MJF – Omega Epic, Halloween Havoc, Nakajima’s Farewell | Hulbert’s Weekly Match Guide 10/31


Happy Halloween! It’s a race for history in the world of All Elite Wrestling, as Kenny Omega and MJF meet for a blockbuster title tilt on AEW Collision. That’s not all either, also welcoming Kazuchika Okada for Wednesday’s Dynamite main event while personally, I’m sneaking into Rampage to see Mike Santana vs. Ortiz. Elsewhere, Halloween Havoc is back, or the first half of it is anyway, with Becky Lynch closing another episode of NXT TV.

In addition, recent NXT callups continue to roll while finally, Katsuhiko Nakajima concludes his time in Pro Wrestling NOAH. To translate, it’s another big week in pro wrestling, so let’s conclude spooky season with some unrequested match reviews! All hail.

Becky Lynch vs. Lyra Valkyria (NXT Halloween Havoc)

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In 2020, NXT resurrected the iconic Halloween Havoc brand, making it an annual event since. Last year, that meant for a weekend PLE but this time around, it’s back to serving as a television special. In fact, it’s even been expanded to a two-part affair, with Becky Lynch’s latest NXT Women’s Title defence closing night one. That main event was just one of five bouts showcasing the division, also featuring Devil’s Playground and Lights Out matches.

Since taking the title from Tiffany Stratton, Lynch has made four successful defences. That begun against Natalya, also toppling Tegan Nox and Indi Hartwell, repeating her victory over Stratton along the way. On Tuesday, she met Lyra Valkyria, a contender that’s been quietly climbing in 2023. Valkyria was actually who Stratton beat to claim the vacant title, since impressing against Rhea Ripley. Previously, Valkyria had been a bright spot in NXT UK, sharing a television thriller with Meiko Satomura.

Now, where possible, I try to write these reviews without overly detailing the outcome. Obviously, something as nerdy as this isn’t likely to be read by an imaginary casual fan but nonetheless, I try to pair recommendations without outright recaps. After all, that leaves you something to experience for yourself upon viewing. With that being said, some matches are so defined by their finish that such an option is simply unavailable. To me, this is one of those cases.

On Tuesday, Valkyria became NXT Women’s Champion, catching Lynch with Eddie Guerrero’s iconic Rock Bottom counter. It’s an outcome that instantly feels significant, the kind that could be transformative for Valkyria’s ascent. Even beyond the result though, this match is a case of building around a central goal. It’s about making Lyra Valkyria, showcasing her strengths in a fashion that signals her future as a major player in this division.

That’s what the match is about and on that front, it’s an objective homerun. Admittedly, I don’t love the bout in a vacuum, and like most Lynch hits, it does have a noticeable roughness around the edges. They basically work a frantic shootout, exchanging moves for much of the runtime. Initially, that’s portrayed with a steadier babyface opening but as they return, the pace is increased, seldom slowing from there.

It’s an admirable effort in that sense, really packing this full of content. At its best, that produces some dynamic exchanges, with a few less snappy sequences emerging in the process. There are a couple instances of hesitation that shape the latter, often accompanied by noticeable communication. That’s nothing new with Lynch but to me at least, speaks to her general approach. As I’ve discussed before in these guides, Lynch is very much a wrestler who’s striving for feel.

Lynch is actively reacting to the people, keeping them in mind almost to a fault. At times, that’s evident in less subtle fashion than you’d like, but it’s a defining trait nonetheless. In addition, Lynch really brings it here, which has been a theme in this run. This style of match is much more suited to Valkyria, who has some substantial weaponry, yet Lynch makes a point of meeting her in the middle. With sheer commitment and output, she adjusts to this hectic rhythm.

Both champion and challenger will have matches that I prefer in the coming months but this packs a genuine punch, especially with such an engaging atmosphere. The people unlock a drama that greatly elevates the bout, which was a similar strength of Lynch’s NXT Title win over Stratton. Once again, this has an unpredictability that plays a part on that front too, with Valkyria’s eventual triumph feeling like a genuine happening, rather than the mere inevitable.

As a match, it’s an exciting action bout that lives and dies on the quality of its content. For the most part, that’s a battle it wins, though the fleeting misses do make for a slightly scrappy watch. That’s not what this match is actually about though, being more notable for what it achieves: emphatically elevating Valkyria. It’s a good television main event with a memorable finish, which is the opposite of our increasing norm. This has purpose, which is often Lynch’s biggest strength.

