King vs. Kidd, Cardona Contrast | Best of the Rest #1

In 2021, the gap between US wrestling’s top two and the rest widened, with the industry’s current runner-up producing their strongest year yet. As many of you will know, I covered much of that in Fleet Files, a series that tracked the second half of AEW’s monumental 2021. Now though, my focus shifts elsewhere, examining the other ‘national’ promotions. Now, let’s stop right there and clear some things up. Indeed, GCW is the actual third promotion in more ways than one, this series is not suggesting otherwise.

Instead, I am simply focusing on the weekly TV products as that’s what’s best for this particular format. Basically, consider this a slightly loose guide to the other promotions producing weekly TV, one that’ll ideally allow you to add an hour or two of wrestling to your week. Our four promotions, for now, are IMPACT, MLW, NJoA and NWA. Now, those four brands are clearly in very different predicaments and in fact, there will be some talent crossovers along the way too.

Either way, each week I’ll list the top four matches, segments and stars before settling on the best show itself. In the end, one promotion will stand tall and so will one talent but that’s a long way away so let’s get started with a series that seems destined for failure! Indeed, let’s find the Best of the Rest!

Match of the Week

The week’s four best matches, regardless of promotion or show.

  1. Eddie Kingston vs. Gabriel Kidd – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 8/1/22

Number one with a bullet, this is about as watchable as pro wrestling gets. In not even thirteen minutes, Eddie Kingston and Gabriel Kidd achieved a whole lot here, going to war and trading violent strikes until the former closed the show. In fear of being hyperbolic, this is the kind of match that in an ideal world, you’d build a territory around. The bruising veteran, Kingston battered Kidd but ultimately, elevated him greatly along the way. An unsurprising triumph from one of the world’s best, and an impressive showing from Kidd too.

2. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Mercedes Martinez – IMPACT Wrestling 6/1/22

The much discussed and debated IMPACT women’s division came through nicely here, featuring a strong television match between Deonna Purrazzo and Mercedes Martinez. The latter has recently signed with AEW but closed out her brief IMPACT stint in fitting fashion, producing a typically fiery performance opposite the cerebral former champion. Purrazzo was excellent here, working with an edge that sold the Hard to Kill main event better than any promo ever could. These two got some time and maximised it, producing the standout match on in-ring at least, a steady episode of IMPACT Wrestling.

3. Aramis, Black Destiny & Myzteziz Jr vs. Arez, Dinamico & Skalibur – MLW Azteca 6/1/22

The opening match on the premiere of MLW Azteca, this swiftly set the tone. In fact, this actually set a standard that I thought the rest of the show failed to match, but it was a hit nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t perfect and had its issues but ultimately, was a smart stylistic choice that quickly gave this programme its own flavour. Six young wrestlers showing what they can do in a chaotic trios match, with Aramis and Arez shining brightest.

4. La Rebellion & Homicide vs. Jax Dane & The End – NWA Powerrr 5/1/22

Relying on Homicide’s somehow unfading popularity, this week’s NWA Powerrr main event did the basics well enough to earn the final spot here. This wasn’t anything spectacular but frankly, had some life to it that unfortunately, wasn’t exactly present beforehand. This was spirited, I guess is my point, with Homicide mostly selling and giving the heels some room that thankfully, they quite competently filled. That portion set the stage perfectly for La Rebellion’s dynamic comeback, sprinkling some tandem offence in and confirming this bout’s place as the week’s fourth best.

Segment of the Week

The week’s four best segments, from backstage interviews to in-ring brawls.

  1. Matt Cardona Interview – NWA Powerrr 5/1/22

The only true triumph on a show that should be filled with promo standouts, Matt Cardona was the clear highlight of NWA Powerrr. This was perfect, with Cardona dismissing the nostalgia-fuelled NWA and ideally, setting the stage for his oncoming NWA World Title reign. Cardona is fresh off a remarkable 2021 and seems perfectly positioned to build on that moving forward, featured prominently in a range of roles.

2. 5150 Pre-Tape – MLW Azteca 6/1/22

The outlier on a programme packed with bad attempts at recapturing that famed Lucha Underground magic, this was effective pro wrestling. I always loved the LAX act and it probably goes understated just how well the last revival went but I must say, this was certainly encouraging regarding the latest incarnation. This was produced in a fashion befitting the gimmick’s origins and Rivera especially showed enough personality to set himself apart also. Good stuff from the tag champs.

3. Chelsea Green & Matt Cardona Sit-Down Interview – IMPACT Wrestling 6/1/22

Though not nearly as brilliant as his effort on Powerrr, this was still another win for Matt Cardona. With Chelsea Green by his side, Cardona played the traditional babyface, combining with Green for a strong sit-down interview. I think this act is infinitely more interesting on the other side of things but even here, they’re effective, especially when armed with some worthwhile content like they were on IMPACT. Nice segment, neatly assisting a match that probably needed the help.

4. W. Morrissey – IMPACT Wrestling 6/1/22

While I understand the ongoing dismissal of W. Morrissey as a national promotion’s top guy, I think his general performance has been undeniably impressive. Namely, his promos, a puzzle piece that Morrissey showed flashes off in WWE. That’s been truly cemented in IMPACT though, being a consistent strength that is steadily separating Morrissey from the pack. Divisive as his overall ceiling may be, Morrissey can really talk and this was a nice example of that, adding genuine depth to this character.

Star of the Week

The top four stars of the week, excluding talent signed to the big two.

  1. Matt Cardona

This speaks for itself, with Matt Cardona earning two of my three favourite segments of the week. Better yet, Cardona is portraying completely contrasting personas on these shows, but feels like a standout star on both. I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them just how impressive this run of Cardona’s career has been, but his effectiveness can be lost in a vacuum. Truly, watch the content surrounding him, especially on Powerrr, and you’ll see why Cardona is trending in the right direction.

2. Gabriel Kidd

A worthy dance-partner opposite one of the world’s absolute best, Gabriel Kidd had a breakout performance against Eddie Kingston. Don’t get me wrong, he was impressive against Jonathan Gresham too but stylistically, this was something else. The oldest play in the book really, giving a talented but raw young wrestler a chance to show his heart, bravely challenging the older, wiser warrior. Hopefully Kidd can build on this, he’s certainly up to the challenge once the bell rings.

3. Deonna Purrazzo

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Deonna Purrazzo’s work since losing the IMPACT Knockouts Title. Purrazzo has added a real edge to her game, temporarily distancing herself from the pure wrestling stylings that she’s known for. This week’s match with Mercedes Martinez was rough and physical, but stayed close enough to Purrazzo’s comfort zone to showcase her strongest skills. That was most clear in the finish, spotlighting Purrazzo’s slick grappling as she scored the sudden submission win.

4. JONAH

While I didn’t actually love the match with Jake Something, I thought I’d give a nod to JONAH here in the final spot. I’ve never been a big fan but I must say, his general presentation has impressed me in IMPACT. In this role, JONAH finally feels like an actual monster and thankfully, his performance is mostly up to the challenge thus far. There’s an aggression to JONAH, a confidence that’s been previously absent in my view. Combining the match with the brawl that followed, I’d say this was a nice episode for JONAH.

Show of the Week

The week’s television shows ranked in order, from best to worst.

  1. NJPW Strong

In fear of being negative, this particular placement is probably telling. Outside of the main event, NJPW Strong was around 30 minutes of fine pro wrestling. Not bad, don’t get me wrong, just steady stuff that didn’t do much to excite or inspire. Then Eddie Kingston arrived and transformed the whole programme, cementing it in the top spot with just over twelve minutes of pro wrestling excellence. ‘The Mad King’ and Gabriel Kidd deserve the credit here, producing something a tier above the rest, singlehandedly securing this position for NJPW Strong.

2. IMPACT Wrestling

If nothing else, IMPACT Wrestling was a pretty effective go-home show and with some solid wrestling too, that was more than enough to earn it the second spot. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t really expect too many swings in quality from IMPACT, who have their playbook and generally produce consistent television, for better or worse. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Mercedes Martinez wasn’t alone either, with a handful of neat enough television bouts around it. Throw in a Masha Slamovich squash match and ultimately, you have a success.

3. NWA Powerrr

Finally making their return to YouTube, NWA produced a…well, vaguely inoffensive edition of Powerrr. By that I mean, there really wasn’t much embarrassingly bad content and deep down, I still enjoy the format in a broad strokes sense. Unfortunately, there aren’t many impressive players left onboard and so, the familiar system isn’t quite as effective as you may recall. Worst of all, this was a rather bloated episode, taking away NWA’s always appealing shorter run-time. I don’t know, maybe I’m being harsh but there just wasn’t much here, barely a hook in sight sadly.

4. MLW Azteca

To be clear, I understand that this isn’t totally fair. This isn’t MLW’s full-time, flagship programme and as far as I know, Fusion or something resembling it will soon return. If and when that happens, I’ll be covering that as the MLW product but for now, this is what I was working with. Now, it also doesn’t help that I was embarrassingly unfamiliar with much of the talent featured here, so hopefully those disclaimers make this placement an easier pill to swallow. With all that being said, I thought this was quite bad, unfortunately.

The Top Talent

The top four talents thus far, ranked by the best match, segment and star categories above.

  1. Matt Cardona – 10 Points
  2. Gabriel Kidd – 7 Points
  3. Deonna Purrazzo – 5 Points
  4. Rivera – 3 Points

The Top Territory

The four promotions’ performance thus far, ranked by the best match, segment and show categories above.

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 9 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 8 Points
  3. NWA Powerrr – 7 Points
  4. MLW Azteca – 6 Points

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