Athena vs. Mercedes Martinez
This is a feud which goes back well over a decade, they had a trilogy in SHIMMER, in 2011-12, and you could feel the rhythm that they had with each other in their second ROH match. Athena has been on an all-timer of a run in 2023, sadly mostly hidden on Honor Club. She fully inhabits her character both in and out of the ring as well as anyone in wrestling.
Athena has wrestled most of her ROH title matches as a bully, with one of the big spots being an extra stiff elbow, Mercedes can bully the bully and there are a lot of sections in this match where Martinez meets her aggression. Athena opens the match by holding onto the ROH mandated handshake and blasting Martinez in the ear with a forearm. She took the early part of the match, including ripping up a poster held by Martinez’s sister in the crowd. After Mercedes was able to take back control, it was a match of momentum shifts, both women are veterans very familiar with the other wrestlers game, and neither could get a sustained advantage.
There were some big spots, including a great looking superplex off of a chair on the floor, and some big shots. All leading up to Billie Starks running from the back and cracking Mercedes with the belt to give Athena a win. They are clearly building up to Billie being the one to take the title from her mentor, but I love that Athena has had a chance to have so many showcase matches leading to that point.
Jon Moxley vs. Great O’Khan
Mox comes back post-concussion and immediately does what he does, spray blood and brawl. O’Khan, is one of my favorite New Japan guys, a big ex-sumo Mongolian dude with a gold grill who chucks people with throws and hits hard.
The match spent about 10 seconds in the ring total, with O’Khan throwing Mox over the top rope and then brawling in the aisle and ringside to a double count out. Moxley then gets on the microphone and demands a falls count anywhere match and they just keep the fight going. It’s basically a WING or JAPW arena brawl after that, O’Khan puts Mox on a dolly and runs him through a row of chairs. Mox gets run into a wall and starts leaking. He gets wrapped up in a ring mat and gets a bunch of metal ring barriers dumped on him. Mox grabs a pair of scissors out of his jeans and cuts Khan’s long braid, which seemed excessively mean to me, this isn’t Buzz Sawyer vs. Tommy Rich feud which has been going on for years, no need to mess that guy’s long braid up.
They follow that up with a mix of crowd brawling and shoot style, flowing between hurls into chairs and kickboxing, and flung guardrails and triangle chokes. The match ended with Mox tossing Khan down a flight of stadium stairs and then grabbing hooks and sinking in a choke. There was an Osprey match on this same show which Meltzer ranked higher than any Mitsuhara Misawa match ever, but I tapped out of that 15 minutes in, give me this kind of fun small match over some bloated star scraping thing any day.
Logan Paul vs. Rey Mysterio
Rey has been making incomplete but athletic and charismatic rudos look like a million bucks since 1993, and Paul has had one of the best first 10 matches of anyone in wrestling history. I am aware that his stuff has been heavily produced, but I am more concerned with output then process and the output has been nuts.
Paul clearly has the kind .001% charisma which allowed him to be the guy to break out of the social media swamp to become someone worth 100 million dollars, and he has been able to channel that into a really great scumbag rudo. He is Gino Hernandez level hateful, and clearly a great pro-wrestling athlete. There are some holes, you are going to get them in a guy with less than 10 matches, but Rey has over 2000 matches listed on Cagematch, and they are probably another 500 or so they didn’t catch, so if you need someone to spackle over holes, there is no one better. Paul had some huge spots, a crazy moonsault powerslam, a wild Psicosis shoulder bump, but he had some nice little moments too, I liked his bearhug, he really flung Rey around like a bag of laundry and all of the back work was smart match filler. I liked the brass knuckles finish too, he snatched Rey out of midair with that punch and laid him totally flat.
So much of wrestling these days is complex movement in an emotionless vacuum, but Paul makes you hate him, and Rey makes you love him and that is still what wrestling at its best should do.