NJPW STRONG #16 – Showdown 2020 Part 3

Port Hueneme, CA – 11.20.2020

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

Clark Connors & The DKC vs. The Riegel Twins (Logan & Sterling Riegel)

This is a rematch from Episode 13. DKC has Sterling reeling in the corner when Sterling halts a charge with an upturned boot and delivers a flying Blockbuster. Logan knocks Connors off the apron before he and his brother send DKC outside as well and land double pescados. The twins double team DKC back in the ring, but when the Riegel’s try to trip him in the corner, DKC escapes their grasp and tags in Connors. Connors wipes out Logan with a spear for two and goes for the Boston Crab. Logan escapes and drops Connors with a German suplex. Sterling tags in and the Riegels hit a tandem Side Effect on Connors. DKC breaks up the pin. He and Connors hit the Doomsday Device on Logan and Sterling breaks the count. Connors pounces Logan to stop the Riegel’s tandem DDT that won them their previous encounter. DKC feeds Sterling to Connors for a Boston Crab, resulting in a submission victory at 9:06. DKC picks up his first win in ages thanks to being a better partner for Connors in the end, and Connors doing the heavy lifting for his team. Parity booking isn’t something I love, but I do appreciate that at least we saw growth from the team that previously lost. **¾

Rocky Romero vs. Rust Taylor

As was shown in their match two weeks ago, Romero and Taylor had a falling out during Lion’s Break Collision and the bad blood is still flowing. Like he did in that match, Taylor goes after Romero’s left arm. Romero decides to target Taylor’s left leg. Romero inadvertently gives his arm to Taylor in hitting the forever clotheslines, which Taylor turns into a Cobra Twist, taking Romero to the mat to continue his assault. Romero hits a desperation DDT at the five minute mark. He switches his strategy when he drives Taylor’s arm into the apron with a falling knee strike. The dropkicks Taylor’s arm as Taylor lays on the middle rope. Romero’s shiranui does not work, so he goes for an O’Connor Roll which Taylor tries to turn into a rear-naked choke. Instead, Romero rolls that into an armbar and Taylor uses the ropes to escape. Taylor lands a few different kicks to Romero’s head to get a two count. Romero uses a backslide to position Taylor in place for a knee strike to the chin and a running shiranui. Romero pulls Taylor up for a suplex. Taylor slips out and pulls Romero into a modified rear-naked choke for the submission victory at 10:00. Simply put, Taylor’s persistence paid off. Romero’s adaptability certainly bought him time but once Taylor got Romero back on the ground and tied him up it was over. This was a very engaging match. ***

Jeff Cobb vs. JR Kratos

There haven’t been many big man battles in STRONG to date, just Hikuleo vs. Brody King which wasn’t the hoss battle I wanted. Kratos is larger than Cobb and showcased that by not leaving his feet and taking over Cobb with a powerslam. Cobb served up a receipt when he avoided a corner splash and took down Kratos with a lariat. Kratos connects with a diving forearm in the corner and suplexes Cobb across the ring. Cobb escapes a slam and ripcords Kratos into an uppercut. Cobb Olympic Slams Kratos into a standing moonsault for two. Kratos holds the ropes to prevent Cobb from hitting Tour of the Islands and pulls Cobb down into a rear-naked choke. When Cobb escapes, Kratos rocked him with a jumping knee and a Falcon Arrow for two. After trading some blows, Cobb finally hits Tour of the Islands successfully for the pin at 7:38. I liked the action but the story was a bit aimless. The competitive nature of the match somehow turned into two guys taking turns doing stuff. Then again, Cobb’s STRONG trajectory has been aimless so that’s fitting. **¾

Rust Taylor and Tom Lawlor attack Cobb after the bell. Fred Rosser comes to his aid but gets overwhelmed. Rocky Romero also comes out. Danny Limelight runs out and stands beside Romero, but then blindsides him with a clothesline! As Romero is getting stomped on, PJ Black runs out with a chair. Lawlor, Kratos, Taylor, and Limelight retreat.

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship #1 Contendership Briefcase
KENTA vs. David Finlay

This is KENTA’s third defense of the briefcase. Finlay earned this title match by eliminating KENTA in a ten-man tag team match on Episode 10. KENTA defeated Finlay in the finals of the New Japan Cup USA to win the briefcase. Finlay very wisely is aggressive right away, giving KENTA no quarter. Even when KENTA slips to the floor, White goes after him right away. When KENTA rolls out again, however, the referee has Finlay give him some time. Finlay shoves him away, but when he goes after KENTA, KENTA strikes him with a steel chair from underneath the ring. KENTA stomps on Finlay in the corner and works over his neck. Finlay utilizes uppercuts to do his own neck damage. KENTA delivers a tornado neck snap on the top rope, following that with a diving clothesline. Finlay shockingly comes back after taking a DDT and corner attack with his own corner attack and a clothesline. He almost gets a pin with Trash Panda. KENTA avoids Prima Nocta but is knocked down with a back elbow. KENTA pulls the referee into his path when Finlay charges at him. KENTA drops Finlay with another DDT and goes for his briefcase (which is in one piece, more or less revealing this was taped before the Tanahashi match). Finlay avoids being hit and delivers Prima Nocta, but the referee is still down. The referee is recovered by the time KENTA has Finlay pinned after a low blow and briefcase shot, but Finlay manages to get his shoulder up. A PK and Go 2 Sleep do the trick, getting KENTA the pin at 14:11. The cheating was so much better utilized as a story point here than it was during the Cobb briefcase defense, and Finlay was a much more exciting and smarter challenger. There’s no question KENTA HAD to cheat here to walk away with the briefcase, which made Finlay look like a pretty awesome challenger, and speaks positively to his future in NJPW. I’d put this on the same level as their New Japan Cup USA finals match. ***½

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