This week on NJPW Strong, Danny Limelight and Clark Connors fight to see who’ll win the inaugural Lion’s Break: Crown.
Blake Christian, Logan Riegel & Misterioso pinned Barrett Brown, Adrian Quest & Fred Rosser in 10:30 (**¾)
Lion’s Break: Crown – Final: Clark Connors submitted Danny Limelight in 12:36 (***)
Elimination Match: David Finlay (last man standing), Jeff Cobb, Rocky Romero, TJP, ACH & Karl Fredericks defeated KENTA, Jay White, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Hikuleo & Chase Owens in 16:00 (***¼)
We’re back for another week of NJPW Strong – and again, the tournament portion of the show isn’t front and centre. Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov are back on commentary…
Misterioso, Logan Riegel & Blake Christian vs. Fred Rosser, Barrett Brown & Adrian Quest
Holy random trios match! Brown and Riegel start us off, with Logan tying in a side headlock, before they went around with wristlocks.
Brown armdrags his way free, before he had a waistlock elbowed away. Blake Christian blind-tags in and lands a shoulder tackle to Brown, who pulls him down by the hair before a lariat dropped Blake for just a one-count. Adrian Quest comes in and catches Christian with some shots, before Christian was lifted to the apron – he springboards back in as tags bring us to Misterioso and Rosser. A shoulder tackle from Rosser takes Misterioso down, but the masked man is back with a handspring back elbow before some clotheslines trapped Rosser in the corner. Misterioso adds a low dropkick for a bunch of one-counts, before Riegel tagged in for a crossbody. He’s caught and met with some backbreakers as Rosser threw him aside, before they headed onto the apron where Rosser eventually hit a backdrop suplex.
Rosser drags Riegel to the corner as Brown tagged back in, following up with chops before he lost grip on an Irish whip, with Logan coming back in with a rebound German. Tags bring in Quest and Misterioso, with the former hitting a springboard tornillo for a near-fall, before Misterio racked him… only to get caught with headscissors. Blake Christian runs in but is instantly taken outside as Misterioso powerbombs Quest for a two-count. A tag brings Blake back in as he lays in with chops, following up with a dropkick for a two-count before Riegel returned to suplex Quest to keep those near-falls going. Misterioso follows as Quest finally hit back with a tornado DDT, buying him time to bring Brown back in.
Blake Christian charges to hit a tope con giro out of camera to Quest, before an attempt at Elia misses. A wheelbarrow facebuster from Brown nearly gets the win as the ring begins to fill for a Parade of Stuff, with Rosser getting taken outside for an Asai moonsault from Misterioso. Things calm down with Brown going for a German suplex, but Christian elbows free as Brown had to deal with another return from Quest.
There’s not much left though as a standing Spanish fly out of nowhere from Christian takes down Brown before Elia gets the win. This was fine, but I really could go for some storylines on these shows. **¾
Lion’s Break: Crown – Final: Danny Limelight vs. Clark Connors
The pre-match video made it clear that Clark Connors’ Boston crab gets a quick stoppage.
Limelight tries to sting Connors with kicks early, but gets tripped down as an early pinning attempt came to nought. Connors falls into a kick as he was going for a tekdown, but manages to recover as he took Limelight down with a wristlock, following up as he rolled him to the mat for a cross armbar that ended in the ropes. A side headlock from Connors leads to him getting shoved off, but he charges Limelight down. A backflip enziguiri from Limelight connects as he builds momentum, following up with flying headscissors off the top taking Connors outside for a springboard corkscrew crossbody to the floor.
Back inside, Limelight went for a double springboard DDT, but it’s countered into a slam as Connors nearly shut the door on him there. Shoulder charges keep Limelight in the corner for some chops as Clark was really unloading on him. Mudhole stomping keeps Danny down, as does a double chop to the back… but Limelight kicks out at one. A snap suplex follows from Connors, then a slam, before he teases a Boston crab, but Limelight spins into the ropes to save his skin. Kicks from Limelight follow, including some as Connors was trapped in the ropes, but he’s back with a big POUNCE that spun Limelight to the mat.
Limelight’s back with a ropewalk Meteora, then a half-and-half suplex, but misses a kick before he dragged Connors into a Dragon sleeper. That turns into a Roll the Dice for a near-fall, as Limelight then went up top, only to miss a flip legdrop. He’s able to leap over a spear from Connors as a Small Package Driver almost gets the win. Limelight’s almost chuckling at it as he hoped the referee would wave off the match, but when he didn’t another kick followed for a near-fall. That kick-out just seems to frustrate Limelight, as he went the springboard DDT again… and misses. A second go at the Small Package Driver is teased, this time off the top, but Connors fights free, then speared Limelight off the middle rope before he rolled him over to a Boston crab… but Limelight holds on, only to tap when Connors wrenched back. Clark wins the inaugural Lion’s Break: Crown tournament – one that was in all but name the Young Lion Cup USA, and decent for what it was, but it’s something of a consolation prize for Clark after last year’s Young Lion Cup proper. ***
Next week, on NJPW Strong we get the NEVER division. That’s open-weight matches to you and me.
Elimination Match: Bullet Club (Jay White, KENTA, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Hikuleo & Chase Owens) vs. David Finlay, Jeff Cobb, Rocky Romero, ACH, TJP & Karl Fredericks
Usually reserved for hot Korakuen crowds, we’ve got this to wrap up the current run of NJPW Strong… Eliminations here occur by going over the top rope, or the usual pin, submissions and DQs.
Fredericks and Owens start, but Chase clubs away on Fredericks early before Hikuleo held Fredericks in the ropes. Pandemonium breaks out because of course it did, as the Bullet Club quickly scatter. Except for Chase, who hooks himself into the ropes as his friends returned to make the save. Fredericks gets a two-count from a leaping elbow as everyone collected themselves, while Rocky Romero tagged in to hit a punch at close quarters. A kick from White in the ropes has Rocky down as Tama Tonga came in to capitalise, using back rakes and a nerve hold as Rocky was in the ropes. Tanga Loa’s in to attack the ribs of Rocky in the corner, while Hikuleo hits a chop.
Hikuleo goes for a powerslam next, getting a near-fall, then another before KENTA came in to keep on wearing down Rocky with chops. It’s a gang beating as Rocky’s stuck in the Bullet Club corner, with rapid tags giving him little hope of escaping. Jay White’s neckbreaker gets a two-count, before Rocky flipped out of a backdrop, only to miss an enziguiri. A small package nearly upsets White, as does a roll-up, before Rocky low bridges White onto the apron as they again tease eliminations. Rocky manages to get rid seconds later though, as White knocks David Finlay off the apron, only to get lifted over and out as he gloated.Rocky manages to tag out to ACH as Tanga Loa finds himself trying to curry favour with his t-shirt… but ACH just dropkicks him.
ACH springboards in, but gets shoved down – and that’s counted as an elimination. A short night for ACH! Karl Fredericks clotheslines Tanga Loa for an elimination, while Tama Tonga tried his damndest to take Fredericks out. It doesn’t work though as Fredericks hits an Orton backbreaker to Tama, before a Gun Stun eliminated the Alpha Wolf. Jeff Cobb’s in next, but despite Tama Tonga going all Vinnie Jones and grabbing Jeff’s Cobbs, his attempt at a Gun Stun is pushed aside as he’s sent sailing for the next elimination. Hikuleo’s in next to trade shots with Cobb, before he lands a headbutt only to get caught with some chops. Cobb ducks a clothesline before KENTA distracted him, allowing Hikuleo to score the over-the-top elimination.
The ring fills as Rocky and TJP tried to eliminate Hikuleo, before they combined to help propel Rocky into Forever clotheslines on the big lad. Hikuleo blocks a double suplex and hits one of his own, before clotheslining Rocky out of the match. It’s now Hikuleo, KENTA and Chase against TJP and David Finlay, and it’s almost 3-1 when TJP’s tossed over, but he skins the cat and drags Hikuleo out to make it 2-2. Hikuleo pulls TJP down, and that somehow counts as an elimination as David Finlay’s left with a mountain to climb. It’s two-on-one for a spell as the referee doesn’t enforce the rules, but when they settle down, Finlay and Chase went back-and-forth, with a short clothesline from Chase almost getting the win.
KENTA’s in to land the mocking back-heel, but when Chase returns Finlay bursts ahead with uppercuts. KENTA holds him, but Chase accidentally knocks down the New Japan Cup USA winner before Finlay knocked Chase onto the apron… Chase holds Finlay, but KENTA boots Chase out of the match, before a stunner left KENTA open as Finlay scored the come from behind win. Elimination matches can be a breath of fresh air, but this felt weirdly rushed at times. It looks to give us KENTA vs. Finlay for the US title shot, except… y’know. ***¼
A solid show in-ring, but it’s as dry as ever. I’m curious as to how these shows are going to look going forward, given that three of the biggest names are now in Japan – are they able to add new names to replace those presumably going away, or will this be Blake Christian against Hikuleo and the ilk?