF.
Lawlor hit a T-bone suplex for a two-count. Lawlor toyed with Connors and posed on the turnbuckle, but Connors splashed Lawlor. Lawlor then worked a hammerlock leg-scissors on Connors’s arm. Connors hit a super-plex for a two-count. Connors went for a full-nelson, but Kratos pulled Lawlor to the ropes for a break. Connors hit a spear on Kratos and Lawlor.
Connors went to the top and hit a falling elbow for a two-count. Lawlor sank in a sleeper hold, but Connors went for a spear and Lawlor countered with a front face-lock. Connors backed Lawlor into a corner and then hit a snap power-slam for a two-count. Lawlor went for the choke, but Connors rolled through. Lawlor responded by backing Connors into a corner and slammed Connors for a one-count. The two traded blows in the middle of the ring. Lawlor eventually got the best of it with a pair of knees. Those knees were enough for the win.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor defeated Clark Connors via pinfall in 13:59 to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship.
After the match, Lawlor got the mic and said he’s been champion for nearly one year. He said that’s more days of happiness than most people there had in their lives. Lawlor said he ran through the best the LA Dojo has to offer. Lawlor said he doesn’t care who steps up to the plate, saying it could be Ishii or Great-O-Khan. Lawlor said he’s going to take a vacation, but then Fred Rosser’s music hit and out came Rosser.
Rosser congratulated Lawlor for another successful title defense. Rosser said he wasn’t out there to whoop that ass and instead, he was out there to challenge that ass. Rosser said he was told no over 40 times by WWE. Rosser said he earned his contract with WWE in Tampa. Rosser said he knows he can beat Lawlor because he’s the only man on Strong that has. Rosser said Lawlor is going to be a loser and he’s the next contender for the championship. Lawlor said he’d give Rosser a shot when he proves he’s ready for it. Lawlor said his answer was hell no and left the ring. That’s how the show ended.
McGuire’s Musings: Another odd finish on a show that from top to bottom had odd finishes. I’ve never seen Lawlor win on NJPW Strong with a couple knees, but here we are. I was hoping for something better for Connors, who’s been very good lately. It wasn’t that I expected him to win, I just kind of thought he’d put up more of a fight. For someone who had a lot of juice behind him, I was hoping for at least a series of near-falls that would have everyone on their feet. Instead, we got a bunch of jean shorts. As for the post-match, I’m OK with Rosser vs. Lawlor for a third time. It always felt like we were destined to get here anyway. I just hope this means we can be done with the feud from that point forward, no matter who wins.
In all, a weirdly forgettable episode of NJPW Strong, and that even comes with the Strong Openweight Championship developments. Perhaps it’s the crowd/venue or perhaps it’s just some strange booking, but this isn’t an episode you have to go out of your way to see. The wrestling was fine, but it’s always going to be fine on a show like this. The story choices, though? They left a little to be desired. I’ll have more to say in my Dot Net Members’ exclusive audio review, which will most likely be pushed back to Monday due to the busy weekend.
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