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My Favorite Wrestler (This Week): Braun, KO, remembering The Animal

Welcome to My Favorite Wrestler (This Week). Each week, the Wrestling Observer team chooses, you guessed it, their favorite wrestler of the week. The criteria are that there are no criteria. Except it has to be a wrestler. And it has to be because of something that wrestler has done this week. So there’s at least some criteria.

This week's panel --

This week, the biggest news in wrestling has been the saddest kind of news, with the passings of George “The Animal” Steele, Ivan Koloff, and Nicole Bass. But the show, and this column, must go on. Here are our favorite wrestlers this week. Who’s yours?

George “The Animal” Steele

By Zach Dominello

One of, if not my earliest, wrestling memories is George “The Animal” Steele. I was four or five years old, and being introduced to professional wrestling on my nonna’s living room floor. Instantly, I was captivated by these absurdly large and colorful characters with their bandanas, shiny sunglasses, wispy blonde hair, and bicep tassels. But nobody caught my attention more than The Animal.

He was like nothing I had ever seen before. Just the amount of hair alone on that man’s body blew my five-year-old mind. He was like Shrek before Shrek even existed. A real life monster. Except he wasn’t. Behind the layers and layers of hair (so much hair) was this gentle, caring, turnbuckle eating, green tongued man. The other characters looked their part. Hogan looked like the hero, King Kong Bundy looked like the (enormous) villain. But George was different. His outward appearance didn’t match who he was. I found that so intriguing as a kid.  

It’s what’s inside that counts, and don't judge a book by its cover. Such simple lessons that we're usually taught by our parents and our teachers. They were taught to me by George “The Animal” Steele. And Sloth from The Goonies.

Kevin Owens

By Jeremy Peeples

Kevin Owens won the week with his incredible promo on Raw. WWE has struggled to make him feel like a top guy -- let alone the top guy on Raw since his title win. He was greatly hurt by effectively being handed the title by Triple H, which was made worse by it being his first World title-level win in the company -- so he already had an uphill battle to climb.

Months of being a comedy sidekick to Chris Jericho hurt his credibility, but his promo on Raw gave him a serious edge that he has lacked for the better part of the past year. It’s a shame that we didn’t see more of this side of Kevin Owens’ character during his title run, because with that seemingly ending at Fastlane, it’s hard to imagine him being put in the title scene any time soon with Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman seemingly being the focus of Raw’s top tier in 2017.

Kaito Kiyomiya

By Alan4L

“NOAH the REBORN” was the subject of my article in this week’s F4W newsletter and my dude right now on the Green Mat is young Kaito Kiyomiya.

Now the protege of the Japanese Cyborg Killing Machine Takashi Sugiura, Kiyomiya has taken on an even fierier attitude than he had in his first year of wrestling. He’s stepped up big in recent weeks against Naomichi Marufuji and even got knocked out cold as a result. But Kaito keeps coming and has all the heart and fight in the world. He’s going to be a star.

Emi Sakura

(Image: Oli Sandler of Ringside Perspective)

By Alan Boon

My favorite wrestler (this week) is Emi Sakura, the Japanese veteran who heads up the Gatoh Move promotion. Over the weekend she returned to UK joshi promotion Pro Wrestling EVE, where she is a former champion, and worked both shows in their A Day & A Night At The Resistance double-shot.

She won the pinfall in the main event of the matinee show, a six-woman affair also featuring joshi legend Meiko Satomura, and lost a tooth to an errant kick from her compatriot, before facing EVE Champion Rhia O'Reilly for the title at the climax of the evening show, when she again bled for her efforts.

The following day, Sakura led a training seminar and then hand-picked the best of that class for a free show, showcasing the talents of girls from all over the UK, and giving back to a scene which has embraced her on her regular trips over here. Reassuring existing fans that she is not slowing down, and winning over new ones by the dozen, Sakura is deservedly This Week's Best Thing Ever.

Braun Strowman

By Mike DellaCamera

It was February 23rd, 2017. I woke up, went to work, came home, walked my dog, and realized Braun Strowman was my favorite wrestler of the week. The thought of that is almost too much for me to comprehend. Go back six months. If someone told you their favorite wrestler, at any point, was Braun Strowman, how would you react? What would you feel? How did someone go from something thrown into the Wyatt Family to the main event of Raw? It's really a lot to process and I'm not entirely sure I have.

His match with Big Show on Raw was...perfect? Incredible? It exceeded every reasonable expectation I had for it by miles. The things he can do at his size are outrageous. His physical gifts are preposterous. But the most incredible thing he did this week? He showed us he could tell a story in the ring. He utilized all of his physical attributes and proved that somewhere in him, is the ability to be as good as anyone. His ceiling was effectively removed, and where he goes from here is only limited by what WWE writes for him. Man, what a time to be alive.

Kassius Ohno

By Ryan Frederick

After a legendary run on the independent scene, Chris Hero made his television return to NXT under his former moniker, Kassius Ohno, and he gets my favorite wrestler of the week.

No, he didn't compete in a televised match, though he has been working on NXT house shows for the last month, but Ohno, as Hero, is coming off one of the best years in the business in 2016, and he has a lot of new momentum in coming back to WWE. Time will tell whether he eventually moves to the main roster, but his popularity is at an all-time high, and I'm very invested in what they will do with him this time, as they completely missed the boat on him the first time.

It was for the best, though, and I’m hopeful for an even more incredible future from Ohno with WWE.