Port Hueneme, CA – 5.28.2021
Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.
Clark Connors vs. AJZ
One of their lock-ups gets aggressive to the point where Connors tosses AJZ over the top rope and to the floor out of it. He then sends AJZ face first into the ring post. AJZ baits Connors over to the ropes so he can snap his neck on the top rope and deliver a slingshot DDT. He pummels Connors and stretches him out in a grounded abdominal stretch, applying pressure to the neck in the process. Connors hip tosses his way free but gets popped up into a forearm smash. Connors is able to land two snap suplexes, and AJZ comes back with a Gourd Buster. He does some trash talking before lifting up Connors onto his shoulders. Connors fights free and gives AJZ a Pounce. He tackles AJZ in the corner and suplexes him into the middle of the ring. AJZ is sent to the apron and comes back in with a springboard knee strike to the face. Connors fight off of AJZ’s shoulders again and gives him a snap powerslam. He Gores AJZ before dropping him with a one-armed powerbomb for the pin at 9:38. AJZ got to show some more personality in this match than he did in his debut, and his type of charisma is quite fresh compared to what other bad guys on STRONG are offering. Conversely, the action was a bit more repetitive and directionless than his debut, but I would chalk that up to his opponent simply not being Rocky Romero. Totally respectable opener. **½
Wheeler YUTA vs. El Phantasmo
YUTA outwrestles Phantasmo, so Phantasmo kills time on the floor and then attacks YUTA’s right arm. YUTA drops Phantasmo with an Angle Slam. He fakes out Phantasmo so he can land a high crossbody for two. Phantasmo drops YUTA with a spin-out neckbreaker off of his shoulders for two. He knocks down YUTA off the top turnbuckle before landing Thunderkiss ‘86 (his big top rope splash) for two. YUTA avoids the Sudden Death superkick. He lands an enzuigiri and German suplexes Phantasmo for two, then rolling him into a modified Indian Deathlock and then an STF. Phantasmo bites YUTA’s fingers to get him to release the hold. Phantasmo then blasts YUTA with the Sudden Death superkick for the pin at 14:06. The first few minutes were a bit slow, but once they got into the thick of things they moved at a good pace. It was nice to see YUTA hang with someone so accomplished in NJPW, but it’s clear from a story perspective he needs something to turn things around. ***
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Tom Lawlor vs. Chris Dickinson
Lawlor has been champion since 4.23.2021 and this is his first defense. Team Filthy (JR Kratos & Danny Limelight) are in Lawlor’s corner. The two competitors are cautious with one another as they go for one another’s legs. Dickinson lands a dropkick to take down Lawlor, enabling him to drag Lawlor to the apron where he damages Lawlor’s leg against the ring frame. When they’re both standing on the apron, Lawlor traps Dickinson’s leg in the ropes and gives him a neckbreaker. He drives Dickinson into the mat with a slam when Dickinson begins building up some momentum against him in the corner. Dickinson reverses a figure four leg lock to escape that hold, and backs Lawlor into the corner to free himself from a rear-naked choke. He scores big with a superplex and numerous corner clotheslines. Limelight distracts the referee after Dickinson drops Lawlor with a Death Valley Driver. Dickinson forearms him off the apron, then turns to Kratos who is now on the apron behind him. Brody King comes out and takes care of Kratos on Dickinson’s behalf, so that Dickinson can concentrate on giving Lawlor a brainbuster for a two count. He applies an STF, and it takes Lawlor a great effort to make his way to the ropes. When Dickinson tries another German suplex, Lawlor grabs Dickinson’s wrist and puts Dickinson into a kimura lock, converting into an arm-capture tombstone piledriver. Lawlor Olympic Slams Dickinson and floats over into a Guillotine Choke. Dickinson is able to get his feet on the ropes. He kicks the crap out of Lawlor when they’re back on their feet. Dickinson throws his way out of one rear-naked choke, but from the mat, Lawlor uses his feet to elevate Dickinson up and then down into another rear-naked choke. Dickinson back suplexes when he gets out. Lawlor ducks a clothesline and maneuvers Dickinson back into the choke, suplexing Dickinson onto his head out of the sleeper hold to get the pin at 21:16. This felt like a battle, with Dickinson portrayed as the most difficult opponent Lawlor has had in NJPW to date. Lawlor had to withstand a lot of damage and use Dickinson’s own movements against him in order to repeatedly wear him down and eventually dump him right on top of his head. This was a heck of a first defense for Filthy Tom. ***¾
Backstage, Karl Fredericks congratulates Tom Lawlor on the win. He insinuates that he’s earned a title shot by eliminating him two weeks ago. This seriously bugs Lawlor as he tries to finish up his match winning promo with Limelight, which he ends up bailing in the middle of.