We’re back for the New Japan Cup USA 2021 final, and the crowning of the first Strong Openweight champion as Brody King and Tom Lawlor face off.

Quick Results
JR Kratos & Chris Dickinson pinned Clark Connors & TJP in 11:06 (**¾)
Rocky Romero submitted Wheeler Yuta in 12:41 (***¼)
New Japan Cup 2021 USA Final: Tom Lawlor beat Brody King via referee stoppage in 20:05 to win the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship (***¾)

We’re looking at a 1:18 runtime here, so this is a beefy show… and we open with the video package for the New Japan Cup USA tournament, before Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov run down the show.

Chris Dickinson & JR Kratos vs. TJP & Clark Connors
There’d been some disagreements within Team Filthy in recent weeks, but could they get back on track here against the past and present of the LA Dojo?

Kratos looked to dominate Connors early, before Kratos just cartwheeled out of a TJP headlock. As you do. Chris Dickinson tries to chop apart an Octopus, but hits his own man by mistake, before things settled down as Team Filthy went to work on Connors once more. Double-teaming with TJP resets things… but he has a snafu with Connors that kills all that momentum as Dickinson again capitalises. Dickinson’s back suplex gets a near-fall as he began to stretch Connors some more, but Clark manages to get free to tag in TJP for a comeback. A Yakuza kick cracks Dickinson in the corner ahead of a hesitation dropkick as Dickinson was in a Tree of Woe… but you always felt that this was a real David and Goliath case. TJP tries to tag out Connors, but he was on the floor initially… Clark gets the tag in and is quickly waylaid, only to return with a scoop slam for a two-count.

A Boston crab from Connors looks to get a submission, but Kratos throws off TJP to break up the hold. All hell breaks loose as Connors spears Kratos… but can’t miss a Dickinson enziguiri, nor a brainbuster for a near-fall. Kratos’ blind tag means Dickinson can’t get a pin on a death valley driver… and Kratos nearly falls to a cradle. He manages to power out as Connors goes to the Boston crab again, before a kick and a wheelbarrow German suplex gets the win. This was a fun tag match, with both teams perhaps not firing on all cyclinders – I get that for the Team Filthy story, but unless TJP’s doing something here like he’s done in MLW with Bu Ku Dao, they perhaps could have cooled that aspect here. **¾

Wheeler Yuta vs. Rocky Romero
It’s a debut for Wheeler Yuta, who I feel is just waiting to break out somewhere. He’s certainly got the skills – and has put plenty of miles in, having wrestled in Japan and Germany, in addition to an extensive indy career in the States.

Yuta takes Rocky to the mat early on, looking to work the legs and back before Rocky began his usual game plan of working Yuta’s arm. A wristlock takes Yuta down for a knee drop to the arm, before Yuta went back to the legs, tying up Rocky for a bridging Deathlock. It’s escaped as Rocky took the mount, going in for a cross armbar, but it ends in the ropes before Yuta could be put in any real danger. A quick lucha-ish series (something I legitimately typed before Alex Koslov said it) sees us get a load of pinning attempts off, before Yuta slowed the pace down with a chinlock. Rocky tries to hit back with Forever clotheslines, before he just ducked a Yuta crossbody… then applied an Octopus that quickly ends with Yuta falling into the ropes.

Rocky stays on the arm, before the pair traded strikes… Yuta nicks back in with an Olympic slam for a two-count, then rolled Rocky into another Deathlock, turning it into a STF-like hold that ended in the ropes. Rocky’s quickly back, stomping on Yuta as he was draped in the ropes, but Yuta doesn’t stay too far behind… only to get caught with a rewind kick. Yuta skins the cat to get back into the ring for a German suplex that almost wins it, only for Rocky to go back to the Diablo armbar. Yuta rolls his way out of it and gets a two-count, and while he kept going for pinning attempts, he’s quickly caught with a running Shiranui from Rocky for a near-fall… before the Diablo armbar gets the submission. A good debut for Yuta in defeat – someone who I hope is brought back and featured somewhat. ***¼

Ad time. Then hype video and main event time…

New Japan Cup USA 2021 Final for the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: Tom Lawlor vs. Brody King
King beat Bateman, Chris Dickinson and Lio Rush to make it to the finals, while Lawlor’s path went through the DKC, Ren Narita and Hikuleo.

Lawlor tries to sting king with kicks early on, but neither man’s able to make much headway until Brody took it to the corner for some chops. Body blows keep Lawlor down, as did some elbows, with Brody then overwhelming Lawlor in the corner ahead of a cannonball that misses, with Brody landing head-first in the corner. Instantly, Lawlor capitalises, taking King to the corner to wrap his legs around the post ahead of a standing ringpost-assisted Figure Four. That lets Lawlor work over King’s leg, but Brody rolls outside and ends up chopping the post as Lawlor again baits him in. Lawlor goes to the hand now, standing on it before heading back outside as Lawlor threw a series of chops to King.

King’s thrown into the guard rails, but strikes back when they got back inside… only got Lawlor to trip him up briefly. Lawlor stops the momentum and comes back with some cravat knees, then a clothesline, before King shrugged off a diving clothesline and squished Lawlor on the mat with a back senton almost out of desperation. It’s good for a one-count though, so Brody throws some more chops and lariats, before an Exploder chucks Lawlor into the corner. A cannonball’s successful for Brody at the second try, but Lawlor counters out of a Ganso bomb as he’s instead taken up top for a superplex. King nearly gets the win after that, then tries again for the Ganso bomb, but again Lawlor escapes and kicks the knee out. An ankle lock follows, but King rolls through and manages to catch Lawlor with a piledriver for a near-fall.

King tries to get the match over the line, as he continues to elbow Lawlor from above, but Lawlor returns the shots surprises King with a teardrop uranage… for just a one-count. Lawlor dives back with a low dropkick and a running knee, this time for a two-count, before King’s German suplex and a lariat spun Lawlor… for another near-fall. From there, King goes for a Ganso bomb, but Lawlor slips out and takes King to the mat for a Cattle Mutilation, spinning back into a crossface… before sneaking back in for a rear naked choke. This time, Lawlor manages to lock it in as King drops to the mat… Lawlor lets go to hit a Shibata-like PK, before reapplying the rear naked choke to force the stoppage. This match absolutely would have been buoyed with a crowd – but was pretty damn good as it was, with Lawlor taking Brody’s big shots, only to choke him out at the end. ***¾

Chris Dickinson and JR Kratos celebrate with Lawlor afterwards – no Danny Limelight, eh? Lawor’s presented with the New Japan Cup USA trophy, and the Strong Openweight title belt, but there’s a knowing look that seemed to suggest Dickinson had eyes on that hardware as Lawlor took aim at his detractors in his victory speech. He then played on the trope and demanded someone come out to challenge him, knowing how “things usually work,” but there’s nobody answering the call from the back… there was a man in the ring answering the call: Chris Dickinson asks for a shot, and I guess that’s more rockiness within Team Filthy?

After a few weeks of “all steak, no sizzle,” the New Japan Cup 2021 USA final episode was the closest you’re going to get to a home run in this environment. After thirty-seven episodes – and nearly a year of this empty-arena environment – the New Japan of America strand finally has a title for wrestlers to challenge for that won’t impinge on whatever plans they have in Japan (as we saw with the US title); but as the adage goes, it’s the man that makes the belt, not the other way around. It’ll be interesting to see how the Tom Lawlor reigns shapes up, and whether the dissension behind him overshadows the first reign.