It’s the calm before the storm as NJPW Strong unveils some new hardware ahead of the start of next week’s New Japan Cup USA.

Quick Results
Rocky Romero submitted Kevin Knight in 8:39 (***¼)
TJP & Alex Coughlin pinned Jordan Clearwater & Misterioso in 13:56 (**¾)
Chris Dickinson, Tom Lawlor & JR Kratos defeated Sterling Riegel, Logan Riegel & Brody King via knockout in 11:09 (***½)

Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov open up the show by running down the card, before Kevin pitched to ringside as they wheeled out the New Japan Cup USA trophy. Last year’s cup was for a shot at the IWGP US Championship: this year… they’ll become the first NJPW Strong Openweight Champion. It’s been a week of new titles in New Japan, and while I don’t want to get too bogged down in the whole “why is it not an IWGP title?” or “where does it stand in the hierarchy?”, it’s pretty clear that Jon Moxley and the IWGP US title is being kept on ice for now.

We’re dealing with new taping here as Kevin and Alex are actually on-set during the matches rather than (I assume) green-screened in as we had in the last few weeks…

Kevin Knight vs. Rocky Romero
It’s a bit of a proving ground match for the latest Young Lion Knight, who took Rocky down to the mat early on and tied up Romero’s legs.

Rocky slips out into the mount, but Knight scrambles free as we reset. Romero clubs back in with forearms, but Knight returns with uppercuts before he missed on a dropkick. A PK from Rocky turns it around as he worked over Knight’s arm, wringing it as he went up top for a knee drop onto the joint.

More stomps and knee to the arm keep Knight down, but he returns with stomps of his own before a slam left Rocky down for a one-count. Rocky’s back with a chop before he went back to the arm… but Knight fires some chops and uppercuts as he tried to stay in it. An uppercut’s caught, but Rocky gets charged down once more, before a hiptoss from Knight led to a two-count. Knight looks for a Boston crab, but Romero kicks away, only to get caught with another slam. A suplex attempt is escaped as Rocky goes back to the arm, rolling Knight down in a wristlock before a cross armbar was broken, with Knight almost winning with a roll-up. From the kick-out, Romero elbows Knight into the corner for some Forever clotheslines, which get stopped with a dropkick from Knight before a tiltawhirl backbreaker and a diving shoulder tackle almost gets the unlikely win.

A standing frog splash gets Knight further ahead as he looked for a Boston crab, but Rocky saves himself in the ropes. Another attempt at a suplex from Knight’s countered as Rocky slips out into an armbar, but that’s quickly broken in the ropes before Rocky kicked away, then hit a German suplex before he suplexed Knight into a Diablo armbar for the submission. A really strong showing from Knight in defeat here, as Rocky had more of a fight than he expected here. ***¼

Misterioso & Jordan Clearwater vs. TJP & Alex Coughlin
A seemingly thrown-together tag match in the middle of the show now, featuring “Tijip”, as Alex Koslov didn’t want to read the initials…

Coughlin starts by taking Clearwater down to the mat before he worked a wristlock that Clearwater quickly reverses. Coughlin takes Clearwater down with a Fireman’s carry, before the side headlock led to Clearwater’s headscissors that forced Coughlin to bridge free. Coughlin returns with a side headlock that he grinds in, before taking Clearwater to the corner for TJP to tag in. Clearwater breaks free and brings in Misterioso, who was taken down with some body scissors. Another wristlock from TJP is neutralised as Misterioso works the leg, but TJP escaped before he was nearly beaten with a roll-up… and we reset.

Misterioso grabs the wrist and kept TJP at bay, before he worked his way into a hammerlock. TJP counters out with a snapmare, before he came in off the ropes with a slingshot into an Octopus stretch. That’s turned into a Mouse Trap roll-up for a two-count, before a springboard armdrag from Misterioso went awry. Coughlin looks to make the save and eventually does so with a pounce as TJP gets a two-count from it. Coughlin tags in to chop away on Misterioso, but a missed charge allows the masked man back in before a slipped slingshot back in allowed Misterioso to tag out to Clearwater. Stomps knock Coughlin into the corner, but Clearwater’s kicked away as Coughlin fought back, landing uppercuts to the arm.

TJP’s back with a legdrop for a two-count on Clearwater, who found himself isolated for a spell. A cravat and a snapmare gets Coughlin a two-count, as did an elbow to the head, before a stalling suplex led to TJP tagging in to follow up for a senton atomico for another near-fall. Clearwater has to fight out of the corner, but gets tripped up for a low dropkick ahead of an Octopus stretch that Clearwater quickly broke up. Clearwater kicks away a back body drop and returned with a neckbreaker as a tag brings Misterioso back in. Coughlin’s back too to take a rolling thunder shotgun dropkick, before a wheelbarrow roll-up gets a near-fall. The pinning attempts continue with a Magistral from Misterioso for a two-count, before Coughlin elbowed out of a Fireman’s carry.

Misterioso’s handspring back elbow gets a two-count… but Coughlin’s leaping shoulder tackle turned it around, as did a backbreaker and a bridging fallway slam. Clearwater’s got to break up the pin, then tagged in to stomp away on Coughlin in the corner… only for a reversed Irish whip to send Clearwater into the path of a kick from TJP. A front kick – the Midas Touch – almost gets Clearwater the win as the pace turned up a little… Misterioso crashes and burns on a plancha attempt to TJP on the floor, before another Midas Touch was blocked… with Coughlin slamming Clearwater into a gutbuster before TJP hit the Mamba Splash off the top for the win. This felt a little long in the tooth, but a decent outing for TJP and Coughlin, while it was a rough day at the office for Misterioso it seemed. **¾

Kevin Kelly interviews Team Filthy backstage ahead of the main event, all of them in some neat 8-bit tees. Lawlor mocks the Riegel Twins compared to his crew, before Dickinson blew off a question that asked him for his gameplan going into the cup. OH! They bring up something recent too – the fact that Chris Dickinson’s part of Brody King’s Violence Unlimited group in ROH, and whether that compromises him being a part of Team Filthy in NJPW.

Lawlor tries to answer for Dickinson, who then said that his services are open to the highest bidder… Lawlor then asks about what the purpose of an excursion was, referencing his match with Ren Narita in the first round, and of course Lawlor says he’ll teach Narita a lesson in defeat.

Tom Lawlor, Chris Dickinson & JR Kratos vs. Brody King, Sterling Riegel & Logan Riegel
We’ve the usual japes about “which Riegel is legal?” to start, as we start with Dickinson and, err…

Logan! He’s taken down early on for a side headlock before Dickinson charged him down… Riegel’s quickly back with a Blockbuster off the middle rope before he took Dickinson into the corner. Sterling tags in to baseball slide Dickinson as the Riegels quick series of double-teams only led to a one-count. Dickinson’s back with a dropkick to the Riegels, before a back elbow bounces Sterling off the mat. Sterling floats out of a back suplex before Logan’s missile dropkick knocked Dickinson down, ahead of a standing moonsault for a pin attempt. Brody King’s in next, tagging in to try and muscle up Dickinson for a gutwrench suplex, but Dickinson escapes with kicks before a low dropkick to the knee led to Dickinson charging King into the corner.

JR Kratos tags in to give us the hoss fight, but he’s dumped with a big boot before King tossed him outside as Sterling (“the Riegel”) tagged in and missed a plancha on the outside. Kratos charges through him on the floor, before they returned to the ring, as Lawlor tagged in to keep Sterling cornered. Lawlor puts the boots to Sterling, then began to throttle him, before an arm whip rolled Sterling down into a key lock. Sterling gets to the ropes for a break, but is quickly cornered for chops – with kicks from Kratos in the corner behind the ref’s back almost making the match fall apart as Logan was losing his mind in the opposite corner.

Kratos tags in to hit some short-range elbows for a two-count. Dickinson’s next to work over the arm and wrist of Sterling, who finally tries to fight back, shrugging off elbow strikes before throwing his own… only for Dickinson to pull him back by his tattoo shirt ahead of a release back suplex. Sterling shrugged that off and hit a uranage, as tags bring in Lawlor and King. Lawlor’s guillotine choke is broken up with a slam and a back senton from Brody for a two-count… before Tom backed off and tagged out to Kratos, who just squishes them both in the corner. A cannonball flattened Lawlor, as Sterling tagged in… King looks to throw him into Lawlor with a dropkick, but Kratos just POUNCES him aside in mid-air, as Team Filthy turned things around.

A Kratos powerbomb lands before Logan just BOUNCES off of Kratos. Thanks for coming. Kratos tags in Dickinson to keep going on Sterling, going back to elbow strikes… one of which looked to knock Sterling loopy, and that leads to the referee stoppage via rapid-fire elbows. That didn’t seem to be the plan, but what the hey, the KO finish adds to the Team Filthy aura of being kick-ass fighters, even if they don’t seem to be entirely on the same page. ***½

Speaking of “not on the same page,” Dickinson’s ordered to go after Sterling’s arm after the match, but he refuses… Kratos had no such qualms, as he stomped on Sterling’s arm, “breaking it” in the process. There’s no sign-off from Alex and Kevin as Sterling’s attended to in the ring… and we fade to black.

These road-to shows can feel a little overdone, particularly as we seem to get three or four of them for each “big show”. Still, this was a really good show to build up to next week’s start of the New Japan Cup USA tournament, while throwing in some seeds of doubt for the cup itself over just whom Chris Dickinson would side with.