Worker Of The Week: Week 9
Here we are, once again, with another fantastic week for professional wrestling! This was easily the hardest list to compile as I really didn't want to leave people out, but I also wanted to showcase all the amazing performances from around the world, from the indies all the way over to Japan. This is why I'm now trying to have one wrestler per match on the list. "trying" being the important word this week.
-Maya Yukihi (Maya Yukihi vs Giulia, Stardom, 4/3)
-Claudio Castagnoli (Claudio Castagnoli vs AR Fox, ROH, 2/3)
-Taichi (SANADA vs Taichi, NJPW, 5/3)
-Strong Machine J (Shun Skywalker vs Strong Machine J, 5/3)
-Lucky Ali (Lucky Ali vs Colby Corino, DPW, 4/3)
-Jamie Hayter (Jamie Hayter vs Saraya vs Ruby Soho, AEW, 5/3)
-Riho (Riho vs Emi Sakura & Riho vs Toni Storm, AEW, 3/3 & 1/3)
#10 - El Phantasmo
Starting off the weeks list is El Phantasmo picking up one point with an outstanding performance against Tetsuya Naito in the opening round of the New Japan Cup.
Phantasmo came into this match with a fair amount of pressure resulting from the power vacuum within Bullet Club and high expectations from a good amount of the fans, even with such a tough first round opponent in Naito. ELP gained a lot of fan appreciation in the match pulling off amazing aerial maneuvers like a running crossbody from the stands and a precarious moonsault into the cramped Korakuen ringside from the top rope. He had Naito on the ropes multiple times during the match with the Thunderkiss '86, an attempt at the CR2, and the kicking out of a Destino before countering a second. He hit the Sudden Death but fell victim to the Polvo de Estrella from the L.I.J. leader, when Naito countered a second CR2 attempt.
Not one of El Phantasmo's best matches of all time, but definitely one of the best performances in his short time after moving up to the heavyweight division. Although I'm very sad at the outcome (and so is ELP), this showed that he can really hang with the best in the heavyweight scene in New Japan.
#9 - Ricky Starks
Starks secured his first PPV win this Sunday at Revolution, which also happened to be his second win over the legendary Chris Jericho!
The match was focused around Ricky's injured ribs and Jericho trying to exploit this using his heavily core focused offence like the Codebreaker, the Lionsault, and the Walls of Jericho. Starks sold well the whole match, powering through and delivering big moves of his own with his patented style and pizzazz, an amazingly timed Spear being one of them.
The finish was fun, with Jericho hitting Ricky's ribs with the bat, but then making the mistake of changing his plan and going for Stark's head with the Judas Effect, rather than continue to work the midsection. This resulted in an innovative block from Ricky, putting his arm up to block the elbow and landing the Roshambo for the three count!
A classic American PPV style match from Ricky that really cemented himself as a threat in the title pictures of AEW.
#8 - Giulia
Giulia defended her World of Stardom championship this Saturday against Maya Yukihi in an all out brawl, that caught fans off guard.
Maya brought the fight, but it was Giulia who started off hot, with kicks the face and a brutal Saito Suplex sending the challenger to the floor. This was where things got wild. The two women would throw each other all over ringside, into rows and rows of chairs, with Giulia only just making it back into the ring before being counted out.
One of my favourite quirks of this match was the fact that every time they tried to keep it in the ring they're eventually find their way back out because of the grittiness and hatred involved in it. The one time they do keep it in the ring Giulia tees off Maya with stiff headbutts, a triangle headlock and more Saito Suplexes, then getting a receipt in the form of harsh kicks in the corner from the challenger.
A headbutt and slapping exchange on the top rope led to both women falling to the outside where they traded massive table bumps which both looked lethal to say the least. The finish came when Maya stopped the champion from making it back into the ring before the 20 count, resulting a double count out. This was slightly disappointing but at the same time a fitting ending to this hate filled brawl for the red belt.
The brutal aggression on display from Giulia gives her 3 points this week, which is well deserved in such a stacked list.
#7 - Hazuki
Hazuki put on a spirited display on the same Stardom show as Giulia, fighting for the Wonder of Stardom championship and attempting to knock Saya Kamitani off the throne and claim the white belt for the first time.
This was a classic Stardom main event style match with Hazuki using her speed and kicking prowess to take Saya to the absolute limit in one of the most convincing attempts at the title in recent memory. Hazuki dominated for the first part of the match, hitting dropkick after dropkick, eventually getting Saya into a tight Yes Lock before the champ would gain control with a dropkick of her own. After a slingshot Crossbody to the outside from Saya the two traded Bicycle kicks in the ring which busts up Hazuki's nose and leaves both sprawled out on the mat.
