Tonight saw the next installment of the New Japan Showdown series from Philadelphia.
Finjuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) defeated Yuya Uemura & Kevin Knight
Finlay and Knight were together first. Knight is super athletic. Uemura and Juice were in shortly after. The crowd was pretty loud for Ueumura when he tagged in. He has been very active on the West Coast indie few over the past couple months, showing up at DEFY and Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport in addition to appearing regularly for NJPW Strong. He put Robinson down with some Ricky Steamboat-esque armdrags, which even the announcers mentioned. And since Juice has this Randy Savage cosplay get-up going on these days, this short spot gave me brief WrestleMania III deja vu.
Midway through the match, both Robinson and Finlay nailed Knight with dropkicks. When Knight went for a dropkick of his own, Robinson countered with a power bomb. Knight would lay Finjuice out with dropkicks of his own a few moments later. He’d then tag out to a fired-up Yuya Uemura, who took Robinson out with a flying forearm. Uemura went back and forth with Finlay until he landed a falling backdrop suplex for a two-count.
Uemura applied a double wrist lock to Finlay, but Robinson tried to break it up, jabbing Uemura in the face a few times. These didn’t phase young Yuya, so Robinson spit in his face and went for a lariat, but as he came off the ropes, Kevin Knight stepped in, tripped him up, then locked him in a Boston Crab—a Young Lion specialty—as Uemura kept the double wrist lock on Finlay, making for a double submission situation until Finlay broke the hold by grabbing the bottom rope with his opposite hand.
Finjuice went for a Doomsday Device on Knight, but Knight ducked Finlay’s flying lariat, then used a victory roll on Robinson to score an extremely close two-count. The crowd’s collective gasp was audible on the broadcast. Knight then went for a Stinger Splash but missed. Robinson laid him down with a backbreaker, then Finlay followed up by coming off the ropes with an elbow drop. This put Knight out completely, with Finjuice scoring the W. All teams looked good here, but Knight seems to stand out in almost every bout he’s in on this show.
Bullet Club (Chris Bey & El Phantasmo) defeated Ariya Daivari & Lio Rush
WWE’s Daivari made his first New Japan appearance on last week’s episode in a losing effort to Alex Zayne. Both he and Rush used to be regulars on WWE’s 205 Live brand. Bey and Phantasmo have been teaming regularly these days and not just on NJPW Strong with IMPACT, as well.
Bullet Club did the “too sweet” gesture towards Daivari & Rush, who, in turn, responded with a crotch chop. Bey and Daivari were first together. Rush and Bey were lightning fast when they were in the ring together moments later. Phantsmo distracted Rush before he came off the ropes; Bey took advantage and countered Rush’s flying attack with a spinebuster. He then stole Daivari’s magic carpet, whacking Rush with it.
The match spilled out onto the floor for a bit, which was to Bullet Club’s advantage. Lots of dirty tactics from Phantasmo and Bey. Once Phantasmo and Chris Bey rolled Daivari back into the ring, they started up with all kinds of back rakes. They tried doing a double-back rake to the Daivari’s Magic Carpet, which they’d just draped over the ropes, but they got rug burns. Not something I ever expected to type while covering this show but hey, there’s a first for everything. And on that note, next, Bey and Phantasmo blocked an attack from Daivari with tandem titty-twisters. ELP landed a quebrada inside the ring, landing across Daivari’s back.
Daivari and Bey later crashed into each other when both attempted cross body blocks. This gave Daivari enough time to crawl to his corner and tag out to a fully recovered Lio Rush. He took ELP out with a springboard back elbow, then a falcon arrow moments later, scoring a two count.. Bey later took out Phantasmo by accident, allowingRush and Daivari to dive onto them. Daivari used his Magic Carpet during his plancha. In the ring, Daivari and Rush frog splashed Bey, one by one. ELP broke up the pin attempt with a frog splash of his own. Bey finally put Daivari away with a spinning V-trigger for the pin.
TJP defeated Clark Connors
They aired a short video package explaining the backstory between TJP and Clark Connors. TJP was Connors’ mentor and Junior Tag League partner a few years back, but that all changed after TJP joined up with Will Ospreay and became an official member of United Empire.
Connors looked stronger on the mat, but upon closer look, it seemed as though TJP seemed wriggled out of pretty much every hold Connors applied. Connors was more aggressive while TJP was more experienced, more cunning.
The match spilled onto the floor soon after. Connors threw a water bottle at TJP. He fired the crowd up as he beat on TJP while he circled the ring. TJP recovered quickly and started working over Connors’ leg, wrapping Connors in his own sports tape. TJP did an octopus hold between the ropes. Connors dove at TJP and speared him through the ropes to the floor. TJP locked him in a single leg crab on the top rope later on in the match.
Connors’ made a slow comeback midway through, landing a poweslam on TJP at one point. Connors’ gave TJP hard face wash kicks in the corner. TJP locked Connors in a cool scorpion deathlock variation. Connors escaped via rope break.
TJP went back to working over Connors’ leg. He connected with the Mamba splash for two. Connors responded with a pounce and a spear for a two-count of his own. They went back and forth and exchanged a few more cradle pins until TJP scored a three-count while clearly holding onto the ropes for leverage. The back-and-forth pin exchanges were going so quickly that it’d be easy to believe the referee didn’t see TJP cheating since it was all going by so fast. The crowd erupted in boos—the “good” kind, I think. Good finish.
Another good episode of NJPW Strong. What we learned from the main event is that Clark Connors seems to be ready for top-of-the-card spots going into 2022. He wrestled with lots of confidence against TJP tonight and came off more like a vet than a rookie. This match is worth going out of your way to check out this week.