NJPW STRONG #85 – Strong Style Evolved 2022 Part 1

Tampa, FL – 4.2.2022

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Matt Rehwoldt.

CHAOS (Rocky Romero & Wheeler YUTA) vs. Team Filthy (JR Kratos & Black Tiger)

Team Filthy attacks CHAOS during their entrance, but Romero is able to take over in the ring with a Frankensteiner to Tiger. CHAOS wears down Tiger’s back. YUTA gets distracted by Kratos on the apron, challenging him to enter the ring, not noticing Tiger taking out Romero on the floor. Tiger attacks YUTA from behind, and tags Kratos who overpowers Yoots. Team Filthy wears down YUTA, but YUTA shows no fear against Kratos in the process. He ends up faking out Kratos and hitting him with a top rope dropkick. Romero tags in and pummels Tiger. A rewind kick and running Shiranui got him a two count. Kratos cuts off his Forever clotheslines with a Pounce. YUTA evades a double backdrop, kicking Tiger to the floor and wiping him out with a sucidie dive. Romero uses fellow CHAOS member Chuckie T’s Brodie Knee on Kratos before taking him down with a tornado DDT for two. Kratos pops up Romero as Romero comes off the ropes, catching him into a spin-out side slam for the pin at 9:50. This was a fine way to keep the issue between Team Filthy and. Romero story going, and the wrestling was solid. Tiger was off in the opening portion of the match and it took me out of things. My main takeaway from this match is that Kratos vs. YUTA could be pretty fun. **½

Kratos calls out Alex Coughlin, who defeated Kratos during the “Nemesis” tour. Coughlin makes his way to the ring, catching Kratos’ Stinger Splash attempt and suplexing him across the ring. Kratos takes him out with a lariat. Coughlin and Kratos then get into a strike exchange until they’re pulled apart by STRONG officials.

FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) vs. TMDK (JONAH & Shane Haste)

Haste made his STRONG debut on Episode 81, interfering in FinJuice vs. JONAH and Bad Dude Tito. They also beat up David’s brother Brogan Finlay after the match as well. The two teams brawl into the crowd before the bell. Robinson’s leg gets jacked up as Haste backdrops him over the guardrail. Finlay clotheslines Haste to ringside and throws him into the ring to officially start the bout. With Robinson out, it gives TMDK the opportunity to beat down Finlay as his partner recovers. Robinson is fully recovered by the time Finlay takes down Haste with a tornado DDT. Robinson jabs JONAH and eventually hits the Left Hand From God. Robinson bites JONAH as he punches him in the corner, and then delivers a cannonball senton. Robinson gives a charging Haste a spinebuster. FinJuice double flapjack JONAH. Haste stops a pescado from Finlay with a chair to the ribs. As Robinson is setting up JONAH for Pulp Friction, Haste attacks him with a chair. The referee disqualifies TMDK at 6:34. Finlay saves Robinson from TMDK with a Shillelagh after the bell. This was a fun match, and I think it was perfectly logical that this match ended with a DQ based on their previous encounters and the bad blood between the two teams. After the match, Robinson challenges TMDK and Bad Dude Tito to a No Disqualification trios match at “Windy City Riot”, saying they would find a third for the battle. **¾

NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship
Tom Lawlor vs. Clark Connors

Lawlor has been champion since 4.23.2021 and this is his eighth defense. Connors made the challenge to Lawlor after his seventh defense, and last week he eliminated Lawlor (and himself) in an elimination match. Connors busts out his own white jorts for this match to mess with Lawlor. He starts off hot with a spear and a couple of quick pinfalls. Even with JR Kratos and Black Tiger ringside, Connors manages to Pounce Lawlor ribs first into the metal ringside barricades. Kratos does give enough of a distraction for Lawlor to catch Connors in the ropes with a guillotine choke and a modified Saito suplex. Lawlor further wears down Connors’ neck on the mat. He misses a corner splash, so Connors lays in several shoulder strikes to Lawlor’s ribs. When Connors tries to suplex him, Lawlor puts him back in a guillotine choke. Lawlor then chokes Connors with his ankle. Lawlor’s hubris allows for Connors to splash him into the corner, but Connors puts him back into a choke. Connors places Connors on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a superplex. He applies a full nelson, transitioning into a clutch when Lawlor gets close to the ropes. Kratos is able to pull Lawlor by his foot to the ropes so he can break the hold. Connors wipes out Kratos with a sucide dive, and then spears Connors off of the ring apron. Connors signature falling elbow scores him a nearfall back inside the ring. Lawlor catches a spear attempt, reapplying a Guillotine Choke. Connors backs Lawlor to the corner to escape and powerslams him for two. Lawlor backdrops Connors in the corner and drops him with a kneeling Michinoku Driver, with Connors kicking out from his pin at one! Connors turns Lawlor inside out with a lariat for a one count. Lawlor counters back suplex, rolling Connors into a Kamigoye. He then gives Connors a reverse Kamigorye while holding onto a straightjacket choke to get the pin at 13:58. I liked that each guy stayed the course when it came to their strategy, and that it ultimately took two knock out knees from Lawlor to keep Connors down. The crowd wasn’t as lively as one would hope, but it was still a very good match and further solidified Connors as a main event player for STRONG. ***½

Lawlor says it doesn’t matter who faces him next – “the other Tom” Ishii, Great-O-Khan, or “Blue Just Ass” Yuji Nagata – he will come out on top. However, he will be the one to decide when he defends the title, and right now he plans to take a vacation. Fred Rosser interrupts. He says he knows he can beat Tom Lawlor, as he is the only man on STRONG who has. He’s not asking Lawlor, but rather telling him that he is his next challenger. Lawlor says he’ll give Rosser a shot when he proves he’s worthy of it, and says for now, the answer to a title match is a “hell no.” Honestly that’s fair, Lawlor beat him in both of their singles matches, including their title match in December.

This week’s XTRA match features Jay White and Hikuleo of BULLET CLUB facing Alex Zayne and Yuya Uemura from STRONG 69. White and Hikuleo are at odds based on White kicking Hikuleo’s brothers out of a BULLET CLUB, and will meet during the “Mutiny” tour in a singles match next month.

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