This week in pro wrestling; champions defended titles, seniors changed names, and the Southeast came first.
Western wrestling got to shine too… Typically shoddy promotions, WWE and Impact played host some great matches while ACTION and IWTV came together to put on a fantastic showcase of the southeastern independent scene.
The following column takes a look at the five best matches broadcast from January 16th-22nd, 2022.
5) Arik Royal & Jaden Newman vs. Dominic Garrini & Kevin Ku
ACTION & IWTV | Southeast First | January 21st
This was an enjoyable tag outing that exploded into an action-packed blitz by its final act.
Arguably, the region’s most decorated independent tag team, Violence is Forever (Ku & Garini), came to blows with two of the region’s most impressive singles wrestlers and did it ever deliver.
The inter-team dynamic between Royal and Newman pushed a lot of the right buttons, and Violence is Forever always deliver. Truly a pithy watch and a great showcase for ACTION Wrestling and Southern Underground Pro.
4) WALTER vs. Roderick Strong
WWE | NXT 2.0 | January 18th
Perhaps in his last match under the name, WALTER delivered the platonic ideal of meaningless TV main events alongside Roderick Strong.
It isn’t a part of an overarching epic or a blowoff to an important rivalry, but this match accomplishes a lot of things quite well. Strong and WALTER built a match with a compelling beginning, middle, and end.
This column isn’t about what’s wrong in wrestling, so I won’t go on for long, but this match can’t be mentioned without talking about its aftermath. Unfortunately, this match will not be remembered fondly by many as it was followed by WALTER’s ridiculous name change. Yes, this decision was stupid, but whether he’s called WALTER, Gunther Stark, or something even more absurd, we’re dealing with a generational talent; don’t forget that.
3) Alex Shelley (C) vs. AC Mack
IWTV Independent Wrestling World Championship
ACTION & IWTV | Southeast First | January 21st
The Independent Wrestling World Championship is growing in prominence, thanks in no small part to matches like this.
In the main event of Southeast First, Alex Shelly and AC Mack put on an absolute clinic. While this is in a style that typically does little for me, by the end of this match, I was sitting on the edge of my seat.
I am not alone in pointing out that this match has more to do with atmosphere than in-ring excellence. As far as I’m concerned, no match has come close to it in this respect thus far into 2022.
Without my connection to the southeast independent scene, I’m not sure how this match would resonate with me, but on a card full of wrestlers near and dear to me, this felt huge.
Congratulations to ACTION, IWTV, and everyone involved on this incredible success.
2) Jonathan Gresham (C) vs. Steve Maclin
ROH World Championship | Pure Rules
IMPACT | Impact Wrestling | January 20th
Johnathan Gresham continued his reign as Ring of Honor World Champion against Steve Maclin in impressive fashion.
This match was compact and to the point, while maintaining what makes Pure work. From the use of rope breaks to closed fists, this was textbook Pure.
Maclin played his part well while Gresham continued to add feathers to the cap of his reign.
While not of legend, it’s matches like these that are slowly painting Gresham into an all-time great. On the middle of a mundane Impact card, Gresham put on a performance filled with intricacy and flavour.
1) Noam Dar (C) vs. A-Kid
NXT UK Heritage Cup | British Rounds
WWE | NXT UK | January 20th
NXT UK is quickly becoming the last compelling place in WWE. Whether that’s because Titan management forgot it existed or it’s not worth the effort of interfering doesn’t matter to me. If they continue to allow for main events of this caliber, NXT UK is well worth checking in on.
This was my first exposure to the British Rounds ruleset, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t blown away. For the unfamiliar, a Heritage Cup match consists of six three-minute rounds, with the first competitor scoring two falls declared the victor.
On its face, rounds should hinder a match’s flow, but somehow, the defending cup holder Noam Dar and challenger A-Kid packed this bout full of dynamic wrestling, intense peaks, and a constant sense of urgency.
This match stands alone this week. It illustrates a match’s artistic potential, filling its runtime with classic tropes from other art forms while staying true to what makes wrestling special. It demonstrates that a good ruleset isn’t a cell, but a foundation for interesting match structure. It pulls the viewer in, and by its end, you know precisely what drives Dar and Kid.
This was a fantastic match that demands attention. Seek it out.