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My Favorite Wrestler (This Week): Toyota, Bad News, Newell, Miz & Maryse

Before we get started this week, we wanted to send our deepest condolences and prayers to Jim Ross and his family.

This week in wrestling, PWG had a supposed show of the year contender that nobody except the live crowd can see for months, Katsuyori Shibata (thank the lord not Bad Luck Fale) won the New Japan Cup and is set to face Kazuchika Okada at the very pretty sounding Sakura Genesis in April, and WWE has continued its build to some sort of big, annual wrestling event called The Wrestling Mania. I doubt you’ve heard of it.

These are our favorite wrestlers this week. Who’s yours?

This week's panel --

Manami Toyota

By Zach Dominello

Earlier this week, Manami Toyota announced her retirement later this year after 30 years as a professional wrestler. Toyota is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of the 1990s, not that I had any idea who she was back then. I was too busy imitating Shaq Attaq and collecting Shawn Kemp basketball cards, which I’m sure are worth millions now.

I only became familiar with Toyota in recent years as my interest in Japanese wrestling has grown, and even then I’ve only seen a handful of her matches. But you know what, you don't need to see many Toyota matches to understand how incredible she was in her heyday.

She was basically a five-star match machine in the early 90s. I would describe her style as a sprint from start to finish, like if Florence Griffith Joyner had been a wrestler. What I personally enjoyed most from the few matches I’ve seen are her astonishing array of suplexes, those insane dropkicks all the way to the floor, and her bridge. Is that weird? I just love a good bridge, OK. And hers were the best.

If you’d like to know more about Toyota’s incredible career, check out Dave’s excellent feature in this week’s newsletter.

Bad News Allen

By Arya Witner

My favorite wrestler this week is an odd choice since he retired in 1999 and hasn't been on a nationally televised US TV show since 1990. On top of that he passed away in 2007. My favorite wrestler this week is 1976 Olympic Bronze Medalist Allen Coage aka Bad News Allen/Bad News Brown.

Ten years after he passed away he was the subject of a tribute show on Killing The Town, starring former F4WOnline co-host Lance Storm and New Japan commentator Don Callis. The story of Bad News is an interesting one. He didn't take his first Judo class until he was 22 but somehow became a five-time AAU national champion, a two-time Pan-Am Gold Medalist, and the afore-mentioned Olympic Bronze Medalist.

From there he entered the New Japan dojo at the ripe, young age of 34 and had a colorful 22-year career with his most notable stops being in Stampede Wrestling and the WWF. After leaving the WWF in 1990 he wrestled in New Japan and appeared on Canadian independent shows over the next decade. In addition to being an excellent athlete he had a commanding presence that helped him both with promos and in the locker room, where there was great respect for him everywhere he went.

Nixon Newell

By Alan Boon

My favorite wrestler this week is Nixon Newell, who bade farewell to one of her regular haunts -- Fight Club: PRO -- as part of a long, winding goodbye to the British wrestling scene. Her "nxt" destination hasn't been officially announced yet, but it's fair to say that you should expect to see her on that Network thing by mid-summer, if not sooner.

Her last show for Fight Club: PRO, at the Fixxion Warehouse in Wolverhampton, was named for her. Entitled First Female of Fight Club: PRO, it saw 200 people cram into a tiny space above a nightclub to say goodbye, with a last match against one of her mentors -- Candice LeRae -- a fitting way to bow out. LeRae was a perfect opponent, because she, too, has spent much of her career fighting as many men as women, one of Nixon's core strengths.

Indeed, the night before, at All The Best 2017 in the same building, Nixon went toe-to-toe with her eternal nemesis (and sometime tag partner) Chris Brookes, in a crazy match which involved staples and thumb tacks amongst a display of super, modern wrestling.

Although the British scene is in a very healthy state, Nixon's departure will leave a huge gap, and our loss is very much Orlando's gain. Enjoy her while you can, and get ready for the next chapter in her story.

The Miz & Maryse

By Joseph Currier

The Miz and Maryse are my favorite wrestlers this week, and I'd expand that to include John Cena and Nikki Bella as well if I didn't think that picking two wrestlers this week was already stretching things too much.

The "Total Bellas" videos that aired on last Tuesday's SmackDown were about as funny as WWE comedy gets, largely due to the performances put on by Miz and Maryse. And even with their quality, they were almost overshadowed by Cena's excellent promo on Talking Smack.

Everyone involved in the Cena & Nikki vs. Miz & Maryse mixed tag match at WrestleMania has played their parts so well since it started to build. We'll see what the end result of it is on the show, but it's become one of the matches I'm most looking forward to at WrestleMania.

Their storyline has been another reminder of how good Miz has become. I picked him as my choice for Most Improved in the 2016 Wrestling Observer Awards, though I understood the argument that he was just given more of a chance to showcase his abilities instead of actually becoming better.

But I think everything clicked for him in 2016, with Maryse returning and how well the couple works together on television helping out a lot, to the point where he's now a worthy legitimate main event-level wrestler.