B/R Belts: Top WWE, AEW Performances for the Week of Sept. 26
It was a momentous week for All Elite Wrestling, which presented four hours of television from Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York that was headlined by a dream match between Bryan Danielson and world champion Kenny Omega as well as CM Punk's first free TV match in seven years.
It should be of no real surprise to anyone then that those three competitors earned significant recognition in this week's edition of B/R Belts.
The AEW stars dominated headlines, thanks to performances that left fans enthralled and inspired, but they did not manage to sweep this week's belts.
WWE still had a few stars pick up titles, thanks to their efforts on Raw and SmackDown.
Who were they and just how dominant was AEW on the heels of its monumental week of programming?
Find out now with this recap of the week that was in professional wrestling.
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: CM Punk
Last Week's Winner: Big E
From a stirring promo on Dynamite (more on that in a moment) to his first televised match in seven years, CM Punk had yet another momentous week in a comeback that has gripped the wrestling industry and earned him this week's Steamboat Championship as the most effective babyface in both All Elite Wrestling and WWE.
Punk fought from underneath in his match, put on the defensive by the young Powerhouse Hobbs of Team Taz for a large portion of it. Defiant, the grizzled veteran showed grit and determination, overcoming Hobbs' power advantage to put him away with Go To Sleep.
That he flipped off young Hook and thwarted his attempt at interfering by sending his opponent crashing into his own associate only helped enhance the passionate response to The Straight Edge Superstar by the fans in New York.
Punk captivates the audience and makes it feel something every time he sets foot in the ring. Whether it be for a simple promo or, as was the case this week, a high-profile match, he sucks them in and the fans reward him exponentially with seven years worth of love and adulation. He was very clearly the biggest star on the Dynamite and Rampage Grand Slam television tapings, and the fans responded accordingly.
What helped earn Punk this week's babyface-centric championship happened seconds after the referee's hand slapped the mat a third time and Justin Roberts declared him the victor. He didn't stand up and pander to the crowd or soak in all the attention. Instead, he knelt down over Hobbs and patted him on the chest, a sign of respect from an all-timer to a young star with the world in front of him.
It was evidence to support his sentiments in that very first promo in which he said he was in AEW because of the young talent. Even in defeat, Hobbs earned a ton of credibility, thanks in large part to a selfless Punk, who still made him look like a dominant badass but rewarded fans' faith in him with a grueling victory.
Piper Championship: Seth Rollins
Last Week's Winner: MJF
"I will not be made a liar of. And I will find you where you sleep, and I will beat those words out of you in front of your wife. And in front of your children."
It was a phenomenally menacing, threatening promo from Seth Rollins that earned him this week's Piper Championship.
Driven to near-madness by his obsession with proving to Edge and the entire WWE Universe that he is not "Edge-lite," he threatened to invade another man's home and mercilessly beat him in front of his family. He is obsessed, deranged even, but he accomplished what he wanted.
Moments after Rollins' promo, Edge tweeted that he will appear on next week's episode of SmackDown in Baltimore to confront the Drip King.
Often, Rollins draws criticism for going over the top with some of his body language, facial expressions and exclamatory laughter. Friday night, he hit every note, walking a fine line between dangerously serious and maniacal en route to one of his stronger performances on the mic.
"Seth just killed that promo," B/R's own Phil Lindsey tweeted.
And he did. Rollins was delightfully evil as he struck to the core of his rival, bringing his family in and threatening traumatic actions if he didn't get what he wanted. It was great stuff from a guy whose SmackDown work has been consistently great and who, when he wants to be, is among the best heels in the business.
Heeldom runs in the family as Rollins' wife Becky Lynch was a close runner-up for her work on SmackDown, justifying her actions over the last month by asking "what choice did I have?" Then, after Bianca Belair got the best of her, she turned more serious and vowed to make her suffer Sunday at Extreme Rules.
Hitman Hart Championship: Bryan Danielson
Last Week's Winner: Adam Cole (BAY BAY)
The best wrestler in the world this week was neither CM Punk nor Kenny Omega, but rather Bryan Danielson, who delivered a classic with Omega in the opening match of this week's AEW Dynamite Grand Slam.
With 20,177 fans watching inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, Bryan kicked the living hell out of the world champion en route to his very first-ever five-star match rating from Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Metlzer (h/t Louis Dangoor of Give Me Sport).
Whether you believe that this was really the first flawless match of all of the in-ring wars Bryan has had over the course of his Hall of Fame-worthy career, dating back to Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, is irrelevant.
What is not is the physicality the 40-year-old demonstrated and the technical wrestling expertise he brought to what was billed as a dream match from the moment it was announced. Tough, resilient, his chest crimson from the chops he endured, he showed the intensity the match demanded and the resiliency fans expect from him.
His performance was flawless and erased any doubt anyone may have had about his skill at this point in his career. Given the talent in AEW and the plethora of dream matches that still exist for him, do not be surprised if Danielson becomes a multi-time Hitman Hart champion before all is said and done.
Bryan's closest competition for the belt this week was, obviously, Omega.
