Awarding the Top WWE, AEW, Impact Performances for Week of January 16
The week that was in professional wrestling saw WWE preparing for the Royal Rumble, All Elite Wrestling gradually planting the seeds for the matches and feuds that will make up the Revolution card and Impact Wrestling riding a wave of momentum following its critically acclaimed Hard To Kill pay-per-view.
With so much going on, there were plenty of opportunities for the stars of those companies to shine, entering themselves into contention for this week's B/R Belts.
But who shone brightest?
Was it Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns from WWE? Maybe MJF or CM Punk over in AEW? Or did the talent of Impact Wrestling, the little show that could, stand out and steal the spotlight from the larger promotions?
Find out with these awards that honor the very best from those three companies over the past week.
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 male 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 female wrestler of the week.
Named for the founder and face of the company, this B/R belt celebrates the best in Impact Wrestling over the past 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 are eligible for every title except Hitman Hart and Stratus.
Steamboat Championship: Brock Lesnar
"I'm funny, and I'm money."
Brock Lesnar disrespecting Bobby Lashley by telling knock-knock jokes and calling his No. 1 contender a wannabe him may not be the actions of a traditional babyface, but the relaxed WWE champion is undeniably a fan favorite in this latest run with the company.
Lesnar had the fans in Philadelphia in the palm of his hand Monday as he verbally tore down Lashley, disrespecting him and saying he didn't know who The All-Mighty was until they met at Day 1.
A lot of Lesnar's success in his new role can be attributed to the fact that he is allowed to speak for himself, something he spent nine years not doing. Allowed to let his personality fly, he is over with fans in a way he never was during his first run with the company, when WWE officials so desperately wanted him to be the next big babyface.
Hopefully, it stays that way, especially if fans are supposed to get behind him ahead of WrestleMania 38 and an inevitable showdown with Roman Reigns.
Piper Championship: MJF
MJF repeatedly distracted Wardlow on Wednesday night on Dynamite, costing his muscle what would have been a career-defining victory over CM Punk. The big man dominated Punk throughout the contest and obliterated him with powerbomb after powerbomb, but MJF's insistence that he add another to the tally allowed Punk to take advantage of the teeniest window and score the come-from-behind win.
Knowing MJF's ego the way AEW fans do, though, it can be argued that what MJF did had little to do with wanting to see Punk physically punished. Instead, he repeatedly prevented Wardlow from securing the win because MJF wants to be the one to take away that unbeaten streak from Punk.
The way he constantly interjected and then berated Wardlow following the match reflected a man whose ego and selfish desires have run amok. It took the big man threatening him with bodily harm, fed up with the tyrannical rule of Maxwell Jacob Friedman, to snap him back into reality.
Even then, he cut a scathing promo moments later and revealed Shawn Spears as Punk's next opponent.
MJF is a great heel, is always in contention for this title and wins it more times than not thanks to his commitment to his character. He never tries to be the cool bad guy. He is the detestable villain the likes of which we just don't see in many major promotions right now.
His willingness to make people hate him will be the reason why Wardlow is eventually a huge star for the company.
Hitman Hart Championship: AJ Styles
The best wrestler of the week is arguably the best wrestler of the past two decades.
AJ Styles not only worked a match Monday night against Austin Theory, but he also turned around and competed against another one of the promotion's top young stars in Grayson Waller on Tuesday night.
The Phenomenal One lived up to his moniker, delivering a fantastic match against a young competitor whose experience is limited but whose upside is through the roof. He could have been a selfish veteran who dominated the action, ate up his opponent and moved on to the next match, but Styles understood the assignment and turned in a competitive main event bout.
His selflessness and ability to have a good match with anyone not-named Omos make Styles one of the most invaluable members of the WWE roster, particularly at a time when there are so many young performers running around.
That he can enhance their credibility by giving them the match of their young careers only helps to solidify his own legacy.
Stratus Championship: Deonna Purrazzo
Despite all of the talk of Horsewomen in WWE and a rapidly improving women's division in AEW, it is Impact Wrestling that is home to the best female wrestler in North America.
"The Virtuosa" Deonna Purrazzo again proved why she is among the most technically sound performers in the sport Thursday night on AXS TV in brushing off her disappointing loss to Mickie James five nights earlier to defeat "The Prodigy" Rok-C and win the Ring of Honor Women's Championship.
