It was another massive week for wrestling this week as AEW had the biggest Full Gear of all time and DPW had their biggest show of all time, both airing on Saturday. A few west coast indies also made the most of the AEW PPV, having some big shows of their own. Impact finally aired one of the most anticipated matches in the company post Bound for Glory, as Will Ospreay faced off with Josh Alexander. AEW also had some really great TV matches this week. Ranging from a wild Like a Dragon Street Fight to Penta and Komander showing their lucha prowess in totally different matches. To cap it all off, Stardom's Gold Rush show had an awesome Wonder of Stardom title challenge as Saori Anou attempted to take the title from MIRAI!
- Komander & Penta El Zero Miedo (Komander & Penta vs Young Bucks & Komander vs Penta vs Cage vs Beretta, AEW, 15/11 & 17/11)
- Bryan Keith (Bryan Keith vs Mike Bailey & Bryan Keith vs Alpha Zo, REVOLVER & West Coast Pro, 16/11 & 17/11)
- Kazuchika Okada (Okada, Tanahashi, & Ishii vs Narita, Honma, & Taguchi, NJPW, 17/11)
- Dax Harwood (RUSH vs Dax Harwood & AEW World Tag Team Title Ladder Match, AEW, 17/11 & 18/11)
- Buddy Matthews (Matthews vs Wheeler & Matthews vs Castagnoli, AEW, 17/11 & 18/11)
- Chris Hero (Chris Hero vs Timothy Thatcher, WCP, 17/11)
- Chris Danger (Chris Danger vs Shawn Spears, DPW, 18/11)
- Emi Sakura (Toni Storm vs Emi Sakura & Emi Sakura vs Masha Slamovich, AEW & DPW, 17/11 & 18/11)
- Colby Corino (Colby Corino vs Lucky Ali, DPW, 18/11)
- Kris Statlander (Statlander vs Hart vs Blue, AEW, 18/11)
- Saori Anou (MIRAI vs Saori Anou, Stardom, 18/11)
#10 - Orange Cassidy
We kick off this week's list with Orange Cassidy at the number ten spot after his important and impressive victory over Jon Moxley at Full Gear. The two were fighting over Orange's International title and it was a match that was pivotal to Cassidy's character over the past few weeks. Moxley took the title from Orange back at All Out, but lost it to Fenix at Arthur Ashe, who in turn dropped it to Orange not long after. Orange didn't feel right holding the belt without beating Mox for it, however, provoking him on Dynamite weeks before Full Gear, setting up the match.
The match wasn't as good as the All Out match, but that's hard to top, and it's clear that this wasn't the intention for the rematch. Instead this match was pure story. Orange using all his signature offence, the Tornado DDT, the Stundog Millionaire, the Beach Break, and the Orange Punch. None of it could keep Moxley down, at least at first, but it wouldn't stop Orange from trying again and again and again. In between the champ's flurries of offence Mox would fire back hard. Brutalising Cassidy every moment he could, in any way he could, but again, Orange wouldn't give up.
Ultimately Orange knew he could beat Mox, and he had the tools to do so, it just needed more fire and determination out of him then ever before. He blasted Moxley in the face with SIX Orange Punches in a row, each one slowly wearing down the final boss of AEW, until eventually Orange did it. He pinned Mox in the centre of the ring and officially retained his International championship, but to him it felt more like regaining it.
#9 - Jay Malachi
Up next is a young man that you might have heard about in the wrestling news recently. The recently signed WWE star made his final indie appearance before making his way down to Florida early next year. Jay Malachi has been one of DPW's mainstays since the companies inception back in December of 2021, working his way up the card until he eventually achieved two of the most prestigious (well as prestigious anything in a two year old company can be) accolades in all of DPW in the same night, winning the DPW Carolina Classic tournament and beating Lucky Ali (also off to WWE) for the DPW World's Championship in a Carolina Warfare match.
But onto his match from this week at DPW's World's Strongest event from the Durham Armory, originally taped last Sunday, but airing on Saturday of this week. Malachi defended his title against Alec Price, one of the North East's best indie wrestlers. This was an extremely high paced match where both men went balls to the wall with dives, flips, and most importantly, cutters. With Malachi's finish being the Mala-Cutter, the majority of the match focused around him trying to find a way to land it, but Price being too quick or smart, avoiding it at nearly every turn. The match started, however, with Alec ramming Jay into the barricade, showing his aggression early on, which would only grow throughout the match as the crowd taunted him.
The first third of the match was similar to the classic "indie spotfest" that some people complain about, but the lankiness of both guys made it feel rougher and more dangerous than a lot of the planned high spots found in other versions of the match. The second was more gritty as Alec was outclassed in the highflying by a small margin, so would instead resort to chop and forearm exchanges, which he generally came out on the winning side of. This was when Malachi finally kicked into full gear, going for the Mala-Cutter again and again, finally landing it only for Price to kick out! A ref bump gave the match some added drama as Malachi got a visual pinfall on the challenger as the ref was down. An intense finishing stretch saw multiple great nearfalls from both men, but eventually leading to Malachi getting a second Mala-Cutter and the one two three to retain the title (which he would vacate after the match).
This was a great main event for DPW's biggest show ever and proved why Malachi is going to be one of the biggest stars in wrestling in only a few years time.
#7 & 8 - James Drake & Zack Gibson
Staying with DPW still as the Grizzled Young Veterans challenged for the Workhorsemen's DPW World's Tag Team Championships at World's Strongest. GYV recently defeated the champs at DPW's last event (DPW Live 3) in a proving grounds match after making a surprise debut at the show to take the opportunity and win, setting up a match for the titles.
This was a great match, with both teams working well with both their partners and their opponents. The Workhorsemen played heel and GYV worked well a faces even though they're obviously more suited to a villainous role based on past work. Henry targeted James Drake's leg early in the match, hitting him with a Dragonscrew in the ropes, as well as one from the second rope soon after. From there on this would be the main focus of the match with James taking a ton of heat from the champions. Henry, specifically, applied some gruesome submissions to the leg, which Drake sold perfectly, stumbling around the ring, unable to get any significant offence off or make it to Zack quick enough (MJF take notes please).
Gibson finally got the tag from Drake and came in like a house on fire, diving on JD Drake on the outside and taking out Henry with a pump-handle suplex before locking in the Shankly Gates and tagging in Drake for the Doomsday Device and an assisted Backbreaker for a fantastic near fall. The Workhorsemen would take back control, however, hitting a ton of tag team offence, this time with Gibson taking the brunt and James coming in to break up the pinfalls before making the tag. Anthony kicked his leg though, grinding GYV's momentum to a halt as James writhed on the mat in pain. JD threw one of the tag belts in the ring as a distraction, throwing in the other right after, allowing Henry to bury James' knee in it and for JD to hit the Drill Bit for the win.
This was a great match that had no down time, with James Drake playing a brilliant protagonist as he sold his leg perfectly throughout the whole match.
#6 - Kenny Omega
Over to AEW now, and Kenny Omega had an interesting week to say the least. His first match was a Like A Dragon Gaiden Street Fight, as AEW partnered up with SEGA to advertise the new Yakuza game in insane fashion. His second, a more meaningful and story based tag match against fellow Elite members, The Young Bucks, with Chris Jericho at his side.
The street fight was exactly what I wanted it to be as a Yakuza fan, and although it might have been too over the top for a lot of people, especially those who've never played any of the Yakuza series, it was a perfect encapsulation of the essence of the game. This was mostly Kenny's doing, as Jericho mentioned on the post Full Gear press scrum, and just for that alone I was going to put him on this list, but he also took some nasty bumps in the match. He got suplexed onto tables on the outside from the apron, and suplexed again onto a plastic palette too. Omega picked up the win as well, pinning Brian Cage with the One Winged Angel and seeming putting his beef with the Callis Family behind him (one would hope).
His Full Gear match was also great, although a lot of people weren't high on it at all because of the story with the Golden Jets. I share that sentiment, but you can't deny the in-ring work all four of these men put in, especially after following the Texas Death Match. I'll talk more about that match in the next section, however.
#4 & 5 - Matt & Nick Jackson
Before I get to the Full Gear match, the Bucks also had a great match against Komander and Penta El Zero Miedo on Dynamite, carrying on their tradition of facing luchadores in their home state. Unfortunately Fenix wasn't cleared for the match so Komander had to step in, but it was a brilliant match nonetheless. It was your classic Young Bucks spotfest, but that suits me very nicely. Everything was done to perfection with Komander and Penta taking some inspiration from New Japan's Jet Setters with the assisted Slingshot off the ropes into a crossbody. There were just so many amazing spots in this one, and it was capped off with Nick giving a low blow to Komander and Penta before getting the pin with the BTE Trigger. It set up well for the PPV match.
Speaking of, now its time to talk about it. Going into the match there was definitely a lot to live up too, as Kenny/X vs Bucks matches have always hit it out of the park, whether that's the Golden Lovers or Hangmega match. It's no lie that the Golden Jets partnership is not on the same level, emotionally, as those other two teams, so before the match even happened it was going to be hard to reach the same level as those. Even still, I think the match was very good, in both story and in-ring action. Jericho worked hard, as he has been ever since joining AEW, and the new heel persona of the Bucks is refreshing and arguably, the Jacksons at their best, even if the timing is less than satisfactory.
There was great intensity to the match, which is always the case with inter-elite warfare, and the heel tendencies of the Bucks led to some great moments, like Matt booting Kenny in the balls, which was something I wasn't expecting, even as they turn heel. The post match breakdown was fun too, if not a bit over the top, but then again it's the Young Bucks so that's kind of what you'd expect.
#3 - RUSH
#3 on the list is RUSH who had two awesome matches this week. The first on Collision against fellow hard-hitter, Dax Hardwo- I mean Harwood, wait he's "Dax the Axe" now? Ok whatever. This was a preview match for the Full Gear AEW World Tag Team title ladder match, which also went very hard, with some innovative and brutal looking spots and bumps.
The match against Dax was as hard hitting as used expect. RUSH started the match hot, throwing Dax into each barricade at full force, showing why he's one of the most dangerous wrestlers in the game right now. The majority of the match was chop exchanges which I'm never opposed to, especially when RUSH busted open Dax's chest with them. It was a really raw (not the show) match that demonstrated the efficacy of pure violence (something that would be taken to the next level just a day after). The no contest ending is a bit of a bummer, but it led to an amazing brawl between all the ladder match participants to hype up the match the next night
The World Tag Team title match had a similar amount of violence, but RUSH definitely works better in a more stripped back environment, just one on one. Not to say he wasn't brutal in this match either, but with the number of guys in it he was obviously going to be lost in the shuffle a little. That's probably why they gave him the singles match the night before. Regardless, the match exceeded my expectations, with innovative spots like Malakai slingshotting a ladder off the ropes into Cash Wheeler's face, and the Gonzo Bomb from Brody to Dralistico.
A great showing for RUSH this week that makes it obvious that he's going to get a big push in the future. Hopefully he's in the Continental Classic.
#2 - Will Ospreay
Next up is Will Ospreay, and some people might be asking why. Just because he signed to AEW means he gets on WOTY? No. Impact finally released the match Ospreay had against Josh Alexander the night after Bound for Glory, and it was a banger.
Yet again this was another match this week that revolved around an injured leg, and once again it was done perfectly (another one for you to study, MJF). Initially Alexander went after Ospreay's back, his moveset suited to it quite well, but midway through the match Ospreay came off the ropes awkwardly, tweaking his knee. Josh jumped on it at once, applying the Ankle Lock, Heel Hooks, and other leg based submissions to try and get a tap out win.
Ospreay battled through, but not without some major hurdles to overcome. Running was an issue for him, so a lot of his moves were either impossible, weakened, or required more effort that usual to execute. Ospreay sold this really well and it added some well needed drama to a seemingly throwaway exhibition match. He was struggling to life Alexander, and when running the ropes, collapsed multiple times. No match is a throwaway to Ospreay, which is why he's one of the best in the world. He went all out with Alexander and didn't miss a beat, eventually beating Alexander with a Stormbreaker after 20 minutes of intense action.
#1 - Swerve Strickland
What. A. Fight.
Swerve Strickland vs Adam Page, Texas Death Match, Full Gear 2023. I think it's my match of the year.
From Prince Nana's (Swerve's as well I guess) entrance to Hangman drinking Swerve's blood, to the 450 on Hangman's glass cover back, it was pure and beautiful malice. Two men who absolutely despise the other's existence and want to put the other in the grave, no matter the cost.
Swerve was brilliant in this match, keeping up with with Hangman's intensity throughout until near the end were he seems overwhelmed by Adam's will to win, his stamina, and his unending hatred. At this point he has to get in help from Cage, but that didn't work. His last hope was to take a trick out of Hangman's own book, and... well... hang him. What I liked most about the match, however, was how much they used the barbed wire chair. It was there from very early in the match, but made appearances throughout whenever one of the two found it in arms reach. Swerve used it for the Stomp, also to whack Hangman with while he was on the top rope, a bit of it catching on his face and ripping at the skin as Swerve pulled on it. Hangman also used to for the Orihara Moonsault to the outside, and as a projectile when he threw it right in Swerves face. It showed that these two didn't really have too much of a plan, and used whatever was at their disposal to inflict as much pain as possible. Obviously there was the cinderblock and the barbed wire board, but the chair was the main instrument of destruction in this one.
This was pro-wrestling at its rawist form. The primal origin of combat sports. The peak of wrestling in 2023 for me. No convoluted story. No bait and switches. No bullshit. Just pure violence, with Swerve coming out on top, obviously in pain, but feeling better than ever before. He proved to Hangman, he proved to everyone that he is the guy in AEW. He took Hangman's spot, plain and simple.
Leaderboard after week 42: