NJPW STRONG #57 – LA DOJO Showcase 2

Port Hueneme, CA – 9.10.2021

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.

This is the second LA DOJO showcase, this time exclusively featuring current young lions and graduates from the school.

The DKC vs. Kevin Knight

Somewhat surprisingly, DKC bests Knight for a while. Even when Knight is able to reverse a hip toss attempt, DKC keeps on him with stomps. Moments later, Knight takes him out with a knee to the stomach and lands a basement shoulder tackle for two. Knight is able to do some damage to DKC’s neck and back, but DKC shuts him down with a flying karate kick. He also nails Knight with a flying karate chop. A tilt-a-whirl backbreaker puts Knight back in the driver’s seat. When Knight goes for a Boston Crab, DKC pulls him into a triangle choke, and Knight uses the ropes to escape. DKC takes down Knight again with a crucifix driver and applies a modified Rings of Saturn. Knight uses his feet to get the ropes again. Knight destroys DKC with his patented dropkick, and then finally gets DKC in a Boston Crab. DKC tries crawling to the ropes, but when Knight pulls him back and fully sits down on the hold, DKC taps out at 9:44. DKC really got to strut his stuff here, getting in more offense than I feel he usually gets the chance to showcase. Knight’s dropkick is so dope that I totally buy it as a tide turning maneuver that would lead him to victory. Great showcase between two partners and DOJO equals. **¾

Clark Connors vs. Alex Coughlin

Connors has graduated since the last LA DOJO showcase. Connors wears down Coughlin’s back as Coughlin uses his strength to throw and hurt Connors. Connors cuts him off with a Pounce. Coughlin reverses a whip to the corner and belly-to-belly suplexes Connors into the middle of the ring. He deadlifts Connors up into a backdrop. After a fall away suplex, Coughlin puts Connors in a half-crab. Connors not only makes it to the ropes, but holds on dearly as Coughlin tries to pull him away. Connors back elbows Coughlin away and takes him down with a Gore. After another Gore in the corner, Connors uncharacteristically hits a falling elbow drop off the top (Shingo style.) Coughlin runs through a powerslam attempt and shoulder tackles Connors. Coughlin calls for a lariat, but Connors successfully takes him down with a snap powerslam. He muscles Coughlin up into the Trophy Kill for the pin at 10:44. If nothing else, this was a match that emphasized that Coughlin is on the precipice of graduation, showing he is more or less evenly matched skill wise with Connors. I like the back elbow Connors added to his arsenal a lot, it looks good and fits his motif. ***

Karl Fredericks vs. Ren Narita

Fredericks is the first graduate of the LA DOJO, and Narita transferred from the Japanese Dojo to the LA DOJO as part of his U.S. excursion. The aggression picks up early, with Narita throwing Fredericks to the floor after throwing a series of strikes. Fredericks keeps that energy with a slight punt to Narita’s chin after a shoulder block take down. Fredericks overhand chops Narita to end a forearm exchange, which sends Narita stumbling. Narita takes some more shots before taking down Fredericks with a spinwheel kick. Narita attacks Fredericks legs and puts him in a cloverleaf. Fredericks uses the ropes to escape, and also escapes a bearhug from Narita. He hits a Pele kick before forearming Narita down into the corner for a Shibata dropkick. Narita uses a rear-naked choke to evade Manifest Destiny. Fredericks gives Narita a neckbreaker across his back and tries for it again. Narita resists once more and takes over Fredericks with a head and neck suplex. Fredericks gets in a few forearm strikes before eating an open handed strike from Narita. The Narita Special #4 suplex gets Narita a huge win at 12:38. I would have to look back, but this may be the first time a DOJO student has defeated Fredericks since he graduated. That’s a huge coup for Narita, who also has a nice boost of confidence and momentum before facing Rosser in the future. A really good way to end both this showcase episode, and the Oceanview Pavilion period of STRONG. ***¼

Speaking of Fred Rosser, he makes his way ringside. He offers Narita a handshake of congratulations, and Narita refuses. Rosser’s mood changes as he tells Narita to prepare for an ass whooping at “Fighting Spirit Unleashed.” In Japanese, Narita tells Rosser he doesn’t care if he is a former superstar: do not underestimate the LA DOJO.

We’re finally done with the empty arena era of STRONG! Going forward, we’ll see STRONG in new venues with live crowds. Huzzah!

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