Former tag team partners collide as TJP faces Clark Connors in the latest episode of Strong.
Juice Robinson & David Finlay pinned Kevin Knight & Yuya Uemura in 12:54 (***¼)
Chris Bey & El Phantasmo pinned Ariya Daivari & Lio Rush om 13:12 (***)
TJP pinned Clark Connors in 16:44 (***)
Once again, Alex Kozlov and Matt Rehwoldt lead off the show from Philadelphia, running through the card before we hit the ring…
Kevin Knight & Yuya Uemura vs. FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson)
Commentary painted this as a “current versus former Young Lions,” clash, which might be more indicative of where FinJuice currently lie in the scheme of things.
Finlay and Knight start us off on the mat, but it’s the Young Lions who pulled ahead early, with Uemura tagging in for a double shoulder tackle, while Uemura caught Juice with a series of armdrags. Knight’s back to help with a hiptoss, only to get met with a back elbow and a back senton from Juice, before Finlay returned with a double sledge to the arm. Knight’s headbutted as he tried to fight back, before a struggle over an Irish whip led to Knight getting pulled down into an armbar. A dropkick has Knight down as Finlay returned, avoiding another dropkick as the pair trade pinning attempts that end with a backslide from Knight for a near-fall.
Juice returns, but his half crab ends in the ropes with Knight returning with a big dropkick as he manages to make the tag in to Uemura, who ran wild with corner-to-corner charges. A leaping forearm has Juice down, but it’s Finlay who’s legal, elbowing away Uemura before a battle over back suplexes ended with Uemura hitting his for a near-fall. Uemura stays ahead, trapping Finlay in a Kimura that Juice tried in vain to break up, before Juice spat at Uemura… and got caught with a Boston crab from Knight. Finlay manages to get to the ropes, but Knight’s brought back in as Uemura’s lifted to the outside… Juice tags back in, but ran into a backbreaker.
Juice recovers with a double-team flapjack with the help of Finlay for a near-fall, before they dispatched of Uemura with a side Russian legsweep/dropkick combo. A second one targets Knight for a near-fall, before Knight’s roll-up nearly nicked it… as a backbreaker/elbow drop combo ends up getting FinJuice the win. A very spirited effort from the Young Lions, who gave the former tag champions more than they bargained for. ***¼
Bullet Club (Chris Bey & El Phantasmo) vs. Ariya Daivari & Lio Rush
Daivari and Rush haven’t teamed together before – but were on opposite sides of a tag match back in their 205 Live days…
Bey charges down Daivari early on, then came in with some shoulder charges as he looked to work Bey’s arm. Rush is in with a flying stomp to the arm, then turned up the pace as he and Bey hit the ropes, outwitting Bey ahead of an up kick for a two-count. El Phantasmo tries to intervene, holding Rush in the ropes before Lio leapt into a spinebuster for a two-count, as Bey then whipped Rush with Daivari’s magic carpet. Phantasmo tags in as Bey trips Rush… just in time for ELP top stretch Rush’s thigh. Bey’s back to land a back suplex for a one-count, as Rush tagged out to Daivari, who hits a leaping neckbreaker before ELP got thrown into the ropes for some chops. A baseball slide knocks Daivari off the apron as he then gets chucked into the guard rails, before he’s returned to the ring as ELP busts out the back rakes.
Bey gets in on the act too, before ELP’s Coast to Coast back rake continued to show off. A Quebrada from ELP helps get Bey a two-count, before tags get us back to ELP and Rush, with Lio running wild. There’s a handspring back elbow to knock ELP down, then a clothesline, before a Falcon arrow nearly did the deal. Phantasmo blocks a Rush Hour and pulled Lio up for a knee-assisted whirlibird neckbreaker for a near-fall. Rush keeps going with a dive and an Asai moonsault to ELP on the outside, ahead of a Magic Carpet ride from Daivari, before frog splashes back inside nearly put Bey away… but ELP breaks it up.
Lio looked for the Rush Hour again, but this time he wiped out Daivari before Bey’s leaping knee manages to take out Daivari for the win. A good, fast-paced tag match, with Rush reminding us early on why he’s constantly tipped for good things… ***
We get a video package recapping TJP’s brief team with Clark Connors before he turned on the LA Dojo to join the United Empire…
TJP vs. Clark Connors
TJP’s got a new entrance video, dubbing him the “Public Enemy.” Bet that went down well in Philadelphia.
Connors wrestles TJP to the ground early, looking for a waistlock before he got taken down with headscissors. TJP flips off the crowd, rather than dab, as Connors then got free… and forces TJP to scurry away to try and calm things down. Back inside, headscissors keep TJP down, before TJP got free, hooking himself up in the ropes before Connors took him outside. We go blurry as TJP went after Connors, only to get thrown into the rails before Connors doused him with water. Another trip to the rails sees TJP bounce off them, as we then returned to the ring with TJP looking to pick the leg as he came back in to work over Connors’ leg.
Forcing some pinning attempts gets TJP some two-counts as he then began to remove the tape on Connors’ left leg. A missed charge leaves Connors in the ropes for an Octopus stretch, before Connors connected with a spear to knock TJP to the outside. TJP returns, throwing Connors into the post from the apron as a half crab around the turnbuckles hung up Connors some more, before TJP began to torque away on Connors’ arm. That morphs onto a front facelock as Connors eventually escaped to jar TJP across his shoulder, but that escape injured Connors’ knee again as he looked to fight back with chops. Shots in the corner lead to a powerslam for a near-fall, but TJP’s tornado DDT resets things as he went for a face-washing boot… only for Connors to charge him down out of the corner.
Connors tries to return the favour, but ends up taking a low dropkick instead before he threw some more chops. TJP goes back to the leg, trapping Connors in a Sharpshooter that ends in the ropes, before TJP took too long going up top, as Clark meets him up top… then pulled him down by the leg before scoring with a Mamba splash for a near-fall. TJP tries to go back to the legs again, but instead he’s POUNCE’d by Connors, who lands a spear seconds later for a near-fall. Clark tries to put him away with a Trophy Kill, then with an inside cradle, but instead it’s a wild reverse DDT that dropped Connors before TJP rolled him up – grabbing the ropes – to get the win. This was largely fine, but got real scrappy by the end as TJP escaped with the W. ***
Keeping it sort-of an hour long, NJPW Strong was another solid show – but one that still seems to be missing that spark as New Japan gets to grips with the new format.