The conclusion of this year’s edition of the New Japan Cup USA has seen the crowning of the first Strong Openweight Champion.
After an eight-man tournament, preceded by a qualifying match for every entrant, the tournament final between Brody King and ‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor was set. Though a 20 minute war was necessary, it was Tom Lawlor that came out on top. The former UFC star bested his larger opponent with a rear-naked choke to become the first ever Strong Openweight Champion.
To reach the final, Lawlor defeated both Ren Narita and Hikuleo. His ROH star opponent defeated Chris Dickinson before running through Lio Rush in the second shortest match of the tournament. Despite his loss, Dickinson will have a chance to bounce back soon. Though he is Lawlor’s Team Filthy teammate, Dickinson shocked many after the final by announcing he will be Lawlor’s first challenger.
Boasting an MMA record of ten wins, seven losses and one no-contest, Lawlor brings legitimate fighting credentials to the new championship. These may be needed, as his new prize will see him take on all comers.
As the name suggests, the Strong Openweight Championship is set to follow the path of the NEVER Openweight Championship in the Japanese wing of the company. This means that any wrestler of any weight class will be free to challenge for the title. Wrestlers such as the speedy Lio Rush and the titanic Hikuleo alike will be able to challenge Lawlor.
Last year’s New Japan Cup USA featured a different prize: the right to challenge for the IWGP United States Championship. This first iteration of the tournament was won by Bullet Club standout KENTA. Though he had to wait many months before he was able to challenge for the title, he was ultimately defeated by reigning champion Jon Moxley.
After his recent appearance in Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport 6, Moxley has shown a willingness to work in a pseudo-shoot style. Lawlor also has a history with Bloodsport, most recently appearing at Bloodsport 5. Whether it is in New Japan or for a future Bloodsport event, a clash of NJPW USA’s two champions would intrigue many.