Saya hits a Star Crusher and goes up for the 450 splash, but a fired up Hazuki would meet her at the top and deliver a skull rattling headbutt and plant the champion on the mat with a Superplex. A combo of big moves gets the Wild Heart a near fall and another Yes Lock forces Saya to the ropes. Codebreaker, top rope senton, a top rope Codebreaker, shear drop Brainbuster. None of them can put Saya down and the crowd are going wild for Hazuki, but it isn't enough. Hazuki lasts a fair while longer, kicking out of another Star Crusher and a Firebird Splash before two more Star Crushers would crush her dreams at becoming the Wonder of Stardom.
One of the best women's matches of the year and a all time performance from Hazuki giving her 4 points this week!
#6 - Brody King
Coming out of the AEW World Trios championship match at Revolution, Brody King really showcased himself to the wider pro-wrestling audience and left an impact in the trios division like no-one else.
Brody stood out the most in this match, contrasting the fast and highflying style of the Young Bucks and the striking proficiency of Buddy, Kenny, and Malakai. Taking multiple members of the Elite to take him down, King was one of the main reasons they were unable to retain their titles. Powering through the three at the beginning of the match, crushing Kenny into the barricade, chopping the hell out of Matt, and throwing Nick to the mat from the top rope.
On top of all that, the Elite just had difficulty executing any offence on King that wasn't a Superkick or V-trigger. He was an obstacle and a set back for the Elite every time they thought they were on a roll. Ultimately it would be the Dante's Inferno delivered by Brody that would end the match and capture the titles for the House of Black, so it's hard to argue that he wasn't an important part of the match.
#5 - Jack Perry
Taking out one of his biggest rivals in The Final Burial, he slammed the coffin door on his former mentor, Christian Cage, in what was a heated brawl that spilled out to all corners of the arena.
Perry wasted no time and rushed Cage from the bell throwing him around ringside before Christian tried to escape out into the crowd. Jungle Boy gave chase, catching him on the steps in the stands and forcing him to retreat while JB dowsed him in a fan's beer in the process. The spots on the stage and in the casket were the tensest moments of the whole match, with JB battling out of the coffin and the counters in the dirt right beside it having me wonder who would get the upper hand in the end. The submissions with the shovel and the dive from Jungle Boy to Christian below the stage added some mark out moments to the match too.
This was a perfect match for their feud and the finish really put a bow on the whole thing, seeing Jack hit the Conchairto on Christian with his mother and sister in the crowd, kissing Christian's forehead and sending him straight to hell.
#4 - Colby Corino
Ok, now I know you're thinking "who the fuck is this guy? Why not Kenny or Mox or Malakai?", but Colby Corino (son of Steve Corino) put on the performance of a lifetime in a Title vs Career match at DPW's You Already Know event which aired on Saturday.
DPW World's Champion Lucky Ali allowed Colby a title match, but only if he put something on the line himself. That was his DPW Career. The match was contested under "Carolina Warfare" rules which for a layman would be a DEATHMATCH! With his wife and kid at ringside, Colby would take the war to Lucky Ali for over 30 minutes with chairs, doors, and well... other things that you need to see for yourself. It was a fight of heart vs arrogance that resulted in some of the most brutal spots I've seen in a very long time (until the next day haha).
I will not be spoiling the outcome of this match because of any match I've talked about in this series, this is the one I want people to watch the most.
#3 - Adam Page
Speaking of brutal matches, Hangman Adam Page and Jon Moxley had one of the most violent and destructive matches in American history when they collided head to head at Revolution in a Texas Death Match!
Hangman coming out to "Riders in the Sky" was one of the best entrances he's had yet and it set the tone for the match going forward. Page came out the gate hot, attacking Mox before he could even get to the ring and threw him into the the barricade before exchanging forearms in the ring. A lariat from Mox took him down for a second, but he turned the tables on Mox when he shoved barbed wire into this face and stomped him out in the corner.
It was clear early on that this was not Hangman's match type. He tried to come up with ways to use the wire, but his attempts were futile and allowed Mox to take advantage, stabbing Adam with a fork. Repeatedly. Squirting blood everywhere. What the fuck.
Where Hangman really shined was his striking and ability to take everything Mox threw at him and use it against him. No matter what Hangman got hit with he always managed to beat the 10 count and come back at Mox with a big move using the weapons Mox brought in to increase the damage. The only thing Hangman set up himself was the barbed wire board at the base of the ramp.
