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Finished with New Japan, Juice Robinson Hopes for Star-Making Moment in AEW

Now a free agent, the former IWGP United States champion will renew his rivalry with Jon Moxley.’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Juice Robinson: “This is the night I am going to prove I am a f---ing superstar”

Juice Robinson is hours away from the most significant match of his career.

On Wednesday night, in front of a packed house in Philadelphia, the former star of New Japan Pro-Wrestling will play a starring role on Dynamite in the ring against AEW champion Jon Moxley.

“If you don’t know who Juice Robinson is, I’ll show you,” Robinson says. “You’re going to see everything I have inside me. You’re going to get some violent, awesome s---.”

Following seven years with NJPW, Robinson is now a free agent and seeking to expand his presence throughout the industry. A proud son of Joliet, Ill., Joseph “Juice” Robinson (who is married to AEW women’s champion Toni Storm) is eager to spend more time wrestling in the United States—and wherever else he chooses.

“I’m no longer representing New Japan, and I want that to be clear,” Robinson says. “I carried that New Japan flag for seven years. I’ve got no unfinished business there. I sang that song and I danced that dance, and we’ve gone our separate ways. That’s in the rearview mirror.

“I’m totally free right now. I’ll fight whoever, wherever and whenever I want as long as it’s the right match against the right opponent on the right night of the week. Dynamite is the hottest show, and I’m wrestling their champ on the hottest night of the week in wrestling. This is the biggest match of my career, and I’m ready for it.”

The bout against Moxley is a title eliminator match. If Robinson wins, he earns himself a title shot next week on Dynamite. The two share plenty of history, beginning with their first match against each other three years ago in Japan at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Hall. It was Moxley’s first match since leaving WWE, and particularly memorable as he defeated Robinson to win the IWGP United States championship.

“This has a lot of similarities to that match in Ryogoku,” Robinson says. “That’s when he walked into the unknown and beat me. Now the roles are reversed. I’ve got a fight against the champ on his home turf.”

For those unfamiliar with Robinson, he works a style that should resonate with North American wrestling fans. His matches are physical and intense, featuring fragments of finesse but a willingness to brawl. His work has benefited greatly from his recent heel turn, which saw him join Bullet Club. Robinson has the type of charisma and personality that perfectly suits him as an outlaw, and he is ready to play the role of disruptor in AEW.

“People will know who I am by the end of the night,” Robinson says. “I know what’s at stake. I’m not wrestling for New Japan anymore. I’m wrestling for me, for my future. This is the night I am going to prove I am a f---ing superstar.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • WWE has struck gold in Bianca Belair. She is charismatic, intelligent, articulate and incredibly talented in the ring. Her appearance Saturday on College GameDay was a reminder of her brilliance.
  • The rise of new AEW tag team champions The Acclaimed is one of the best stories in pro wrestling.
  • Formerly known as Paige in WWE, Saraya’s future in AEW will be worth watching.
  • Candice LeRae is back in WWE, and she is a phenomenal addition to the Raw roster.
  • In a great moment of nostalgia, Sting reunited with The Great Muta last week on Rampage.

Sami Zayn and Roman Reigns may be opposites, but they fit perfectly together on-screen

Sami Zayn introduced himself Friday on SmackDown as the next major challenger for Roman Reigns.

By donning his own Honorary Uce T-shirt, gifted by Reigns, Zayn adds another layer of intrigue into The Bloodline story arc. And the sequence sets Zayn up perfectly for an eventual turn—and ensuing title match—against Reigns.

There are multiple layers at play. Primarily, it is creating a babyface from within the heel faction in Zayn. It also makes a bigger, more explosive heel in Jey Uso, which makes The Usos even more valuable. At the same time it helps clearly define the characters of all three of the supporting players—The Usos and Solo Sikoa—making them all bigger attractions, especially critical considering that Reigns is not on television every week.

This is a story that makes sense. The Bloodline is the most popular faction in all of wrestling, and Zayn—no different than a high school student desperately wanting to fit in with the popular clique—wants to sit with the head of the table.

People will see a whole new vicious side to Reigns and his brethren when they decimate Zayn. That sequence, if executed correctly, is an opportunity for Zayn to claim his place as the top babyface in WWE. There is money in a feud pitting Zayn against Jey Uso, as well as a tag team bout pitting Zayn and someone else—Kevin Owens is a safe bet—against The Usos.

There is a reason why this story has connected so deeply with fans. Reigns, Paul Heyman and The Usos are all spectacular performers, and this is also a chance to involve Sikoa into the mix. Zayn is one-of-a-kind, equal parts charisma and irritability. For all his success in pro wrestling, he is penning his greatest masterpiece yet, which will be winning over the crowd as he attempts to dethrone Reigns.

Playing a fairly understated role in all of this is Heyman. Reigns refers to him on-screen as “The Wise Man,” which is appropriate. Heyman and Reigns have built a relationship where they collaborate on creative, multiple sources have confirmed to Sports Illustrated. Whether it is Paul Levesque overseeing the product, which was Vince McMahon’s role for the past three decades, the value of Heyman is undeniable, as is his ability to craft a story that people want to see.

This is what Reigns and Heyman have done better than anyone in their time together: character development, the conflict between the characters and setting up an explosion. Knowing the characters, the reason why they are fighting, and caring to the point where the public should care enough to pay to see it are their strengths, and it is likely to pay off in a major fashion as the Zayn story unfolds.

AEW title moment belonged to … Bryan Danielson

Jon Moxley defeated Bryan Danielson last week on Dynamite to win the vacant AEW title.

He won by submission, after Danielson became unconscious due to a chokehold—a move that works in mixed martial arts far better than pro wrestling. With the victory, Moxley became the first three-time AEW world champion. And the accolade is well deserved. He has carried AEW through its toughest times, adding value during the company’s uncertain beginnings, bringing life to shows during the fan-less pandemic era and providing a reason to watch after the recent backstage altercation left AEW without top stars like Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks and CM Punk. On a personal note, I am a fan of Moxley’s work. His promos are excellent, speaking in an authentic and real manner, and his performances in the ring are all-out, physical affairs.

Yet, despite all that, the wrong man was crowned champ.

Wrestling success is predicated by timing. Hulk Hogan’s Hulkamania would not have worked in the 1960s or ’70s. Steve Austin flipping off crowds would have been an instant turn-off for TV stations in the ’80s. Nevertheless, their work mirrored the time frame, and both were exceptional in their era. Danielson is never a traditional choice for champion, as evidenced by WWE’s hesitancy to run with him as its top player nearly a decade ago, but he is the perfect fit right now for AEW. For a company built on delivering the best pro wrestling in the world, there is no better representative than Danielson.

Right now, AEW is treading an unfamiliar path. Paul “Triple H” Levesque’s return to power has not brought an amnesty between WWE and AEW, but rather caused a further divide. We shouldn’t forget that Levesque’s weekly NXT show was, for all intents and purposes, gutted after losing its weekly battle to AEW. And Levesque is not someone who loses often or enjoys the taste of it. Since returning to power, he has caused complicating factors in AEW by reaching out to former talent, ones he would like to bring back within the spacious confines of WWE. That is contrasted by Moxley and Danielson, who are examples of performers who willingly left WWE for AEW—especially Danielson, who was a free agent courted by both companies, and ultimately chose AEW.

Danielson can work a top-notch match against anyone. Yes, he is injury prone. That is a risk worth taking, as AEW can rightfully tout him as the greatest wrestler in the world. Danielson is also spectacular, though nuanced, on the mike. He cuts dramatically different promos from Moxley, and every other top star for that matter, but Danielson is sensational at his ability to use the spoken word to enhance his programs.

The plan appears to be Moxley dropping the title to MJF, but I would have gone in a different direction. Danielson’s first reign with the belt would have been incredibly exciting, building to a title match against MJF. And if there is anyone that could bring CM Punk back for another match, it is Danielson.

I’ll keep an open mind with Moxley’s title run. But I can’t shake the feeling that it should have been Danielson.

Tweet of the Week

John Cena continues to make history for Make-A-Wish.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.