It was a week for anniversaries this week, as we saw the 25th of Naomichi Marafuji's career and the 90th for the company of CMLL, who put on an amazing show this Saturday with multiple great matches. Marafuji's Anniversary show was headlined by a massive dream match with Will Ospreay taking him on in a jam packed Korakuen Hall, and AEW also finished off their Grand Slam Eliminator tournament with Samoa Joe and Roderick Strong going at it in the Dynamite main event. Stardom's Five Star trundles along too with four great matches from last Saturday (it was broadcasted first this week, so I'm counting for the list).
- Tyler Bate (Tyler Bate vs Axiom, NXT, 12/9)
- Big Bill (Jon Moxley vs Big Bill & Starks & Bill vs Claudio & Danielson, AEW, 13/9 & 16/9)
- Kris Statlander (Kris Statlander vs Jade Cargill & Kris Statlander vs Britt Baker, AEW, 14/9 & 16/9)
- Mistico, Atlantis Jr., & Mascara Dorada (Mistico, Atlantis Jr., & Mascara Dorada vs Rocky Romero, Kevin Knight, & TJP, CMLL, 16/9)
- Templario (Templario vs Dragon Rojo Jr., CMLL, 16/9)
#10 - Ricky Starks
After his brutal match against Bryan Danielson at All Out, Ricky Starks was challenged to a tag team match on this weeks Collision by Danielson, who brought along Claudio Castagnoli to take on Starks and Big Bill in the opener of the show.
Starks did a great job of bringing his character into this match. His intensity was off the charts and he took it to Danielson at every opportunity, as Big Bill dominated the Dragon for the vast majority of the match. Ricky attacked Bryan on the outside and slammed him into the ring post and barricades, building up some major heat for the eventual hot tag to Claudio Castagnoli.
The finish was brilliant too, as Starks hit a low blow and a Spear on Bryan to pick up a tainted win. This didn't seem like a super cheap win, however, as the intensity of Starks made it seem like his anger towards his opponent was the main factor in wanting to embarrass the former ROH champion, rather than having to sink to those levels to get the pin. The promo he cut afterwards, challenging Danielson to a Texas Deathmatch, was amazing too, and felt like a natural progression of the story, rather than just a random match to prolong it.
#9 - Adam Page
Speaking of great stories, "Hangman" Adam Page faced off with the Mogul Embassy's Brain Cage for the third time in his career, in a highly anticipated rematch on AEW Dynamite this week.
The match was spot heavy and made for a really fun and easy to watch TV bout that had the crowd invested and entertained the whole way through, especially with spots like the 619 (or "Area Code Shot" as they dubbed it) adding some innovation to the normal Hangman match. Both men have great chemistry together and they always find the balance between making both of them look as strong as possible, which was important heading into Hangman's match against Swerve Strickland at WrestleDream.
Overall the match wasn't anything special for Hangman, but in a fairly sparse week for great matches, it was a solid performance and showcased Page at the top of his game.
#8 - Giulia
Giulia continued her Five Star GP campaign last week, but we finally got to see her awesome match against stable-mate, Maika, this week when it aired on Stardom World. The match took place in a packed and rowdy Korakuen Hall, which only added to the intensity of the match, as well as the 15 minute time limit for Five Star matches.
Going into the match there has been some tension between Maika and the rest of Donna Del Mondo, as she teases leaving the faction, tagging with other members of the Stardom roster like Megan Bayne and Suzu Suzuki, so this match was somewhat of a proving ground for both women. They started strong with a fun brawl through the crowd, taking it up to the north side of the arena where Giulia slammed Maika onto some chairs.
Back in the ring both women went in hard with strikes, throwing bombs at each other like lariats, forearms, and the occasional headbutt closer to the finish, in a real back and forth battle. Maika had the most control in the beginning of the match, and Giulia sold really well for her as she was thrown around the ring, but eventually managed to fight her way back into the match with fluid counters and big power moves, including a big Butterfly Superplex from the top rope which she followed up with a massive Brainbuster for the win.
The Five Star continues to be the best tournament of the year so far, from any promotion!
#7 - Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch continues to make wrestling history this week as she finally became a Grand Slam champion in WWE after beating Tiffany Stratton for the NXT Women's title on Tuesday.
Becky did a brilliant job at guiding Tiffany through, by far, her best match of her career so far (at from the little I've watched of hers). On top of some technically solid wrestling from both women, you could see Becky take control of the match at multiple points in the bout, especially when Tiffany seemed a bit lost at points. Lynch helped keep the match together, though Tiff did do great at persevering through the few mistakes she had throughout.
The main takeaway of the match was the Man's great sense of pacing and crowd control that helped Tiff learn how to slow down and live in the moment, as both women were prone on the mat after a double down and Tiff went to get Lynch just as the crowd started a "This is awesome" chant, and Becky told here to hold off and let them chant longer. This was just a small thing in the match, but really showcased how much of a ring general Becky Lynch has become since her days in NXT.
#6 - Chris Sabin
On the massive 1000th episode of Impact Wrestling this week, Chris Sabin claimed his 10th X-Division championship reign, as he beat Lio Rush for the belt in the main event of the show.
This was a rematch of the Slammiversay match the two had earlier this year, which ended up as a squash when Lio dove onto Sabin on the outside and seemly (Kayfabe) injuring Sabin in the process, leading to a Rush Hour from the challenger for the win. This time however Sabin was at full strength and took it to Rush from the outset. There were loads of great call backs and shout outs in this match, on top of the fundamentally excellent wrestling you'd expect from these two. One of the call backs being Lio diving to the outside like in their first match, but Sabin being able to come back from it to the dismay of Rush.
The highlight of the match had to be the third act, where both men kicked out of each other finishers to massive pops, but ultimately Sabin hit the Tanaka Punch, the Shell Shock, and the Cradle Shock (The three moves of Time Machine: KUSHIDA, Shelley, and Sabin) to pick up the win and his 10th X-Division title. A great feel good moment to end Impact's historic 1000th episode!
#5 - Ilja Dragunov
On top of the amazing women's title match on NXT this week, we also had a #1 contendership match for Carmelo Hayes' NXT championship, between former challenger, Ilja Dragunov, and former North American champion, Wes Lee.
This was a great clash of styles as Wes Lee's highflying offence faced of with Ilja's high paced strikes and unique offence. Ilja was dominant for most of the match, swatting Lee out of the sky with kicks and forearms, but Lee didn't shy away from going strike for strike with him, and it made it a very competitive match. Every Ilja match has a good amount of intensity, and this was no different. Couple that with a great highflyer and bumper like Wes Lee, and you get some really great spots, like Dragunov German Suplexing Wes onto the announce table and Wes Lee diving to the outside over the ring post.
Nothing too much more to add that you shouldn't want to see with your own eyes, so go give it a watch!
#4 - Tam Nakano
Tam also continued her Five Star GP last Saturday, taking on Suzu Suzuki in Red Stars action. This match was like a combination between the Ilja match and Giulia's match, seeing a lot of brawling on the outside, and a similar high pace to Ilja/Lee.
This was as brutal as you'd think it would be if you know anything about these two women, but at a super high pace. Maybe not as all out as Syuri vs Suzu, for example, but it was close to reaching those levels. Tam went in hard with the knee strikes, as she hit Suzu from every single direction one could think of, and Suzuki went in just as hard with the kicks and German Suplexes too.
There was a point where both women went out to brawl in the crowd, taking it up to the west side and doing the classic bonk someone's head on the sign spot, which both of them ended up taking before heading back to the ring and increasing the intensity even more. Tam took a very nasty bump on the apron as Suzu Snapmared her off the second rope onto it, the middle of her spine seemingly cracking in two on impact. Maybe if she did that to me it would fix my Scoliosis!
The finishing stretch took it to a whole new gear, with near-fall after near-fall, Suzu countering the Violet Screwdriver and hitting a series of German Suplexes to finally get the pinfall! Although Suzuki is trailing on points in the tournament, getting a win over the World of Stardom champion makes it a successful run for her, hopefully she gets a shot at the red belt some time after the tournament finishes!
#3 - Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe had an excellent week this week, winning the Grand Slam Eliminator Tournament and taking out Adam Cole after his hard-hitting final against Roderick Strong. Going into the match there was a lot of history already, with Joe and Strong facing off in the Owen Hart Cup earlier in the year, and that, as well as them being at opposite ends of the heel spectrum, helped negate the tricky situation of booking a heel vs heel match, especially at the finals of a tournament where people expect a big climactic moment at the end.
The match was filled with stiff strikes and a dominating performance from Joe that the crowd really enjoyed as he dismantled the whiney and annoying Strong. Strong got distracted by the crowd multiple times during the match allowing Joe to lay in more and more offence. The dynamic worked really well with Roddy getting in offence sporadically and briefly to entertain the crowd even if he wasn't a face.
The best part of Joe's week, however, came after the match, where he proclaimed to MJF that he was going to take everything from him, EVERYTHING, and then leaving through gorilla. Or so we thought. Adam Cole rushed down to the ring as Strong suddenly collapsed on the ground, Joe clearly having injured his neck even more. The Kingdom pushed Cole aside as Joe ran back out and choked out Cole in a very scary fashion and ended the show screaming down the camera as he stood over Cole. A brilliant ending to the go home Dynamite for Grand Slam!
#2 - Volador Jr.
CMLL's 90th Anniversary show on Saturday gave us some classic and tremendous Lucha action, including a Hair vs Hair match against the winners of a turbulent tag team match between Ultimo Guerrero & Averno and Angel de Oro & Volador Jr.. De Oro and Volador Jr. won the match in a brief 8 minute sprint, leading to the Hair vs Hair which blew the last match, and the main event out of the water!
De Oro would attack Volador before the match, taking it to the outside and injuring Volador's shoulder in the process. This would accidentally make it the best match on the card, however, as Volador said 'fuck it' and proceeded to perform a variety of flips and dives that I wouldn't have even tried with a crash pad let alone only one arm, and I mean one arm. Volador Jr. kept his arm glued to his side for most of the match, doing suicide dives and springboards like a mad man.
Angel de Oro did have control for the start of the match and it made for a great story of a legitimately injured Volador to make a comeback and ultimately keep his hair! A great underdog story that was enhanced by some unfortunate real life mishaps.
#1 - Will Ospreay
From one anniversary to another. Naomichi Marufuji faced one of his biggest fans in Will Ospreay for his career's 25th anniversary! The two went at in the historic Korakuen Hall and had one of the best matches of the year so far!
Ospreay has always said that he's wanted to face the NOAH legend and you can see the influence in Will's moveset, the hook kick being the most obvious, but the way they pace their matches is also very similar, and you can really see that as they face off against one another. It really was a mirror match in my eyes. In the beginning of the match the similarities is all that they bring attention too, going straight into a chop battle. Its clear that Ospreay is having the time of his life as he gets his meat slapped by Marufuji, wincing at just the first chop of the match. Ospreay didn't back down though, giving out some really good chops of his own throughout. They had a really fun highspot sequence, consisting of hook kick counters that were perfectly timed, and made Naomichi look years younger in the ring than he has recently.
Ultimately there wasn't much story to the match, but in cases like this you don't really need one when the draw of the match is the dream bout aspect and the fact that both men are incredible wrestlers, which they certainly proved on the night, Ospreay being one of the best in the world today.
With week 37 over, lets have a look at the leaderboard: