Team Filthy (JR Kratos and Chris Dickinson) defeated Clark Connors and TJP
Good, hard-hitting opener. Connors got the tar beaten out of him in this match. Kratos launched him across the ring with a vertical suplex at one point. When Connors finally could tag out to partner TJP, the LA Dojo alum came into the match to clean the proverbial house. There was a spot where Connors had Dickinson in a Boston crab, while TJP locked Kratos in an octopus hold, a move symbolic of Antonio Inoki, founder of the first NJPW dojo in California.
Kratos powered out of the hold. Dickinson later spiked Connors with a brainbuster for two. The finish saw Connors try throwing Kratos in a Boston crab, but Kratos muscled out and reversed the hold into a huge wheelbarrow suplex for the win.
Rocky Romero defeated Wheeler Yuta via submission
Tonight saw Wheeler Yuta make his NJPW Strong debut. He looked very good despite the loss, which came across more as a “you’re-worthy-of-us” loss than anything. Yuta was in ROH’s Pure title tournament last year, and before that has traveled around the world working with various independents. It’s clear how much he has honed his craft and transformed his body over the past few years.
We saw smooth mat wrestling from both at the beginning. Romero went after Yuta’s left arm. The NJPW neophyte answered later with a forward-facing figure-four type submission before Romero could break the hold by grabbing hold of the bottom rope.
Yuta landed a nice flying cross body attack later on, then threw Romero into a figure four-STF submission hold. Romero escaped again, and later put Yuta on the mat with a low springboard dropkick. Romero delivered a sharp counter-kick into Yuta’s face, but Yuta ate it and immediately answered with a German suplex for two. Romero rallied back and put Yuta down with Sliced Bread, and eventually got him to tap out in an armbar after spending much of the match attacking Yuta’s arm.
This was good. Yuta is a good fit with the current roster.
NJPW Cup USA 2021 Finals: “Filthy” Tom Lawlor defeated Brody King via TKO to win the New Japan USA Cup and the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship
There’s not much better in life than a brawl, is there? Lawlor threw low kicks early. The much bigger King outmuscled Lawlor into the corner soon after, then laid in a few hard forearms into Lawlor’s chest. There was pensive energy from the match and between the two early in this. The volume and intensity started to rise when King threw a few huge knife-edged chops that sounded to echo throughout the venue. Lawlor rolled to the floor when he could for an early breather.
Lawlor tried trapping King outside the ring, baiting him to make chase. King didn’t bite, then quickly recovered, going right back on offense. He had Lawlor placed prone in the red corner when he went for a running cannonball, but Lawlor slipped out of the ring and out of harm’s way. “Filthy” Tom immediately went after King’s legs, smashing them against the ring post while on the floor. He stomped on King’s fingers, too. Lawlor kept King on the floor for as long as he could and took advantage of every second. After whipping King into the guardrail and working over his arm some more, Lawlor rolled back into the ring. The referee started the ring-out count, but King rolled in at the count of 13.
Lawlor tried knocking King off his feet with a few lariats, but King wouldn’t budge. He answered with a senton, squashing Lawlor. The two had another series of chops before King used an exploder to fold Lawlor into the corner post. He then connected with the same cannonball he’d attempted earlier on.
Later, Lawlor jumped onto King and locked on a guillotine choke. King carried Lawlor to the corner, placed him on top of the turnbuckle, then superplexed him off the top for two.
Lawlor recovered and threw on an ankle lock. King wouldn’t tap, so Lawlor flipped King to his back and used a jacknife pin, but King countered that and turned it into a jumping piledriver. After another close nearfall, King, exhausted, dropped a few more hammer forearms on Lawlor before the Filthy one powered up and planted King with an awesome-looking uranage. KIng kicked out at one and seemed to power up. He charged at Lawlor, who parried and dropkicked King low, in the knees. He locked in an STF, but no dice for Lawlor. He kicked King hard in the back with a penalty kick. On the next attempt, King caught his leg. Lawlor countered and locked in a rear naked choke, which neutralized King almost completely. Then, finally, Lawlor ripped King in the chest with a running PK, then put King in the same rear naked choke hold he used earlier. King let out a death rattle before losing consciousness; the referee eventually called for the bell.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor is this year’s New Japan Cup USA 2021 winner, as well as the first-ever New Japan Strong Openweight Champion. NJPW’s Kaname. Tezuka presented Lawlor his giant New Japan Cup USA trophy and his Strong Openweight title belt. JR Kratos and Chris Dickinson celebrated in the ring with Lawlor after the match.
Lawlor said this win had been “a long time comin’” and that he was now, in fact, the strongest competitor on the NJPW roster. He explained how this part of the show is usually when someone comes out and challenges the victor, so he insisted his next opponent come out and face him. No one came out. Lawlor explained that’s what he figured would happen. Lawlor’s music hit, but suddenly, we realized who Lawlor’s next opponent would be: Chris Dickinson, or Lawlor’s team mate, took the mic and challenged Lawlor for his newly-won championship. Lawlor and Kratos were shocked. The new champion asked, “Is this really the right time to do this?” Dickinson answered that it was.
Final thoughts: King and Lawlor had a hell of a match tonight. It was basically a hardcore match without weapons. The story was great, and the last couple minutes of this were top-notch pro wrestling. I don't know how else to describe it other than just that. Nothing flashy, nothing kitschy, just two fighters fightin'. Go out of your way to watch this over the weekend, and congratulations to the first-ever member of the F4W Empire to simultaneously hold a New Japan title. History has been made.