NJoA: New Japan Strong | Road to Strong Style Evolved | Saturday 27th March 2021 | 03:00 (UK) | NJPW L.A. Dojo.
Strong Style Evolved continues!
The show opens inside Team Filthy’s locker room, with all four members – Danny Limelight, Tom Lawlor, Chris Dickinson, and JR Kratos. Lawlor reminds his team that they’re “not playing around tonight”. Danny makes a good point that he’s the only one on the team not get a chance to qualify for the New Japan Cup USA tournament, and asks why. Kratos responds with “you talk too much” and Lawlor adds “practice wasn’t at Daly’s Place it was at the Dojo.” Lawlor says the Dirty Daddy will “take care of business”, but then brings up Ren Narita – which did not sit well with Chris Dickinson. Lawlor says he knows Dickinson will handle business tonight.
Is this the first seed of dissension within Team Filthy? Kratos seems unhappy with Limelight’s constant verbal’s, Limelight mentioned Kratos “blew it” in his qualifier against Fred Rosser, and Dickinson was visibly angry at the way Lawlor mocked him for losing to Narita. Tom Lawlor seemed amused by it all and was happy to push buttons. So, is this a masterstroke and manipulation and motivation for his team? The fallout of this could be interesting.
MATCH ONE: NJoA New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifying Match: Clark Connors Vs TJP
As mentioned in the preview, both men come into this match on a three-match losing streak; both want to avenge their first-round exit in the Super-J Cup in 2020; and both want to get one over on their former partner.
Connors explodes as soon as the bell rings, nailing TJP with a spear immediately. Connors continues the attack with suplexes, hip-tosses, and chops, before locking on a front face lock. This proves to be a mistake against a submission specialist, as TJP counters into an attempt at an octopus hold. TJP baits Connors to the outside and lands a diving crossbody over the top rope. TJP lands a slingshot senton on the way back into the ring for a one-count. TJP locks in an Indian Deathlock and rolls through to a pin attempt. TJP then grabs both of Connors’ arms, rolls on to his back (pulling Connors to his feet), and delivers a series of up-kicks to Connors’ chest – reminiscent of Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat!
TJP starts working on the left leg of Connors and manages to hold on despite several counters into pin attempts. Connors manages to get some separation, but TJP avoids the charges and takes Connors down with a drop toe hold before dropkicking him in the face. Connors manages to deliver an elbow to TJP and hits the ropes – TJP stops a few attacks with kicks, but Connors delivers a powerslam to give himself time to recover. Connors delivers chops and kicks in the corner, before getting a near-fall
from a Pounce. Connors goes for another spear, but TJP counters with a dropkick to the knee. TJP goes for the FilAm Flash, but Connors rolls out of the way. TJP counters a German Suplex attempt and rolls into a kneebar, but Connors gets the rope break.
TJP attempts another dragon-screw, but Connors slaps him in the face. TJP attempts a backslide, and transitions into a submission attempt, but Connors shoves him to the ropes. Connors lifts TJP with a double-leg, turns, and slams him down, before going for the Boston Crab. TJP reaches for the ropes twice, but both times Connors drags him into the middle of the ring and sits back. TJP tries a third time, and this time gets the rope break. Connors escapes a Detonation Kick attempt and kicks TJP away from the corner. Connors attempts a spear from the second rope, but TJP ducks underneath and grabs the leg to lock in a kneebar. Connors tries to reach the ropes, but TJP pulls him back into the centre. Connors almost taps, but stands up and sits back into a pin attempt. With TJP tied up, he can’t escape, and Connors gets the win!
Match Time: 9m 27s
WINNER: Clark Connors via pinfall (kneebar reversal)
My prediction for this was close. I said Connors’ fire and intensity would play a part, but TJP’s submissions would be too much for him to handle. Connors proved me wrong – his heart and desire pushed him to roll out an incredible counter to TJP’s submission and get the win.
