It’s title or career for Fred Rosser, who’s put his NJPW Strong deal on the line as he looks to wrest the title away from Tom Lawlor in this week’s main event.
David Finlay pinned Danny Limelight in 6:31 (***)
Minoru Suzuki pinned Tony Deppen in 10:32 (***)
Fred Rosser submitted Tom Lawlor in 24:19 to win the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship (****)
We’re back at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia for this, with Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwoldt on the call.
Danny Limelight vs. David Finlay
This was Danny’s first singles match on Strong in over eighteen months – yeah, that caught me by surprise too. He cuts a promo on the “Cheesesteak-eating crowd”, bemoaning how David Finlay attacked him a few weeks back. He brings up Finlay’s dad’s old nickname… then needled David some more.
Finlay’s a little at a loose edge since Juice Robinson left for Bullet Club, and made a beeline for Limelight, who scurried at the sight of the shillelagh. Limelight tries to put distance between himself and Finlay early on, if only so he could play with Finlay’s shillelagh (NOT a euphemism). Finlay gives chase around ringside as Yakety Sax played in my head, leading to Limelight trying to cheapshot Finlay back in the ring. Chops knock Limelight into the ropes ahead of an O’Connor roll, while leapfrogs from Limelight just earned him a dropkick. A floatover suplex gets Finlay a one-count, before uppercuts knocked Limelight into the corner. Limelight traps Finlay in the ropes with a Dragon screw, following with a dropkick to the knee, then a Fisherman suplex back inside as Limelight perhaps celebrated too early.
Finlay kicks out before one, so Limelight goes back in with right hands, before he chop blocked out the knee. A senton atomico targets the lower back and leg of Finlay, before Finlay returned with a back body drop out of nowhere. A diving uppercut follows, then another into the corner as Limelight ended up running into a Blue Thunder bomb. Limelight’s able to kick out at two from that, before he rolled Finlay down into a heel hook. Finlay’s able to counter into a version of Darby Allin’s Last Supper clutch, getting a near-fall before Limelight went back to the leg. Finlay’s back with a uranage backbreaker, a clothesline… and then Trash Panda as the over-the-knee brainbuster got the win. Pretty straightforward once Finlay got going, as Limelight paid the price for running his mouth. ***
After the match, Limelight spat in Finlay’s face as he was offered a handshake… so a shillelagh shot in return knocked Danny out.
We’re backstage as Great-O-Khan and (most of) the rest of the United Empire tell us that the next set of Strong shows are going to be taken over by the United Empire.
Tony Deppen vs. Minoru Suzuki
A battle of former ROH TV champions here, and no, there’s no Starship here. You know New Japan’s not big on licensed music!
We’ve a tentative start as Deppen and Suzuki took things to the mat. It’s Suzuki who takes the mount, scuttling Deppen away from the ropes as he threatened to throw a right hand, only to switch into a cross armbreaker instead. Deppen slips out, but was quickly going for the ropes as Suzuki teased a half crab. Not that Suzuki bothered, as he rolled the half crab in the ropes, annoying Deppen, who shoved him on the break. The pair trade kicks to the legs from there, but Deppen’s uppercuts and knees take Suzuki into the ropes, only to get baited in for a hanging armbar. We head outside as Deppen’s chopped by the guard rails, before he was rolled into the aisle so Suzuki could hit a running PK down the aisle.
Back inside, Suzuki toys with Deppen en route to an armbar, then a Kimura, before a Gotch piledriver was wriggled out of. Deppen throws some knees and uppercuts, but Suzuki slips out of a Fireman’s carry… only to get trapped in the corner for some running double knees. It’s good for a two-count for Deppen, who’s then met with a front kick in the corner before a PK drew a near-fall. Suzuki offers himself for some forearms, but he just shrugs them off before he began to waffle Deppen in return. More forearms between the pair end with a death valley driver from Deppen for a near-fall, before he set up Suzuki for a sliding forearm to the back of the neck. Suzuki’s up at one, looking almost fed up, as Deppen tried to chip away with chops… only to get caught in a rear naked choke, a forearm, and a delayed Gotch piledriver for the win. Deppen got a fair amount in, but otherwise this was a lot of Suzuki playing the hits. ***
We get a video package ahead of the main event – if you’ve not seen the two-parter documentary New Japan put out for free on Rosser, I implore you to go out of your way to do so. Well worth your time!
NJPW Strong Openweight Championship: Fred Rosser vs. Tom Lawlor (c)
I’ll hold my hands up, when Rosser debuted on Strong back in September 2020, almost a year after his last match (per Cagematch), and three since leaving WWE, I was far from sold. But, in the weeks and months that followed, Rosser’s had an absolute career renaissance, and has made himself legitimately one of the best parts of this Strong roster. So, putting his time on this roster up in order to get a second shot at Tom Lawlor’s title, is genuinely a big deal.
We’ve got Tiger Hattori to parade the belt before the start of the match… he jumps on commentary too, but his headset didn’t seem to be plugged in as we heard virtually nothing from him, despite being asked to jump in. There’s no feeling out process here as Rosser and Lawlor swing for each other at the bell, leading to a drop toe hold on Rosser, then a guillotine… but Rosser escaped, taking Lawlor to the corner for a chop, before a spinning heel kick of all things took Rosser outside. A double sledge off the top sees Rosser taken down as Lawlor went to mouth off at Fred Rosser’s mum in the crowd.
Rosser’s taken into the guard rails from there, but leapt back up to go for a back suplex onto the apron, dropping Lawlor awkwardly as the champion got his leg caught in the ropes on the way down. A running clothesline spins Lawlor to the floor as Rosser proceeded to pull the champion shoulder-first into the ring post, then used it to assist for a chicken wing on the outside. Lawlor tries to get back in with a powerbomb off the apron, but Rosser just sits down on him to block it. A second sit-down splash, this time off the apron, keeps Lawlor down, before clotheslines back inside kept Lawlor in the corner. A running knee left Lawlor defenceless ahead of some covers for two-counts, before Lawlor fought back, hauling Rosser into the corner, sending him back outside in the process.
Lawlor leaps off the apron into a mounted sleeperhold, which Rosser tried to break up in the railings… only to fall to the floor as Lawlor dragged him up the ramp and towards the back. We’ve no cameras there, but we do hear chairshots as the ref went after them… a bloody-handed Lawlor drags the ref back to ringside as he then looked to get a win via count-out. Except, of course, Rosser’s able to crawl back out, who was bleeding a gusher as he fell off the walkway to boot… Alex Coughlin fought away past Team Filthy who’d made it to ringside in order for Rosser to beat the count. The match is halted as the state commission doctor rolled into the ring to check on Rosser, but after the blood was wiped away, we’re able to resume, with Lawlor rolling down and kicking Rosser in the back… before he wiped Rosser’s blood onto his chest.
Rosser blocks a PK, countering it into a Dragon screw, before an attempted Figure Four was kicked away. Rosser returns with another armbar, but Lawlor manages to shuffle into the ropes for a break, before he returned with clotheslines and cravat knees. A tornado DDT switches into a guillotine on Rosser, which turned into an exchange of punches before Rosser managed to counter it into a running death valley driver. Lawlor sneaks back in with an Exploder… then another as Rosser popped back up, before a jumping high kick and a wrist-clutch Exploder spiked Rosser for a near-fall. Heading up top, Lawlor leaps into a lariat from Rosser, who followed up with a Gut Check… only for a running kick to get caught as Lawlor pulled Rosser down in search of an armbar. Rosser escaped to hit a low dropkick for a two-count, before a back suplex onto the apron was quickly shrugged off by Lawlor, who grabbed a rear naked choke on the outside.
Rosser counters by muscling Lawlor up for a tombstone on the floor, making sure not to go for the padded part, before rolling Lawlor back inside. A short-arm lariat back inside followed from Rosser, who hits an Emerald Flowsion… but Lawlor’s up at two! The pair trading rolling elbows from there, before another rear naked choke from Lawlor was spun into a front facelock… and then a scoop tombstone as Lawlor flipped off the crowd… but Rosser kicks out at two! A straitjacket choke follows, ahead of a back suplex as Rosser was literally and figuratively on the ropes here.
It’s back to the straitjacket as Lawlor hit a Kamigoye-like knee to the back of the head for another two count… before he sucked some of Rosser’s blood and went back to the choke. Rosser backs into the corner, but couldn’t throw his way free as Lawlor rolled with him… Lawlor climbs the ropes in the corner to get a better grip, but Rosser ends up fading as he tried to go up with him… eventually doing so as he fell back to squash Lawlor and break the hold. Lawlor sits up to reapply the hold… only for Rosser to roll out and put in his own choke. Rosser turns it into a chicken wing as Lawlor looked to break free, before it’s dragged to the mat. Rosser drags it away from the ropes, then hit some Danielson elbows to the back of Lawlor, before reapplying the Chicken wing to force the tap out! Tom Lawlor may well still be “the first”, but is no longer “the only” as Fred Rosser eked out the win – and the title – after a hard-fought main event. This was just starting to veer into “feeling long” territory, but Fred Rosser outlasted Lawlor and got his rewards to end the night. ****
Rosser heads into the crowd to celebrate with his mum… then took the mic and reminisced about the Nexus, the Prime Time Players, Bob Backlund. It turned into a motivational message too, with Rosser bringing up how many times he was told no, but it means nothing if you persevere, before shouting out his grandfather to close the show.
This was a good episode of Strong to wrap up the Collision tour, with what some may call Fred Rosser’s career renaissance peaking at the end… but taking over from a year-long title reign perhaps means that the hardest work, and the best, is yet to come.