Port Hueneme, CA – 3.5.2021
Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.
This year’s New Japan Cup USA will take place in April. All four nights of the Strong Style Evolved tour will feature eight qualifying matches to determine the eight men who will enter that tournament. They could have just made it a sixteen man tournament, but that isn’t the New Japan I know.
Clark Connors & Kevin Knight vs. Karl Fredericks & Alex Coughlin
This is a battle of all LA DOJO students, with both Fredericks and Coughlin returning from injury. Kevin Knight debuted in their absence, and Fredericks and Coughlin gave him quite the test. They beat the heck out of Knight while also wearing down his leg. Knight was able to give as good as he got, and after a slam to Fredericks, he managed to tag in Connors. Fredericks caught Connors with a leaping elbow attack in the corner, and Coughlin impressively gutwrench suplexed Connors and Knight at the same time for a two count. Knight takes down Fredericks with a dropsault to end their strike exchange. Fredericks kicked out of that, so Knight went for a couple quick pin attempts, and was then shut down with a spinebuster. Connors broke the pin and Coughlin got rid of him with a fallaway slam. Knight did his best to fight off both opponents, but Fredericks’ Manifest Destiny got himself and Coughlin the win at 12:48. These guys are not afraid to beat the piss out of each other and I love them for it. This was a great way to reintroduce Fredericks and Coughlin to the fold and serve as a more formal initiation for Knight into the STRONG system. Bad ass match. ***¼
New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifying Match
The DKC vs. Tom Lawlor
Poor DKC drew the short end of the stick in qualifying match pairings. To his credit, he was not animated by Lawlor at all, slamming him on the floor and almost getting a two count with a Northern Lights suplex. Lawlor sent DKC head first into the turnbuckle, and from there pounded on DKC in the corners and attacked his left arm. DKC was cleverly able to slip on a sleeper hold for a moment, which Lawlor escaped with a side Russian leg sweep before locking in a figure four leg lock. When DKC tries to fight out, Lawlor goes for his right arm, and DKC squirms to the ropes to escape. DKC keeps coming at Lawlor, even escaping his grasp multiple times. When he went for his own cross armbreaker, Lawlor lifted him up by his crotch and dropped him face first on the mat. Lawlor put him down with a sleeper hold and hit a PK for the pin at 9:13. DKC has always been tenacious and confident, but his level of skill has no doubt risen since joining the LA DOJO, and this match perfectly encapsulated that. He lasted longer and did much better against Lawlor than anyone could have expected. Even though Lawlor won, it was DKC’s match. **¾
New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifying Match
Rocky Romero vs. Lio Rush
The two men were evenly matched before Romero went into his usual strategy of attacking Rush’s left shoulder and arm. Rush rolled up Romero to avoid an armbar and nailed him with a tornado enzuigiri. When Rush tries a back handspring, Romero kicks out his arm, then places him on the second rope for a dropkick to the shoulder. Rush is able to escape a Shiranui attempt but Romero hits the forever clothesline thrice. Rush stops the fourth with a flying clothesline off of the middle rope before hitting a Falcon Arrow for two. Romero is able to come back with a running Shiranui for two. When he goes for another Shiranui, Rush catches him on his shoulders and delivers a Death Valley Driver for two. After a spin kick to the head, Rush goes for a springback cutter. Romero counters that with a backslide. He then small packages Rush, who reverses the package in his favor and pins Romero at 13:57. Romero’s arm work was expertly done though it didn’t falter Rush enough to make a huge difference to the action. They structured this well, and even if the ending was a bit flat, it made sense in context. ***½