NJPW STRONG #38 – LA DOJO Showcase 1

Port Hueneme, CA – 4.30.2021

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

Katsuyori Shibata introduces this week’s episode which is an LA DOJO showcase, featuring some of the best students from his school.

TJP vs. The DKC

TJP wears down DKC’s back and snaps his left arm. TJP face wash kicks him in the corner. DKC avoids a slingshot sneton and nails a one-footed dropkick. He bulldogs TJP into a running Baba chop, and then puts TJP into a triangle choke. TJP converts that into an ankle lock and DKC grabs the ropes to escape. TJP goes for the Detonation Kick. DKC counters into a crucifix pin for two, then pulls on TJP’s neck. TJP rolls DKC onto his shoulders for a pin to escape, then applies a modified crossface. DKC taps out at 7:39. Kind of strange for DKC to more or less get rolled on an LA DOJO Showcase episode. He gets a fist bump from TJP though, so that’s something? *½

Fred Rosser & Ren Narita vs. Alex Coughlin & Kevin Knight

Rosser and Knight have an intense exchange at the beginning. Rosser holds the ropes to avoid a dropkick and lands his patented seated senton for two. After another seated senton and a gutbuster, Rosser tags in Narita. Knight tags Coughlin so he can recover. Coughlin gets the better of Narita and with Knight takes him down with a double Beele toss. Rosser tries to interject but is pummeled by both Coughlin and Knight and tossed to the floor. Knight crumbles Narita with his dropsault, but Knight landing on his midsection also takes the wind out him. This gives Narita a chance to tag out, and Knight does the same. Coughlin takes down Rosser with a shoulder tackle. After Coughlin gutwrench suplexes Rosser, Knight delivers his own basement shoulder tackle and a standing Mad Splash for two. He locks Rosser in the Boston Crab. Narita breaks it, but when he tries a spin kick on Coughlin, Coughlin catches him and cradle suplexes him. When Coughlin saves Knight from being pinned by a clothesline from Rosser, Narita throws Coughlin to the floor. Rosser catches Knight’s crossbody attempt and muscles him up into the Gut Check. A sliding boot to the side of the head gets Rosser the pin at 12:36. All three young lions looked excellent, and Rosser put in another tremendous performance himself. I’d dig seeing him against all three of these guys in singles matches. ***¼

Karl Fredericks vs. Clark Connors

Fredericks is the first graduate of the LA DOJO and Connors is the “captain” of the Dojo. What that means I do not know, but I presume it is the most senior and/or experienced non-graduate. After some respectful wrestling, Fredericks dives onto Connors on the floor. Connors takes this opportunity to send Fredericks face first into a ring post and suplex him onto the floor. He snapmares Fredericks into a double chops to the shoulder. Fredericks responds with a forearm to the lower back. They repeat this exchange, with Fredericks adding a kick to the spine. Even after taking a backbreaker, Connors is able to hit his signature Pounce on Fredericks. Fredericks elbows Connors in the corner and in the middle of the ring before landing a belly-to-back suplex and a leaping elbow drop. After a spinebuster he locks Connors in an STF. Connors grabs the ropes to escape. He gets Fredericks in the Boston Crab, doing a lot of damage before Fredericks finally gets the ropes. Fredericks however is able to stop Connors on the top turnbuckle and bring him down with a superplex. Connors ends a strike exchange with a powerslam. A German suplex is followed up with a Gore. Fredericks fights his way out of a suplex. He gives Connors a back cracker and Manifest Destiny for the pin at 18:19. I don’t know that all of the time was filled optimally, but this was quite a fun battle to witness. Connors seemed determined to best the only graduate of the LA Dojo to date, and with him coming close, it shows he’s on the cusp of graduating himself. Of course he and Fredericks had excellent chemistry being so familiar with one another, and even if Fredericks’ win was a mild surprise, it felt well earned. This a very suitable match to end an LA DOJO Showcase episode. ***½

Backstage, Clark Connors makes note of a nickname Kevin Kelly has been calling him lately on commentary: wild rhino. Connors likes the sound of that. He says Clark Connors the young lion is dead, and that Clark Connors the wild rhino is here to stay.

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