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My Favorite Wrestler (This Week): Samoa Joe, Neville, Shuji Ishikawa

This week in wrestling, Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada once again won all the stars, New Japan's Long Beach lineup was announced with an inexplicable Billy Gunn IC title match, and Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe continued building to their dream match at Great Balls of Fire. Here are our favorite wrestlers this week. Who's yours?

This week's panel --

Shuji Ishikawa

By Zach Dominello

It would have been way, way too easy to pick Kenny Omega and/or Kazuchika Okada this week. And usually I’m all for taking the easy option, but this week I finally caught up with a little bit of wrestling that didn’t involve New Japan.

I actually watched a couple of All Japan matches from last month (and last last month), including the finals of All Japan’s Champion of the Carnivals tournament and a Three Crowns Championship match (that sounds right). The winner of said tournament, and new Three Crowns Champion, is my favorite wrestler this week, Shuji Ishikawa.

For those not familiar, Ishikawa is kind of the king of the Japanese indies. He works for DDT as part of the world’s greatest stable, Damnation. He’s also a regular in BJW, and obviously AJPW where he’s the current top champion. At 6’5”, he’s a mammoth among men in Japan. He’s among a few wrestlers who truly exemplify a certain Japanese strong style of wrestling, like Daisuke Sekimoto, Yuji Okabayashi, Yuji Hino, and Kohei Sato. And he has a shirt that says “Destruction ‘em all.” So in short, he’s awesome. He also dressed like a dog once.

While he’s had plenty of success in promotions like DDT, BJW, and AJPW, he’s not the most talked about wrestler among fans of Japanese wrestling. And that’s a shame because he’s the kind of wrestler who I think deserves more success and recognition than he gets. I’d love to see him on a US excursion, similar to what Shigehiro Irie recently did.

There are so many dream matches I can think of with wrestlers outside of Japan. Then again, he’s 41 years old and doing well where he is, so who even knows if he wants more? I just know that I do. I also really want that “Destruction ‘em all” shirt.

Neville

By Mike DellaCamera

Would the cruiserweight division and 205 Live even still exist if it wasn’t for Neville? I mean, the division existed for all of like 14 seconds on Raw this week, but where would it be without its King?

The King of the Cruiserweights character has done so much for Neville as a performer. He seems comfortable, confident, and he has been dominant in his role. So dominant that it raises a problem similar to what was happening with Asuka for almost a year in NXT -- there really isn’t anyone that seems like they can beat him.

The feud with Austin Aries was good and they had some very, very good matches, but the "Neville Level" isn’t just a catchphrase, it’s absolutely a thing. No one on the roster, as currently presented, is anywhere near his level in terms of in-ring performance and character work.

I would love it, absolutely LOVE it, if Neville dropped the title to Cedric Alexander in a few months, then deemed the cruiserweight division unworthy to have him as its king...and move on to the non-purple ropes version of WWE. He’s certainly more physically imposing (but less beautiful) than Finn Balor, so his size shouldn’t be an issue.

Personally, I am very ready for Neville to move on and try and take the throne as the King of the WWE.

Samoa Joe

By Joseph Currier

I had written a couple of weeks ago in the Figure Four Weekly newsletter that I was worried that the Samoa Joe vs. Brock Lesnar dream match was happening at a time when it couldn't live up to expectations. While I still have my reservations about it, the build has been fantastic up to this point.

I'm still not sure that they're capable of having a classic match together. I don't even know if they'll be allowed to. It could mostly just be a showcase for Lesnar before he faces Braun Strowman at SummerSlam. But the first two Raw angles to build the match have made Lesnar vs. Joe feel so important.

The brawl that they got into on last week's Raw was must-see. Joe is being treated like the credible physical threat that he should be. And even if he loses at Great Balls of Fire, he'll be helped so much going forward if he gets to look competitive against Lesnar.

Joe is one of the most important wrestlers to my pro wrestling fandom. His Ring of Honor title reign is what made me become a fan of ROH and independent wrestling as a teenager. And my horizons only broadened from there. It's so great to see him having success in WWE, especially since it seemed unlikely that he would get the chance to back then.