The match really picked up the pace after Page got up from the crash to the outside through the barbed wire board. Mox nearly killed him with lariats and reversed a Buckshot into the Deathrider, followed by a stomp on the bricks and rear naked choke. Hangman powers out, a lariat to Mox who returns in kind, but a brick to the head of Mox, who wrapped the chain around him like Bruiser Brody, would lead to a Buckshot, then another lariat taking Mox over the top rope and hanging him in the process!
I think this match was one of the most important matches for Hangman in his entire career and definitely since winning the world title at Full Gear 2021. It brought back the Hangman both spiritually and literally, setting Adam up for what could be one hell of a 2023.
#2 - Bryan Danielson
Danielson came into Revolution with both the upper hand and the disadvantage. With the Iron Man match being one of Bryan's favourite stipulations, and him being a cardio god it seemed like he was easily going to outclass MJF in the ring (which was definitely true), but the injury to his shoulder gave Maxwell a very real chance of slaying the American Dragon.
The match started with Danielson embarrassing the champ on the mat, staying on top for the most part leading up until the first fall, where a Busaiku Knee took MJF off guard and left him down for the three count. Bryan could be described as "playing with his food" at this point, locking in any submission he fancied at the time and displaying his comfort in the ring with some signature jumping jacks. It wasn't all Danielson, however. MJF would focus both the injured shoulder and Bryan's head, the two most vulnerable areas of his anatomy, that ultimately sealed his fate by the end of the hour.
After getting hit by a low blow from Friedman and losing two falls in quick succession, Bryan had to start focusing on Maxwell's knee, countering the Heatseeker and wrapping the knee around the ring post. MJF would not take this lightly, however, and he brutalised Danielson putting him through the ringside table, busting him open. Losing a third fall really put him on the ropes, but Bryan's will to win saw him hit a diving headbutt to bust Max open too! Danielson hit the Busaiku again, and submits the champion at the 10 minute mark to tie the match once more!
The last 10 minutes was an intense submission exchange sequence with Danielson's fighting spirit allowing him to outlast everything Max caught him in. The two went hell for leather and just started beating the shit out of each other until MJF started to cry and Danielson laughed in an amazing visual which really told you who the real winner and loser was, regardless of who got that last fall. The 5 minute mark hit and they both got their second wind with Danielson getting MJF in a single leg Boston Crab in the last minute, but MJF managed to last the 60 seconds and tap just after the bell called for the end of the hour!
But then there was sudden death and Bryan seemingly had the match in the bag, with MJF being given oxygen in the middle of the ring, but his skill and passion got snuffed out when Max clonked him with the oxygen tank and tapped the American Dragon out with his own finisher!
Danielson was insane in this match, making everyone believe he could win even though MJF was clearly going to retain from a booking perspective. His selling and use of the matches before this one all added up little by little to create the kind of drama only excellent pro-wrestling can achieve. Quite possibly the greatest AEW match of all time, and one of the best matches of all time.
#1 - MJF
MJF had the performance of a lifetime against Danielson in the Revolution main event, working an unbelievable match and proving why he is, in fact, better than you and now you know it.
As I said before, MJF was outclassed in the ring in this match, but his cunning and intellect in the cheating department managed to keep him in the match, and never in too much peril points-wise. To attribute all his success to this would be negligent, however. Maxwell's focus on the left shoulder and head of Danielson was invaluable to him coming out with the win.
When Max wasn't throwing beverages over little kids, he pulled out some new and vicious moves to catch the challenger off guard, one of those moves was a scary Pumphandle Driver, similar to Swerve's JML Driver, that Taz sold perfectly on commentary. After superkicking Danielson to the outside a rare highflying move to the floor would reaggravate his left knee, giving him yet another reason to be afraid of Bryan. This showed when Max immediately went for roll-up after roll-up after small package after pinning combination that brought the crowd to their feet, but failed to keep Danielson off his!
After losing the first fall, he became even more desperate and this continued to escalate the whole match even when he was "in the lead". Once the challenger started attacking his leg even more he started to get angry and took things to the next level, putting Bryan through the ringside table twice. This was when the match really hit its peak in physicality and MJF being underneath for the rest of the match was amazing pro-wrestling, with everyone wishing for him to tap out and hand Danielson the belt. The way he used the ropes and got out of submissions was world class, having the fans on tenterhooks for the rest of the match.
I thought that the finish was one of the best I'd seen in a long time and put over both wrestlers brilliantly, with MJF managing to weasel his way to the win, faking out Danielson with the rope break and tap, into the oxygen tank shot and the win. Danielson looked like the final boss of AEW, never giving up, never backing down, and becoming the epitome of fighting spirit. Both guys made this match happen, but unfortunately MJF was the victor, giving him 10 points this week.
Here is the leaderboard after week 9: