It was quite an eventful week in wrestling, what with mid-match promos, rings exploding, and former jobbers getting WWE title shots. There's certainly no shortage of choices for our favorite wrestlers this week.
This week's panel --
- Alan Counihan (Dr. Keith Presents host and Figure Four Weekly writer)
- Zach Dominello (Columnist)
- Jeremy Peeples (Lucha Underground writer)
- Bryan Rose (NJPW and 205 Live writer)
By Zach Dominello
Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks had a match against Lio Rush, Will Ospreay & Ryan Smile in OTT (You down with OTT? Yeah you know me!) that you may have heard about. I haven’t seen the whole match, but I did catch the final few minutes, and the divisive running commentary spot by Omega and Matt Jackson.
I’m drawn to wrestlers who do things a little differently, wrestlers who think outside the squared circle when it comes to their style and approach to pro wrestling. Guys like Ibushi, Ishii, Shibata, and Omega, who aren’t afraid to work a different style, or have a match with a kaiju.
The Elite, in their OTT match, did something very different when Matt Jackson got on the mic and started pushing his merch while he had his opponent in a sharpshooter, and Kenny Omega did his own play-by-play. I’m sure it’s been done before, but it’s not something you see very often, and some might feel that’s a good thing.
It’s quite a divisive spot among wrestling fans. For those who enjoy the sporting side of wrestling, the portrayal of a real fight, well, this match, for the most part, wasn’t that. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I mainly follow NJPW, which calls itself the “King of Sports.” Not many companies take wrestling as seriously as New Japan. I’m not sure if this was the match the OTT crowd expected from The Elite, but if you’ve seen the clips, they loved every second of it, and so did I.
And that’s why The Elite are my favorite wrestlers this week. It’s not simply that they’re ridiculously talented and entertaining, but they’re smart. At least, they work smart. That OTT match in New Japan probably wouldn’t fly. When The Elite work New Japan, there’s still some comedy, but their matches are much more physical, much more of a battle.
But OTT isn’t New Japan, and on that night, they worked a match that kept the physical toll on their bodies to a minimum, but still got over huge with the crowd. Granted, they probably could have spent thirty minutes discussing climate change and still had a 4+ star match.
The match isn’t for everyone, but for better or for worse, depending on which side of the fence you’re on, it pushed the boundaries of what a pro wrestling match is and can be.
By Bryan Rose
You see, you have to give credit to Mr. Mahal here. He came back, proceeded to get ripped to shreds, grow traps the size of beach balloons, then got a push out of it instead of jobbing on Main Event, which was what he was doing for a good six months on Raw. Then he got traded to SmackDown and is now the number one contender to the WWE title!
Yes, he is not at all memorable in the ring, and yes, he’s one of the few who actually possesses the ability to have a boring match with Cesaro, but you know what? He’s worked hard to get where he’s at, and that is why he is my favorite wrestler this week. Kudos to him! Hard work and having an incredible body will get you high up the WWE ladder of success! You may not like it, but who else has had a more successful week than Jinder Mahal?
He will not be my favorite wrestler when he and Orton actually have their match though, I’m pretty sure of that.
By Jeremy Peeples
Braun has been shining brightly the past few months, but the past two weeks in particular have been fantastic for him. He was given a strong match against Big Show where he not only showed off his power and agility -- but did something no one else has done.
The ring break spot always left everyone involved down and out, but he emerged, posed, and came off like a world-beating badass. If WWE protects him properly, they’ll have their best-booked actual monster act since the original Kane push nearly 20 years ago.
Braun has an aura to him that no one else has outside of Brock Lesnar, and every time he is on screen, he elicits that same feeling that something big is going to happen -- just like Brock did in 2012. He may not have Brock’s physical gifts, but Braun is being built up nearly perfectly and as long as they don’t stop and start him in main event slots, or have him lose in awkward ways like at Fastlane, he should be an effective main event-level act and possibly an act that can even draw money and generate some buzz.
His biggest stunts have been water-cooler discussion among even my casual wrestling fan co-workers, and he could bring some lapsed fans back simply due to how great he looks in pulling off these stunts. Who can’t just adore a guy who will tip an ambulance over to hurt someone or toss a dude in a dumpster? It’s impossible!
By Alan Counihan
Zero 1 is not exactly the foremost promotion on people's radars these days. Thus many may not be aware that 44 year old Shinjiro Ohtani is still churning out great performances like it was 1996 all over again.
Ohtani hasn't slowed at all, still has great charisma, and has a knack for getting the most out of matches against younger more inexperienced opponents. With his role as the boss in Zero 1, he doesn't have much scope for wrestling outside of that promotion, but that is something I hope changes in the next few years while he still has high level performances to offer.
I have no doubt he'd get over huge on a US or European indie show even if some newer fans weren't aware of who he is. He'd win anyone over with his personality and the tightness of his work. A role representing Zero 1 in another promotion like New Japan or NOAH could also bear great fruit and a ton of interesting matches. Watch some 2017 Ohtani, you won't regret it!