New Beginnings, Familiar Flaws | Best of the Rest #5

For some reason, I thought that last week was the MLW Azteca finale. Indeed, that’s probably indicative of my focus or lack thereof but you get what you get, I suppose. Anyway, NWA is building to a PPV of sorts this week while elsewhere, IMPACT’s No Surrender event is quickly approaching. NJPW Strong’s The New Beginning event begins this week also, featuring a TJP main event because for better or worse, good or bad, this is still professional wrestling.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Lio Rush & Rocky Romero vs. West Coast Wrecking Crew – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/5/22

On a show certainly not short on good pro wrestling, this was my personal favourite. Where the episode’s other two bouts stretched their content to its limits, this one was just about perfect in that regard. Fitting considering Rocky Romero’s presence, still one of the world’s most reliable in-ring performers. Elsewhere, Lio Rush looked as electric as ever while the West Coast Wrecking Crew shined. I’ve seen those guys a handful of times but never in a role like this and thankfully, they certainly delivered.

2. BULLET CLUB vs. Jake Something, Mike Bailey, Ace Austin & Madman Fulton – IMPACT Wrestling 2/3/22

Nothing ground-breaking in terms of content but an unsurprisingly well-executed multi-man match nonetheless. This formula has become awful familiar for Bullet Club members but in this setting, it felt somewhat fresh, also leaning on the relative star-power of Jay White and the Guerrillas of Destiny. Speaking of such, I really liked what this did for Chris Bey, who was brought up to their level after some recent TV losses. On the other side, ‘Speedball’ looked great and in an extension of recent trends, Jake Something wasn’t far behind him, either.

3. Clark Connors vs. TJP – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/5/22

I know, I know. Not only TJP, but TJP in a long main event match, sorry to hear that, etc. Honestly, agreed but as is often the case with TJP, I can’t pretend that this was bad, though it certainly was a little bloated. Seriously though, Clark Connors was great here and had the people firmly on his side. This was a nice main event and depending on your taste, could warrant an even higher position in truth.

4. Jonathan Gresham vs. Steve Maclin – IMPACT Wrestling 2/3/22

The sequel to their prior Pure Rules ripper, this was more of the same in a lot of ways, just without that predecessor’s all-time finish. Instead, this had a flat but fitting disqualification conclusion, though I still very much enjoyed the meat of the match. Gresham is in rare form right now, everything is clicking and looking slightly ahead, ROH couldn’t ask for a better centrepiece upon their return. As for Maclin, his consistently speaks for itself.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. Jacob Fatu Vignette – MLW Azteca 2/3/22

Once again, this was superb. I don’t really have much to add, I’d just say that of all the pro wrestling content I’ve watched through this process, there’s not a thing that I’d confidently recommend over these vignettes. Again, it’s nothing unique or staggering, it’s just good storytelling, adding depth to a character at exactly the right time. This could fit on any show at any time, actually good in a way that much of this content simply isn’t.

2. Kiera Hogan Sit-Down Interview – NWA Powerrr 2/1/22

Not dissimilar to the segment above, this was the basics done well. Now granted, it’s not quite as spectacular as Fatu’s effort but it’s still effective, packed with sincerity and once again, adding some depth. This was the kind of segment that adds momentum to a babyface chase, especially necessary when for better or worse, the end result seems obvious. Hogan reminded me of her value in this role here, returning to a presentation that seemed increasingly distant as she flourished as a villain in IMPACT.

3. Kenny King Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 2/3/22

Finally adding some edge to the mostly goofy Honor No More presentation, Kenny King was immediately worth his addition. With just one promo, King grounded this thing in ways that for all their efforts (or lack thereof), the others simply couldn’t. Before last Thursday, this whole programme felt awful prelim and while King isn’t the answer in terms of star-power, he quickly offered some solutions in terms of content. It wasn’t even anything different or new, the execution just made it feel as such.

