NJPW Strong – August 14th, 2020

Howdy!

We’ve got a good ‘un tonight with Jeff Cobb taking on KENTA in the semis of the US New Japan Cup, and David Finlay meeting Tama Tonga in the other semi!

Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

Our hosts are once again Kevin Kelly and Alexander Koslov. They run down our card, with Kevin all but promising a giant 6-man spotfest on the undercard tonight. 

Clark Connors/Jordan Clearwater vs Logan Riegel/Barrett Brown

I know what you’re thinking with this opening tag, and that is – who? But we’ve seen Connors at least before, with the rest being indie guys from what I can gather. Riegel looks familiar to me; he’s based out of KC, so maybe I’ve seen him somewhere before. According to Koslov, Clearwater was trained by Karl Anderson and he absolutely has the most ready ‘look’ out of all 4 guys – tall, blonde, muscular. 

Brown and Connors start and we get a nifty little grappling sequence – one of the things that I actually really love about watching Lions matches is that the actual wrestling is normally very good. Karl Fredericks was just on WOL talking about the fact that Shibata trains them as though they’re actually training for real competition, whether it be for wrestling, MMA, etc, and then incorporates that into pro wrestling. Connors holds the advantage early, but Brown gets a shotgun dropkick and in comes Riegel. Clark gets him with a shoulderblock as Koslov, with all the emotion of a man ordering his lunch, proclaims that he’s “really impressed with Clark Connors.” I don’t know if this role really suits him, to be honest. 

Clearwater in now, and he moves a bit awkwardly but mostly fine, and he’s quickly overmatched. They get the heat on him for awhile, but Clearwater comes back with a powerslam. Tags on both sides and Connors comes in to just toss Brown like a ragdoll. He keeps control after a chop battle, but Clearwater blind tags himself back in and hits a big boot. He tells us that ‘this is it!’ and indeed it is, but not in the way he thinks as Brown escapes the shoulders of Jordan and rolls him up for the win. (Logan Riegel/Barrett Brown over Clark Connors/Jordan Clearwater, pinfall, 6:43)

THOUGHTS: **. Connors is really good and he’s got all upward potential. I really liked the look of Clearwater, but he didn’t show much of anything in the ring, ditto for Riegel. Brown had some good fire in there. 

TJP/Alex Zayne/ACH vs PJ Black/Misterioso/Blake Christian

Ah, this is what Kevin was alluding to earlier. Alright, fine. If anyone works a body part or even sells anything for more than 20 seconds, I’m taking off a *. Gimme the spots, I need something to keep me awake from Koslov’s commentary. 

Aw, that was mean. He’s just starting out. TJP somehow still manages to flip into the ring despite the exhaustion of having to give advice to everyone on what to do in their matches backstage. What a trooper. Big ol’ brawl to start as I’ll just hit the dives here, because there’s no way I can keep up with PBP, and I’m sure no one wants me to. Alex does a somersault legdrop for kicks before he and Black collide in the ring with dueling crossbodies. That happens less than a minute into the match.

More flipping and somersaulting ensue and it’s not actively bad or anything, but there’s nothing resembling any real story, they’re just dancing with each other. Black goes corner to corner off the top on TJP, eventually landing a crossbody. He then slaps on an armbar, causing me to laugh out loud because, you know. Come on. Abdominal stretch roll into a pin gets two for Black. ACH in now and he tosses everyone so he can fly onto them from inside the ring, taking out Blake and Black. Black mounts a brief comeback after Zayn gets crotched on the top, but never fear, as he takes a shot to the stomach to allow Alex to hit Shooting Star Knees to the back of Black’s head. Sure. 

Misterioso comes in and everyone else figures that we might as well get on with it, so we get our usual bunch of nonsense where everyone takes out everyone else. Christian and Zayne end up alone and Alex goes for the knees again, but misses and Blake hits a crazy ripcord suplex (it looked really cool), and Christian follows that up by diving onto TJP on the floor. Black comes in with a slingshot 450 on Zayne, and we are done here. (PJ Black/Misterioso/Blake Christian over TJP/Alex Zayne/ACH, pinfall, 7:56)

THOUGHTS: **1/4. I dunno, man. This really isn’t my style of match, this was like watching a bad version of a Michinoku Pro 6-man from ’97. They all worked really hard, that much was clear, and they’re all very good at doing this kind of thing, so that’s where I got my rating from. It was all spot/rest/spot/rest stuff with absolutely zero wrestling in the middle of it, but if you like video game style matches, this is 8 minutes that you will enjoy. 

Koslov: “I’m so impressed with Blake Christian.”
Kelly: (excitedly) Didn’t he do a fantastic job?
Koslov: “He showed up. He showed up.”

Oy. Well, Rocky kind of sucked when he started, and he’s gotten pretty decent. THERE’S STILL HOPE.

Cleaning break. Okay, I’m not going to lie, that sponge commercial with the LA Dojo boys is starting to crack me up. 

David Finlay vs Tama Tonga – New Japan Cup USA Semifinal

Finlay has been with NJPW for 5 years now and it looks like there might be some upward traction for him finally. His brief tag title run and a run here can only mean good things for him going forward. They run the ropes and Finlay is first to fly with an elbow, then a delayed vertical suplex for two. Tonga comes back with a dropkick and goes to work on David, beating him down in the corner and hitting a suplex for two. David right back at him with a forearm and a senton. 

Finlay with a belly-to-back suplex for two. Another suplex attempt is countered into a Tongan Twist for two. Tama goes for the Gun Stun, but Finlay reverses that into the Last Shot for two. Tama gives it another go and tries a splash in the corner, but David moves and hits a stunner, then follows that up with Prima Nocta for the pin to advance to the Finals. (David Finlay over Tama Tonga, pinfall, 7:11)

THOUGHTS: **1/2. Perfectly acceptable wrestling here, with Finlay getting the shove to the Final, which I’m more than fine with. Tama is more of a tag guy anyway, and Finlay has gotten to the point where moving him up might be a good idea. Overall, the match wasn’t bad, but nothing much to write home about either. 

Finlay gets interview time! He calls Tama a tough SOB and points out that their families have been fighting each other for years. This proves what he’s been saying, that neither Tonga nor Loa can beat him one on one! He’s going to win the Finals, then go on and win the US title!

Jeff Cobb vs KENTA – New Japan Cup USA Semifinal

Oh yeah. This was the match I was waiting to watch, even if Finlay winning makes me about 95% sure of who is going to win this match. KENTA is still rocking those blonde highlights and in all likelihood an iPod full of 30 Seconds to Mars albums. 

KENTA feels Jeff out to start, stalling after getting dominated with power in the first two lockups. He manages to get a bit of offense in there with some kicks, but Cobb comes back and hits a dropkick. Cobb has a very pretty dropkick for someone his size, I gotta say. Cobb with more beatdown and elbow for two, but the moonsault hits the knees of KENTA, who follows that with a kick that made me wince. Neckbreaker by KENTA gets two. 

Low DDT gets two for KENTA, who is working things slow and methodical, absolutely the right way to try to beat Cobb. KENTA fires off more kicks, but Cobb is back up now and he just clobbers KENTA in the corner with chops and forearms, then the Spin Cycle for two. Off the ropes, but KENTA ducks a clothesline and hits a powerslam to put both guys on the mat. 

KENTA is up first and comes off the top with a flying clothesline for two. Draping DDT leads to the delayed dropkick in the corner, and Jeff is in very real trouble. KENTA with a top rope double foot stomp for two. He tries for the GTS, Cobb escapes that and slams KENTA, then hits the moonsault for two. Jeff goes for the Tour of the Island, but KENTA bumps the ref to escape. He goes for the Greco-Roman kick to the balls, but Cobb catches it and flattens KENTA with a right hand. Tour of the Islands attempt, but KENTA escapes again and this time, there is no counter to the nut kick, which is followed by a small package to send KENTA to the Finals. (KENTA over Jeff Cobb, pinfall, 14:45)

THOUGHTS: ***. This was going fine and I was liking it, but I’m really starting to hate these main event finishes being uniform ref bumps and ball shots across the board. It’s going to get even more tiresome the longer it goes. Up until then, the more cerebral KENTA outsmarting and outwrestling the more excitable Cobb was a good story and I liked it. Wish the finish hadn’t sucked. 

Thoughts of KENTA? He’s here to win this tournament, like he said. He’s not here to give us a great match – he doesn’t care. Shut up and watch him!

Kelly and Koslov wrap it up. Next week, it’s Finlay and KENTA in the finals of the New Japan Cup USA 2020!

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was another breezy show with something for everyone – some decent wrestling and a video game match. Overall, there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour than watching Strong. I’m going to keep going through at least next week to finish the Cup and then we’ll assess where we’re at – I don’t know how much this show is going to be worth recapping, but if there’s interest, we’ll keep it in the rotation.

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected] for email