This was a big week for the Junior Heavyweights of the US, as the All Star Junior Festival USA took place this Saturday, as well as Impact x NJPW Multiverse United II on the Sunday, both emanating from the historic 2300 Arena in Philly. We also so the continuation of the 5 Star GP in Stardom, and another great show from the guys over in Deadlock Pro Wrestling premiered this Saturday.
- Mariah May (Mariah May vs Mina Shirakawa, Stardom, 15/8)
- Hazuki (Syuri vs Hazuki, Stardom, 15/8)
- Jeff Jarrett (Jeff Jarrett vs Jeff Hardy, AEW, 16/8)
- Lucky Ali (Lucky Ali vs Robert Martyr, DPW, 18/8)
- Edge (Edge vs Sheamus, WWE, 18/8)
- Rey Fenix (Rey Fenix vs Komander, AEW, 18/8)
- Calvin Tankman (Tankman vs Irie vs Malachi, DPW, 19/8)
- Workhorsemen (Workhorsemen vs Double Kevin, DPW, 19/8)
- Christian Cage (Christian Cage vs Darby Allin, AEW, 19/8)
- Francesco Akira (Akira vs Bailey & Akira & TJP vs Fujita & Eagles, NJPW & Impact, 19/8 & 20/8)
- Hiromu Takahashi (Hiromu & Bailey vs Rush & Miguel, Impact, 20/8)
#10 - Giulia
Although Giulia's week wasn't one of the better ones in terms of performances in ring, she sure did make a massive Impact in her every first match on American soil. Giulia defended her NJPW STRONG Women's Championship at Impact x NJPW Multiverse United II, in a four way against Gisele Shaw, Momo Kohgo, and Deonna Purrazzo.
As soon as Giulia's music hit the speakers the Philly crowd went insane. She walked out to even more applause and a "Holy Shit" chant broke out before the match even started! The match itself was really good even if it didn't live up to some of the work she's done in Stardom. She took control of the match, giving each woman a lot of shine by selling fantastically. The crowd popped for everything she did as she brought by far the most hard hitting offence to the bout, including a stiff slap to Gisele early on. She won the match with a Northern Light's Bomb on Shaw, and then drilled Momo with a Glorious Driver after the match for shits and giggles.
Although this wasn't Giulia at 100% it was a great taster for US fans to get a craving for more of the Stardom style, and hopefully that shows when Giulia returns to the States in October in Las Vegas.
#9 - AZM
From Stardom in the States, to Stardom back in Tokyo, we saw the 5 Star continue in Korakuen Hall with an amazing show headlined by AZM taking on her faction leader, Utami Hayashishita!
This was a great mix of AZM's high speed style and Utami's power offence, but in the least expected way. AZM dominated most of the match with her quickness and aerial ability, only allowing Hayashishita to get off a couple of high impact moves before taking back control with a counter. Even though AZM was controlling the match, there were loads of little things she did to make it seem like she was going to lose. She tweaked her ankle early in the match and sold that decently throughout while still keeping the speed and agility that she's known for.
The finish was awesome. As the fans were waiting for the inevitable comeback from Utami, we got a Sunset Flip pin from AZM on Utami for a close two count and then a Canadian Destroyer into the Azumi-sushi pin for the one two three! Another great match for AZM in this year's 5 Star, and one of her biggest wins to date!
#8 - Orange Cassidy
Orange Cassidy is back again after another successful defence of his International Championship, this time in a rematch against former stablemate and former best friend, Wheeler Yuta of the Blackpool Combat Club on Dynamite.
This match was even more viscous that the two's last back in February, even if it might not have been a better overall match. This was for a multitude of reasons, the most important being OC's deteriorated state requiring him to have more of an edge and Wheeler's more aggressive personality, that seems to fester more and more every week while being in the BCC. The start of the match was similar to their last, with a great sequence of technical wrestling playing out on the mat before getting into a grittier stage of the bout, trading strikes in the ring and taking it to the outside and onto the ramp. Wheeler took control in the ring, attacking all the different body parts that Orange has injured throughout his reign.
