While I didn’t review it, I did watch the Lion’s Break Collision shows on NJPWworld, and now they’re back with another Friday night show, NJPW Strong as part of their push into North America. Featuring some known names and LA Dojo members, this is the first week of an 8-man single elimination tournament called the New Japan Cup USA to decide a challenger for Jon Moxley’s NJPW US title.
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Your hosts are Kevin Kelly and Alex Koslov, he of Forever Hooligans fame with Rocky Romero.
Bracket tells us that these are the matchups:
On the left side, Karl Fredericks/KENTA & Jeff Cobb/Tanga Loa
On the right side, David Finlay/Chase Owens & Brody King/Tama Tonga
Off the top of my head, you’d think that the winner is going to come from the left, with KENTA and Cobb being the likely favorites.
Karl Fredericks vs KENTA – New Japan Cup USA Quarterfinal
This was originally scheduled to be one of the opening matches in the New Japan Cup over in Japan, but COVID put a stop to that. Fredericks was the winner of the Young Lion’s Cup in 2019 and is probably the most ‘can’t miss’ guy out of the LA Dojo right now, but Shibata has been turning these guys into machines left and right, so Karl is the first of what could be many. KENTA is Koslov’s favorite to win the tournament, and one would think that after turning on Shibata as savagely as he did that him winning this event would just be a further slap in the face to Katsuyori. KENTA has apparently entered his floppy-haired emo phase, as I’m having some very uncomfortable flashbacks to me at 16 looking at him. On the other hand, at least I had hair back then.
Fredericks starts strong, firing away before the bell rings with power of his tasseled boots! Seriously, did he dig up Kerry Von Erich’s grave to steal those? Wonder if he took the foot while he was at it. KENTA shrugs off his shots and they run the ropes, Karl with a crossbody. He slaps KENTA around a bit, which looks to be a mistake as KENTA gets up and clobbers him for his insolence. Kicks and a DDT from KENTA get two. More beatings ensue with kneedrops and a heel to the face. I don’t always love him but as a complete dick, KENTA rules.
Karl fires back, but KENTA puts a stop to that and bitchslaps him down. Fredericks fires up, KENTA dares him to take his best shot and then drops him with a forearm. Yikes. Fredericks finally makes a comeback with a backbreaker and a suplex, followed by a flying elbow for two. Fredericks off the ropes, powerslam by KENTA, who follows that by kicking Karl to the apron. Brings him back in the hard way with a draping DDT for two. KENTA comes off the ropes, Fredericks hits a spinebuster! Half-crab by Karl, turns it into a modified Liontamer, but KENTA kicks him in the face to escape. Big boot and a giant lariat by KENTA (Fredericks does a beautiful flipping sell off it) get two. KENTA goes for the GTS, but Karl escapes and they slug it out…..until KENTA just absolutely BITCHSLAPS Karl into oblivion, then follows it with a Penalty Kick and the GTS for the pin so he can go back to the dressing room and listen to his Dashboard Confessional albums. (KENTA over Karl Fredericks, pinfall, 9:09)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. Slightly above average here, might have been a bit more but KENTA just ate him alive for the first five minutes of this thing. It got better near the end to be sure, but I didn’t think that Fredericks really had a chance, as the Shibata storyline with KENTA meant that he was probably getting past the first round at least. But hey – if Karl had to go out with his boots up, at least they were some fantastic boots.
Jeff Cobb vs Tanga Loa – New Japan Cup USA Quarterfinal
I sense that this match is even less in doubt than the first one. I J(eff)ust C(obb)an’t think of who will win. We do dueling lockups that go nowhere, then dueling shoulderblocks that also go nowhere. Finally, Loa takes a cheap shot and we’re off. Cobb responds with 3 consecutive leaping shoulderblocks, which is clearly proportional as a response. Loa comes back with some shoulders to Cobb’s midsection in the corner, grinding it in, then a running lariat in the corner. Loa with the methodical beatdown on Cobb now, and just as I’m trying to think about a metaphor to convey how boring Loa on offense is, Kevin Kelly reminds us that he is the son of Haku and that reminds ME how AWESOME Loa is! I swear, it’s true! Please don’t find and murder me, Living Tongan God of death! I’ll buy whatever used car you tell me to no matter how much your son sucks!
Anyway, Cobb finally comes back with a jawbreaker, then a huge clothesline coming off the ropes. Uppercut into the corner from Cobb, who follows that with a pumphandle overhead suplex, bridging it for two. Loa comes back with a dropkick (he does do a nice dropkick, I’ll definitely grant him that) and goes for Apeshit, but Cobb escapes it, hits a German suplex, then hits Tour of the Islands to finish. (Jeff Cobb over Tanga Loa, pinfall, 9:46)
THOUGHTS: **. Loa is not a good wrestler. Cobb IS a good wrestler, but this was like watching paint dry. I don’t mind Loa all that much in tags, because he can come in and do power moves and then tag out, which is fine with me, but watching him do a near 10 minute match with Cobb here damn near broke my spirit. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I’ll never watch it again.
Cobb vs KENTA should be gas, though.
Intermission. Commercials. Karl Fredericks says ‘cool’ a lot about a household cleaning product.
David Finlay vs Chase Owens – New Japan Cup USA Quarterfinal
Now, I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Chase Owens, who I think is actually a decent enough worker. I think he’s fine where he is but as a 3rd/4th tier guy, he’s pretty okay. Finlay is also fine, but he’s clearly got a bit more upside. Nice little wrestling sequence starts us off as Finlay hits a dropkick. A suplex from David, but Chase snaps his throat on the top rope to take over for a bit. Owens runs Finlay into the corner and knees him on the mat, then hits a backbreaker for two. Chase chokes him against the ropes as Koslov ponders on commentary the fact that it’s not that the choke is illegal, it’s more that it’s ONLY legal for four seconds. Kelly is incredulous about this interpretation as Owens puts Finlay in a bow-and-arrow. Full-nelson by Chase and he sends David to the floor, then dropkicks Finlay through the ropes.
Back in and they slug it out, and Chase drops Finlay with an elbow, then to the chinlock. Finlay escapes with elbows and a back suplex, then hits a flying uppercut off the top for two. Owens fires back, but David cuts him off with a Uranage backbreaker for two. Owens gets in the ropes to get some separation, then hits a nasty back elbow and a slingshot backbreaker for two. Shining Wizard by Owens gets two. Chase goes for the package piledriver, but Finlay escapes, then catches Owens coming into the corner and hits Prima Nocta to advance. (David Finlay over Chase Owens, pinfall, 9:48)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. Fun match, with a too-abrupt ending. Finlay has potential.
Brody King vs Tama Tonga – New Japan Cup USA Quarterfinal
King is a Ring of Honor talent (amongst other indy companies) for those that haven’t seen him before. He’s excellent. Tama is the son of Haku who doesn’t suck. Tama is all speed to start with strikes, then a dropkick and a Stinger splash in the corner. He comes off the ropes one too many times, though, and King pops him into the air, then sentons him when he lands on the mat for two. Brody beats him from corner to corner, then chops him down for two. King dominates with power, dropping Tama with a slam and a splash for two.
Tama ducks a clothesline and hits a jumping neckbreaker, then goes to work in the corner with strikes and some boot washin’. Stinger splash again, but this time King catches him and suplexes him into the corner. Brody kills him with a lariat for two. Tama tries for Gun Stun, but King drops him and hits another lariat for two. King hoists him up, but Tama escapes into the Tongan Twist, then follows that with a quick Gun Stun for the pin. (Tama Tonga over Brody King, pinfall, 7:15)
THOUGHTS: **1/2. I could have gone for a few more minutes of this, actually, as I was kind of digging it before the rather quick ending. I like King quite a bit and the story of Tama fighting up from underneath against the bigger man while still trying to be kind of a shit while doing it was intriguing. I would have thought Brody would have gone deeper in the tournament here, but if Tama can bring something decent, he’s more than welcome to try.
Tonga gets a quick backstage interview here. He’s been gone for too long. He puts over King as an up-and-coming behmoth in the game, They tangled at MSG, but it wasn’t King’s turn tonight, it was Tonga’s. He’s ready for the next round.
Kelly and Kozlov wrap things up. Next week, it’s KENTA/Jeff Cobb and Tama Tonga/David Finlay in the Semis! I’d assume at least one of the Bullet Club guys makes the Final, which would give us either KENTA vs Finlay or Cobb vs Tonga. We’ll have to see.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was an easy watch, as it was under an hour and the wrestling was decent across the board. Nothing blowaway, but solid. I may continue with it if there’s interest, if for no other reason than to keep myself occupied before the Jingu show.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
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