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.
Noisy Boy vs. ASF vs. Jack Cartwheel vs. Komander vs. Cometa Maya
Big Lucha El Aniversario, Jul 1
This was a battle to see who is next up. Five of the craziest kids in wrestling breaking out malaria dream moves one after another, trying to see who can soar the highest and create the most viral GIF. I like watching matches with deeply layered storytelling and a narrative through combat, but sometimes you just want to watch wild jaw-dropping shit too, and this match had that in droves.
ASF and Jack Cartwheel are probably the most familiar names in this match. Both guys are regulars in the GCW scramble match/lucha trios division, and Cartwheel has had some shots in Pro Wrestling Guerilla.
ASF (née Antonio San Francisco) has been paired with Gringo Loco as both a partner and opponent in tags and trios matches throughout the indies. He is in the latest in the Rey Mysterio/Dragon Kid stylistic family, a short, slight baby-faced kid with blurry speed who bounds off the ropes and hits wild spinning ranas, head scissors, and arm drags. His highlight in this match was a crazy satellite multiple rotation head scissors on Maya while Maya was on the second rope.
Cartwheel is an ex-gymnast who unsurprisingly does a lot of cartwheels. He is still relatively early in his career, and is perfect for these kinds of bouts, where he can be spectacular in spots and not have to worry about the connective tissue of a wrestling match. He has remarkable body control; he hit a Space Flying Tiger Drop into a Sky Twister Press, which would be a dive of the year candidate in a normal year and is barely a top 10 crazy spot in this match, and there was a section when he used the ropes like a gymnastics horizontal bar while landing a leg sweep and an inside-out spinning senton. Hard to describe, but incredible to watch.
Noisy Boy is an IWRG trainee who is already a three-year veteran at 18. He is part of the Mexa Boys group, who have been showing out in Arena Naucalpan undercards in the last year or so. IWRG has some of the best trainers in the world, icons like Bombero Infernal, Black Terry, and Negro Navarro, and if you are a kid with a lot of wild ideas, bouncy legs, and no fear, there are few better places to turn into something. Noisy Boy was a participant in the flips and ranas, but his highlight was an old-school bullet tope. Sometimes you just want to see someone land a missile tope that smashes his opponent into the third row.
Cometa Maya and Komander are both young wrestlers who moved to Mexico City from other parts of Mexico to train at the Big Lucha gym with Bandido. They were both medium fish in small ponds in the lucha scene in parts of Mexico without much of a profile. Bandido formed the Big Lucha gym as a home for luchadores like that, sort of serving as a Professor X for luchadores whose power is the ability to do crazy ranas and Asai moonsaults. Maya served mostly as a base for this match, which isn’t a slight; all of the ranas and head scissors in this match require both wrestlers to work at a high level. Being a good recipient is as important as being the guy applying the move.
Komander is the leading candidate to show up in your local shows and Twitter feeds in the next couple of months. Bandido helped him get a U.S. Visa, he worked a GCW double shot last month, and will surely be booked again. He is totally wild, gets great height and speed on his moves, and has tremendous balance. There is a moment in this match when he walks the entire length of the ropes to set up a dive, and when his opponents moved, he responded by walking backward on the top rope to the middle and drilling an Asai moonsault. It looked like a CGI green-screen stunt or something out of a Wushu Wire Fu martial arts movie. He also walked the rope to the middle and hit a springboard 450 splash to get the win. This is a move that would normally lead the story, but got overshadowed a bit by his first bit of acrobatics. I am not sure if any of these guys have a great singles match in them yet, they are really the equivalent of 19-year-old Summer League rookies that are all a couple of years away from playing rotation minutes in the NBA … but also holy shit did you see that transition dunk?!
The Street Profits vs. the Usos
WWE Money in the Bank, July 2
We are in the 12th year of the Usos as a main roster tag team, and they just keep rolling on, having great match after great match. At this point, the longevity and consistency make them the greatest WWE tag team of all time, and there is no real sign that they are reaching an expiration date.
Most legendary tag teams work a very specific style. The Midnight Express were traditional Southern heels, double-teaming and cutting the ring off, setting up the hot tag. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express were on the other side, building sympathy, stringing the crowd along into an explosive hot tag. The Fabulous Ones were a pair of heartthrobs who, despite their Chippendale looks, could bleed and brawl with the best of them. The Steiners were jacked-up intense jocks who would throw you in the air and not care where you land. The Young Bucks are masters at the wild spotfest, with move after move timed perfectly like an intricately choreographed dance routine. All of these teams could do other things—Rock ‘n’ Rolls could brawl, Steiners could be sympathetic faces in perils, etc.—but for the most part, they mastered their style and delivered it regularly.
The Usos, however, can kind of do it all: They had a long run as baby faces taking beatings and building toward comebacks. Their matches against the Shield were like super-sized versions of PWG spotfests (where everyone was 6-foot-2 instead of 5-foot-7), and in their current run, they have reinvented themselves again. Reflecting the change in Roman Reigns’s ring style as part of the Bloodline, they are now working a more deliberate, slower-paced heel style, like a pair of Samoan Anderson brothers, working over their opponents, talking trash, and beating them down while still having the gas tanks to ramp it up in a final explosion of big moves.
Their Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship match at Money in the Bank opened with a short back-and-forth between the teams, but quickly moved into the Usos’ working over Angelo Dawkins in the meticulous and punishing manner that has been the signature of the Bloodline. This included a nasty double suplex into the LED light ring post, with plenty of taunting and shit-talking. Dawkins was able to hit a forearm on Jey and get the hot tag, but Montez Ford leaped right into a superkick, snuffing out his momentum quickly. They then went right into a second heat section of control on Ford. This was similarly nasty, with Jimmy doing the Roman Reigns drive-by apron dropkick as a tribute to their cousin and Jey throwing some violent crossface forearms while calling Ford out of his name. Ford was able to hit a suplex on the apron and tag Dawkins, finally giving the crowd the catharsis of big baby-face run.
Great hot tag by Dawkins, who shows his wild bounce for someone 6-foot-5, 260, hitting a somersault dive on both Usos and a 360 corner clothesline. The Profits then hit a pounce into a back suplex for a close near-fall, and a blockbuster doomsday device for an even closer one, which led to Dawkins giving us one of the more egregious shocked NXT faces—a wrestling trope that involves the camera focusing on a particularly frustrated superstar’s face during a close near-fall and that badly needs to be taken out in a field and put out of its misery—that I have seen in a while. The Usos respond with a great close two-count on a double superkick and we go back and forth for a big finishing run, which included a big Jey and Dawkins exchange of punches and forearms, a Ford somersault dive over the ring post where he looked like Vince Carter dunking over Frederic Weis, and a big four-man stare-down leading to a punch out. The Usos were able to hit the 1D for the pin, although there were some post-match shenanigans with Ford’s shoulder being up on the three-count.
There has been a lot of scuttlebutt about a Ford singles run, and he has a chance to really excel and be a big star, but let’s hope Dawkins finds a good landing spot as well. He was stellar in this match and has really come into his own. This match overall was a real showcase for the WWE’s sometimes-maligned development system: All four of these wrestlers were WWE Performance Center originals and have been able to reach this level purely by wrestling in the WWE. While the Street Profits and the Usos had a series of matches in Fall 2021, this was their best match against each other, one of the better WWE tag matches in years, and it feels like the feud still has a lot of legs. At a minimum, they seemed destined to run it back again at SummerSlam, and I imagine there is a good chance I will be writing about it again.
Jericho Appreciation Society (Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Angelo Parker, Matt Menard, Daniel Garcia, Jake Hager) vs. Blackpool Combat Club (Claudio Castagnoli, Wheeler YUTA, Jon Moxley), Eddie Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz
AEW Dynamite, June 29
The WarGames match—in which two teams settle their feud in a bout that takes place inside two caged rings—was the brainchild of Dusty Rhodes, who came up with the idea from watching Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The first series of WarGames matches were used as the climax of the feud between the Four Horsemen and the team of the Road Warriors and the Superpowers of Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff. That original WarGames was one of the greatest matches of all time, and subsequently, WCW had two all-timers in 1991 and 1992. (The 1992 match is one of Tony Khan’s favorite matches and clearly an inspiration for this match.)
The gimmick has really had more misses than hits, however. The post-1992 WCW versions vary from great but bloodless (Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, and Nasty Boys vs. the Stud Stable at WCW Fall Brawl 1994) to unwatchable mess (a Vince Russo–stained version in 2000). There have been some really great independent versions (the Devil’s Rejects vs. Team Anarchy WarGames match from 2006 is one of the greatest matches hardly anyone has seen), but the WWE versions have been mostly stunt shows missing the harrowing violence of a great WarGames along with some blasphemous rule changes (no roof on the cage, and pinfalls allowed). AEW renamed the gimmick Blood and Guts (a poke in the eye of Vince McMahon who used the term as a way to disparage AEW on an investor call). The first Blood and Guts had its moments, but was a bit overlong, cut up by commercial breaks, and ended on a Jericho bump on a crash pad which looked sort of fake. All three were problems here, too—if you can find a FITE TV version of this match without the picture in picture commercials, it is well worth it—but the highs of the match were higher, making this the best WarGames-style match in 15 years.
It was going to be very hard to top the excellence of the Anarchy in the Arena match, and they went bigger and more spectacular when it might have made more sense to go smaller and grittier. Six men on each side extended the pre-match section longer than normal, and they also extended the section on top of the cage a bit longer than they needed to—there was a lot of time when 10 guys were lying on the mat below while Jericho and Kingston brawled on the cage. Santana blowing out his knee felt like it might have derailed some planned spots, and the bottle of rubbing alcohol didn’t really cooperate. The Sammy Guevara fall off the cage was spectacular and filmed tremendously, but what made Mankind’s Hell in a Cell fall so memorable was the utter disregard for his own health and safety. It would be negligent to try to re-create that level of recklessness, so wrestling should just retire the spot. The crash pad in this match was more artfully hidden than the crash pad in the first Blood and Guts, but it was still clearly a crash pad, and that stunt just isn’t the same.
That was the bad, but it was totally overshadowed by the good. A match named Blood and Guts has to deliver on the gore, and this match had that in spades. The former 2point0 of Matt Menard and Angelo Parker have made their names as a comedic team of stooges, but goodness gracious have they turned into gore-soaked masochistic sickos. First at Anarchy in the Arena and now at this match, they seem to be in an internal contest to see who can bleed to death in a wrestling ring first. Menard got piledriven on a pile of broken glass and his whole face was a sheet of red, it looked like he fell face-first into a bowl of borscht. At one point, Menard got hung by his feet out of the cage and it looked like a butchered corpse hanging in the barn of a family of cannibals. Parker did his part by taking skewers to the head and a Paradigm Shift into thumbtacks, leaving him leaking from a hundred tiny holes in his body.
Moxley embraced his Combat Zone Wrestling roots in this match, gleefully breaking out garbage wrestling weapons and opening his pay-per-view wound on his forehead. The match wasn’t about him, but he is magnetic and compelling, even in a supporting role. Daniel Garcia was also great in a small role; you came away from the early sections of this match very excited to see a Garcia vs. Castagnoli singles match, and he was the first guy to bleed after getting a fork jabbed into his head by Moxley.
The story of the fight was Eddie Kingston attempting to get his revenge on Chris Jericho, and failing yet again. Eddie sent Sammy from the top of the cage, but Jericho avoided the ride. Eddie came to make Chris bleed and while he got his shots in, Jericho remained dry. Eddie came to make Jericho quit and he came close, but his thunder was stolen by his old Chikara enemy Claudio Castagnoli, who not only saved Eddie from the Walls of Jericho but then tapped Menard with a sharpshooter before Eddie could submit Jericho with a stretch plum.
Eddie is one of the great grudge holders in wrestling history, remembering every slight. You could watch his face as he tried to be gracious about winning the match while being incredulous that he owed the victory to Castagnoli of all people. This smug prick, who helped bully Blackjack Marciano out of wrestling, and teamed with Chris Hero and never gave him a single bit of respect, who the crowd loves and he hates, that was the guy who got the win. Yet another one of the golden boys, the popular crew, who bought houses and fancy cars with their WWE money while he was driving to crappy indie show after indie show, barely able to make his rent. Now, this guy shows up in AEW, his home, and gets to celebrate what should have been his win. The sweet taste of victory turned into ashes in his mouth.
There is so much story to build from this match. Kingston can’t be finished with Jericho; there has to be a final showdown still to come. Meanwhile, Eddie’s best friend has joined a club with two people he despises. A better man would bury the hatchet, let the past stay in the past, and while Eddie is trying to be a better man, that resentment is the poison coursing through his veins. The battle between Eddie Kingston’s greater angels and his lowest demons is the most compelling story in wrestling, and this was one more fascinating chapter.
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.