New Japan Strong – February 27th, 2022
By Rick Poehling on 4th March 2022
Man, that Okada/Desperado match is still dominating my mind. I thought for a really brief moment that Okada was going to tap to the Stretch Muffler. They made me BELIEVE THAT. Absolutely outstanding first round match in the New Japan Cup that y’all should check out post-haste.
Which you can watch with the rest of us if you’re up for some late nights! Or early mornings, whatever. Join us in the daily threads on the BOD for some live puro all through the month of March.
But this recap here is for some fine grappling on the North American side of the pond as we finish up the New Beginning tour! Tonight, ‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor will defend the Strong title against NXT legend Taylor Rust!
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Also tonight, we’ve got El Phantasmo against legendary Rusev mouthpiece, the Drama King himself, Matt Rehwoldt! Plus, you get to watch me run this legend joke into the ground!
Your hosts are ROH legend Ian Riccaboni and Alex Koslov.
But up first, we’ve got New Japan LA Dojo legend…..yeah, okay, I think I’m good now.
Anyway, it’s Karl Fredericks vs ETHAN HD.
ETHAN HD vs Karl Fredericks
This is the New Japan Strong debut for ETHAN, so let’s see what he’s got. I’ve been open in my lukewarm taste for Fredericks, who clearly has a ton of talent but really needs to get the hell over to Japan and get on some tours to really see what he can do. Obviously, that’s been beyond his control but I think now really is the time for it as soon as possible.
Lockup goes to the ropes and Karl gives him the Okada tap to the chest on the break. Bit of grappling as the crowd chants for Karl as he’s fighting for an armbar. Shoulderblock contest moves no one at first, but a cheap shot by HD only motivates Fredericks to bowl ETHAN over. Karl takes over for a bit until ETHAN counters a crossbody with a double stomp. Superkick and lungblower gets two for HD at the 5 minute mark.
ETHAN off the ropes with a Beautiful Disaster kick for two. Kicks to the back from HD and Karl fires up now. Kick to the gut and an enzuigiri drops HD. Karl pounds him into jelly in the corner, and a delayed dropkick rearranges HD’s face. Big elbow gets two. ETHAN ends up on the floor, but catches Karl to cut off the tope and hits a springboard Lionsault to the outside! That was, dare I say it, NIFTY right there. Karl catches ETHAN on the way back in and hangs him on the top, then hits a double stomp for two. Manifest Destiny is blocked with a Death Valley Driver for two from HD. Package Piledriver, but he can’t get Fredericks up and now they slug it out, and Fredericks catches him with a spinebuster and Manifest Destiny to pick up the pin. (Karl Fredericks over ETHAN HD, pinfall, 11:52)
THOUGHTS: **1/2. I dunno, maybe I’m being a little harsh here. HD looked alright and busted out some cool shit, but at the end of the day, they just kind of did moves to each other and that was the entire story of the match. They had a little bit in there about HD being able to counter the Manifest Destiny, but other than that, there wasn’t much to it. Fredericks has all this raw talent out there but this wasn’t going to really bring it out beyond it being decent. Get him to Japan, he feels like a natural to work with guys like SANADA there.
Next up, the Drama King himself, Matt Rehwoldt is out, and he’s followed by his opponent, one El Phantasmo. Matt decides he has something to say before the match! Oh boy! “You all are something else tonight, aren’t you?” He calls Seattle a “fog-covered craphole”, and opines that “Cobain had the right idea” – Daaaamnnnnn. Now that’s some cold shit right there. ELP grabs the mic from him and says that he should watch his mouth, because “no one makes fun of this shithole but ME!”
Crowd cheers ELP for telling them they live in a shithole.
ELP says that this is ‘his’ region and he’s the “king of the Pacific Northwest!” So, you’re king of a shithole. Hey, the crowd agrees, because they cheer as he declares himself monarch of this glorious shithole. He tells us that today is LP day, and Matt waffles him because he really wants to get out of this shithole and ELP is making him wait even longer to do so.
Matt Rehwoldt vs El Phantasmo
So, as a result of the pre-match promos, ELP is going to be our babyface for these festivities. Matt stomps away to start and chokes ELP against the ropes. Off the ropes, but ELP catches him with a dropkick and does the rope bounce into a ‘rana. Matt with a dropkick and a boot rake on the apron now. Neckbreaker from Matt gets two.