This was everything you expected out of these two in the ring. Connors, if it’s even possible at this stage, looks better every week – and given he had two Match of the Year nominations, that’s impressive. With the rest of the field almost complete, Connors will be the underdog going into the New Japan Cup USA tournament. But he’s proved he can not only hang with but can beat some of the best NJoA have to offer. He has a lot to prove going into the tournament proper and has all the tools to do so. Let’s see whether the draw favours him.
Prediction Result: 0-1
MATCH TWO: NJoA New Japan Cup USA 2021 Qualifying Match: Blake Christian Vs Chris Dickinson
Dickinson charges Christian in the corner straight off the bell, but Blake doesn’t rush and gets his boots up. Christian avoids a clothesline and a trip attempt from Dickinson but takes a judo throw for his troubles. Christian continues to evade Dickinsons strikes and gets a two-count from a roll-up. Christian manages to roll backwards into a head-scissors and takes Dickinson down onto the bottom rope. Christian follows up with a Tiger Feint Kick through the bottom and second ropes. Christian goes up top with a springboard, but Dickinson meets him in mid-air with a dropkick. Dickinson locks on a figure-four leg-lock to slow down the pace, but Christian manages to get a rope break.
Dickinson starts to work on the legs. Christian gets back to his feet and lands a few forearm shots, but Dickinson sends him straight back to the mat with a hard chop. Dickinson sends Christian face-first into the corner and then wraps his legs around the bottom rope. Back on their feet, both men trade shots, with Dickinson calling for Blake to hit him. Dickinson absorbs all of Christian’s and staggers him with retaliatory shots. Dickinson sends Christian off the ropes and attempts a clothesline, but Blake grabs the arm and flips over Dickinson to counter, and turns it into a backslide for two-count. Christian follows up with a spinning back kick, a pair of knees, and then a sling blade from behind for a near-fall.
Dickinson sends Christian onto the apron and runs the ropes, only to be met by a springboard missile dropkick. Dickinson rolls out of the ring, but Christian keeps the momentum with a tope con hilo. Christian rolls Dickinson back in the ring, but the Dirty Daddy gets his knees up to counter a springboard 450 splash. Dickinson attempts a lariat, but Christian ducks and delivers a jumping knee strike right on the jaw for a two-count. Dickinson charges again, but straight into a hurricanrana. Christian follows up with a handspring corkscrew kick for a two-count. Dickinson holds on to Christian with a waistlock as he gets up, and attempts a crucifix powerbomb, but Christian counters with a roll-up for a near-fall. Dickinson immediately grabs Christian again, lifting him for a vicious powerbomb for a two-count. As Dickinson takes a breath following the pin attempt, Christian sits up and grabs his head, locking in a guillotine. Dickinson manages to stand, picking up Christian and runs him into the corner to break the hold. Dickinson immediately grabs the leg, but Christian reaches for the rope break.
Dickinson strikes the legs a few times and lifts Christian for a Death Valley Driver, but Christian flips out and attempts a running knee – only for Dickinson to catch the leg and deliver a dragon-screw leg-whip. Christian attempts a Shiranui, flipping off the second rope, but Dickinson evades and drops Christian on his head with a half-nelson suplex. Dickinson attempts a powerbomb, but Christian drops to a knee to block. Dickinson grabs Christian’s injured leg, pulling him upright with it, and spikes him with a piledriver to pick up the victory.
Match Time: 8m 53s
WINNER: Chris Dickinson via piledriver
This match only lasted nine minutes? They packed so much in it felt longer than that. Dickinson was out to prove himself after his defeat at the hands of Ren Narita, but Blake Christian showed why he has the nickname “All Heart”. Christian managed to avoid almost everything thrown at him – and what he didn’t avoid, he took and carried on. Chris Dickinson simply powered through. The innovative way he transitioned into the piledriver was impressive. Dickinson will be a favourite going into the New Japan Cup USA tournament.
Prediction Result: 1-1