Katsuyori Shibata’s Return and the Hottest Wrestling Storylines of the Week
Professional wrestling is often at its best when it provides an outlet for performers to fulfill real-life aspirations. It gives viewers a rewarding emotional payoff and wrestles a visible drive that can't be forced.
Following The Heartbreak Kid's famous win over Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12, Vince McMahon delivered the iconic line, "The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels." Ever since, several wrestlers have duplicated HBK's impassioned celebration.
This epic moment has become a standard for wrestling storytelling. The same sentiment is a part of what made Kofimania and many other unforgettable championship wins so special. After all, there is nothing more relatable than seeing someone follow their dreams and achieve them on such a big stage.
This week, two entries earned top spots on this edition of Bleacher Report's ranking of the hottest pro wrestling storylines because of the genuine circumstances surrounding them.
Let's take a look at how they stack up next to the rest of the happenings in the industry.
6. MJF vs. Darby Allin
Last Week's Ranking: N/A
MJF's mind games with Darby Allin lands at the No. 6 spot this week following a great segment from the latest episode of AEW Dynamite.
On Sept. 29, The Salt of the Earth called himself, Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara and Allin the four pillars of the company. In the process, he set up the premise for this feud because he has beaten everyone else but the straight-edge daredevil.
Although this promo sparked a formulaic back and forth between the two, their feud has steadily improved every week. MJF's personal jab didn't force Allin to act out of character but he has continued to attempt to gain a mental advantage over him.
On Saturday, Sting emerged to give an update on his protege after masked assailants beat him down in the parking garage. Instead, MJF came down, cut a savage promo and embarrassed The Icon with help of Shawn Spears and Wardlow.
The two-time Dynamite Diamond Ring winner is the best heel on the roster. This was another example of just how good he is at berating his opponents and giving the crowd ample reasons to root against him.
The growing signs of dissension between Wardlow and MJF have also made for some engrossing backstage segments.
5. Jungle Boy vs. Adam Cole
Last Week's Ranking: N/A
Jungle Boy vs. Adam Cole makes the list for the first time as their initial matchup has descended into a heated rivalry.
These two have been at each other's throats since Cole superkicked Perry during his debut at AEW All Out. On the Sept. 29 episode of Dynamite, they finally met in the ring but the newest member of The Elite used a low blow to secure the win.
The Superkliq didn't stop there as they bum-rushed Jurassic Express backstage last week. Jungle Boy got some semblance of revenge against Brandon Cutler this week before he called out The Elite.
In response, Cole and The Young Bucks jumped him and viciously threw him from the stage and through a table below. This was an excellent way to keep this feud going and possibly set up a match for Full Gear on Nov. 13.
Their first match together was great but the added tension between the competitors will make the next showdown even better. The former leader of The Undisputed Era is at his best as a despicable and braggadocious antagonist, and Jungle Boy gives him a perfect dance partner to play off of.
4. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Roman Reigns' ongoing confrontation with Brock Lesnar is still compelling. However, it dropped to the No. 4 spot this week as WWE seemingly wrote The Beast Incarnate off of television for the time being.
Lesnar and The Tribal Chief finally locked horns at Crown Jewel in a pretty good match that will keep fans guessing. If you were hoping for a definitive answer on where Paul Heyman's allegiance lies, you'll have to wait a little while longer.
At the event, Reigns' consultant threw the Universal Championship into the ring but it wasn't clear who he was attempting to help. Even more, he didn't look pleased with the outcome as The Bloodline celebrated after The Head of the Table successfully defended the title.
On SmackDown, Lesnar ran through Reigns and The Usos and destroyed a camera in a wildly entertaining segment. Afterward, Adam Pearce suspended The Mayor of Suplex City indefinitely and ate two F5s for his troubles.
There is still so much WWE can do with this feud. There is still interest in a rematch as the clip of their brawl garnered 2.6 million views on the company's YouTube channel. Still, fans will, unfortunately, have to wait until after Survivor Series at least for their next encounter.
3. Xavier Wood’s King of the Ring Win
Last Week's Ranking: N/A
No one has pushed harder for a return of the King of the Ring tournament than Xavier Woods. The 35-year-old has been campaigning for this since at least 2016 in hopes that he could enter and win the emblematic event.
The Purveyor of Positivity got his wish in 2019 but WWE didn't select him to compete. Nevertheless, he finally got his chance this year following a solid run as a singles competitor on Raw.
First, Woods defeated Ricochet in a surprisingly fun match on Oct. 11. Then, he bested the opponent who ended his bid to become United States champion in the 2018 U.S. title tournament, Jinder Mahal.
With Finn Balor waiting for him in the finals, he was one step closer to his longtime dream of donning the crown that solidified many Superstars before him. It almost seemed too good to be true, but Woods triumphed at Crown Jewel and ascended to the throne.
You can tell how much this accomplishment means to the 35-year-old. He has been so selfless as a part of a trio and his peers have had career highlights. So, it was nice to see him finally achieve something he has always wanted on his own.
The New Day will go down as one of the greatest stables of all time. Their lasting impression won't be their list of accolades, though. It will be their convictions to stay true to themselves and accomplish their wildest dreams together.
Wood's King of Ring is just the latest chapter in the story of three men who set out to change the perception of Black wrestlers. They've succeeded and continue to prove they have staying power in the process.
2. Seth Rollins vs. Edge
Last Week's Ranking: 3
Seth Rollins vs. Edge earned the second spot on this week's ranking. Their trilogy of top-notch matches has easily been one of the best programs of the year.
As stated in previous columns, Rollins is currently doing the most captivating character work of his career. He also improved quite a bit on the mic during the pandemic era. Still, his greatest strength is his work rate and in-ring abilities.
At Crown Jewel, The Drip God showcased that again in the most inventive Hell in a Cell match in a long time. He and Edge tore the house down in the best match of the night and a fantastic ending to their storyline.
Edge has been at the top of his game throughout his return to WWE. His promo work has been amazing, and he has delivered high-quality matches with Rollins, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton.
The final stretch of this storyline gave The Rated-R Superstar a chance to tell an engaging story with an opponent who has had a similar career.
SmackDown is WWE's best weekly series mostly because of the work Reigns has been doing as The Tribal Chief, but Edge and Rollins arguably became the most intriguing aspect of the show following their rematch at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 10.
In the end, the Canadian Superstar used his opponent's own Stomp to silence him once and for all.
1. Katsuyori Shibata's Return to New Japan
Last Week's Ranking: N/A
It's tough to imagine anything could top Edge vs. Rollins or Woods' crowning achievement, but Katsuyori Shibata's surprise return during the finals of this year's G1 Climax was one of the most poignant moments of the year.
The 2017 New Japan Cup winner was forced to retire after he unsuccessfully challenged Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Sakura Genesis. During the match, he suffered a catastrophic injury.
After emergency brain surgery, Shibata survived but many assumed he would never wrestle again.
Later that year, he reemerged at the G1 Climax to give his fans a tearful update on his health.
There was a glimmer of hope in 2019 as his longtime friend, Kenta, turned heel and joined the Bullet Club at the same event. Afterward, the Japanese star stormed down to the ring and delivered an emphatic basement dropkick in the corner to a raucous ovation.
It was the first time The Rabid Dog had done anything physical in the ring in two years but he didn't follow up on it. On Oct. 21, Zack Sabre Jr. came to the ring wearing the gear he wore when he faced Shibata in 2017. Then suddenly Takeover played and the crowd that hasn't been allowed to do anything but clap due to COVID-19 restrictions erupted.
The ensuing five-minute exhibition match illustrated once again why we should never say never when it comes to wrestling. Afterward, Shibata assured the fans that the next time we see him he will be wearing his ring gear and he will wrestle again.
In the same year that CM Punk returned to wrestling, the unthinkable happened again. It was a heartwarming and inspiring moment that will hopefully lead to a showdown with Kenta.
We all want Shibata to be safe but it felt good to learn that he may have a chance to end his career on his terms. As such, this was the only choice for the No. 1 spot on this week's ranking.