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NJPW Strong results: Tom Lawlor vs. Clark Connors Openweight title match

"Filthy" Tom looked to remain undefeated as Strong Champion.
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Tonight saw the first installment of tapings from NJPW Strong’s Strong Style Evolve 2022 tour in Tampa. Ian Riccaboni and Matt Rehwoldt were on the call as Kevin Kelly is still overseas doing commentary for NJPW proper.

Team Filthy (JR Kratos & Black Tiger) defeated CHAOS (Rocky Romero & Wheeler Yuta)

Team Filthy jumped Romero and Yuta before they even stepped into the ring. Once the match got underway, Romero took Tiger over with a headscissors. Romero tagged in Yuta, who was impressive in his quick exchange with Black Tiger. This featured some cool British escapist-style wrestling and counter-wrestling.

Yuta and Kratos started jaw-jacking. Yuta challenged Kratos to get into the ring, but before Kratos could get in, Black Tiger pounced and took Yuta out from behind. Kratos then powerslammed Yuta for a two count.

Kratos pounded on Yuta from corner to corner with chops, lariats and fists. Yuta would try and fight back but Kratos was just too much for him. Team Filthy would continue double-teaming him but he wouldn’t quit. Kratos barked at the crowd for supporting Yuta and told them to shut their mouths.

Yuta caught Kratos with a short missile dropkick from the second rope and tagged out to a fresh Rocky Romero. Kratos tagged out, too. Romero and Black Tiger got into it with Romero landing Sliced Bread for two. He used a few Forever Clotheslines until Kratos reappeared and hit Romero with a pounce as he was mid-ring.

Romero later caught Kratos with a satellite DDT for two. Kratos returned the attack with twice the power, laying Romero out with a wild pop-up spinning side-slam for the win.

Kratos grabbed the mic afterward and called out Alex Coughlin, who pinned Kratos to graduate from Young Lionhood a few months ago. Kratos wants revenge and compared Coughlin to “that p***y Tom Brady,” a famous NFL player who also plays in Tampa.

Coughlin appeared at the entrance. He ran to the ring and got into it with Kratos, exchanging a few hard elbows before catching the larger man mid-air and launching him over his head with a front suplex. Coughlin was amped and rightfully so. If you could suplex Kratos like that, wouldn’t you get hyped, too? 

But during Coughlin’s proverbial touchdown celebration, Kratos got back up and laid him out with a falling lariat while he wasn’t paying attention. Coughlin recovered and went after Kratos again. He threw elbows until NJPW staff entered the ring to break things up. Coughlin scooped up one ring security in a bodyslam and launched him at Kratos, effectively weaponizing a human being. After the fight was broken up, Kratos chuckled on the apron and walked to the back while fans booed. These two are going to have a great rematch.

FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) defeated TMDK (JONAH & Shane Haste) via disqualification

FinJuice has been feuding with JONAH and his friends for the past few months, and took on JONAH and Bad Dude Tito twice already this year. Haste actually debuted at the end of their last tag match from NJPW Strong: Rivals where he assisted JONAH and Tito by sneaking into the ring and laying out Finlay to earn the hollow victory. This marked Haste’s official in-ring debut for NJPW.

When Finlay and Robinson appeared on the ramp for their ring entrance, instead of high fiving fans, they charged TMDK. Haste and JONAH met them near the ramp in the aisle between the guardrails. Chaos ensued. They brawled into the crowd and around the ring. The match hadn’t even started yet when FinJuice sat TMDK on two folding chairs and nailed them with stereo running cannonballs. Haste would later back body drop Robinson over the guardrail onto the ringside floor. Finlay caught Haste with a lariat soon after and knocked him over the guardrail, too.

Finlay and Haste finally made it into the ring, and from there, the bell sounded and the match was officially underway. Haste connected with a high dropkick and backdrop suplex before tagging out to JONAH.

TMDK double-teamed Finlay in the blue corner for a while. Fans started chanting “WE WANT JUICE!” We saw a delayed suplex next, where JONAH held Finlay in the air for about 20 seconds before dropping him. When Haste tagged in, Finlay was able to counter his offense with a satellite DDT and finally tag out to Robinson.

Robinson went to town on JONAH, lighting him up with a couple jabs before trapping him in the corner and punching him some more. He even started biting JONAH in the corner. It’s clear how no nonsense FinJuice is these days and it helps make their feud with TMDK feel more important and more serious.

FinJuice took JONAH out with a double flapjack. When Robinson went for Pulp Friction, Haste came into the ring with a steel chair and jabbed Robinson in the stomach with it. He wasn’t discrete about it, either, which meant TMDK had to be disqualified.

FinJuiced score the win via DQ, and we’re inching closer and closer to a clean FinJuice win over TMDK. When we do eventually get to that point, it will be that much sweeter.

TMDK would continue battering Robinson until Finlay returned to the ring with a foreign object of his own: a sheleighleigh, the Finlay family heirloom.

Robinson grabbed the mic and said he wanted to end the feud between TMDK and FinJuice. He proposed they end it at NJPW’s sold-out Windy City Riot event on April 16. And to avoid another DQ finish, Robinson insisted on a having a street fight. JONAH, Haste and Bad Dude Tito would take on FinJuice and a mystery partner. TMDK accepted.

NJPW STRONG Openweight Champion "Filthy” Tom Lawlor defeated Clark Connors to retain

Connors came to the ring wearing new ring gear: a pink shirt, pink shorts and pink wristbands with white boots & kneepads. He resembled a young, hip Bjorn Borg.

“Filthy” came to the ring with Kratos and Black Tiger. After he got into the ring, Lawlor took a moment to strip down from his regular jorts to his ring jorts. Connors then took a pause to reveal that under his chic pink shorts, he was wearing his own pair of short jorts: white ones to match the boots.

Lawlor wasn’t impressed. The two trash-talked some more until Lawlor insisted on showing off his signature "Filthy strut." Connors would catch Lawlor mid-strut with a spear for two. He scored a German suplex for two and then a backdrop suplex for two. Lawlor slipped out to the floor for a breather, but Connors chased after him, landing on the champion with a pescado to the floor. 

Connors got in Kratos’ face at ringside. Connors then removed his white jorts to reveal that he was wearing his usual “White Lion” trunks all along. He threw the white jorts at Kratos and dashed around the corner to catch Lawlor with a running pounce that sent Lawlor flying into the guardrail.

Connors and Kratos exchanged more words at ringside, which gave Lawlor enough time to recover and trap Connors in a guillotine choke as he stood on the ring apron. He planted Connors with a big one-armed uranage for a two-count.

When the ring announcer made the five-minute call, Lawlor and Connors were trading hard chops in the corner. When Connors went for a Northern Lights suplex, Lawlor again caught him in a guillotine choke. He earned a two moments later after putting Connors down with an exploder suplex.

Connors kept giving Lawlor a hard time. He would eventually rally back and superplex Lawlor off the second rope. He’d finally reversed the momentum of the match in his favor. He slapped on a Mr. Gannosuke-style full nelson camel clutch but Lawlor escaped. When Connors went to spear Lawlor through the ropes to the floor, Lawlor sidestepped so Connors flew threw the ropes and right onto Kratos, who was standing in the line of fire. Connors hopped back onto the apron and speared Lawlor off of it onto the floor.

Lawlor got Connors in a sleeperhold from out of nowhere. Connors shucked him off and went for a spear, and Lawlor sprawled and blocked it, then jumped into closed full guard and once again sunk in a guillotine choke. Fans chanted for Connors to recover. He eventually muscled out of the choke and slammed Lawlor back first into the corner, hitting a snap powerslam for two.

Both went for submissions with Lawlor trying the sleeper again and Connors trying to reapply the full nelson hold. Lawlor would backdrop Connors onto the turnbuckle to break the full nelson, then spiking him with a Tenzan Tombstone Driver (TTD). Connors kicked out at one and laid Lawlor out with a lariat for two.

When they were back on their feet, they traded even more heavy shots. When Connors went for his finish, Lawlor countered it by rolling through while holding onto Connors’ wrists. He then stood up and, still holding Connors’ wrists, delivered two kamigori knee strikes, one to the front of Connors’ head and one to the back as he held Connors in a straightjacket hold for the win. Lawlor retained and is now 8–0.

Afterward, Lawlor got on the mic and got into it with a heckler before saying that he didn’t care who his next challenger would be, whether it was “Tom Ishii,” the Great O-Khan or “Blue Justice” Yuji Nagata himself. No matter who it was, it would be an opponent of Lawlor’s choosing, so in the meantime, he’d be going on vacation.

Then Fred Rosser’s music hit. “Mr. No Days Off” is the only wrestler to have pinned Lawlor in NJPW.

“I’m not out here to whoop that ass. I’m here to challenge that ass!”

Rosser went on to explain that between 2003 and 2009, he was told “no” by WWE over 40 times until May 4, 2009, when WWE told him “yes,” and in Tampa, Florida, to boot. He told Lawlor that despite what the champion said, Rosser’s story does matter. He said he knows he can beat Lawlor and has been the only one to do so on Strong in the past. 

Rosser then said he wasn’t asking Lawlor for a title shot -- he was telling Lawlor that he would be the next contender for his title. Lawlor grabbed the mic and told Rosser he’d give him a shot at the belt when Rosser proves that he’s ready for it. “My answer? Hell no!”

Final thoughts:

Tonight’s episode of NJPW Strong was solid. “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, who has held onto the Strong Openweight championship for close to a year now, continues to prove he’s one of the top main eventers in wrestling right now based solely on match quality and consistency.

Connors looked great, too, but the crowd seemed exhausted. While the match was excellent, the crowd wasn’t able to match the energy and take it to the next level.