We’ve four first-round matches as the Lion’s Break: Crown tournament gets going on NJPW Strong this week.
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: Logan Riegel pinned The DKC in 6:31 (**)
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: Clark Connors submitted Jordan Clearwater in 6:11 (***)
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: Danny Limelight pinned Barrett Brown in 9:31 (**¾)
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: Blake Christian pinned Adrian Quest in 6:49 (**¾)
We’re straight in with the opening titles as we’ve got the start of another tournament in New Japan… this time it’s featuring eight relative newcomers. Kevin Kelly’s joined by TJP to start, as TJP’s asked about Clark Connors as a pre-tournament favourite – but while TJP admits he’s probably a favourite, he doesn’t out-and-out hail his chances.
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: The DKC vs. Logan Riegel
It’s a rare singles outing for Riegel to start this tournament, and we start with DKC looking for an armbar, but Riegel pushes him aside.
DKC has more luck with a waistlock takedown as he found his way in for that armbar, but Riegel gets free for a headlock takedown. Headscissors get DKC away, before Riegel eventually scrambled free. A double wristlock from DKC keeps Riegel down, before DKC switched around into a back suplex for a one-count. Going to the armbar keeps Riegel down as commentary talked about cake. DKC keeps spamming the armbar, but again Riegel fought free and eventually mounted a comeback with some clotheslines. Riegel throws in a rolling neckbreaker for a two-count, before DKC came back with a kick to the arm, and yes… it’s back to the arm, but first, a side Russian legsweep takes down Riegel for a grounded version of a cobra clutch that ended in the ropes.
DKC looks to pick up again with an overhead suplex, but Riegel slips out with a roll-up… and that’s the win. Very short, with DKC’s game plan of going for the arm not really landing here as he fell to a flash pin. **
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: Jordan Clearwater vs. Clark Connors
Clearwater’s perhaps the underdog here, with Connors a pre-tournament favourite by virtue of coming from the LA Dojo.
This one starts off a little more sprightly, with Connors taking down Clearwater as he looked to take the back… but Jordan gets free with a wristlock that Clark counters out of with an armdrag. A pinning attempt gets just a one-count, as does another coming from a headlock takedown as Connors retained the upper hand. Connors cinches it in more, but Clearwater gets out with a hiptoss before landing a legdrop for a two-count. Chops from Clearwater just wind up Connors, who hits back with chops before he stomped a mudhole into him in the corner. A snapmare and a chop to the back follows, before he proceeded to stretch Clearwater with an armbar on the mat.
Jordan rolls up and fights free, but Connors comes back with a misdirection shoulder tackle, before taking Clearwater to the corner for more chops. A back body drop sends Connors down as a neckbreaker from Clearwater gets another two-count, before a spinebuster dumps Connors for yet another near-fall, with Clearwater threatening the upset. Connors slips out of a slam, returning with a powerslam of his own for a two-count before he looked for a Boston crab. It’s countered into a roll-up for a two-count, before he retaliated with a spear as the Boston crab followed for the quick submission. This was much more like it, with both men showing plenty of energy as Clearwater looked good in defeat here. ***
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: Barrett Brown vs. Danny Limelight
Brown starts this one on offence, working Limelight’s arm into a hammerlock… but a side headlock takedown has him free before Brown’s headscissors came to nought.
A wristlock from Brown’s rolled out of by Limelight, but Barrett hits back with an armdrag before he’s caught with an instant response. Limelight works the arm before he got backed into the corner, as he’s able to return with some kicks and some Rocky Romero-isms too. Limelight went for a roll-through Destroyer it seems, but got caught as he ends up kicking Brown down, taking him outside for a corkscrew plancha. Rolling Brown back inside, Limelight seemed to have more eyes for Rocky Romero, and that self-imposed distraction costs him as Brown hit back with a dropkick that spun him to the mat.
Brown keeps going with some kicks for a two-count, but a dropkick from Limelight takes him back as we crossed the five-minute mark. A suplex from Brown dumps Limelight into the corner, before a chop kept him there. Limelight rope-walks to get away from Brown ahead of a springboard clothesline as he started to impress. There’s a half-and-half suplex too, then a buzzsaw kick for a near-fall, before he looked to muscle in for a Dragon sleeper. That’s turned into a Fisherman buster that nearly put Brown away. Limelight springboards for something, but misses as Brown returned with a wheelbarrow facebuster for a near-fall. Limelight ducks a backfist omn the apron, then came back with a double springboard DDT – the Simbiote DDT – for the win. This was a bit more flashy, with the more established Limelight leaving with the W. **¾
Lion’s Break: Crown – Quarter-Final: Blake Christian vs. Adrian Quest
Our final quarter-final gets going here with Christian going for an early roll-up… before a crucifix from Quest returned the favour.
A Victory Roll keeps Christian’s urgency up, before some tijeras from Quest took him down… but a clothesline and a punt to the back had Blake back on top for a quick two-count. Quest sidesteps a charge in the corner as he returns with shoulder charges, following up with a snap back suplex out of the corner for a two-count. Stomps focus on Christian’s ribs, before a snap suplex pushed Quest a little further ahead. A knee to the gut spins Blake down for a two-count… but Christian’s back as he trips Quest into the bottom rope for a 619, ahead of a springboard that’s cut off in mid-air with a dropkick. That gets Quest a two-count, as does a slam, before he stretched Christian with a leg lock/armbar combo.
Quest lets go to hit a back suplex for another two-count, before a tiltawhirl backbreaker kept the pressure up. An Irish whip bounced Blake into the corner, but he’s right back out with a clothesline as things descended into a strike battle… ending with Blake flipping over Quest for a slam. A Quebrada’s next, but he takes too long going for the cover and only gets a two-count, before Quest struck back with Code Red. That gets Quest a two-count before he went up top… but he missed a Phoenix splash and gets caught with a German suplex from Christian, who quickly went up top and landed the Elia corkscrew splash for the win. Pretty even stuff, with Christian clearly being hampered the side strain throughout the match. **¾
Next week, we’re getting Jay White, KENTA, Chase Owens & HIKULEO vs. Misterioso, Rocky Romero, Jeff Cobb & David Finlay… TJP & Karl Fredericks vs. Flip Gordon & Brody King… plus the two semis: Limelight vs. Christian and Connors vs. Riegel.
While the wrestling on hand here was solid, for a TV product this was all steak and virtually no sizzle. Maybe it’s just tournament fatigue, but New Japan bouncing from tournament to tournament to tournament is making this Strong show really lose its shine.