Katsuyori Shibata vs. Wheeler YUTA (AEW Rampage 11/25/23)

Match Reviews

This match poses an interesting challenge for the workers involved. Back in March, Shibata crushed YUTA into the dirt to win the Pure Title at Supercard of Honor. It was an incredibly thorough thrashing, perhaps not quite as high in brutality but certainly in spirit. Nothing YUTA threw at Shibata, with the latter just blowing past any strategy that YUTA put forward. With such a thorough victory in hand, it’s a challenge now to make a rematch interesting and viable so that YUTA can come across credible.

The answer, of course, is just to cheat.

There’s two key factors to YUTA’s attack here. First, there’s the early closed fist punch. Going all the way back to his Pure Title defense against Timothy Thatcher, it’s been a good way for YUTA to get heat while also turning the tides of his matches. By going to it early in this match, it allows him to dig into the actual key of his attack here: actively going after Shibata’s head to exploit the near career ending injury from 2017. There’s some compromises here. Obviously, YUTA’s working a little safer than one might want. Shibata also doesn’t go too hard on the selling as he’s still a major enough threat to YUTA even despite being attacked in this way.

But also, YUTA does a lot to escalate the action here. He’s more brutal on the outside, he takes more time to soak in the heat from the crowd, and he’s taking more risks such as a late game tope. It’s enough combined with the dirty tactics to make him believable in this role as challenger after all this time. Even then, he still needs a low blow at the end to basically rob Shibata of the title. It still fits, highway robbery from YUTA to avenge the embarrassment he suffered at Supercard of Honor.

Tidy piece of business here, the kind of unsung performances that have allowed YUTA to quietly amass a strong year for himself. At the same time, Shibata seems to really shine working against the kid. His shrugging off of YUTA’s more direct offense is delightful stuff, and he does feel like a significant challenge that has to be cut down ruthlessly and shamelessly. Exciting prospect to have YUTA leaning into a more heel approach with the Pure Title, a championship’s that quickly becoming synonymous with him as for as Tony Khan’s ROH goes.

Rating: ****

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *