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.
Krule vs. Slade
Uncharted Territory, July 4
Independent Wrestling TV is a six-year-old streaming service that allows multiple indy promotions to both host their back catalog and stream live events. It is a really cool resource for wrestling fans: you can watch an Eddie Guerrero vs. CM Punk match from 2002, a match between Bull Nakano and Aja Kong from 1990, and Bryan Danielson’s breakout ECWA Super 8 from 2001, along with live shows from today’s top independent promotions. They also serve as almost a governing body for the promotions under their umbrella, with an IWTV Independent Wrestling World Champion and a weekly live television series, Uncharted Territory, which was originally run by Beyond Wrestling but now is hosted out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first episode of this season ended with the lights going out and Krule saving the champion AC Mack and attacking Slade, and this match was Slade attempting to settle that score.
This death match, the main event of the most recent episode of Uncharted Territory, was a monster battle straight out of a horror movie. It was like a fight between a serial killer and what that serial killer became after he died and became possessed by a demon. Slade is a snarling menace with a farmer’s tan and the kind of muscles you get on a chain gang. He is billed as coming from Rikers Island, and is completely convincing as a guy who would stick a sharpened toothbrush into someone’s carotid artery for eight packages of shrimp ramen.
Krule is a colossus of a man, listed at 7 feet tall and covered in tattoos, wearing a creepy black mask that covers half of his face and contact lenses that make him look like he has doll eyes. There isn’t anything campy about the horror movie villainy of Krule, no lightning bolts or voodoo; he is just a lumbering behemoth who wants to rip people open and bathe in their blood.
Krule has a great sense of making visual moments—earlier in the weekend at an ICW No Holds Barred show, he stalked out of a cornfield for a fight against the Carver. Krule’s match with Slade started with Slade walking through an alley behind the arena, looking up and seeing Krule standing 10 feet above him on a shipping container. Krule then dove down, wiping out Slade and several security guards. They then brawled to a ring littered with weapons. The bloodletting started early, with both guys trading gusset plate (a spiked fastener used to connect steel beams) shots to their respective bald heads, opening both up badly, with Slade especially being saturated in ichor. Every punch and forearm in the match resonated and the sections between the big moments felt like an ugly brawl rather than just filler between stunts, which can often be a problem in modern death matches.
Slade hit Krule with atrocity after atrocity, spearing him through a door covered with gusset plates, hitting an exploder suplex through a door with carpet strips on it, and placing a cinder block on his head and breaking it with a second cinder block—just a monstrous amount punishment dished out, especially in a small venue like this. Like Michael Myers, Krule just kept moving forward. He was left shaking and bloody after the cinder block spot, but was able to block Slade from braining him with another cinder block. Krule then rose to his feet, broke Slade’s grip on his throat, and hurled him through a mass of light tubes tied into the ropes like Victor Maitland’s goons throwing Axel Foley through a window. Krule then rolled Slade into the ring and hit a face-first full nelson slam on cinder blocks for the win. Compact, horrifically violent, and memorable. The modern death match scene has quite a menagerie of ghouls and freaks, and these are two of the most grotesque. This kind of thing is very much not for everyone, but for my sickos out there, this is one to track down for sure.
Bron Breakker vs. Cameron Grimes
NXT: The Great American Bash, July 5
Bron Breakker is clearly the bluest of the WWE’s blue-chip prospects. He combines an iconic familial pedigree as the son of Rick Steiner, with the kind of athleticism that opened eyes at the NFL combine. During his NFL pro day back in March 2020, Breakker bench pressed 225 pounds for 35 reps, which is threemore than anyone was able to lift at the 2022 combine, and his 4.48-second 40-yard dash and 35 ½ inch vertical leap are also elite. He is less than a year into his professional career and captured the NXT Championship in only his 14th match. One of the cool things about the rebranded NXT 2.0 is the opportunity to watch the next generation of stars from the very starts of their careers; these aren’t wrestlers who spent a bunch of time on the independent scene before being signed—many of them are straight from being signed to the training center to TV. Wrestlers like the Creed Brothers, Ivy Nile, and Breakker are baby deer finding their legs but they have already had some real banger matches.
Cameron Grimes is a second-generation wrestler, as well. His father, Tracy Caddell, wrestled under the name T.C. Brimstone in the North Carolina independent scene, and was part of the crew who formed OMEGA along with Matt and Jeff Hardy, Shannon Moore, Shane Helms, and others, but he never really got farther than the middle of the card on tiny shows in North Carolina armories.
Grimes took a much more circuitous journey to the WWE compared to Breakker. He started his wrestling career at age 16 in the same North Carolina independent scene as his father. Wrestling under the name Trevor Lee, he was able to branch out to some of the bigger U.S. independent promotions, including Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Impact Wrestling, before signing a WWE contract. His most interesting and notable pre-WWE stint came as the flagship champion and star of the CWF Mid-Atlantic promotion. He held the CWF Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship for over three years, and was given tremendous leeway in how to structure his matches. He captured the title in a match that lasted 105 minutes and had multiple title matches which lasted an hour or more. While he defended the championship against experienced name wrestlers like Abyss, Michael Elgin, and Arik Royal, he also wrestled exciting title matches against wrestlers with much less experience. His ability to lead greenhorns through big matches makes him a tremendously useful member of a development roster.
The contrast between the careers of Rick Steiner and T.C. Brimstone was front and center in the build to this match. Grimes cut a promo on Breakker claiming he only got where he was because of his family name, while no one knew who Grimes’s father was. He also called out Breakker for a lack of heart, something Grimes said was missing in Rick Steiner, as well. That insult led to Breakker charging at Grimes, missing, and breaking a turnbuckle with his shoulder. Which led to Bron coming into this match with an injury.
That set up a rare David vs. Goliath match with a babyface Goliath and heel David, a match booked from the Philistines’ point of view. Grimes used his skill and guile to put a target on the damaged shoulder, while Breakker used his power and explosiveness, which makes him so special. There was a moment early in the match when Breakker took Grimes down and spun him into a gator roll and right into a suplex lift, that was so fast that it looked like a camera glitch. Breakker ran the ropes to set up a lariat as fast as anyone I can remember running them. There was a Dragon Gate wrestler named Masato Yoshino who was called the Speed Star because of the speed in which he went from rope to rope—Breakker looked as fast as Yoshino, despite being 6-foot and 240 pounds. There have been many Goldberg clones since Goldberg broke out in the ’90s, but Bron Breakker is the first guy I can remember who can approximate the explosiveness that made Goldberg such a phenom.
Grimes is a grinder, though. He ground his way from Burlington, North Carolina, to the WWE, and he ground away at that shoulder, pelting it with running kicks, ripping it backward, locking in holds. It was like watching a technical boxer try to out-point and wear down an explosive power puncher. Breakker can end a match with a single shot, and he hit some big ones, including a whipsaw rotation powerslam and a top rope Frankensteiner which sent Grimes nearly to the other side of the ring. However, each time Grimes steadied himself and went back to the shoulder. Breakker missed another charge into the turnbuckle, which was the move that injured his shoulder weeks before, and got drilled with the Cave-In—a jumping double stomp—for a big near fall. Grimes then went to the top to attempt to finish the match, but got cut in half mid-jump with a nasty spear for the pin.
Breakker is as obvious a future WrestleMania headliner as it gets, and it could happen fast, too. I can’t imagine a talent with his kind of upside will be left on the stove to simmer much longer, especially with the raft of injuries in the WWE upper card. Don’t sleep on Grimes, though: he has shown he can play a lot of different notes in his time both in NXT and before. He is equally adroit at playing an inspirational babyface and both a nasty and buffoonish heel, and his in-ring talent is pretty limitless. He could easily fit into the Sami Zayn–Kevin Owens role as a utility player, but it wouldn’t shock me if he went even higher. This was a corker of a match, and I would love to see it run back on a bigger stage under brighter lights.
Rush vs. Penta Oscuro
AEW Dynamite, July 6
This was the singles match All Elite Wrestling debut of Rush, one of the biggest stars in Mexico in the 21st century. Rush, like many luchadores, is a member of a wrestling family—his father (La Bestia del Ring) and his brothers (Dragon Lee and Místico II, a.k.a. Dralístico) often accompany him in various promotions, although they have yet to show up in AEW. Rush was a headlining star in CMLL, where he wrestled as a técnico who would bend the rules. This led him to be dubbed the most hated man in CMLL while he was still a técnico. In response, Rush formed Los Ingobernables (the Ungovernables) team with La Máscara and La Sombra (the current Andrade El Idolo), which then became the top stable in Mexico, even creating a spin-off in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Los Ingobernables de Japón, led by Tetsuya Naito. Rush has taken the Ungovernables name to heart, getting suspended from CMLL for punching security guards and fans and being one of the most difficult wrestlers for offices to book. It will be interesting to see whether AEW can govern the ungovernable. Rush’s talent has won out, though: He had several legendary rivalries in CMLL, winning the hair of El Terrible, Shocker, Máximo Sexy, Volador Jr., and even the iconic Negro Casas. He also held the ROH World Championship in 2019, with the ROH version of Ingobernables being a huge part of that promotion in its dying days.
Rush had battled Penta many times in both Mexico and the U.S. in three-ways, tags, and trios matches (including a three-way cage match with L.A. Park), but this was their first singles match against each other.
There is something wild about AEW booking a legitimate lucha dream match as a middle-of-the-hour Dynamite TV match. This could main event a CMLL anniversary show or AAA TripleManía show, but it is just on Dynamite in between a Dark Order announcement and a Gunn Club and Acclaimed eight-man tag. Both guys went after each other like this was a big-deal main event, though. Penta can sometimes coast on his catchphrases and shtick, but Rush’s intensity is his superpower. He doesn’t have a lot of flash and acrobatics, he is like a short-yardage specialist in a world full of scatter backs: He is going to hit the hole hard, without much juking or spinning.
Rush opened the match by barreling forward at the bell and they exchanged fast and blistering over-hand chops. They then spilled to the floor and both guys hit hard, reckless back elbows to break up go-behinds. The back elbow is such a standard counter to a go-behind, something you see a dozen times in any wrestling show, but these two threw them to break bicuspids and mangle mandibles. That was the kind of thing that set this match apart and demonstrated the kind of charisma that made Rush such a phenomenon. I wasn’t sure how his particular red-eyed intensity would translate to AEW, but all doubts were erased 15 seconds into the match.
This continued at an intense pace; Rush hit a great-looking powerslam and a missile dropkick, Penta landed a tope con hilo, but they kept breaking up the big moves by wailing on each other both with hard chops and battering-ram headbutts. Rush also kept cutting off Penta’s offense by ripping at his mask, which set up the finish. After absorbing a pretty sizable beating, Penta was able to cut off Rush’s leaping dropkick in the corner by hitting a cutter, then landing a superkick, and finally a package piledriver before attempting a pin. Andrade, however, put Rush’s foot on the ropes, and while the ref was interrogating Andrade, Rush went for a low blow, ripped off Penta’s mask, and rolled him up for a three-count. It was a very lucha finish to a very lucha libre fight.
This week, AEW TV showed the variety that makes it such an interesting promotion. You not only had Rush and Penta take a trip to Arena México, you also had Jon Moxley and Brody King in a hard-hitting Interim AEW World Championship match, Wardlow and Scorpio Sky in a TNT Championship match in the spirit of a WWE Attitude era main event, Konosuke Takeshita and Eddie Kingston in a tribute to 1990s King’s Road All Japan, and Tony Nese and Orange Cassidy in something resembling a 1980s Southern territorial comedy match. Dusty Rhodes once compared wrestling to a three-ring circus: If you don’t like the acrobats, you can always look for the lion tamers or the clowns. Pre-AEW, major league pro wrestling had become pretty homogenized, but it is great to see AEW give us all three rings.
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.