The New Japan Cup USA continues on an episode of NJPW Strong that featured a lot of series debuts.
Barrett Brown & Logan Riegel pinned Jordan Clearwater & Clark Connors in 7:00 (***)
PJ Black, Misterioso & Blake Christian X Alex Zayne, ACH & TJP in 7:50 (***¼)
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Semi-Final: David Finlay pinned Tama Tonga in 7:10 (***)
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Semi-Final: KENTA pinned Jeff Cobb in 14:40 (***½)
We’re back at the undisclosed location that looks astonishingly like Oceanville Pavillion where Championship Wrestling from Hollywood tape… Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov are on the call once more.
Logan Riegel & Barrett Brown vs. Clark Connors & Jordan Clearwater
A quick catchup here: Riegel’s perhaps better known on the indies as one half of the Riegel Twins with Sterling (who’s apparently over in England now)… we last saw Logan on Uncharted Territory towards the end of 2019 in a confusing-to-follow match with the Voros Twins… Barrett Brown comes from Texas and has also done some New Japan USA stuff, having previously worked for AAW and EVOLVE. Clearwater is also from Texas, and is more familiar with this venue, having worked a lot for Championship Wrestling from Hollywood.
Clearwater’s a big lad, towering over EVERYONE in this match. Connors and Brown start us off with some scrambling on the mat, looking for a hold that came to nought. A side headlock from Connors keeps Brown at bay, before the obvious shove off and shoulder tackle led Brown returning fire with a dropkick. A tag brings in Riegel, who’s in with shoulder tackles that barely fazed Connors. A receipt from Connors takes down Riegel, who’s then taken into the corner for chops ahead of Clearwater making his bow. A double-team hiptoss helps Jordan get a one-count, before some headscissors took him down after Clearwater missed a pair of clotheslines. Brown tags in for a missile dropkick, getting a two-count, before he suplexed Clearwater into the corner… dumping him ahead of a senton atomico from Riegel.
Riegel grounds Clearwater with a front facelock… and although the big guy got free, he’s charged down with a shoulder tackle as the single twin kept the upper hand. More shoulder charges keep Clearwater in the corner, but he’s back with a Bulldog-ish powerslam that bought him enough time to tag out.
In comes Connors, who dumps Barrett with a hiptoss, before Beeling him into the corner for a running back elbow. Chops follow, including one to the back after a snapmare, but Brown fires back in kind, throwing in uppercuts too before a spear dropped Brown for a near-fall. A Boston crab’s next, but Brown kicks away and tags in Clearwater, who took a pounding before returning with a big boot. He follows that up with a TKO, but Brown slips out and rolls him up for the win. An out-of-nowhere win, with Riegel and Brown looking good – but some of this stuff didn’t quite mesh. Keep an eye on Clearwater – given the right reps, he may be a name to follow down the road. ***
Blake Christian, Misterioso & PJ Black vs. ACH, Alex Zayne & TJP
Remember that Synergy Pro show where Zayne and Christian were pulled “because of quarantine”? Yep, that was for this show… this was ACH’s first outing in New Japan since November 2018’s Lion’s Break Project shows, which were the precursor to the New Japan of America “sub brand”. This match marked a hattrick of debuts, with PJ Black, Alex Zayne and Blake Christian all making their bows on standalone New Japan shows.
Christian, Misterioso and Black jumped their opponents at the bell – as we quickly settled down to everyone vs. Zayne for a rapid-fire exchange. A step-up enziguiri from Christian and a flip senton from Misterioso gets an early two-count, before Black tagged in and ran into a kick. Zayne goes for a clip kick, which misses, but has more luck with a flying forearm before tags bring in ACH and Misterioso.
They trade right hands, but a dropkick from ACH has the masked man down. Christian runs in, but gets dispatched by ACH, before TJP tagged in with a senton atomico on Misterioso. An uppercut traps Misterioso in the corner, but he floats over and returned with a rolling thunder dropkick that took TJP down.
Christian tags in next to kick away on TJP, before he showed off with a Matrix and a flip over. This’d have probably would have gotten some response from the crowd, had there been one. Headscissors from TJP have Christian at bay, but Blake’s back with an RVD-ish spinning heel kick and a standing moonsault for a near-fall. Black returns with a double sledge to TJP, then a flying elbow to the head off the top rope. He completes a pair of those, before a crossbody connects for a two-count.
An armbar from Black keeps TJP at bay, before a rollup gets a near-fall… TJP manages to get back in and tags in ACH… who clears the opposite apron before tossing Black outside. A plancha clears out Christian, before a low-pe met Black on the floor… that’s the precursor to Zayne hitting an elevated ‘rana off of ACH’s back to Black for a near-fall. Zayne keeps going, but Christian cuts him off on the top rope… TJP crossbodies him to the outside as Black tries to follow up… but he ends up eating shooting star knees to the back of the head for a near-fall, with a Misterioso superkick stopping the count. A Parade of Moves follows, with ACH hitting a nice cutter/Flatliner combo. TJP’s back suplex clears things out eventually, before Christian’s leaping knee has him laying.
