Another Danielson – Kingston Thriller, Main Event Jey Uso | Hulbert’s Weekly Match Guide 12/5


Even on an increasingly rare week without a big two PPV, there’s no rest for the wicked. In fact, it’s an actively notable block for wrestling TV, including the most significant Continental Classic bout yet as well as Jey Uso’s latest title challenge. Elsewhere, NXT welcomes back some main roster faces, earning rave reviews with an explosive multi-man main event. Meanwhile, NJPW’s World Tag League rolls on and Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling celebrates its tenth anniversary.

As always, these aren’t necessarily the week’s best matches but instead, simply a collection that I’ve opted to expand upon. Either way, to the graphics!

Bronson Reed vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Wes Lee (WWE NXT)

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The main roster cameos continued on Tuesday’s NXT, with three former North American Champions returning for the TV main event. They’d be greeted by the belt’s most recent former champion of note, battling Wes Lee to crown a new number one contender for Dominik Mysterio. I have to concede that as praise poured in for this one, I had my concerns. It’s a talented lineup, but a modern multi-man match nonetheless, also featuring wrestlers that seemed likely to wrestle the exact bout you’re imagining.

To their credit, it’s much better than that, specifically in its usage of Bronson Reed. The first portion is about him almost entirely, toppling Lee at the bell and gaining immediate control. Physically, he’s the clear outlier here and they embraced that, still being creative while positioning him as the match’s monster. He even steers the ship through an early ad break, continuing to boss things until a triple team effort dispatches him to the floor.

That allows the more familiar multi-man sequencing to feel earned, as the other three work speedy sequences that now have a contrast opposite them. It’s a refreshing presentation of Reed too, who a few years ago would’ve simply been the fourth cog in this high spot wheel. Speaking of such, Cameron Grimes admittedly feels like the spart part at times, though through no fault of his own. His main roster run has been virtually non-existent thus far and even as the returning NXT star, he’s overshadowed by Johnny Gargano.

‘Johnny Wrestling’s significance in this setting goes without saying, sharing a central showdown with Lee. It’s probably the match’s biggest miss, weirdly enough, somewhat halting the match’s prior momentum. Thankfully, Reed returns immediately afterwards, briefly regaining control. From there, the sequencing ramps up, stringing set pieces together in fluid fashion. Reed is cycled in throughout, still not going far enough in that direction to undercut his role as the match’s x-factor.

It’s genuinely well done in that regard, not feeling nearly as formulaic as that play call often does these days. Part of that is due to the sheer quantity of ideas, going at a speed that prevents any extended setup or delay. Sprinkle in the usage of Reed and you have a real crowd pleaser that also has a personality of its own, with Grimes’ work being a nice feature to boot. Admittedly, these matches have a decreasing ceiling for me at this point, but this well exceeded my cynical expectations.

They couldn’t have executed this much better, executing an elaborate TV main event virtually flawlessly. Ironically, the most clunky moments come from that fleeting singles showdown, as the rest of this feels far more organic than it has any right to.

Mark Briscoe vs. Rush (AEW Dynamite)


The third night of AEW’s Continental Classic was an improvement on the opening week, featuring my top two bouts to that point. The first of those came exactly as you’d expect, as Mark Briscoe shared an absolute slugfest with Rush. Over four years ago, these two were part of a Ring of Honor tag that’s forever etched in my memory. At the time, Dragon Lee and Rush were somewhat new to the promotion, facing that familiar Briscoes hurdle in Philadelphia.

It was a quiet night at the 2300 Arena, as ROH’s cold streak translated to an increasingly flat atmosphere. One match exploded beyond those limitations, momentarily taking Ring of Honor back in time with a single tag team match. That same spirit made it to Wednesday’s Dynamite, as Briscoe and Rush combined for an unsurprisingly fiery brawl. It’s that way immediately too, charging to centre ring for a wild shootout.

Rush’s usual ferocity is only encouraged by Briscoe’s energy, happily meeting him at every stop of the way. Briscoe has his own firepower too, quietly (or quite loudly, upon thought) owning some of the game’s most thunderous chops. Even still, it’s another matchup that initially positions him as the underdog, wrestling with heart as the plucky babyface. That gives the match a personality beyond its physicality, though that ingredient remains the centrepiece.

Along the way, Rush seems to sustain an injury of some kind, briefly delaying the match as he struggles with his left leg. If merely a sell job, it’s a hilarious feat considering Rush’s usual approach to that element, which is simply refuse. Either way, that slightly takes the edge off their firefight during the middle chunk or so, but it’s quickly regained as they race to the finish. In fact, that shape suits the emerging match even better, allowing a stationary Rush to swing for the fences.

Rush’s more defensive second half does provide the match with some range too, naturally providing some space to Briscoe, whose offence remains razor sharp. Those wrinkles mostly serve as a distraction from the real show though, which hosts frequent strike exchanges, each arriving with such personality. Briscoe and Rush both wrestle with almost singular temperaments, a demeanour unique to them. Their flavours are somewhat contrasting in that regard, but there’s an awful lot of overlap too.

That overlap is where much of this match lives. As advertised and exactly as you’d expect, an absolute war. Especially on undercards, matches of this ilk do an awful lot for the Continental Classic’s importance and prestige.

Jay White vs. Swerve Strickland (AEW Dynamite)

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Even in the context of a tournament, it’s still slightly jarring to see an extended heel vs. heel match on US TV. I don’t mean that as a criticism or anything resembling one either, it just takes some adjusting to for me personally. Thankfully, that wasn’t much of an issue for Jay White and Swerve Strickland, with the latter’s popularity providing them with a clear route ahead. White was actually Strickland’s first opponent after leaving WWE, closing a NJPW Strong taping together.

That wasn’t even two years ago, yet Strickland feels almost recognisable as we near 2024. Strickland clearly had a vision back then, a picture in his head, it’s just now something that we can see also. After such a gradual climb, these last few steps have felt rapid, as Strickland has climbed through internal tiers almost weekly. He no longer feels like a potential main event player but instead, a main event player that’s potential is far bigger than being just one of AEW’s heavy hitters.

This match is intriguing in that regard, offering a glance at babyface Strickland in a main event match. I’m not sure that anyone is rushing to turn him, to be clear, but it’s an interesting look at the role that he may ultimately be destined for. If so, it’s an encouraging watch, as the match really finds itself once he leans in that direction. Early on, the work is unsurprisingly sharp, but without much shape, spending time at ringside and keeping the people engaged regardless.

They soon take steps towards their overall direction though, with White targeting Strickland’s injured shoulder. His work drifts a touch, especially in that first half, but his focus tightens as they find their footing. Even before that, White’s heel antics are always engaging, particularly at this runtime. He’s really suited to TV in that sense, the perfect candidate to steer the ship without having his game stretched thin. He’s very much on here, only making Strickland’s night as babyface easier.

Swerve’s offence is at home in that role anyway, even if his bulkier frame does appear to have slightly slowed some of his more unorthodox offerings. On the other hand, he’s increasingly packing a heavyweight punch in terms of physicality, landing some thudding strikes here as they go back and forth. They visibly find a rhythm along the way, closing the match with a final act that’s silky smooth. They walk a fine line on that front, operating effortlessly yet always conveying that pivotal sense of struggle.

Much of that is baked in with these two, both sporting those typically striking snarls and such. In a different scenario, I think they’d improve on this quite comfortably, which says a lot as it’s an impressive hit in its own right, especially late. Even as their second match, it mostly feels like they’re simply getting to know one another, as displayed by the way their chemistry expands throughout. It’s not always especially focused but once they find their way, it’s probably the tournament’s best work to that point.

Daisy Monkey, Miu Watanabe, Moka Miyamoto & Yuki Arai vs. Magical Sugar Rabbits, Miyu Yamashita, Rika Tatsumi & Shoko Nakajima (TJPW 10th Anniversary Show)


While WWE’s November PLE may have come and gone without giving us the Survivor Series match we needed, TJPW had us covered. Well, not exactly, but close enough, hosting a ten woman clash of generations. It’s not an elimination bout, yet with a 2-out-of-3 falls wrinkle, manages a similarly engrossing dynamic. The match is a special main event for Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling’s ten year anniversary show, going beyond the promotion’s usual length to boot.

Its appeal is only increased by Yuka Sakazaki’s current status, as she rapidly approaches her final date with TJPW. Sakazaki is one member of the old guard’s starting five, standing opposite the promotion’s young guns. Korakuen Hall is the host, greeting the action with a triumphant atmosphere befitting this celebratory occasion. Initially, that atmosphere is present in the action too, sporting an almost exhibition feel that rapidly dissipates.

They shine a light on some of the different potential pairings, setting the stage with duels with between Moka Miyamoto and Miyu Yamashita as well as Mizuki and Yuka Arai. The latter dynamic includes some playful jealousy from Rika Tatsumi, interrupting the Magical Sugar Rabbits’ tandem offence for some fun of her own. That’s an extreme example, but captures the vibe rather well, as TJPW’s current and future best play the hits.

Arisu Endo and Shoko Nakajima provide some escalation from there, sharing a silky smooth exchange that culminates with the first fall, as the young guns go ahead. That’s sold as a major shock, both by the talent involved as well as Korakuen Hall, which seems to be organically leaning in the youth’s direction. The second fall is shaped accordingly, with Endo and Nakajima picking up where they left off, as the latter shows an increasing aggression.

The result is a natural escalation, with a touch more urgency accompanying the veterans’ work. That only makes Miyu Yamashita more at home, getting in on the act as they take some heat on Suzume. It’s a snappy, spiteful segment, ultimately launching Miu Watanabe’s hot tag. Her team adjusts to the shift in tone, bringing their own tenacity for a combined flurry. The match does a neat job of finding room for individual set pieces without hurting the overall rhythm.

At one juncture, the bout briefly focuses on its two defined tag teams, also building to five simultaneous submissions. Sakazaki eventually makes it one fall apiece, with a double down kicking off the third fall. It’s a race to the finish from there, with the offense levelling up again. Those double downs become a trend, frequently resetting things until a showdown between Watanabe and Yamashita. That provides the third fall with a fitting centrepiece, as Tokyo responds accordingly.

Watanabe receives a serious shine during that extended back and forth, with the others then cycling in for a tremendous finishing stretch. Once the smoke clears, it’s back to Watanabe and Yamashita, with the latter standing tall. As always, these all-star tag scenarios lean a lot on investment, operating as almost fantasy wrestling affairs. With that being said, this particular bout works well beyond that, succeeding conceptually while also thriving as an outright action match.

The latter is less my focus, because of course, as this frankly wowed me on layout alone. It’s such a neat take on the stipulation, a recipe that could’ve easily been overwhelming. Instead, each piece builds upon the last, sharing the spotlight to boot. Better yet, you’re left with lasting images of that closing pairing, a mostly untouched singles matchup that they’ve barely scratched the surface with. It’s a serious triumph, scratching that Survivor Series itch with something slightly different.

Ren Narita & Shota Umino vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (NJPW World Tag League)


Though they’ve since been quite controversially eliminated, Ren Narita and Shota Umino were a key piece of this year’s World Tag League lineup. Well, that was the assumption at least, yet they were a focus of mine nonetheless. In fairness, Narita and Umino have been trusted with a few main events across the tour, with those matches getting a substantial increase in time. On Friday, that meant for a show-closer opposite the CHAOS pairing of Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano.

Being me, it was of course that match that jumped off the page, clocking in at 22 minutes or so. The appeal is simple: just how far can Ishii climb up the main event mountain with Yano attached to his back? Well, there’s only one way to find out, providing a glance at NJPW’s two young guns in the process. In execution, that novelty is less apparent, as this isn’t a particularly fun scenario in truth. There isn’t much of a house in attendance, nor is there any real atmosphere.

As a result, that runtime is especially challenging, making for somewhat of a slog. Even still, there are some engaging elements on display, particularly late. It’s a match that’s mostly built around Ishii’s dynamic with Umino, testing the prospect’s toughness. That pairing shapes the match’s highlights, being returned to throughout. Beyond that, the veterans are generally in control, with Narita and Umino’s success being frequently framed as bursts of resilience.

That suits the skill-sets involved, forcing the alleged musketeers to provide the match’s pace. Their flurries are generally brisk and lively as a result, which does allow the bout to occasionally escape its environment. They use those instances for an almost seesaw rhythm, seldom staying in heat for too long. Instead, it’s more a matter of quantity, halting the fresh faces consistently and launching consecutive comebacks. It’s a structure that works too, even if stretched noticeably thin.

Whenever the CHAOS tandem are in control, Ishii mostly steers the ship, doing so with his usual physicality. Thankfully, that’s often enough, as there aren’t many ideas that emerge beyond that anyway. Yano’s role is minimal but he plays it well enough, supplying their heat segments with a few trickster quirks. To my eye, the gap between Narita and Umino remains sizeable, with the former still feeling a distance away from his ideal final product.

Regardless, it’s a good match that with an edit or two, probably could’ve climbed even higher than that. In fairness, a different setting would’ve helped also, as this is a cold viewing experience even as the action steadily heats up. That’s often the case with NJPW’s World Tag League, and it doesn’t seem to have changed much in 2023. Either way, a nice match that all things considered, navigates its hurdles rather well.

Bryan Danielson vs. Eddie Kingston (AEW Collision)


Two years removed from their Rampage classic, Bryan Danielson and Eddie Kingston finally met again on Saturday’s Collision, battling in the former’s first Continental Classic bout. Much like their last encounter, it’s a match that with just a promo or two, felt PPV main event worthy, with Danielson again relishing the chance to taunt Kingston’s frailties. He had fresh material after Kingston’s opening match with Brody King also, struggling for confidence after falling to 0-1.

Inside the ropes, Danielson and Kingston reiterate many of the ideas from that prior effort, further exploring this styles clash. Particularly with his verbal attacks, Danielson very much serves as a mountain for Kingston to climb, the perfect wrestler that looms over AEW’s imperfect hero. That dynamic remains central, though it’s paired with a chink in Danielson’s own armour also. That may not even do it justice in fact, as Danielson sports an eyepatch for his broken orbital bone.

While unavoidable, that element mostly lives in the background, having a light shined in its direction for occasional drama. Perhaps more than any other tournament tilt thus far, this one has a palpable atmosphere at the bell. It’s a very specific energy, the kind that surrounds wrestling’s biggest and best bouts. The crowd aren’t even exactly electric, there’s just a tension to the initial duel, a noticeable caution befitting the match’s stakes.

The aforementioned styles clash is present in their opening strike exchange, as Kingston plods forward, keen on cutting the ring off. Danielson has fun circling in response, firing low kicks that not only damage Kingston, but visibly irritate him. Kingston is sporting a familiar poker face at the bell, like the boxer that loves to brawl but for now, must maintain his form. Kingston’s patience pays off too, finally cornering Danielson and investing to the body early.

Danielson attempts to responds with chops, immediately paying the price for even briefly holding his feet. He’s visibly outgunned in that domain, but the success encourages Kingston’s own error, shooting a takedown and being reversed for his troubles. Every single step of this portion is deliberate, the purest form of pro wrestling storytelling. They don’t fall far from those heights afterwards either, that first act is just extraordinary.

As Kingston’s blows begin to put dents on Danielson, ‘The American Dragon’ makes the most of that grappling advantage. That not only fits the match’s narrative, but suits the fans in attendance also, swiftly responding with “Eddie” chants. Once again, he’s in his natural role here, positioned as the match’s obvious underdog. That role is only cemented by Danielson’s continued work on his leg, which brings a desperation to Kingston’s game, throwing those chops with even more venom.

Once again, Danielson wears those unlike anyone else, swaying with each bomb. The distance between quality and quantity widens as a result, with Danielson finding flurries in response to those sickening strikes. In the process, some of Kingston’s blows veer towards Danielson’s aforementioned eye, providing additional jeopardy to the emerging war. Ultimately though, it’s repeat rather than revenge, with the wrestling machine simply outlasting his everyman rival.

As usual, Kingston remains defiant, firing back with whatever retort he can muster. It’s a breathtaking watch, somehow being exactly as you’d expected while still capturing your imagination all over again. Much like their Rampage thriller, it’s mostly contained too, still leaving steps ahead of them as they reach this particular finish line. I sense, or at least hope, those steps will be taken in the eventual block final, but that’s purely guesswork of course.

Either way, it’s a beautiful match, and comfortably this tournament’s best thus far. These two are a perfect pairing, providing yet another reminder of how powerful wrestling contrasts can be. They are natural rivals in just about every way, built to make magic with one another. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they are two of the world’s finest wrestlers either, obviously, both still leading the way after years of perfecting their craft.

That golden generation won’t be doing the dance forever but until something changes, they’re still the best we have. Gorgeous graps, pro wrestling at its best.

Jey Uso vs. Seth Rollins (WWE RAW)

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It’s been over three years since Jey Uso first challenged for a World’s Title and somehow, he’s not done yet. At the time, Jey’s singles cameo felt like just that, a cameo that’d conclude with Jimmy’s return. Certainly, that was the case on some level also, as The Usos indeed reunited for their most dominant reign yet. In recent months though, Jey has reached new heights as a single, cementing himself as a main event babyface on the non-Bloodline brand.

For now at least, this feels like the culmination of that climb, challenging Seth Rollins for his WWE World Heavyweight Title. It’s a hit too, as it often has been with Uso. With that being said, it’s a match of two halves for me personally. I adore the opening act and change, sharing a traditional babyface match and letting the atmosphere build. It’s a substantial atmosphere also, being assisted by a strong pre-match package detailing Uso’s journey.

The people are with him too, making everyone’s job easier. Early on, it’s a clean wrestling match, with both wrestlers trying to win from the bell. They both feel totally at home in that portion, as the match totally suits Rollins’ broader identity as WWE’s fighting champion. It’s yet another credit to Uso that he totally belongs too, feeling like a genuine contender throughout. With the people leaning in his direction, Rollins is able to take a control segment of sorts, subtly framing Uso as the bout’s babyface.

That portion isn’t much, drifting slightly but making sense nonetheless. “CM Punk” chants emerge in response, already embracing Rollins’ emerging feud. Either way, Uso eventually finds a sharp counter and the match changes from there. I’m torn on the results, as they unquestionably rock Albany with the increasingly expansive second half. However, the match feels somewhat devoid of a clear direction beyond those initial building blocks, quickly devolving into sheer back and forth.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s still consistently watchable, particularly with the heat in response. They smartly layer Uso’s false finishes, going far enough in that direction to fool even the most cynical observer. It’s an extended finish that produces multiple blockbuster near falls, concluding in clean fashion to boot. The bout is yet another positive presentation for this belt, which has been assisted by Rollins’ post-Nakamura creative. While still secondary overall, he now feels far more central to RAW at least.

The match itself doesn’t quite get there for me, or it doesn’t climb as high as I’d initially hoped anyway. That opening action had a distinct flavour that somewhat faded to the background as they leaned more on momentum swings late. Nonetheless, it’s an exciting TV main event with decent work and an invested live crowd. That recipe can only fall so far and indeed, my gripes don’t prevent this from being an enjoyable title tilt.

Good match, though not much beyond that for me personally.

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