With two big shows in Japan, and the biggest AEW Dynamite of the year, this week was packed full of excellent professional wrestling. The best performances in my opinion, however, came from DPW's Carolina Classic show which aired this Saturday. An eight man tournament that culminated in a terrific four way elimination match for a shot at the DPW World's Championship!
- Jon Moxley (Jon Moxley vs Rey Fenix, AEW, 20/9)
- Stray Cat (Stray Cat vs Midnight Player, Sukeban, 21/9)
- Tom Lawlor (Tom Lawlor vs LaBron Kozone, Lawlor vs Bailey vs Malachi vs Something, DPW, 23/9)
- Bryan Keith (Bryan Keith vs Shun Skywalker, DPW, 23/9)
- Konosuke Takeshita (Konosuke Takeshita vs MAO, DDT, 24/9)
- Chris Brookes (Chris Brookes vs Saki Akai, DDT, 24/9)
#10 - Pete Dunne
Pete Dunne (or Butch) had a return to form this week as he faced off against an old team-mate and rival, Tyler Bate, as part of the Heritage Cup Invitational in Block A action on this weeks episode of NXT.
It was a fast paced and technically well executed match that pushed the 12 minute time limit before Dunne managed to sneak out the win in the end. It started, however, with a great technical wrestling sequence that fed nicely into more dynamic and innovative set of spots that showcased both men's knowledge of the other's moveset. Down the stretch the two traded incredible counters, like Bate countering the Bitter End into a DDT for a two count and Dunne hitting the Bitter End in the final minute, only for Bate to kick out and Pete to resort to the Better End and get the three count with 10 seconds remaining.
Although the short 12 minute time limit did limit the output of this match for sure, it made up for that by allowing for such a dramatic finial stretch, and for Pete to go all out for once, instead of being in 2 minute tag team matches on Smackdown. Great showing by both men, but a big win for Dunne who's heading for the finals at No Mercy this week!
#9 - Jay White
The leader of the Bang Bang Gang, the Collision Cowboys, Bullet Club Gold, Jay White had one of his toughest singles matches of his AEW career so far, as he squared off with Andrade El Idolo on AEW Collision this Saturday, and it didn't disappoint.
The match got a good amount of time, allowing Jay to give us a bout reminiscent of his days in New Japan, with great limb work and selling throughout the match, with a little interference from the outside tossed in for good measure. Andrade and Jay went toe to toe, throwing nasty chops and landing all their signature offence on each other, Andrade focusing on the leg of White, as to set up for the Figure Eight, but also setting up the spot of the night which everyone's been raving about.
Jay took some nasty looking Dragonscrews throughout the match, no doubt reminding him of his matches with Tanahashi, selling for them like death making the Figure Eight false finish insanely believable, before the previously thrown out Juice Robinson snuck his way back to ringside to hit Andrade with his prestigious Collision Cowboy of the month plaque! Jay couldn't get up for the Blade Runner, however, and had to use the ropes to heave himself up to deliver it and get the pinfall. A great match that blended Andrade's flashy offence with Jay's excellent psychology to produce a well structured and engaging TV bout.
#8 - Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe had one of the biggest and most anticipated matches of the week this week, as he challenged for MJF's AEW World Championship in the main event of AEW Dynamite Grand Slam.
Although I didn't really like the finish or the booking for this match, you can't deny Joe's amazing and scary performance in it, as he dominated MJF from bell to bell, only to be screwed out of the victory by MJF and Adam Cole. MJF's selling certainly played a large part Joe's intimating presence, but for Joe to go that hard for that long (I'm pretty sure it was his longest match in years), shows how much work he's putting in and how much a groove he's gotten into since joining the promotion.
The table spot on the outside and the piledriver onto the floor were brutal and as they headed back into the ring and he hit the Muscle Buster on Maxwell. I thought that was it and the kick out genuinely shocked me, as I can normally tell when its a nearfall or not in most matches. From there on I had no clue who was going to win and it felt like we were one move away from the finish at all time. That's the sign of a good match. Unfortunately Joe lost as Max used some of his tape to submit him, but it kept Joe strong I guess.
#7 - Eddie Kingston
The biggest moment of Dynamite Grand Slam, however, had to be Eddie Kingston defeating Claudio Castagnoli in his home town to become NJPW STRONG Openweight and ROH World Champion after a long and heated rivalry with the BCC member that has spanned over a decade, finally came to an end, at least for now.
Even at just the entrances for the match you knew this was going to be a great one. Claudio came out first wearing Misawa green and Eddie came out in his classic Kawada inspired black and yellow gear, evoking memories of historic All Japan bouts from the 90s, the wrestling Eddie fell in love with as a kid. That wasn't were the comparisons to AJPW ended though, as Eddie and Claudio had a hard hitting Kings Road style match that was filled with Saito Suplexes, chops, and uppercuts from Claudio keeping Eddie down in the beginning. The only thing keeping Eddie in the game was fighting spirit, the one thing that drove his idols to victory back in the 90s. He fired up multiple times in the match, only managing to get a brief flurry of offence on Claudio before he was beaten back down.
There came a point where Kingston snapped, however, feeling like this was his very last shot at winning he gritted his teeth and unleashed a series of Backfists and a Northern Lights Bomb, only to get a two count out of it, but it didn't end there, after no-selling some of Claudio's uppercuts he hit one more backfist and landed the Powerbomb that Kawada himself told Eddie to use instead of the Northern Lights Bomb, and it worked. One, two, three, and Eddie Kingston is a double champion, retaining the STRONG Openweight title, and becoming a World Champion for the first time in his career.
While it wasn't the best match of the two's rivalry, it was certainly the most meaningful and the biggest, capping off a long and personal blood-feud on one of the biggest stages.
#5 & 6 - Dragon Bane & Alpha Wolf
Moving over to Japan now, we had NOAH's Grand Ship event from Nagoya Congress Center, main evented by Jake Lee and Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight title. This isn't the match we'll be talking about though. The real show stealer that Sunday was the match for the vacant GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, where the team of Dragon Bane and Alpha Wolf defeated Alejandro and Ninja Mack in an insane Lucha style match, that took the titles to new heights... literally.
This is one of those matches that you just have to watch and enjoy. There wasn't much storytelling and some of the spots had some questionable set-ups, but that was all outweighed by unbelievable high flying action from all four men. Bane and Wolf stood out as being an amazing team with insane chemistry, using each other to get some insane height on dives to the outside and some long range cannonballs into the corner. Ninja Mack and Alejandro also contributed some amazing moves, but Bane and Wolf just seemed like a better team than them, so giving them the titles was a great decision, especially after some not so interesting title matches for those belts in the recent past (No offence to Ridgeway and Ogawa).
#4 - Bryan Danielson
Coming off their amazing strap match at AEW All Out, Ricky challenged Danielson to a Texas Death Match for Collision this week, and lets just say the outcome was probably too similar to the first bout for Starks' liking.
They kicked off the match by quickly taking it to the outside, brawling through the crowd, with Danielson in the helm for the majority of the trek, but Ricky took the ring bell and clocked Dragon with it, which busted him open and gave Starks control in the process, as he rammed Danielson's head into the announce table again and again. Ricky would start to beat the shit out of Bryan back in the ring throwing very convincing punches as Danielson was prone on the mat, the aggression and hatred flowing out of him. Although Starks brought back the strap and a chain, the real lack of weapons in this match, especially for a Texas Death Match, was quite refreshing and impactful.
I would say the compared the their last match, Ricky had a lot more to do and contributed to the match a lot more, but Danielson still seemed to led the match and build it in intensity, allowing Ricky to work up to that intensity before moving on to the next stage. Danielson encapsulated this aggression in the last minutes, when he stomped Ricky's fucking head in, tried to choke him out with the chain, and eventually knocked him out with a Busaiku Knee that had a chain wrapped around it.
This match was demonstration of why Danielson as a plucky underdog is limiting to his abilities, and generally a mischaracterisation of the wrestler he is, and how a dominant and borderline sadistic Danielson is one of his best roles.
#3 - Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey competed in this year's Carolina Classic tournament for DPW, after coming close to winning it last year. His first round match was against DPW's own Andrew Everett and they had a thrilling match that pitted Everett's highflying and Speedball's speed and striking ability against each other, but Bailey ultimately moved on to the final against Jake Something, Jay Malachi, and Tom Lawlor which was an even better match.
The beginning of the Everett match saw Mike Bailey dominate with stiff kicks and knee strikes, hitting an awesome double knees from the top onto an Everett that was lying across the top rope. After countering a tornado kick into the corner from Bailey, Everett evened out the match and they had a much more back on forth match with Bailey matching the aerial prowess of Everett by diving to the outside, no matter how ugly it looked. Not that Bailey is bad at it, he just botched his springboard moonsault to the outside a bit.
The final was amazing, with four completely different wrestler making for a video game like boss battle with multiple different stages. Bailey with the striking, Malachi with the flippy shit, Lawlor with the tekkers, & Something with the powerhouse offence. All three targeted Something at first, as they should. Jake was throwing people all around the ring and once he got hold of you there was no escaping, as he hung on to a hurricanrana attempt from Malachi and hit him with a massive powerbomb to the outside on Bailey and Lawlor. Eventually he was eliminated by Lawlor after getting caught in the ankle lock and getting hit with a kick from Speedball and Jay each, just before the 15 minute mark.
I'll continue talking about the rest of the match and more of the DPW show in Malachi's segment, but Bailey's performance on this show was fantastic.
#2 - Yota Tsuji
Yota Tsuji had his best match of his career to date, and it's no surprise that it was against the incredible Will Ospreay, this Sunday at Destruction in Kobe for the IWGP UK Heavyweight Championship.
The two main evented the show and gave us a classic high paced and flashy, nearly 30 minute, New Japan style main event that showcased innovative counters, spots, and sequences from Tsuji as well as your typical, yet still spectacular, Ospreay offence too. There wasn't too much selling or story threads going through the match other than Tsuji showing that he can hang with the best professional wrestlers in the world in terms of flawless execution, which he did perfectly. There wasn't a single botch the entire match and everything looked anywhere from solid to insanely cool. Some of my favourite spots had to be the finisher stealing sequences, where Tsuji hit the Stormbreaker on Ospreay for a two count, but when Will hit the spear on Tsuji kicked out at one! I thought that was a great way to make Tsuji look stronger, as well as hitting the spear on Will only for Ospreay to get the foot on the rope and save the match for himself.
The best spot by far was when Yota hit the knee to the face and then a Curb Stomp right onto said face, crumbling Ospreay to the mat, that made me scream. Anyway, enough of me marking out for the Gene Blast, it was one of the best matches of the year and a true solidification of Tsuji's future main eventer status in New Japan.
#1 - Jay Malachi
This weeks #1 is Jay Malachi, and it might be the best performance of any wrestler in a single day for the entire year so far (if that makes sense). And I know you're wondering "who the fuck is this guy?", but I bet in five years, you'll remember reading this (if anyone is) when Malachi is a big player in wrestling, or at least on his way to being one.
Malachi (19) has been a mainstay in DPW from day one, and has been one of the best in ring guys the company can consistently rely on and use on their shows, stunning people with his crazy "Mala-Cutter". This is what we saw from his first match of the evening as Malachi defeated another highflyer, in the form of Ichiban, and indie luchador who's got a good set of springs on him too. They both had a great spotfest of a match with some great highflying moves, like a Spanish Fly off the top rope that nearly hit the ceiling of the Durham Armory and lasted a solid 3 seconds in the air, one of the best I've seen.
Now onto the final again. Something has been eliminated, but Tom Lawlor is waiting in the wings to destroy Malachi, specifically his leg, and he did just that. Lawlor managed to keep Bailey out of the conversation for most of this stretch, and I don't think Bailey would have minded that too much in this elimination style match. Bailey would finally come in and take a big opportunity to eliminate Lawlor has he was bent over with Malachi in the ankle lock in the corner, and hit Tom with the Ultima Weapon to get the three count, but the damage is done to Malachi, and he's selling it like death, barely able to stand, but powering through and taking the fight to Speedball who's also targeting the leg. It's not looking good for Jay going into the last two, but Malachi fired up and eventually pulled out the shock win, hitting the Mala-Cutter on Speedball mid Ultima Weapon, and then a second one off the top rope, winning the Carolina Classic 2023! This was an outstanding performance by Malachi, who sold his ass off, and also wrestled to an extremely high level, morphing his offence to complement the three styles of his opponents. I gave this match five stars. It was amazing.
This wasn't the end of the night for Malachi, however, as Lucky Ali (the DPW World's Champion) came out and attacked him from behind, but nevertheless, Malachi challenged him for the DPW title right there and then, as he lay battered and bruised on the mat, seemingly clinging to life. But not just any title, a CAROLINA WARFARE MATCH! This is the biggest stipulation in the world of DPW and is basically a deathmatch, with ladders, tables, chairs, fire, ring destruction, and more. A real big match feel to it, like Regal shouting WAR GAMES, only this time Adam Cole was in a different segment on the show.
Anyway this is going on way too long. The match was amazing, with Jay giving the babyface performance of a lifetime, fighting back from the brink of death to beat the shit out of the despicable Lucky Ali and take the DPW World's title after having the fans throw their chairs into the ring on top of Ali, and hitting the Mala-Cutter multiple times off the middle rope (which had now become the top rope as BK Westbrook (Ali's team-mate) unscrewed the top rope mid way through the match) and again through a (once burning) table for the pin. This was one of the best matches in DPW history and another five star match from me. That means that Malachi had two five star matches back to back, and a four star match earlier in the night. The best performance from a wrestler this year. He will be a future star in this business, and you heard it here first.
Here's the updated leaderboard after this week, and there's some big changes with Speedball back in the #1 position, taking it from Okada. For now.