At the top of the show, Kevin Kelly announced that the winner of this year’s New Japan Cup USA will be awarded a large trophy with the word “VICTORY” engraved onto it. On top of that, the winner of this year’s Cup will also become the first-ever Strong Openweight champion. NJPW officials unveiled the new title belt in the ring, which looks much more traditional compared with the more new and polarizing IWGP World Heavyweight title. Kelly also mentioned that this year’s winner will not receive a shot at the IWGP US Champion, as last year’s winner, KENTA, did.
First-round matches kick off on next week’s episode of Strong.
Rocky Romero defeated Kevin Knight via submission
“There’s no better pure athlete on the roster than Kevin Knight,” Kelly said just after the match started. There’s probably a good case for it, too, as he got serious air on a dropkick midway through the match.
This was solid. If you’ve kept up with the show, you’ve seen a handful of matches with Rocky Romero vs. a rookie. The matches follow a short structure where Romero dishes out the majority of the offense while his opponents get in one or two spots. That’s what happened here: Romero won after putting Knight down with a Falcon Arrow, then holding onto the arm and applying a juji-gatame armlock for the win via submission.
Alex Coughlin and TJP defeated Misterioso and Jordan Clearwater
Coughlin and Clearwater started off for their respective teams. These two and most of the Young Lions on this show make fundamental mat wrestling look more interesting and believable than most others. I’m still not used to either’s new look yet: Coughlin’s old tyme mustache and Clearwater’s new man-bun.
TJP and Misterioso were in together next. Their exchange was much flashier than Coughlin and Clearwater just before, which added a nice bit of flair to the match.
Coughlin later blasted Misterioso with a shoulder tackle. Misterioso fudged a couple of his spots but it didn’t deter too much from the match. Late into the match, Coughlin used a cool Schmidt backbreaker/bridging fall-away slam combination on Misterioso for a close two-count.
Coughlin vs. Clearwater could end up a great rivalry down the road. Clearwater kicked Coughlin in the face with “The Midas Touch.” It’s his version of a yakuza kick. It wasn’t enough, though, as Coughlin laid Clearwater out with a gutbuster before TJP pinned him after a frog splash.
Kevin Kelly interviewed Team Filthy via video call. When asked about the six-man tag main event tonight, “Filthy” Tom Lawlor said that they don’t know what they’re up against in Team Filthy. He called Brody King an idiot. Kelly then asked Chris Dickinson about his match against King in the New Japan Cup USA next week. “Dirty Daddy” was curt and explained to Kelly that he has a plan, but he wasn’t going to share it. Kelly inquired about Dickinson recently joining King at ROH’s 19th Anniversary show last Friday, and Lawlor explained that Team Filthy knows that “money talks and goes a long way.” Dickinson went on to explain that whatever he did outside a NJPW ring wouldn’t impact his work on Strong because he knows that New Japan is the most competitive company in the world, and that he was ready to prove it, regardless of circumstance. Lawlor also said his Cup opponent for next week, Ren Narita, would “learn” a lot on his excursion next week during their match.
Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, JR Kratos and Chris Dickinson) defeated Brody King and the Riegel Twins (Logan & Sterling Riegel) via TKO
We didn’t get a clear answer on why Dickinson and King are working together in ROH now, but I appreciated the fact that they’re at least addressing it before it becomes a possible issue. ROH or not, these two will face off next week in a first-round Cup match.
Logan Riegel landed a blockbuster off the second rope early. His twin, Sterling, tagged in early, and the two took the “Dirty Daddy” out with quick double-team work.
King and JR Kratos were in together soon after. They had an excellent match on Strong last month, and for a few seconds tonight, we got another glimpse of them together. Both threw loud, crashing forearm shots.
On the floor, Sterling Riegel went for a pescado dive but missed after Kratos side-stepped out of the way. Misterioso and TJP did exactly the same spot in the match before. Kratos picked Riegel up and smashed him back to the floor with a lariat.
Riegel took a beating from Team Filthy for a while. Each member targeted Riegel’s right arm (not his left arm, like Koslov said on commentary). When Dickinson dumped Riegel on his head, Riegel powered up, seemingly immune to head-drops, and answered back with a Rock Bottom before tagging out to Brody King.
Team captains King and Lawlor then got into mid-ring. Lawlor threw quick jabs, then jumped guard, sort of, and locked in a guillotine choke before King muscled out of it. Lawlor tagged out to Kratos, but King steamrolled both of them, sprinting at them, then squashing them in the corner.
One really cool moment in this was when King lifted Riegel in the air, assumedly to launch Riegel into Lawlor, who was prone in the corner, but Kratos appeared from nowhere and pounced Riegel out of the way, before reaching Lawlor in the blue corner. Kratos then planted King with a massive falling powerbomb. Logan Riegel then dove off the top rope and came at Kratos with a cross-body block, but Riegel actually just bounced off of Kratos, who didn’t go down. Nice.
Dickinson KO’d Riegel with elbows soon after, picking up the win for his team. Lawlor got into Dickinson’s face afterwards and egged him on to break Riegel’s arm. They worked him over a bit more, but Dickinson acted like he was uncomfortable with how far Lawlor was going with the whole thing, waving his arms in the air to signal he wasn’t down with that. Kratos picked up the slack, though, and proceeded to “break” Riegel’s arm, much to the delight of “Filthy” Tom. There’s good storyline tension between these two.
Tonight’s episode of NJPW Strong was a good teaser for the upcoming New Japan Cup USA tournament. The announcement of their new Strong Openweight title replacing the IWGP US title shot plus red ataché case is interesting. It’s fair to say we won’t see the IWGP US title any time soon, but who knows?
First round matches the 2021 New Japan Cup USA kick off next Friday.