We get the final New Japan Cup USA qualifiers on this week’s New Japan Strong, and some teases of dissension within Team Filthy.
New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifier: Clark Connors pinned TJP in 9:27 (***)
New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifier: Chris Dickinson pinned Blake Christian in 8:53 (***½)
David Finlay & Karl Fredericks pinned Danny Limelight & Tom Lawlor in 17:27 (***½)
The show opens with Team Filthy backstage as JR Kratos comes out of the toilet. Danny Limelight’s mad that he didn’t get a New Japan Cup USA qualifier, but Tom Lawlor tells him that “practise wasn’t at Daily’s Place, it was at the dojo.” Zing. Things break down when Lawlor made a dig at how Chris Dickinson lost to Ren Narita, as they’re pushing dissension among the camp…
Cue titles, cue Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov on commentary. They tell us the New Japan Cup USA starts next week as they run down this week’s card…
New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifier: Clark Connors vs. TJP
Connors spears TJP at the bell, but doesn’t go for a pin…
Instead, he goes for snap suplexes, but TJP kicks out before one as hiptosses take TJP into the corner. Connors repeats the trick, finally getting a one-count before TJP’s crucifix earned him a one-count of his own. TJP’s thrown into the ropes, but he pulls the Rocky Romero hooking trick to bait Connors outside ahead of a plancha. TJP throws Connors back inside for a senton atomico, that gets him a one-count… he stays on top of Connors with a knuckle lock to force some pinning attempts, before a DDT to the leg gets a two-count. A toe hold follows, with TJP taking things to the mat before he’s caught with an inside cradle for a two-count.
Connors looks to charge for a spear, but it’s blocked as TJP returned with a drop toe hold and a low dropkick to catch Clark off guard. That gets a solid two-count as TJP hits a shinbreaker, then a Dragon screw, before Connors eventually snapped back in with a slam off the ropes. Stomps from Connors keep TJP in the corner ahead of a POUNCE, which gets another two-count, before Clark ran in… and got caught with a low dropkick again. TJP heads up top to capitalise, but he whiffs on a Mamba splash… yet recovers with a knee bar that ends in the ropes. Another Dragon screw attempt is punched away as Connors chops back, but a backslide allows TJP to stay on top… only for Clark to hit a double-leg takedown out of nowhere as a Boston crab forces TJP to keep diving for ropes, eventually getting there for a break.
Connors picks him up for a back suplex, but TJP blocks and instead tries for a Detonation kick, but Clark slips out and leaps off the middle rope… only to get caught in another knee bar. TJP pulls him away from the ropes, but Clark tries to stand up, before he succeeded at the second attempt and rolled up TJP for the win. That’s gotta be an upset, and a fantastic opener with the two submission exchanges at the end perhaps putting Connors over the top here. ***
New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifier: Chris Dickinson vs. Blake Christian
Dickinson tries to charge at Christian at the bell, but the recent WWE signee escapes… only to run into a Judo-style takedown.
Blake’s back up as he Matador’s past Dickinson ahead of a roll-up, looking to capitalise on Dickinson’s fraught mindset. A trip takes Dickinson into the bottom rope for a 619, before he dropkicks away Blake’s springboard dropkick in mid-air. A Figure Four keeps Blake grounded, but Christian gets to the ropes, only for Dickinson to apply a toe-hold. That’s quickly broken in the ropes, but Dickinson knocks Blake back down before he chucks him into the turnbuckle pad. Dickinson uses the rope to wear out Blake’s knee, before Christian looked to spark some back-and-forth strikes. Dickinson absorbs them, and takes Blake to a knee with his elbows, before Blake hit back with a backslide for a two-count.
A heel kick stings Dickinson, as did some knees and a Slingblade-ish facebuster for a two-count. Christian’s missile dropkick takes Dickinson outside for a tope con giro, but he takes too long to take things back inside… and Blake’s springboard 450 lands in Dickinson’s knees. From there, Christian has to duck a lariat as a leaping knee spins Dickinson down for a two-count. Christian keeps going with a handspring enziguiri as Dickinson just couldn’t get back on track… but he neutralises things with a waistlock on the mat… only for a Pazuzu bomb to turn into a roll-up for a near-fall. Dickinson eventually lands the powerbomb for a two-count though, before Blake pulled him into a guillotine choke.
