Barnett’s Battle, Pope’s Promo | Best of the Rest #6

MLW Fusion is back, the NWA Title has a new era ahead and NJoA’s New Beginning has begun. In addition, IMPACT’s No Surrender event is fast ahead so depending on your perspective, things are heating up, or whatever. Before we get started, I wanted to quickly apologise for the delay on this week’s edition. Unfortunately, my hands were tied by the biggest wrestling story in recent memory, as Buddy Matthews reportedly began his road to All Elite Wrestling. Also, Cody left or something like that.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Josh Barnett vs. Ren Narita – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/12/22

I have to be honest, this is one of the weaker weeks so far in terms of in-ring results but even still, I’m happy with this as the category victor. Stylistically, this is the kind of range that should define NJPW Strong, bringing in a guy like Josh Barnett and just letting him do his thing. As you’d expect, Ren Narita was a natural fit for that matchup too, allowing Barnett to neatly colour within the lines. This was ten minutes used well, leading with tight mat wrestling and increasing the intensity with each and every second.

2. FinJuice vs. Bad Dude Tito & JONAH – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/12/22

This looked like a relatively weak main event on paper but I actually liked it quite a bit. Structurally, they had some fun with this, building the match around an extended heat segment but opting to leave out the theoretical third act. Juice Robinson’s hot tag never came but his involvement did allow Finlay to score the pinfall win, catching Bad Dude Tito out of nowhere and genuinely popping the live crowd. This wasn’t anything must-see but that particular choice was a nice way to separate a steady outing from the pack.

3. Strictly Business & El Rudo vs. The OGK & Victor Benjamin vs. La Rebellion & Homicide vs. The Fixers & Colby Corino – NWA Powerrr 2/8/22

I feared this match very much, but it actually exceeded my admittedly low expectations. The concept seemed like something that NWA’s talent and general production would struggle with but they managed well, producing something rather worthwhile. Again, nothing special but not a disaster by any means, which feels like a win. Seriously though, there was some genuinely nice work in here, with the match’s actual pros leading the way to produce an enjoyable first portion of Powerrr. The rest? Well, you get what you get, I suppose.

4. Hikuleo vs. Cody Chhun – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/12/22

I’ve seen some relatively low reviews for this, but I actually thought it was a job very well done. Hikuleo remains an understandably polarising prospect but looked good here in my view, helped greatly by a strikingly confident Cody Chhun. This was my first time seeing Chhun outside of the Dark setting and I thought he thrived, filling offensive gaps with ease and bumping with venom for his towering foe. Hikuleo has his flaws but was almost perfectly produced here in my view, kicking off Strong in style.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. Pope Interview – NWA Powerrr 2/8/22

Getting just about as much buzz as a segment of NWA Powerrr can, this was fabulous. Coming back from his injury at Hard Times, Pope paid homage to that very promo, producing a powerful return to NWA TV. Pope’s delivery has been strong for years but here, he had the kind of content that quite frankly, isn’t feasible without such unique circumstances. There’s a window here, an opportunity to tell a story about this man’s frustrating, often puzzling career. The pieces are perfectly in place and with promos like this, so is Pope.

2. Jacob Fatu Vignette – MLW Fusion 2/10/22

The final chapter of these quite remarkable vignettes, this honestly may have been the best outing yet. Overcome with emotion, Jacob Fatu still felt cooler than ever at this effort’s close, perfectly setting the stage for his live return on the very same episode. I don’t love this product and in some ways, I actually think it’s struggling immensely but this whole thing has been immense, an absolute homerun.

3. Josh Alexander vs. Scott D’Amore In-Ring Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 2/10/22

I usually avoid segments that lean so heavily on non-wrestlers, as they won’t be rewarded accordingly but man, this was too good to ignore. Full of fire, this was strong wrestling TV, adding depth to a story that by hook or by crook, certainly earned some eyeballs this week. Whether that interest cares or not, this was compelling work, with D’Amore again going through the gears in admirable fashion.

4. BULLET Club vs. Violent By Design & Good Brothers In-Ring Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 2/10/22

This was too long, and could’ve been quite neatly split into two separate segments. With that being said, there was more than enough good to overcome that flaw. BULLET Club were over strong as babyfaces and their heel counterparts fed them nicely on the microphone, allowing the faction to look about as important as they possibly can here in 2022. Again, not perfect but the talent was up to this task, with Jay White’s presence again stealing the show.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Pope

This is really very simple. After his promo on this week’s episode of Powerrr, I think that Pope should eventually dethrone Matt Cardona, becoming NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion and completing an arc that in my view, could return this promotion to relative relevance. I know that sounds insane, but there’s a story to tell here and with Pope, they have the perfect promo for exactly that task.

2. Josh Barnett

Second match, same story as simply put, Josh Barnett just fits on NJPW Strong. I get why that isn’t exactly surprising, but it’s still impressive, as I thought that Barnett looked great against Ren Narita. I understand that Barnett isn’t necessarily a consistent focus for this brand but if we can get bi-monthly Warmaster matches, that’ll very much work for me.

3. Jacob Fatu

Completing his return to MLW in style, Jacob Fatu continues to be that programme’s absolute outlier. Fatu’s physical presence is striking, bringing an intense charisma that’s frankly absent from Fusion’s norm. Either way, it’s great to have Fatu back in any role but I’m especially happy to see him armed with this increased depth, set for a fresh run in the babyface position.

4. Josh Alexander

This one could age poorly if Josh Alexander is indeed done with IMPACT Wrestling but for now, I thought that he delivered on this ‘angle’s latest step. Alexander’s promos have become increasingly reliable, packed with passion and the kind of thing that this programme can build around as its top babyface. Whether that’ll happen or not…well, I guess time will tell but either way, Alexander’s performance speaks volumes.

Show of the Week

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

  1. NJPW Strong

In fear of repeating myself, this show’s format allows it a consistency that’s simply absent elsewhere. This week’s episode of Strong made up three of my four favourite matches, swiftly locking it in as the best show. Good pro wrestling across the board, featuring a range of talent and styles without anything overstaying its welcome, which is one flaw that’s present at times. Not this week though, really fun edition of Strong, topping an admittedly slim week.

2. NWA Powerrr

I know, I know. Well, you could sway me on this and IMPACT Wrestling, but Powerrr is shorter and did feature the week’s best segment. Pope’s promo stole the show here and they also produced two multi-team matches with any great disaster, so that’s victory in my opinion. Honestly though, it’s a shame that Kamille’s title defence against Kiera Hogan had such a strange finish, as this episode probably could’ve been actually good.

3. IMPACT Wrestling

Strange pacing and lacking on in-ring action that I enjoyed, this was a disappointing outing for IMPACT Wrestling. Not bad by any means, just somewhat bland and uninteresting, Alexander’s fiery promo segment with D’Amore aside. That was strong television and through sheer emotion, felt alive in a way that the rest of this didn’t. I really think this promotion can do better, but perhaps that’s just naivety on my part.

4. MLW Fusion

Fusion is back but unfortunately, it didn’t come with an uptick in quality. On the contrary, I’d say this was actually quite noticeably worse, with a real slog of a main event title match. To be fair, I did like the post-match angle with Richard Holliday’s heel turn and of course, Fatu’s portion was perfection. The rest though? Not much to see unfortunately, with certain pieces being worth active avoidance. I think they could’ve entered this ‘era’ much more impressively but again, maybe that’s on me.

The Top Talent

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

  1. Jay White – 18 Points
  2. Deonna Purrazzo/Matt Cardona/Jacob Fatu – 13 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 66 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 51 Points
  3. NWA Powerrr – 33 Points
  4. MLW Fusion – 30 Points

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