This was the next installment of New Japan Showdown tapings from 2300 Arena f.k.a. the ECW Arena in Philadelphia.
Alex Coughlin Challenge Match Series: Jonathan Gresham defeated Alex Coughlin
New Japan’s “Challenge Match Series” is usually a pre-graduation routine, a series of matches where rookie Young Lions take on top talent. This happens right before they transition to a higher position on the card and get new tights and/or a gimmick. Alex Coughlin looks to be the next graduate from the LA Dojo, and his first match was against ROH’s Jonathan Gresham.
Gresham’s last appearances with NJPW were at the 2019 Super J-Cup tournament shows, pre-pandemic.
They shook hands before the bout. The two traded headlock takeovers. They got tied up in the corner, both tangled up in a collar-and-elbow, and neither wanted to be first to break. This led to some chippiness between the two. They bumped chests. Coughlin shoved Gresham, but the veteran Gresham quickly had rookie Coughlin back on the mat with another headlock takeover.
What’s so great about Gresham is how he injects life into fundamental chain wrestling. He’s never boring, yet he’s not reinventing the wheel in terms of creativity. He’s just that damn good. So much of this match was built on a headlock takeover, and it worked.
Coughlin hung right in there, too. He’s bigger than Gresham, but since Gresham wrestled the smarter, craftier style, thus neutralizing any size advantage Coughlin had. Coughlin escaped eventually and locked in a headscissors hold. When Gresham attempted to bridge out of the headscissors, was able to clasp his hands around Gresham’s waist and deadlift him onto his shoulder—from a seated position, mind you. He threw Gresham to the mat with a gutwrench suplex.
They traded lots of close nearfalls. After exchanging a number of sunset flips and inside cradles, Gresham caught Coughlin with a headscissors pin for the win. This was mid-sequence, too, meaning most of the audience didn’t see it coming. I sure didn’t. It was a nice spin on the headlock takeover-to-headscissors spot we’ve seen in pro wrestling ad nauseam over the years, plus it was a loss that doesn’t take anything away from Coughlin while also enhancing Gresham’s “best pure wrestler in the world” gimmick. This was excellent.
Fred Rosser, Karl Fredericks, Ren Narita, Rocky Romero & the DKC defeated Team Filthy (Danny Limelight, Jorel Nelson, JR Kratos, Royce Isaacs & Tom Lawlor) via disqualification
The babyface team stormed the ring and went after Team Filthy before the bell even rang. Rosser’s head was shaved as a result of Lawlor shaving Rosser’s head after a match a few weeks ago, with Lawlor eating his hair. Filthy.
Rosser immediately began biting Lawlor while the rest of the match spilled out onto the floor. Rosser and Lawlor threw wild punches at each other, in and out of the corner. Rosser took off his shirt and choked Lawlor with it, then blew snot-rockets at him. Great energy from everyone here, but particularly Rosser, who was fired-the-hell up. JR Kratos put the kibosh on this after he ambushed Rosser, taking him out with a huge jumping lariat.
Lawlor pounced on top of the fallen Rosser and began strangling him. This is an especially great spot since we know Lawlor is a BJJ black belt and he’s choosing to strangle Rosser with two hands like an angry guy in a bar fight. The rest of Team Filthy came back into the ring and posed over Rosser until the rest of the babyfaces broke things up.
Team Filthy continued to work Rosser over. The West Coast Wrecking Crew and Danny Limelight used a 3-on-1 offense to keep Rosser down. They fed Rosser to Kratos who was waiting for Rosser on the floor. When Kratos went to deadlift suplex Rosser, “Mr. No Days Off '' slipped out and shoved Kratos into the ring post. WCWC came at him from the opposite side, but Rosser took both out with a double-lariat. Danny Limelight darted in, but Rosser launched him into the air, back body dropping him onto Kratos, who was still recovering on the floor. Rosser’s proverbial spirit bar was flashing at this point. He drilled Lawlor with a gutbuster on the floor, though I’m not sure who that would’ve hurt worse, him or Lawlor.
Ren Narita and Royce Isaacs were in together next. Narita scored a two-count with a beautiful single-arm suplex. Narita might have the best bridge in the business right now. Jorel Nelson broke up the pin. The DKC jumped in next and unleashed some kiai power onto Isaacs, chopping him up in the corner before whipping him to Narita for a release front suplex. DKC and Karl Fredericks showed off nice double-team work.
Isaacs, the legal man for Team Filthy, caught Fredericks with a pop-up kneelift, then tagged out to Limelight. Fredericks planted Limelight with a spinebuster after Limelight was doing the cha-cha. Romero tagged in next and he and Limelight then got into it.
Later, Lawlor and Rosser brawled again in the ring, doing their own rendition of the Frye-Takayama endless punches spot.
Limelight almost landed his patented double-jump swinging DDT, but Romero cut him off and turned it into a falcon arrow-to-armbar submission attempt. The match ended when a masked and hooded wrestler entered the ring and began hitting Romero with a black kendo stick.
The wrestler then removed his hoodie and was revealed to be the new Black Tiger, or as Alex Koslov called him on commentary, “the Black Tiger Mask.” Black Tiger laid Romero out with a tombstone piledriver. He appears to be aligned with Team Filthy.
Tiger, Lawlor and Kratos beat on Rosser in the ring. The crowd chanted “F*CK YOU KRATOS,” then “SHUT THE F*CK UP” at Tom Lawlor when he got on the mic.
“I’m sick and damn tired of Rocky Romero gettin’ his ass off SoundCloud and into the ring! I’m so sick of hearing about how far Darren has come in the past few years!” Lawlor went on to explain that the new Black Tiger hadn’t come back to haunt him, but to end him. He’d then put his foot across Rosser’s neck. The crowd started chanting “FRED,” a retort to Lawlor’s “Darrren (Young)” comment earlier.
In the post-match promo backstage, Lawlor explained that he believed Rocky Romero had been with NJPW for 20 years and was abusing his power. He accused Romero of trying to “hold everybody down” and that he was sick of it. He said Team Filthy deserves all of the top spots in Japan. Lawlor called out “Darren” (Fred Rosser) for threatening to come to his house and beat him up. He said Rosser wasn’t man enough to ever do something like that.
By the end of this promo, it felt like it turned into an old-school Survivor Series team interview, with most of Team Filthy eyeballing the camera while Lawlor cut his promo on Rosser.
After a break, we saw NJPW Young Lion Gabriel Kidd make his post-pandemic return. Kidd was previously based out of Japan and had a number of awesome matches with Yota Tsuji, Ren Narita and Yuya Uemura (among others) over the past few years.
Kidd got on the mic and said he would be at New Japan’s Detonation show in Riverside, CA. He said that he saw fellow Young Lion Alex Coughlin’s match with Jonathan Gresham earlier in the night and that he liked it very much. He called Gresham out to the ring next and implied he wanted a match with him in Riverside at Detonation.
Gresham came to the ring. Before handing him the mic, Kidd explained how much respect he had for Gresham and what he’d done for wrestling, but that if he thought he could ever out-wrestle a British wrestler, he’d be mistaken.
Gresham explained that he didn’t even know who Kidd was, but that it wasn’t a knock, it was just that Gresham hadn’t been paying attention to NJPW recently. He said that he was impressed with Kidd’s training partner, Alex Coughlin, and that he was sure Kidd was at least as good or better than Coughlin, and that he’d gladly accept his challenge for a match in California. The two would shake hands and Gresham would then exit the ring.
Before the segment ended, Kidd grabbed the mic once more and told the crowd that if they were going through hard times these days to not give up, to keep steppin’ and to speak up, because no one is alone.
Daniel Garcia & Violence Unlimited (Brody King & Chris Dickinson) defeated Stray Dog Army (Barrett Brown, Bateman & Misterioso)
This was a fun but relatively short match that the crowd loved. Dickinson and Brown mixed it up first. Brown went toe-to-toe with Dickinson, but the bigger “Dirty Daddy” stamped him out with a hard shoulder block before he tagged young phenom Daniel Garcia in for some double-team offense. Brody King and Misterioso got into it later. The crowd loved King.
Garcia systematically tore through the Stray Dog Army. He, King, and Dickinson locked all three Stray Dogs in simultaneous submission holds.
Bateman used a Northern Lights bomb variation on King to lay him out. Dickinson and Garcia were able to save King from the Stray Dog 3-on-1 attack. King would then power bomb Barrett Brown onto the rest of the wrestlers on the floor, Mike Awesome-style. Violence Unlimited and Garcia put the Stray Dog Army away with tandem piledrivers (plus one Gonzo Bomb from King, the legal man).
Philadelphia Street Fight: Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer & Minoru Suzuki) defeat Eddie Kingston & Jon Moxley
This was taped before Jon Moxley’s hiatus.
Before the match, they aired a production package made up of mostly past AEW footage of the four wrestlers going at it on a past episode of Dynamite.
Archer came out first and took out a few Young Lions standing ringside. Vintage Archer. The crowd went wild for “Kaze Ni Nare” as usual.
Retired NJPW referee Tiger Hattori joined Matt Rehwoldt and Alex Koslov on commentary
When Moxley and Kingston were in the ring with Suzuki-gun before the bell, Suzuki and Mox began poking and shoving each other.
Suzuki knocked Kingston out cold with a forearm shot. Suzuki terrorized with a kendo stick. Hattori said on commentary that Suzuki has a lot of experience doing kendo.
The fight spilled to the backstage area, and then the backlot. I got deja vu as all four brawled into the parking lot area, which ECW fans have seen a number of times over the years in famous promos and matches. Archer did the 1996 Kevin Nash–Rey Mysterio lawn-dart-into-side-of-truck spot to Mox. Suzuki choked Moxley with the top part of a folding chair.
Something may have happened inside the arena at this point in the match. People started booing just as Eddie Kingston threw a cinderblock at Archer but missed. Rehwoldt mentioned the inside feed may have cut out. Not entirely sure what was happening inside the venue, but the match quickly moved back inside the arena.
Suzuki brought a traffic cone into the venue, hitting Kingston over the head with it. Then, he whacked Kingston a couple times with a kendo stick and bowed, then respectfully placed the stick near the announcers table.
Archer strangled Kingston with a dustpan. He and Suzuki beat on Kingston inside the ring, this time with kendo sticks. Suzuki wound up and swung like a baseball player, then placed the stick under Kingston’s arm for an armbar with the extra kendo stick leverage.
Mox reappeared and came with an unhinged door in hand. The crowd started chanting “E-C-W!” though I can’t recall a time when someone in ECW ever used a door. Mox grabbed someone’s sign because someone had written “MOX USE MY SIGN!” on it. He ripped off the paper and revealed the object to be a stop sign. I wonder how the fan got a hold of that.
Moxley slid the door into the ring and would eventually dropkick Archer through it as it was set up against the turnbuckle. The crowd chanted “this is awesome.”
Archer would later level Kingston with a full nelson slam, but Kingston powered up and landed two urakens and a DDT for two—Suzuki made a last minute save. He put Kingston in a guillotine choke. Suzuki went for the Gotch-Style piledriver but Mox broke it up. Finally, Suzuki-gun put the match away after Archer pinned Kingston with a Blackout onto a garbage can.
Afterwards, Archer grabbed a mic and ordered a cameraman onto the apron. He then told Kingston that he was sick of Kingston screwing him out of matches and titles. He said this was for disrespecting Suzuki-gun. He’d then talk about his then-upcoming match with Kingston as part of AEW’s World Title Eliminator tournament. Suzuki threw the mic at Kingston and said “We are Suzuki-gun!” before leaving ringside.
Kingston grabbed the mic and said something too, but it was garbled because NJPW bleeped a word and you couldn’t hear the end of what he said because it was so short. So, Eddie Kingston said something. And it was probably vulgar, as you’d expect.
This was a top-tier edition of NJPW Strong. The opener between Coughlin and Gresham was an excellent opener; the tag matches in between had tons of fire and the Rosser vs. Lawlor angle for the Openweight title has been arguably the best long-term angle in the show’s short history; the main event was a hell of a main event brawl with more grit and grime than the AEW version.
From quality to action to star power, this show had a bit of everything for everyone, especially if you like your wrestling to be a little more rough-and-tumble than the usual.