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Worker of the Week 32

This week was one of the hardest weeks of the year to put into a top ten. We had the finals of the G1 in Ryogoku Sumo Hall, the continuation of NOAH's N-1 Victory tournament, and we saw some amazing shows as Stardom gets into the thick of their 5 Star GP tournament too! The quality of these tournaments has been extraordinary, especially the last couple days of the G1 which was a much needed boost to a fairly lackluster tournament. All of these wrestlers have had multiple matches this week so picking who had a better cumulative performance was pretty tricky, so they'll be an extensive honourable mentions list this week too, which I urge you to check out!

Oh and I will be counting the 6/8 Stardom show as it uploaded to Stardom World this week.

Honourable Mentions:

- Syuri (Syuri vs Natsuko Tora & Syuri vs Syuri vs Natsupoi, Stardom, 6/8 & 8/8)

- Chad Gable (Gable vs Ricochet vs Ciampa vs Riddle, WWE, 7/8)

- Giulia (Giulia vs Mariah May & Giulia vs Mina Shirakawa & Giulia vs Yuu, Stardom, 8/8, 12/8 & 13/8)

- Kenoh (Kenoh vs Yoshiki Inamura & Kenoh vs Yuki Yoshioka, NOAH, 10/8 & 11/8)

- Mike Bailey (Mike Bailey vs KUSHIDA, Impact, 10/8)

- Utami Hayashishita ( Utami Hayashishita vs Saori Anou & Utami Hayashishita vs Mayu Iwatani, Stardom, 12/8 & 13/8)

- Miyu Yamashita (Miyu Yamashita vs Yuki Kamifuku, TJPW, 13/8)

#10 - Saori Anou

Saori Anou, one of the newer full time Stardom wrestlers, had three awesome matches this week, both inside and outside of the 5 Star tournament. Her first match was a high speed style match against AZM with two points on the line for the 5 Star GP on the 6th, she also faced affair that brought out a more brutal side to her game. The final match of her week was a title match where she teamed with Natsupoi to challenge for Mina Shirakawa and Mariah May's Goddesses of Stardom Tag Team championship at STARDOM x STARDOM 2023 on the 13th.

Her and AZM had one of the smoothest and high paced matches of the 5 Star so far this year, and it made for an exhilarating match. The two bounced of the ropes at top speed, countering nearly everything that was thrown at them, and having a thrilling finishing stretch full of nearfalls that had me on the edge of my seat. The actual finish was amazing too, as AZM hit a Canadian Destroyer, followed up with the Azumi Sushi pin for the one two three! Both of these women were on an equal level of performance, but Anou's matches this week were better than AZM's, that's why she made on this weeks list.

The Utami match is next, and it proved to be much more of a physical match than Saori's last. There were still loads of cool counters, but Utami's power forced a more brutal match up, with big suplexes and power moves, that Anou can do extremely well despite her size, we'd also see this in the tag team match too. Utami hit Anou with an array of big moves, including the Torture Rack Bomb, and her new move the Shocking Baszler, which she named after Shayner Baszler from WWE (its kinda a sidewalk slam Gourdbuster variant), but Saori kicked out of both of them before getting put away with a good old German Suplex.

The tag title match on the Sunday wasn't as good as her tournament matches, but once again, demonstrated her versatility in the ring. Going against the team of Mariah May and Mina Shirakawa, Anou and Natsupoi looked like the veterans in this match. Their teamwork is second to none and individually they bring a special aura to their team. Natsupoi (who we'll get on to later) brought the speed and counters where as Anou adapted to this and took on the roll of the bruiser, being able to pick up Mariah May deadlift style out of a pin and plant her right on her head. Anou was brutal in this match and took a lot of offence herself, as Mariah becomes better and better at strong style every match.

Great matches from Saori Anou this week, with amazing pace, tangible intensity, and impeccable execution in all of them.

#9 - Katsuhiko Nakajima

Nakajima had three matches this week, two of them being awesome, and the other being against Saxon Huxley, all three being in the N-1 Victory tournament for NOAH. He had a match with El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. on the 10th and one against Daiki Inaba on the 11th, both in Korakuen Hall.

Nakajima is one of the best wrestlers in NOAH at the moment because of his insane striking, more specifically his kicks, so it was interesting to see how he adapted to his two very different opponents this week.

His match against Wagner Jr. was a lot more competitive, but with Wagner being the GHC National champion, this wasn't too surprising. Nakajima played the underdog for most of the match, as Wagner has become more of a dominant force in the past year. This allowed Katsuhiko to use his kicks more sparingly and to greater effect than the likes of his match with Inaba the next night. Wagner worked over his back while Nakajima wanted to take out the legs of the luchador. Nakajima worked in his kicks really well with Wagner's offence which made for some great sequences with Nakajima countering, only for the champ to do the same. One of the best nearfalls was when Wagner countered the Vertical Spike into a Michinoku Driver for a close two count that had the fans roaring. Nakajima eventually hit the Vertical Spike for the win after a brutal slap to the face.

The match with Daiki Inaba saw Nakajima play the bully a lot more, but Inaba didn't take it lying down and fired back with strikes with just as much intensity. This led to some great back and forth sequences with lots of drama down the stretch. There was nothing groundbreaking in this one, but it had Korakuen rocking as much as Nakajima rocked Inaba.

#8 - El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr.

Over the past year or so plus, El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. has been one of the biggest success stories in NOAH. Coming back during the pandemic era he wasn't exactly having bangers, but once he was crowned the GHC National Champion he stepped up his game and has been the most consistent champion in the company for a while now. Because of this there was a lot of hype for him going into the N-1 this year.

We talked about his match with Nakajima, so lets take a look at his best match of the tournament so far, his match with Go Shiozaki. This match had a big main event feel to it as the two men jockeyed for position early on, leading into some brutal chopping exchanges, which are a must for any Shiozaki match. The match weaved between momentum changes and chopping exchanges which made for some great drama mixed in with the Lucha style of Wagner and Go's style. The match ramped up in the closing stretch with Shiozaki hitting a massive top rope hurricanrana and a Go-han Lariat for a two, followed up with the Go Flasher for another close fall. It was all over for Go at this point as Wagner hit a lariat of his own, then a Michinoku, then a Moonsault for the three count!

This was one of Wagner's biggest wins of his career, taking out the Ace of NOAH in a super compelling match which was one of the best of the tournament so far!

#7 - Natsupoi

Much like Anou, Natsupoi also had three matches this week, obviously she had that tag team match on the 13th with Saori, but she also had two 5 Star GP matches, the first against Syuri, and the second against Mayu Iwatani on the 8th and 10th respectively.

The Syuri match was probably the best of the two as both women beat the shit out of each other with Poi taking the brunt of the offence from the ever-vicious Syuri, who came out firing on all cylinders. Poi's natural charm and selling ability made for a compelling match where Poi would keep on trying to make comeback after comeback only for Syuri to kick her back down to size. Natsupoi's fire was front and centre in the match, her offence being as explosive if not as powerful as Syuri's, but it made the 15 minute draw a believable one, even though Syuri clearly had the advantage more often than not.

Iwatani vs Natsupoi was a more run of the mill Stardom upper-mid card level match with not much story, but a lot of back and forth with great action all the way through. They hit all the big moves and the counters where perfectly timed, especially the strikes, with Poi countering Mayu's kicks with one of her own, swatting it away. The finishing stretch was great as Poi's selling from a kick to the head and a tombstone from Mayu led into a great flash pinfall from Poi to get the upset win.

Natsupoi is having a great run in this year 5 Star and is currently leading the whole tournament with 7 points, going undefeated so far.

#6 - Zack Sabre Jr.

Zack had two matches in the G1 this week. His final D Block match against Hirooki Goto on the 9th and his quarter final match against Kazuchika Okada on the 10th.

Goto took ZSJ to the limit in their match with a classic technical match mixed in with the strong style that both men are proficient in. Goto has been working these G1 shows with bruised ribs so Zack took advantage of this in the match and held the high ground for the majority of it. Goto would come back with great fighting spirit, hitting his big signature power moves like the Ushigoroshi and the GTH, but Zack just kept trapping him in submissions, eventually tapping out Goto with an unnamed submission targeting the ribs.

His best match was his Okada match. This wasn't a surprise as the chemistry between the two is off the chain as we've seen in their Sakura Genesis 2018 and Hyper Battle 2022 bouts. The difference in this week's match was Okada's new persona being a lot similar to Zack's that it has previously. Both men were cocky and confident in this match and made the counters mean a lot more, especially when Okada tried to get his set up moves off for the Rainmaker, only for Zack to catch him in submissions, putting Okada on the ropes multiple times throughout the match with the TV Champion morphing his holds into others as masterfully as he always does. Okada would come back and hit the Rainmaker, but there were multiple times where I thought that Zack had the match in the bag as he synched in submission after submission.

#5 - Mayu Iwatani

Among Mayu's other matches this week, her IWGP Women's title bout against Utami Hayashishita was the highlight, but she also had 5 Star matches against Suzu Suzuki on the 8th and the Natsupoi match on the 10th that we've already talked about.

The Utami match started slow, and compared to many of her recent matches it stayed at a pretty steady pace throughout. They jockeyed for position on the mat, exchanging headlocks until Mayu hit a nasty forearm and a basement dropkick through the ropes on the challenger. She struggled to lift Utami up for the powerslam, but eventually gets it. Utami retorts with a side slam and a powerslam of her own. It's clear that Utami's power was her way to get the advantage in this match as she uses it multiple times to take control at various points in the bout. Iwatani, however, uses her strikes to swing the momentum.

Mayu hit a few more dropkicks early but misses a Tope Suicida and Utami gives her an air-raid crash on the outside as punishment. As they make their way into the ring Mayu hits a brutal German Suplex on the apron. Mayu has some great counters in this match, which really kept her in the match during some prolonged Utami control sequences, but Utami would always keep that control eventually, getting multiple nearfalls with her signature offence.

They both fire up closer to the finish as they trade cringe inducing Suplexes, Iwatani counters the Spinning Razor's Edge into a Hurricanrana pin for a two count, then hits a Dragon Suplex, Superkick, and the top rope springboard Poisonrana to retain her title. The match was slower than normal and the crowd was pretty bad, but it was clear that these two ladies put it all on the line in this match with a great story to tie it all together!

Iwatani showed a lot of fire and some innovative moves and counters that take insane precision for someone who accidentally dropped the title from the top rope before the match... classic Mayu.

#4 - Go Shiozaki

We've already talked about most of Go's matches this week, but one I really want to bring attention to is his N-1 match against Yuma Anzai on the 9th. If you don't know who Yuma Anzai is yet, then you will soon, as he's being called the "Super Rookie" of Japan. Coming up in All Japan, he was lent out to NOAH for the N-1 so he can get experience quickly, as even though he's less than a year into his wrestling career he's already had an AJPW Triple Crown title match against Yuji Nagata, so its clear they see a lot in him already.

One of the matches people have been most looking forward to from Anzai was against NOAH's Ace, Go Shiozaki, and it didn't disappoint. This match was a test for Anzai, and Shiozaki made this known right off the bat. Go would hit all his classic offence like his chops and lariats, but Anzai would get back up every time, even more fired up than the last, really taking it to the NOAH legend for over 20 minutes.

Go played his role to perfection in this match, selling when he needed to, but managing to keep that aura of a video game boss that, no matter how skillful you are you're just not at a high enough level to beat yet. I thought this was one of the best N-1 matches so far and one of Go's best singles matches since returning from injury this year.

#3 - Kazuchika Okada

Okada has had one of the best runs in this year's G1 out of any of the 32 participants, but we've already touched on his Zack match and will talking about the G1 finals for our #1 spot this week. I guess that just leaves the EVIL match from the semi finals of the G1 to talk about... uh oh.

