In a resurgent week for AEW, with multiple great matches and a significant boost in focus heading into Full Gear next Saturday, Daniel Garcia tried to "Restore the Feel" with two solid bouts on Dynamite and Collision. DDT also had a return to form as their Ultimate Party show in Sumo Hall delivered in spades with Takeshita taking on Jericho, Saki Akai retiring, and Chris Brookes vs Yuki Ueno having a main event classic. Also sneaking under the radar was a lovely little Impact World title defence from Shelley who defeated Jonathan Gresham on AXS TV, not to mention NJPW's Lonestar Shootout from Garland, Texas.
- Seth Rollins (Seth Rollins vs Sami Zayn, WWE, 6/11)
- Samoa Joe (Samoa Joe vs Keith Lee, AEW, 8/11)
- Jay White (Jay White vs Mark Briscoe, AEW, 8/11)
- Tetsuya Endo (Tetsuya Endo vs Daisuke Sasaki, DDT, 12/11)
- Saki Akai (Akai, Sakaguchi, & Okatani vs Yamashita, Higuchi, & Marafuji, DDT, 12/11)
- Kazuki Hirata (Hiromu Takahashi vs Kazuki Hirata, DDT, 12/11)
- Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi (Kento and Yuma vs Tamura & Galeno, AJPW, 12/11)
#9 & 10 - El Hijo del Vikingo & Komander
AEW Rampage continues its streak of exhibition style matches for wrestling styles from around the world, with a interesting main event featuring Komander and El Hijo del Vikingo against FTR.
Going into the match I expected a fairly even bout, with FTR being one of the top teams in the division, but as the match progressed it was clear that this wasn't about FTR at all. In fact they had almost no offence the entire time. Instead it was a celebration and exhibition of two of the world's best luchadores, with both men flying in and out of the ring with flawless execution the entire time. To give them their credit, FTR were great bases and made the high-flying tag team look amazing, even if Cash would eventually get the pin after the Big Rig.
The most memorable spot of the match was Vikingo crashing into the commentary table and almost breaking his neck after Cash dodged his Suicida. Wrestling is weird like that (or maybe its just me), because everything gets so much cooler the closer people get to injuring themselves, until they do, then it's not that fun at all. Thankfully Vikingo was totally fine so this definitely added to the match.
In terms of tag team work, Komander and Vikingo worked really well. They used each others bodies to assist in some spectacular moves, like the Plancha to the outside where Komander jumped off Vikingo's shoulders. They were also perfectly in sync, hitting both members of FTR with a simulations 450s from the top rope. I'd love to see more of these two in tag team action for sure.
#8 - Daniel Garcia
"Restore the Feeling" was Daniel Garcia's catchphrase going into his AEW World championship match with MJF on AEW Dynamite. After months of fans complaining about the WWEification of AEW, this match against two homegrown AEW talents, both under 30, for the biggest prize in AEW, was seen as a statement from the company that all isn't lost, at least not yet.
The match itself was hit and miss for some, with there being a confusing face/heel divide for the majority of the match. MJF being the biggest star, trying to get people to sympathise with Garcia, but to no real avail. The limb work involved, however, was good. MJF targeted the arm of Garcia, looking to tap him out with the Salt of the Earth armbar. Daniel took some time to get back into the match, eventually focusing on the troublesome knee of Maxwell, but it was too late into the match to do any good. This was a match that showed that Garcia still has a long way to go, but had all the tools to beat Max. Some great storytelling in my eyes, even if the match was structured weirdly from a dispositional aspect.
This wasn't the end of the week for Garcia, however, as he faced off with Andrade El Idolo on AEW Collision on Saturday. Although it was a match with few stakes and less of a story, Garcia still managed to inject tons of passion into this one and draw me into a hard-hitting and technical affair. During the match it hit me that both of these guys are very similar, both in the ring, and also in personality. There intensity often exuded at times by their dancing and or tranquility. Garcia got a much better reaction for the crowd this night compared to his title match, and that definitely kept the match focused, allowing for Garcia to show off his technical prowess like he hasn't been able to since his Danielson matches.
#7 - Mayu Iwatani
Mayu Iwatani graced the USA with her presence on Friday as she defended her IWGP Women's championship against one of Mexico's best Luchadoras in Stephanie Vaquer on NJPW STRONG Lonestar Shootout.
With only 10 minutes to work with both of these women put on an awesome match filled with stiff shots and highflying action, similar to the Rampage tag match I talked about earlier. The main takeaway from the match, however, was Mayu's insane bumps and selling. If you've seen a lot of Mayu then this isn't anything new, but to a Texas crowd (if you could call it a crowd) this was something many of them had never seen before so it created a great atmosphere, even in the quarter-full arena.
The match started with a lockup into the two trading wristlocks and headlocks, jockeying for position while throwing in a little lucha action too. Stephanie would take control after a Dragonscrew, Mayu selling repeated headbutts as Vaquer showcased her viciousness, with some face washes to boot. Mayu got back into contention with a nasty thrust kick and a crazy snap Dragon Suplex that sent Vaquer to the outside allowing the Icon of Stardom to hit a scary looking Suicida where Mayu went face first into the guardrail.
Vaquer would switch the momentum, nevertheless, countering a moonsault into a foot choke, followed up by a brutal German Suplex that landed Mayu right on her head, Mayu would gain back control and ultimately hit a nasty looking Moonsault, landing directly on Stephanie's head, getting the three count to retain her title. Like I said before, stuff like this is what makes Mayu special, especially when she comes to America, as not many wrestlers, let alone women's wrestlers, can bump like she does. It makes her one of a kind for sure.
#6 - Swerve Strickland
Swerve Strickland is this week's #6 after a blow away match against Penta El Zero Miedo on Dynamite this week. This came together after a weird segment with the Hype Man, Alex Abrahantes, challenging Swerve to a match on Penta's behalf, as Penta was a family man, disgusted by Swerve's antics in Hangman's house the other week. That aside, I was every excited for this match, and it didn't disappoint!
This was one of the most high paced and fluid matches I've seen in a while, and I've seen glimpses of this from Swerve in recent memory, most noticeably during his match against Adam Page at WrestleDream. They moved from spot to spot with ease while also giving the match a bit of grit with hard chops and strikes placed throughout too. The innovation was great as well, with Swerve doing the stomp to Penta has he was dangling off the apron with his feet stuck in the ropes. It's stuff like this that keeps me interested in a match, after having watched so many. This makes me super excited for Hangman vs Swerve in a Texas Death Match at Full Gear, as I'm sure those two will come up with some insane spots and story beats for the bout.
#5 - Zack Sabre Jr.
Another title defence at Lonestar Shootout was the highly anticipated match for the NJPW World TV championship, where ZSJ defended the title against one of the best in the world, Mike Bailey (who apparently watches 80 hours of TV a week).
Bailey came out the gate hot, hitting a lot of his signature offence relatively quickly, even going for the triangle moonsault to the outside and connecting. Zack managed to put a stop to another drive to the outside, grabbing Speedball's leg as he was running the ropes and giving him the old neck twist on the apron before taking control inside the ring. From then on the match was very back and forth with Bailey and Sabre getting off some blistering chops.
Bailey would try and take advantage of his superior striking skills, while Zack would do the opposite, catching Speedball out, and trapping him in submissions. This made for an unpredictable match where the momentum could flip on its head at any moment. One of the more pivotal spots was when Zack got his knees up when Bailey went for his standing moonsault double knees, causing both of them to fuck up their knees for the rest of the match. This affected Bailey a lot more than Zack, as his offence is primarily leg and foot based, making them a prime target for Sabre from then on.
At one point Sabre had Speedball in a knee bar on the apron, but Bailey taunted him into a striking contest, allowing him to get up and hit the moonsault double knees on the apron, and hit a corkscrew from the top rope to the outside too. That's when the 3 minute warning was called and they took the match up to the next level with crazy reversals, roll-ups, and pinning predicaments, Zack only getting the submission win by breaking Bailey's little finger.
This was such a great match and one that you can look at to define the whole identity of both Zack and the NJPW World TV title.
#4 - Shingo Takagi
The main event of Lonestar Shootout was a great NEVER Openweight title defence, as the champion, Shingo Takagi, retained over a very game Trent Beretta in a 25 minute war.
This was definitely the most physical match of the show, with a classic NEVER Openweight fight that just lacked a little bit of speed, otherwise it would have been one of the best matches of the year for me. Shingo didn't take Beretta lightly, and in turn Trent went all out to win the title and prove that he is championship material, something that he hasn't managed to reach since AEW started back in 2019.
The match started rather slow, akin to the IWGP Women's title match earlier in the show, both men exchanging holds and moving slowly into a more hard-hitting encounter with great forearms, shoulder tackles, and lariats, especially from Takagi. Beretta took it to the outside with a moonsault, grabbing a table right after that he would eventually Death Valley Driver Takagi through later in the match. Shingo hit some really big moves in the match, which I was surprised to see, like Stay Dream which Beretta kicked out of for a shocking near fall. This was quite late into the match too and it perked me up at 4:30am for sure. The finishing stretch was great with loads of brilliant near falls from both, and Shingo looking like he was in real peril at points, trying everything to make the audience think that he could lose the match.
