Azteca Rebounds, Nemesis Concludes | Best of the Rest #4

Unless I’m mistaken, this is the final week of both MLW Azteca as well as NJPW Strong’s Nemesis event. With that will obviously come change but first, we have an NWA problem. No, not the lack of talent, exposure or buzz but rather, the fact that this week, there is no episode of Powerrr. Instead, PowerrrSurge takes its place. After looking at both line-ups, I’ve decided to cover NWA USA for just one week only as quite frankly, the alternative feels like an absolute lock for last place…hmm, I’m sure that’ll age well.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Jake Something vs. Chris Bey – IMPACT Wrestling 1/27/22

Just like two weeks ago against Laredo Kid, Chris Bey kicked off IMPACT in style, sharing a tremendous opening match with Jake Something. It’d be unfair to say this was a surprise considering the talent involved but I must say, I was delighted to see them given so much room to fill. This didn’t feel contained or measured and instead, was an explosive, daring opening bout. Must say, I’m not sure how I feel about Bey taking another loss but his performance speaks for itself, with Something not far behind him in that regard.

2. AAA Mega Title: El Hijo del Vikingo (c) vs. Aramis – MLW Azteca 1/27/22

After three frustrating editions, MLW Azteca finally fired back this week, with El Hijo del Vikingo’s AAA Mega Title defence stealing the show. Battling Aramis, this was a showcase of the spectacular, with both men making the absolute most of their relatively brief runtime. This wasn’t a restrained teaser either, as they pretty much swung for the fences, including an especially insane dive from Vikingo. This was the series’ best match by a distance and for those unaware of Vikingo in particular, a great glance at his immense ability.

3. Alex Coughlin vs. JR Kratos – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 1/29/22

The final bout in the Alex Coughlin Challenge Series, this embraced the matchup’s natural story. Without a win thus far, Coughlin shocked the world in his final attempt, toppling the destructive JR Kratos. This was an easy dynamic that they conveyed comfortably, with both parties very much playing their part. Coughlin’s fire was palpable and if nothing else, Kratos is a believable fit as the villainous monster. This did the trick for me, also armed with a runtime that allowed this one to remain simple without overstaying its welcome.

4. Jay White vs. Christopher Daniels – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 1/29/22

I think there’s a world in which this is trimmed some and the result is a better match but even as is, this was a hit for me. Though Jay White’s control segment dragged slightly, this was simple pro wrestling done well, telling that familiar story of yesteryear’s contender trying to roll back the years. For the most part, Daniels did exactly that too, breathing life into proceedings with an awesome comeback that set the stage for a dramatic second half. In some ways, this almost felt out of place but personally, I found that to be more of a feature than a flaw.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. Bullet Club Attacks – IMPACT Wrestling 1/27/22

For all its strengths, IMPACT Wrestling’s television very rarely feels truly alive. It has its moments of quality, both in-ring and out but overall, everything feels strikingly sterile. That’s the case for a range of reasons, some of which are out of the promotion’s control but this post-match angle swiftly separated itself from the pack. I think that in some or fashion, we all roll our eyes slightly at Bullet Club’s continued existence but this thing certainly got over live. Jay White and the Guerrillas of Destiny received star reactions and for a moment, this programme’s limitations felt irrelevant.

2. Jay White In-Ring Promo – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 1/29/22

In recent years, Jay White has quite emphatically announced himself as one of the industry’s most compelling promos, really embracing his villainous persona. In truth, this wasn’t even a particularly strong effort but on that unique delivery and star-power alone, comfortably earns the 2-seed here. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much competition this week in terms of segments but either way, I liked White’s promo and think that at this point, his skill-set speaks for itself.

3. 5150 “Play Some Dice” with Cesar Duran

Nothing much here really but I’ve seen enough now to be confident in my initial appraisal of 5150. Their act certainly has some personality and that shone through here, overcoming the production’s scale (or lack thereof) and coming across as genuinely engaging characters. It’s not much but on these shows, it’s been very much appreciated.

4. Colby Corino Promo – NWA USA 1/29/22

I’ve always liked Colby Corino and though this was fleeting, it neatly encapsulated what he can bring. In the midst of a multi-man argument with second and third generation wrestlers, Corino felt an awful lot like his father here, bringing that familiar cockiness to the screen and for a moment, escaping his surroundings. Naturally, he was then attacked by George South while Raven looked on, but you get what you get, I suppose.

Star of the Week

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

  1. El Hijo del Vikingo

Whether you’ve watched a lot or a little, I’d imagine that by now, El Hijo del Vikingo’s reputation has reached you in some form or fashion. If not, this match is a good starting point, packing an awful lot in just nine minutes of action. Vikingo is spectacular, one of the world’s most eye-catching performers and a star that in many ways, felt greatly above this particular setting. He certainly didn’t wrestle that way though, producing a performance worthy of the sizeable hype.

2. Alex Coughlin

As someone relatively new to the Strong product, Nemesis has been an interesting event. Clearly, this product has ongoing arcs and stories but frankly, it appears that many of them are lost on this admittedly small live audience. That’s fine, an almost inevitable result of so much wrestling but even still, that trend only made Alex Coughlin’s effort more impressive. Over on arrival, Coughlin had the crowd on his side throughout, still telling the story well enough that his eventual win had the necessary gravity.

3. Jay White

Bringing his striking star presence to two shows, there’s probably an argument that Jay White belongs even higher but interestingly enough, he wasn’t my favourite half of the Strong main event. Perhaps that’s a compliment considering White’s commitment to the heel role but it doesn’t change what I saw, as ‘Switchblade’ turned in a steady but in my view, unspectacular showing against Christopher Daniels. Even still, his appeal is obvious in any and every setting at this point, charismatic enough to feel a constant cut above.

4. W. Morrissey

With his IMPACT World Title shot on the horizon, W. Morrissey won a handicap match that pit him against eight (or nine, depending on who you ask, apparently) men. Look, no matter how complicated this game can feel at times, I can only ever fall so far on plays like this. It’s a babyface contender slaughtering a whole army of goons, can’t argue with that really, and it earns Morrissey the final spot here.

Show of the Week

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

  1. NJPW Strong

Though undeniably dry, I’ve grown to thoroughly enjoy NJPW Strong. This format won’t be for everyone but I really do like it, three rock solid pro wrestling matches featuring a range of wrestlers. Better yet, this week’s episode featured two bouts that actually well exceeded the description of ‘solid,’ even if falling short of anything must-see or great. I don’t think this show is anything close to a necessity but again, it’s the most watchable hour that’ll exhaust you the least, an ideal addition to any fan’s week.

2. MLW Azteca

Honestly, much of the above description would probably work here too, but there is a slight difference. For the first time, I actually liked all three of this week’s matches but in-between, MLW does MLW things. For some, that’ll catapult it above Strong, adding some colour and spice but for me, it’s a distraction more than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the effort and actively enjoy 5150’s entries but ultimately, the goofiness detracts more than it adds for me. Even still, this was a great improvement for MLW, the best Azteca episode by a mile.

3. IMPACT Wrestling

After two borderline great episodes, I thought that unfortunately, IMPACT came back down to earth this week. This wasn’t bad by any means, but my issues with the Honor No More angle probably hamstrung my personal enjoyment of this particular show. To me, that stuff is an example of the product’s continued struggles in terms of format, relying on backstage skits that just aren’t for me. With that being said, this episode wasn’t without highs, absolutely nailing the opening segment or two.

4. NWA USA

Oh dear, I don’t know why I expected anything different. In all seriousness, NWA were slightly unlucky here, as MLW Azteca rebounded in a major way while Strong probably produced its most well-rounded week yet. NWA USA wasn’t awful or anything, neatly featuring Darius Lockhart and even hosting a sound main event but once again, the lack of quality control proved limiting. Whether it’s Powerrr or USA, there’s just too much bad on these shows for them to be reasonably described as “good” unfortunately.  

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. Jay White – 10 Points
  4. Jonathan Gresham – 8 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 51 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 29 Points
  3. NWA Powerrr/MLW Azteca – 20 Points

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