Bud Matt & More | Best of the Rest #11

At long last, Buddy Matthews Week is here. With three ‘televised’ matches across three days, ‘The Australian Nightmare’ has well and truly arrived, appearing across multiple territories in just one week. Two of those three matches are included in this project, finally explaining why I originally opted to do this anyway. Elsewhere, NWA has their Crockett Cup build to complete and IMPACT Wrestling is headed towards another show I’m sure, probably a couple of them honestly.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Buddy Matthews vs. Ren Narita – NJPW Strong: Rivals 3/19/22

One of the best NJPW Strong bouts in recent memory, this exceeded my already lofty expectations. Buddy Matthews is my focus here and usually is, but Ren Narita had a standout showing, confirming what most already believed regarding his potential. This was a simple story told expertly, with the domineering veteran becoming increasingly frustrated at his younger foe’s unwavering confidence. In the end, Matthews closed the show with spite, scoring an emphatic win but elevating Narita in the process.

2. TJP vs. Buddy Matthews – MLW Fusion 3/17/22

Though overly long and stretched to its limits in terms of content, this was just so well wrestled that I can’t have it fall any lower. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why this could bore some but as one of the twelve people invested in babyface Buddy, I was engrossed even throughout the lulls. Not a particularly dynamic or interesting match, but just rock solid pro wrestling, with the kind of pacing and selling that pops me and me only. Also, Bud Matt.

3. The Motor City Machine Guns vs. BULLET Club – IMPACT Wrestling 3/17/22

While slightly hurt by a bizarre, likely botched finish, this was a tremendous television opener and delivered on the relative hype. Sabin and Shelley are always a delight together and that never changes, but they were paired with compelling dance partners on IMPACT. Chris Bey and Jay White have a really fun chemistry within BULLET Club and were very good here, combining with the tag team legends for an exciting tag team tilt.

4. Chris Bey vs. Blake Christian – NJPW Strong: Rivals 3/19/22

Moves, moves and more moves, this was nothing if not fun. Warts and all, these two worked so hard that I needed to get them on here somehow, swinging for the fences throughout and really thrilling the live LA crowd. Bey is the more charismatic half of this match but I must say, Christian has been awful prolific as of late. He’s not only everywhere but he’s working with a real motivation also, just desperate to steal every show he’s on.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. All Access: Hammerstone – MLW Fusion 3/17/22

One of the oldest plays in the wrestling playbook, I love stuff like this. Here, MLW took Alexander Hammerstone, their babyface champion, and simply told his story. Along the way, they added depth to his on-screen persona, humanising the hulking ace and giving the audience different reasons to root for him. I will say that unfortunately, I thought this was slightly out of place considering last week’s angle but nonetheless, I love the simplicity and thought that Hammerstone came across wonderfully.

2. Matt Cardona vs. Nick Aldis Head-to-Head Promo – NWA PowerrrSurge 3/15/22

I know that Nick Aldis can be incredibly divisive online, but I really liked him here. Adding a more straightforward edge to proceedings, he was a nice contrast with the more theatrical NWA World’s Champion. Don’t get me wrong, Matt Cardona was solid here also, but Aldis was the driving force in my view. Folks can laugh, but Aldis’ sheer sincerity when talking about this brand’s history is palpable, and it’s perfectly positioned in this particular programme.

3. Richard Holliday Pre-Tape Promo – MLW Fusion 3/17/22

Standing over Alexander Hammerstone’s blood, Richard Holliday cut a strong heel promo to kick off MLW Fusion. Holliday is trying admirably to add a sadistic edge to his character and thus far, I’d say the results have been mixed. Even still, it’s well worth trying, especially as Holliday’s familiar arrogance remains unmoved. This programme has been impressive so far, simple pro wrestling storytelling done well, with Holliday proving his worth as the promotion’s potential top heel.

4. Josh Alexander Backstage Interview – IMPACT Wrestling 3/17/22

Nothing much here, but it was a slim week in terms of strong segments, so here it is I guess. Nonetheless, I always enjoy Josh Alexander’s conviction in these promos, bringing that steady delivery each and every week. Alexander isn’t playing a character or trying anything extravagant, he’s just being a badass pro wrestler and with that, comes an authentic charisma and confidence.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Chris Bey

Shining bright in two of the week’s top four matches, Chris Bey was a lock for the top spot. Bey’s talent is and has been obvious, but he showed encouraging range here, leaning in two different directions for each match. The more traditional bumping heel on IMPACT, Bey spread his wings on Strong, matching Blake Christian’s acrobatics and impressing once again. I wish these showings meant more in terms of Bey’s overall position on the card but even still, he never fails to catch my eye.

2. Ren Narita

Producing a polished, mature performance against Buddy Matthews, Ren Narita further cemented an already widespread belief on Strong. Many have handpicked Narita as a future star and showings like this make that awful understandable, bringing such wonderful fire and physicality to each outing. That was especially present here, matching Matthews’ familiar intensity and producing one of my favourite NJPW Strong bouts thus far.

3. Nick Aldis

This is maybe a strange selection, but I’ve enjoyed Nick Aldis in this brief programme with Matt Cardona. Honestly, I liked much of his work opposite Thom Latimer too, so maybe I’m just a stan now or whatever. Seriously though, Aldis takes things seriously and does have a presence, so while he may not need another 1000 days as NWA World’s Champion, he clearly does have a role to play on Powerrr.

4. Blake Christian

More of the same from Blake Christian honestly, I just thought I’d feature him while I can, as I sense that before long, he’ll be ineligible for this category. Christian’s sheer output has been spectacular since returning to the indies, with this Strong match just one example of the style that’s earning him such high praise.

Show of the Week

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

  1. NJPW Strong

Back in the top form that we’ve come to expect, this was one of the year’s best episodes of NJPW Strong. Featuring an immense main event with AEW star Buddy Matthews, Strong wasn’t just a one match show either, actually going three for three in that regard. The opening trios bout was entertaining from start to finish, with Blake Christian and Chris Bey then doing every move imaginable, only raising that bar along the way. An absolute hit, from first bell to last.

2. IMPACT Wrestling

Bookended by strong action to open and close, this was a solid outing for IMPACT Wrestling. The main event, Josh Alexander vs. Matt Taven, was unlucky to miss out in the best match category and the opening tag tilt obviously delivered. Unfortunately, there were some lulls in the middle, which is usually the case with this product. In this particular case though, they kept things moving and nothing truly overstayed its welcome, so I think it’s a worthy 2-seed.

3. MLW Fusion

Though I loved the main event, I’m aware of its limitations from a ‘television’ perspective and unfortunately, there wasn’t much else here to enjoy. That’s not fair, as I clearly liked two of the programme’s promo segments but even still, this product struggles far more with its pacing than you’d expect. That runtime should be a feature, not a flaw. Instead, I’m often checking how long is left and to me, that suggests a lack of quality control that with only an hour to fill, is particularly frustrating.

4. NWA PowerrrSurge

No need to explain this really, as PowerrrSurge wasn’t an actual show. I mean, it had some matches but ultimately, was a way to steal a week before the PPV. That’s fine, it’s what PowerrrSurge is supposed to be I guess? Honestly though, I can’t be too spiteful as I was glad to see them do some kind of PPV build at all, as I’m used to them just sort of turning up and throwing some match graphics out there. Low bar I suppose, but at least I enjoyed the main event segment.

The Top Talent

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

  1. Jay White – 42 Points
  2. Chris Bey – 21 Points
  3. Matt Cardona – 20 Points
  4. JONAH – 19 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 111 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 95 Points
  3. MLW Fusion – 70 Points
  4. NWA Powerrr – 54 Points

Actual Good Wrestling, From Everyone | Best of the Rest #10

You know, I usually come up with a snappy title for these. I’ll take a hit or miss of the week, sprinkle some alliteration and call it a day. Well, that wasn’t possible this week as somehow, all four wrestling shows were good. I know, I know, it startled me too. In fact, I’m so startled by this competence that I forgot to write this intro as though I haven’t watched the shows yet. Indeed, shook to my core by some actual good wrestling. Seriously though, this was fun, let’s get to it!

Match of the Week

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

  1. World Heavyweight Title: Alexander Hammerstone (c) vs. Davey Richards – MLW Fusion 3/10/22

My favourite of three genuinely excellent television main events, this was MLW’s best Heavyweight Title bout in some time. Thus far, Alexander Hammerstone’s reign has been very much hamstrung by circumstance, matched with limited opposition and/or in front of uninterested fans. Here though, even if for only that twenty minutes or so, this was actual major league wrestling. With Davey Richards as his challenger, Hammerstone turned in a career-best performance, taking the genuinely invested audience on a ride and giving Fusion its strongest match in many, many months.

2. Eddie Edwards vs. Rich Swann – IMPACT Wrestling 3/10/22

This was shockingly good, honestly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of what both guys remain capable of but in this setting, I expected something more solid than borderline spectacular. The physicality here was immense, with both guys bringing their A-game in a lengthy television main event. Even with the extended run-time though, these two pushed an incredible pace, especially considering how deep they are in their respective careers. This woke the live crowd up and had a real spirit to it, excellent work from both Eddie Edwards and Rich Swann.

3. Jay White vs. SW3RVE – NJPW Strong: Rivals 3/12/22

On any other week, this would feel like a lock for the top spot but somehow, here it is as my 3-seed. Honestly, I could change my mind on another rewatch but there was a lot of good wrestling this week, so you get what you get, etc. Jay White is on fire right now and this match continued that trend, with SW3RVE’s sheer charisma and presence providing the perfect opposition. Upon thought, this is honestly about as big a match as Strong can reasonably host and it certainly delivered. Ideally, we’ll even get a sequel eventually.

4. I Quit Match: Nick Aldis vs. Thom Latimer – NWA Powerrr 3/8/22

While a level below the three bouts listed above, this was genuinely good and even had some solid competition for the final spot. I remember being torn on this pair’s prior PPV match, as they themselves seemed torn between potential stories to tell. Here, that problem was erased, as the stipulation forced Nick Aldis and Thom Latimer into a hateful, vicious brawl. They pulled it off in my view, even showing some creativity while producing a gif-worthy highlight or two. The finish will be divisive but like the match itself, it worked for me.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. BULLET Club – Motor City Machine Guns Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 3/10/22

Generally speaking, I don’t usually enjoy these extended live promo battles but incredibly, this week’s IMPACT went two for two on that front. This particular segment featured one exchange that even went wrestling viral, but that wasn’t the only hit here. Instead, this was kicked off by a strong Good Brothers promo, reacting to their title loss with an overdue edge. Things then transitioned to that aforementioned exchange, as Jay White and Alex Shelley had an awesome back and forth, setting the stage for an enticing tag match.

2. Josh Alexander In-Ring Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 3/10/22

There were other people in this segment but honestly, they were simply there to feed Josh Alexander’s hot hand. That rules to be clear, as they made their top babyface look good here, actually. It’s been fun to watch Alexander steadily fill this role honestly, growing in confidence with each in-ring promo and by this point, becoming a consistently good talker. This was just the latest example of exactly that, as Alexander commanded the crowd with ease.

3. Nick Aldis Interrupts Matt Cardona’s Post-Match Promo – NWA Powerrr 3/8/22

The above title aside, this segment’s strongest portion was actually Matt Cardona’s solo effort, as he quite openly gave his own take on Shane Douglas’ famed NWA Title win victory lap. Ideally, you’d save Nick Aldis’ interruption for a separate segment but if you’re going to do it, at least do it well and thankfully, they managed that quite comfortably here. Fair or not, Aldis certainly has his critics but his presence and promo were unsurprisingly up to the task in this setting, neatly setting up his title shot.

4. Richard Holliday Attacks Alexander Hammerstone – MLW Fusion 3/10/22

After his impressive title defence against Davey Richards, Alexander Hammerstone’s night wasn’t yet complete, then advancing his programme with Richard Holliday. Sitting at ringside for the television main event, Holliday swiftly took advantage of the situation, covering his white suit in Hammerstone’s blood. There’s been a clear effort to add an edge to Holliday’s game and with segments like this, he’s been positioned to succeed in that regard. This was simple, old school pro wrestling done well, an effective way of heating things up as Holliday is quite visibly relishing this opportunity.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Jay White

With another excellent in-ring showing alongside his latest triumph on the microphone, Jay White’s hot streak only continued this week. White’s sheer visibility helps of course, but his performances are so consistently good that it’s hard to keep him off these lists. Clearly, circumstance is the only thing making White such a regular on these shows but as one of the world’s most complete wrestlers, he’ll be featured as long as things remain this way.

2. Alexander Hammerstone

This was a big week for Alexander Hammerstone. More specifically, this was a vital week for his MLW World Heavyweight Title reign, as Hammerstone produced his first truly impressive title defence, delivering in a major way opposite Davey Richards. Naturally, the credit will probably go in the other direction but Hammerstone was genuinely good here, matching his challenger’s performance and proving his worth as MLW’s centrepiece.

3. Davey Richards

The less surprising half of MLW’s captivating World Heavyweight Title tilt, Davey Richards still deserves immense credit for his part in the Fusion main event. Richards has been the promotion’s most reliable performer since arriving in the alleged ‘major leagues,’ bringing a believability that’s frankly absent elsewhere. These major matches are actually treated as such, returning MLW to in theory at least, its sports-based roots.

4. Rich Swann

Since losing the IMPACT World Title almost a year ago, Rich Swann has quietly returned to a mostly midcard role. Whether that’s right or wrong, it’s hard to argue, as Swann has been just another babyface after six months as world champion. With this match against Eddie Edwards though, Swann made a real statement, performing at a level that simply demands better from creative. Swann remains one of this promotion’s finest performers, and this match reiterated exactly that.

Show of the Week

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling

If IMPACT had continued in its recent form, they’d have come in dead last this week. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case though, as IMPACT Wrestling hosted two standout talking segments as well as one of the week’s best matches. Most importantly though, there was hardly anything on this show that I deemed actually bad, not allowing a lack of quality control to lower this episode’s ceiling. On a stacked week, IMPACT’s depth gives them the impressive win.

2. NWA Powerrr

As good as Powerrr can be while also featuring a Tyrus match, this was a mostly worthwhile hour of wrestling television. Nick Aldis’ brawl with Thom Latimer delivered and honestly, so did Matt Cardona’s title win over Trevor Murdoch. The latter missed out on a best match ranking but was enjoyable nonetheless, followed by a strong post-match segment. For this roster, Powerrr was pretty much stacked and best of all, the two important matches exceeded my expectations, too.

3. NJPW Strong

Though I enjoyed Hikuleo’s surprisingly back and forth opener with Kevin Knight, this was basically a one-match show. That’s fine and on most weeks, would be enough as the main event was borderline excellent. For me though, it wasn’t quite good enough to overcome this show’s relatively thin undercard, which hurt it on such an unusually stacked week. Either way, SW3RVE vs. Jay White was very much worth your time and this placement speaks more to the competitors than Strong itself.

4. MLW Fusion

This all feels terribly unfair, as this week’s Fusion probably featured the promotion’s best match in this project so far. Unfortunately, that closing portion was about all it had to offer me, as I just didn’t enjoy much else. 5150’s pre-tape aside, this episode was without depth, again hosting a match or two that I could’ve done without. The opening triple threat never quite clicked and nZo is nZo, so you get what you get, I suppose.

The Top Talent

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

  1. Jay White – 40 Points
  2. JONAH – 19 Points
  3. Matt Cardona – 17 Points
  4. Steve Maclin – 16 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 105 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 86 Points
  3. MLW Fusion – 59 Points
  4. NWA Powerrr – 50 Points

Powerrr Prevails, Daniels Delivers | Best of the Rest #8 & #9

Last Monday, I was taken out of the game slightly, streaming for 12 hours as we raised $2000 for Voices of Children. As a result, I opted to delay the eighth Best of the Rest, pairing it with the following week for a double-header of sorts. With that in mind, we now have a lot to catch up on, as NWA gets a new set of tapings under their belt while New Japan’s New Beginning tour concludes, then kicking off their Rivals event. Elsewhere, IMPACT is headed to Sacrifice and MLW has an alleged superfight on the way, so let’s get started.

Best of the Rest #8

Match of the Week

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

  1. Colby Corino vs. Rhett Titus – NWA Powerrr 2/22/22

Though not always silky smooth, this was the kind of pro wrestling match that quite frankly, has become far too infrequent on NWA Powerrr. Competitive and spirited from start to finish, Colby Corino and Rhett Titus worked harder than the norm, producing a strong television bout. Corino has really impressed me as of late, both on NWA and elsewhere, and he was opposite a real pro here, combining impressively with Titus. Just good pro wrestling, exciting action but yet still totally at home in this setting, imagine that!

2. Openweight Title: Tom Lawlor (c) vs. Taylor Rust – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/26/22

The first NJPW STRONG Openweight Title match of this process so far, Tom Lawlor and Taylor Rust had a solid television main event. If I was being critical, I’d say that the content wasn’t quite up to this somewhat bloated run-time but they got their in the end and produced a worthy title tilt. Lawlor certainly doesn’t feel like this programme’s centrepiece but in this title match at least, he delivered when necessary.

3. Digital Media Title: Matt Cardona (c) vs. Jordynne Grace – IMPACT Wrestling 2/24/22

Genuinely fun and action-packed, this was the ideal television plunder match, especially considering the circumstances. This whole programme has hit honestly, with Matt Cardona spotlighting Jordynne Grace at every time. Though she dropped the title in this feud, Grace leaves it feeling like an even bigger deal than she entered, often dominating Cardona and always fighting with that admirable babyface fire. Really good stuff and a reminder of what’s possible with some commitment and creativity.

4. Chelsea Green vs. Kenzie Paige – NWA Powerrr 2/22/22

This is maybe the best in-ring performance that I’ve ever seen from Chelsea Green, packed with energy and polish. She felt like a star in this setting, neatly guiding Kenzie Paige to a really enjoyable television match. Paige was up to the task too of course, maximising the spotlight that Green offered and making a real statement opposite such a familiar face. Green’s work hasn’t gone without criticism but with showings like this, she has genuine value to brands such as this.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. Steve Maclin Pre-Tape Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 2/24/22

Reacting to Eddie Edwards’ heel turn, Steve Maclin continued his unexpected babyface turn in encouraging fashion here. This has actually been really well-booked, giving a logical reason for Maclin to switch sides, positioning him in a role that he can easily maximise. Maclin can talk too, which helps, extending his ceiling with promos like this.

2. Eddie Edwards In-Ring Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 2/24/22

I don’t think anyone would accuse Eddie Edwards of being Eddie Kingston on the microphone, regardless of what Chris Jericho says. With that being said, Edwards did a good job here, assisted by some solid content along the way. Explaining his heel turn from the weekend prior, Edwards paired a decent delivery with understandable complaints, adding some heat to this whole angle.

3. Jacob Fatu vs. Mads Krugger Pre and Post-Match Brawls – MLW Fusion 2/24/22

The match itself was too short to be anything much but before and after the bell rang, this was a blast. Jacob Fatu and Mads Krugger brawled through the crowd and did some insane stuff in the process, concluding things with a spectacular dive from the former champion. Fatu’s presence really stands out on this show and for all his limitations, Krugger tried his best to match that striking intensity.

4. BULLET CLUB Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 2/24/22

Fresh off a genuinely surprising switch at No Surrender, BULLET CLUB entered a new era on IMPACT Wrestling. That new era of course includes some familiar faces, with Gallows and Anderson now alongside Jay White and Chris Bey. With White leading the way, these four were present for a neat group promo, nothing crazy but even still, they neatly set the table for the brawl that followed.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Colby Corino

I don’t want to understate Rhett Titus’ performance on Powerrr, as he always delivers once the bell rings. With that being said, this was all about Colby Corino in my mind, who was just fabulous as the match’s antagonist. Corino’s scrappy style is really at home in this setting and I mean that as a compliment, he needs to be a go-to guy when Powerrr needs some legitimately good wrestling. The star of NWA’s first match category leader, Corino is a worthy week winner.

2. Jordynne Grace

Though it’d be easy to look elsewhere with so many fresh faces, Jordynne Grace’s value to IMPACT Wrestling can’t be overstated. Grace has been immense against Matt Cardona, the energy and power behind some of the NWA Champion’s most enjoyable matches in fact. Whether it’s in this role or back as the women’s division’s top babyface, Grace is one of IMPACT’s most consistent, reliable acts.

3. Chelsea Green

Appearing on two of our weekly programmes regularly, Chelsea Green hasn’t been a constant in this particular format, especially inside the ropes. That’s not to say that Green is bad, just somewhat uninteresting at times. That wasn’t the case against Kenzie Paige though, as Green really shined and led her less experienced opponent to an exciting television tilt. Hopefully this isn’t an outlier and instead, will be more of the norm moving forward.

4. Eddie Edwards

Tasked with following up on his frankly overdue heel turn, Eddie Edwards exceeded my expectations. Closing an episode of IMPACT with his in-ring promo, Edwards delivered on the microphone and kept this thing moving forward. The Honor No More angle needed a jolt and in theory, Edwards can provide exactly that. Clearly, it’s too early to say for sure but through one week, Edwards was thankfully up to the task.

Show of the Week

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

  1. NWA Powerrr

Well, who saw this coming? NWA Powerrr is back I guess, whatever that means. Seriously though, this new set of tapings got underway in style, taking the refreshing atmosphere and actually not immediately killing it. Instead, they gave the people something to enjoy, including two strong television bouts and barely a miss along the way. Inside the ropes, this is about as good as this programme has ever been honestly which granted, is telling in its own right but even still, thumbs up.

2. IMPACT Wrestling

Though without much of note from a bell to bell perspective, I thought that IMPACT produced a solid television show. This episode had multiple segments that I enjoyed and alongside Cardona’s plunder title defence against Grace, that was enough to secure it the 2-seed. Must say, I’d love to see this product confined to the run-time of its competitors, as I think some quality control could improve this programme immensely. The pieces are there, they just need to be more picky.

3. NJPW Strong

While Strong usually goes three for three in terms of matches, I only really enjoyed the main event this week. Don’t get me wrong, Karl Fredericks – ETHAN HD and El Phantasmo – Matt Rehwoldt were far from bad, they just didn’t do much for me unfortunately. Combine that with a main event that was good but not an absolute homerun and you have the weakest Strong in recent memory. Again, not bad, just somewhat bland and lacking the quality that I’ve personally come to expect.

