Another brilliant week for wrestling is in the books. Puro is off to a hot start to 2023 and AEW has been killing it the past few weeks too! WWE also gets some representation this week with a fun six way on Monday getting them on the board.
Honourable Mentions for Week 3:
-KUSHIDA (Darby Allin vs KUSHIDA, AEW, 18/1)
-The Young Bucks and Dante & Darius Martin (The Young Bucks vs Dante and Darius Martin, AEW, 18/1)
-Volador Jr. (Volador Jr. vs Rocky Romero, CMLL, 20/1)
-Motor City Machine Guns (Roppongi Vice vs Motor City Machine Guns, NJPW, 21/1)
-Mike Bailey (Mike Bailey vs Kenny King, Impact, 19/1)
Special Mention for Week 3:
Kazuchika Okada and Kaito Kiyomiya put on one of the best angles since the Rainmaker shock back in 2012. Kaito struck Okada in the head with a blindside kick during their tag match at Wrestle Kingdom 17 Night 2 and it lit the wrestling world on fire. Okada and Kaito beat the shit out of each other in one of the most convincing brawls I've ever seen. It ended up making Okada vs Kaito one of the most anticipated matches in recent memory, with both of them being their companies top champions.
#10 - Seth Rollins
Seth has been carrying the RAW brand for years, rightfully earning the moniker of the "Monday Night Messiah". Wait, does he even go by that anymore? Anyway. Seth was part of the six way main event on Monday Night RAW for the #1 contendership to the WWE United States championship which saw chaotic and fast paced action.
Seth was very much the X-factor in this match coming out of nowhere at multiple points in the bout to hit the Stomp and the Pedigree to drastically change its momentum, picking up 3 eliminations on The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, and Finn Balor. He took his fair share of punishment, however, falling victim to Tower of Doom style Superplex and ultimately taking the fall to Bobby Lashley after a hell of a lot of interference from Omos, Theory, and MVP.
Although the match wasn't as good as some of the others mentioned in this list, it was a really fun TV main event that WWE does really well with the right wrestlers, especially in multi-man settings. Seth was definitely booked the strongest in the match too, which never hurts.
#9 - Tetsuya Naito
After failing to main event the Tokyo Dome on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 17, Naito finds his place at the top of the card on the second night in Yokohama Arena facing off against one of his newest and most "hated" rivals, Kenoh. Even though Naito wasn't as bothered as Kenoh was about the whole situation.
The match was the last in a five match series between the L.I.J. and Kongo factions and with the two teams tied at 2/2, this was the decider. Naito started slow, taking his time to get into Kenoh's head even more than he already had before, rolling in and out of the ring. After taking quite a beating from Kenoh for his troubles, Naito finally managed to get back into the match with a Atomic Drop and the dropkick to the leg, getting in some more signature offence like the Combination Cabrón and Full Nelson with the legs, working over the neck. He would lose control for a second, unable to stop a barrage of kicks from the Kongo leader before getting his own back with brutal elbows to the neck and taking his time to gloat in-between.
Naito's attitude going into the match really didn't change much during the match which was a fun dynamic against the super aggressive Kenoh. He took the offence the on chin, knowing that he was in a class above even if he wasn't the striker his opponent was. It was only at the 25 minute mark where Naito started to go hard. Espiransa, Valentia, and Destino to finish off the NOAH menace.
A good showing by Naito, even though he did seem reluctant to push the match to the next level like he does with New Japan talent.
#8 - Kenoh
The other half of the Wrestle Kingdom 17 Night 2 main event is next. Kenoh was really good in this match as he brought the fire where it was somewhat 'tranquilo' in the opposite corner.
Not too much more to say on the match itself other than Kenoh's kicks were on point as always and he really had Naito reeling for large sections of it. They made Kenoh look like a threat even if Naito wasn't showing it himself. The finish was pretty much 50/50 until the very last minutes and Kenoh wasn't holding back with a Professional Foot Stomp getting a close two count.
He also competed on the Great Muta Final "Bye-Bye" show the night after in the same arena in a "Champion's Night" match where it was him and his Kongo stablemates against the team of the GHC Heavyweight, GHC Heavyweight Tag Team, and the GHC National champions. Which was a good fun match if not a classic. Kenoh's hatred for New Japan was still evident in this one too when Kenoh interrupted Satoshi Kojima's taunt with a stiff kick to the head.
Overall Kenoh had a solid week of both in-ring work and character progression which sets him apart from lots of other guys in wrestling and getting him 3 points on this weeks list.
#7 - Darby Allin
Darby Allin was also on the Great Muta Final "Bye-Bye" show, competing for the first time in Japan in the main event; Great Muta's final ever match along with his partner and one of Muta's greatest rivals, Sting.
On top of an amazing entrance, Darby was the main worker in this six-man tag team match, hitting Naomichi Marafuji with a missile dropkick from the top rope. He was working with some much older men so him getting in there and bringing the Darby experience to Japan was something worth watching this match for if you're not a Great Muta stan of any kind.
The main reason Darby gets to #7 on this weeks list, however, is his amazing TNT championship match against KUSHIDA on Dynamite. As soon as this match was announced I knew it was going to be an absolute banger and it didn't disappoint. The match was fast paced with a great technical and highflying wrestling which reminded me of a Best of the Super Jr.'s Final match in New Japan. Darby's selling of the arm was so well done that I though KUSHIDA was going to win at one point, so props to him and KUSHIDA for getting me into a match that easily. The only thing keeping KUSHIDA off the list is Darby and other guys having more than one match, but he would be on any other week.
#6 - Rocky Romero
Speaking of people who wrestled multiple matches this week, well, Rocky isn't one of them, but he did have two matches that were broadcasted this week (and that's what I base this list off).
First off, Rocky got a massive win over in CMLL when he beat the NWA Historic Welterweight champion Volador Jr. for the title in Arena Mexico in front of a rabid crowd. This was a really fun match as Rocky gets to play heel while in Mexico and release more of his lucha libre moveset than he normally does in New Japan. The match was full of insane dives and spots on the outside with Romero taunting the crowd the whole match through and taking big bumps to please them, all leading to him getting the upset win to use a perfect term.
His other match was a NJPW STRONG Openweight Tag Team championship match where he teamed with his good friend Trent Beretta to take on The Motor City Machine Guns which was the complete opposite in terms of the face/heel divide. MCMGs and especially Shelley were playing the heels and Rocky was the white meat babyface. After some joking around in the opening minutes this match really picked up and by the end both teams were stealing each others moves and sprinting to the finish like you would expect from an opening Jr. tag championship bout at the Dome.
Rocky has always been one of the most over-looked talents in the whole world, but I never expected 2023 to be his "breakout year", but it could certainly be that if he keeps up this level of performance.
#5 - Katsuhiko Nakajima
Katsuhiko Nakajima makes his first appearance on the list with his amazing match against Shingo Takagi at Wrestle Kingdom 17 Night 2. The best match on the show with some of the stiffest kicks in all of wrestling keeping Shingo on the backfoot for the vast majority of the match.
One of the most important kicks from Nakajima was close to the start when he kicked a prone Takagi right in the ribs, keeping the Rampage Dragon out of the match for a while, allowing Nakajima to play with his food for a little bit, kicking him relentlessly in the corner and taunting him with the "Showtime" double foot choke four times. Shingo would managed to rally back with multiple lariats before the two would be trading forearms in the middle of the ring in an awesome exchange, but in the end Nakajima caught Shingo with a nasty kick to the head. Shortly after he would hit the Vertical Spike Brainbuster for a scarily close near-fall, but Shingo managed to catch him with a flash Made in Japan, Pumping Bomber, and a Last of the Dragon to put down Katsuhiko.
As Kevin Kelly said on the broadcast Shingo Takagi "survived Katsuhiko Nakajima", and boy was he right. Nakajima looked and was presented like one of the most dangerous wrestlers in the world and he backed it up in the ring coming so close to beating the #1 contender for the IWGP World Heavyweight championship, but earning him 6 points, which is a more prestigious reward anyway.
#4 - Kento Miyahara
At All Japan Pro Wrestling's first Korakuen Hall show with cheering since 2020, Kento Miyahara (the current Triple Crown champion) and Takuya Nomura put their AJPW World Tag Team championship on the line against Yuma Aoyagi and Naoya Nomura in a brutal hard-hitting war lasting over 20 minutes!
This was a throwback to the days of 90s AJPW tag matches with the likes of Kawada, Misawa, Jumbo, and Kobashi. It was fast, stiff, and exciting with the submissions really adding to the match rather than slowing it down, because Kento was great at selling them. As well as this he made his opponents look, not only deadly, but clever in the process. Obviously Kento looked amazing himself, hitting clean Blackouts (bicycle knee strike), and snug lariats.
Kento really shone in the last third of the match where he was bumping like a mad-man for Aoyagi with near-fall after near-fall only hyping up the crowd more with each slap of the mat by the referee. This was a great example of how to put over an opponent and their abilities, but also a great example on how to get 7 points in my Worker of the Week list!
#3 - Yuma Aoyagi
Yuma was an absolute beast in that AJPW World Tag Team championship match too, hitting so many lariats and sinking in seemingly torturous submissions. On top of all this his movement in the ring was perfect, moving out of the way of Kento's Blackout's like he was dodging bullets, which not only made Yuma look good, but put over the severity of Kento's offence too.
The speed in which everyone in this match was going was amazing, but Yuma was particularly fast and one thing I appreciate a lot in pro wrestling is urgency. I could feel Aoyagi's will to win this match in every move he did, again, particularly in his submissions and most prominently in the closing stretch where he hit big move after big move to try and put Kento away.
Naoya Nomura and Takuya Nomura were also amazing in this match, but I gave the points to Yuma and Kento as they were the centre piece of the match. If I were to recommend one match to watch from the people in this weeks list it would 100% be this one. 8 points for Yuma!
#2 - Bandido
Bandido was the second match for Danielson in his makeshift #1 contendership gauntlet for MJF's AEW World championship, and it was one of his best matches to date. What makes Bandido such a great wrestler is his combination of power, technical ability, and his highflying offence. This match was heavily focused on his selling and comeback as the fans were so behind him from the very beginning.
Bandido came into the match with his shoulders and neck taped up, which was a big target for Danielson to attack, so for the first half of the match Bandido was on the back foot. He gained more and more sympathy from the crowd as it went on which added so much to the match. His struggle to the ropes while trapped in the LaBell Lock was perfect and set him up from an amazing comeback with the stalling vertical suplex, the modified G2S, then the 21plex attempt, which was amazing.
The final stretch was out of this world, with Bandido hitting the top rope moonsault bodyslam, if that move has a name? Then going straight into the furious striking exchange, hitting the 21plex for a two count and getting caught with the Busaiku Knee out of no-where to put him down for the three!
An insanely fast, technical, and highflying match that had something for everyone to enjoy. Bandido showed the world why he's one of the best in the game right now.
#1 - Bryan Danielson
One of the greatest wrestlers of all time picks up the full 10 points this week, as Bryan Danielson put an yet another AEW Dynamite CLASSIC this week.
Playing more of a heel role recently, Bryan has had AEW crowd rocking week after week with amazing matches like his one with Bandido on Wednesday. Starting the match with some high level technical skills he easily out classed Bandido even though he put up a good fight. Bryan tried multiple times to lock in the Romero Special, but sold Bandido's strength perfectly. The best spot of the whole match being when Bryan sat up in the middle of Bandido's stretch showing off some insane core strength.
When Bandido went to the sky's it was a different ball game, however. Danielson took lots of offense here, but it wasn't long until he found his way back to his own wheelhouse in the striking game with punches, kicks and chops. The end of the match was frantic with reversals and counter galore opening up opportunities to latch onto Bandido with submissions deep in the match.
Just an all time performance by both these guys, but Danielson proved to everyone that he is one of the best wrestlers in the world, like they needed reminding. We are very lucky to be able to watch Bryan Danielson in his prime.
Here's the scoreboard after week 3: