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Bandido Helps Bryan Danielson Experience His Lucha Dream

Elsewhere, the Banger Bros and the Viking Raiders have a fistfight and Adam Priest tries to win back his ACTION title

WWE/AEW/Ringer illustration

There’s more great pro wrestling in 2023 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. Bandido

AEW Dynamite, January 18

Bryan Danielson has been vocal about his love for lucha libre, and how the great luchadores have influenced his career. Despite that admiration, Danielson has had very few chances to work top luchadores, or lucha style in general. He has had only two matches in Mexico (a trios match in Toryumon Mexico back in 2004 and a three-way trios match at AAA Sin Limite - Triplemanía XVI in 2008) and stopped working Ring of Honor and the indies well before top luchadores were a part of the scene. (He did have a couple of matches against Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara in WWE, but WWE TV matches are a different beast altogether.) You could tell that Danielson was hyped up to work a long singles match with Bandido, one of the top luchadores in the world, for the first time; Danielson was grinning during the entire match, which was full of little Easter eggs for hard-core lucha fans.

The opening sections of this match were heavily contested on the mat, with both Danielson and Bandido incorporating some llave, which is the lucha libre style of submission wrestling. Danielson grabbed a drop toehold and spun Bandido into a bow-and-arrow pin, but Bandido was able to roll out and take down Danielson into a Romero special. Danielson countered, stepping out of the leglock portion in an awesome escape and reversing Bandido into a Romero special attempt of his own; Danielson couldn’t grab Bandido’s arms to get him up and ended up stomping on his kneecaps. Danielson later bridged out of a Bandido pin attempt using only his thigh strength, which is just an incredible feat of power and balance. Bandido responded with a unique stalling hip toss, where he held him in midair before throwing him over, and then locked in El Nudo Lagunero (a figure-four armbar lift), which is the finisher of the legendary luchador Blue Panther, someone who Danielson had always cited as an idol. It was a nifty bit of mind games from Bandido, basically telling Danielson, “You’re a sightseeing tourist—I am lucha libre. You name-drop Blue Panther—he helped train me.”

Bandido moved the match into a higher-impact phase by hittting Danielson with a pair of dives; this section also included some great-looking kicks from both wrestlers. I loved the Bandido hanging suplex; Danielson was initially leaning to his right to try to counter it, and Bandido just muscled him all the way to vertical. Bandido is so smart at showing struggle, and the extra grit it takes to execute his strength moves makes them even more impressive when he pulls them off. Bandido also broke out some more of his higher-risk moveset, including a go-to-sleep variation out of an Atlantida, a top rope backflip powerslam, and his 21 Plex. I have been super into this Bandido run in AEW. He comes off like such a big star, but the one quibble is he has so much awesome-looking offense that it stretches credulity when someone kicks out of his moves. I mean, if that moonsault powerslam doesn’t get him a win, what does he need to invent to get a three-count? I liked how Danielson escaped this match, turning Bandido around a bit with roll-ups and spinning Bandido around with a busaiku knee, which almost came off like a lucky knockout punch.

After this match and his match against Chris Jericho, it feels like Bandido is ready to level up. He got such huge reactions from the crowd, and felt like he belonged in the ring with AEW’s biggest stars. If anything, he was leading on the scorecards against both Jericho and Danielson before falling. He feels like a guy who at a minimum could be put in the Orange Cassidy/Darby Allin role of defending a title on TV every week; I think he would be a great champion for either of those titles whenever they decide to move on from one of the two champions.

While the “trials of MJF” angle may be a bit of a retread of his angle with Jericho, I can’t hate on anything which leads to long Bryan Danielson singles matches every week, especially with such a varied cast of characters. There are over 100 male wrestlers on the AEW roster, and that isn’t even counting all of the wrestlers from other companies they can pull from. I am pretty much interested in seeing Danielson against any of them. Kushida and Allin had an awesome match in the main event of this episode of Dynamite; Danielson against either of those wrestlers could be incredible, but I would also be super into seeing him against someone like Parker Boudreaux or Angélico. Brian Cage, who Danielson will wrestle this week, isn’t on the top of the list of possible Danielson opponents, but I trust Danielson to do something cool with him.

Drew McIntyre and Sheamus vs. Viking Raiders

WWE SmackDown, January 20

With the wrestling world still reeling from the tragic death of Jay Briscoe, SmackDown opened with a slap-mouth tag match worthy of the Briscoe Brothers. The Viking Raiders were old rivals of the Briscoes; they came into the ring wearing Dem Boys armbands and were hyperaggressive from the jump.

The Raiders have been in the WWE since 2018, after successful stints in ROH and New Japan. They were actually put together as War Machine in ROH after meeting in the finals of the ROH Top Prospect Tournament, and they had runs with both the ROH World Tag Team Championship and the IWGP Tag Team Championship. In WWE, they have been a classic example of a successful NXT act that hasn’t translated on the main roster. In NXT (as the War Raiders), they held the NXT Tag Team Championship and were part of big main-event feuds with Undisputed Era; they even left NXT without losing those tag titles.

They debuted on Raw under the legendarily goofy name “the Viking Experience.” They did win the Raw Tag Team Championship after changing their name to the Viking Raiders but were mostly stuck in the muddled middle, feuding with the Street Profits in comedy sketches in which they bowled and played golf, or battling in comedy matches against Akira Tozawa and his masked ninjas. Recently, they have been given a makeover, adding Erik’s real-life wife Sarah Logan as Valhalla and fancying up their gear a bit. As NXT graduates, the Viking Raiders seem to have brighter prospects in an Triple H–run WWE than they did before.

They were certainly treated like equal forces in this match against Sheamus and Drew McIntyre, who are both former world champions and certainly higher up in WWE hierarchy. It was a slugfest from the bell, with all four guys throwing rude forearms and chops in the spirit of the kind of fistfights Sheamus has been having for the past year. Erik especially seemed to be trying to swing his forearm right through Sheamus’s head, like he was chopping wood. The Raiders were able to take over when they tossed Sheamus to the floor and Ivar hit a diving low splash, pancaking him into the barricade. They then worked Sheamus over for a bit with some punishing shots until he was able to hit the Irish Curse and tag in McIntyre. McIntyre chucked around the 300-pound Raiders impressively until Ivar intercepted a charge into the corner by sitting hard on his chest. The Raiders then took over on McIntyre; Ivar nearly took his head off when he countered a Claymore Kick with a spinning karate kick. Sheamus got tagged in and had to take on both Raiders, and it turned into more clobbering, including Sheamus somehow kicking out of a top rope splash by the sizable Ivar. However, the final shots were landed by the Banger Bros (not sure about that new name), with McIntyre clocking Erik with a Claymore and Sheamus dropping Ivar with the Brogue Kick.

This was a really great performance by the Raiders, who matched two of the biggest hitters in WWE blow for blow. I like how the SmackDown tag division is built around big guys throwing heat, and would be happy to see this bout run back or the Raiders taking on Imperium or the Brawling Brutes. It is also great to see a tag match be this physical and get so much time on WWE TV. One side effect of the Usos being pushed so hard is that they have been the tide that has raised all of the tag wrestling ships, and not only do they have long, great tag matches themselves, but they are the impetus for other teams to have killers like this.

Adam Priest vs. Anthony Henry

ACTION Lords of Chaos, January 20

This was the climax of a feud that was one of the highlights of indie wrestling in 2022. I previously reviewed the third match in their series, which saw Adam Priest lose by count-out, which allowed him to hold onto the ACTION Championship. In December, their fourth match saw Anthony Henry win the title in dominant fashion, tying up Priest in the ropes and drilling him with multiple full-force superkicks and then hitting him with Priest’s signature DDT for the pin. It’s pretty rare to see a modern indie match end with that kind of finality, rather than a series of 2.9 near-falls. Priest being tied in the ropes set up the stipulations of this match, a No DQ bout in which the ropes would be removed. (Impact Wrestling ran a similar match this week between Kenny King and “Speedball” Mike Bailey that is also well worth checking out.)

This was a battle of Southern wrestling generations. Henry is 39 and made his name in the Carolinas in the early 2010s; he was part of Evolve and was briefly signed to WWE under the name Asher Hale. He is currently under contract with AEW as part of the WorkHorsemen. Priest is 26 and has been wrestling since 2017. He has been a big part of the IWTV promotions in the South, and is at the beginning of his journey, while Henry is closer to the end.

The match started with some mat wrestling; Henry would lock holds on Priest, who was unable to get to the nonexistent ropes for a break. Priest sent Henry out of the ring into the seats and hit him with a wild shoulder block dive. They brawled onto the stage where they exchanged sharp shots, including a Henry kick that sounded like a tire exploding. Priest hit a snap suplex on the floor and as Henry got to his feet, Priest came flying wildly off of the stage, smashing through a plastic merch table. There was a great camera angle on this move, as Priest came flying from out of frame like someone had thrown a stray cat. Henry was able to recover and hug a chair around Priest’s head before running him into the ring post. Priest beat on him some more and placed a chair back around Priest’s neck. Henry went to sprint around the ring to hit him but got cut off when Priest whipped the chair hard at his ankle. He then skipped another chair across the ring into Henry’s ear like a rock on a pond. Priest cracked him a couple of times in the leg with a chair, and then set up the chair, attempting to DDT Henry on the seat, but Henry reversed it, landing a jumping tombstone on the chair, sacrificing his leg to nuke Priest’s neck.

The leg injury kept him from following up, and Priest locked on a figure-four leglock, which Henry countered by rolling recklessly to the floor with the hold locked in. They brawled on the floor, winging chairs at each other recklessly. It feels like a wrestler can control a swung chair; just flinging the chair seems way more dangerous. Henry got the advantage back in the ring and hit a Gotch-style piledriver and a Jay Driller (RIP, Jay Briscoe). Priest kicked out but did a great job of selling the neck trauma by shaking his fingers to see whether he had movement. They ended up fighting on the top of an 18-foot ladder, and Priest was able to get the advantage, knocking Henry onto a table before putting him through said table with an Alabama Jam from the top of the ladder. This was a huge stunt to finish a match full of them. There were lots of memorable big moments, but also a lot of great small moments; these are two guys with great fundamentals, and those fundamentals held the match together.

Priest took his ACTION title back after losing it the previous month. I am looking forward to seeing what he does as a defending champion. He is super over in that building and he has a number of interesting opponents on the roster—Brogan Finlay (the youngest son of Fit Finlay), AC Mack (who is coming off an IWTV World Title run), and Alex Kane, among others. I do think they can return to this matchup at some point, though; despite all of the violence in this match, there’s still some meat on the bone.

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.

An earlier version of this piece erroneously stated that Adam Priest was trained by AR Fox as part of the WWA4 dojo; that information has been removed.