Worker of the Week: Week 8
Updated: Mar 1
A week which saw one of the most historic wrestling shows of all time in Keiji Muto's retirement show, also gave us some great tag team action, and two great Impact shows. This is one of the more condensed lists so far, but still packed full of great performances!
-Kaito Kiyomiya (Kazuchika Okada vs Kaito Kiyomiya, NOAH, 21/2)
-Tetsuya Naito (Keiji Muto vs Tetsuya Naito, NOAH, 21/2)
-Wheeler Yuta (Orange Cassidy vs Wheeler Yuta, AEW, 22/2)
-Matt & Nick Jackson (Young Bucks vs Aussie Open, AEW 24/2)
-Hiromu Takahashi (Hiromu Takahashi vs AMAKUSA, NOAH, 21/2)
-Miu Watanabe (Rika, Miyu, Shoko, & Yuka vs Mizuki, Arai, Miu, & Maki, NOAH, 21/2)
#10 - Evil Uno
Not quite reaching numero uno on this weeks list, but picking up one point, is Dark Order's Evil Uno!
In his first single's Dynamite main event in his career, he took the fight to Jon Moxley in a all out brawl in order to show his dedication and prove himself, not only to his friend Hangman, but the audience as well. Coming out the gate hot, Uno rushed Mox in the corner with forearms, and chops. Catching Moxley with a Big Boot, Uno started to whip Mox with his vest, and bit his forehead showing how evil he really was.
After a massive senton from the top rope to the outside, Mox managed to bait him into returning to ringside, allowing Mox to throw Uno head first into the steps busting him open. This set up the spot which gets the leader of the Dark Order one point this week. With blood streaming from his head Mox got Uno into a choke hold and squeezed the blood out of him like a ketchup bottle, but Uno tried to stand up and power out of it only for Mox to rotate the grip into the Bulldog Choke and put a vicious Evil Uno to sleep.
It was a short, but very important match for Uno, in which he really didn't lose as his whole goal in taking on Mox was to get Hangman to realise that he doesn't need protecting and he just wants to stand up for his friend even if no-one believed he could.
#9 - Josh Alexander
Another great title defence from the Impact World champion Josh Alexander, in what is undoubtedly one of the best reigns that belt has ever seen, facing his long time friend Rich Swann.
The match heavily focused on the dichotomy of the two competitor's styles, with Alexander's technical wrestling prowess against Rich's speed and highflying ability. Josh worked over Swann's leg the whole match, grinding him down with the Ankle Lock in between stiff strikes and big moves. The match saw some great and innovative counters from both, but the crossbody from Alexander while Swann was mid handspring cutter was probably the best of the whole bout.
The final sequence was really good, which was needed after a fairly slow pace for most of the match. It saw even more capitalisation from Alexander on Swann's Phoenix Splashes, with Josh moving out the way and locking in the Ankle Lock for a great looking submission attempt, but it was a quick counter of the challengers handspring cutter that led to the second C4 Piledriver of the match, finishing off Rich's chances at claiming the title and added to the historic reign that Alexander can now continue.
#8 - Orange Cassidy
Orange defended his All Atlantic title against former stable-mate and "bestfriend" Wheeler Yuta on Dynamite in a surprisingly awesome match to kick off the show.
Orange showed his technical abilities more than ever before in this match, taking it to the ROH Pure champion with an amazingly fluid pinning sequence at the start of the match and using Yuta's own seatbelt pin on him for a nearfall. After Claudio came out to fire up Wheeler, Orange didn't back down and matched Wheeler's intensity, taking forearms and chops with his hands in his pockets.
After an extended beat down by Yuta in picture in picture, which Cassidy sold brilliantly, Orange got back into the match after several attempts by countering a German Suplex into a pinning predicament for a two count, and getting some space between himself and his challenger. They traded forearm strikes before a double down and Orange managed to backdrop Wheeler on the apron followed by a DDT on the outside from the apron and one in the ring for another nearfall. Slipping out of the seatbelt pin from Wheeler, Orange hit an Orange Punch, a Beach Break (for another two count) and one last Orange Punch while Yuta was on his knees for the three count.
A great display of determination from Cassidy with great selling and storytelling between the two former friends.
#6 & #7 - Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis
Aussie Open had their first tag team match on AEW TV on Friday, and it was a dream match that many people have been clamouring for for years, verses the Young Bucks!
The Aussies started off by blindsiding Matt Jackson and taking out Nick with a massive uppercut from Davis, but it's short lived as Matt manages to escape both Mark and Kyle to get the tag. Davis showed off his agility with a cartwheel, only to powerslam both Jacksons at the same time, showing off his incredible strength too.
AO also showcased their vast array of tag team moves, which is definitely something that sets them apart from other tag teams. They did their classic sandwich of their opponents, running round ringside with them in a bearhug position and smashing them together on the other side of the ring. Individually, Mark hit a massive chop on Nick in the ropes that sounded like its cracked at least one rib and got a massive pop from the crowd. Kyle showcased his amazing selling and bumping, flying around the ring like a ragdoll and taking most of the offence from the Bucks.
Davis came in with a massive lariat to Matt to take control of the match and showcase more tag team offence before they traded finisher evasions and strikes. After the lights went down due to the House of Black, Matt and Nick were distracted, allowing for Aussie Open to hit the Coriolis, but Nick came in for the save at the last second. The finish was amazing, with Superkicks to Davis and Kyle being placed in a Tombstone position on his shoulders and the Bucks kicked the legs out from Mark making him plant his partner on his head. A BTE Trigger would finish an amazing match which was probably the best tag team match of the year in my opinion (the AJPW World Tag Team Title match earlier is the only one I could see being better).
I gave Kyle the extra point because he took all the offence and took it amazingly, but both men had a great showing.
#5 & #6 - Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin
Two tag team entrants this week, with the Motor City Machine Guns having two great matches! One on Impact's weekly TV show against Mike Bailey and Jonathan Gresham and the other, a six-man tag team match with KUSHIDA vs the Bullet Club team of KENTA, Chris Bey, & Ace Austin at No Surrender.
Their match against Gresham and Bailey was a highly technical affair as one might imagine with the competitors involved. Shelley started it off against Gresham, who worked on Alex's leg before Sabin came in for the save and they got momentum back on their side. Shelley sells the leg wonderfully the whole match, trying to help Sabin with double team moves, but having to take breaks on the outside to recuperate.
Shelley couldn't catch a break in the ring, however, with both Bailey and Gresham finding ways to attack the leg I'd never seen before, like a Navarro Death Roll on Shelley while hitting a Falcon Arrow on Sabin. Shelley tried to run the ropes, but the leg couldn't hold up, allowing for Gresham to hit a Springboard Moonsault and lock in a Figure 4 leading to an innovative spot when Bailey hits his standing Moonsault Knee drop while Alex was sill in the hold, but kicked out at two.
Honestly there's so many cool spots and intricacies to this match that you really have to watch it to get a good understanding of the work all these guys are putting in and by the end the action becomes too fast to call.
The six-man tag was also a lot of fun in a very different way. Lots more highflying in this one with Bey and Austin helping KENTA to one of his best matches in quite a while. With KUSHIDA and MCMG, reforming Time Machine, they dealt out some fun trios offence. Sabin had a cool high spot, taking out all three members of Bullet Club with lariats before hitting his signature Tope Suicida wiping them all out again. He would accidentally wipe out his own teammates after this, allowing KENTA to take the advantage and for Ace and Bey to hit an Enzi into a Blue Thunder Bomb. Time Machine managed to get the advantage but a flash pin from Ace, aided by some defence from KENTA and Bey, got Bullet Club the win.
#3 - Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey is back again at the number three spot, picking up 8 points this week. Along with the tag match against Motor City Machine Guns, Bailey also had a great match with Gresham on the Countdown to No Surrender the day after.
Another match with contrasting styles, Bailey used his speed and striking while Gresham lived up to his name as the Octopus with submissions and intelligent offence. Similar to Shelley and calling back to his run in the Jersey J-Cup which i've covered in this series before, Bailey sold the leg after Jonathan would reaggravate the injury he caused in the first round of the J-Cup.
Bailey would continue to power through the pain and use the left leg despite the injury, which allowed the Octopus to take advantage of it even more. A prolonged Figure 4 submission saw Mike sell very well with a desperate attempt to get to the ropes showing great resilience before hitting a Spanish Fly out of nowhere when Gresham came running at him. Getting into another striking exchange Speedball continued to use the left leg to blast Gresham with kicks, but in a throwback to the day before, Bailey couldn't run the ropes with his leg and got hit with a Springboard Moonsault from Gresham. A fun exchange of dives on the outside led to Speedball hitting his Springboard Moonsault to the floor, but landed badly on his leg.
In the ring he tried the spinning kick into the corner but the leg buckled and Gresham took advantage. After dodging an Ultima Weapon, Gresham rolled up Speedball for the win, in a short but awesome match that's free, so go watch it!
#2 - Kazuchika Okada
Yet again we find Kazuchika Okada high on my Worker of the Week list, and this time its for a great match verses NOAH's top champion Kaito Kiyomiya in the Tokyo Dome!
Both men were very heated going into it after the amazing angle on Wrestle Kingdom Night 2 brought the fire out of Okada, which is what Kaito wanted. This was a big mistake on Kiyomiya's part, however, because as it did get him the big match he wanted, Okada was in a different zone, mentally, on the 21st.
This was probably Okada's most aggressive match, delivering a brutal German Suplex off the bat and then a powerslam on the outside of the ring before throwing Kaito over the barricade. He tried the Rainmaker early, hitting the pose less than 5 minutes in, which was more to aggravate Kaito than anything else. After taking a fair bit of offence from the Supernova, Okada and Kaito trade kicks and Dropkicks, then a spinning tombstone. He tries the Rainmaker but gets a knee to the arm instead. Kiyomiya hits multiple Dropkicks on Okada's right arm from all angles leaving Okada crumpled on the floor, Okada even tries to block a Shining Wizard with the Rainmaker arm, but would end up eating another one anyway.
The finish came when Okada tried another Rainmaker, this time met not with a knee, but a Shining Wizard and a Tiger Suplex for a two count and then countered another Shining Wizard into the Landslide and a Rainmaker, but he pulled Kaito up at two and hit the Enzi, Cobra Flowsion, and a final Rainmaker for the win.
This was a completely different Okada match from the norm, which is many people's gripe with his matches. It showed that he can change up the atmosphere of his matches if he needs to, and that a heel Okada is something we very much need in the future. A great condensed match that blended aggression and modern strong style pro wrestling.
#1 - Keiji Muto
#1 couldn't have been anyone else this week. Keiji Muto retired last week in the Dome against Tetsuya Naito in an epic of a bout that blew away my expectations.
Starting with the entrance, having all of Muto's entrance themes playing before he came out was spectacular and the crowd was deafening when he came down the ramp. The match was slow, but purposeful. His ability to get the crowd invested in a match with zero working knees is awe inspiring and the teases of the Moonsault were some of the tensest moments in a wrestling match I can remember. A lot of people found the teases a bit annoying since he didn't actually go for one, but I think its metaphor for the whole match itself.
Muto was known for "fake" retirements and I felt like these teases were actually him thinking about whether this would be the "final" match (the Chono match afterwards doesn't really count). Him stepping down from the top rope the second time seemed to me like his decision to finally hang up the boots.
Overall not the highest workrate of matches, but one of my favourite retirement matches of all time, with Naito helping the 60 year old legend to a classic match to cap off a legendary career. The Chono match afterwards was definitely the cherry on top too, having his first and last match against one of your best friends is something that doesn't happen very often in wrestling and something that he will undoubtedly cherish forever.
Here's the updated leaderboard after week 8: