The first half of the New Japan Showdown special sees the Bullet Club in action, while Filthy Tom Lawlor returned to NJPW Strong.

Quick Results
Alex Zayne & Adrian Quest pinned Blake Christian & ACH in 7:12 (***¼)
Tom Lawlor defeated Fred Rosser via referee stoppage in 11:13 (***¼)
Juice Robinson, Brody King & Karl Fredericks pinned Chase Owens, Jay White & Tanga Loa in 9:51 (***)
Tama Tonga pinned PJ Black in 10:38 (***¼)

We’re back at the nondescript venue as the latest run of NJPW Strong shows kickstarted a two-part “Showdown” series. Last year, the Showdown name was used for a double-header of shows in California… I guess they’re keeping that part of the run right! Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov run down the card… but we kick-off with a video package and then our opening tag.

Alex Zayne & Adrian Quest vs. ACH & Blake Christian
Commentary’s teasing a match between Zayne and Christian – which I sure hope they’ve taped given the latest speculation. Also.. was that me or did Zayne get his “real” theme?

ACH and Quest start us off, and it seems Adrian’s found some bleach since we last saw him. A side headlock from ACH is pushed off, with ACH coming back with shoulder tackles to take the newly-blond Quest down. A leg sweep and a low dropkick keeps him there, but ACH runs into Quest’s boots… then a back elbow before a backflip from Quest just earned him a chop. Quest comes back with a tijeras, then a corkscrew crossbody for a two-count, before Zayne tagged into the fray. A double-team clothesline is ducked as ACH tags in Christian, who trips Zayne before they turned it up a little. There’s a snapmare and a low dropkick from Christian for a two-count, but ACH tags in and hits a dropkick of his own as the veteran looked to push ahead for his team.

Zayne uses satellite headscissors before a facebuster dropped ACH for a two-count. Commentary brings up the age old GIF vs. JIF pronunciation thing as they talked about the new era of guys on the scene, as Quest kept the momentum going. A kick to the ribs from Zayne keeps ACH down, as did a back elbow, while Quest’s suplex gets him a two-count. A nifty stomp worked, but a standing moonsault only got ACH’s knees, as ACH landed a rear spin kick as tags bring us back to Zayne and Christian. Blake goes wild with clotheslines, then a leapfrog dropkick as he stacked up both opponents into the corner. A one-man Spanish Fly gets a two-count for Blake, while ACH tried to dispatch of Quest… only to get caught with a head kick as Quest followed him out for an Asai moonsault.

That leaves Blake and Alex in the ring, with Zayne heading up top for the Crunch Wrap Supreme shooting star knees… Christian avoids them, them misses a stomp to the back, before a Victory roll attempt was reversed by Zayne for the win. A nice series of reversals to end things, as Zayne and Christian perhaps showed more of their “indie stuff” here. ***¼

Tom Lawlor vs. Fred Rosser
Lawlor had Rust Taylor and JR Kratos out in his corner, while he tried the Iron Shiek’s old Iranian club gimmick to warm-up. It’s a pretty cool re-debut for Lawlor, who’d only been on the precursor to NJPW Strong…

Rosser shoves Lawlor before the bell, which feels like a bad idea. Lawlor goes for Rosser at the bell, taking him into the corner for some kicks, before a headlock takedown had Lawlor on the mat. He extricates himself and stomps Rosser’s arm in a hammerlock, as Lawlor began to trash-talk the former Nexus man. Uppercuts keep Rosser in the corner, but Rosser headbutts his way free ahead of some clotheslines to Lawlor in the corner. A slam and a seated splash are next for just a one-count, with Lawlor fighting back with some forearms that looked to aim for Rosser’s nose. He then just stands on him in the corner, but Rosser’s back with headbutts and chops as the tide continued to shift.

Elbows from Lawlor have him back on top, before he hung Rosser in the ropes for a rear naked choke. They head into the apron, with Rosser getting free ahead of a back suplex onto the apron. A second rear naked choke’s quickly broken via the ring post, with Rosser then trying his best to keep Lawlor from getting back inside, as knees keep Lawlor down in the corner. Another sit-down splash gets Rosser a two-count… but he goes to the well once too often as Lawlor catches that splash and turned it into a cross armbreaker, but it ends in the ropes. Lawlor stays on top of Rosser with stomps and kicks, before uppercuts to the arm and an armdrag takedown resumed the focus on that limb.

Lawlor keeps stomping on the left arm, then went back to the cross armbar, but Rosser quickly scoots to the ropes before the hold was properly applied. With one arm, Rosser tries to fight back, but another arm whip yanks him down, as a kick to the back kept him firmly on the defensive. He avoids a PK and tries to roll-up Lawlor, getting near-falls, before Lawlor kicked out and rolled into an omoplata, forcing Rosser to swivel into the ropes. Lawlor absorbs some shots and comes back with an Exploder to Rosser, then leapt in with a guillotine choke. Rosser gets free, but quickly is taken down with an Eye of the Hurricane for a near-fall, following up with some clotheslines to Rosser, who replied with a rolling elbow for a near-fall of his own. Rosser looks to put Lawlor away with the Gut Check, but Lawlor counters out and replies with a Cloverleaf, then transitioned out… only to have to fight another Gut Check, with Rosser landing it at the third attempt.

Rosser looks for a PK afterwards, but Lawlor caught it and pulled him down, tying up every limb as the referee ended up waving the match off. Technically a stoppage rather than a submission, but this was a damn good redebut for Lawlor. ***¼

Time for adverts – Clark Connors continues to irritate his LA Dojo buddies by clicking his fingers. Interestingly, they’ve dropped the “Will Ospreay makes his own faction” ad…

Bullet Club (Jay White, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens) vs. Juice Robinson, Brody King & Karl Fredericks
Juice had his Blues Brothers look here, but it’s Karl Fredericks who starts out against Jay White.

A lock-up ends in the ropes, with Fredericks going straight for White afterwards… but they break it up as Fredericks came back with a leapfrog/crossbody combo, then a shoulder tackle to knock White down. In tags Juice, who hits a double sledge off the top to the arm, then a slam as Fredericks returned to hit a leaping elbow drop for a two-count. European uppercuts and elbows take White into the corner, but Chase Owens provides a distraction that White capitalises on, following up with a backbreaker as Tanga Loa tagged in. Loa clears the apron then went to work on Fredericks, taking him into the corner ahead of a side suplex that gets a near-fall.

Chase Owens is in with some knees to Fredericks, then some elbows and forearms to the lower back. White’s back to stomp on Fredericks, before a rake to the eyes fired up Juice Robinson – who called out the dodgy refereeing on show. A half crab ends in the ropes, before Fredericks snuck out of a suplex, then caught White unawares with a spinebuster. Tags bring in Brody King and Tanga Loa to trade clotheslines, then elbows as they wheeled away on each other. A kick to the gut from Tanga stops that, but he’s quickly caught with a German suplex before Chase Owens ran into a back body drop. White’s chopped too as Tanga tries to catch out Brody… but ends up eating a Black Hole Slam.

Juice tags in to crash into Tanga Loa with a cannonball, getting a delayed two-count off of it, before a Juice Box is blocked. Tanga Loa strikes back with a neckbreaker, then tagged in Chase Owens as the Bullet Club trio looked to isolate Juice. A Blade Buster from White and a running knee from Chase gets a two-count on Juice, before a Package Piledriver from Chase was fought out of. Juice has nobody to tag out to, and has to fight out of another Package Piledriver… finally the ring begins to fill for a Parade of Moves, ending with Chase rolling up on a Pulp Friction for a near-fall, before Juice hit a Left Hand of God, then the Pulp Friction for the fun. A pretty solid trios match, as Juice wins on his show debut. As to what this leads to… we’ll need to see. ***

Tama Tonga vs. PJ Black
A main event in any arena in the country, I’m sure.

PJ starts with an armdrag, then cartwheeled as he tried to break a wristlock attempt as he and Tama Tonga were exchanging holds early on. A roll-up attempt gets a two-count as Tama then looked to focus on Black’s arm, rolling him down for a hammerlock, which is escaped as Black goes back to a wristlock. I must say, I wasn’t expecting HOLDS and REVERSALS out of this match, but the pace quickens was PJ sweeps the leg, then used headscissors to take Tama into the ropes. More headscissors are blocked as Tama boots PJ in the gut, which led to the turnaround in the match. Black’s bloodied, but he uses more headscissors to take Tama outside for a plancha… then rolled him back inside… only to get crotched as he took too long on the ropes.

Tama knocks PJ to the floor with an elbow, but Black rolls back in as Tama began to lay in some elbows. Face-washing boots don’t help with that bloodied nose, before a back body drop sent PJ skyward. A chinlock keeps both men down as they looked to be trying to shoot around the blood (unless they chose the hard camera for a reason…)

A leg lariat from Black and a punch knocks Tama down after Black had fought free, and he followed those up with elbows off the top rope. Black keeps going with a springboard crossbody that gets a near-fall as the referee checked Black’s cut, before Tama got out of a Fireman’s carry to hit a Tongan Twist that almost spiked PJ on his head. Tama looks to pull ahead, but Black hits back with a Flatliner, then rolled into a Koji clutch, but Tama’s able to drag his way towards the referee, using him to inch towards the ropes before he pulled PJ’s dreadlocks to force a break. PJ’s pulled to the outside from there, as Tama regained his bearings… Black quickly returns as we switch back to the hard camera. A Gun Stun from Tama’s blocked, but his Superman punch hits before PJ’s Quebrada into a DDT almost nicked the win.

Black heads up top, but Tama gets back to his feet and hits PJ with an Alabama Slam for a near-fall. A wheelbarrow roll-up nearly gets PJ the win, but Tama kicks out and nails a Gun Stun for the win – ending a pretty decent match that could have been horribly derailed by the blood. ***¼

Next week: KENTA defends his IWGP US title shot against David Finlay – with more to be announced.

While the nagging issues still linger (read: those that affect every empty arena/Covid-era wrestling show), at least this week’s edition of NJPW Strong managed to feel somewhat important. Unless they’ve full on storyboarded the Strong “universe” against what’s going on in Japan, we could run on into some issues – especially since they’ve not acknowledged anything else here from what’s gone/going on on the other side of the world.