Something unexpected happened on the November 2nd edition of AEW Dynamite. Orange Cassidy successfully defended his All-Atlantic championship in a triple threat match against Rey Fenix and Luchasaurus. Not only was it a title match, but the winner also got a contract to defend the title against their “dream opponent” that Friday on Rampage. PAC assaulted Cassidy after the match, and of all people, Katsuyori Shibata showed up to save Cassidy from being beaten with the ring bell hammer. Shibata also saved Orange Cassidy at “Forbidden Door” when the United Empire attacked Cassidy. At that time, Cassidy presented Shibata with a pair of sunglasses. This time, Shibata simply pointed at Cassidy’s title, indicating that he wanted Friday’s title match. Cassidy presented him with the contract on the spot, and the title match was made official for Rampage.
AEW All-Atlantic Championship
Orange Cassidy vs. Katsuyori Shibata
AEW Rampage #66 – Atlantic City, NJ – 11.4.2022
Cassidy has been champion since 10.12.2022 and this is his third defense. Chuck Taylor, Trent Berretta, and Danhausen lead Cassidy to the ring. Cassidy scores early with a suicide dive. Shibata responds by throwing Ciassidy into the barricades repeatedly. Cassidy is able to send Shibata into the barricades as well, and they end up in a stalemate back inside of the ring. Cassidy evades Shibata’s corner dropkick and drops him with a diving DDT. Cassidy then hits Shibata with his own no-hands corner dropkick. Shibata cuts off Cassidy coming off the ropes with a heel trip STO, then gives Cassidy his own contactless kicks before kicking him right below the throat. Cassidy takes a seat like Shibata, and Shibata sits right in front of him. Cassidy gives him very weak shots, but Shibata smacks him for real, yakuza kicks him in the corner, then delivers his signature seated dropkick. Cassidy evades a rear-naked hockey. Cassidy back suplexes Shibata, Shibata does the same, and they land open hand strikes at the same time to knock one another down. Shibata doesn’t flinch from Cassidy’s PK and chest kicks, and Shibata busts out a variation of the Orange Punch to knock down the champion. Shibata pulls down Cassidy in an Octopus Stretch, and Cassidy makes his way to the ropes. Cassidy surprises Shibata with the Stundog Millionaire twice. The Beach Break gets Cassidy a two count. Shibata doesn’t go down from an Orange Punch and he locks in a rear-naked choke. He transitions into a Saito suplex. Cassidy Orange Punches Shibata to block the PK and pins Shibata at 14:00 to retain the title. The audience was not nearly as vocal as you may have expected, some of the lazy strikes were incorporated at strange points, and Shibata was just a slight step off. Overall, though, I liked the mental games they played with each other, and how Cassidy knew when he couldn’t mess around anymore when it came to his offense. Great ending too. I felt a lot of mirth watching this, and that’s definitely worth something. ***½
After successfully defending his IWGP United States Heavyweight title against David Finlay, Will Ospreay was confronted by Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr., who both wanted to challenge for the title next. Sabre proposed a singles match for Royal Quest II to determine amongst them who would be the next challenger. While not officially called a #1 Contenders match, Naito defeated Sabre, and Naito would be granted a title match against Ospreay the following month.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay vs. Tetsuya Naito
NJPW Battle Autumn 2022 Day 16 – Osaka, Japan – 11.5.2022
Ospreay has been champion since 6.12.2022 and this is his third defense. Gideon Grey is in his corner. The first singles match between Ospreay and Naito happened during the semi-finals of the G1 Climax in August, in which Ospreay defeated Naito. A key factor of this match is that while Ospreay has had an arduous 2022, he has had nearly a month to recover, while Naito has wrestled during the entire Battle Autumn tour. Ospreay starts the match quickly and asks Naito if he’s tired as Naito keeps pace with him. Naito exploited Ospreay’s neck and back problems, which started with a hip toss across his knee. These issues are what resulted in Ospreay surrendering the IWGP World Heavyweight title last May. Ospreay was able to resist the hip toss the second time Naito tried it, and muscled him into a backbreaker. Ospreay’s momentary reprieve was ended with the Combinación Cabrón to the back of his head. Ospreay’s legs helped him to take out Naito with a back handspring enzuigiri, following up with a pescado. Ospreay’s springboard forearm smash was effective, but as effective as it would be at full health. When he went for the OsCutter as a follow up, Naito cut him off, and then gave him a neckbreaker off the apron and to the floor. Ospreay, however, was able to utilize a guardrail to pull off the OsCutter. Back in the ring, Naito got the better of a forearm strike exchange, and also rocked Ospreay with elbows to his neck. Ospreay blocked a Destino, and also landed on his feet out of a super reverse Frankensteiner attempt, desperately dropping Naito with an OsCutter upon landing. Ospreay had Naito on the top rope on his shoulders, which Naito successfully turned into a Frankensteiner. Ospreay however was able to counter the Destino follow-up with a sit-out powerbomb. Naito took Ospreay down with Esperanza before attempting Destino again. Ospreay this time flipped Naito away and superkicked him. When Ospreay charged, Naito cut him off with Destino for two. Ospreay stopped a second Destino and tried the Stormbreaker. Naito countered back into the Destino for another nearfall. Naito tried for a third Destino. Ospreay halted him, popped him up into a forearm smash, and nailed the Hidden Blade. Another Hidden Blade couldn’t keep Naito down, but a subsequent Storm Breaker got Ospreay the pin at 30:07. This had everything you could want in a title match – a story that put the champion in peril, engaging momentum swings, believable and exciting nearfalls, and a pace that never put the match in a lull. There was some great ingenuity in the counters which also heightened the matches fervor at the right moments. I don’t understand why Ospreay went to the top rope at the moment he did other than to set up Naito’s Frankensteiner, and his two OsCutter’s looked pretty rough, but I have no complaints for this match other than, of course, that the crowd could not cheer. This match kicked ass, and ended what I believe to be one of New Japan’s best shows of the year. ****½
After the match, Shota Umino, now dubbed “Roughneck”, attacked Ospreay and the United Empire, laying out the champion with the Death Rider. Umino will challenge Ospreay for the title in two weeks at the New Japan/STARDOM Historic X-over event.
Los Angeles, CA – 11.5.2022
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni & Alex Koslov. Bateman is on commentary for the first two matches as well.
Ian and Alex inform us that the tour ends with a special singles match between the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Jay White and the STRONG Openweight Champion Fred Rosser, with no titles on the line. They then interview the West Coast Wrecking Crew, who are competing for a shot at the STRONG Openweight Tag Titles tonight. The WCWC say the thought of becoming the STRONG Openweight Tag Team champions is the engine that keeps them going, and that they will not fail the next time they challenge for those titles.
Rocky Romero vs. Christopher Daniels
Romero is facing Daniels to defend the honor of the LA DOJO, after Daniels disrespected Yuya Uemura and the LA DOJO at large by betraying him the last time they were in Los Angeles. Christopher Daniels is 2-0 in their previous singles encounters, but this is their first singles match in over 16 years. Daniels stomps on Romero when Romero drops down, and Romero’s shoulders and neck become Daniels’ focus for his offense. Romero baits Daniels to the floor and sends him into the barricades thrice with suicide dives. Romero puts him in an Octopus Stretch back inside the ring. When Daniels escapes, he drops a charging Romero throat first across the top rope and gets a nearfall with an Arabian Press. Daniels further wears down Romero’s neck until Romero uses a rewind kick to send him away. Daniels ducks a diving clothesline, but is placed across the middle rope and takes a double stomp to the spine. Romero got a nearfall after a tornado DDT. Daniels escaped the Forever Clotheslines and dropped Romero with an STO. Romero knee strikes Daniels after escaping a uranage. Daniels escapes the Shiranui. He leg sweeps Romero into a jackknife pin and uses the ropes to get the victory at 9:24. This tickles Bateman, who has a Ron Swanson-like laugh. This was a totally solid, fun match between two veterans. Not sure it will amount to much in the long run but it was enjoyable as a standalone encounter. Romero smiling and joshing with the crowd after the bout, however, doesn’t really make me think he is too bothered by Daniels’ cheating or Daniels’ overall ill will towards the LA DOJO. **¾
STRONG Openweight Tag Team Championship #1 Contenders Match
Kevin Knight & The DKC vs. TMDK (Bad Dude Tito & Shane Haste) vs. West Coast Wrecking Crew (Royce Isaacs & Jorel Nelson) vs. Stray Dog Army (Barrett Brown & Misterioso)
Knight and DKC double team Nelson to start. Isaacs assists Nelson in taking out both LA DOJO students. When Knight escapes a delayed vertical suplex from Knight, Misterioso tags himself in on Isaacs and knocks down Knight with a clothesline. The SDA overwhelms Knight with corner attacks. Brown ducks a chop from Brown, who strikes his own partner by mistake. Knight takes both of the SDA down with a London Bridge. After a headscissors to Misterioso, he misses a running Mad Splash. Since Brown is on the floor, Misterios tags Haste, and TMDK beats down Knight in their corner for a while. Knight has the same dilemma when he knocks down Haste with a dropkick and DKC is nowhere to be found. He tags Isaacs, who pummels both Tito and Haste in the corner with repeated clotheslines. Isaacs wisely knocks everyone else off the apron before giving Haste a t-bone suplex, but Haste himself is able to kick out on his own. Tito saves Haste from being pinned after a top rope elbow drop from Nelson. Haste takes out Nelson with a Saito suplex. Brown and DKC tag themselves into the match. DKC wipes out Brown with a karate kick and karate chops everybody but Knight off of the apron. Knight pendulum DDT’s Brown, but everyone else in the match jumps in to break up Brown’s pin after the fact. Tito press slams Haste onto the WCWC and then dives out onto all of them. Knight gets involved in the fray, and Misterioso wipes them all out with a tumbleweed dive off of the middle rope. This leaves Brown and DKC in the ring. Misterioso re-enters the match. He gives DKC the MSO and Brown hits the .44 Caliber Kick (now called Hollow Point) for the pin at 12:36. I’m actually really happy the SDA won this match. They’ve been listless for a while, and having a title opportunity on the horizon gives them purpose. I also like that they won without Bateman’s help. The match was chaotic, but overall pretty fun. ***
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Gabriel Kidd
Kidd made his return to New Japan at Royal Quest II, but this is the first match of his on STRONG since February. In a pre match promo, Kidd says he believes he is the Ace of the LA DOJO’s Three Musketeers (himself, Clark Connors, and Alex Coughlin). Kidd gives Tanahashi a hard chop against the ropes, but the current Ace takes down the self-proclaimed Ace with a crossbody moments later. Kidd overhand chops Tanahashi multiple times, then mocks Tanahashi’s air guitar playing. Tanahashi sends him to the floor with a dragonscrew leg whip. Kidd sends Tanahashi into the ring post and then attacks his left leg back inside the ring. Tanahashi fights back with forearm shots and takes down Kidd with a flying forearm when he is sent to the ropes. Tanahashi lands a somersault senton off of the middle rope, but Kidd takes him down with a left arm lariat for two, and immediately follows with a moonsault for another two count. When Tanahashi starts to make a comeback, Kidd dropkicks him in his left knee to shut him down. Kidd wakes up Tanahashi with a slap to his back. Tanahashi absorbs Kidd’s open hand shots and takes him down with the Sling Blade. Kidd fires up, so Tanahashi drops him with the Twist and Shout before delivering the Sling Blade a second time. The High Fly Flow then pins Kidd at 11:30. This moved at such a fast pace I was surprised it ended so soon. Kidd showed no fear taking it to Tanahashi, and was very impressive in his re-debut. Kidd got props from Tanahashi after the match, and is slated for both the STARDOM X-over event and World Tag League. If he produces this quality of matches more often than that, I’m looking forward to seeing him. ***½