Worker of the Week: Week 6
With a slow start to the week a strong back half really carried it to a solid week of pro wrestling across the world. From the American indies to New Japan and AEW, we've seen iron-man performances, brutal, bloody, brawls and classic main event spectacles.
- Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki (Mizuki & Yuka Sakazaki vs Miu Watanabe & Suzume. TJPW, 11/2)
- Komander (Komander vs Mike Bailey & Komander vs Arez, GCWxJCW, 11/2)
- MJF & Konosuke Takeshita (MJF vs Konosuke Takeshita, AEW, 9/2)
-Jay White (Jay White vs Hikuleo, NJPW, 11/2)
-Tama Tonga (Tama Tonga vs El Phantasmo, NJPW 11/2)
#10 - El Phantasmo
Although ELP was unsuccessful in his NEVER Openweight challenge against Tama Tonga he still put on one hell of a performance in Osaka. After Jay emotional loss to Hikuleo, forcing him to leave Japan, a big win from ELP could have changed the history of Bullet Club even more that night.
ELP's use of the Style's Clash and attempt at the V-Trigger showed his commitment to his brothers, but Tama managed to foil many of his attempts in the ending stretch of the match, which is fairly apt since he split from the Club last year. The early stages of the match started slow, but Phantasmo picked up the pace with some amazing highflying moves like a tope suicida and his beautiful Moonsault from the middle of the top rope, which actually looked like it hurt a lot, with Tama shoulders being driven straight into the ramp.
Overall a shocking loss (to me at least), but a great match, even if it went a little bit too long for most peoples likings. The length was a slight problem for me too, but the message of the match was still there and made for an interesting state for Bullet Club to reside in after the show.
#9 - Jack Morris
This good looking guy from Scotland had his first main event GHC Heavyweight Championship match after beating the champ, Kaito Kiyomiya, in August of last year. A pre-match video showed Morris' passion and love for NOAH and wrestling in general with being GHC Champ on the top of his bucket list for his career. This video was really compelling and did have me wonder whether he could pull the upset at walk out of Edion Arena the new champ.
The match itself was a really well executed main event style match that proved Jack could hang at the top of the card, showing his fluidity and confidence in the ring. Although the match was slightly weaker compared to the other matches on this list there wasn't really anything wrong with it and the final stretch was brilliant. Morris' fighting spirit showing through and his believable near fall with the Tiger Driver really had me biting for a second which is a great sign for his future in NOAH and I hope he sticks around for a long time, because he can definitely be a top player for them if he keeps improving.
#8 - AR Fox
Fox and his teammates Top Flight put on an wonderful spotfest of a match against the Elite where he flew all over the arena. This is basically were all the points Fox is getting are from. His dives from the ring are just majestic and downright inhuman looking most of the time. His body control is one of the best in the business and he makes it look like he's floating through the air before hitting his opponents. He was also great while grounded too, with great superkicks interrupting the Elite's flow at multiple points in the match.
His little finishing stretch against Omega at the end was fun and the roll up finish really put him over as a threat to top guys in AEW. Not too much more to say other than he was a really good signing for AEW and I hope he can win the Trios championship at some point in his AEW career!
#7 - Hyper Misao
Misao and her tag team partner Shoko Nakajima made it to the finals of TJPW's Max Heart Tournament where they faced off against the formidable 121000000 team of Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita.
This was a big match for Misao and you could tell she knew this by the way she wrestled a much more serious style when it came down to the nitty gritty of the match. The start had a relatively serious promo from Misao hyping up the importance of the match before trying to use some kind of spray on Itoh, to no avail.
Misao was very calculated in this match, focusing on the arm of Maki and the leg of Yamashita to try and neutralise their signature moves. She dominated Itoh for a long stretch, grounding her and stomping her out in the corner, but when Miyu manages to make the tag she gets her mask knocked off and goes into rage and swings the Pink Striker's leg into the ring post before donning the mask once more. Misao was fairly absent from the match after this apart from double team moves and saving her partner, but her importance in the match cannot be understated and it showed a great side to her character we have seen very little of!
#6 - Maki Itoh
Maki was a lot more present in this match than Misao and was the one to win the match with a gnarly looking Itoh Special on Shoko after an amazing finishing sequence with near fall after near fall on Shoko, and Misao coming in for the save on a few occasions. Her urgency was amazing and the sprinkling of character in her ring work really makes her matches unique. Her and Miyu headbutting to fire themselves up is just one example of this.
Maki has improved so much and become more seamless in her transitions and her selling of Shoko's submissions were masterful. Hitting numerous DDTs on Nakajima and countering the 619 from the Big Kaiju led to the New Era Charisma locking in the Itoh Special, which closed what was a thrilling main event and final to the Max Heart Tournament.
#5 - Rush
Probably Rush's best match in AEW came when he faced off against Bryan Danielson in an attempt to stop the American Dragon's climb to being #1 contender and bag him a sweet bit of cash in the process.
Rush has been one of the top heels in AEW for a little bit now, having dominating performance against the likes of Christopher Daniels, John Silver, and Pentagon Jr. Not to mention his work in ROH. But unlike MJF his heat comes from his matches rather than his promos. I think he did a good job of keeping his heelish ringside antics at a minimum (like using the cable under the ring) and ramping up the aggression in-ring instead.
Rush controlled the majority of the match cutting off Bryan's comebacks and building the heat all the way until the finishing stretch were he and Danielson just chopped the shit out of each other in a awe inspiring striking exchange that capped off the most physical match of this week by far.
#4 - Shingo Takagi
Coming into this match as the face, Shingo put on another one of his classic performances in front of a raucous Osaka crowd that felt the closest it had been to a pre-pandemic crowd since, well, the pandemic.
Shingo was definitely on the back foot for most of the match getting his neck worked over by Okada for most of the match, which meant the the first 10-15 minutes were pretty simple in terms of moves and action. It was the comeback where the match got into the top gear that New Japan main events can get too, however. After getting his neck worked over Shingo came out on top from a striking exchange which allowed him to get back into the fight with a snap Made in Japan that really got the crowd, which is rare for his signature move.
The final moments of the match were magical with perfectly timed counters and strikes, with the fighting spirit of both him and Okada on full display. Shingo managed to reverse a Rainmaker into a Last of the Dragon for yet another heart clenching near fall, capping off a classic New Japan main event and giving Shingo 7 points.
#3 - Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey is one of the greatest indie wrestlers in the world today. Hell just wrestlers in general. On the 11th he had one of the best performances of the year so far, competing in 4 matches in the same night, getting to the final of the Jersey J-Cup, having banger after banger on the way.
His first match was against Jonathan Gresham (who he'll face again in a few week for Impact) and it was definitely the best of the four. Gresham worked Bailey's leg the whole match which Bailey sold exquisitely, both in this match and the three that followed. Bailey strikes did give him the advantage in the match and finished it off with the Flamingo Driver for the three count after fighting through the pain in his leg.
His second was against Komander who won his first round match against Arez. This match was all about Speedball grounding the luchador with strikes and then hitting his own highflying moves like the inside out Moonsault and Shooting Star Press in retaliation. Finishing the match by countering a ropewalk Shooting Star from Komander and, again, hitting the Flamingo Driver.
Third up was Blake Christian, who jumped Mike before the bell and relentlessly targeted the knee in a match were it looked like Bailey could legitimately lose. It was only by catching Christian off guard that he was able to hit the Green Tea Plunge for the win, but the match left him in terrible condition going into the final. Mike's selling this one really was the highlight in the match, which was fairly short, but demonstrated his ability to think fast and be opportunistic.
The final was against Jordan Oliver who would go on to win the tournament. The most competitive of the four, Bailey and Jordan went 50/50 with strikes and grapples and by the end they were trading big moves for late kick outs and countering each other like their life depended on it. Ultimately, Bailey's leg slowed him down too much and Jordan countered the Flamingo Driver into a roll up for a close two count, and followed it with a Cloutcutter and a Powerbomb to finally put Mike down for three.
A brilliant run from Mike Bailey who cemented himself as one the most important indie wrestlers in America today, and also gets him 8 points in my Worker of the Year series!
#2 - Bryan Danielson
Bryan back again with another banger in his final match on the road to #1 contendership on Dynamite. This one against Rush was one he'd been looking forward too for a long time, and you can see this in the way he wrestled and put Rush over as being one of the strongest wrestlers in AEW with this being Rush's third singles loss in the company so far.
The bout was a bloody, brutal, and brilliant display of selling and babyface fire from Danielson. It started with a fairly sports entertainy spot were Danielson had to break out of the medical room and run to the ring to avoid an MJF induced count out. While it was a bit goofy it did show the Dragon's passion and willingness to injure his shoulder even more to get to Maxwell.
Bryan got busted open early which added to the match exponentially, spilling blood all over the ring and even getting it on the cameras multiple times. This was such a visceral image to have throughout the match and really got viewers even more invested in Bryan's comeback later in the match. The comeback itself was really well done with Danielson having to hit multiple running knees rather than submitting Rush after he had basically dominated him for most of the match. Danielson's selling was the main focus on the match and he is by far the best in the world at garnering sympathy from the crowd, so this was a brilliant way to put over a new face like Rush.
#1 - Kazuchika Okada
The other half of the New Beginning in Osaka main event, the IWGP World Heavyweight champion had his first title defence since beating Jay White at Wrestle Kingdom 17 and it lived up to the hype.
Okada came into this match acting like a complete heel which is rare for the face of the company. Ever since his encounter with Kaito Kiyomiya he's had this mean streak that has undoubtablely changed how he acts in the ring. Okada was much more vicious in this match, focusing on Shingo's neck with the Money Clip. This aggression continued throughout the match, morphing into a different style as the bout picked up in pace.
A fired up Okada managed to match Shingo's strikes and lariats and go head to head with him after taking some significant offence from the challenger. It ended with a perfect counter sequence where Shingo managed to slip out of the Cobra Flowsion which normally signifies the end of the match, but gets caught by another Enzi from Okada leading to the Rainmaker and a successful first defence for Okada! 10 points to the king of Japanese pro wrestling.
Here is the Worker of the Year Scoreboard after week 6: