NJPW STRONG #22 – Road To Lion’s Break: Contender

Port Hueneme, CA – 1.8.2021

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

The show opens with Tom Lawlor kicking Rust Taylor out of Team Filthy for his “white belt” performance against Jeff Cobb on Episode 20. In tonight’s main event, the newest member of Team Filthy debuts.

Clark Connors vs. Kevin Knight

This is Knight’s STRONG debut, debuting for NJPW last month at the Super J-Cup. Knight goes after Connors’ arm on the mat. Connors attacks Knight’s mid-section, getting more aggressive when Knight absorbs his chops and responds with some of his own. Knight throws a flurry of uppercuts and hip tosses Connors out of the corner for two. Connors comes back with a snap suplex. Knight resists a body slam and delivers one of his own to Connors. Connors remains sturdy in taking shoulder blocks from Knight, but a high dropkick from Knight knocks Connors off the top turnbuckle and to the floor. Knight blasts Connors with a dropkick back in the ring and then puts Connors in the Boston Crab. Connors uses the ropes to escape. He blasts Knight coming off the ropes with a spear, then locks in the Boston Crab until Knight taps at 7:37. Knight brings a level of aggression that I find very engaging, and he had a heck of a bout with Connors. Connors’ focused offense on the midsection pays off, despite Knight putting in an incredible effort. This impresses Connors, but Knight is frustrated in losing. All of this makes me want to see more from Knight. **¾

Rocky Romero vs. The DKC

DKC goes for several submissions as he and Romero are grappling. Romero grows angry during the process and divorce court DDT’s DKC. From there, Romero focuses his offense on The DKC’s left arm. DKC is able to take out Romero with a clothesline and suplex before dropping a falling chop to the head for two. Romero cuts DKC off by hyperextending his elbow across his shoulder. DKC Northern Lights suplexes Romero and digs his knee into Romero’s back while grabbing a chinlock. He slams Romero thrice for a two count. Romero drops DKC with a Falcon Arrow. He fights through his back pain to get DKC in a cross armbreaker, earning the submission victory at 8:32. This lost my attention a couple times but the heart of the match was good, with DKC’s relentless attack on Romero in the hopes of finally earning a singles victory against one of the coaches, and Romero’s arm and shoulder damage edging out DKC’s back attacks by just a smidge. The best part is we would finally get some direction for DKC after the bell. **½

The DKC gets on the microphone and says he realizes that he needs to get stronger. He asks Katsuyori Shibata if he can join the New Japan Dojo in order to do so. Shibata makes his way out, tells DKC “come with me”, and accepts him as his newest pupil. After months of losing every singles match and most (I think all but two) tag matches, DKC joining the LA DOJO in the hopes of turning his fledgling career around is a story I adore. Seeing Shibata again, even briefly, was great.

Kevin Kelly interviews Bateman via satellite. Bateman is a member of the Ring of Honor roster where he is a member of the Righteous with Vincent and Vita VonStarr. He says what he did to Matt Taven at Final Battle 2020 was an act of mercy. He is coming to New Japan STRONG soon, and says he is going to show us that he is cruel, but fair. He wants his opponents to suffer. He mentions that the LA DOJO is producing lambs to the slaughter for someone like him, and that he actually spent a little time in the DOJO in the early days. Kelly says his sources tell him that Bateman was thrown out the DOJO, which Bateman doesn’t shed much light on. Bateman says to keep our eyes open.

Team Filthy (Chris Dickinson, Danny Limelight & JR Kratos) vs. Brody King & The Riegel Twins (Logan & Sterling Riegel)

Dickinson is the surprise partner and newest addition to Team Filthy. He is likely best known for his time in EVOLVE where he was a two time tag champion, as well as Beyond Wrestling and GCW. This is his NJPW debut. Limelight’s arrogance backfires as he is beaten down by all three of his adversaries. Limelight only gets a reprieve when he pushes Sterling to his own corner where Dickinson kicks him from the apron and Limelight lands a clothesline to the back of the neck. Team Filthy maul Sterling in their corner, with some shoving to his partners along the way, until Sterling escapes a bearhug from Dickinson and drops him with a neckbreaker. King gets the tag and runs roughshod on Team Filthy. He and Dickinson chop the pewp out of each other, with King gutwrench powerbombing Dickinson to end the interaction. Limelight dropkicks King in the side of the head to break his pin. Logan wipes out Limelight and King tags in Sterling. Kratos thwarts the Riegel Twins double team set up on Dickinson. Limelight wipes them out with a twisting crossbody on the floor, leaving Kratos and King to exchange forearm strikes. Kratos clotheslines King to the floor. Dickinson turns Sterling inside out with a lariat for two, then pins him with a running Death Valley Driver for the pin at 9:41. This was a good way to ingratiate Dickinson into Team Filthy, showing how capable he is of being on their team on the very first night in. Something about the pairing of King and the Riegel’s amuses me, but I think it works. This was a solid way to end an eventful episode of STRONG. ***

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