Pure Rules, Powerrr Problems | Best of the Rest #3

After the best week in recent memory for IMPACT Wrestling, the polarising promotion has a familiar hurdle ahead. With relative momentum suddenly on their side, IMPACT simply has to build on this, rather than squandering it as we’ve seen in years past. Granted, that’ll be tough in some ways but in terms of quality, they at least appear positioned for success this week. Elsewhere, Strong’s Nemesis event makes its least appealing stop yet while MLW and NWA continue to struggle for their piece of this promotional pie.

Match of the Week

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

  1. ROH World Title: Jonathan Gresham (c) vs. Steve Maclin – IMPACT Wrestling 1/20/22

As good as Jonathan Gresham’s PPV bout with Chris Sabin was, it didn’t make much of the admittedly divisive Pure Rules. By contrast, this match maximised that, with Gresham producing an unsurprisingly spectacular showing against Steve Maclin. Tactically outmanoeuvring Maclin throughout, Gresham scored a memorable victory, further proving this presentation’s worth elsewhere. Speaking of such, Maclin’s consistency in IMPACT has been immense, with this maybe his finest hour yet. One of the world’s best battling one of the scene’s most underrated, this was a guaranteed hit.

2. Josh Alexander vs. Charlie Haas – IMPACT Wrestling 1/20/22

Though physically, Charlie Haas’ decline was apparent, he performed admirably in the IMPACT main event. Wrestling the promotion’s best in Josh Alexander, Haas delivered in my view, combining with the former champion for a gruelling, physical affair. Haas’ effort was especially impressive considering the concussion he apparently sustained along the way, perhaps enough to even earn him a sequel of sorts. Alexander’s work continues to speak for itself, the company’s centrepiece regardless of the top belt’s current owner.

3. Juice Robinson vs. Bad Dude Tito – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 1/22/22

This was my first time seeing Bad Dude Tito and with that in mind, I’d say that he was positioned to succeed. Wrestling Juice Robinson, Tito had a foe of some stature opposite him, allowing a style that suited both while sprinkling some star power along the way. It’s nothing new of course, but Robinson’s appeal is especially apparent in settings such as this. Armed with that unique charisma, Robinson’s in-ring range always separates him from the pack, right at home here as he traded strikes with Tito.

4. Fred Rosser, Rocky Romero & Taylor Rust vs. Team Filthy – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 1/22/22

Fuelled by the unwaveringly brilliant Rocky Romero, the latest Strong main event concludes this week’s best match listings. Romero’s connection with the live crowd put him on an alarmingly shortlist frankly, but it helped this match, as the long-time Junior Heavyweight stalwart took the heat and seamlessly got the audience involved. This one wasn’t without flaws, featuring a few messy moments but ultimately, achieving what it needed to as the main event of a show that probably exceeded my relatively low expectations.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. Jacob Fatu Vignette – MLW Azteca 1/20/22

On yet another dismal show, this was the sole highlight. In fact, this may not even belong in the top spot but considering what surrounded it, I was without any real choice. This had to be rewarded as the programme’s lone hit, with Jacob Fatu telling his story as a return to action approaches. This was superb, humanising the savage that dominated this promotion for years. Simple pro wrestling done pretty much perfectly, adding depth to a destroyer that after losing his title, now needed exactly that.  

2. Tasha Steelz In-Ring Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 1/20/22

I’ve always been high on Tasha Steelz but now more than ever, it’s increasingly feeling like her time. Steelz opened IMPACT with an emphatic win over Chelsea Green, then cutting an in-ring promo as Mickie James watched on from commentary. The next Knockouts Title challenger delivered in a major way, bringing the confidence that’s made Steelz stand out since arriving on the national stage. Whether she’s the next champion or not, it’s hard to watch efforts like and not conclude that either way, gold is in Steelz’ future.

3. Matt Cardona Interview, Trevor Murdoch Interruption – NWA Powerrr 1/18/22

More of the same for Matt Cardona, who continues to lead the way on a programme lacking in genuine quality. Cardona is genuinely great here, dismissing NWA tradition and telling enough truths that his arrogance packs a punch. Unfortunately, Trevor Murdoch’s retort wasn’t without a stumble or two but overall, it sufficiently got the key point across. Look, this pairing obviously has its limitations and doesn’t exactly scream Starrcade but even still, they’re building it decently enough and in Cardona, NWA finally has a light at the end of this tunnel.

4. Juice Robinson In-Ring Promo – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 1/22/22

Again, there’s just something a little different about Juice Robinson. Bringing that wonderful weirdness to his every move, Robinson is a real outlier on these shows that at core, are mostly defined by sound but slightly dry pro wrestling. That’s fine, and basically the point, but it sure allows Robinson to stand out in terms of perceived star power. This particular promo wasn’t anything special, especially in terms of content but Robinson’s confidence spoke volumes, calling out JONAH as quite frankly, only he could.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Jonathan Gresham

Though not an IMPACT talent, Jonathan Gresham certainly isn’t signed to the top two either, so he’s a natural fit for the top spot here. Simply put, Gresham’s performance on IMPACT was just another example of his excellence, further cementing this still emerging ROH Title reign as something significant. Every single time that I watch Gresham wrestle, it’s impossible to have any conclusion beyond the obvious: this is one of the world’s finest pro wrestlers and right now, he’s in the absolute form of his life.

2. Tasha Steelz

In an opening act of IMPACT that was almost exclusively designed to heat her up, Tasha Steelz quickly proved herself to be very much worth that creative attention. The relatively short match with Chelsea Green made the absolute most of its time and as I said above, Steelz follow-up promo was an absolute home run. This division has been dominated by Deonna Purrazzo for eighteen months and honestly, rightly so but with this programme, Steelz threatens to break out of the pack and join that increasingly sparse top tier.

3. Steve Maclin

Further announcing himself as one of IMPACT’s most reliable workhorses, Steve Maclin again made the absolute most of his opportunity on Thursday. That’s been a trend, with this maybe the most obvious example yet, as Maclin adjusted to the Pure Rules and combined seamlessly with Jonathan Gresham. As expected, Maclin didn’t become the ROH World Champion but with the X-Division behind him, performances like this will be pivotal in bridging the gap for Maclin as he looks to maintain a featured role on IMPACT TV.

4. Juice Robinson

I don’t have much else to say about Juice Robinson other than simply put, it’s easy to forget just how much a guy like this has to offer. For a range of reasons, Robinson has somewhat lost his place in terms of overall wrestling relevance but in this setting especially, he can quickly remind you of his value. Frankly, I’m still not sure that Robinson has even scratched the surface in terms of his actual ceiling and depending on his career choices, that may remain the case but either way, he was thoroughly entertaining on Strong.

Show of the Week

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling

Well folks, so far, so good. Though this week’s episode of IMPACT wasn’t quite as triumphant as the last, it was still a clear cut above the rest. Frankly, it increasingly feels as though if IMPACT even somewhat maximises its resources, they’ll be dominating this process. Perhaps that’s not a surprise, but the results of a direct comparison haven’t been lost on me personally. These shows aren’t perfect, especially with those often ineffective backstage vignettes but there’s an awful lot to like along the way, including some great in-ring action as of late.

2. NJPW Strong

Honestly, this was an almost completely unremarkable edition of Strong but it was inoffensive which this week, secured them the 2-seed. Three fine pro wrestling matches, featuring a few familiar faces and perhaps more importantly, nothing of great frustration along the way. Instead, it was simply solid, the Nemesis event’s weakest episode so far but still more than enough to beat out Powerrr and Azteca. If nothing else, this show feels consistently watchable but I do think some quality control could produce higher peaks.

3. NWA Powerrr

In fear of repeating myself, there’s just not much here unfortunately. I enjoyed Cardona’s latest and thought Kylie Rae vs. Allysin Kay was a nice opener but overall, it’s hard to watch this show and leave it with any great interest in what’s next. Even the emerging World Title programme, it’s passable and at times, even enjoyable but there’s no hook, it’s just an hour of uninspired pro wrestling in a setting that admittedly, I love. I don’t hate this incarnation of Powerrr, I just wish it tried harder to be worth my time.

4. MLW Azteca

I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, as you probably know the deal by now. MLW Azteca is a programme with bad and/or unmotivated wrestling, also built around segments that at their absolute best, feel like cheap imitations of a prior product. It’s just not any good unfortunately but if nothing else, at least this episode featured the fabulous Jacob Fatu vignette. More of that, less of everything else.

The Top Talent

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

  1. Deonna Purrazzo – 13 Points
  2. Matt Cardona – 12 Points
  3. Jonathan Gresham – 8 Points
  4. Charlie Haas/Gabriel Kidd/Josh Alexander – 7 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 41 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 19 Points
  3. NWA Powerrr – 18 Points
  4. MLW Azteca – 12 Points

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