SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Hikaru Shida on Dr. Britt Baker: “She is the type of person who studies pro wrestling more than anyone else in AEW”
For more than a year, Hikaru Shida has reigned as the AEW women’s champion.
Following her victory against Nyla Rose at Double or Nothing last May, Shida has added constant value to the title and the women’s division as a whole in AEW. A decorated champion in Japan, this marks her first title run in the United States. While a pandemic added unforeseen complications, a year later she is still standing atop the division.
Shida’s passion and rare level of exuberance have defined her and helped build the women’s division. As champion, Shida has put a spotlight on all the women in AEW. The women’s division in AEW has never been stronger—and Shida continues to distinguish the title, further enhancing its meaning every time she appears on-screen. Every step of the way, she has remained true to herself.
“More than being a babyface or a heel, I’ve always tried being myself,” Shida says. “I always want to show you Hikaru Shida’s life through my wrestling.”
Shida’s rise in AEW is quite spectacular. She has worked extremely hard to gain mastery of a new language (once again answering all interview questions in English), and thrived on live television despite significant differences when compared to working nontelevised or even taped shows. A key piece of Shida’s success is her willingness to put in the work, whether that means extra time in the ring or with the weights, finding ways to ensure her matches resonate on-air, or polishing her English. She has no shortage of goals, and her next is to cut more promos on Dynamite.
“I understand that TV time is limited, so I’ve kept practicing and waiting for my chance,” Shida says. “Please look forward to that.”
Shida next defends the title this Sunday at Double or Nothing, where emerging star Dr. Britt Baker seems poised to start her first run with the belt. Baker is an outrageously talented wrestler, one that somehow seems to be even more captivating in each passing appearance. Shida noted that she holds high respect for Baker’s commitment to the craft.
“She is the type of person who studies pro wrestling more than anyone else in AEW,” Shida says. “Her progress in these years is proof of that.”
There are observers who believe Sunday’s pay-per-view will see Baker crowned as the new champ. And that is not necessarily a drawback for Shida, who will be able to further showcase her personality as she passionately fights to regain her title. Since the only certainty for a wrestling champion is that they will one day lose that title, Shida was asked if the idea of chasing the belt motivates her.
“The most important moments in pro wrestling are the ones after a loss,” Shida says. “When I show how I stand again after a tough loss, I think people will understand me better. However, this Double or Nothing is the first time to wrestle in a full arena as the champion for me, and I’ve retained this title until now for this moment.”
Before people anoint Baker the new champ, Shida notes that she is not ready to relinquish the title that she has held for the past 52 weeks.
“This match is going to be one of the toughest and most emotional matches in AEW history,” Shida says. “Those are two very important elements for a great match. And after it is over, I’ll celebrate my win with all fans at Double or Nothing.”
Jon Moxley on Chris Dickinson: “It’s going to be a big year for him”
Two weeks ago, Jon Moxley wrestled Yuji Nagata on Dynamite. The lead-up to the match included a tag match on New Japan Strong where Moxley teamed with Chris Dickinson against Nagata and Ren Narita. Moxley confirmed that Shota “Shooter” Umino was originally intended to be his partner, but once he no longer could wrestle in the match due to injury, the partner he specifically requested was Chris Dickinson.
“It worked out perfectly, but the original booking was Narita and Nagata against me and my boy Shooter,” says Moxley, who is back in tag action this weekend, teaming with Eddie Kingston at Double or Nothing against the Young Bucks. “That’s my Young Lion, Shota. But he suffered an injury and couldn’t work the match. On very short notice, I got a text asking if I had any ideas for someone to take his place. My immediate response was Chris Dickinson.”
Moxley and Dickinson share history, wrestling a phenomenal match against one another at Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport in October. And while Moxley is very particular about his tag partners, he noted that the chance to work with Dickinson, who he believes is one of wrestling’s rising stars, brought a lot of value to the tag match on Strong.
“I wanted Dickinson in that match, and that was like an instant reflex when I was asked who I wanted,” Moxley says. “What a great spotlight for him.”
The biggest singles match of Dickinson’s Strong tenure will air on Friday when he challenges “Filthy” Tom Lawlor in a Strong openweight title match, and Moxley believes it will further show why Dickinson is destined for greatness.
“It’s going to be a big year for him,” Moxley says. “And I’m glad to be on his team. That’s a guy that pushes me, and I help push him. We have a very similar mindset about what we’re doing, and I was happy to team with him. I’m sure we’ll do it again.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- John Cena is undoubtedly in a difficult position, with a major movie studio certainly wanting to avoid losing massive money deals in China. But his apology also caused serious backlash.
- Adnan Virk is no longer the host of Monday Night Raw. Despite possessing talent as a broadcaster, Virk never fit as the lead voice of Raw. Dissolving the relationship just more than a month after its start is likely the best long-term move for both sides, even if it is a bad look right now. Clearly, this just was not a fit.
- Paul Heyman is correct: Roman Reigns vs. Shinsuke Nakamura is a genuine main event. That would be a great program to build toward July’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view.
- The way Finn Bálor bumped and sold for Karrion Kross in their NXT title match was unreal. Bálor would add another reason to watch if he were to return to Raw, though he would also fit in nicely on SmackDown, especially in a program against Roman Reigns.
- Due to a Will Ospreay neck injury, New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s prestigious IWGP world heavyweight championship is now vacant.
- NJPW’s Kazuchika Okada has tested positive for COVID-19. Here’s to a quick recovery.
- Aleister Black made his WWE return last week, adding even more excitement to SmackDown by hitting a surprise Black Mass on Big E.
- Another reason to be excited for SmackDown: the Usos–Street Profits tag match. It feels as though this will just build to the impending Usos split, but it should still be really fun to watch.
- Velveteen Dream is no longer with WWE. The man behind the character is Patrick Clark, and at one point, he appeared destined for an incredibly successful career. But the release, in this particular case, illustrates how his run was plagued with issues.
- As soon as Juice Robinson and David Finlay started talking about defending the Impact tag titles in Japan, it was a clear foreshadow they were dropping the belts. I’m surprised that Ace Austin and Madman Fulton weren’t the ones to dethrone them.
Psycho Clown: “Fighting for my mask is very special”
AAA held a press conference last week, announcing that this summer’s Triplemanía will feature Kenny Omega defending the mega championship against Andrade.
The show will take place on Saturday, Aug. 14, in front of fans at Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City. A title vs. title match was also announced, pitting AAA’s Reina de Reinas champion Faby Apache against Impact’s Knockouts champ Deonna Purrazzo. Famed luchador Psycho Clown will defend his mask in a lucha de apuestas match against Rey Escorpión, who is putting his hair on the line.
Psycho Clown spoke with Sports Illustrated, sharing the pride he takes in putting his mask on the line.
“Fighting for my mask is very special,” says Psycho Clown, who conducted parts of his interview in Spanish, while making a point to also focus on his English. “The mask is the Mexican tradition, one that I love. I need to defend it with all of my passion.”
Even though he does not possess the mega championship, Psycho Clown is AAA’s most popular star, and his mask is beloved. He relishes the chance to be back with a passionate crowd at Triplemanía, which is even more meaningful given that it is AAA’s first show with a live audience in more than a year.
“Lucha needs that close connection with the crowd, especially at Triplemanía,” Psycho Clown says. “That means a lot to me, also. When I put my mask on the line, I need the people there for me.”
Rey Escorpión has long awaited this shot. A meeting with Psycho Clown means more attention in AAA, as well as a bigger stage to showcase his work. For Psycho Clown, a win here should allow him to transition to a feud with newly arrived Andrade. Whether that program also includes the mega championship is undetermined, as Omega retaining the title is certainly a real possibility.
“After Triplemanía, my main goal is the mega championship,” Psycho Clown says. “If it’s Kenny Omega, I will introduce him to my strength and power in the ring. I also have a lot of respect for Andrade. He knows who I am, and he knows I want that match. It’s one that would spark a lot of interest all over.”
No matter the opponent in his future, Psycho Clown vowed that he will be wearing his signature mask whenever he steps into the ring.
“My rivalry with Rey Escorpión is from a long time ago, and I prepare to honor my heritage and defend my mask at Triplemanía,” Psycho Clown says. “I have worn my mask for my entire career, and I am ready to fight with every part of my soul to keep it.”
Tweet of the Week
A look into Bayley’s wrestling past makes her current success even sweeter.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.