Long Beach, CA – 10.2.2021
Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly & Alex Koslov.
Fred Yehi vs. JR Kratos
Yehi takes a stick and move approach as he chops and forearms Kratos. Kratos’’ shots, while less frequent, are more significant. Kratos drives the back of Yehi’s head into the canvas, then tosses him across the ring out of a vertical suplex. Yehi shows his resolve by continuing to unload chops onto Kratos when he gets to his feet. He avoids a splash from Kratos and double stomps his back. Yehi incredibly pulls off two German suplexes. Kratos pump handles Yehi into an Angle Slam for two. Before Kratos can get to his feet, Yehi pulls him into a triangle choke. Kratos turns Yehi into a wheelbarrow suplex for the pin at 9:13. I liked this match, but with no stakes and a pretty clear outcome it was tough to get invested. **½
Chris Dickinson vs. Royce Isaacs
Dickinson has Isaacs scurry to the ropes early on to avoid a heel hook. Dickinson takes him down with a spinwheel kick. Isaacs grabs the referee so he can maneuver his way into a hammerlock and drive Dickinson shoulder first into a turnbuckle pad. From there, Isaacs focuses his attack on Dickinson’s back. Dickinson stifles Isaacs during a forearm strike exchange by landing an enzuigiri. Dickinson scores big when he catches a boot and takes down Isaacs with two dragonscrew leg whips. Isaacs gets the ropes to escape an STF. Isaac lures Dickinson around the ring so he can stomp on his back when Dickinson slides back inside. Isaacs gets a nearfall with a Falcon Arrow. Dickinson catches Isaacs’ leapfrog and drops him with a Death Valley Driver. He locks on a cross armbreaker which Isaacs counters into a cloverleaf. Isaacs slips out of an STF attempt. He full nelsons Dickinson, but Dickinson rolls under and brings Isaacs back down into the STF. Isaacs taps out at 11:08. This story was so simple but told in a really compelling manner. The crowd was very much behind Dickinson which made it more satisfying when he fought back and got the win. This was definitely Isaacs best showing in NJPW so far, and one of Dickinson’s best as well. ***½
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Tom Lawlor vs. Lio Rush
Lawlor has been champion since 4.23.2021 and this is his fourth defense. JR Kratos is in his corner. Rush’s quickness frustrates and embarasses Lawlor. Lawlor catches Rush coming off the top rope and drives his back into the corner before throwing him down onto the mat. Lawlor suplexes Rush out of the corner and stretches out his limbs. He violently sends Rush back first into the corner for a two count. Rush leapfrogs his way out of the corner and flips out of a back suplex attempt. When he tries a standing frog splash, however, Lawlor adjusts so that he can catch Rush in a triangle. He then rolls Rush into a half crab, but Rush is able to get the bottom rope. Rush avoids a rear-naked choke and back handspring kicks Lawlor to the floor. Rush follows with a suicide dive, sending Lawlor crashing into the barricades. Kratos gets caught ready to press slam Rush and is ejected from ringside. The situation enables Rush to turn the match in his favor with a reverse Frankensteiner. The Final Hour gets him a close nearfall, and the fans rally behind him as well. Rush signals for The Come Up. Lawlor catches him on the rebound and into a rear-naked choke. Rush rolls back to pin Lawlor and make him let go of the hold. Lawlor ends a forearm exchange with a modified tombstone piledriver. Rush escapes another rear-naked choke. He roundhouse kicks Lawlor and puts him in his own rear-naked choke. Lawlor drives Rush head first into the turnbuckle to escape, and then scoops him up into a Michinoku Driver. The rear-naked choke is re-applied, and Rush passes out at 16:19. The bit with Kratos was needless, but otherwise this was another solid title defense for Lawlor. Lawlor trying to keep the high-flier down and wounded was a good and easy story to tell, and there was no need for Kratos to be involved at all. With a little more intensity this would’ve been rated higher, but as is, it was still a good way to end the tour. ***½
Tom Lawlor calls Rush a worthy challenger for anyone else, but he is still the champion. He wonders out loud who will be the next person to challenge him. Ren Narita makes his way to the ring and goes forehead to forehead with Lawlor. Once they separate, Lawlor reminds Narita he already beat him when he wasn’t the champion, and says he’s only gotten stronger since. He tells Narita he needs to go back to the dojo and learn a lot more if he wants the chance to lose to him again. Narita responds by kicking Lawlor in the face. He holds up Lawlor’s title before dropping it beside him and leaving.