About Us  |   Contact

NJPW Strong results: Lio Rush vs. Rocky Romero

Tonight’s episode started off with both Lio Rush and Rocky Romero’s pre-taped selfie promos hyping their main event later in the show. Their match was one of two New Japan Cup USA qualifying matches that aired tonight. The Cup will host eight entrants in total once all competitors are qualified.  We’d know the first two participants of the tourney by the end of the show.

Karl Fredericks and Alex Coughlin defeated Clark Connors and Kevin Knight

The Young Lions were back in the ring with each other for the first time in months. Coughlin suffered a neck injury last year, so this was the first time we got to see him on the show this year. He recently appeared at both of Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport events before making his return appearance on Strong this week.

Even before the bell sounded, all four were talking trash with each other, all audible, for the most part. Connors seems to have a uniquely dynamic chemistry with both Fredericks and Coughlin.

The first match kicked off with Coughlin and a more recent Young Lion, Kevin Knight, and the two looked sharp together from the beginning, cycling through holds and submission attempts without hesitating. Coughlin was keen on proving that his neck injury was healed, making it a point to use holds that put pressure on his own neck, ones that forced him to bridge.

No matter what, this always felt like a competitive contest. There was never a doubt in my mind that what I was watching was ‘sport’ and not something else. The way all four come across in the ring, their intensity plus the crazy athleticism among each of them is notable, and it made me pay closer attention.

I forgot how high Fredericks could jump. He showed off a high leapfrog while in the ring with Connors, and it’s always impressive because of how tall Fredericks is. There looked to be a bit of miscommunication between the two on a powerslam spot, but it didn’t ruin the momentum of the match, fortunately.

Knight took a beating from both Fredericks and Coughlin by the time this was half-way through. Knight would sometimes explode with a return attack, like once when he used a diving shoulder tackle to a seat Coughlin—something I’d never seen before—plus, later, he landed a dropkick where Knight had to be close to six-feet in the air Keep an eye on Knight this year, as he’s sure to blow up once NJPW gives him the nod.

Towards the end of the match, Coughlin used a double gutwrench suplex on both Connors and Knight. Eat your heart out, Daisuke Sekimoto. Knight later locked on a Boston Crab on Fredericks until he grabbed the ropes for the break. The finish saw Fredericks locking in a sleeperhold to put Knight down, then hoisted him up for Manifest Destiny, Frederick’s impaler DDT finisher, and picked up the win for him and Coughlin.

Afterwards, the two cut a good promo that featured a fired-up Coughlin, who expressed his desire to get back into the ring after being out of commission for more than half a year.

“Filthy” Tom Lawlor defeated The DKC to qualify for the New Japan USA Cup 2021

Filthy” Tom brought a long Indian club with him into the ring and swung it over his head a few times before the match. It’s the same piece of exercise equipment greats like Karl Gotch and the Iron Sheik used in their training, 

One of the best things about this match was how it started: Instead of tying up, Lawlor kicked the DKC flush in the chest. I immediately thought to myself, “Why haven’t more wrestlers started their matches this way?”

Lawlor then boasted in the ring and asked for Kevin Kelly, who was on commentary. The momentary lapse allowed the DKC enough time to recover and get revenge on Lawlor for his “filthy” tactics. He landed a nice dropkick before the fight spilled out onto the floor.

Later, back in the ring, Lawlor took control on offense and it stayed that way for much of the match; the DKC would often try exploding back with bursts of offense, but the more experienced Lawlor was able to shut down anything DKC threw his way.

Lawlor spent time during the match working on the DKC’s arm. DKC answered back late with a Northern Lights suplex for two. DKC would continue to fight off submission attempts from Lawlor, and at points he’d come close to nearfalls via cradles or roll-up pins, but after Lawlor broke out the reverse bodyslam, the path to the finish was clear. He put the DKC down into a sitting position after locking him in a sleeper, then blasted him with a penalty kick for the win in a relatively short match, but a good one with a good story.

Lio Rush defeated Rocky Romero to qualify for the New Japan Cup USA 2021

Rush has had only a handful of matches with NJPW but already feels like a halfway seasoned regular of the show. His style really seems to suit the show so far.

The beginning of the match was similar to Rush’s match against El Phantasmo a few weeks back in that both matches started at a much slower pace than anticipated. The first five minutes of that match and tonight’s match with Rush and Romero were similarly paced, methodical and measured but with bursts of athleticism peppered throughout. Rush showed lots of flare and flash in his wrestling, but it never felt out of place or overdone.He and Romero complemented each other well tonight.

Romero looked to be in control of things. He targeted Rush’s arm throughout, tenderizing it with a hard dropkick from the second rope at one point, then later applying an arm lock on the same arm. Towards the end, when Romero went for his repeated forever clotheslines in the corner, Rush was able to withstand the blows, hop to the second rope and dive into Romero with a flying clothesline of his own. When Rush called for his finish, Romero was able to block it and turn Rush inside out with sliced bread for two. Romero cradled Rush for two, then Rush rolled back over, reversing the cradle and pinning Romero for three. Lio Rush wins and advances to the first round of the New Japan Cup USA 2021.

Final thoughts:

Everything on tonight’s show was great, but the first match had the most intensity and a lot of unanticipated excitement. I look forward to seeing more “Filthy” Tom in NJPW, too. Lio Rush seems like he’ll be appearing more for New Japan of America as well, as he too is slated for more appearances starting with the Cup shows.

Next week features Fred Rosser vs. JR Kratos in another New Japan Cup USA qualifying match.