There’s more great pro wrestling in 2022 than we know what to do with. So The Ringer brings you a regular cheat sheet with the three best matches of the past week—one from WWE, one from AEW, and one from the rest of the immense wrestling world.
Chris Jericho vs. Bandido
AEW Dynamite, September 28
The Tony Khan era of Ring of Honor has been a mixed bag. Both pay-per-views the company has run have been in-ring successes, highlighted by a pair of all-time classic tag matches between FTR and the Briscoes. Outside of that tag feud, the promotion has been pretty underwhelming. Samoa Joe captured the ROH TV title, but disappeared for months to film the Twisted Metal TV show, and is now in a tag team with Wardlow, with his role in ROH seemingly on the back burner. The ROH Pure title has added some spice to the Daniel Garcia and Wheeler Yuta rivalry, but before that was mostly just a belt for Yuta to carry to the ring. The initial AEW-era ROH World title run by Jonathan Gresham saw him wrestling mainly on Dark and Rampage to little reaction, a heel turn out of nowhere, and having two different managers in as many weeks (Tully Blanchard and Prince Nana). This all led to Gresham leaving Ring of Honor in a snit after dropping the belt. Claudio Castagnoli’s World title run felt like great wrestling in a vacuum—he had awesome matches against Konosuke Takeshita, Dustin Rhodes, and Dax Harwood, but there wasn’t any build to those matches and very little follow-up after. These matches were great excuses to have long Claudio title bouts as the focus of Rampage, but there was no momentum outside of that. It feels like the entire project is on a hamster wheel, waiting for ROH to get a television deal.
However, whenever Chris Jericho is involved in something in AEW it by definition raises its importance. The Jericho Appreciation Society going to war with Ring of Honor and its legacy has jump-started the promotion and Jericho’s match with former ROH champion Bandido and its aftermath has turned Ring of Honor from something moribund to one of the most exciting parts of AEW.
Jericho won the title from Castagnoli the previous week at Grand Slam, during which he roughed up 62-year-old former ROH owner Cary Silkin and beat Claudio with a low blow—a direct affront to the spirit of honorable wrestling which ROH was built upon. Of course, that spirit was always a wrestling gimmick; on the very first ROH show, Christopher Daniels broke the “Code of Honor” by refusing to shake hands, and later formed the heel stable the Prophecy to destroy the Code of Honor and ROH. So, despite some of the sillier complaints, Jericho’s current gimmick is perfectly in line with the true spirit of Ring of Honor.
While Bandido wrestled in the main event of All In (the PPV which was the forefather of AEW) and on the first Khan-owned ROH PPV, this match was his debut on AEW proper. Over the years, AEW has booked a number of matches with unsigned talent coming in and challenging AEW wrestlers (Jon Moxley brawled with New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Juice Robinson earlier that night), but this was easily the most successful intrusion since Eddie Kingston made himself a star in his first AEW match against Cody Rhodes.
A lot of credit for that has to be given to Chris Jericho; Bandido has a lot of dangerous and impressive-looking offense and the 51-year-old Jericho took it all, including a rana off the ring apron to the floor and a moonsault powerslam off the top rope, both huge bumps for someone half his age to take.
Jericho offered his hand at the beginning of the match but turned the Code of Honor handshake into a frat boy joke shake and a middle finger. Bandido dominated early with a couple of big dives, but Jericho slowed the match down and unloaded some painful-looking forearms and kicks.
Bandido started getting the crowd behind him with an impressive one-arm press slam, which he followed up with a hanging vertical suplex where he held Jericho in the air for 57 seconds straight, draining all of Jericho’s blood down, turning his face whiskey-bender red. Jericho was able to counter a Bandido dive with a Codebreaker, which looked like it broke Bandido’s nose, an injury Jericho aggravated with a Tenryu-style short punch to the nose as they were battling on the ring apron. Soon a bloodstain would start to spread on Bandido’s white mask, like someone spilled Bordeaux on a linen tablecloth.
The match really kicked into gear with Bandido pushing the pace as the blood pooled, hitting a nasty crucifix bomb and attempting his X Marks the Spot knee (a variation of the Go To Sleep), which Jericho reversed into the Walls of Jericho. Bandido was able to get to the ropes to break, and then cut off Jericho as he went to the top, and with both men standing on the top rope, Bandido drilled Jericho with a moonsault fallaway slam—a move so spectacular it led to a standing ovation by the notoriously fickle Philadelphia wrestling crowd. Bandido then hit his X Knee and a 21 Plex for another razor-thin near-fall. A desperate Jericho then popped Bandido in the broken nose, pulled down his mask over his eyes, and after one last Bandido roll-up attempt, was able to apply the high angle Walls of Jericho for a tap out, with Bandido’s obstructed vision keeping him from seeing how close he was to the ropes. I might have saved one big Bandido move in reserve for a return; all of his offense looked great, but Jericho also ended up kicking out of said offense. It would have been good if he had one more arrow to save for a future appearance. (Bandido was reportedly offered an AEW deal, but there’s no word on whether he has signed it.)
Post-match, Jericho called out all the former ROH champions and cheap-shotted ring announcer Bobby Cruise, fully igniting his war with ROH. This opens up a lot of different match possibilities, not only with former ROH champions currently in the promotion (like Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson), but also active ex-champions elsewhere on the indies. AEW has used Homicide before, and a one-off Homicide vs. Jericho brawl with Homicide pushing the intensity could be great. Guys like Low Ki and Austin Aries have less-than-stellar locker room reputations, and this might be the worst time to bring in malcontents, but either Aries vs. Jericho or Low Ki vs. Jericho could be incredible spectacles. Adam Cole was a three-time ROH World champion, and with the serious neck injury to Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish leaving the promotion, and the up-in-the-air status of Omega and the Bucks, Cole doesn’t seem to have an obvious direction when he returns. The crowd doesn’t want to boo Cole anyway, so a babyface Adam Cole acting as the defender of ROH could work well. A Jericho Appreciation Society vs. Ring of Honor feud feels like the perfect hook for an ROH television show, and even if that is not imminent, it will make exciting AEW television for the next several months.
AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn
WWE Raw, September 26
Sami Zayn is in the midst of the run of his career. The layers he has brought to the role of Honorary Uce is classic pro wrestling entertainment. Zayn initially started as a Bloodline sycophant, a Renfield, doing the dirty work while being looked down upon. Eventually, however, his energy became infectious, and everyone started to enjoy his antics; Zayn became the goofball pal who always has a seat at the football team captain’s lunch table. Then there are the twists on the story—Zayn has become almost a mentor to the recently-promoted Solo Sikoa; Jey Uso is the only Anoa’i family member who distrusts Zayn, saying he sees through the act. It is the most entertaining thing in WWE right now, and there are so many different directions it can still go in.
There was another chapter in the story on Raw, when Zayn and Sikoa came to the show to confront AJ Styles, who had been mocking Zayn and his new Honorary Uce shirt on Twitter. It was sort of a silly reason to have a match, but Styles is one of the most consistently excellent wrestlers of his generation and while he and Zayn have faced each other on WWE TV in the past, it is a relatively fresh matchup.
Sami is in an interesting place as an in-ring worker. He has been a heel for the past five years (after spending his entire career before that as a babyface), and in response he has tightened up his offensive arsenal, cutting many of the flashy moves that he made his name from. He is still technically a heel (as is the entire Bloodline), but much like the entire Bloodline, he is a heel who is cheered by the fans. He seems to have responded by opening the throttle a bit. In this match, he landed a great-looking split-legged Asai moonsault to the floor along with both a Blue Thunder Bomb and a version of Kenta Kobashi’s Orange Crush suplex. In addition to all of that babyface offense, there was also a spot when Sami valiantly fought his way to the ropes—crowd chanting his name—while being locked in Styles’s Calf Crusher. However, Sami was still heeling it up, slamming Styles’s head into the ringpost and attempting a countout, eventually winning when Sikoa jumped Styles and hit a ura nage on the apron to set up Zayn’s Helluva Kick. That gray area between heel and babyface is a fun place for him to play in for a while; I assume he will eventually pick a side, but I’m not sure which.
There are a number of different ways this story could play out. Many people have suggested Owens and Zayn teaming back up as babyfaces, either as challengers for the Usos’ Undisputed WWE Tag Team titles or for the Undisputed WWE Universal champion, Roman Reigns. Either the Bloodline turns on Sami and Owens comes to his rescue, or Sami is forced to save his oldest friend against an attack by his new family. However, I loved seeing the little smile on Zayn’s face when Jey Uso confronted him backstage on SmackDown, and I like the idea of Zayn as the master strategist trying to bring the Bloodline down from the inside. The crowds are fully behind Reigns now anyway, and it would be fun to see Sami betray him and act as the Jimmy Hart to his Jerry Lawler. Seemingly any path they take will be entertaining, and after all of these years, Sami Zayn seems poised to finally have a well-deserved moment as a true top guy.
Masha Slamovich vs. Allie Katch
Impact Wrestling, September 29
Masha Slamovich and Allie Katch faced off in a Monster’s Ball match—a TNA original gimmick where the idea is that before the match, the wrestlers are isolated for 24 hours in a locked room without water, food, or light. It is true wrestling silliness; being dehydrated and weak with hunger doesn’t seem like something that would stimulate a robust athletic performance, but it is the kind of nonsense I appreciate. Outside of some initial squinting by both women, they didn’t particularly sell the pre-match torture. There was plenty of in-match torture, though, as they engaged in a grody street fight, with some really gross and violent spots, especially for something airing on television.
This was a pick-your-poison match, with Slamovich’s Bound for Glory opponent Jordynne Grace bringing in Katch, a staple of GCW and a well-known hardcore wrestler, to slow down and damage Slamovich. I liked the pace of the match. Rather than break out all of the plunder and violence early, they let the pressure build until the big spots at the end. Slamovich is great at adding little bits of brutality in between all of the big moments; there is a spot early when she presses a street sign into Katch’s mouth; it was probably very safe, but it looked like Slamovitch was cutting up the sides of Katch’s mouth. Later Masha jammed a chain into Allie’s mouth to try to choke her; really nasty stuff, and Masha always looks so thrilled to be dishing out violence. Masha also had some good-looking headbutts and body shots—she is great at making a match like this feel like a fight, rather than just a series of big stunts.
Allie Katch makes her living at this kind of thing, having wrestled some rough death matches in GCW. Katch also has a great look; she feels like a roller derby girl gone to seed, someone who keeps losing hipster bartending gigs for getting into drunken fights with the customers. In one of the nastier spots of the match, Katch took a cut-up soda can and used it to cut open Masha’s head. Eventually they moved into the big moments: Masha took out the Abyss memorial velvet bag full of thumbtacks, only for Katch to eventually gain the advantage and piledrive Masha right into them. Katch then emptied a garbage can full of cut-up soda cans (Fresca and Squirt for some reason—I guess the grapefruit’s acidity makes the cuts hurt more?), but ended up on the wrong end of a snow plow on the tacks and cans for the Masha win.
Masha seems destined to take the Impact Knockouts title, and she carries herself like a big star. Impact has made women’s wrestling a focus since the early days of the promotion, and Slamovich versus Grace is better built and has the capacity to be better in the ring than any AEW women’s match this year. Slamovich is one of the few women who would seem like a legitimate threat to end Jade Cargill’s streak, and as soon as that Impact contract is up, I would be looking to poach her if I were Tony Khan or Triple H.
Phil Schneider is a cofounder of the Death Valley Driver Video Review, a writer on the Segunda Caida blog, host of The Way of the Blade podcast, and the author of Way of the Blade: 100 of the Greatest Bloody Matches in Wrestling History, which is available on Amazon. He is on Twitter at @philaschneider.