On the 8th of April 2022 Rampage, Wheeler Yuta had what can be considered his ‘Steve Austin moment’ as he had the break-out, star-making performance of her career. Although he may have lost to Jon Moxley, he was invited to join a staple alongside an eclectic group of veterans of the ring: Moxley, Bryan Danielson, and William Regal. In a single night, it was clear the potential of the 25-year-old had been untapped. Here is how Yuta had the career-making match of his life on Rampage.
In 2021, Yuta made his AEW debut to little fanfare, losing to Karl Anderson on his first appearance, on an episode of Dark: Elevation. Although joining the popular Best Friends, Yuta would fail to score wins, losing incredible but short matches to bigger talent such as Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, Matt Hardy, and Adam Cole.
Yuta largely put over another talent outside of Best Friends, although Yuta would wrestle in various promotions in 2021 including New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Ring Of Honor (ROH), and Game Changer Wrestling (GCW).
The Blackpool Combat Club
Although forgettable, Yuta faced off with Jon Moxley on the October 16th 2021 episode of Dynamite, with Mox crushing Yuta in 47 seconds, with Yuta not getting a single move in during the match. On February 2nd, the duo had a much more competitive match, this time running over seven minutes.
Yuta used his speed to outpace Moxley and came close to an upset after a diving splash. In the end, the wrestler once known as Dean Ambrose emerged victoriously.
At AEW’s Revolution PPV in 2022, Moxley beat Bryan Danielson before a scuffle broke out. New signee William Regal however played the de-escalator and managed to bond both men and forge an alliance between them. Shortly afterwards, Mox and Bryan beat Best Friends members Yuta and Chuck Taylor.
Yuta became conflicted, wanting to join the group, instead of being viciously slapped by Regal. Even when Yuta wrestled Bryan, the defiant and determined Wheeler did not get pinned or submitted but lost via the referee’s decision.
At ROH’s Supercard Of Honor, WY won the ROH Pure title from Josh Woods. Shortly after, a non-title match was sanctioned between Yuta and the ex-AEW World Heavyweight champion, in which Yuta vied for the faction’s respect.
The Match Itself
In the match, Yuta started bleeding early, wrestling a large portion of the match with a crimson mask. The fans were thoroughly behind Yuta, as he impressed with offence but never managed to put away the relentless pit bull known as Jon Moxley. Yuta’s blood soon became splattered across his body as his body became a Jason Pollock painting – doused in red.
Wheeler managed to even kick out of a Paradigm Shift. To the surprise of everyone, Wheeler, even when utterly spent and out of it, kicked out of a second one. Eventually, however, and perhaps mercifully, Yuta was put to sleep when passing out in Moxley’s chokehold.
Post-match, Regal offered a hand. A blood-stained handshake took place between Yuta and the British manager which signified that Yuta had been classified as ‘good enough’ – able to keep up with the best of them.
Yuta’s cementing match, took elements from some of the great star-establishing matches in wrestling. Elements of the breakthrough matches, including the same ending as Steve Austin, same sign of respect as Jeff Hardy, same hardcore nature as Randy Orton, and same adulation as Sami Zayn.
Most notable, obvious parallels could be drawn with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIII (13). Firstly, the symbolic blood-drenched faces of those with a defiant message to express. They survived all thrown at them, even when all hope seems lost. Eventually, both were locked into submissions but removed to bow defeat and only lost when honourably passing out due to exhaustion and pain.
Post-match both had received adulation, more so than ever, from the audience. Yuta’s loss but getting so close to the mountain top could also be seen similar to Jeff Hardy in 2002, where he not only got crowd support by the approval of The Undertaker like Regal’s sign of respect.
Randy Orton’s breakthrough encounter with Mick Foley in 2004 is said to have “made a man out of Randy Orton. In the hardcore match, the previously fresh-faced, preening heel had cemented he could get down, gritty and extreme. Yuta Wheeler, displayed here that he could be brutal and continue through a match despite it being out of the conventional and more ‘civilised’ format.
The adulation of the fans was not too dissimilar to the small, cult atmosphere of the live attendance’s support when Sami Zayn won his first NXT title. At this point, fans were overjoyed to see a favourite of there had been recognised and done so by such a limited-attendance fan group, which makes the effect feel more personal, organic, and pure.
Yuta’s match with Mox has seemingly made his career. Wheeler’s popularity has skyrocketed, with this match a launching pad for his career as he gets the recognition of, and can work with, some of the greatest workers of the modern era.
We can only predict where Yuta’s career will go from here on out but by the estimation, we can make after this encounter, it seems the only way is up for Yuta for his future in All Elite Wrestling.