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NJPW Strong results: Tom Lawlor vs. Fred Rosser

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Tonight saw the third installment of NJPW Strong: Detonation from Riverside, CA.

The DKC and Kevin Knight defeated Jordan Clearwater and Brogan Finlay

Good opener. Clearwater and Knight kicked things off for their teams. Remember these words: Within the next three years or so, these two will be big names in the industry. Clearwater looks more muscular than he has in the past.

Brogan Finlay, brother of David and son of Fit, had his second match on NJPW Strong. He’s technically the youngest wrestler on NJPW’s roster and has been active for seven months so far.

Clearwater and Finlay worked the DKC over in their corner for a while. Knight was able to make a save late in the match for his partner, connecting with a dropkick that he didn’t get all of. This gave DKC the chance to use a number of karate chops on Finlay. He earned a close nearfall with a crucifix bomb on Finlay, then tapped him out with a Koji clutch variation.

Team Filthy (JR Kratos, Royce Isaacs & Black Tiger) (with Jorel Nelson) defeated FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) and Rocky Romero

Kevin Kelly referred to this iteration of Black Tiger as the “underground version.” He was brought in a few weeks ago and was hunting Rocky Romero.

Isaacs and Romero started things off, but Black Tiger ambushed Romero just seconds into the match. The crowd booed. They were chanting for Romero pretty loudly throughout the match.

Team Filthy beat on Romero on the floor, but FinJuice made the save. After some bedlam outside the ring, the babyfaces took control on offense and double-teamed Black Tiger. They bodyslammed each other on top of Black Tiger, then dropped a few sentons on him.

Team Filthy gained the upper hand after Jorel Nelson, who was on the floor, got involved. The group posed in the ring at one point, too, but Robinson and Finlay broke it up.

Kratos deadlift suplexed Romero. Isaacs hit a gnarly-looking one-armed power bomb on Romero. Robinson made a tag into the match minutes later and had a good exchange with Kratos. These two are about the same height, actually. I’m sure this would make for a great singles match on the show next year.

Robinson used the Left Hand of God on Kratos but the giant didn’t go down. He laid Black Tiger out with a spinebuster. Finlay was in next to clean house. The ten-minute call sounded while he was in the ring. He tagged Romero in and Romero went to town on Tiger with Forever Clotheslines in the corner. Isaacs got involved and tipped the scales in favor of Team Filthy. Kratos landed a big corner superman punch that knocked Romero cold. Nelson got involved again too, behind the ref’s back, and connected with jumping knees to Romero’s chest in the corner.

FinJuice broke things up and would moments later hit tandem pescados to the floor on Kratos and Isaacs while Romero and Tiger traded submissions in the ring. The two went back and forth until Tiger spiked Romero with a tombstone piledriver, then a tiger driver for the win in just over 15 minutes. Team Filthy beat on the babyfaces a bit more before exiting; the crowd showered them with boos as they walked to the back.

STRONG Openweight Championship match: "Filthy" Tom Lawlor (c) defeated Fred Rosser to retain via TKO

They aired a video package before the match which told the story of what had happened between champion Lawlor and Rosser over the past months. Rosser is actually the first person to pin Lawlor in a NJPW ring, which he did in Philadelphia. Lawlor’s response was to beat Rosser up after the match and shave Rosser’s head.

Lawlor came to the ring with Team Filthy. JR Kratos brought the pair of scissors Lawlor used to cut Rosser’s hair with. When Rosser came out, he had a fresh new look, bald head and new trunks. He charged the ring during the entrances and tried getting into it with “Filthy” Tom early.

When the match was finally underway, Rosser got into Lawlor’s face and slapped him. The two grappled back and forth early on. The slightly bigger Rosser took the advantage and was able to stay over Lawlor, often controlling with armlocks or headlocks.

When they wrestled into the corner, neither man would break their hold, so referee Jeremy Marcus had to literally get in between the two to break them up. Later, Lawlor slipped out to the floor, but Rosser chased after him and whipped the champion into three guardrails. The crowd enjoyed that. Rosser began choking Lawlor with some of his own wrist tape, then bit Lawlor’s face. Rosser then tried back suplexing Lawlor onto the apron, but Lawlor blocked it by using a low blow that the ref didn’t see. He drove Rosser sternum-first into the guardrail on the floor next. He threw himself and Rosser over the guardrail into the crowd with a lariat.

Lawlor was able to get both he and Rosser back into the ring at the count of 16. He cradled Rosser for two. Lawlor threw hard low kicks at Rosser’s chest, but Rosser ate them. They started trading hard elbows. The crowd started chanting “Let’s go, Fred!” Lawlor locked in a guillotine choke but didn’t have luck with that, so transitioned to a cravat, snap-mared Rosser over, then used two sliding lariats—one to each side—to earn a two-count.

Rosser tried fighting back but Lawlor kept shutting him down. He laid Rosser out with a bulldog. When Rosser tried doing his signature gutbuster, Lawlor escaped, then did a double-leg dragon screw leg whip and locked Rosser into a cloverleaf until Rosser grabbed the rope for a break.

Rosser unleashed a flurry of lariats in the corner, a Mail Mary effort, but Lawlor picked him up and slammed him into the middle of the mat with a modified uranage slam. He put him down with a wrist-clutch exploder next, again for two. The fans didn’t give up on Rosser and kept chanting for him. When Lawlor went for a sleeper, Rosser slipped out and laid in a dozen forearms and elbows. At the 15-minute mark, he finally put Lawlor flat on the mat with a hard double ax-handle.

When Rosser tried suplexing Lawlor off the apron onto the floor, Lawlor blocked it by jumping him then locking on a guillotine choke. Rosser shoved Lawlor off, then did a slingshot to Lawlor from the floor into the ringpost, Bret Hart–Shawn Michaels style.

The two traded more heavy blows inside the ring next. Lawlor knocked Rosser down with an enzuigiri kick and the crowd booed loudly. Rosser’s wrist tape had come completely off at this point, which shows how damn serious things were getting between the two. Lawlor locked in another sleeper, but Rosser ran up the ropes and back-cradled him, another Bret Hart-Steve Austin throwback. Lawlor escaped the pin by bridging up and rolling back into the sleeper. Very cool.

Rosser used a running Death Valley Bomb on Lawlor for two. The crowd kept chanting “Fred!” When the 20-minute call sounded, Rosser put Lawlor down with an Emerald Flowsion. Lawlor escaped the pin by putting his foot on the lower rope.

Rosser drove in a number of 12–6 elbows, then locked on his once-signature crossface chickenwing. Lawlor rolled from side to side of the ring trying to grab the ropes for a break. The crowd bit on this and it really felt like they might give the win to Rosser with this.

Lawlor barely escaped the chickenwing, then got dropped back-first on the apron with the back suplex Rosser attempted early on in the match. Rosser then went for a diving Earthquake splash off the apron onto the floor, but Lawlor moved out of the way to lock in a sleeper again, this time on the floor. Wow. The two fought a bit more on the floor before they made it back into the ring.

As they crawled back inside, Rosser was a few feet ahead of Lawlor, and Lawlor still hadn’t gone through the ropes yet, so he dove through the ropes and caught Rosser with a rolling sleeper. I don’t think I’d ever seen that before. Rosser passed out from the sleeper hold and referee Jeremy Marcus stopped the match due to TKO. The crowd cursed at Lawlor and chanted for Rosser afterwards.

Lawlor cut a promo and explained how he was the only one who really deserved the STRONG Openweight champion. He said he’d beaten legends and top contenders and “pretenders, like Fred.” No one came out initially, so he and Team Filthy posed while his music played. This was until the returning Rust Taylor (Tyler Rust in NXT this year) came out. Taylor was actually an original member of Team Filthy last year. 

He got into the ring to celebrate with Lawlor, then swerved him and took him out with his finisher, a forward-swinging neckbreaker type deal. If you didn’t know who Taylor is before this segment, it’s OK, because he came off as a somebody. His hair grew out and he got much bigger compared to his first stint on Strong. It looks like he’ll soon challenge “Filthy” Tom for the Openweight title soon.

Final thoughts:

The main event was excellent this week. It was a near-30-minute match that was arguably Rosser’s best match ever, but also one of Lawlor’s, who has been racking them up lately. The funny thing is that when you hear the term “New Japan,” the kind of match these two had doesn’t come to mind. This was a technical or modern brawl. It had good emotion coming from Rosser’s end. It was extremely physical but not in a forced way. Rosser’s transition from WWE to NJPW has worked but it also hasn’t forced Rosser to change his in-ring style at all, and somehow it worked well with Lawlor’s MMA-centric approach. 

I imagine if this were in front of the right crowd it’d have blown the roof of the venue, though that’s not to say the Riverside crowd was a detriment in any way. Detonation was an excellent show, but the reality is there aren’t enough eyeballs on the product to measure how good these shows have been lately.