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Jamie Hayter and Hikaru Shida Battle in AJW-Inspired Main Event

Elsewhere, Carmelo Hayes and Axiom throw each other around the ring and Místico subs in for CMLL’s Gran Alternativa

WWE/AEW/CMLL/Ringer illustration

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.

Jamie Hayter vs. Hikaru Shida

AEW Dynamite: Holiday Bash, December 21

Prior to this match, Jamie Hayter tweeted that she would be “battering Shida on a Wednesday like it’s 1990’s All Japan Women’s [Pro-Wrestling].” That’s a high bar she set for herself, Shida, and this match, and together they cleared it.

All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) in the ’90s had a wide variety of styles, it was probably best known for Manami Toyota’s era, which was hyper-athletic highspot wrestling, fast-paced and move-heavy. Toyota is probably the best historic competition for what Kenny Omega has done over the past several years. AJW also had some of the hardest-hitting wrestlers in history, stars like Yumiko Hotta, Toshiyo Yamada, and Aja Kong would throw some of the most violent, full-force strikes imaginable. There was a weird Twitter outcry a couple of months ago about Athena working too stiff on AEW Dark; no one show the Twitter scolds that UFC rules Hotta vs. Lioness Asuka match, or Aja Kong breaking Chaparita Asari’s nose on Raw.

It was the spirit of that style of AJW that Hayter and Shida set out to honor in this AEW Dynamite main event. They wanted to show a U.S. cable TV audience that women could hit as hard as men—if not harder—and the level of force on the blows really added an additional element to a dramatic and well put together main event title match.

Both women have ties to Joshi wrestling. Hayter spent time in Stardom, holding the Goddess of Stardom Championship with Bea Priestley (a.k.a. NXT’s Blair Davenport) and capturing the SWA Undisputed World Women’s Championship. Shida has spent most of her career in Japan. She started as an actress and model, discovering pro wrestling when she was cast in Three Count, a movie about pro wrestling. After training for the film, she transitioned into wrestling full-time. (Imagine Zac Efron quitting Hollywood after A24’s The Iron Claw to strictly work GCW dates.) She had both a partnership and a feud with Aja Kong; their matches were known for a brutal, no-punches-pulled physical style.

Hayter and Shida’s Dynamite bout got chippy very early, when Shida kipped up from a shoulder tackle and landed a hard forearm, sending Hayter back into ropes. They then exchanged stiff forearms and chops until Shida dropped Hayter with a snug knee strike to her sternum. It was the extra little bit of pepper on those Shida shots that really set the tone for the match. She let Hayter and the fans watching know that this was going to be a little nastier and a little uglier than your regular AEW women’s match. Shida kept control early, including throwing a straight punch which saw Tony Schiavone and Taz make Idaho potato jokes on commentary, and a hard Mr. Wrestling II-style running knee lift with Hayter lying chest first on the ring apron.

Hayter was able to get back in the game with a nasty suplex into the corner. She then began roughing up Shida on the floor, tossing her hard into the guardrails and strutting around the outside, kissing the belt and doing lunges. Shida fired back in the ring with some stiff missile dropkicks, and they ended up fighting on the ring apron, with Hayter getting the first advantage with a snapmare off the top rope that sent Shida kidneys-first into the corner of the apron. Shida, however, was able to battle back and drop Hayter to the floor with a snap suplex that sent them both crashing down hard. In the ring, Shida came very close to a big win with a diving Meteora on a prone Hayter, followed by a Falcon Arrow, while Hayter almost had it with a choke slam into a backbreaker.

The final run had a bunch of great near-falls, including Shida countering the Hayterade version of Kazuchika Okada’s Rainmaker ripcord clothesline with a jumping knee right to her jaw. Hayter used some Britt Baker interference to attempt a powerbomb, which Shida rolled through into a pin; Hayter, showing crazy strength, lifted Shida out of the pin and planted her with a hard powerbomb. Shida then survived a running lariat, but Hayter just lifted her right into the Hayterade for the pin.

Very few women’s matches in AEW history have had this kind of buy-in from the crowd, and those that did relied heavily on blood and stunts. This was just a hard-hitting, dramatic title match, which ended in a standing ovation from the fans. Hayter’s rise has felt organic; it would be a good idea to keep the title on her, even if there are more famous options like Baker, Saraya, or possibly Mercedes Varnado. For most of its history, the AEW women’s division has been floundering, looking for an anchor. Fans have clamored for a more prominent position in AEW for the women, but the company either hasn’t had the stars or the in-ring talent to sustain it. This match feels like a coronation, and if Hayter can continue to deliver like this, it wouldn’t shock me if she was able to credibly headline a pay-per-view or big TV event.

Axiom vs. Carmelo Hayes

WWE NXT, December 20

Two of the top NXT prospects right now, having a barnburner of a TV match. Carmelo Hayes may be the most complete big-stage prospect among the current group of NXT wrestlers. I am super high on Bron Breakker and what he can be in the future, but Hayes is a more well-rounded act. From the promos, the jerseys in the rafters, the in-ring taunts, and Trick Williams as his muscle/hypeman—not to mention possessing a polished, hyper-athletic modern wrestling style—Hayes checks every box. WWE could move his whole thing to Raw or SmackDown right now and he could be slotted right into the main event picture; height might be his only issue, he is listed at 5-foot-10, and that might be a bit generous.

Axiom is promising in a different way. WWE has been trying to find a masked Latin star to replace Rey Mysterio for years, signing big lucha stars like Místico and Máscara Dorada, or trying more homegrown talent like Samuray Del Sol or the other Místico (I will attempt to explain that whole situation later, I promise). In many ways it is a fool’s errand; like other all-time greats, Mysterio is a one-of-one. There will never be another Rey Mysterio the same way wrestling has always failed to duplicate Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, or the Rock. Axiom, however, may be WWE’s best shot yet to try to replicate some of what Rey brought to the table. He moves differently than any other wrestler on the roster—NXT has other high-flyers and great athletes, but the way Axiom can change speeds is truly impressive. Axiom can do some really neat deliberate chain mat wrestling, and then hit the turbo button, upping the pace of the bout.

Early in the match, Hayes and Axiom did some chain wrestling. Axiom grabbed an armbar and whipped Hayes into a hammerlock, which was an awesome move I had never really seen before. That is another great thing about him: Axiom seems to invent little twists on moves every time he is in the ring. They went back and forth, and the first huge move of the match came when Carmelo springboarded for a cutter off one rope and Axiom springboarded for a dropkick off of the other, leading to a big collision.

Hayes really has rockets in his legs. He is one of the most explosive in-ring jumpers in wrestling. He had an incredible springboard back elbow and later a pump kick which nearly knocked Axiom’s head into the rafters. He followed up the pump kick with a warp-speed head scissors takedown, which he then rolled into a crossface. Hayes tried to follow up with a springboard, but Axiom slid out of the ring beneath him while simultaneously throwing him with a German suplex, another wild invention. The finish came with a true highlight-reel moment: both guys ended up bounding to the top rope while being knuckle locked into a test of strength. Axiom then leaped into a super rana from the knuckle lock position, flinging Hayes all the way to the other side of the ring. Before he could follow up, though, Trick Williams interfered to allow Hayes to hit jumping double knees to the chest and a Nothing But Net jumping leg drop for the pin. The WWE ref distraction interference finish is a pretty tired trope, and has been since Jimmy Hart was throwing his megaphone into the ring back in 1984, but otherwise, this was wild, innovative wrestling between two of the most exciting wrestlers around.

NXT seems to be keeping Carmelo Hayes and Bron Breakker apart, and it feels like that might be NXT’s WrestleMania weekend main event, with one guy or both moving up right after. I would like to see Hayes with a solid NXT Championship reign after Breakker graduates. There are a lot of intriguing matchups for Hayes with that belt, I can just imagine how good an Ilja Dragunov or JD McDonagh singles title match would be. Axiom is earlier in his NXT journey, I would assume, but he is quickly becoming a must-watch. He had a great match with Mustafa Ali on WWE Main Event last week as well, and was a highlight of the Iron Survivor match at Deadline. He is only 25 years old and hopefully has a long future ahead of him. I would like to see them run this back in a couple of months, maybe as an NXT title match. As fun as this was as a TV match, I can just imagine what they would come up with given some time in a big main event setting.

Místico and Panterita del Ring Jr. vs. Gran Guerrero and Raider

CMLL Super Viernes, December 23

This match was the finals of CMLL’s Gran Alternativa tournament. Gran Alternativa is a (mostly) CMLL tag tournament, where young, up-and-coming wrestlers team with veterans. This tourney is often used as a springboard for the winner to vault up the card and is a good way to see who the promotion views as a future star. The first winner was Héctor Garza back in 1994, and future main eventers like Shocker, Último Guerrero, La Sombra (a.k.a. Andrade El Idolo), and Místico have captured the trophies.

Panterita del Ring Jr. is the son of the original Panterita del Ring, who has also wrestled as Safari, Hombre Sin Nombre, and Ephesto. His father was a longtime midcarder, a very solid in-ring wrestler who could be moved up in a pinch, but was mostly used as a utility player. His son seems destined for bigger things; he only debuted in May 2021 and has stood out in CMLL for his spectacular moves. He was teaming with Místico in this match, who was a last-minute replacement after his original partner Volador Jr. tested positive for COVID.

Místico (Luis Ignacio Urive Alvirde) is one of the biggest stars in the history of lucha libre; he was billed as an orphan raised by the wrestling priest Fray Tormenta, uses a lot of Catholic iconography in his mask and presentation, and was a true phenomenon when he debuted. He was one of the biggest draws in the world in the late 2000s, capturing the mask of Black Warrior and the hair of Negro Casas, and main-eventing huge sellouts in Arena México. His momentum was dulled a bit by a WWE stint as the original Sin Cara, a gimmick he would eventually pass to Hunico (who also wrestled as Místico in Mexico).

After asking for his release, he initially returned to Mexico as part of AAA under the name Myzteziz. When he returned to CMLL he wrestled as Carístico, as the Místico gimmick was being used by Rush’s brother, who now wrestles in AAA, ROH, and AEW as Dralístico. Alvirde was later able to return to the name and gimmick under which he made his name and has been part of the CMLL upper card since.

The rudo team consisted of Gran Guerrero, the younger brother of Último Guerrero who has the same sort of burly rugby lock build, the ability to catch and base all manner of high-flying moves, and the willingness to rip off one or two of his own. Raider is the son of longtime CMLL luchadora Princesa Sugehit. He had one match in CMLL in 2019, but reappeared recently and has been moving steadily up the card, frequently matched up as a rudo antagonist against Panterita in previous trios and tag matches. In this match, Guerrero and Raider had a lot of great-looking double-teams, with Guerrero showing off his power. He tossed Raider into the air with an assisted flip dive, and they even did an incredible spot where they double press slammed Panterita while standing on the second rope, flipping him into a Swanton on a prone Místico.

The story of this tournament is centered on the young, inexperienced wrestler trying to show that they can reach the level of their more experienced partner. Even though Místico was a last-minute replacement, he was the perfect partner for Panterita to tell that story. Místico is one of the most effortless flyers of all time. He hits his ranas, arm drags, and dives with unparalleled grace and this match had several classic Místico moments.

Panterita is spectacular in a different way; his flying is amazing but full of effort. He always seems to be teetering on the precipice of disaster. The Flying Wallendas, the world’s greatest tightrope walkers, would often stumble on purpose to add drama to their act. Panterita is on that tightrope as well, and every huge move he tries feels dangerous, both to his opponents and to himself. Panterita hit every spot he tried in this match, but you were never sure how it was going to go. His shooting star press to the floor saw him complete the twist at the last moment, and his huge rope walk dive to the floor felt like he was going to crash on every step until it came off. That made his ultimate victory seem even sweeter, as he not only conquered his opponents but conquered the sword of Damocles hanging over his head.

CMLL isn’t always the easiest promotion to work with, which is one of the reasons that most of the luchadores who have broken out in the U.S. are AAA or indie stars like the Lucha Bros, Komander, and recently El Hijo del Vikingo. With some cooperation from the head office, I could easily see Panterita and Raider touring with their act. They really work well together and can pull off some breathtaking things, and it is hard not to root for Panterita. Icarus flew too close to the sun, but at least he flew.

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.