NJPW STRONG #80 – The New Beginning USA 2022 Part 4

Seattle, WA – 2.26.2022

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov.

Karl Fredericks vs. ETHAN HD

ETHAN HD is another DEFY regular making his NJPW debut. After a surprise double stomp to Fredericks’ back, he capitalized with a back cracker and a Kick of the King. Even when Fredericks stringed together some of his signature offense, ETHAN caught him on the floor with a Bermuda Triangle. However, Fredericks got back into the ring first, halting ETHAN as he got the apron and double stomping him onto the top rope. ETHAN is able to reverse a Manifest Destiny attempt into a Death Valley Driver for a very close nearfall. Even though ETHAN rocked Fredericks with a headbutt, Fredericks was able to stop his momentum with a spinebuster. Manifest Destiny connected after, giving Fredericks the pin at 11:51. Of all the DEFY folks, ETHAN was seemingly the most popular, and the love from the crowd gave this a nice foundation of energy. Fredericks didn’t do anything out of the ordinary but his offense has some explosiveness to it and he had very good chemistry with ETHAN. I don’t imagine ETHAN doing many STRONG shows outside of Seattle, but if NJPW does return to this area, he should as well. **¾

Matt Rehwoldt vs. El Phantasmo

Remember when Rehwoldt was Matt Morris in NJPW for a couple of matches? Well now he’s a commentator and occasional wrestler for IMPACT. He takes cheap shots at Seattle and says “Cobain had the right idea.” Phantasmo pulls the “only I can badmouth this town” card and it works! It also helps that he’s Northwest adjacent as a Vancouverite. Rehwoldt does a lot of senton style offense, and almost scores a nearfall with a Swanton after a back rake. Phantasmo unloads everything onto Rehwoldt: Sudden Death, CR-II, a Swanton, and a double jump moonsault to pin him at 9:45. With Rehwoldt in Impact and Phantasmo back in Japan, this match was a bit of a lame duck, but more fun than I anticipated. **½

A short close-up video of JR Kratos plays, with him telling Alex Coughlin he wasn’t a “one-and-done” and to watch his back, because he is coming for him.

NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Tom Lawlor vs. Taylor Rust

Lawlor has been champion since 4.23.2021 and this is his seventh defense. Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs are in Lawlor’s corner. Rust returned to NJPW on STRONG 71, after being kicked out of Team Filthy on STRONG 22, attacking Lawlor after Lawlor successfully defended his STRONG Openweight Title against Fred Rosser. Rust then defeated Team Filthy in a six man tag team match on STRONG 75. Lawlor gets the advantage by taking Rust down from the second rope with a dragonscrew leg whip. Lawlor misses a chop on the floor, accidentally hitting the post, and Rust pulls Lawlor by his arms into the ring post shoulder first twice. Lawlor however is able to chop block Taylor as he attempts to re-enter the ring and twist his ankle in the bottom rope. Rust successfully lands an enzuigiri and a high ax kick. Lawlor catches a high kick attempt and goes for an ankle lock, which Rust rolls forward to escape from. Lawlor slides outside after taking a scissors kick to avoid A Perfect Circle, but Rust follows after him with a suicide dive. Rust also pulls off a superplex, but cannot capitalize on a pin right away. They strike one another when they get back to their feet, with Lawlor getting the best of the exchange with an exploder suplex. Lawlor uses his legs to trap Rust in the corner with a triangle choke while laying on the top turnbuckle. Rust muscles him away from the corner into a sit-out powerbomb. After Rust prevents Nelson from interfering, Rust finally hits A Perfect Circle on Lawlor, but only for two. Lawlor attacks Rust’s leg before throwing him down out of a waistlock. Rust tries maneuvering Lawlor into a short-arm scissor. When that fails he brings Lawlor to his feet. Lawlor enzuigiri’s Rust, kicks the back of his leg out, then straight jackets his arms. He blasts Rust in the back of the head with a knee strike and applies the rear-naked choke. The referee calls for the bell at 19:11. This was a very good match, with each wrestler having a focus, the interference attempt actually enhancing the match, and Lawlor putting a former stablemate in his rearview mirror. I believe this was the end of a long taping, and the crowd which had been terrific all taping long seemed somewhat spent. Other than that, though, it was a very good match, and felt distinct from Lawlor’s other defenses. ***½

Tom Lawlor asks about his next challenger. Clark Connors makes his way out in a Seattle Sonics jersey. Lawlor seems poised for them to fight for the title right then and there, which Connors is totally down for, but it was all a ruse. Nelson and Isaacs laugh as they head backstage with the champion.

This week’s XTRA emanated from Japan with Chris Charlton and Kevin Kelly at the NJPWism exhibit. The match shown is JONAH’s debut from STRONG 69.

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