4. MLW Fusion

One step forward, and two steps back. Indeed, after a strong edition of Fusion that suddenly felt full of life, the follow-up was a swift return to the disappointing norm. With just two matches, Fusion lacked anything of real substance on that front and unfortunately, only had extended video packages to offer elsewhere. It just wasn’t good television, and I say that as someone that limitations and all, still thoroughly enjoyed Jacob Fatu’s presence. Disappointing outing, a real shame.

Best of the Rest #9

Match of the Week

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

  1. Christopher Daniels vs. Karl Fredericks – NJPW Strong: Rivals 3/5/22

On a week without much of note inside the ropes, leave it to Christopher Daniels to show the kids how it’s done. Continuing his recent return to form, Daniels looked great on strong, combining seamlessly with late-notice opponent Karl Fredericks. This wasn’t Strong’s main event but it comfortably stole the episode, with that familiar Daniels polish shining through once again. Fredericks was good here also, even if he’s still finding the other puzzle pieces beyond his physicality.

2. Bad Dude Tito & JONAH vs. FinJuice – NJPW Strong: Rivals 3/5/22

Though not quite as compelling as Christopher Daniels’ prior effort, Strong’s main event still very much delivered. I must say, Bad Dude Tito and JONAH have really connected as a team here. It’s early days obviously and they’re working with a polished team but even still, I’ve been really impressed by their chemistry and cohesion. This was nicely done, just good tag team wrestling and armed with a surprise finish too, as Shane Haste emerged to help the bruising antagonists win.

3. Steve Maclin vs. Eddie Edwards – IMPACT Wrestling 3/3/22

This wasn’t anything much, hamstrung by a short run-time and throwaway finish but yet, I thought the work here was just excellent. Two of IMPACT’s most reliable in-ring performers, battling away with a raw intensity that’s too often missing from this programme’s more bloated bouts. I’ve loved just about  everything Maclin has done in IMPACT and for all his prior struggles as a character, Edwards always brings it once the bell rings. More of these two together please, ideally with some time and better yet, an actual finish too.

4. World Middleweight Title: Myron Reed vs. Bandido vs. Matt Cross vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri (c) – MLW Fusion 3/3/22

The modern multi-man match that you’ve come to expect, but one well-executed enough to comfortably earn a spot here. Bandido was a nice addition to increase the star-power, relatively speaking of course and the right guy won too, with Myron Reed regaining his MLW World Middleweight Title. Matt Cross and Yoshihiro Tajiri were solid veteran glue guys also, in their own contrasting fashion anyway, with the latter’s brief, unexpected title reign coming to a swift end.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. JONAH Flattens Brogan Finlay – NJPW Strong: Rivals 3/5/22

I adored this, old school pro wrestling. With Shane Haste by their side, JONAH and Bad Dude Tito were continuing their assault on FinJuice when suddenly, young Brogan Finlay arrived. Attempting to make the save, Finlay was not even an hour removed from his earlier loss and within seconds, JONAH only saw an opportunity in his presence. While Tito and Haste forced his older brother to watch, JONAH flattened Brogan Finlay, with the announcers putting it over perfectly in the process.

2. Guerrillas of Destiny Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 3/3/22

Though it can be divisive at times, Tama Tonga’s delivery still stands out and in this context, it really worked for me too. Responding to Jay White’s betrayal, Tonga paired pain with pressure, threatening all involved and setting the stage for this feud that’s placement still remains somewhat unclear. Tanga Loa’s confidence has been striking in this particular run also, very much belonging alongside his fiery brother.

3. 5150 Pre-Tape Promo – MLW Fusion 3/3/22

I’ve been consistent on these because honestly, they’ve been consistent too. Don’t get me wrong, they’re nothing ground-breaking in terms of concept or format, but Rivera’s charisma packs a genuine punch. The content usually isn’t much either, but it’s trash talk done well and in pro wrestling, there’s always a place for that. This isn’t a stacked tag division by any means but in 5150, they at least have worthwhile champions.

4. Gnarls Garvin & Budd Heavy Vignette – MLW Fusion 3/3/22

These are dumb and probably not what you’d call “funny” but once again, they have some life and personality so here they are, wandering into the 4-seed.

Star of the Week

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

  1. JONAH

If you know me, you’ll know just little I expected to enjoy JONAH. Honestly though, he’s genuinely impressed me, working with an edge and finally maximising his size. He’s having really nice runs in both IMPACT and NJoA right now, with this week being a neat encapsulation of what he currently brings. JONAH was my favourite part of the Strong main event, pairing that with the week’s best angle for a comfortable category win.

2. Steve Maclin

After his work opposite Trey Miguel, I was all in on Steve Maclin getting a consistent television presence. Even still, I’d have probably hesitated if you told me that along the way, he’d become a de facto babyface. That just felt like a challenging transition but I have to say, credit to creative and Maclin himself, who have made all of this feel impressively organic. Maclin’s work seamlessly adjusted too, operating with his own brand of babyface fire against Eddie Edwards.

3. Eddie Edwards

In many ways, see above but simply switch things around. Eddie Edwards has been a babyface for years now, the go-to babyface at times and yet, he immediately feels at home in the heel role. Granted, this is slightly different as it definitely felt overdue but nonetheless, it speaks to Edwards’ experience that he adjusted his game so swiftly. I’m intrigued by how far they go with this version of Edwards, who’s very much become the internal status quo as of late.

4. Karl Fredericks

Though he doesn’t pop quite like some of his peers, Karl Fredericks is a good pro and was a worthy dance partner for Christopher Daniels on Strong. Fredericks showed polish and poise as Daniels’ late-notice opponent, performing admirably in the week’s best match. I don’t really know how high Fredericks’ ceiling is but with showings like this, he’ll always have a role to play in some form or fashion.

Show of the Week

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

  1. NJPW Strong

With the week’s best two matches and perhaps even more impressively, its best angle too, this was a lock. I usually like Strong but this week was particularly fun as nothing overstayed its welcome which admittedly, isn’t always the case. The main event was good and Christopher Daniels again rolled back the years against Karl Fredericks, with a sound opener not undoing that good work either. Just rock solid pro wrestling and on this occasion, even a touch better than that, an encouraging start to the Rivals event.

2. MLW Fusion

The return of Fusion has definitely improved my enjoyment of MLW. The energy is up and warts and all, I mostly have fun. The main event wasn’t exactly my thing but it was enjoyable enough television and Myron Reed standing tall is always a win for me. In addition, Alex Kane’s opening title tilt with Calvin Tankman didn’t quite connect but they’d built that match some and so, I had good reason to actually pay attention. Sprinkle some entertaining vignettes in along the way and you have a fun episode of TV.

3. IMPACT Wrestling

I’ve seen some love for this episode of IMPACT but I don’t know, it just didn’t really work for me. As usual, it wasn’t bad or anything, just without many hooks in my view. The roster lacks genuine depth in terms of actual quality and the result is a television with somewhat bloated bouts and just a general usage of lacklustre acts. It’s hard, as they’re clearly operating under a different set of parameters but even still, I can’t hide my relative disinterest.

4. NWA Powerrr

In fairness, this wasn’t really bad either but unfortunately, it just wasn’t what you’d traditionally call good. Built around three longer, for Powerrr standards at least, matches, this episode needed one of those to truly connect and for me anyway, they all fell just a little short. Again, they were all solid enough but just didn’t really go beyond that unfortunately, greatly limiting this show’s ceiling. Not a complete momentum killer, but a reminder of the roster’s limitations.

The Top Talent

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

  1. Jay White – 30 Points
  2. JONAH – 19 Points
  3. Steve Maclin – 16 Points
  4. Jacob Fatu/Matt Cardona – 15 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 91 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 82 Points
  3. MLW Fusion – 53  Points
  4. NWA Powerrr – 44 Points

Davey Delivers, Powerrr Plods | Best of the Rest #7

No Surrender is the focus in IMPACT Wrestling while elsewhere…well no, that’s actually about it honestly. Strong actually earned some buzz last week, but that won’t air until August and so, we remain in the midst of ‘The New Beginning.’ Seriously though, spoiler alert: MLW Fusion is good this week, so there’s a hook I guess. No such thing will be found in NWA, unless you count the Team War final. In which case, hello Mr Corgan, thanks for reading.

Match of the Week

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

  1. Jay White vs. Jay Lethal – NPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/19/22

This was quite clearly the week’s best match, even though its mere existence reminded me of why these projects suck. I mean, each show already has enough guys that I don’t want to see, let alone securing extras via loan. I don’t know man, wrestling sucks but Jay White remains great or whatever, another very good match in the latest Strong main event.

2. Ace Austin vs. Blake Christian vs. Laredo Kid – IMPACT Wrestling 2/17/22

Whether it makes sense or not, the X-Division feels well and truly back in 2022, now regularly featuring these familiar multi-man sprints. The final building block before No Surrender’s enthralling fatal four way opener, this was Ace Austin’s route, also spotlighting Blake Christian and Laredo Kid. This current division is an admirable love letter to the ranks’ glory days, featuring an impressive talent pool that frankly, probably should be battling for world honours at this point.

3. Davey Richards vs. ACH – MLW Fusion 2/17/22

Two guys that in theory, peaked years ago but yet, appeared strikingly sharp on Fusion. Honestly, the work here was levels above Fusion’s usual standard, with Davey Richards and ACH combining seamlessly for a dynamic television affair. This was paced with a refreshing poise, two veterans that knew how to make their expansive spots count, maximising the still impressive degree of athleticism and explosiveness left. It’s worth noting of course that ACH is still only 34 so hopefully, he has many ‘major league’ chapters left.

4. Fred Rosser vs. Gabriel Kidd – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/19/22

Though I sense that I’m slightly lower on this than the consensus, there was still an awful lot to like here. A bruising, gruelling affair, Gabriel Kidd brought that familiar physicality to the fight, mostly matched by Fred Rosser’s own admirable effort. If Kidd’s match with Eddie Kingston had one flaw, I’d say that it was some slight pacing issues, which were even more apparent here. No big deal, it’s still very much worth watching but once Kidd’s battles find that natural ascension, he’ll be an even better pro wrestler.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. Gnarls Garvin & Budd Heavy Pre-Tape Skit – MLW Fusion 2/17/22

I don’t know man, this category was aggressively slim and so, here we are. Look, I chuckled at this, even if it set the stage for a quite frightening bout against The Saito Brothers. With that being said, this was genuinely entertaining and had some life which apparently, was enough to secure its place at the top of this week’s segment standings.

2. Jay White Post-Match Promo – NJPW Strong: The New Beginning 2/19/22

Again, this wasn’t much but at the end of the day, it’s a Jay White promo and in this process, I guess that’s enough. White is incredibly charismatic and it feels like he’s more confident with each outing, increasing his presence at every turn. On Strong, White was basically just playing around again after another main event win but frankly, it was more compelling than the candidates below, so here it is.

3. Richard Holliday Post-Turn Promo – MLW Fusion 2/17/22

A tale as old as time: the post-heel turn promo, as a villain takes the time to explain himself, maybe even offering some truth along the way. Though the content isn’t (yet) anything particularly captivating, I thought that Richard Holliday did a nice job here, again utilising his refreshing confidence in this arena. I liked last week’s angle and thought that while nothing mind-blowing, this was a neat follow-up that kept the emerging programme trending in the right direction.

4. Davey Richards Post-Match Promo – MLW Fusion 2/17/22

Didn’t think I’d ever find myself writing these words but well, here we are I guess. Davey Richards was a genuine highlight on Fusion, kicking things off with that aforementioned thriller opposite ACH and then even taking the microphone afterwards. Richards was good here, adding a straightlaced sports feel to the Alexander Hammerstone build that unfortunately, was later impossible with Cesar Duran standing between them.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Jay White

What is there left to say about ‘Switchblade’ Jay White? Fresh off his best week since having his momentum halted by the most unforeseen circumstances, White was immense on Rampage and produced similar efforts elsewhere. That includes last week’s IMPACT main event, as well as a captivating PPV bout with Eric Young that he isn’t even credited for in this format. White is just about as good as it gets right now, and it shows at every turn.

2. Davey Richards

Overproduced pre-tape aside, Davey Richards honestly felt like a cut above the rest on MLW Fusion. Now, that can be more indicative of the talent or territory depending on your perspective, but it still speaks to Richards’ quite admirable return. On sheer focus and know-how alone, Richards stands out on the independent scene but perhaps more impressively, he still seems far more deserving of television time than almost all of his Major League peers too.

3. ACH

As a long-time ACH fan, I was delighted to see him perform with such spirit on Fusion. Granted, his placement here could be accused of being slightly sentimental but I enjoyed the match with Richards and think, or least hope, it was a real statement as far as ACH’s current status. This is a guy that physically, remains in (or at least close to) his prime and still has an awful lot to offer, comfortably separating himself from the pack on Fusion.

4. Gabriel Kidd

I really love the simplicity within Gabriel Kidd’s matches. He’s a gutsy, rough fighter who brings that energy to every showing, winning fans with each defeat. Kidd will only get better as the years go by but as is, he’s a pleasure to watch. Just raw physicality, packed with passion and that rare ability to transcend the current setting or circumstance. Kidd was the driving force in his match with Rosser and all things considered, that’s a major compliment.

Show of the Week

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

  1. MLW Fusion

Indeed folks, it’s only February but here we are, already crowning the upset of the year! MLW Fusion was genuinely good this week, bookended by enjoyable in-ring action and not completely failed by goofy, ill-conceived skits along the way. Granted, it did feature an alarmingly rough tag team bout in the middle but even still, the good greatly outweighed the bad and with this run-time, that’s always a formula for success. More of this please, a genuinely enjoyable experience.

2. NJPW Strong

The opening match didn’t do much for me and so, this was a tier below the Strong norm. With that being said, the main event probably exceeded expectations from a match quality point of view, so this was still a good episode of Strong. Two matches very much worth your time, even if both weren’t without bloat but even still, more than enough to earn this episode the 2-seed. Clearly, this product is the project’s most reliable, remaining my lead suggestion for those looking to expand their wrestling diet.

3. IMPACT Wrestling

Nothing much here unfortunately, but still solid enough to comfortably outscore the show below. IMPACT Wrestling shows flashes of being a tier or two above the other alternatives but seldom maintains those promising standards. This week was another good example of that, again far from bad but just a little less interesting than you’d like, especially for a go-home show. Unfortunately, it’s a show that while competent, lacks headlines and X-Division triple threat aside, this show was without highlights in general.

4. NWA Powerrr

There was lots of wrestling on this show, six matches worth in fact. Unfortunately, not much of it was good, even less worth your attention and some downright bad. Pair that trend with an episode lacking any segments of note and you have a dull, impressively un-Powerrr episode of Powerrr. What does that mean at this point? No idea really, but it’s definitely intended as an insult, which speaks volumes considering my consistent issues with Powerrr itself.

The Top Talent

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

  1. Jay White – 29 Points
  2. Deonna Purrazzo/Jacob Fatu/Matt Cardona – 13 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 71 Points
  2. NJPW Strong – 62 Points
  3. MLW Fusion – 43 Points
  4. NWA Powerrr – 34 Points

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

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

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.


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

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

IMPACT Impresses, Honor Lives | Best of the Rest #2

Last week, an Eddie Kingston masterclass guided NJPW Strong to victory in the series premiere but this time, we should have a slightly fairer fight. After all, one of the world’s best isn’t being borrowed this week…well, not in my book anyway but I’ll leave that there. Instead, IMPACT Wrestling has a PPV to build upon while elsewhere, the Azteca and Nemesis brands fittingly reach their own episode two. In addition, NWA Powerrr’s return to YouTube enters its second week, headlined by Matt Cardona’s in-ring promotional debut.

Match of the Week

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

  1. AAA Reina de Reinas & ROH Women’s World Titles: Deonna Purrazzo (c) vs. Rok-C (c) – IMPACT Wrestling 1/13/22

The comfortable victor for this week’s best match, Deonna Purrazzo and Rok-C actually exceeded my expectations. At just 20 years old, Rok-C’s skill is already immense but in fear of understating her effort here, this was the Deonna Purrazzo show in my view. Guiding the match, Purrazzo paced this perfectly, working with the poise that’s made her such an impressive IMPACT centrepiece. Rok-C isn’t far behind her though and regardless of where she lands in 2022, it’s hard to have anything but high hopes for the now former ROH Women’s World Champion.

2. Laredo Kid vs. Chris Bey – IMPACT Wrestling 1/13/22

The kind of match that makes IMPACT’s lead in stature all the more obvious, this was the ideal television opener for any brand. Action packed but not short on time either, this was a showcase of two spectacular wrestlers having the modern match, adding their own individual flair along the way. Chris Bey is a fascinating one in terms of IMPACT’s big picture because it feels like for at least a year now, maybe more, I’ve been waiting for him to escape this tier but nonetheless, he certainly made the most of that role against Laredo Kid.

3. Kiera Hogan vs. Christi Jaynes vs. Jennacide vs. Kenzie Paige – NWA Powerrr 1/11/22

Armed with just a smidge over five minutes, I thought this was a real triumph in both execution and production. Tightly sequenced and built around each woman’s (at times literal) strength, this left all four parties in a better spot than they entered. Kiera Hogan is on some kind of AEW deal but remains a relative regular on NWA Powerrr, with performances like this serving a swift reminder as to her often cited ceiling. She wasn’t alone in this one though, as all four women rose to the occasion and produced a strong television opener.

4. JONAH vs. David Finlay – NJPW Strong: Nemesis 1/15/22

Though not trying to be anything particularly epic or special, this was still efficient pro wrestling action. JONAH is quickly growing on me with showings like this, working with an increased edge and finally packing a punch befitting his physical stature. Finlay was really just the victim here, offering a hope spot or two but little more. Naturally, that limited this match’s quality but hopefully, will prove to be a worthwhile sacrifice, as JONAH won emphatically, battering Finlay in the Strong main event. These two can have a better match, but that doesn’t make this one any less effective.

Segment of the Week

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

  1. Charlie Haas & Josh Alexander In-Ring Promo & Brawl – IMPACT Wrestling 1/13/22

I have to say, I had my reservations about this one when the news broke, but this segment was far stronger than I’d imagined. Firstly, Josh Alexander continued to impress in this setting, cutting a fiery in-ring promo and setting the stage for Charlie Haas’ arrival. Haas surprised me though, really bringing his A-game and verbally at least, maximising an opportunity that he clearly relished. We’ll see how the match goes but so far, so good, even including some encouraging physicality.

2. W. Morrissey In-Ring Promo – IMPACT Wrestling 1/13/22

I’m not sure how I feel about this potentially becoming a regular occurrence but I have to be fair and once again, W. Morrissey impressed on IMPACT. Opening the post-PPV edition, Morrissey stood in centre ring and with a microphone in hand, convinced the live crowd that he’d suddenly became the promotion’s top babyface. Well, the name above this may disagree with that but either way, Morrissey’s emerging connection with this audience is worth noting, his promos a key reason why.

3. Jax Dane Interview, Rodney Mack Response – NWA Powerrr 1/11/22

I know, I know, I couldn’t believe that I typed those words either. Look folks, these shows aren’t exactly packed with good non-wrestling content but honestly, even if they were, I’m ranking this. Here, Jax Dane cut a solid promo, continuing his apparent issue with Anthony Mayweather and/or Mims. Then though, Dane took a shot at Jazz’s tribute from Hard Times 2. This brought out Rodney Mack…yes, Rodney Mack, who punched Dane in the face and got me to yell, showing human emotion in a fashion not familiar when watching this show.

4. Homicide, La Rebellion & OGK Interview – NWA Powerrr 1/11/22

This wasn’t even anything good really, but it at least had some life so here it is I guess. Perhaps I’m forgetting something but who cares? This gets Homicide another point and that’s usually what I’ll do if I don’t see an alternative. Basically, these five guys argued with each other and one of them may have raised their voice a little. It wasn’t boring or embarrassing, so a home run in that sense.

Star of the Week

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

  1. Deonna Purrazzo

2021 was a great year for Deonna Purrazzo but only weeks into 2022, this may have been her finest showing yet. Personally, this was probably my favourite Purrazzo performance and considering her consistency in IMPACT, that’s no mean feat. Against Rok-C, Purrazzo produced an effort befitting the original Ring of Honor identity, sharing a sublime television main event with Rok-C. Purrazzo continues to improve, even after so long as champion, showing more and more skill as her confidence climbs.


Dominating the NJPW Strong main event and slaughtering poor Raj Singh, JONAH had a dominant week. It’s always fun to see talent contributing to multiple territories at once and unless they miss dramatically on either side, such a feat will probably always earn a placement of some kind. Here though, JONAH’s candidacy speaks for itself, impressing on both shows with an overlapping performance and presentation also. Whether it’s IMPACT or Strong, JONAH feels like a player and weeks like this one are why.

3. Rok-C

The other half of that aforementioned IMPACT main event, Rok-C was a more than worthy dance-partner for Deonna Purrazzo. An absolute prodigy, Rok-C is skilled far beyond her years, showing astounding technical acumen and wrestling with a raw enthusiasm that screams through the screen. It’s staggering to consider just how good Rok-C will be in a 5-10 years but frankly, she’s already special. If this particular chapter of Rok-C’s career concluded on Thursday, it was an ideal start to what should be a wonderful career.

4. Mike Bailey

Indeed, it’s a clean sweep for IMPACT and frankly, comfortably so. Even if I was to replace ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey, the alternatives would probably be Chris Bey or Laredo Kid, maybe even Charlie Haas. That should give you a clue as to the next category but anyway, I’ve decided to give Bailey the last spot here, shining bright in a showcase match with Jake Something. Bailey’s reputation speaks for itself, but it was wonderful to see his act translate like this to television, unsurprisingly connecting with ease.

Show of the Week

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling

Honestly, the category triumph alone doesn’t quite capture just how comfortably IMPACT led the way this week. In fact, their show was such an obvious victor that this week, IMPACT felt more comparable to the big two than the three below. Now, that’s not always the case, far from it unfortunately but this was an example of what the promotion can produce. Days removed from a critically acclaimed PPV, IMPACT actually added to their hype, producing an objectively impressive episode of wrestling television.

They can’t all be like this but with the current roster, they can be close and in 2022, that’s the goal for IMPACT Wrestling.

2. NJPW Strong

Though it didn’t feature anything even close to must-see, NJPW Strong’s format gave it the nod over NWA Powerrr. This show is just incredibly watchable, not overstaying its welcome and almost exclusively sticking to what’s advertised. In fact, they may even go too far in that direction at times, with barely a segment in-between but overall, this approach makes for a product that’s inoffensive at the very least. This episode’s actual highlight was Brody King’s mauling of Dave Dutra, a delightful extended squash.

3. NWA Powerrr

Once again, I didn’t hate NWA Powerrr and indeed, I still like this format. In fear of repeating myself any further though, the system’s effectiveness is simply limited by the wrestlers filling these roles. They have something with Matt Cardona as a potential top heel and perhaps Kiera Hogan’s upcoming chase of Kamille but outside of that, there’s not much to watch for. It’s a shame, as I don’t think any great optimism is required to see this product’s potential. Sadly, it’s just a wrestler or twelve away from that right now.

4. MLW Azteca

Through two weeks, MLW Azteca just isn’t any good, unfortunately. Now, it’s early days of course and again, this isn’t their flagship programme but I can only cover what’s in front of me and sadly, it’s pretty rough. The Lucha Underground style vignettes may appeal more to others but the production limits those and once the (digital) bell rings, the product’s just without any real quality. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind the tag title match but that wasn’t nearly good enough to make up for the rest.

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 – 10 Points
  3. Gabriel Kidd – 7 Points
  4. Rok-C – 6 Points

The Top Territory

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

  1. IMPACT Wrestling – 27 Points
  2. NWA Powerrr – 14 Points
  3. NJPW Strong – 12 Points
  4. MLW Azteca – 7 Points

Championship Crossroads, Post-PPV Problems | Takes, Takes & More Takes #23

Yes indeed folks, ‘Takes’ is back…again! Though maybe not quite as consistently as before, I do want to keep this series around, for better or worse. AEW has its own weekly project now so alongside that, I intend to use this format to cover the other products and promotions that interest me. This week, that has me analyzing ROH and IMPACT’s post-PPV efforts as well as NXT’s divisive build towards TakeOver. Three different shows, all chasing eyeballs and running into brick walls along the way. In fairness, I can relate, so let’s get this show on the road!


Less than a month removed from their critically acclaimed Best in the World PPV, ROH finds themselves in a familiar position. Moderate buzz was gained and then immediately lost, as the promotion’s television product remains a non-factor in the industry’s daily discussion. Wrestling is red hot right now in that sense, with shocking news every other day and yet, ROH couldn’t feel further distanced from the excitement. They just feel isolated, which is a complete contrast to their prior place as the wider wrestling world’s US home.

That’s a real shame too, as the product itself continues to impress. I’ve actually been out of the loop slightly and so, this most recent return was my first viewing of the TV in a few months. Once again, I found myself engaged by the palpable contrast between Shane Taylor Promotions and The Foundation. I don’t think this has been an actual story really, just an obvious clash that they’ve used for some good TV content. It works, could just probably be more, though I understand that story-wise, Violence Unlimited have been The Foundation’s more direct opposition.

That’s fine, as they appear to be an awesome act also but I must say, Shane Taylor Promotions is something special. This is the act that makes ROH’s lack of traction most obvious, as this thing should be an absolute smash hit across the board. It isn’t just Taylor either, as Kaun and Moses, the Soldiers of Savagery, are a money tag team too, one that’ll make a lot of money for years to come. They are an imposing, visually striking tandem but there’s range between them also, with Kaun the more flashy counterpart to Moses’ brute force.

In this particular 8-man tag, STP’s championship trio were joined by their own O’Shay Edwards, who eventually scored the win here. Edwards is a potential star in his own right, making this one of the more complete ‘acts’ around, a truly can’t miss pro wrestling faction. That’s not to take away from The Foundation either, who I still love even if admittedly, this whole thing seems to have been less interesting than it probably could’ve been. I do love the usage of those on the outskirts though, like ROH Dojo product Joe Keys here, established as Jonathan Gresham’s student.

In other news, ROH dedicated this week’s television to the Women of Honor title tournament, featuring three first round matches. This wasn’t a home run or anything, but it was a good start for a revived division that’s previously been infamous. Up first, Miranda Alize advanced opposite Alex Gracia and I probably would’ve placed this in the middle, as it wasn’t the strongest start to proceedings. Gracia has had better showings and for now at least, Alize’s base style is a little rough around the edges. Her strikes looked great at times though, and there’s certainly promise on both sides.

Perhaps my personal favourite performance of the night came second though, as Nicole Savoy defeated Mazzerati. The latter has some raw ingredients for sure but this was the Savoy show, which is telling as I actually think she was working well within herself here. Savoy is a building block for this division, the kind that should be a constant as this project takes shape. Finally, ROH established Rok-C as a ‘Prodigy’ indeed, eliminating a former champion in Sumie Sakai. Guided by a veteran, I thought Rok-C mostly lived up to the hype, producing this episode’s best match in my view.

Either way, credit to ROH for actually committing to the women this time around, which was the main issue last time. We can analyse the many prior problems, both unavoidable and self-inflicted but at core, that’s the reality. They just didn’t care enough and it showed, whereas this already feels different on intention alone. I’m quietly confident honestly, as this line-up looks promising but more than that, this thing has Maria Kanellis behind it internally which thus far, appears to be a positive for all involved. Rooting for the women and rooting for Ring of Honor, important months ahead.


Suddenly tasked with a momentary return to taped television and on a different network also, NXT’s time isn’t getting any easier. After years of being almost protected from the pressures of pro wrestling, this brand is now dealing with an onslaught of issues, many of which are out of their hands. For example, it’s not ideal that their unbeatable champion is losing flat on Monday Night RAW, nor is it helpful that multiple key players in the women’s division were called up overnight. It’s a struggle now, things have changed.

With that being said, this product remains steady, a cold, but competent contrast to the discussion surrounding it. In fact, I enjoyed this particular show quite a bit, but perception is reality and unfortunately, that’s NXT’s biggest hurdle right now. Either way, I’m happy to see Hit Row turn babyface after all, as this was a potential issue that I circled only a few weeks ago. Well, think they’re babyfaces at least but if not, they’re certainly framed that way opposite Legado Del Fantasma. That programme opened this week’s show, with a tag match excluding the respective leaders.

Ashante Adonis isn’t there yet but I must say, he’s incredibly striking. I vividly recall first seeing Adonis on 205 Live, as I found myself befuddled at his lack of buzz and hype. Relatively speaking, that’s since changed, or by NXT standards anyway. He’ll improve on his already impressive base in-ring but in terms of star quality, it’s already there, he’s just got something. By contrast, I’m waiting for Top Dolla’s magnetism to translate in-ring but I sense that’s a confidence thing, which will fix itself before long. Nonetheless, he offered an encouraging hot tag here.

Assuming that ‘Swerve’ will eventually retain his North American Title, I’d imagine that this is LDF’s send-off, right? That feels like a main roster act to me, can churn out strong TV action if nothing else. Speaking of such, Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong certainly did that here, producing an unsurprisingly engaging affair. Considering their history, this would ideally mean more than it did but at the end of the day, it’s 3 vs. 4, with Fish now firmly cemented on the tier below even Strong. Regardless, that didn’t stop these two from doing their thing.

