Joe Lanza | May 25, 2018 | 0
Match of the Month (April 2018)
April 2018 featured the largest WrestleMania weekend of all time, a stacked AJPW Champion Carnival, and a major NJPW show. I personally enjoyed dozens of pro wrestling matches this April, so let’s see which ones were deemed the best of the best by our voters at the Voices of Wrestling forums.
Now, let’s get to the matches!
T10. Kagetsu & Natsu Shirame vs. Io Shirai & Tam Nakano, Stardom 4/1
(4 Points, 2 votes)
Well this match was batshit nuts. I don’t know why this had to happen, or whose idea this was, but I seriously hope they never do this kind of match again. This match featured a barb wire bat, but that wasn’t enough. It also could be triggered to explode on contact. Kagetsu laid the exploding bat into Io and the finish saw Tam take out Natsu in similar fashion. This felt a lot like a live stunt show when the bat was involved. When it wasn’t, it was actually a really good pro wrestling tag match! Why couldn’t we just have that?
I applaud the parties involved for their willingness to put their bodies at risk for our entertainment, but this was a bit much for me. Whether it’s Vince McMahon’s limousine or one of the best wrestlers on earth Io Shirai, I don’t need explosions in my pro wrestling.
What I’m saying is I enjoyed this but also, never again.
T10. Juice Robinson vs. Hirooki Goto, NJPW 4/27
(4 points, 3 votes)
Hirooki Goto is having such an under the radar year. Besides that one stinker with EVIL he’s been quite good. Compare his in ring year to an AJ Styles, Goto blows him away. Juice was excellent here as well, being arguably a top 10 babyface in the world today. He took Goto to the limit here, even more so than in their match last year. Juice was a year smarter, a year stronger a year better.
This is the type of match that makes me love the NEVER title. This was a showcase of heart, determination, grit and toughness. Both men waylaying each other until one of them break. The warrior spirit. And this had the most intricate and dramatic finishing sequence yet of Juice’s career. The reversals as he continually tried to hook Pulp Friction before Goto ultimately foiling him were tremendous. This was the best match of the Road to Dontaku shows.
9. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka, WWE 4/8
(5 points, 2 votes)
I’m a bit surprised but also glad that this made the top 10. In an absolute stacked month and as part of a polarizing show, this was the best wrestling match on the biggest stage of the year. Much ado has been made of the booking of this match and the booking of these two since this match. This is why I keep this company at the proverbial arm’s length. Because at the time this match occurred, it really did come off as the clash of the titans. The battle of queens. And I wanted to see a rematch. Now…I’d still watch the rematch, but the luster of the characters is a bit faded.
I also think it’s a testament to how far women’s wrestling has come, that the women stole the show here and it wasn’t a surprise to anyone. True progress isn’t when the women have a great match at WrestleMania, it’s when the women have the best match at WrestleMania and no one bats an eye. And at the time of writing this the speculation is that women will main event WrestleMania 35.
As for the match itself, I loved it. Brilliantly paced, great counter wrestling, and great psychology with memorable bumps and high spots. I wish it had kept going.
8. Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kento Miyahara, AJPW 4/30
(7 points, 3 votes)
This was the Champion Carnival final and it was more than worthy to be. AJPW used Marufuji in a similar way as NJPW did in the G1 Climax 26. The face of NOAH was here to take on the face of the resurging AJPW. Both men had legacies to uphold. This was a battle of knee strikes; at one point both men clashing knees to both of their chagrin. They threw everything they had at each other until Marufuji just caught Kento in a never ending strike combo. Kento’s heart and refusal to go down was his undoing as Marufuji lay in knee after knee, superkick after superkick, until Kento had nothing left.
And how poetic a climax, that after all of that, the man who carried on Misawa’s legacy in NOAH, defeated the man who brought AJPW back from the brink of death, Kento Miyahara, with a version of the Emerald Flowsion. Another rematch I can’t wait for.
7. PCO vs. WALTER, GCW 4/6
(8 points, 4 votes)
This match was cuckoo bananas but in a different way than the exploding deathmatch. The 50 year old Pierre Carl Ouellet took on the most unstoppable man in pro wrestling (and my wrestler of the Year so far), WALTER. How did the 50 year old super heavyweight contend with the bear of a man known as WALTER? With aerial maneuvers of course! PCO “hit” a moonsault from the top to the floor. He utilized a plancha.
WALTER retaliated by chopping this man until his chest was black. PCO is not a dark skinned man. Walter’s chops changed this. It is an image I will never forget. Each man fired up and chopped the other machine gun Kobashi style. PCO hit a moonsault and a Swanton bomb and PINNED WALTER. What? I’m pretty sure this was the only fall WALTER dropped all of WrestleMania weekend, and it was to PCO of all people. But it worked for the story, as Walter had come out overconfident and had to eat crow. I truly loved this match, it was a lot of fun.
6. Shingo Takagi vs. Shuji Ishikawa, AJPW 4/29
(8 points, 5 votes)
This was the best match of a very good Champion Carnival this year. Shingo in AJPW is a revelation. He’s awesome in Dragon Gate but seeing him in a different environment feels so fresh and AJPW is perfect for him. Especially seeing him fight men that are quite bigger than him, since we are so used to seeing him in the bully role. The dynamic here was so great; Shingo was essentially a Jr. for the purposes of this match. He had to use his speed and explosiveness to counter Ishikawa’s size, power and devastating offense. These men threw bombs at each other seemingly the whole way through. I can’t remember if anyone ever grabbed a hold or slowed the match down. There was a true sense of urgency and a ridiculous amount of great near falls. It seemed like neither man would be denied on this day as they kicked out of everything the other threw. This was exceptional, action packed strong style.
5. North American Title Six Man Ladder Match, NXT 4/7
(9 points, 5 votes)
This is the best ladder match in recent memory. I’d have to go back to TLC 2—17 years ago—to find something on par with this. It wasn’t just that they did a bunch of crazy spots; it was the pacing, build and story of it all. When HBK had his ***** ladder matches it was said that he went out there and had an excellent match, with a ladder involved. This was like a 6 man version of that. These guys went out and had a great six-way match, with a whole bunch of ladders involved.
The big story of the match was Killian Dane and Lars Sullivan continuing to be each other’s immovable objects, as they would go straight for each other at every possible opportunity. Velveteen Dream, being the young fool he is, tried to steal all of the spotlight by doing dumb young wrestler stuff. This was ironic, since this was also the debut of Ricochet, the man who popularized spotlight stealing via dumb young wrestler stuff. These two paralleled each other throughout the match, the exclamation point of which saw Dream give Ricochet a DVD on an elevated ladder. While the hosses battled for physical supremacy, and the young guns battled for the spotlight, Adam Cole and EC3 played the game of who could be the crafty one who actually wins this thing. They both tried to stay away from the riskier stuff, each man picking their spots.
All of the action was paced perfectly, the psychology (which yes, even a six-way ladder match can have that) was on point and the escalation was terrific. This match showed me that ladder matches don’t all have to be interchangeable displays of stunts and spots. You can actually have a match that’s great, and also has ladders.
4. Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay, EVOLVE 4/6
(9 points, 5 votes)
This match was essentially tied with the above ladder match in terms of voting. This was the standout of all the indie wrestling this WrestleMania weekend. I’m convinced these two can’t have a bad match against each other. Their first encounter in Progress was maybe the best 10 minute match of all time. This was a title match and had more weight to it. Both men were of higher status now. Evolve’s newly crowned ace against NJPW’s Jr. ace. Will Ospreay is undoubtedly one of the best wrestlers in the world and has been for several years. He’s also 25. He’s right behind WALTER for my wrestler of the year in 2018. He went into this match with a shoot injury and that became the story of the match.
I really enjoy when Riddle just turns his full level of aggression on. He goes from being this chill, laid back bro to trying to murder a person. That’s what we saw here as after some real good action this match hit another gear. Riddle tore off Ospreay’s tape and viciously stomped his injured neck. Ospreay survived some brutal offense before making a valiant comeback out of a small opening Riddle gave him. In the end Ospreay’s body was too broken to take down the Evolve champ, and Riddle retained in a real barnburner. The intense aggression of Riddle and the selling, heart and fire of Ospreay here made for a very memorable clash that I hope we get to see more chapters of down the road.
3. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Kazuchika Okada, NJPW 4/1
(24 points, 11 votes)
Zack Sabre Jr. had to have the match of his life here and delivered in spades. This is my favorite performance of his. He thwarted and outwrestled Okada in ways never seen before. Sure, Okada got to show some of his Lucha style submissions to try to get in Zack’s head, but they did little to deter Zack from his game plan. Sabre’s transitions were gorgeous. He worked his submissions with intent and malice. He broke down the IWGP champ limb by limb. Okada never seemed able to string together his offense, as Sabre had answers for everything. One spot that stands out to me is Okada planting Zack with a tombstone, giving his kneeling Rainmaker pose only for Zack to catch him in a submission.
The counters to the Rainmaker were unique and varied. Sabre had Okada outclassed in every technical way. But just like so many others before, Sabre couldn’t finish him. Okada escaped from every submission, sometimes by the skin of his teeth. The climax saw Sabre about to lock his hands on one of his submission finishes with a long, convoluted name. As his hands inched closer together, Okada powered out, hoisted him up and nailed the spinning tombstone. And just as in every title defense, the Rainmaker was the difference. I absolutely loved this match, it was my first 5 snowflake of the year. It’s truly the kind of match I dreamed of happening as a kid, before I knew wrestlers like Sabre and Okada even existed. A masterpiece.
2. Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll, NJPW 4/1
(31 points, 16 votes)
The greatest in ring rivalry in modern UK wrestling reached its pinnacle in Japan. As someone who’s seen at least 8 (off the top of my head) singles matches between these two, I can say that I found this one to be the best. Death, taxes and Scurll beats Ospreay. In this, their most recent chapter, Ospreay finally beat Scurll and he damn near killed himself doing it. The things these two broke out in this match had me exclaiming in my room to nobody.
Yes, the Spanish Fly to the floor was nuts. And then Will hit an imploding 450 while bleeding from the head. There was also a Ganso bomb, a reverse snapmare driver and a lot of stomps to the back of Ospreay’s head and neck. The finish was also great as Scurll popped Ospreay up towards the buckle, Ospreay landed and came right back with the OsCutter. I think in real time I underrated this match because I spoiled myself on it. It has some of my favorite spots of the year. Another masterpiece.
1. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, NXT 4/7
(37 points, 14 votes)
This match was excellent and the perfect way to close out what was a truly special NXT show. From Ciampa coming out to no music to him submitting 40 minutes later, this was compelling all the way through. Gargano is a top 5 babyface in the world and Ciampa may be a top 5 heel. This was Ciampa’s first match back after months away due to injury and he still put in the performance of a lifetime. Even being the one in a knee brace, making his return, he managed to garner no sympathy. There were some devastating bumps early like the suplex off the announce table and the powerbomb onto the exposed floor (prompting the funniest “you deserve it” chant ever). Eventually the match centered around Ciampa’s crutch. The same crutch that he used to blindside Gargano after his emotional defeat at the hands of Almas, and the same crutch that cost Gargano his rematch for the title.
The two waged war and each man threw their very best at the other. Ciampa exposed his knee to increase the impact of the blow; a callback to their great Cruiserweight Classic encounter from two years ago. Gargano survived all of Ciampa’s best shots. The running knee, the Project Ciampa and even an avalanche Project Ciampa. Gargano would not lose his job to this man on this day. Ciampa was also too stubborn to die. Gargano snapped and broke Ciampa’s crutch in half, about to use it to potentially brutal effect on Ciampa, before hesitating. This man was once his brother, and Gargano was not the monster here. Both men sat down next to each other, another great callback to their prior meeting, only this time Ciampa was no longer a man to be trusted. He desperately swung for the fences on Gargano but Gargano’s kindness was indeed not weakness as he avoided the crutch and locked in the GargaNoEscape. He then applied a super variant of it using Ciampa’s own knee brace, forcing his former friend to submit.
To me, this is the pinnacle of WWE style storytelling. When I think of WWE matches that came together this well due to their story, this is one of the brightest spots in an endless sea of nonsense and failure. The callbacks, the emotion, the way Gargano being a good guy didn’t make him an idiot…This worked for me on just about every level.
- 10. Juice Robinson vs. Hirooki Goto, NJPW 4/27
- 9. WALTER vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Progress 4/7
- 8. Shingo vs Shuji Ishikawa, AJPW 4/29
- 7. Will Ospreay vs Matt Riddle, Evolve 4/6
- 6. Io Shirai vs. Meiko Satomura, Sendai Girls 4/19
- 5. NXT Ladder 6 Way Match, NXT Takeover: New Orleans
- 4. Johnny Gargano vs Tommasso Ciampa, NXT Takeover: New Orleans
- 3. Will Ospreay vs Marty Scurll, NJPW Sakura Genesis
- 2. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW Sakura Genesis
- 1. Ilja Dragunov vs WALTER, wXw True Colors
- Shingo Takagi vs. Yuji Hino
- Jun Akiyama vs. Naomichi Marufuji
- Suwama vs. Naomichi Marufuji
- Hana Kimura vs. Mika Iwata
- Chihiro Hashimoto vs Ayako Hamada
- Cody vs. Kenny Omega
- Jonathan Gresham vs. Jay Lethal
- SoCal Uncensored vs. The Young Bucks & Flip Gordon
- Kota Ibushi vs. Hangman Page
- Eddie Edwards, Moose & Tommy Dreamer vs. Sami Callihan & oWe
- LAX vs. Killshot & Da Mack
- Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black
- Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon
- Akira Tozawa & Hideo Itami vs. Lucha House Party
- Buddy Murphy vs Kalisto
- Arkangel Divino, Black Destiny & Genio del Aire v. Black Danger, Mirage, & Ultimo Maldito, AAA
- Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Rev Pro
- Viper vs. Jungle Kyona, Stardom
- Jay White vs. David Finlay, NJPW
- Misaki Ohata vs. Arisa Nakajima, Wave
- Mike Rollins vs. Mike Rollins, Smash