In all seriousness, this was one of EVIL's better matches of the G1 and Okada played a large part in that. Okada's new persona has really brought out an edge to his game we haven't seen before, and pairing that up with all the House of Torture antics made for a good finishing stretch if nothing else. Okada really punished EVIL for the HoT interference in this match, hitting stiff shots in retort and forcing EVIL to have a classic New Japan counter finishing sequence that resulted in some great moments like EVIL hitting the Rainmaker Low Blow, and the Everything is Evil which Okada miraculously kicked out of. That was one of the best near falls of the whole tournament for sure, since I can't remember anyone who's kicked out of that move before, at least since HoT formed.

Overall Okada was on point this week, just like every other week, and we will one day be calling him the greatest wrestler to ever exist, especially when he beats Danielson in the Tokyo Dome next year.

#2 - Will Ospreay

Ospreay had a great run of back to back matches in the elimination stage of this year G1 Climax, defeating David Finlay on the 10th and losing to eventual winner Tetsuya Naito on the 12th.

The Finlay match was really good and put over Finlay really strong in defeat, even if he did have help from his War Dogs teammates at multiple points throughout the match. Yes, there was a fair amount of interference in this one, but Ospreay and the War Dogs made it feel a lot more intense compared to the House of Torture shenanigans, and O-Khan's dive to the outside just made it an outright highlight of the match.

There were loads of great counters from both men, and the tension built around the table on the outside was well done, with Cobb denying Finlay the use of it. This made the match feel a lot more real, since people were using common sense, a rarity in pro wrestling. Ospreay hit all of his signature offence, but adapted to a more brawling style to fit Finlay's persona, and it worked out really well, giving Ospreay even more momentum going into the Naito match.

Speaking of the Naito match, this was just spectacular, and one of the best matches of the year. It was on a similar level to the final, but achieved that in a different way. Were the final against Okada was more story based and meaningful to the overall story of both Okada's and Naito's careers, this match with Ospreay was just an amazing display of technical, in-ring ability. Both guys looked awesome in this match, and it was the first match that we really saw Naito roll back the years in, performing insane counters and innovative set ups for moves. The clip of Naito countering the Stormbreaker into a DDT has gone viral (as it should), but in my opinion the best reversal was when Naito flipped into a hurricanrana pin from the Stormbreaker position. That made me jump out of my seat!

The main take away from this Naito match, however, is Ospreay insane ring generalship, as he accidentally kicked Naito square in the jaw. Naito was rocked, but Will knew that they had to take it home and guided him throughout the rest of the match, picking up the pieces on a dime when Naito would collapse in the ring a couple of times. They eventually got to the finish and Ospreay sold the final Destino better than anyone I've ever seen, spiking himself on the mat as Naito was only half awake to perform the move.

#1 - Tetsuya Naito

Tetsuya Naito is this weeks "Worker of the Week" after an amazing string of performances this week, turning back the clock to give us some of the best matches of the year back to back. Of course we've talked about his match with Ospreay in the semi-finals of the G1, but now we get to talk about the G1 finals, against his eternal rival, Kazuchika Okada.

This was the first time these two have fought in the finals of the G1 tournament, and it didn't disappoint as they had their best match since the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 14 Night two back in 2020. They started the match slow, like a typical New Japan style main event, but quickly made it unique as the two targeted the other's neck with unbridled ferocity, Naito in particular, who hit a neckbreaker with Okada draped over the barricade and a hip toss that landed Okada's neck on his knee, something I've never seen before.

Naito was insanely over in this match, and it was one of the hottest crowds New Japan has had since WK14, making for an electric atmosphere that seemed to take Naito to that next level in terms of performance. There was the call back to the Stardust Press that had the audience begging Naito to stay on the mat, only for Naito to miss again, upping the stakes of the match even more.

The finishing stretch was out of this world as the two countered each others big offence more times than CM Punk causes me headaches. Because of both men's offence, every time the other got them up for a move it could be countered into an endless number of their opponent's moves, making it so you could never celebrate a move until the recipient finally hit the match from it. Okada countering the Destino into a Landslide was my personal favourite of the match, but ultimately Naito hit three Destinos in a row to finally put Okada away in a classic G1 Climax final, the best since the pandemic wreaked havoc over the promotion.

Ok phew that one was long, but lets see how it's affected the leaderboard! Thank's for reading!


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