It was a bruising battle, intense and physical throughout in a fashion that felt alive in a way that modern TV matches seldom do. This wasn’t following a playbook, it was unfolding in front of your eyes, even in picture-in-picture. That’s not to say it was a special match or even anything beyond “good,” just thought it was worth crediting them on that front. Strong vs. Kushida is the endgame here and that’s a positive, plain and simple. Honestly, I think both guys could be higher on the card but if you want the Cruiserweights to matter, this’ll help.

This may surprise some, but I even like Cameron Grimes’ ongoing antics with LA Knight. I don’t think that any product should be exclusively one thing and with the 2-hour runtime, NXT especially needs variety. I mean, even those glory days that I so often reference had comedy, Bull-Fit comes to mind. It helps that I think both guys are genuinely good in this silliness and the result is something that doesn’t feel a million miles away from your usual wrestling nonsense. Put it this way, I’d much rather turn talent this way rather than just having them work heels.

With that in mind, I’m stunned to see Dakota Kai as the apparent heel of this women’s title programme. Raquel Gonzalez is a bigtime prospect and I get the fascination but your audience isn’t rushing to cheer her at all. Kai on the other hand? She was and still could be a natural babyface, embrace her prior arc and use this feud to complete it. That’d be my play anyway but as is, Kai cut a strong promo here, explaining herself with conviction. I don’t know, just think the match itself has a far lower ceiling in this form.

As the de facto babyface (I think), Raquel will inevitably sell for a lengthy heat segment that if roles were reversed, could be transformative in Kai’s hands. No good crying over spilt milk though I suppose, this is what they’re seemingly going with and thus far, they’ve made a good start in that direction. Elsewhere, Trey Baxter continued his own good start, defeating Joe Gacy and advancing in the NXT Breakout Tournament. This was an effective enough formal introduction for both men, an immediate styles clash that allowed both guys to show their own potential.

Combine much of the above with a decent main event and you have a good television show, but there’s a looming sense of uncertainty to the product’s future. Clearly, NXT’s place in this ‘universe’ is changing and that’s fine, but it’s making for a weird few months. The brand’s main male title is attached to a guy that’s beaten almost everyone, yet already finds himself in the RAW midcard. The answer is seemingly Samoa Joe and well, as much as I love the man, that doesn’t feel like much of an answer at all really.

That’s another topic for another day though, as in a vacuum at least, I still enjoyed this latest edition of NXT TV.


It’s been an eventful month or so for IMPACT Wrestling, producing the encouraging Slammiversary and a range of headlines since. Three TV episodes later, there’s been an onslaught of news and notes but yet, you’re the blink of an eye away from missing them all. If you had any doubt after the viewership boom and then immediate bust of Kenny Omega’s presence, this show feels stuck, even if the many promotional partnerships have provided their PPVs with an extra punch. The TV though? Well, there’s a lot of options and unfortunately, too few people are picking IMPACT.

That’s frustrating as when you actually tune in, you’ll generally enjoy the experience. It’s been especially engaging in recent weeks, with fans finally back also, adding an energy that had been absent for well over a year. I apologize if much of the above overlaps with my earlier ROH opening, but I will say, there is an obvious difference here. I thoroughly enjoy Ring of Honor’s weekly television product, but I’m not delusional, it has no real hook to the modern wrestling fan. In fact, it often feels disconnected from the promotion’s main angles and ideas.

It’s dated in that sense, a complete contrast to the increasingly common approach to US television. They rotate things like AEW but in a far more formulaic fashion, all over just one hour too. I love that, but it’s not particularly exciting, especially for those further distanced from the product. By contrast, IMPACT follows a far more familiar formula, built around its main characters every week and developing their central arcs with each outing also. You’ll be caught up almost immediately, you’ll see at least a couple recognisable faces weekly.

Now, I do think that sometimes, IMPACT’s creative lacks a big picture outlook, mostly specializing in giving purpose to potentially purposeless talent. With that being said, that’s a complaint that I’ll often return to as the major PPV cycles reach their conclusion, but it’s not relevant here. Perhaps it’s just the return of fans, but I really think that over the last three weeks, this product has been consistently interesting in a way that’s seldom been the case. Granted, much of that is fueled by these promotional partnerships but for now, that’s a feature, not a flaw.

Jay White is the obvious example of that, an absolute revelation thus far. Everyone already thought highly of White but wow, he’s made a statement in my view. I knew that the raw ingredients were there but his transition to this style of product couldn’t have been smoother. On arrival, he was one of IMPACT’s most compelling characters and frankly, I don’t think that’d be any different elsewhere either. He’s just got the answers at this point, has figured things out and is the kind of top guy that can successfully slot in anywhere.

This week though, White was a mere plot device really, providing the bridge for Chris Bey’s entry to the Bullet Club. Obviously, that’s a great fit for Bey, who can eventually tour Japan as a premier junior heavyweight. Not only that, but it guarantees a certain protection too, which has been absent from Bey’s booking at times. Most of all though, this is a win for Bullet Club, finally adding an exciting fresh face to their ranks. That faction isn’t untalented of course but the line-up itself certainly isn’t exciting. Bey changes that and tellingly, beat Juice Robinson here.

Elsewhere, IMPACT crowned a king and queen last weekend, with Matthew Rehwoldt and Deonna Purrazzo coming out on top at Homecoming. That was an ideal bonus show for your subscribers by the way, just fun pro wrestling that could easily exist in a vacuum, but felt newsworthy enough too. Either way, Purrazzo is headed to the NWA’s Empower show, with Mickie James revealing her opponent as Melina. This is a strong poster and on name value alone, an understandable play but I do question the match quality element as naturally, Melina isn’t what she was physically.

Ideally, this whole saga leads to Mickie James herself working Purrazzo in IMPACT, as the champion still needs intriguing opponents. Then again, Tasha Steelz may have just joined that list, now backed up by Savannah Evans as Fire ‘N Flava becomes a thing of her past. That’s a real shame by the way, as they’d become a legitimately great team but Kiera has been there for some time now, so it does feel like a logical time for her to climb the promotional ladder. Steelz can be a player in IMPACT either way, teaming with Evans or as a singles.

Honestly, Steelz is one of the promotion’s most underrated performers. Fundamentally sound, versatile and armed with real personality, Steelz should flourish if her spotlight increases, which would help the Knockouts Title scene tremendously. Upon thought though, the division’s tag titles may need her more. Speaking of such, IMPACT’s obsession with multi-team tag matches refuses to relent, now booking a triple threat in which Violent By Design and the Rich Swann/Willie Mack tandem challenges The Good Brothers. I just don’t get it, these matches come with such a ceiling, all following that same tired formula.

Speaking of The Good Brothers, Karl Anderson played fall down man here, taking the pin in this week’s 6-man tag main event. That’s fine, as the champions beat Bey and White last week and frankly, the babyfaces needed this win. Namely, Frankie Kazarian needed this win, taking his Elite hunting antics to IMPACT. That was a natural fit and showed how with even the smallest shift, these partnerships can provide momentum. Ideally, Eddie Edwards and Sami Callihan aren’t your two top babyfaces alongside him, but such is IMPACT.

At some point, you’ve got to let things evolve in that sense, catapulting a few of these newer names forward. That day feels as though it’s coming sooner rather than later but for now, IMPACT television is three for three in my view, yet to miss since the return of fans.

Well folks, that concludes this week’s edition of ‘Takes, Takes & More Takes.’ Got a take? Send it over on the Twitter, @JoeHulbert! Be nice though and try to disguise any critiques as compliments. Thanks pals, speak soon!