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.
Sammy Guevara vs. Jon Moxley
AEW Rampage, December 16
Sammy Guevara has been on a tremendous run over the past several months. Ever since turning heel again, realigning with Chris Jericho, and indulging in several backstage brawls, he has mastered his pretty boy bully gimmick. Guevara is the football player who took Carrie to the prom, which would make Tay Melo the queen bee bully who put the whole scheme together. It also seems like Guevara is legitimately loathed by the crowd; their booing doesn’t feel performative, which is something that can plague MJF at his worst. The crowd doesn’t appreciate what a good job Guevara is doing as a heel; they are booing him because they hate his guts and want to see Jon Moxley kill him.
Guevara came out super aggressive, catching Moxley with a jumping knee to the jaw before resorting to biting and gouging Moxley’s eyes as they brawled on the floor. Mox hit an awesome-looking cutter as they were getting back in, which Guevara sold by compressing his neck against the canvas. (All of these kids who grew up watching Rob Van Dam take a piledriver and Kenta Kobashi take a Backdrop Driver have really upped their game when it comes to bouncing on their necks on moves.) Mox took over beating on Guevara with hard chops and kicks until Guevara was able to shrug off a superplex and hit a diving half dropkick/half double stomp on the apron.
Guevara has incorporated a new bloodletting vampire aspect to his personality, which really adds a layer to his work. He isn’t just a cocky daredevil; he is a cocky daredevil who wants to maul his opponents so badly he’s willing to maul himself in the process. First, he opened up Bryan Danielson’s eye with a flung chair in their two-out-of-three falls match, and here, he ripped out Moxley’s earring with his teeth. Moxley seems to be making the ear-blading a signature spot; he did it in his Jericho match, too, and it is a really nasty magic trick. It’s easy to get color on your ear, allowing someone to bleed a lot without doing a ton of damage. The whole side of Moxley’s head was covered in blood, and Guevara went to work on it, grinding his boot in the ear and landing hard punches right on the wound. Melo even wiped his blood all over her hand and slapped him hard right on the eardrum. Guevara then bit the ear and made out with Melo while his mouth was covered in blood; I wasn’t really expecting ghoul Guevara to become a thing, but I am here for it.
After that gory section of the match, they had a hard-hitting battle with some big moves and counters, including Guevara trying to tap Mox with the Walls of Jericho and Mox nearly driving Guevara’s head through the ring with a jumping stomp. The action spilled to the floor again and Guevara hit a knee on the ear, a superkick on the ear, and then was able to drive Mox through a table with a wild Swanton from the top rope. Back in the ring, Guevara got dropped with a big lariat but was able to roll through the bulldog choke. He then hit Mox with Mox’s own signature Death Rider DDT, and a Swanton in the ring for a close two-count. They then both went back up to the top rope, with Guevara hitting the Spanish Fly, but Mox rolled that into a tight bulldog choke for the win.
Out came Hangman Page post-match, and he and Mox had another intense pull-apart brawl. I really like how AEW has built that feud; Mox and Page are both babyfaces, and neither seems to be turning heel, but they hate each other, and both guys have solid reasons. Page is at his best as a bloody brawler; he tends to keep it pretty simple, avoiding some of the athletic counter-wrestling excess that can derail his lesser matches. A blood feud between Page and Moxley seems like the best way to rehab Page, and would give Mox something to do while Danielson and MJF is the main AEW World title feud.
I love the new vicious Sammy Guevara. Although I’m not sure where the next logical place for him to go is, when someone has that much heel heat, you can pretty much put him with anyone and he will elevate them. Guevara doesn’t cut great promos, which may be his one flaw, but I could be really into a Guevara World title reign with Melo on his arm and a semi-retired Chris Jericho handling the promo work, sort of JJ Dillion as a bloated Megadeth roadie. Jericho is still rolling, of course, but eventually he has to transition away from full-time-wrestler status. His version of Ric Flair in Evolution could be great, and I really think Guevara has the natural heel charisma to anchor a promotion.
Gunther vs. Ricochet
WWE SmackDown, December 16
Gunther works a very straightforward, hard-hitting style, but he is impressive at modulating that style just a little bit to better suit a variety of opponents. His most acclaimed match this year was his slugfest with Sheamus, and he is tremendous at that kind of King Kong vs. Godzilla hoss brawl. They are setting up one of those against Braun Strowman, and we are rumored to be getting a city-destroying titanic clash against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 39. However, as good as he is in those matches, Gunther may be at his best when he works as the big bully against an underdog. He had a great match in that style against Rey Mysterio Jr. last month, and has had classics against guys like Darby Allin and Ilja Dragunov in his Walter days.
You could do a lot worse than making Ricochet the in-ring anchor of your television show, and he has held that role for SmackDown over the past couple of months. He lost the Intercontinental title to Gunther in eight and a half minutes back in June and lost a TV rematch in three minutes later that month. Ricochet’s in a much different place now after winning the SmackDown World Cup, as he got to bring it to Gunther for over 20 minutes in an incredibly hard-fought battle.
It feels like the ultimate fool’s errand to try to match strikes with Gunther if you aren’t at least meeting him in size—and to be honest, I’d suggest not going that route, even if you’re as big as Gunther—but I liked how Ricochet used his hand speed to find openings to land shots. Ricochet was landing two or three hard strikes and then moving out of range. The section before the commercial break saw Ricochet evading Gunther and staying out of his grasp, getting snatched by a German suplex that he was able to flip out of, landing on his feet, ducking a kick, hitting an enziguri, then swarming Gunther with body and head combos.
Gunther, however, was able to backdrop Ricochet to the ring apron, drop him with a big boot, and take over. Ricochet came back from the commercial, landing more combos to Gunther’s head and body, only to be waylaid with a single hard chop. That was, in many ways, the story of the match: Gunther could take five hits and would be fine as long as he was able to land one. When Gunther really got rolling, it was the brutality we have come to expect and love—an open-hand chop that hit like a Novak Djokovic serve, a forearm shot to the kidneys that did more damage than 30 years of hard drinking, and a backbreaker that looked like it split Ricochet in half. After that assault, Ricochet’s body was covered in welts, like he had an allergic reaction to soy.
Ricochet was able to turn a powerbomb attempt into a rana, sending Gunther to the floor where he began to attack from the air, hitting a dropkick off the apron, a top rope Quebrada, and a diving flipping plancha. Back in the ring, Gunther blitzed Ricochet with a lariat, then tried for an ill-advised top rope dive and ate Ricochet’s feet. Ricochet was then able to power him up for a twisting suplex, and hit a cinematic shooting star press for a close near-fall.
Ricochet then started unloading fast hooking combo slaps to Gunther’s head and body, along with sharp leg kicks that sent Gunther reeling. It looked for a moment that he might be able to use speed and precision to fell the oak tree, but one huge Gunther chop ended that run, and it was a powerbomb and the Last Symphony for the win.
Incredible performance by both wrestlers. Ricochet not only broke out some of his incredible high-flying offense, but did a great job of making his striking look credible. He had great technique on his hooks, really turning his waist into them; his leg kicks were sharp and painful looking, too. On paper, it would seem ridiculous for Ricochet to go toe-to-toe with Gunther, and it ultimately failed, but for a moment there it felt like he might have his Rumble in the Jungle moment, rope-a-doping the monster into a fatigued stupor. I never thought of Ricochet as Ali before, but bomaye. It really feels like he has a lot of momentum after this match, and if he could harness this energy again, I could see him having an incredible title match with Roman Reigns, giving the Tribal Chief a real test, which isn’t something I considered for Ricochet before Friday.
Gunther continues to be tremendous; there was some Twitter fan concern that the name change and weight loss would sap him of some of his aura, but he has moved seamlessly to the main roster and is the most consistently excellent in-ring wrestler in WWE. Braun Stroman can be very hit-and-miss in the ring, but I am supremely confident that Gunther will deliver a hit, and if WWE does end up booking Lesnar vs. Gunther at WrestleMania, pencil that in as the betting favorite for 2023 Match of the Year.
Gringo Loco and Los Nuevos Vipers (Latigo & Toxin) vs. Arez, ASF, and Komander
GCW Amerikaz Most Wanted, December 16
2022 was a breakout year for Komander, who went from a kid working undercards of Big Lucha shows in Bandido’s Gym in Mexico City to getting booked on big shows in the U.S. and trending on Twitter for performing increasingly unbelievable stunts. It was also a big year for Gringo Loco, who solidified his role as the ringmaster for the whirlwind of a lucha spotfest that GCW runs, and has also had a chance to spread his wings a bit into some bloody brawls.
The pair brought some friends along, closing out the year with possibly the most disorderly lucha trios match yet, just a great example of mixing crazy-athletic, high-flying técnicos with experienced rudo bases who are masters at making the high-risk offense look great. Toxin and Latigo are part of Los Nuevos Vipers in AAA, a heel stable that has been active in some variation since 1997. They are classic lucha libre rudos, expertly mixing hard slaps and kicks with big double- and triple-teams while masterfully serving as dance partners for the opposing técnicos.
Arez is a former member of Los Nuevos Vipers, and is billed as “the master of ‘strange style.’” He moves at a slightly different speed and rhythm than most wrestlers, confusing and confounding his opponents like a wrestling Tim Wakefield. In a match where everyone is moving at breakneck speed, it is cool to watch Arez take his time. ASF is the next generation of sawed-off head scissors machines, an archetype that goes back to Le Petit Prince in France in the ’70s, through Rey Mysterio Jr., Dragon Kid, and Amazing Red. He is a frequent tag partner and opponent of Gringo Loco, and they are one of the most exciting pairs in wrestling today.
All of these matches live and die on the wild spots, and this match had plenty. The rudos had some big moments, they cut off the técnicos’ triple dives with stereo chair shots, and had a triple team in which Los Nuevos Vipers took ASF and swung him pendulum-style like they were going to toss him into a swimming pool, except they tossed him right into a Gringo Logo second-rope sit-out powerbomb. They also had a great finish run with Latigo hitting a flying body press into Komander, Toxin crushing Arez’s skull with his knee, and Gringo dropping ASF with a spinning Gringo Bomb off the top rope to get the win. Wins and losses are pretty secondary in this type of match, though. This was primarily a showcase for the wild things the técnicos can do. ASF had some real moments, standing on Gringo’s shoulders and dropping into a rana, doing a frog splash off of Komander’s shoulders while Komander was sitting on the top rope, and hitting a huge top rope Quebrada into the crowd. Arez did his weird stuff, like running on Latigo’s neck like a stair machine, twisting in and out of the ropes like a kid buzzing off sugar on a jungle gym, and landing an otherworldly one-foot flip moonsault dive.
Komander was a human GIF machine, breaking Twitter faster than Elon Musk with his antics over the weekend. There were too many to list, but some highlights include a wild rope walk into a multiple bounce rope trick ending in a Dragon Rana, a move when he ran the top rope only to stop and reverse into a Phoenix Splash, and a dive of the decade candidate when he ran the top rope and springboarded into a Sky Twister Press. A human shouldn’t be able to move like that; it’s like the greatest Cirque du Soleil tightrope artist happened to be in the middle of a fight. Someone should write an entire action movie around Komander flipping onto drug dealers while running on the ledges of buildings the way they made a bunch of movies in the early 2000s about guys doing parkour (shout-out to District B13).
With so many creative wrestlers breaking out video game moves in the U.S. and Mexico, GCW can keep running different variations of this match every month and I won’t get tired of watching it. Gringo Loco’s Rolodex seems to keep on expanding and I am looking forward to finding out which new stunts they break out in 2023.
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.