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Worker of the Week 52

Wow we're finally at the end of the year. Doing this series of articles has been tiring, but very rewarding. Putting the entire world of wrestling into a 10 minute piece every week is something I've wanted to do ever since Jack the Jobber of Cultaholic did his wrestler of the week series, and now I can say I've done the same! I hope the people who've read even just one of these posts has come away with a match they've watched specifically due to this, because that was the goal when I started.


Anyway, the final week of 2023 was somehow one of the best of the year, and the good stuff wasn't always in the most obvious places either. AEW ended their amazing Continental Classic tournament at World's End on the 30th, giving us possibly the best match of the tournament in Kingston vs Moxley. Christian Cage and Adam Copeland also had their fiery No DQ match on the show, which was one of the highlights of the show. Stardom ended the year strong with multiple great matches on their Dream Queendom show on the 29th. On the same night Zack Sabre Jr. returned to Premier Promotions in the UK to face off against Jordan Breaks in the most cozy, heartwarming, and innovative matches of the entire year!


 

Honourable Mentions:


- Volador Jr. (Volador, Dorada, & Atlantis Jr. vs Averno, Templario, & Soberano Jr., CMLL, 25/12)

- Kris Statlander (Kris vs Blue & Kris vs Nightingale, AEW, 27/12 & 30/12)

- Saori Anou (Saori Anou vs MIRAI, Stardom, 29/12)

- Andrade El Idolo (Andrade vs Volador Jr. & Andrade vs Miro, CMLL & AEW, 29/12 & 30/12)

- Daniel Garcia (All Star 8 Man Tag, AEW, 30/12)

-Christian Cage (Cage vs Copeland, AEW, 30/12)

- Samoa Joe (MJF vs Samoa Joe, AEW, 30/12)


 




 

#10 & 9 - Utami Hayashishita & Saya Kamitani



Kicking off the final week of 2023 is Stardom's Goddess of Stardom tag team champions AphroditE, Utami and Saya. The two won the vacant titles at Nagoya Big Winter at the start of December, and had their first defence of the titles this week against Odeo Tai's Momo Watanabe and Natsuko Tora.


These teams went all out in this match, and it was a much needed performance from AphroditE who had both been injured during the 5 Star GP earlier this year. Their tag team moves were on point, and they looked better than ever. They were building the match well, with Tora and Momo being great heels in the match, dominating the champs, but also selling well for the comebacks.


The chemistry was there, but there was also an unfortunate botch late in the match when Saya mis-timed a pin break up by quite a margin, which kinda threw the match off and gave away that the champs were retaining. Nevertheless they got back on the horse and had an amazing finishing sequence with great near falls and the champs retained.


 

#8 - Maika



The main event of the Dream Queendom show saw Maika finally win the World of Stardom title after Tam Nakano had to relinquish it due to injury (yes there were a lot of injuries in Stardom in the past months). She faced off with the 5 Star GP winner, Suzu Suzuki, to determine the new champ and it was really good match to cap off the show.


This match started fairly tame with the two doing the classic Stardom brawl around ringside, throwing each other into chairs and so on, but once they got into the meat of the match the passion and intensity from both women really started to show, especially from Maika, who's been chasing this spot ever since Giulia lost the red belt to Tam Nakano earlier in the year.


The pairing of Maika and Suzu is a very good one in my opinion. Maika having the power advantage and proficiency in big power moves to take advantage of Suzu's size, but Suzuki's superior striking and kicks helped to neutralise that strength difference, putting the two at a even playing field. The pacing of the match was high throughout the middle and end of the match and the two traded big suplexes and strikes in classic Stardom main event fashion. Suzu even hit a top rope Superplex on Maika for a great near fall near the end. Maika realised near the end that Suzu's stamina was too much for her and she needed to end the match sooner rather than later if she wanted to finally win the title, so she busted out three Michinoku Drivers in a row to get the three count, holding the red belt aloft to send the fans home happy.


Her former tag team partner, and recently retired wrestler, Himeka, came to greet her after the match, which was a great moment. Maika even used her finisher (the running powerbomb) in the match as tribute. A great way for Stardom to end their 2023.


 

#7 - Dan Tamura



Moving over to AJPW now, and although the company is going through a scare of departures, the in-ring product has been better than it has in a long time. One example of this amazing work was the AJPW Jr. Heavyweight title match at AJPW's ManiaX show on the 31st. This saw the champion El Lindaman take on the Junior Battle Of Glory tournament winner Dan Tamura.


This match was actually quite similar in dynamic to the Maika vs Suzu match I just talked about. Tamura had the strength where as Lindaman used his agility and highflying to knock Dan off his game at points. Lindaman knew this and targeted the arm of Tamura throughout the match to neutralise his lariats which are his biggest weapon. The intensity was really good in this one, but there were some points where I think it got to Tamura's head a little and no-sold in some spots, but as he was winning it didn't take away from the match flow too much.


Lindaman and Tamura's chemistry was good and this match served as a great blow off to Tamura's assentation in the junior leagues of not just AJPW, but the whole country of Japan.



 

#6 - Megan Bayne



Speaking of hard hitting matches, next on the list is Stardom's Megan Bayne, who faced of with Giulia on the Dream Queendom show in an attempt to wrest control of the NJPW STRONG Women's Championship, which she came very close to doing.


Megan is a beast of a woman in America (you might have seen her on AEW Dark last year) so when she made her way to Japan she became even more of a monster compared to the Stardom roster. Even Giulia, who is one of the taller women in Stardom, was dwarfed by Bayne's size and that was the main focus of the match throughout.


Megan threw Giulia around like a ragdoll for most of the match and looked like the final boss of wrestling because of it. Her athleticism, strength and body control allowed her to do some spectacular moves, whether it was the Moonsault from the top, or the devastating flying clothesline near the end, Bayne proved that she's got something not a lot of people in wrestling can compare to. Giulia's selling was obviously pivotal in getting this over, and she did her job to perfection.


Giulia did manage to come out with the win in this one, however, putting Megan to sleep with a choke, using her technical ability instead of the Glorious Driver or the Northern Lights Bomb. This was Bayne's best match in her career in my opinion, and while her charisma still needs work I think she's going to be a big star wherever she goes.


 

#5 - Katsuhiko Nakajima



Katsuhiko Nakajima is #5 this week after his much anticipated rematch against Kento Miyahara resulted in him retaining the Triple Crown championship in a brilliant match. The two main evented AJPW's final show of the year and Nakajima brought out all the stops. Not just in the ring, but for his entrance too.


Nakajima came out to Antoni Inoki's theme, flanked by Hisashi Shinma (New Japan's first president), and with a Snoopy bathrobe on to top it all off. Is attitude was more horty than ever before and it looked like he knew he had this match in the bag before the bell even rang. Well, he wasn't wrong.


This wasn't too different from their first match in 2023 as the cold hearted offence of Nakajima contrasted perfectly with Miyahara's charisma, making for some great comebacks for the challenger. Nakajima would spend the match targeting Miyahara's arm, kicking it at every chance he got, even kicking it mid lariat while his back was turned. Not only did this stop Miyahara's lariats, but it also made locking in the Shutdown Suplex and difficult task for Kento. This led to some great sequences down the stretch with tons of drama, Kento having to rely on his Blackout knee strikes instead.


Nakajima would eventually make Kento tap after getting him in a brutal looking armbar in a shocking victory, confirming that he's sticking with the company at least of a little while.


 

#4 - Jon Moxley



Jon Moxley made it to the finals of this year's Continental Classic after defeating both Jay White and Swerve Strickland in the Gold League final on Dynamite. this meant that he made his way into AEW Worlds End to meet his long time friend Eddie Kingston in the finals for all the gold. I'll talk about the Dynamite match in this segment and get to the finals when I talk about Eddie.


As three way matches go, this final was one of the better ones, especially for a TV match, where they can often be short and leave less room for the wrestlers to get their shit in per say, so the match loses some storytelling to accommodate this. This wasn't the case, however, as all three men called back to their previous matches in the tournament. Swerve trying to roll-up Mox and pull the tights in the process (how Moxley beat him), and Jay going back to Mox's leg which he worked over in their match.


Moxley was the glue in this match, keeping the spots flowing while also selling brilliantly for both of the younger guys. I think the other two had more stand performances in this match, but Mox was his usual, brutal self in this one, hitting nasty lariats and forearms throughout. This and the final bumps Moxley up on the ladder, giving him the #4 spot this week.


 

#3 - Bryan Danielson



Bryan Danielson also made it to the finals of his group (blue) and faced off with one of his most hated rivals in AEW, Eddie Kingston.


Danielson was the perfect heel in this match, and I mean perfect. He did so much to help Eddie get over with a crowd that went into the match 50/50, a lot of them chanting "He's a bum" at Kingston, to them to being 100% behind Kingston by the end. Bryan hit his kicks as hard as ever, generating so much sympathy for Eddie that when Kingston fires up in Danielson's face and hits a single, rib shattering, chop, the crowd erupted as Dragon fell to his knees in the middle of the ring.


Danielson tried his best to get in the head of Eddie like he has in the past, but this time Eddie wasn't having it. He was so close to winning that he was entirely focused on the physicality and the broken orbital bone of Danielson, which he worked throughout the match when the opportunity presented himself. He landed right on Bryan's face when reversing a Superplex, for example, thus allowing him to land multiple Urakens and finally the Powerbomb for the win. Beating Danielson for the first time in his career.


Danielson was outstanding in this match and the perfect foil for Kingston on his road to complete his dream of becoming the Triple Crown Champion of America.


 

#2 - Zack Sabre Jr.



Zack Sabre Jr. came into the final week of 2023 with a sleeper up his sleeve. His match with Jordan Breaks at Premier Promotions was an absolute JOY to watch. Seriously one of the matches I've enjoyed watching the most this year. From the incredible in ring work to the uniquely British crowd. The kids were screaming for low blows, the women shouting their love for ZSJ, the town lads trying to get over their convoluted chants, and the old grandads just sitting back and taking in the graps. It truly felt like everyone there was having the time of their lives. Hell, even the camera man was popping for some of Zack's beautiful reversals and counters.

The in-ring work was fantastic, starting off as the friendly one of encounter it was, the promotors happy to have Zack back for a show after the pandemic. The mat work was crispy and incredibly innovative off the bat, but it was the end of the second round (oh yes this was a British rounds match, 2/3 falls) where things started to get a bit heated. Zack would keep on a submissio for a few seconds after the round ended which pissed off Breaks and from there the intensity of the match increased. They started throwing more strikes down the stretch and Zack would get the 2-1 win over Jordan with the first and third fall given to him through some gracefully performed pinning predicaments.


This match showed that the classic British wrestling style is still an enjoyable product, and with guys like Zack modernising it, he's proven that there's an audience for it. Jordan Breaks also gave a brilliant performance as is one to look out for in 2024.


 

#1 - Eddie Kingston



Eddie Kingston is this weeks #1 and I don't think there's ever been a more deserved placing in this list. Kingston made an epic comeback in the Continental Classic, starting the tournament with two losses and then winning every single match to make the finals at Worlds End on Saturday.


This final against Moxley was certainly the match of the night, and many people's match of the tournament. The atmosphere was unlike any other match on the card and it was down to the sports based product of the tournament and also the story Eddie has told throughout it, taking on his biggest and most difficult opponents in his career. Claudio, Danielson, and Moxley.


The match itself felt like a real fight, at I'm pretty that at some points it was. Eddie and Mox circled each other to start, keeping their distance and taking their time, getting off kicks and strikes when they got to close to each other. Eventually they made their way to the mat where Kingston tried to lock in the Bulldog Choke that ended his hopes at being the AEW World back in 2020. It was an unexpected segment of the match to me, but both men grappled a rough, ready, and believable stretch before Eddie started to bring the match back up to strikes and high spots leading into the final stretch of what was a short (compared to it's importance) but perfectly paced match.


Eddie came into the final stretch with some big near falls already under his belt. Multiple Urakens and a Northern Lights Bomb kick out by Mox, but this didn't deter him, and he pressed on into a flash finish as a sudden slap exchange led to Eddie slipping in a final Uraken and the one two three. Eddie Kingston is the new American Triple Crown champion!


This felt like such a massive win, even if it was an obvious outcome. It's something that is clearly so close to Eddie's heart and seeing him earn his way to the level of his idols felt rewarding to the fans, let alone Eddie himself. An emotional way to end 2023.


 

Well. There you have it! Bryan Danielson is officially the Worker of the Year! It was an amazing year for him despite his multiple injuries. Perhaps that's what made it so good. Dragon's passion for wrestling is incomprehensible, and it shows in his work all year. From the fantastic Dynamite match against RUSH, to his first match against Kazuchika Okada, and finally this incredible Continental Classic run, there's no doubt that Bryan Danielson is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live. And to be honest, you didn't need this list to tell you that.


Thanks for reading!



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