Port Hueneme, CA – 4.2.2021
Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.
The show begins with the referee’s presenting the trophy which the winner of the New Japan Cup USA 2021 tournament will receive. Last year, KENTA won the tournament, and with that victory came a future IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Championship match. This year is different, as the tournament winner will be crowned the first ever NJPW STRONG Openweight Champion. We are also reminded of the brackets. All four opening round matches air next week.
Rocky Romero vs. Kevin Knight
Romero attacked Knight’s left arm after avoiding a dropkick from Knight. Knight did not relent, getting in every strike, stomp, and slam he possibly could when the opening presented itself. He even connected with his amazing dropkick to stunt Romero’s forever clotheslines. Knight was able to get on the Boston Crab, and Romero got to the ropes to escape. Romero also reversed a suplex into a Fujiwara armbreaker, which Knight also used the ropes to escape. Romero Falcon Arrowed Knight into the Diablo Armbar and Knight submitted at 8:39. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these simple limb-based stories, as long as they are consistent and the set-up is paid off, just like it was here. Knight looks impressive already, and I can’t wait to see him in higher profile matches. **¾
TJP & Alex Coughlin vs. Jordan Clearwater & Misterioso
Misterioso is ready to dive onto TJP and Coughlin, when Coughlin rushes back in and shoulder tackles Misterioso. TJP wipes Clearwater off of the apron as Coughlin chops Misterioso in the corner. Misterioso however avoids a corner attack right after and tags in Clearwater. Although Clearwater gets in a few shots, Coughlin gets his boot up to stop a charge. He attacks Clearwater’s arm after landing an elbow drop to the back of his neck. Clearwater drops TJP with a running neckbreaker so he can tag in Misterioso. Misterioso takes down TJP and Coughlin a double back handspring elbow. Coughlin comes back with a flying shoulder tackle, and then strings a backbreaker and fallaway slam together. Clearwater breaks Coughlin’s pin and hits the Midas Touch running boot. TJP breaks the pin, and he also evades Misterioso’s pescado attempt. Clearwater looks for the Midas Touch on Coughlin again. Coughlin ducks and hoists him up onto his shoulders, press slamming him into a gutbuster. TJP followed up with the Mamba Splash for the pin at 13:56. Everybody worked hard but it was a weirdly structured match. TJP must have some sort of informal trainers role in the LA DOJO, as he meshes well with every student as a tag team partner. **½
Kevin Kelly interviews the three members of Team Filthy who will be in tonight’s main event. Tom Lawlor says Brody King may be tough, but with the Riegel Twins by his side, he has no chance of beating Team Filthy. Kevin asks Chris Dickinson about his strategy going into his singles match with Brody King next week. Dickinson says he has a plan, but he is keeping it close to his chest. Kevin asks about Dickinson aligning himself with Brody King in Ring of Honor at their 19th Anniversary Show. Lawlor begins answering for him, which Dickinson doesn’t seem to appreciate. Dickinson then says what he is doing somewhere else does not matter inside a New Japan ring. Kevin then asks Lawlor if he may be overlooking Ren Narita in the opening round of the New Japan Cup USA tournament. Lawlor says he is going to teach Narita a lesson. Kevin then asks Dickinson if he ran the choice to join Brody King in ROH by Tom Lawlor before doing so. You can tell Lawlor and JR Kratos don’t like this question, and Dickinson simply says it’s none of Kevin’s business.
Brody King & The Riegel Twins (Logan & Sterling Riegel) vs. Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, Chris Dickinson, & JR Kratos)
This is a rematch from Episode 22, just swap out Danny Limelight for Tom Lawlor. The Riegel Twins overwhelm Dickinson with tandem offense. Dickinson is able to tag out to Kratos when King tags in, and the two big men slug it out. King sends Kratos outside, but when one Sterling tries a pescado it fails. Kratos lays him out with a clothesline. Team Filthy maul Sterling in their half of the ring for a while. He fires up after taking a Saito suplex from Dickinson and drops Dickinson with a uranage! King and Lawlor enter, with Lawlor locking in a guillotine choke. King throws down Lawlor into a senton splash. Lawlor backs away and tags in Kratos, standing behind him with confidence. King doesn’t give a hoot and splashes the both of them in the corner, following up with a cannonball senton to Dickinson. Kratos tags in Sterling for an assisted dropkick, and Kratos intercepts Sterling in mid-air with a Pounce! Lawlor blindsides King with a forearm to the side of the head, and Kratos takes him down with a powerbomb. Kratos wipes out Logan when he attempts a crossbody. Sterling valiantly puts up a fight against Dickinson, but ends up being knocked out with a forearm at 11:09. I love the symmetry of Dickinson defeating Sterling in both this match and their previous trios match. This was more intense than their first match and had the externality of King, Dickinson, and Lawlor looking for some momentum going into the New Japan Cup USA next week. With Dickinson facing King in the opening round and the animosity broiling between their two groups, that should be gnarly fun. ***¼
Lawlor tells Dickinson to break Sterling’s arm. Dickinson has a hold of Sterling but decides not to do it. However, he does not stop Kratos from damaging Sterling’s arm with a major stomp. Logan, Brody, and ringside attendants check on Sterling as Lawlor celebrates and Team Filthy heads backstage.