Taylor Rust looks to unseat Tom Lawlor as the NJPW Strong Openweight Champion as the New Beginning USA comes to a close.
Karl Fredericks pinned ETHAN HD in 11:51 (**¾)
El Phantasmo pinned Matt Rehwoldt in 9:45 (***)
Tom Lawlor defeats Taylor Rust via referee stoppage in 19:11 to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship (***½)
We’re back with a run-time of over an hour… Ian Riccaboni’s back with Alex Koslov, running through the card before we head inside Washington Hall in Seattle.
ETHAN HD vs. Karl Fredericks
ETHAN’s a veteran of the Pacific Northwest, having been going for over a decade – you may remember him as half of the American Guns from the mid 10’s…
Things headed to the mat early on, as Fredericks took ETHAN to the ropes for a mocking clean break… in response, Fredericks is taken down briefly, but returned with some short arm scissors as the pair kept things methodical. A side headlock from ETHAN is pushed away, but the resulting shoulder tackles yield little ahead of a charge down from Fredericks. A snapmare and a kick to the back gets Fredericks a two-count, before Fredericks telegraphed the leapfrog and crossbody… allowing ETHAN to stomp him on the mat for a one-count. Fredericks blocks a tornado DDT, but couldn’t avoid a superkick or a high back cracker that nearly won it.
Fredericks tries for the Manifest Destiny DDT, but ETHAN blocked it and hit a springboard enziguiri that nearly gets the upset. Kicks to the back from ETHAN sting Fredericks, who came back looking to trade strikes, eventually scoring with an enziguiri of his own. A Stinger splash followed in the corner as Fredericks sets up for the stalling dropkick. A back suplex and a leaping elbow drop followed for Fredericks for a near-fall, before ETHAN tried to mount a comeback, only to get knocked outside. ETHAN kicks away a tope attempt and hit the ring for a Golden Triangle moonsault that caught everyone off guard, but he couldn’t follow up as Fredericks dragged him back to the ring for a springboard stomp to a draped ETHAN.
That’s good for a delayed two-count, as the referee tries in vain to keep Fredericks away from ETHAN… that leads to Fredericks going for the DDT again, only to get spiked with a death valley driver for a near-fall. After the kick-out, ETHAN tries for a package powerbomb, but Fredericks blocked it and eventually landed a spinebuster, before Manifest Destiny got the win. **¾
Matt Rehwoldt vs. El Phantasmo
Rehwoldt’s 1-1 so far on NJPW Strong, beating Alex Coughlin before losing to Hikuleo last year… before the match, Rehwoldt grabs the mic and heeled on Seattle, before he told the crowd that “Cobain had the right idea.” Jesus.
Phantasmo went to defend Seattle, but said that only he gets to insult the area, before Rehwoldt jumped ELP to start us off. Rehwoldt beats Phantasmo into the corner to start, only for ELP to recover and springboard off the ropes for a ‘rana, which the Seattle crowd seemed to like. A diving elbow into the corner misses as ELP’s quickly put on the defensive, taking a senton atomico and a diving kick from Rehwoldt. A running neckbreaker takes Phantasmo down for a two-count from there, before he went to choke ELP with his boot and shin in the corner. ELP finds a way back in though, landing a springboard crossbody and a Quebrada for a near-fall, before an atomic drop, a slam and a Bret Hart-ish forearm drop kept him ahead.
The UFO neckbreaker looks to follow, but Rehwoldt counters out into a version of EVIL’s Darkness Falls for a two-count. Rehwoldt takes too long to follow up, getting caught on the top rope as ELP tries to bring him down… but Rehwoldt busts out a back rake and a senton bomb as ELP’s own tactics got used against him. Rehwold’s quickly put on the defensive as ELP began to trade strikes, leading to an enziguiri from Phantasmo. An attempt at the CR2’s countered with a roll-up – with a handful of tights – before ELP hit Sudden Death and the CR2… then went up top for a senton bomb and a springboard moonsault for the win. I like how “boo both men” went out of the window quickly, and how ELP’s Sudden Death wasn’t the focal point given everything that’s been the storyline about that in Japan… ***
We get a vignette for JR Kratos, who vowed to make an example of everyone he faces before getting that Alex Coughlin rematch…
Then, after interval, we’ve a video package highlighting the rise of Team Filthy – back when Taylor Rust was part of it… and when Tom Lawlor “future endeavoured him” to Florida. Of course, things have happened, and Rust returned… only to fake out Team Filthy as he laid out Lawlor.
NJPW STRONG Openweight Championship: Taylor Rust vs. Tom Lawlor (c)
Lawlor had Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs out with him – so a pretty big ringside advantage for Team Filthy…
The early going sees the pair scramble into the ropes as they switched for a waistlock. We wash, rinse and repeat, as Lawlor roughs up Rust in the ropes, charging in with knees before a headlock takedown from Rust changed the momentum briefly as both champion and challenger looked to sneak in some posing. Rust slows things down with an armbar on Lawlor, but Lawlor powered up and charged back into the corner to force a break. Elbows from Rust lead to a kick to the arm… but Lawlor shrugs it off and pulled Rust off the top rope with a Dragon screw. Lawlor took control from there with some chops en route to a Figure Four, ending with Rust slapping his way free… before a Kitchen Sink knee from Lawlor took Rust down.
Things head outside, with Lawlor accidentally chopping the ring post, before Rust pulled Lawlor into the post a la Danielson/McGuinness. Back in the ring, Lawlor chop blocks Rust’s knee in the ropes as the champion looked to get back in front, eventually rolling the challenger into a Sharpshooter for good measure. After getting to the ropes, Rust returned with an enziguiri, before a high kick took Lawlor down. Forearms follow from Rust, who leads into a scissor kick that took Lawlor down again… but Rust couldn’t go for a cover. Lawlor heads outside, where he’s met with a dive, before a senton bomb from Rust came up short as Lawlor charges back in with a clothesline.
Lawlor goes up top but got cocky and ate a boot as a superplex brought him down to earth with a bump. The pair trade forearms and elbows from there, leading to an Exploder from Lawlor that earned him a near-fall. Taylor takes it to the corner, but ran into a triangle choke as Lawlor ended up taking a powerbomb to break up the hold. Rust goes for the Perfect Circle neckbreaker, but Jorel Nelson popped up onto the apron to distract… Rust breaks free to boot Lawlor, then hits the Perfect Circle for a near-fall. Kicks follow from Rust, but Lawlor catches them and again chops out the knee before he scored with a takedown. A cross armbar from Rust sees him spin Lawlor to the mat, blocking an escape attempt as he switched into a Rings of Saturn, only for Lawlor to escape.
An enziguiri, then a kick to the back of the knee allowed Lawlor to set up for a wild knee to the back of the head, before a rear naked choke forced the referee stoppage. Rust was really competitive in this one, and while many didn’t see a title change coming, Rust came pretty damn close at the end. ***½
Post-match, Team Filthy celebrated as Lawlor’s post-match speech saw him asking who was next… only for that challenge to be answered by Clark Connors. Lawlor got in Connors’ face, throwing out an F-bomb as he suggested doing this match right now. Out comes a ref to do it… but Lawlor snatched the belt of him before the bell went, as Clark will have to wait for another day.
A solid episode of Strong to wrap up the tour as Tom Lawlor dismissed another challenger and pulled the trigger on the next defence to boot.