B/R Belts: Top WWE, AEW Performances for the Week of October 17
The week that was in WWE and All Elite Wrestling brought us superb in-ring action, build to pay-per-view events, a standout promo and a grizzled vet hellbent on reminding the wrestling world of his excellence between the ropes.
For Bryan Danielson, it was a banner week in which he reaffirmed his status as the best in the world. For Hangman Page, it was a return to the character who captured the hearts of the AEW faithful in the first place. For Sasha Banks, it was yet another reminder that she is a standard-bearer for women's wrestling.
Those three stars and more are honored in this week's B/R Belts, recapping the previous week in the top two companies in wrestling.
Introducing the Belts
Before we get to the performers who defined the past seven days 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.
*Men and women eligible for every title except Hitman Hart and Stratus.
Steamboat Championship: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar did read the contract for his match against Roman Reigns at Crown Jewel—with his advocate Friday morning.
The tease by Lesnar that he and Paul Heyman are still in cahoots was excellent, as was the nonchalant approach he took to the contract-signing that closed Friday night's episode of SmackDown. His feet kicked up on the table, a grin a mile wide on his face, he was excellent.
Though not a traditional babyface by any means, Lesnar was great as the protagonist, stirring the pot and creating distrust between Reigns and Heyman ahead of a major pay-per-view championship match.
It's highly unlikely Lesnar wins this title again, if only because he has spent more of his career as a heel, but this run with Reigns has reminded fans that the potential is there for a quality run on the other side of the fence if Brock and Co. ever decide they want to head in that direction.
Piper Championship: MJF
When a week goes by without a standout heel performance, you give the Piper Championship to the most consistently great bad guy in the business, MJF.
The scarf-wearing sycophant appeared on Dynamite this week, claiming to have an unscheduled match with Darby Allin and then feigning shock when it was revealed that the former TNT champion was brutally attacked on previous week's show.
Looking for an opportunity to tout a victory over his latest rival, MJF ordered Wardlow to the ring, and the big man brought with him referee Bryce Remsburg. When Sting arrived to defend his friend and protege, MJF did what the best bad guys do: shoved his bodyguard in the way of danger and ran away.
The mic work, the cunning and cowardice all helped him stand out in a week that lacked that truly great individual performance. In this case, like Ric Flair throughout the '80s and early '90s, it was MJF's steady excellence that earned him another run with the title.
Hitman Hart Championship: Bryan Danielson
Bryan Danielson is the best technical wrestler on the planet, and he is dead set on reminding fans of it with this AEW run.
Friday night, he and Minoru Suzuki delivered a Match of the Year candidate. Just 24 hours after having the hell beat out of him on Rampage, Danielson and Bobby Fish delivered more mat mastery in the main event of a special Saturday night Dynamite.
It was a banner week for The American Dragon, who showed fans he still very much had in him the tenacity, fury and in-ring fire that he possessed during his days in Ring of Honor. The strikes alone he delivered in both matches, coupled with what commentator Tony Schiavone described as "less patience" as he focused on the injured knee of Fish, highlighted a more dangerous Bryan than we have seen in years.
If he can continue turning in performances like he did this week, Danielson will erase any questions about who the best wrestler in the world is, all while writing a seemingly improbable latest chapter in his acclaimed career.
Stratus Championship: Sasha Banks
The return of Becky Lynch, the rise of Bianca Belair and the omnipresent Charlotte Flair can be overshadowing, but not for Sasha Banks.
The Boss returned to the ring for the first time since Extreme Rules on Friday night, squaring off with Lynch in a highly touted main event of a supersized SmackDown. In a pay-per-view-quality match, Banks defeated Lynch following interference from Belair as the company built to the trio's Triple Threat match at Thursday's Crown Jewel event.
Banks remains a measuring stick for women's professional wrestling, seamlessly transitioning between heel and babyface and, more importantly, able to work as either when called upon. On Friday, Lynch worked predominantly heel, forcing Banks to fight from underneath.
She did, garnering the crowd's support as she looked to knock off The Man and build momentum ahead of the trip to Saudi Arabia.
With Flair moving to Friday nights and Belair and Banks heading to Raw, it appears as though Banks may want to get comfy in the babyface role again as a feud with The Queen appears to be on the horizon.
Dusty Championship: Hangman Page
Hangman Page cut the best promo of his career Saturday night on Dynamite, a recap of his tumultuous AEW career culminating with the promise of "cowboy s--t" at Full Gear on November 13.
Emotional, engaging, raw and real, Page positioned himself as the overwhelming fan favorite ahead of his shot at Kenny Omega's AEW Championship.
Page has been the best, most fleshed-out character in AEW, which allowed him to tell his story effectively and further connect with the fans Saturday night.
The organic popularity he has accumulated since day one in AEW has only grown, and passionate promos like the one he delivered on Dynamite will only help ensure he retains that popularity moving forward.
Gooker Championship: Queen's Crown Tournament Booking
The Queen's Crown tournament has been an unmitigated disaster for WWE, if only because of the company's frustrating booking of its women's division.
No match has eclipsed three-and-a-half minutes. Outside of Shayna Baszler, none of the women involved have been properly highlighted as a genuine threat to win the crown. Worse yet, the fans don't care.
The company's inability to hype or build credibility for the women involved has resulted in lackluster reaction to what should be one of those historic moments the company loves to pat itself on the back for.
Sure, Zelina Vega has emerged as a potential breakout star of the competition, but the lack of ring time and character development will only doom her regardless of whether she wins the crown.
WWE is expecting the crown to make the star rather than vice versa. Very rarely does such a strategy prove effective. It is about to find that out the hard way.
5-Star Championship: Danielson vs. Minoru Suzuki
When Tony Khan and AEW announced Danielson would battle the respected, and feared, Minoru Suzuki as part of the Rampage Buy In on Friday night, fans expect pro wrestling mastery.
The performers delivered.
Bryan and Suzuki beat the living hell out of each other in a technical wrestling masterpiece that emerged as a contender for Match of the Year. For 20 minutes, the combatants waged war in a physically punishing match that culminated with Bryan escaping a Gotch piledriver and delivering his trademark running knee for the pinfall victory.
The strikes were jarring, the physical barbary captivating. It was an extraordinary display, not only of professional wrestling but also of toughness and badassery.
The right guy went over, fans were enthralled and AEW continued to build goodwill by delivering on the potential of a match rather than getting too cute and booking nonsensical developments. That is what sets apart the company from its competition at this point.