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Bryan Danielson Is Close to Cementing His AEW Legacy

Elsewhere, tag team toughness goes down in a cage and family legacy is on the line in a highly anticipated lucha de apuestas

WWE/CMLL/AEW/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.

Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Jericho

AEW Dynamite, September 14

AEW was clearly in scramble mode after the post-AEW All Out press conference melee between CM Punk and the Elite (and CM Punk’s injury and forced vacation of the title), but it is a real luxury to scramble your way into a tournament this good. This was the second semifinal match of the night, with Jon Moxley beating Sammy Guevara in a really fun clashing of styles in the opener.

Jericho and Danielson’s match at All Out was a little disappointing; it felt more disjointed than a normal Bryan Danielson match and was hurt by a burned-out crowd, although it was really violent, which I am always going to be into. This match corrected some of the flaws of their first match while keeping all of the hard, punishing shots.

Danielson pushed the pace early, backing Jericho into the corner and fileting him with hard chops and kicks to the chest, constantly moving forward in an effort to tire the older and heavier Jericho. Danielson drilled him with a tope to the floor, and a hard running knee off the apron right to Jericho’s temple, just to throw him back into the ring and continue the onslaught. You could see Jericho turning red and purple as Danielson’s assault sapped him of his energy. Jericho was able to take a brief advantage by hitting a desperation German suplex, but he was soon back on the wrong end of Danielson’s strikes.

A double crossbody attempt landed both wrestlers in a heap, and Jericho beat down Danielson with hard shots to the temple. Later in the match, Jericho reversed Danielson’s elbow shots with elbows of his own that Danielson endured, only to rain down more hard violent chops on Jericho’s chest. He wouldn’t let Jericho get a moment to breathe. Simply punishing stuff, and Jericho was great as a fish out of water who wasn’t going to back down. The match turned dramatically when Jericho reversed a suplex and sent Danielson down feet-first onto the floor. Danielson immediately started gripping his foot and ankle, and Jericho’s eyes lit up. He’d finally found a path to victory after Danielson had been one step ahead the entire match.

Jericho went after the foot and ankle with a true purpose, smashing it into the floor and putting on a figure four around the ring post. Danielson got a little distance and tried to hop his way into a busaiku knee, only for Jericho to cut him off and put on a Walls of Jericho, which he transitioned into a single-leg Boston crab with an ankle lock. Jericho then put on a spinning toe hold and a figure four. Danielson was able to punch his way out of the figure four and transition to the LeBell lock, which he cranked and cranked, including grabbing and ripping at Jericho’s nose until Jericho was forced to tap. I loved how Danielson basically never regained his footing after hurting the ankle; he was able to survive, counter, and submit Jericho almost entirely from his back, and he never had to no-sell the injury to get his stuff in. Such a smart way to work an injury spot, and a great example of the next-level things that Danielson brings to a wrestling match.

This also featured a stellar job on commentary by Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and especially Taz and William Regal. They added so much to the match; Regal discussed how much Jericho’s rabbit punches hurt from the perspective of someone who has taken a bunch of them, while Taz explained how Danielson’s boots left him more vulnerable to breaking a heel. They both discussed the different grips on submission holds and the parts of the body affected by them, while still being entertaining and conveying the drama of the match. It really is some of the best commentary in wrestling history, and all four have tremendous chemistry. I love the Blackpool Combat Club and Regal’s role in it, but I would love to see him eventually become a full-time commentator.

This match set up a Danielson vs. Moxley—a.k.a. Blackpool Combat Club vs. Blackpool Combat Club—rematch for the title at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Their first match was a clinic, and I imagine with the added stakes of the world title, and the pressure they have to right the AEW ship in the midst of the rocky waters of the last several weeks, the stage is set for an all-time classic.

The Creed Brothers vs. Pretty Deadly

NXT 2.0, September 13

The one-year anniversary show for NXT 2.0 was also the final curtain, as the promotion rebranded its logo to something similar to what it had when Triple H was running things. It remains to be seen what effects that change will have on the presentation and in-ring product, but it certainly sent a message. NXT 2.0 was clearly a mixed bag, but by focusing more on the developmental talent rather than established indie stars, the WWE clearly turbo-charged the careers of guys like Solo Sikoa, Carmelo Hayes, Bron Breakker, and maybe most notably the Creed Brothers. The Creeds are just ending their rookie year and have developed into a surprisingly well-rounded and impressive tag team. They have developed a little more polish since their early days, when their rawness was part of what made them interesting, and they have leaned even more into their athleticism.

Pretty Deadly are the perfect opponent for a developing team—young veterans who joined WWE in 2019 as part of NXT UK after spending five years together on the British indie scene. They have incredible wavy hair, purple silk half shirts, and amazingly punchable faces. They are also technicians in the ring, as adept at stooging and bumping as they are at taking control when the opportunity arises.

Pretty Deadly started the match by just trying to make a run for the door or the top of the cage, including both getting catapulted into the cage, landing like Spider-Man, and trying to climb out. Julius Creed cut off the attempt by grabbing Prince with one arm and lifting him up and over the top of the cage like he was a small child. Deadly also took some nasty cage bumps, including Prince getting powerbombed into the side of the cage and then sliding down back first on the barbs. Julius Creed also cut off an escape attempt by leaping from the ring to the center top rope and hitting some sort of backflip Spanish Fly bulldog on Kit Wilson before landing on his feet. It is hard to describe and even harder to understand how a human could pull it off.

Pretty Deadly were able to get an advantage during the break, hitting a double superplex on Julius. Brutus Creed was able to throw enough suplexes of his own to give Julius time to recover. Julius then lifted both of Pretty Deadly—one on each shoulder—for Brutus to hit a cannonball Doomsday device. Julius has the feel of early ’90s Scott Steiner: you just have no idea what he is going to invent, and God help anyone who is going to take the move. The finish came when Damon Kemp, fresh off of turning on the Creed Brothers and Diamond Mine, came out and handcuffed Julius to the cage, leaving Pretty Deadly to pick the bones of Brutus and get the win. Kemp is the older brother of Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson, and I would be very excited about Creed Brothers vs. Steveson Brothers in a jacked-up amateur suplex-off—one of the more exciting possible matches on the wrestling horizon. I also wouldn’t mind seeing more of the Creeds vs. Pretty Deadly, as this feud has been uniformly excellent, and hyped-up farm boys against beautiful hateable Brits is a great contrast.

Stuka Jr. vs. Atlantis Jr.

CMLL 89. Aniversario, September 16

This was the main event of the 89th CMLL anniversary show, with both wrestlers putting their families’ famous masks on the line. There is nothing in wrestling with the same level of meaning as a major lucha de apuestas match: Two warriors putting their identities on the line, a match with legacy and career stakes like none other. Arena México is one of the holy sites of professional wrestling, and those bleachers have seen many classic apuestas matches, including Atlantis Jr.’s father, Atlantis, winning the iconic masks of Mano Negra, Kung Fu, Villano III (in arguably the greatest match of the 21st century), Ultimo Guerrero and La Sombra (a.k.a. Andrade el Idolo). This match was a chance for his 24-year-old son to continue the legacy of his father and start snatching masks of his own, while also risking the iconic mask that his father had defended so many times.

Stuka Jr. is actually the younger brother of the original Stuka, and is one of those professional luchadores who have been part of the CMLL midcard for almost two decades. He was named after the German Stuka bomber and has Luftwaffe insignia on his tights, but despite all of that, he has been a longtime técnico. He held several smaller titles, including a current run with the NWA World Historic Light Heavyweight title, but this was the biggest opportunity of his 20-year career and he was desperate to prove he wasn’t just an early chapter in Atlantis Jr.’s novel. The two had been feuding since January, when Atlantis Jr. was disqualified in their Reyes del Aire match by clawing at Stuka’s mask in what might have been an accident—an accident that gave Stuka Jr. this special opportunity. They were teamed in the Parejas Increíbles tournament—which pits teams made up of “incredible pairs,” usually involving rudos teaming with their técnico counterparts—later that month (which they won), only to see Stuka crack Atlantis with the trophy.

This was the second mask match on this show, with La Jarochita beating and unmasking Reyna Isis in the previous match. (That match was also an absolute banger and it was really a coin flip for which match to write about.) The show also had a Parejas Increíbles tournament to set up the máscara contra máscara, with the winning team facing off in the main event. The tournament appeared to be there just to tease an Atlantis Jr. vs. Fuerza Guerrera mask vs. mask match, which is instead likely to headline the 90th CMLL anniversary show next year. This was the right match to run, for sure, and it ended up deserving the spot.

Atlantis Jr. started the match hot, sprinting down the ramp and diving onto both Stuka Jr. and his son in the ring. He then sent Stuka to the floor and hit a tope con giro on which he seemingly paused in midair before executing the flip. Stuka then reversed an Irish whip on the floor, which sent Atlantis Jr. flipping over the barricade into the crowd. Stuka then roughed up Atlantis, ripped at his mask, dropped him with a beautiful moonsault over the ring post to the floor, and hit a Cross Rhodes for a close two count. Atlantis was able to take back control when he got his feet up on an attempted moonsault to the floor. Atlantis then hit one of his beautiful running planchas to the floor and another from the ramp to the ring, which Stuka rolled through for a near-fall that the entire crowd reacted to. They then went back and forth for a bit, including a torpedo splash from Stuka, on which he keeps his body rigidly straight like a missile, diving from the top rope to the ramp.

Atlantis pulled Stuka out of the ring hard and went for a tope, only for Stuka to sidestep and have Atlantis crash ribs-first on the top of the barricade while flying into the first row. It’s truly a contender for bump of the year, and a moment of huge danger for the Atlantis familial legacy.

Stuka then rolled him back in and hit a brainbuster and a torpedo splash for the nearest of near-falls. He then hit a second brainbuster and torpedo splash, but Atlantis caught him in a roll-up. Stuka ran right into an Atlántida, the signature Atlantis family torture rack that won his father so many masks. Stuka was able to roll out of the first attempt but got caught in the second for the submission and the stripping of his hard-earned identity. I do think Atlantis switched a bit too soon into the offense after that scary bump, but that was a small quibble; this match had drama, a wild sold-out crowd, and two wrestlers emptying their entire bags in the biggest match of their life. You can’t ask for more than that.

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.