Tonight was the first show of NJPW's Ignition tour.
Fred Yehi and Wheeler Yuta defeated The DKC and Kevin Knight
Karl Fredericks earned tonight’s title shot by eliminating the current STRONG Openweight champion, “Filthy” Tom Lawlor, from an eight-man elimination tag team match on the show a few weeks back.
Yehi lifted DKC with one arm and slammed him to the mat early on in a nice display of power. Knight and DKC joined up moments later to double-hip toss the larger Yehi into the center of the ring. The Young Lions were aggressive with their double-team offense against Yehi, a logical strategy from the younger and less experienced team.
Yehi finally tagged out to a fresh Wheeler Yuta, who worked Knight over for a bit. At the five-minute mark, Yuta went to whip Knight into the ropes, but Knight reversed it, then landed a spectacular dropkick. Kevin Kelly accurately compared with legend Doug Furnas’ dropkick.
DKC tagged in and he and Yehi got into it with DKC getting the better of things this time around. DKC is unique in that he incorporates a karate-wrestling hybrid style of offense. I can’t really compare it with anything else other than Yoshi Kwan in early ‘90s WCW.
Yuta and Knight traded elbows and near falls towards the finish, but Yuta used a modified armlock cradle to pin Knight in 7:47.
Clark Connors defeated Rocky Romero
This was good. Connors went for a single-leg takedown early. They grappled for a few minutes with Connor as the aggressor. Romero was able to slow things down and put Connors in a headlock, but Connors exploded out of that. The two traded chops and elbows. Romero took Connors out with a lariat but wasn’t able to connect well due to slight exhaustion.
Romero hit a missile dropkick from the top ropes while Connors was draped over the ropes nearby. He started laying it in later, throwing Connors to the floor with a headscissors, then ran off the apron and caught him with a flying knee strike.
Romero blasted Connors with low kicks later in the match. When he went for Sliced Bread, Connors bounced off the opposite ropes and took Romero out with a spear. After a snap powerslam off the ropes, Connors used an authoritative backdrop suplex bomb on Romero for the pin in around ten minutes. This was Connors’ first singles win over Romero.
In the post-match interview, Connors was pumped. He explained how many times he had wrestled and lost to Romero in the past, which made his win that much sweeter. The rise of the “Wild Rhino” continues.
STRONG Openweight title match: “Filthy” Tom Lawlor (c) defeated Karl Fredericks to retain
Lawlor came to the ring with Team Filthy soldier JR Kratos. Aghast with Lawlor’s cocky-guy Flair strut, Kevin Kelly cried out that “Jackie Fargo is rolling in his grave.”
Lawlor threw hand-strikes and low kicks early on. As soon as Fredericks would gain any momentum, Lawlor would back into the corner for a rope break. He consulted Kratos at ringside.
Fredericks went for an armlock minutes later, but Lawlor escaped and went for a leg lock before Fredericks grabbed the bottom rope for a break. Fredericks would begin to get the upper hand once again, but Lawlor slipped under the bottom rope to the floor to regroup.
Back in the ring, Lawlor feigned a collar-and-elbow tie-up with Fredericks, then laid in a big knee to Fredericks’ gut followed by a few chops. Fredericks answered back with a hard shoulder block. The 6’1” Fredericks would then whip Lawlor into the ropes and leapfrog over him as if he were SANADA before landing a picture-perfect cross-body block. This man is limber.
When Fredericks charged at Lawlor in the corner, Lawlor ducked and back-body dropped Fredericks over the top and to the floor. Lawlor would work over Fredericks on the floor until the count of 15, where he’d then roll in and out of the ring in order to restart the count. In this ring-out, Lawlor ambushed Fredericks and clotheslined him over a guardrail. Lawlor would eventually re-enter the ring and leave Fredericks outside, but the “Alpha Wolf” was able to make it back into the ring at the count of 16.
Lawlor locked Fredericks in a cravat while throwing knee strikes. He took Fredericks down to the mat and laid in more low kicks. When Lawlor went for a running Penalty Kick, Fredericks caught his leg, stood up and threw chops. Ten minutes had elapsed at this point. Lawlor locked in a guillotine choke after jumping guard but Fredericks broke the hold with a rope break. Lawlor used a big slam that laid Fredericks out.
Moments later, Lawlor and Fredericks would exchange even harder strikes in the corner. When Fredericks went for his Shibata-inspired running dropkick in the corner, Lawlor launched himself at Fredericks with a spinning European uppercut. He locked in a standing ankle lock next but Fredericks escaped after connecting with a Pele kick which announcer Alex Koslov called an “impaler kick.”
Fredericks finally connected with the running dropkick but he could only garner a two-count. Fifteen minutes had gone by when Fredericks had Lawlor in a crossface submission. Lawlor escaped after pulling Fredericks’ hair and reversing the hold into a crossface of his own, but again it was for naught as Fredericks escaped to his feet. Lawlor blatantly pulled Fredericks’ hair again, but this time Fredericks countered into Manifest Destiny, his finisher. Lawlor looked to be out but was right next to the ropes, so he draped his leg over the bottom to break the count.
The two would then fight for leverage on the top rope. After a minute of back-and-forth exchanges, Lawlor planted Fredericks with a falling DDT off the top rope. Lawlor then used the PK to put Fredericks away at 18:04.
Afterward, Lawlor extended Fredericks his hand. He and Kratos lifted him off the mat. When Fredericks finally went to shake Lawlor’s hand, “Filthy” threw another low kick at Fredericks’ leg. He’d then strangled Fredericks as Kratos trash-talked until Satoshi Kojima came out for the save. When Kojima went to lariat his head off, Lawlor escaped from the ring.
“Hey! Tom Lawlor! Listen: I’m next challenger. . . I will kick your ass.”
Kojima’s short and sweet words for Lawlor indicated that he’ll likely be facing off with “Filthy” Tom soon for a chance at the STRONG Openweight championship. Lawlor was visibly furious as he headed to the back.
This was a solid episode that really felt like it was all about the main event. Fredericks and Lawlor had a great match, but I think their next down the road will be even better. I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Fred Yehi and Wheeler Yuta in action this summer based on how impressive they looked in tonight’s opener.