Zayne’s back as he tries for the shooting star knees to Christian… but Blake avoids the, and rolls up into a wrist clutch Flatliner. A dive from Christian clears out TJP on the outside, while PJ Black returned for a springboard 450 to Zayne for the win. This was a little too spotty, perhaps, and definitely would have been boosted in front of a crowd, but this was a solid, frantic match that crammed a lot into the time. ***¼
Advert time… they’re always wacky.
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Semi-Final: Tama Tonga vs. David Finlay
Tama is always going to look weird without the beard. Meanwhile, they actually found David Finlay’s new theme. Must have been a late file transfer.
We start with a side headlock takedown as the pair go to ground… a side headlock from Finlay is pushed out of, but Finlay’s floatover keeps him ahead of a leaping European uppercut before he hauled up Tama for a suplex for a near-fall. Tama’s back with a dropkick as Finlay came off the ropes, before some punches from above left Finlay on the mat ahead of some more clubbering. Kicks to Finlay’s leg follow, then a DDT to the right leg as Tama kept his offence deliberately paced. Headbutts keep Finlay in the corner, before a snap suplex had Finlay down for a two-count. Choking follows in the ropes, prompting Finlay to fight back with elbows and uppercuts that got him back in the game. More of those follow before Tama lifts Finlay onto the apron… but Finlay’s back with a slingshot into a back suplex for a near-fall.
Finlay teases a uranage backbreaker, but Tama counters with a Tongan Twist for a near-fall… a Fireman’s carry facebuster keeps the momentum going, as Tama stalked Finlay for a Gun Stun… but it’s countered as Finlay went for a roll-up. A second Gun Stun’s blocked and turned into a suplex neckbreaker from Finlay for a near-fall before he ultimately caught Tama with a Stunner, then Prima Nocta for the win. A pretty solid semi-final – Tama controlling the pace won’t have been everyone’s cup of tea, but this wasn’t a bad outing for either man either. ***
New Japan Cup USA 2020 Semi-Final: KENTA vs. Jeff Cobb
KENTA’s theme is still stuck on the Dropbox then?
KENTA is in no rush to start things… nor is Cobb, as he lets KENTA step through the ropes to stall for time. When they do lock up, Cobb nonchalantly shoves KENTA away, then washes, rinses and repeats as KENTA visibly looked to stick to his stalling plans. A side headlock from KENTA is pushed away, with the shoulder tackles not having much effect… a front kick does, but KENTA leaps into the clutches of Cobb, who hit back with a stalling suplex attempt.
KENTA slips out, but ends up running into a dropkick as Cobb built momentum with a back elbow as KENTA came off the ropes, getting another near-fall. The gachimuchi sault follows, but KENTA gets his knees up to block before he landed a kick to Cobb, en route to a neckbreaker for a near-fall. A chinlock from KENTA keeps Cobb grounded, before a kitchen sink knee to the gut took the big man down as he’d fought free. Some grounded headscissors keep it on the mat, but Cobb gets to the ropes to force a break, only to get caught with elbows and a short DDT. Pimp Juice, eh? It only gets KENTA a near-fall though, as he began to toy with his prey, but that just irks Cobb, who strikes back.
Chops and forearms trap KENTA into the corner, ahead of a leaping uppercut, before he picked up KENTA for the Spin Cycle back suplex for a near-fall. More chops and forearms keep KENTA on the back foot, but a ducked clothesline allows KENTA back in with a scoop slam as both men looked for a reset. KENTA looks for a tornado DDT, but instead turned it into a Hot Shot on Cobb before he went back up for a flying clothesline that almost wins it. More KENTA kicks follow, as he set up Cobb for the Green Killer draping DDT. A running front kick has Cobb down ahead of the stalling dropkick, before he went back up top for a double stomp that again gets the Bullet Club man a near-fall. Cobb elbows away and manages to come back with an Oklahoma Stampede on KENTA, before the Gachimuchi-sault landed for a near-fall.
Cobb looks to finish off KENTA with a Tour of the Islands, but KENTA grabs the referee… it throws him away, before KENTA shoved Cobb into the official. A pumphandle bridging fallaway slam should have gotten Cobb the win, but there’s no official… and as he checks on the ref, KENTA went to cheapshot him with a low blow. It’s caught by Cobb, who takes him back in for a Tour of the Islands, but KENTA slips out and gets the punt in before winning with the roll-up. Another deliberately-paced main event that won’t have many people throwing roses – but this was a solid match that had KENTA sneak out a win to get to the finals. ***½
While this show breezed by, this show had way too many matches from the bucket marked “would have been buoyed by a crowd.” Tune in for the main event and the trios match – but I would hope that future NJPW Strong tapings manage to do something to alleviate the empty arena staging that’s almost a detraction here.