Bryan Danielson & Claudio Castagnoli vs. Kazuchika Okada & Orange Cassidy (AEW Dynamite)


In what may have been Bryan Danielson’s final bout of 2023, an all-star main event closed Wednesday’s Dynamite. In his first match on AEW’s flagship programme, Kazuchika Okada stood alongside Orange Cassidy, battling Danielson for the first time since Forbidden Door. Incredibly though, none of those three names stole the show, as Claudio Castagnoli reminded the world of his status as one of history’s finest tag team grapplers.

On paper, he and Danielson may be my favourite Blackpool Combat Club pairing, though they’re almost probably the most infrequent. Prior to this outing, they’d wrestled traditional tag matches just twice in AEW, the first of which being from November 2022. More recently, they opened a Collision last month, putting some time in with Big Bill and Ricky Starks. Here though, it’s less about tag team campaigns and instead, selling matches in a ‘road to’ fashion.

In terms of content, it doesn’t really go far beyond that outline either, mostly saving the biggest swings for its final third. That formula’s familiarity is obscured by the star power though, getting underway with Cassidy and Danielson’s very first duel. It goes about as you’d expect, with Danielson cutting right through the antics and Cassidy capably wrestling in response. Castagnoli and Okada soon enter, with the latter receiving a hero’s welcome.

Admittedly, he isn’t exactly electric here, mostly bringing a house show approach to Philadelphia. In truth, Okada’s presence is mostly limited to key moments anyway, with Castagnoli overpowering Cassidy to launch some heat. Blackpool Combat Club once again lean heel, which while slightly infuriating in general, is the obvious choice here. Either way, Cassidy’s chemistry with Castagnoli is palpable, organically promoting their upcoming title tilt.

The eventual result is Okada’s hot tag, or more specifically, reunion with Danielson. Their interactions make Okada’s attendance worthwhile and then some, embracing the big fight feel with some genuinely terrific action. It’s still relatively contained, building steadily and simply allowing these combinations and dynamics to breathe. Better yet, as that superstar pairing steps aside, the match returns to Cassidy and Castagnoli, who seamlessly build upon the bout’s emerging momentum.

In the final few minutes, things truly explode, including all four wrestlers for a superb sequence or two. The finish follows, earning an exhale after the fireworks that were just on display. Again, this isn’t much more than your standard ‘road to’ tag but with these names in front of this crowd, it feels substantial. Really good television main event, led by a sublime performance from Castagnoli in particular.

Cedric Alexander vs. Dragon Lee (WWE SmackDown)

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I have yet to concede defeat on the case of Cedric Alexander. While he’s unlikely to ever near the mountaintop, I’ve believed for a while now that the former Cruiserweight Champion still has something to offer WWE TV. Unfortunately, that hasn’t often been evident as of late, with Alexander experiencing a dangerously thin few years following The Hurt Business’ baffling demise. As a result, this opportunity jumped off the page.

Since arriving on the main roster, Dragon Lee has made an immediate impact, taking Dominik the distance before beating Austin Theory. After losing a tag match last week however, this was a chance to get Lee back in the win column, adding some excitement to SmackDown in the process. That’s all this really is too, but it also supplies Alexander with a chance to wrestle on television, which hasn’t truly been the case as a singles since getting six minutes with Jeff Hardy in June 2021.

Since then, he’s mostly been limited to Main Event, only being used on television in an enhancement role. On Friday though, he got some shine, even being given a video package to accompany his already surprising entrance. He delivers once the bell rings too, making the most of this opportunity. It’s basically a blue brand variant of the cruiserweight matches that once packed WCW Monday Nitro’s glory days. Granted, not a particularly expansive one, but it’s in that mould nonetheless.

The familiar tropes are there, sharing a flashy opening in which they reach stalemate a time or two. While nothing groundbreaking, it’s executed sharply, with Alexander slotting back into the obvious role that’s often eluded him. They do tell a steady story underneath the action too, with Alexander actively adjusting throughout. After feeling Lee’s speed, he grounds the match, failing to earn an advantage there and so firing away with a heavy chop.

Lee responds accordingly, launching a firefight as they spill to the apron. That hosts an especially crisp knee from Lee, with Alexander then slamming him as they feed into a break. Alexander gets some more as they return too, maintaining control until a double foot stomp leaves both men floored. In addition, Alexander lands a Michinoku Driver along the way, only to have an attempt at a sequel countered, ultimately setting up Lee’s triumph.

This is productive television, getting new talent a win while giving a chance to someone who’s spent an awful long time on the sidelines. Alexander is unlikely to get a full reboot at this point, but this was a steady reintroduction, positioning him to add some excitement to SmackDown’s undercard. If nothing else, he certainly played his part, seamlessly providing the type of midcard match that could greatly assist this show. Good TV!

Mike Santana vs. Ortiz (AEW Rampage)


I have loved this feud. Granted, that may seem hyperbolic, with the programme being almost exclusively limited to pre-tapes and vignettes, but I stand by the prior sentence. To me, this has been a refreshing addition to the current television landscape, an increasing outlier that’s grounded in believability. This is an actual conflict, a personal matter that’s been portrayed by duelling promos from two authentic, passionate personalities. To translate, pro wrestling.

Now, that doesn’t mean that their first match was ever destined to make year-end lists. In truth, it isn’t even the best bout on Friday’s Rampage, with Konosuke Takeshita vs. Kyle Fletcher earning that honour in the main event. Even still, I felt this was worth covering, as these two have maximised their time on AEW’s C-Show and actively earned my attention. In execution, this No Disqualification match isn’t perfect by any means, but it delivers on that pre-match promotion.

Admittedly, that stipulation is a slight detriment early, as they lean into the weaponry more than necessary. To be clear, I say that as a compliment to both wrestlers, as they’re capable of capturing conflict without those tools. That’s clear at the bell, staring a staredown that feels inherently heated, highlighting the emotion that’s defined their respective promos. Unfortunately, the initial content slightly undercuts that, but their physicality soon steadies the ship.

Even as a table is being arranged, there are these flashes of potential, at one point trading fiery strikes in the meantime. After a few minutes, that potential begins to dominate proceedings too, as they use a heavy chair bump to reset things. Psychologically, the match does feel a touch backwards in that sense, starting with virtual stunts before transitioning to a more traditional brawl. In this case though, that pattern works, as the latter is where these two shine brightest.

As they exchange bombs from their knees, it feels truly hateful, scrapping upright and sprinkling in suplexes to boot. From start to finish, they absolutely clobber one another, producing the match’s highs with sheer physicality. It’s a bruising, spiteful war, even as they introduce more expansive manoeuvres. Those are all executed with such bite, feeling totally at home alongside those knockout blows. Just as they’re truly rolling though, the finish arrives in slightly abrupt fashion.

They make the most of their ten minutes or so here, even if I wish they’d have sacrificed that initial direction and expanded on the second half. Even still, it’s a really good time, delivering on the hype they’d built and proving both guys worthy of this television time. Ideally, they’re just getting started here too, as I can only imagine the bloodbath these two could muster with time for escalation. Either way, both Santana and Ortiz should be incredibly proud of this effort.

Since battling Brian Cage on HonorClub in April, Ortiz has wrestled just five times, with this being only the second under an AEW umbrella. The first came at Wembley within Stadium Stampede. Meanwhile, that match hosted Santana’s first outing since June 2022, with this only being the fifth bout of his comeback. This feud was very much sink or swim for both men and they so easily could’ve suffered the latter but yet, here they are, making Rampage worth watching.

Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Takashi Sugiura (NOAH Demolition Stage)


In his final match for Pro Wrestling NOAH, Katsuhiko Nakajima went out with a bang. Teaming with Go Shiozaki opposite Naomichi Marufuji and Takashi Sugiura, the four titans met for an all-star tag at Saturday’s Demolition Stage event. While it should have been much more so, Nakajima’s departure could only be so surprising after his past few years. Since losing the GHC Heavyweight Title in February 2022, he’s been somewhat de-emphasized, still producing sporadic hits along the way.

In 2023, that included a glorious battle with Kento Miyahara, reigniting a rivalry that seemingly has meetings ahead yet. While the peak, that’s not an isolated effort either, with Nakajima also rocking Yokohama’s WrestleKingdom opposite Shingo Takagi. In May, Nakajima reformed his team with Go Shiozaki, teaming for the first time in almost three years. Naomichi Marufuji and Takashi Sugiura have their own history together, winning tag gold in both 2007 and 2012.

This is not a match for great creativity or innovation, nor should it be. This is a good old fashioned slugfest, four veterans clobbering each other in the name of a fitting farewell. It’s all familiar enough, just enhanced by the importance and novelty of this occasion. That adds a certain gravity, framing things with a significance that allows each blow to pack an extra punch. They have the time to take it slow too, soaking things up over the 22-minute runtime.

Physically, the tone is set before the bell rings, as Nakajima and Shiozaki exchange a friendly duel. The former met Marufuji at the bell, with neither man earning an advantage until Shiozaki and Sugiura’s entry. That’s the pairing that begins to shape proceedings, as Shiozaki’s horrifying chops swiftly steal the show. I’m aware that I couldn’t be announcing anything more obvious here but my goodness, how do they sound like that?

I mean seriously, they seem to be getting louder, and he’s incredibly casual about it too. Nakajima soon gets in on the act also, matching those offerings with his own kicks, continuing the assault on Sugiura. After that brief control segment, they spill to ringside, fighting on the floor as Marufuji brings his own chops to the party. That launches a stretch in which Nakajima is isolated, with Marufuji and Sugiura working him over for an extended portion.

Shiozaki’s eventual re-entry provides more chops, sharing a particularly gruelling duel with Marufuji, ultimately reaching a double-down. That brings Nakajima back in, being met by Sugiura who soon brings him off the top with a delayed superplex. Things break down from there, leaving all four men floored, only for Nakajima and Sugiura to pick up where they left off. That escalates with a shootout between Nakajima’s kick and Sugiura’s forearm, with the former winning that war.

Ultimately, it concludes as you’d expect, with Nakajima doing business on his way out the door. As you can probably tell from the loose description above, it’s a pretty simple match. They whack each other for twenty minutes, giving each pairing a chance to engage in such action. Due to Nakajima’s departure though, this has a unique tint, feeling actively sad as the referee counts three. It’s received as something truly bittersweet, earning an emotion that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with such physicality.

Often times, that unique marriage is peak pro wrestling though, and it was on display here.

Kenny Omega vs. MJF (AEW Collision)


For all the controversy surrounding its brief build, there were very few doubts about the quality of Collision’s main event. 2023 has been a unique year in the Kenny Omega story, as his biggest hits will unquestionably live long in the memory. Opposite Will Ospreay, Omega produced two of the year’s most critically acclaimed matches, with their first encounter still boasting a healthy lead as my pick for 2023’s best. Those certainly aren’t his only triumphs, either.

Alongside The Young Bucks, Omega started the year with a reign as Trios champions, then going into a thriller with El Hijo del Vikingo. Most recently, Omega battled Konosuke Takeshita at All Out, delivering a borderline show-stealer on one of the year’s finest PPVs. Even with those efforts though, Omega has often felt like a guest in his own home. It’s been a strange time in that regard, as Omega’s actual television presence doesn’t necessarily match his in-ring output.

By contrast, MJF has been AEW’s undeniable main character, for better or worse. Inside the ropes, it’s consistently been the former, including a classic Iron Man with Bryan Danielson. While he’s done an awful lot as the promotion’s centrepiece though, this still felt like a fresh challenge for the champion. Much of that is the matchup itself obviously, which is entirely new to begin with, but it’s also about the stylistic clash that this pairing presents.

It’s an intriguing mix in that regard, even with undeniable overlap in-between. In execution, I think that’s evident too, as MJF basically enters Omega’s world while offering a quirk or two of his own. It’s a bout that’s effectively worked like a dream match between the world’s top two wrestlers which under the AEW umbrella, isn’t exactly a reach. Either way, that’s how the match is approached, producing the most spectacular version of this matchup.

Part of that is unlocked by MJF’s recent babyface turn, allowing them to go further in that direction than they would have otherwise. Admittedly, I would like to see a version of this pairing that includes a clear babyface – heel split but for this particular category, they managed something quite special on Collision. Early on, it’s a pretty traditional World’s Title tilt, wrestling for position as the duelling chants showcase a genuine big fight feel.

They’re quickly pushing a serious pace, with a slight slip actually enhancing that portion. Omega’s stumble is framed perfectly by McGuinness, pondering an early advantage for the younger, fresher man. Sometimes, those happy accidents can work in a match’s favour. Some familiar shtick follows from the champion, almost directly leading them across a bridge to the rest, as a pair of dives turn this into something more expansive.

That transition is portrayed by success for MJF, which is a nice touch considering that it’s much more Omega’s domain. Those touches just subtly position Omega as the match’s initial babyface, which gives this a noticeable gravity. After all, Omega is protecting his place in history as much as anything else, which allows for an easy entry to emotional investment. Regardless, Omega is rolling before long, still executing at a virtually peerless level as he goes through the gears.

MJF isn’t as far behind on that front as some may have forecasted either, reminding us of his own range while still slotting in his recent antics. Omega meets him in the middle also, with both men bumping violently throughout. As the match progresses, you can actively see them finding their chemistry too, navigating a few bumps early for a seamless ride late. They certainly aren’t wary of that element’s variables either, absolutely packing this with content.

Even at thirty minutes, it’s borderline breathtaking at times, producing an ongoing highlight reel. That makes for an electric watch, though I do wish that there was a touch more depth. The obvious example is the exhilarating table spot, which merely launches a double down, but that’s not the only case. The output is so persistent down the stretch that it almost undercuts the quality of their efforts. I say almost because with stars of this calibre, that’s about all it can muster.

Again, it’s worked and received like an outright dream match, which allows them to break the ‘rules’ of your usual main event. At times, that does result in a slight exhibition feel, but that’s somewhat suited to this scenario in truth, as it’s not a personal conflict but instead, a race for greatness and history. As a result, the finishing stretch absolutely captures that importance, with each near fall feeling like life and death.

That’s assisted by a desperate Omega, momentarily leaning heel as he looks to close the show. It’s a shift that actively escalates the match, remaining subtle enough to work within the bout’s wider narrative. In addition, a Don Callis red herring ensures that Omega maintains the people’s heart, hanging in there for one final false finish that’s close enough to be painful. At the bout’s conclusion, it feels like a genuine moment for MJF, even after almost a year as champion.

This was emphatic, solidifying MJF as not just AEW’s top guy, but their lead babyface. As a match, it’s superb, an all-star shootout that swiftly transcends its setting. By the end, Saturday’s Collision feels like a stadium show, hosting one of the year’s strongest television bouts. Incredibly, I think they have more interesting matches ahead of them if those opportunities arise, but this is a treat nonetheless, thirty minutes of world class action.

It also feels significant, and not just for MJF or Omega, either. This match was an embodiment of the wrestling that’s defined AEW’s greatest hits, the thrills of a truly epic encounter. Great television main event.

Alpha Academy vs. The Creed Brothers (WWE RAW)

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Barely two years removed from their professional debut, The Creed Brothers have already arrived on the main roster. Incredibly, it feels well overdue too, with Brutus and Julius being almost immediate hits on NXT. They instantly jumped off the page for me, sporting an almost Steiner Brothers-esque penchant for chaos. They were and, naturally, still are raw prospects, but have been incredibly watchable thus far, even in matches that haven’t always come together.

That didn’t seem likely to be an issue on Monday either, being welcomed to RAW by the perfect opponents. It’s been a big few months for Chad Gable, mostly as a singles but also maintaining his team with Otis. Last week, that meant for a fun television tag opposite New Day, though their time as an outright team does appear to be nearing its end. Even still, they’re natural opponents for The Creed Brothers, introducing a new act before Gable’s presumed singles glory.

It is, of course, a hoot. Gable and Julius immediately hit the mat, wrestling for position and exchanging an arm drag each. Creed is at home in that domain, with Gable smoothing over any rough edges along the way. That freakish athleticism doesn’t wait long to reveal itself either, as Julius quite nonchalantly hoists Gable above his head, handing him over to Brutus for an early suplex. The bigger brother is greeted by Otis, sharing an unsurprisingly clunky interaction from there.

The Creed’s inexperience does make for a slightly mechanical rhythm at times, particularly as Brutus’ face sports a familiar concentration. As the match settles down though, they get a touch more comfortable, finding their feet with a brief heat segment on Gable. They do an encouraging job of feeding Otis’ hot tag too, which is no mean feat for wrestlers of their genre. Once the match goes beyond that beat though, The Creed Brothers really shine.

With just a short finishing stretch, they’re able to explode into a seemingly endless highlight reel, as Julius in particular operates in a fashion that should probably be illegal. He just sort of steps into these insane feats, casually strolling into a shooting star press. It’s not that Brutus doesn’t have his own weaponry either, Julius just has so much that it’s almost hard to comprehend. Better yet, they even find the room for an Ivy Nile spot late, showcasing this act just about perfectly.

Again, they’re still very much raw and as actual workers, have an awful long way to go. That’s to be expected though, as they’ve only had around seventy matches, with the majority of those being tightly produced television bouts. By contrast, their house show schedule should dramatically shift as main roster talents, not only wrestling more but also working with wily veterans. Based on everything we’ve seen, that should result in a quite rapid improvement from where they’re already at.

That’s an impressive place to be too, earning those Steiner comparisons and showing frequent flashes of genuine greatness. The big thing is just a certain feel, a flow that’s understandably absent in their transition from one beat to the next. With that being said, it’s pivotal that they maintain their inherently hectic nature, as it’s what makes them stand out. I used the word mechanical earlier, as I do think it’s apt for their developing fundamentals, still trying to match the textbook they’re reading from.

Over time, those steps will become more natural, which should only allow their biggest swings to hit harder. For now though, it’s one step at a time, with this debut being the ideal launching point for what could, and frankly should, be a special career.

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