B/R Belts: Top WWE, AEW Performances for the Week of Sept. 19
With 10 hours of television among them each week, there is no shortage of excellence across WWE and All Elite Wrestling for fans to sink their teeth into.
From superb matches to captivating promos, inspirational babyfaces and dastardly heels, the industry is as hot as it has been since the height of the Attitude Era. Each week, fans are left intrigued and excited about the following week's shows, thanks to extraordinary performances by the most talented wrestlers on the planet.
B/R Belts will look at the best from the week that was in WWE and AEW, awarding championships to the stars who stood out or left the greatest impression on fans.
Find out which stars, matches and moments were crowned champions for their work in the preceding week in this debut edition.
But first, a look at the titles, their inspiration and meaning.
Introducing the Belts
Before we get to the performers who defined the week that was in WWE and AEW, these are the B/R belts at stake and what they represent.
The Steamboat Championship
Named after the consummate good guy Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, this belt is awarded to the top babyface of the week.
The Piper Championship
When he was bad, he was oh so good. Named for the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, this belt is awarded to the best heel of the week.
Hitman Hart Championship
Arguably the best to ever do it, Bret "Hitman" Hart is defined by his in-ring excellence. This belt is awarded to the best men's wrestler of the week.
A revolutionary performer who bridged the gap between generations of female performers, Trish Stratus is the namesake of this belt, presented to the best women's wrestler of the week.
The legendary Dusty Rhodes had the gift of gab and the ability to captivate an audience with his words. This belt goes to the star(s) responsible for the best promo of the week.
Pro wrestling has a long and, um, dubious history of WTF moments. This belt is awarded to the stars, match or moment that had you asking, "huh?!"
Lastly, this title is awarded to the best match of the week.
Steamboat Championship: Big E
The reaction, both from the fans in attendance as well as across the internet, for Big E's WWE Championship victory Monday on Raw is reflective of a man beloved both by his fans and peers.
The powerhouse of the New Day cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase in the closing moments of Raw and earned a monstrous ovation as he defeated Bobby Lashley to capture the top prize on the flagship show.
It was a moment that likes of which will be replayed over and over, particularly as Raw's 30th year draws near. More importantly, it served as the payoff to a long, arduous journey for one of the company's genuine good guys.
He had been pegged for success long before he joined Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods in New Day, but he found himself with that group as its energetic, explosive big man. The extraordinary response to his Money in the Bank victory indicated just how many fans were ready to see him take the leap to the top of the card, and the raucous reaction Monday reaffirmed as much.
Who knows what the future holds, or if WWE Creative can possibly keep up the momentum it has with Big E at this moment, but for the week that was in both WWE and AEW, there was no babyface performer more popular, or genuinely cared about, than Big E following his momentous Monday night.
Piper Championship: MJF
Realistically, MJF could probably win this award every week.
The loudmouthed New Yorker has made a career out of irritating audiences and pissing off babyfaces, and that isn't going to change anytime soon.
In New Jersey Wednesday night, his heat somehow extended beyond nuclear, though, as the fans in East Rutherford rained down with a chorus of boos that industry insider Jon Alba described as, "...probably the loudest pro wrestling crowd I've ever heard in an arena setting. Literally can't understand what MJF is saying on the mic it's so loud."
MJF insulted the city and offered advice to the late, great Brian Pillman Sr. while creating more anticipation and excitement for his match with Pillman Jr. inside Arthur Ashe Stadium next Wednesday night.
Unrelenting on the mic and unfazed by the offensiveness of his words, he is the closest thing to an old-school bad guy the wrestling business has right now. That he can back it up in the ring and take a great ass-kicking when he does, doesn't hurt matters.
His match with Pillman, a young star still working his way up the ranks in AEW, will be hotter than it has any right to be by the time the competitors take to the ring, and a great deal of that can (and should) be attributed to MJF's ability to rile up the audience and elicit the desired reaction.
Hitman Hart Championship: Adam Cole
In another solid week of in-ring work from the stars of WWE and AEW, it was Adam Cole (BAY BAY!) who stood head and shoulders above his peers as the best worker.
The former NXT and Ring of Honor world champion has been an acclaimed in-ring performer for a long time now, so it's no wonder that he was in the running for the Hitman Hart Championship. That he had such a reliable, great dance partner like Frankie Kazarian Wednesday night on Dynamite certainly did not hurt.
Cole showcased the timing and crispness so often associated with his work while knocking The Elite Hunter off and earning his first victory in a Tony Khan-owned ring. He did not miss a beat, following up his performance from NXT TakeOver 36 just a few weeks earlier by stealing the show once again and defeating a credible opponent in the process.
The creator of the Panama Sunrise nearly had the title snatched away from him by young Dante Martin, who has repeatedly made the most of the opportunities presented to him over the last two months. Wednesday on Dynamite, he teamed with Matt Sydal in another strong showing, falling just short of defeating FTR in an above-average tag team match.
For now, Cole holds on to the title and will have the opportunity to make it two-in-a-row as he teams with The Young Bucks to battle Jurassic Express and Christian Cage next week on Rampage.
Stratus Championship: Charlotte Flair
Like MJF, there is an argument to be made for Flair winning this belt every week that she sets foot inside the squared circle for a match. That the competition this week didn't particularly perform up to her level, or was mostly nonexistent across the other shows, did not hurt her odds.
Flair's excellence has been written about endlessly, and with good reason. She has been a measuring stick for women's wrestling since her days in NXT, and since jumping to the main roster, she has been responsible for some of the best in-ring performances by women's wrestlers of all time. She is excellence personified.
Monday night, that was on display in a match with Shayna Baszler that may not have been memorable beyond the moment, thanks to the questionable booking of the opponent in question, but still featured the best performance by any woman on television this week.
The work ethic is always there, the drive to be the best and uphold her family's name, too.
There is understandably some question as to whether she can work her magic and deliver a show-stealer against Alexa Bliss on September 26 at Extreme Rules, but the newfound intensity of the babyface and Flair's willingness to throw caution to the wind in the name of delivering the quality of match she desires should help ensure this is not Flair's first go-round with a B/R belt.
Dusty Championship: Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega
The best promo from this week's slate of WWE and AEW programming comes from unlikely sources.
Bryan Danielson has never really been recognized as one of the strongest promos in the business, though he can turn it on from time to time. Kenny Omega has spent the better part of the last year letting Don Callis do the majority of his talking for him. Yet Wednesday night on Dynamite, those two rivals came together to deliver a great bit of storytelling on the mic and set up a dream match for this week's Dynamite Grand Slam episode.
Danielson, just as he did earlier in the year, played on his opponent's ego. He manipulated Omega into accepting a match not by expressing his desire for a shot at the AEW world title, but by questioning his status as the best wrestler in the world.
His claim to fame questioned, his ego bruised, Omega ignored Callis' calls to deny Danielson's challenge to a match and accepted anyway.
The babyface knew exactly what buttons to push and got the heel to let down his guard just long enough to get what he wanted out of him. Now, Bryan will have the opportunity to strike a blow to Omega's assertions that he is elite of the elite, the best wrestler on the planet, in front of the largest crowd in AEW history.
The construction of the promo, the performances by both men within and the end result helped elevate this above the likes of MJF's anti-New Jersey rant and Seth Rollins' challenge to Edge for one last showdown from Friday's SmackDown.
Gooker Championship: The InDex Wedding
Not all WTF moments are bad, as evidenced by the delightfully deranged nuptials between Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis Tuesday night on NXT.
The best wrestling wedding in ages, it played to all of the characters involved and the history of the performers themselves, with nods to zombie wrestlers and an appearance by Andre Chase that Odyssey Jones snuffed out rather quickly.
It was Lumis opening his jacket to reveal an ax when the congregation was asked if anyone objected to the ceremony that drew the biggest laugh, though. By the time Lumis uttered his first words as an on-screen character, drawing a huge ovation from the fans (and a major pop from Austin Theory in the background), the brand had expertly executed the most surprisingly great wrestling wedding.
Why? Because it went off without any unnecessary twists and was true to the story and performers at hand.
Even as some of the most memorable moments had fans questioning what they just watched.
5-Star Championship: Fatal 4-Way Match for the Vacated NXT Title
In a week of solid in-ring action that stayed just a step below truly great, it was Tommaso Ciampa defeating LA Knight, Von Wagner and Pete Dunne to capture the vacated NXT Championship that earned the inaugural 5-Star Championship.
Wagner was out of place sharing the ring with the opposition, but the brand's renewed dedication to presenting young talent as the future faces of WWE landed him in that spot, and he performed solidly enough alongside three veteran competitors.
It was Ciampa and Dunne's exchanges, though, that elevated the match. Not that it should be a surprise to anyone familiar with their work seeing as how they have been the backbone of the brand's in-ring exploits for years now.
LA Knight deserves recognition, too, for putting over Wagner's offense just an hour or so after straight-up putting Bron Breakker over in the night's opening match. A selfless performer with the talent and tools to keep himself over regardless of wins and losses, he was key to the story told throughout the main event match.
Most weeks, AEW would have earned the nod here because of the structure of its show and the emphasis on in-ring performance, but NXT managed to steal this one away, thanks to four competitors who meshed well enough to deliver a damn fun multi-man match and two celebrated performers like Ciampa and Dunne who held everything together.