I think that if it wasn't for the random match-up that was clearly a filler defence before Wrestle Kingdom, this could have become a MOTYC for sure, but it just missed the mark for me, through no fault of Shingo or Beretta.
#3 - Jonathan Gresham
Heading over to Impact Wrestling now, and Alex Shelley successfully defended his Impact World title on Thursday against Jonathan Gresham. This time, however, Gresham had a different attitude. Maybe someone glossed over his PWI number again? I don't know, but he certainly played the heel in this match.
Gresham and Shelley had a great technical match as you might expect, but the former definitely had some underhanded and sometimes illegal tactics he used throughout, sprinkling them throughout the match, which eventually built to a thrilling finish. Gresham targeted Shelley's left knee with dropkicks, submissions, and chops, even ripping down the champ's kneepad to inflict even more damage than normal. He also unwrapped his wrist tape, throwing it to the mat and then low blowing Shelley while the ref was distracted picking it up. There was loads of little things like this that sold me on a heel Gresham, stomping on the foot, grabbing the nose, and kicking the ropes into the throat of Shelley, all the time making Shelley angrier and angrier.
More work on Shelley's leg through picture in picture allowed for some great selling from the champ, and some clever tactics from Gresham to get Shelley to damage his own knee even more. I've talked about pinning sequences earlier, but this match had by far the best one, flowing cleanly between each pin for a solid 3 plus minutes of technical mastery before Shelley managed to connect with the Shellshock for the three count. This was one of the best Impact matches of the year and was a much needed reset for Gresham's character in the company after his feud with Bailey that didn't really lead anywhere. Highly recommend you seek this one out.
#2 - Konosuke Takeshita
Going into Takeshita's match against Chris Jericho at DDT's big Ultimate Party 2023 show I was expecting a good match for sure, but I didn't expect it to be this good. Jericho really brought his A-game in this one and kept pace with Takeshita for the most part, only looking gassed in the final few minutes. The only real problem I had was Jericho picking up the win, but that's a rant for another day.
This was a super physical match, with Take dolling out big lariats, shoulder blocks, and forearms that rocked Chris each time, but Jericho fired back some of his own too. At one point Jericho ducked a knee from Take, who spilled out to the outside, quickly hopping back on the apron only to get dropkicked by Jericho who followed it up with a massive dive to the outside from the top rope. Take got of some really big moves of his own too, like a Blue Thunder Bomb from the top rope and Tope con Hilo to the outside.
It was a very back and forth match with loads of great counters that I was surprised Jericho was able to keep up with, especially the electric chair into the Hitodenashi driver and countering the Takeshitaline into the Codebreaker. The whole match was full of spots like these and it took the bout to the next level. It showed that Take can lead a match effortlessly, helping even the biggest of wrestling stars look even better than they normally do.
#1 - Chris Brookes
To cap off DDT's Ultimate Party, two long time friends faced off in the main event for the KO-D Openweight title, the champion, Chris Brookes, vs Yuki Ueno.
This match reminded me a lot of the Golden Lovers match for the same title back in 2012, as both men went all out against one of their closest friends in the world with hard strikes and massive moves. A Moonsault from Ueno off the entrance way to the floor basically kicked off the match after an opening wristlock sequence, before brawling out in the crowd where Brookes put Ueno through a table. It's obvious that Brookes wanted to continue to take things to the next level and push Yuki to his limit. It felt like he was encouraging him to reach his full potential, daring him to take his title. It worked. Ueno got stronger and stronger as the match went on, firing up through striking exchanges and kicking out of massive moves.
This meant that Brookes also had to step up his game. He rose to the occasion, finding multiple ways to transition into the Cobra Stretch, putting even more pressure on Ueno, as well as planting him on the apron with a Tombstone Piledriver before trying for a Praying Mantis Bomb, but getting it reversed into a hurricanrana off the second rope to the floor (also reminiscent of Omega/Ibushi). Because of all of the passion between the two by the closing quarter of the match it felt like a real struggle, with both guys on the same level, fighting for survival. Ueno would kick out of the Praying Mantis Bomb twice, as well as a super Praying Mantis Bomb which Brookes does from a sort of Razor's Edge type position on him shoulders. Ueno would ultimately get the win with the WR, a move that you have to see for yourself because I can't explain it to be honest.
Overall this was one of the most important matches of both men's careers, as Chris was not only trying to prove himself as a champion in the company, but also prove that Ueno is as worthy of holding the belt as he is, no matter the outcome. I think they definitely achieved that. This is certainly my favourite DDT match of the year.
With week 45 in the books lets so how its changed the leaderboard: