The show opened with a backstage segment with Team Filthy ("Filthy" Tom Lawlor, JR Kratos, Danny Limelight, and Chris Dickinson).
Team Filthy is not playing around anymore, according to Lawlor. “You got a problem with me and the way I handle business?” Dickinson asked. This led to Lawlor and Dickinson having words because Dickinson thought Lawlor doubted whether he’d defeat Blake Christian later in the night. Limelight tried easing the tension in the room, but Kratos said Limelight talked too much. There’s obvious tension amid Team Filthy right now.
Clark Connors defeated TJP to qualify for New Japan Cup USA 2021
These two first squared off in an NJPW ring at the 2019 Super J-Cup, where Connors fell to TJP in the first round.
Connors came for revenge, hitting a spear and two vertical suplexes off the bat. He followed with a big hip toss and chops in the corner.
TJP used an octopus hold and transitioned to a pin, then hit a pescado to the floor.
The middle part of this was slow as both wrestlers traded holds on the mat, with TJP seeming to get the better of that aspect of tonight’s match. He targeted Connors’ left knee and worked it over with a series of attacks and submissions to keep the rabid Connors neutralized.
Connors responded with a snap powerslam at around five minutes in. He could only built a few moments of momentum, though, as TJP would continuously go back to the left knee attacks.
When Connors was finally able to lock in a Boston Crab, TJP seemed like he was almost out of the match, barely making it to the ropes for a break. Later, Connors came off the second rope for a shoulder block, but TJP countered with a perfectly timed drop toe hold as Connors was on his way down. From there, TJP locked in a kneebar on Connors’ tenderized left leg. Connors was desperate to escape but couldn’t make it. He teased tapping, but before he could, he rocked his momentum backwards and managed to cradle TJP into a pin and nabbed the three count for an upset victory.
TJP actually wouldn’t let go of the submission,selling the finish as though he wasn’t pinned. Both were in disbelief. Really good match with a solid story. Connors advances to the first round of the 2021 New Japan Cup USA.
Chris Dickinson defeated Blake Christian to qualify for New Japan Cup USA 2021
WWE’s Blake Christian sprung out of the gate at the bell, diving at Dickinson with a series of fast-paced aerial attacks. Dickinson hung in there, keeping the pace with Christian until he found the right time to shut him down, which happened to be when Christian came off the top rope minutes into this and Dickinson caught him mid-air with a dropkick. He quickly transitioned to a figure four leglock, a strategy meant to ground Christian as soon as possible.
Dickinson blasted Christian with some hard chops before going after his leg once again, at one point wrapping his knee around the bottom rope and cranking on it from the ankle. Dickinson’s offense slowed Christian but didn’t stop him, as Christian mounted a high-flying response to Dickinson’s punishment. We saw Christian fly over the top to the floor with a tope con giro. Back in the ring, he later tried landing a springboard 450 splash, but Dickinson got his knees up in time.
The two traded power spots and pinfall attempts from here, which included a big folding powerbomb from Dickinson. Christian locked in a guillotine choke -- kind of a random choice for him, isn’t it? -- but Dickinson rolled out, then applied a kneebar of his own. Christian escaped, but Dickinson zoned in on Christian’s weakened knee and put him back down onto the mat with a dragon screw leg whip, and later, a nasty half-and-half suplex.
The way Dickinson put Christian away was so smart. As he went for a piledriver, Christian resisted by sandbagging his bodyweight down, so Dickinson grabbed onto Christian’s injured leg, or the same one he’d worked on in the match, and pulled on it for leverage. This allowed Dickinson to get Christian high enough off the ground and hit the piledriver. This was probably Christian’s best match in his run on NJPW Strong, while Dickinson continues to steal the spotlight.
Karl Fredericks & David Finlay defeated Team Filthy ("Filthy" Tom Lawlor & Danny Limelight w/ JR Kratos)
It should be noted that over the past two weeks, Finlay had the two best singles matches of his career, against both Jay White and Will Ospreay in this year's New Japan Cup proper, and I don’t think anyone would disagree. While tonight’s show was taped months prior, it’s still great evidence of “the new Finlay” that developed over 2020.
Also of note is that Lawlor has already qualified for the 2021 New Japan Cup USA that will start next week.
Finlay and Lawlor were in first for their teams. Lawlor feigned a grip fight up top, then did the Ric Flair strut. Classic. They then fought for a proper takedown; Finlay was able to trip Lawlor, but Lawlor stayed in step with Finlay on the mat. It was ultimately a stalemate, which then saw both Limelight and Fredericks tag in. Something Fredericks likes to do these days is a SANADA-style split-legged leapfrog, but the visual is unreal because of how big the dude is. His vertical leap must be 50 inches, at least.
Limelight tagged out to Lawlor, who was able to cut Fredericks back down to the mat, softening him up for Limelight. Limelight tagged in next and laid in a few hard kicks before tagging back out to Lawlor.
Team Filthy continued to work Fredericks over in the blue corner, with Limelight using a running bulldog for two at one point. When Lawlor tagged back in, he used an ankle lock on Fredericks, but Fredericks escaped the hold with a forward roll, and the momentum from the roll launched Lawlor into the red corner post. With Lawlor dazed, Fredericks tagged out to Finlay, who by now was the proverbial house of fire.
Finlay put Lawlor down with a high dropkick and then a flying back elbow from the second rope. Lawlor used an exploder suplex in response. The two traded bigger and bigger moves before again reaching a slight stalemate. Both tagged out to their partners, but it was Fredericks who had the upper hand in the ring. He used Shibata’s basement corner dropkick on Limelight and later hit a spinebuster for a close two.
Fredericks went for his Manifest Destiny DDT finish, but Limelight blocked it and was able to muscle Fredericks into the corner and tag out to Lawlor. Limelight blasted Fredericks with a superkick as Lawlor held Fredericks in a waistlock, then dumped him over his head with a German suplex. Announcer Kevin Kelly called the spot like the match was over when Fredericks kicked out just in time.
The turning point in this came as Lawlor held Fredericks in a choke sleeper and Limelight was about to come off the top rope until Fredericks shoved Lawlor forward. Team Filthy collided in the corner, which gave Fredericks the chance to tag out to Finlay again.
There was a lot of action in the last couple minutes of this. Lawlor used Tenzan’s TTD on Fredericks, effectively eliminating him from the match as he rolled to the floor afterwards. When Lawlor turned around, though, Finlay caught him with a stunner. Limelight then caught Finlay with a cradle fisherman’s buster for two. He landed a big jumping knee strike before Finlay turned Limelight inside-out with a lariat, then spiked him with Slapshot, his signature brainbuster-to-shoulderbreaker finish, for the win in just over 17 minutes.
A winded Finlay spoke to cameras backstage after the match. He said Lawlor impressed him tonight. He also mentioned that while he hadn’t ever really tagged with Fredericks, he thought they were “pretty damn good together.”
Finlay then said he wants Lawlor in a singles match next. He said he remembered watching Lawlor in the UFC at Hooters back in the day, but now that Lawlor was in NJPW, Finlay wanted Lawlor to step into his ring, his world.
Final thoughts --
This was another solid show topped off by a great main event. The way this episode was booked made for a nice “go-home show” for the New Japan Cup USA tournament that kicks off next week.
Here's the full bracket for New Japan Cup USA 2021: