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My Favorite Wrestler (This Week): Shibata, Atlantis, Miley, Starr

Rosters were shook in WWE, and Sakuras were Genesised in New Japan. These are our favorite wrestlers this week. Who's yours?

This week's panel --

Katsuyori Shibata

By Zach Dominello

I don’t know about you, but as much as I enjoyed Kazuchika Okada vs. Katsuyori Shibata from Sakura Genesis, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that Okada retained the title. As great as Okada’s matches and title defenses have been, I’m ready for a new champion, and Shibata is just as deserving as anyone else. He’s been so good for so long, but hasn’t had too many shots at New Japan’s top title.

Unfortunately, that may have been his last one. The post-match buzz I get after watching something great in the ring soon turned to concern when I read that Shibata was hospitalized after the match due to an injury which he received from a sickening, and unnecessary, headbutt spot. But that concern quickly turned to relief with a dash of mild annoyance when reports came in that it was simply a work to get over the physicality of the match.

I don’t mind when wrestling blurs the line between a work and reality. In fact, it usually makes for good television. But hearing news that a wrestler has suffered a subdural hematoma only for it to turn out to be false, well, I guess that’s where I draw the line.

But as this rollercoaster ride of a story continues, word is that Shibata’s injury and hospitalization wasn’t a work after all, and it’s actually worse than first expected. Shibata reportedly suffered from dehydration as well as the head injury, and had some paralysis to his right side. The crushing blow is that it’s believed Shibata won’t be cleared to wrestle again.

I know I just complained about using a performer’s health for a work, but I’d happily accept that if it meant this news wasn’t true. First Tomoaki Honma, now Shibata. The careers of two of pro wrestling’s modern greats are now in serious jeopardy.

I don’t know if Shibata's headbutt was solely responsible for the damage, or know for sure if the injury was real, though at this stage it unfortunately appears to be. Either way, New Japan has got to put an end to those unprotected, skull-on-skull headbutts. Simply put, they’re not worth it.

Atlantis

By Chris Aiken

My favorite this week is a luchador that is indeed an actual living legend. Atlantis first debuted in the early 1980s. His lengthy career continues to this day where he headlines the Friday night card at Arena Mexico challenging Ultimo Guerrero for the NWA World Historic Middleweight Championship.

Atlantis finds himself in a familiar position as part of a title match. He recently tweeted a photo of himself holding the first title he captured back in 1984.

In one of his many main event matches at Arena Mexico, Atlantis defeated Guerrero to take his mask at the annual CMLL anniversary show in 2014. They renewed their rivalry ahead of Atlantis issuing a verbal challenge last Friday, wanting a title match with Guerrero. Title matches are still relatively protected in Mexico, and such attractions take place much more sparingly as compared to pro wrestling in the United States.

Moreover, Atlantis is far from a nostalgia act as the challenger. While the nostalgic factor does play a large part in his enduring popularity, Atlantis still performs at a top level.

Nonetheless, this could be the last challenge by Atlantis for a singles title in the main event at Arena Mexico as he inches closer to the end of a career he began decades ago. The storied career of Atlantis has already spanned three decades. At some point every luchador or wrestler eventually does the job for father time.

The Undertaker most recently left his gloves and gear in the ring to signify the end of his career. Yet Atlantis debuted several years before Undertaker, and Atlantis is seemingly still going strong. He could even main event another anniversary show in Arena Mexico before he retires.

Dylan Miley

By Jeremy Peeples

It's been a big couple of weeks for NXT, and yet despite things like new championships being unveiled at TakeOver and Shinsuke Nakamura getting a fantastic sendoff, my big takeaway from NXT this week was that WWE has something in Dylan Miley.

On the surface, he looks like a big bald dude -- but he’s got tremendous facial expressions and a giant beard and gives off an intimidating aura. He worked against DIY, which I’m sure didn’t hurt him, but he looked like an absolute beast tossing them around before finally beating up his partner.

He used basic stuff, but done in a different way. He used a backbreaker, but made sure his knee brace hit the ribs to add a bit more damage before also hitting a rewind powerslam off of it.

He came out of nowhere for me and made a fantastic first impression. I don’t see “top of the brand” heel in him, but as a constant thorn in the side of a babyface NXT Champion, he has real potential to shine if put in the right spot on the card.

David Starr

By Mike DellaCamera

I haven’t seen a ton of wrestling this week, due to "real life" getting in the way, so I’ll use this space to talk about someone that I’ve been enjoying for quite a while now, David Starr.

The Cream in Your Coffee, Your Favorite Wrestler's Favorite Wrestler, The Jewish Cannon, The Physical Embodiment of Charisma, The Most Entertaining Man in Pro Wrestling, Mr. Americanrana, Davey Wrestling, The 104 Minute Man, The Main Event, The King of Taunts is deserving of all these nicknames -- and probably more.

The former wXw Shotgun Champion is one of the more versatile and impressive wrestlers on the independent scene. The ability to work any style of match, and do it well, is typically a sign of someone who has an enormously bright future. Recently, his champion vs. champion match with Matt Riddle in CZW was a great, short sprint, and his anything goes match with Joey Janela at Beyond Wrestling back in January was out of control and fantastic -- I was there for that match and can’t recommend it enough.

Wrestling acumen aside, Starr is fairly outspoken about equality not just in wrestling, but in every aspect of life. He has spoken about the anti-Semitic things that have been said/done to him over his years as a performer. The use of his platform as a public figure to speak out against inequality is something that deserves praise and more attention than it gets.

Zack Sabre Jr., someone who feels like a fixture in this column, said after winning the EVOLVE title, “Pro wrestling is for everyone. We welcome everyone. We do not discriminate. The Earth is for everyone and professional wrestling is for everyone.” Here’s hoping more wrestlers do what ZSJ and David Starr are doing.