Dickinson stands up and charges Blake into the corner, then drops on with a knee bar that ends quickly in the ropes. He tries to follow up with a death valley driver, but Christian floats out, only for a follow-up knee to be caught as Dickinson spins Christian down in a Dragon screw… that psyched up Dickinson, but his Figure Four’s pushed away before a half-and-half suplex dropped Blake. From there, Dickinson tries to pull up Christian… who sandbagged… only to get muscled up into a modified piledriver, with Dickinson pulling Christian up by the heel, for the win. This was a hell of a slog – in a good way – with Christian continuing to frustrate, but Dickinson’s able to get back on track with a win as Team Filthy has two entrants in the New Japan Cup USA. ***½
One of these days I’ll be able to say the name of that cloth they’re plugging, as well as spell it…
Tom Lawlor & Danny Limelight vs. David Finlay & Karl Fredericks
Commentary painted this as something of a proving ground for this Team Filthy combo against two “main roster” stars… while Kevin Kelly threw in the hint that Danny Limelight was “hanging out in J-Ville with TK.”
Finlay and Lawlor start us off, but Tom wants to do a Fargo-ish strut before he took down Finlay by the leg. Finlay rolls free, but gets taken down by Lawlor… then tries again as Lawlor ended up grappling towards the ropes. A front facelock leads to some more grappling on the mat, before Lawlor’s armbar took Finlay to the corner as Limelight tagged in. Fredericks gets a tag in also, and wrestles Limelight down with a waistlock, forcing Danny to dive to the ropes for a break. A side headlock from Fredericks has Limelight down to a knee, before they head to the corner, where Limelight’s attempted comeback was quickly snuffed out. A floatover from Limelight looks to buy him time but a leapfrog and a roll through just gets him charged down by Fredericks for a two-count.
A snapmare and a kick to the back from Fredericks gets another two-count, before Finlay tagged back in for a double back elbow. It barely gets a one-count for Finlay, who stays on top of Limelight as the plan looked to be to keep Lawlor at bay. Uppercuts knock Limelight into the ropes, and busted him open a little as Fredericks leaping elbow drew a two-count. Lawlor kicks Fredericks in the ropes as Limelight reversed an Irish whip… then Lawlor dragged Fredericks to the outside as the brief Benny Hill chase allowed Limelight to score with a dropkick and a stomp back inside for a one-count. A tag brings in Lawlor to trade chops with Fredericks… but it’s the former Young Lion who pulls ahead before he was swiped down.
More Lawlor chops lead to a suplex as Limelight tags back in. He charges Finlay off the apron before rolling Fredericks down for a kick. He mouths off at Fredericks ahead of some kicks… which led to a DDT for a two-count, before Lawlor tagged back in to keep up the pressure on Fredericks. Some double-teaming sees Fredericks take a high knee in the corner and a bulldog out of it as Limelight proceeds to wrap Fredericks’ knee around the ropes. Lawlor’s kneebar keeps Fredericks in trouble, but he rolls free and manages to make a tag out to Finlay… who clears Limelight away with a European uppercut before a dropkick dumped Lawlor.
More uppercuts keep Team Filthy away ahead of one off the middle rope for a near-fall. An Exploder from Lawlor turns it around for a near-fall, before Finlay looked to reply with a Prima Nocta. It’s blocked and countered into a rear naked choke, which Finlay threw his way free off before landing the uranage backbreaker. Tags get us back to Limelight and Fredericks trading strikes… a running boot stuns Limelight in the corner, ahead of a hesitation dropkick, which nearly gets the win for Fredericks. Knees to the gut looked to set up for a Falcon arrow, but Limelight hits a stunner out of it for a near-fall. Fredericks lands a spinebuster in response for a two-count… but misses the blind tag that Lawlor made as those two get back to the strikes.
An overhead kick clips Lawlor, but another Exploder chucks Fredericks for a two-count. Finlay made the save, but gets tossed outside as a superkick-assisted German suplex gets Lawlor another two-count. Lawlor goes for a rear naked choke, but Limelight tags in… and gets caught as Fredericks shoved Lawlor into his own man to crotch him. Finlay returns to try and capitalise, with a Busaiku-ish knee nearly getting the win after a Fredericks backbreaker. Lawlor makes the save there before he slammed Fredericks… Finlay lands a Prima Nocta to Lawlor, only to fall to a small package driver from Limelight for a near-fall. Limelight goes for a PK, but gets rolled up for a near-fall before a Trash Panda from Finlay gets the win. A lengthy main event as Team Filthy fall again – but not directly as a result of miscommunication, in spite of the skit at the top of the show. ***½
We’re shown the brackets for the New Japan Cup USA – which apparently starts in TWO weeks, not next week as we were originally told at the top of the show. Did they switch weeks around? After an off week last week, NJPW Strong was back on form with a fantastic trio of matches that helped round off the New Japan Cup qualifiers – although with two weeks to go before the cup starts, it does beg the question for next week’s episode, which had nothing announced.