We’ve a ‘Mania weekend episode of Strong, as Clark Connors gets his shot at Tom Lawlor’s Strong Openweight title.
JR Kratos & Black Tiger pinned Rocky Romero & Wheeler Yuta in 9:50 (***)
Juice Robinson & David Finlay defeated JONAH & Shane Haste via disqualification in 6:34 (**¾)
Tom Lawlor pinned Clark Connors to retain the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship in 13:58 (***½)
Surprise! Despite NJPW World not listing this in the schedule after I reviewed the Rivals show last week… we’ve got a new episode! Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwoldt are on commentary for this one from the St. Petersburg Coliseum in Tampa.
Team Filthy (JR Kratos & Black Tiger) vs. Rocky Romero & Wheeler Yuta
We’re keeping the Rocky/Black Tiger thing going here, after last week’s match…
There’s a jump start as things settle down to Rocky and Black Tiger in the ring, with the former hitting some headscissors early on ahead of the Strong Zero springboard dropkick for a two-count. Yuta tags in for a senton atomico, but that only gets a one-count, before Black Tiger refused to take the bait on some World of Sport stuff. There’s eventually a dropkick from Yuta for another one-count, as Yuta then got distracted by Kratos… allowing Black Tiger to attack from behind. Now Kratos tags in and dumps Yuta with a scoop slam for a two-count, then a release suplex-throw that took Yuta into the corner. Black Tiger’s back to rake Yuta’s eyes as he grounded the new Chaos member, before Yuta got free and landed a sunset flip for a two-count. A quick back elbow restores order for Team Filthy though, with Kratos tagging back in to score a clothesline for another two-count.
Black Tiger charges down Yuta to keep the momentum going, while a pop-up flapjack from Kratos kept Yuta down. Yuta begins to fight back, faking out a missile dropkick before he hit it, as tags bring us to Rocky and Tiger. Chops from Rocky have him ahead, as did a rewind enziguiri, before he took Black Tiger into the corner for some Forever clotheslines. A POUNCE from Kratos stops all that though, as a brainbuster from Black Tiger nearly ended things. Kratos comes back in as Yuta dove onto Black Tiger on the outside, as Rocky ends up nailing a tornado DDT out of the corner, but a swinging side slam out of nowhere ends up getting the job done as Team Filthy score the W. ***
Post-match, Kratos got the mic and took pot shots at Alex Coughlin, who’d been away on a mini-excursion in England. Kratos compared Coughlin to Tom Brady’s recent “am I retired?” shenanigans… and guess what? Coughlin’s here, making a beeline for Kratos as things quickly broke down, leading to Coughlin deadlifting the big man with an overhead belly-to-belly… only to get bulled down with a lariat seconds later as the pull-apart was eventually calmed down.
TMDK (JONAH & Shane Haste) vs. FinJuice (Juice Robinson & David Finlay)
The JONAH vs. FinJuice feud rumbles on, with Shane Haste’s recent return leading to a reformation of TMDK…
TMDK met FinJuice in the aisle as we had a scrap before the bell, heading into the crowd as an eye rake from Finlay to JONAH looked to give the former tag champions an advantage. Things head towards a block of seating that ended up with cannonballs from Haste and Robinson into their foes. Eventually things spilled back towards ringside as the match officially started with Finlay putting the boots to Haste. A dropkick from Haste puts Finlay down, as did a Saito suplex, before JONAH whipped Finlay hard into the buckles. Haste returned as Finlay was kept in the opposite corner as the Florida crowd tried to get behind Finlay.
A body attack from JONAH dropped Finlay in the middle of the ring, ahead of a stalling suplex as TMDK weren’t exactly in a rush to go for pins. Uppercuts from Haste earn a response, before Finlay’s tornado DDT out of the corner finally got him enough time to tag into Juice, who ran wild with forearms on JONAH, following up with some Dusty punches. The Left Hand of God knocked JONAH into the corner, where Juice bit away at JONAH before Finlay came in to help with a flapjack. A plancha from Finlay’s wiped out with a Haste chairshot… before Haste came in and laid out Juice with a chairshot as he was going for the Pulp Friction, and there’s your obvious DQ. Of course, this feud must continue as TMDK ended up being run off by David Finlay and… a shillelagh? Someone’s been in his dad’s closet… **¾
After the match, Juice challenged TMDK to a street fight at Windy City Riot – Juice, Finlay and X vs. JONAH, Haste & Bad Dude Tito.
NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: Clark Connors vs. Tom Lawlor (c)
Connors called out Lawlor back in Seattle, and that’s led us to tonight’s main event, where Lawlor’s making his eighth defence of the title. We’ve mind games early on as Lawlor’s double (triple?) denim reveal was one-upped by Clark Connors’ own reveal, taking off pink shorts for some white shorts… with his usual gear underneath.
Connors speared Lawlor mid-strut for an early two-count, while a German suplex drew another near-fall… before Lawlor powdered outside, then snuck under the ring as Black Tiger ate a plancha. Connors stripped off his other shorts before he ran around and pounced Lawlor into the barriers, before Lawlor scored with a takedown back inside for a two-count. Forearms have Connors down and in the corner ahead of a submission attempt, but Connors fires back with chops into the corner. Shoulder charges keep Lawlor there, before he countered a spinebuster into a guillotine. The ropes save Connors there, as Lawlor spun him down to the mat into a modified STF, before a T-bone suplex slung Connors across the ring for a near-fall.
Connors finds a way back in with a splash, but ended up getting pulled into an effortless submission in the corner by Lawlor. Breaking free, Connors takes things up top for a superplex, before a grounded full nelson ended up with almost a full nelson camel clutch… broken when JR Kratos pulled Lawlor into the ropes to force the break. A tope from Connors takes out Kratos, before he popped onto the apron for a spear to Lawlor… back inside, a Tenryu-esque back elbow off the top almost led to the title change. Lawlor pulls Connors back into a rear naked choke attempt, before a spear was caught and turned into another guillotine.
Lawlor’s guillotine gets charged into the corner as Connors followed up with a scoop slam for a near-fall. A rear naked choke from Lawlor’s rolled out of, as he ends up dropping Connors back-first into the corner, before almost a Michinoku driver spiked Clark for just a one-count. Connors runs back with a clothesline for a one-count of his own, before the pair traded elbows tit-for-tat. Connors tried to hit a back suplex, but Lawlor countered out into a pair of V-Triggers… one to the front, then one to the back, and that’s all. A very even outing with Connors not being too far behind, but it’s another relatively straightforward defence for Lawlor, who looks unstoppable around these parts. ***½
Post-match, Lawlor repeats his “strongest for the longest” mantra, as he noted he’s run through all of NJPW Strong’s roster… he name dropped Tomohiro Ishii, Great-O-Khan and “Blue Just-ass” Yuji Nagata as possible contenders, even though the decision is up to him. Lawlor threatened to take a break… but was interrupted by Fred Rosser, whose challenge was flatly rejected.
It’s a little irking that it felt like there was no build to this match – especially zero mention of it on last week’s Strong, as this could have gotten a little traction over WrestleMania weekend. Instead, the show felt like it snuck out on-demand – and so a lot of people may well have missed out on a pretty good main event. Don’t be one of those people.