4. Matt Cardona Post-Match Interview – IMPACT Wrestling 2/3/22

This was only brief, probably not even a minute long but while that may limit its ranking here slightly, I ultimately mean that as a compliment. This was good pro wrestling TV and while I rolled my eyes slightly at the match itself…or the finish at least, this filled in the gaps seamlessly as far as Cardona’s character. Dismissing any questioning of his wildly questionable tactics, Cardona quickly brought his GCW/NWA presentation forward, a necessary step for his IMPACT stint.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Jay White

There really isn’t much left to say about Jay White that frankly, more qualified onlookers haven’t already said. I will add though that once again, White’s presence in IMPACT continues to prove another point. If somehow, there were any doubts about how White would translate to traditional US TV, he silences any and every doubt in this setting. For all its strengths, IMPACT’s product isn’t a place where star-power shines through and yet, White doesn’t feel even slightly minimised. An absolute star, through and through.

2. Rocky Romero

Indeed, even in a match with three younger, fresher pro wrestlers, one of which being the spectacular Lio Rush, Rocky Romero remains outstanding. Why? Well that’s the thing really, it’s not quite as you’d usually expect. Romero shines in the most subtle of ways, he won’t wow you with acrobatics or innovation, especially not these days but he’s just so smooth, sound across the board. Those skills are timeless and ensure that even in 2022, Romero is an absolute pleasure to watch.

3. Clark Connors

The victor of this week’s NJPW Strong main event, Clark Connors made a real statement opposite TJP. His performance wasn’t perfect but that was part of the charm, especially considering his current status. Connors was aggressive, bringing fire and spite to a match that demanded exactly that, ticking all the boxes and maximising the audience’s already encouraging interest. I don’t know what Connors’ overall ceiling is but with efforts like this, he certainly belongs as a featured figure on Strong in 2022.

4. Kenny King

Look, there are probably more qualified wrestlers for this final spot but honestly, I don’t care. To me, what King did was more impressive, even if not as obviously great as some of the other candidates. Why? Because King got me even slightly interested in this programme which beforehand, had been an almost complete miss for me unfortunately. Kenny King isn’t going to be World Champion in IMPACT but as has been the case for some time now, he’s good TV and very much warrants his spot.

Show of the Week

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

  1. NJPW Strong

Just over an hour of neat pro wrestling, featuring three good matches and some star-power along the way. As I’ve said beforehand, the format’s simplicity is a strength for me but even if you’re looking for something more dynamic, the range of talent is a major selling point. Granted, this week’s main event probably isn’t the finest example of that but any show featuring Brody King and Lio Rush is worth at least some of your time in my mind. I will say that with some trimming, this episode could’ve been even better, but it was impressive nonetheless.

2. IMPACT Wrestling

Honestly, many of Strong’s strengths were present during IMPACT also, as this week’s show certainly wasn’t short on solid wrestling. With that being said, it has an obvious increase in fluff and filler which depending on your taste, could be an advantage or disadvantage compared to Strong. Clearly, it’s the latter for me but in fairness, it does allow a variety show element for IMPACT which undeniably increases its potential (key word) reach. In addition, Bullet Club certainly added some momentary spice to the main event scene.

3. MLW Azteca

Honestly, it could reasonably argued that I was a little harsh on this week’s MLW Azteca. Simply put, it probably depends on your response to their TV main event, a real mixed bag of a trios bout. There was lots of good here and depending on your stylistic preference, that could quite understandably outweigh the bad. For me, not quite but I still enjoyed the match, warts and all. The pacing was a problem for me personally, which isn’t surprising considering the runtime but elsewhere, there just wasn’t enough to make up the difference.

4. NWA Powerrr

Just a whole lot of nothing unfortunately. Perhaps I should’ve watched NWA USA again, which featured an enjoyable match between Darius Lockhart and Ariya Daivari but honestly, I’m not sure that changes the overall ranking much. After all, this week’s episode of Powerrr was headlined by an NWA Worlds Title match and that couldn’t have felt less apparent, a fittingly uninspired affair for the programme it concluded. It’s a shame, I just wish there was more to watch here as if there was, it’d be a wonderful piece of my weekly wrestling puzzle.

The Top Talent

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

  1. Jay White – 17 Points
  2. Deonna Purrazzo/Matt Cardona – 13 Points
  3. Chris Bey – 10 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 61 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 39 Points
  3. MLW Azteca – 26 Points
  4. NWA Powerrr – 24 Points

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