The Best Bout Machine backed up his nickname with another in a line of matches over the last decade that have helped him earn recognition by many as the best wrestler of his generation.
Stratus Championship: Ruby Soho
Last Week's Winner: Charlotte Flair
Dr. Britt Baker DMD may have gotten the best of her Wednesday night on Dynamite Grand Slam, thanks in large part to interference from Jamie Hayter, but Ruby Soho takes the Stratus Championship this week for her performance in the high-profile television main event.
Soho is a great babyface and, in this championship encounter, had the opportunity to showcase her in-ring ability.
A competitor who relies heavily on a strike-based offense, Riott threw forearms and right hands as she fought her way back into the match. She stunned Baker repeatedly and even took her game to the mat to force a near-submission with a half crab.
She was defensive when necessarily, resilient when the story of the match called for it and executed a strong babyface comeback down the stretch. Even in defeat, she looked like a championship-worthy competitor and will certainly have an argument to be made based on the outcome of the match.
Some will argue that Baker, by actually winning, should earn the Stratus title and they have a good point. Soho, with all of the attention and pressure on her to pay off the buzzed-about debut at All Out, performed up to the moment and proved any doubters wrong.
She earned the nod here, but Baker is sure to have her name in the headline sooner rather than later.
Dusty Championship: CM Punk
Last Week's Winner: Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega
"You slept on the legend of CM Punk. And it's not my job to wake you up. It's my job to tuck your ass in. Rampage! Grand Slam! Powerhouse Hobbs goes to sleep."
And with that, anyone who was not looking forward to Punk's return to televised wrestling after seven years sure as hell was now.
Punk cut a promo that proved he could acknowledge the fans and the emotion he feels coming through the curtain, but it also expressed seething anger that exists from Team Taz's attempt to take it all away from him a week earlier by driving him onto the announce table.
The emotion in his voice, the fire in his eyes as he addressed Hobbs and word management helped make this a short, sweet and impactful promo that sold the audience on a match that prior was a great opportunity for Hobbs to mix it up with an industry icon but little more.
The master of the pipebomb promo proved he didn't need to get too "insider" and could still cut a good, old-fashioned wrestling promo that made the audience want to see the match he was about to compete in. Imagine that.
The closest contender to Punk's title was the aforementioned Seth Rollins, whose threatening words to Edge helped enhance that program while highlighting the depths the former universal champion will go to exorcise The Rated R Superstar from the company and his own self-conscious.
Gooker Championship: Doudrop vs. Eva Marie, Part Deux
Last Week's Winner: The In-Dex Wedding
A week ago, the In-Dex wedding had us asking "WTF?!" as we laughed along with the gags and jokes that permeated the segment. This week, we simply as "why...TF?"
Why did Doudrop and Eva Marie have to wrestle again when the first was neither particularly good nor inspiring? What was there to gain from a rematch, particularly when it followed suit with its original?
Doudrop again squashed Eva Marie, beating her in short fashion and seemingly putting the storyline out of its misery. Rather than helping elevate Doudrop or further establishing Eva as a heel, it simply reran what we saw last week, adding to complaints about WWE programming and its knack for unnecessary and repetitive rematches.
That the story never really worked in the first place did not help matters.
In a week that featured so much good (Raw's Triple Threat main event, Omega vs. Danielson, Punk's first TV match in seven years, Montez Ford's main event opportunity), this was one of the few head-scratchers from either company.
5-Star Championship: Danielson vs. Kenny Omega
Last Week's Winner: Fatal 4-Way for the NXT Championship
Whereas last week's match won the 5-Star Championship almost by default, there was never a question as to which match was going to take home the title this week.
Danielson and Omega worked their magic, creating a piece of art that immediately earned praise and accolades from fans, analysts and wrestlers alike.
Former intercontinental champion Lance Storm praised the match, calling it "pretty much everything I want out of my professional wrestling." Journalist Jon Alba remarked, "It was a spectacle and a TV match we will be talking about for a long time."
And every one of them was correct.
The first Dynamite match through the curtain, in front of the largest AEW crowd to date, with expectations through the roof, Danielson and Omega could have had a perfectly fine wrestling match that set the stage for a bigger, pay-per-view encounter, and fans would have been OK with it.
Instead, the competitors waged war in a physical, dramatic match that set aside the plethora of finishers down the stretch and, instead, used the element of time to keep fans on the edge of their seats. Would either Omega or Danielson be able to put their opponent down as the minutes ticked by?
Would it be a V-Trigger from Kenny or a stiff kick to the face from Bryan that felled the opposition?
Fans watched with bated breath as champion and potential contender threw everything they had at their opponent before opting to throw fists as the clock ran out.
We knew the match was going to be damn good, maybe even excellent. What we were not prepared for was the environment escalating the significance of it and the performers feeding off the energy like they did. Danielson and Omega, in a war for bragging rights, each set out to prove they were the best wrestler on the planet.
Together, they created a match that reflected as much while also establishing itself in the annals of wrestling history as one of the best television contests of all time.
Nothing competed with it for the title this week as it was on an entirely different level than every other in-ring presentation from either company this week.