The other members of the BCC came out mid match, unintentionally giving OC the advantage as he hit an Orange Punch on Yuta, kicked out of the Seatbelt pin and kept Wheeler down for three with a sit-down pin. A fun way to kick off and episode of AEW Dynamite!
#7 - Bryan Keith
DPW's Beast Coast event premiered on DPW.live this Saturday and saw a major upset as Texas standout, Bryan Keith, defeated one of DPW's biggest stars, Andrew Everett, for his DPW National Championship in a tremendous match!
The match started off slow, with some mat work that quickly transitioned into a more deliberate slugfest, with both men taking their time to get control of the match with their strikes. Everett would occasionally sprinkle in some of his highflying offence, but Keith would shut that down quite effectively. A brutal looking dropkick through the ropes from Bryan would lead the match to the outside where the champ was thrown over the guardrail. The two brawled on the outside for a while before Everett hit a massive splash from the top rope all the way into the rental chairs behind the railing!
They got back in the ring and had a great sequence of counters and big moves, with Everett hitting the Chokeslam and the Shooting Star Press, only to get a couple two counts from them. Bryan would eventually hit the Tiger Driver for the win, however, and the crowd went crazy for the surprise title change. A really great match that was paced well and had the crowd in the palm of their hands from bell to bell.
#6 - Tam Nakano
Tam continued her campaign in the 5 Star Tournament as she faced off against her long time rival, Mayu Iwatani, who she's never been able to beat before. The result of this match was no different. The two went to a time limit draw (15 minutes) and had a classic, hard-hitting, and fast paced match.
It was back and forth from the outset, with both women hitting bombs on the other and diving to the outside. Mayu would take control from the middle of the match onward, coming out on top of a Suplex off, even though Tam threw her on her head multiple times (That neck will never die). Tam would start making a comeback, hitting a Tiger Suplex for a nearfall and a Violet Screwdriver for a second false finish. At this point the timer was running down and the determination on Nakano's face and in her movements was very obvious. She had control, and this might have been the closest she'd get to beating the Icon of Stardom for the first time.
There was some moments of hope for Mayu, but ultimately Tam stayed on top, hitting the Twilight Dream, but the time ran out before the ref could even get a one count. This kept Nakano strong and added another interesting wrinkle to her story with Mayu Iwatani. A great showing from Nakano this week.
#4 & 5
Both Shelley and Sabin had awesome weeks this week, both taking part in the main event of DPW's Beast Coast show, facing Violence is Forever (Kevin Ku & Dominic Garrini). Shelley also worked the All Star Junior Festival show in an eight-man tag, and the Impact x NJPW event the day after where he defended his Impact World Championship against his old mentor Hiroshi Tanahashi! Sabin was also part of a scramble match on the undercard of the same show.
Starting with the DPW match, the crowd was on FIRE for the Motor City Machine Guns and the hype for this match was off the charts as VIF is the most over tag team loyal to the promotion. MCMG were certainly the veterans in this match and it showed, with Shelley managing to counter most of Kevin's mat work, but he made it clear that Ku was no joke as he had to work hard to get around his offence. This was much the same when Garrini and Sabin faced off. Sabin working to get around Dominic's power advantage with slick technical reversals, but ultimately having to tag in Shelley again. Their teamwork shifted the momentum in their favour multiple times. MCMG started to turn up the heelwork half way through and it worked well with VIF finally getting their comeback and Shelley and Sabin throwing in a little comedy in there to get the crowd on VIF's side. Overall the match was dominated by the MCMG and they did so with impeccable wrestling and psychology. I can't wait for them to come back to DPW!