Springboard turns the tide for ELP and he starts flying, hitting a Lionsault and kipping up. Slam and ELP goes up, Bret Hart style elbow hits. ELP tunes up the band, but Matt hits a Darkness Falls and goes up. ELP tries to cut him off, but is hoisted on his own proverbial petard, as Matt rakes the back and hits a Swanton for two. They slug it out and ELP fires off kicks, then hits a Sudden Death and a CR2. Matt is deadsies on the mat and ELP finishes with a Swanton and gorgeous moonsault for the pin. (El Phantasmo over Matt Rehwoldt, pinfall, 9:45)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. This was fine. At least they established a clear babyface/heel line off the jump and went with it and the match was better for it. ELP probably needs a bit of a shot in the arm – he’s going to be caught up in whatever the Bullet Club war ends up being, but I can see him as a challenger for Desperado at some point this year. He’s got far too much talent to not be taken seriously.
JR Kratos is, shall we say, perturbed by his loss to Alex Coughlin and promises that he’s coming to get that win back.
Commercials! Buy some New Japan Stuff!
Back with a video on the history of Taylor Rust and Team Filthy. Rust, a former member of Team Filthy, got kicked out by Tom Lawlor after a loss to Jeff Cobb, with Tom telling him to go ‘on a vacation to Florida.’ Rust returned after Lawlor defeated Fred Rosser and he wants da belt. Simple story, logical, effective.
Rust is out first by his lonesome, but Lawlor brings the West Coast Wrecking Crew with him. We’ll see how that goes.
Taylor Rust vs ‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor (C) – New Japan Strong Open Weight title match
We do a few grappling sequences to start, all of them ending in a stalemate. Lawlor with kneelifts, but he runs into a Rust clothesline and we’re back to the mat as Rust takes him over with a headlock. More grappling from there and after a few more sequences, it’s Rust again in control with an armbar.
Lawlor breaks an Octopus by running Rust into the corner and slugs away. Rust kicks him away and goes up, but Lawlor grabs the leg and dragon screws him off the top to take over again, going to work on the legs. Figure-Four by Lawlor, Rust with a palm strike to break it. Taylor off the ropes, but Lawlor kicks him in the knee and it’s back to the leg now. They end up on the floor and Lawlor tries a chop against the post, but misses it and Rust rams Tom into the post shoulder-first a few times. Rust tosses Tom back in, but takes too long getting in the ring and Lawlor chopblocks the knee to once again cut Taylor off.
Sharpshooter by Lawlor, Rust claws for and makes the ropes. He manages an axe kick to the shoulder of Lawlor to buy some time. Forearms by Rust and a scissor kick drops Lawlor. Perfect Circle is avoided and Tom bails, Rust follows him out with a tope. Back in and Taylor goes up, but Lawlor moves and clobbers him in the back of the head with a lariat. Tom goes up but he showboats, and Taylor kicks him before bringing him down with a superplex to put both guys down.
Both guys back up and they slug it out, Lawlor with an Exploder for two. Rust gets caught with a triangle, so he power bombs Lawlor to break. The Crew gets on the apron, but Rust drops Nelson and gets the Perfect Circle for two. Rust goes back to kicking the shoulder, but Lawlor pounds the knee and throws Rust for a one-count. Rust with an armbar that he turns into a Rings of Saturn briefly, but Lawlor squirms out of that and hits a nice enzuigiri to stun Rust, then a kick to the back of the knee to set up a straight jacket choke and a nasty knee to the back of Rust’s head. Rear naked choke finishes as Lawlor retains. (Tom Lawlor over Taylor Rust, ref stoppage, 19:13)
THOUGHTS: ***. I just couldn’t get there and think that Rust could win this thing, sorry. The selling was on and off in spots throughout the match with him as well. I think he’s certainly talented and there’s no doubt in my mind he can work, but I don’t see him at top of the company level and this did nothing to assuage that particular thought. But Lawlor just felt like a bigger star the entire time and I never felt like he could lose, and that lack of drama hurt the match on my end.
Post-match, Lawlor wants the stick! “Once again, the reigning, first and only, strongest for the longest, openweight champion, Filthy Tom Lawlor!” He runs down Taylor and is left wondering, who’s next to challenge the champ? Just like he thought – no one’s coming out to catch a beating!
No one that is, except Clark Connors! He makes his way to the ring (in a Seattle Sonics jersey, which is a forgivable bit of suck-up, as he’s from that area) and tosses his beer at Nelson. Lawlor gets mad and tells Connors they can do it right now, which Clark is amenable to! “Get me a fucking ref!” Connors rips off his shirt, the ref comes out, he holds up the belt….and Lawlor jumps up and grabs it before running for the hills as Connors yells at him from the ring. And we’ve got a new challenger as we’re done for the week.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A fine hour of wrestling, nothing earth-shattering here. I think that I would have liked the main more if I weren’t absolutely convinced that Lawlor was winning. Nothing was actively bad on the show; are you missing much if you skip the first two matches? Not really, although ELP playing just a straight-up babyface was fun to watch for sure. Overall, a solid enough episode of Strong.
See you next week!
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter