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My Favorite Wrestler (This Week): Daniels, Styles, Ibushi, WALTER, more

With ROH's 15th Anniversary show, wXw's 16 Carat Gold, and the opening stages of the New Japan Cup, as well as the usual 1,000 hours of WWE programming, there's been no shortage of great wrestling over the past seven days. Our team picked their favorite wrestler of the week. Who's yours?

This week's panel --

Tomohiro Ishii

 

By Zach Dominello

Ishii is literally the best. He’s so good that he’s Nakamura’s favorite wrestler. He’s so good he once actually pulled a watchable match out of Yujiro Takahashi. More recently, he had the best match of the New Japan Cup so far when he got the upset win over Kenny Omega in the first round.

And that’s what Ishii does best. When put in a position to shine, Ishii never fails. It’s not often that Tomohiro Ishii gets to main event shows for New Japan, though it does happen from time to time. But it should happen more, because when he’s not in the main event, he’s probably outshining it, like he did in his five star match against Okada in the 2016 G-1.

Ishii is an enigma, and not the Jeff Hardy kind. He’s an actual enigma. He’s short, his physique’s not great, he’s over forty, but his mind for designing matches and his selling is beyond reproach. For those not too familiar with his body of work, go back and look at his series of matches with Naito and Honma, and his singles matches with Okada, Nakamura, Shibata, and Tanahashi.

Yes, those are all amazing wrestlers in their own right, but the common factor in many of their best matches is Tomohiro Ishii, and that’s why he’s my favorite wrestler this week, and always.

Austin Aries

By Jeremy Peeples

Austin Aries went from being a commentator who shined brightly on Raw by actually having a personality -- and an impressive package of innuendo each week -- to the lead face of the cruiserweight division.

While 205 Live is seemingly doomed, Aries remains one of the few cruiserweight acts on Raw who feels like he has some genuine upward momentum out of the division if they so choose. He could easily mix it up in the United States title picture later this year, and he’s already shown that he can get a move over as a killer quickly by shifting from the Last Chancery to the rolling elbow on the main roster. It’s a more visually-impressive move anyway, and gives him the feel of someone who can be a physical threat.

Christopher Daniels

By Ryan Frederick

Christopher Daniels has had a long and entertaining career spanning over 20 years and throughout a plethora of promotions, most notably TNA and Ring of Honor. He's held several championships in several promotions, but one thing had eluded him during his career. He had never been a World Champion in a major promotion.

That changed this past weekend when he won the ROH World Championship by defeating Adam Cole at the ROH 15th Anniversary pay-per-view. It came full circle for Daniels, who competed on the first-ever ROH event, and now 15 years later, he has his first World title at 47 years old. For that, I salute you Mr. Daniels. You're my favorite wrestler this week.

AJ Styles

By Mike DellaCamera

In all honesty, AJ Styles could, and maybe should, be my pick every single week. But this week he did something I never thought was possible. He made me excited about a Shane McMahon match at WrestleMania.

Granted I’m not over the moon about seeing Shane throw his corny, child-like body punches at the best wrestler on the planet, but I am fascinated to see how we get there. When I first heard about the proposed match, my eyes rolled so hard my neighbors across the street heard it. Now? Consider me actually excited.

I’m excited after SmackDown this week, where AJ became probably the most fleshed out, well rounded, and fully realized character on either brand. AJ’s attack on Shane and confrontation with Daniel Bryan completed the transformation from someone who was unhappy with management, to someone that’s been pushed past their breaking point and snapped.

The only question with AJ pre-WWE was if his mic/character work can hold up -- and that question has been asked and answered. The next few weeks should be great, and I have the feeling I’ll be struggling to write up a non-AJ Styles piece between now and WrestleMania.

Kota Ibushi

Image: Robyn Goding

By Alan Boon

My favorite wrestler this week is Kota Ibushi. Since his dual contract with New Japan and DDT ran out, he’s spent the last year and a half doing pretty much exactly what he wants, which has so far included taking part in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, flying to Texas to fight Kaiju Big Battel’s Dr. Cube, piledriving a man into a toilet, and opening the mysterious -- and possibly fictional -- Ibushi Wrestling Research Institute.

This past weekend saw him come to the UK for the first time, to be hosted by the XWA, and he brought his best friend -- and fellow DDT oddball -- Gota Ihashi with him. They fought each other on Saturday night, on a family-friendly show in Colchester, and wowed the mostly unfamiliar crowd with a spectacle that included a bicycle (which was eventually driven into Ihashi’s face), an impromptu boxing match, and an array of dazzling aerial moves.

The next day, the pair moved on to the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green, where they teamed to take on the equally-unhinged Jimmy Havoc & Cara Noir, in a fight that spilled out of the tiny venue and onto the streets of east London, involving Havoc’s car and some fireworks. That’s actual fireworks, which Ibushi aimed at his enemies, his pal, the fans, the sky, a passing train, and lastly himself, before moonsaulting off the car onto Havoc and Noir.

With contract offers on the table from New Japan and WWE pretty much whenever he wants them, Ibushi is instead pushing the boundaries of wrestling, becoming the physical embodiment of wrestling research, his own institute. We don’t deserve him.

“DER RING GENERAL” WALTER

By Alan Counihan

My God……MY GOD!!!!!!

Two Match of the Year candidates, two other GREAT tournament matches and the best two-minute shoot style match that wasn’t Vader vs. Nakano from UWFI. All in a weekend’s work for WALTER.

Not only that, but while WALTER the wrestler is absolutely tearing the house down in the ring, Walter the man is a major part of running one of the most successful weekends of European wrestling ever. And he took it all in his stride. The guy was so calm and relaxed at 16 Carat, but every time he got into the ring, he TORE THE HOUSE DOWN!!!

The final against Ilja Dragunov is the greatest live experience of my life (wrestling or any other form of entertainment) and I was lucky enough to call the action from the best seat in the house. WALTER was an absolute savage in it and the story they told was perfect. I wrote more about the match in this week's F4W, so check that out if you can.

David Starr, Marius Al Ani, Jeff Cobb, Matt Riddle, and Ilja Dragunov all stood opposite “Der Ring General” in Oberhausen last week, and they all came out of their matches looking incredible. WALTER makes guys look fantastic, but boy does he make them earn it! Ilja’s chest at the end of their match was a sight to behold.

WALTER’s performance last weekend was every bit as special as Kenny Omega’s on G1 finals weekend last year. He was THAT good.