RADICAN’S TAKE: Analysis of the big stories from NJPW Independence Day Night 1 PPV

By Sean Radican, PWTorch Columnist (Twitter: @SR_Torch)


Two big stroies coming out of the NJPW Strong Independence Day Night 1 PPV are that David Finlay is rebuilding Bullet Club in his image and it is working out quite well so far and Francesco Akira’s breakout performance in the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Championship match. Finlay has added Gabe Kidd, Clark Connors, Drilla Molony, and Alex Coughlin to Bullet Club.

Finlay promised in interviews he would rebuild Bullet Club in his image and he has put a fresh coat of paint on the stable, which has been in need of a makeover for several years since Jay White took over for Kenny Omega, but retained many faces of the past.

This version of the Bullet Club feels young and fresh because it is. Clark, Connors, Molony, and Coughlin are more ferocious in the ring than any previous iterations of Bullet Club have been in the past. Kidd, Connors, and Coughlin all come from the LA Dojo and it appeared with the pandemic being behind us, they were in line for pushes as babyfaces, but their turns have worked perfectly.

Drilla Moloney turned on his United Empire stablemates TJP and Francesco Akira at Dominion last month to join forces with Connors. On the same show, Kidd and Connors came out after Bishamon had won the vacant NJPW Strong Openweight Tag Team Titles and the IWGP Hvt. Tag Team Titles and took them head on and overwhelmed them and left them lying in the ring in a brutal show of force.

Finlay’s new unit is known as the War Dogs. After the War Dogs debuted at Dominion as a new unit within Bullet Club, it set in motion several big matches for the NJPW Strong Independence Day PPVs this weekend.

The first challenge laid out was for Bishamon to defend their tag titles on separate nights against Kidd and Coughlin. Kidd and Coughlin had a great game plan for night 1, as they opened the first leg of their challenge going for the Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship earlier today.

Much like they did at Dominion, they tried to overwhelm Yoshi-Hashi and Hirooki Goto by laying them out with a pair of surprise belt shots before the opening bell even rang. They then took Bishamon to pound town and beat them all over the venue before Bishamon mounted a comeback.

The match was very good and Bishamon made a good showing for themselves here, but the power and teamwork of Coughlin and Kidd proved to be too much for them to overcome and after they took a lengthy post-match beatdown after losing the Strong Openweight Tag Team Championship that was capped by a double belt shot, it’s hard to imagine Hashi and Goto successfully retaining the IWGP Hvt. Tag Team Championship against Coughlin & Kidd on NJPW Strong Indepence Day Night 2 in the second leg of their challenge.

The other War Dogs tag team, Drilla Moloney & Clark Connors were also successful, as they beat Francesco Akira & TJP to become the new IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Champions. Connors and Molony started the match in a similar manner to the previous match between Bishamon and The War Dogs of Alex Foughlin & Gabe Kidd. Both teams brawled around ringside, but then they ended up brawling all the way to the top of Korakuen Hall in front of a red hot crowd.

Although Akira & TJP came up short, Akira had an amazing showing. It looked like he was left for dead at the top of Korakuen Hall after Connors had launched him into a door. That allowed Connors and Moloney to double team TJP near a tunnel with stairs. Just as TJP was about to be lawn darted down the tunnel, Akira came out of nowhere and made the save with a spectacular dive off the top off the tunnel to wipe out Connors and Moloney.

Although Kidd and Coughlin appear to be the more dominant of the pair of War Dogs tag teams, Connors and Moloney worked really well together in their first tag match. The match between both teams went back and forth and it was Akira time and time again wowing the Korakuen crowd with his high-flying.

Akira jumped off Connors’s back at one point to hit a destroyer on Moloney that set the crowd on fire. Later in the match, he got on top of TJP’s shoulders on the apron and TJP launched him into Connors and Moloney on the floor. Later in the match, TJP was about to take a spear from Moloney, but it was Akira coming out of nowhere to pull him out of the way and Moloney ended up spearing Connors by accident.

The match ended with Akira going to the well once too often, as Catch 2/2 was trying to put the match away. He went for a dive, but Moloney side-stepped it and sent him crashing into the barricade. They then finished off TJP with a vertical suplex into a spear out of the turnbuckles combination for the win.

Overall, night 1 was a win for Akira and David Finaly’s new War Dogs faction. Akira had a breakthrough performance in the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Championship match despite taking the loss. Heading into night 2, it will be up to Coughlin & Kidd to complete the sweep and finish off a big weekend for the War Dogs as they look to capture the NJPW Strong Tag Team Championship and IWGP Hvt. Tag Team Championship on consecutive nights to cement the War Dogs as a new heel faction to be reckoned with in NJPW.

Sean Radican has written for Pro Wrestling Torch for 20 years specializing in his coverage of independent wrestling, ROH, and NJPW. Contact him at pwtorchsean@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @SR_Torch

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