Combined with her AAA Reina de Reinas Championship, Purrazzo is now a double champion representing three worldwide promotions.
A worker who can take to the mat and wrestle with the best of them, she has spent the past two years proving her doubters wrong, showing former employers that they made a big mistake by not utilizing her and her current company right for taking the chance.
She is a rare competitor who can walk into any company, immediately be taken seriously and win any championship she challenges for. She has credibility, something she has earned by proving herself against every woman, of every style and background, put before her over the past 24 months.
The best in the world, she earned this week's Stratus Championship by earning her second title Thursday night.
Dusty Championship: The Acclaimed's New Video
The winners of this week's Dusty Championship didn't cut a traditional wrestling promo to do so. Instead, The Acclaimed's Anthony Bowens and Max Caster produced an entire music video with bars dedicated to their rivalry with Sting and Darby Allin.
Each insult cut like a knife, Bowens as Allin was hilarious and a special appearance by STANG (Google him) helped make the video one of the highlights of AEW television this week.
Could the title have been given to someone like Roman Reigns, who was particularly brutal in dismissing Seth Rollins by calling his wife the bigger star? Sure, but the originality of what Caster and Bowens did and the way the video stayed true to the team's characters edged it ahead of any and every other promo on TV this week.
Most importantly, it made people want to watch the young team try their luck against the unbeaten duo of the former TNT champion and The Icon.
Jarrett Championship: W. Morrissey
W. Morrissey is one of the best stories in wrestling. Once tapped as a future star for WWE, he was cast out and left behind by a business that had no time for him while he fought his demons. When he came back, he wasted little time in going on a mission to destroy anyone between him and his goals.
So impressive, intense and aggressive has he been that the fans in the Impact Zone are starting to get behind him, turning him into an antihero of sorts. Thursday, fresh off a disappointing Hard To Kill PPV in which the referee was down and could not count his pin, thus robbing him of the Impact world title, he called out Moose.
Later, when the champion arrived, he stalked to the ring to confront him, only for the heel to scurry.
Morrissey is the no-nonsense big man who isn't going to smile, doesn't want to high-five your kids or take pictures with your grandma. He wants to kick ass and win titles, and the fans in Impact respect that. They are showing as much every time he sets foot in a ring.
The former Big Cass is in for a big 2022, and fans should make it a point to tune into Impact and jump on the bandwagon before it runs out of room.
Gooker Championship: WWE's Treatment of New Day
Monday on Raw, former WWE champion Big E was beaten cleanly in the center of the ring by Seth Rollins. Four nights later, Kofi Kingston was beaten cleanly in five minutes by Madcap Moss.
One of those losses is understandable. Both, together, are inexcusable and short-sighted.
The New Day is an incredibly popular act. More importantly, Kingston and Big E are established and credible performers at a time when WWE does not have the depth it needs in its two world title pictures. Why the company decided to job out Kingston in an extended squash is a question for which no answer makes sense.
Big E's use is more concerning since he was the WWE champion at the start of 2022 but is now doing clean jobs for other title contenders.
Both former world champions were disrespected at the end of their reigns, rarely treated like the kings they were throughout them and left to wallow back in midcard hell shortly thereafter.
Maybe there is a big opportunity out there awaiting E, presumably at January 30's Royal Rumble, but having seen how poorly management handled Kingston following his reign, there is every reason to be worried about the former champion following his defeat at the hands of Rollins on Monday night.
As for Kingston, the baffling use of one of the greatest of his generation continues to be mind-boggling and something no one will ever be able to make any sense of.
5-Star Championship: Purrazzo vs. Rok-C
For this week's 5-Star Championship, we go back to Deonna Purrazzo, who battled Rok-C for both the AAA Reina de Reinas and Ring of Honor titles in the main event of Impact Wrestling.
We knew entering the match that Purrazzo was a measuring stick for women's wrestling. What we did not know was whether Rok-C, one of the brightest young stars in the industry, could hang with The Virtuosa. She did, silencing all doubters and proving herself to be an elite in-ring performer along the way.
The women tore the house down in a fantastic main event that concluded with Purrazzo countering a crossface into her Fujiwara armbar and then incorporating her opponent's other arm in the Venus de Milo for the submission win.
A fantastic match between two women who will help define their sport this year, it narrowly edged out the AEW Tag Team Championship match between Jurassic Express and Dark Order from Rampage and the Raw match pitting Big E against Seth Rollins.