Introducing a brand new series here on Parts Unknown Press called Best and Worst. In this series, the Parts Unknown Press team will give you their favourite and least favourite things from the week of wrestling. It could be shows, wrestlers, moments or anything from the entire wrestling world. So without further ado, here is the best and worst from wrestling for the week of Jan. 3 2022.
Pro Wrestling NOAH
I have watched multiple NOAH shows this week. All of them were at least very fun. There were also multiple early MOTY candidates. Earlier in the year I made the bold prediction of NOAH surpassing NJPW domestically. While New Japan has a strong grip over the scene, this past week of shows makes me think NOAH have the pieces in place. NOAH’s New Year show was better than most of Wrestle Kingdom to me. The crowd, despite COVID restrictions, seemed more into everything (venue probably helpedl). I hope for nothing but the best going forward.
This is a very basic-bitch answer, but I have to include it. Danielson/Page 2, to the surprise of almost nobody delivered. The first match was a classic technically sound master piece of ring-work mixed with some cool violent stuff. This match was an all-out, bloody brawl. A very different pace and style to the first match, while still managing to build on the original and have the same strong emotional core. I may sound like I’m writing an English essay, but seriously… watch the fucking match, because words don’t do it justice.
IMPACT Booking for me and me alone
This is kind of a late contender, but my god. I’ve been raving about stuff happening in current Impact for a while now, but this week has truly solidified that Impact (and NWA too, but they aren’t who I’m writing about) are seemingly booking shows solely to make me happy. Hard to Kill was a top to bottom fun show with great matches and moments. Then to cap it all off, I see fucking Impact taping spoilers on Twitter and find out they brought Charlie Haas in… FUCK YEAH! I wonder if his two sons he’s training also make an appearance? Still though, Impact is great for their great shows, but also great for doing things that only I am going to pop for.
I mean, this is an easy one. The WWE releases this week really fucked over a lot of people. They came out of nowhere, as expected. Sure, a lot of the people who got released will easily find work elsewhere. Many will be better off. My god though, the vindictiveness of which these releases were dealt in some cases was absurd. If you want the purest example of that, Lenny Leonard put out a good Twitter Thread on Alison Danger’s release that is a must read. The worst part is, I won’t be shocked if we see even more mass-releases of people as a pure power-play.
Most of Wrestle Kingdom
Fucking hell, was most of Wrestle Kingdom this year dire. NJPW continued the tradition of a two-night Wrestle Kingdom (three if you count the show with NOAH) and it continued to be a bad idea. This year it was worse, because half the show was pointless filler, more than even by NJPW standards. We had bad, formulaic NJPW style multi-man tags. There were bad booking decisions with House of Torture, a stable who we are meant to hate because they constantly defy the rules, cheat and do shitty overbooked stuff. It’d be one thing if they were 2013 Bullet Club, when this idea actually worked because that kind of shit wasn’t happening in most of the card.
Since then, the shit has clouded the main event scene to the point that this gimmick just reads like an unintentional parody of the actual New Japan booking style. This was most notable in the Ishii/EVIL match. I mean, the main events (personal feelings on Ospreay aside) were some of the better NJPW style main events in a while. KENTA tore the house (and his body) down. Stardom had a good showcase. There was some good there, but the whole two nights were marred by the worst of New Japan. Maybe stick to one night next time?
The Shitty GCW Battle Rap*
This is kind of cheating, since it technically took place last week and last year, but hey… I only watched it for myself this week and I am really struggling for things that don’t just come across as me having a petty whine. On GCW’s final show for the year, a show which at that point had already been going for at least 3 hours, GCW decided “hey, what if we do a really bad battle rap”? I am aware it was promoted before the show. But to fully derail the already over-long show? For people rapping so horribly that it makes me, the whitest man on the planet, think I could do better? WHY?
Both Emil and dude whose name I don’t know were so out of beat. They had some of the most forced, shitty lines that just didn’t fucking work. Max Caster may get shit all the time from people for being a “bad rapper”. That one very shitty, super-tasteless rap he did withstanding, he is great compared to this trite. If even the biggest “Max Caster can’t even rap” person doesn’t have a newfound respect for him at least having SOME skill, I’d be disappointed.
Maki Itoh wins big at Tokyo Joshi Pro’s 1.4 show
Maki Itoh won huge at Tokyo Joshi Pro 1.4 by beating Hikari Noa to win her first title in a very long time! Maki Ito then went on to challenge Thunder Rosa who beat her for her last title in Tokyo Joshi Pro. The future is bright for the cutest in the world.
Trans Graps blows up on twitter allowing more exposure for trans wrestlers
Trans Graps is a very new twitter account that has a mission to get more exposer for trans people in wrestling. This goal has been a successful one so far as they gained a lot of followers over the last week.
IWTV continues to grow their VOD
IWTV Added a lot of fun classic CZW, IWA:MS and other random independent shows over the last week including Pro Wrestling Grind which I personally had a lot of fun watching.
Odyssey Jones is a dumbass
Odyssey Jones decided it was a good idea to be a transphobe publicly and think we would all be okay with it. Well we weren’t and twitter called him out for his actions and he’s been silent on the matter ever since.
Hangman Adam Page Vs Bryan Danielson
By far the best worked match all week, every bit of the match was perfect all around.
OGK, PCO and Vincent invading ROH
The start of a new invasion, and hopefully this goes places and PCO becomes World Champion.
Bron Breakker Vs Tommaso Ciampa
The start of a brand new era in NXT, started with a banger of a match and the Era of Bron begins!
Night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom
The entire night was just flat out boring from start to finish, especially Yoh Vs Sho and Ishii Vs EVIL, EVIL can get a bad match out of anyone, ever.
Cardona/Morrissey/Moose and it’s overbooked bullshit finish
It was a good match, but the TNA special of overbooked referee bumps killed it.
Steve Maclin not beating Trey Miguel
I don’t understand why they kept building up Maclin as this undefeated guy just for Trey Miguel of all people to beat, you had the stipulation of if Maclin loses he never gets a shot, so he should have won, it would have made him, but no, you kill his momentum even more.
Miraculous returns in Japanese wrestling
January 4th saw Katsuyori Shibata’s first official pro-wrestling match since 2017. He came back from a horrific brain injury that was thought to be the end of his career, and he did it with a bang in a fantastic match against one of his students, Ren Narita. Elsewhere, the return of Fujita “Jr.” Hayato was announced. Hayato’s last match to date was December 13, 2019, eight months after undergoing an operation to partially remove a tumor from his spine. Hayato’s spinal tumor has left him sidelined since November 2018, though he had already been recovering from a brutal knee injury the previous year. For those unfamiliar, Hayato debuted at the age of 18 in 2004 and was a staple of the indie junior scene for years, with his home company being Michinoku Pro. Both returns come in spite of difficulties that many figured were insurmountable, and are hopefully a great sign of things to come for 2022.
Hard to Kill
Impact’s first pay-per-view of 2022 was a fantastic show from the pre-show to the main event. I could run down the card here, but there really isn’t a match that isn’t worth watching on the show. Tom Hannifan slid into the play-by-play role perfectly and meshed well with D’Lo Brown, while the ROH invasion was another major highlight. I’ve been a huge fan of Mike Bennett dating back to his days as the Miracle in Impact/TNA in 2016, so seeing him coming in with two other guys late ROH got me into in Taven and Vincent popped me huge. I think the whole PCO thing is personally way past its shelf life, but I’m interested to see what he does as a part of this invasion. Hopefully it gives us more pure rules matches, too.
Mickie James entering the ultimate Forbidden Door
Definitely one of the wildest things to happen this week, the announcement of Impact Knockouts champion Mickie James for the Royal Rumble was probably the last thing I expected to be possible. For years and years, WWE have been notoriously isolationist, only really referencing other companies if its specifically to hype up specific prospects (such as AJ Styles’s IWGP championship run being mentioned during his Rumble debut) or, more commonly in Impact’s case, to be the butt of a joke. Seeing an Impact champion announced for the Royal Rumble and not being minimized or having their Impact accomplishments ignored is beyond belief. It’s another instance of Impact managing to be the ones making the most out of the “forbidden door” concept, especially in comparison to what AEW have done with the idea.
Chase Owens & TAKA tainting the New Japan Rumble
While this year’s New Japan Rumble was one of the most fun parts of Wrestle Kingdom, Chase Owens functioning as the iron man was a huge downer on what was otherwise a very fun novelty match. Following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct toward minors, I have zero interest in seeing Owens do anything. Another figure I feel similarly toward – if on a much less extreme degree – is TAKA Michinoku, who was in the match following a return to New Japan in November 2021.
Michinoku had left the company in 2019 in the fallout of an extra-marital affair that ousted him from his promotion, Kaientai Dojo (now Active Advance Pro Wrestling), and led to him forming another, Pro Wrestling Just Tap Out. While this was a newsworthy story to Western fans, what’s commonly left out is multiple allegations of sexual harassment from female Kaientai Dojo fans. In fact, the affair that caused the controversy to begin with started when TAKA was messaged by a fan after a show where he was injured. The rest of the rumble was enjoyable, but these two left a darker spot over the match.
The tag team title match between Lucha Bros and Jurassic Express led to one of the most gruesome looking injuries in quite a while when Fenix landed on his arm after being sent through a table. Upon landing, Fenix’s arm bent all the way back and he could be seen seemingly holding it together afterward. Somehow, Fenix managed to get out with just a dislocated elbow instead of a broken arm, but the graphic nature of the injury is unforgettable. Another sad moment was the knee injury that Jake Atlas suffered during his AEW Rampage debut. Though it seems that the injury is minor, it’s still unfortunate to see a dark spot hanging over Atlas’s high-profile return from the hiatus he took earlier in the year.
Most of the WWE releases
While there were one or two people from WWE’s recent NXT staff releases that I didn’t feel much sympathy for, the rest added fuel to the fire that is WWE’s blatant disregard of their contracted talent. Allison Danger, fired months after uprooting her life to join WWE, is a prime example, though Samoa Joe’s release is just as notable. He was released already earlier last year during his stint as a color commentator on RAW and quickly re-signed amid rumors and speculation of his appearance in other promotions. Joe would surprisingly be cleared to return to in-ring competition for an NXT title match which he won, though he would be stripped due to an unnamed injury shortly after. It would be pure speculation to guess that he was re-signed and cleared just to keep other promotions from cashing in on his buzz, though it seems like an extra-cruel step to release him now, once again without clearing him to return.