NJPW STRONG #35 – New Japan Cup USA 2021 Part 1

Port Hueneme, CA – 4.9.2021

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

New Japan Cup USA 2021 First Round Match
Clark Connors vs. Lio Rush

Rush surprisingly decides to grapple with Connors. Connors uses a mis-direct to take down Rush with a running shoulder block. Rush uses the ropes to pull off a Frankensteiner and kicks Connors in the spine for a one count. Rush scored a two count after an axe kick. Connors escapes a Killswitch and wipes out Rush with a Pounce. Connors repeatedly shoulder blocks Rush in the corner before tossing him out with a Northern Lights suplex. Rush side steps a Gore and delivers a spin kick to the head. Rush lands an Asai moonsault and a high crossbody for two. Connors manages to catch Rush off guard with a spear. He fights for the Boston Crab but Rush uses his legs to roll Connors to the apron. However, Connors gets the Crab on in the ropes when Rush tries a front handspring kick. Rush flips out of a back suplex. He roundhouse kicks Connors in the back of the head and hitsThe Come Up for the pin at 9:57. Somewhat of a surprise seeing the Lion’s Break tournament winner eliminated in the first match of the first round. Connors and Rush fought with urgency and made it seem like either man could take the bout, which is especially wise in a tournament setting. **¾

New Japan Cup USA 2021 First Round Match
Ren Narita vs. Tom Lawlor

Narita dominates Lawlor’s with stomps and strikes. When he goes for Lawlor’s neck, Lawlor turns things around by instead grabbing Narita’s arm and controlling him in a front face lock/hammerlock combo. Lawlor almost pins Narita in a spladle. Nariata pulls up Lawlor in a front facelock, going back to the stomps and strikes that put him in control to begin with, more aggressively snapmaring Lawlor into a rear chinlock than he did before. Lawlor ends up turning over and putting Narita a leg lock, turning that into a kneeDT which results in Narita immediately getting the ropes to get out of Lawlor’s grasp. Lawlor takes him over with an exploder when Narita begins throwing shots. Narita converts a triangle choke into a Cobra Twist attempt. Lawlor rolls underneath and applies a heel hook. Narita turns that into the Narita Special. Lawlor turns that into a figure four leg lock. Narita repeatedly slaps Lawlor while he is in the hold, with Lawlor egging him on. After being unable to escape or reverse on his own, Narita finally relents and goes to the ropes again. Narita pulls Lawlor into a Northern Lights suplex, floating over up into a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Narita goes for another rear-naked choke, which Lawlor turns back into a cross armbreaker and is broken quickly with the ropes. As Lawlor repeatedly drags Narita by his arm, Narita gets Lawlor back into a rear-naked choke. Lawlor Olympic Slams his way free. An angry Narita goes for the choke again. Lawlor gets Narita in a rear-naked choke of his own. He PK’s Narita and puts the choke back on, resulting in Narita passing out at 13:19. Narita was tough and capable, but like many young lions, he bit off more than he could chew. He had Lawlor in more compromising positions than you’d expect from someone at Narita’s skill level as compared to Lawlor, but ultimately Lawlor’s experience caught up to Narita. Kudos to Narita for changing trajectories when submissions weren’t doing it for him. I also adore Lawlor adding insult to injury by using Narita’s trainer’s signature move (Shibata’s PK) against him. This ruled. ***¾

New Japan Cup USA 2021 First Round Match
Fred Rosser vs. Hikuleo

Hikuleo got his wish in being paired with Rosser in the opening round. The two rivals brawled before the bell, with Hikuleo wildly tossing Rosser over the guardrails (why are their guardrails with no fans?) onto the concrete floor. Hikuleo beat him up for a while when the match officially started. Young was able to use the ropes to take over and land a backbreaker on the ring apron. Young throws some desperation blows until Hikuleo shuts him down with a powerslam. The Tongan Driver gets him the pin at 6:22. This did not rule, but I appreciate them keeping it short and them having an intense final minute. *½

New Japan Cup USA 2021 First Round Match
Brody King vs. Chris Dickinson

Dickinson went after King’s left leg, and King did hoss shit like chop Dickinson up and land sentons. King got a two count on Dickinson with a piledriver. Dickinson takes King back down with a tornado DDT and locks on an STF. King gets to the ropes, so Dickinson impressively deadlifts him into a German suplex for two. They exchange swipes to the face and Dickinson goes back to kicking at King’s leg. He misses an enzuigiri and King gives him a German suplex. Dickinson ducks a lariat and stuns King with a forearm strike and enzuigiri. King however connects with a lariat when Dickinson is coming at him off the ropes to get the pin at 10:42. Dickinson looked impressive with his feats of strength and smart with his approach in taking out King’s leg, but King fought through the pain and had good timing with his lariat. This also gives King a small measure of revenge against Team Filthy for injuring Sterling Regal en route to the semi-final round. ***

Hikuleo vs. Tom Lawlor and Brody King vs. Lio Rush are announced as the semi-final round matches taking place next week. Those are very strange match-ups, as it puts two faces against each other and two bad heels against each other. There will also be an eight man tag. Neat!

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