I'm going to skip over both men's multi-man endeavors for time purposes and head straight into Sunday's main event against Tanahashi. As I've said many times before on this series, Tanahashi isn't in the best shape nowadays, but when you pair him up with one of the best ring generals in the business today in Shelley, it's basically a cheat code for a four star plus match. Shelley worked on Tana's arm while Tana went for the leg and it made for a very compelling match. Shelley hit some brutal moves, throwing Tana all around the ringside area. He hit an especially brutal knee from the apron to the former IWGP heavyweight champion that sent him crashing into the concrete floor. The finish was a great back and forth with Shelley hitting the Rainmaker and a Boma Ye before the Shell Shock for the win. It wasn't the best match of either men's year, but was a fun main event for a cross over show and sent the fans home happy.
#2 & 3 - MAO & El Desperado
Speaking of Tag Teams, MAO and Desperado teamed up on the All Star Junior Festival show this Saturday to take on the East West Express (Jordan Oliver & Nick Wayne), and it might have been the match of the week!
This match was just a whole bunch of fun in so many different ways. With MAO's comedy juxtaposing Despy's slightly serious, but begrudging acceptance of his antics. Wayne and Oliver were great in their role too, being shown as a top tier tag team, but also just a slight notch lower than the two veterans even though they had some teamwork issues at times. The in ring work was so fast, smooth, and both teams had incredible chemistry so it really stood out among all the other mish mash of teams on the card that didn't really connect as much as these guys did.
Down the stretch there were some great counters and reversals as EWE tried to get of tag team maneuvers, whereas MAO and Depsy were trying to take advantage of their partner's offence in order to get the win. Wayne and Oliver tried for a pair of cutters off the top rope, but MAO would come from the outside to grab the leg and Despy rushed them in the ring, leading to a great Headsissors Driver from MAO and the Pinche Loco from Desperado for the win! MAO and Despy were the clear highlights of this show and made EWE look really good in the process.
#1 - Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey is this weeks Worker of the Week after three great matches in two days! His first two, which were part of the All Star Junior Festival USA Tournament, saw him defeat Francesco Akira and Kevin Knight in the name night. After winning the final Bailey would call out Hiromu Takahashi, the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight champion, for a title match which Hiromu accepted. That's not all though as Hiromu and Bailey teamed up the next night to face Lio Rush and Trey Miguel for Impact x NJPW Multiverse United II.
His match against Francesco Akira was a wonderful sprint of a bout, with both men relying heavily on running offence and quick reversals being a staple of their styles. Couple this with both men's unique and innovative moveset and they had a dramatic and unpredictable match that could have gone either way.
Bailey vs Knight was the main event of the Junior Festival show and this was even better than the Akira match in my opinion. Knight came in with injured ribs after his semi final match against Clark Connors and Bailey focused on that from the off. He hit all his signature offence like the quick kicks to the body and the standing moonsault into the double knees, as well as the running Shooting Star press. Kevin found opportunities to fight back, but most of his offence was fronted by his midsection so it gave Speedball many openings to get back into the match. Bailey managed to hit the spin kick in the corner as Kevin tried to get the run up, putting him in perfect positioning for the Ultima Weapon and then the Flamingo Driver for the win.
His final match of the weekend was the tag match on Sunday. This was a great exhibition match that had a very clear face and heel dynamic, which was lacking in the Junior Festival matches due to the hodgepodge of talent involved. Rush and Miguel did a great job at cutting off the ring and getting heat for the eventual hot tag. The comeback spots from both Hiromu and Bailey were great, showing lots of fighting spirit and tag team moves, like the Ultima Weapon from Bailey off of Hiromu's shoulders onto Miguel for a close nearfall that Lio had to break up to save the match. The finish was a bit wonky, but the low blow from Lio on Hiromu set up an interesting power struggle for the IWGP Junior title's #1 contendership with both Lio and Bailey having a claim to a title match after Rush got the pin on Takahashi to finish this bout.
Overall this was an awesome week for Bailey after a fairly lackluster couple of weeks in terms of high stakes matchups.
This week (when im writing this) is All In week! I will be attending the show and therefore next weeks issue is going to come out on the Wednesday or the Thursday instead. It's going to be a big one, so it will be worth the wait!
Here's a look at the leaderboard this week as there's been a couple of big changes, with Bailey only one point behind the #1 Kazuchika Okada!